1.) The Clean Houseby Sarah Ruhl
A romantic comedy about loss, love, change and redemp-tion, The Clean House is both whimsical and touching. A serious career-oriented doctor, Lane, has hired a quirky Brazilian maid. The only problem is that the maid, Matilde, hates to clean. Instead, she longs to be a comedienne. Lane is deserted by her husband, Charles, who leaves her for his mistress, Ana, a passionate, older Argentinian woman upon whom he recently performed a mastectomy. Sarah Ruhl's enchanting play reminds us that there is humor and beauty to be find in life's most unlikely messes.
2.) The Maidsby Jean Genet
Solange and Claire are two housemaids who construct elaborate sadomasochistic rituals when their mistress (Madame) is away. The focus of their role-playing is the murder of Madame and they take turns portraying both sides of the power divide. Their deliberate pace and devotion to detail guarantees that they always fail to actualize their fantasies by ceremoniously "killing" Madame at the ritual's dénoue-ment.
3.) Eclipsedby Danai Gurira
Amid the chaos of the Liberian Civil War, the captive wives of a rebel officer band together to form a fragile community—until the balance of their lives is upset by the arrival of a new girl. Drawing on reserves of wit and compassion, Eclipsed reveals distinct women who must discover their own means of survival in this chilling and humanizing story of transformation and renewal in a hostile world of horrors not of their own making.
4.) BFEby Julia Cho
Cute blondes are disappearing from her strip mall-covered suburban town, but fourteen-year-old Panny is more concerned with surviving adolescence. Raised by an unbalanced mother who thinks the perfect birthday gift is plastic surgery and a shy uncle who spends most of his time painting miniatures, Panny is afraid she’s hopelessly different. Thanks to a fortuitous misdial, she strikes up a phone friendship that seems to be the connection she’s been longing for.
5.)Circle Mirror Transformationby Annie Baker
Five lost people come together at a community center class to try and find some meaning in their lives. Counting to ten can be harder than you think. Over six tangled weeks, their lives become knotted together in this tender and funny play.
6.) God of Carnageby Yasmina Reza
What happens when two sets of parents meet up to deal with the unruly behavior of their children? A calm and rational debate between grownups about the need to teach kids how to behave properly? Or a hysterical night of name-calling, tantrums, and tears before bedtime? A bitingly funny and whip smart examination of the things we don’t think we teach or children.
7.) 4000 Milesby Amy Herzog
After suffering a major loss while he was on a cross-country bike trip, 21 year-old Leo seeks solace from his feisty 91-year-old grandmother Vera in her West Village apartment. Over the course of a single month, these unlikely roommates infuriate, bewilder, and ultimately reach each other. 4000 Miles looks at how two outsiders find their way in today’s world.
8.) Blastedby Sarah Kane
Blasted opened in 1995, making front-page headlines and outraging some critics who thought her premise that there was a connection between a rape in a Leeds hotel room and the hellish devastation of civil war was simply an attempt to shock audiences. Brutal and graphic, “Blasted” is important but not for the faint of heart.
9.) Ohio State Murdersby Adrienne Kennedy
When Suzanne, an African American writer, enters Ohio State University in 1949, little does she know what the supposed safe haven of academia holds in store. Years later, Suzanne is invited to return to the University to talk about the violence in her writing. A dark mystery unravels. The play is an intriguing, unusual and chilling look at the destructiveness of racism in the U.S.
10.) Stop Kissby Diana Sun
The story is deceptively simple: two young women in New York meet, talk about their boyfriends, feel a growing, unspoken attraction for each other, and finally kiss. And that one innocent kiss sets off a savage gay-bashing. Callie is holding down a job as a radio traffic reporter when she meets Sara, a Midwesterner who, against her parents’ wishes, has moved to the city to teach third-grade students in the Bronx. Both have boyfriends, but as they get to know each other, their shared experiences and sense of humor create a strong bond. The tragic consequences of their kiss—the center of this powerful drama—serve as both an indictment of hatred and a moving study of the perils inherent in living life fully.
1.) Participate in a Play Reading, Online.
If you don't know anyone hosting one, pick a play you've always wanted to read and host it yourself through one of the many conferencing apps that abound. Not only do you get to flex your acting/reading chops, but you get to do it amongst friends!
You can be as fancy with your camera equipment as you want to be, or not. Use your phone! Or even, your actual, analog camera. Take one photo for each day of your isolation. Give yourself a theme, if you want - that seems to help with focus. You can journal around each photo, or get really ambitious and create a poem for each image! Pets can make WONDERFUL subjects...or, find a famous painting, stage it in your home and recreate it via photography.
3.) Work on Your Audition Pieces.
Use your free time to find and memorize new audition pieces. Challenge yourself to find one for every possibility: Classical, Dramatic, Contemporary, Comedic, Shakespearean, 10 bars of two contrasting songs (if you're into musical theatre), Do them in your living room. Do them often. Take a break from sitting at a screen and do your monologue. Take it one further and host a group of your favorite peers to work your pieces in front of each other online! You can focus on a different type (Shakespeare, Contemporary, etc) each virtual meeting, When productions start and auditions come back up again, you'll be able to hit the ground running!
4.) Create an Image Board.
Either break out the magazines and craft supplies and create a physical image board, or go over to Pinterest, create an account, and do it virtually! If you have a show coming up (at SOME point in the future), start working on an image board for it to use going forward when rehearsals begin: if you're an actor, find images pertaining to your character; if a playwright/director/designer/dramaturg, all the things about the whole show! If you're writing a novel, find images pertaining to different aspects of your book. You can also simply create a vision board, and find images pertaining to things you'd like to manifest in the coming days/months/years. Create your dream garden or your dream house through images.
5.) Do Some Planting!
It's spring: perfect time to begin clearing and planting! Plot out spaces in your yard for flowers and vegetables...or start a small herb garden in a window box in your kitchen window, or maybe some strawberries in a planter on your balcony! Plant simply for the pleasure of getting the earth on your hands, or take it a step further and plant intentions with each seed and/or clipping.
6.) In the Kitchen
Cooking and baking are another way to stay inspired, stay connected to your creativity and of course, have some great things to eat! If you're a bit phobic about either cooking or baking, get courageous and follow a couple recipes to the letter - journal about your results, if so motivated! Or, if you're a more experienced chef, try something complicated you've always felt daunted by: sourdough bread? Beef Wellington? Macarons? And of course, take photos and post to social media so everyone can see...
7.) Make Music
Been awhile since you've picked up that guitar? Have a haunting melody disturbing your brain? Maybe it's time to make some music! Open up Garage Band, or any other music creation app, and create a soundscape for your show, workout, or anything you like. Form a virtual band and have a jam session with your favorite creatives using homemade instruments: a jar of beans becomes quick percussion, a hollow box with rubber bands around it becomes a string instrument, a wine bottle becomes a wind instrument - let your imagination run wild! Don't forget the singing and beat-boxing.
8.) Makes Something Visual
People like to say they "can't paint" or "can't draw", but those are only two disciplines under the vast umbrella of visual arts & crafts. Use rubber stamps, or found images. Try doing a paint pour. Or, gather all your hard, flat pieces of junk mail and use them as canvasses for multi-media art-work - using glue, paint, found images, glitter, crayons, whatever you have on hand! Or get an app or coloring book and do some coloring - you'd be surprised how meditative and calming it is! Or paint an accent wall in your house. Prime and paint your car a funky color...paint a wizard on the side of your van! Sky's the limit - You don't have to be super skilled to create something beautiful you can hang on the wall (or post on Instagram)!
9.) Write, Write, WRITE!
What a perfect opportunity to hone your writing chops. Start a journal or a blog - you can either make it general, or focused: I know someone working on a grief journal, someone else working on a poetry journal. A post-apocalyptic blog would be perfect right now, and there's so much inspiration between pop-culture and real life...if journaling isn't your thing, try a form or genre you've never tried before: start a play...make it social, get some friends, each of you write a 10-minute play on a theme, then hold a virtual reading of all of them. Gather writing prompts off the internet, from magazines, from books. Write them all down, fold each prompt down, put in a jar, then select one prompt a day and write. Or, go to one of the myriad virtual museums online, select a work of art and write a story, play or poem about it...or an essay. Or a critique, if you are more logically-minded. Revise it. Submit it somewhere.
10.) Take a Class
So many virtual class offerings going on right now, you can pretty much pick your poison! Freehold Theatre is offering some great online classes this spring; many colleges around the country have been and continue to offer some great courses in just about any subject you can think of - Coursera is a great place to start for things unrelated to acting. Learn a language; take a cooking seminar. There are so many possibilities out there to make quarantine easier.
11.) Costume Party
Play dress up: dress to the nines and host a virtual happy hour for friends. Or, pick a theme: costume yourself in your best post apocalyptic outfit, funky 60's garb, goth it up - you do you! Or, do outrageous animal makeup. Create a social media group and share your photos.
So, this post is a bit of a "test run". When I was in 8th grade, The Day After aired on television. It was the junior high equivalent of a water-cooler topic - we were ALL talking about it beforehand, and we were definitely all talking about it the day after. As a movie, it wasn't the most perfect example of speculative fiction, but it served as great fodder for classroom discussion (especially in the middle of the cold war!). I remember a friend and I, during summer vacation, creating our own fictional bunker in case of nuclear war - we'd spend hours just figuring out how long we'd have to stay underground, who we'd like to bring with us and what kind of sewage/water/food systems we'd have to subsist on. The Day After was probably my formal introduction to the subgenre, likely the first I'd thought of it, and was the kickoff to a lifetime's fascination.
Sub genre of what, you ask? Is apocalypse/aftermath fiction horror? Is it science fiction? I've long had a fear it will become science FACT. I like the umbrella term "Speculative Fiction". Under its wings you might find Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, etc. And I suppose, depending on the type of apocalypse, you would then go on to put things under those subcategories...zombie apocalypse might fall under horror, whilst robots destroying the world might fit better with Science Fiction.
In high school, I read my first Stephen King novel, The Stand, which tells the story of a world decimated through a superflu plague. Another of my friends had also read it, and we spent hours on the phone each night imagining what we might do in such a scenario, where we might travel, what and who we might bring, and how we might rebuild society. Obviously, I was hooked.
Several decades later, I am no less fascinated and intrigued by the different iterations of fictional apocalypse, and have happily devoured many television, film and book tales with varied and imaginative end times. I’ve even written a couple of post-apocalyptic plays. And there is no shortage of end days’ paranoia, given the current political situation and global climate, to think about. Climate change anyone? Nuclear war? How ‘bout some ebola?
Right now, my intention is to start an entire apocalyptic blog on the subject and of course, all its potential subcategories, because, though I have very little control over things unfolding on the world stage, at least I can have some control over this. I'll discuss zombies, aliens, asteroids, WWIII, acts of god, no armageddon is off limits, and maybe I'll throw in speculation about how one might survive such a thing, and even discuss putting together different sorts of survival kits for your more run-of-the-mill cataclysm. I'll make book, film and tv recommendations on each subcategory, because lord knows I've consumed a lion's share!
If this is your thing and you're intrigued, feel free to take a look! And if you have any suggestions, thoughts, or ideas on topics you might enjoy reading about within the subject, please feel free to share your feedback.
So, being a woman and having to deal with the whole beauty thing. I was the ugly, fat, weird girl for the first 30 years of my life, bullied and made fun of a LOT, particularly in the last few years of elementary school and Jr. high. Things were always a struggle, I was always on some stupid diet or other that didn't work, it governed most of my waking thoughts through adolescence and young adulthood. And in undergrad, there was no shortage of male acting teachers telling me I needed to lose weight, and that (at 18-22) I was only castable as mothers and grandmothers, and Juliet's nurse. My bottom half, my legs, were especially deplorable.
My body changed drastically the year I turned 30...partially due to finding my purpose in life, and partially due to my esophagus no longer working properly. Suddenly, I had to navigate in this new, thinner body that was more "acceptable" to others. I was still fairly self-conscious about my legs, though an intense exercise in an acting class the year I was 31 made me realize that *holy shit* at least they WORKED and could DO things and I wasn't PARALYZED or anything like that. I got a taste of what it was like to be attractive for the first time, for about 15 years. Then I started aging.
Recently, I was in a show where I was apparently not young/ attractive enough to feature on the poster or postcard (each of the other actors was - it was a 3-actor show). They said that wasn't the reason, but really, what am I supposed to think? I was told I would be the internet presence and that there was an animated GIF. All three of us were on the internet photos, and if there was an animated GIF, it never made an appearance. Again: what a I supposed to think? And thank god I got to wear a long skirt and cover up my legs.
Last week, I started a burlesque class. The first week, we mostly went through the history of Burlesque (which is quite interesting!), and learned a few dance moves and a combo towards the end. As we were going out the door, the instructor said, "We'll be working with stockings next week - boy shorts are better to get stockings on and off than leggings or pants, so just keep that in mind."
OH SHIT. Stockings. Thigh highs. The BANE OF MY EFFING EXISTENCE. I tried them once a looooong time ago, and never did again. Because you pull 'em up, and if you have legs of any girth at all, there is a roll of fat that oozes out over the tops of the stockings. So, the whole week, I am realizing the impact of having signed up for a burlesque class, and I am quietly freaking out that I am going to have to have bare legs, in BOY SHORTS for next class. Part of me considered just never going back. But dammit, I paid $$ for the class, and say what you will about me but I'm NOT a quitter.
So, I put on the biker shorts I use for swimming in the summer. And I looked in the mirror. At all angles. I even turned around and bent over and looked at my back end through my legs. And okay...it was not as horrifying as i had feared. I put on leggings over them. And a skirt. And cute shoes and a top. And went to class.
We did everything else first, and the stockings were the last thing. So there I was. I had pulled the stockings all the way up, and there was that roll of fat at the top. And the instructor was telling us how to take them off so we could keep hold of the band and it wouldn't roll off, and I asked the question "So what if your LEGS MAKE THEM ROLL AUTOMATICALLY???" And was told to do my best, these were cheap stockings, and I could probably find ones that went all the way up, and that garters would help. Hm. Good to know. I worked with it.
And there I was, taking the stockings on and off in different ways, looking at my roll of fat at the top of them. And again...it wasn't that horrifying. And I didn't die. And I didn't even really look that bad. And I really didn't care if I did to other people. And I realized that, despite being 47 and perimenopausal, with big ole veiny, translucent, stretch-mark-covered legs and not conventionally attractive, I am really, really damn comfortable in my skin. EFFING FINALLY.
My earliest memory is meeting my great grandmother Bekins. It was at some point before we went to Spain, so before I was 2 years old. She was blind, and it was a dark, dank room – I just remember flashes of being there, but the fact that she was blind left an impression on my toddler mind. My continuous memories really begin in Singapore, where I can piece together a continuity. I have a few memories from Spain, but the earliest really is meeting Great Grandma.
Memory is an interesting, and tricky thing – I could pontificate for awhile on the unreliability of memory, or of writing memories down, and then the memory becomes the written memory, but it may not be exact memory. And I am prone to embellishing things to make them more interesting, and/or omitting things that are not that exciting, or that dilute or distract from the essence of the event….and then my mind continues to embellish and omit until the memory becomes something different in my mind, and then when I read the original account, maybe talk to someone who was there, read my journal from that time, etc – I realize that the “story” of the memory has become pretty far flung from what the original event was. Memory is a strange, strange thing.
I got to play Death (And the Maid) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
In a bilingual production of Blood Wedding, my first role with substantial Spanish, and my parents came to town to see it in August. Getting to do Lorca in Spanish...wow. Lorca in Spanish is like experiencing Shakespeare in English, and makes me wonder how much more awesome Ibsen, Chekhov, Euripides, etc must be in their own native languages.
Even the auditions/callbacks were fun, plus getting offered the role(s) during the callback was a special kind of awesome!
Thanks to Ana Maria Campoy for telling me about the audition, Tina Polzin for casting/directing me & the rest of the ensemble for restoring my faith that things I don’t have a hand in producing can still be fun and transformative.
I brought an international artist to The Pocket Theater & we performed her Don Quixotes together for one night during her layover here in June, after rehearsing <<<<<<< mostly via Skype!
Thanks, Glyka Stoiou & Rebecca Goldberg!
Three of my plays got produced:
Fate Demands It in Orlando for Playwright’s RoundTable Launch 2016! In January
How To Build A Ritual (co-written by Jen Smith Anderson, text arrangement by Richard Buckley, with contributions from the cast) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Smashing Reality as part of The Pocket Theatre’s FringeMonth in Oct, with plays by Rebecca Goldberg & Beth Peterson for Splintered, Fractured, BROKE
I also posted 30 new short plays (one per day!) in November for Red Theatre Chicago’s November Writing Challenge, and attended the Write-O-Rama at Hugo House in early Dec where I wrote even MORE and got some inspiration. Thanks to Mandy for joining me as a fellow writer for BOTH...it was comforting to have someone to commiserate/share the experiences with.
I finally made my pilgrimage to Greece. It was amazing and transformative. Highlights:
Trip to Vegas and Long Beach in Oct – sad circumstances for the latter (RIP Josh Fischel), but it was extremely wonderful to see so many of my fabulous SPVA tribe again…more intense and heartfelt, due to the occasion, than the reunion in San Diego circa 2010.
And then went back to Vegas to hang out with my nieces (and eat Roberto’s!).
...and then the last two months of the year happened, the world got dragged into the Upside Down, and we have a demigorgon president-elect.
Choppy waters ahead, but I'll get through the with all my people near and far, and my two loves, Ian & Vixen.
Happy New Year to everyone - I know we'll get through this together and hopefully in one piece! Interesting times we have the priviledge of living in...
Fairly recently, I’d say in the last six months or so, I started making pizza at home, when I discovered a small bag of pre-made dough at Trader Joe’s. Since that day, I’ve made it several times, by taking the dough and pressing it into a baking sheet, sticking the sauce and toppings on, then putting it in the oven. I even once made my own, grain-free crust while we were doing a paleo-type diet for a month. That one also had no dairy, but it scratched an itch. All told, I have made some pretty decent pizzas. They are a little moister than I’d like, however.
I’ve been kind of wanting a pizza stone since I started making pizza. I’ve just heard so much about how they cook the crust more evenly, make it into an experience closer to ordering. I wondered if they would also make the pizza a little less wet.
I’d seen the stones in kitchen stores, they’re not that expensive, but I hadn’t picked one up – for some reason, I was talking about pizza stones a LOT the week before December 25 (I hadn’t even intended this to be a hint!) thus, much to my surprise and delight, I found one under the tree with my name on it on Christmas morning!
After reading up on how to use pizza stones online, I felt a little intimidated – apparently, you can’t just put the dough on the stone, make the pizza on the stone, then put the stone in the oven – you actually have to preheat the stone, make the pizza while the stone is preheating, then transfer the pizza onto the stone already in the oven, somehow. This seemed rife with pratfalls. However, I ordered a wooden pizza pallet which arrived early last week, and even though I was still feeling kind of intimidated, I decided to rip of the bandaid and finally made my first pizza stone pizza last Friday!
Using one of those cheapie Pillsbury crusts in the biscuit tin (I know, I know – I have already conquered grain-free crust – why am I intimidated by making normal crust? It’s the whole yeast, rising, resting thing that skeeves me out a little, but I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually…), I dutifully put the stone in the oven and began heating it. Meanwhile, I set out to make the pizza (a Hawaiian!) on the pizza pallet, first by covering it with a generous dusting of cornstarch, so the dough wouldn’t stick…this of course, made it difficult to roll out – it wanted to keep snapping back, but eventually, I was able to get it rolled out almost the entire surface area of the pallet, and the cornstarch worked like a charm in terms of it not sticking.
Transferring it to the hot stone in the scorching oven was another story – I managed to do it, but botched it a little, sending some of my toppings & cheese falling to their deaths at the bottom of the oven. I should’ve trusted the cornstarch to do its job, but used a spatuala, and that was actually what ended up with the little botch. I should’ve just jiggled the pallet a little and used my hands. NEXT TIME.
I pulled it out 12 minutes later, and: YES! The crust was definitely evenly cooked, the pizza itself cooked and the cheese melted, but without the extra moisture I lamented in the baking pan. Even with the cheapie Pillsbury dough, it was pretty delicious, and of course, an opportunity to get rid of more of that lingering Xmas ham! Also, it held up well as breakfast leftovers into the following week - it was not as floppy (due to moisture) as its baking pan-created ancestors.
Next step: do it again, but make my own crust. I also want to try making other things on the pizza stone, will be seeking out inspiration for such masterpieces soon!
So, Ian and I made a 10-pound ham for Xmas dinner.
10 pounds of ham for two people (and a cat).
We did it on purpose, because we were gluttonous for the delicious leftovers. There were trimmings, too - don't get me wrong. Accompanying the ham, there was green bean casserole, bacon stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry-pomegranate sauce. And roasted root vegetables inside the ham pan, oh yeah. All of it delicious.
And it did not disappoint - in fact, today, January 5th, 11 days after Xmas, we are still eating ham leftovers. And remarkably, not sick of them yet.
Ham is SO much more versatile than turkey! And it was cured, so there is a little longer period of time before it starts to go bad, thank goodness.
Not only were there the obvious ham sandwiches, but these leftovers allowed me to get creative and make several things I'd never attempted before:
I made two batches of ham/cheddar/potato chowder, two ham/cheddar/broccoli quiches, a ginormous vat of hambone/white bean soup and my even my own devilled ham!
And it has all been delicious - the chowder in particular...and there may be just enough ham left to make a 3rd batch of that!
This is all really apropos of nothing other than: I love to cook. I love to eat. And I feel like a superhero when I cook things and they are insanely delicious. I feel like this week, I should be wearing a cape with a large ham emblazoned on my chest!
Photos of all leftovers are below, and should you wish the recipes, they are all pinned to my "Leftovers!" board on Pinterest. I recommend them all, but honorable mention has to go to the chowder - I think I will have to buy ham now JUST to make this again, once the ham is gone.
So, new year, new tactic with this blog I seem to have a bitch of a time maintaining. I know this is not particularly new or innovative, but I think I am going to turn this into a FOOOOOOD blog. Yes. Because we need another one. But you know what? I don’t care. Yes, there are thousands, maybe millions, and guess what? Here is one more!
Why food? What could I possibly have to contribute to the conversation? What could I possibly have to add? Maybe nothing. But it will sure be fun trying. Why NOT food?
Whether or not it’s new, I definitely have things to say about it. What it means to me. The conversations I’ve had about it. The issues I’ve traversed with it. And it seems to be something I come back to, again and again.
I love food. I love eating it. I love preparing it. I love watching movies and shows about it. It is probably the one thing in my life, besides my cat, that is all about pure joy. I enjoy cooking for others, but I equally enjoy just cooking for myself – it gives me the same joy and isn’t contingent on whether or not someone else thinks it’s good.
What will I write about food? OH! There is SOOO MUCH! I might write about what I have cooked. I might wright about how I’ve used my Xmas ham leftovers! I might talk about the latest episode of Top Chef (which I’ve watched religiously since it’s inception back when I was in grad school). I might talk about my personal struggles with food/body issues. I might talk about garden bounty. And there WILL be pictures! But it will all be related to food and the joy and comfort it brings me.
I don’t want to be a chef – I don’t want to taint something else I love with business aspects, with audience reactions, with the need to exist in a capitalist society. But it is an interest of mine that I can’t ignore, and perhaps writing about it in a more focused way will help me determine if it has some other purpose in my life beside joy, comfort and nourishment.
Things I’ve discovered while being on a media diet the past week:
All in all, though it was challenging, it was a positive and somewhat enlightening week for me…what it comes down to is, do I want to be a constant consumer of other people’s images/words/ideas, or do I want to be primarily a producer of my own?
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.