Devised Theater: A Venn Diagram

Devised Theater: A Venn Diagram
This diagram was created by the co-producing artistic directors of Rude Mechs to depict the complexity of creating and crediting collaboratively devised work for theatrical performance.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This I Believe #1

Assignment: Write a 300 word essay in the format of the This I Believe series ran on public radio. This international project has been continued on line at
Use the comment feature below to post your own This I Believe essay. The deadline for this assignment is noon on Friday, January 22.


  1. This I believe #1

    I believe that adversity is discovered in unlikely places. I consider myself lucky. I have faced no serious crises and gone through no especially trying times. As a result, I am somewhat oblivious to how people feel or are supposed to feel when tragedy befalls them. Most of my discovery of the not-so-happy parts of life comes by my feeling vicariously through others in places that don’t seem to reflect those feelings.
    I discovered poverty in a fifth-third bank at 9:22am Tuesday, January 19. I stood behind a line of three or maybe four men all with some kind of bag clutched to their side with white knuckles. None of the men were dressed particularly well and the unsure look in the eyes of Melisa the teller assured me of my suspicions that these men were unusual and unwelcome visitors to the bank. As my turn approached it became clearer what was happening as each of these men came to the teller. They would come to the counter, mumble a quick, gravelly hello, be greeted back by a high pitched nervous Melisa, and dump his pouch on the counter, waiting for her to count the coins gained most likely from begging or scavenging.
    $7.42. That was how much the guy in front of me had. And this was a Tuesday, after Martin Luther King Day. That means, assuming he goes to the bank on a daily basis, he made in two days what I make in an hour. Needless to say I felt a little sheepish coming to the counter to cash the $180 check my parents gave me to pay for books. Melisa apologized at least three times as she cleared away the change from the counter. If I had to guess, that’s once for waiting and twice for having to stand in the same room as people that society has deemed unfit to live indoors and eat decent food. This experience resonated in me stronger than any TV charity appeal, any homeless person I had seen on the street, or any photograph of a hungry child I had ever seen, perhaps because I felt poverty in the place that signifies its opposite.

  2. This I believe; Late Hours and In-Betweens

    I believe no force is greater than the merging of opposites. To this phenomenon I have given the name “Twilight”, as I was inspired by gazing at the sky just moments before true night descended one evening. I have often expressed a dislike for bright lights. Classrooms, ceiling lights, and especially the sun affect me like sandpaper to the skin and I will avoid situations with high exposure if I can. The darkness of night, like what one cannot find in a city, but one can in deep woods, is something I do enjoy, but such darkness can become quite lonely. One may have trouble connecting with the ground, much less anyone or anything that may be around. Therefore, the most pleasant times of day are those that are both dark and light, after the sun is no longer visible but its light still reaches our vision, night skies that are empty save a glaring full moon, darkened rooms with 40 watt bulbs as the only source of illumination. It’s a perfect blend of light and darkness. Making unusual connections as I often do, I see the same principle at work in many variations such as with paint. The richest colors are always created by introducing opposites. The richest red is achieved by adding some green, yellow to make a richer violet. And no matter what opposites you combine, the result is always the same, though they may variety from case to case. All times of twilight are distinct, but are still an in-between of light and dark. Mix any opposing colors and the result is always eventually brown, though each brown is different. And do we not find these kinds of things to be the most pleasing? Is a candle-light dinner not considered more romantic than eating in a fast-food joint? Do we not share stories over camp-fires, watch movies in the dark?

  3. I fear for myself. This I believe to be a dominant characteristic of my life. This fear has nothing to do with race or gender. Yo soy Boricua pero, I can easily pass as white. I am a woman, but fear of me has long surpassed any fear I have ever had of men. My body poses more of a threat to me right now than any lone penis in a dark alley or fist that has yet to strike me ever has. I fear for myself because my mind is at odds with my body.
    I am insatiable curiosity encased in a vessel addicted to Russian roulette—a ticking time bomb, so to speak. The bitter irony being that I won’t even go out with a bang. No, I am allotted a departure similar to that of a daisy caught in the first frost of November. I know this because I have been told this. Puzzle pieces of medical jargon, euphemisms, justifications by God’s will, and the hollow sympathy of strangers have combined across various periods of my life to create an unsatisfying bigger picture.
    Degenerative neuromuscular condition.
    Not necessarily a death sentence. More like a sentence fragment. A fragmented life, comma-spliced by hospital vacations, a crying mother, and various devices that turn children into Cyborgs. “Resistance is futile” when your only chance at life is a life powered by machine. Should I choose Energizer or Duracell—which will help me last longer? Unfortunately, life does not come with a money back guarantee. There are no exchanges. All sales are final.
    And I have the luxury of being reminded of this every time I must use two hands to lift a gallon of milk, or better still, when I have to use someone else’s. I am reminded again every night when my heart flip flops inside of me, painful and frantic like making love for the first time. Sometimes I feel like I may die simply because of the effort I must exert to roll over in bed, but I like it because fearing death reminds me that I am alive. This is cliché, but it is not an exaggeration.
    I will die young, so I fear for myself because I don’t want to die until I am content with what I have learned—and if I have learned anything, discontent is the condition of my generation. I will always be too young to die. The withering petals of my body may (or may not) endure another twenty-one years, but my inquisitive nature is sure to last a lifetime. My lifetime, at least.

  4. I believe three-inch flakes of meat came down like rain at the Crouch family farm in Olympia Springs, Kentucky on Friday, March 3, 1876. Having caught the bottled flesh, I will send it back to the heavens.

    I believe in a city spring-fed with lime that strengthens horse bones, causes bladder stones, and delivered death to the doors of parents whose children first called our asylum home.

    I believe in wonder.

    I believe that Wilbur Riddle, who discovered death wrapped in a tent, unfolded a puzzle for horse breeding: a gestating industry nearly destroyed by caterpillars, cherry trees, and feces.

    I believe in the heart and the mind of a woman who carefully removed the coffins of her dead parents from the edge of a quilt covering her own bed. She laced them permanently into the graveyard: overflowing with four generations of family.

    Our history swells with death.

    I believe my students breathe new life for a city still ailing from the sale of men, one of whom became a King by digging. His living body brought bids from medical students at my own university: investing in a future cadaver. One hundred seventy-seven years later, my students invest in their own futures.

  5. I believe in the power of stories

    Today is Petlyovden and I am supposed to slaughter a rooster. I am expected to drain its blood into a clean bowl, drop the head on my home’s front steps, throw the legs onto my green-tiled roof, and boil the body in a slow stew. With the collected blood I am to paint a cross on my son’s three-month-old forehead: red blood spelling good health for small boys.

    No rooster’s blood marked my skin as an infant. Instead, I grew up with a family story shared compulsively, fattening with each repetition, fed by the listener’s surprise: called to the hospital from a soccer game (which he endured on the third coldest day of that winter), my father stood beneath my mother’s window, only to learn she had borne him a daughter. As the punch line goes, my father was glad to discover I was a girl: when ultrasounds were not available to announce the sex of an unborn child and the Bulgarian nuclear family consisted of three.

    I was nourished by the twist in this story: it set my father apart. My father liked what he got: a baby-girl who could not sit up until she was two; I would recline, with my stacked rings of fat, against thick pillows. As long as my mother, bent over her textbooks in her last year of college, kept within my field of vision, I was content.

    I wonder, now, what lesson about my father the story was meant to deliver. Unmarked by a bloody cross, I am not linked to a mother desperate to shield her son against King Herod’s fear. My mother never smeared the neighbors’ doorways with hot animal blood. I am not part of the story of Jesus: a baby-boy too important to overlook.

    Today I will not cut a rooster’s throat. Petlyovden requires that women abstain from work, from bathing, from getting married. Today I am busy.

  6. I believe in Wazziatah.
    He is the great spirit in the sky watching over the trees and over the children criss-crossing between trunks in the forest. He is the hum of earth, the patter of rain, the current connecting each hand to the next, forming a loop over the lawn and singing “colors of the wind.” Every week during the summer, I put my hopes, prayers, dreams, and wishes on wish sticks and throw them into the campfire, hoping Wazziatah will hear them. During the summer, I work at Camp Piomingo, and under my protection he places eight girls. Together, we share a cabin, we share early mornings stretching to “wagon wheel,” we share swim lessons, food fights, hobo stew, dance parties, bench soccer, firefly catchers, flower wreaths, Dr. Seuss, pet gravel rocks, blackberry picking, lullabies, love, enchantment, make-believe, stars above our sleeping bags, the tale of Lover’s Leap, circles on wood floors sharing stories, my lap during homesickness. My boss tells us, you care for your campers like your parents care for you. I care for their bruises like I care for their laughter, neither can exist without the other.

    And my summer job, one of magic and singing and shouting and healing, cannot exist without community. I honor this group like I honor Wazziatah. Together we form our own separate world. This universe is brimming with promise, a promise that we each can have compassion for humanity, a hope for our generation and for the next generation. Counselors laugh at their campers – they help them create costumes, they belay them down walls of rock, they urge them to conquer fears, they cradle them when they cry. Counselors do the same for each other. We attempt to make each other more whole – to discover our variations, to worship our uniqueness. I am grateful to the children that arrive for their favorite week of the year, because they remind us that we too are capable of being young. No one loses their sense of wonder, no one forgets to play.

    We tell the children over and over that we worship these gifts, the gift of their distinctiveness. We tell them to be outspoken, outgoing, outside. But we also encourage them to understand each other, repeating the character values our camp holds dear: honesty, responsibility, caring, respect, and faith. Faith in Wazziatah and faith in each other; faith in an idea that all we have is each other, and at camp, under open skies, undiluted light, and completely encompasssed by friendship, that is the most beautiful part of life.

  7. I believe in a field row fence. As a freshman in college, the transition has not been an easy one for me, and every time I return home to all the questions of “So how is school going?” I answer with the same, “School is going well,” either to make the church ladies smile or to make the snake-like girls from high school squirm in their snotty insecurities. They didn’t really want to know about just how different Lexington was from the cotton fields; fishing over a dirt road bridge, and home-made wine drank in Rodeo cups on the top of a grain bin. And they didn’t really want to hear either. The old men did though.
    The first afternoon I returned home from school, I ran the five blocks out of town, across the field, down the train tracks, and didn’t stop until I collapsed into the arms of a field row fence. Open arms, and a place to lean my frail body and rest my chin, my jean overalls refusing to let me go. I clung to the wooden post, squeezing with all my might, and bawled. “Cried” just doesn’t cut it. I bawled. I bawled like a baby. No longer rolling hills of green, but the Mississippi River Delta bottoms. No longer street traffic, urban problems, horns blaring, fashionistas, student clubs, or starless nights.
    Then they showed up along the field row fence, like they always do. The old men of course. The grandfathers of my past. My dad always talked about how at the end of the long days, before we lost the farm, all the oldies would lean against the field row fence and talk as the sunset kissed their balding heads and made the water in their large mason jam jars sparkle. Sometimes in silence or jokes or scripture or old man perversion or in the old poetry of the Deep South. The fence heard it all, caught it all like a spider in her web of checkered wire.
    When I was little I always wanted to bring out their water. To hear them, to hear the cotton growing, the hoppers chirping, the wind whistling, to rest in the safety of a wisdom and understanding of life I lacked while watching the strongest men in the world roll in laughter, curse their wives and the weather, share their love life, and be degraded to tears. I witnessed life, what it means to live on that field row fence. Now I leaned against her alone. The land now absorbing my tears having already claimed their bodies and taken their cups.
    The sun began sinking. I forgot how late it was. As I turned to head home I met the eyes of the last old man. Daddy didn’t know I was supposed to be in town. I asked him what he was doing. He said, “Comin’ home.” He asked me what I had been doing. I said, “Me too, daddy, I was comin’ home.” And we talked, really talked, against a field row fence.

  8. Growing up, not only did I know every child I ever attended school with, I knew most of the children with which I didn't attend school. Furthermore, I knew their parents, and their grandparents. Any time I needed help from someone not only could I call them, I could drive to their home and know that help would be there waiting for me. When I needed a ride, I was taken to dentist appointments, to work, to church, you name it they have taken time out of their day to take me somewhere. My family is large, larger than one would expect, with 15 aunts and uncles on my father's side and two aunts and one uncle on my mother's. In my hometown, I live within a valley called a 'holler' that is made up of 98% my family. That other 2%, I have known since birth. Outside of that valley, and in other neighborhoods, I can not only call anyone a family friend, but also family. Thus, I believe that communities should not simply be made up of citizens or neighbors, but of family and friends.

    I believe in Hometown Pride. I believe that the ability of a community to succeed at any of its endeavors relies not only on the relationships of those living within it, but is also in their relationship with the place itself. Small towns seen to have the most pride in their community, maybe because of the lack of a very large population. Citizens in a small town tend to care more about their environment and how they affect it. In a small town, people acre about the health and safety of one another, and in the event that something happens to someone, they will do anything they can to help. I have seen my community rebuild burned homes using their own money. I have seen my community care for and feed citizens who may not be able to do it for themselves. I see it every day in my community. How often do you see it in yours?

  9. Layson Griffin
    22 January 2010
    I believe #1

    I believe in the power of positive thoughts. Thinking positive has always been something that came natural to me. Why dwell on the negative aspects of life when each day has something new and positive to give you. No harm can come from thinking with a optimistic mind set. This may make me sound naïve but I truly believe that thinking positive thoughts will only make the day better, not worse.
    I believe that in thinking positive, you can intensely brighten someone else’s day. A smile, a compliment, words of encouragement, a friendly wave. No matter what the positive gesture may be, I believe that a person will feel happier and lighter, even if it is only for a short time. Remaining optimistic and seeing the brighter side of any situation will help darker times to come and go faster.
    I believe in waking up every morning and thinking of five positive things that I am looking forward to that day. A favorite class, a sunny day, high fiving friends while dodging traffic on Broadway. These may seem simple but they are positive aspects in my life that keep me going throughout the day. I believe in thinking of a positive aspect of each day before going to bed every night. Going to bed on an upbeat note provides me with a clear mind and stress free sleep.
    I believe in the power of positive thoughts in order to make my life one that is enjoyable everyday. I do not believe that thinking negatively will help in any aspect of life. I believe that negative thoughts lead to insecurities, regret, and doubt. Optimism is my key to having fun everyday and enjoying the brighter side of life. This is why I believe in the power of positive thoughts.

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  11. I did not always understand how important food was. Growing up I was a picky eater and hated anything to do with the kitchen. Over the years I began to love it. This can be attributed to my mom's creative punishments. I was the only kid in school who would be regularly punished by having to prepare a chicken for dinner. There are few things more disgusting then reaching into the inner cavities of a slimy bird that has been slaughtered to retrieve such atrocities as the neck and giblets. As gross as it was, this became a major accomplishment. A well cooked chicken comes with compliments to the chef and in my house the added benefit of cooking was not having to clean.
    My family has lived in many different houses and without fail the kitchen always becomes the center point. It is where my family congregates. In our newest house, part of our kitchen counter straddles the living room and the kitchen. This stretch of counter has become a place for eating, talking, playing games, and hanging out.
    Over Christmas break I had asked my mom what she wanted for Christmas, her only request was that I cook for her. This took the stress off of her having to prepare meals as she began to study for her sixth attempt at the California Bar exam. Instead of being a punishment as this may have been as a child this time it was a pleasure. I would pour over the cookbooks finding new and interesting recipes—Pork tenderloin with a curried pear chutney, maple-glazed spicy chicken, bourbon and butternut squash puree, asparagus with a red wine reduction and garlic, etc—often times salivating over the choices.
    My brother would spend time with me in the kitchen. At lunch we would both enjoy my homemade vegetable soup and his to die for grilled cheeses (the newest variety involving American cheese and sliced strawberries). These lunches were not just about the food, although it was delicious, it was also about the time I got to spend with my him. The dinners were also not just about the food, but about the gathering of family at a table to enjoy both a meal and each others company.
    We have always valued sharing meals together, and I believe that it is a value that has made my family strong. This is also a value that I carry into my impromptu family at Transy. I think most would be shocked how well my roommate and I eat. College students should not regularly eat meals like homemade tortilla black bean and corn soup or chicken with a peach basil salsa. Yet, I believe our commitment to eat well and share meals is important, because food is important. It can and does bond people together.

  12. i believe in motown.
    i believe in the rhythms created by the musical masterminds
    that made up motown.
    i believe in the Temptations.
    i believe in Stevie Wonder
    i believe in the Jackson Five,
    the Four Tops
    Jackie Wilson
    and the Matadors.
    Smokey Robinson
    and the Miracles.
    Barrett Strong.
    i believe in family
    i believe Berry Gordy did not create a record label,
    but a family, and in effect, a community.
    a Community composed
    of some of the finest rhythm, blues, soul, pop-rock, and hip-hop
    artists and performer.
    and naturally,
    He brought them Together to create something so much
    than any individual
    the Music desegregated the People.
    MoTown played a large role in the integration of a race
    into popular music.

    i beleive in MoTown.
    i believe in "The Hitsville USA"
    recording studio,
    music headquarter,
    and musicians' home.
    i believe in Marvin and Tammy,
    Stevie and Diana.
    i believe in improvised Families.
    I Believe in MoTown.