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.

Friday, April 2, 2010

This I Believe #10

You know the drill. Post here by 12 tomorrow.


  1. The tea tastes bitter but the night is warm enough, and the company pleasant enough, and the moon large enough that he doesn’t mind so much. Stars are bright in the country and he looks above to see them past the spruce and the poplar, taking in the smell of the night and the woman to his left.

    Breath is slow.

    Steps are easy.

    A lull in the conversation signals a shift in mood. Meaningless discourse is stopped, and, just as always, the change in topic comes more like an elevator shaft, and less like a flight of stairs. With this girl in particular, conversation like this comes naturally. Life and love and death and sex and god are glided over with ease and a comfortable rhythm is established, until:

    “So, if there is anything you need to tell me, I think now would be the time.”

    He feels the skin tighten over his knuckles, the bones in his chest come close to collapsing.

    Breath is fast.

    Steps are hard.

    “I think I might be falling in love with you.”

    The silence means that’s not the answer she was looking for. His fear is surpassed by his desire to appear calm. The rest of the walk is a blur. Between mixed excuses and flawed reasoning and an extraordinary but futile brush of lips and tongue she leaves the boy alone.

    Despite the weeks, maybe months, of confusion and questioning that followed that moon and those stars and that moment, the boy learned to live. He didn’t know how to feel until he couldn’t, he didn’t know how to love until he tried. The rejection made him reconsider himself. The doubt that silence and nighttime instilled in him made him aware of his naivety, made him conscious of the experiences that he would have to see before she could feel the same way about him, and especially made him realize that this might never happen. I believe that I have been in Love.

  2. I believe in sibling rivalry. For the near twenty-two years that I have been my brother’s sister, he has hated me. Stories of our childhood told and retold at family events or for new boyfriends or girlfriends have always revealed the same beginning—“Oh, when we brought Mandy home from the hospital, Willie was so upset. He used to beg us not to feed her.” My favorite story is the one where William, age 6, wrapped a dog chain around Amanda’s, age 3, neck and tried to hang her from the swing set. Luckily Mom, age 30, looked out of the kitchen window with enough time to run out and pull down her youngest child.
    My childhood is riddled with similar stories of torture and misery. That is not to say that I never returned the cruelty. At a young age, I became proficient at launching any number of projectiles at my brother’s face. The plastic coffee pot of my Playskool kitchen loosened a baby tooth; the TV remote split open an eyebrow (he still wears the scar); our dad’s softball bloodied a nose. Our family home was full of the sounds of two angry children menacing one another. Try as our parents might to discipline us, separate us, and make us play nice, nothing ever seemed to work for more than a day or so. My brother and I always managed to do something to the other that would end in nothing less than a small war. Even now, as adults, our relationship is little more than a cease-fire. I sometimes spend whole weekends at my parent’s home without exchanging little more than small talk with my brother. Some visits, I don’t even see him at all. Sometimes it bothers me, but most of the time I am indifferent. I love my brother, but I do not care much for the person he was or now is.
    My remorse in regard to my relationship with my brother stems from one source and one source only—I regret how much it pains my mother. She tells us that once she and my dad have passed away, we will be the only people each other will have. Family—blood— is all you really have, my mom tells us, but for some unknown reason, there is bad blood between us. I love my brother because we share blood. I try to like him for our mother’s sake.
    I suppose my feelings towards my brother have a lot to do with how he treated me when we were kids. I suppose his feelings towards me stem from my responses to his attacks—it did not take me long to learn that the easiest way to be let alone was to hurt him as much as possible, either physically or emotionally. It is a horrible truth to tell, but I know how to effectively destroy my brother. Though we have long passed the point of physical rivalry and he has lost the upper hand, my arsenal remains intact. Sometimes I feel like the only thing that lets me love him is shared blood, and I’m sure he shares this sentiment. We have not been kind to one another. I wish Will and I had a different relationship. I hope my parent’s live forever, because my brother and I will have no one once they are gone.

  3. “A Singing Call”
    Katelynn Austin

    I believe in long-distance relationships. Mamulah is red hair, pale skin, and freckles, and a soul so gentle, all-knowing, and at one with the cycles of life, fate, and nature, that when I met her at age sixteen I was in awe of her. She was content to be by herself nearly all the time, daydreaming, reading, questioning, and creating worlds, inventions, and global solutions deemed too daunting for such minds. I was content to do the same. Although, I, quite the opposite, an often high-strung, anxious, and troubled soul, was in many cases her antithesis, there was some strong unknown force pulling us together. I brought out her laughter, playfulness, and encouraged honesty of her and the world she lived in. She encouraged me to peacefully and quietly look past, to live in the patience and respect for the cycles of the world. She knew it in such a different way than I did.
    Mamulah was born in Papua New Guinea and lived there with her family until the week of her sixteenth birthday. Her tribe was the Wantakia tribe isolated in the fog covered mountains; the only way to get there was by helicopter or a two day hike. Her life was a life of mysticism and magic. Her father and mother as missionaries and scientists immersed themselves in the village that was both filled with cannibals, witchcraft, beauty, colors, and dancing. I never really allowed myself to believe there was such a place outside of my imagination. She always tells me of stories of growing up in the jungles, the smell of coffee and coffee beans, of grass and bamboo, fire-side dances and revealed breasts as ripe with life as the papaya, mango, and jasmine. Then there are other stories too. They are of her constant attachment to her dad before moving to Oregon, a precaution taken to prevent rape, seen there as an elixir for old men to stay young. She speaks of misted over eyes, people shaking and chanting, and the difference between the healing herbs or the witchdoctor’s “potions.” I tell her stories of my life. I never know why, but she seems just as intrigued by it as she listens wide-eyed with curiosity as I tell her about a favorite movie or taking a trip or baking cookies. The ideas of television, vehicles, and ovens still are met with incredulous pondering, even after her many years here and even the beginning of her college.
    We are far away and both of us are utterly unreachable, seeing email, the telephone, and anything else that brings less than an embrace to be a form of bondage. Yet we are so very close. We write letters periodically, the sixteen page handwritten novels of a time long before us. But more so than not, we are connected by memory and by a gravitational pull of the Earth toward each other as we lift one another in prayer and thanksgiving. The one thing that solidifies our communication though is “the call.” During a late night talk under the stars she told me how the indigenous broached the absence of telephones: the call. When divided by long distances the tribe would “call” one another. Mamulah spoke of villagers “singing” out tunes miles apart from each other and the echo traveling through the mountains. Sometimes in my deepest loneliness I can hear her song, a singing call on the wind, blowing through my hair. I am convinced that love knows nothing of distance.

  4. In my backyard lies a snake: sunning itself on the warmed shell of an unglazed ceramic turtle nestled amongst large Hostas. In my front yard lies a half-finished poster from a lemonade stand: tossed to the ground between decorative grass lining the sidewalk and a driveway defined by an irregular transition from blacktop to cracked mud, and cracked mud to grass filled with broad-leaf weeds. Children run back and forth between the two: trying to capture a customer by barking “buy some lemonade right now, you are thirsty” at an ear-splitting volume while also keeping track of the “16 foot-long snake” sticking its tongue out upon command of the vampire who lives beneath the back porch.

    Conveniently for our neighbor girls the vampire’s name is “The Devil” and they both believe they can conjure him to do their bidding: they cast curses upon my children so the vampire will tell the snakes to bite them each time they come into the back yard.

    My son has learned many times that these girls—blessed with a garage converted into an unmonitored playhouse complete with a fridge-full of generic soda and ice-cream sandwiches—are as trustworthy and honest as they are thin. My daughter is more concerned about their two kittens attacking than she is about the web of lies they spin to capture her: as spiders wrap a bug for storage and future consumption.

    Spiders vanish as the wind changes direction: their sticky webs pulsate and fade toward stillness. My children moan about cleaning the yard and collapsing their lemonade stand, a dream never realized. We sit on the porch, drinking, as the rain rolls in. I believe in lemonade.

  5. My first trip to Denny’s took place on a Monday night, six hours before “World Religions” with Boyd Wilson began on Tuesday morning. “Denny’s is very American,” my friends urged me, knowing the key to my immigrant heart. At 2 a.m. Denny’s was disappointing, as was my plastic dish of mushy corn. The overweight men sitting behind us had red hands (it must have been winter) and the look of people who are perpetually underslept.

    Denny’s was similar to a smattering of American experiences I sampled in the years that followed. I ate a Big Mac and wondered why anyone would want a meal that takes a minute to consume: I was used to drawn-out affairs accompanied by irreverent toasts and bawdy jokes. I started drinking fat-free milk and made up for the missing fat with late-night microwave popcorn. I got used to eating on my own time, instead of waiting for my family to gather, for my grandfather to take the first bite.

    Years later, I only know what’s American, what isn’t, on my required visits to the homeland. “You have become too American,” my uncle says, dismissing my indignation at the catcalls he issues at the women who pass us. “You don’t understand,” I am told when I resent my fellow citizens’ racism undisguised in the evening news. “You have become spoilt,” my grandmother pronounces when I decline a beer in the fifth month of my first pregnancy.

    Years later, I make peanut-butter sandwiches for my daughter’s supper. Unlike me, she is growing on chicken nuggets, TV, and an abundance of choices that allow her to pick out the packaging of her waffles: “I want the blue box with stripy red,” she demands. My daughter and I spread ground peanuts (“No salt added”) on wheat bread, both of us so American for craving milk on the side.

  6. This I Believe; Vague Impressions

    I roll up a carpet of moss, pulling carefully at the edges to prevent the fragile thing from tearing apart. The bundle fits nicely under my arm as I carry it across the lawn, past strangers with gawking faces, past buildings with austere and plain facades, through doors that loom angrily at me for dragging in what they are supposed to keep out.

    I make my way through the chilly, shady building dodging little people holding shiny metallic tubes twisted in all manners unnatural or polished bits of wood they keep pressed under their chins.

    The sheet of moss under my arm quivers as I walk, perhaps in anticipation of its future, perhaps because it’s never seen the world in this way. I finally make it to my destination, the hallowed space nested away from all those strangers outside. Unrolling the carpet, I dissect it and stuff it wherever it needs to go, natural design giving way to the design required for the recreation of a time and place that never really happened.

    I believe creativity comes from reinterpretation. Bend what is vague, or uncertain, and fill up the blank spaces around the crumbs of ideas that are solid.

  7. The Turritopsis nutricula, can revert back to the polyp stage after its become sexually mature, biologically rendering itself immortal. This jellyfish will pump water beneath its transluscent shoot and along the length of its tentacles for as long as it can survive predation. In all intensive purposes, it could live forever.

    Like this jellyfish, sometimes I think I am immortal. It is an insistence - life can never be full enough, we have too many different possibilities to lead. My friend asked why we couldn't have nine lives, why we can't all be felines purring at the edge of each new inception.

    Lives to travel, lives to teach, lives to marry, lives to isolate, lives for wealth and lives for poverty, lives for grandchildren and lives to die in the heart of youth, lives as mermaids and lives lived in finding the greatest joy.

    Because I am immortal, I believe that I can live all these lives. They are the documents I write hoping eventually I will feel more fulfilled, something more like community and less like one day. One day, we will live less in the fiction we read and the pictures we see, but we will be the story and the landscape will be brilliant. I believe life will be like pride and prejudice, I believe it will be like into the wild, I believe I will be able to express like sylvia plath and patti smith, I believe I will walk along the highway in northern ontario for hundreds of miles, building an inukshuk to mark each one.

    I believe in all these immortalities, but I really only desire the one. The one that is confident, simple, and good. I believe in the potential for endlessly living life, for renewal like the jellyfish.

  8. This is the last year my dad will work for the military. After 23 years of service he will retire. This man, who can be so playful and spontaneous, yet at the same time rigid and structured, will finally be able to dress as he chooses, cut his hair as he chooses, and behave as he chooses.

    Sometimes I get phone calls from my mom telling me to call my dad because he thinks I've forgotten about him. When I am not home and he is feeling particularly abandoned, he calls me “Miss Independent, the child who doesn't need her father anymore.” Sometimes I watch NY Giants games just so I can call my dad at half time and talk about the various plays.

    “Dad, I tried calling you. Your number changed.”
    “Oh, yeah, I had to get a new phone.”
    “Next time will you let me know?”

    This is also the last year my dad will be without a college degree. By the end of Summer he will be the proud recipient of a Bachelor's in Business. Three years ago when he started on this adventure he did not believe in himself. I would find myself taking exams in business management after stepping of the plane for Christmas break. I would struggle to answer questions from material I had never studied only to be constantly corrected by the man who did not think he could take these tests, despite his clear grasp of the material.

    “Kathleen, I got a B in accounting!”
    “Dad that's great!”

    I believe in my Dad.

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  10. Sitting on the steps of my newly built tree house. It’s a hot summer day, the sun is beating down on my back, the grass is dry but soft, and there is a slight breeze that keeps me cool. I am oblivious to heat, to the burning of my shoulders that I know I will feel later, to the fact that my sister has been asking me to help her tend her flower garden and I still have not responded. Why is this? I am 8 years old and I am in love. With who? His name is Charlie. How precious and cute he was. Always there to listen to me, never judging me for the foolish things I did as a child. I know he won’t mind that my shoulders will be sunburned in a couple of hours. I also know that he doesn’t care that I like to take him everywhere with me or tell him my deepest, darkest secrets. I am amazed that I am so willing to open up to him, to tell him about my days, a story I heard, or a joke that I just someone. Even my mom likes him, well she should, she is the one who introduced us a year ago during Christmas. I believe Charlie is my best friend. He is always there for me, someone to always talk to and go places with. I believe at the age of 8, I was in love with my green stuffed animal bunny named Charlie.

  11. This I Believe; Talentless

    I've often heard people remark on how talented this person or that person is with art. Over the course of my education, I've come to believe there is no such thing as talent. There is no transcendental or super-human trait some people possess that makes them better at creating art than others.

    The artist, the successful artist, actually possesses a series of traits that allows him or her to manifest physically the ideas they possess in the mind.

    The most important traits for the artist, and the one confused for talent, are those of confidence: the confidence that your ideas are interesting, powerful, and reasonable, the confidence in your own abilities to create that idea physically, confidence to yield to intuition that has been developed of many hours of practice. The state of mind an artist possesses when creating work is one that is developed over a period of training, when idea and execution of idea start to fuse. The technical skills that are the trade of the artist are largely developed only to be manipulated and warped once the artist becomes comfortable with them, able to use them freely.

    And that's exactly what I tell people when they say they have no talent for art. I say there is no such thing as talent, you simply must practice with tenacity and that one must overcome the fear of making something bad. No artist makes gold with every stroke of the brush, every spin of the wheel, and any artist will tell you the same thing. With practice, anyone can become an artist.