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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This I Believe #7, 2011

Pretty sure we all know how this goes by now - post your essay by noon on March 11th.


  1. The sun rose in a brilliant sea of light, coating the land of hills, forests, and glades in a haunting orange glow. With a yawn, the figure sleeping in a cot looked through a window and saw a solitary hill, framed by his window akin to a masterpiece of artistic accomplishment. Atop the hill sat a lump of shadow, undefined and mysterious. The figure, with his head still cradled in the comfort of his pillow, vowed to explore and conquer the shadow that seemed to rise above all other people, things, and places. A clumsy jump from the bed, brushed teeth, a wash, and the appropriate clothing for the hike adorned, the figure began the journey.
    The beginnings of the journey began as generically as any other; in town. The small and humble homes passed the figure by in a blur, excitement overtaking all sensibilities. The slope of the path began to sharpen upwards, slightly, slowing down the march. Caution began to overtake the walker as the beacon atop the hill, the shadow, was no longer visible within the dense foliage. With a handful of choice curses and grunts, the figure began to brush away the briars and stickweeds, forcing a path to immerge. Despite the adrenaline pumping throughout the walker’s veins, a rest became essential as made evident by the sound of lungs gulping air began to echo in the area. A quick rest and the march resumed though a bit slower. Many obstacles presented themselves; gouges in the land caused by torrential downpours, steep and sharp increases in the incline of the hill, ancient trees that had finally fallen over under the weight of their own wisdom to create barriers. These obstacles proved formidable but conquerable. As time passed and the top of the hill became more definable by the noonday sun, the mystery of the shadow was revealed; a great boulder of sandstone. The goliath of rock stood nearly four stories tall and was easily as wide as any house down in the town below. A chill rocked the figure’s spine at the thought of the boulder losing its grip upon the earth, only to create catastrophe for the homeowners at the base of the hill.
    Pushing those dark thoughts into the recesses of the mind, the walker began to examine the great monolith. On three sides the task of climbing the boulder proved impossible; they were completely sheer in their angle, almost completely 90 degrees. Those sides proved fruitless…except the fourth. The earth had piled itself in a narrow walkway that led most of the way up; unfortunately, the earth had neglected to create guardrails. With a nervous lump awkwardly caught in the throat, the figure began to walk this path. On both sides, one could imagine his or her own death at the hands of vile gravity. Eventually the path ended at the boulder edge. Again, the rock had decided to create a rather vertical climb for the figure to conquer…it was simply a shorter distance. Queerly, a nylon rope had been planted at the top of the boulder and was currently whipping in the wind in front of the figure. Grasping the rope with both hands, the climb had begun. Hand over hand, foot over foot, the process was repeated until five feet was conquered. Then ten; then fifteen until the summit of the artist’s masterpiece was revealed to the figure. With a gaping mouth that no longer was receiving signals from the brain the figure examined the land surround the giant hill. The world had unfolded before him, becoming a sea of trees, gently rolling hills, spotted with the occasional town. At this moment, I found a love like no other for my town and the land which surrounded me.

    I believe not only in the journey and nature but I also believe in my home.

  2. Sorry about that one, guys. It's a big one so if tl;dr occurs, that is perfectly reasonable. : P

  3. it’s been quite a few months since i’ve emailed you, hasn’t it?

    it must have been. you sent another message, just asking whether or not i’d forgotten about you. i haven’t, i promise. it’s just hard. it’s hard to take the time to type out words and sentences to someone who is so far away.

    i wish i could remember the day we met. you say you do. you told me once that i was the one who asked you to be my friend. i find that hard to believe, but i accept it anyway. who knows? maybe i was brave once.

    i wish i could forget that day in fifth grade that you and jace got into that four-wheeler accident, only a few miles away from my house. i cried for hours. i heard the sirens…police, ambulance, fire. i heard about them taking you away in a helicopter to lexington.

    mostly, however, i wish i could forget the way you looked when i visited you in the hospital. that was the day that i knew everything had changed. your eyes opened, but you weren’t there. honestly, i wonder sometimes if you ever completely came back. things have been so different since that day. i can’t decide if it is your fault or my fault or if it was simply the years that followed. you never were the same, but neither was i.

    we were so young, kandace. too young. and now, we’re too old. we missed the years that our friendship needed to grow. i hate that. i hate that you think i ignore you. i hate that you think i could forget about you. i never have and i never will.

    you were my best friend, but i believe that time and space have torn an irreparable hole within our friendship. i wonder sometimes how it still even exists.

  4. I believe in books. Honest to goodness books. Real paper between your hands with beautiful ink on the page books. “Cut down the tree books” as Amazon calls them.

    It's not a question of sustainability, and to those who argue it is I ask: Have you never stood in the stacks of a library? Have you never opened up a book in a used book store?

    Books tell us stories in their pages, and not just the published ones. The little annotations and the underlines the people that owned or read the book before you put in, they're the beginnings. The coffee ring on page 243 halfway down makes you envision a scholarly old man with gold-round glasses absentmindedly sitting down his mug as he wonders onto the back porch to take a closer look at a bird. If you pay attention you get at least one whole extra story in a book, if not many more.

    I read “The Book Thief,” a work about the rare book collectors. One of the underlying themes was that such people are a little obsessive. It's true, but they are also fascinating. My first visit to the Special Collections was a highlight of my Transy career. I was in awe and full of glee, all at once.

    Susan Brown says if you stand in the stacks of the library, real quiet, you'll hear the books talk to each other, starting the great conversations that can be had between the authors and time periods and ideas if you just read. Most of the first years looked at her like she was whacked. I think she's brilliant.

    Books are calming to me. Not the contents per say, just the physical books. On a particularlyry bad day last semester, after crying in the library about how I didn't know what I was doing with my life and then drinking my cup of make you feel better tea, I wandered into the stacks. I didn't pull any books out. I just stood among them, and declared to my boyfriend that I should change my religious views on Facebook to say: Books. Libraries could be our holy places. He told me it sounded like I was starting a cult.
    And then he stood there with me.
    I'm telling you, books are magic.

    If Fahrenheit 451 ever does come true, I'll be on of the people the fire department has to visit, and I'll be damn proud of it.

    Maybe it's because I'm a scholar, an educator, or a librarian, but not matter why or what:
    I believe in books.

  5. The poison ivy was so bad I had to stay home from school for three days. It was between my fingers, and my face was so swollen I couldn't open my eyes unless I'd been sitting with a hot towel pressed over them for a while to take down the swelling. Was my book worth it? My mother asked (More than once).

    The book was worth it. I knew I wasn't supposed to climb some of the trees in the backyard, but the one I'd picked had such a good spot for a kid to sit and read. Unfortunately the vines my friend and I had used to reach this magical reading world were some variation of poison ivy, you could see the lines from where I'd grabbed onto it in raised red angry bumps for the first day, but then I scratched and it spread over my palms hiding the clear evidence against me.

    The book was worth it. It was a good book, although to be honest I'd started getting itchy after only a few minutes in the tree, and had only stuck it out as long as I did because no one was yelling at me to get down. So I felt like I was winning a game that no one else knew I was playing. I'd gotten the book from our neighbors garage sale. It was one of the first ones I bought by myself and is still on the shelf somewhere in my now slightly ridiculous collection. It was one of those books that you read the first time by yourself, and you're sure you know all the words, but you make your mom read it to you at night sometimes just because you're still young enough for that to fly.

    But the real triumph here was that I hadn't had to go past the place where my dad grew corn in our suburban back yard and through the hole in the back of the fence to the little drainage area from the fishing lake behind the tree line. This was the best way to make forts that the parents couldn't see. I'm still not sure an adult can fit through the paths we took. No, I was getting away with climbing the huge tree right on the edge of the yard.

    I had no idea why my parents told me not to climb it, that the vines on it would essentially incapacitate me and my childhood best friend. But it was still worth it. After three swollen miserable days and anti-itch lotion that smells like chemicals, it was still worth it. If no one tells me why I'm not allowed to do something, I learned from surviving that run in with the tree, that I will always push to find out why. I will not follow rules which seem arbitrary to me, and I never would have learned from the orders not to climb that tree if I hadn't suffered the consequences.

    I believe in breaking the rules.

  6. While the men chase the ends of long sentences spliced by sex-starved bodyguards, the women explode with delight, tears bubbling up as “hunky” leads in the hero. Metaphors quiver with unspeakable passion as the story climaxes seconds before the boat-rocking finale. Though the gorgeous anchorwoman still doesn’t know who sends her threatening messages, she does know she is falling for the blond man in her bed. Eyes clouded by drops of yearning close shut, spent. The class cracks down the middle, soft insides exposed, mirth boiling among cinderblocks, unexpected.

    I believe in the things that crack our lives open.

    Her days crack when cold steel enters her right shoulder, tearing muscle and bone. After four nights away, she returns to new sunshine, orange crocuses, and a perpetual chill under her blue-veined skin. Even her favorite eight-bean-and-medium-mild-sausage soup won’t warm her up. Though Berny does the usual lying on his back, begging for a hug, one more, please, her mind is elsewhere. Wrapped in purple, she spends her mornings stalking the Weather Channel, looking for good news. No more m&m’s, no peanut-butter-and-cracker delights for a four-year-old.

    The dragon wraps around his left arm as he stares the camera down, eyes full of suspicion, a three-day-beard marking membership in a club few belong to. An overfed boy leans again his side, eyes closed, mouth ajar, as if this is already his happiest memory, seagulls and foaming waves forever. A woman wrapped in a red hair-cover and red t-shirt advertising someone else’s full lips hugs the man and the boy, arms stretched as far as they go. Her smile is unsure, composed of white teeth that have never worn braces. She lights a cigarette. She is falling through the cracks of his days and she knows even the boy won’t help.

  7. I rode my bike to the farm where my father was raised. I swam in the hole he dug with his brothers. Four children stretched this slow-moving stream into a pool: water warmed by the morning sun and, now, filled with leaches. Submerging into the soil that fed him, the stream rises again into a spring, shaded by the tall trees at the edge of a forest across the road. My father once left his toy rake here, balanced in the crotch of a small tree.

    We climbed down slick rocks shaped like stairs and found the stone he discovered as a child, cut by time to form a fountain. I sipped the water and imagined myself in another place as my brother offered a drink to our cousin from a beer can he filled with urine and left earlier to cool in the shaded stream. Above, the braided red and white pattern polychromed on the pressed steel of my father’s toy rake was still visible though the tree had long ago absorbed half the handle.

    Years later, I came home from college to build a stone wall at the base of this soft staircase of water, a passageway I now recognized as the work of the Mohicans who carved the earth as my father had with his swimming hole. Drowning in quiet for the weeks I worked in solitude with wet rocks, I thought about my father’s rake: barely visible in the side of a tree still growing swiftly, long spring arms sprout fresh leaves stories above the rusted toy. The pieces of his life were dissolving.

    A small rusty elephant watches as my wall tumbles, the stones relocated by the waters that end each winter. A braid, kept colorful by memory, wraps itself around the elephant and reaches deep into the center of a tree just now finding purpose.

    I believe in relics.

  8. Refusing to learn how to speak properly is like never learning to use table manners. I will give you the same glare for confusing “she” and “her” as I would for chewing with your mouth open.

    I understand that nobody’s perfect, and—keeping with the food metaphor—admit I might occasionally pick up the wrong fork by mistake. I don’t expect the precision of Merriam-Webster. I just want some effort.

    And just like all things in life, I think that you should have to be told about it when you screw up. Which is why I take it upon myself to proofread (and grade) any and all public signs and postings. It bothers people, but so do traffic tickets: the spoken world needs people like me to keep the rest of us safe.
    I realize that I put people off by correcting them, but they need to understand that I get put off by their lazy language. There are way more people perpetrating verbal typos than there are people willing to call them out on it. I have to deal with hundreds of them, there’s few of my kind, and we’re on a crusade: a selfless crusade for distinction among homophones, consideration for the placement of prepositions, and the most meticulous regard for the uses of “a” and “an”.

    To put it simply, bad grammar is lewd, rude, and crude, and anyone with a conscious or some self-respect will try to avoid it.

    Besides, you’re cheating yourself out of cheeky wordplay, like this:

    There are their English teachers, they’re so under appreciated.

    Look at the grammar book. It’s so sad, how its contents are neglected.

    Then was better than now.

    And my personal favorite, the silliest of all: Two tutus, too short to pirouette in.

    We’re just here to make the world a better place, one edit at a time.

    I believe in grammar and the eternal struggle of the considerate linguist.

    Oh, and one more thing: we do not like the term “grammar Nazi”. In fact, we are quick to properly point out the misnomer.

  9. Ah, you are right. We don't want to be called grammar anything. And I know that you've been working on the ends of your sentences, but whatever is barely better than blah blah blah. (It's also good to know you won't hold my pointing this out against me.)

  10. Cody, your reflection reads like an epic narrative about a place you love. Your attention to details is really impressive. It speaks, more powerfully than anything else, to your love for where you come from.

  11. Blair, I love how your reflection--seemingly about books and poison ivy--ends up affirming (and very convincingly so) the goodness, no, the necessity, of breaking rules. You are absolutely right to demand explanations, not to follow rules that appear arbitrary, not to obey blindly others' ideas of what one should do.

  12. Cody, I really like how you are "the figure" and "the walker" until the very end when you become conscious of yourself and use "I" to speak of the love you found for your town--as if you didn't fully exist until you found this affection.

  13. I wonder, Katie, if you were aware of the hope that turns up in the final words of your essay, by suggesting surprise that your friendship still exists you make it clear that it does, that it is something you are conscious of. I wonder, then, if Kandace is conscious of this as well?

  14. if ever there was a doubt, April, that you believed in books, that doubt has been ground into dust finer than that which settles atop the spine of a book so tall that it barely fits into the shelf.

    Kafka said that "a book should serve as an ax for the frozen sea within us."

    I wonder if your experience with books has ever replicated what Kafka wished for? I wonder if ever your belief in books was a book?