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, January 17, 2012

This I Believe #01, 2012

Please post your This I Believe essays before class on Friday, January 20th. (:


  1. I believe in food.

    I believe in steamed broccoli and lemon green beans, in polenta lasagna and naan. I believe in chocolate cake and tiramisu. I believe in spicy pasta with shrimp in it and Thai curries. I believe in bulghur wheat and quinoa and water chestnuts and garbanzo beans. I believe in ice cream.

    I believe in sharing dessert with someone you love. I believe in eating half of what’s on the plate and putting the rest away for a second meal. I believe in the tactile and olfactory sensations of cooking and eating.

    I believe in food even when it’s hard to eat. Days when the sensation of emptiness is worth more than a strong body, worth more than the taste of tikka masala or eggplant parmesan. Days when potatoes or cheese are off-limits because they feel too heavy and full. Days when, Jesus, what is wrong with me, I’m a smart girl, being thin isn’t this important. Stop this. Just eat.

    I believe in the table of food at parties and trying one bite of everything, as long as someone else is doing it too. I believe in eating alone, where no one can watch and judge me. I believe in eating standing up, because didn’t you know the calories don’t count? I believe in bargaining with myself. I’ll go to the gym every day this week if I can just manage to eat a piece of candy. I really love candy, remember? One piece of candy does not make anyone a fat cow. Would you let anyone else talk to you this way? Why do it to yourself?

    I believe in acceptance, in love.

    I believe that eating makes me better.

    I believe that one day, if I make enough compromises, I can have a healthy relationship with food.

    1. Mindy, this is beautiful. Thank you.

    2. thank you, thank you, thank you.

  2. I believe in beet farms.
    I believe in receiving prom invitations in jello. I also believe in beet seeds as a heartfelt graduation gift. I believe in planning imaginary parties for friends consisting of decorations like half-inflated gray and brown balloons as well as a festive banner declaring, “IT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY.” I also believe that I am destined to sell paper.
    I believe in rabies awareness and fun runs for the cure. I believe that black bears are best, and do, in fact, eat beets. I also believe that identity theft is not a joke. Millions of families suffer every year you know.
    But what I don’t believe in is GPSs, which only want to kill you by driving you into a lake.
    If anyone reading this understood these references, I believe my day would be made.
    You see, I believe in a show called The Office, my primary obsession. I also believe in sharing that obsession. When some every day occurrence reminds you of an element of your show, naturally the excitement of recognition follows. Even better is the ability of verbally expressing this joy to another who responds with complete understanding, rather than a blank stare at your oddly overexcited behavior.
    It’s not so much an obsession as it is an extreme giddiness over something that others either likewise appreciate or find utterly annoying. So I believe it’s okay to have something, or multiple things, that make you feel this way.
    I believe we all need an obsession. Innocent ones at least.

  3. I believe in sea glass, in discovering recycled treasures along the shores of Lake Michigan. I believe in the way the green and blue and brown shards, once sharp, now soft, pick out their bits of sunlight in the sand. I believe in collecting more colors than your pockets can hold, in shaking out your suitcase when you’re done unpacking, in finding lake sand in your favorite pair of shoes a day, a week, a month after your trip.

    I believe in escape, in pulling on sweaters and boots and a scarf and walking 1.5 miles with your sister to a major body of water because you’ve slept as late, and eaten as much, and read as many pages, and watched as many episodes of L.A. Ink as you can without going insane, and there’s still no one to talk to who doesn’t spell your name wrong on Christmas presents or ask you how old you are (“it’s 14 now, right?”) or ask if you know anything about turn of the century ice trucks and, GOD, you are actually going to collapse in on yourself and implode if you don’t go out into the cold and the sun, "heavenly in it’s hurtfulness," and LEAVE.

    I believe in guilt.

    I believe in looking back and remembering that one time, you know, that one time when you were younger, maybe ten or so, and you had gotten it into your head to make a sea glass necklace (you know, that one from that book), even though, strictly speaking, you did not have any glass of your own. Remember how you were so young, young and selfish, and you asked Gramma if you could use her collection? You thought, she has a lot, a whole life full glass, and I, being young and new to the field of winter beach combing, have none, and sharing is caring after all, so why why why not? I believe in lectures from mom because even though Gramma said yes of course honey she really meant no.

    I believe in loving people even when you don’t like them.

    I believe in knowing that it’s cliché …but still

    I believe in Grammas that love their grandchildren even when they’re still too young to know how to love them back.

  4. I believe in lungs. Lungs that burn like Hell and feel like they will tear apart as you streak towards your parents’ house on a young summer evening, straining to beat your big sister by maybe just a nose, but you know that you never really will. I believe in lungs that expand beautifully before you even consciously think of the note you will play, comfortable in the knowledge that you can make that note come out and resound and live, if only for a few beats. I believe in each cell and tissue and lobe of my lungs, because I know they won’t always work as well as they do now, and I may as well enjoy them while they last. I believe in the plastic pulmonary models in my father’s cabinet- the ones he took apart and put together for the sheer joy of understanding how something, which is so fundamental, happens to work.
    I believe in my lungs on cool spring mornings, when I inhale the scents of damp soil and soft blue sky and feel a faint tingle in my fingers, reminding me that I am alive.
    I also happen to believe that I do not deserve my lungs- my robust, pink lungs that have never once failed me in eighteen years. That’s a pretty good record you know, but I rarely ever sit back and thank them for all of their hard work- and trust me, they have weathered their fair share of laborious battles. Those two troopers have seen me through years of soccer games, dance routines, and even a few adolescent panic-attacks. I have climbed down ravines, hiked cliffs, and fallen out of numerous trees thanks to my lungs. They have given me eighteen years of breathtaking life, but I never appreciate them until I see one of my favorite people struggling to walk up a hill because his lungs are not so wonderful. His lungs have not given him a life like mine, but instead a life containing far too many hospital beds and oxygen tanks. I believe that I do not deserve my lungs, but I have to believe in hope.

    1. Please consider sharing this with your friend. It is a moving reflection about a desire to share life through breath and breathing easily.

  5. I believe in winter.

    I believe that it is not always harsh, that it is not always cold, barren, or bleak.
    I believe that within it there is privacy that you can’t find in any other season, riper than produce during its peak.
    I believe winter is about belonging to yourself.

    I believe in using this time to search into my soul, to find the last whispers of warmth summer once breathed into me. Here, I draw into myself, lulled into the places I was too preoccupied to explore in the warmer months. Jagged places that foster a sharper sense of clarity, a keen sense of detail I am predisposed to keep on shelves in the off-season. Places inaccessible under the sun’s languid spell. I believe in this place. I believe it is a place for deep introspection, not hibernation. A place for me to grow inward, not outward. To grow into my own skin and know I am not as invincible as I was when I jumped into our lake, into cars, into deep ends. I believe winter is to know you are vulnerable, but accepting it, using it as this tool you can only vaguely recognize from its age-old place in a family shed.

    I believe in dreading winter.
    Knowing that anytime now it’s going to pull me into its furred clutches, urging me to breather slower, to breather deeper, to let the cold air sting in a place in my lungs I had not been able to feel only 2 weeks ago. I believe in knowing that winter is going to hurt at first. I believe in self-consciously watching the warmth exude from my bones, embarrassed in not being sure of how to replenish it once it leaves. I believe in trusting myself.
    I believe that under the ice there is a story that never leaves. And with that there is this drive to chip away that icy layer year after year. Learning to love the toil, to love the dexterity I am learning to have with this not so impenetrable quarry of a soul.

    I believe in finding myself in a season of notable loneliness, extracting that energy from the inside where it must simmer year-round.

    I believe in winter.

    1. chipping away ice, year after year, to find a story that never leaves...your reflection is filled with so many strong images.

  6. I believe in laughter. I believe in laughing so hard that your breath begins to come out in gasps and you struggle to catch your breath. I believe in laughing so hard that your friends ask you if you are okay because tears are streaming down your face and you didn’t even realize it. I believe in laughing so long that your sides begin to ache but try as you might, you can’t stop laughing and laughing becomes a bit well, uncomfortable. I believe in laughing even when your sides hurt because sometimes, despite the twinge in your side, you just don’t want the laughter to end.
    I believe in laughing for at least fifteen minutes a day because you can burn up to forty calories that way. I believe in laughing while you’re eating lunch because your friend will make you laugh right when you take a big drink and milk will come flying out of your nose.
    I believe in laughing when you make eye contact with a friend because you both know that you are thinking the exact same thing at that very moment. I believe in laughing when you’re alone, on the way to class because you thought of something funny that happened a few days ago, and people look at you oddly because they don’t understand and you don’t want to explain. I believe in laughing at inside jokes. I believe in not being able to contain your laughter, even when you need to because you’re in the middle of class, and your teacher is telling you to quiet down but you just can’t.
    I believe in laughing bitterly because sometimes the universe seems to be conspiring against you. I believe in laughing nervously because you’re not quite sure what’s going on but everyone else seems to understand. I believe in laughing because sometimes, all you can do is laugh.

  7. I poured myself a glass of tea, sat back in my favorite chair, and drew a deep breath. I looked down the mountainside and remembered everything clearly. My favorite dog is buried just over there. On the other side, I remembered the silly five year old me. I refused to spray that icky OFF! garbage onto my skin. I wanted to play with my toy trucks and not smell weird. I remember all of those mosquitos landing on me. Within five minutes of playing, I ran back inside, crying. I thought I was bleeding to death because the mosquitos got me. My legs were scabby for a week. I believe in mosquitos, even though they are bothersome little buggers.

    My tea ran empty rather fast, but there was some ice left in the glass. I grabbed a piece, plopped it into my mouth, and saw the goose-bumps appear on my arms. I believe in ice. That last crunch I made when I had that last piece of ice was soothing to my scratchy throat, a result from all the ragweed in the neighborhood. I felt the cool beads trickle down my throat.

    I believe in the common human element. I don’t believe in labels. I’m old. I’m young. I’m rich. I’m poor. I’m fat. I’m skinny. I’m gay. I’m straight. I’m human. I believe in love. Looking over that mountainside, it felt like I could say anything to those white oak and beech trees and not be judged. For once, I wasn’t ashamed of myself. I didn’t have to hide who I was for all of those trees. They know who I am. They watched me play with my toy trucks. They watched my first kiss. They watched me smoke my first (and only) cigarette. They don’t judge.

  8. This I believe… that music sculpts the course of life when life needs sculpting the most. That driving home from school on the highway, windows down with music pulsing through speakers creates invincibility. Also that loneliness can be cured by presence of music, whether it be the notes or the lyrics that fill the empty hole in my body. The notion that I can find music relating to my emotions whatever they may currently be keeps me from feeling alone in a world when so much is flying by. Further, for fingers to glide across piano keys creates a feeling of belonging in such an artistic world. To be a part of it is an important part of my life, no matter what my level of experience may be. A sense of belonging forms if you have a relationship with some sort of tangible music. Even more so, when sitting in a small venue up close and personal with an artist whose life is the creation of such brilliance, music thrives in my mind and body. The emotions created in those moments are the emotions of utmost importance in my life… such experiences are unexplainable. Because of these moments, I truly believe in the beauty of the artistic creation we call music.

  9. I believe in curvatures. Unexpected life curves can turn everything around. From good to bad. Or from bad to good. They can vary in size. A curve can be small. Or large. They can make us get lost in a city and curse at the individual who placed in there. Or we can praise a curve for allotting the space for the perfect view over the seaside. My most prominent life curve, ironic as it may be is a curve itself. Scoliosis. Originally, I had no idea what it meant “Scoliosis”. It sounded like a dirty word to me. Later, I found out what it meant. A curvature of the spine. In my case a 38 degree “S curve”. It isn’t a curve that comes and goes. That circles and arches and then disappears from view while driving. It isn’t a curve like on a test that we all thank god for one day and forget it ever happened. It is permanent. It stays. Although this is a “physical impairment” according to doctors. I don’t see it that way. Each day I get up. I face the curve. I feel the unevenness in my hips, the poking out of my ribs, the ache in my lower back, and at first I twinge. For an instant, I think how bad the day is going to be because I have to deal with my own body working against me as I do the most ordinary tasks. Carrying my backpack to class. Running on the treadmill to try to keep a decent figure, even though I realize it will never be symmetrical and normal. Even getting on my shoes in the morning is a challenge. I get up and do all these things, even though they are painful. However, when I lie down in bed at night, I can say I won that day. I did everything normally. I checked everything off of my “to do list”. I believe in my curve because it has changed me. It has challenged me in a way nothing else could. It makes me appreciate each day. Each action because nothing that seems easy really is. Each little movement takes extra effort and I take none of it for granted. Some days I get the view of the ocean and other days it’s like I’m in the city getting lost but, at least I get the chance to experience both. I appreciate both.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Kristina. Awareness of living, physically speaking, within a body that can sometimes be thought of as a limitation is something we will all deal with sooner or later. Having the kind of understanding of this that you already do would help many people, I am sure of it.

  10. I was nine.

    I walked with my father beneath a line that carried electric to my house and then to my neighbor’s which fell to ashes after I moved away: seven years after the first fire that soot-stained silverware, drawing a family together with baby-blanket polishing cloths and elbow grease.

    I walked, with my father, beneath a line that carried voices to our dark-brown phone hanging against red-checked kitchen wallpaper, carrying the same voices to another house four miles away: a house sided with shingles meant for the hole-riddled-roof where a man who sounded sad lived alone and heard our voices when he picked up his phone to make a call. And I waited for his conversations to end. I was calling my grandmother.

    I walked, with my father, beneath a line upon which landed a small bird who walked with us. We filled one bucket with grain and another with water that splashed out against bare legs walking half-mile up a road more dust than dirt. Cast thick in black rubber, the buckets swayed silently on steel stirrups. My father whistled. The bird whistled back.

    I walked, with my father, beneath a woven line of twisted wire and barbed hooks that sliced deep into the soft udders of cows attempting escape. And I emptied the grain onto a pile of flat rocks. And my father filled the buckets with milk. And he rubbed salve into fresh wounds.

    I believe in walking, still.

  11. Back then we did not know what had made him go still. We saw steel pulleys in the corner room of the corner apartment. We sat in the yellowing grasses to speculate about the man pulled together by shiny wires. We knew that he had been a trapeze artist: breath-taking before the accident happened. His young wife lived with him, still. There were rumors she had a boyfriend: someone with a body that moved on its own.

    Years later I watch as trapeze artists perform feats of magic: a woman on top of a boy on top of a man. The man holds a long pole: ballast against threatening height as he walks with still shoulders beneath the feet of a boy whose arms stretch into dusty air stirred by a woman flapping wings of white feathers.

    Years later I marvel at their focus: a woman on top of a boy on top of a man. I wonder if the man has a young wife who worries about grass turning yellow. I wonder if the boy wishes he could stroll on a silver beach rather than balance on top of a man, arms spread out, a woman preparing herself for flight above him.

    Years later I wonder about a man distracted by thoughts of a young wife awaiting a boy near tall grasses. Years later I wonder if the man lost his focus or if the boy decided he would walk rather than soar. Years later I believe in collaboration. I believe in pulling people and dreams in to make magic.

  12. because hearing an alarm go off before seven o’clock on the morning of the first day of christmas vacation should be illegal.
    because the man who sat to my right smelled like his cigarette smoke had somehow woven itself into the fabric of his being.
    because (i’m sorry) i really did not want to talk to him about the book i was reading.
    because the carpet in the room was far too geometric for my tastes. and it was extraordinarily loud geometry.
    because the walls holding me in that room seemed like they had been painted by children. with mustard.
    because i do not particularly care for sitting in a room full of strangers for four hours.
    because there are many better things to be done on a saturday morning. like sleeping.
    because i had barely slept three hours the night before.
    because the woman to my left breathed in a way reminiscent of darth vader. (i kept expecting her to call me luke and claim to be my father.)
    because all i learned that day was that the man presenting really liked personal anecdotes. a lot.
    because it is not my fault that he was sitting there.
    because i did not like the harley davidson motorcycle he rode (even though it was pretty cool to see one of those guys on a bike).
    because i definitely picked the wrong way to drive home.
    because i wasn’t really going all that fast anyway.
    because traffic school was an awful, terrible, miserable experience that i never, ever want to relive…
    …i believe i will never be caught speeding again.