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 31, 2012


Your This I Believe essays are due before class Friday, so leave them in the comments!


  1. German, quite famously, has a word for happiness at other people’s downfalls—“schadenfreude.” It also has a word for a type of depression characterized by world-weariness, “weltschmertz.” A “bildungsroman” is a coming-of-age story.

    I have no interest in learning German. It is not one of the languages I find beautiful. I went to Germany for four days and came home knowing only how to say “good morning,” “how much does it cost,” and “I would like an ice cream, please.” But German is a good language for untranslatable words.

    In Pascuenese, “tingo” is the word for slowly taking the possessions of a friend by borrowing them, one by one. In Urdu, there is a word, “naz,” for the pride you feel from knowing that you are loved. Georgians say “shemomedjamo” when they talk about the experience of eating after you are full because you love the taste of the food more than physical comfort. Italians have a phrase for the feeling of rekindling a failed relationship, “cavoli riscaldati”-- literally it means “reheated cabbage.” The Scottish use “tartle” for the act of hesitating while introducing someone because you have forgotten their name-I like that one because it even sounds like the face you make when this happens.

    English has its share of beautiful words, too. Ephemeral is a favorite of mine, to describe temporary things that will soon fade away. Crepuscular rays are the visible bits of sunlight that poke down through cloud cover. Petrichor (as Doctor Who fans know) is the smell of dust after rain. Liminal states are neither one thing or another, but between them, like the doorway between two rooms.

    I believe in words. Words are strange and loud and soft at once. They take meanings and ideas and pin them down, give them names. Even words we never use have meanings and a kind of artistic grace, a haunted loveliness, like a fainting couch covered n dust but still warm. Someone was here. Someone felt this way too. You are not alone.

    1. There's a word in the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego that literally means "a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves." The word itself, "Mamihlapinatapai," is nearly unpronounceable.

    2. i love this so so so much.
      seriously, it is beautiful and i totally agree.

    3. This is an amazing story about beautiful and untranslatable words, Mindy. I hope that you will consider it for publication in our chapbook. And you should read the play The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl: it is, in part, about jokes that cannot be translated.

  2. I believe in playing in an intermural basketball game even if I can only play for 5 minutes.

    I believe in driving people to a play they needed to see for class just because I needed some “weird time” and love them dearly.

    I believe in swing dancing on the corner of North Broadway with no music with my “ex-son in law” while people in the cars going past honk at us. I couldn’t stop laughing and felt graceful for about five seconds.

    I believe in squishing my little one in a chair in front lobby as she sits down to say hello and tell me all about her day. Fun fact? She is taller than me and is rather hard to squish. I succeeded anyway.

    I believe in singing the “Lovely bunch of coconuts song” from the Lion King at the top of my lungs with my roommate when we have too much to do or when are delirious from exhaustion. We also do some lovely interpretive dance to this number.

    I believe in jamming to 90’s music with two rad chicks while cutting wooden fairy dolls out on saws. Backstreets back... ALRIGHT!

    I believe in the smile of my Grammy who was shocked to see her dream car sitting in the garage on her 40th wedding anniversary. In the color that she wanted.

    I believe in attacking my God-Twittle and catching up over one of our long awkward spinning hugs that perfectly describes our relationship.

    I believe in going grocery shopping at a Kroger that looks half in shambles and being completely moved by the maturity of my partner in crime.

    I believe in watching a Diva shake it like he never shook it before while wearing yellow.

    I believe in listening to interesting discussions between my “rooms” and her boyfriend and thinking ” yup, they’ll be the ones to make it”.

    I believe in talking to my best friend of 6 years on Facebook and getting the news that he is coming home soon from Afghanistan and that he plans to visit.

    I believe that all of these little things are what put a smile on my face.

    It is a fact that all of these things happened this week.

    I believe in looking around, appreciating the small stuff, because really as you can see all of it can add up pretty fast to make for an incredible week.

    1. i live like this, too.
      it's always the small things. and they make life beautiful.

    2. What a terrific list. You are right, the small things add up. And I wonder what "weird time is." Sounds like fun.

  3. Reproduced is a day on Rocky Top.
    Organic chocolate milks in a lunch box.
    Yoga competitions, and red ears.

    Captured is a day rollerblading into a pile of leaves.
    Leaves in my pants, leaves in my hair.
    I don’t think slacklining will ever get much easier.

    Apprehended is a giant snowman.
    It took SO LONG to build.
    I was positive we wouldn’t be able to pick up the torso.

    Arrested is a jump in the air.
    My legs are flying one way, my arms are flying the other, my face… well, that’s unexplainable.
    It was too cold to get into the salty water, but the sunrise was well-worth it.

    Frozen are a pair of purple converse and a pair of purple vans.
    They both have bright green shoelaces.
    I didn’t think I’d want to dance, but those suspenders were pretty sexy.

    Caught is month well spent.
    It seems that I’m holding the Eiffel Tower, but it’s just a trick.
    Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to put a 360- view over the top of Florence onto paper, but for now, a panorama will do. It will always be breath- taking.

    Immobilized is a sleepy face half in a sleeping bag.
    Messy hair, and cold feet.
    It got pretty cold on my first back packing trip.

    There’s much more, but I don’t have time for that.
    I don’t want to kill than many trees either.

    Paralyzed is my life.
    In pieces of a puzzle.
    It’s okay though, I don’t mind looking through the books to put the pieces back together.

    I believe in memories preserved for years upon years,
    until they disintegrate or burn or until my computer blows up.
    But I’ll be gone by then.

    1. I love the lyrical snapshots of your literal snapshots. That's lovely.

  4. I believe in summer sun that turns pools into bath water and skin the same color as the marshmallows you love to toast but not to eat, in sticky skin and campfires and the drone of cicadas in the dusky, dusty world. I believe in leather car seats and sun that burns through tinted windows, in roads that lie about being wet and newscasters that tell you it’s dangerous and y’all be sure to drink enough water and rest frequently when doing hard labor, didn’t you hear about that fella over in Helmsley that passed out in his own front yard, in a heat that strokes.

    I believe in opening the oven mid-bake, in that invisible scorching cloud that makes you jump back and yelp and fear for your eyebrows. In water that burns, no it’s called scalding, isn’t it, because there was that time when you said you could make spaghetti all by yourself and the handles were hot, and your wrists were weak, and you managed to save the noodles but turned the skin of your tweenaged tummy a violent shade of red. I believe in cookies so fresh they make everything taste like Styrofoam for a week, and mothers that keep aloe beside kitchen appliances.

    I believe in blistering maybe but not quite rage, in wrath that is about as real as it isn’t Christ-like. I believe in cheeks that get hot and tempers that flare and eyes that see red, but that just a metaphor, no need to worry about making a mess because even though the blood is pumping in your ears and your head hurts and you feel like you might actually explode, it’s just a feeling, the carpet’ll be fine. I believe in the way your face feels the same way when you want to kiss a person and when you want to destroy them. I believe in the first law of thermodynamics, in the knowledge that although energy cannot be created or destroyed, that same energy, this blasted heat, will eventually dissipate and leave me in peace.

    1. Wow. This is incredible. As a child from the mountains in Eastern Kentucky, I experienced so many of these things, especially those cicadas. I remember when I did outdoor theatre. It was always a competition between the actors and cicadas when we were rehearsing without microphone.

    2. This was a really well-written reflection on all the different ways we feel heat.

    3. I really like the images in your reflection. And you manage to weave them seamlessly into a beautiful narrative...

  5. The aroma is like no other. It is rich and smooth and so distinctly coffee. What else could it be, but coffee, brewing to perfection? It is sublime. In the morning, in the afternoon, or the evening, I can drink it any time and it is the perfect time.

    I know, I know. It’s bitter, it’s muddy water, it’s sludge, and any number of unflattering and unappetizing names one might use to describe the drink if they weren’t exactly big fans. But to me, and (according to the booming business Starbucks has become) a great amount of others, it is sweet ambrosia.

    I don’t believe in drinking it black. The mixing of the additional elements is a science. It’s the only science that I can honestly say I enjoy. There must be sugar and cream. Not too much, and not too little. I believe in balance. There is such a thing as a bad cup of coffee.

    I believe in bonding over a pair of mugs that don’t match. The blue and white one with the bluebird mascot has four spoonfuls of sugar and the cream makes the dark liquid a milky tan, and the yellow one with the cute little bees and flowers has three spoonfuls and is more of an ochre shade. I believe in being one of the only two people in a home who love coffee so much that they can easily drink two or three cups a day.

    I believe in meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen for ages and grabbing a quick cup because you have to leave in like two hours to go back to school, and I really miss talking to you and I’ll see you the next time I come home and we can have a cup of coffee because that’s what adults do, they meet up for coffee, and they talk and talk and talk. Right?

    I believe in the smell, and the taste. I believe in its power to form an enduring bond. I believe it’s the perfect beverage over which to discuss what’s new, what’s old and mention that those shoes are super cute.

    I believe in coffee.

    1. I love coffee. I love drinking it in the quiet of my living room and I love using it as an excuse to spend time with others. Great reflection, Stacey.

  6. I believe in Oak Tree Number Two- you know, that one really awkward kid in the school play who tried out and did not actually get a part, but since EVERYONE gets a part, he gets cast as background foliage. So he stands there is the only fashion he knows: awkwardly. He smiles tightly and shuffles to the side, nervously eyeing the audience, even though the hyper-sensitive director has told him a million times that this is NOT an enchanted forest, so Oak Tree Number Two cannot move-not at all- but his costume is really itchy and his skinny arms ache from pretending to be branches and he just wants to get off the freaking stage, but he CAN’T and it sucks. He regrets even trying out in the first place- his naïve hopes of maybe receiving a speaking role- just one line maybe? But no- he is a tree- an awkward tree. And the worst part is that he KNOWS he is awkward and apparently useless and no one really wants to talk to him, much less acknowledge his presence.
    No one ever really wanted to talk to me- acknowledge my presence. So I believe in Oak Tree Number Two and his sore arms and forced smile. He just needs to be the best possible oak tree there is in that not enchanted forest and ignore the judgments he knows the audience is making. He will stand there surrounded by the kids who did get speaking roles- the kids who treat him like a piece of scenery everyday. He will be a tree- embody the role he has been given, until he steps off the stage and decides to write his own damn play.

    1. As an actor and occasional writer, I totally understand the importance of Oak Tree Number Two and how some people take that role for granted. Sometimes it feels like the old phrase "There are no small roles, just small actors" is just not true. This made me crack a smile, and it takes a great deal to make me smile.

    2. There's really great imagery in this one. It's so sad he can't at least be the first Oak Tree.

    3. I am so glad you believe in those who are overlooked. And you should absolutely write your own play! What a beautiful and poignant reflection.

  7. I believe that life is too short. I also believe in living on the edge, but being careful at the same time. I know it is cliché, but I try to treat each day as my last. Live like you are going to die because, aren’t we all slowly dying anyway? Unfortunately, some are dying faster than others. I write this because it is the truth. One of my best friends was just diagnosed with HIV. He is learning how to live the hard way. Some days, it may be difficult just to lift yourself out of bed and put on a smile, so the brevity of life should be a reminder to keep going.

    I also believe in following plans, but what is life without those two in the morning drives around town, playing music? Late nights help you find yourself. They also help you find out who your friends really are. An acquaintance will call it quits early. A good friend will stay up late and make hot cocoa spiked with Kahlúa on a frigid night. They won’t judge me for who I am, who I want to be, or who I want to be with. They watch out for me. I owe them everything.

    I believe that life is too short. I believe in living on the edge. I believe in following plans. I believe in friends that last and laugh for a lifetime. I believe in hot cocoa spiked with Kahlúa.

  8. I knew it was late and I knew I was being about as melodramatic as a thirteen-year-old girl when it came out of my mouth, but that didn’t make it any less true. Maybe I was going to die if I didn’t get any ice cream that night. We’ll never know. I finally found someone to take me to the store. It was midnight when we began making our way to the store. When we arrived at the store and I hopped down out of the truck, I realized that the seat I was sitting in had not been cold. It had been wet. But not even wet pants could put a damper on my spirits. I bought boxes of ice cream sandwiches, fudge pops, and cookie dough ice cream.

    I didn’t have a freezer but I was going to make this work. It didn’t. There was melted ice cream everywhere. But at least I had one glorious, ice cream eating night.

    We wanted to go out to eat. As we were picking up the last person on our way to the food court, we happened to pull up behind a policeman at the crosswalk. We prepared to open the car door for her when she ran across the street. After the car in front of us drove by she ran back across the street and climbed into the car. Apparently, the policeman had motioned for her to cross and she hadn’t known what else to do.

    Seven of us in a car that only has five seats wasn’t going as well as we had planned it. The police car that we saw earlier was going the same direction as us so we had to duck a lot. There was also some unintentional ass grabbing. But other than that we made it to the food court unscathed.

    We were on our way back from making dolls. He was in a hurry so we shouldn’t have been surprised when he said to just let him out across the street from campus. He was sitting in the back of a two door car but we could make this work. Opening the door, the person in the passenger side moved her seat up for him. She forgot to take her seatbelt off so he had kind of a hard time getting out with the seatbelt. But he managed it anyway and we felt pretty accomplished when we realized we did all of this during a red light.

    I believe in awkward adventures with friends.

  9. I counted the tightly-stitched mother-of-pearl buttons on each shirt my mother made for me. I counted to start each day with a forecast of my future profession.

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor

    She counted vintage Goodyear rubber buttons. She stitched them into circles surrounding a black one from Mrs. Lincoln’s inaugural dress. Frieda Warther’s husband carved steam engines from the pieces of knotted wood he rescued at the mill where he clocked in to work each day. He was “The World’s Master Carver*.” She lined the walls and the ceiling of her studio with lace-like patterns made from 73,282 buttons.

    Cowboy, Policeman, Jailor

    He counted 600,000 buttons before deciding to approximate when asked how many were used to cover the hearse that would take him to his grave in a coffin coated with 87,000 more. Dalton Stevens, the Button King, offered me a cup of iced-tea at the kitchen table where he stitched the first button to a pair of old pants he covered entirely in just a few insomniac nights. He counted one, two, three, and played a chord on his banjo before singing to me: “If you like the color of my clothes, would you give me buttons instead of a rose. Buttons can be square or round, they keep my pants from falling down.”

    Beggar Man, Thief, and Bailor

    Her mother counted shaped buttons into plastic bags before passing. She left a life-time of collecting so that Kathleen Bryson—once Transylvania’s librarian—could see, through the thousands of eyes these buttons could become, a vast family of sock monkeys with sweat-stained tails and hemmed heel-holes.

    Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief

    Like Dalton Stevens who would give a visiting artist lecture to my students for the fee of 5,000 red ones, I believe that buttons mean more than money.

    * Ernest “Mooney” Warther, died on June 9, 1973, Dover, Ohio

    1. i love buttons.
      my first 'collection' was of buttons.

    2. I really like the new ending.
      Yes to buttons.

  10. Before the spots, I would end each day the same. I would wash my face aggressively, stripping my pores of all the impurities of the elements. I would spend extensive time gently applying toners, retinol treatments, and moisturizing creams. Eminence, La Mer, Kerstin Florian – I believed in high quality skincare. I would study my pores for hours sometimes, obsessively. I was raised by a bona fide southern woman who taught me the importance of having flawless skin, mastering the art of teasing hair, and rhinestones. It’s always been about the rhinestones.

    When the spots first came they were small, just little red dots here and there. I thought I must be allergic to my new shampoo, or maybe the laundry detergent, or that cologne he was wearing. Within days a few red dots had multiplied into hundreds of red dots, peppered all over my body: my feet, my legs, my hands, my arms, my stomach, my breast, my chest… my face. My tirelessly manicured face. What was happening to me?

    My medical doctor referred me to my dermatologist who referred me to my gynecologist, where I learned that syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV all can produce unexplained full-body rashes. Of course my appointment was on a Friday, so I conveniently had the entire weekend to convince myself that because I had 5 of the 9 symptoms of HIV (including rash, sore throat, headache, and fatigue) I must have it. Youtube videos about aides have the world’s saddest music playing in the background. Monday morning couldn’t come soon enough. The doctor called with negative results all around, so it was back to the dermatologist for scraping, digging, and testing.

    Weeks later I got a call from a nurse with an obnoxiously southern drawl informing me that I had been diagnosed with guttate psoriases. Gut-tate the word felt uncomfortable and out of place in my mouth – like the texture of dumplings or seamen. Gut-tate psoriases. Gutttt-Tate psoriases. I have guttate psoriases. The nurse said it would clear on its own and maybe never come back.

    As I began to read about my new diagnosis I learned little tricks and daily regiments that was suppose to help the rash clear faster. I did them all religiously, day after day, week after week, month after month. Vitamin D from the UV lights helps my red spots fade to white dots, and I like to call it my snow leopard look. Why weren’t my spots clearing? Why did I still have to literally wear my illness and feel the obligation to explain myself every time I wore a short-sleeved top or a dress? I love dresses. That’s when I found the website. The support group for the 2% of us out there living with guttate psoriasis, the 4 out of every 100,000 people who feel need to cover their beautiful bodies because of an uncontrollable rash that will never go away. 18 years, 27 years, 33 years with spots.

    I was victimized by my spots until the day that he examined them limb by limb, kissing them dot by dot, not afraid to touch them. He told they were beautiful, and in that moment when I looked at them, I thought they were too.

    I believe in snow leopards, in dalmatians, in cheetahs, in giraffes, and in fawns. I believe in the beauty of my spots.

    1. This is a beautiful story of how your life turned out different from how you wanted, and you learned to love it anyway.

    2. I admire your ability to make yourself vulnerable and come out strong, both in the same narrative. This is an amazing reflection. Thank you for sharing it with us, Julia.

  11. He came with the building. I did not know this when I moved in. A fifth-year graduate student fond of the weary, I felt at home in the brownstone populated by people who did not fit the main stories.

    I lived in the Washington-Colfax apartments for 10 months before noticing him. Josie invited me to afternoon tea in her apartment stuffed with Victorian furniture that pressed into floral wall-to-wall carpets. No one knew why she had traveled from England to Indiana, yesterday’s elegance already yellowing at the edges. Tina’s rubber-gloved hands punctuated our weekends as she collected the trash we left onto fire escapes that doubled as summer-time dining rooms. Her classic guitar kept us company on long Saturday evenings. Roda, who knew all that was worth knowing about everyone in the building, lived in the second-floor corner apartment, openly sharing the information she gathered.

    He avoided eye contact, walking alone. He moved fast in dirty-white sneakers, blue jeans, and a blue sweatshirt. He went everywhere on foot at a speed that would hinder communication even if he did extend greetings. He did not. And we called him The Walker. I did not know where he went. I spotted him near LaSalle, a bar known for 20 martini flavors. I caught his fleeting reflection in the Rocking Road Chocolate Factory’s windows. He walked on.

    I was in my last year at the Washington-Colfax apartments when The Walker looked at my face. His eyes met mine and he nodded. I did not speak to him. Though I easily made conversation with everyone, I knew that his journeys were quiet. He was The Walker, a man who walked fast. He followed a map of his own.

    I stood by my living-room window on my last morning in town. I wanted to catch sight of The Walker. Though he came with the place, I did not want to leave him.

    I believe in people who walk.

  12. I don’t know if I had ever been as excited to call something my own. It was a pivotal moment in my thus far stagnant social life. A ticket or gateway to something I had been missing out on. A driving force you might say.

    For me, getting a car wasn’t just getting a car.
    It was freedom, it was independence, it was late night drives, it was all the windows down.
    It was music and my mind wandering just as much as it was the far stretching countryside of my home.
    It was roaming where I shouldn’t, it was too many trips to the bookstore, and it was wasted gas.
    It was those last summer nights of youthful tension, before going separate ways, before growing up, before forgetting and slipping.
    It was many overcorrections, near accidents, and close calls with the local wildlife on the way to testing sites.
    It was exploring back roads, finding numerous routes back from town to my house. It was too many trips around Cave Run; illegal night swims in the middle of November.
    It was pulling over at an old warehouse because you were laughing too hard with your best friend and it was late and you couldn’t breathe or see through the tears.
    It was stops at old covered bridges; mindlessly carving into the inside “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened” but the luminance of my headlights.

    My car has witnessed many moments. It has housed many passengers, absorbed numerous tears, listened to unarticulated arguments between me and boys I couldn’t love, heard entire discographies of bands I love dearly, stored a collection of random sentimental objects: the gold cup, napkin drawings, fake mustaches from our favorite Mexican restaurant, you know, all things ridiculous.

    I believe in first cars. The ones that you practice with, the ones you terrify your mother in, the ones that hold so much significance those first few years. I believe in driving and it not feeling like a chore, but liberation. I believe in those first trips on the road, the ones that make you feel just as brave as you are terrified. I believe my car was a literal vehicle into a new life, a life much anticipated but one I’m still learning to navigate.

    1. I still feel the same way about my car: the first car I've had, acquired when I was 30. Like you, I wrote a reflection about it, about why I believe in being able to drive anywhere.

  13. because she texted me wondering where i was.
    because she needed my sunshine in her life (whatever that means).
    because her dad was arrested.
    because he is in a holding cell until they transport him to federal prison.
    because my dad could never commit white collar crime.
    because, even though he is not her favorite person in the world, she loves him.
    because fathers are something precious, something to love.
    because little girls often love their daddies best.
    because i am a daddy’s girl.
    because she is also a daddy’s girl.
    because our dads share a first name.
    because gary is not a common name anymore.
    because she needed people to be around her, people who love her.
    because she lost her keys and needed somewhere to stay.
    because her daddy is going to federal prison.
    because that last statement is so terrifying.
    because i understand why she is scared.
    because no one should have to speak to their fathers through plexi-glass or telephone cords in prisons.
    because i now miss my father.
    because i got pretty damn lucky when it comes to dads.
    because i look exactly like him.
    because he makes do with what he has.
    because he is not going to jail.
    because i see him one or two times in a six month period.
    because i love mine and
    because she loves hers.
    and because it makes me think…
    i believe in daddies.

    1. Your reflection reads like a Valentine to your father, to all fathers, Katie. I hope that you will consider giving your dad a copy of it.

  14. This is really beautiful, Katie. I am also a self admitted daddy's girl, and like you I also don't get to see mine near as often as I should. I have always thought that daddies and daughters have one of the most incredible and complex relationships that one can ever experience or witness. Sometimes it's just not about having them beside you, it's just knowing that they are there. I like to think that all little girls believe in daddies, and all daddies believe in their little girls.