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, February 9, 2012


Your This I Believe essays are due here before class tomorrow!

Sorry for the lateness; illness is a serious distraction this week.


  1. she did not have it on when i last saw her in the hospital, but i remember the bracelet she wore. i had seen it and admired it countless times before that last fall. we talked together about it, usually when i could not help but say just one more time how beautiful it was.
    i remember the silver chain, each of its links delicately holding the next
    her tiny wrist, even after all the weight she'd lost, carried the bracelet in a way that words cannot describe. but the memory stays with me.
    i remember how the charms danced and sang as she moved, the tinkle and chime of each piece as it collided with its nearest neighbor.
    real ones may have crumbled upon the impact,
    but these held strong, a testament to the woman who wore their beauty upon her wrist.

    i remember the day of her funeral, her daughters sorting through her jewelry boxes and drawers. my sister and i, her granddaughters, laughed with our mother and aunt. we laughed and we cried.
    i remember when my aunt held up that bracelet. my breath caught in my throat while they discussed who it should go to. oh, what i would have given to have been able to wear it on my own wrist, to be reminded of the woman i never knew well enough
    and never realized that i did not until she was gone.
    my aunt tucked it away instead. but how i wish i could have been able to carry those butterflies my grandmother so loved.

    i wonder sometimes where she landed when she left this place, when she left that broken body. i wonder if she was able to find the freedom of those delicate, winged creatures.
    i don't believe in angels, or in heaven, but i still like to think that she was given wings.
    i still think of her often; i see her in every butterfly's wings. i wish i could tell her that,
    because of her,
    i believe in butterflies.

    1. This is beautiful, Katie. I'm sure she knows.

    2. Many of the essays from this semester speak of people that would so appreciate receiving them.

      This is written so honestly, Katie. I hope you consider giving it to your mother and to your aunt.

  2. The waiting room of the Urgent Treatment Center was playing some soap opera. At first I tried not to pay attention to it but I wasn’t in any condition to pay attention to the book in my lap; I’m stubborn so I may not ever know what happened in those first forty pages.

    I hated being in the urgent care; I would rather have been tucked up in bed to nurse my fever with tea and Doctor Who DVDs, but I was urged into the center by a proactive (bossy?) housemate, whom I texted from across the waiting room “if they send me home to rest and drink fluids, I will never forgive you.” He replied to what I should have said: “you’re welcome.”

    Quickly banded together by the oddity of the situation (the people in this waiting room—you had to be there to get the absurdity, like that time in the Waffle House when my friend Chelsea and I befriended this kid who had been sent to a mental hospital after an incident with a crack pipe in math class, one of those things you have to live through to believe, a story which does not hold up to retellings), he and I began having silent conversations on our phones about the people around us—the man in the glasses and the plaid coat with a bald spot was a promiscuous janitor hoping to get into grad school, the woman with the blue eye shadow was a discontented Jewish wife with three grown children who took ballroom dance in her spare time, the man on the other side of the room was definitely here for an STD check, look at the way he checked the parking lot for people who might recognize him!

    After two hours, I had a diagnosis and a prescription. After two days, I started to improve.

    I believe in care.

    1. It seems that feeling vulnerable (sickness will do this) often makes us look at the world differently, as if it is a place that is stronger than us or a place that can damage us. I would suggest that your healing started the moment Danny (if my guess is correct) went with you to urgent care center. Knowing that you are not alone at times like this really matters.

      And it is so fun to think of what the stories of those around us might be.

  3. 1999: Mom
    This was the first one, I believe. The periodic treks from Mississippi to Kentucky was filled with Alanis, Paula Cole, Sinead O’Connor, The Cranberries, Dido, and Madonna. I knew nothing of lyin’ cheatin’, cold dead beatin’, two timing, double dealing, mean mistreatin’, lovin’ hearts or where all of the cowboys had gone, yet I pretended to. I knew every word to every song.

    2007: Cousin Time
    I remember falling in love with my favorite band, hearing Matt Berninger’s voice for the first time, and thinking it was so richly deep, so warm and comfortable. I was in yet another new room in a new house. My cousin didn’t just give me some new music. I no longer felt displaced. I was no longer alone. I had my family back.

    2008: Happy Birthday Twin #2!
    On birthdays, Christmases: I was introduced to The Feelies, Harry Nilsson, Kate Bush, Tom Waits, Morrissey. Some of the best mixes I have ever received were from my cousin’s boyfriend. I felt instantly cool the moment I popped them into my CD drive.

    2008: For Kristina
    None of your mixes ever did the trick I can now confidently say since dropping you off at your house for the last time. Maybe your inability to concoct a fruitful mix should have been taken as a sign that nothing would mix well between us either.

    2008-present: Michael:
    I can’t listen to Tom Petty or Springsteen, Warren Zevon or My Morning Jacket without associating them with riding around with you when you got your own car. I think it’s funny how over time our tastes have merged, attending the same shows, buying the same albums. I’m glad to claim you as my older brother. You are much responsible for my taste in music. I hope you keep making your own.

    2010: Après une grande aventure
    I believe you made me one. I’m sure it was wonderful. But it never left Texas. I think I would have loved it.

    2010-present: Musical Care Package
    Even though college has done a number on us both, I still look forward to my best friend’s playlists. She knows me too well. She has never failed to hand over her battered ipod for our car rides nor has she disappointed me with her expert song selection.

    I believe in first impressions and feeling jittery waiting around in coffee shops. I believe in new friends who already make puns with your last name. I believe in my favorite Andrew Bird song sneaking its way in there and the making of plans. I believe in losing sleep and pressing repeat. I believe in mixed CDs.

    1. So do I Kristina, so do I.

      I've made more than I can count, and received them as birthday presents ("Hanna Banana's Birthday Spectacular"), prom invitations (titled only with a smiley face), and tools for furthering my musical education ("From Oberlin, with Love").

    2. I am so glad to read this and to know, again, that giving music mixes has not gone the way of dinosaurs and cassette tapes (extinct).

      Many people of my own generation believe that making a mix on CD or mp3 player cannot compare to cassette tapes. Your reflection proves them wrong.

    3. My sweetest memory of my first serious relationship is of us making each other mix CDs; by the time we broke up, I think we'd accrued 22 in total. There's something so emotional about music, even when it's someone else's, especially when it's meant for you.

  4. I believe in being eight years old in blustery Los Angeles and pink fizzy Jones’ Soda and a sun blister as big as my face on the bottom of his foot. Too bad Venice Beach was freezing.
    I believe in the yearly camping trips and hikes to our secret spot and jumping into the freezing cold lake. We were always so competitive about charades.
    I believe in running to help my mom make copies after school. Cutting out construction paper trees and hearts and smelling lamination plastic- the summation of my every day.
    I believe in discovering historical fiction and science fiction and slightly-like-real-life fiction and basically any other type of fiction. Life is never the same after reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy- especially if you read it on your eleventh birthday.
    I believe in Billy Joel albums and listening to “Only the Good Die Young” at least a thousand times in the hope that I might someday be that cool.
    I believe in long car rides, singing every track of Glass Houses with my dad at the top of my voice. It is always a nice feeling- escaping from South Carolina.
    I believe in hanging out with my big sister and her friends, drinking Oreo milkshakes and pretending that I can understand their conversation.
    I believe in staying up all night with my cousins- filming a ten minute long movie that features multiple death scenes and a lot of ketchup. We are still ridiculously proud of it.
    I believe in doodling my way through most of my high school classes, never English though because I really liked the group discussions of Great Expectations. They were a bit more interesting than the dinner table talk about Type Two diabetes.
    I believe in band camp and band practice and band competitions. The football was never very interesting anyway.
    I believe in driving to Cincinnati with my dad for innumerable academic team meets- sitting in rooms that smelled of coffee and Saturday mornings and trying to remember every bit of useless information he ever taught me- and yes, the answer is Pertussis!
    I believe in New World Symphony and the Top Gun soundtrack and everything ever recorded by Belle and Sebastian. This is because Belle and Sebastian’s music is what I want my life to be.
    I believe in educational family vacations to national parks and museums- complete with twenty minute long informational videos and conveniently located gift shops.
    I believe in watching the Nightly News with my mom almost every weeknight while eating dinner. Brian Williams has the most sympathetic eyebrows.
    I believe in driving the entire circumference of Ireland with three of my favorite people. There were more museums of course, but also beaches and hikes and frightening cattle. The hostels were sometimes dodgy, but the alcohol was always of the best quality.
    I believe in studying calculus and simultaneously hearing my sister’s disturbing medical school stories. Thank God I won’t ever have to cut into a cadaver.
    I believe in making a valedictorian speech before a group of people I never even came close to knowing, but that’s okay because I ended the evening eating cheese and drinking hard cider with the people I like best. I remember laughing for a really long time about “boom-boom sauce.”
    I believe in eating Lebanese food in Toulouse with my sister as we argue spiritedly about weird art-nouveau films.
    I believe in coming back to Ohio after months of college food and strange-smelling dorms to find a house filled with too many people to remember. I spent an hour petting my dog that night and listening to the wonderful sound of a room filled with McMahons.
    I believe that I am a McMahon- small and smart and stubborn as all Hell.
    I believe in the past ten years- years together and apart and always full of life.

    1. My grandmother looked forward to seeing Brian Williams every night. She said he was "so debonair."

      And you should ask Ed Franklin what kind of movies he likes to watch. You and your sister may enjoy them.

  5. Crawling under Carl Fisherman’s lake house to turn the water back on after draining the same pipes last fall, my brother and I found a message in black scrawl on concrete:
    Note to self: Keep two bricks in the tank of toilet off kitchen. Because no one will ever shit so close to the fridge, there is no need for a powerful flush. Save water.
    Of course we looked. The bricks were there, wrapped tight in duct tape. The tape, we learned later, protected the porcelain from catastrophic collision with the almost equally hard surfaces of the bricks. As the inventor of the booklight, the clipboard light, and other less-successful spin-offs, Carl could not stop solving problems. Though he left his life in the city for four months each spring in order to get away from his workshop and whatever new inventions he was building there, his mind met each day working.

    Tracy Fiegl’s mother discovered her own need to conserve water in the June issue of Good Housekeeping. Though typically she turned pages to find recipes (salads made with diced pieces of Snickers bars or thin slices of Almond Joy), she so liked the idea of saving our planet with one half-gallon milk-jug that she emptied hers after breakfast and rinsed it out. Drip-dried upside-down by the radiator, the jug was re-capped and placed into her toilet tank, as advised. Bobbing, this plastic buoy rattled against the porcelain.

    Filled, beyond even the manufacturer’s recommendations, with specialized tablets, Susan’s tank delivers blue water, chlorinated and chemically-colored. Perhaps it is safe to assume that a toilet tank so dutifully maintained doubles as a hiding place for heirloom jewels. That was precisely what the burglar who visited Susan’s home assumed. He was right. Though she no longer stores jewels in her toilet, Susan’s water still runs blue.

    Holding up to 2 gallons of water, I believe toilet tanks tell stories of the people who most often sit with their backs against them. My own tank sports a slowly dissolving stopper, the rubber rotting into the chemical cocktail contained within city water. Because it corroded and dissolved long ago, I rebuilt the chain colorfully with twelve plastic-coated paperclips now rusting at each end. I can fix toilets that need jiggling. I am much less comfortable with toilets and tanks professionally groomed into silent service.

  6. 1. If God Shrank/Rank Dogfish

    2. Drama Hon/No Dharma.

    3. Unsafest Trio/Nature’s Foist

    4. A Drunk Neglige/King Gnu Dealer

    5. Tyranic Hellhole/Nonlethal Rich Lye

    6. Hi, Eternal Llama/ Hell, I Am An Alert!

    7. An Unhealthy, Neat Romancer/A Teen Charlatan Noun Rhyme

    The phrases listed above are, in fact, not phrases at all, but names, their letters swirled and refashioned to tell Truths and Lies about the people they’re meant to represent. If I wasn’t afraid of saying things that I shouldn’t, I would tell you the stories – the way #1 seemed like the golden boy, but ultimately proved to be a disappointment, about my “secret friendship” with #2 (I should have known better than to hope for a rendezvous irl, but he promised and that means something, doesn’t it?), about how #3 “wasn’t that invested anyway,” or how #4 ruined my week, but didn’t break my heart (I didn’t even raise my voice. Who says boys don’t cry?). I would have told you about how #5 is amazing and offers sage advice and fake coupons to daughters in need, or about how #6 left big shoes to fill, how she “sings the body electric” and enjoys shoe repair shops and the attic at Poor Richard’s and Tom Ka Gai and my company just a little more than we all deserve. But most of all, I would have told you about #7, about how she believes in wordplay and in oracle bones, and self-fulfilling prophesies. About how “an unhealthy, neat romancer” is a hell of a title for a fourteen year old, or how she graduated to “Soul Breaker” during a five week stint at nerd camp in the summer of 2010 – that one, at least, was well-deserved… sorry Emily, wheelchair jokes are just too much fun (“they see you rollin’, they be hatin’” all that jazz). That Teen Charlatan believes, as I believe, that scrabble tiles have more uses than the directions on the box may lead you to believe, that you can find the Truth if you look hard enough for it.

    I believe in anagrams.

  7. I believe in brown cardboard, cube shaped and wrapped with far too much tape. Seriously, TOO MUCH. I believe in searching frantically for a key and slicing down the seam that marks the place you pull apart the slats. I believe in pulling everything out, one by one, exclaiming “Ohhhh! Look, isn’t it the cutest thing?!” at my clearly less excited roommate. I believe in adorning my window sill with a mini wooden replica of the nativity scene and keeping it there far past the Christmas season.

    I believe in realizing too late that there’s a package waiting for you in the mailroom, and that feeling of loss, then immediate joy because of the fact that it’s still waiting there for you. I believe in being excited because you know there’s going to be chocolate in there for sure. I believe in being more excited because you have not idea what else could be in there.

    I believe in hoarding all the empty shells of packages under my bed, not knowing what else to do with them. Whoa, I AM like my mother.

    I believe in receiving honest-to-God letters in decorated envelopes. There’s a golfer in plaid garb taking a swing with his 9-iron in the top right corner. I believe in reliving a friendship lost to the tragedy that is moving away. I believe in letters wherein the contents are a strange update and a comic strip starring yourself and said friend, mapping out the adventures that we never experienced. I believe in eagerly writing my own response on loose leaf, drawing my own funny picture, and thinking this is the best feeling in the world.

    I believe in the sheer joy that completely random gifts can incite in a person.

    I believe in receiving mail. Seeing my name, something that is addressed to me. It is for me only (usually), and it makes me feel super duper special.

  8. Once, I jumped and did a front flip in my back yard. When I landed I was the same size as all of the fairies—smaller than a blade of grass.

    Once, I drew a boat on paper as it was constructed underneath my feet in a sea inhabited by dragons. I forgot to draw the back of the boat though…

    Once, I could fly over my house where a restaurant had fabricated. Note: it only works if you hold a teaspoon from a Gatorade power can in each extended arm.

    Once, I uncovered a doorknob in the side of the hill by my house. Upon opening it, I discovered an entire house built for a ten-year-old Stevie.

    Once, my mom ordered a pizza with the Mona Lisa painted on its crust. Unfortunately, the waiter explained that they only had pizzas with the Backstreet Boys on them. Mom was not happy.

    Once, my parents were secret agents and our hotel blew up and my brother shot a terrorist.

    Once, I sat on top of a mountain on a wobbly structure with my family and couldn’t get Coldplay to stop playing loudly in my ears.

    Once, I was a war escapee and took an arrow to the chest, but I didn’t have time to play ping-pong. I grabbed my pottery and chuckled at the white furry talking cat and jumped into the car that may have been gassed.

    Once, my grandmother was alive again, but then my hand touched her translucent skin and went right threw her ghostly body.

    Once, a purple dinosaur (not Barney) took me on a ride in the sky.

    I believe in the reality, in the adventure, and in the heartbreak that my mind creates based on my thoughts and experiences in what seems, in comparison, to a bland life. I believe in dreams.

  9. I believe in pizza for breakfast. Not supreme, though. Nothing is worse than onion-breath in the mornings. I’ll take plain cheese, thanks. I believe in late nights with friends in the basement of my home that I dubbed “My Man Cave.” I believe in falling asleep while playing Crash Bandicoot with my dorky friends. After all, living on a mountain made it nearly impossible to play soccer without losing a ball for good. I sometimes wonder where all those blasted things went.

    I believe in old friends. While grabbing a slice of cold pizza from the fridge one morning last semester, I thought about my old friends. To me, it felt as if my new friends all filled the roles of my last ones. Not to say that my old friends have been effectively replaced, it’s just that I can see a little bit of somebody else in another person.

    I’m not a religious man, but certainly this can’t be a coincidence. Who would have thought that cold cheese pizza leftover from Papa John’s would spark all these thoughts? I didn’t. At first, I thought I had bit off a little bit more than I can chew, pun intended. Also, I like puns a lot, in moderation of course.

    Whatever the reason be, I believe in the common human bond. Oftentimes, it just feels like a war of attrition. Everyone is trying to weaken the other person through words or violence. Maybe if we all sat back, played a few levels of Crash Bandicoot, and ate some cold pizza, we would realize that we’re all animals, just like Crash.

  10. Distance can do a doozy on friendships. Distance coupled with the military and college makes for an uphill battle on both ends but, when we’ve been in each other’s lives for so long. I’ve just realized that there isn’t any other option but to face the uphill battle. We have had our slips and fall outs but, at the end of the day we work to keep our friendship alive. Even though the world of military and college are completely different and neither of us really understands the other, we still have a drive to ask. “How are you?”, “What are you up to?” and those other lame questions that most take for granted. No, these may not be the most interesting of conversations but, when one of you is in a war zone. The simple “I’m doing fine.” Or “I’m just bored right now” do a lot to ease your mind.
    Knowing each other when we were 14 and 15 respectively, and still knowing each other when now we are nearing the ages of 20 and 21 is a true milestone worthy of celebration. We have six years of memories consisting of band bus rides, awkward homecoming pictures, burnt cookies, constantly picking on each other, and watching stars on the roof. Snow days, road trips, back porch swings, Simon Says, skiing, 4 am Skype chats, and milk shake runs. Even though, in the past 2 years few memories together have been made, I believe in the power of our past and our consistent care for one another. I believe we are in each others lives for a reason and though I’m not one to say the word “fate” this is one time I think it actually applies. We are fate. Meant to help the other when one is falling apart. Meant to teach other about life through each other’s experience. Meant to just really know each other’s purest heart no matter what else happens.

  11. Because he slips hand-made dolls as love letters into the mail boxes of our beloved city,

    “Oh, look downtown,” # 10 hints. We spend two cold hours drawing fingertips along festooned edges. He disappears into thickening darkness as I ask about #11, the one over which I will assume joint custody. We name it Prior, after a man with a heart made for visiting angels. The maker of dolls walks home under December’s frozen stars. I tell him to keep warm. He texts back: “The sky is amazing. So lucid tonight.”

    Because he took a new name after fashioning his grandmother’s frayed tea towels into glamorous wigs,

    Forty-one years later, fifteen years after burying the old lady, four-year-old Ashley Grace asks him: “Mommy, do you have hair on your face?” Her mom’s deep laughter delivers improvised wisdom: “Mommy’s an old woman now. And old women grow hair.” Forty-one years later she tends to her daughters, grand-daughters, and great-grand-daughters with names as loud as disco balls. Ashley Kruiz, Stratosphere, Veronica Love, and Trinity still remember the first time she helped them attach eyelashes to lids.

    Because wearing a sling-a-ling bling bling is his thing,

    He designed it himself: an urban prophet inspired by a patch of blue grass fertilized by dreamers, lay men, and folks who perch on front porches in mid-day. Some days he wears 31 polo shirts at once, popping the collar of each one—he is a kick-ass Kentuckian, ready to kick ass, come what may. Because even the Super Bowl doesn’t hold enough water to dampen his stylish moustache,

    I believe in Kentucky.

  12. When people told me you were a little rough around the edges, I wasn’t surprised. After all, I am the one that shaped you into what you are now. You were a little unrecognizable at that point, but I was new at this and it wasn’t exactly my thing. So whenever I tried to smooth out those rough edges, I wasn’t surprised when you hurt me, when you cut me. It wasn’t a deep cut though, and I knew it would heal over time. I wasn’t worried.

    Gradually, over time, I was able to shape you into something better. Something more recognizable. Granted, when I looked around at the others, I was still disappointed in myself. Despite your smoothed edges, I could still see your flaws, those imperfections that marred your body. But I just looked at your smiling face. I realized that because I was so close to you, I would be more apt to see what was wrong with you, to see those flaws and imperfections. But whenever someone would see you on the street, I very much doubted they would care about that. They wouldn’t be aware of every single one of your flaws like I was. And at that moment, I realized that I was okay with how you turned out. I put a lot of effort into shaping you. Whittling away, piece by piece, I made you. I put the wry grin on your face and the smile wrinkles beneath your eyes were because of me too. And I was proud of that.

    I believe in making wood dolls.

  13. Whenever my body grows weary of the trials of this world, and my spirit moves on to another life, remember my happy places.

    Spread a few of my ashes along that old row of pine trees in my backyard, where I would spend endless summer days hiding, climbing, and laughing. Dust a few ashes under that sad willow where all my favorite dogs are buried and whisper to them that I’m coming home.

    Stop by White County Middle School, Special Ed. Room 207, and listen to Michael read the Bernstein Bears. Ask William anything about the Wizard of Oz, he knows it line by line, and give Christopher a big hug. He gives the best hugs. Leave a little jar of me there on the dusty shelf amongst the old alphabet books and Richard Simmons work out tapes.

    Take a big handful of me and throw me over the bridge at Fall Creek Falls, where below I had enjoyed countless days in my bikini soaking up the sun and enjoying simple picnics of turkey sandwiches and diet coke with my closest friends.

    Call my best friend Paden, and just hold the phone up to my urn and let me listen to him rattle on about overdramatized, hysterical rendition of his night out with the boys. Ask him to tell a few of his favorite stories from all of our adventures together and know that if I was there I would be laughing so hard tears would be running down my face.

    Take off to Lexington and dust me along the beautiful countryside linking Tennessee and Kentucky, my two homes, as you drive along. Know that I always got butterflies when I passed the “Welcome to Kentucky” sign and felt so proud when driving up to the sign letting me know I was entering Tennessee.

    Sprinkle a little bit of me under the Kissing Tree at Transy. The place where I first read
    Hobbes and have countless conversations about life with some of the people I admire the most. Remember that I once saw my parents share a kiss under that tree, back when we were still a family, and I’ve always held that image in my happy place.

    Leave what is left of me beside that old Civil War soldier in Lexington Cemetery. He’ll the little tombstone off all by himself marked with the last name Clifford and my same birthday. The headstone also said he was from Louisiana. When I would get sad or lonely I would visit him, take him flowers, and try to read and relax beside someone else who was resting alone far away from home.

    I believe in pine trees.
    I believe in puppies, that turn to loyal old dogs, who later end up buried under a tree in your backyard.
    I believe in children who truly know how to love unconditionally.
    I believe in enjoying waterfalls.
    I believe in having a best friend that can always make you smile.
    I believe that home is where you feel loved and accepted.
    I believe in cherishing intimate moments with loved ones, even if they didn’t last.
    I believe that we are never really alone.
    I believe in knowing where your happy places are and escaping there when you need to.

  14. This is absolutely beautiful Julia

  15. My dad want my brother and I to travel the world and spread his ashes all over the place. I think it's a great idea, I want my kids to do the same thing. :)