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, February 14, 2012


Post your This I Believe essays before class on Friday! Can't wait to read them!


  1. I got an email today. It was in Comic Sans, of all things, so I was rolling my eyes by the time I made it to the second line.

    I thought it might involve free things—many emails with “senior” in the subject line tend to—but it did not. Instead, it was about preparing for graduation, which I had recently come to understand was 100 days away, 99, 98, 97… I remember Hundreds Day in elementary school, counting out a hundred Froot Loops and a hundred M & Ms to celebrate that day just past midwinter when a hundred school days are behind you, but little else about the experience reminds me of childhood.

    The email was about picking up caps and gowns and buying diploma frames and joining alumni networks and all that other tiresome crap I would just as soon live without. Administration-approved graduation announcements? I had not given a thought to graduation announcements, how many to buy ad who to send them to and whether I will have to pay for them myself or if, through some magical emotional blackmail, I can convince my mother to cover this customary expense. This is the digital age, man—who even needs graduation announcements anyway? Everyone I know, save three or four of the very oldest or strangest, is on facebook. Hey, facebook: I am graduating. Please send money and Xanax.

    But of course, facebook already knows I am graduating. Facebook has had four years to watch the date grow closer and my anxiety mount, as have, in fact, those three or four oldest and strangest people who are not on facebook, or they would if they cared (some don’t, and that’s their prerogative; I wish I didn’t care so much, myself.) Annoucing it seems like just another needless demonstration, the Native American rain dance or the peacock’s mating plumage—look at me, I’m graduating, aren’t you so proud &c, send massive mounds of gifts, as though this is an accomplishment, as though it wasn’t expected, all along, that I would. As though it means anything at all.

    These things are trivial, but they are conventional. I will hate them—what is Commencement anyway, but an opportunity for my mother to take a picture of me on a platform in an ugly robe, and my mother has never been a photo-taker; I will not gain anything at that ceremony because I spent four years earning that piece of paper and being bored while people I either do not know or do not like deliver hokey monologues about success and dreams and the future will not add anything meaningful to my life—but I will do them. I will do them and I will not be sorry.

    Because I believe in tradition. And even though I believe I am not a grown-up (I still use the word “grown-up,” after all), I believe that valuing tradition over comfort is something grown-ups do.

  2. Sitting in my room. The heat is on high. Twinkle lights lit. Soft music playing to fill the darkness. Surrounded in my own thoughts. Letting them roll and tumble freely through my head. Not being bound or swayed one way or another by outside forces. All Alone
    My thoughts start quietly. Clean cut and eloquently written like they come from a magazine or from an overproduced movie script, not from me. Tragically optimistic. Beautifully pessimistic. With an occasional appearance made by realism. Not overwhelming, simply there.
    After the story telling, the fantasizing, and the dreaming the scary part comes up suddenly. The questioning. The” What if?”, What if I’m not good enough? “The How?”, How am I going to make it today? And the most confusing of all the questions to explain.. Why? Why in the world did this happen to me? Why in the world am I here? Questions instantly feel like doubt due to their uncertainty. We question because we don’t know the outcome yet. Not knowing is one of the scariest things to face. However, not knowing provides a beauty too. It allows for the possibility of wonder. Dreaming. Hoping. Imagination. So the cycle begins again. All alone. Warm Room Twinkle lights. Tumbling, rolling, ever changing thoughts.
    I believe we all need time to sort through our own heads. To explore our hopes, dreams and desires. To face our scariest questions that we are too afraid to whisper out loud even in an empty room. Sometimes we just need to go into isolation, by ourselves. So we can begin to comprehend who we really are.

  3. no, no, no.
    i can’t breathe. i cannot stand idly by and watch this happen. i am feeling physical pain even thinking about what we’re about to do.
    we’re really about to do this? really?
    are you sure it’s okay?
    but, but, but…they’re so pretty. and soft. and long. and warm.
    and pretty…i mean it…i haven’t seen many better.
    and we’re about to…no. it can’t be true.
    why not old ones? i’ll trade mine in. i will.
    please don’t.
    those are sharp! be careful!
    you’re too close. too close!
    do you understand exactly what you are doing right now?
    seriously, stop for a second. is this really worth it?
    i don’t know about this…
    *two hours later*
    oh wow. wow.
    these are so cool.
    look at that one! it has wings!
    and this one! horns!
    spots! stripes! arms, legs, ears, eyes, noses, mouths.
    we made dolls! amazing, beautiful, interesting dolls.
    out of socks!
    can you believe it?
    maybe it isn’t so bad after all.
    maybe, just maybe, i believe in giving even the most amazing things the chance to become even more.
    yes, maybe i do.
    i do.
    i believe in making sock dolls.
    yes, out of socks.
    i believe in cutting up socks, sewing them up, stuffing them, adding button eyes and pot-holder wings.
    i believe in creating wild things, bunnies, mice, fish, snakes, and jellyfish (still no monkeys?).
    i believe in making dolls out of socks, even if the experience is extraordinarily painful.

  4. I love word games and riddles and mind benders and sharing them with others. They’re infuriating, hilarious, and completely ridiculous. It’s the freest and easiest kind of entertainment. It’s appropriate in eating establishments and dining rooms and empty driveways and your friend’s basement and around bonfires fueled by the most horrid book you read that year for school. We played so many Who’s Line Is It Anyway games that summer.

    Apples belittle clementines fleeing guys hunched in joy. Killing, like mothers nipping oncologists playfully. Quite riveting sight, truly, ugly velociraptors watching xenophobes zoom.

    I believe in making up sentences - inappropriate, random... mostly inappropriate. In my favorite version of the game, aptly named “Carrots Suck,” everyone thinks of a word in advance and a blurted string of words becomes an unholy excuse for a sentence. I may be using sentence wholly out of context here.

    I believe in “I’m going to a picnic, so I’m going to bring pepperoni. I think I’ll bring some cats as well, and maybe an icicle or two. What will you bring?”
    “Um... a dog?”
    “NO. But I’M going to bring a puppy. So what are you bringing?”

    I believe in getting increasingly, embarrassingly frustrated in a coffee shop and furrowed brows and intense concentration and exclaiming too loudly, “What’s the ANSWER?! I don’t get it!” When I find the answer was overwhelmingly simple, I believe in defiance and “Well, that’s stupid.” But I laugh anyway, and keep that moment tucked away in my wallet.

    I miss doing that. But mostly I just miss spending time with one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. The friendship remains, just not in the same context. Even so, he paid for my coffee.

    I really believe that was the best summer I had thus far, and I believe I’ll always be up for a game of Carrots Suck.

  5. And so I sit on the floor of first my room, then of friends, listen to the soft croon of Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinoise” and wonder, what do I believe? I have stories, sure, we all do, but what is important? What can I say that is mine and mine alone? There’s the six-word memoir, Governor’s School for the Arts, backyard homeruns. There’s the big sister, the week from Hell, Portia. But what’s important? What deeper meaning can I distill from any of this shit? Catharsis? In an act of desperation, I dredge up old papers from my hard drive, digging through the mulch, flicking through first one page and then another, in hopes of finding something recyclable – it’s embarrassing, as if My mind and My experiences are not My own, as if a week of no particular significance has somehow managed to sap me of my ability to think, to feel, to write – and God. It’s already 11:17.

    Welcome to! And somewhere between essays from Isabelle Allende and Carl Sandberg my music has turned off, and so, seemingly, has my brain – I’ve become convinced that I am at least 50% molasses at this point – dark, and slowww, and sadly lacking in self-awareness. And shit! Now Allende’s talking about her comatose daughter (my eyes dart to the clock which reads 11:48)– I guess that’s out. And it’s not like it’s just mythic Latin American writers that are putting me off my game tonight – all around me Big Things are happening – big dates, big graduations, big opening nights, big Scandinavian jaunts, big chemistry tests… one of my classmates reminded me to remember and appreciate the little things. I should probably work on that.

    It’s always surprised me how difficult writing can be for me sometimes. Each syllable a struggle, each sentence overworked, overcooked like the ramen noodles I’m going to eat in an effort to supply enough energy to my brain to edit this essay and finish before my contacts dry out completely. And because I have been trying to do this paper for the past week, and have only come close to succeeding in the past few hours (trust me when I say I spent longer on this than I have on any other single assignment in the past month), I believe that believing is harder work than anyone gives it credit for being – and I believe that writing those beliefs down, ordering them into sentences, into essays, can be even harder.

  6. 2001

    As luck would have it, my foot slipped out from underneath me and my chin clipped the edge of the privacy fence as I tumbled to the ground. I tasted a metallic flavor on my tongue and realized with disdain that my lip split open. I always climbed the fence when I got locked out but even with practice I still fell pretty often. Wiping my hands on my jeans, I hoisted myself up over the fence again and this time I made it safely to the other side.

    I readjusted my backpack and walked over to the back door, peering through the blinds into the living room. It was then I saw my mother spread haphazardly on the couch. The cigarette dangling from her fingers was burning a hole in the couch but she didn’t seem to notice. This didn’t surprise me. Why would she notice that when she didn't even hear me knocking on the front door? Shaking my head, I knocked on the window pane to get her attention and she dropped her cigarette with a start. She looked at me and after a few beats she picked up her cigarette and unlocked the door. Stepping inside, I dumped my backpack unceremoniously on the floor and reminded her that she forgot to pick me up from the bus stop again. She shrugged. Wordlessly, she slipped past me and returned to her place on the couch, that cigarette still dangling from her fingers.

    It’s been like this for a while now. Some days are good, but most days are bad. On her bad days, her laugh doesn’t seem as genuine and her smile doesn't quite reach her eyes. She doesn’t like to go out. It’s because she’s tired. It seems no matter how early she goes to bed each night, it’s not enough sleep. She doesn’t have the energy to hold a conversation with me anymore. Sometimes, it’s like I’m not even there. I believe that even mothers, people who you think are invincible, can crumble under the weight of clinical depression.

    1. Thank you for writing this Alyssa

    2. Mental illness is really hard to watch in the people we love. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  7. Because he taught me how to be artistic, and how to make music.

    Because he kindled my cravings for creation in the shed, even if I had no idea what I was doing.

    Because he built forts out in the woods with Joseph and I.

    Because he is the greatest story-teller of all. No one will ever rival the adventures of Izzy and Mac.

    Because he sang ooowah ooowaaaahoooo, ooo wah ooo wowwwww in harmony with me on the way to school. I think the song was Gold Digger by Kanye West, but you would never know that by listening to us.

    Because he says things like shack and bliny, and now I do too.

    And because we share moments like, Dad, you’re doing it again, stop humming the same weird rhythm over and over.

    Because he is calm in the face of anything. One time he was standing in the barn talking to someone, and when he turned to look at me blood was streaming down the side of his face. A horse pawed him in the face, but no worries, it didn’t bother Dad.

    Because he showed me how to train my first horse, and because he never falls off. If he does, shit. That horse must have been crazy… says all my friends.

    Because he can make my mom smile, a specific smile that only emanates from her every once in a while.

    Because he and I spent two hours riding around on the four wheeler collecting tinder to energize the sparks from our flint, and because we now both sport equally rad hiking boots and Bear Grylls pants.

    And because his smile is equally as big every time I come home from college, and that makes me want to move back.

    Because no matter how many years pass, Dad will be up for anything. We will always have our adventures, and we can always not grow up together.

    Because writing this makes me tear up, I love my dad a lot.

    I believe in my dad.

  8. Sorry
    I am sorry I’m not an organized person
    I am sorry I can’t love you
    I am sorry I am anxious
    And have OCD
    And sometimes can’t see well at all
    Because I don’t like the way I look in glasses
    And, yes, I know that’s vain, but can you blame me?
    And I am sorry that I’m not always honest
    But I’m working on that
    I am sorry that I’m busy
    I am sorry that I am oblivious
    It’s a coping mechanism you see
    It doesn’t make me stupid or insensitive
    It just means that I need to get away
    I am sorry I eat too much
    Or don’t eat enough
    I am sorry I shake sometimes
    And sing too loudly
    I am sorry I really like Bob Dylan, even if he can’t sing
    I am sorry I take things too personally
    And can’t laugh at every joke
    Jesus, I know that was supposed to be funny…
    Sorry if I didn’t see it that way
    I am sorry I’m not assertive
    And want to make people happy
    Even if it’s only the temporary type of happy
    I am sorry I don’t have a backbone
    Or whatever, even though I did make my neighbor Eric cry that time
    I was seven- he was eight and he was bullying my sister
    I am still a bit sorry for that too
    I am sorry I get good grades
    And am proud of being smart
    I am sorry I am passive
    Or maybe passive-aggressive
    Just don’t yell at me anymore okay?
    Stop criticizing
    And picking
    And shaking you head over my flaws
    Because, trust me, I know they are there
    I can recite then to you
    I believe I am flawed,
    But have wasted too much time
    Saying sorry.

    1. Apologize for things you do, not who you are.

  9. It’s about taking the time to sit down with a black pen and a crisp sheet of paper.
    It’s the lost art of beautiful penmanship acquired from years of tedious practice.
    It’s about producing something thoughtful that flows beautifully from line to line.
    It’s about using extravagant language, without the “lol’s , brb’s , ttyl’s”.
    It’s about finding that perfect salutation that captures the essence of the entire letter.

    It’s about knowing someone’s address, their home.
    It’s about personalization, a little squirt of your best perfume on the envelope.
    It’s about scrounging up $0.44 for a stamp, and driving it to the post office.
    It’s about those little words “Handle with care” until it reaches the one you love.
    It’s about the number of days it takes that little piece of paper to get there.
    It’s the odd connection that you share with that person the whole time the letter is in route.

    It’s that feeling of going to the mailbox and finding the delicate envelope amongst the bills and the catalogs.
    It’s the feeling of Christmas morning excitement as you open it, anticipating what’s inside.
    It’s about hearing your name called out when the mail is distributed at summer camp each day and you’re 8 years old and you haven’t been home in a month.
    It’s about opening an envelope postmarked from Brazil, where your former exchange student tells you how much your family changed her life and how she misses you.
    It’s something that you keep forever.

    I believe in hand-written letters, written with loved and handled with care.

    1. Yes ma'am. This is a hundred percent what mail is like.

      This is why when I have a serious apology, I try to write it in a letter. I think it helps with the sincerity factor to show how much effort I'm willing to make and how much thought went into this.

      Getting snail mail is like a tiny gift, although my handwriting is terrible.

  10. The water was so blue I couldn’t look at it directly. But all I could do was look at it. I could smell the salt that frothed white when the waves hit the smooth stones between my toes. The smell was blue and it was white and it was warm skin and wispy clouds carried by the sea breeze. I dipped my feet in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time a little over a year ago. My feet have had a chronic itch ever since.

    After a long morning of stage fighting lessons in an old Roman coliseum, I remember walking straight into a market place. The smell again, was overpowering as all these new smells were. They were of grilled vegetables and raw fish and vinegar and salt. Flowers tickled my elbows as a passed along booths in the crowd. I had a strong inclination to go off on my own. I walked up to the booth, entranced by these cucumbers. They were shaped just like alligators. Someone had drawn on eyes and nostrils. There were tomatoes with cheerful smiles too and strawberries with hair. The older lady smiled at me as I marveled over these, she didn’t try to get me to buy anything. I think she was content with me looking and chancing upon something I enjoyed.

    We were stir crazy. A 2 hour bus ride and too many castles to count. We bounced around the aisles of the supermarket. Paying haphazard attention to shoppers or mops stacked against shelves. All 40 something of us, we were looking to grab snacks for the journey. I’ve never been so enthralled with a supermarket in my life. I wanted to read all of the French labels and be content that I wasn’t consuming a thousand chemicals and dyes. I grabbed a shiny green-foiled box (not a bag) of pretzel sticks, cereal bars, cans of Orangina, and the crumbliest Madeleine cookies. As we went to buy them our worlds were rocked when we discovered that it was very untypical of these stores to have bags for your groceries. I was frustrated yet wholly happy to come to know that people were expected to bring their own bags. I reconciled my mixed feelings by making a makeshift bag by tying the arms of my sweater together, then basketing some bread in my shirt, and carrying my wallet in my teeth. As we ushered back onto the bus, I saw two boys from my group dueling with a baguette. It really had been too long of a bus ride.

    On the last night I tried to stay awake until the morning. I wanted to soak up the last bit of Paris that I could see from my hotel room. At 5 am I woke to find someone’s head on my legs and another someone was curled up by my head. Others were sprawled out all over the beds and the floor. Tangled in sheets and journals with penciled in phone numbers. It looked like the aftermath of some wild party, but it was more like the result of 10 days of travel, of digesting something new and wonderful, and dealing with the fact that you were leaving in 2 hours to head to the airport. Maybe it really was some wild party we had that night. After all my head was fuzzy in the morning, my mouth was dry and body was sore from too many hugs goodbye. I believe I had indulged myself too heavily in this place. I wasn’t ready to leave. I believe was in a post-adventure stupor. I believe that my feet still itch.

    I believe in wanderlust.

  11. Though the glass in the front door was shattered, several fire extinguishers were discharged about the room, and the word “sorry” was spelled in a sticky-green script of Nyquil poured directly onto the floor, these details appear in only some of the stories published about that night. It was a quiet Thursday, the second day of February, 2012, and Andrew Toothman made himself an internet celebrity by removing his clothes and covering himself in Skippy Natural peanut butter and chocolate . The chair that he sat in, and marked with these confections, was set beside the dumpster just hours later.

    Though Justice Souter’s dissent was not quiet on Thursday, June 25, 1998 when he stated “This assumption is irreconcilable with…sensible doctrine..and the First Amendment,” Karen Finley lost her case in the Supreme Court. Her performance work, “We Keep Our Victims Ready,” included visual recounting of a sexual assault by “stripping to the waist and smearing chocolate on her breasts.” Though the heat of her body and the hot stage-lights dissolved the chocolate from her flesh , this work dissolved the individual-artist grant program from the National Endowment for the Arts even more quickly .

    Though he corrected the near unbearable noises it poured into the factory with later improvements, Peter J. Vanderlinda filed to patent his chocolate-coating machine on Thursday, June 14, 1894. This invention heralded a turn-of-the-century candy revolution by “giving the machined coating an appearance of handiwork, ” and by providing “an endless bed with movable trays” to make an endless supply of confections. I wonder if Vanderlinda thought about the bodies of Toothman and Finley when he crafted the language of his patent to say that his machine “coated cream centers, caramels, nuts, or any other material” with chocolate?

    Though my own assertions are shared more quietly than those of Toothman and Finley, I am certain they would both agree with my belief in Vanderlinda and my belief in chocolate coating.

  12. By the time I was old enough to remember, my grandmother managed an apartment of 4: my grandfather, her husband, a man slightly shorter than her; my mother, her daughter, a divorcee when women were trained to endure marriage; and I, a single child fond of adult conversation. My grandmother commenced lunch preparations every morning at 9. Like her mother and her mother’s mother before her, she believed no dish would taste right unless it simmered for 2 hours.

    By the time I was old enough to remember, my grandmother had retired after 35 years of teaching kids how to read. I discovered her teaching self in a single surviving photograph curving up at the edges. She looked younger, her hair cropped just under the ears, eyes watching intently. She looked like the brave women I knew from children’s books about WWI’s anti-fascist movement.

    By the time I was old enough to remember, my grandmother had become old: one of the women who passed time on the bench out front. She rode the green elevator to the first floor, joining a group of ex-librarians, teachers, and clerks. They discussed flawed dinners, rotten marriages, and children who moved too far.

    It was during one of her bench session that my grandmother remembered her journey abroad: her single vacation. She had found herself in an olive garden near the Mediterranean coast. She tasted an olive and marveled at its hard bitterness. Now retired, my grandmother rarely spoke of her 35-year-long pink-collar job, pink the color of women’s work.

    Years later, I refuse to cook. I will not admit to loving my children. I refuse to wear a pink label even if, like my grandmother, I enter a classroom every day of the week.

    I believe in the work women do.

  13. Late nights. Talking to walls. Early morning bus rides. Everything is about either cancer or the holocaust. The only thing that I can be talking about is competitive speech. In the fifth grade, my shy, nerdy self was approached by a tall, imposing humanities teacher… Mrs. Maggard is her name, and I always worked hard on her assignments, except for when it came to group work. To coax me out of my shell, she decided to prepare a 7 minute selection of prose about an adventurous little boy with quite the imagination and a meccano set. In the piece, the little boy decided to set up an elaborate ‘booby trap’ that drops water balloons on unsuspecting neighbors. This little kid was the polar opposite of me. I was a timid, quiet, nerdy little kid! I approached Mrs. Maggard and I tried to tell her that I wasn’t like this kid at ALL! This is where she introduced me to acting.

    At the first few tournaments, I did terribly. I scored consistent fifth and sixth place rankings in every round. I tried to quit, but she insisted that I continue working. The next season came. I had tried out different categories, with various successes at small tournaments throughout the year. Along came the HUGE state tournament. When they posted after preliminaries, I saw my name. I felt a lump in my throat. I assumed it was another Tyler. I was wrong. After quarterfinals came semis, then finals. Each time I crossed my fingers before they revealed the people that will go on to the next round. I had done it. I had made it to the top six in my event in the entire state.

    Within 2 years, this timid, shy little boy transformed into a public speaker. I have been working at it ever since. I believe in teachers. Now that my fear of public speaking is over, I should probably get started on my second fear: rollercoasters.