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, April 3, 2012

This I Believe

Essays for week 12 belong in the comments!


  1. Tuesday: up, up, up. Check on the fish, check on the beetles. Meet with professor. Plan project, research for exam. Pointedly do not think about paper due Monday or Easter or shopping for dresses for Erin’s wedding: you do not have the time. Work out, give blood, and eat if at all possible (but only in that order). Walk downtown and arrange dolls. Meet with Remy to watch Game of Thrones because she is the only person you know with HBO Go, and sometimes breaks are important, even undeserved ones. Plus you made a commitment to see her and friendship is vital, so don’t cancel on friends if at all possible. Resume puzzling over paper topics and graphs and research for take-home exam. Class reading. At some point sleep. Showering can wait until morning.

    Wednesday: don’t hit the snooze button anymore or you’ll have to go to school with wet hair. Class reading, which you didn’t finish yesterday, still has to be done. Don’t make eye contact with professor when he is disappointed with lack of progress on papers. Check on fish eggs. Class again. Reschedule professor meeting that wasn’t finished yesterday. Make plans and draw diagrams. Definitely take notes in class today, no writing short stories on the back of the to-do list, it isn’t fooling anybody and you don’t get As without at least APPEARING to put in some effort. Seriously research for the take-home exam, we’re getting to the wire. Real workout today, then make self presentable for event. Grab last-minute ride so don’t have to walk in rain. Look at dolls one last time before people arrive. Smile even though it’s awkward. Gravitate to infant (babies are easy like being at home in a bathrobe—they’re transparent and you never have to wonder if they’re secretly judging you). Ah, that’s better. Grab food. Pretend to know what you’re doing—it’s easier than you’d think. Take compliments well, thank everyone, never stay in one place long enough for people you don’t want to talk to you to find you. Give doll to mayor. Smile smile smile. Update facebook status so everyone who isn’t there gets to know how awesome you are and what they’re missing (feel incredible when ex is the first to click “like” despite ignoring you on facebook for eight of your funniest months). Rehearsal cancelled, so stay and dance. Do not care if you look like an idiot or that the button is off your shirt and the lace on your skirt is fraying. It does not matter as long as you sell it. Enjoy. Go home and put things away, pointedly not thinking about cleaning room—it’s a Class 5 disaster area but you do not have time—realize you have not made any Draw Something plays in a long time, pop by to prove to random internet people you have not died. Then sleep. Tomorrow is another long day.

    Thursday: to-do list today is just a list of names. Caroline at 11, Tyler at 12, Amelia at 1, Holly at 3, Victoria at 4:30. The rest of the day is for writing that exam, which is seriously due tomorrow, and now you’ve chosen a paper topic by default because you haven’t managed to read any of the other potential source material, good going you. Solving problems by eliminating options. Take nap and eat a snack, because you might die otherwise. Exercise eliminates stress and helps you fit into dresses you already have so you may not have to buy one for Erin’s wedding (you will totally buy a new dress next week, just stop obsessing please), plus you think better afterward. One study break. Write write write. Then, finally: blessed rest.

    I believe in being scheduled to the hilt and still finding ways to love life. I believe in experiencing everything at once. I believe in my twenties.

  2. Sitting there on tastefully crafted shelves 1,000 dolls wait quietly as, for the first time, more than their care takers and creators look at them. Each one staring out into the gallery with their own unique set of eyes and perspective on the world. Even though inactive, their faces vary in expression and appear to be stuck in thought, animated with feeling. Some pleasant and some not. Each looking like they need to tell someone something that is on their mind. Whether it is how loved they felt after being stitched together, or how sucky it was to get sanded AGAIN for the 80th time, or whether they like their sweater they are wearing or not. Each doll sitting in the room has its own story and its own journey it will embark on. Every trail will be different from this point forward for each of them. It saddened me that this was the last time our precious family of 1,000 would be together all in one place and on the same page.
    However, this eventual separation is their purpose; each doll will have a different impact on the individual that finds him, her, or it. They were meant to go in separate directions and leave in order to add to the community of North Limestone. This “community” of dolls, this “family “ of dolls and their journey into this neighborhood will hopefully inspire others to love this community of people and embrace them for their unique stories and perspectives. These dolls have hearts and souls just like the people. If they can make it here, then why can’t normal people like you and me? Hopefully, these hearts we are adding to North Limestone help create a place people can see as part of home and not just another part of their city. I believe that these little creations will make a difference. I believe home is where the heart is. There will be a lot of heart on North Limestone in just a few days.

  3. Because I used to avoid them at all costs—and they always returned the favor. We never really got along well, and I think they could see the discomfort in my eyes. So we just steered clear of each other. Especially the smaller ones. I used to believe in the difficulty of children.
    I don’t know why I decided it would be a good idea to start volunteering there, and who knows how the hell I agreed to start with a class of three-year-olds. Nevertheless, I walked into the Lexington Arts and Science Center, and I found the room I had been assigned to. Disaster. Moms were trying to sneak out of the room, the teacher was trying to catch the kids’ attention, but it wasn’t working. Ten children, most of them crying, my first day helping with miniature people who didn’t like me as much as I didn’t like them, and I just looked around and sat down on the floor thinking, “What have I gotten myself into…”
    Of course, I love art, and I thought that if I was to ever get over my fear of little ones, art would be the best way to start.
    Because the little boy with the blond hair just wanted to smash the clay into a pancaked snowman.
    Because the little girl couldn’t talk yet, but when another boy pushed her over, she didn’t cry. She just looked at me intently and repeated, “Fall. Fall. Fall,” until I helped her up.
    Today, there were about fourteen of them, older this time, but much more rambunctious. Because they wanted to meditate with me, Yoda style. We sat in silence, some humming, “Ooooooommmm,” and I didn’t even ask for it.
    I believe in art. And because of that, now I believe in kids, too.

  4. i believe in walking away when you know that you should. sometimes it really is the best thing to do. and sometimes it’s simply the only thing you can do. either way, it’s occasionally necessary to allow a bit of time and space to creep between yourself and something else.

    i believe in surprises. not the birthday kind, but the kind that are truly surprising – and not in a bad way. i believe in things that happen, even despite them being the last thing you could possibly expect.

    i believe in someone who will walk across town late at night because he wants to. i believe in someone who walks, ignoring the cool air on his bare arms, across town because he knows he has to.

    i believe in second chances. and while we’re at it, why not three? probably not four though; that just seems like too many. and besides, third time’s the charm, right?

    i believe in a man-purse-bag left behind with a pair of blue sweat pants. entrusted until tomorrow.

    i believe in apologies. not the ‘i’m sorry’-s that are said like a sneeze, with no true direction or meaning. i believe in apologies that come from the heart and are said by the eyes before the lips even move.

    i believe that maybe i was wrong about not believing. i did and, although i didn’t for a moment, i still do.

    and, while we’re at it, i might as well believe in me, too.

  5. I learned on a rainy February night that Aloha means both Hello and Goodbye – Aimee was there, I’m sure she remembers the specifics of the play better than I do (how the dog was actually a man, or was he? How they all ended up in Hawaii, or how the elderly couple at the back of the theater got up and left after that kiss…). I may not remember how the cast members, who I recognized on campus, then forgot, got to where they were going or who ended up with who or whatever, but I remember that word. Aloha. Hello and Goodbye. I remember thinking about how I had never said a Goodbye and really meant it – a Goodbye without the expectation of a Hello sometime in the future, even when it’s been so long that all you can really say is “How are you?” I’ve only said it, really said it once since, and even then it turned out the be a lie – we were reluctantly reconnected under the pretext of road signage (I had expected an apology if anything, but then, I’ve always been a dreamer.)

    That being said, I’ve never been great at goodbyes. Always ducking out of rooms and conversations with too many waves and too little grace, tripping over feet and words, exits hindered by table corners and shins and purse straps that get caught on door handles, late nights/early mornings bathed in the cold blue light of chats grown overlong like the hair should have parted ways with months ago. Phone calls dragged out beyond reason with Byes and Goodbyes and See You Tomorrows and Yeah, G’Nights and in the inevitable Oh Wait Just One Last Thing… I read and reread books into disrepair – fractured spines and dog-ears betraying my unwillingness to part with even the Bailey School Kids and Magic Attic, piles of paperwork, junk mail, and those old obligatory valentines crowd shelves and make me a tempting guest star for Hoarders, and yet – what if I need something and it’s not there? Finality is hardly something you can count on.

    And because I am characteristically struggling to close this essay, I’ll say this and nothing more:

    I believe in Aloha, in Goodbyes that aren’t.

    1. Great play, great theme. Love it

  6. It was my favorite place to go whenever we visited my mom’s mom. Beneath the willow tree, half hidden by that drooping branches and leaves. The roots an obstacle course perfect for hopping over, the trunk prime bunker material in imaginary warfare, the shade a cool respite from the unforgiving sun. And in the house that lay in front of it contained that distinct great-grandmother smell with its collection of tiny figurines, a jukebox radio that never seemed to work despite my adamant knob-twisting, and a bowl of those awful tasting circus-peanut candies that you always seem to eat anyway because you forget they actually taste horrible. She had those paint-set coloring books just for us kids, complete with the cheap multi-colored paintbrushes with bristles that don’t really allow for much precision or detail and are usually splayed all over the place.

    One of the greatest joys of my life was, of course, standing in front of the microwave with my big sister. We would wait, fidgeting in anticipation, for the candy to melt to a soft and sticky consistency. Now & Laters are notoriously rock-hard, and we though our mom was a genius when she taught us the ways of the microwave and it’s ability to make candy easier to eat and therefore more delicious.

    This may not even be a real memory, but I recall that once when I was at a friend’s house, her toe was bleeding profusely, purply-red and gross. Why was it bleeding? I don’t know. It probably wasn’t even blood, but more than likely some jelly that had fallen from her PB&J.

    Forgive the randomness of these images, but isn’t that how memories work sometimes? And I believe in memories. Half-remembered pictures of family and fully retained pictures of childhood. I believe in the eclectic images that don’t always seem to mesh at all.

  7. It’s crowded. They began filing in slowly but suddenly the room is so packed that I find myself weaving through the crowd impatiently. I have my paper doll pinned to my dress already and I’m being pulled aside by several people so they can hand me food for the potluck or ask what’s going on in here. Someone asks me when the movie is playing. I stare at her blankly for a moment trying to figure out what she’s talking about. I tell her about the local musicians that are going to play at 7:30 and ask her if that’s what she’s referring to. She nods and slips back into a group of people and I take a moment to just look at everybody. There’s a lot of people here. The mayor is even supposed to come later I learn. I like getting all our dolls and everybody together. It makes me feel like we’ve accomplished a lot.

    Before I realize it, it’s time for people to start playing music and I head into the theater to listen to the mayor. He knows Kremena and while it sounded like he was joking when he said he would only say what she instructed him to, those who know Kremena know it’s the truth. He uses the five minutes that Kremena designated him and then it’s time for Robert Schneider, the guy from The Apples in stereo. I laugh as a boy dances in front of the stage. (I guess you could call it dancing. Him running back and forth looked a lot better than any of my dance moves.) But apparently, Robert was eager to bust out his songs for children because he invites all the kids on stage. I look over to the guy at the side (whom I have creatively dubbed “Sound Guy”) and it looks like he’s about to have a heart attack. Sound Guy looks nervous but for the most part the kids aren’t touching anything and all appears to be okay. The next song the adults are invited to come up and dance and although it isn’t as lively it’s just as much fun. I like that everybody’s having a good time. We’re engaging the community and I like that too. I believe in community celebrations.

  8. Seasonal and dependent upon the abundance of fruit (and sometimes nuts), pies celebrate a plentiful harvest: berries between crusts.

    Spongy breads sealed with sugar that is whipped, with artificial coloring, into warm butter, cakes celebrate the people who eat them.

    A product of the dairy community in upstate New York, I prefer my pie with a few slices of sharp, un-dyed cheddar cheese. I prefer pretzels this way, too, and grapes. Potatoes, wine, pickles, olives, salad, and wakefulness: all made better with cheddar. But I am supposed to be writing about pie and the ways in which it is not cake.

    Cake is frequently served as a side-dish to a pile of cardboard boxes wrapped with birthday paper made to shred and discard: recycling is frowned upon. It rarely tastes good.

    Your mother’s pie crust is not as good as you believe it to be. Though it may be flaky or brushed with cream then sprinkled with sugar that melts into a glaze, it is rarely as thick, as laden with lard, or as charred as the crust that circles the edge of a pool of pumpkin served piping hot from my mother’s oven where she forgets the dish until the smoke hails its completion and burns my eyes. It is delicious.

    Thomas Hines, Duncan’s second cousin twice removed, was a Confederate spy during the American Civil War. An expert of disguise, Thomas once concealed himself in a mattress while its owner slept above him. A century later, Duncan disguised home-made cake as colored powder sealed in a plastic pouch.

    Each spring I weave strips of my mother’s crust into a lattice cover for five cups of rhubarb. My son helps me drop small pieces of butter into each hole. He alone shares my fondness for rhubarb and he, too, believes in pie.

  9. I believe in that there are exactly 613 categories of sadness in this life
    The sadness of regret
    The sadness of removal
    The sadness of knowing a song has ended
    The sadness of writer’s block
    The sadness of a perfect blue sky
    The sadness of being hungry without knowing why
    The sadness of not loving enough
    The sadness of independence
    The sadness of realizing that you learn very slowly
    The sadness of finishing a book that does not answer every question
    The sadness of a broken pencil
    The sadness of PMS
    The sadness of oblivion
    The sadness of bad reality TV
    The sadness of wool sock monkeys
    The sadness of middle distance running
    The sadness of finishing a portrait
    The sadness of spice tea
    The sadness of forgetting
    The sadness of not knowing the people in family photographs
    The sadness of remembering entire days
    The sadness of stock characters
    The sadness of reading Shakespeare
    The sadness of the curtain call
    The sadness of sanding wood
    The sadness of an overwhelming amount to do
    The sadness of Ukrainian eggs
    The sadness of watching too much TV
    The sadness of knowing all of the lyrics
    The sadness of Ohio farmland
    The sadness of throwing something away
    The sadness of cysts, abscesses, moles, tumors
    The sadness of cigarette smoke
    The sadness doing laundry because there is no more clean underwear
    The sadness of not being a vegetarian
    The sadness of procrastination
    The sadness of having farther to go
    The sadness of endings
    (The 613 sadnesses are based upon the novel Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.)

    1. I'm currently experiencing the sadness of not knowing enough words to [express what I mean].

      That book is so wonderful. And I love that you did this in this way!

  10. I did not always believe in feta cheese. Back when my 4 o’clock afternoon snack consisted of two pieces of bread held together by my grandmother’s strawberry jam, feta was as common as the home-made sausages my grandfather flattened each night with an emptied bottle of beer. The horse-shoe-shaped sausages hung on the clothes line on our balcony. Feta aged in yogurt brine and had to be rinsed off with water before every meal.

    One summer my grandmother and I experimented with making feta from the sheep milk we bought from our neighbors. We spent hours washing cheesecloth and pressing milk into soft curds. I ate our curds so quickly, there were hardly any left to age in brine. Our experiment ended after 3 months and 5 recipes. We returned to the city where no sheep meandered among tall blocks of flats.

    Until I turned 12, my breakfast consisted of cooked pasta, crumbled feta, and sugar. This is the only Bulgarian meal that doesn’t insist on holding sweet and sour flavors apart. By the time I encountered American eating habits—audaciously mixing first, second, and third courses—I had stopped eating breakfast. I had become a teenager who counted calories and curds of soft cheese.

    I first missed feta in a Dutch town on Lake Michigan. My tongue searched for its soft saltiness as I tasted peanut butter and celery, sugar cookies, and chocolate Easter eggs. When I asked the women at the cheese counter for 1 pound of feta, they pinched their noses and tried to pass on the task.

    Now I believe in feta. I believe it is worth 5 trips to Chicago to have enough for 10 wedding banitsas 1. I believe that Wikipedia overlooks my years on our sausage-draped balcony, eating soft curds for breakfast, when it defines feta as “brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece.” I believe that my children were born strong-boned because I ate feta during my pregnancies even though American doctors cautioned against unpasteurized cheese. I believe that sprinkles of feta makes everything better, even pancakes with maple syrup served as a Sunday treat.


    1 According to Wikipedia, banitsa is “a traditional Bulgarian food prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of cheese between filo pastry and then baking it in an oven.”

  11. I’ve never been a huge fan of hip-hop music until now. Growing up in the heart of conservative America, it was never allowed at our school functions or to play in the car when our parents were driving. I always have felt kind of awkward when it played at hall parties or local bars, because I never quite knew how to “lean and rock with it” or “twerk that ass”. I couldn’t appreciate the lyrics because I was always too caught up in trying to make my phat booty pop with the beat.

    This past year, with the help of a few good friends who knew I needed to work on my swag, I’ve finally embraced hip-hop for the first time. I attended my first rap concert, learned every single line of Super Bass, and even dropped a free-style verse of my own that I pray never gets posted to Facebook. I began to believe in hip-hop music. I began to really hear the lyrics for the first time realized that so much of it captured life, especially this point in my life, like no depressing country track or cheesy pop song ever could.

    I believe in the motto YOLO, and the truth behind the words “you only live once”.

    I believe in people who write uncensored versus about real pain and real success. I believe that so many rap songs are really just “This I Believe...” essay’s mixed with a mad beat. I wish that I could rap all of my “This I Believe…” essays so that people could experience them mind, soul, and body, all the same time. I believe that for my next essay I just might try to…

  12. I believe in awkward introductions. I believe in signing up for a class and having NO idea what you are getting into. I also believe in really cold walks along the north limestone community all the way up to Bullhorn. When I reflect upon my time in this class, I realize that I have taken too many things for granted. I had never gone out of my comfort zone in such a way before this class. I may have been overwhelmed by the work at times, but I realize that it was probably all for the better.

    I believe in bonding with a classmate over the breeding of beetles and the fact that pepsi tastes like cleaning fluid, even though I question if she has ever really ingested cleaning fluid before. I believe in having awkward conversations, especially ones at a bar. For some reason, the fact that there are a bunch of dirty hipsters sitting in the corner of the room taking turns at billiards makes it a lot more difficult to break the ice, let alone try to coax someone’s life story out of them!

    I also believe in having to get your folklore project partner a little bit tipsy so that she could talk to strangers because you’re afraid to.

    It’s because of my experiences this semester that I believe in Al’s Bar, North Limestone, being completely overwhelmed, nutella chimichongas, dirty hipsters, and perhaps most of all, community engagements.

  13. Because gyros do not taste nearly as wonderful with tears in them, you caught them with your thumb.

    Because couscous is so nice they named it twice, we’ve eaten it twice. And it was nice, both times.

    Because I had no idea what West African cuisine entailed, on a sufficiently chilly evening we walked the few blocks so I could experience the huge bowl of I’m-still-not-sure-what, but it was delicious.

    Because you had already surprised me with one of the best smoothies I’ve ever had, we sat and sipped them on your roof and it felt so much like summer it hurt.

    Because we both believe Penn Station subs to dominate the sub sandwich hierarchy, we are faithful subjects to Two for Tuesdays.

    Because we could probably spend hours deciding which Caesar dressing to purchase due to a thorough analysis based on a (sometimes unrealistic) set of criteria, I’ll never not be glad to accompany you on your grocery trips.

    Because the first time we went to Schlotsky’s we were both too nervous to eat, we went back again.

    Because I’m frustrated by the fact that fortune cookies rarely give you a fortune, but like to give vague qualities about you or your life instead, there will probably be more Chinese takeout in the future, because I'm hoping for better insight about my future. Though I suppose knowing the Chinese word for “fish” is cool too.

    Because there are way too many options, because there is so much food out there, because neither of us is picky, because we’ll try new things and find comfort in familiar tastes, because I’m still being introduced to Lexington’s finest eateries, because goji berries, pad thai, vodka sauce, and gorgonzola cheese are my latest obsessions, I believe we’ve become consumed in an (admittedly bit clichéd) relationship with each other that is inevitably strengthened by the power of food.