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 28, 2013

This I believe 7

Place them in the comment section!


  1. I believe in soap opera shit. I believe that it’s real, and that it can take over your life in less than ten minutes.

    Dad always said, “You never know what someone is going through behind closed doors.”

    When I closed the door to walk into my kitchen that day after a long week of hiking, Mom said to me, “Are you ready to talk?”
    Dad began crying immediately.

    I sat down at our kitchen table, with my parents in the two armchairs by the fireplace. Dad sat on the left, looking exhausted. The skin that was normally reddish and flushed with life sagged with fatigue. Mom sat to the right of the fireplace. She literally seemed to have a weight on her shoulders, like she couldn’t intake air. She attempted a deep breath, and started to explain what I’d been dreading.

    “Daddy has stage IV cancer.”

    Her speech was interrupted. A florist knocked on the back door to our house. The woman was delivering flowers for Dad. What the fuck was happening?!

    Mom shook the tears out of her eyes and kept speaking these foreign words to me.

    “It’s called squamous cell carcinoma and it started in his tonsils. The knot we found on his neck is a mass of cancer. We’re going to be honest with you through this whole...”

    Her words faded away as my world turned upside down. She didn’t mean a mass. She meant a tumor. She didn’t want to say it. My stomach felt queasy. I couldn’t even think straight. I started shaking my head, trying to rid myself of the information. I didn’t want it: Dad has a tumor in his right tonsil. That’s where the rest of the cancer stems from. The “tumor” is actually cancer in some of his lymph nodes on the right side of his neck. He has to have two surgeries: one to remove the tonsils and one to remove the lymph nodes. Not only that, he has to undergo radiation and chemotherapy. He’ll have thirty treatments of radiation and six rounds of two types of chemotherapy. From what I understand, he’s going to get pretty damn sick. And the thing is, there is no Stage V. Stage V is death. I left the kitchen table when they told me. I felt like a child in a terrifying nightmare.

    I escaped to my room and crawled into the fetal position on my bed, only to hear a knock on the door. “Johnna,” Dad said, “Come to our bedroom; we have to tell you more.”

    When I walked into my parents’ bedroom, Dad explained that my older brother Buddy was in a car accident. My first response was to ask if he died. It turned to be a bit more complicated. He was a state trooper like Dad, and the night Dad was diagnosed, when Buddy was off duty, he decided to leave a party plastered. He crashed into a family of four, leaving each of the persons with temporary, but hospitalizing, injuries. I couldn’t breathe. Buddy’s wife and children were devastated. Dad said the courts would make an example out of him; he would be sentenced to prison time. I watched Dad crumble and excused myself.

    Five years later, I believe the phrase, “this too shall pass.”

    1. Thank you for sharing a story that is personal and powerful. Good to know that the devastation in your family, too, has passed. (But what's up with the foul language :)?)

    2. The foul language is therapeutic sometimes :)

  2. I watched Sheila, my cousin’s dog, climb fast straight up a ladder so tall that I—in spite of my opposable thumbs—feared climbing it myself. Seventeen rungs above the ground I learned—in the dim light of a sun slinking below trees thick with summer-time leaves—how to flex my muscle. I learned, too, that it was laughably small. My cousin laughed at other parts of my body as we peed over the railing of a narrow deck woven from thin branches of white birch. The drunken arguments we heard coming from the house made us glad for the platform we had to sleep on, glad that it was too dark to climb down seventeen steps.

    I watched as my cousin saved his mirror and the pictures of hot rods that were taped to it. He packed it carefully and vacated his room at the top of the stairs when they moved out, when they left the hill where they lived near my grandmother, my Uncle Kim and Aunt Kathy, my great grandparents, and my own family. The bank took possession of their home and sold the land to a church in Long Island, five hours away by car—a church from which no one would ever come, no one ever laid eyes on my cousin’s house.

    And I watched my cousin’s house sink into the mossy floor of the forest just thirty feet from the road. I watched it fold in and wrinkle like my great grandmother’s mouth when her teeth fell out—people came to loot the bay windows, hardwood doors, toilets, sinks, carpets, and every large piece of drywall. I watched blackberry bushes bring the bones down to rubble as I rode past each day on the school bus. The boards rot through and everything caved into the basement where I found the skeleton of a dog, at the bottom of a ladder.

    I believe that stories grow stronger as the lives they speak of dissolve.

    1. powerfully poignant. Those last 2 lines were a K.O.

  3. AK 47 in hand...
    I turn my head and see an innocent bystander to my right.
    Because I can.
    The sound of sirens surround me,
    They’re here to restrain me.
    To my convenience,
    An AA-12 with explosive rounds appears into my right hand.
    Within seconds that cop is deader than a doornail.
    I feel no shame.
    What I have done is a mere obstacle of the night.
    Before the night is over, I will have killed many.
    Some with families.
    Still, no shame.
    I have to do what I have to do to survive;
    To escape.
    However, what is the point of this?
    To survive?
    Kill as many as you can.
    It’s an illness; A disease.
    Death has never been so pleasing to me.
    To see blood burst from the chest of a man; and elderly woman I do not know.
    It has never been so satisfying;
    So invigorating.
    I hold the lives of these citizens in my hands.
    I have the power;
    The power I’ve always craved.
    That sick craving every human being holds in the back on their mind.
    Thank God, this isn’t real life.
    I believe in Grand Theft Auto, for the very first time.

  4. My grandpa has been in the hospital since Saturday. He has to get some more tests run to confirm it, but they think he has cancer. He has a spot on his lung. I believe life isn’t fair, because he has never even smoked. I realize anything can happen, and you don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer, but it isn’t fair, because he didn’t do anything to deserve it. The first day he was there, I was sitting in the hospital room with him. I was just reading a book, because he wanted to nap. Then, when I thought he was asleep, I heard him say, “Sary Sue?” I said, “Yeah, Pepaw?” He sat there a few seconds before he answered, “I’m really scared.” I had never heard him say that before, and in that moment, my heart broke into a million different pieces. And I knew he was thinking about my granny, who died of breast cancer.

    I believe in being scared. I believe in my Pepaw. I believe words can break a person’s heart. But I never want to believe in cancer.

  5. Press sleepy fingers down on luxuriant plastic, release a slow crawl. Let that cream of confidence sink in, convince yourself that you’re saving your own skin.

    I find new wrinkle every week. I have to stop them.

    Virescently correct the signets of youth. Smother shades of pubescence and crushed capillaries in jaded alluvium.

    I will have acne forever. I have to hide it.

    Flaxen, pasted. Frame tired eyes.

    I inherited my father’s dark circles. I have to conceal them.

    Force fine porcelain into the depths of tortured pores. Sponge on that lie. Pack it in. Paint it on.

    I have a ruddy face. I have to cover it.

    Brush on synthetic shade under cheekbones. Sculpt a skinny proboscis. Blend. Blur reality.

    I like don’t have cheekbones. My nose is weird. I have to fix it.

    Sweep champagne down the snout. Let it dance across your forehead, Let it slide down your cheekbones. Synthetic angularity.

    I don’t have good bone structure. I have to fake it.

    Sketch in tawny crayon. Furrow it later.

    I have very sparse brows. I have to fill them.

    Kohl caked on the soul’s windows.

    I have small eyes. I have to line them.

    Cram books into a bag. Speed toward that ivory tower, it promises to liberate from these warped perceptions.

    I’m late for class. I have to be there on time.

    Some days, makeup is war paint; most days it’s a mask.

    I want to believe I was made to be a drag queen, I hate to believe that I may never get over such petty insecurities.

    1. This speaks to women (and everyone else) in our sad, focused-on-appearance society. You're beautiful!

    2. What Johnna said.

      Also: this is a powerful reflection, powerfully written, as always.

  6. What does it mean to be a woman?
    To stand in her high heels for a day?
    Would it pay? nay, though it may cost.

    To feel my own blood, like a chalice, spill from my groin, should've girded my loins, it's my fault my cup spilt.

    To feel the hilt of our culture's knife, it took my life after I took it's fat, juicy cock. How rude.

    To taste the stock absent from my words, eat the curds, and fly a whey, like little miss muffet.

    It definitely wouldn't pay. How much would it cost?

    To shiver at the frost, biting my nails. DAMN, I just got them painted.

    To be described as "tainted" for but having my taint painted. People, enjoy your own art show.

    To feel the flow of life's river run through, hearing "boohoo," baptized in the river styx.

    What does it mean to be a woman?

    I don't know. They've got more "balls" than I.
    They wear them on their chest, next to their heart, call them their breast, and spoon-feed Sartre a bit of their second sex.

    I bet it tastes good.

    ^I believe in Feminism, if you couldn't tell.

  7. Trouble getting to sleep is something that runs in my family. Many a time I’ve been subjected to my grandmother’s complaints that 3 hours of sleep a night is the most that she can hope for. As a young child with energy to burn and spare, I never really paid attention when grandma talked about her ailments, but I knew that smiling and nodding and letting her feel like she was being listened to would be rewarded with a bowl of ice cream or a slice of 30 day cake. My mother too had trouble sleeping at night, so it made sense in my mind when she started taking lots of naps during the day. She was catching up. I latter found out that these naps were called “depression,” but I didn’t really know what to do with that word or how it meant I was supposed to interact with her. She stopped wearing the bright green sundress, and when my brothers and sisters would bring her handfuls of her favorite mountain wildflowers, she smiled but never with her eyes. She felt like a different person. When I was 17, I began having trouble sleeping. My body would be teetering on the very edge of the cliff, my mind willing it to push itself over, but that relief rarely came. Instead I would roll over and over and over, and let the night sounds terrify and beguile me. Once these sounds manifested themselves as a person walking down the staircase, opening and closing cabinets and the refrigerator door. I’m already awake, I thought to myself, there is no harm in seeing who it is. What at 4 AM that morning was my mother, wrapped in sweaters and robes, eating cold biscuits with butter and jam. Without a word, she lathered up another biscuit and slid it across the table to me. “I couldn’t sleep” I said between chews of homemade blackberry jam. “I understand,” she said back with a smile. A smile that pulled the corner of her mouth up and into her twinkling, laughing eyes.
    I believe that biscuits at 4 AM is where lost mothers are found.

    1. Your reflection is beautiful and full of tenderness. I hope that you will consider sending your mother a copy--maybe even by snail mail, the old-fashioned way :)

  8. My first pen-pal was from East Germany. I no longer remember her name or the name of the town where she mailed her letters to me. I remember my disappointment when her letters arrived: smudged scribbles on lined paper torn hastily, edges ragged like blades of new grass. My dispatches too her looked immaculate: beads of pearls spelling stories about my family (two grandparents and a mother), my pet (a black poodle named Roni, short for Ronald—after Ronald Reagan), and our apartment (I shared a room with my mother). Still, I kept writing to her until she lost interest in me or in a language that gave her much trouble. English was hard for me too: a foreign tongue in which I tried to express the basics of our basic life.

    My next pen-friend was from Samara in Russia, the twin city of Stara Zagora, my birth-town. His name was Sergey. After a year of letters, he sent me a shoe box containing a photograph of his face and a white teddy bear. He had red hair and I secretly thought he was good looking. Not-so-secretly, I cherished my white teddy bear, the only stuffed animal I possessed. Not-so-secretly, I asked my mother if I could go visit Sergey in Samara. I reminded her that the Russians were like an older brother to our nation, that I could practice my English there, that maybe my Russian, too, would improve. My mother believed I was the wrong age for that kind of visit. I tried to write to Sergey about life as an only child under close supervision.

    Then I met Liz, a pen friend from England. Forty years my senior, she loved 5 o’clock tea, hamsters, and gardening. She sent stuff to me daily: long letters, occasional notes to me from one of her hamsters, stacks of romance novels, gifts of pens, writing paper, potpourri. I told Liz about after-school language classes (my mother thought I should learn English instead of piano), school (I hated my classmates), and Roni.

    Years later, I write cards in December: Christmas couriers of family tidings. Every time I finish a letter, I tell myself I should do it more often.

    I believe in writing letters: bits of lives captured in solitude.

    1. Physical mail is the best. The anticipation of opening a letter cannot be matched!

  9. Let me start out by saying, that i have never been able to really enjoy a horror movie. No matter how far-fetched, unrealistic, or just outright stupid the concept is. However, inevitably, about twenty minutes later after i've gotten in to bed and turned the lights off, my brain decides that it's going to recall every horrifying moment of demon possession, gruesome murder, and alien abduction that it can. T

    Oftentimes this also occurs when i'm just staying up late at night. whether i'm doing homework, hanging out with friends, or just up doing nothing. If it's dark and i'm conscious my brain likes to have a little fun. No amount of me telling myself that, "obviously there is no way any of those things could happen" will make my imagination stop. Despite the paranoia inducing things my brain likes to do at late hours i can bring myself to go to bed early. some of the most memorable times of my life have happened after the sun has set. Sitting around the campfire with my closest friends, late night drives through the country, or just sitting on top of the steps to old morrison looking at the stairs and talking about life.

    I believe in being a night owl, no matter how much my imagination attempts to scare me into sleep.

    1. I am with you--sleep is overrated and horror movies are scary.

  10. January 12, 2012. This is the day I began my unquenchable love affair with escalators.

    Barrio Gracia possesses the heart of Catalan identity. Banners of crimson and gold coat every window, blending and flapping and demanding your revolutionary fervor. The Spanish coat of arms is absent, neglected and unwanted. One morning Senora said, “¡Cataluña debe estar libre de España! Cataluña es mi país, no de España.” My eyes abandoned hers for the Catalan Nationalist flag painting her window, a beloved curtain, matching nothing but the passion of the family inside. Quietly, we finished our breakfast. She told me Parc Guell was a street over, and to follow the road until an escalator appeared. The escalator would deliver me to Gaudi, she said.
    Fifty yards later, I was perched on the moving stair advancing upward. This escalator replaced what would have been an impossibly steep street, unusable to most vehicles. Anti-government graffiti covered the two unmoving railings and the scent of stale urine permeated the air. Continuing to rise, I turned my back to the finish and reveled in the reality of my new home. Cradled between Mediterranean and Montserrat, neighbors with Gaudi, Casas, and the most fantastic petty thieves in the world. The city yielded its view to me inch by inch and I claimed each inch for myself, for my heart forever.

    I know the best way to discover a place and fall in love with it fully. It is a slow ascension and your back to the sky and your eyes open.

  11. Oddly enough, I believe in Lifetime Fitness. Come Monday, Wednesday Friday, rain or showers of soft snow, I peel into the parking lot right before 10:30 and shimmy my way up the grand Beck staircase into the Bck Center Gym. Now, I'm not saying I'm not among my peers as we moan and groan about the supposed silliness of adorning ourselves in workout clothes, most of which my "art" pals have fashioned from afternoons at an army surplus store or leftover high school t shirts. Let it be known, I'm never sporting the latest neon Nike wares. I wasn't taught to value expensive althetic wear in high school--I was too busy painting older crushes in the art room clad in Tripp pants and metal band t shirts. If I couldn't go to PE in converse, my high school curriculum could forget it.

    Regardless, there's something magical about these mornings, because Im learning to value something. My carefully crafted workout playlist explodes into my ears for 45 minutes of solitary exhaustion--something if I had not been forced to do, I doubt would have been chosen. But I get to breathing so hard as I'm trample around the track to the likes of Rihanna, Beyonce or Gwen Stefani that when the endorphins flood my brain and fall across my swollen pink face, I myself start to feel a little bit like a glamorous pop sensation. Even my feet hit the track at the same beat these ladies croon into my ear and suddenly, I'm not in some odd activist t shirt I acquired for free, oh no. By the time my fourth lap hits I'm practically wearing glitter encrusted sand blasted jeans, a sequin belly top, four layers of thick kohl eyeliner and six sets of eyelashes. I am, essentially, as Beyonce might whisper into my ear on one of our many lunch dates, a female version of a hustler. I'm a diva.

    It's funny that a little old white dude such as coach lane can evoke such glamorous emotions in me, pat my back as I sashay down the steps after my workout and smile at me like I've just come off stage, the crowd cheering wildly, lights flashing and they're begging for me. But I've got class to get to, my fans are going to have to wait until Friday.

    1. I think old Coach Lane would enjoy reading this.

    2. Love the comparison with a diva, telling her fans they'll have to wait until Friday. Very fanciful and very fun.

  12. The echo of music inside a shower stall is one of the ways to achieve true solitude without feeling alone. My own thoughts are suddenly erased and replaced by someone else’s allowing me to leave my own worries and concerns on the opposite side of the glass door. Even though, these feelings and emotions pouring out through melody and word are not my own I still feel the aching sadness, calm happiness, or futile anger that courses within them. I suddenly become engrossed in someone else’s story, living through their word in their world.

    The melody rises and falls bouncing off the tile walls of the shower. Sometimes I will sing along, but oftentimes I don’t. I don’t want to ruin someone’s work. I don’t want to sing off key. I don’t want to become to attached to their story and be unable to write my own without being a copycat. I just stand, close my eyes, and listen to someone else explain to me why things are the way they are. Why love decides to leave and why it sometimes stays for a while. Why a friend is one of the greatest treasures in the world. Why summertime is the best time. Why running and laughing and playing are perfectly acceptable adult activities.

    As song comes to an end and I can’t justify wasting any more water, the last note rings for just a moment longer due to the silent space the follows. Then the water becomes the primary music. The enclosed space makes it sound like a waterfall. Loud and billowing each drop making a pitch as it hits the different spots on the ground. I gradually come back to my own reality, remembering my problems and my blessings one by one. Forgetting the others and realizing we have more commonalities than differences despite their million dollar pay checks.

    I believe in Escape.

  13. "When My Head Plays Jumanji"

    I'm walking home from the bus stop,
    I saw that scaly son’ bitch trying to wave me down.
    They call him Sid⎯⎯⎯⎯he’s the king croc,
    He said, “lets go to your place and we can strip on out.”
    He started making some phone calls,
    To all his lizards and birds and his so-called friends.
    The started crawling in one by one,
    I tried to shut the door, but they just bust on in.

    “Oh, please don’t,
    Please don’t,
    Touch my things!”
    That’s when the ceiling fan broke on an eagle’s wing
    And there’s some squids shootin’ ink on the bathroom floor
    I told ‘em, “No,
    Just go,”
    But they just want more

    Don’t let em’ into my room!

    I saw some chimps in the kitchen,
    Banging up something raw on the pots and pans.
    And zebras racing the hallway,
    Breaking out mirrors, with eyes as big as red coke cans.
    I ran so fast up the staircase,
    I almost tripped over Tocan Sam.
    Bowled over rhinos to get to my doorway,
    Stepped into my room, “oh, god damn!”

    Don’t let em’ into my room!

    I tried to shut the door behind,
    I took a breather, I sat down, man I was scared.
    I started feeling my backbone slide,
    It was a creature, I thought was my beanbag chair.
    I ran so fast to the closet,
    Thought to myself, “just hide here and wait them out.”
    But when I reached for the light switch,
    Them bats were pissed, and so I had to bust on out.

    “Oh, please don’t,
    Please don’t,
    Touch my things,”
    That’s when the ceiling fan broke on an eagle’s wing.
    And there’s some squids shootin’ ink on the bathroom floor,
    I told ‘em, “No, No, No!”
    But they just wont go!

    Just get em’ outta my room!

    (I believe in bad trips)

  14. I frequently tell people that working at Michaels, a craft store, is one of the few jobs where spending an embarrassing amount of time on Pinterest is beneficial to my performance. At Michaels, we have the neediest customers – and I love it. With or without my lanyard that shouts “Tell me about your project!” at whomever I’m speaking to, customers are generally enthusiastic (or terribly desperate) about sharing their ideas and a simple question such as, “What are you using this paper for?” is the trigger for a story with eerie similarities to a thesis presentation that is still in the “brainstorming” stage.

    But thankfully, Pinterest often comes to my rescue! More often than not, I will ask the customer if their project is similar to ones on Pinterest and I can see a light switch flip in their mind and I can almost hear them say, “Thank God! She knows what I’m talking about.” From there – it’s cake, sugar rush and all.

    Even though the recorded corporate announcement over Michaels’ intercom pronounces the site’s name as “pin-TRest,” I still get a little warm and fuzzy on the inside. For me, believing in Pinterest is much more than job security at an arts & crafts store. I view its popularity as the result of a societal shift to people wanting to be more involved with their products – a genuine interest in how things are made.

    Pinterest is able to bring out the crafter in all of us and is a great resource for individuals who want to be engaged in the creation of everyday products that are often overlooked and bought and consumed without a second glance.

    I’m pretty excited for the future – if Pinterest is any prediction.