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.

Friday, March 29, 2013

This I believe #10

Believe It.


  1. We step up to the Subway counter to take our quickly made food. I grab my sandwich and bag of chips haphazardly, thanking the cashier, waiting on my company. I watch as Christian takes his sandwich, slides it backward beside the cash register before lifting it straight into the air and back to him. He performs the same ritual with his bag of chips, then taps the counter twice with his foot before we walk to find a table. Now, we can eat.

    “So you’re coming home today?” he asks.
    “Yes, Chris, this is the fourth time you’ve asked me today,” I reply, as patiently as possible.
    “Well, I just wasn’t sure. But you are coming home today, right?” he says, to clarify, of course.
    “You’ve go to let it go, buddy. I’ll be home tonight. Try to let it go.”

    Leaving my childhood home, I hug my parents to say goodbye and give them each a kiss on the cheek. I run downstairs to tell my brother goodbye as well. He is sitting in his usual spot, in front of the TV, under a blanket. “I’m leaving, give me a hug, idiot,” I demand. Because he has had a stomach virus, he tells me that we cannot touch. “Well, I’m at least going to kiss your head, I never see you,” I curtly retort. “Please don’t,” he begs, “I’ll feel really bad. Just don’t.”

    “Jesus, Mom!” Christian exclaims, “Turn the car back on! Quick! The radio station was not on 106.3. You know that the car can’t be turned off when it’s not on that radio station.” Mom humors him, restarting the car. He flips the radio station, adjusting the volume to “5,” just the way he likes it. He visibly breathes a sigh of relief. “Okay, Mom, it’s okay now.”

    Christian’s incessant worrying and questioning make him who he is. His friends call him “too sensitive” for his worries. They would never guess he has a disorder, but I know that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has made him more apt to being aware of others’ needs, and allowed him a heart of gold. I believe my younger brother’s severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and its strange and varying ways make him all the more loveable.

    1. This is a beautiful portrait of your brother. I wonder if you will share it with him...

  2. I believe in telling the truth. The truth is my grandfather is slowly dying. I say my “grandfather” instead of “Pepaw”, like I normally say, because it makes it seem less real and less personal. He can’t walk on his own, because the pain from his kidney removal surgery is too great. He’s on so much morphine, that he didn’t know who I was. He thought I was the nurse. As much as that breaks my heart, it’s the truth, and I can’t deny the truth. It happens to him a lot. Yesterday, I had been sitting directly across from him, talking to him while he drifted in and out of sleep, and his eyes started to wander around the room until they landed on me, and a surprised look came over his face. “Well, Sara Sue, when did you get here?!” He seemed so excited to see me, that I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d been having a conversation with him for the past two hours.

    He told my mom that the surgeon who took out his kidney, Dr. Ray, wasn’t the real surgeon who removed it. He told her to beat it out of the nurse who the real doctor was, and why they were lying to him about it.

    He asked me repeatedly when the big semi-truck was coming to the room to pick him up… He was obviously remembering back when he was young truck driver. I told him that no semi could fit in the elevator to come get him, his face fell, and all he said was “Oh…” as if he had just lost a part of him, like the little kid in daycare when you take away his toy truck.

    But he doesn’t know he has cancer. And that’s why I believe in lying, too. The truth is good, but sometimes a lie can save someone a lot of pain. And when your “someone” may not be able to handle the harsh truth, that’s when you feed a gentle lie to them, because we all have someone we care enough about to lie to.

  3. I believe in falling—big, bone-shattering, head-splitting, near-deadly, dramatic falls—off ladders and roofs. I believe in learning from mistakes too, but falling from twenty or thirty feet is the three-ring circus of experiential learning through idiocy.

    I did not see my mother fall. My Aunt Marge did. She worked for my mother and they spilled their sweat through long hot days in bedrooms around the county: hanging wallpaper. Slung against the top step of a ladder mistakenly placed on an area carpet, the lenses of my mothers’ glasses filled with gossamer cracks. Matching thin lines spread red across the back of her head dribbled down the entryway stairs. Years later my mother taught me to drive a stick-shift because, on this day, Marge could not. My mother drove herself bloody and blind (without her glasses) to the emergency room.

    I stood, paralyzed with wonder, when my father fell off a short ladder in the basement. I never imagined that this man, my father, could feel pain. No one was there to see him slide off the wintry slate roof he was repairing before he lay gasping and breathless in the snow drifted high against the picket-fence. This picket-fence, which outlines an American dream, would have impaled my father had he fallen 12 inches to the left.

    My mother’s fall forced her to teach all the kids to drive stick. My father’s pressed him to find a new career that would keep his feet on the ground and put money into a guaranteed retirement program. He no longer worries about becoming financially dependent upon his children.

    I stretched a thirty-foot extension ladder to the gingerbread peak on the back side of a cabin at the lake, hooked a gallon of paint to my belt, slipped the brush into my pocket and started to climb. My sister sang about an invented method she would use to kill me and I responded with a verse made worse about her. Twenty-five feet from the ground, my weight bowed the ladder against the railing of a deck to create a fulcrum: I plunged—headfirst and knuckles bursting with the pressure of a desperate attempt to retain my hold on the ladder—to the ground. I twisted my shirt near backwards looking for dry spots to mop the paint from my eyes and opened them to see my sister standing above me. Silhouetted by the sun and crying for fear that I may not stand up, her love was—even through my paint-filled eyes—for the first time, clear.

    Gordon Cade, 8 years old and annoying, yelled at us from the ground after throwing a heavy rope onto the roof. “If either of yous want to get down juss grab the rope and I’ll haul yoff”. My brother and I looked at each other. We looked over the edge to see him standing, rope tied around his waist, twenty feet below. Had we any idea of the transformative powers of falling, we would have grabbed that rope and hollered.

    1. Beautiful. And instructive.

    2. your reflections always have such wonderful fluidity.

  4. I am not sure if The Changes should be capitalized or not. I imagine that like other historical events of great magnitude, this one should be marked by capital letters. But I’ve never had to spell The Changes before, even though I address them at least twice a year.

    At least twice a year I meet someone who asks me about growing up in Communist Bulgaria. Instead of making something up to satisfy a Westerner’s curiosity, I plunge into an explanation of how I was only 15 when The Changes took place, too young to realize that I owned one set of clothes only, that no one in my family had ever left Bulgaria, except for my mother who spent one New Year’s Eve in Moscow and my uncle who spent one year in Hungary (my father, my mother’s ex-husband, spent a few years cooking in a Russian camp in Libya, but he did not count because we all knew he was different).

    In fact, I didn’t realize that not having a separate outfit for each day of the week was weird, that traveling to foreign places was a life-style expectation, until I landed at a small liberal arts college near Lake Michigan. In most ways, then, The Changes did not change my life very much or at least not immediately. Though, if I am provoked, I do remember standing in line to purchase the daily loaf of bread allotted a family of four: something we had never experienced under Communist rule. I remember, too, interviewing the Head of Police in the small mountain town where the American University in Bulgaria was located. I probably shouldn’t have troubled him for a Journalism class project, but I did and I regretted it at the same time I realized that he didn’t like me, that he thought I was too American, that I could be disappeared from his office without much trouble at all. That, too, was after The Changes took place.

    Usually, in conversations about my past, I have to explain what “The Changes” means, but by then the person I am speaking with has typically lost interest and we move on to more pleasant topics.

    I believe that spelling matters.

  5. Last year my friends and I made a habit of staying up way too late and going out on "adventures" off campus. One night a friend and I decided that we were going to head to Versailles, where i'm from, and pick up a couple of my friends from back home to go on one such adventure. So we drive the 15 minutes, pick them up, and we're off into the country, looking for trouble.

    We decided to take a trip out to a distillery in the middle of no where woodford county, 15 more minutes of driving down winding backroads and now rain-slicked pavement. Now we had been out to this old distillery several times, It had all caught on fire and burned down quite a long time ago, and because of this many claim that it was haunted. So we go off to gghost hunt, poke around a bit and generally just creep ourselves out. There wasn't anything out of the ordinary about this trip....until we started heading back.

    On our way back the roads were a little wetter because it had rained a bit while we were out exploring, unfortunately our driver hadn't really taken that into consideration and while we were going to just a bit to fast for the conditions, she lost control.

    I could feel the exact moment when there was no longer a chance to bring the car back under control, i could feel the momentum start to take over, the car begin to careen off the road. For a split second everything slowed down and I knew what was about to happen, and all I had time to get out was, "Oh shit..." The car spun all the way around hit a tree head on, continued to spin and then hit a rock wall. But all i knew what that I couldn't breathe, my chest hurt and I couldn't breathe. I stumbled out of the passenger seat forced myself to take in deep breathes and then began to survey the damage. The car was totaled, that much was obvious, but after everyone else climbed out and we figured out that no one was seriously injured we were able to calm down a bit.

    In the end we made it back to campus in one piece (except for my friend's poor car) and nothing terrible came of it. Believe it or not, we actually went back to that same distillery about two weeks ago, It went a little bit better this time.

    I believe that you should never give up doing something you love or something that you enjoy because of one bad experience, sometimes things just don't work out. But never stop trying.

  6. At age three I had the most beautiful birthday cake. It looked like a fabrige merry go round. The pastel cake horses even spun when I turned them. A cake boss had to have created it

    At age 7 I had a sleepover party. 10 girls and I bounced around dancing to spice girls, explaining which boys were the ickiest and which ones we thought were somewhat ok. I woke up the next morning with whipcream on my face. Those pranksters

    At 13 I had my first boy/girl birthday party. We watched the grudge in the basement because it was a PG-13 movie and all of us could see it without supervision. A chain of screams filtered across the room at the slightly scary parts. It was an excuse to hold the hand of our first teenage crush.

    At 21 the party will ensue tonight. A dinner at Saul goods, a little black dress and possibly a tiara if my friends are daring enough. A two tier cake with scroll work and sparklers for candles. My first time roaming the streets at midnight. I may not be Taylor swifts 22 but can I say it? I'm feeling 21.

    I believe in birthdays.

  7. 1284 - the year that saved my life.

    Every morning I blindly reach my hand toward the blurry outline of my bedside table. The frames are thin so they blend too easily with the darkness of the wood they rest on. I know that at least one object will be sacrificed to the floor during this daily ritual, sometimes the glasses themselves. On a happy day, the glasses are found and my sight is restored. But on those mornings after an unusual nightly routine, which involves not placing my glasses on the bedside table, I think about the years before 1284 and know I would not have lasted long.

    Belonging to the visually impaired club is second nature for most. I do not think about it most days, but there are some moments when my lack of vision has completely failed me.

    1. All athletics before I discovered contacts. It does not matter how great of a soccer player you are, no one will take you seriously with clear, protective guards over your eyes.
    2. Middle school.
    3. Nose sweat and glasses do not mix.
    4. Being the only kid on the swim team with prescription goggles.
    5. Failing the driving test. Not the actual driving part, but the vision part. Who does that?

    Before 1284 I imagine this list would look slightly different.

    1. Reading is hard.
    2. Why do we all look alike?
    3. How do people figure out which is an onion and which is an apple?
    4. It’s dark outside. I can’t function.
    5. I just died from walking off a cliff.

    1. What an amazing reflection. I, too, belong to the visually impaired club. I, too, wonder, on occasion, what may have become of me had there been no glasses and no contacts. But I have never written an essay about it :)

  8. I wake up in a cloud. A bed so fluffy and comfortable that I know I must be in some silly, exaggerated commercial for laundry detergent. I can’t believe this bed. And (holy shit!) I cannot believe that I am lying next to you. My stomach bursts with giddiness and blossoms white hot electricity across my chest, coursing euphoria through the veiny highways of my body. All words and intellect drain from my mind. You rob me of the wit and sarcasm that I cling to, strip me to down to giggles and fits of pure body laughter with nothing but your smile. I see your tooth, chipped from a wedge salad, winking back at me and I can’t. I just CAN’T not squeal with delight or fight the urge to press my body into yours, that white marble sculpture, dusted gold with freckles. Oh my god, your freckles! One for each aspect of you that intrigues me and captivates me. One for your ever so slight ballet waddle. One for the way you sometimes sleep with your arms around your head. One for your wild, red hair. Sixteen million for the silliness and giggles you inflict on me. Sixteen million freckles! You are the Calcifer that moves my castle.
    I believe crushes are the best.

    1. What a fun, crush-filled reflection! Thank you for sharing your crush with us :)

  9. We fought like dogs in high school, bark bark barking at one another through foamy fangs and chain link. I was scared of her then, the innate power she could flick on and off with her paw, the way that on some Fridays I was permitted to trapeze around town and the next, forbidden from stepping onto the porch.
    I hesitant to say that even then, my mother was my best friend.
    When Spring threatened us from from up North, my mother and I fled south two weeks ago, in her now decade-old car. I was scared of the snarls from the beginning, the inevitable disappointments my mother was bound to provide. I always find it very sobering when you come to the realization that your parents are in fact, just humans and those promises they made, just like our own, cannot always feasibly be kept.
    For years I had been keen to this rage, no yearly trip as promised to Disney World, The American Girl Place, Daytona Beach--all places that I managed to visit on my own years later.
    I came prepared with this rage for our SPRING BREAK TWENTY THIRTEEN (!!!) road-trip, tight-lipped and waiting for any moment that I could strike and start barking like a mad dog, stocky and proud.
    At this point, I could be a commercial for the humane society, the way this trip morphed me into a pit bull, softened.
    While I didn't expect it at all, we rattled, engine-first all the way into the heart of Texas, and for the stretch of a week, solidified and polished our bond. We were swimming in springs, drinking at dance clubs, shopping on strips and barreling through local beer. We walked dogs, thumped our heads to countless bands, and not once, did my teeth (or hers) slip from under our lips.
    The seventeen hour road trip back, flawless. I shit you not when I say we could've been a commercial.
    She visited me last night too, my mother, stocked up my pantry with groceries I couldn't buy for myself, slipped twenty dollars into my pocket as she escaped back to her home, and made sure I knew she and made it home safe.
    I never thought I would be able to say this, but god, I believe in my mother.

    1. A powerful narrative--like you and your mother, Leslie.

  10. Familial eyes,
    that shine
    like a jug of dirty dimes
    reflecting heavens


    Completely horrified
    as I poised, then lunged, then tore
    self-righteous flesh
    with tongue sharpened.

    That glorified
    preacher’s daughter,
    who rode into my surname

    on the cock
    of my


    to console
    my proudly-out uncle
    on his “struggle with homosexuality.”
    from across the dinner table.

    I believe in being the black sheep. 

    Happy Easter/Festival of Ishtar/Whatever else you dig on.

  11. "Tooth and Nail"

    Katherine never could figure out why she couldn’t come.

    My family gatherings at Lucie’s house for Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas gift exchanges, she could never quite place her finger on that stinging nerve hidden under that loose tooth in the back of my mouth. She would appoint me to a chair, then ask me to open up, as she shoved popsicle sticks in my mouth, and mulled around with her fingers, checking under every canine and bicuspid til’ I bit down on her skin hard or playfully pushed her cupped hand back with my lips. She would always ask why it seemed that I never wanted her to be around.

    The first year was easy, there was still a grainy sense on politeness on both our parts, not to tread to far on the other’s toes or invade each other’s space, in fear that they might appear too clingy, too bold, or too sick with love. We had spoke often of the past, and she told me how she once got swindled by the love of stranger, and I told her about the woman who would keep her nose, vacuum packed and pinned to the collar of my shirt, the woman that would flare up like a rabid dog when she smelt the faintest scent of perfumed pollen, and the woman who would chase jealousy down the rabbit holes of every neighbor’s backyard that I would stroll across, til’ her eyes were mounted on every picket fence on my block, leaving me to only toddle the narrow sidewalks on my way back home to her.

    These stories kept Katherine sympathetic and off-guard, for a while, but it was only a matter of time before she started searching again, for that one tooth I kept hidden in the back of my palate⎯raw, tender, and capped in an ivory crown.

    When the next year did come around to that familiar season, she asked me to open up wider, as she mulled the back of my mouth, checking under every incisor and molar.

    ⎯⎯ “Well then who are you bringing with you? ⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯Oh, I get it; you’re embarrassed of me! ⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯Is it Chloe again? ⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯Laney? ⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯Does your family just not like me? ⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯What’s going on between you and Lucie’s niece? ⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯She has a boyfriend, you know! ⎯⎯You, have a girlfriend, you know!”⎯⎯

    To which I mouthed off whatever worked and would hum out a furious, or bashful, or lusty, or ignorant, “Ahhhhhhh,” with my tongue still pinned down by her frisky fingers, which kept lodging further and further, down the back of my throat.

  12. As the questions became louder, the accusations more exacting, our fights became longer and more frequent. We turned into lumberjacks in our drawn-out argument matches, pulling at, and prying off the baseboards from that quaint log cabin we shared, dragging each piece to a level stump, and swinging our chatty axes, racing to see whose sophist tongue could cut through the most timber.

    And I always would stack my firewood tall, nailing in boards frantically, to construct a quick boundary around my body and then build up, as high as I could til I ran out of wood to put holes through⎯whereas she would stack her lumber long, hammering boards across, one at a time, making sure each one was sequential, and fitted neatly into the frame.

    And so I would always end up finishing up my oak-wood fortress before her pinewood bridge was ever built. And when the cut-stack scrimmage was finally over, we’d peel back the boards of our strongholds, lay down all the lumber and firewood in a frictional heap, and reform that great log cabin of teenage love⎯piece by piece⎯looser, and looser, every time.

    Katherine would always give in first, when I would jawbone her into calling Corbin, and telling them she’d be on her way, driving miles in the morning to attend her own family’s seasonal gatherings⎯alone, again, and then I’d give her that same gingered, goodbye grin⎯a grin she had seen once before.

    ⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯⎯⎯Spit it out! ⎯⎯

    But around this girl⎯I never smiled. And in her Christmas dress we piled kindle high and sparked the fire. She never asked me to open up, and for her, my mouth was on a spring and her fingers never missed a dent. She could always trace along the gum-line, ⎯deep and find where the tip of my tongue goes in the dark. And her slender body did hit that that red thread, and electrified that hidden nerve underneath my sharpest, and sweetest tooth.

    My holiday mirage,

    My fiery myth,

    my dearest _ _ _ _

    I believe that sometimes, you should keep the best little secretes to yourself.