Thursday, January 29, 2009


Okay, first. Here are my plans for the puppet story: We'll see where it goes after this, but this is a basic outline:

Three Marionettes, named Anette, Will, and a third one who needs a name that has to do with puppets or free will or something. Maybe "Charlie," which will be a reference to Charlie McCarthy (sp?) and also Charlie Kaufman. Hmmm. They are in the middle of enacting a human marionette show when one of them decides he no longer wants to BE a marionette, his strings always pulled by someone else. He goes off stage and comes back with giant scissors, and cuts himself free. At first he dies, but then he is able to will himself to stand up, and is free. He is in the process of convincing the other two to cut their own strings when

Cue houselights. A man in the audience yells an apology, and turns them off again, as though he had accidentally leaned against them and turned them on.

The two boy characters continue as planned, but the Anette is distracted. In the middle of Will's speech:

"Sorry to cut you off--Well, I guess you sorta cut yourself off--but did you see that?"

He didn't. She describes what she saw: a theater and an audience. Did Charlie see it? Charlie is anxious, and we believe he probably did see it, but he refuses to say, and seems very anxious about breaking character.

Anette turns back to Will. She points out that there is one wall that is hard to see. He stares into the audience directly, and soon sees what she's talking about. Maybe "There! I heard a cough!" or laughter, etc. Really responding to the audience. She tries to go back about her business of being a character, but he is obsessed with this new idea. Walks backstage, while Anette and Charlie awkwardly cover for his absence. Some sort of setup in their dialog that will payoff later. Will comes back and asks how long he was gone. He say there is nothing at all when he leaves the stage. He just stopped existing for a while.

Anette is obviously trying to get on with her lines, saying "and then you would probably suggest that I cut myself free as well."

Will is talking to the audience, as the other two freeze in backlit tableau. He is putting things together. He soon realizes he's just a character in a play. He remembers his real name, which will be the actor's real name. And you! You're (Anette's actress' real name) and Charlie's too. And what were you doing just now when I was talking to the audience? They can't remember.

Charlie complains that it's getting too confusing. "So this is what? A play within a play?"
Will: No! It's the exact opposite of that! It's a play... withOUT a play!
C: (terrified) But! A play without a play! That's nothing at all!
W: It's not nothing! It's just not a play!

Anette wants to know what is so wrong with being a character?

We're not free! he responds. Don't you see? Everything you're saying right now was fed to you, by a writer! You're just performing some script. He goes backstage again, and comes back with a script, and reads some of her previous lines.

She takes it, and reads HIS previous lines, including some of this nonsense about being free. He, too, is still just playing a part. [this is to leave the idea of determinism vague by the end]

Charlie freaks out, grabs the script, and destroys it or throws it away. We have to just not think about that! We have to just continue on with our lives!

Will is not hearing it. He is standing very close to the edge of the stage. "I know the only way out of this! I'm going to jump! It doesn't help to go backstage. We have to leave this way." Big dramatic scene there. He finally does jump. Greets a few members of the audience, and runs out into the lobby or what have you. The other two are shocked, and just as they are recovering themselves, there is a yell from the lobby. Will is ecstatic about the whole huge world out there. He comes running halfway up an aisle. You have to come with me guys! This proves it's just a play!

Anette: I believe that it's a play. But look around you! Those people are here to SEE this play. We have a duty to them, to put this play on.

Charlie has withdrawn. Will says, your whole life is being run by someone else! Make your own decision!

Anette: Or let YOU make my decision? This IS my decision. To stay. Just because I'm doing what someone else tells me to do doesn't mean I'm not making my own choice.

Will concedes, and leaves, broken hearted. She turns back to Charlie, and they continue the scene, with some line that pays off now from before. Will's presence is greatly missed, as he turns and walks back out the door.


What it still needs: I need something for the puppet show to be ABOUT. I'm thinking a simple love triangle with terribly corny lines.

I'm thinking that somehow we'll reveal that the actor who plays Charlie is a homosexual in real life, which is his primary motivation for refusing to acknowledge what is happening. he doesn't want to face that reality. When Will reveals this, Anette will be shocked, and talk about how that isn't appropriate subject matter for a conservative Utah audience (maybe?). This will heighten the tragedy of her being left alone with him in the end. There is no real happiness as long as he's pretending and she's alone with him.

It needs to be very ambiguous as to who's right in this situation. Except Charlie is clearly wrong.

I know it's two much. It's meta-theater, if there is such a thing. But that's what I like. I want it to reflect the conflict between free will and obedience. In the end, it needs to be clear that Will forfeited his bow and applause in his search to free himself. Yep. That's all I got. For now. I think I did have one more piece if dialog worked out on the bus the other day. I'll have to look for it. K see you next time.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Looking Down

As much as I joke with my friends about the fact that I am in a “movement class,” comically demonstrating such techniques as “swaying,” “moving about the room with just your legs,” or “sitting UNDER the desk,” I find myself inexplicably taking this class very seriously. In those moments when we are to “open” ourselves up, I really do imagine myself in a place with no borders, my ego being extended along the plane of my arms into the furthest reaches of my imagined limitless space. When it’s time to close down, I am not just imagining myself closing off, but being closed off, surrounded by an imaginary impenetrable shell, which at first is made of smooth white porcelain, but upon closer inspection is constructed wholly of my own doubts and fears, and which is not only encasing me, but protecting me from the harshness of life.

This is the part I do NOT reenact for my friends. I’m totally drinking the Kool-Aid on this one. It would be really embarrassing for me, if not for the fact that I get to class and shed my backpack and shoes and blue jeans and am asked to free myself from all of the embarrassment and pressure from the world. I’m buying it. And I like that I am . But I’m not telling anyone. Yet.

More embarrassing still, I seem to expect others to somehow notice my newfound sense of purpose in movement. “How gracefully you move now!” say my friends in my imagination while I’m on my way to see them. “Have you gotten taller?”

“Why no,” I might reply, while leaning casually against the wall, very conscious of the movement and the part of my body from which it emanates, and the effect I’m having on the wall, and the effect that that effect is having on my friends, whom I have by now come to think of as my “audience.” “I’m just moving from my center now,” I'll tell them. How lucky for them to be my friends through this period of discovery of my own kinesthetic awesomeness. This is how I know I am actually becoming one of those drama kids. You’re no longer people to me. You’re just silhouettes, backlit against the spotlight on me. It’s going to my head and I like having it there.

“Look down,” says the woman cutting my hair at the Five Dollar Cuts Hair Academy, back in real life. Oh, I’ve got this one. We looked down for several minutes in class today. I don’t just allow my head to flop forward. I go vertebra by vertebra, slowly allowing my neck to unstack itself, until my cranium is hanging like a plumb weight. In looking down, I have discovered a new, deeper down than there ever was before. This is a down from which there may never be an up again. “Lacie” doesn’t say anything. She just starts in with the clippers. This is because she cannot say anything. The hang of my head reminds her of times when her own head has hung low. She fights back tears, as the too much eye makeup she is wearing will surely blind her and cause her to mess up the neck line. This is the new effect I have on people.

“Do you want it rounded or square?” she asks unculturedly. She has no appreciation for art.

Looking back on these incidents, I realize it’s crazy. It’s over the top. Nobody cares that I picture my movements extending out into the world before I ever make them, then withdrawing back into my body after me. But it’s the theater! And you have to wave a hand in the air grandiosely when you say “theater!” and imagine your hand is cutting a swatch out of the fabric of life that envelops you, just as we learned in class. That’s why you move at all, to carve out a place in this world, before its pressures lock you down into that tiny immobile shell, and it crushes you.

Monday, January 12, 2009


The assignment for my fundamentals of movement class is to record all impulses I stifle for a period.

My immediate thought was that I don't really stifle my impulses. I generally just tell people what I'm thinking, and do what I want, I was pretty sure.

On my way to choir, which I have right after movement, I was walking with a friend behind polio girl. I don't know whether it's really polio, but she walks the same as a Cambodian girl I know who has confirmed that in her own case it is indeed polio. You've seen these people. One leg flexes laterally, like a slinky. It's obviously not meant to support any weight, and the other leg has to hurry and catch up to lift her torso back to the appropriate height. My instant impulse was to start to walk like her. It was so neat. I studied exactly how her legs moved, her upper body flinging her long hair from side to side. It would be hilarious, I thought, to see TWO such people walking down the hall, seemingly unaware of each other. When I got to class and busted out my binder to write down my experience for the purpose of this journal entry, my buddy confided in me that he'd had the exact same impulse. Maybe it's universal. Maybe we'd all be a little better if everyone just walked like that girl when she was around. I was alone in having the impulse to go up to her and point at her legs and say, snootily, "So what's this all about then? Is it polio or what?"

Within minutes, the fat class clown was saying something about how the choir director was going to be so glad when he was gone. He seemed to think he was the star of the choir. Then he launched into telling us how that wasn't really so; he was the only one who could make our teacher laugh. I held my tongue. What I wanted to say was that a) he wasn't the only one in the class who tried to be funny—it's almost a prerequisite in a choir class to make some smart aleck comment every time anyone says anything at all, and b) that NONE of them, and especially this guy, ever made the teacher laugh at ALL, because they were all trying too hard. But I didn't say that because all of these people would have heard me, and because I'm already not super popular in there because I tend to never speak for fear of becoming one of them. You know, trying to prove my worthiness of their esteem with my wit. I'm above that. So I just let him make his asinine comments, even if it seemed to be offending all the other self-christened class clowns in the choir.

In my third class of the day, the teacher (in this case the flowy English-professor type in a dress and all kinds of beads from some third world country) was talking about the online syllabus, and she said "If you're not able to get it up, come to my office and I'll try to help you out." It took some work, but I successfully stifled a loud sophomoric laugh that wouldn't have been delivered out of actually having found humor in what was said, but rather out of a desire to CREATE humor for the other members of the class, but at the poor woman's expense. Also, I had an add card I still needed her to sign for me right after class.

That's when I realized I do stifle sometimes, but only when there's someone around who would probably be offended by my behavior. I started to congratulate myself on having such an intact superego (I had worked so hard during my teenage years to demolish it).

Until that evening, when we had sneaked into a sold-out movie by buying tickets to "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and then just walking into the one we had wanted to see anyway. There were some open seats, but they were scattered randomly throughout the theater, and it would take some rearranging to be able to get us all situated. One friend suggested that one of us pretend to be handicapped, and before he could even finish the thought, I was hobbling down the aisle with my hip jutting out, upper body swaying left and right, EXACTLY like polio girl. It's as though my body had been waiting all day to mimic that girl, and having been stifled once, was not about to wait for me to think. It just went.

People DID move over for us, but my friends were too embarrassed to sit by me, so we ended up walking (me limping) over to Beverly Hills Chihuahua anyway, which was awful.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Of Puppets and People," or "From the Mouths of Idiots"

The players:

—Stacey. Stacey is a Chicana student in a school for troubled teens. Played with a thick accent and affable curiosity.
—Me. Dorky but outgoing staff member at the school.

In this scene, I have to explain why I have been absent from work for the past month and a half.

Stacey: Why haven't you been at work in so long?

Me: I was in a play!

Stacey: You were playing?

Me: No, I was in a play.

Stacey: [dubiously] Ohhhh.

Me: Do you know what that is? A play?

Stacey: [blank look]

Me: [trying a new approach] Como un drama.

Stacey: [realization dawning] Oh you mean like with puppets! Only with like, people.

I love dumb people. I wish I could just make this stuff up. I'm going to try. Like with puppets, but with like, people. It's hard to figure out exactly what it is about that conversation that resonates with me, that says, "this thing right here, it's very funny."

I want to go up to a grocery store attendant with a bottle of laxatives and say, in my best dumb voice. "Um, excuse me, sir. I have a question about this. It says do not take if pregnant or breastfeeding. And I'm wondering, does that mean if you're PRODUCING breastmilk, or if you're the one DRINKING it, 'cause we could have a problem." If you can say that with a world-weary expression of chagrin, I think it could be comedic gold. So this week, for my first entry in my new blog for a couple of theater classes I'm taking this semester, I want to start out with some really dumb lines I'd like to work in. My first example with Stacey was a real conversation, but these ones here are all me:

Angrily: "Okay, there's a word for what you're being! You're being a logical phallus!"


Exasperatedly: "Honestly, it's like people don't even think! I saw a bottle of children's Tylenol the other day with a CHILD PROOF CAP on it! How the hell are the kids supposed to get their medicine out! Am I the last intelligent person on the planet!?"


Southern: "You could buy this one here. This one here's pink because it supports breast cancer. I mean! It supports the fight AGAINST women with breast cancer."

and finally:

A man: "she has a few personality flaws, but as a whole she's very nice."
A woman, angry, stands up and is about to storm out of the room when she turns around and seethes: "Oh, I understand how you are! Is that all a woman is to you, is just a HOLE!?"
[slams door]

So my point here is that I derive pleasure from hearing someone say something when they themselves don't seem to think it's funny or understand why it would be. I like comedy that almost goes over your head. And does go over someone else's head.

What I like best about dumb people is that they often unwittingly cut to some greater truth. When Stacey says that a play is like with puppets, but like with people, I take pause. Because it's so true. As the writer of the play, the people are MY puppets. I can make them as dumb or foolish as I want. I can make them brilliant, but everyone knows they're just puppets, and I'm the one pulling the strings, telling them what to say and do.

Maybe this semester I will write a play about puppets, during which the puppets begin to experience a certain ennui, and decide to cut the strings. And as the puppets are going through this awakening, the actors themselves start to stray from the script, finding their own voices, until everything has devolved into a postmodernist chaotic ball of energy, with the actors gathered around a campfire of their burning wooden costumes, singing Kumbaya, or not, if they don't want to.