Cowan Palace: A Story, a Stab, a Mess and a Yes

This week Ashley confronts demons from the past in the name of yes.

Yes. It’s a simple word, isn’t it? But it sure can pack a punch. And this week it beat my head in with a bat.

When I moved to San Francisco six years ago to act in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, I had no friends and spent all my free time alone reading and walking through the city. After a string of failed romantic endeavors, the solitude was refreshing but soon became achingly lonely and I wondered if I had made a huge mistake leaving the comfort of friends and family 3,000 miles away.

Here I am in my first month of TNTing. Hang in there, kid.

Here I am in my first month of TNTing. Hang in there, kid.

While rehearsing TNT, a show heavily rooted in improvisation, we kept focusing on the infamous “yes, and” practice. There were no such things as negated choices; we were left only to contribute to moment. So to inspire a bit more courage and to push myself to be braver in my personal life, I challenged myself to experience “a month of yes”. Meaning, if given the choice, I couldn’t run from opportunity. Instead, I would be forced to embrace it.

Now before you jump in that this concept is dated, I’ll have you know it was before Yes Man came out or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia structured an episode around same idea. Throw a girl a bone, huh?

Yeah, I got it, Jim. You beat me to it. Enjoy that yes!

Yeah, I got it, Jim. You beat me to it. Enjoy that yes!

And honestly, it wasn’t a hugely dramatic month. Jim Carrey couldn’t have cared less. Mainly, it helped encourage me to socialize with my cast more than I would have done. But it certainly built new friendships with many people who are still in my life today. One is even a bridesmaid in my nonfictional upcoming wedding (holla, Allison Page!) and many others will be guests.

The month and the relationships formed in it gave me another idea though. I started to write a short web series entitled “Month of Yes” and took inspiration from the assumed character traits we had developed in our show and I created characters that were a combination of them and us. It was absolutely a reflection of my soul at the time and a genuine piece from my heart. But I was still scared. I was terrified that my words weren’t funny enough, or clever, or interesting, or anything worth trusting. And I allowed that fear to be seen and ultimately, taken advantage of.

I welcomed a collaborator who I believed could enhance my vision and strengthen it. Someone I could hide behind. And at times, the push was helpful. It got me in a creative mindset and the excitement for a joint project with someone I considered a true friend was inspiring and fun. But it also slowed my natural process, made me continue to question my abilities, and lose the grip of something that was once very personal and important to me.

Ultimately, the passion dimmed. It became something else. The title was dropped and replaced with something that never quite fit. New elements were introduced that constantly made me question the integrity. The heart of the project took on a different beat. The partnership suffered. The working relationship struggled. No one seemed happy. I didn’t say no.

Until I let go of my hold so I could grab onto other opportunities that satisfied my creative needs. I lived out a dream of playing Viola in Twelfth Night, I fell in love, I went skydiving, I traveled to Europe with my siblings, and I grew stronger.

Since then, I’ve attacked my fear of sharing my written work with new weapons. It’s still very scary but being able to writing for this column and having other works showcased proved to be an incredible tool to finally start trusting my own instincts and stop caring as much about getting things out there. I felt ready to be heard.

But over the weekend, I came across an online trailer for a project that mirrored my “Month of Yes” in one too many ways. Posted by my past collaborator. Suddenly, the familiar concept and ideas from my experience were being displayed in someone else’s voice. Was it a coincidence? Perhaps. It was a fairly basic idea, after all. But yet, I don’t believe that to be the complete truth.

My heart breaks to see something that was once so close to me, now feel so far away. I can’t help but cry for the girl who poured her feelings out into pages only to have them put into new hands. I mourn for her and her dream.

This is the industry, right? I shouldn’t be so surprised. Or naive. This is what happens all the time in the entertainment business. When you share your story with someone, you risk them taking it. And what can be done?

If I could do it differently, would I? I’d love to say yes. But I don’t know if that’s fair. I’ve always valued collaboration. I’ve always believed the project is more than the individual. And I’ve always trusted in the greater good of the art, even if it means forfeiting the credit. And I don’t want to lose that earnest belief because it’s a part of me.

But what I would suggest is learning to say yes to yourself. Be your own best friend. Tell the story you have to tell. Don’t let anyone stop you. Try not to endlessly question it. Or it may slip away from you.

Take feedback from others with a grain of salt… rimmed on a margarita. Sometimes other opinions can make or break how you feel about your own work; be brave to put it out there and strong enough to hold it tight in the process. Be careful with seeking an artistic partner. It’s almost never going to be an equal balance. Don’t go into it unless you’re fully prepared to let go of your vision. There’s a reason people say you shouldn’t go into business with friends. You have to be willing to risk the relationship and your work. Be open to yes. But don’t be afraid to say no.

Well, that’s my two cents, anyway. Anyone out there ever experience a similar tale? Did you lose your work to another? And how do you bounce back from it?

As always, I want you all to know how greatly I appreciate having the chance to be here. Writing and experiencing something with you. Conquering emotions one word at a time. And I’d love to continue this conversation in hope we can keep pushing each other to be stronger and to say yes to all the positive things that make the artistic community we’ve created continue to thrive.

And so with that and as an attempt to move forward, my first step was writing out some of my feelings in this blog. My second step is to share a piece from my original draft of the “Month of Yes” pilot episode. A script I was way too scared to share or work on alone. So here it is in total draft form. And golly, it’s dated now. Again, forgive the super “draftiness” of it, I haven’t touched this version since 2008!

A redhead, a brunette, and a blonde walk into a webseries. The original ladies who inspired Month of Yes.

A redhead, a brunette, and a blonde walk into a webseries. The original ladies who inspired Month of Yes.

Scene Three: Shot of Haley texting her love interest; waiting a beat. She gets a text back and shock fills her face.

Haley: Whoa, that’s really dirty. (Thinks a moment and then gives a smile and continues walking. She passes a coffee shop where she runs into a friend who is texting. The friend sees her and waves and Haley walks over.)

Friend: I’m sorry, just a little text sex to get the morning going.

Haley: You do that in public?

Friend (makes a confused face and then grabs her phone): Check out what he wrote.

Haley: (checks out the text and her face crumbles) Whoa. That’s really dirty.

Friend: I know, right?

Cuts to Haley with her friends (Scene Four)

Haley: He was texting us the same things.

Alexis: Horrible! (looking through the phone at the messages)

Haley: I know! I really liked him… I seriously thought he would make a great boyfriend. I just feel like such a fool.

Alexis: No, I mean these texts suck. They’re not even that sexy.

Haley: Really? I thought it was pretty dirty-

Alexis: Whatever. He was lame. There are plenty of other guys.

Haley: I guess… I mean, it would be nice to find a guy who could communicate with me by doing something other than just texting.

Katie: Yeah, phone sex can be way hotter. (catches the eye of a cute boy nearby and gives him a smile… within a few moments she gets up and goes to talk to him.)

Alexis: Way hotter.

Haley: Uh-huh. (notices that Katie is now talking to the guy
Alexis: What’s up, Haley? You still seem sad… and that’s really not good for your skin… you’re already so pale –

Haley: Oh, well, I posted a blog last night and it didn’t get that many views. I guess that kind of bummed me out.

Alexis: You’re not going to be the next Carrie Bradshaw if you don’t find more interesting things to write about. No one wants to hear about your allergies.

Haley: This has been a really tough season for-

Alexis: Just think like Carrie, okay? It’s not so hard.

Haley: But I’m not trying to be-

Alexis: Are you still going to be my bridesmaid?

Haley: Um, yeah of course.

Alexis: Great. I have some ideas for the dress.

Haley: Wait. Already? You don’t want to wait until you’re engaged to think about that?

Alexis: Duh, I am engaged.

Haley: What?! I didn’t know that! Tom asked you?!

Alexis: Oh, yeah, last night. You didn’t get my mass text?

Haley: No. Stupid Text Sex. My box must have been full last night.

Alexis: Oh, now THAT sounds dirty.

Haley: I can’t believe you’re engaged! Where’s the ring?

Alexis: On a chain around my neck.

Haley: Oh.

Alexis: Closer to my heart that way.

Haley: Oh. (beat) Oh, wait, are you quoting “Sex and the City” again?

Alexis: That’s what Carrie did with Aidan’s ring.

Haley: But she didn’t end up actually marrying him.

Alexis: Aidan is so hot.

Haley: Yeah.

Alexis: And so good with his hands. (she starts rubbing her neck)

Haley: Okay.

Alexis: And those –

Haley: So who else is going to be a bridesmaid?

Alexis: Well, Katie obvi (shoot to her flirting with the guy) Though, I don’t want that biatch stealing the show and looking hotter than me at my wedding. We’re going to have to make the dresses plain. And she can’t wear her hair all curly and beautiful, it’ll steal focus. Oh, and my sister Liz is going to be my maid of honor.

Haley: Great.

Alexis: But she’s really hoping you’ll want to do all the planning for like the showers and the bachelorette party. OMG, Haley, can we please go to Vegas?! Please! We could all get so f-ed up there and –

Haley: Wait, why would she think I would want to do all the planning? I mean isn’t that the part of the maid of honor stuff to do –

Alexis: I don’t know. She doesn’t want to do it.

Haley: Okay, but –

Alexis: You know you’re good at that party planning stuff. Look, I thought it would make you happy. I can’t believe you’re not more grateful about this-

Haley: I am happy! I’m so happy for you! And um, okay, if she needs help planning, I would love to do it-

Alexis: Just make it classy, okay? I don’t want any like pretzels around… that’s crap. I want like good stuff. Like dip. Chips with different kinds of dips. Did you get that? Dips. Maybe you could start writing this down.

Haley: I have a memory like an elephant.

Alexis: What’s that supposed to mean?

Haley: It’s an expression.

Alexis: You know I hate animals.

Haley: I’m sorry. I’ll start looking up dip.

Alexis: Thanks Hales. Oh hey, I’ll even let you make those cupcakes I like.

Haley: Thanks?

Alexis: No prob, sweetie. Just keep it moist.

Haley: Keep it moist?

Alexis: That’s what she said!

Haley: Oh. Gross.

Alexis: Hot. Anyway. I’m going to go meet the BF… aw, I guess I should just call him the F now, huh?

Haley: I guess.

Alexis: Well, I’ll talk to you later. Remember – dip! Oh, and don’t worry about that jerk… we’ll find you a hot date for the wedding. Hot! (She leaves; Haley makes the realization that she now needs a date.)

Haley: Ugh. A date. (She looks at Katie who is now making out with the guy in kind of an outlandish and ridiculous way considering they are still in public. Perhaps Katie’s legs are positioned above the table.)

(END OF SCENE/ Next Scene opens at Haley’s apartment)

Haley: Okay, so I color coded the list. The green tabs are the recipes that I think you’re really going to like, you know, like “green for go” (Shot of Alexis mouthing something like “loser” or “dork” to Katie) Um, yellow for the ones I wasn’t positive about – your opinions on garlic keep changing so (Alexis makes a disgusted face and then Haley continues) well, and the red ones… the red ones are the recipes that were really fancy but had at least one ingredient that I know you don’t like… but I just wanted you to read them anyway…

Alexis: Haley, what are you talking about? Recipes for what?

Haley: Dip.

Alexis: Dip?

Haley: Yeah… you know, the fancy dips you wanted for your party…

Alexis: Eh, I don’t know if I want them anymore. Maybe we should make it like Hawaii themed and serve margaritas.

Haley: Margaritas are more for a Mexican style party… and if you didn’t want dip, why did you make such a fuss about it?

Alexis: I didn’t!

Haley: You texted me three times… sent me an email… and then wrote “you biach, you better have some good dip recipes for me!” on my Facebook wall.

Alexis: Oh. Well, whatever. Let’s do something more fun. What do you think, Katie?

Katie: I like the margarita idea. I don’t want salt on my glass though, Hales.

Haley: Yeah. Okay. I’ll keep that in mind.

Alexis: Speaking of salt on your glass (Haley makes a confused face), who was that guy at breakfast today, Katie? He was kind of hot.

Haley: Is “salt on your glass” a phrase people say?

Katie: Yeah, he was hot, I guess. He had really small hands though.

Alexis: Oh, weird.

Katie: Yeah.

Alexis: Did you feel like you were getting with a carnee?

Katie: No… I’ve done that before. This was a little different. His hands were like pretty and small-

Alexis: Are you going to go out again?

Katie: Maybe.

Alexis: Haley, I’m hungry. What do you have?

Haley: What kind of food do you want, my fridge is pretty stocked, I think. Plus, I made all these brownies… remember when you also asked me to bake brownies earlier today so that you could “test drive them”? Well, I have like three different types in the kitchen, so-

Alexis: Om.

Haley: What?

Alexis: Om. I want an om.

Haley: I don’t even know what that means.

Katie: An omlette, Haley.

Haley: Sometimes your shortening of words confuses me-

Alexis: An OMLETTE then; that’s what I want.

Katie: Me too.

Haley: Yeah, I don’t have any of those just lying around-

Alexis: Duh, can’t you just whip one up-

Haley: I used all the eggs to make brownies-

Alexis: I really want an om… could you go pick some eggs up? Please, Hales? An om for your favorite bride to be?

Haley: Seriously?

Katie: And we need more Vitamin Water.

Alexis: Oh, totally. Please, Hales? You’re so sweet.

Haley: Yeah… I guess so.

Shoots to Haley outside with a grocery bag. She passes by a couple kissing and rolls her eyes; she passes by a girl on the phone (perhaps it was her “friend” in the first shot) saying something into a phone like “yeah, I know, Mom… I didn’t even really want to be a writer, but they picked up my blog and they’re going to turn it into a Lifetime movie, Haley makes a hurt face, she then passes some guys on the street with scratch tickets, one looks at her and smiles and says something like “Hey baby, you wanna scratch this?” She shakes her head, a moment later he takes a penny scratches it and screams out “OMG! I just won. I won! I won forty bucks! Forty bucks!! You missed out, babe! I could have taken you to dinner somewhere with this! Like down in Fisherman’s Wharf!” Haley keeps walking close to her apartment looking more and more upset. Suddenly her grocery bag rips and she tries to carry everything herself. She walks struggling and then trips on something dropping the items and the eggs shatter everywhere. She bursts into tears.

Shoots back to her inside with the girls

Alexis: I’m sorry, sweetie. That was really nice of you to go out for us… now, were any of the eggs okay?

Katie: You should have scratched that ticket!

Alexis: Yeah, next time you know, just take the scratch ticket, we could have used that money, you know?

Haley: I’m sorry you guys, I’m just not in a great mood. It’s been a long day… could we maybe just talk about this tomorrow? I’m going to go to bed.

Alexis: Are you sure?

Haley: Yeah. Congratulations, Alexis. I am really happy for you. (Haley is still weepy and she walks away)

Alexis: I really wanted an om.

The next day. Haley is on the couch watching TV and Alexis walks in.

Alexis: You haven’t moved all day.

Haley: I’m tired.

Alexis: Well, you should at least put on some real clothes. Oh, and some make-up. You could really use some make-up.

Haley: Why? There’s no reason, I’m not going out.

Alexis: Haley, you can’t stay here all night watching more of this Next Top Model Marathon.

Haley: I like it.

Alexis: Who doesn’t? But seriously, we’ve seen this season like three times. You need to go out. I thought you were going out with Katie tonight.

Katie: (comes out from a bathroom looking beautiful) She said she didn’t feel like it.

Alexis: Lame sauce. Haley, you’ve been a downer for too long now.

Haley: What do you mean? It’s been like one day.

Alexis: Too long! You need to go out. You need to start like getting out there. You need to get over stupid text boy by meeting a new guy… to text.

Haley: I just don’t feel like it.

Alexis: Stop saying no all the time.

Haley: What do you mean? I pretty much do whatever you need, Alexis. Don’t say that to me.

Alexis: But you’re saying ‘no’ to every potentially cool thing. Don’t you think so, Katie?

Katie: You don’t go out with me much, Hales. And you DID say no to that scratch ticket.

Alexis: Exactly!

Haley: Fine. Next time a scratch ticket is involved, I’ll say yes.

Alexis: What about going out?

Haley: Eh.

Alexis: Not an answer. Just say yes. (Haley just shrugs). I think we should make a bet. You need to say ‘yes’ to everything for a whole week.

Haley: What’s the prize?

Alexis: I don’t know. Who cares?

Haley: Then what’s the point of the bet?

Alexis: No, make it a month. Tomorrow’s the first anyway.

Haley: What do you mean, a month?

Alexis: Look, just do it. I saw it on TV or something, where this girl tried to just say yes to opportunity in her life.

Haley: What happened?

Alexis: I don’t know.

Haley: Nice case.

Alexis: It was probably on Oprah.

Katie: Hales, you got to do it. Ops knows what she’s talking about.

Alexis: Look, this is the perfect time. You’ve been bummed about so many lame guys lately… and you haven’t been writing a lot of sexy stuff in your blog, maybe this could help that too. Make you more interesting.

Haley: Yes to everything?

Alexis: When you want to say no to something… you should say yes. Like going out with Katie tonight.

Katie: Yeah, come on Haley, it could be fun.

Haley: I still don’t get what I win…

Alexis: It’s going to be awesome. It’s just a month. (Haley thinks about it)

Shot to Haley and Katie going out

Katie: See, aren’t you glad you went out?

Haley: I don’t know. I can’t believe Alexis just stayed home to watch America’s Next Top Model.

Katie: Well, I’m glad.

Haley: You’ve already been hit on by three different guys, of course you’re glad.

Katie: Well, none of them were cute.

Haley: Then why did you kiss one, agree to go out with one, and then talk to that other one’s mom on the phone about spending Thanksgiving in New England? (Katie shrugs)

Katie: His mom had an interesting recipe for stuffing.

Haley: I think if I have to have an entire month of ‘yes’, you need a month of ‘no’, Katie. (Katie contemplates it).

Katie: Has there been anything you’ve said ‘yes’ to that you normally would have said ‘no’ too?

Haley: Not really. I only agreed to this silly idea so that Alexis would leave me alone… I don’t think it’s going to have that much of an influence on me.

Katie: Come on Hales, it’s not a bad idea, this month could be great. Just open yourself up for new possibilities.

Haley: Yeah, yeah. We’ll see. (a couple of guys pass by and then stop, one looks at Katie and starts talking to her and another looks to Haley)

Guy #2: Hey.

Haley: Hi.

Guy #2: Want to make out?

Haley: Oh! You’re forward, huh?

Guy: Well, then can I just touch your boob? (Katie looks to her and smiles and shakes her head; Haley looks horrified)

Haley: Oh. God. (another look of horror and a close up of her face)

###END###

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10 comments on “Cowan Palace: A Story, a Stab, a Mess and a Yes

  1. lauren says:

    Oh yes. I had something quasi similar happen. Somewhere around 2005 or 2006, I had a website where I was posting art, photography, poems, etc. If someone “stole my bandwidth” by directly displaying and linking to one of my images, I could see it. I didn’t think anyone would steal my work…but then I saw that my bandwidth was being used by someone else’s livejournal (oh, remember livejournal!?). The person was essentially stealing ALL of my work, putting titles on my poems (which I left untitled for the most part and categorized them by date) and, on top of it all, was using her (MY) portfolio to apply to Smith College. It made me sick to my stomach. I had to go through a huge ordeal with livejournal, send an email to Smith, etc., etc. It was ridiculous and kept me from sharing my work for a long time.

    In the end now, years later, I have flipped the label of “theft” to compliment — that’s the only way to heal from it all.

    Anyways…I’m sorry that you had to experience this. I remember from college your month of serendipity…or something along those likes, during November?

    All in all, you rock. Keep your head up. Do your thing. Don’t let this copycat get you down.
    xo

    • ashcows says:

      Oh, Lauren, that is a crazy theft story! I can’t believe that happened to you and I’m sorry you had to go through all that. Wow. Well, your work is fabulous and someone wanted in on it, I guess that’s a form of flattery? 🙂 My story is a little different because it mostly stems from my own demons and not moving fast enough. When you wait, you risk someone coming up with a similar idea and bringing it to life sooner. Thank you for commenting (I almost forgot about that month of November!) and I wish you well!

  2. Warden says:

    I remember submitting for this many moons ago. I had no idea it was your project at the time until you told me at a TNT show. I’m sorry it didn’t get off the ground, it look like it would have been a blast. However, I fully understand how these thing evolve into something else completely different. I like to view it as a learning experience of sorts.Like an online learning annex class. You don’t get what you signed up for but you did learn some lasting valuable lessons ya know?

    • ashcows says:

      I love that example, Warden! You’re absolutely correct. I think my sadness stems from not giving the work a real chance to get off the ground. Life is one big online learning annex class, indeed!

  3. AnotherUnknownActor says:

    I too am sorry you had to endure such a thing, such a breach of trust. Yet one bit of this entry raised an issue to which I feel compelled to address in a sort of “devil’s advocate” manner.

    You speak of an “artistic community.” While I certainly do not deny the existence and incalculable value thereof, I cannot help but notice the walls and fences it possesses. I cannot help but notice the cliques and in-groups which comprise it, and the unmistakable barriers to entry these cliques assiduously erect. I also have experienced firsthand the “Who in the hell are you?” mentality this community displays to newcomers who do not fit a particular mold, or look, or background. Even the indie-theater crowd does it. Doesn’t everyone have a right to honestly “thrive,” as you’ve rightly said?

    • ashcows says:

      Hi there, thank you for reaching out. As someone who has been on both the inside and outside of a clique, I totally get what you mean. While I’d love it to be a true community of artists all of the time, the reality is, sometimes, life is just another middle school lunch period where we all long to sit at the cool table. At least, it can feel that way. I still struggle with all of those things you mentioned. It’s the worst to be told you’re not the “right type” for something you know in your heart you could be perfect for if only given a real chance. Have you ever auditioned for the SF Olympians Festival? Personally, I put them off for a few years but once I tried out, I found it to be a more welcoming experience. Plus there are so many plays and directors looking to use it as a chance to cast “against type” and examine the work in a different way. Best, of luck to you, I do think (and hope) we can all thrive eventually. 🙂

      • AnotherUnknownActor says:

        Actually, I did audition for the Olympians, and was cast; it was, however, only “partially” welcoming. It was, I admit, my first outing therein, yet I still feel that I am outside looking in. What I meant by “type” was more toward the “social” type, as opposed to the acting type. Of course, paying a few visits at the White Horse might help. I should get out more than I do!

  4. ashcows says:

    Me too! I went to nine Olympians shows but only went out once to the White Horse. I still need to try and push myself to be a bit more social and not always opt for an evening with my dog, some blankets, and a burrito.

  5. Alma says:

    I lurved your script. ❤ <— Lurv. And it reminds me why I don't have many female friends, haha.

  6. […] these past two weeks, since my last article ran, I must have written a separate follow-up at least a dozen times. A lot of the drafts can be […]

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