Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Miss Skudlarek’s Downtime Activities

Marissa Skudlarek explores the unglamorous, glamorous life.

I feel like 2015 has gotten off to a quiet start for me, though I’ll take quiet after the crazy roller coaster that was the second half of 2014. I have no theater projects or major deadlines on the horizon for a little while, so this month has been devoted to grounding myself and developing habits that will stand me in good stead for the rest of the year. In keeping with our January blog theme of “downtime and balance,” I thought I’d tell you some of what I’ve been doing this month to take care of myself – and how these things might just prove useful to me as a theater-maker as well.

Using the f.lux app. This app adjusts the color of your computer screen so that it harmonizes with the time of day. During daylight hours, it remains bright white, but in the evening, it gradually gets warmer and dimmer, as though lit by candlelight. Staring at a bright-white computer screen late at night is said to negatively impact sleep quality, and when my screen reaches its dimmest point around 10 PM, it serves as a nice reminder that I really ought to think about going to bed. Since I started using this app, I feel like I’ve had fewer nights where I stayed up too late browsing the Internet.

How this will help my theater-making: Our profession often requires us to be night owls, for the purposes of rehearsals and performances. Economic exigencies require many of us to have day jobs and keep a 9 to 5 schedule. So, on the nights when we don’t have to be up late, doesn’t it make sense to get a good night’s sleep?

Cleaning my room. Okay, my room is still not as clean as I (or my mom) would ultimately like it to be. But I spent several hours cleaning it this weekend and my head feels clearer already. Toward the end of 2014, the external mess in my room and the internal mess in my head reinforced one another, creating a negative feedback loop that sapped my motivation. But now that I’ve cleared away piles of papers and larger patches of my lovely wooden floors are shining in the sun? I’m motivated to keep going.

How this will help my theater-making: As I said, the cleaner my room, the clearer my head. But also: the ability to clean and organize spaces quickly and efficiently is an invaluable skill during load-in and strike.

Watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. This is an Australian TV show, recommended to me by several Theater Pub bloggers, about a glamorous, independently wealthy, free-spirited lady detective in 1920s Melbourne. It’s the perfect show to watch with a cup of tea on a cold winter’s night: sumptuous costumes, hot guys, the satisfaction of a smart detective catching the culprit and restoring order to the world. For theater people, I especially recommend Season 1, episode 6, a cheerfully ridiculous piece of fluff involving murders and a ghost backstage at a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore.

How this will help my theater-making: Too often, feminists have to battle against the perception that they are humorless killjoys who take offense at everything. Even if you consider yourself a feminist, doesn’t the phrase “feminist theater” or “feminist television” make you worry that it’ll be an eat-your-vegetables kind of show? That it’ll be high-minded and depressing, rather than fun and escapist? Miss Fisher, though, is definitely feminist and definitely fun. It was created and produced by women, and I think every episode I’ve seen so far passes the Bechdel test. Miss Fisher’s investigations often reveal the injustices of 1920s society, but never in a hit-you-over-the-head way; and she is a splendidly bold and independent heroine. 90% of the reason I watch Miss Fisher is simple enjoyment, but 10% of it is because it makes me think about how entertainment can present a feminist perspective without alienating viewers.

Trying out new hairdos. I’ve made a few changes to my appearance as 2015 starts. I got new glasses, I’m using a darker lipstick, and I’ve become enamored with updos. My hair is a bit above shoulder length, so figuring out attractive ways to wear it up can be challenging. But I’m having fun playing around with different hairstyles after years of just wearing my hair down all the time.

How this will help my theater-making: Rumor has it that I may have to wear a wig in The Desk Set this summer, and if I figure out good techniques for putting my hair up now, it’ll be a great help when I need to stuff my hair under the wig cap. When I was in Into the Woods in college and had to wear a pink wig (photo here), I developed mad skills at doing my hair in two French braids and then pinning them up in back – I’d like to have those skills again!

Furthermore, if cleaning my room corresponds to clearing my head, does pinning my stray strands of hair in a neat chignon correspond to untangling my messy thoughts and gathering them into something tidy and elegant? Maybe. I’m hoping.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Clearly, she has moments of wanting to be a lifestyle guru, but she also hates the phrase “lifestyle guru.” Find her online at marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

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