Cowan Palace: Embracing The Mirror, Part One: Ashley, Plain and Tall

In part one of this two-part blog (featuring Marissa and Ashley’s tall tales) Ashley considers the height hype.

“You’re like that book. Sarah, Plain and Tall? But, like, it’s you. Ashley, Plain and Tall!”

I let his words linger in the air like they were bubbles about to pop. I forced the look on my face to go from “shocked and hurt” to “playfully shocked and hurt.” This was not exactly the sentiment I was looking for from the guy I kind of had a crush on after a performance.

I had just finished playing my first “romantic lead.” Sure. It was a ten minute play directed by my classmates for a student run production. But it was the first time I got to do a stage kiss! And wear something that didn’t resemble a bag! Plus, I didn’t have to cover my face in old age makeup (fun fact: old age makeup is still pretty much the only makeup style I feel like I can “do” well) or cover my hair with baby powder and gray hairspray. Ah, college. The actor I was paired with was slightly shorter than I was so I had been costumed in a modest heel but since I barely noticed, I didn’t think anyone in the audience would care.

And, duh, I knew I was tall. By that point (at age 18), I had already been told that I couldn’t convincingly play a high school student and that I was really more of a Nurse and/or Mrs. Capulet than a Juliet. At 5’9’’ I also knew I was ineligible to ever become a Disney princess (as they do not allow their ladies to be over 5’8’’) so my dreams of playing Belle fell short (ohhh, punny, huh?).

But let’s get back to my crush! Why was “tall” now synonymous with “plain”?! That hardly seemed fair. I went home and listened to a Coldplay mix CD trying to make sense of it all.

I continued college scoring great roles meant for older actresses and when I graduated, I moved to New York and began auditioning. I’ll never forget getting a callback for a role in a short play and being the tallest person in the room. The scene I was reading for was for the role of “daughter” and the actors playing my mother, father, and brother were all several inches smaller than I was. I was the only actor that managed to get a laugh out of the audition panel but sadly, I never heard from them again.

After that, I packed flats to every audition. And tried to practice hairstyles that could maybe make me appear a little shorter (yuck, I hate admitting that). When I reached out to my tall theatre friends, I loved hearing the stories they encountered in their theatrical pursuits because it meant I was not alone. Colleen Egan told me, “I had to wear flats once while my male counterpart was put in lifts because the director was so distracted by our height difference.” Which I find so fascinating! Why are we so uncomfortable with a woman being taller than the guy she’s with?

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Luckily for me, when I found myself in San Francisco with a role in “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding”, my perception of height and my relation to it completely changed. Suddenly, I was in a show surrounded by beautiful Amazons. I was no longer the tallest one in the play! Yes, for the most part, our male counterparts were shorter. Sometimes, much shorter. But we learned to embrace it and play it up. We wore ridiculously tall high heels and made our hair as big as possible. When we had to kiss our fictional boyfriends, we thought it was hilarious and usually, the audience did, too.

I reached out to some of my past castmates in TNT regarding being tall in the theatre and they had these gems to share:

Mariah Castle (who was our original Tina) said, “I do remember being worried that audiences wouldn’t believe the casting when I was paired with a Tony who was significantly shorter than me. But it always seemed to turn out fine. I actually loved being paired with one short Tony in particular because he was such a strong performer. He owned his role and the room, so I felt proud to perform opposite him and pretend to be his “wife” for a night.”

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Sarah Rose Kistner added, “There were also some pretty ridiculous pairings (in terms of height) in TNT that I definitely worried about looking legit. I would have to tell myself little stories like “Okay, maybe Dom is just seriously into tall chicks!” or “Maybe Dom is just seriously into chicks… any chicks.” In the end, I don’t know if any of those relationships appeared authentic, but they at least appeared funny. I will say that my height probably helped me get cast as Amazon Hippolyta in Impact’s 80’s version of Midsummer Night’s Dream, where I was paired with a tragically, tiny Theseus. I think the dramatic height difference added a certain amount of inherent physical comedy. I did always have a sense that, if I were to continue with my acting career, I’d probably have an easier time being tall on film than on stage.”

Lastly, the lovely Stephanie Renee Wozniak left us with this wonderful wisdom:

“Okay, Tall Girl Theatre problems:

1. ALWAYS being in the back row in musical theatre productions. No matter how well you know the steps, you’re gonna have to be in the back because you’re a giant. And forget about partner dancing! If it’s a show where there’s a bunch of partner work, well, then congratulations! You’ll be playing a dude!
2. Playing dudes! I’ve literally played more male roles than female roles. Which it totally cool because some of the best roles out there are for men. I mean I got to play Hamlet so what am I complaining about?
3. NEVER playing the ingenue because the leading men are too short. Which is okay because the sassy best friend has all the best lines anyway.
4. Playing ALL of the adult roles from the time you’re 12. I played M’Lynne in Steel Mags when I was 23. My roommate was Shelby. And we rocked it.

Yes, there are challenges with being an Amazon actress, but on the other had, these long legs have been solely responsible for getting me cast in several productions. Incidentally, come see me in Sweet Charity this Spring at Hillbarn!”

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Obviously, I’m quite proud to have shared a stage with those women. Being around other tall actresses and performing the show for years made my height feel “normal”, sometimes humorous, and something I should absolutely stop apologizing for.

Now when I get to an audition, I still pack flats if I’m wearing heels and I still consider my hair (I have no problem cutting bangs into my look hours before if I think it’ll help get a part) but I’ve stopped thinking so much about being taller than many of the actors around me – I’ve convinced myself that I just have more height to store talent.

Things never went anywhere with that college crush. But I did get cast in a romantic lead with my now husband who is also taller than me! So things worked out okay there! No Coldplay mixes were needed. And lastly, “tall” is not synonymous with “plain” so I’d greatly appreciate it if you could all call me, “Ashley, Tall and Excited By Froyo” from here on out. Until tomorrow, my friends! I look forward to continuing this discussion with Marissa!

Cowan Palace: I Like Totally Did That Show In College

Ashley returns to an old love from her younger days.

It was our first night out without Scarlett and Will and I decided to see Talley’s Folly at The Aurora Theatre in Berkeley. Ah, Talley’s Folly. Just thinking of the title makes my heart cartwheel a bit. As someone who has a very difficult time picking a favorite anything, this play may indeed be my number one.

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and loop around the Cowan cul-de-sac, shall we?

My freshman year of college started with a role in Lanford Wilson’s The Rimers of Eldritch. At 17, I got cast as this 40-something year old woman who was kind of abusive to her mom and who shot a real gun on stage. It was awesome.

Being the Hermione Granger that I am sometimes, I took my winter break to read as many Lanford Wilson plays as I could to try and keep up my theatrical education. I fell in love with Talley’s Folly on my first reading. I then reread the play over and over again and would read Sally’s lines out loud to noone. Practicing the part for no real reason other than just needing to play it if only for myself. I would wait until everyone else in my family was asleep and then I would whisper the words alone in my room. I also later attempted to learn how to smoke a cigarette convincingly because the script mentioned that the two characters briefly smoke together… which went about as poorly as you’d imagine.

I hear you all yelling, “nerd alert”. And I respect that. It’s pretty nerdy. But needless to say when my friend, Jill, decided to do the show for her senior directing project during my junior year, it’s safe to say I would have done almost anything to finally do the role in an actual production with a real audience.

We were a small cast and crew with a limited budget and we only had two shows but we were all so devoted and in love with the whole process that for us, it was the world.

I played one of my dream roles at 20 and it reinforced one of the reasons why I love theatre. You can live an entire lifetime full of high stakes and big gestures in an evening and at the time, I was a nerdy college kid in Rhode Island who dreamed of worldly adventure and intrigue.

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I held that show on a blurry pedestal afforded to any of us who have done high school or college theatre. That magically hazy place where no one is really playing age appropriate roles and yet you can’t possibly imagine doing the play with anyone else. For the most part, everyone working on the show is doing it because they genuinely want to do it. They may grow up to do very different serious adult things but those youthful productions can sometimes be these beautiful, short-lived acts of love that can’t exist anywhere else.

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Since closing our production of Talley’s Folly, I’ve continued to seek out audition opportunities to play the role I loved so much again. I assumed that doing it in a more professional setting would only increase my love for the show.

When I saw that Aurora had put it in their season I made a game plan to pimp myself out like never before! I was going to campaign to audition with the fire to fuel 10,000 suns! Two days later I found out I was pregnant so I just ate pizza everyday for a week instead.

After spending two full months with our own little production, our daughter, taking our first date night was a pretty big deal. And introducing my favorite show to my favorite guy seemed like a great evening. As we sat in the dark theater listening to the love story of Sally Talley and Matt Friedman unfold I couldn’t help but get emotional. Here I am, the actual age of Sally, still holding that college production on its pedestal. While I’m not saying I’ll never go for the part if given the chance now, I’m more grateful than ever to have had the show with my Roger Williams University cast and crew. I was young, doing a play I loved with my best friends. How could anything ever compare?

It can’t. And that’s another reason theatre can be so powerfully heartbreaking and heart lifting all at the same time. It’s both fleeting and fulfilling.

I left Berkeley hand in hand with my husband after texting my director and cast mate that even after seeing a lovely telling of my favorite show that I was more in love with our own production than ever before. Not because it was “better” but because it gave me the chance to recall one of the happiest times in my life and find a peace in allowing that memory to just exist without the need to relive it. Plus, I still have the character of that nerdy college kid and that’s what I’d like to hold onto. So I dried up my thoughtful tears and sweetly demanded we conclude our big date night with a burger in honor of that memory and everything that came after.

PIC THREE

Cowan Palace: Sex Pledges, Discounted Books, And One Woman’s Passion

Ashley’s got fire! Sometimes with heartburn and passion for women in theatre on the side.

As we wind down our month dedicated to passion, I recently found myself literally bumping into the subject in the book section of a thrift store in Fort Bragg.

Will and I were finishing our quiet weekend away by picking over a decent collection of theatre books and plays when I came across Lysistrata by Aristophanes. I clutched the tiny script close to my heart before exploring the pages. “Oh, I wish I could do this play again!” I loudly exclaimed, “I loved doing it in college but I feel like I’d bring more passion to it NOW!”

Ashley Cowan: demanding sex pledges from her homegirls since college

Ashley Cowan: demanding sex pledges from her homegirls since college

For those who are unfamiliar with the work, it’s a story about a woman who convinces her fellow lady pals to withhold sex from their sweeties so the fellas will stop waging war and consider a more peaceful path to resolving issues. Lysistrata is strong and passionate and just a true force. I was 20 when I was cast to play her in our Roger Williams University production and I adored the experience. But I was a kid who grew up in a small town and went to a small liberal arts college in New England; I wasn’t really that “fired up” about injustices going on in the world or between women and men. Mainly because I was just so focused on getting good grades and running our school’s theatre club. Maybe it’s just me getting older or being exposed to more of the realities outside of school, but I find myself getting much more fired up about issues that may have little to do with grades or theatre these days. And while I reread some of my old lines, I found they meant something different to me now.

Before heading to the register, Will handed me another book he thought I’d be interested in, entitled, Women In Theatre (edited by Karen Malpede). Like many great things, it’s from the 80’s (which you may be able to gather from the colorful cover) and it’s full of experiences from ladies all over the theatre industry sharing their stories and struggles. Sing it sisters!

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I was high off my Lysistrata memories and I was sold after reading the quote on the cover which states, “How often these great women did their work with little response, audience, or resonance… This collection, long-awaited, gives them to us alive. So now let them speak to us. And let us listen.” – Meridel Le Sueur. Plus, did I mention the sassy collection of bright colors? I added it to my already large pile and headed down to meet the cashier.

As he was ringing the items in he looked at the book and laughed. “This one’s been marked down to 75 cents from a dollar. I guess people don’t want women in theatre, huh?”

Then my eyes widened and flames erupted from them, lighting the entire thrift store in a destructive fire. My hair blew back like Beyonce’s would do and I stood strong, embracing my feminine powers, as the world around me burned. (C’mon, don’t you guys want to see me play Lysistrata now?)

I mean, sort of. I’m kind of hormonal so that’s what it felt like.

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A book dedicated to women in the theatre was marked down from a dollar to 75 cents (before tax); last I heard, women still make something like 78 cents to every dollar a dude does in the workforce. C’mon tiny thrift store, why you gotta set yourself up for my scrutiny?

I mumbled a bit about how women have always been fighting for equal rights and as someone involved in theatre, I sure as heck wanted them around. But I left feeling irked wondering if I had offered to pay the extra quarter for the book if I’d feel better. This was one tiny store in the world who discounted a used book about women in theatre; was this even worth the emotions I was giving it? And what can I do about it? I mean, thanks to the Sony scandal, we’ve learned what we already knew: even Hollywood ladies are still often making a lot less than their male counterparts. So what hope does this New England gal living in San Francisco have these days and what can I do to feel better?

I don’t totally know. Someone help me here.

So far this is what I’ve got: maybe maintaining and growing my passion can help. If I keep reading about women in theatre, if I keep going to see women in theatre, if I keep strengthening my relationships with women in theatre, and if I keep fighting to be a woman involved in theatre, maybe that’s a start. So here’s to you, passion! Plus, maybe if I keep your fire going, my rally cries to play Lysistrata again will be heard!

Everything Is Already Something Week 40: Sorry I Didn’t Go To College Pt. 2

Allison Page, going back to school. Sort of.

Sorry guys, I still haven’t gone to college.

A little over a year ago I used this blog as a platform to tell the story of my first 4 1/2 years in San Francisco, being poor – really, really poor – and trying to find work that paid enough to feed myself and pursue my artistic life. That was harder than it could have been because, uh…I didn’t go to college. As you may have figured out.

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A lot has happened since I wrote it and I’ve been meaning to write an update. Now here we are, in August 2014. ’Tis the season for people to go back to school, so it seems only fitting to talk about it now. Lack of education has also been rearing its ugly head lately. January 31st I was laid off from the cushy job I enjoyed for two fleeting years and which pulled me out of poverty and sleeping on floors. It wasn’t just me who lost a job. 314 or so other people were laid off the same day I was. It was a strange day to say the least. Aware that some people seemed to go into conference rooms with a manager and then immediately exit, looking like they had just had lobotomies, meant that whatever happened in that conference room wasn’t something I wanted to happen to me. I tried not to make eye contact with the manager in hopes that if I were about to be laid off/get a lobotomy and he didn’t look me in the eye, he would forget and I’d get to stay there/keep my brain function. When I got an overly gentle tap on the shoulder, I knew what was going to happen. I was losing my job. No one wants to lose their job, not so much because that job won’t be theirs anymore, but because that means now you have to go find another one, and you remember how much work it was to get this one.

They pretty much looked just like that.

They pretty much looked just like that.

I’m sure everyone was feeling a little overwhelmed and worried when they were given the news. The whole building felt tense. The people being laid off were shocked and sad, and the ones not being laid off were some combination of not being sure they wouldn’t still get the ax by the end of the day, and trying not to look happy that they were spared because that would make the sad people hate them. I couldn’t help but feel a little different. The truth is that most, if not all, of the other people who got laid off, will probably end up with the same position at a similar company. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had new jobs waiting. Job poachers wait outside that building when news of a layoff starts to spread. They have business cards and yell out “ARE YOU AN ENGINEER? WE NEED ENGINEERS!” So many people leave with their belongings and a possibility of future employment at the same time. These jobs are what they do for a living – the thing they know the most about. The thing for which they went to college and are passionate about. But I got my job there (game writer/narrative designer – basically the person who creates the fiction of a video game) based on a number of lucky things coming together. I have no educational background in that, or really anything else apart from the time I spent in cosmetology school in my home town’s technical college, from which I didn’t graduate. Otherwise I’ve just been acting and writing my entire life without proof that someone showed me how to do it. And you better believe none of the job poachers were outside the building shouting “ARE YOU AN OUT OF WORK WRITER AND FORMER HAIRSTYLIST WITH NO EDUCATION AND A COMEDY AND THEATER BACKGROUND? WE NEED THOSE.”

All I could think was “Well, Allison, say goodbye to making any money. You lived on easy street for two years. That’s amazing. Now say farewell to the sweet life and say welcome back to the hustling days of yore, because you’ll never have it this good again.” In my mind I went from rags to really, really nice rags back to rags again. And I had all these plans for the future. I was going to produce my own full length play. I had intended to just save up and pay for it. Now I would have to think about a fundraising campaign during a time when I wasn’t sure how I’d be making regular money for my own expenses. The good news is, I got a good severance package. Good enough that I decided to not pursue a job immediately and instead devote my days to writing. Doesn’t that sound magical? I thought so.

But I couldn’t write shit.

Most days I stared at my laptop in dismay and worried about the future. This was not helped by everyone always asking “What are you going to do in the future?!” (Thanks, EVERYONE IN MY ENTIRE FAMILY) After a few months of sitting on my couch eating sad sandwiches, or drinking an entire pitcher of sangrias in the union square sun, something weird and unexpected happened. I became Co-Creative Director of a theater company. I threw myself into it head first. It’s been crazy, exhilarating, awesome, and only slightly complicated. “Now,” I thought, “It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a degree. I already have the job!” Well…yes and no. The Managing Director, while working on funding strategies sends me a text:

He: “Hey, where is your undergrad degree from?”
Me: “I don’t have one.”
He: “HA! Ok. Just trying to make us all sound more qualified for this grant.”

Ah-HA! It’s come back around. Now it may be a granting issue? Even though the company has been around for 18 years and in the few months the other Co-Creative Director and I have been in charge we’ve gotten more done than most people would think could happen in a year? What if we didn’t receive some kind of funding because of my lack of a degree? Ohhhh that would be a bad day. I’d have to pour a pitcher of margaritas down my gullet just to swallow the shame pill. I haven’t heard more about this since he brought it up, so I’m going to take the pleasant road and assume he didn’t send the grant and a receive a response that just said “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU’RE SO DUMB, GO TO THE DUMB STORE, WHERE YOU’LL FIND LOTS OF CLONES OF YOURSELF HAHAHA.”

The theater community in general is pretty chock full of people with fancy educational backgrounds. And it’s the same with the specific group of people with whom I most frequently associate and collaborate. I’m the quaint loose cannon from the middle of nowhere who has never used Viewpoints and hasn’t read The Cherry Orchard. It’s actually amazing to me sometimes that my friends in the arts are…my friends in the arts. They actually listen to me sometimes, which in light of the stuff I’ve never studied or cared about, is kind of crazy. (Cut to next week when they’ve all read this and decide “Yeah, why do we listen to her anyway?”)

I’ve also managed to land myself a steady stream of freelance writing gigs. Mostly working on scripts for web commercials. Hey, it keeps me from getting evicted.

Actually, that’s my biggest piece of advice to both college students and life students. Not that I’m prone to giving advice. Anyway: don’t beat yourself up for making a living. I’m still just as dedicated to my artistic pursuits as I’ve ever been (possibly more so) and I don’t feel bad about using my skills to pay the bills. It doesn’t make me a hack or a sellout – not in my eyes, anyway, but feel free to call me either of those if it makes you feel good. I think It just makes me an adult who knows that to be able to nail my artistic endeavors, I gotta eat lunch. Many of the artists (theatrical and otherwise) I respect the most, have other jobs to keep them afloat in this workaday world. On the upside I think it gives us a broader view of life.

I know, I hate myself for using this picture too.

I know, I hate myself for using this picture too.

I could sit at home and torture myself into writing all day, or I could go out into the world and have experiences worth writing about. Even if that means I’m writing jokes about the effectiveness of a certain kind of Bleach®.

So, how do I feel about not going to college, a year later? I feel pretty good. I feel just like people who did go to college in that I can’t predict the future. But I feel prepared to deal with whatever that future holds. Even if it means I end up selling shoes or sweeping chimneys…hey, are chimney sweeps still a thing? Maybe they bring that up at Harvard. Damn.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/co-creative director in San Francisco and you can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Women in Tech(nical Theater)

Marissa Skudlarek gets technical. 

When I was in college, all theater majors had to take a half-credit course introducing them to the fundamentals of stagecraft. The course covered such items as terminology, safety, and rigging; and culminated in everyone in the group having to construct a flat.

Our instructor for this course was a gruff old technician and lighting designer a few years from retirement. He had a reputation for being tough as nails, all the more so because he had recently survived falling seven feet into our concrete-floored orchestra pit and breaking half the bones in his body. He proudly told us that he was a member of Local 1 of IATSE, the premiere branch of the international stagehands’ union, though he also told us stories suggesting that IATSE is a nepotistic old boys’ club.

The class was mostly freshmen (though I took it as a sophomore) and, as drama classes at liberal-arts schools are wont to be, mostly female. And our instructor seemed at times to resent that this was where his life had taken him: here he was, a member of IATSE Local 1, teaching the rudiments of stagecraft to a lot of teenage girls who were only taking the course because it was required.

Many of us in the class had never done tech before – so it would’ve been the perfect opportunity for an enthusiastic instructor to show us what we were missing, to get us excited about everything that goes on backstage. But instead of encouraging us, our instructor seemed to judge and dismiss us out of hand. He never said or did anything overtly sexist (you can’t get away with that at a former women’s college), but his actions and attitudes suggested that technical theater is the domain of men, not of women.

I left the course feeling, more than ever, that if I wanted to learn more about scenery or lighting, I’d have to become “one of the boys.” I’d have to be tougher than the average woman. I’d have to work twice as hard to get half as much recognition. None of these things come naturally to me.

Maybe my instructor was giving me a good dose of Realpolitik. It probably isn’t easy to be a woman in technical theater, so perhaps he was right not to coddle us. But one of the reasons to go to a former women’s college in a bucolic setting is to learn new things in a forgiving, supportive environment. And as I produce a play of my own this summer and work closely with designers for the first time in my theater career, my dearest wish is that I knew more about the craft of design.

And I wish I hadn’t been so intimidated, back in college. I wish that I hadn’t let antiquated ideas about masculinity and femininity hold me back from learning and exploring. I wish I’d understood that femininity is not an all-or-nothing proposition: I should be able to wear steel-toed boots and grubby jeans to build sets during the day, and change into a minidress and heels to go to a party at night, and no one should think less of me for either outfit, either activity.

I still feel insecure when dealing with designers, aware that they have specialized knowledge that I lack – and one of the most difficult elements of producing has been surmounting these insecurities. My stagecraft instructor might have treated me like a naïve young girl; I wish I hadn’t let that treatment convince me that I really was a naïve young girl.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright, producer, and arts writer. Find more about her play Pleiades, opening this August, at pleiadessf.wordpress.com, and follow her on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Cowan Palace: A Confidence Question

Ashley confidently proclaims she has a confidence problem.

On Sunday evening, I celebrated a friend’s birthday over cake, carnitas and chitchat. After a full weekend of callbacks, cleaning, and Cowan craziness, it was delicious to sink my teeth into a distraction. Spoiler alert, the cake was chocolate and the conversation was with the very talented and lovely writer herself, Rachel Bublitz.

Eat Me.

Eat Me.

As I continued to cram my face with food, we started talking about her kids and their many skills, which are apparent even in their early ages. Rachel mentioned that her daughter possesses a notable confidence. So much so that a teacher actually suggested that she be signed up for an activity she wasn’t particularly good at, so that she could experience what it feels like to be challenged outside of her immediate skill-set.

I was so struck by that idea! Personally, I grew up (and grew into) a person with the opposite issue. If you hadn’t noticed, I have a real confidence problem in almost everything. And sometimes it feels like my whole life is just a bunch of humbling activities to remind me of current skills and weakness. (I invite you all to watch me in a Zumba class sometime!) Besides the fact that my main creative love is a passion rooted in rejection. The theater isn’t always the first place one goes to feel confident, after all.

When I was younger, I was incredibly shy and while I dabbled in a myriad of after school activities, it’s fair to say I was merely mediocre at most. And sadly, it took until my senior year of high school for me to finally get the courage to sign up for drama class. Granted that decision proved to be one of the biggest influences of my life but I certainly didn’t come upon it with an abundance of assertive grace. In this case, my teacher pulled me aside after class and said I had to follow this seemingly crazy dream; that I should feel confident in my talent and continue the pursuit. Truthfully, without him, I’m not sure if I would have gone on to study Theatre in college, move to New York and then inevitably chase it to San Francisco.

While thinking about my conversation with Rachel and her daughter’s teacher, I couldn’t help but wonder about the key to success. Does confidence ultimately breed triumph? Is it better to be overly self-assured and not acknowledge your weakness so that you always believe your work is strong? Or would you rather be insecure and forever question your potential but hope that you can actually make it better?

And on a slightly bigger scale, if we lack confidence (or lack the ability to fake it) how can our audiences trust in our work? But if we remain overly confident, do we risk not being truthful to the process, the product, and its perception?

I think, once again, the secret is finding the balance of being confident enough to keep moving and humble enough to acknowledge that the path isn’t always easy or clear. Sometimes it’s okay to stop for directions if it gets you to your destination.

Luckily my love for theater has given me strength when my self-assurance lagged behind. But, I’m still a victim to my own lack of confidence. Too often, I talk myself out of auditioning for things or submitting my writing to a new opportunity. But I am working on it. We are all a work in progress. And in the meantime, we still have each other and cake.

How could this gal not be a product of confidence?!

How could this gal not be a product of confidence?!

Working Title: Lost in Transition

This week Will takes a look at Custom Made Theatre’s free reading series showcasing Dealing Dreams, a new play by Jeffrey Lo.

Transition. We all take notice of the big shifts like graduating college or getting a big job but the micro shifts (or lack of shift) in our daily lives comes to define who we will be. A work in progress, we all are. Anyone familiar with the creative process knows how integral change and refinement are to creating something of value. Custom Made Theatre is inviting you to a part of that process. Their Free Reading Series continues this month by showcasing a new work by local playwright Jeffrey Lo. Lo’s new play, Dealing Dreams, concerns itself with the myriad transitions that mark the lives of many modern mid-twenty-somethings.

These characters are smart, talented and college educated. Yet, they can’t quite shift away from the trapping nest of youth adulthood. Some cannot fly off to adult jobs, some cannot fly to adult relationships, some just cannot fly. It’s about many things: technology, adulthood, self identity (who am I without a job…who am I out of school…what’s my purpose…I was supposed to take over the world), who grows up, who needs to take steps back wards to step forwards.

The play reminds me of a thematic mash-up between Noah Baumbach’s 1995’s meandering college wit-fest Kicking and Screaming and David Fincher’s brooding, gaze into social alienation, The Social Network, (the best film of 2010, in my opinion). The former follows a group of friends who are about the leave college. They are smart, educated, and possibly terrified at the thought of life after college. They are witty enough to sharpen their tongues around campus circles but will that help post graduation? Is that a useful life skill or academic party trick? Which of them will be set adrift without class to attend? Kicking and Screaming spoke to me at a time when I was about to leave college unfinished and drift around my home town for a few years without purpose. You bet I identified with these intellectual loafers.

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The Social Network is less about purpose and more about our place in the world. These characters do not loaf about parading out their witty words around for kicks. The characters in The Social Network wield their intelligence like a weapon and purposefully lash out with it to gain an upper hand, what they perceive as an upper hand at least. Though social warfare has consequences. The Kicking and Screaming crowd have a strong circle of friends with romantic possibilities but no where to go. As The Social Network fades to black our antihero has built the most far reaching and influential social site to date yet looks upon the vastness of it alone. Was it worth the cost?

social_network

Dealing Dreams lives around this playground; the youthful playground of purposeful ambitions, social fissures and ambling self-development. Like all good pieces surrounding technology, Jeffrey Lo’s new work also reminds us that these plays are not about technology; they are about how we use modern tools (social networking, online dating, genius playlists, etc) to navigate our world and how those tools affect how we define ourselves and relate to one another. Only when we look back can we see what was lost in transition.

Custom Made’s new free reading series piece will be directed by Christine Keating and will show Tuesday, Feburary 25th. For more information check the facebook event page, Free Reading Series – Jeffrey Lo’s “Dealing Dreams” http://www.facebook.com/events/253231238191609

Sources:

Kicking and Screaming (1995). N.d. Photograph. IMDB.comWeb. 18 Feb 2014.

The Social Network (2010). N.d. Photograph. IMDB.comWeb. 18 Feb 2014.