It’s A Suggestion Not A Review: “I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time.”

In which the author (Dave Sikula) bids his constant readers farewell.

Let’s cut to the chase. I’m outta here. This is my last blog post around these parts for the foreseeable future. While I’m neither retiring from blogging nor the theatre (nor anything else, really), I am taking a break. Whether it’s a long one or a short one, I have no idea.

First of all, my thanks to the proprietor. Without his encouragement and support – and deadlines – I wouldn’t have resumed my long-form online writing. Everyone here at the Pub is wonderful and offers unique perspectives on what’s happening in the theatre in San Francisco – and beyond – and deserves your continued custom and patronage.

But now, moving on. Even though we’ve passed the traditional navel-gazing that accompanies the end of a year, it’s close enough that I feel like I can indulge myself.

There have been any number of topics I’d have liked to talk about over the past couple of weeks and years, but have restrained myself both for propriety’s sake – and out of common sense. I’ve talked (at length) about how there are certain things I just can’t/am not allowed to say.

It’s like how, on Facebook, there are a number of people I keep in my news feed for the sole purpose of having them annoy me. “This again?” I mutter as I hit the “Hide” button or roll my eyes at their obtuseness or forced witticisms. (And please be sure; I am under no illusions that there aren’t simply legions of my erstwhile friends who have hidden me or have a similar reaction when they see I’ve posted – or blogged – or done anything – yet again.)

(Ironically, I started writing something on this topic and found myself starting to say something I wanted to, but couldn’t, due to the possibility of being misinterpreted, in spite of it ultimately being self-deprecating.)

Regardless, this break couldn’t come at a better time. I suddenly find myself chockablock with theatre projects that will be eating up my life for the next few weeks. I’m about to go into rehearsal for Sam and Dede (or, My Dinner with Andre the Giant) at Custom Made Theatre Company (tickets here). It’s the story of the unlikely (and true!) friendship between Samuel Beckett (whom I play, despite my lack of cheekbones and general lack of grizzled aspect) and Andre the Giant.

Sam ...

Sam …

…and Dede

…and Dede

It’s a great script, but it’s a monster; about 140 pages of (basically) two- or three-word exchanges (which should take only about 90 minutes, but still … ). Because we have a limited rehearsal period, I’ve been working on my lines for a good three months now, and actually know many of them, Fortunately, Robert Shepard, who plays Andre, and I have been meeting to run lines and get a head start. Once we start rehearsing, it’ll be down and dirty and having to get a lot accomplished in a very short period of time. Once the show opens though, I think it’ll be a fun and interesting and entertaining evening.

I find myself of two minds about it, though. Brian Katz, Custom Made’s Artistic Director, was doing radio interviews last week and was plugging Sam and Dede (along with the rest of the season), and as he described the show, I suddenly realized that, other than Robert and I, no one knows what we’re doing with a very good script. While I’m more than anxious to share it with an audience (I think – knock wood – it’s going to go over very well), at the same time I like the idea that it belongs to Robert and me and no one else, though. It’s not dissimilar to the feelings I’ve had at final dresses of shows I’ve directed; that feeling that it no longer belongs to me.

Rehearsals will be so involved, though, that I’ll have to miss a good many (if not all) of the rehearsals for the production of my translation of Uncle Vanya at the Pear Avenue Theatre way down in Mountain View (tickets here). One of my goals with this production is that I want to tailor the language to the cast (which is a very good one), but I’ll be so involved with Sam and Dede that my contributions and consultations will mostly be limited to email.

"Bozhe moi. Sikula's translating my plays?"

“Bozhe moi. Sikula’s translating my plays?”

Somewhere in there, as well, I have to cobble together an audition for the TBA Generals.

So, all in all, I have a very jam-packed rest-of-winter, but, after that? Zilch. Nada. Nix. Zero Nothing. Hopefully, that will change, but right now? Nothin’. On the bright side, that means I’ll have plenty of time to work on my latest Chekhov translation (The Cherry Orchard, available – along with my translations of the other major plays – to producers who are interested) and another project (potentially a cash cow) that I’ve had in mind for a while. Not to mention a couple of other projects I’ve been wanting to pursue. (With lots of roles for actresses; be warned.) Unfortunately, that means I’ll have no excuse to not work on any or all of them.

So that’s it. I gotta run lines and tidy the place up for my replacement. I encourage you all to see Sam and Dede (it’s a really good script, even with me in it) and Uncle Vanya. All that’s left is for me to leave you with words to live by, my favorite curtain line; words that I’ve found are suitable to any occasion:

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“Son of a bitch stole my watch.”

I’m outta here, ya low-ridin’ punks!

Cowan Palace: Facebook Is My Favorite Costume

Ashley’s kick starting October’s design theme month with a look into in her favorite costume.

Last week I found myself sobbing in stairwell at work. And my coworker, who happened to be coming out of the bathroom, helped put me back together so I could continue the day. As I cried, she kindly said something about being surprised to find me in such a state because I tend to publicly highlight all the good, positive stuff. I laughed as I tried to manage the snot situation after a pretty ugly cry. “No.” I answered, “That’s just Facebook Ashley.”

Facebook Ashley stars in her own sitcom. It’s a place of laugh tracks and corny music. Even when things seem dark and gray, most of the time there’s a silver lined bow and things wrap up in 22 minute segments. Positivity is pretty makeup she uses. I like Facebook Ashley. She’s the better parts of myself thoughtfully edited and filtered. A better representation of the person I want to be.

Like this. But not at all.

Like this. But not at all.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s not a total sham. I do completely adore my husband. My daughter makes my heart feel like a Lisa Frank binder. And I actually like my job! Better yet, I love my coworkers. I also have a tendency to put myself in situations that lend themselves to great stories. Like taking the 38 bus. That place is full of tales that I have been put on this great earth to share. Plus, I’m still involved in the theater scene. Sure, it’s not what it used to be but at least I’ve been invited to the party and that’s pretty cool.

But there’s so much I don’t say. Partially because I don’t want to admit when I’m having a hard time and I have difficulty asking for help. And, to be terribly truthful, I do need help sometimes. Ah, even more honestly, I need it often but I hardly ever say anything. Instead, I make sure my Facebook costume is falling in all the right places to flatter my figure and try to get through each day without getting it too wrinkled. Who needs a colorful scarf when a well-placed emoticon does the trick, right?

However, at some point, I have to launder my costume. The real you has to take the clothes off and wash them. And last week I pushed my own limits in thinking I could do it all. An annual work conference with twelve hour days? No problem. At the same time as my first show in two years? Sure, I guess that will be fine. While your husband goes out of town and your childcare plans for your daughter fall through? Wait, what’s that now? (Cue breakdown in the stairwell!)

As I mentioned earlier this year, I still want it all! It’s been a couple months since I wrote that piece and there have been some very challenging struggles to attempt the routine along the way. And yet, I still find it so interesting that whenever I run into friendly acquaintances I haven’t seen in a few months or talk to long distance relatives, they always, always bring up what I’ve posted on Facebook followed by how happy I am. It’s never a question. It’s always a statement. An exclamation. And then that’s always the end of the conversation.

Sometimes the key to a great costume is that you forget it’s a costume. (Not always of course, sometimes after a rough show your friend made you see, you gotta be able to compliment something and costumes can be your talking point!) The actor wearing a good costume looks so natural in it that it’s simply just a part of them. Costumes help the audience put together an understanding of the character and how they connect to the rest of the cast. It’s absolutely a key element to the success of a production.

Facebook Ashley is a costume devised of my best wardrobe pieces. She doesn’t like to wear some of those poor fitting pants from the past (why were flares such a hot jean style anyway?) or less attractive turtleneck sweaters, unfit to even be donated. But they’re still there, hiding in the back of a messy closet.

We’ve all got a closet. We all get to pick and chose what we wear and what people see us in. We all get to be the costumer of our own play. But the play is more than what the characters are wearing. More than the surrounding set or time period. So while yes, to everyone I talk to about my many Facebook posts, I am happy. But I’m also so many other feelings, too. And I’d love to talk about them, as well! Until then, I guess I’ll continue to like all your status updates and doing what I do. Sharing feelings one post at a time. Wink face emoticon.

LIZ

Cowan Palace: Hi, I Have Anxiety

This week Ashley attempts to wrestle the bear that is anxiety.

Remember that alphabet letter word name association game? The one your summer camp counselors/RAs made you play? You know, you have to say your name and something you’d bring to a picnic starting with the letter of your name? Like I’d say, “Hi, my name is Ashley and I’m bringing “apples” to the picnic!” Well, secretly I’d think, “Hi, my name is Ashley and I’m bringing anxiety to the picnic and I’m worried we won’t have enough food or blankets and that people will hate it… but I’m also glad you guys are bringing some snacks.”

See, I’ve been battling anxiety in its many shapes and sizes my whole life. Since before I even knew what the word meant. And at times it has been difficult to manage. The familiar, heavy pit in my stomach, the racing heart, and the restless nights have become a daily reality. I’ve learned to hide it most of the time and often my only tell is the unfortunate red hives that make themselves at home on my chest when I’m feeling that good ole anxious feeling. I’ve stayed away from medicating myself because my tolerance for things seems to ride both extremes (you should see what one Tylenol PM can do to me and what heavy prescription muscle relaxers can not do to me!) so I’ve had to try and come up with creative solutions to keep those anxiety waves at bay.

Acting proved to be a most effective tool. Getting the chance to escape and focus on the one thing that I was most passionate about helped my balance. When I hated my job or something in my personal life and it was causing me a lot of useless stress, I depended on whatever show I was involved in at the time to be the light at the end of my dark tunnel. Unfortunately, due to other life stuff, I haven’t really been able to use that technique in almost two years. And, there were certainly times it may have helped! But it also made me develop other coping skills and strategies. So, in case you find yourself struggling with some unease, perhaps this can help:

Walk Like Your Anxiety Depends On It

Along with often being anxious, I can also be secretly super competitive. And getting one of those bracelets to track my steps has been awesome. The walking helps me to relax and think things through. I also tend to be more willing to create possible solutions when I’m moving rather than letting myself collapse in bed weeping in despair (though, sometimes that happens and it’s okay). Plus, I love trying to constantly beat yesterday’s personal goal and having a tiny, wearable device assist in that challenge can be pretty fun.

Sing Like Your Anxiety Depends On It

I sing every day. It simply makes me happier. When I feel super overwhelmed and can make myself sing along to something, I instantly feel better. Plus, I don’t need a stage or an audience but can still manage to feel as theatrical as I need to feel.

Pic One

Go Back In Time

Okay, this is a weird one. But try to stay with me. Whenever I can remember to do it, I think of a time in the past where I was really struggling with something and letting my anxiety get the best of me. I then try and send past Ashley some words of encouragement. Now, when I’m feeling emotional, I imagine what future Ashley is saying to me and try to step back. It’s always amusing that something that feels like the world one day can often result in a forgettable issue with a little time. Getting some perspective helps.

Watch Netflix Like Your Anxiety Depends On It

That’s pretty self explanatory. It may seem like a bad escape but sometimes you gotta allow yourself to zone out and just binge watch the crap out of some show. The trick is to not feel guilty about it. Then go do something completely different. Like a walk or something.

Make A Schedule And Actually Stick To It

Structuring my day helps me to feel like I have control over it. The more I can pack into my planner, the better. It’s often my idle, free time that allows my mind to wander to anxious places. Even if it’s simply writing a few things to do with a basic timeline, it can improve my week.

Pic Two

Tell One Person. Or Just Everyone

This isn’t an invitation to write some vague, passive aggressive Facebook post but if you feel better after sharing your feelings, I support it. Sometimes formulating your concerns and voicing it to the right audience can help you move forward. Maybe try honestly opening up to one person before seeking social media guidance or write a Theater Pub blog about it.

Collapse Onto A Messy Bed Like Your Anxiety Depends On It

Some days, I just have to own my feelings in a big way. And sometimes my coping mechanisms just aren’t enough. So if that means weeping for an hour to get them out, I go for it. Truly, I think identifying what you’re feeling is half the battle, taking responsibility for it is the other.

And so I leave you with those seven thoughts. That, and a request to be kind and patient with each other. Like, bring that to the name game picnic and then go have an actual picnic. Until next time!

Cowan Palace: My Nightmare Audition

Ashley and her friends sit around the Theater Pub campfire and tell tales of horror…ible auditions.

Comedy Month continues here with the Theater Pub gang where we’re all about laughing at our errors! And since I love dishing out tales of my own awkward struggles in this theatrical world (remember when I wrote this blog?) I thought it’d be fun to dedicate this week’s entry to nightmare auditions!

Thanks to some Facebook pals, I managed to get a few great tales. But if you too have an audition horror story, please feel free to leave it in the comments section! Let this be a time to celebrate our mistakes and laugh about them together! Besides, when I used to try and sneak-read Cosmo in study hall, my favorite section was always the embarrassing stories. And some of these stories are sexy too – two of them involve boobs! But first, here’s mine:

I’ve had a lot of bad auditions. Luckily, I’ve had a few good ones too but eesh, some of the bad were just awful. The one that comes to mind first when I think of “nightmare audition” was my audition for URTA (University Resident Theatre Association) my senior year of college.

New England was experiencing a brutal winter that year and I was in tech week for my senior project, acting in The Fox, a play by Allan Miller based on D.H. Lawrence’s novella by the same name. I was getting ready to begin my final semester of college and I was absolutely freaking out. Beyond terrified. So I thought, hey, maybe I can hide in grad school for a few years while I figure things out! Genius! But, ugh, I don’t want to go into more debt, I’m gonna need a school to pay for me to go there. Cool! I’ll audition for URTA, where I’ll get seen by schools all over the country and then go wherever I get in, even if it’s in rural Alabama.

That was my big plan. So my cast mate, Dave and I boarded a train surrounded in four feet of snow to head to New York City for a few hours before having to rush back to Rhode Island to finish getting our play ready.

We arrived around 1am to our college budget friendly hotel and woke around 5am to prepare for our early call. I wore a cream colored sweater and a conventional black skirt because the URTA Suggestions Guide mentioned that auditioning actors looked good in light colored tops and dark bottoms.

We got to the fancy hotel where auditions were taking place to check in and I discovered the “headshot” I brought with me (which was just an enlarged passport picture I got the day before from Walgreens) had fallen into the snow and had been ruined beyond repair. I sucked it up though and was given my audition time. (My one proud moment of the day was being placed in the time slot with the auditioners with the highest GPAs – holla, theatre nerd alert!)

Finally, it was my turn. I faked some confidence and walked into the room with a smile, my plain skirt swishing behind! I started my Moliere monologue and then blanked. Like just the worst blank in the entire world. I even asked the panel of viewers what I should do and they were boggled. They looked pained for me. Finally, I just started in on my second monologue from The Rainmaker. I completed it. But it was nothing special. After that, in a daze, I walked out of the room feeling like the entire world was collapsing in on me. I had just ruined my future. I was lost in a cloud of despair when I passed Dave. He asked me how it went and I shook my head unable to even cry. “I need to go.” I told him and I wished him luck on his audition.

Then I walked out of the fancy hotel into foreign streets. I was unfamiliar with New York City and had only been there a handful of times on school trips as a kid. It was freezing and my shoes were soaked with snow. But I walked trying to put back the shattered pieces of my dreams until Dave called me.

“I lost it,” he said, “I just blanked.”

I hurried to meet him and within seconds of looking at each other like we wanted to cry, we were laughing. We were two idiot kids with no business being at that audition. We weren’t prepared, we just wanted the safety of a place to hide in a bit longer before having to try and make it in the real world.

We immediately sought to find solace in pizza. I didn’t yet know the type of magical healing powers found in New York pizza, but let me say, it can cure many woes. And while we sat shoveling feelings and slices into our faces, I caught the eye of a man outside. He entered the restaurant and sat down at a table near to us. He kept staring at me, which I assumed was probably thanks to my smart outfit, but after a few minutes he approached us. I was prepared to hear him ask us for money but he did not. Instead, he showed me something he had been working on while sitting in the corner. It was a drawing of a crowd. All different types of people standing tall and gazing out from the page. That’s when I saw it. I was there. He pointed to the sketched version of me and said in broken English, “I wanted to draw you too.”

Dave and me acting in The Fox. While we did not get a single callback for any of the URTA schools, we did get an A on our senior project!

Dave and me acting in The Fox. While we did not get a single callback for any of the URTA schools, we did get an A on our senior project!

Suddenly, through some very kind and thoughtful strokes (homegirl looked way prettier than the snow soaked Ashley looked that day), was a new me standing beside other New Yorkers. That’s the moment I knew I was going to move to NYC after I graduated. Perhaps I needed someone else to see me there, who knows, but that’s exactly what I did. The man quietly walked away and we finished our pizza. Simple movements that forever changed my life.

Dave and I moved to NYC together a few months later and ate a whole lot more pizza. And both of us auditioned for a play together right away… we got in it… only to learn it was an anti abortion play… ah, but I’ll save that story for another time. The lesson here is that nightmare auditions are going to happen to even the best of us but there’s always something to take away from them, even if it’s just being able to laugh at yourself for being an idiot. Who else would be stupid enough to put themselves through so much rejection and heartbreak? We need each other to commiserate with, to celebrate with, and to keep encouraging each other to laugh. So in honor of that idea, here are some tales of audition horror from some of my fellow actors and friends!

Dave Collins (the guy from my story!):

So, I’m not sure if this is my worst audition story or my worst audition story from LA but either way it was pretty awful.

I was called in for this Danica Patrick commercial and thought I was just going to be one of three or four guys basically drooling over this beautiful race-car driver. This is what I came in prepared to do, not a very big stretch. This was not the case. I get into the room in front of the casting director and she proceeds to tell me that the joke of this commercial is that they want to show three dudes watching a clip of this beautiful woman showering and then pan to a dude’s naked chest… that these idiots somehow mistake for hers… Then, the camera would slowly go back up to the dude’s face. What?!! So the casting director asks me to take my shirt off and squeeze my very masculine, hairy, breasts together to try and put one over on these unsuspecting dbags. It was weird, humiliating, and I did it. And I didn’t get the part. I guess my male breasts weren’t feminine enough. Gross. I need to go shower now.

Shay Wisniewski:

I moved to New York about 3 months ago and was ready to hit the ground running with auditions. So I went to a call for Peer Gynt by Ibson, it’s one of his lesser known plays. I headed to Brooklyn for one of my first auditions. I show up and start filling out my audition form. Pretty standard. They even asked how we felt about nudity on stage. At this point in my life, I felt I could show off my breast if needed for a show. No big deal. Also, I told myself I wouldn’t turn anything down since I’m new to the city. So in I went.

In the room was an older man. White hair and a pony tail, along with his daughter who was handling the music in the show. They had me sing, improvise some dancing, do a monologue. Things were going great. I even get a callback which was even better than the audition. Full of viewpoints and group movement work, Meisner technique. Everything was right up my alley. He sits us down at the end of the callback and says, “so, I want to clarify the nudity aspect of the show. I love women, I love sex and I think both are very important things in a man’s life. Mothers, lovers, sister and so on. So at the end of the play, I want the main guy, to be breastfed by all the women on stage.”

Oh, I’m sorry. That’s not nudity, that’s porn.

And one of the guys in the audition group even went up to the director afterwards to let him know he was okay with the nudity in the show. Of course you are! You’d be getting a titty parade in your mouth! Sucking on multiple breasts is way better than having some strange adult man breast feed when you aren’t even dating.

I ended up getting cast. No, I didn’t take it. I couldn’t have something like that show up on YouTube one day when I’m famous. Whenever that is. Oh, and it paid zero dollars. So, no, you will not be seeing my breast feeding premiere this fall in New York.

Alex Harris:

You know what? When I saw your post on Facebook I immediately thought of a TERRIBLE one I had on Wednesday! Have you ever had an audition where, like, you read what they wanted, you knew what they wanted, and then when you go in there, you do absolutely everything you’re not supposed to? Well, that was me at this commercial audition, yikes bikes!! I walked in and the taping happens right in the audition waiting area so while you’re auditioning, you’re being watched by the other girls who are there (BIG HELP TO THE NERVES). And I just like had a lapse of where I was. I did exaggerated expressions like I was on stage or doing improv, instead of understated looks and reactions for simple commercial shots, oh it is awful Ashley. Awful.

Natalie Ashodian:

I once auditioned a woman for the very serious part of a Planned Parenthood nurse. A woman (in her 50’s or older, mind you!) showed up in a sexy nurse uniform. You know, Halloween costume 1940’s pin up style nurse. Needless to say, please don’t over-do character auditions. Unless the show is, you know, inherently campy.

Lea Gulino:

My last on-camera audition in LA – a 3rd callback for a Visa ad and the 3rd time I put everything I had into bleating like a goat…

Christi Chew:

He said, “Well now we know you can sing. Can you do it again, but crawl around like a cat?” It wasn’t CATS.

Do you have an audition horror story to share? Come join the party and leave it in the comments section!

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Cowan Palace: Connecticut Dad Bans “Amazing”

Ashley amazes you with her amazingness.

I’ll make it short and sweet this week, folks. Will mentioned it in his piece yesterday and Charles kindly gave us a shout out earlier this week but in case you hadn’t heard me wailing into the night, our wedding day is just nine days away and we’ve been a bit preoccupied with it.

I’m also writing this somewhere between Philadelphia and San Francisco on a late flight home sitting near a sweet Amish couple and a grandma wearing festive socks listing different types of spices.

I had the pleasure of heading back east to be a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding (not as dramatic as the movie). When my dad picked me up the airport, it wasn’t long before he shared his current distaste for the word “amazing”. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Dad: I’ve banned the word “amazing” from our house.

Ashley: Okay.

Dad: There’s a Facebook group devoted to the cause.

Ashley: You’re not on Facebook.

Dad: No, I’m not.

Ashley: Hashtag ironic? (Said in my sexiest reality TV show baby voice.)

Dad: So no more “amazing” in the house.

We then went out to breakfast and it was delicious.

I guess I hadn’t really thought about how much I use the word or some of the other words on my dad’s hate list (which also include: passionate, baby bump, and man cave for those of you following Ashley’s dad trivia). But over these last few nights on good ole Winding Lane, boy did I!

Right before we left to return to the airport, we somehow managed to catch the tail end of some reality show about weight loss. When the woman featured in the program came out and said she had lost 150 pounds (half her body weight!) I said, “wow, that’s amazing.”

My dad stopped me. “It’s what?” he repeated a few times before I caught on. “No, it’s actually amazing.” I said. And explained that I truly thought her achievement was worthy of such a description. Even though we were watching a scripted reality show.

He granted me back my speech.

My dad’s main point is that the word has managed to take on a new meaning with the social media/reality show loving world we live in. He’s passionate, whoops – sorry, he feels strongly about words and believes they deserve better. And as a writer who has a weakness about blogging pop culture references, that struck something in me. I’ve certainly used the word “amazing” when I experienced something that did not cause me to feel “overwhelmed with great surprise and wonder” and I’m also too confident that I’ve given that line to a character or two without thinking twice.

So in your honor, Dad, and as part of a bizarre Father’s Gift (how will my siblings ever compete?!), I promise to be a bit more selective with my words. At least this week. And in any case, your daughter still thinks you’re pretty cool… perhaps even, amazing.

The Cowan Family getting their Cowan on and thinking about words.

The Cowan Family getting their Cowan on and thinking about words.

Cowan Palace: Uncovering April Fools

Ashley attempts to explore the origin of this hilarious holiday.

April Fools’ Day. It’s become the new holiday I love to hate. The day this gullible blogger falls for one too many grand Internet schemes.

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Even though, aside from Halloween, one could consider it an actor’s holiday. It’s a day centered around a whole lot of lies! And aren’t we supposed to be good at that?

It’s also the perfect time for pranksters to spread rumors about some more well-known celebrities. Which will often reappear on social media outlets after a few months forcing us all to fall for it again (no one should joke about Full House possibly coming back to TV). How did you guys enjoy yesterday’s jokes? Did you fall for Britney Spears being pregnant or Keanu Reeves and his remake of Citizen Kane?

Well, in the midst of all the horsing around (holla, Year of the Horse!), my need to research overwhelmed my Facebook desires (also, I hadn’t watched the highly anticipated series finale of How I Met Your Mother yet and wanted to avoid the spoilers). So I began to explore some of the origins of this sneaky day.

And unfortunately, the Internet wasn’t a huge help. No one seems to agree where or when it began.

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Many believe it’s thanks to France and their attempt to reset the calendar. Back in the 1500s, folks were undecided about when to pop that champagne (it is from France, after all) and make poor decisions at their New Year’s Eve bash. Some wanted it to be marked in January to follow the example of the Roman calendar while others believed the new year should be set by the start of a sunnier season: the spring. But as this decision wasn’t made immediately, it moved slowly through the population. And some people in rural areas continued celebrating in the beginning of April… thus becoming “April Fools” to those who scheduled their party in January.

But that story could easily be an April Fools’ joke of its own. There are other researchers who think the day came from spring festivals where pranking was just a general practice. These guys didn’t have the Internet so they had to entertain themselves in some way, right?! It’s also worth noting that April Fools’ Day falls around the time of other similar holidays, including both the festival of Hilaria and Holi. Most likely related to the words “hilarious” and “hilarity”, Hilaria also goes by the name of “Roman Laughing Day”. (Which, sounds like a BLAST.) Holi is celebrated in India as a way to acknowledge the new season; those taking part will often prank each other in good fun.

In any case, April Fools’ Day is something we continue to recognize. As news travels faster than ever, it’s become easy to prank almost any susceptible soul (so… me). And along with the havoc we Americans do with our fake pregnancy schemes, several European countries continue to celebrate it as well.

After potentially starting the tradition in the first place, those in France who get tricked are called a “Poisson d’Avril”, which if you’ve taken French in high school, you’ll know means “April Fish”. In fact, one common practice is to get a cut out of a fish and hook it to someone. Why a fish you ask? Well, that’s kind of unclear too. Perhaps it relates back to Jesus (because doesn’t it always?) who was often connected to fish or maybe it’s for those astrologers out there who know that fish relate to the zodiac sign, Pisces, which also falls in April.

In the end, whatever you believe about the potential origin of April Fools’ Day is up to you, pal. And how you celebrate it? Well, the jokester’s sky’s the limit! Any worthy pranks to share?

Theater Around the Bay: 10 Ways For A Playwright To Self-Promote

We’re planning to do a lot of guest blogs in 2014, and Rachel Bublitz, a first time contributor, wants you to know that it’s okay to talk about yourself, in fact, she encourages it.

This kid would rather make his head explode than hear you talk about yourself. Nice knowing ya, kid.

This kid would rather make his head explode than hear you talk about yourself. Nice knowing ya, kid.

When you think of self-promotion, you probably think it’s where you tell everyone who will listen how fabulous your life is and how they should all be envious of you, right? Wrong. I know self-promotion feels like showing off, or bragging, but it’s essential if you want people to know about what you’re doing. And if you’re not a playwright, don’t think you’re getting off so easy because this applies to you too, no matter what kind of art you’re doing, if you want the world to know, you’ve gotta tell ‘em. So hold on to your pants, I’m about to get all five-paragraph-essay and talk you through this article: I’m going to give you insider info about how important self-promotion is from someone who promotes writers for a living, then I’ll list ten things you should be doing and/or should know about self-promotion, and finally I plan on ending this post explaining why I think self promotion is so freakin’ important.

My good friend Kat Engh, a Communications Associate at Berrett-Koehler Publishers, said this when I asked her about self promotion:

“I think self-promotion gets a bad rap. You’re not selling broken vacuums door-to-door here, you’re selling an experience – one that I would hope you’d feel passionate about enough to be confident that someone else would enjoy that experience. It’s important to keep in mind that a publicist’s job is to help get you the opportunities to promote your work. When a radio producer asks a publicist for an interview, she doesn’t want to talk to your publicist on air, she wants to talk to you.

“Publicity is like dating; the people with the most confidence in their work tend to attract more media opportunities. I’ve worked with people with varying levels of experience with self-promotion, and it should come as no surprise that the ones who were more comfortable promoting themselves tend to yield the most results publicity-wise. Publicists recognize the importance of confidence, too, and many will opt not to take on a client if they have reason to believe that the artist won’t sell his or herself when new press opportunities are found.”

So not only is it good practice to promote your own work (so that your self-promotion skills improve as your audience grows), it also makes you more attractive for folks out there who might want to represent you.

Now it’s list time! Here are the ten things you should know and/or should be doing to promote your work:

Go See Other People’s Shows

This is huge. Like an actor? Director? A company? Supporting their work will only help convince them to support yours. When you see a show you enjoy, talk to the folks involved and tell them about yourself. Hand them a postcard of your show, or let them know about an upcoming reading you have. I know it sounds shady to go to another event to promote your own work, and I also know that talking to strangers can be hard (stranger-danger and all), but you’ve got to ignore the scary feelings and talk yourself up.

Know What You’re Selling

Know who would be interested in your plays. Last summer, when my first play was produced (which was a comedy about a sex-fantasy obsessed housewife), I knew it wouldn’t be for everyone. My mother-in-law, for example, not her cup of tea. So, while she knew that I had a show, I didn’t bombard her with information about a show that I knew she would be offended by. This also goes for theaters when you send out your work. Know what plays you write, and know where they would work and where they won’t work.

Have An Online “Landing Page”

There are tons of social media tools out there, and tons of blog options. This can be overwhelming, when you start rattling off the fifteen different places that people can find out more information about yourself. Instead of telling folks your email, twitter handle, facebook page link, website, or linkedin account pick on place that can lead people to find all that there is to know about you. I picked my website. If you go to www.rachelbubliz.com you can see my blog, get my contact info, and also “like” my facebook page, and follow my twitter account. Pick a spot, make it homebase.

Make The Internet Work For You

Once you’ve set up your landing page, use a website like IFTTT or If This Than That, to help spread your content around. IFITT allows you to build custom channels so that when you post a blog to your site, it’ll auto post to facebook, twitter, or other sites you use.

Dissect Projects To Create More Content

When you’re involved in a reading, or a show, and you get tired of writing, “My show is coming up, please, please come!” think of taking pieces of the show and highlighting them one at a time. Write a piece about your leading lady one day, interview your lighting designer the next. When you break a show into pieces not only does it give you something new to talk about, it also allows you to bring attention to the other people you’re working with, and shine some spot light on them for a change.

Share Your Process

It doesn’t sounds interesting from your point of view. But to someone else, who isn’t in your head, it can be intriguing. I know that when I started to post about what my artistic process was like, or what it felt like seeing this thing I’d originally only imagined in my head up on stage, people really responded. It’s a fresh perspective, and like taking the pieces of your team apart and highlighting them individually, it creates more content.

Take All The Pictures, All The Time

Then post them on facebook. Then tag them. So take lots of pictures, as long as you’re not pissing anyone off that is. Take pictures of rehearsals, and new costumes, and your director directing, and of everyone dressed up on opening night. And then when you post these and tag everyone involved, the people able to see these pictures and hear about your show grows.

Be Yourself!

It can be hard when you’re creating this internet image around yourself, and you can easily get caught up in making yourself seem better, or more likeable. But be yourself, and stay honest. Don’t gush about a show you saw that you truthfully didn’t like, and don’t try and build yourself as something that you’re not. It takes a long time to gain other people’s trust, and a lot less time to lose it.

Don’t Be A Cry Baby

Shit happens. People don’t get along, or you disagree with the direction something is going in, or you weren’t picked for the festival, or you get a bad review. You can (and should) talk about how much that sucks, I’d advise you to be tactful with names, but then move on. Don’t wallow in disappointment. Don’t start each new post complaining about something new. Take the bull by the horns and change what you don’t like. If that isn’t possible reflect on how you can make it better next time. But don’t cry about it for weeks on end, otherwise your audience will dwindle faster than you can say “unsubscribe.”

Be Patient

This stuff takes time. A loooooong time. So when the artistic director you’ve been wanting to come out and see your show misses the first one, or tenth one, don’t get angry or discouraged, just get back up and tell them about your next. When only had ten people in show up for one of your readings even though you’ve been plugging it for months, shake it off, and remember there can always be a next time. Keep chugging away and do what you do, tell folks about it. It’s been my experience that if you keep that up, one day they’ll listen.

I get why self-promotion is hard. I mean creating art for others to see is hard. You’re sharing an intimate part of yourself. A part that will be judged and reviewed without your feelings in mind. And now on top of that I expect you to put your ego even more on the line by having you tell everyone within a hundred mile radius about your project and why it should matter to them? You bet I do. Self-promotion is important because no one else can do it for you. The bottom line is that no one else cares as much as you do, and that will never change. You should be the most passionate person about what you’re creating, and you need to share that passion with the world that you hope to engage with. That passion is palatable, and contagious, and often inspiring. It puts caution to the wind and says, “Even though I am uncomfortable talking with strangers, and talking about myself, and talking about my dreams, my art is more important.” Because your art is more important. So tell everyone about what you’re doing, tell them non-stop. You’re not being a show-off, I promise.

You can trust this face- can't you?

You can trust this face- can’t you?

Rachel Bublitz is a local playwright, founder of the 31 Plays In 31 Days playwright challenge, Co-Artistic Director of All Terrain Theater, and mother of two. For more information please visit www.rachelbublitz.com.