It’s A Suggestion Not A Review: In Defense of Snobbery

In which the author endorses the idea of liking some things and disparaging others.

My name is Dave, and I’m a snob.

And so are you.

Last Sunday, The New York Times featured a column by its main film reviewer, A.O. Scott, on the subject of film snobbery. It turns out the word “snob” has an interesting (to me, anyway*) history. It started out as a term for a shoemaker, but, according to Scott, quoting the Oxford English Dictionary, “’in time the word came to describe someone with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who looks down on those regarded as socially inferior.’ A pretender. A poser. A wannabe. An arriviste.”

Scott goes on: “In this country, the meaning that has long dominated has to do less with wealth or station than with taste, and the word’s trajectory has almost completely reversed. Americans are in general a little squeamish about money and class – worshiping one while pretending the other doesn’t exist – and more comfortable with hierarchies and distinctions that seem strictly cultural. A snob over here is someone who looks contemptuously down, convinced above all of his or her elevated powers of discernment.”

This guy.

This guy.

Now, anyone who knows me, or follows me on Facebook (that is, those who haven’t gotten fed up and hidden me …) knows I have opinions. Lots of them. I like to think I express as many positives as negatives, but the general consensus seems to be “oh, you hate everything.” That I don’t is beside the matter. Those opinions are based on an aesthetic I’ve formed over the decades. This is good. That is bad. I don’t expect people to always agree with them (even if I’ve frequently said that everyone agrees with me eventually; it’s just a matter of when … ), but I hold them dearly, cherish them, let them keep me warm on a cold winter’s night. To take Shakespeare out of context, they’re an ill-favored thing, sir, but mine own.

(Parenthetically, I suppose I might have written this time about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s stupid plan to adapt Shakespeare’s plays into modern English. Given some of the people chosen to do the work, it’s even more ill-considered than I would have thought initially. I actually know some of them personally, and am amazed they can string two sentences together, let alone be chosen to improve the Bard. But, as always, I digress – and am showing my snobbish discernment … )

My point, though, is that, as we go through our lives and become exposed to more and more media – be they books, movies, plays, television programs, whatever – we develop tastes that lead us to prefer some of them and disparage others.

Now, I’m not saying that all of those preferences are good. There are plenty of TV shows, books, and movies that I’ll devote time to even as I know they’re inferior (and not even in an ironic hate-watching sense). I’m a sucker for movies where stuff blows up or that involve intricate capers (if one of the Ocean’s movies is on, I have to watch it) and most comic book movies. I know they’re junk food, but will still ingest a lot of them (they’re the artistic equivalent of hot dogs – which I hasten to add, I also love). Sometimes you just need them.

Be still, my heart.

Be still, my heart.

Bad as they might be, I’ve assigned them some merit, or I wouldn’t spend time on them. I admit I prefer to spend my time with stuff that I know is worthwhile, but you can’t always have that, can you?

My point is, though, that because I’ve established a value system that rates some things as good and worth watching and some as bad and still worth watching, and some that I can dismiss out of hand as being awful (or seeming to be) in advance, I can be considered a snob. And so can anyone who’s decided not to see or read something because they know in advance that it’s going to be terrible. (To invert the disclaimer in the financial advisor commercials, past results are indications of future performances.)

It’s like senses of humor. During my last show, one night in the dressing room, most of the rest of cast spent a good chunk of time reenacting “great moments” from Billy Madison. Now, not having liked anything I’ve ever seen Adam Sandler do, I’ve avoided all his film work, and based on the excerpts, I’ve been more than justified. But every Sandler movie I’ve ignored is someone’s all-time favorite. (We’ll ignore the fact that these people are idiots.)

But for every movie you love, every book you venerate, every television show you cannot miss, every joke you think is hilarious and have taken the time to rate as essential, there’s someone who absolutely can’t stand it. And every actor, author, and comedian you wish would be wiped off the face of the Earth without a trace is a person who someone else would be devastated to lose.

My point is that we should just own up to the fact that we’re all snobs; that we all have things that we venerate and things we look down on as being unworthy. Oddly, though, while there’s never any way we can all agree on the former (I know there are plenty of people who hate Stephen Sondheim, Michelle Obama, and Martin Scorsese), there are plenty of people (the Kardashians, the dentist who shot the lion) we can all agree to dislike.

So, yeah. I’m a snob. And proud of it. And you are and should embrace it as well.

(*Just noting that, if you reacted with a “he thinks that’s interesting,” it’s evidence of your own snobbery. Just sayin’.)

Working Title: Life is Short Lived. Take a Chance and Get Lucky

On this Saint Patrick’s Day, Will Leschber beckons and reckons with the Saint of Fortune.

Luck and Chance.

As a younger man, I felt that luck took a back seat to drive and effort. It’s possible that the surrounding culture I grew up in silently instilled Manifest Destiny in my bones: that every thing was possible if you travelled far enough, worked hard enough, pulled your boot straps up enough. You could create, you could perform, you could do it all. The world could be in the palm of your hand if you just reached out and grabbed it.

While I think this is boldly true, as a now older man, I also think chance plays a greater part in our lives than I would have liked to believe.

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Maybe it’s easy to feel this way when we are youthful and so much is ahead. Everything is possible and all doors stand open.

Only now am I starting to feel like an adult! (Sidebar, it’s about damn time! You’re no Peter Pan, kiddo! You are 33 and are a week away from being a new Dad! Grow up already!!) As part of the theatre community, we revel in make believe and truth and principles and emotional and challenge and risk. Getting on that stage can be beautifully scary. It harnesses what it means to be alive. Edging further into my 30’s, I have become acquainted with the dark side of chance and find myself lucky to have remained less scathed. I’ve held close friends who passed too early, seen others who have fought cancer, known many who wrestled with their own kind of addiction; plus there’s been loss and love and madness and the rest. I’m not here to say that it’s all darkness. Far from it. I find that there is more light bridging the gaps in our hours. What I am saying is that chance is at play and the wheel spins both ways through your days.

Just recently, I had a friend who went in for a routine ACL surgery. Everything went fine. He was home in recovery and all seemed to be improving. Until it wasn’t. He started loosing feeling below his knee and couldn’t move his toes. When he got back to the hospital the doctors had no idea why the circulation had stopped in his lower leg. How could they not know!? Within a day the news went from “Oh he’s back in the hospital with complications” to “he might lose his leg”. I had no words. I could not believe it. Things are better than ever in the medical field and outliers still run to the edge of the bell curve. Shit happens. Crazy, unexpected wildcard cases still happen. It’s baffling. It’s scary. It feels like the Wild West. It feels like the point where your youthful, live-forever, invulnerability cracks.

Perhaps instead of a cheery lesson, focusing on the light, I’d say drink it all. Hold close the shadow, feel it fully and then let is pass. Life’s shadowy milestones will fuel your appreciation for everything else. The spectrum of experience turns with the wheel of chance and fortune.

What does this all have to do with theater and film, you say? Ah, Will, you old man. Did you forget that’s the point of your blog? Whoopsie Daisy!

Whoopsie+Daisy

There are few other careers or pastimes that function from a foundation of chance the way the performing arts do; Or creative endeavors of any kind for that matter. We build glorious microcosmic worlds; create them, paint them, clothe them, live them… and let them close and drift into memory. Any play or film that comes to be is riddled and rippling with good luck and favorable chance. It’s a crap shoot often with tons of expended effort and finger crossing. No one needs to be reminded of the concept “life is theater and Theater is life.” BUT what has been overwhelming my mind of late, is how much the concept of “you never know” actually influences our lives. We all know this. Sure, I’ve known everything since I was a teenager! But, as we age, we actually learn it. We don’t know if this rough-as-hell final dress performance will pull together for opening night or if we will get hit by a bus crossing the street to work. Chances are you aren’t gonna see it coming. So get lucky if you can.

Okay, back to this current life. Well, nothing says luck and chance like a popularity contest, right? PianoFight is in the midst of their ShortLived play competition (Round Three starts up again on Thursday). Each week, this madness has a way of showcasing the eclectic, the funny, the dark, the lovely and the rest. Life is short. See ShortLived.

Also, while you are in the market for short lived artistic experiences, look up the this year’s Oscar winning animated short film, Feast. It’ll remind you that luck can save you from eating off the street, chance has a way of shining through the dark and dogged effort can balance your plate.

feast

Until then, this new-Dad-to-be hopes luck has the chance to find you on this Saint Patrick’s Day.

Working Title: Death is Just Another Path…

This week Will Leschber remembers a lost friend. One for whom Theatre and Film stood as well-worn pillars to their friendship.

This last week I lost a dear friend. I had known Christian Oliver Fjell since fifth grade. To me, he was always just Chris. He is the first of my age group to pass. Death is never easy and to experience it with someone who was a close part of your life from adolescence into adulthood is a unique sadness.

I knew the grade school kid who wore out his Jurassic park shirt and could talk endlessly about dinosaurs and spies and movies of all kind. I knew the middle school guy who would read science fiction that was light years beyond his reading level. He could talk your ear off about Robert Heinlein, if you let him. Many times I heard him say, “You gotta read The Cat Who Walks Though Walls, man. It’s great!”

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I knew the high school Chris as one of my most valued friends. Friendship at that time sounded like an endless stream of movie quotes, theatre games and excessive laughter. Get Shorty, Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, Magnolia, American Psycho, Gladiator, and still Jurassic Park: We threw around so many lines from these movies, you’d think we knew them by heart. Mainly, we just knew the lines that made us laugh or had an inordinate amount of curse words. Thank you Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson and Bret Easton Ellis. In the years after high school, we saw each other through forays into college, streams of crappy jobs, glorious and terrible relationships, heartache, heartbreak, more movies, the busts and booms of being in our 20 and still searching for our purpose.

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Like many errant souls, we had both found a true place in Theatre. Whether that meant being a apart of it, seeing it, or critiquing it. Theatre gave us a unique foundation of personal and artistic connection. It brought out the best in him: athleticism, creativity, community, purpose. Some of my favorites memories stemmed from our time upon the stage. One in particular stands out as a good summation of our friendship. During our junior year the Drama department put on Guys and Dolls, as most high schools do from time to time. Being the superstars of high school theatre that we were, Chris and I were not cast in any of the leads. Oh no! We reigned supreme in the chorus, as backup dancers and various character parts that were beyond the abilities of those actors who could only play merely one part. Pffft, amateurs.

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Anyway, in the middle of the run there came a night where the curtain call had a bit of a hitch. When the time came for the group of us dancer/chorus/character-role types to take the front of the stage for recognition, we were bumped by another group who jumped their order in the curtain call and blew right past us. My feeling at the time was these things happen and it was a simple mistake. No harm no foul. These things happen in high school theatre. BUT Chris wouldn’t let this stand.

The next day as the cast collected before the show to warm up and get ready, he called everyone’s attention. Chris was outspoken but was not one to make impromptu speeches to the whole cast. This was equal part speech and equal part reprimand. He went on to say that myself and the others who had been skipped in the curtain call were vital parts of the show and deserved better than to be overrun by others greedy for applause. He defended our hard work and said that we had spent just as much dedicated time at rehearsal as the folks who got much more of the spotlight. He expressed that even though it may have been an mistake, everyone in the cast was integral and should be valued as such. He stuck up for his friends and put himself out there to make sure they felt appreciated. I don’t know if his speech was necessary but I do know that it meant the world to me that he stood up there, took a risk and made sure that I felt valued and loved. Chris always had something to say. Friendship with him was never boring. He didn’t always say the right thing. God knows he said plenty of wrong things, but he always spoke from a place of loyalty and love. Years later (earlier this year, in fact), I felt the same way when he delivered his best man’s speech at my wedding.

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Purpose, even now as we’ve passed beyond the barrier of our 30’s, can feel illusive. Chris was just 31. Sitting in the ICU, watching someone fade away, it’s tempting to feel that there is no purpose and that our struggles are pointless. But being in that room surrounded by friends and family sharing stories filled with laughter, tears and times untold, I knew we were all connected. Through this shared collective experience of being with him at the end, I knew that his time with us, although short, was invaluable and was without a doubt purposeful.

Old friends, community ties (theatre or otherwise) and recollected good times are always purposeful. You will be missed, my friend. Be seeing you…

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Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path… One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf?… See what?
Gandalf: White shores… and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: [smiling] Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: [softly] No… No it isn’t.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

~J.R.R. Tolkien (with some help from Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson)

Cowan Palace: Ashley the Actress Versus Ashley the Bride

Ashley’s her own Bridezilla.

I hadn’t really planned to document any of the marriage process here in Cowan Palace, but alas, it’s consuming me at the moment. At least until The Bachelorette starts up again on Monday. The good news is that the big day is just over a month away. And I only have two more blogs after this until that time! So I promise not to bore you too much with all of this nonsense!

As I’ve mentioned before, the reason I moved to San Francisco was because of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. My first show in California and certainly a new chapter of my life. I was first cast as “the dorky bridesmaid” character. SHOCKING, I KNOW. I knew how to dance so awkwardly, audiences were unsure where Ashley ended and Marina Galino began. I got rave reviews from that one guy who kept bringing new dates to our show.

Marina Galino chokes under the pressure of dancing while looking for love.

Marina Galino chokes under the pressure of dancing while looking for love.

In real life, I couldn’t have been further from a boyfriend. But it didn’t matter! I got to hang out with my love, the theater! Sure, he forgot my name a few times and didn’t call when he promised to but I figured, eventually I could change him!

This had been sort of a theme for me since high school. Once I started taking drama class, acting became everything. I went through a lot of college oblivious to romantic opportunities because I just wanted to be in as many plays as possible. And even when I moved to New York City to pursue acting, I somehow managed to only involve myself with the reject characters from “Sex and the City” while enduring countless rejections from auditions.

When I moved to California, it was because I needed a change. I wanted to pursue my career in a new time zone and I wanted to finally fall in love.

What got me to change states was an internship program in Merced where upon first meeting, one of the theater board members told me, “don’t let theater be your only thing. You’ll need more than that to be happy”. And at the time, I rolled my eyes. I was 23 and clearly I knew everything. My pursuit of the craft had gotten me this far, hadn’t it? I wanted it all. I wanted to continue surrounding myself in everything theatrical and somehow end up with my Prince Charming.

Once I was in San Francisco, kissing way more boys on stage than off, I continued my familiar trend of taking any and all acting opportunities that came my way. Sadly, as I realize now, my dating history followed a similar path. I lacked a sense of selection. I said yes to things before thinking them through and once again, I felt like I was just a hamster having a go at the wheel. And while I loved any chance I had to act, I also continued to love the idea of falling in love. After years of coming to terms that maybe I wasn’t meant to be in that type of serious relationship, I still yearned for the possibility.

I met Will at a theater gala. And I kid you not, earlier in the day I had a long chat with myself over a coffee and a pastry regarding being more aware and active of the things I was doing to better my life. If I wanted to truly fall in love and be a good partner to someone, I knew I had to make it a priority and be more thoughtful with who I lent my heart stained sleeves out to.

When Will and I got our second chance at a relationship (after we dated and then broke up because of the distance… and then rekindled our feelings when he returned to San Francisco to act alongside me in Twelfth Night) I knew things were starting to change. I began saying no to some acting opportunities when my feelings for them weren’t strong enough. My time was suddenly worth a new value knowing that Will would only be living in the same city with me for a summer. And as much as I wanted to be in every show and project ever, I was also falling in love with someone in a whole new way. I wasn’t ready to let my grasp go.

Needless to say, I’ve held onto Will’s hand ever since. Yes, I’ve continued to pursue theater but I do think my relationship with it has matured into something new. I’ll forever love it but I know now that it can’t be “my everything”.

Being the bride is bringing out the best in me.

Being the bride is bringing out the best in me.

When Will and I get married, I’ll become two people. Ashley Cowan will remain my actor/writer name (Leschber Palace doesn’t quite have the same ring) and Ashley Leschber will be my married name. Currently, while I stress and cry over the ache and pains of the wedding planning process and missing evenings devoted to the stage, I’m realizing that my next challenge is to learn to balance these these two people and these two loves. As with anything else in adulthood, you learn that you have to be flexible and you have to make compromises and adjustments if you want to fight for your happiness. Luckily for me, I have a fella who pushes me to pursue those acting and writing opportunities while letting me develop from that once dorky bridesmaid into my new bridal role. Strangely enough, my dance moves remain the same.

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###

Cowan Palace: Hives, Tears, and a Lesson in Love

Ashley Cowan recalls her first involvement with Theater Pub and shares her original piece “How To Get Over Someone Who Is Just Not That Into You”.

Last week I attended Theater Pub’s final performance at Cafe Royale and it left me with a lot of feelings. Surprise, surprise, I know, considering my tendency to feel things. Anyway, it caught me for a moment as a watched the evening unfold that I was standing in a similar place three and a half years ago when I first performed with Theater Pub. Or as I’ve come to know it: the event when I read actual excerpts from my personal diary.

At the time, sharing my writing was one of my biggest fears. The idea of anyone hearing my work made me break out into literal hives and immediately start producing authentic human tears. But I so desperately wanted to be a part of the writing scene and when an opportunity came through with Theater Pub, I quickly accepted without really thinking about how potentially terrifying sharing something so intimate and private would be. But leave it to Theater Pub to offer that kind of unique chance in an almost surprisingly welcoming way.

I also thought about the person I developed into after that first performance. I started my Theater Pub involvement sharing my emotional experience in trying to get over someone to ending it with a final viewing sitting next to the love of my life (hi Will!). I thank Theater Pub for giving me the chance to scare myself silly, try something new, and be pushed to new territories.

And it also led me to think about the subject of my first reading, my diary entry. A man who inspired me to start a separate journal in an attempt to actively get over him. I haven’t seen him in years but thanks to some Facebooking, I’ve learned that he went overseas and went through some serious medical complications that may have taken a great deal of his memories away. So the reality is, he may not remember me at all. Which aside from the sadness I feel for him and his situation, breaks my heart a bit to think that the sum of our relationship lives only in my mind. And perhaps with the audience who once heard me voice some of those thoughts.

Rereading it again made me almost as uncomfortable as it did the first time. But I thought I’d share it again in honor of Theater Pub’s last night with Cafe Royale and to embrace the changes we’ve all made throughout the years while still celebrating our beginnings. Ah, so here we go. If you need me, I’ll be breaking out into hives and weeping in the corner.

“How To Get Over Someone Who Is Just Not That Into You”

Our Relationship.

Too often we’re so thankful for what someone has given us. Maybe it was a great advice, a kiss that still gives you butterflies, or an opportunity to become stronger. We assume they’ll be able to give us these great things for a life time. And sometimes the sad reality is, they can’t. They just can’t.

Your face. A poem I haven’t been able to write.

Your touch. A song I’ve only hummed.

November 5th 2008

The air is full of electricity and thick with hope as millions around the country celebrate Obama’s victory on the presidency.

I’m laying in bed. I just Googled you.

Several days have passed since we last texted. Several. And so many days before that since we last spoke.

I’m in a cold, cold room while 98 degrees plays on the radio. I look longingly at my phone as if you could just pop out of it, come lay next to me, and keep me warm.

What’s wrong with me? Why do I keep holding onto you? It’s like I’m charged too.

I just want to be changed.

I’m full of frustration and anger and I can’t seem to get to any other base of it all other than you.

When is this going to stop? When does the mere idea of you become just a fleeting moment in my mind?

November 6th 2008

I got a dog.

And stole pink furniture from the street.

November 7th 2008

I let another boy linger on my lips. Okay, it was a stage kiss, but still. Damn it. I will get over you.

November 8th 2008

I worked all day. I acted my heart out. I pretended to be a pregnant woman with two different boyfriends who had to love me.

I let someone call me pretty.

But I missed you today. A moment of you, really. A memory. A feeling I once had.

If I can feel all of these things for you is it possible you could feel anything for me at some time? I know I should not think about that. But i think you used to like me. At least a little. Who do you like now?

November 9th 2008

Had friends over. Surrounded myself in people who love me.

Read the play that took me about a year to complete. Wept because I found you there in the words. Hidden in letters. Brought to life with each sound. Realized that you are like the ocean… vague. Dominating.

Ruled by the moon?

November 10th 2008

Tried to sleep but awoke to a face who needed me: the dog.

Designed a job that I know you’d be just right for.

Had a terrible audition.

Ate delicious pumpkin ice cream.

Fell asleep to songs I once considered ours.

November 11th 2008

Grew sad remembering the past and researched places I once lived. And how they changed and continued once I left them.

I don’t even know if you live in California these days.

Time. I don’t understand it. And I can’t tell if it’s helping me.

November 12th 2008

I think we’re disappearing. Meaning the idea of the two of us together is disappearing. I’m still here… I think. I have no idea where you are. You feel so far away, so distant. Sometimes I have to ask if “we” existed at all because it just seems like that idea could only live in on a foreign island far away.

I asked myself how long it would take me to accept the idea that I may never see you again. For real never see you again, never talk to you again. I estimated six months.

We’ve gone this long without speaking before but it just makes me so sad. Come on, pal, is this really it? Is this how we end things for good? Why can’t I accept the idea? I guess I don’t want to. I’m working on it though.

Today I had a minor breakdown. I felt so tired. It’s wrong for me to connect my happiness with my lack of contact with you… it’s just unfortunately something that happens.

November 13th 2008

We made it to one month without any communication. I know you’re not counting days like I am but wow, this weighs me. One month of nothing.

And yet I feel everything. It still hurts.

My mother still likes you. She still roots for you. She wants you back in my life more than I do. That makes this process even harder. I need to stop telling her that you still hold thoughts of mine. I told her I deleted your number from my phone and she seemed close to insulted.

Ugh.

I read. I hang out with my dog. I change my hair. I sing. I try to keep distracted.

November 14th 2008

I sang for a crowd today.

A couple called me beautiful. A beautiful singer. It’s all I could wish for.

November 15th 2008

Acted all day. Felt two sides of fictional love. Was left with the eternal question: is it better to be the lover or the beloved?

November 16th 2008

Went to an audition and they laughed at my monologue. It felt nice to be appreciated in that way.

I think I’m getting closer to getting over you. I think I’m ready to let this go. And that idea makes me feel so good. To take those chains off. To remove the final link. To just let things be. I wanted to fuss, I wanted to fight, but deep down I want reciprocated love even more. I need you to love me without all that. Just plain and simple.

For me being me. And you can’t do that.

November 17th 2008

Taught a small class and created a play called “Thanksgiving At Never Never Land”.

Felt so good today because I felt like I was really over it all. I was going to be strong and move on.

Took my dog for a nice long walk.

Went out to Thai food with friends. Which is always helpful. We talked about the best kisses of our lives. Couldn’t quite articulate if you were indeed my best kiss… can the idea of the best kiss be destroyed by anger from the past? I built up our first kiss. It meant a lot to me at one time. I’m not sure what that means now.

November 18th 2008

I went to Marin today. I couldn’t help but wonder if you still lived there. How funny if you did considering it seems like there is nothing but distance between us.

December 2nd 2008

AND THEN IT ALL CHANGED. Not for the better. Not for the worse. And not really at all…

We’re “talking” again. Which only means we’ve exchanged a few text messages.

Worthless and meaningless texts. I don’t think I even like you any more. I’m not interested as much. I don’t even think I want to see you again.

As soon as I stop that slight flicker of interest at one of your messages I know I’ll be fine.

December 10, 2009

May have taken a year. But, yes, indeed. No flicker of interest anymore.

Sadly, or I guess, just honestly, other boys have swept in and new games begin. All seeming to end in similar a pattern. I need to get over boys who have already gotten over me.

Cowan Palace: Why Being a Theatre Person with a Day Job is the Best… and Worst

Ashley Cowan takes a moment to express some of her many feelings about being a “Theatre Person”.

Being a “Theatre Person” is both the best and worst thing about maintaining a professional career outside of the industry.

Like many others, when I’m not fortunate enough to be spending my time near a stage, I have to work a “real job”. And real jobs can be kind of the worst for folks like us, you know? At least they can sure seem that way. Maybe it’s because my Mercury is in retrograde or whatever but this year I seem to be struggling with that balance of doing what I love and doing what I need to do to do what I love.

I moved to San Francisco after landing a role in a show and managed to make ends meet by performing and working at some nonprofit Theatre companies in a variety of ways. And I was happy. I had a lot of responsibility and I wore a lot of hats (and you know I love hats). But I was also struggling and making my parents nervous with my lack of a long-term financial plan. So I got a job working at another nonprofit outside of the Theatre and made a little more money but gave up a little piece of my soul. When that didn’t pay off (literally), I took a more corporate track that offered some stability but demanded an even larger chunk of my soul in exchange for a position lacking challenge or creativity. Which are two of my favorite things! So I can’t help but feel a little stuck. And torn. So I endlessly analyze to no avail.

What I want to be able to tell my higher ups is that thanks to my background in Theatre – I can do anything. Okay, maybe that seems a bit ridiculous but follow me for a second. Thanks to my experience working on a variety of productions I can confidently say that I will do whatever it takes for the show to go on. And in a more corporate setting that may mean a variety of things.

In my current position, I feel a bit under utilized, and I blame the Theatre. It’s taught me to be resilient, passionate, quick thinking, flexible, good under pressure, a team player, all without breaking a sweat. I’ve watched my coworkers panic about small details and crumble with anxiety over minor moments. To them I want to say, “have you ever been through a tech week?” Or a dress rehearsal where the actors are barely off-book, the set and costumes are incomplete, and everything seems impossible? Because I have. And I continue to strive for that because I don’t know how not to. I’ve always believed that the Theatre is magic and blessed are those who make magic. Theatre people can do anything.

But I don’t really get the opportunity to tell my corporate higher-ups any of that. I’m a mere chorus girl in a cast of professional myriads; singing and dancing my heart out in the back hoping someday they might notice. And while I’m thankful to be making a decent enough living, it’s sadly not in my nature to silence my ingenuity and be satisfied.

Unfortunately though, I don’t have a solution. Do you? How do we similar minded people manage when we’re away from our true love? For me, spoiler alert, that love has always been the Theatre. Is it too much to ask to find some joy from the jobs that allow me to keep it a part of my life? I seek any and all council on this, my friends, as I seem to be at a crossroads and unsure which step to take next. In the meantime though, I’m incredibly grateful to be writing for an artistic community that I love dearly and who gets me through some of the darker day job frustrations. So I thank you all for that and will keep you in my thoughts until we meet again to discuss Theater Pub’s next project!