Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Give Him A Great Big Kiss

Marissa Skudlarek, really making time on the blog.

Two weeks from today, The Desk Set, the play I’m acting in, will open! Aside from a few Theater Pub one-offs, this is my first acting role in seven years. In a lot of ways, I’m in my element: the cast is full of fun-loving, enthusiastic, nerdy people; my role is small but memorable; I get to wear 1950s dresses and dance a tango. In other ways, I’m being asked to step outside of my comfort zone. I’m teaching basic swing-dance moves to the other actors, something I’ve never done before. I’m playing a platinum-blonde, buxom, sexy secretary, which, if you know me in real life, is pretty much the opposite of typecasting. And, I have to do my first-ever stage kiss.

Consider this column, then, a sort of companion piece to Allison Page’s “If You’re Sexy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands,” from two years ago. There, Allison wrote about playing Rita, the romantic lead in Prelude to a Kiss, and how to get over the awkwardness and embarrassment that can arise when you’re asked to play a “vixen-y, sexually free, comfortably seductive” character.

In some ways, my task might be easier than Allison’s. The tale of Peter and Rita in Prelude to a Kiss is a love story for the ages; the same cannot be said for Richard and Elsa in The Desk Set. My kissing scene is meant to be comical, not seriously sexy or romantic. I’m trying to make the audience laugh rather than trying to convince them of the purity and strength of my love – and I know how to make people laugh!

But where Allison found that she didn’t have to “act sexy,” she just had to focus on Rita’s emotions, that’s not really an option for me. My character, Elsa, is as cartoonish a sex symbol as Jessica Rabbit, and the humor of the scene lies in the contrast between her overwhelming sexuality and Richard’s repression and awkwardness. There are some real elements of 1950s kitsch to The Desk Set, and Elsa is one of them. She’s an archetype that grounds the play in the era when blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe made Americans both fascinated and uncomfortable. That’s the whole point of her scene, and it means that I need to do a Monroe-esque version of “acting sexy.” Walking with a shoulders-back, chest-out, hip-swaying sashay. Affecting a breathy, cooing voice.

This is where the whole opposite-of-typecasting thing comes into play. In real life, I was a late bloomer; I didn’t even kiss anybody till I was halfway through college. I’m over-thinky and self-doubting, and a drama teacher once told me that my acting was “too cerebral.” I’m tall, introverted, and not particularly curvaceous, which means that when I make an effort, I usually strive for “regal, elegant, and charming,” not “cute, bubbly and sexy.” Audrey Hepburn, not Marilyn Monroe, has always been my ’50s actress of choice.

So it was quite a trip to be offered my first acting role in seven years and find that the character is a flirtatious, shameless floozy — the opposite of cerebral. Did my being cast as Elsa mean that other people perceive me as sexier than I perceive myself? But The Desk Set is a comedy and Elsa is a comedic character — so if nerdy, librarian-ish me gets cast as the sexy girl, is that just meant to add another layer to the joke? (See, I told you I was over-thinky and self-doubting.)

But at our first read-through, I discovered — to my own and my castmates’ surprise — that I can manage the cartoonishly-sexy thing when needed. It feels more like mimicry, or like putting on a costume, than like “serious” (i.e., Stanislavskian) acting, but as I said, the role is written very broadly and that’s what it calls for. And to further refine my sexy persona, I started reading The Bombshell Manual of Style, because in real life, I’m such a nerd that I think I need to read a book in order to learn how to act like a 1950s bombshell. Also, because I have a not-so-secret weakness for style books and girly things.

I am a serious actor doing serious dramaturgical research.

I am a serious actor doing serious dramaturgical research.

As for the stage kiss, I rehearsed it for the first time on Sunday. I won’t lie, I felt kind of awkward doing it. But at the same time, I know I’m an adult and a professional, and so is my scene partner, and the awkwardness was at a “This is pretty weird, but I can manage it” level, not a “This is mortifying, I want to hide in a hole and die” level. As I said, I can be an overly cerebral actor, so any physical action that I have to do onstage is going to be a little awkward at first, and will take practice to get right. I might feel uncomfortable kissing someone onstage for the first time, but I’d also feel uncomfortable if you asked me to do archery or throw a football, you know?

Because I haven’t had any acting roles since I was twenty, and because I was such a late bloomer, that means that the bulk of my romantic and sexual experience has come during the years when I took a break from acting. I used to associate being an actor with feeling the way I did in high school — awkward and neurotic and virginal. But now it’s time to forge some new associations. I realized that, while I may not stick out my chest and coo and giggle when I’m doing it, I have been the pursuer; I have made the first move or initiated the first kiss. Initially, I thought my being cast as Elsa was entirely counter-intuitive, but now I accept that there’s a little bit of Elsa in me.

You can see Marissa Skudlarek do her best blonde bombshell impression in The Desk Set at EXIT Theatre from July 9 to 25. Tickets here.

Advertisements

Theater Around The Bay: Year-End Round-Up Act 2, The Best of the Blog 2014

2014 was another year of change on multiple fronts and our website was no exception. We lost Claire Rice but gained Charles Lewis III, as well as bringing on Anthony Miller, making us a team of nine now. Everyone, including our lengthy list of occasional contributors, gets to share in the success of the blog, which has continued to increase its traffic over this past year. With 51,112 hits and counting in 2014 (compared to 45,819 in 2013, 27,998 in 2012, 11,716 in 2011, 8,435 in 2010), 228 subscribers, and 2814 Facebook followers, there can be no doubt that the San Francisco Theater Public (as we’ve taken to calling the blog amongst ourselves) continues to be “kind of a thing.” With our current all time total at 145,024 hits, we wanted to use the next to last blog entry of this year to celebrate the different voices that make our blog unique, while also paying homage to the vast and diverse world of online theater discussion. To everyone who makes our blog a success, a gigantic thank you for making 2014 the best year so far! Here’s hoping that 2015 is even better!

STUART BOUSEL by Dave Sikula 

I’ll admit I don’t know Stuart all that well. He’s directed me in one show, and is about to direct me in another, and we cross paths reasonably frequently, but if you work in Bay Area theatre at all, it’s almost impossible to escape him. He’s everywhere, and that’s something I really admire about him (despite his own admiration for the fatally-flawed Into the Woods). If I may indulge myself for just a moment, I’ll confess to massive inertia and procrastination in my personal and professional lives. It takes an external stimulus just short of an earthquake to get me out of my easy chair and into action. (For example, I’m using the writing of this as an excuse to not work on my translation of The Imaginary Invalid.) But Stuart should be studied by the people at the Department of Energy: He’s as close to a perpetual motion machine as I can think of. He is constantly either coming up with an idea for something, or writing it, or producing it, or all three simultaneously.

Stuart Bousel, alone at work... in the 40s. That's how dedicated he is.

Stuart Bousel, alone at work… in the 40s. That’s how dedicated he is.

Most of us are more comfortable sitting in a bar or a living room bitching about the lack of opportunity or parts or shows in the city, but Stuart isn’t there. He’s off writing yet another script or arranging a venue to produce it in or creating spaces for other people to be creative or seeing shows or directing someone else’s script or holding meetings or readings. If you haven’t worked with him yet, you will. He’s the Tasmanian Devil of Bay Area theatre. Meanwhile, this is my favorite of Stuart’s posts of the last year. It’s not particularly analytical or insightful, but is, perhaps more importantly, a reminder of a very pleasant occasion; the wedding of two good friends.

From the outside world I’d like highlight something from Mark Evanier’s blog. Mark is a writer who’s worked in comics, sitcoms, variety shows, animation, and any number of other areas. It’s not, strictly speaking, about the theatre or the arts, but is about the effect that a creative artist can have on others, how that creation is received, and (probably of most importance to me), the vital need for artists to know history and what has gone before them in order to have a foundation upon which to either build the future or knock the past down in an informed way.

ASHLEY COWAN by Stuart Bousel

My boyfriend and I often refer to Ashley, with tremendous affection, as “the cool babysitter you always wanted as a kid.” This is because Ashley is uniquely gifted with seemingly endless patience, bottomless love and forgiveness, incredible creativity, and a plethora of cookie recipes. Seriously, invite her over to stuff at your house, and make sure she knows she’s supposed to bring treats. She’s like a fairy tale princess who conquers through kindness and she sets a sterling example for anyone looking to be just a little bit sweeter, a little bit nicer, a little bit more understanding. Like all incredibly good people, she also struggles not to be a doormat, cause the truth is, we live in a world of witches, wolves, and humans, and those of us who aspire to be a force for light often radiate “I Will Help You!” and “Come Fuck With Me!” at the same time, whether we intend to or not. Learning to draw lines with others, learning to stand up for ourselves, learning to speak up even when it’s not polite, is just as important as setting a good example and taking the higher road. This year Ashley took a tremendous step as a human being and risked her “nice girl” reputation to stand by a statement she felt she had to make, something I wish I had the courage to do more often, and in typical Ashley fashion she both learned a lot from that action and shared it with the rest of us. This blog entry is like a song from Into The Woods, Ashley’s “I Know Things Now” and just like Little Red, I love how Ashley celebrates her knew understanding of herself, while at the same time admitting how it weirds her out. So real, so human. So Ashley.

Ashley Cowan: my favorite fairy tale bride.

Ashley Cowan: my favorite fairy tale bride.

Outside of Theater Pub, the article that gave me the most pause this year was this interview with Marsha Norman. I have long been a fan of Norman’s work: ‘Night Mother was the first really serious, non-musical play I saw as an adolescent and connected to, and The Secret Garden remains one of my top five musicals of all time, so it was wonderful to get Norman’s analysis of her own process as a writer. On the other hand, while I respect her opinions on new play development I found them to be suspiciously New York/Ivy-Leage Institution centric, out-of-touch with the larger reality of most playwright’s lives and the indie theater scene that I personally work in and advocate for. Additionally, while I respect and share her desire to advocate for more women playwrights and more exposure for their work, as a man it was disappointing to read that she thinks the formation of women-only teams is the solution, as I am more and more adamantly of the belief that mixed-gender teams are the key to a future that achieves actual progress instead of just recreating the problems of the past with a new mask. That said, I love that she recognizes the value of male allies, and that they often need to be invited in, rather than expected to show up of their own accord. So why am I sharing this article when I don’t agree with half of it? Because in the end, to me, our principal job as artists, writers, intellectuals, is to share ideas, including and especially ones we don’t entirely agree with. Comparing our beliefs is how we figure out who we are, how we form bonds with others, and how we continue our quest, as human beings, for meaning and truth. When an experienced and thoughtful practitioner of something (in this case playwrighting) speaks, you listen, because you will certainly hear something you want to respond to. Listen to Marsha. And then respond. The worst conversation is almost always the one you don’t have.

BARBARA JWANOUSKOS by Marissa Skudlarek

Barbara Jwanouskos has had quite a year! She finished up her MFA in Dramatic Writing at Carnegie Mellon, returned to the Bay Area, re-branded her Theater Pub column from “Higher Education” to “The Real World, Theater Edition,” got accepted into Just Theater’s New Play Lab, and discovered quite the talent for interviewing local theater-makers about how they develop new works. She’s also been admirably open about her own writing process and her doubts, fears, and struggles throughout this eventful year.

“Won’t you be my neighbor?” It’s great to have Barbara back in the Bay Area!

“Won’t you be my neighbor?” It’s great to have Barbara back in the Bay Area!

I especially want to highlight Barbara’s piece “Meeting the Fear Barrier,” from toward the end of her time at Carnegie Mellon. In the past few years, Barbara has committed herself to two very different, but intense and disciplined, pursuits: playwriting and kung fu. She combined these two passions in her thesis play this year, The Imaginary Opponent (which deals with violence at a kung fu studio), and some of her Theater Pub columns also draw on the way that these two activities often teach her complementary lessons. In writing about how kung fu can seem “completely masochistic and insane” to someone who doesn’t practice it, she allows us to draw the inference that producing indie theater can also seem like a masochistic, insane pursuit to outsiders. She also makes a connection that theater and kung fu require both vulnerability and strength, and can bring up unexpected emotions. I’m pretty much a couch potato, but I admire Barbara’s physical courage and drive. And even if I never learn how to break a board with my bare hand, I can at least try to emulate the way she strives to break through the mental barriers that can hold us back from making great art.

Favorite article elsewhere online: Frank Rich on Moss Hart, New York magazine, April 11, 2014. I’m recommending this partly because the absolute best theater-related thing I read this year was Moss Hart’s memoir Act One, but it was published in 1959, so I can’t exactly put it on this list. But I can tell you to read Rich’s article about Hart’s book! Act One is a tale of struggle that ends in triumph: Hart’s first Broadway production, at the age of 25. It’s glamorous and romantic and engaging and funny and inspirational. (My mother very thoughtfully gave it to me for my birthday this summer as I was producing Pleiades, and I intend to reread it every time I produce a play.) But Rich’s article reveals what Hart left out of his autobiography: he was bipolar and bisexual in an era when both of those things were considered shameful secrets. “The more we learn about the truth of Moss Hart, the more powerful Act One becomes, not just as a book but as a heroic act of generosity from a man whose heart and mind were breaking down even as he was writing it,” Rich writes.

2014 was a hard year for a lot of us. The headlines were alternately depressing and rage-inducing. In the span of two months (August-September), I produced a play, had a health crisis, and got dumped. I don’t understand people who are cheerful all the time, but I have the utmost respect and sympathy for people who are acquainted with the darker side of life and will themselves not to give into despair. They create joy and hope that is all the more profound for its proximity to sorrow. That’s what Moss Hart did in Act One, and what I strive to do in 2015.

WILL LESCHBER by Allison Page

It’s time to talk about Will Leschber, my friends. Yes, he is a writer here at the blog, but I knew him before that. We acted together in Prelude To A Kiss last year, where we spent the one chunk of the show where neither of us had anything to do chatting backstage on the couch every night, talking about life. That’s also where he told me about his plan to propose to his now wife, who also happens to be a close friend of mine. INTERTWINED, YA’LL. He’s a gentleman if there ever was one, manages to be the only dude I know who can pull off wearing a vest, and laughs all the time. These are solid, solid qualities.

Focus on Will Leschber. Literally.

Focus on Will Leschber. Literally.

He’s a thoughtful guy with thoughtful thoughts. And my favorite blog of his this year is on a topic ever-so-close to my tiny black heart: sad clowns. I’m caught up in my first full length production as a playwright and it’s about that very thing, so it’s crazy relevant to me right now (and let’s face it, always).

As for the rest of the internet, I’m having my own personal HOLY SHIT I’M FALLING IN LOVE WITH CHRIS ROCK AGAIN moment right now. I had heard about his new movie TOP FIVE and was interested but didn’t think much about it. Then this Vulture interview with him came out and I was then obsessed with seeing it and having more Chris Rock in my life. He didn’t/doesn’t shy away from talking about difficult, uneasy stuff (Ferguson, Cosby, etc) and still manages to be hilarious and personable. Also Top Five was magnificent and you should see it, but here’s the article.

CHARLES LEWIS III by Anthony Miller

As we were all assigned to write about a fellow T-Pub (That’s what I’m calling it now) Blogger, I am here to tell you all about our newest regular writer; Charles Lewis. Here’s why I like Charles, better yet, here’s why I think his existence is pivotal to the Indie Theatre Community; he is indisputably this scene’s flag bearer. His belief and passion for the SF Indie Theatre World is undeniable. He has the ability to talk about the people and the work involved with such reverence, he simply elevates the importance of it all. When you read Charles’ posts about the Olympians Festival it’s as if you’re getting a backstage look at The Humana Festival. His interview with Marissa Skudlarek reads like a New York Times in depth look at the career of Dame Judi Dench. He embodies the very feeling that we all have as we struggle to self-produce our work in Black Box Theatres in neighborhoods that smell like pee, the feeling that what we are doing is important. Nobody can articulate the importance we all place on our work as Charles does. He speaks about our work and experiences as we would speak of them, but he is also reverent, critical, and observant and unites the scene by saying “What we are doing counts, and here’s why”.

Easily my favorite quality about Charles is that he believes what he believes and worked real hard in figuring out why he believes it. So his thoughts and opinions are devoid of bullshit. His own confidence in what he thinks is immeasurably valuable. After the first reading of Terror-Rama, Charles quickly left the building. As I saw him leave, I thought; “Oh man, Charles must have HATED it, I gotta talk to him”. So I chase him down out front and ask him about the show. He takes a breath and says, “The first one has potential but the other is a misogynist piece of shit.” Boom. Honest, critical and to the point. It was my favorite comment the whole night because it gave me a clear notion of what I had to do in developing those two plays over the next year. It was a simple, no bullshit, State of the Union.

So the post by Charles I want to recommend is part of his ongoing series about the SF Olympians Festival. See how he paints such a clear picture of everything that goes on behind the scene. Most importantly, see how he so perfectly embodies the excitement we all have for this festival . The way he tells it shows just how important and special it is without just saying “This is very Important and Special to us”. That’s why Charles is a kick ass dude, he believes in the work we do, and he takes it seriously. He successfully embodies the collective excitement and passion the people in this scene feel for every project they do.

Here’s the link. Oh and read this one too, it’s awesome.

Charles Lewis III. What else is there to say?

Charles Lewis III. What else is there to say?

OK Part 2, here’s where I recommend a Theatre blog that isn’t T-Pub. A task in which I will fail miserably because I just don’t read a lot of theatre blogs that aren’t T-Pub. But I do listen to a shitload of podcasts. So go and check out the Podcast of Bret Easton Ellis (Ok not a theatre guy, but go with me.) What makes this show a must-listen for anyone who does something creative is the interviews he does with guests are fascinating explorations of how artists think. He doesn’t ask boilerplate questions, asking about their new project or their background. Usually he starts the show, with a monologue about whatever is on his mind that day, be it a play, film book or a celebrity (His observations on Miley Cyrus are fucking brilliant.) and then he engages the guest in a conversation about it. We get to know how artists we admire feel about their work, others work and their own feelings on their respective mediums. They feel like Master Class Lectures on the creation of art and those who create it. Check out the show here: And go to the interview with Michael Ian Black. Do it.

ANTHONY MILLER by Will Leschber

Anthony R Miller- With his brazen wit and ah-fuck-it attitude, Anthony weaves his endearing yet self-depreciating voice around many Bay Area theater issues in his column The Five. One of my particular favorites was his internal discussion surrounding his experience at the TBA Awards. The ragged thoughts he displays, sweetly gets to the heart of what many artistic folk and theater-makers have to balance: The opposing desire to turn inwards to replenish and the need to turn on social extroversion. Get out of my head Anthony! You see my pain! Also this article uses one subheading entitled, “I’m a loner Dottie, a rebel”. Anyone who uses a Get Up Kids song as a subheading just made my short list of bloggers I have to read. You the man, Anthony. You the man.

Anthony Miller: ah-fuck-it attitude

Anthony Miller: ah-fuck-it attitude

This was the year podcasts reached a new level of cultural awareness and breached the bubble of relevant pop culture. This mainly had to do with the runaway success of the Serial podcast. More importantly, the new attention paid to the medium of podcasting has ushered in a time where podcasting can be taken seriously as a creative / media outlet. The quality is higher than ever, the variety available is more diverse than before and the a la carte funding “from listeners like you” signals a shift in radio that looks something akin to the Netflix revolution. This all boils down to: there are a lot of great audio selections out there and it’s time to listen up. One of my favorites this year was the 99% Invisible podcast episode entitled “Three Records from Sundown“. It’s an award winning radio piece rebroadcast, that chronicles the music of Nick Drake. It reminds me why I love music, why I love good storytelling and why I love great radio.

ALLISON PAGE by Charles Lewis III

The thing that always gets me about Allison’s column is that it (often) eschews the normal “tears of a clown” shit. Oh, she’ll get personal and it can be heartbreaking, make no mistake, but what I love is that she doesn’t go for the easy route of “Yes, I want you to laugh, but more than that I want you to cry at the pain – oh, the pain – that my laughter covers up. Oh, the pain! The pain of it all!” No, Allison’s spiel is more of a “Remember we said someday we’ll look back on this and laugh? Today’s that day.” By taking the latter route, she earns our sympathy because she isn’t fishing for it. Her scars are no less prominent or legitimate, but she doesn’t feel the need to be solely defined by them. And yet the blog of hers I’m highlighting today is one of the less intimate: “How to Make Actors Never want to Work with You Again”. Sure, an argument can be made for the other side (and other blogs did just that), but she said things that needed saying in that piece. Just as performers are not above reproach, neither are the backstage folks who keep the wheels moving. Someday we’ll all look back on That One Bad Production and laugh…

Allison Page, one second away from flinging yet another brilliant witticism your way.

Allison Page, one second away from flinging yet another brilliant witticism your way.

This was a funny years for me, in terms of thinking of my “career” as a performer. When I wasn’t being rejected after auditions and – as I mentioned yesterday – burning bridges, I was acting in Sundance films, taking the stage at prominent Bay Area theatres, and being forced to seriously consider whether or not to join SAG and/or the AEA. I mean, union reps were mailing me paperwork. It got me thinking that maybe I actually could make a living out of this, but would it be a living I want? In the middle of all this, Theatre Bay Area re-tweeted this NY Post article about Broadway actors who have done the same role for over a decade. Normally the Post is only good for the bottom of a birdcage, but this article – combined with the fact that I acted in a play, Pastorella, about theatre-folk coming to terms with their careers – stuck with me. It would require major changes (most notably the geographical kind), but I’m certain I could make a living at this, and a comfortable living at that. But would I be happy if I wound up just another cog in the theatrical machine rather than the corporate one? Is it worth giving up all the control I’ve gotten for the guarantee of having rent on time? I haven’t stopped asking myself these questions, nor have I found any wholly satisfying answers. But I’m comforted by the fact that it wasn’t too late for me to consider that kind of life.

DAVE SIKULA by Barbara Jwanouskos

I don’t know Dave as well as the other TPub bloggers and was a little nervous when I selected his name at our last meeting because he always struck me as a more serious theater person than I was. In reading “It’s a Suggestion, Not a Review” however, I’m struck by Dave’s continuing discussion about very relevant themes in theater like censorship, copyright issues, controversy plays, and creator’s rights. It’s actually surprising his articles don’t illicit further discussion in the comments section because he brings up some very valid points in a direct, comprehensive way. With Dave, I always feel like I’m learning something – the way you would listening to your well-traveled uncle give his observations of what he’s seen out there. Beyond his series on directing choices vs. playwright intent using fascinating stories of productions of Endgame, Oleanna, and Hands on a Hardbody (which is extremely informative and worth a read), Dave is a phenomenal storyteller. It’s easy to get sucked in by his wit. One of his most recent posts, “Boo!” was particularly engaging for its discussion of theater ghosts and the other worldly nature of being in spaces that many, many others have passed through. I had goosebumps at the end because of Dave’s knack for turning a casual activity into something much more dramatically interesting.

Dave Sikula, not a man to mess with on Jeopardy or on stage

Dave Sikula, not a man to mess with on Jeopardy or on stage

There have been a lot of great blog articles and podcasts on theater this year, but I very much appreciated a recent article by Lisa Drostova (who is also a co-worker and desk buddy at Ragged Wing Ensemble!) because there is usually a dearth of quality writing on professional playwriting/dramatic writing programs. As someone who was on the other side of this a couple years ago, I found it inspiring and informative when I could find someone lay out what exactly was out there. I tried to write a bit about this back in August too, and would like to continue adding to that on my own blog, but what I appreciated about this article is how it gave an expansive look at the various different playwriting programs specifically in the Bay Area. We have phenomenal resources available to those wishing to sharpen their skills right at our fingertips and this article highlights the ways to find that in universities and community colleges around the Bay.

MARISSA SKUDLAREK by Ashley Cowan

Marissa Skudlarek had a pretty great year in the Theater Pub World. In reviewing her blogs it was nearly impossible to pick just one to celebrate. Should I go with her incredibly popular, https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/hi-ho-the-glamorous-life-whos-a-horses-ass/, or https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/hi-ho-the-glamorous-life-chestnut-tea-with-the-other-me/, which I found to be lovely and creative? Nah. Think outside the blackbox, Ashley. I’m going to go with: https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/hi-ho-the-glamorous-life-things-of-darkness-and-of-light/. Did I love that my husband, unborn baby, and I got a shoutout? Duh. But I also loved reading Marissa’s honest discussion of certain challenges while still choosing to search for stars in seemingly dark skies. For me, I found this to be a relevant theme of this action packed year. We all had some ups and downs throughout the past twelve months, but what a beautiful way to stay positive.

It's always spring time when Marissa is in the room!

It’s always spring time when Marissa is in the room!

I’ll be honest, I’ve read way too many wedding and baby related online articles this year that I didn’t think would be appropriate to share. So the article I picked was one that made me laugh. if you’re involved in any theater community, I think you’ll appreciate this comic take on casting and the strong, critical nature such a group can occasionally possess when a cast list is revealed. My favorite line may be, “…but that at a big-boned 5’9”, she doesn’t exactly present the unique mixture of Dixie elegance and delicate vulnerability that ticket holders will expect to see come opening night.” As a 5’9’’ actress who would love to one day play Blanche Dubois, I found this piece for The Onion to be pretty great.

We’ve got one more act tomorrow! See you then! 

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Theater Widow: A Good Phrase for a Lousy Situation

Marissa Skudlarek is at home crafting the Bayeux Tapestry.

It’s not something that we often talk about in public, for fear of seeming frivolous, but in private, most theater-makers have thought long and hard about whether they’d ever consider dating a fellow artist. Pros of dating artists: they’re more likely to understand your struggles and take an interest in your work. Cons of dating artists: they’re likely to be just as busy, overscheduled, and neurotic as you are. Moreover, if they work in the same field as you do—and theater is a notoriously small, incestuous field—they’ll know much of the same gossip, have many of the same friends, and, worst of all, they might be your lover in a personal context but your competitor in a professional one.

For all of these reasons, I decided years ago that I probably didn’t want to date a fellow theater-maker—certainly not a fellow playwright. Instead, for most of this year, I’ve been dating a musician, an upright bassist, named Colin. Jazz is his specialty, but he’ll play other styles of music (classical, country, pop) as needed. He’d always enjoyed theater and, now that he’s dating me, he enjoys having an incentive to see plays more frequently; I’d always enjoyed jazz and, now that I’m dating him, I enjoy having an incentive to appreciate this style of music in more depth.

In addition to all of Colin’s other good qualities, I felt like I’d achieved a “best of both worlds” situation with regards to the dating-another-artist question. It really is nice to be in a relationship with someone who understands the difficulty of working in a professional occupation while pursuing our art in the evenings and weekends. We can encourage each other, celebrate our triumphs, and commiserate about the hardships and indignities that this world foists upon artists. But because we’re not working in the same field, there’s no jealousy or competition. And, though our art keeps us busy, it’s not impossible for us to see each other. Colin typically has one or two jazz gigs a week; I always have writing projects, but those can be squeezed into odd hours. It’s not like I’m an actor, performing in three or four or five shows a week.

But then, in June, we went to see Prelude to a Kiss at the Custom Made Theatre Co. The theater’s artistic director, Brian Katz, was in the audience that night, and I introduced my boyfriend to him. And, as is Colin’s wont whenever he meets someone who might be in a position to hire musicians, he pulled out his business card and said, “If you ever need a bass player…”

And it just so happened that Brian did need a bass player, because he was gearing up to direct Next to Normal as the first show of Custom Made’s 2013-2014 season. Colin was thrilled at the prospect of this job. His apartment is walking distance from Custom Made, and bassists adore scoring gigs that are easy to get to (have you ever considered how cumbersome it is for them to lug their instruments around?). Moreover, for a jazz musician accustomed to cobbling together gigs in random locations, sometimes working with musicians whom he’d never met before, playing in an orchestra pit offers unprecedented stability. Next to Normal is running for seven weeks, four shows a week.

Everything was fantastic! Except for the fact that I was about to become a theater widow.

Are you familiar with this phrase? I’m on a quest to bring it to greater prominence. Even if you’ve never heard it before, you can easily grasp what it means—and our language, or at least the language of people who read this blog, desperately needs a simple way of saying “I never see my partner these days, because he/she is in a play and I’m sitting at home.”

If anything, I’d thought that I’d make Colin a theater widower at some point, if I got one of my full-length plays produced. But life adores its ironic twists; so here I was, a theater widow in spite of my vow not to date a theater-maker.

I’m coming toward the end of my widowhood now, and surviving it better than I had feared, actually. Sure, there’ve been times when Colin hasn’t been able to attend a party with me, or where we’ve had to go a full week without seeing one another. I’ve had a lot of my own projects going on this month, which have kept me busy and prevented me from lamenting my widowhood. But I’ve also had to employ all of my time-management skills and logistical-thinking abilities in order to figure out how to accomplish everything on my to-do list while also managing to see my boyfriend. For instance, last Saturday I volunteered to sell concessions at Next to Normal just so I’d have a guaranteed way of seeing Colin that weekend—and, because I’d already seen the show twice, during the duration of the performance, I sat in the chapel of the Gough Street Playhouse and worked on a play.

Right now, it’s Wednesday night and I’m over at Colin’s place, writing this. When he invited me over, I warned him, “I will definitely need to hunker down on your couch for a solid few hours of writing.”

I just told him that the subject of my column is how he’s made me a theater widow this past month.

“So wait: you’re using time you could have been spending with me to complain about how you’re not spending time with me?” he said.

I had to admit that I am. Such are the contradictions of life as a theater widow—of being one busy artist in a relationship with another one.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. You can hear her boyfriend, Colin, play the bass in “Next to Normal,” running at the Custom Made Theatre Co. through October 27. Find out more about Marissa at marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Everything Is Already Something Week 9: The Post-Production Blues

Allison Page is so sincere we forgive her for all the formatting this blog required. 

I’m sitting backstage with my castmate, Will, during the second act of our last performance of PRELUDE TO A KISS and he whispers to me, “So are you sad that it’s over?” – and I find that hard to answer. I’d say the answer is yes, but it’s really a mixed bag of feelings. I mean, isn’t it always? Particularly if it’s been a great show, or a great cast, or a great director or a great part or a great overall experience or God forbid – ALL OF THOSE THINGS. (Which this has been, for me.) And it got me to thinking – how do I really feel when something is over? And how do other people feel? Are my feelings unique or shared? Am I doing this wrong? So, I decided to ask a bunch of actors how they feel when that final curtain closes (not that there are always curtains. Come on, this is independent theater, sometimes it’s just in a room – but I digress.) Their amazing responses will be sprinkled throughout.

When a show closes, I feel a slump. I always have. Like someone’s carefully lowering an Acme anvil down on top of me, and I’m moving in slow motion to get out of the way. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic, but I am a fucking actor after all. Do you have a post-production slump?

PETER TOWNLEY – “I like post-production slumps, they encourage me to rest.”

Well, that was a really good way to look at that. That’s probably what I should be doing. Maybe I dwell for no reason.

JAN CARTY MARSH – “Nope, life goes on, and I have one (outside of theatre).”

Ohhh, yeah. Life…am I the only one who really slumps?

DAVE SIKULA – “…after doing this for 40 years, it doesn’t get old or routine, but it’s nothing unusual.”

Hm. Okay. It’s possible that I just need a drink or something. I’m probably over-thinking this.

PAUL JENNINGS – “I don’t slump.”

OKAY, I GET IT, I’M A SENTAMENTALIST WEIRDO. Well, I guess I’ll just pack up my stuff and —

This is what happens when you google "sad actor". Legit.

This is what happens when you google “sad actor”. Legit.

ASHLEY COWAN – “Yes, I certainly do feel a slump. I can’t imagine avoiding feeling a void when something you’ve put a lot of love and time into suddenly disappears.”

…oh yeah? Okay, well, maybe –

TONYA NARVAEZ – “Typically I do have a post-production slump of some sort. Sometimes it’s pretty horrible, where I am perfectly content to sit around at home and stare at the ceiling.”

(Setting suitcase down)…I’m listening…

STEPHANIE WOZNIAK – “Every now and then there’s a show that really makes me sad when it ends. Steel Magnolias was hard. I still miss that production and we closed 6 years ago.”

I hear ya. (Allison reminisces in her brain about a production of a radio play she did in college…)

SAM BERTKEN – “If the show and cast were 100% awesome the whole way through, closing is usually rather bittersweet. There’s usually the promise of seeing and working with people again, which is somewhat of a relief. Plus, I usually focus more on the next project to distract myself from my feelings! Hooray!”

Okay – stop. We just hit on two big things there. Two things that run through almost everyone’s responses to my questions at some point: bittersweetness and something else, too…

PETER TOWNLEY – “I really need to throw myself into another creative project.”

XANADU BRUGGERS – “I always kept doing show after show so I wouldn’t have to worry about having that feeling.”

DAVE SIKULA –  “I’m getting ready for the next thing.”

ALISHA EHRLICH – “I have…been able to stave off slump-y feelings longer by going from one production to the next, if possible, and continuously working on new shows/projects.”

STEPHANIE WOZNIAK – “Get yourself into a new gig ASAP so you don’t dwell.”

AH-HA! That’s the ticket. Never stop moving, like a fucking shark. Even before PRELUDE closed last Sunday, apart from having a billion things already lined up, I threw myself into a completely crazy and overly ambitious writing project (more on that another time.) because that’s what keeps me sane. No. Actually, I think a sane person might be okay with having down time. Like, actual down time. Oh man. My poor boyfriend. He never, ever sees me – and he LIVES with me. I’ve already started rehearsals for another show, performed in something last night, get up at 7am to work on that aforementioned nutty writing project every morning before I go to my intense writing job all day and – it’s only Wednesday. It’s been three days since closing and I’ve already done those things and there are just going to be more of them. Why can’t I slow down? Aren’t there roses to smell somewhere?…Where are they? And what’s so great about them? And are they better than the roses you might get from someone who comes to the show?

JAN CARTY MARSH – “When I started acting, I had two kids – 5 and 3 years old, it just meant I had more time with them. Now, it means my dishes get washed, I can ride my bike, and my friends have a chance to remember who I am.”

The second I finished typing that just now, I looked around my apartment…it’s a nightmare. Piles of clothing, empty boxes from deliveries that I haven’t bothered to take out to the recycling bin, empty bottles of Tazo iced tea, dirty dishes – but what’s so great about the dirty dishes, is that in every single case, they were only used to set take-out on top of. I haven’t cooked anything in months. And my friends? I mean…I don’t know. I see them…I think. Do I? I mean…I’ll go to a bar with them after a rehearsal or a performance, but it’s not like I’m going to the park or actually anywhere that I don’t HAVE to be while the sun is up. I’m usually free at about 11pm. If I were free evenings earlier than that, I’d just go do stand up somewhere. None of this is as sad as it sounds, it’s just – I don’t know – my reality.

Shit. I’m a workaholic. Shit.

This is going in a direction I did not predict. Let’s just go back to what other people think for a minute, because I’m not sure what just happened.

I asked them how they dealt with their slumps, if they have them. Here are some answers that are NOT “I do another show!”, just so we know that’s a possibility.

TONYA NARVAEZ – “Starting West Wing is how I got over MERCHANT OF VENICE last year.”

MOLLY BENSON – “Wine, and music jam sessions tend to do the trick. Or watching Game of Thrones or Mad Men, or something to that effect for hours on end.”

Good one. I LOVE drinking and TV! It’s like she knew!

ASHLEY COWAN – “…make plans with castmates immediately so we can try to keep the bond alive.”

PAUL JENNINGS – “…at least in one case, kept myself thoroughly stoned and distracted for like a month.”

SAM BERTKEN – “Chocolate?”

Right?

XANADU BRUGGERS – “I find other artistic endeavors that I have always wanted to explore. Art, music, writing etc…even sports or dance helps me.”

Sports are not my jam, but there’s that damned writing project popping up again…

LORMAREV JONES – “I try to read things I wasn’t able to, catch up on shows I watch, see friends I had to blow off due to the show – go back to ‘business as usual’ in a sense.”

Business as usual…business as usual…what does that mean to me? What is my business as usual? That’s a hell of a question. If I’m being honest, the answer is probably “sandwiches”.

STEPHANIE WOZNIAK – “…one must first obsess about the show for about a week. Look through photos, stalk the FB accounts of castmates, burst into songs or monologues several times a day. Then, cut yourself off.”

I miss my sweet 90s costumes. Did you see that black beaded choker? It was fabulous. I miss the people, they were wonderful. And I miss something weird and stupid that it’s a little hard for me to admit. Or a lot hard, I guess. I miss having pretend parents. My real parents are in Minnesota, where I’m from. I’ve been in San Francisco 5 years and they’ve never come to visit me, and I really don’t think they ever will. My mother hates to travel, and my father will not go anywhere without my mother. They are this wonderful pair of extremely linked people and they’re always together. I see them twice a year (unless it’s only once, at Christmas.) and having two people stand in as my parents was so oddly comforting. Especially because they shared so many characteristics with my real parents: my father is a war veteran who is charismatic, funny, charming, tough and believes in having a cold beer at the end of the day. My mother is SUCH a mother. She’s sweet, nurturing, concerned, wants what’s best for me, and has a tendency to meddle at times. 

If you didn’t see PRELUDE, Rita and Peter get married onstage. Dave Sikula, who played my father, walked me down the aisle. I handed my pretend mother – played by Jan Carty Marsh – my bouquet, then Dave smiled, kissed me on the cheek, and I walked away to greet my groom. It was a lovely thing I’ve never gotten to do in real life. I’ve been engaged twice but never married and…well, who knows. The point is, it was a lovely moment. And even Dave admitted that though he doesn’t have kids, and doesn’t want them, he really enjoyed being parental in that moment.

Okay, calm down, let’s get away from all this sentimental bullshit. I was just sort of curious – do you read reviews of your show? Do you wait ‘til it’s over?

SAM BERTKEN – “I really, really, really, really think it’s a good idea not to read reviews until the show is over…I always end up hearing it from someone, and then the whole intention of not reading the review is moot so I let morbid curiosity take over.”

MOLLY BENSON – “I used to read them during the show, but I’ve stopped that. I feel like whether a review is good or bad, it can alter how you feel about your performance and self worth, in a positive or a negative way, and take the focus away from the performance itself.”

XANADU BRUGGERS – “I try not to read reviews during a show. I think it is bad luck. Also, they can totally get in my head.”

Yeah, but…sometimes you sneak a little peek, right? In your darker moments?

LORMAREV JONES – “I always read reviews. I want to be the person that doesn’t need them, but I’m not that mature yet. Someday, perhaps.”

ALISHA EHRLICH – “I read reviews during the production with one eye closed or hiding behind my fingers.”

Testify!

STEPHANIE WOZNIAK – “I read reviews. All of them. I actively seek them out. I like to know where I stand. And if they are icky, it kind of fuels me and I work harder.”

DAVE SIKULA – “I always read reviews and long ago learned to not take them either seriously or personally.”

KAI MORRISON – “I almost always read reviews during the run, if any exist. It’s about ego-stroking.”

PETER TOWNLEY – “I think reviews are basically useless and approximately zero people should read them.”

But what if they say something really nice about my hair?

PETER TOWNLEY – “If I want to hear another person’s opinion about a show, I will start a conversation with someone who is good at discussion and whose opinion I respect.”

Oh, fine.

Listen, I know this has been a long column for me, but that’s because I find it to be an interesting discussion. Thanks for taking the ride with me. Everyone has their own opinion on these particular matters, but when it comes down to it, I mostly agree with what Will said to me on that backstage couch Sunday night, 30 minutes before our beautiful little show took its final bow, so I’ll leave you with his words:

WILL LESCHBER – “It’s like immediate nostalgia. It’s not like one of those things where you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone – it’s like you know exactly what you’ve got as it’s going.”

You can follow Allison on Twitter @allisonlynnpage or accost her on the street on the way to whatever it is she’s on the way to all the time.

Everything Is Already Something Week 7: On The Importance of Happy Theater

Allison Page wants you to get happy.

When asked, “What’s the best role you’ve ever played?” my impulse is to respond with whichever was the most grueling. The most grueling is easy enough to ascertain – it’s Lavinia in TITUS ANDRONICUS. Grueling to the max. She’s raped by a couple of guys and disfigured. Her hands are cut off, her tongue cut out, and then – just because, ya know, not enough has happened to her yet – her dad kills her. The particular production I was in was just completely exhausting. I wore a bloody straight jacket and scream-cried through a gag for what seemed like an eternity. The gag was soaked with fake blood, which I basically ingested every night and would cough-up or sneeze-out for weeks. It was really difficult and actually physically painful sometimes but I got a lot out of it, and because it was a horrifying thing to watch, naturally I was praised for it. Because it’s one of those things that sort of makes you feel sick. You leave the theater and it’s hard to sleep because FUCK, that was horrifying, right? That show really made me feel like the world is a pit of darkness filled with angry snakes and bees. Yay! We love tragedy!

Anthony Hopkins is having a GREAT TIME.

Anthony Hopkins is having a GREAT TIME.

Look at the Academy Awards some time. How often are nominated films deep, dark, sad pits? LES MISERABLES was nominated the last time around and it literally has ‘miserable’ in the title, in case that happened to slip by you.

It seems people tend to think (particularly creative people inside the various facets of the entertainment world) that the more grueling story is the more valuable. The more horrific, raw, heart-crushing, hope-squashing, wallowing in sadness stories are the most worth telling. Show us the lowest forms of humanity! Show us those huddled masses you’re always talking about! This seems to me accentuated even more so in the bay area. The more creative we think we are, the more creatively involved we are in the world, the more prone we are to want something to be wrenching in order to consider it real art. (Whatever ‘real art’ means.) Suck my soul out and spit it into a toilet full of other cast-off souls! That’s the only way to make me feel alive! Punch my heart out with the darkness of humanity! OMG let’s make Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS into a stage play!

I fall into that category all too often. If I’m doing sketch comedy or improvising or doing a stand up set – sure, let’s have a great time! But if I’m doing theater? Ohhhh it better be making you feel fucked up beyond measure or it’s not worth it! So you can imagine my surprise when, last night – opening night – of PRELUDE TO A KISS, I found myself feeling just…amazing. Happy to be alive. Happy to be doing this show. Happy to be HAPPY. Happy to be making other people happy. Stop the theater train, I want to get off! Where’s my required misery? Where are my MISERABLES? Why isn’t Julie Taymor cutting my hands off and shoving sticks into my arms? This isn’t art, this is…what is this?

In case you don’t know anything about it, PRELUDE is sort of a romcomdram, but one with real heart. You meet these two characters: Rita (that’s me, ya’ll) and Peter (played by the magnificent and dreadfully handsome Nick Trengove). They fall in love really quickly in spite of Rita’s fear of the world and all the bad things in it, the uncertainty of it all. They get married, and at the wedding reception an old man (Richard Wenzel) asks to kiss the bride. He does, and as the kiss happens, they switch souls. (Word is still out on whether it happened on a Friday and whether or not that Friday was freaky.) Peter then has to spend his honeymoon with someone who looks like the woman he loves, but he can feel that something is terribly wrong. SO WACKY, RIGHT GUYS? All of that is good fun, but shit really hits your heart-fan when Peter finds the old man containing the soul of the love of his life. Important questions are raised about life, love, perceptions, fear, illness and death. They still love each other, but she’s in an old man’s frail body. What does that mean for them? What does it mean for us? What does it mean for you?

Make no mistake, PRELUDE is here to make you feel good. I mean…REALLY good. Heart-swellingly happy and contented. Life is worth living, people are worth loving and though you will not always be alive, you are alive right now (if you’re not, let me know, I’d love to meet a ghost.) and you must not waste this. Do not waste this. It’s all you’ve got.

It was pointed out by the director during rehearsals that one really interesting thing about this play is that there aren’t any bad people in it. None of the characters are out to hurt each other. No one is evil, malicious, or war-mongering. They’re honestly all good people. How often do you see that? You might think that’s a red flag that the story won’t be interesting or engrossing but it absolutely is. It just also happens to have the side effect of making you feel really good about being alive.

sign

Maybe some of the big blockbusters are full of war, blood, pain, sorrow, murder, tragedy and constant strife, and there is definitely a place for that but maybe we need something else, too. Maybe we need to be reminded that we’re not here only to suffer through things and never see the light at the end of the god-forsaken tunnel, but that we’re also here to experience happiness, bliss, powerful love, complicated connections to other human beings, great sex, passionate embraces, a smile given and a smile received, a knowing glance, a hand to hold, and the knowledge that it cannot last forever, and so we must enjoy it now, because there’s no better time. It’s the type of story I think people really need. It’s a story that feels like coming home after a long journey. If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.

Catch Allison in PRELUDE TO A KISS at The Custom Made Theatre Co. Thursday – Sundays and/or follow her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage

Everything Is Already Something Week 5: If You’re Sexy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands

The scene opens on Allison Page, in a spotlight, swiveling her hips like a drunk chimpanzee and winking too hard with her right eye. She’s wearing a lot of lipstick and shimmying her shoulders with too much gusto. The director appears:

DIRECTOR: Allison, I said “be sexy”, not “make everyone seasick and uncomfortable.”

ALLISON: I thought that was the same thing…?

DIRECTOR: Well, it’s not.

Allison is replaced by Super Sexy Blonde Woman as the lights fade to black.

Sorry, Allison, but you've been replaced.

Sorry, Allison, but you’ve been replaced.

Welcome to my nightmare. I’m a 28 year old woman and I don’t know how to be sexy. I’ve got the parts in the right places. I’ve got all the makings of a lady, and none of the swagger of a confident, sexified female. I am most assuredly not bringing sexy back.

Now, hold on, I’m not some shrinking violet. I’m a strong woman, with strong ideas, very little fear, I’ve worked my way up and through all kinds of things and I’m tough as nails…but that whole sexy thing…I can’t take it seriously. So much so that I’ve been known to burst into laughter during intimate moments, make jokes at THE WORST POSSIBLE TIMES, and a plethora of other embarrassing idiosyncrasies I’ll spare you now. I don’t dance sexy, or talk sexy, or act sexy in my daily life. And when asked to be sexy? It’s like if Roger Rabbit were trying to act like Jessica Rabbit. Just doesn’t look the same, does it?

So, what is sexy, anyway?

Sexy Possibility #1 

I feel like mystery factors into it. I am so unmysterious, people probably think they know everything there is to know about me in the first 5 minutes of speaking to me. I lamented about this to a friend at one point (let’s call her Belle)

ALLISON: I think I’d do better with this guy if I knew how to be mysterious.

BELLE: Yeah, you totally have to Bo Peep it!

Belle is, of course, referring to the classic tale of Little Bo Peep, who has lost her sheep:

And can’t tell where to find them;

Leave them alone, And they’ll come home,

Wagging their tails behind them.

So basically, in this case, the best tactic is to be super mysterious, causing someone to think you might be more interesting than you let on, so that they’ll chase you down instead of you chasing them. Quite a theory…that I’ll never get the chance to really try because I find it impossible.

Sexy Possibility #2

“Sexy is being confident!”

Alright, well, I’m pretty confident…ABOUT EVERYTHING EXCEPT MY ABILITY TO BE SEXY.

Ain't nobody got more confidence than Allison Page.

Ain’t nobody got more confidence than Allison Page.

Sexy Possibility #3

Dictionary.com says of the word “sexy”: “sexually interesting or exciting; radiating sexuality: the sexiest professor on campus.”

I really don’t have time to become a professor. And last I checked I’m only radiating perfume. At least it smells good.

Sexy Possibility #4 AKA My Biggest Fear

It’s some intangible IT factor that cannot be harnessed by someone who does not clearly possess it already. You’ve got it or you don’t got it. Like one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld; Elaine is at a job interview, and the employer is talking about Jackie O.

EMPLOYER: She had such…grace!

ELAINE: Yes! Ahhh, grace!

EMPLOYER: Not many people have grace.

ELAINE: Well, ya know, grace is a tough one. I like to think I have a little grace. Not as much as Jackie O. –

EMPLOYER: You can’t have a little grace. You either have grace or you don’t.

ELAINE: Okay, fine, I have no grace.

EMPLOYER: And you can’t acquire grace.

ELAINE: Well, I have no intention of getting grace.

EMPLOYER: Grace isn’t something you can pick up at the market.

ELAINE: Alright, look, I don’t have grace. I don’t want grace. I don’t even say grace, okay?!

She doesn’t get the job, in case you were wondering. Just replace the word “grace” with the word “sexy” and replace Jackie O. with Scarlett Johansson and that’s the imaginary conversation I have with the imaginary man in my head any time I need to be sexy.

This is on my mind right now, because I’m rehearsing to play a sexy-ish character. I mean, she’s no Scar-Jo, but she’s got this sort of vixen-y, sexually free, comfortably seductive mindset and she knows how to get her man when she wants to. Some days I have a better handle on that aspect of her. If I think too much about specifically what to do with my body, I get bogged down in the details of how I walk or what shapes my mouth may be making. The less I think about it, the more I focus on the hunky man in front of me, the sexier I’m able to be. Which I guess makes sense…you’d never think someone was sexy if they were busting their balls to act sexy, would you? No, that’s too desperate, there’s not enough Bo Peep in it.

Oh man, there’s that Bo Peep again! Maybe my Bo Peep is that I need to not think about how to be sexy, but why I’m being sexy. And the why is easy – it’s because she’s falling in love. Now there’s something to which I can relate! There’s nothing sexier than the rush of being in the beginning phases of falling desperately in love with someone, when everything they say or do is interesting, when you’re just dying to be closer to them than you’ve ever been to anybody because you have no reason to believe that they’re not ABSOLUTELY THE BEST THING EVER. There’s a nervous energy that gives way to sexy at the right moment. And even the nervousness can be sexy, because your affection is peeking through.

Alright, Scar-Jo, maybe I don’t exactly exude “come hither” quite the way that you do, and maybe I don’t have it all figured out just yet, but I’ve still got some love tricks up my sleeve.

Wait, do sexy people wear sleeves?

Watch Allison Page do her best “come hither and stay hither” in The Custom Made Theatre Co.’s production of PRELUDE TO A KISS opening May 21st. You can even get tickets to that show right here https://app.ticketturtle.com/index.php?ticketing=tcmtc. 

Everything Is Already Something Week 4: Watch Me, While I Put My Antic Disposition On.

Allison Page gets into character.

It’s really one of my favorite things to say – “Watch me, while I put my antic disposition on.”, I heard that phrase while acting in a production of  David Ives’ WORDS, WORDS, WORDS. If you’re unfamiliar with the short play, it’s about three monkeys locked in a room with a typewriter, trying to write HAMLET. It’s been a decade since I performed it, and I can’t even seem to figure out which character I played, (I have a notoriously bad memory, you should know this.), but I’ve been saying it ever since. The phrase “antic disposition” itself comes from good old Willy Shakes:

HAMLET

How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself,

As I perchance hereafter shall think meet

To put an antic disposition on

Basically, Hamlet’s saying he’s going to act crazy. And the monkey? The monkey is saying he’s going to act like a monkey. The monkey has all kinds of opinions, and thinks about all sorts of things, not just bananas, but the monkey knows that to get what he wants he has to act like a monkey. He jumps up and down, lets out some monkey yells, pounds his chest…and gets a cigarette, which is exactly what he wanted.

Sometimes I’m that monkey.

Allison after sunset.

Allison after sunset.

I’m sure a lot of us are that monkey, but I definitely am. The second someone finds out that a person has anything to do with comedy – boom – you’re the monkey. Ohhh, you’re the monkey, alright. It never bothers me in the moment. A switch sort of flips and I turn into a joke machine. I can find a punchline to tag onto the end of anyone’s sentence, and I will do that. Over and over again. For hours. I’m not sure I can even help it.

But the strangest thing tends to happen when I end that interaction – leave the party, gathering, group of humans huddled on the sidewalk, whatever – I’m completely silent. Sometimes for hours. Sometimes on my way home from such a gathering, I stop at a corner store for a cool beverage purchase, and you’d never know I was the same person. Super stone-faced, pay for the item, take my change, and nod. The switch has re-flipped. I turned off my antic disposition and now I’m walking around like a zombie Kristen Stewart…or just regular Kristen Stewart, really.

My own feelings about the way I’m perceived frustrate me. I have to be funny. It’s a need. It’s a requirement up there with eating and breathing. If something awful happened and some wires in my brain got crossed and I could never be funny again – I would throw myself into oncoming traffic. I really would. But the fact that I’m a human being means that I get to think things like, “That’s not all there is in here! I’m all kinds of other shit! Come see how complicated I am! Hurry up, I’m getting more complicated by the second! If you don’t know there’s more to me than that, then you don’t know me at all!” (insert finger wagging here)

I felt like a part of me was fogged over from stepping away from theater unrelated to comedy. I focused on sketch writing and acting, stand up, improvising, teaching other people to improvise – which was maybe the best thing I’ve ever done but then I ended up feeling like, well…fuck. Am I just the antic disposition now? Have I lost sight of something?

I’m rehearsing for a real honest-to-goodness play right now. The first fully staged production of something that isn’t 100% comedy 100% of the time, that I’ve done in several years. It’s still a comedy a lot of the time, but there are other powers at work here. And I’m not playing someone who wears a monocle, or has a silly accent, or wields a banana as a weapon against aliens or is the wacky best friend with a hilariously-shaped facial mole. She’s a person who needs to seem like an actual person. She’s a person in love, a person dealing with internal conflict, a person who is afraid of life itself, a person who covers up her feelings by making jokes andOOOHHHH SHIIIIT, IS SHE ME?!?!

I’m not sure that Rita is me, or that I’m Rita, but every day I see more of myself in her. We’re conflicted people. Everyone’s a conflicted person. I love tomatoes but think ketchup is stupid. I like things to be clean but I don’t want to clean anything. I fall in love very quickly but I can abandon it just as fast. I work really hard, but I’m lazy. Jesus, is this an Alanis Morissette song?

Maybe it’s true that you can never really know another person, but can you ever really know yourself? And if you did, would you be happy with what you found or would it just be another antic disposition?

Allison slipped on several banana peels immediately after she finished writing this blog. Wokka wokka! You can see Allison as Rita in The Custom Made Theatre Co.’s production of PRELUDE TO A KISS, opening May 21st.