Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: Why Are You Hitting Yourself?

Is Claire Rice her own worst enemy?

When I started this column it was with the directive that it could not be a place where I berated myself for not being “the wisest of us all.” Now, I am very good at berating myself. I’ve done it for years. One of my favorite things to say is “Alright, I’m the asshole here.” This is both a line from a movie I watched over and over and over again in high school and a funny way for me to take the blame foreverything that’s gone wrong. Everything.

KWOCK! is the sound my self-deprecation makes

KWOCK! is the sound my self-deprecation makes

Recently my therapist told me that was unhealthy. And by therapist I mean the internet. And by internet I mean Buzzfeed. And by Buzzfeed I mean I zoned out in front of cat gifs and now I feel like Buzzfeed is the new opiate of the masses and controlled by the devil. So, can anything really be my fault entirely?


I feel like maybe in the future I’ll be able to not call myself an asshole every time something in my vicinity goes awry. Still, there are a few things about this past year that are irking me. Things I’ve said or done that I’m not proud or I’m still kicking myself for.

So I’ve gone back in time to January 1, 2013 and I’m having a good talk with myself over a healthy salad at a reasonably priced restaurant about what to do when those things happen.

When You Find Yourself Working With Someone Who Doesn’t Like You
He doesn’t like the show. He doesn’t like you. He has other priorities. He just wants this to be over. You can’t avoid it or change it and you shouldn’t try. You can’t go back and make a better first impression, you can’t impress him with your prowess in theatre because he already thinks you are full of shit, and you can’t pretend to be his friend. It just isn’t going to happen. It’s fine. Stop worrying. You won’t always get to work with people who hang on every word you say. Sometimes people will disagree with you for more than just aesthetic reasons. Sometimes it will be personal. Stand your ground, but don’t kick the beehive. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it, it will only feed his theory that you are a fake person. Don’t hate yourself because you can’t make him like you even though you don’t like him. On opening night he will sit in the back row and talk through the show, he’ll laugh at your work, he’ll make fun of the actors, and he’ll annoy the audience. You’ll feel stupid for trying to get him on your team and you’ll feel vindicated because you never liked him in the first place. Here’s the thing: there’s nothing that says if someone doesn’t like you it means they are bad or you are bad or anyone is bad. The work comes first. If you aren’t both on the side of the work, then there is trouble. Recognize when that happens and be strong. It’s great when we all get along and are friends, but don’t work harder on making that happen than putting up a good show.

When the Playwright Doesn’t Like Your Concept
Communication. Communication. Communication. Communicate often, clearly and early. You can’t compromise or even create better art if you don’t understand each other. Honest and open communication might prevent a late night talk where you end up changing something you aren’t really prepared to change. I mean, maybe you should change it, but you need to do so with a clear head. Your visions of the play might also be utterly different. You are so enamored with her and her work you would do just about anything to make her happy. When you find yourself at a late night meeting with her over whiskey you will be willing to do just about anything for her because you haven’t eaten anything all day, you just got through three days of stressful tech while working a full time job, you’ve been worrying about ticket sales, and you are worrying about how long it’s been since you spent meaningful time with your husband; so you have no real brain. If you had communicated better earlier the conversation would have been different, but it would always have been stressful. Go home. Sleep. Sleep well. Take the next day off from the day job to have lunch with her. Use this as an opportunity for meaningful creation through collaboration. She’ll feel better. You’ll feel better. They play will be better. Everything will be better.

When You Say Something Stupid On The Internet in a Networking Group
By the end of the year you’ll be the only one who cares any more. Everyone you talk to about will just nod politely and wait until the topic changes. Seriously, you’ll really be the only one who cares. Get over it as fast as you can.

When You Refuse to Answer Your Emails Because You Are Overwhelmed With Anxiety
I’m not going to lecture you about how you shouldn’t procrastinate. I’m not going to coddle you and lie and tell you that procrastination is a sign of an artist. I’m not going to tell you to get over it. You just need to figure out how to work better, smarter, and with less anxiety. My instinct is to remind you that when you don’t get back to people in a timely fashion they think you are an unreliable jerk, but I’ve come to understand that berating you only leads to more anxiety, more stress, and more procrastination. Let me just say this: there are bigger, better and more fun problems that are worth stressing about. Hit reply. Say thank you. Put it on your calendar. Move on.

When It Feels Like You Aren’t Making Enough Time to Write
It’s because you aren’t. Sit down and write. The more you beat yourself up about it, the worse it’s going to be. And every time you get jealous of other writers who are always writing and you say “Ugh, I hate you” you are really saying “Ugh, I hate myself.” Stop it. Sit down and write. Or don’t. Whatever. Just stop hating yourself for it. It isn’t productive, it isn’t fun, and it doesn’t make the writing any better. And when you don’t like what you wrote, just write more. You aren’t going to be a better writer by watching shitty reality TV and hating yourself because you should be writing but feel like everyone else in the world is so much better than you are. Pick up your laptop, take out that composition notebook, scribble on a napkin; whatever. Just write.

When You Throw-Up in a Cab
Don’t. You are thirty two, happily married, have a good job, you are proud of your directing work, and often you are very proud of your writing. Hooray! That will all suddenly, and ridiculously, feel utterly unimportant when you can’t keep your food down. You will feel cold and sober and shocked at your own stupidity. Congratulations. You aren’t perfect and it was trying to be perfect that made it worse than it should have been. Sit down on the sidewalk in the rain like a good girl. Throw it all up right in the street then walk to the muni station. You’ll still be embarrassed, but it’ll be cheaper. Oh, and maybe eat before you drink. And maybe don’t drink as much. That night.

Everything Is Already Something Week 17: How to Have a Nemesis

Allison Page has your name on her list.

Sherlock has Moriarty. Superman has Lex Luthor. Harry Potter has Voldemort. (Uh oh, I probably shouldn’t have typed his name.) And I have some girl named Sheila (that’s totally not her name). Having a nemesis is pretty common amongst both fictional characters and Allisons.

Sheila auditioned for a lot of the same parts I auditioned for – particularly on-camera stuff – and I hated it. I tend to audition, and then immediately put it out of my mind. But it seemed any time I allowed myself to have the thought “BOOOOOM! NAILED IT! ROLL OUT THE RED CARPET AND DRESS ME IN SEQUINS!”, I wouldn’t get the part…I bet you can guess who did. IT WAS SHEILA for those of you with no powers of deduction. It began to dawn on me that Sheila was just a better version of me. Talented. Taller. Thinner. Absolutely gorgeous. Shiny, frizz-free hair. (The hair is what really got under my skin. It was like a beautiful cascade of black velvet that made me want to throw myself into the river.) Fantastic timing. Really funny. Photogenic. Great range. Totally likeable. Comfortable in front of the camera. She was basically my worst nightmare all wrapped up in fashionable clothing and a sunny disposition. That’s the other thing – she seemed really nice. Isn’t that terrible? I wanted to dislike her, and she wouldn’t even let me. I mean, I don’t really know her so it’s possible that she’s just a horrible human being who likes to start fires in orphanages, but everyone we have in common seems to think she’s a sparkling angel and I tend to believe them.

(She(ila) who must not be named.)

She(ila) who must not be named.

About a year or so after I started considering her a threat, she moved away. I WAS PUMPED. Yes! Get out of here, go be amazing somewhere else! I sort of forgot about her eventually. Then, at a party, a newish friend of mine – let’s call her Juniper – says to me “Ya know, my friend is kind of obsessed with you.” I clearly found this a delightful shock. Naturally, I had to know more.

“What do you mean she’s obsessed with me?”

“Well, she just thinks you’re a better version of her and you’re going to take all the parts she wants.”

Yes, that’s right. The exact thing that I thought about Sheila, someone else thought about me. That’s just bananas. I couldn’t believe it. It blew my mind. I’ve never considered myself a threat to anyone, but now completely unbeknownst to me I was dangling over someone’s brain, stealing parts from her and running off into the night like the Hamburglar!

The truth is, I’ve had nemeses all my life. I sort of enjoy it. Particularly if they have similar aspirations, because instead of sitting around thinking about how much evil they’re doing, I’m actually just shining a light on my insecurities and faults. Yes, I do think that’s a good thing. I can’t be better at something if I think I’m already the best at it. There’s no inspiration there. No reason for growth. But if someone steps up and shows me something I don’t think I can do – then I want to do that thing. I want to figure out why they can do it, and I can’t. Or why I can, but they can do it better. What’s Sheila got that I don’t have, and why do I want it? And what can I do that she can’t? Because I promise you this – there’s always something you can do better than the next guy, no matter how shiny their hair is. Sheila’s existence caused me to try harder. Caused me to look more closely at my goals, and the steps I’m taking to achieve those goals. I’m a better performer because of Sheila, and she doesn’t even know it. (LIKE I WOULD EVER GIVE HER THE SATISFACTION OF KNOWING.)

(Hello, SHEILA.

Hello, SHEILA.

What would Sherlock be like if not for the existence of Moriarty? A guy who’s always right and has no obstacles apart from his opium use and the fact that he seems to have no sexual interest in anyone? YAWN. I want a hero who’s fighting someone, or some thing, or some force, or some idea, or themselves. Someone who’s striving for something. I want a hero with imperfections. It’s the job of their enemies to toy with those flaws, to exploit them, to test them, to keep them grounded in their fictional reality. Can you imagine what a dick Superman would be if there were no kryptonite? Just a guy with great hair who’s constantly on top of the world? Ugh, gag me. In the end, though I may have labeled Sheila as my nemesis, the truth is that I am my own nemesis, and I always have been. I look for my own flaws and try to correct them, or use them to my advantage somehow. And thank goodness for that, because my own personal forever-plateau sounds like a fucking nightmare. I need the Sheilas of the world to remind me that my work is never done.

I hope that the girl who sees me as her own Sheila is getting something out of it other than daydreaming about throwing me into a volcano as a glamorous ritual sacrifice. I hope that she thinks, “Okay, Allison got that thing I wanted…why did I want that thing, and how can I get that experience somewhere else? Are there reasons she may have gotten what I wanted? Are those things qualities that I’m able to work on, or is it something stupid like her hair is the right color?” (And we all know that sometimes it is totally the hair thing.) I’m completely fine with being someone’s Voldemort if that’s what works for them, though I’d obviously like to think that I’m a nice person and if she knew me she’d be like “Just kidding, I don’t want to kill you!”

Truthfully, when it comes to acting or writing or a bunch of other shit, the only person you can control is yourself unless you have access to a lot of booby traps.  You are your own tool, your own instrument of creation or destruction. Make sure you’re tuned up, so that when Sheila comes in, you don’t just hand everything over to her…you give her a good, solid fight. It’s what Harry Potter would do. Don’t try to be Sheila, just learn from watching her. I’ve spoken previously about professional jealousy in a slightly different way, mostly the “fuck ‘em, go your own way and don’t compare yourself to others” idea – which I think is still important, but there’s nothing wrong with observing the other people in your field, and applying those learnings to your own life. Or not applying them if they don’t…well…apply. A lot of times the annoying strengths we see in others are just the weaknesses we think we see in ourselves, and the quality I value most in other performers and writers and humans, is their ability to be self-aware. I can’t buy into a show if it doesn’t seem like the actor really knows who they are and what they’re workin’ with – and that’s what I want out of myself, too. I don’t want to let myself off the hook that way. It actually bothers me if I say, “I’m shitty at this.” And someone immediately pipes up with “NOOOOO, don’t say that!” because it’s important to me to know my weaknesses. You know what’s never going to help you improve? Never admitting that you could use improvement. And sometimes the best way to figure that out starts with grumpily narrowing your eyes at your computer screen when you see that someone got some shit you thought was meant for you. It’s okay; they’re probably doing it to someone, too.



Don’t tear yourself apart for not being Sheila, just be the best you that you can be, and if she can help push you to do that, then that’s awesome. The great art of rivalry doesn’t make you a bad artist or a bad person – it just means you’re human. Sure, it’s nice to say “Let’s all applaud each other and buy each other cakes!” and believe me, I applaud others on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean that I think they’re the only ones who should be achieving that goal. It’s possible to clap heartily while thinking “You win this round, Ra’s al Ghul, but the Bat’s comin’ in hot next year!”

It’s not about feeling bad about yourself or wanting to take people down – it’s about encouraging a drive within you each day. Otherwise I’d just nap for weeks at a time. There’s a reason Sheila doesn’t know she’s my nemesis and that’s because it’s not for her. It’s for me. It’s not to serve her; it’s to serve me.

And it’s just really fun to have your own personal Newman.

You can see Allison acting in MENELAUS at the SF Olympians Festival at the Exit Theater November 7th, and you can see her short play THE GOLDEN APPLE OF DISCORD November 20th as part of the same festival. She’s also on Twitter @allisonlynnpage if you’re into that.