Everything Is Already Something: The Ones Who Stay

Allison Page, back from hiatus, so she can say goodbye. 

Artists leave here all the time. Mass exodus. Okay, maybe not mass, but almost mass. What’s slightly less than mass? A lot. They leave because it’s expensive. They leave because it’s changing. But they also leave because it doesn’t look like they can have a career here — a career in the arts, anyway. Actors, directors, writers, comedians. They leave because they nearly always have to volunteer in order to do what it is they do and on the ladder of success, the San Francisco rungs are in the middle, never at the top. So they come here from places farther down on the ladder, hoping to figure out who they are. To figure out who they are, and to eat stacks of avocado toast as high as the Transamerica Pyramid. To figure out who they are, to eat stack of avocado toast as high as the Transamerica Pyramid, and to be able to tell stories later on about how they did stand up at a laundromat or saw a one man show that ended with a guy in a mask taking a shit on the floor.

And yet, somehow, some remain. And they don’t stay because they have to. And they don’t stay because they’re afraid. And they don’t stay because they’re not talented, or smart, or focused, or driven, they stay because they choose to. And some of them, some of them stay to build a future for other artists. The future the others left to find somewhere else. Because the truth is, if no one stays, there’s no one to create what’s missing, so what’s missing will always be missing. And what a choice to make.

How it feels to stay when the other artists leave: last piece of pizza.

How it feels to stay when the other artists leave: last piece of pizza.

It can feel like a sacrifice you hadn’t planned on, or didn’t even want. And you’ll have your moments of pettiness. Moments where you wonder what you’re doing, and remembering what it was like to only be worried about your own path. Your own auditions, your own gigs, your own shows, your own career.

And you have to find moments for yourself, too, times when you can take joy in the things in which you have always found joy. If you’re an actor, find times to act. If you’re a writer, my god, don’t stop writing. To me, that’s the death of our artistic leaders — when they don’t make art anymore, because they’re too busy supporting the systems that allow others to create it. Because suddenly you’ll find yourself the stepping stone used to get somewhere, you’ll be left, and you’ll look back at your Facebook memories and realize you haven’t been in a show in six years and you don’t know what your artistic identity is anymore. Everyone will just say, “Aren’t you in charge of that thing?” It’s an incredibly complicated balance. Because then people will find a way to assume that the only reason you’re getting to do anything artistic, is because you’re in charge, when it’s actually the other way around — you got here because you spent years in the arts and know what you’re doing. (HOPEFULLY)

All this “they” and “you” yadda yadda, should really be “we” and “me”. I mean, obviously. And after all this business about people who stay, this is the part where I mention that this is my last blog for SF Theater Pub. I’ve not been writing for the blog the last couple of months. Don’t feel bad for not noticing, there have been like a baker’s dozen of national and international tragedies in that time, and this doesn’t count as one of them. My professional life has changed a lot. My cohort and I are the first two full time employees of our theater company in 19 years. And while that’s so great, it is also BIG. And chock full of pressure. Most of my awake time, it’s all I think about. Everything else is secondary. There’s so much to be done, all the time, and whatever the task, odds are the two of us have to do it or solve it or make it or break it. It’s thrilling, it’s challenging, it’s intimidating, and it’s my full time existence now. And while I’ll never really step away from talking about theater and its issues, I am stepping away from writing here. I have loved my time spewing commentary on this blog and wore proudly the banner of TPub for the last few years.

I’ve also said some dumb stuff sometimes. I have absolutely read things I’ve written, months or years later, and been like “Ew, really?” It’s like listening to recordings of your own voice. But I’ve also definitely written some things I’m proud of. The best example of both of those things, is Sorry I Didn’t Go To College  from July 2013. I’m proud of being honest in it, and there are also a couple things in it I feel slightly squirmy about, but the whole thing was a big deal to me personally when I wrote it. Another proud moment came with the next post, The Grass Is Always Greener (On Some Other Asshole’s Lawn) about being jealous of other people’s successes and taking pride in your own path…and it definitely has some similarities to the beginning of THIS blog.

Thank you for reading now and any other time, and thank you to Theater Pub for letting me say things I needed to say, without almost any limitation. It’s been a ride, and I’ve loved it. If you want to see other things I’ve written, you can find me on Medium @AllisonLynnPage

I’ll see you at the theater.

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Allison Page is an actor/writer/director and Artistic Director of Killing My Lobster.

Everything Is Already Something: Farewell, Sweet Dick Joke

Allison Page, starting the new year with a note of goodbye.

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today to say goodbye to some good sketches. Sketches which were not long for this world. Sketches as clean and sparkling as any others. Game-focused, precise sketches, escalating alongside the best of them, breaking their game at just the right moment. And yet, here we are. Grieving and sobbing for the sketches we have lost because they needed to be cut…for time.

Ah, time, a fickle master to whom we are all servants. There are but 60 minutes in an hour. We may try to stretch it, challenge it, flout it, but the truth remains. Tick tock, fart jokes, tick tock.

Yes, we must say goodbye even to these fart jokes. These gut busting gas passers. These guttural emissions. These children of the night. For they, yes, even they, cannot escape the wrath of the cuckoo clock. Father time has come for our fart jokes, and we must let them fly home on the wind which we have broken, to that great fart joke depository in the sky.

Heh heh, depository.

As we wave a farewell to our monologues about puberty and screwing inanimate objects, let us not forget what they’ve meant to us. We, the ragged, scratched up, bruised adults. The former horny pre-teens who longed for understanding and Jordan Catalano from My So Called Life, who longed to eat Oreos all day and both wanted to grow up and to stay young and weird. We salute you. We salute ourselves.

Mourning-Woman

Here, too, we mourn the loss of physical sketches which nearly killed us. Back-bending, cheer-leading, freak-dancing, climbing, jumping, cartwheeling sketches crafted for the enjoyment of 10s and 10s of people. Human pyramids and a kid doing the worm alike have been slaughtered. No sketch is ever really safe, is it?

You never think it will be yours, your bouncy baby dick joke. You think you’re immune to the cut of someone else’s jib. You are not. Sometimes you find yourself cutting your own sketches and retreating to a corner of the bar where you can sip your bourbon in silence while cursing the goddamn kids who wrote a better dick joke than you had ever dreamed possible, wiping your dick joke off the figurative map and literal set list.

Not only do we lose our childish, gross jokes, but we must also mourn our attempts at social commentary and blistering satire. Our chance to show the opposing political party that we mean business and are, always, right, sometimes passes away into the recycling bin, or the annals of time and Google Drive, where they wither and age like old digital fruit.

Not only do we say auf wiedersehen to these sketches today, we celebrate them. And we welcome to life those sketches which will make it to the final performance. Those great few. Those strong, hearty few. We hold and coddle them until they are ready to be put forth in front of half-drunk audiences of rabid joke-gobblers. And we hold no ill will for them, the champions. We raise them up and brush the long golden locks of their mullet wigs. We support them with our laughter and know that tomorrow is another day, another joke, another birth of fanciful mirth or jocular rage.

This is not a mourning, but a celebration of life.

*fart sound*

Thank you.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director and Co-Artistic Director of Killing My Lobster. She wrote this as a farewell to the sketches she cut this morning while preparing for KML’s performance at SF Sketchfest Jan 19th at The Eureka Theatre.

Everything Is Already Something: Writing the TBA Awards or How the Sausage Gets Made

Allison Page, bringing you the sausage.

If you’re a theater person in the Bay Area, you probably know the Theatre Bay Area Awards show was this past Monday. You may or may not know that I wrote the script. As in, the script for the 2+ hours that is the TBA Awards Show. Last year I wrote a recap of the awards show for the TPub blog, and this year, since I’m looking at it from an entirely different angle, I’ll give you some idea of what is was like putting things together.

STEP 1: OH THIS WILL BE FUN
When I was approached to write the script, I accepted because it seemed like such a strange experience. How could I say no to that? What other chance will I have to write the script for an awards show, until Neil Patrick Harris uproots me from my tenderloin apartment and takes me away from all this, of course.

STEP 2: THERE’S A LOT OF THIS, ISN’T THERE?
Just setting up the structure of the script (which I wrote in Final Draft) took many hours.

There are 27 categories, most of them with three tiers of recipients. There are 4 unique awards — three Legacy Awards and one Charles Dean Award. The regular awards do not receive acceptance speeches, but the Legacy and Charles Dean Awards do, so they look a bit different in the script. There were also 4 musical acts and two host monologues. The script skeleton, without ANY dialogue or lyrics, was 38 pages long. All said and done, it was 116 pages. YEAH. Each segment needed stage directions. Where are people entering? Do they cross to the podium? Do they have a body mic or a handheld? Which handheld? What are the finalists doing? Where do the recipients enter? Where do they exit once they’ve received the award? Where is the band? Does the screen come in? Does the screen go out? Is the iris open? Are there sound cues? Light cues? Curtain cues? Chairs? Tableaus? Does the host introduce the presenters? Or does the announcer do it? Because those are two different people. Where does the musical act come in? That was an exhausting list, right? It’s not even everything that needs to be considered.

Allison backstage with Rob Ready, who was recording his theater podcast Born Ready in the green room all night.

Allison backstage with Rob Ready, who was recording his theater podcast Born Ready in the green room all night.

STEP 3: NOBODY’S A WINNER
Terminology. Everybody loves to specify their terminology. In particular, they customize it to make people feel cozy. In this case, you’re not a “nominee,” you’re a “finalist” and you’re not a “winner,” you’re a “recipient”. I get it. I definitely get it. But also, the collective brains of most people would never go to those words first, so you’ve got to correct people over and over when they say, “winner” because they’ll get it stuck in their heads and then everyone’s saying the wrong thing — or worse if you’re a writer who is easily bothered by things, which is to say if you’re a writer — inconsistently referring to people as more than one thing. If someone uses all of these words: winner, recipient, nominee, and finalist, now everyone’s wondering if there are different kinds of awards and if only they’d been nominated in that category, they could actually be a real winner.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.21.46 AM

STEP 4: WHAT WILL THEY SAY?
A cool thing about the TBA Awards is that they remind you just how large the Bay Area theater community actually is. Of the 20+ people I had to write things for, I knew…3 of them. And those three I didn’t even know very well. I will say I learned a fair amount about various theater companies and people because of all the necessary Googling and Facebook stalking I had to do. The whole thing made me paranoid to put words in anyone’s mouth that they wouldn’t say. For instance, I had some remark about “Oh I’m going to go home and drink some wine,” or some tame thing like that, and then searched through that person’s Facebook photos to see if I could find photos of them drinking a glass of wine, not to make sure they liked wine, but to make sure they weren’t sober after years of dealing with alcoholism and attending AA meetings because WOULDN’T THAT BE SO TERRIBLE?!? It would. It would be terrible. I did find photos of that person with wine and the horror of making a magnificent faux pas began to fade. Fade, not go away entirely. Strangely, it was stuff I would never have thought anyone could take issue with, that people would want to change. Humans love to tinker. That’s fine. If you’re going to take on a project like this, it’s best to be flexible because otherwise your head’s going to pop. That being said…

STEP 5: JUST SKIMMING IT
Oh boy. The most delightful surprise of this process was that people just do not read very carefully. I GET IT. We all have a lot of stuff to do. Shows to direct, sets to build, lines to memorize, all kinds of stuff. But the majority of things I had to take a second look at because someone had a question or request or complaint, weren’t even valid. It was just that they hadn’t read it properly. So I’m going back over the script with a fine, fine sifter looking for what they’re talking about, over and over again, and then ending up with “It’s already right.” Now 20 minutes of my life have died because they’ve been glancing more than reading. Like I said, I get that. Maybe I would do the same thing. After all, I’m the writer, so it’s my job to look at this damn thing over and over again anyway. They’re just presenting and there’s no reason they should be laboring over the thing like it’s grandma’s antique fine china.

STEP 6: SPEECHES THAT I CAN’T CONTROL
When Legacy and Charles Dean Awards are given out, there are two speeches: a speech by the person giving the award, and a speech by the person or representative of the person receiving the award. Clearly I don’t write those, because that wouldn’t make any sense, but it also means nobody knows how long they’re going to be. I freely admit to being obsessed with timing and shortness (despite the length of this blog). I’m the creative director of a sketch comedy company. I like 20 second sketches. 4 specialty awards were given out. That means 8 speeches. 4 to give them out, 4 to accept them. Let’s say each speech is 3 minutes, that would mean 24 additional minutes are added to the evenings events. And though I was wandering around drinking cocktails during most of the show, I can tell you I saw some longer than that. There was at least one acceptance speech that was very short because the recipient (RECIPIENT, SEE, IT’S IN MY BRAIN NOW) didn’t know she was receiving an award. So it was one of those great, sincere surprise moments of “Oh my gosh, thank you!” that tends to inspire brevity. Naturally, I loved that. It’s also just nice to see someone so thankful and surprised in real time. Then there’s the host monologues. The host flew in the afternoon of the show, so all of his stuff had to come together really quickly. He worked out all his own material for the opening monologue and mid-show monologue. It made the most sense to do that for several reasons. We didn’t know each other, he was flying in day-of, and we have completely different styles of humor. I’m more of a satire guy, and he’s more of a wordplay/pun/clown guy. Both are fine, but imposing one on the other without having the time to work it out together would be foolhardy and would have given him an awful lot of alien material to memorize when he’s already got his own stuff in his brain and there’s just 4 hours from his entering the theater until the show starts.

STEP 7: THE OPENING MUSICAL NUMBER
So, because the entirety of the rest of the script was not enough work, I also wrote and directed the opening musical number, which was performed by Killing My Lobster, the company I’m co-creative director of. It was a parody of Willkommen from Cabaret, referencing various Bay Area theater stuff. It was really fun and complicated to put together. There were 12 performers, and only a few of them are singers and/or dancers. Mostly it was just funny people. Thank goodness the TBA Awards musical director came in to work with us on our vocals for an hour last week. But all said and done we got ONE rehearsal with the band, the afternoon of the show. The sort of psychological reaction of the performers when they walked out onto that big stage in that HUGE theater, was really interesting to me. It was a unique experience for them to be in a space that size. We’re used to performing in a house closer to 100 seats, and in that environment, we can totally dominate. But suddenly being in that grand theatrical arena really freaked them out for a minute. I had the sense that they hadn’t really given themselves permission to do it; that they felt they didn’t deserve it or something. After a rocky run with the band, there was a necessary pep talk in the dressing room, and once they took the stage for the actual performance, they killed. Or that’s how I feel anyway. Clearly I’m biased, but I thought it was awesome. The two most important jokes (to me) I wrote for that evening were in the opening number, and I was really proud that we got to do it.

Killing My Lobster performing the opening musical number...in their underwear.

Killing My Lobster performing the opening musical number…in their underwear.

CLOSING THOUGHTS
My goals taking on the writing of the script were thus: have a unique experience, work really hard at something no one I’ve ever known has done before, do the world’s fastest rewrites, be funny when I can, be real about certain issues within the theater community (again, when I can get away with it), make the show more entertaining and hopefully shorter than the previous year, have a good time, get a lot of drinks, wander around The Geary like I owned the place, recognize more companies/groups/people in writing and in person, and wear a cute dress. I accomplished a lot of those things. I didn’t write every single word that was said, it’s a big show and there are so many perspectives and ideas coming from everywhere that there’s no way anyone could put it together without input/ideas/edits/on stage improvising from other people. The amount of time and effort I put into this project was truly staggering. Day and night, piles of stuff building up in my apartment as I type for so long that my legs hurt from sitting. Not going places, or doing things because I have to write constantly to get it done. I couldn’t even tell you how many hours it took. A LOT. The show itself was still too long. It’s very hard to speed these things up because there are so many moving parts, but I think there are some things that can be done to make it faster the next time around. But, this is only the second annual TBA Awards ceremony and it can certainly continue to get better and smarter over time, like all things should. Like the theater community should. I’m always bored to tears when people want to talk about why they don’t believe in awards shows, or whatever their particular issue is with it. The funny thing about that is those people often have a lot to say about theater, and if they went to the awards, they’d probably notice there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of theater people all in one place on one night, and there is no better way to connect with those people and talk about what it is that we’re all doing, what we love about it, what we hate about it, what we can DO about it, how it can be better, what the future holds, and why we don’t see each other more often when we are, collectively, the present and future of the art form we care about. So, sure, you can sit at home and write an email about it or whatever ya like doing, but it’s got nothing on looking people in the face and connecting with them over your shared loving and loathing of art. Maybe you’ll even work together someday. Or at the very least, have a feeling that maybe some production choice that they made was inspired by something they really felt passionate about, and not something they were doing specifically to piss you off. Wild, I know. Listen, after all is said and done, I will have been a part of nearly 19 productions in 2015, 3 of which are even eligible for these awards, and none of which got any nominations. So that is certainly not why I go. Though someday maybe the stuff I do will count for that. We’ll see. But I go because I’m part of this whole big monster that is theater.

I have to say, the feeling of watching someone whose work you believe in take the stage, and getting to scream and shout “WOOOOOOOOO!” for them, is pretty amazing. Because you’re not saying, “WOOOOOOOOO!” you’re saying “YA’LL SEE THAT PERSON? YOU MAY NOT KNOW IT, BUT THAT RIGHT THERE IS SOMEONE YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING. WE LOVE THEM AND YOU SHOULD LOVE THEM TOO. CHECK US OUT. WE’RE OUT HERE WORKING OUR TAILS OFF JUST LIKE YOU ARE.” And that has nothing to do with winning or losing…sorry, receiving or not receiving.

Also someone held up a Black Lives Matter banner on stage and it was pretty great.

As a fun bonus, here is the entirety of the Willkommen TBA Awards opening number. (As performed by Jan Gilbert, Kyna Wise, Elaine Gavin, Ron Chapman, Sam Bertken, Justin Lucas, Griffin Taylor, Katharine Chin, Jeunee Simon, Melanie Marshall, Carlye Pollack, and Shaun Plander, with host Ron Campbell entering at the end. Two Rons, I know, you’ll figure it out.)

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome
Breadbox, Lamplighters, Mime Troupe
San Jose Stage, It’s all of the rage
Custom Made Theatre
Can you see the stage?

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome
To TBA
At ACT
To TBA

JUSTIN. (spoken)
Oh it is so nice to see you! Good evening! Is Broadway By The Bay in the house? Oh good. Sorry about our singing. Except mine!

RON.
We Players is probably doing Hamlet at the Jack in the Box across the street. They’ll be back, they’ll be back!

ELAINE.
It’s okay it’s just a joke.

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome
To TBA
At ACT
To TBA

RON.
Leave your Bay Area Theatre Critic’s Circle awards outside!

KYNA. So you didn’t get as many nominations as you did last year City Lights? Hm? Forget it!

JAN. We have no troubles here. Here, life is beautiful! The Geary Theater is beautiful! Even Sean Kana’s band is beautiful!

Band is revealed.

Faultline, you’re brand new, welcome
There’s Old Hats like ACT and Magic
Cal Shakes AKA Hypothermia
Hillbarn did Funny Girl,
(spoken) Everyone did Glengarry Glenn Ross

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome
There’s OMG
NCTC
and BRT

RON. So many acronyms!

JUSTIN.
And now presenting some of the nominees.

ELAINE. You mean finalists!

JAN. There are East Bay theaters and South Bay Theaters, or is it South Bay theaters and East Bay theaters? You know there’s only one way to tell the difference. Someone not from San Francisco will show you later.

KYNA. Get it, because we never leave the city!

ELAINE. You know one of my favorite things about seeing a show at Impact?

ALL. Pizza!

KYNA. Betcha they didn’t have that at the Globe.

JUSTIN. Suck it Shakespeare!

RON. And, of course, Just Theater’s amazing production of We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915.

RON passes out on stage. JUSTIN fans him, shakes him, and does various other business to get him up and moving again.

JUSTIN. He’s okay! Just keep going!

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome
To TBA
At ACT
(whispered)
Buy a drink, fluff your hair, smile
No win? it’s okay, screw it

ELAINE. Hello, Spreckles!

ALL. (still whispering)
Taste is subjective, we don’t even sing

JUSTIN. Enchante, Central Works!

ALL.
Here for the party
At PianoFight
(We’re cheap!)

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
One Man, Two Guvnors,
Pussy

We’re not just vulgar, that title is real
Happy to see you,
Please applaud with zeal

JAN. One more time!

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome
To TBA
We’re KML
To T…B…

They are interrupted by Ron Campbell’s entrance.

RON CAMPBELL. KML? You’re Killing My Lobster?

ELAINE. Yeah!

RON CAMPBELL. You’re not even eligible for these awards, are you?

ALL. No/well not exactly/maybe someday/a technicality, etc.

RON CAMPBELL. How did you guys even get in here?

RON. Rob Ready left the door open.

RON CAMPBELL. Go back to BATS or Big City Lights or wherever it is you guys hang out. The Sketch Comedy Festival. I’ll take it from here. Come back when you do legitimate theater.

KML winces at the word legitimate.

JAN. Hey, we premiered Hunter Gatherers! We launched Peter Sinn Nachtrieb.

RON CAMPBELL. Yeah, 10 years ago. Go on now, scoot!

KML starts to exit, sadly.

RON CAMPBELL. Where did they leave off? Sean, play me my note.

Band plays very end of song.

RON CAMPBELL. To T…B…

KML turns around, runs/slides toward RON, and they all finish the last note together.

RON & KML. Aaaaaaaa!

Some of KML basking in the afterglow.

Some of KML basking in the afterglow.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/person who is slowly recovering from the insanity of the last week, with snacks and cleaning her apartment while watching Bob’s Burgers.

Everything Is Already Something Week 58: All The Things I Haven’t Written

Allison Page, firing off a quick article between commitments. Cause she is lazy like that.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t do a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, I do A LOT.

But there’s also a lot I never do. But I want to. I have the ideas, and I jot them down…and then that’s it. That’s all there is. They’re never fully formed, they just live these half lives in my phone which, as it turns out, is where my ideas go to die. Especially the shitty ones.

And now, a tribute to some of the things I’ve never written, according to the notes in my phone:

January 7th, 2013:
A parody of The Bachelor, but everybody keeps getting murdered.

January 24th, 2013:
Something about an evil doppelgänger
Or a play about someone like Joan Crawford and it’s just called “HAG” oh or “BATTLEAXE”
Something about Typhoid Mary
Something about abducting somebody who unfriended me on Facebook.

February 18th, 2013:
A sketch about a baby arguing with a dog. (I hope I was drunk when I wrote that)

February 21, 2013:
Guy who can’t pronounce the names of painters.
(Clearly I wanted to leave this open to later interpretation.)

May 29th, 2013:
WINGWOMAN – a film where I’m just trying to get dates for someone.
Also remember to watch Boardwalk Empire because I guess Bobby Cannavale takes his clothes off at some point.

June 12th, 2013
Play about people from high school who were not friends but must plan the ten year reunion tighter despite all odds. (I’m still pretty convinced this is at least a solid Hallmark movie scenario.)

June 24th, 2013:
Barbara Makes a Movie — about a middle-aged midwestern women who decides to make a movie. (slow clap)

July 7th, 2013:
Two Roads Diverged In A Bar (what?)

August 28th, 2013:
Madge Explains Nothing – I review movies I’ve never seen while wearing big sunglasses (slow clap x2)

October 19th, 2013:

In the future there is no death penalty only LIFE PENALTY. (wow)

December 17th, 2013:
What if time just goes in reverse? (……..)

January 21, 2014:
10 million dollar bigfoot bounty (to be fair, it’s impossible to tell if this was an idea I had or…something I saw somewhere…or something REAL. It’s hard to say.)

February 14th, 2014:
Choose your own adventure erotic fan fiction novel series:
Cowboy
Aliens
Beethoven
Lumberjacks
(BEETHOVEN, YOU GUYS.)

March 13, 2014:
Aaron A. Aardvark

June 23, 2014:
Sketch about a doctor who says “wiener” instead of “penis” (you know what? I stand behind this one.)

September 21, 2014:
The 31st Annual Swearing Bee, examples: “cunty”, “muhfucka”
Something about laudanum
Something about looky likies
Monopoly Monopoly
How the hell did Shakespeare write all those copies with a fucking quill? Wait is that even how he did it? I have a lot of questions.
The Young Lady Butcher

March 11, 2015:
Lady Lawyers

There are a bunch more but I seriously might use them so I’m keeping them a secret.
The point is: you can’t write everything. Don’t beat yourself up about it. The other point is that some ideas are terrible and it’s okay to have terrible ideas. Don’t pretend you’re perfect. That’s too much to deal with. Laugh it off…and if anyone wants to collaborate on erotic choose your own adventure books about Beethoven, well, you know where to find me.

Allison Page is a ridiculous person and writer/actor/director. You can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage

Everything Is Already Something Week 57: How to Be an Artist in 11 Easy Steps (or 1 Really Hard Step)

Allison Page is an artist. OR IS SHE?

STEP 1:
BECOME INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO BE AROUND
Your friends, acquaintances and total strangers are sure to notice you’re becoming an artist the moment you start parting your hair really far on one side and talking about yourself all the time. Good talking points are — “No, I wouldn’t know about that. I’m just always writing, you know?” as well as, “Don’t you just love Brecht?”

STEP 2:
DON’T SMILE EVER BECAUSE ART ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE FUN
If you’re going to be an artist, you better turn that smile upside down. Art is hard, man. It’s supposed to be a struggle. You think Edgar Allan Poe was having a GOOD TIME? Oh yeah, Van Gogh was just YUCKIN’ IT UP. No. If you’re going to art, and you want to art GOOD…you can’t smile. Everybody knows that.

Vincent Van Gogh: Laugh Riot.

Vincent Van Gogh: Laugh Riot.

STEP 3:
CONVINCE YOURSELF YOU’RE DONE LEARNING
Hey, you know everything there is to know about your art. Don’t ever let anyone convince you there might be more than one idea about something. Someone else makes some art? YOU MUST SEE NO MERIT IN IT. Unless that artist is from the 1800s. Then it’s okay but only because they’ve been dead forever so they can’t be real-time competition to you. #SarahBernhardt4Life

STEP 4:
ONLY MAKE LIKE FOUR THINGS EVER
Listen, who cares about watching your art grow over time through trial and error; success and failure? NOBODY. THAT’S WHO. Spend three decades on one precious thing you think is a goddamn masterpiece. After all, you only want to be popular after you’re dead, anyway. That’s how to REALLY art. Throw everything else in the trash.

STEP 5:
DEVELOP A MYSTERIOUS SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEM
Opium is always a good choice. It’s niche enough to be interesting, without the flamboyant flashiness of coke. If it’s good enough for Sherlock Holmes, it’s probably good enough for you.

STEP 6:
MEN: GROW A BEARD
Hemingway. I rest my case.

WOMEN: PUT YOUR HAIR IN A BUN ON THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD
Topknots keep your face tight and emotionless, like an empty shell and also an artist. If this doesn’t work for you, cut it reeeeaaal short.

Get it, Gertrude!

Get it, Gertrude!

STEP 7:
GET YOURSELF ABANDONED BY A LOVER
It’s okay if you didn’t even like them that much and it was kind of a mutual thing, you can just lie about it. Keep the details foggy. If someone gets too inquisitive, get a far-off look in your eyes, and mumble something about the ocean.

STEP 8:
FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, NEVER TAKE FEEDBACK
Treat all feedback the same way: like it’s coming from a talking horse. Whether it’s from the most well-known artist in your field, or from your “friends” and “loved ones”, tell ‘em all to fuck off. Then lock yourself in a room and X their eyes out with a sharpie in all your photos. Resist the urge to change even if you think they might be right and just trying to help you. THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK.

STEP 9:
DATE SOMEONE WHO WEARS A TRENCH COAT AND TREATS YOU LIKE DIRT
Insist they’re “unique” and “troubled” and “so talented” but never say what kind of talent it is.

STEP 10:
EMBRACE AN EXTREME AND CONTROVERSIAL POLITICAL VIEW
If you can somehow manage to make it sound like women are werewolves or witches, that should help.

No caption necessary.

No caption necessary.

STEP 11:
JUST BE A DICK, ALREADY
Be mean for the sake of being mean. Ridicule everyone else’s work. Drop a kitten out a window. Befriend a 19 year old so that when you’re dead, that ONE person can talk about how kind you were, but also just hard to understand because you’re so “interesting”. They’ll write a memoir about you and though they’ll get some slight fame out of it, console yourself with the fact that you’ll be much more famous than they will. Of course, you’ll be dead, but that’s how you wanted it anyway, because you’re an artist.

For those who feel like this is not the strategy for them, there is an alternative.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST IN ONE HARD STEP:
Make art.

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Allison Page is a writer/actor/co-creative director at Killing My Lobster in San Francisco.

Everything Is Already Something Week 55: The Birth, Life, and Further Adventures of a Play

Allison Page, reminding us how it’s done. Also that today is actually the day for her blog.

This is the life cycle of a play. Specifically, my play. The content of the play itself isn’t particularly important, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t even know which play it is. Process is interesting to me, so here’s one experience and how I reacted to it along the way.

CONCEPTION
One day, I had an idea.

INCUBATION
And then I didn’t write shit about it for at least a year. Not a damn word. I just sat around and brooded about it. For the record, I don’t necessarily recommend this. It’s just what happened.

SLOW GROWTH
I started jotting down notes, bits of scenes, but mostly character descriptions and vague plot outlines. Thought of a title right away.

FALSE LABOR
I met with someone about producing it. Yes, that means I met with someone about producing it before it actually existed apart from the most scattered outline ever. That person, though fairly positive about the project, ended up not following through.

HIBERNATION
Then the play just lived inside my body for a year and a half. I shoved it away in a drawer but continued to think about it, because the drawer in my brain wasn’t actually closed.

INDUCTION
Unable to give up the ghost, I met with a director and we decided to produce it ourselves come hell or high water because otherwise my sanity might be at stake. Thank goodness for collaborators.

THE HARD PART
For six months I actually worked on the damn script. And by actually, I mean that sometimes I did and sometimes I just pretended to. “I’m gonna stay home and write!” often means “I just watched 6 seasons of Frasier and I want to live in the ground with some moles.” but sometimes it means I’m actually writing. Usually for an hour at a time, and then a long lemonade break. And then another hour, and then I get too invested in a youtube video and it all comes crashing down.

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FIRST GLIMPSE
And then we did a first reading…with an unfinished script. I don’t mean that it needed more drafts (yes, it did) but I mean that it didn’t even have an ending. And it was 60 something pages. At this point we thought it’d be a 90 minute no-intermission play. LOLZ.

ONBOARD
The play is brought to a producer several months later who agrees to take it on. Now the director and I aren’t producing it alone. This is amazing. This is surprising. Oh dear god now it better be good…or at least finished.

THE HARD PART AGAIN BECAUSE THE HARD PART IS ALWAYS
Many more months of writing and not writing and writing and not writing and napping when I should be writing and drinking when I should be writing and watching tv when I should be writing. Still not finished though. Still missing the final scene. Three drafts in and still not a final scene. Approaching 100 pages. Surpassing possibility of having a 90 minute zero intermission show. Avoiding ending like the plague.

MORE BODIES
Two roles are pre-cast. Oops. Now one of those actors has to be on the other side of the country. Now one role is pre-cast. Auditions happen. They take 3-4 days and are exhausting but we end up with our cast of 5.

THE HARD PART AGAIN BECAUSE DID I MENTION THE HARD PART IS ALWAYS
Finally, mere days before rehearsal has started, I write an ending. A good one. I THINK. Wait, I know. I know the ending is good, and now I begin to wonder if the entire rest of it is terrible.

PAPER
In-house publisher at the theater would like to publish the script. Naturally I’m all for that. Oh god that means I have to send them a finished script. I turn it in on the exact date of the deadline. This endears me to the editor, who says most people don’t manage to get it in on time. I high five myself but only for that.

WORK
Rehearsals for five weeks. Relatively mild revisions during first couple of weeks. But those revisions fuck stuff up for printing in spite of/perhaps because of, locking the pages in Final Draft. Stage manager saves the day.

EMERGENCE
Opening night. Good feelings. Not perfect, but good.

SECOND WEEK
Boom. Got it. Feels fantastic. Hit its stride. Not a terrible piece of shit. Thankfully this is when the critics came, though only one of them actually had a review published. It was a really good review. This felt great and lucky because you very much cannot win ’em all.

This is what he DIDN'T say. Phew.

This is what he DIDN’T say. Phew.

THIRD WEEK
Thursday audiences are stupid. Not tiny, just sleepy. But the cast probably is too. What I really mean is that I hate doing Thursday performances and I probably will always feel that way. Consider whether we can change Thursday to be called Pre-Friday to give it a better association. Abandon that because it’s stupid.

FOURTH WEEK
Good. Good. WHAT. Closing night, a sudden not-great show. Lucked out with great shows the other weeks, suddenly closing night is this confusing occurrence.

AFTERMATH
Indescribable feelings. Not quite like sadness but not unlike it either. People keep asking what’s going to happen with it next. Uh, I don’t know. We did it. I did everything that I was going to do. Show’s over. Got it out of my system. Pried it out of my mind and flung it off of a spoon onto the eyeballs and earballs of several hundred people. Isn’t that enough? But it’s published, so now it’s this thing that people can buy and do. College students can mount shitty productions of it. Some director in Idaho can set it in 1940s Amsterdam. A company can do an all-nude version of it in a cornfield — but I’m not going to pretend I have control over that, or that any of those things are my hopes and dreams for it. To be honest, I don’t know what my hopes are for the damn thing. My biggest possible hope was to just get to DO it. And we did. And it seems almost foolhardy to want more for it. It’s lived such a good life with the people who love it and it’s nearly arrogant to think I can say “And now it’s going to do THIS, AND THIS! MY CHILD’S AN HONOR STUDENT AT THE ACADEMY OF DRAMATIC FARTS!” So I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m not out in search of more opportunities for it. I’m happy with it. I’m comfortable with it.

But if it gets a shitty college or all-nude production I will absolutely fly there and watch it because that’s my baby up there.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/comedy person in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage and you can buy the script of her play HILARITY on amazon.com.

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

Allison Page, going back to school. Sort of.

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

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

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

They pretty much looked just like that.

They pretty much looked just like that.

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

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

But I couldn’t write shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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