Getting the act Together

We’ve been meeting weekly for what’s gone of the year. We’ve been frustrated, stimulated, disappointed, uncertain, excited, absent, present, lacking, overworked, restless, perturbed, dedicated. Together. And finally we are getting it. After long hours of debate with each other and ourselves, we’ve made, not “it,” but something.

From our SM Cabaret workshop meetings, we have not only created a script and have a laugh and a tear and a rant about it, we have also grown, matured, arrived at many important discoveries for our art and our life. Art, love, economy, society, value, humanity. We have finally tamed all these themes that keep bouncing back and forth in our conversations giving us anxiety and nightmares. We are allowing ourselves to have fun with it. Let’s fucking have a lot of fun with it. Because we’ve earned it; we have worked so hard, not only investing our time thinking and researching and brainstorming, but also waiting tables, and picking up the phone for our bosses, and changing diapers, and running crosstown to meet deadlines, and writing cover letters, and trying to budget, and applying to programs, and being mindful with our neighbors. We are getting the act together, Together.

But. We are not alone, and as beautiful as that can be, that is also the very reason why we must keep moving forward with our goals: empower artists to develop their own work, create a community that is aware of their rights, push the boundaries of what defines a “grace period,” remain active creators. Even when our goals are not so clear, even when the road seems dangerous and pointless; we know that we are up to something (whatever that can be) with the best of our intentions, intentions that are not selfish but the opposite. What can we do? We can try, experiment, fail, learn, try again. Yes all those life old cliches. But why not?

Better together than alone, and better yet than knowing something is wrong and not doing anything at all.

 

Getting the act Together

The scariest and most freeing

feeling

action

seduction

There’s all to be won

there’s little to lose

Our next act

will do something

not only for us

but also for you.

Maybe you’ll laugh

maybe you wont

maybe you will even argue with us.

And we want it all

so we’ll take what you’ll give.

Getting our act Together

is a dance

is a walk

is a dream

is a nightmare.

Above all

is our act,

and we are getting it.

Together.

 

 

 

See you at the cabaret!

 

 

 

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Après moi, le déluge

I received my first PhD rejection letter a few weeks ago.  It was from Brown. Honestly my heart wasn’t set on Brown; the program wasn’t exactly what I was looking for and I can’t say I was thrilled with the prospect of moving to Rhode Island. But, the letter carried a certain foreboding weight; the way people say death comes in threes. It had an air of Après moi, le deluge (after me, comes the flood).  Sure enough the rejection letters trickled in, and I was flooded with feelings of self-doubt. After Brown, was UT Austin (the hardest blow), and then Columbia. I suppose rejections come in threes as well. I’m still waiting to hear back from two schools, but it’s not promising. The first moment you open the letter and read “We regret…” is the worst. Your heart sinks; your stomach turns. Columbia really knows how to kick a dog when it’s down. Its rejection letter was the most pretentious letter I’ve ever read. No really, I had to look up one of the words they used. As if all of us reading the letter don’t feel stupid enough.  I spent about $500 applying to schools and about $80,000 on a fancy masters degree and so far I’m three for nothing. At first I felt so disappointed in myself. I kept telling myself that this past year of shitty jobs and too much Netflix was ok because come September I’d be hitting the books again, getting a PhD. I moped for a couple days and of course because life has a cruel sense of humor, and because I work with babies, who are really just receptacles for viruses and bacteria, I was sick as well as academically rejected.  I contract a stomach virus and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (a virus that usually only toddlers get) I had a fever, soar throat and a painful, itchy rash on my hands and feet. Between stress about not getting into schools and the painful rash, I couldn’t sleep. I paced back and forth in my apartment in the middle of the night, rubbing my itchy, red hands together. Who would have thought that a toddler’s virus could make me look like lady Macbeth in the “out damned spot” scene. Needless to say it’s been rough.

I allowed myself a couple days in the flood, but then it was time to come in out of the rain. Now I’ve decided to look at my rejection letters as acceptance letters to a new life adventure. After my interview with UT Austin, when I thought it might be a possibility, I got my hopes up and started researching the city and, being that I have a tendency to be over zealous, I started looking at apartments on craigslist. After living in my crappy, unheated, Bushwick apartment for the past year, all the less expensive places in Austin seemed luxurious.  I found myself getting excited about things like a washer and drying in the building and stainless steal kitchen appliances. Performance as Public Practice at UT Austin is my dream program. Living in Texas would have been economically more comfortable than my like in NY. My girlfriend would look pretty hot driving a truck, and I think I could really pull off turquoise jewelry and a pair of cow girl boots, but I am not yet ready to be the kind of woman who is excited about stainless steal kitchen appliances! That’s how it all starts; first a great apartment in a safe neighborhood, then I’d get my PhD, and hopefully start my career, and before you know it I’m all settled down and having my girl friend’s baby! Maybe these rejections are for the best. Maybe I need another year in this liminal space. I’ve always been so responsible and structured. Maybe I need a little chaos, more time off, an adventure! I want to travel. I want to be the abnoxious American sipping coffee in a Parisian café, while reading Molière (I imagine Jacque Brel somehow playing in the background). I want to eat paella in Spain and see a play at the globe theatre in London. My girl friend and I have no money and I don’t even have a passport but I know we will make this happen! Sometimes after the flood comes clarity.

-Jenna

One of the Lucky Ones

I currently have 5 jobs.

  1. I am assistant editor for a scholarly theatre journal. I spend 15 hours per week editing the articles of some of the smartest theatre scholars around the world, handling the permission and copyright issues in order to get things printed, and securing image files.
  2. I am contributing editor for a big-name theatre publication, where I review theater and manage the 4 print editions of the magazine every year.
  3. I am the sole editor of a new theater guide that is being built from the ground up. I’m writing every theater listing and article in the entire thing.
  4. I am assistant producing an Off-Broadway show that goes up in June.
  5. I am the production manager to a large-scale production that goes up in September.

But wait, I haven’t said that I’m a writer.

I am one of the lucky ones. I am busy working in the industry I love, using the skills I have worked so hard to train.

I did not make enough to cover my living expenses in Brooklyn this month. With five jobs, I can’t pay my rent, my insurance, my bills, and afford to pay back my student loans.

You say artists are lazy. I say we are the hardest working. You say we are selfish. I say we know how to make sacrifices.

After a 10-hour workday, I go home to finish off some production emails. At 2 am, I lay down in bed, as my lonely book project sits staring at me from across the room. I want to go to you. I want to get at least 5 hours of sleep. I close my eyes.

I am one of the lucky ones. What can I do?

Choose one

A blank page is inviting/intimidating
The sight of it makes you feel inspired/empty
It holds so much promise/fear
Your first sentence is exciting/forced
The words are magical/dull
You’re dying to continue/quit
What comes next is tantalizing/terrifying
What you’ve done is admirable/awful
When you write, everything else disappears/interrupts
With these words, you can do anything/nothing
The words are all you need/have
The rest of the world doesn’t matter/care
What you say is important/irrelevant
You speak your mind with conviction/uncertainty
You share your heart honestly/shamefully
You are elated/exhausted
Your work makes you feel proud/embarrassed
You have achieved so much/little
You keep pushing/backpedaling
You never give up/enough
Your goals are attainable/unrealistic
You are in control/despair
The possibilities are endless/few
Your dreams only get bigger/farther away
Your limits are imaginary/real
Think of the possibilities/obstacles
Keep trying/hesitating
Fill that blank paper with life/nothing
Choose words that are bold/flat
Don’t hold back/your breath
Make the page your canvas/worst nightmare
Let the words be your guide/enemy
With time you’ll stop worrying/trying
Your words will make you smile/scowl
You’ll create worlds that are unique/boring
Others will be amazed/unimpressed
Your heart will swell/drop
You’ll feel peaceful/disgruntled
You will have learned/failed to see

 

Every blank page will be inviting and intimidating.
The sight of it will make you feel both inspired and empty-headed.
It holds so much promise and so much fear.
Your first sentence is always exciting, if forced.
The words are sometimes magical, sometimes dull.
You’re dying to continue; other times you’re dying to quit.
What comes next is tantalizing and terrifying.
What you’ve done is admirable, though some might be awful.
When you write, everything else disappears, until life interrupts.
With these words, you can do anything, but some days, they’ll do nothing for you.
The words are all you have, but they’re all you need.
The rest of the world doesn’t matter. The rest of the world doesn’t care about your flaws.
What you say is important. Cut out what’s irrelevant.
You can speak your mind with conviction, even through uncertainty.
You can share your heart honestly and shamefully.
You will always be elated and/or exhausted.
Your work can make you feel proud or embarrassed, or proud AND embarrassed.
You have achieved so much, in so little time.
You must always keep pushing, but sometimes backpedaling is necessary.
You must never give up. That’s enough.
Your goals are attainable. Who says they’re unrealistic?
You are in control. Don’t despair.
The possibilities are endless, but you only need a few.
Your dreams only get bigger, even if they seem farther away.
Your limits are imaginary. Your potential is real.
Think of the possibilities, not of the obstacles
Keep trying, even when (especially when) you’re hesitating.
Fill that blank paper with life. Nothing is stopping you.
Choose words that are bold. Choose words that are flat.
Don’t hold back. Stop and catch your breath.
Make the page your canvas. It’s not your worst nightmare.
Let the words be your guide, not your enemy.
With time you’ll stop worrying. With time it won’t even feel like you’re trying.
Your words will make you smile, and will make others scowl.
You’ll create worlds that are unique. It’s impossible to be boring.
Others will be amazed, though some will remain unimpressed.
Your heart will swell. Don’t let it drop.
You’ll feel peaceful when you’re done. Don’t get too disgruntled along the way.
You will have learned a lot, even if you failed.

“Are you an actress?”: A server’s least favorite question

Do you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

Broadway actress, movie starlet, the next Liza Minnelli, Mary Martin, Bette Midler, and then came – Idina Menzel.

Dancer, choreographer, musical theatre, open-heart, open-mind

Artist.

Broken glasses – it’s my fault

Racing, racing heart. Pressure, pressure, turning tables

Sweating

Dreaming of moving to New York, dreaming of the chance to show them what I’ve got.

I would round up all my friends and I’d have them performing my choreography to Grease “Summer Lovin” before nightfall.

Putting on shows in my living room, which was now my personal dance studio.

Singing “Tomorrow” every night on my bed like I was that fierce and adorable redhead center stage with 500 sets of eyes all on me.

Standing, waiting, standing erect – no leaning, slumping, shifting

Cut-throat, prove yourself, never good enough

Faster, smoother, faster, smoother – with elegance

Like an ice-skater

I knew it would happen, no doubts

Uncertainty did not yet exist

Spilling water, judgmental eyes

Eyes if you’re lucky!

Tears, tears, tears

Tears of hope, of inner peace, of true happiness and reassurance

Knowing I was lucky because I knew for sure what I wanted to do

Talking to hands and tops of heads, how it feels to be invisible

“Not good enough for the dinner shift” –

oh please dear God let me be good enough

Wishing for this like it was my first Broadway callback

Everything I do, I do it for you my dream

That’s what I told myself with each obstacle I faced or struggle I carried

A Bachelor’s will help, a Master’s will be icing on the cake!

Mountains of bills I can’t afford

a landslide of bills can smother your intentions

I have to get out, I have to, what can I do,

where can I go, how will I make it so I can live the dream?

I deserve respect, respect for what I want to do,

respect from the government, respect from America

I am not a sub-citizen. Can’t you see?

I am a human being with dreams, with goals,

with wild hopes and an imagination to support it

Spilling water, judgmental eyes

It’s what I still tell myself.

“Are you an actress?” the men in suits ask me as I pour their coffee

Shame, degradation, what have I become?

How have I strayed so far from my pure self.

I thought I was one of the lucky ones for always having known exactly what I wanted.

“Fuck you” – though it never leaves my lips.