November 21st

The official script as of 11.17.13:

“NOVEMBER 21ST” BY THE GRACE PERIOD BLOG

GABBY: Paying off your debt should be on top of your priorities, even above your personal health and dreams.

JENNA: Go and do what you love

SARAH/ISA: What next?

LAURA: What now?

SYDNEY: Great art requires some suffering, so it’s probably a good thing for your career.

LAUREN: Everybody seems to know that the economy is bad, that there is some crisis in education.

SARAH/ISA: What next?

LAURA: What now?

GABBY: Today is November 21st. A day that will live in infamy. The end of the Grace Period for our student loans.

DEAR GOD

SYDNEY: It’s May 21st. 6 months.

SYDNEY: Dear God what have I done?…

SARAH: I believe in the power, the value, the importance of art.

GABBY: Art is the only power that I have.

SYDNEY: I know I haven’t prayed to you throughout my entire life, but here I am.

SARAH: I believe in the worth of a thought. Things that aren’t commodifiable are still valuable. Engaging one person’s mind is a success, even if it’s only one person. There’s beauty in the small, the seemingly insignificant, the ephemeral. There’s beauty everywhere you look. And beauty, another intangible thing, is one of the most valuable.

GABBY: Art is the only power that I have.

SYDNEY:  What do you do when your heart and soul are invested in one place but your body is in another? There’s a gap between the life I had envisioned as an artist and the reality that I live. I have been trying my hardest to do what I have to do just to get by, living paycheck to paycheck and making the challenging sacrifices of time and labor to make it work … I’m exhausted.

SARAH: I believe that one person can make a difference. Living an honest life, living by example, has a ripple effect. Kindness, real kindness, in both thought and action is one of our greatest challenges—and yet this is the only goal. It is more than money. It is more than church. It is our guiding path. I believe in kindness. Towards others and myself.

GABBY: Art is the only power that I have.

SYDNEY: I pray to forgo wanting even though I believe that the wanting is what makes us human. Regardless, it’s not a sin to want to be full and satisfied. Please quiet the voice inside my head that is on constant repeat “I want this… I need that… I deserve weekends off, health insurance, a 401K, paid vacation time.” I deserve what “they” have. Jealousy is an ugly trait and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I have to remind myself to appreciate my skills and not wish I had been in love with medicine or numbers. Although that would have been so much easier. Why is that?

SARAH: I believe in good food. I believe in the power of things. I believe in coffee, eye contact, and the healing power of a hug. I believe that romantic comedies aren’t the downfall of cinema. I believe in music, in musicals, in dancing with abandon. I believe that drag performance is something my heart was searching for without knowing where to look. I believe in critical thought. And I believe in frivolous thoughts. I believe that climate change is happening, and I believe in the selfishness of those who deny it.

GABBY: Art is the only power that I have.

SYDNEY: This is my final plea. I am praying for a miracle. I am through with the restaurants, and temporary clerical work, babysitting, catering, and exploitative unpaid internships. I am ready for the life I have always imagined and I know I also deserve to have time to take care of myself, enjoy my friends and family, be home for the holidays, and even have a savings for my future children. I am praying to be valuable enough to this country that I can live a decent life.

SARAH: I believe that it’s not easy. I believe that it’s worth it. I believe that I’m not alone.

GABBY: Art is the only power that we have.

BOTH: Amen.

OTHERS: What next? What now?

SATURDAY

JENNA: June 21st. 5 months.

JENNA: I put myself through undergrad.  I walked away from UC Santa Cruz only about seven thousand dollars in debt.  I did so by getting financial aid, grants, and large scholarships, as well as working. My father had always promised me an education. I figured that since I took care of undergrad he’d help me with my masters. It would be his redemption for being an absentee father who let me grow up on food stamps.  He would finally come through, keep a promise, be there when I needed him.  This was not the case.  I would have of course understood if he could not afford it.  I was hoping for help from him, not a free ride. NYU is expensive and the fifteen thousand dollar scholarship I twisted their arm for, was just a drop in the hat. I have not always had a talent for timing.  Perhaps around the time of getting NYU’s acceptance letter and tuition estimate was not the best moment to inform my father of my Sapphic sensibilities (i.e. tell him I’m a dyke). Him and his money were gone in a flash.  My father was already disappointed in my choice of a major and unhappy with what it would financially cost him. My lesbianism saved him thousands of dollars.  It was his easy way out. You see, good Arab girls listen to their fathers. They marry nice Muslim boys who are studying medicine. They get degrees in corporate law and yet still have the time to pop out one (boy) baby a year.  They do not get their masters in an interdisciplinary program with an unclear career path and they definitely do not have an affinity (and dare I say talent) for licking pussy.[sound effects] I, however, cannot back away from a challenge.  My father’s disapproval strengthened my resolve to attend NYU.  My last words to him were “I will study what I want and love who I want. Goodbye” (I’ve always had a bit of a flare for the dramatics).  And well, that’s exactly what I did.  Now I have my masters in Performance Studies and I live with my beautiful, amazing girlfriend… and I am in massive debt.  And while my decision to defy my father (simply by being myself) has come at a price, it is an easier price to pay than the artificiality of the life he imagined for me.  I’m a twenty-three year old woman with two degrees, living in New York, and I am seventy thousand dollars in debt. Here’s my story…

 OTHERS: What next? What now?

DEBT VERTIGO

ISA: July 21st four months

ISA:  I am more than 2000 miles away from home, I travelled to New York City because I wanted to, it had been my dream for years. In a way  I guess I was destined to live here from an early age. The city and its dream-making potential still enchant me, but I have come to know the reality of city life is a beast that you can’t possibly prepare for without facing it head-on. The apparently never ending energy of the city proves to be insufficient at times; research, writing, rehearsing, working, promoting, brain-storming, walking, running, climbing the gosh darn subway stairs, dodging tourists, flipping off the cat-calls of Brooklyn streets, dining, drinking, crying, sighing.

These years have been more than coursework, reading and writing papers. I constantly struggle to understand a different city, a different society, all in a different language, where things work differently and where I feel part of and out of at the same time. I consider myself privileged and lucky, I am here because I want to, because I can, but the fact that I acknowledge my privilege does not obscure the fact that the system does not work, that the principles that govern/ and are at its base should be questioned. I owe huge amounts of money and do not see a well-paid job in my near future, I am scared but I if I was given another chance I  would take the exact same decisions that got me here. However, knowing where we are does not entail passive acceptance, narratives that illuminate contrast and difference should not be used as tools of legitimation but as outlets for change, for improvement.

My position is liminal, I feel that I am constantly on the verge of a cliff where I acknowledge how high I am while at the same time I experience a profound feeling of vertigo, the possibility of falling is ever-present.There are times when something we see or experience makes us lose perspective, or perhaps view things from a more positive viewpoint. We can marvel or we can shiver, we can cry of happiness or weep in desperation. It is this ambivalence, where the possibility of doing what one loves meets the all encompassing feeling of not being able to cover the costs which this entails is what we face daily. It is like looking at a beautiful canyon and marvelling at its beauty while at the same time feeling a push to fall into it, it is the acknowledgment of knowing that one can’t climb out of the canyon or avoid the slow and steady push off the cliff. It is this beautiful overwhelming vertigo, but still vertigo.

OTHERS: What next? What now?

THE WAITRESS

LAURA: August 21st three months

SYDNEY: I got a Master’s to be a waitress. I swore I wouldn’t do it – that I wouldn’t go back.

LAURA: I’m the walking cliche. A server who is an aspiring actress. Or am I an aspiring actress who works as a server?

GABBY: I guess my problem is that I don’t have any experience waiting tables so in the area where I could potentially find a job that would afford me a slightly better life than what I have right now, I am not a strong candidate. I have a Masters degree? So what? I haven’t been waiting tables for over a year, please don’t apply.

JENNA: I worked my ass off as a hostess, covering shifts and pulling doubles, all so I could get promoted to a server and have the opportunity to serve rich people food I can’t afford to buy. Hey, only about 600 more dinner shifts till I’m debt free!

GABBY: Apparently I’m too good of a hostess to become a server. I end up doing 2-3 jobs for an hourly rate and no tips.

SYDNEY: Isn’t getting an education meant to empower the person?

GABBY: I failed to consider that in this world hard work not always pays off. Maybe I didn’t know, I always thought people got what they worked for. But do they? Have I?

LAURA: I take pride in my artistry.

LAUREN: (as grandmother) It made me sick when you told me you were going to NYU – It made me sick.

SYDNEY: How can such a great accomplishment make her feel that way? Is that the general consensus of how we view higher education in this country?

GABBY: Getting a Masters degree would obviously repay itself, and since it would be from a worldwide renown institution it would certainly happen quickly, I was making the right move.

SYDNEY: Now I see that it’s my fault.

I’m the one who chose the most expensive private school in the country, right?

I’m the foolish one who got an arts degree that will most likely never pay itself off. Why did they even give me the loans?

Is this a joke or something, because I don’t see the humor?

LAUREN:Great art requires some suffering, so it’s probably a good thing for your career.

 SYDNEY: I’m the one who knew that you don’t need to have the extra degree to make it in the theater bizz, but I did it anyways. I take pride in the arts and I wanted an education that would enhance the level of my work.

LAUREN: Now you will pay for dreaming too big and thinking you deserved an education that your wallet doesn’t allow

GABBY: I guess I am paying a high price for something that is actually invaluable, incalculable, immeasurable: arriving at being truly myself and seeing the world for what it truly is.

SYDNEY: Maybe only rich people should go there? That would be more economically logical. Let’s just keep all the poor, I mean middle-class, folk uneducated. No, our country will “give you” the money like its candy knowing damn well you’ll never be able to pay it off. I don’t know which is worse.

Can anyone hear me out there!?!? HELLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…

JENNA: Privilege preface: while being poor now sucks, we are young, healthy, and educated, and there is privilege in that.

SYDNEY: Fine. You win.

But what did you win America?

LAUREN: You tell me. You’re the creative one?

LAURA: What kind of a country do we live in that more education puts you at a disadvantage in the job market?

GABBY: Now, I will join the army of waitresses who have Master’s degrees. America I will serve YOU just as you intended.

OTHERS: What next? What now?

Mommy For Money

JENNA: Sept. 21st two months

JENNA: There are moments when I recognize the irony of my current employment situation.  I “disobeyed” my father, spent seventy thousand dollars on a masters degree and here I stand hands raw from washing dishes, toddler on my hip, and Cheerios in my hair; the image of domestic femininity, what my father wanted all along.

It’s moments like when I have to pull myself away from typing my paper on lesbian vampires to get the just awoken baby out of her crib, and said baby, in a wave of nostalgia for her breast feeding days ever so quickly slides her toddler hand into my blouse and grazes over my freshly pierced nipple that I wonder if I’m really the Mary Poppins type.  It’s so easy to get sucked into your job, especially when it’s caring for a child. It can be such a full time job that you start to lose sight of what you really want to be doing.  It’s difficult to apply for PhD programs and theatre internships with a toddler clinging onto your skirt. Lately the closest thing I’ve seen to theatre was a baby puppet show in which the words to “You are my Sunshine” were bahhhhed… Goddess help me.

 LAURA: While you’re babysitting, I’ll be serving the parents drinks. Let the vicious cycle spin. It’s not that I HATE kids, I’d just rather pay my rent by crafting drinks and dishing food and talking to people at least my own age. But I won’t knock your mommy money. Playing with kids is enlightening. Their innocence reinvigorates my faith in humanity. And I admire your patience.

GABBY: What I like about working with kids is that, it actually is a rewarding job. Maybe I indulge narcissistically in the idea that I am being a role model; in any case, I just feel more useful when I help a young person in their development than when I try to sell you shoes or place you at a table (no offense).

JENNA: I guess nannying is really not that bad of a gig. I get to go on long walks in the families’ nice neighborhoods, yes with a clunky stroller or baby harness attached to me, but still it can be pleasant.  Also, all that baby lifting is doing great things for my biceps. And as irksome as their codependence may sometimes be, let’s face it… babies are super cute. It is rewarding.  I may have no interest in being the next June Cleaver or Fraulein Maria, but I’m not cold hearted. When a baby falls asleep in my arms, I get that warm, fuzzy feeling.  And, when the two year old who I have grown to love recites the first stanza of the Emily Dickinson poem I taught her all by herself, I’m proud.  When I put her to bed and caress her head as I give her a little feminist affirmation, “You are smart. You are strong. You are a very special person”, I feel like I’m doing something important. Besides, I remind myself that at the end of the day, I still have my freedom. I get to hand over the little rug rats to their real parents.  I can go to a baby crying free home, change out of my spit up splattered dress and if I choose to do so make my way to a nearest bar and buy a whisky ginger with my mothering money.  Life could be worse.

OTHERS: WHAT NEXT? WHAT NOW?

WHAT WE HAVE

LAUREN: Oct. 21st one month

LAUREN: We pursue higher education degrees because we want to better ourselves. Every generation wants to do better than the one that came before, and each generation is promised (or at least encouraged) by their elders that they can gain prosperity and happiness through hard work and dedication.  Every generation says they want to leave a better world for their kids. All we want – and all our parents want, I hope – is for our generation to “do better”: financially, educationally, economically.  But the reality is that this economy, and this financial and educational system we have in place, has not provided and does not provide a better world for my generation.

 The fact is we aren’t doing better than our parents. Jobs are scarce. Job security is even rarer, and even if you have it, you may not be financially secure, because the education that was supposed to make your life better and easier comes at a price tag that is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to  afford. The blame for this does not lie on our shoulders, yet we bear the burden.

LAURA: We didn’t choose to raise tuition.

SARAH: We didn’t choose to hike up the interest rate on our student loans, to lower employee hours to part-time to avoid providing healthcare.

JENNA: We didn’t choose to increase medical costs, to charge $600 for an aspirin in the ER, to cut education spending, to cut employee wages while the CEO bonuses climb to an all-time high.

GABBY: We didn’t choose this.

LAUREN: We were told things would be better, and they are not.

Previous generations instilled in us the faith that our lives would be rich in every way – in education, in finances, in freedom, in protection (from sickness, from violence, from poverty). Yet when we find ourselves without those things, and go in search of them, we are told that we need to “adjust our expectations” and stop feeling so entitled, and maybe work harder, and appreciate what we have.

 You know what we have?

 (The following lines overlap as each performer interjects with the next line.)

We have iPhones and iPads and wifi and XBoxes and access to an almost unlimited amount of information via the internet.

We have Twitter and Facebook and 24-hour news networks.

We have hybrid cars and GPS and an app for everything and endless possibilities for entertainment, from video games to music to television to movies to adorable pictures of cats.

We have great universities and great medical advancements and great scientific discoveries and an unprecedented way of connecting to individuals and ideas from around the globe.

We have an abundance of things and ideas and ways to gain access to all of them.

But we also have debt. We have student loans.

We have astronomical medical bills. We have high rent and gas that costs $4 a gallon increasing interest rates and ever-growing student loans, educations which we pay for but which don’t pay off, educations that are not economically viable – not because we made “poor choices” in determining our major but because the system that is in place does not support the ideals that we were taught as children,that ideal that said, “Follow your dreams to get a better future.”

Those iPhones we’re told we need come with $600 price tags. The TV and internet we’re told we need to stay connected and informed come with monthly fees in the triple digits, for channels we don’t watch and news networks we can’t rely on. The car we need to get to work comes with a fuel tank that we may as well fill up with money instead of gas. The work we need to survive comes with dwindling hours, dwindling benefits, dwindling opportunities for advancement. The education we’re told to get is part of a system where the best people in their fields – people with PhDs, who have advanced as far as it is possible to advance –must struggle to make a living because tenure track positions have all but disappeared. We have a world where we are promised everything but given none of it, even after we have put in all the hard work and blood and sweat and tears and money that it takes to make it happen.

This is my generation’s reality.

We have a reality right now which insists that we dream big and then denies us the opportunity to bring that dream to life. If that’s the case, we either need a new reality or a new dream.

OTHERS: What next? What now?

UNREALISTIC

SARAH: Nov. 21st Doomsday

SARAH: “You’re being totally unrealistic.” Since when has the term “realistic” come to mean uncreative, defeatist, and resigned? The political and economic problems facing our generation often seem insurmountable. Between student debt and health care issues, coupled with job insecurity and the inability to save, it seems that we’re destined for a more complicated life than the one our parents experienced. Just deal with it, right? Just take care of you and your own. Make sure that you save enough for your own family, and go on with your day. Be realistic.But I don’t want to be realistic. I don’t want to give up and accept things as they are. I don’t want any of us to accept our lot in life and just make the most of what’s given to us. I want to keep pushing, to keep thinking about what the ideal is. Just because the ideal solution is hard (some would say impossible) to accomplish, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be thought, it shouldn’t be voiced. I’m not a politician. Politicians have to be diplomatic and compromise and find a realistic solution.

ALL: I’m an artist.

SARAH: I have to be idealistic and headstrong and openly voice my opinion, as unrealistic as you think it is. Maybe if enough of us refuse to be “realistic,” our unrealistic dreams will become a reality.

GABBY: November 21st. A day that will live in infamy. A beginning.

THE END

 

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6 MORE DAYS TO GIVE!

PERFORMANCE WILL TAKE PLACE

ON NOVEMBER 21ST 2013

AT 1 PM

Outside 50 W 4TH ST

(Between Bobst Library and NYU Welcome Center)

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