- Trapped in the inevitability of what’s about to happen on Friday.
- Ashamed, thinking that I need to do more.
- Abandoned by those who are able to attend the March in Washington.
- Scared that I’ll be too scared to march in NYC.
- Governed by social anxiety of the magnitude I haven’t experienced in years.
- Proud to be escorting on Saturday morning.
- Grateful to have somewhere to be on Friday night, with like-minded, revolution-minded friends.
- Thrilled to be doing a play that actually fucking matters.
- Depressed and alone, on the couch, unable to work or think.
- Stuck in a spiral of news that makes my heart and head hurt.
“‘You have the luxury of time. You’re young. Young people are doing something even when they’re doing nothing. A young woman is conduit. All she has to do is exist.’ You have time. Meaning don’t use it, but pass through time in patience, waiting for something to come. Prepare for its arrival. Don’t rush to meet it. Be a conduit. I believed him. I felt this to be true. Some people might consider that passivity but I did not. I considered it living.”
—The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
One of the strangest things about day-to-day life is how mundane it seems. I get up. I go to the gym. I go to work. I go home. I make soup. I watch bad TV. I try and get auditions. I go to bed. Ostensibly, “nothing” is going on in my life.
I never really listen to music, except when I’m doing something else, like playing a game on my iPad or cooking, and it’s even more rare that I listen to music while walking down the street. But the other night, I did. I was on the train, and an Iron & Wine song came on shuffle. Now, there are LOTS of songs that bring up memories for me. But all of a sudden, this song jerked me into taking a step back and actually looking at what this “nothing” really is. And I’m shocked to discover that these days– morning to night– that feel so devoid, so par for the course, are the building blocks for an amazing life.
Sometimes I feel that way in New York. This place is idealized by so many people (I, for one, never really did– I guess I just always assumed I’d be here, and didn’t fantasize about it at all), and this is where my “nothing” life takes place. The capital of the WORLD. I have to stop myself, often, and marvel at this city. I literally stop in the street sometimes, and look up at the skyscrapers, like a nerd, and think to myself, “I am living a life that others dream of. No matter what else I’m doing, being here is a success.” Because it is. Because New York is fucking hard.
Also, because I am someone who comes from a state with two professional theatres (yes, I said “state” and “two”), I can’t forget my artistic life here. I don’t know how many Broadway and off-Broadway shows I’ve seen for free. This year alone, examples include but are not limited to: Hands on a Hardbody, Romeo and Juliet, The Nance, The Testament of Mary, Little Miss Sunshine, Golden Boy, Picnic… I have seen Julie Andrews in a bathroom, given Liam Neeson back the hat he forgot in a theatre (he was so sweet about it), and seen Patti LuPone, Phylicia Rashad, James Earle Jones, Dianne Wiest, Ellen Burstyn, Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christopher Lloyd, Fiona Shaw, Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Griffiths, Zosia Mamet, and ENDLESS MORE live onstage, often from a few rows back. How cool is that? And I’ve met some of them too. I did a reading with Anthony Rapp. I did a reading directed by Shirley Knight. Stephen Sondheim saw me act. (sorry, Braggy McGhee just got excited).
L received news that she will receive her last chemo treatment on December 17. That’s literally two years and ten days after her initial diagnosis. She texted me and asked me to be there. I will. And I’m can’t believe it. Walking with L down this path has been so strange and awful and important and… it’s hard to talk about. When I talk about it too much, I feel like I’m being a “poor me” jerk who thinks she was more important than she actually was. But I have to be honest– I was there for a LOT of it. Probably more than anyone else besides her parents. That’s not nothing. And cancer, like all diseases, is powerful. It is a nuclear bomb, and anyone who is nearby when it explodes is infected with radiation. And those of us who bear it, and live with it, uncomfortable though it is, emerge with superpowers. Like Spiderman. (someone shut me up)
Then “Now We Can See” by the Thermals came on as I was trudging up the subway stairs. The last song in the first show “my” company ever produced. 2010. We were very young, kinda dumb, but with enthusiasm and self-confidence, poured to overflowing into this strange group of young people. What a strange, wonderful first New York theatrical experience. We won awards and got raves, yes, which was amazing and thrilling and great, but even more special was the feeling that washed over all of us as we sang this song, stomping, clutching the mikes, shaking our styled hair, in one of the most historic theatres in New York. What was that feeling? A strange mix of confidence, hope, and more than anything, joy. We overflowed. Regardless of what would happen next, those moments in the Ellen Stewart Theatre were unforgettable.
I spent four years with my therapist, and now I’m phasing out. I think I have two more sessions. WHO KNEW I’d ever get to this point? I sure didn’t. I frankly didn’t know what I thought, but in the last four years, I’ve felt so far from “stable” that leaving wasn’t even a thought. But here I am. Moving forward, out of therapy, because I have done so much goddamn work. And that’s the most amazing thing– not, “oh my god, weirdo me is leaving therapy! Crazy!” but “Look at all this SHIT I had to fight through, tooth and nail, to get to this point. Look at how hard I worked. Look at all the time I spent fighting for the life I have now. I battled an eating disorder, crushing anxiety, self-hatred, depression, mania, self-injury in every way you can imagine, and I’ve come out the other side. And I have confidence that I can care for myself, for the first time in a long time. Isn’t THAT crazy?”
My life is nothing special to me, as I walk through it. And yet, I realize that I have walked through incredible forests, forded wild rivers. I am lucky to have it, and I am grateful. Overwhelmingly.
But life intervened. Per usual.
As you can see, I’m not posting really, like at all. Even those cute daily worksheets. Why, you ask? Is everything okay?
So, the answers to all your burning questions:
1. I am okay. I’m on the better side of okay, actually– I’ve lately been very successful with looking at the daily work and each little step with great confidence, rather than looking at everything from a wide lens and freaking out about how behind I am. This is keeping me pretty happy– like a step above “happy enough to function.”
2. Eating is good. I think about it, sure, but I don’t binge. This is miraculous to the me of 2 years ago, when I couldn’t imagine this kind of freedom.
3. A is struggling. His agent (very kindly, but still) dropped him a couple of weeks ago, and general malaise about not working and worrying about money has cast a shadow over him this month. Still, we have managed to find many moments of levity, including a beautiful day at the Brooklyn Book Festival.
4. I will likely be writing less here because I’m working on putting together something exciting and new and totally terrifying with a colleague. Not a solo piece per se… But something we create with me as the axis, as it were. I’m interested in exploring fantastical short stories in theatrical form (Oh hi, it’s me, Pretentious Polly). Karen Russell, Aimee Bender, George Saunders, etc.
5. I’m taking “workshops.” I hate this shit. But if I want to get into these casting offices, I have to go. And I have to nail it EVERY TIME. I’ve got an important one (prob my most important casting office) on Monday.
6. I got asked to do a private reading for the director of American Stare. At his house, which is stressful. With a German accent, which is SUPER stressful. Anything else– British, Irish, Southern, French– but German is really hard for me. I’m working on it!
7. The biggest news is that I’m leaving therapy. Yeah, bomb drop! I’m in such a good place with such a good support system and I’ve really internalized my therapist’s voice… That I really am ready. We both agreed, but I was the one who really said it in as many words. I’m sad, because she is a PART of me, and I love her in a way I’ve never loved anyone, but I’m proud.
8. Cat’s good, mom’s good, money is tight, and I still cry when I walk into a theatre. But I feel like I can see my feet on the earth, pushing off, making prints. I am moving, I am making an impact, and the air is clear.
I am here. I read your blogs. I send you love. And feeling still and strong in this whirlwind makes me certain without a doubt that “okay-ness” is possible and coming for all of us in this tiny blog circle.
Till next time, loves.
Obviously I’m doing a bit of a project. I’m trying to do more journaling, and while this is sort of silly and surface, it’s a step. You can join me by finding these fill-in journal pages here: http://www.graceisoverrated.com/p/journal-pages.html
I don’t want to fucking be in these fucking rehearsals. They make me feel bad. I want to open this thing. I don’t want two more nights of four hour rehearsals. I want it to be done. I want to not see these people again.
The director (also an actor) is stressed. Totally over book. I get that, and I have excused that. But then tonight during notes… he makes me cry. Not on purpose, but. I literally don’t know what to do in this situation– open my mouth and try and get clarity and discuss a moment, or shut up and just not care about that moment being unspecific and possibly wrong?
The director gave a note to me and another girl, saying: “I don’t know why you guys cluster at this point, but you should spread out and split.“
To which my automatic response, because the girl and I had discussed that moment specifically, was “Oh, yeah, we were never staged in that moment, so I think we just clung.” I was smiling, not making an excuse, just sort of joking about how that bad staging happened, and the director, in the same tone of voice, says “okay, so I didn’t ask why you were there, I asked you to change it. This is another moment where talking about it is not helpful, and I wish you would just take the note.”
And later we were talking about how we needed to identify a character in a scene as Hermes and the director said we should do it at the beginning of the scene. I wasn’t thinking, I guess, because I said, “oh, why don’t we save that for the great reveal of the winged hat?” The director argued that we needed more than the hat to show audiences it’s Hermes, and I agreed– my suggestion was to put the “look it’s Hermes” line with the winged hat reveal. He continues to disagree and I realized I’ve made an error. I say, “it doesn’t matter,” to try and eject myself from the conversation, and he says, “it does matter.” Which meant it matters and I am wrong.
So, the other thing was he wants me to wear ballet slippers for my Just Person character. Fine, except I have such a quick change out of that scene that I can barely make it into the next scene REGARDLESS of a change of shoes. I tell the director this and he acts as though what I’m saying is somehow purposefully making his job hard.
HIM: “Are you wearing those boat shoes for the show?”
ME: “No, my black converse.”
HIM: “Could you wear those shoes?”
ME: “Yes, sure. I mean, they’re blue, but…”
HIM: “The problem is that when we see those shoes under the dress it looks bad.”
ME: “Okay. I mean, I don’t know what to do because I have that quick change and my chorus character is a man… And converse are the only black shoes I have that will work…”
HIM: “Can you wear ballet slippers for that scene?”
ME: “I mean, I have a super super quick change so I don’t think it’s possible.”
HIM: “Everything is possible, whether it’s a matter of leaving earlier (impossible since I have the final line in the scene), having help (everyone is already helping with another quick change and shoes have LACES), or something. Please think about it.”
Here’s what I’m thinking about:
1. Why am I responsible for this costume issue? Why I am in the wrong when I shouldn’t even have to provide my own clothing?
2. I’m not buying new shoes for this fucking thing. No. Nor am I wearing shoes that I feel are unsafe (my other black shoes have no traction. I will not wear them.) Also we’re doing our own laundry but are apparently meant to rehearse in costume every night, and we have 4 shows in a row. None of this is okay. It probably goes against Equity rules, in fact.
3. If this was any other show or company, this would not be my problem. Case in point: on my last show, my character was known for wearing sweatshirts. I wore a large black one. In tech, I was given another large black sweatshirt as the gift that one character gives my character as a mean sort of joke. In the epilogue, I am wearing this new sweatshirt.
I told the director, “So I think that this sweatshirt needs to be more distinguishable from my previous one, otherwise you can’t tell in the epilogue that I’m wearing her gift. Also the epilogue is aspirational, so I should look BETTER than I did before.” He trusts me, talks to the designer, and the next day I had a perfect sweatshirt.
4. I don’t feel inclined to think about SHIT because I don’t fucking care about this show. I don’t. And I dread rehearsals and I can’t wait to never go back. I can’t wait for breaks and I am the first person to leave. I want this to be over. I want it over so badly. I feel terrible because I shouldn’t hate it like this, I should put on a happy face, but I can’t. I want everyone to know how much I don’t want to be here, somehow, subconsciously.
I’m usually so good at keeping to myself. I don’t know what happened today, but I hated it. Especially because I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE ANYWAY. Please don’t treat me like shit at a rehearsal I already don’t want to be at. I am in such a terrible mood.
In other news, I found out that my sister, and I quote from the FB message my mother sent me: “J is having a laparascopic procedure tomorrow. It will be less invasive than last time and she should be able to get to school by Tuesday. Her doc is suspending”Julia’s uterus because its retroverted position (possibly from the endometriosis) is still causing her pain in certain situations. This has a 85-90% chance of solving that issue.”
This girl. Always in surgery. And why am I jealous? That fucking sucks.
Unfortunately, I like pity. I like being taken care of.
And right now, A is far away, the cat is angry, and I’m doing a show that I really fucking hate. I wouldn’t mind popping into the hospital right now for some Jello.
My heart feels very full. Mostly of love, but there’s a bit of heaviness.
I have had struggle after struggle with this company– this universe that I helped create and populate that recently became a stranger to me– and with the friends therein. Our relationship has changed. More importantly, my expectations have changed. What I wanted from my relationship with this group of people turned out to be unrealistic. They cluster and cling, but I need some independence. I wanted them to feel like my best friends even when I wasn’t ensconced in their apartment. My friendships with L and K are like that. But that’s not who they are and how they function. This doesn’t make them bad people. They still like– no, love– me.
But that’s all backdrop to this moment. This is the first play I’ve done since last year’s amazing NJ triumph. Readings and workshops and short films don’t count, because working on a full play requires am inordinate investment. You dedicate a month to daily 5 hour rehearsals and another to nightly two-hour performances that leave you sweating and exhausted. You dedicate hours of time outside of these parameters to learn your lines, think about the role, remember your blocking. You can’t fake that stuff. And in the rehearsal room, you are an explorer– finding what works, nixing what doesn’t, working with partners who are all independent and trying to cohere into a single vision. That’s tough.
But this process, from start to finish, from the first read to tonight’s closing performance, I have had. So. Much. Fun.
I loved the atmosphere in the rehearsal room, full of laughter and silliness and big choices and mistakes and breaking when someone was genuinely too fucking funny.
I loved the one-on-one scene work, working with a director and actors I’m completely comfortable with. It was like the most fun scene study class ever.
I loved seeing the playwright laugh at his own jokes when we nailed them (or improved them).
I loved suggesting a joke and having the director guffaw and okay it: “Yes. Genius.”
I loved the twenty or so minutes of waiting in the dressing room once the house opened, a cast of six clowns in knee pads, all equal, all trusting, cracking jokes and rolling our eyes at each other.
I loved each pratfall and fake bump and trip, even when it got fucked up. My body felt alive when I leapt and fell and tripped.
I loved the sweat that dripped like water down my face every night. It was embarrassing, yes, but it was pure ME, pure energy. (It mainly happened because I was doing a super physical show in sweatpants and a sweatshirt in the summer… And I was in a clown squat for 80% of the show).
I loved every moment on that stage. I always do (I mean, in most cases!), but this just felt like pure, unfettered fun.
I don’t think the show is spectacular. I think it has flaws. Lots. But I do think it’s funny, and I had such fun doing it. Such fun. And I didn’t care about getting agents or casting directors to see it. I invited them (none came of course, including the one I’m signed with!) but it felt good to just let this be about joy. I didn’t need to sell this show. I just needed to enjoy it. And boy, did I.
After tonight (and tonight’s festivities), I’m back in rehearsal for the Fringe show. I’m there 4 hours a night Sunday through Thursday, with opening night on Friday and five shows spread through the next week. This monday I have jury duty (how about that?!). I have to go into work on Tuesday, I have a haircut on Wednesday. On the 20th, A is home, and on the 21 he’ll see our closing and we’ll leave for CT.
It’s a race to the finish. I’m sorry to say goodbye to this lap of the relay. It has been truly, purely wonderful.