Thursday, December 29, 2011

Solitude


Penny whines to wake me. "Quiet." I mumble, muffled, my face smushed within the furrows of my mother's guest room pillows. With eyes still crumpled closed, I curl back the covers like a stiff salty wave. I unfold and press my glasses to my eyes and stand. Eyes open. I stumble into sweatpants. Turn the door handle and pull. With stubbornly straight legs, I rock down the stairs. I bend and break Beau free from his rocking crate. We roll to the front door, our feet hollow beer barrels tumbling downhill. "Wanna go outside?" Claws scramble and scratch the stone foyer floor. Socks scuffle solo to the kitchen. COFFEE! The brown drips into my mug while I sit nearby on the pot, draining yellow. Beau clobbers the front door. Wipe. Flush. Wash hands. Pour cream into cup, watch it swirl and sink into new color. Let the dogs in. Sit and settle into the leather recliner. Move my computer to beneath my fingertips. The dogs sprawl onto the couch for first nap of the day. I sit writing. At noon, I stand and raise my hands high as if on a mountaintop. Dogs fall off the couch, excited to the point of humping. It's time! They're thinking (as much as dogs can think). But I'm not quite ready. I turn and run up the stairs two at a time. They follow. A three-beast stampede. Bathroom. Contact lenses, toothpaste, spit. Bedroom. Bra, sweatshirt, gloves, sunglasses, vest. Jump down the stairs. Scoop up my sneakers and sit. The dogs circle under my knees, knotting tails before I can loop my laces. Tied. Winter hat. Leashes from the junk drawer. LEASHES!  Beau is leaping now like a dolphin. Penny tries to remain calm. "Sit. SIT Beau!" He twirls. Sits. I reach for his collar, but he poorly anticipates the click and is leaping again. "SIT!" Sitting. Reaching. Grabbing. Clicking. Penny remains sitting, as if Showing Off were the command. Headphones playing my new favorite album: Metals by Feist. Loop the leashes around my left hand. Down the driveway. Up the street. Smelling mailboxes. Peeing on everything. We walk for two hours along the horse trails, which are adjacent to most of the nearby roads. I avoid the blue cement when I can because Beau, the Border Collie, tries to herd every passing car. As trucks rumble toward us, he crouches in the dry winter grass and just as they pass, he sprints toward their sides. I squeeze his unintentional near-suicide around my hand, scolding his stupid habit while the large metallic sheep slow before continuing on their way. We trek down to the reservoir. It's a particularly windy day and I want to watch them hunt waves on the small sand. Four days, I live alone. Leashes tug me through thick grassy paths, along back roads and through my loosened thoughts. Home now. My cheeks pinked, my nose wet like the dogs'. I flick on the lights and separate muddy sneakers from socks, remove my fleece hat from saluting static and gloves from my cold, yellow fingers. I fill a tall glass with water. Penny drinks from her bowl. Beau slurps from the toilet. I'm eating mostly Christmas leftovers this week. I went to the grocery store on Tuesday, but got only dog food and lettuce. I find half of a baked chicken in the fridge. Put it in a pot of water over medium heat and empty a bag of baby carrots, some chopped celery and minced garlic. I build a fire in the fireplace. Sticks, chopped wood and numerous wooden matches. Nothing catches. No more newspapers. We burned them all. I dig wrapping paper from the trash cans in the garage and used tissues from the bathrooms. The chicken simmers on the stove. I sit back down to writing, salty corn chips beside me. The dogs fall back into sleeping, their feet jerking through dream games of chase. My mind traps and maneuvers thoughts into words and eventual sentences. I eat supper around 4PM because there is no one else to consider and cook for. Except for the dogs, who get big bowls of kibble as the sun dunks behind the rows of lanky trees in the front yard. Later, I turn on the television when the wind startles the pups into barking. Old reruns from the 90s. I glance up often before submitting entirely to the blissful escape that is a good sitcom. When I tire of typing and laugh tracks, I stand and let the dogs out one last time. They refuse. I don't blame them. The cold air feels hard, but I won't have any accidents at 4am and so I shoo them out, pushing their behinds with my shin. I turn off most of the house lights, but plug in the Christmas tree. I then call to my companions. I escort Beau to his crate and lead Penny upstairs. It's windy again, which means she's going to push her furry face between my ear and shoulder. I don't mind. And in the morning, she'll wake me with whining and I will do this all again. Happily.

Solitude selects me, sucks me from the traffic of life and spits me out onto this simple schedule of dog walking and words. 


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Applicant

October 5, 2011

This winter, I am secretly applying for graduate acting school. However, if you are reading this before March of 2012 then this secret has escaped my rattling mouth like a brown bear from a birdcage.

The reason for this uncharacteristic decision to not tell my family, for I tell them nearly everything (except for that terribly awkward queef I emitted a few months back)is because I cannot, during the early vulnerable stages of this venture, receive any critical commentary. For everything my family says about me marches directly to my heart and either guards it or guns it down. "Why?" Is all they'd have to ask before I forfeited all plans. Surely, they'll scorn me for sliding a queef into that parenthesis up there, but that's nothing to fret my feelings over. Just a little sneaky shocking prattle about an eighty-six second vagina fart that flew around the room like a birthday balloon before deflating me into a frenzy of silent cackles and a pile of crumpled bones and wrinkled repugnance. See how poorly I cradle my private matters between the snow white bunny slopes of my 34B-sized bosom?

Let's see how long I last with this secret stuck between my two front teeth.

*****
October 13, 2011

I am pursuing a career in the theater because, for me, theater is like a cup of coffee after a restless sleep. It bursts into my body and energizes me with an extraordinary injection of intellectualized passion. I am pursuing a career in the theater because not only does it nourish my soul with perpetual inspiration and exploration, theater then decorates my world with vibrant light and articulation. It is here, inside this figurative and focused stage light, where I hope to live a long life, articulating ideas, emotions and experiences.

I want to be prepared to join with other theater professionals in sustaining this beautiful, raw, traditional, challenging and essential human art.

*****
October 14, 2011

The M.F.A Acting Programs I plan to apply to. 

  1. University of San Diego/Old Globe 
  2. A.C.T. American Conservatory Theater 
  3. Yale University 
  4. University of California (San Diego) 
  5. Brown University 
  6. University of California, Irvine 
***** 
November 1, 2011

University of San Diego/Old Globe asks me why. 
Why have you chosen to seek further training at this time rather than pursue work as a professional actor? 

My first attempt to be a professional actress, when I graduated college six years ago, was a bit of a flop. And that’s putting it kindly. I moved to New York City because that’s what actors did, I thought. But after one year, I found the theater scene to be much like a monster on a pedestal: big, ugly, mean and out of reach. I had an insufficient resume, bland looking headshots and absolutely no theater contacts in the city. After a few months, I mailed these aforementioned headshots and resumes to sixty-seven talent agencies and theater companies. I was clueless. After one year, I moved to Boston where I started taking improvisational classes, acting on an adventure boat in Boston Harbor and performing a little Shakespeare. However, after two years of the amateur theater community doing plays I wasn’t entirely interested in and the big professional theaters only hiring equity actors, I moved from Boston to Western Massachusetts to start The August Company. From an idea in a living room to six fully produced productions, I’ve gained a lot of experience helping build this company, both on and off stage. One major lesson I’ve learned is how to create theater relationships. How to meet, mingle and reach out to other theater, music and art makers/lovers for collaborations and bilateral audience support. As an actress with the company, I’ve learned that I possess the talent, confidence and drive necessary for a successful career in the theater, however, for my heart’s sake, my second venture into the professional theater scene must have a significantly higher potential for success than my first attempt six years ago. I am seeking admission to your thrilling, prestigious program because I want to be submerged in a constructively rigorous MFA Acting program where I can elevate my craft from raw and talented to honed and professional.
*****
November 18, 2011

Scott and I put together a one woman show of my writing for a local fringe festival. I perform it twice. We set up 45 mismatching chairs into our borrowed loft four stories above a quiet mill city's streetlights. For the first night, we have an audience of 60. The next night we have over 90. Those without seats sit on the floor at my feet or lean on the brick pillars and white plastered walls. By the end of both performances, nearly everyone is standing, applauding. And my little life feels forever changed.

The morning after my second performance, my sisters and mother press me for my plans. They think I should take my show to Boston. "I'm actually applying for graduate school too." I tell them, a mug of coffee pressed to the bottom lip of my careful words. They aren't surprised and the reveal of my secret is pleasantly anticlimactic. They are even encouraging, happy to hear I don't just plan to follow Scott.
*****
November 29, 2011

A suddenly strange snow storm on October 29th of this year sends a tree from the backyard to crack and crash onto the roof above our heads, piercing a two-inch branch through the white speckled ceiling like a fat needle. There had been booms all evening. Tree trunks and branches, soft still from summer, rocking when the wind blew and toppling from the weight of their dry leaves, flocks of fragile cradles. When the biggest boom hits, I am without a shirt. Ceiling dust drops like shrapnel onto us and 
Penny, our petrified pup, leaps onto my pillow. I tell Scott he really needs to stop kissing me and turn on the light. "I have ceiling on my skin." I say, stumbling to stand. With my glasses pushed to my face and a light on, I scan the ceiling for damage. At the site of the tree branch, I exclaim something and put on my underwear. Once dressed, we move to another bedroom like a pack of refuges, finding safety beneath clean bedcovers and the second floor. All night long, the dogs sleep close while outside, snow glitters the gutters, drapes the driveway and layers onto the roof of this house where we are so lucky to live. And yet, despite this suddenly strange snow storm two nights before Halloween, the weather has been warm. So warm they've sent the clipboard-carrying global warming interns back to the sidewalks. So warm I expect the smell of spring to surprise me. Say it snuck by winter somehow. Despite the weather's contrary behavior, most days I wear gloves and my new yellow coat. Yellow buttons and patterned polyester lining, I bought it primarily for the month of February, the time when I start to worry that sunshine is a myth. Besides these sixty-five degree days, firewood across the county has been split and piled into jagged jigsaw puzzles, wrapped with blue tarps and weighed by flat tires in preparation for this winter we await. My 6am mornings are dark blue and make me want to hide inside a hibernation. Make me want to wear fur lined snow boots, wool socks and fleece rimmed hats while I hunker down, slurping beef stew and poetry about pecan pie and adulterous nightmares. Makes me want to make a baby quietly in a hospital bed before excusing myself from myself. Because in this rhetorical recipe for my future, I left out a key ingredient. I let myself forget these words I write. These words that expose my tender soul, my rash sense of humor and my continuous curiosity. In the making of my courage and conviction, I then spilled the contents of my sweet marriage, which is my home of all homes, onto the dusty tiled floor as if it were just a box of quick bread mix and not eight years of delicious devotion.   

The Friday after Thanksgiving, I stay at my parents' house while Scott leaves for his. I take Penny out on her leash. I walk five miles, bobbing on the foot train of my free thoughts, while tracks are torn and rebuilt to accommodate my quickly changing answer to "what if...?" After an hour and a half, I walk into the living room and collapse into a sitting slump. With white and yellow papers in one hand, a pen in the other, my mother looks up over her red rectangle reading glasses and asks, "What's going on? You alight?" I weep through a summary of my scattered worries. If Scott and I both get into schools in different cities... What would we do? "You can't live apart." She says. "You wouldn't stay together."
Leaving Scott would require me to become a complete ignoramus, but I genuinely fear I'll put myself behind him instead of beside him if I do not pursue this. And that is the moment I discover that the biggest reason I wanted to apply for graduate school was for marital equally. The "if he gets to apply, why can't I?" conundrum. 


Later on, I send my brother a text message. "If I want to have a career like Spalding Gray, I don't need, really, acting school....would you agree?" Gray was a renowned writer, actor, performance artist and monologuist. 

"No, you need to live."

By Monday morning, I am ready to declare my new anti-decision. I write my friend who has agreed to write one of my letters of recommendation. I say, "After hours and hours of internal debate, I've come to the conclusion that graduate acting school is not really what I want after all. I know that I would love to attend, however I think the smartest thing for me to do is continue on my Puddle path." 


Tuesday morning, I receive an email from another old professor who has offered to help me find some audition monologues. He emails me Tuesday, of all FLIPPING days, and says he's got some material for me to look at and would I like him to mail it to me. I email him back, thanking him, but also telling him that I will not be applying to graduate school after all. I have one application out already to the University of San Diego/Old Globe. It's a two year intensive program where if, for some insane chance, I am accepted, I would be one of seven students, receive free classical training and perform at The Old Globe Theatre. It is the only program, at this point, that I would really and truly want to attend. I tell my professor that I'll check back with him if I get an audition.

That afternoon, of all FREAKING days, I receive a voicemail from University of San Diego/Old Globe. I have an audition in New York City January 24, 2012. I email my professor back and ask if I can get those monologues. Then I call Scott and blab to his answering machine that I'm just going to see what happens. Just going to see!