Friday, November 21, 2008


A recent dream of mine took place in a white and silver coffee shop that looked like it was designed by IKEA.

I was sitting next to Kate Olsen, who was talking about a play she'd seen in Prague. Across from us was the queen of England, who listened politely to Kate for awhile, but then pulled out books about English architecture and tried to prove that architecture was England's answer to Czech theater. Her Highness was cheerful but competitive.

Realizing I was the third wheel, I excused myself from the booth. Soon, I noticed I was being followed by a 40-something man. I'd leant my car to someone, which meant I was without my keys and thus without my pepper spray keychain. I dodged into the women's restroom, which happened to be behind the cash register. Instead of a mirror over the sink there was a window, from which I could see Kate and Her Highness; Tim Hunt was alone in the next booth.

The bathroom door opened; the man had followed me in. This was the first time I'd seen his face. It was Otto, a guy from an iO class I took a couple of years ago.

Otto? What are you doing?

His voice was gentle. "I'm going to mug you."

Otto. I know you.

He looked pleasant. "Yes."

You were in my Level 2 class.

Not threatening, not sarcastic, not even mischeivous. Just pleasant. "Yes."

You can't mug me.

"I'm going to take your money."

I'm not even a stranger. We took a class together. I think we're Facebook friends.

"I'm mugging you now." I tried to yell for help, but my voice wouldn't project. Even though Tim could clearly see me through the mirror/window, he acted like he was watching a scene instead of a crime. Maybe that's because I couldn't stop laughing at how silly it would be of Otto to mug me.

But I knew he was serious, that he would actually hurt me and steal from me. Even so, I couldn't stop laughing, so Tim thought everything was fine. After I wouldn't break eye contact with him, though, he came into the restroom, too. He was pretending to be a monkey. This scared Otto away.

I couldn't make Tim understand that I really needed help. Perhaps laughing might have detracted from any sense of urgency I might otherwise have conveyed. Of course I was laughing; it was funny. Why would Otto, why would anyone, mug someone he already knew, someone with whom he was on a how-have-you-been-I'm-fine-thanks terms? That doesn't mean I wanted to be mugged, though.

That is why you should carry pepper spray everywhere. Even around your friends, even in your dreams.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dreaming through the Noise

It's been three months since I posted. Since then, my time has been taken up by:

- Getting flooded. I was homeless for a very short period in August, a time that culminated in a tornado, pepper spray, and getting lost in the parking lot of Nordstrom's.
- Finding the rhythm of school.
- Living in a very dramatic house that is mostly full of theater girls.
- Memorizing a lot of Shakespeare.
- Directing Faux Posse and Post Script Ambiguity for wheatonIMPROV.
- Cowering at the prospect of job and/or graduate school applications.

Amidst the insanity, why the revival of the blog? Currently, I am confined, restless, to a couch. My voice is completely gone, as gone as the sun, the maple leaves, free time. I hope my voice returns sooner than any of those things are liable to here to Wheaton College.

It has made me seasick to try and read for school. That might have less to do with the head cold and more to do with that the book of the moment is Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner. Reading Miss Rosa's memories feels like watching a scene filmed without a tripod, Blair Witch style. I suspect anyone trying to decipher the Sutpen family tree would be a little disoriented, even without the cold medicine.

So instead of reading Faulkner, writing an annotated bibliography, drafting a prompt book, rehearsing As You Like It, or working on my grad school application, I am drinking juice through a straw, dozing through Vienna Teng albums, binging on Pushing Daisies -- I am coveting all of Chuck's clothes, though I'm not sure they'd be as fun in a shades-of-gray Chicago winter; they might only work in a world of supersaturated color -- and fighting off the gathering panic about how behind I'm going to be when I go back to class.


And she dreams through the noise, her weight against me
Face pressed into the corduroy grooves
Maybe it means nothing, but I'm afraid to move.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Metaphors be with you.

José is 16 years old. He used to try to hit on me until he figured out that I am 21. "Oh, I'm really sorry," he said, "I thought you were 15."

My boss, Ron, had me working one-on-one with
José last week, because he was having a hard time understanding what a metaphor was and how to create one. Ron wanted the kids to use a metaphor to describe a sculpture in Millennium Park and then to use that to write a character monologue.

Ron's example of a metaphor was comparing himself to a burning candle. He is short, and he is getting shorter as he gets older, but he refuses to go out just yet, and he wants to spread the fire he has to as many other wicks as possible before he is extinguished.

With that as an example,
José was convinced that the definition of a metaphor was a series of ideas that aren't actually true and don't make any sense together anyway. He kept trying to create something that would fit that definition, but everything he wrote made too much sense or else felt too true, and he got frustrated. That's when Ron sent him to me.

We sat together and stared at the sculpture. He told me the sculpture looked like an upside-down turtle. "But the monologue is supposed to be from a person, not a turtle. I can't write a turtle monologue. I don't know what turtles think, and turtles aren't people, and, and --" Ok,
José, calm down. Write for a few minutes about what an upside-down turtle is like.

He wrote: "Stuck. Helpless. Vulnerable, because his shell is in the wrong place. He keeps trying to get up, but he rolls back. He might get killed and eaten."

José, forget the turtle, and talk to me about a person who is stuck and helpless and vulnerable and is protecting himself in all the wrong places and can't get up no matter how hard he tries.

José named the character Ben. Ben used to live with a girl named Maria, but it started getting weird after they slept together, and she moved out, heartbroken. He wasn't heartbroken. He hadn't let himself get close to her. He wouldn't let himself get close to a girl at all. But that was years ago, and he's starting to get lonely and desperate. He works at Chili's, and he should talk to the girls there, especially the one he thinks is so pretty, but he can't, because he is protecting himself from getting hurt. Ben has a best friend named Adam. Adam calls Ben and talks about the latest drama with his boyfriend. This makes Ben tired, and it makes him miss Maria. Not Maria, because he never really liked her, but he misses the idea of Maria.

José? Ben is an upside-down turtle. "No, that's not true at all. He's a waiter at Chili's." But he's stuck and miserable, even though he's tried to protect himself.

"Oh. .... Oh! Oh! It's a metaphor!" And then he wrote for twenty minutes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wedding Days

There have been so many weddings this summer: A.J. and Catherine, Joe and Jane, Ryan and Gretchen, Spencer and Marjorie, Nathaniel and Bethany, David and Emma. I think Mike and Chelsea are next, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a couple or two. I'm not feeling too overloaded, because of all of those, I've only gotten to see the Spencer-and-Marjorie wedding. It was lovely, but I do not feel old enough for my friends to be marrying each other.

I babysit for three families. Two of those families have 5 year old girls. They are teaching me different perspectives about how marriage works.

One of them, Lauren, likes to play princess, and she has me be the queen, who is either good or evil, depending on whether she is the mother or the stepmother. The plot that recurs most often is the one where Princess Lauren has to find someone to marry her or she will die.

Me: How come you'll die?
Lauren: Because that's what happens if you don't get married.
Me: I'm not married.
Lauren: That's because you're not beautiful. Only beautiful people get married. Maybe one day you will get married, and then you will be beautiful like my mom.

Usually, the game ends when Princess Lauren has gotten bored of lying still on the ground waiting for her little brother (Christopher, age 3) to man up and marry her. She dies and pouts for awhile, but he is too busy playing fireman to notice.

This weekend, I was cleaning up the kids' supper things when I heard this conversation between Tyler (age 8) and Grace (age 5).

Grace: You have too many girlfriends, Tyler.
Tyler: Yeah, well, you're in love with Joe.
Grace: I am not.
Tyler: Yes, you are. You want to marry Joe.
Grace: I do not.
Tyler: Then who do you want to marry?
Grace: I am not going to marry anyone until I meet him in college.
Tyler: But what if Joe goes to the same college you go to?
Grace: I still won't marry him.
Tyler: Grace! That's so mean! He'll be so sad!

The argument went on until Tyler showed me some of his favorite Feist music videos while Grace took a bath.

Tyler is 8, and he has favorite Feist videos. Maybe if he didn't already have so many girlfriends, I would wait and marry him.


I've got my car all packed with cassette tapes and sweaters and loose change and cheap cigarettes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ah, who cares? You always end up in the city.

I have become a commuter. Monday through Thursday, I take the 6:57am train into the city. Then I walk a few blocks and get on the subway to Division, then walk a few more blocks to my internship. I am there by 8:45.

My internship has a strict tank top-and-sweatpants-only dress code, so I stick out among the businesspeople in blazers and slacks. I use 10-ride Metra passes and can walk as purposefully as any of them, with iPod and travel mug (of tea, not coffee) and everything, but it is still obvious I'm not going to an office building.

I am an intern at Free Street Theater. Before the middle and high school students got there, the college-aged interns wrote a play. It is now being performed for younger kids in parks around Chicago. If you meet a character who is a lot like Martha Stewart except that she eats children, that's the character I wrote.

Now that the student-artists are there, a typical day begins with an hour and a half of yoga, some contact improv lessons, and writing exercises. After lunch, we do workshops in anything from the meanings of symbols to poetry writing to organic movement. (I am increasingly confused about the definition of "organic." My cereal is organic, and so is this piece of concept art I watched, and so are things with carbon.)

It's all solid acting and writing tools, and yoga is hard work, but the whole thing is couched in vaguely New Age rhetoric. We talk a lot about being free from the self. We also talk about accessing the self and exploring the self and tapping into the self and connecting the deep well of the self with the big mind of the universe. I do not know what most of that stuff means, but it's getting good work out of these kids, most of whom are from poorer school districts that don't have much in the way of arts programs. Still, the whole Self talk is confusing. I tend to ignore it.

The most impressive thing is how the directors treat the kids. The kids learn how to eat well, how to exercise, how to sit still and pay attention, how to give and receive, how to interpret symbols and metaphors, but none of it is condescending. The directors treat the kids like artists, and the kids act like artists.

Right now, the students are working on their solo silent performances, which they'll take to the streets next week. Part of my job as an intern will be to help make sure the kids don't get kidnapped or anything.

The rest of my job is to be part of projects that include fitting as many people of different sizes and races as possible into the smallest car possible, driving five miles, and eating vegan food.

There is no Free Street on Fridays, but I go into the city anyway for my Writing for the Stage class at iO. I didn't make the Harold team, but this elective comes with experimental performances, so I'll still get some stage time. Classes without stage time seem kind of pointless to me right now. How else are you to find out if what you are learning works unless you try it in front of an audience?


Someone somewhere asked me, "Is there anything in particular I can help you with?" All I ever wanted help with was you.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Holding Out for a Gyro

Last night was the closing night of my 5b class's graduation shows. I didn't know eight weeks could go by so quickly.

In eight shows, I have pushed my brother through a Stargate, witnessed my mother hang herself, researched cancer, fingerprinted a coffee drinker, used my roommate's toothbrush, played bass in a girl band, eaten seven oatmeal pies, avoided a lesbian affair, and been unsuccessful at culturing my own pearls.

This means I am officially an iO alumna, but I'm not finished with that place yet. On July 4th, I start Jim Carlson's writing elective. I am intimidated out of my mind. Unreasonable? Probably. Still true, though.

The director of the training center told us that it could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before we find out who of our class is cast on a Harold team. There are about thirty of us, and only about ten of us will be cast.

Thanks to people who came and showed Holding Out for a Gyro and Ill-Fitting Leotard some love, especially the ones who braved game nights in Wrigleyville. I did not have a single show unsupported by a friend in the audience, which is not something most of the performers can say. I have good friends.


"Ok, guys, two-thirds of the way in, you know what to do: jet packs."
- Someone in the green room before every show

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thanksgiving for a Habitat

The header at the top of the page is a picture of what my brother gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. It was a frame containing six photographs from around our house in Texas, one photograph for each letter of my name.

The first "A" is a picture of the swing set in our backyard.
"L" is our roof, complete with Christmas lights.
"Y" is our mailbox and a late afternoon glare on our cul de sac.
The first "S" is a curtain rod from our kitchen.
The second "S" is the gate to the fence around our backyard.
The last "A" is a ladder. I can't remember if it's ours or our neighbors.

Thomas would have had his work cut out for him if my parents had gone through with naming me "Katherine."

I have lived in that house since I was two. My parents designed it, or at least modified the house plans. No one else has ever lived in it.

In August, when my brother goes to college, my parents will move into a new house, which is being built right now.

The new house will not be much smaller than the old one. It will be a little more open, and it will have one less bathroom. Mom says she doesn't want to clean three bathrooms if only two people live there.

The only other difference is that our old house on Oakwood sits on two acres of land, most of it covered in oak trees. It was a great place to play when Thomas and I were little, and more lately his friends have used it for paintball, but it's overgrown with poison ivy now.

So I guess it makes sense for my family to move. Thomas will be in Arizona, and it is unlikely that I'll move back to Texas any time soon, much less to Greenville. I am still sad about it, though, because that is my swing set I used to fall out of and my gate I used to accidentally leave open. I have never lived anywhere else but campus housing.

The main thing that will bother me is having that new house smell when I visit my parents. It will smell like new wood and new beige paint and new upholstry. I babysit in a few cookie cutter houses that smell like that. I cannot figure out how they smell so new; they should smell like Cheerios and Play Doh and crayons and wet wipes and baby's hair. Part of it, I think, is that these kids only play with battery-operated toys.

The townhouse I live in for the summer smells like candles and soy sauce and banana bread and gas from the stove and cigarettes from the back porch. Mostly, though, it smells like outside, because we keep our windows open, partly because we like the breeze, but partly because we can't really figure out how to close some of them. The furniture is mismatched, we have to jiggle the handle to make the downstairs toilet stop making noise, and there is an odd light fixture hanging just above eye level in the middle of the room. Fewer people hit their head on it now that we have covered it with ugly, eye-catching pink fabric.

Those things all make it feel homey to me, even though they're nothing like home. I just hate that new house smell.


"A living-room, the catholic area you
(Thou, rather) and I may enter
without knocking, leave without a bow, confronts
each visitor with a style,

a secular faith: he compares its dogmas
with his, and decides whether
he would like to see more of us (Spotless rooms
where nothing's left lying about

chill me, so do cups used for ash-trays or smeared
with lip-stick: the homes I warm to,
though seldom wealthy, always convey a feeling
of bills being promptly settled

with cheques that don't bounce.) There's no We at an instant,
only Thou and I, two regions
of protestant being which nowhere overlap:
a room is too small, therefore,

if its occupants cannot forget at will
that they are not alone, too big
if it gives them any excuse in a quarrel
for raising their voices ..."

- W. H. Auden, from "The Common Life"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Post

Charity tells me that my playing voice has the palate of Easter eggs, except without being pastel, and it is shaped like rubber jacks. My directing voice, though, is cubist.

I do not know if this blog will be more Easter eggish or more cubist.

I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer -- its dust and lowering skies. It remains for me a season of storms. The parched days and sticky nights are undistinguished in my mind, but the storms, the violent sudden storms, both frightened and quenched me.

- Toni Morrison, from The Bluest Eye