Oh, if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one…
I have no idea what happened this year. I really don’t. I re-read all the entries in this blog earlier tonight and I thought, What? When did I do all this stuff? I went to an awards show? I got engaged to a doctor? Really! Also, I’m a complete lunatic. Why do I put this stuff on the internet?
Eh, whatever. I’m never going to be president.
That’s always my thought process when I have doubts about putting potentially embarrassing things on the Internet. Like, the litmus test for “Is this appropriate” is not “do you have any dignity whatsoever?” but rather “you planning on running a national campaign for the highest office in the land? No? Great, do whatever the hell you want! Talk about your therapist some more! Take a picture of your brunch! Work out your complicated feelings! Everything is correct! The NSA already knows about it anyway! Who’s hungry?”
So, anyway, here’s to more of that, I guess!
I’m bad at New Year’s Eve, I think. Ever since I was in the restaurant industry I’ve derisively referred to it as Amateur Night. It’s amazing the number of drunk girls I see stumbling about at 12:15 wearing no shoes and crying. We’re only 15 minutes into the new year, what could have possibly gone wrong?
Center City Philadelphia looks like a zombie apocalypse from around 11pm on New Year’s Eve until around 2 a.m. on January 2nd. Hide your kids, hide your wife, bring out your sparkly headdresses, find your vuvuzela, move your car from the spot in occupies in the middle of Broad Street all year round, disregard literally every law, kiss a stranger, litter with wild abandon! It’s a madhouse. And I tend to try to avoid it.
It’s not just the total collapse of society that I try to avoid, though. I’m not really a “New Year, New You” person. I don’t do resolutions. I don’t make myself promises for the next year. And I try not to take stock of the past year on New Year’s Eve. I like to look at life as moments–some closer, some farther–not controlled by time but rather the proximity of memory, the immediacy of emotion. I often find myself telling my therapist (oh look! He’s talking about his therapist again!) about something that happened in the past week and then switching seamlessly into a tale from years ago. Because in my mind there’s a connection, they’re all part of the same unfinished story. She seems to take this in stride. She takes everything in stride, which is impressive considering I usually just roll in there like Julia Roberts in the shopping montage from Pretty Woman, all weighed down with baggage and wearing a jaunty hat. “You agreed to help me parse my emotions? Big mistake. Huge.”
Anyway, I decided that instead of retracing my steps or promising things I may or may not do in the following twelve months (show up on time, contribute to my 401k, go to the gym, somehow get a baby/boyfriend/tattoo), I would revisit 10 of my favorite moments from the 2013 in pictures.
10. Bless His Chest
This summer my friend, Cooper, held a cake raffle as a fundraiser for his top surgery. It was wildly successful primarily because Cooper is a fantastic person who has touched the lives of so many people in Philadelphia, but also because raffling off cake is the best idea I’ve ever heard of. He asked me if I would help raise awareness on Facebook and also pick the winning raffle tickets. In the middle of a really stressful, emotionally complicated summer, lending a hand to cake and good cause was a lifesaver. One of my favorite memories from this year is standing on the counter at the Morning Glory Diner, looking out on a sea of faces who love and affirm someone who I also love and affirm. A sea of faces that also love cake. Brings a tear to the eye. Pictured above is my contribution to the festivities, rainbow-layered cupcakes, one of my favorite things to make.
At the same time, I took three weeks off of work to intern at PlayPenn, a New Play Development Conference and it was one of the most uplifting, challenging, exhausting and inspiring periods I’ve yet experienced in my professional life. This photo is from the first day, before I had any idea what I’d gotten myself into. Some of the greatest artistic minds in the region are sitting at that table, including the incredible Deborah Zoe Laufer, whose play, Informed Consent, I had the distinct pleasure of working on. To me this photo is representative of the many amazing opportunities to grow and to challenge myself that I’ve been given and also of my affinity for when tables are in a square and everyone looks at each other. I love that. I love when tables are in a square. And everyone looks at each other. It’s especially cool if there’s binders, also.
8. The New Century
Apparently a lot happened this summer. Right after PlayPenn, I went into rehearsal for Paul Rudnick’s The New Century. This was the first time I had played anyone other than myself on stage in probably a decade. I typically don’t count all the dramatic acting I do in my own living room when my roommate isn’t home because it’s not Equity. But believe me, I’m like the Meryl Streep of reenacting all of Meryl Streep’s major roles with less subtly and a weird British accent for no reason. I’m also really good at playing everyone in The Departed. Just in case anyone ever asks you what my special skills and talents are. I had forgotten how much I love acting! And how hard it is for me to figure out what to do with my hands all the time! In any case, this is a picture of me in a blonde wig. That happened this year. A lot.
7. The Vaudevillians
I developed a deep, deep love for cabaret this year and Jinx Monsoon put on one of the very best I have ever seen. It was hilarious, extremely well-written and she can SANG! SAAAAANG! The only downside was that the show started about 3 hours late. Here’s what I wrote at the time: For over two hours, we have been packed into Voyeur tighter than the Amistad, waiting for The Vaudevillians show to begin. They’re playing peppy ragtime music and someone keeps subtly lowering the lights. The DJ periodically announces we’ll be starting soon and asks us not to take pictures. But there is nothing to photograph. I wonder if I’ll ever see my loved ones again. Or pizza. This might be some sadistic immersive Beckett experience. I guess we won’t know until civilization crumbles and we begin to tear each other apart. Drag shows, man.
6. The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret
I’ve become a HUGE Martha fan this year. I literally cannot get enough. I’ve seen her 4, maybe 5 times in the last 6 months. It’s all thanks to my friend Alejandro who gave me an extra ticket to Martha’s show at Johnny Brenda’s. That night she performed the entire Purple Rain album and when I tell you I got my life, child, I GOT MY LIFE! It was hot as crotch up in Johnny Brenda’s and I was drenched by the end of the night, but I could have kept jumping around, squealing with delight for hours more. Martha performs in Philly and at Joe’s Pub in New York. If she is near you, go see her. This is not a request.
5. It’s Not Gossip If I Say It To Your Face
Oh! This! I have SO MUCH to say about this I’m actually just going to put it all in another blog post later this week. But let it be said, this was the highlight of my Spring. I was asked to write a new play to be directed and performed by students at the high school I went to (pictured above). It was incredible honor and the play was extraordinary–hilariously performed, brilliantly directed. It was a fantastic weekend at my alma mater. But what’s best about this moment for me is that I was able to make a connection with a lot of the students in the play and I’m really glad to count them as friends. They forced me to download SnapChat and send me ridiculous pictures; we text back and forth about Scandal; they came to see me in The New Century. Who knew that all of that could’ve come from a silly 30 minute play about a bunch of idiots arguing on a street corner?
4. Chicken and Waffles at Cafeteria
This is just the best fucking meal I ate all year. Yeah, I said it. Okay, I take that back. I ate a LOT of good meals. My sister-in-law, Kathleen, made the best Low Country Boil I’ve ever had. And the best jambalaya I’ve ever had. And one hell of a Christmas dinner. And she did it all with a smile and a 7-week-old baby. So Kathleen wins best meals. But this was close. I’m obsessed with Chicken and Waffles and I plan to eat every Chicken and Waffles meal available in New York City. Why? Because I have goals in life! I got these one Sunday morning at Cafeteria, a bustling NYC restaurant. I rolled in there like it was Philly on a Tuesday. “Table for one please.” The hostess was like, “What? Get the hell out of here with all that. Table for one? Bitch, go sit at the bar behind the credit card machine. And don’t touch nothing!” I’ve found myself spending a fair number of Sunday morning on brunch walkabouts in New York and I often like to try to pretend that I’m an important person in town for business. No one ever believes me. “Oh, I’m just here looking into some investment opportunities.” “Is that right? Wearing a hoodie and jeans and carrying a laptop bag from IKEA?” “Well, it’s because I’m from the coast.” “What coast? The Ivory Coast? Get the hell out of here and don’t touch nothing.” In any case, this meal was amazeballs.
3. (in)voluntary commitment
Daniel Student, Jenn MacMillan and I reunited this year to put together an evening of dramatic storytelling as a sort-of sequel to 2012’s Overexposed: A Slightly Awkward Peepshow and I was really blow away by how much we’d all grown. Although the new show, (in)voluntary commitment, didn’t sell as well as the first, I firmly believe that it’s our strongest work to date. This picture is from the promotional photo shoot. I stood in the middle of Broad Street in my underwear on a frigid February morning for art. So, if you’re currently in college majoring in theatre, please know that life just keeps getting more and more glamorous.
2. THE BABY!
I just! No words! The best!
1. The Soundtrack Series at The Museum of the Moving Image
This is kind of my dream come true. This is a photo (well two photos) of me telling a story at the Soundtrack Series while being accompanied by the video for Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied.” It’s me and Bey in the same shot! If this photo had a side of bacon, it would be all of my favorite things in one spot. Guys, I look at this photo and I get envious at myself! And then I’m like, How is this dude single? And then I’m like, What are you even talking about? And then I’m like, who needs a relationship–you have a 20-foot tall Beyonce! My interior monologue is always screaming. Anyway, this was an awesome show and the minute Dana Rossi, Soundtrack Series’ awesome producer, asked me to do it, I had a sudden and immediate realization that this picture is what I’ve been looking for my whole life. I felt like that Batkid in Seattle! Except without all the annoying physical exertion of running around Seattle. All those hills. Jesus. Guys, never give up on your dreams of being photographed next to videos of your idols!
And finally, I saw well over 50 theatrical productions and dance shows this year, so many of them excellent. One of the most confounding and most wonderful things about live performance is that it’s made of moments that immediately evanesce. Every night, every moment is different. Here’s 5 one-sentence descriptions that will never do justice to the moments that I witnessed:
American Utopias by Mike Daisey (The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company). At the end of Daisey’s superb tale of public/private gathering places, he called for the house lights and led the audience out to a DC street corner, where he literally stood on a soap box and performed the last 15 minutes of the show.
The Convert by Danai Gurira (The Wilma Theatre). Near the end, Prudence–an educated Zimbawean woman in colonial Africa (one of the most phenomenal characters I’ve ever seen)–is so destroyed by the systemic oppression of people of color that she decides to abort her unborn child rather than subject one more African person to the life that she has had to lead. Devastating.
It’s My Party: The Women and Comedy Project by Jennifer Childs (1812 Productions). A harried doctoral candidate, played by Susan Riley Stevens, is stymied in her attempt to present her thesis on women and comedy by the sudden, perplexing entrance of a chorine in pink tulle (Cathy Simpson) whose face conveyed a hilarious mix of confusion, embarrassment and bug-eyed shock.
Holly’s Dead Soldiers by Bruce Walsh, Douglas Williams and Chris Davis (Philadelphia FringeArts). In this adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s set in an actual Philadelphia home, the action climaxed when a detective (played by Davis) questioned the Capote stand-in using a virtuosic 5-minute barrage of words that started outside the house, continued through the living room, back outside, inside again, up the stairs, into the bathroom and back down the stairs.
One Radio Host, Two Dancers by Ira Glass, Monica Bill Barnes, and Anna Bass (Dance Celebration). Glass played an interview with a man whose wife lost her battle to cancer as the two dancers performed a delicate, precarious duet on a tabletop. At one point in the interview the man recalls how his wife, in her last days, despaired that there would be “no more fucking” as one dancer leaned back and nearly toppled to the ground.
Anyway, this has been a year. An incredible year. A sad year. A growing year. A hungry year. A year of days. All of them. I don’t do resolutions and I try not to shut the door on the past. It’s harder to be funny about things when you look back at them in a way that says “this is over.” So, in my mind, none of these moments are over; they’re all ever-present, ever-willing to spring to mind. I choose not to say goodbye to 2013 but to welcome 2014 to the great collection of time–good times, bad times, and all the in betweens.