Category Archives: festive activities

Peer Review

in the throes of flash fiction contest
limit: 1000 words
time remaining: mere hours
genre: horror
with co-entrant Beret via gchat

Gina: I’m at 1100 and only one person is dead. and he was already dead

Beret: Obviously we have the start of longer stories we will have to do another day, in all of our extra time

Beret: in the meantime. CRAP

Gina: Maybe I’ll cut a character. One fewer to kill

Beret: I have fantasy. I don’t even have anything magical yet.

Gina: you should end with: “and he lived happily ever after”. now give me an ending and we’re all set

Beret: ok. “he dies”

Gina: all the hes are already dead. there are only shes left

Beret: well don’t kill them. maybe they become part of the evil machine

Gina: I’m at 1100 words. there is no time to assimilate, only maybe to die

Gina: maybe they die of word count

Beret: well cut 108 words, and then say: “and then they all died spontaneously and forever”

Beret: I’m helpful

 

 

 

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The Genius of Gina and Scott

This is the story Scott and I wrote, passing a notebook back and forth, instead of listening to the really boring readers at our final stop on our Literary Pub Walk.  Scott’s lines are in italics.

The Story of May

“I’m leaving,” she said.  “You can come with me if you want, but I’m leaving.”  She grabbed her paper-bagged lunch and her Hello Kitty umbrella and stormed out.  With a sigh, he followed her to the door.  “I’ll pick you up after school,” he called.  “Have a good day.”

At the bus stop, suddenly self-conscious, May zipped up her hoodie, hiding the Rainbow Brite tee she had put on so proudly just minutes earlier.  Maybe Christine would laugh.  Maybe she hadn’t meant it when she said rainbows were cool.  Fifth Grade was hard, even for aspiring actresses as fearless as May.  She squared her shoulders.  It didn’t matter what Christine thought.  She would weather today.  By the time the bus arrived, she was belting Pat Benatar at the top of her lungs.

“Lord, May, give it a rest,” the driver moaned, and May trotted down the aisle to plunk herself beside Stewart, her by-default best friend.  “I’ll never be understood,” she told him, as she threw her head onto his shoulder.

“Quit,” he muttered, shoving her away.  “Why are you always so LOUD?”

“Even you,” May retorted, “oppress me.”

Stewart sighed.  “Are you trying out for the play this afternoon?”

“Darling,” she cooed, “you know I’ll just die if I’m not Miss Hannigan.”

“If you want to be a famous actress,” he said, pushing her towards her end of the seat, “why aren’t you trying out for Annie?”

“I’m too tall, and besides, wouldn’t you rather follow in Carol Burnett’s footsteps than Andrea McCardle’s?”

“I don’t even know who that is,” Stewart said.  “Can I copy your math homework?”

She reached into her bag, digging it out while ranting about the tragedy of his poor comedienne education.

At lunch time,* Stewart having abandoned her for a Student Council meeting, May braved the cafeteria alone.  She took a deep breath before walking to Christine’s table.

“Hey guys,” she called cheerily, plunking her bag into an empty spot.  “Who wants to trade today’s Jello for my mom’s famous oatmeal cookies?”

The table blinked at her, then conversation resumed as if she had not spoken.  “It’s a way better part than Annie,” Christine was saying.  “Better songs, even if it is smaller.”  After a round of agreement from the rest of the table, Christine finally acknowledged May.  “Oh hi,” she said.

“You’re trying out for the play?” asked May in disbelief.  “I thought you weren’t into that kind of thing.”

“Well, I wasn’t, but after my solo in choir last month Mrs. Windelman convinced me I should try.”

“But … you don’t want to be Annie?” May had a sinking feeling.

“I just don’t think I can pull off a character as poor and pathetic as an orphan,” Christine stated with a pointed sneer.  “It’s all about typecasting and look.”

“It’s the lead, though,” said May. “It’s the biggest part.”  She could feel her face getting red.

“I’m more interested in really showing my range,” said Christine, sounding bored.  “Ms. Hannigan is such a … complex character.”

“Cool,” said May, opening her brown bag and zipping up her hoodie.  “I was, um, thinking about trying out for that part too.”

“Oh?” Christine smirked.  “Don’t you think the part’s a little … mature for you?”

“Well, I guess that’s why they hold auditions,” May finally choked out.

Christine rolled her eyes and turned to the friend next to her, leaving May staring into the crusts of her sandwich.

* * * (**)

Sipping the iced tea from the prop whiskey bottle, May paced back and forth, nervous about her first cue. ***  “I feel like I’ve missed some key plot element leading me logically to this place,” she thought, “but no matter.  Apparently I was cast and Christine wasn’t and we will move forward accordingly.”

Stewart, now her stage manager, called to her, “May, it’s not about Christine anymore.  She’s a scunt.”

“Oh, you’re the SM?” May vaguely remembered a series of events that made this convenient arrangement happen, but was unable to recall the exact circumstances due to the bizarre fast forwarding of time. **** “How’s the crowd tonight?”

“It’s better than when we did this same play in Middle School,” Stewart said, stroking the beard on his 22 year old chin. *****

“I’d hope so, asshole, being that we’re on Broadway,” May snapped.  She couldn’t believe she was still saddled with this punk-ass kid from MS51.

“At everyone thought you’d have aborted at least two mistakes by now,” Stew added.  “I’m proud of you.”

“Shows what you know,” thought May, unscrewing her flask and dumping the contents into the prop bottle.

* * * (******)

“It was a mean eulogy, but honest,” Stewart told Christine.

“Maybe if she hadn’t been cast as Annie, all those years ago –” Christine mused.  “Take me home, darling.”

The End. *******

*Please note the normal, appropriate time jump I wrote here, bringing us to a new scene.  This will be important later.

** I added these and whispered, “That means time is passing!” to Scott, as I passed the notebook to him.

*** “Cue?” I hissed.  “Did we skip the audition?”  “You said time had passed,” he hissed back.

**** At this point, Scott whispered, “Oh really?  Well I can play that game.”

***** It all goes downhill from here.

****** Added by Scott, who pointed and said “TIME IS PASSING.”

******* We are clearly geniuses.

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Belated NYTimes Irritation

Written over the summer, lost in document folder until this week.

I had a miserable high school theater experience.  Far from being my place to belong, Drama Club made me feel alienated, self-conscious, and friendless – with one notable exception: our production of Godspell.

Not the rehearsal process, oh no.  That was much the same as it had always been: me, alone, while the cast made inside jokes with the music director and snickered at me. On stage was a different story.

Godspell is inherently about belonging.  It is the story of a group of friends who love each other and cavort about having a great time.  When that’s done well, that feels nothing but real.  Our cast frolicked.  We cavorted.  We sobbed through the ending, singing as best we could through tears.  Anne – my nemesis!  Anne! – and I held hands through the final song, finding comfort and friendship in each other for those fifteen minutes.

Much of my love of Godspell, comes from that experience, but that love is in no way unconditional. Vassar put up a Senior week production that was less a musical than a lecture, managing to suck all the joy out of the script.  A show at the Oxford Playhouse had me wishing aloud that Jesus would just die, already, so I wouldn’t have to watch him anymore.

Imagine my joy, when the current Broadway revival brought back all that I held to my heart. The show is nothing but delightful from beginning to end, from a text-messaged re-envisioning of the too-often-neglected prologue, to choreographed trampolining during “We Beseech Thee.”  There’s a nod to the iconic Superman shirt, as Jesus considers, then passes over in favor of a baseball jersey, and the facepaint has been replaced with pin-on flowers, but the camaraderie remains, as does the joy, the dancing, the giddy-good-times that makes the inevitable denouement that much more heartbreaking.

Critics are claiming Godspell smacks too much of high school to have any credence, these days, on Broadway.  (Where, I wonder, is this backlash when Guys and Dolls comes back around?  Because Lord knows there are far too many pubescent tenors squeaking out  “Luck be a Lady” beneath ill-fitting hats.)  I suspect the issue is less about the show’s history than it is about critics having a difficult time evaluating a show that is meant, primarily, to be fun.  “Where is the art?” I can hear them moaning.

The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood’s rather condescending review makes it clear that Godspell was not worth his time, and also makes it clear that he has no idea what the show’s intention was to begin with.

Godspell is a close to bare-bones script, with room for each cast to improvise and to make connections to themselves, their audience, and the pop-culture of the day.  It’s what we loved about the show in high school, it’s what makes each production something new, and it’s what makes this show wonderfully accessible.   Someone didn’t pass this on to Isherwood, it would seem:  “The original book,” he sniffs, “has been stuffed fruitcake-full of gags about contemporary figures and current trends … You eventually start to wonder: if the story of Jesus and his apostles cannot be treated as timeless, what on earth can?”

I’d send him across the street to see Jesus Christ, Superstar, but I suspect Andrew Lloyd Webber is beneath his dignity as well.

“ … the juvenile spirit of the show tends to infantilize its moral and spiritual subject matter, turning the story of Jesus’ life and his followers’ education in the rewards of faith into a series of schoolyard games. (Remember Pictionary?)”

Ah, Pictionary.  Yes, I suppose I can see that adding Pictionary to the already scripted dialogue involving Charades might be an issue.  Well, no – I can’t.

Oh, Charles.  I wish I could loosen your tie and take you to see this show with me.  I’d convince you to let go of our preconceptions of what theat-ah “should be”, sit you down in first row with the throw pillows, and make you just. watch. It must be difficult to remain aloof in the face of the sheer exuberance and delight of the cast – I can’t imagine holding the façade in place on a second viewing.

It’s true – Hunter Parrish can’t sing that well.  He’s pleasant and earnest on the ballads, but “Alas for You” is somewhat distressing in its awfulness.  I’m willing to overlook that in the face of his genuine likeability. Truly caring about this character is, really, more important that being able to belt out a particular song.  And the rest of the cast will make you forget Hunter can’t sing that well – because, man, can those folks sing.  These are the kinds of voices we long for – pure and huge and ovation inducing.

Godspell is about belonging.  It’s about finding each other and being together. This is why some of us are actors: to find that kind of family, if only temporarily. If a production can achieve that for its audience, can make a family out of them for those two hours, can make us feel a part of the understanding and joy and togetherness –  isn’t that a good show?

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Beers and Boobs

There was a rumor one year that the Mermaid Parade was having its last hurrah.  That was the year I didn’t go because it was raining, after several years of making it to town too late in the summer to attend.  The rumor proved untrue, but I continued to arrive too late.

Now I live here.  Take THAT Coney Island – you can’t keep me away.

Was it all I had hoped?  Well, there were bras made of koosh balls, yes.

Participants kept things topical:

It was kind of hard to see, especially that fifteen minutes of standing my ground while a tiny Asian lady tried to body slam me out of my place.  Sure showed her.  These guys didn’t have that problem.

In general, there were remarkably few topless participants.  And really, wasn’t that why we were all there?

I did have my first mango-on-a-stick

just before the cart was closed down.

The Russian pirate-themed sushi place we ended up at was pretty nifty too.  Although I don’t like beer, so I didn’t have one of the impressive liter jugs.

New York is neat.

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Brooklyn Hoedown

Much was promised.

promises, promises

Although there was some effort to follow through,

yum?

much thought and care

it was … disappointing.

“I wonder,” Aliza mused, “if this is the kind of thing that gets cooler as it gets later.”

or not?

Hard to imagine.

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Put a Matt Damon Quote Somewhere Here

Apples, it turns out, grow on trees.

I mean, they really grow on trees – not at all like our childhood drawings of singular, festive blobs; these trees are aggressively appled,

serious fruit

very much so

to the point one feels guilty choosing a single piece of fruit, imagining the others heaving a collective sigh of disappointment and eyeing the decaying pile of dropped brethren that surrounds each trunk.

Apple picking, I thought, was the ultimate East Coast Fall Activity, and, as such, I’d been planning this excursion for a solid three months.  Anticipating something to that degree is rarely a good idea, as the actual event tends to fail to live up to expectations.

It was, all in all, a day with many moments o’delight.  I mean, it’s October.  Driving through the Hudson Valley in October on a sunny day is going to be nothing but marvelous, whatever the circumstances.

even the cars look pretty

orchard

Baby animals, too, are just fantastic.  Who doesn’t love baby animals?

you can't resist, I know it.

Who’s not going to be excited to see the miniature horse’s furry little mule baby?

my job is to look like this

The Boy, though, had a sore back, and was not, in general, feeling up to a Romantical Fall Outing.  A two hour drive and subsequent march over a muddy hill wasn’t, I suspect,  high on his list of Fun Ideas that day.

There was a great deal of Impressively Bad Parenting in the orchard that day, which is hard to picnic amongst.

Regardless, apples were indeed picked, and they taste good.  Although not, perhaps, good enough to make reasonable the four hours it took us to get the 50 miles back to Brooklyn.  (If a thousand or so people visit an orchard on a typical weekend day, one would think it would make sense to have more than a one lane road those 2o miles between the highway and said orchard.)

There’s something to be said, though, for how nice my apartment looks dressed for fall.

everyone likes pie

pretty

you look nice in red

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Edification

'cause it's so delicious?

yeah, take THAT.

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