2

The Book of Failure and Forgetting

While working at the jewelry booth today, I finished yet another book, so go me!

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The Amnesia Clinic by James Scudamore takes place in Ecuador, where cousins Anti and Fabian go on a quest to find a legendary “amnesia clinic,” where Fabian believes his missing parents might be, alive and well. They travel by bus, and eventually end up at a beach resort in Pedrascada, where all sorts of strange, Y Tu Mama Tambien things start to happen, with Fabian and resort owner Ray’s daughter Sol, and Anti and Sally Lightfoot, a Danish woman who’s tracking a whale carcass down the Ecuadorean coastline to send to a museum. In the end, one of the characters wakes up in a hospital, and the whole book may or may not have been a dream.

It was an easy read, for the most part, that I just kind of glossed through. I was expecting it to be more of an adventure novel, but by the time the ending rolled around, I didn’t know what was what anymore (maybe that makes me a bad reader) and the ending felt very ambiguous.

In other news, if there’s anyone who has advice on opening an Etsy shop, or interested in buying some awesome jewelry, leave a comment below!

6

If A Tree Poops In The Forest And No One’s Around To Hear It…

Today, I worked off and on at the jewelry booth; Hanna and I set up at 11:30, I stayed for an hour, then went home to have lunch and exercise, and then came back at 4 so she could go to a concert from 5:30-8.

Before she left at 4, though, I needed to use the washroom (yes, I’m pretending I’m Canadian, not the worst thing in the world), so she told me to go next door to the sandwich shop and use theirs, because they don’t mind. Of course, right as I walked in, a customer got up and walked toward the bathroom a few steps ahead of me. There were two single-stall washrooms, and he scooted into the men’s, on the left, before I got to. Rather than wait, I looked around and pushed the door of the ladies’ on the right. It was unoccupied, so I went in, locked the door, and used the facilities.

As I washing my hands, I thought…in this type of situation, is it a complete crime to do what I did? Other than the fact that the sink was impossible to turn on and off, it was a pretty standard experience. I cracked open the door, and seeing no one in the hallway, crept out and walked down the hall, into the restaurant, and out to the cart.

Now, my question is this:

Is it unethical/inappropriate/weird to use a single-stall toilet that’s not in use, but indicated as for the opposite sex?

Or

Should I have waited outside a vacant toilet just for one with a little piece of plastic on the door stating my own gender?

Also, Hanna and I floated the idea of creating an Etsy shop to sell jewelry online during the winter months. Anyone have any experience in that area?

15

…And A Happy 1500 Followers

First of all, it’s a milestone day – 1500 followers! And the lucky winner? Carmela Snelbaker – visit her and tell her how much of a good person she is.

It’s been a productive few days of reading; in addition to A Breath of Fresh Air, I also finished The New Year’s Quilt, one of the Elm Creek Quilts novels by homegirl Jennifer Chiaverini.

The New Year’s Quilt doesn’t really seem to fit the bill of the rest of the ECQ series; basically, it’s a pocket-size recap of Sylvia and Andrew’s first few weeks as a newlywed couple – driving from Elm Creek to New York City for Christmas, then to Connecticut to see Andrew’s annoying daughter Amy to drop the news that they eloped – interspersed with badly segued forays into Sylvia’s childhood that don’t really matter.

I actually really enjoy Chiaverini’s sappy, non-committal prose, but this one kind of missed the mark. First of all, the segues to the past were really poorly structured; at least have a little divot when going between past and present, or even a chapter change. Second, the trips back in time to Sylvia’s youth were like the flashback episodes of a sitcom, and not new clips either, clips from past episodes. Those of us who’ve read the earlier novels know all about how Elm Creek Quilts started, Sylvia’s love/hate relationship with Agnes, and Cousin Elizabeth getting married and moving to California. Third, their trip was uninteresting until they got to Connecticut, and once there, Sylvia came up with the stupidest plan, ever, that made her look like a total hypocrite. Even Amy acknowledged her bad acting, which goes to show you that there was some phoning-in involved.

The book review has been brought to you by vinegar. Vinegar: Let’s Hope That This Gets the Crud out of the Coffee Maker.

2

Picking Up Steam, Giving it Some Gas

Now that prelims are finito, I’m proud to say that my reading for pleasure has started to pick up steam again. I brought way too many books on my trip to Chicago and Baltimore, and I actually finished the first one on the plane ride back to Midway: A Breath of Fresh Air, by Amulya Malladi.

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It starts off a little slow, but, like my reading habits, picks up steam shortly in. The book takes place in Ooty, India (which is actually a real place) where Anjali “Anju,” a primary school teacher, lives with her husband Sandeep, a university professor, their son Amar, and his sister Komal. When Anjali’s first husband, army officer Prakash, moves into town with his new wife Indira “Indu,” things get complicated. As Amar becomes more and more ill, Prakash and Anjali must confront the past, and the event that links them all together – the Bhopal gas disaster, which left Anjali with an unraveled marriage and permanent health issues (for her and her future child) as a souvenir.

On the whole, it was a fairly good book and a smooth read, but not terribly deep outside of Anjali and Prakash. Other than Anjali initiating her own divorce with Prakash, nothing really out of the ordinary happened. Their second partners were both pretty wooden, and even their relationships seemed kind of dull. What was actually more interesting to read about, but kind of took second fiddle, was the relationship between Anjali and her Sikh friend Harjot, especially in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s death. That subplot could have used more attention. Overall, the characters were on the conciliatory side, and basically, it proved what I figured from the beginning: Anjali got the short end of the stick by inhaling all that gas, and losing the support of her own parents, and Prakash wasn’t really a jackass, just young and misguided, and he came through for his ex-wife and her son when she needed them, in a big way. The only real risk-taking occurred at the very end, which was very sweet. Overall, I’m on the fence about this one. If you’re into Indian/South Asian fiction, give it a try; if not, it’s not my favorite in the genre so far.

This book review was brought to you

2

Flip the Script Friday: Leanna Brodie, The Book of Esther

It’s been almost a whole month since I’ve posted a Flip the Script Friday, despite having spent the majority of said month researching and writing about theatre. At this year’s ATHE, I did something I usually don’t do, and bought a ton of books from the exhibition hall once they went down to half-price on the last day. Most of them came from Playwrights Canada Press, so get ready to see a lot of Canadian plays hanging out here. Canada has produced some fantastic playwrights and plays, especially in recent years. Also they usually have really pretty cover images. Today’s script is one of them: The Book of Esther, by Leanna Brodie.

Basics

The Book of Esther premiered in 2010 at the Blyth Festival in Blyth, Ontario, Canada, and then in 2011 at Festival Players of Prince Edward County in Picton, Ontario. Interestingly, at the Blyth production, the actor who played Seth (Eric Phillips) also directed, and at the Festival Players production, the playwright herself played the role of Anthea.

Characters

  • Todd Wishart, mid-forties
  • Esther Dalzell, fifteen
  • Anthea Dalzell, early forties
  • A. D., seventeen
  • Seth Dalzell, mid-forties

Setting/Plot

Summer 1981, an apartment (Act I), which shifts into a farmhouse (Act II). Esther, a girl from a farm family, runs away to the big city to get a taste of freedom at the apartment where Todd, a gay rights activist, takes in kids from the street, like A. D. Esther’s religious, evangelical Christian parents Anthea and Seth come looking for her, bringing her back to the farm in Act II, where A. D. and Todd show up, and we begin to see a totally different side of Esther as she’s “back in her element.”

My Thoughts

This play had a lot of cool things going for it, some funny lines and great contrasts. I’m not super into Christianity onstage – it would be interesting to see how it would be pulled off. There are a lot of hidden tangles to the story, once you get into it, from Todd/Anthea/Seth’s pre-story relationship to the issue of the farm and the Dalzell family inheritance.

A. D., Ambiguous Dude

I felt really drawn to A. D. Despite having the least amount of backstory and no real relation with the other four characters, he undergoes a really interesting transformation on the farm. He eventually does reveal his real name, but until then, he’s whatever the situation merits, like “Angel of Death.” Even though it’s not really a comedy, he has the funniest lines.

[Act I Scene 6. A. D. and Anthea are in a coffee shop. A. D. is telling Anthea what he and Esther did the night before.]

A.D.: What, aside from the heroin and turning tricks on Jarvis?

[Beat.]

Wow, they’re not kidding about you Jesus freaks and your sense of humor.

[Beat.]

We consorted at a concert outside City Hall, and dance-ed unto demon rock ‘n roll; we wander-ed down Queen Street and gaze-ed upon graven images; we render-ed unto Pizza Pizza what was due unto Pizza Pizza. Then we watch-ed the sun rise over the lake, and lo, we saw that it was good. Do I get my breakfast now?

(40)

Parallel Lives

Probably the coolest part of the play is its structure. Brodie does a fantastic job of contrasting the various scenes, and patterns begin to form. I wish I knew how to make a table on this site, because that would illustrate it best, but I’ll try it in list form:

  • Act I takes place in an apartment with a mosaic of crushed Red Rose Tea figurines; Act II takes place in a farmhouse full of Red Rose Tea figurines.
  • In Act I, Esther runs away to the city; in Act II, A. D. runs away to the country.
  • In Act I, A. D. jumps into the scene through a window, scaring Esther; in Act II, Esther does the same, scaring A. D. (and even comments “I’ve always wanted to do that”)
  • In Act I, A. D. gives Esther a punk-rock makeover; in Act II, we see A. D. in farm clothes.
  • In Act I, A. D. introduces Esther to samosas and rice; in Act II, Esther introduces A. D. to potato salad.
  • In Act I, Esther and Todd have a father/daughter bond; in Act II, A. D. and Anthea have a strangely quick mother/son bond.
  • Act I opens with Anthea teaching Sunday School before going to Todd’s apartment; Act II opens with Todd at a gay rights meeting before going to the Dalzell farmhouse; the final scene shows Esther at a support group/Bible study meeting.

Canadian Learning Curve

I guess that’s how I’d best describe it. Two of the concepts in the play I needed to look up: Red Rose Tea figurines and Century Farms. So here’s the actor-packet portion of the post:

Fairy Tale Figurines (from redrosetea.com)

  • Red Rose Tea Figurines. Red Rose Tea was founded in 1890 in Saint John’s, New Brunswick, Canada, and was distributed in the USA a few decades later. It seems like they are the “Happy Meals” of tea, issuing trading cards and collectible figurines in each box of teabags. Their website has pictures of the whole collection; they’re really cute and become collector’s items really quickly. Oddly enough, the figurines are now only available on the USA market, not in Canada.
  • Century Farms refer to farms which have been held by the same family for at least 100 years. It’s a big thing in Canada, and it varies by state down here in the USA. I’ve never heard of this term before, but according to Wikipedia, Wisconsin alone has 8,000 of them, and 600 of them are sesquicentennial, or 150 years old.

How I’d Flip It

The set and costume designs seem pretty specific here. It would be interesting to see the transition between the cramped apartment and the large farmhouse. I’m having a hard time imagining all the sets-within-sets, like the coffee shop and the subway station. As far as the acting/casting goes, one of my friends would be a perfect Todd. No stark imagery came to my head, but one of the first scenes ends with the phrase “…somebody I used to know.”

2

The Long-Awaited ATHE Recap

Now that I’ve recovered from what was an insane week of travel, here’s a recap of this year’s ATHE conference, my 7th and the 30th to occur, overall.

Day 1 – Thursday

Caught the 10:30 AM bus down to Chicago, and once there, waded through the heat to the Palmer House. Within minutes of stepping into the hotel, I saw Iris and her daughter, Angela, who had just flown from Taiwan and were trying to caffeinate. I checked in, rode up to the 14th floor, put my stuff wherever I could find a spot, and changed outfits for the Dramaturgy Business meeting. So many regulars were there, and a few new faces. Bryan and Carrie led the meeting, and I sat between Natalie and Martine. After, I went upstairs to change clothes again for the keynote and opening reception. Lydia Diamond, the playwright, spoke very well, and they had FREE WINE AND PIZZA at the opening reception, where I got so many hugs from so many folks I hadn’t seen in forever, and of course Iris and I got our conference selfie with red wine, which we’ve been doing since before the word selfie was invented. Also at the reception, I finally met my roommates for the weekend, Kate, Carrie, and Rebecca. I made it an early-ish night to get some writing done, along with Rebecca, while Kate and Carrie went out to a social.

Day 2 – Friday

Early rise for 8 AM panels. We managed to get ready for the day without getting in each other’s way, and I started off what would become the motif of this conference, choosing the wrong panel to go to. I started off at a panel on theatre of the Middle East, which ended up being not so interesting, so I stole out for an Asian theatre panel and just missed Jasmine’s paper. At least I got to say hello to her and meet her new baby. Then, I saw Jill Dolan in the hall, and she asked if I was going to the panel on Pulse, but I decided to go to a directing panel on Brecht instead.

Note to future self: always listen to Jill Dolan.

I got lunch on my own over at Freshii, and then headed to the All-Conference Plenary. I could only stay about half the time though because I needed a break. I ended up skipping the next round of sessions, which in hindsight was a good thing because the one I was planning on going to ended up getting cancelled. So, at 4 PM, I went to the Debs Panel (where I was actually on time for once, go me!) and saw three wonderful dramaturgy presentations. Cindy and co. really do a great job at picking quality panelists – after all, they chose me 7 years ago😉 Next, I went to a panel on food and performance led by 3 alums of my department, Niccole, Kristen, and Megan, and had a great time there. It ended up being another pack-it-in night. I can’t remember where I had dinner (or if I even had it).

Day 3 – Saturday

Panels started at 8:15, but I was fully attentive at Natalie’s panel, “Babies R Us: Laboring Bodies in Academia,” in which female professors and grad students talked about being a mother and academic at the same time. It was a really warm atmosphere in the room, and it was great to hear personal stories that you wouldn’t normally hear on the day-to-day. After the panel, Natalie was officially finished with her duties at the conference, so we escaped the premises and took a walk to the Chicago Cultural Center, where we saw some really cool art exhibits, and then had lunch at Peach and Green. It was so nice to be able to catch up with her; we talk online all the time, but I hadn’t really gotten to sit down with her since probably Orlando, which was 3 years ago. We got back in time for the 30th anniversary celebration, and I sat with Bryan, Carrie, Cindy, and Rachel as we toasted ATHE with champagne and a delicious layer cake. The rest of the panels that day were a blur – dramaturgy follow up meeting, a panel on theatre and TV, and then a quick lie-down before one of the best parts of every ATHE, DNO (Dramaturg’s Night Out). It was huge this year, and we practically took over Berghoff. The food was really good, and our waiter was hilarious. Thanks to our table pic, I now know who all was there: me, LaRonika, Annalisa, Cindy, Jim, Bryan, Karen Jean, Martine, Brad, two faces I can’t quite make out, and newcomers Jessica, Rachel, and Alex. I sat between Annalisa and Alex and got to know them better over salmon and spaetzle.

Most importantly, that night I sat down and resolved to finish my prelim writing. At 1 AM, in a corner of the 4th floor of the hotel, I passed the 20 page mark, and hit save on my final draft at 1:30 AM. I didn’t carve my name anywhere, but I did take a picture of the spot, which is why there is a random photo of a table on my phone.

So that’s done now.

Day 4 – Sunday

I woke up refreshed, knowing that my prelims were done, and as a reward, skipped the first session of the day for a nice breakfast. We checked out of our room, and then I headed to some acting panels, just for fun. At the first one, we played some games I already knew, plus a few I didn’t (Hi-5 or Death and Move Me). The second acting panel was a little less interactive than the first, but it was led by Margie who is just this electric ball of energy. I capped off my conference with lunch at Le Pain Quotidien with Iris and Angela – a nice bookend to the trip.

There were so many people who were there that I didn’t get to say hi to, but there’s always next year in Vegas.

Just when I was retrieving my bag from the hotel and contemplating whether it had been a successful ATHE or not, THE Holly Hughes (!) appeared out of nowhere and we had a big hug before I stepped out of the Palmer House.

So I think that pretty much cemented the weekend as a successful ATHE.