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Flip the Script Friday: Qui Nguyen, She Kills Monsters

Last Friday I was on my way to Minneapolis for APO Region Rally (the very last one), followed by a quick weekend jaunt to Baltimore for a wedding, but I’ve been reading some plays recently, so I wanted to get back in the groove of Flip the Script Friday. Here comes the first of 2 Qui Nguyen plays I’ve read recently, the fantastic fantasy that is She Kills Monsters.

5

When Life Gets You Down…Monologue

Real talk.

October has been a more difficult month for me than I thought. One of the most difficult months of my life, in fact. I won’t go into any more details, but I will share with you one way I dealt with it.

Last night, I was awake at 2 AM. Still fully dressed, still fully stressed, and I just wanted to scream at the world.

Then, I thought to myself…where have I heard that phrase before? And then I realized…

It’s from a monologue in Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror.

So, I immediately tore up my apartment looking for my copy, and eventually found the monologue I was looking for in an anthology.

And there I was, whatever-past-two in the morning, sitting on the floor of my living room, leaning against my couch, loudly reciting a monologue called “The Coup” as loudly as I could. It got me out of my head for a bit, and I actually enjoyed myself. I followed it up by pulling my copy of bash off the shelf and reading iphigenia in orem, then rounded out the night by sitting on my bed and reading a humorous monologue out loud.

Then I went back to reality.

It was an unusual attempt at self-care, but not an unwelcome one. I would recommend.

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Flip the Script Friday: Black Lives, Black Words – Part II

Picking up this book again and reading through some of the plays is like…scripts flipping themselves, with a vengeance.

There’s been so much anger these past few weeks, and it’s been more than just race. Everywhere from on our screens to in the streets, women are under attack. It’s the Women’s March of 2017 all over again…

…but this time, they’re fighting back.

Two plays from Black Lives, Black Words that I read this afternoon exemplify the struggles of both race and gender, and go about them in very different ways.

First, in, Officer Friendly by Rachel DuBose, we see an alarming image of racial discrimination and gender bias smashed up against one another like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a trash compacter. In eight stop-motion-like scenes, we see the full range of feeling from Nina, a black woman, in an encounter with white male “Officer Friendly,” as he is known, at a bus stop. In the blink of an eye, the scene shifts from active suspicion of Nina, to the officer evading all of Nina’s logical and appropriate questions, to an attempt to cajole a false confession out of Nina, to a “mind if I stand here with you?” which turns into a “my you’re pretty,” which turns into a “let me protect you.” That was a long sentence, but as Nina gets on the bus, it’s a giant sigh of relief. In Call and Response by Becca C. Browne, the characters are all female and African-American, but the pain and oppression is still present. A seven-year-old girl approaches Claire, who is sitting in Chicago’s Millennium Park, feeding the birds. Their conversation begins with the girl asking Claire why she is not attending the march. As Claire reveals the facts, that her sister Della was murdered by a police officer, the girl mysteriously echoes her words – as if she has experienced this exact same moment before. As Claire is just about to ask the girl her name, along comes Brianna, a protester, who is leading a call-and-response chant about Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old girl who was murdered. When Claire learns this, she is immediately inspired to join the march, along with the girl, who reveals that she is Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and asks Claire to say her name.

My Thoughts: Although these two plays probably don’t go together in anyway, it feels like they should. DuBose’s play takes a tense situation that happens all too often and all too quickly and slows it down, beat by beat, whereas Browne’s play is a notably calmer atmosphere which is more surreal, but escalates to a frenzied chant. Rhythm and cadence is something that we take for granted, but in these two short pieces, I can see how time can be played with and manipulated for the purposes of showing what’s really there.

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Only Human

This might just be among the weirdest posts I’ve ever made, but I’m wondering what it is that makes you feel human.

Call me materialistic, but for me, there’s something about sensations that makes me feel so much…like me. None of these things are too shameful in and of themselves, rather they’re indulgences, but for some reason, they make me feel like a person. I don’t know how else to explain it, but maybe…that feeling when you do something wrong, but it’s something that doesn’t really matter in the long run (nobody is hurt, no one died), and you shrug and say “I’m only human,” and you’re right. And then you go back to feeling like yourself and wait for the next thing to happen.

For me, it’s my favorite scents:

  • Most anything from Crabtree & Evelyn
  • Nautica Aqua cologne (or whatever it’s called)
  • A brand-new bar of soap (tonight I opened a bar of Waterlily and Jasmine by Asquith & Somerset
  • Lavender
  • Orchids
  • Coffee

It’s certain sounds:

  • Rain falling at night
  • A dryer
  • The clicky sound whenever you download a new app on your iPhone

And certain sensations:

  • Scrubbing with a loofah
  • Getting into a warm bath
  • Picking up a piece of garbage from the ground (this is probably the weirdest one)
  • Putting my nose inside my shirt, counting to ten, and then the cool sensation when I take it out (okay, this might be weirder)
  • Rayon
  • Quilts and duvets that are slightly on the heavy side
  • A fan blowing lightly on my skin
  • Other things I probably shouldn’t share in a forum as public as a blog…

What about you?

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Ghost Fleet? Spooky!

(in case you doesn’t get that joke, just listen to the bonus track on the [title of show] album)

HI.

So.

I actually finished a book the other day. Despite today being the last day of September, I think it was just the second or third book I finished. I found it on the Maryland shelf in the Wisconsin Historical Society library stacks, and it’s actually inspired me to want to a) read more books on the history of my home state and b) maybe even read a nonfiction book on the history of every state.

More on that later, but first, a recap of the adventure that lies within the pages of Donald H. Shomette’s Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay.

In a nutshell, Ghost Fleet explores a small part of the Chesapeake Bay near the town of Nanjemoy, Maryland, which is home to an inordinate number of shipwrecks at a remarkably easy-to-access location. The chapters go between various topics. My favorites were Shomette’s fascinating descriptions of the contents of the sunken ships, the ways that current Americans were mapping the ships on the sea floor, and his unexpectedly humorous interactions with former Maryland governor William Donald Schaefer AKA “Willie Don” on a guided tour of the area of the shipwrecks. Schaefer ended up being so fascinated that he practically catapulted money towards ship preservation in Maryland, which came as a surprise.

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Oh, What a Lovely War

Has it really been almost a whole month since I’ve posted? It seems like That’s So Jacob is turning into something akin to a monthly blog, judging my summer posting pattern…

Things are just chugging along at my end. The weather is staying kind, even if the mosquitoes are not, and I’m attempting to keep up with all of my TAship responsibilities.

I did, however, finish a book this month, finally. And it only took me until September 20th but I did it. Names on a Map by Benjamin Alire Saenz, done.

Image result for names on a map by benjamin alire saenz

Names on a Map tells the story of the Mexican-American Espejo family, who are living in El Paso, Texas in 1967, with the Vietnam War looming over their existence. The story is told mostly from the perspectives of young adult twins Gustavo, a rebellious pacifist, and Xochil, who is trying to take control of her life. They live with their parents, Octavio and Lourdes; their younger brother, the westernized Charlie; and their grandmother, Rosario, who dies 3/4 of the way through the book and spurs Gustavo’s main actions. In addition, a side narrative occurs in Da Nang, where Adam and Abe are fighting, although their connections with the Espejo family seem rather slim, other than Adam referencing having met Xochil one time in El Paso.

Mostly, the book revolves around the main characters’ relationships with the wars going on both in Vietnam and in their own lives. We find out that Xochil was raped as a young girl, and that Gustavo is attempting to dodge the draft because of a previous disillusionment with violence. In between the twins is Jack Evans, a white, Vietnam-bound schoolmate of theirs who is a former friend of Gustavo’s and a current boyfriend of Xochil’s. He seems to embody all that is the opposite of Gustavo, from white privilege to American machismo, as he faces off against Gustavo and convinces Xochil to “make him a man.” What is interesting about that relationship is that even though Gustavo is devastated once he finds out that Xochil and Jack Evans sneaked away to do the deed, Jack Evans doesn’t come out on top, as Xochil explains to him that she wanted to avenge her rapist on her own terms, and has no intention of marrying Jack now or after he comes back from Vietnam. As Xochil leaves Jack Evans behind, so does Gustavo to America, escaping over the border to Mexico.

Even though the plot is difficult to follow at times and goes in so many different directions, the writing is so poetic and you really get a feel for what this family and the people around them endured in such a turbulent time in America, when lines were drawn in the sand, and twice as deep for minorities such as Mexican-Americans.

I had never heard of this book or its author before I plucked it off the shelf of the Madison Public Library, but it will definitely not be the only Benjamin Alire Saenz novel I read. I’ve already picked up another for my never-ending pile of books.

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Flip the Script Friday: Black Lives, Black Words – Part I

I think this has been my longest blog hiatus since I began it back in 2013. July and August really came and went fast for me. On July 31, I submitted chapter 3 of my dissertation, and on August 1, I left for my 9th ATHE, in Boston. I spent four days catching up with friends, making new ones, and participating in the activities of the conference. I stayed in Boston a few days longer to visit with my grand-big Dan, and he took me to Maine for the very first time, where we saw the beaches of Ogunquit and Kennebunkport, and had dinner in Portland – now I’ve been to every state east of the Mississippi. Only seven more states to go – anyone up for a trip to North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, or Hawaii?

I’ve spent most of August trying to figure things out for the fall. I’m going to be teaching COMM ARTS 100 – Intro to Speech and Composition. I’m (hopefully) going to finish the final 2 chapters of my dissertation in the next 2 or 3 months. I’m also going to be considering my post-graduation options, probably going on the job market, and just figuring out life and stuff in general.

I have missed y’all and the blog, so what better time to start back up than the present, with everyone’s favorite, Flip the Script Friday – with a twist. Politics have been crazier than ever, especially this summer, and with no signs of it slowing down, I thought – what kinds of thoughts can I contribute, in my own little way? A friend of mine is starting a blog about playwrights of color. Rather than copy her idea, I’m modifying FTS (what a cool new acronym!) for the near future to focus on this fantastic book of short plays I’ve found in the library. The book is entitled Black Lives, Black Words and was published in 2017 by Oberon Books, with Reginald Edmund as editor. It is part of an international project to increase black visibility in the theatre, and includes some really poignant scripts. Rather than flip the scripts, I’m going to write up short synopses of some the pieces in the book and share some of my thoughts. I’ve only read the first few, but hopefully I’ll be able to fit the rest of the book among my regular, non-research reading and write more. And now, here is the first of the plays from the book I’ll be reviewing:

#Matter by Idris Goodwin

Synopsis: A conversation on race emerges over Facebook between acquaintances Kim (black) and Cole (white). In response to Kim’s post of “a hashtag and three words,” Cole posts “a hashtag and three words.” The conversation becomes more and more explosive and acrimonious, from scientific to personal, with an unexpectedly sad ending.

My Thoughts: Goodwin really lays it all out there, and concisely summarizes both sides of an argument in a way that comes off as individual and thoughtful rather than preachy and trite. Both Kim and Cole feel victimized by prejudice AND guilty of it at the same time, for different reasons. I feel like it’s like a high-five where the hands just completely miss each other. Both characters speak valid points – sometimes they listen, but they do a lot of talking past each other. What’s really intriguing, though, is the playwright’s continual return to the phrase “perfect star,” – as if that’s a third race.

5

No Clever Title – Sad Afternoon :(

It’s been a serious minute since I’ve blogged; did I really only blog once in June?!?!

Part of the reason why I haven’t been around is because I was researching and preparing for presenting my research at the AIS (Association for Israel Studies) Conference, which I’ll probably recap in a post soon. This was my first conference, and it was on the campus of the University of California-Berkeley. I spent a whopping 12 days in the Bay Area, mostly due to getting a cheap flight on American Airlines, which included 4 days in San Francisco where I met up with Ciara and did quite a lot of uphill walking by my lonesome; 4 days in Berkeley where I finally saw the university’s campus for the first time, spoke and moderated a panel, and made a ton of new friends from around the world; and then 4 days on an island hotel in Burlingame where I attempted to have a work-ation, and was somewhat successful, but mostly ended up entertaining myself in Burlingame, San Mateo, and Palo Alto, where I paid a visit to Stanford University. I got back at about midnight last night.

Now back to today.

I guess everything happens for a reason. This afternoon, I went grocery shopping at the Pick ‘n Save on the West Side, a different Pick ‘n Save than the ones where I usually shop, either the one in Middleton or the one on University Avenue. I was feeling annoyed at having so many heavy groceries and at a mom in the store who couldn’t get her kids to stop crying for the entire 15 minutes I was inside. I had just responded to a text from a friend and was about to close the car door on my groceries, when I heard a giant BOOM.

At first I didn’t know what it was, because it didn’t quite sound like the impact of two cars crashing, but it didn’t sound normal, either. I turned around to face the street, and saw what looked like a brown lump in the middle of the road. I walked toward it, thinking it might be a dead animal…but it was actually two lumps, a large chocolate lab and a small terrier, lying on their sides in the road.

They were still alive and breathing, but they’d clearly just been hit by a car.

All of a sudden about eight other people descended on that spot in the road. For some reason, as people drew near, I decided to stand in the middle of the street and direct traffic as other people tended to the dogs, both of whom were wet and bleeding in the middle of the road. Quickly, two people (an older man in a blue shirt, and an Asian woman in a blue dress) carried them gently out of the street and laid them on the grass across the road from the supermarket. A young couple who were nearby with their own dog went to their car and brought out towels and water bottles, which, being dog owners, they fortunately had in their car. The Asian husband/boyfriend of the Asian woman took pictures and videos on his phone, while his wife/girlfriend held the smaller dog (the terrier) down. He was able to walk and was very jumpy, but was also wet and bleeding from his mouth. The man in the blue shirt was holding the larger dog, the chocolate lab, who was still very much breathing, but extremely bloody, with her front legs trembling. We looked at their collars, and upon learning that their names were Kassi and Oliver and they had the same phone number on them, we surmised they had the same owner. I was holding my phone, so I was the one who called the number and deliver the bad news. The phone rang three times, and just before rolling over to voicemail, a man picked up, and the conversation went like this:

ME: Hi, are you the owner of a dog named Kassi?

HIM: Yes, that’s my dog…

ME: My name is Jacob. I’m here with her, and she’s been hit by a car. She’s alive but badly hurt. Are you also the owner of a dog named Oliver?

HIM: Yes

ME: He is also here, he’s been hit too. They’re both ok, but bleeding a lot. We’re outside the Pick ‘n Save on Maple Grove, are you at home?

HIM: I’m at work right now.

ME: Okay, can you come here? There are about eight of us with your dogs right now, we are taking care of them. When can you be here?

HIM: Ten minutes…

ME: Okay, see you soon. Again, I’m Jacob, and I’m with your dogs and a bunch of people. I’m the one in the red shirt.

Down the road was the car that hit the dogs. Fortunately, the driver had indeed stopped, but didn’t get out right away as he was probably upset and scared that he’d killed the dogs. He was a young teenager, and as he came over to us, I made sure to ask if he and his car were okay, rather than point fingers. Another couple had shown up by this point, a couple who had been a few blocks down the road and called the police on the dogs because they had passed them running around in the street and narrowly avoided hitting them a few minutes earlier. Someone else called the police and an ambulance. Finally, after about fifteen minutes, a large black pickup with its hazards on pulled up next to us, and a police car right behind him. The owner, a tall Latino guy, got out of the pickup. I probably said something stupid, like “Hi, I’m Jacob, and these are your dogs (well, duh) and they’re hurt (again, duh)” and remarkably, the owner was not too upset, just a little dazed and sad but overall grateful that a bunch of strangers (six at this point: me, blue shirt, Asian couple, and down-the-road couple) were there. Another car pulled up, and it was the mom and grandma of the driver of the car. We gave the dogs back to their owner. Oliver sprung up and jumped into the truck, but it took some coaxing from the owner to get Kassi on her feet. Once she was upright, it was clear that all four of her legs were shaking, especially her front paws, and she half got into/half was lifted into the truck. Everyone else (couples, owner, driver, mom, grandma, and police) went across the street to the parking lot of the store to exchange information, and not knowing what to do, I stood beside the truck and watched the dogs to make sure they were OK in there (Oliver was jumping up and around; I didn’t see Kassi but she was probably lying down on the back seat). After a few minutes, everyone came back across the street and went their separate ways. I told the owner to call me if he needed me, since mine was the number he had, and that I hoped his dogs were OK. Fortunately, there is an emergency pet clinic a little farther down the street so I don’t think that they had to travel too far.

On the whole, it was a sad experience for the driver, owner, and dogs, but it was good that so many random people stopped to help them. It’s not really clear who’s to blame here; the driver was clearly not expecting two dogs to charge out of the bushes and in front of his car, and the owner was clearly unaware that his two dogs had gotten loose. Either way though, two dogs were hurt and a guy’s car was dented in the front. It could have been worse though, and I’m glad it wasn’t.

Two things to take from this experience.

People, drive safely, and make sure you know where your dogs are when you are not at home.