Ahhh. Thanksgiving day in America. Relaxation. No work tomorrow. No class tomorrow. No drill tomorrow. Same on Friday. Same on Saturday. I'm feeling guilty already. And looking forward to the guilt. I may even have an organic smoke tonight. I'm already looking forward to a bad movie, some action or fantasy flick, maybe both. Lots of homework to do the next three days in addition to the visiting and celebrating, but the pace will feel so leisurely. Time to actually think about things and savor the process of analyzing the script and starting to memorize.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I am totally enamored with the idea of three days off. I'm not even sure why, or what it is I want to do besides sleep and stare at the wall foggy bliss. It will be the first time I've had a day off since Labor Day, which might not sound like a big deal to a workaholic, but to a healthy mortal with a life it feels like a happening. And, I do consider myself to be a healthy mortal with a life. Part of that life was The Cherry Orchard
which kept me busy weekends and evenings after getting over the worst of my broken leg, from rehearsals starting in April until we closed the show in July, then I was preparing for the ETI auditions, and then preparing for class. Even when I had the four day weekend for Labor Day. I still have homework, but it is a known quantity. I enjoyed that Labor Day vacation immensely, but it was very much a preparation time for ETI. I'm now immersed in ETI, and know what to expect.
Another part of that life is of course the ETI training. And, I had a bit of a personal triumph last night. My Lazzi
scene partner and I did our presentation. Like most of the presentation exercises it was only three or four hours of development and rehearsal. We chose the 'lint' scenario. I see a piece of lint floating in the air, which lands on my foot. I pick it up and blow it away, it lands on Ben's ankle, he picks it up and blows it away and it lands just above my ankle. Then we move the landing point up the body as the lint delivery gets more energy and focus, from blowing softly to flicking to blowing hard then touching, getting it stuck in my ear, to a self-administered Heimlich Maneuver delivery, to a 1960's karate chop delivery, then delivery by belly punch, then by a big roundhouse slap, and finally a groin kick after which I ran away.
We got a satisfying and surprising number of great laughs. George said he'd never seen anyone go into stage combat with the lint game -- I think he got a kick out of it. We got feedback on how we could improve and build upon it, like moving the floating lint faster, making our focus and the picking up of the lint more specific in some of the switches (which we were working on), exaggerating our size difference, etc. From several other recent exercises I kept finding I need to narrow the scope of the action. Not lessen the action, but keep it more focused and on track. I was thinking about that, and in working with Ben it was easy. We both make and take suggestions well -- he was my Pinter partner and I enjoyed working with him which is why I sought him out as a partner for this exercise. The fact he works extremely close to my office is an added convenience.
The technical and training achievement was in a improved keeping of the focus and extending and building the specific circumstance and action. I felt good about it, and there was no feedback about needing to follow a thought or promise to conclusion. The more personal joy or acheivement was the laughter we got.
I loved some of the suggestions from the class for a reversal at the end, after I've delivered the groin kick and run away. One idea was mine, to come back out and steal his wallet. Another was to mourn over my victim, then stomp or kick him and leave again. Don suggested going back out and picking up the lint and leaving with it. I'd love to combine two, go steal his wallet, do a take or two as I prepare to leave, then turn and pick up the lint put it carefully in the wallet and go.
When we are doing the work in class there are two types of laughter. Ensemble laughter is one sort. It is genuine, and comes from your relationship with and knowledge of the performer(s). The other is audience laughter, things any audience would laugh at. Most the laughter Ben and I got felt like the latter type, or so I'm claiming. Often it had that startled start when something surprises and strikes you as funny before you even process it. On top of that some classmates commented on how well our stage combat bits worked. I should have remembered from Neutral Mask last year that physical work and comedy works well for me. The physical work continues to surprise me in how it serves me in both performance and preparation. Though I'm at last learning to accept I can be physically funny or engaging, it still surprises me. The surprise is most tasty when it is not simply 'big guy' gags.
Growing up I did not think of myself as being physical. Always the last guy picked for teams. I think it's because I'm a bit slow. Didn't find my coordination until my twenties, and didn't get my adult muscle mass until well into my thirties, maybe early forties. Those obsolete adolescent self perceptions are hard to shake.
You know what? This exercise is something I think would be fun to develop. I might ask Ben if he wants to for next year's studio series, assuming both of us still live in this area. A little five minute piece like that would be a blast. Maybe work up several bits, and do them between longer pieces. A woman named Holly did that last year with some delightfully whimsical pieces.
I stopped by the licensing office this morning and transferred the title and renewed the tabs for the Vanagon. Started my insurance too, during lunch. All set up, all legal, and the first time I've not driven to work on a motorcycle since August, maybe July or August. I could actually get a bunch of groceries on the way home if I wanted. I'm thinking of making some of that mango ice cream-like Indian dessert. I was at a baby's introduction party for my co-worker Suvendu, and his wife Asha told me the recipe, which I'll try tonight or tomorrow if I have time. If it works I'll post it. It sounds insanely easy to make and rich. It will last a long time if I don't remember to take it to Thanksgiving dinner, because I think I need to limit my sugar intake. I'm finding it sometimes makes me feel too damn tired. Bother.
This is another non-multi-tasking day. I'm tired and excited about the upcoming respite. I'm keeping a couple programming balls in the air, but no more. While they run, I'm here writing away.
Thanksgiving. So I'm not especially thankful about my country right now, in particular the homicidal lunatics running it at the moment. So, I start trying to think about other things I am thankful for. I get to feeling my blog sounds like Polly-fucking-Anna. I actually enjoy my day job, thanks in great part to the artistic outlet. I love theatre. I revel in my friendships. I enjoy my family. I even enjoy riding my motorcycle more than ever. It seems like I am going from good time to good time. It seems a challenge to think of things for which I'm not thankful.
Okay, so I get a nasty break to the leg bones. People I love die. I'm taken advantage of, and stolen from. Some things simply happen, others because you're not growing roots in the couch, and other's because of the way you choose to live. I broke my leg while out having fun with friends from the theatre community. I get taken advantage of or have things stolen because I choose to be trusting. I'm not a victim. I'm a balancer. I protect myself, but most things are not worth the effort it takes to protect them. My lunch gets stolen from the fridge at work. My garden hose is stolen. I'm ripped off by a doctor or insurance company. It happens, you note it but don't dwell, then you move on.
More Polly-Fucking-Anna. I used to live my life from disappointment to disappointment. Hurt to hurt. Ten years ago today would have been defined by the fact I woke up later than I wanted, and my back hurts like a son of a bitch from some high kicks I was playing with on Sunday and Monday. Now it is defined by the fact I had a great time in class last night, got title to my new vehicle, and am about to have a great holiday. Ten years ago my year would be defined by the broken leg (which still pains), and all the lost or missed opportunities, my failure to holystone my house, and so on. Not the case now, Hell the broken leg doesn't even count as one of the major events, more of a happening I simply had to deal with. Without listing things which contribute to my self-image, I note a hopeful change -- many of the things are in reference to where I'm going, not where I've been. Ten years ago I would have told you I was happy a couple days a year. I could not understand being a happy person, suspected it required a shallowness I scorned. I'm happy.
Thinking of learning to be happy again... I might see my mother tomorrow. I've seen her one time since 11/11/2002. I'm not assiduously avoiding all contact anymore. I just don't care enough anymore to worry one way or the other. Logically I think I should be sad at some level, but I can't seem to connect or get worked up about it. She might be at Eric and Tonia's for Thanksgiving. I don't know how much I've written about her on this blog. I recall doing so a number of times, and deleting rather than posting it.
One of my strongest memories from childhood was sitting down with her in my room when I was six or seven. I was told how my Grandma Seal (short for Lucille) had emotionally and physically abused my mother and uncles. Cigarette burns, cuts, beatings with fists and things like electrical cords and pieces of lumber, etc. At that age I'd never even imagined someone's parents doing anything like that. I had an active imagination, though. I pictured the incidents, even the appearance and smell of charred flesh. I hated my grandma. "Oh, you can't do that Scott. She loves you most. You must act like you don't know so you don't hurt her feelings." I was also assigned the task of protecting my mother from the world.
At that age, I felt honored to be taking care of a grown-up. I had to learn social dissembling, not letting Grandma Seal suspect I knew she was an abuser so vile that the hardened Tacoma cops were in tears after seeing what she'd done to my fourteen year old uncle. I was very proud to be in the grown-up world. I remember huge buckets of guilt when I failed and bickered with my siblings, or let them upset mother with their growing pains. After all I had it easy, I was never even beaten. It was the least I could do.
From that point on I didn't relate to my peers. I was considered precocious because I could talk very easily with adults. I couldn't communicate with the other school kids. I was complimented on my maturity, my ability to understand and cope with adult issues. I didn't understand or fit in with my classmates. Beauty was frivolous. I now understand that memory of sitting in my room with my mother is a strong childhood memory because it is when my childhood affectively ended. It was ended by a person who lived from disappointment to disappointment and thought that was all she had to share. As if she had a child solely to shield her from the pain of her childhood, and from the demands of the grown up world she feared to join. That loss of childhood also happened to her, pushed into the position of being the living mother to her brothers from the time she was only a little older than I.
It's not all bleak. I don't understand racism. Intellectually I do, of course. I understand it in the way that a group of 19 and 20 year old black guys on 1st Avenue late at night may make me feel more apprehensive than a group of similar white guys, who in turn make me feel more apprehensive than a group of similar Asian guys. To actually hate people because of their color or creed, or be willing to claim they are somehow less than me, is not something I easily grasp. I briefly felt that way about queers in an artificial sort of way, until I realized it was simply fear of the unknown. Is racism really an ariticiality? In any case, the lack of comprehending racism comes from my mother, and I am grateful for that and some other things. She had so much more she could have given had she chosen. Had she lived from triumph to triumph. Like her brothers she was a certified genius. I suspect that somehow made it more difficult for them to recover from the abuse. Despite their genius they are still terribly damaged and alone.
I followed that lead for a long time. Beauty, art, theatre more or less clubbed me senseless when I wasn't looking. I started finding myself tearing up at the most inane of sentimental scenes in movies. I cared about things. I started playing. I lost a big majority of self-consciousness. I would not be where I am now, with an intense enjoyment for life had I lived differently. I find I now live from joy to joy. Triumph to triumph. A different world view. Everyone has difficulties growing up. I wouldn't give mine up. Otherwise I wouldn't feel like Polly-freaking-anna.
The worn out adage about the glass being half full instead of half empty only scratches the surface. When I think about my life, it jumps from a delightful early childhood, to the sense of accomplishment around being a top knotch pre-med student, to getting accepted for Naval Aviation, and making that a ten year career, successfully starting a career as a programmer in my late thirties in a Microsoft dominated area, with it's typical conservative bias against age (and I strongly suspect veterans). Meeting with more success as an actor than disaster. There is a doggedness which helps. Still, when I think of my values and lifestyle six years ago, theatre is not where anyone, myself least of all, would have expected to find me now. I'm just accepting the fact that I am a theatre professional. And if it is anything like the previous steps of letting myself say I was an actor, then an artist, I'm way behind myself. If that is the worst I do to myself now, I'm okay with it.
It seems I can't give or take too much from theatre. I nourishes me while it makes me hungry. Sounds like an addiction, with one important difference. It forever makes me more human, whereas addictions diminish the person and the soul.
With gifts like these how can I help but be insufferably thankful? Thanks all.