Bunched Panties: "You're Not Gonna Read It, So I Might As Well Say It"


Bundled Panties: "You're Not Gonna Read It, So I Might As Well Say It"

<b>Conflict serves as the essence of drama.</b>

Root conflict involves the clash between two and only two motives, by a protagonist and an antagonist.

The protagonist initiates the root action. The antagonist responds in hindrance to the protagonist's initiative. Root action describes the method by which the protagonist and antagonist resolve their conflict.

Action lies in purposeful activity. Onstage behavior that does not serve the purpose of supporting the conflict does not serve as action. Technically, one can remove such onstage behavior and not harm the story the action tells.

The inciting incident marks the start of the root action. The root action starts at the point when the protagonist encounters conflict in the pursuit of his motive.

Exposition precedes the inciting incident, does not have dramatic value, does not further the root action, and therefore little serves the root action.

The climax marks the end of the root action. The root action ends at the point when the protagonist and antagonist resolve their conflict, after which point they no longer conflict.

Denouement follows the climax, does not have dramatic value, does not further the action, and therefore little serves the action.

For the perfect play, you have only one protagonist and only one antagonist.

In its first moment, the perfect play has the protagonist's motive conflicting with the antagonist's motive, the continuation of the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist thoughtout the course of the play, culminating in the play's last moment, when the protagonist and antagonist conflict with the highest stakes, beyond which point the play ends immediately.
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<b>Character lies in motive.</b>

An actor creates the illusion of character by pursuing a motive.

A motive serves as the basic want and driving force of a character.

A motive differs from a purpose. A purpose serves as an ancillary want that contributes to the motive. Oftentimes, a character can determine a purpose but cannot determine his motive.

This concept of character does not attribute character with external choices like accents and physicality. While external choices may serve as characteristics, they do not constitute character.

In looking at a text, an actor looks for motive. In looking for motive, an actor looks at beats of action for purpose and attempts to connect those purposes together to pinpoint the common, overriding want.

The actor looks for motive in his very first line. The actor looks for the climax of his motive in the very last line. Lines before and lines after the presence of motive do not contribute to the root action, and therefore do not serve the actor's character.


<b>(Premotive +) Motive + Imagery = Strong Acting Work</b>

The three main ingredients to strong acting work involve premotive, motive, and imagery.

Premotive describes what a character lacks--a void that a character wants to fill.

Motive describes what a character needs--the pursuit to fill that void.

Imagery describes what a character sees--the images of the past, the present, and the future.

When an actor struggles with material, often focusing in any of these three areas can drastically improve his work.

Addressing premotive issues can assist an actor who has difficulty with the stakes in a scene. If an actor has trouble playing a scene with high stakes, sometimes focusing on what his character lacks can counterbalance the intensity of the motive, thus increasing the stakes.

Example: Take a hungry character. If the character has not eaten in four hours, he will pursue his motive to fill his hunger void (by eating food) with low stakes. If the character has not eaten in one whole day, he will pursue his motive to fill his hunger void with higher stakes. If the character has not eaten in one whole week and will die tomorrow without food, he will pursue his motive to fill his hunger void with considerably higher stakes.

Addressing motive issues can assist an actor who has difficulty justifying every purpose, word, beat, gesture, behavior, etc., in a scene. If an actor has trouble understanding why he does something in a scene, sometimes focusing on what the character wants to get from or do to someone else at that very moment can justify each misunderstood piece.

GEDON = <b>GE</b>t from or <b>DO</b> to <b>N</b>ow
GEDON Statement = The answer to "What do you want to get from or do to this person at this very moment?"

Example: A character seems to make a tangential statement in a monologue. If the statement seems to make no sense in the context of the monologue, ask the actor what the character overall wants to get from or do to the person the monologue's directed to at that very moment. Sometimes an actor will not be able to answer that question, which signals the need for more homework on the character in the action of the play. Other times, in talking about an overall motive a purpose will emerge that weaves well into the motive. This approach circumvents the tendency for an actor to say a line without motivation, just for laughs, throwing a line away, among many other potential problems in performing material; it works to force the actor to think about justifying why he does something, and doing something with a purpose constitutes purposeful activity, and thus constitutes action.

Addressing imagery issues can assist an actor who has difficulty connecting to material emotionally. If an actor has trouble in feeling anything real as opposed to acted or telegraphed, sometimes focusing on the specific images the character (but perhaps more importantly, the actor) has seen can provide the actor with material to focus on in the scene from which to draw emotional significance. There are numerous techniques one can employ to flesh out imagery.

Example: An actor with no children has problems conjuring up the deep-rooted emotions a scene requires upon telling a story about the death of his daughter. If the actor does not seem to engage properly emotionally in telling the story--and if the actor can trust--have the actor close his eyes. Guide him though various, specific images of the child, stories of the child, events in the child's life, trips with the child, the moment the child was born, etc. Consult with the actor the signficance of each time with the child, how he felt, how thinking about it makes him feel, etc. As you force the actor to invent and consider specific images, you provide the actor with material he may have had difficultly doing himself, and specific material from which to draw in the future. Emotional engagement often occurs upon specific stimulus, and lack of specificity can make emotional engagement much more difficult.
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<b>Chew on this:</b>

Do you ever find it interesting that of all the people in your town, all the people in your country, all the people in the world, there are still people who find each other, people who are "meant" for each other, people who find their one true love?

Jerry & Jen are from Shiloh, Ohio. For them, it was love at first sight. They feel they were meant for each other. What are the chances that these two people meant for each other lived in tiny Shiloh, Ohio? For all intents and purposes, Jerry could have lived in Shiloh, Ohio, but Jen could have lived amongst a group of tribal peoples in Papua New Guinea. Distance would separate those two people supposedly meant for each other, and if they were never able to break the distance barrier, there would be no chance of their ever consummating a relationship.

Jerry & Jen are soulmates.

No one ever really considers, I should think, at least born Stateside, that her soulmate lies in Afghanistan being a member of al-Qaida. While a girl may not find her soulmate in her immediate community, many girls likely end up finding their soulmates sometime in their lives, without having to travel to remote parts of the world in the pursuit.

I tend to think that love is a function of environment.

You look for your love usually where you are, where you interact, where you socialize and relate, and you tend not to pine "O, my love lies in Reno" when you have no immediate connection to Reno. Nor do you hold out for that unknown love in Reno when you're stimulated with a dose of nice-enough potential boyfriends in your immediate community.

I've never heard of anyone living in Winston-Salem who only seeks the interest of people from Bismark, never having ever visited Bismark.

No one's born in Winston-Salem and grows up saying, "Nope, sorry, ma'am, I'm a Bismark-guy."

Because you fell in love with that one person does not mean that he is the only person you were ever meant to fall in love with. Instead, having a relationship with that person is more a testament to the convenience of the relationship. The relationship was more convenient to fulfill you emotionally than hoping for someday finding love in Reno.

It was great finding my first girlfriend. I felt the whole soulmatedom, I felt we were the only two people who mattered to the world. It was such a powerful feeling. But that relationship has ended, and we are on either coast. We are looking in our respective environs for the next big thing.

I'm certainly not 411ing Boise for dating services from NYC.


<b>When you interact with someone for three seconds, you can learn a lot about that person.</b>

Recently I have been working a promotion that involves my passing out bookmarks on streetcorners. The bookmarks are advertisements for a large online book retailer's same-day book delivery service in Manhattan. The promotion is in conjunction with the company I'm working for, which has the largest online mall, and in which the book company has an online store.

When I stand at a busy corner, I get a deluge of people of many different types. Many corners have a basic demographic. When I stand at a corner at a Grand Central Terminal exit, a majority of the people emerging from the terminal are upscale men and women who, by their dress, appear to work in an office setting. When I stand at a corner near Bryant Park, the demographic is similar, but with a more diluted concentration of office people.

I say two simple phrases to get people's attention into taking a bookmark. I say "Free bookmark?" and I also say the names of the two companies represented in the promotion. The bookstore's name carries a lot of weight, I find, because it also has a very popular brick & mortar presence in Manhattan.

I have found that I size a person up instantaneously then choose which of my phrases I think will be most effective in getting a person to take a bookmark.

Obese people commonly take a bookmark when I say "Free bookmark?" I attribute this to a psychological tendency they have to gluttony, or rather the difficulty they have in stopping the behavior of eating. They cannot resist a free offer, and almost as if offered a free food item, they take the bookmark.

Late-30- to 40-year-old black women who seem to work in offices in an administrative function and seem to be family people take the bookmarks too when coaxed with "Free bookmark?" These women seem very kind and accepting of the bookmarks for reasons I cannot pinpoint, other than perhaps the feeling that they like a little personal joy that may come with getting something for free, while they may have selflessly given themselves to family in rearing children or while working for a superior.

Well-dressed businessmen in their 40's and 50's do not usually take the bookmarks, but I try often to coax them with the temptation of the brands represented on the bookmarks. I figure that a brand is more attractive to these individuals than something free--perhaps inside information into what a rival company is doing.

With twenty- and thirtysomethings with a poltico-earthy look, I also use the brand temptation because they seem like the types to read books and drink coffee.

Service workers are inconsistent takers of the bookmarks. If they look to be on the job as they pass by me, I sometimes will not say anything to them or offer a bookmark. However, if they look like the type to slack off a little on the job or get into a little bit of trouble on the job, I may offer them a bookmark with "Free bookmark?" They seem to like free things.

The very elderly do not understand the internet and therefore should not receive the bookmarks.

Tourists, who are usually identified by bright-colored cotton clothing in a family grouping especially denoted by teenage daughters with blond hair and makeup, are typically consistent acceptors of free promotional items, as if they are treasures to bring home from the trip. However, with free bookmarks, they do not seem as attracted to them. This promotion is local, but I don't tell people that when I hand them a bookmark; the tourists seem to sense the irrelevance to their lives the promotion bears.

I started the promotion by saying "Same-day book delivery" and holding out a bookmark. I soon found that was not a very good incentive to take the bookmarks. When I remembered by doing past promotions the effectiveness of giving out something free--or at least the sense of something free--I invented that these slender promotional flyers were indeed "bookmarks" and thus started saying "Free bookmark?" The response was immediately better, and people were quicker to accept them. Eventually, a co-worker's tactic to mention the brands was helpful in leaving me less tongue-tied saying the "Free bookmark?" phrase over and over, by giving me a complimentary phrase to turn to. This complimentary phrase was an added help in appealing to some of the demographics that weren't interested in the flyer as a free bookmark.

What is interesting in transacting with these passers-by is that you get glimpses into their psyches. You can see who is happy with his life, who is sad, who is all business, who thinks commercialism is evil, who is an opportunist, who wants more, who is friendly, who likes people, who hates people, who is spooky, who is evil, who is rude, who is cultured, who is self-respecting, who would be a nice person to work for, who is serious, who is poor, who is rich, who is going to the Hamptons regularly, who works out, who eats fatty foods, who does yoga. You see how they must conduct their lives, based on their physicality. You see people in their 50's who are more aged than other people in their 50's because they smoke, and must have for a long time. You see large bellies and you know they drink a lot of alcohol, and must have for a long time. You see feet and legs and hands and breasts and hair and sunglasses and bags and tops and skirts and pants and cell phones and food items and gaits and head angles and walking speeds and amount of eye contact and saturation in environment, all in the course of a few seconds, and you are able to sum someone up and determine eventually pretty well the likelihood that they will accept your free bookmark.


<b>Me and Some Pretty Girls I</b>

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<b>Me and Some Pretty Girls II</b>

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<b>A Brief Lesson in E-Prime</b>

E - e = E'
where E = the English Language
e = be-verbs

E-Prime derives from the English language, its primary difference lying in its disuse of be-verbs.

The use of be-verbs in the English language promotes aristotelian logic, which favors bipolar values to account for reality relatively independent from human evaluation of reality. When you replace be-verbs, you potentially make your language more non-aristotelian. Non-aristotelian logic of modern times accounts for reality in terms of grades, probabilities, and numerous values, as determined by human evaluation. E-Prime therefore employs non-aristotelian logic.

ARISTOTELIAN: <i>day-night; on-off; yes-no</i>
NON-ARISTOTELIAN: <i>day-late afternoon-evening-night-dawn; on-warming up-off-cooling down-broken; yes-probably-50/50-maybe-no; etc.</i>

Particularly, Alfred Korzybski, founder of general semantics, denoted two major kinds of insidious be-verbs:

* The is-of-identity (N+be-verb+N):
<i>Jan is a girl; I am a postal worker; Eric is a gaywad</i>
* The is-of-predication (N+be-verb+A):
<i>Susie is pale; Rex is mean; Dogs can be fierce</i>

The is-of-identity causes problems by setting as <i>identical</i> something specific and something general, when more correctly something specific has much more detail than the something general, and has a lower order of abstraction from reality.

The is-of-predication causes problems by suggesting a quality lies inherently within the thing described, when more correctly the quality exists as a function of the evaluator.

Both uses of be-verbs in the English language operate false-to-facts, and E-Prime works to improve the English language and make it truer-to-facts.

E-Prime does not involve striking through the be-verbs in a sentence and not speaking them, nor does it involve simply changing the be-verbs in a sentence to just another verb. Instead, it works to more correctly describe the human evaluation process in making statements about reality. The practiced use of E-Prime can very quickly promote better writing, stronger arguments, and clearer thinking.

Examples of E-Prime making truer-to-facts statements:

<i>I am a postal worker.</i>
E' SUGGESTION: <i>I work at the post office.</i>
WHAT E' DOES: To clear up generalizations about postal workers (hostile, crazy, etc.), the E-Prime revision helps to call attention to what the person does. It removes a confusion of order between the general and specific by describing how something performs instead of statically labeling it.

<i>Eric is a gaywad.</i>
E' SUGGESTION: <i>Eric acts like a gaywad.</i>
WHAT E' DOES: Sometimes E-Prime can take steam away from a particularly libelous or incendiary remark by calling attention to the reality. The E-Prime revision helps to elucidate that the evaluator has made his own personal evaluation about how Eric <i>acts</i>, instead of setting Eric equal with a generalization and disregarding specifically how Eric acts. Subsequently, the opinion expressed in the English version becomes clearer in the E-Prime version, as Eric exists as a multi-faceted individual and not as a high-order abstraction.

<i>Susie is pale.</i>
E' SUGGESTION: <i>Susie looks pale.</i>
WHAT E' DOES: The quality of paleness does not exist inside Susie, but more correctly exists as an evaluation inside the evaluator by that person's senses. The evaluator, by calling attention to his looking to see her paleness, makes a comment that thus suggests an individual evaluation, and not the evaluation that everyone else will naturally see. For example, the person making this evaluation may frequent beaches, and another person may look at Susie and find her a healthy color.

<i>Dogs can be fierce.</i>
E' SUGGESTION: <i>Dogs can bite, bark, and snarl.</i>
WHAT E' DOES: One may make a revision to this statement similar to the one above (<i>Dogs can look fierce.</i>), but another example of revising an is-of-predication statement involves calling attention to what something <i>does</i> instead of setting it equal with an abstract quality uniquely determined by one evaluator's senses. Calling dogs fierce does little to help someone determine what exactly dogs do and whether that person can handle a dog's fierceness.

Some of the above examples may seem innocuous, but many arguments often boil down to the use of ises-of-identity and ises-of-predication. When one employs E-Prime revisions to some of the basic assumptions of arguments, sometimes the points of contention melt away, or the contenders can better figure out that how <i>each person evaluates something differently</i> lies at the heart of the matter, more than how something "is."
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<b>Phone phenomenon</b>

When I worked as a receptionist at an insurance claims office, I was witness to the most interesting telecommunications event.

The phones were usually very busy. If they were dead for a minute or two, suddenly one line would ring, followed by other lines. I would end up putting each on hold, then go back to the first line to ring and deal with it, working my way down. It would be a bam-bam-bam-bam-bam kinda thing, but rarely would just one call come in at a time.

My dad (who was the office manager) figured there was some kind of switching or routing station that eventually sent the phone calls all at once. I wasn't so sure, and I'm still not sure. But it sure was odd how calls would come in waves, and rarely one call at a time.

Nowadays, I'm privy to a different telecommunications phenomenon, which has a more human root. My service number is my primary way to reach me, and some days it does not receive a message. However, if I receive one message on my service in a day, I am bound to receive other service messages in the day, not necessarily related. Statistically I believe it holds up pretty well that there are few 1-message days, but there are an abundance of 0- and 2+-message days.

I also can sense a day when I'm going to have a lot of service activity. I'm not as good at guessing that I'll have a lot of service activity versus getting an additional call, but I'm getting better.


<b>Aesthetics of a Knee Injury</b>

When I first injured my knee, I was in pain and I needed to sit down on the subway. As any disabled or elderly person knows, there is dedicated seating for you on the subway, provided that there is not someone unobservant, sleeping, ignorant, or more worthy than you sitting there.

It was very difficult to walk then, and my cane helped me keep my balance. The jerking of the subway added stress to my leg pain, plus the added fear that I would fall down. If I sat down, I wouldn't have to worry as much even though it was hard to sit down because of a popping in my leg from the cartilage tear.

I am a male, and sometimes I feel preprogrammed that I'm the tougher of the two genders, and thus should not accept offers by older women to sit down. However, most of the time when people (so rudely) would not get up and make a seat for me, I would accept their offers guiltily.

As my knee injury became less delicate, I was able to stand and walk with less care, risking less knee popping or pain. But I still wanted to get to sit down on the subway for protection. While I needed a cane to climb and descend stairs and maintain balance, I possibly could have done without it. But that would have been stupid. However, also during this time I had been wearing an elastic, white Ace bandage over my knee to maintain support--a glaring signal that I had an injury.

I could have elected to take off the Ace support after my knee felt more stable. But there was a social significance to it that I didn't want to part with.

While I might have carried a cane, I am a young guy, and my injury or reason for using the cane may not have been so obvious. However, coupled with the Ace support, an onlooker is quicker to piece together that a) he has a bad knee, and b) he should sit down.

This whole ordeal with my knee and subway rides has made me see things from a different angle. I am one to get up from my seat for a pregnant woman, an elderly person, a bebabied parent, people injured, and sometimes young children. The times I would neglect such niceties are when I have a lot of bags, or when I'm so tired that I need subway sleep and my standing could injure myself. I lean on others to give up their seats at these times. In my not feeling well, I see the <i>importance</i> that injured people sit down, whether the injury be to the leg, arm, head, tooth, foot, finger, or whatnot.

I had an injury in May before the knee injury--I hurt my elbow in a bike accident. The joint had swollen, and I was one morning packed into a subway car with an ice pack held onto the injured arm with the available arm. I had nothing to grab, no available arm to grab with, and I was in that no man's land between a subway wall to lean on and a pole to grasp onto. After falling around like an idiot and wincing and no one getting a clue, I finally asked the man in front of me to move so I could support myself against the subway door. He didn't seem to understand my English, but eventually gave way without really much care or concern for my obvious condition.

They make announcements about standing clear of the closing doors, and about watching for pickpockets and not holding the car doors open while the train is in the station. People don't put two and two together often enough when they see someone with a cane. And there are lots of people with canes out there, I've now noticed. It's almost like a dog sniffing another dog's butt; you see a cane, you see the likeness to you, and you realize that person needs to sit down because of the injury you're trying to figure out. So rarely does anyone care to give up his seat on the subway. I want to write the MTA and ask them to include in their announcements every few stops to "Please give up your seat for those injured, disabled, and the elderly." Each saying could be ignored by a lot of people, but it only takes one person to hear, and the injured person to look around upon its announcement, and that sole hearer to feel guilty for sitting down or get a clue about sitting down and thus offer up her chair for the injured.

I turned down an older woman's seat offer yesterday morning, despite my greater need to sit down since arthroscopy and the swollen knee I'm nursing. We were packed in too close, and maneuvering my way amongst the people in the packed car to sit where she was would have been potentially more injurious. So I stayed put. Eventually, someone got up near me as a flood of sardines jumped into the car. Had I not snagged that seat, I could have been in a lot of knee pain--the people with the normal knees looked pained enough.
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<b>Tomorrow is an EPA day.</b>

And an EPA day means:

* wake up around 4:30am
* get to the subway around 5:30am
* get to Equity around 6:00am
* sit outside on the street until 8:00am
* sign up for an audition slot at 8:30am
* audition sometime soon after 9:30am

EPA stands for "Equity Principal Audition." As I don't have a signed, hard-working, dedicated theatrical agent as of yet, EPAs are the staple of my professional acting career. While I had attended them pretty faithfully in 2001, with the start of 2002 they became my new religion.

I have attended about 50 EPAs this year. Roughly, that means 50 times this year I've arisen at 4:30 in the morning and waited outside. Most of my EPAs were in the winter, so I was outside in the cold, waiting to go indoors. (In the winter, they open the doors at 7:30am.) And for many of them, I was up before 4:30, in anticipation of a large crowd. (I try to be amongst the first people so I can get an early slot and maximize my time at work, earning money.)

I have a portable chair that folds into a green tube that straps over my shoulder. It weighs about 7 pounds. On days when I can't handle that weight or the extra shoulder baggage, I take my folding stool. It collapses into a bag about a foot long and weighs about a pound. I got it at Paragon Sports, and if it didn't break so soon after I bought it, I'd call it amazing.

I fortunately feel really good after doing my monologues at these EPAs. If I didn't feel good, it would be a nearly pointless existence. At EPAs, rarely are people called back or cast. EPAs are held to force theaters to see actors who might not be part of the regular group of actors they hire. Sometimes production companies are legitimately searching for talent to cast in their shows, I would just say this is not most of the time. The real point for me in attending EPAs is to be seen by people who cast. It is to build brand awareness. It is so I can start a postcard campaign, or meet someone, or make a friend, or audition for a friend, or make a connection. I have done several EPAs this year and known the people on the other side of the table; had I not gone to the EPA, I wouldn't have known there was going to be a familiar face and a potential future connection.

In nearly two years of doing EPAs, I've had 3 callbacks. Nowadays, I am excited about a callback. I should be excited about being cast. Being cast professionally nowadays is almost unfathomable.

I tend not to go to bed as early as I'd like for the EPAs. Sometimes this is because my schedule is so crammed that I'm not home until 11:00pm. Tonight is not the case. Tonight I am simply keeping myself up for no good reason. I do that sometimes, too.

After I finish an EPA, I often head over to my regular day job and put in later hours if my schedule permits. I try to stay away from caffeine in general, and that allows me to feel its affects when I am so tired from the shift in my sleeping schedule.

The effects of an EPA do not usually hit me until the next day, in the late afternoon. I will get very tired at that point, and very cranky. The state of my world shifts.

I have made a ton of friends from doing EPAs. These friends have friends, and a lot of the time I become friends with them. They are essentially "EPA friends" for the most part, as I'm very happy to see them at the EPAs, but so few of them do I actually follow through with plans to do something with them outside the auditions.

Enough actors in this city, so the argument goes, do not do anything for their careers. I would say that that is true, in my experience. I wish I were actually working more with an acting job, but I'm proud of my career because I am doing things for myself in constantly chasing the possibility of work. EPAs, though pointless, are something done for my career, that all too many actors who have the opportunity to do, don't do. My career is something to lose sleep over.


<b>Relationship I</b>

Girl meets boy.
Girl sleeps with boy.
Girl expresses like for boy.
Boy takes more interest in girl.
Girl expresses love for boy.
Boy expresses love for girl.
Girl restricts freedom of boy.
Girl exhibits jealousy in interactions of boy, unfounded.
Girl acts out on her jealousy and meets another boy.
Girl sleeps with another boy.
Girl continues ranting toward original boy.
Boy expresses love for girl.
Boy expresses love for girl.
Girl criticizes boy.
Girl criticizes boy.
Girl criticizes boy.
Girl criticizes boy.
Girl sleeps with other boy.
Boy meets another girl.
Boy takes more interest in other girl.
Girl continues ranting toward boy.
Girl criticizes boy.
Girl criticizes boy.
Boy expresses love for girl.
Boy breaks up with girl.
Girl tries to mend ways with boy.
Boy gets back together with girl.
Girl criticizes boy.
Boy breaks up with girl.
Girl criticizes boy.
Girl tries to mend ways with boy.
Girl tries to mend ways with boy.

Boy expresses like for other girl.


<b>My perspective on Rejection.</b>
<i>Thanks, Drifter Luke.</i>

I learned about rejection with my second girlfriend. She was an actress and whenever there was the musical audition at school--she was a dancer--she put all her emotional eggs in getting cast in it.

In college, getting cast in the show meant whether you were cast in <i>anything</i>, it felt. There weren't too many other options. You might do some kind of workshop, but especially if you were into doing musicals, you wanted a musical or else you wanted to die.

Several times, she wasn't even called back. Then, she was devastated. We are talking major crying fits. After having to deal with these fits several times, I knew something was not right in her having them.

My feeling was the way she was setting up her expectations. She was allowing herself to set up her future on getting cast. When she wasn't cast, she experienced a catastrophic loss of the potential future that lay ahead for her, that future she planned. Also, she tied her acting- and self-worth to being cast in the musical, and when she was not called back, she felt horribly rejected and devalued. She had essentially set her expectations so high, that if they were met without any satisfaction, she came crashing down.

I tried to work with her to set her expectations lower. By lower, I meant Not investing her livelihood in getting cast. Instead, Try going into the audition not fixated on getting cast but instead on doing your best, and to accept that you may or may not get cast, and while it would be nice to get cast, it may not happen.

I had taught myself that in suggesting that to her. I was better able to maintain emotional balance when I wasn't cast. I set myself up as, "Hey, you may not or probably won't get cast, but if you are, you can be 'pleasantly surprised.'" [I learned the phrase from Jimmy Dell in <i>The Spanish Prisoner</i>.] It seemed to work. Eventually, I didn't really care if I was cast after an audition.

But as time went on, and I was making a career of it in NYC, my feelings on setting my expectations so low I felt were defeating my drive to act. While not caring whether I got cast, I felt as if I wasn't up for the competition, that I wasn't <i>fighting</i> to get cast, that I wasn't showing that I wanted the role. I started to think that if I <i>did</i> set my expectations higher, people might start paying better attention to me, and that my drive would kick in and I would rise to the occasion in auditions. Hey, I might risk being a little emotionally imbalanced, but it's my career, and that kind of emotional imbalance would probably be "honorable."

Now, I overall have low expectations. I go to EPAs when there is usually such a slim chance of anything, that if I went into them thinking I'd be cast from them even when they are required, I'd be a wreck. I've had so many good comments about my auditions, with still no payback. It happens. When someone pays a compliment from a good audition, my ex might think that "Yea! Yea! He's gonna cast me!" then feel distraught when it doesn't lead to anything. Myself, I file it in the "Okay, that was a good compliment, but let's see if it really leads anywhere" file. I stay healthy.

<i><b>But O HOW I SQUEAL when they do pay off as something!!!</b></i>



Another girlfriend of mine helped teach me through her difficult times that a policy of fairness is not a realistic expectation to apply to the casting process.

My ex was an extremely emotionally resourceful actress onstage. She could emotionally connect when immersed in a scene, and she was very good at getting immersed in a scene.

She knew this, and she knew she was a better actress than a lot of them in her class, and I reinforced this mindset in her. However, I think she got a little cocky about it, at least behind closed doors with me, and she got her expectations high in getting cast based on her acting abilities.

But the lesson from this relationship was not so much setting the expectation to get cast on ability; instead, it was the expectation that the casting process would fairly cast her and not cast anyone else, because casting anyone else would be not fair. That the issue of fairness was that if you are the best actress in the audition, you win the role. "That would be fair."

When you're cast, you don't turn down a role because you won it unfairly. You could be cast at college because you hadn't been cast in a long time. But more often, it's because you fit the role physically, an image that will mesh better with an audience than a more artistic interpretation on the physicality of the role.

My ex would get upset when someone was cast besides her. She would cry or get depressed. Again, setting up unrealistic expectations reared its ugly head in a person's emotional balance.

She would say it wasn't "fair" that someone got cast, because they "sucked." Because they slack off in class, or do this or do that. That those are reasons that stack up and negate that person's chance of getting cast, and that because my ex didn't slack off or do this or do that, they were pluses for her landing a role. Automatic.

I tried to help her recognize that casting does not operate on a fairness policy. Sometimes you are awarded roles because you are friends with the director, AND THAT IS OKAY. Sometimes you are awarded the role because you are 100 lbs., AND THAT IS OKAY. Sometimes you are awarded a role because you are someone's girlfriend, AND THAT IS OKAY. You don't tend to question fairness in a process when it's all kooshy for you. When she was cast as the lead in <i>The House of Yes</i> at a local theater, she didn't stop to think that other people might construe her landing the Parker Posey role as "unfair" because she was 160 lbs., or because she was a college student (and that for some reason might be a criterion for fairness). No. She excitedly took the role and did a <i>damn</i> good job at it. She didn't dare think about turning it down.

Her high expectations paid off in that case. And I'm sure happy they did. For if they did not, I would have been witness to a bundle of fury and disappointment uncomparable.



A lot of my favorite music is a derivative of They Might Be Giants.

I never really knew about buying music until my sophomore year of high school, when I discovered that I had the ability to purchase my own albums of songs I thought were cool.

Among my first tape purchases were Big Audio Dynamite II's <i>The Globe</i>, Matthew Sweet's <i>Girlfriend</i>, and They Might Be Giants' <i>Apollo 18</i>.

I thought and to this day still think that <i>Girlfriend</i> is a beautiful masterpiece. I was hooked on B.A.D. II's album as well, never having heard such a weird collection of sounds and ambiance on an album.

I bought both of those albums because they had videos in MTV's Buzz Bin or something, and I really liked them as a result.

The TMBG purchase came after these albums, as I saw the video for "The Guitar" on MTV's <i>120 Minutes</i> and finally remembered that I'd always wanted to listen to more They Might Be Giants since their introduction to me probably watching MTV's <i>Liquid Television</i>. I chose between a couple of tapes, and I think I settled on <i>Apollo 18</i> because I recognized the song. I knew that someday I had to purchase <i>Flood</i> for "Istanbul."

I didn't really care for <i>Apollo 18</i> when I got it, but I really wanted to like it. I enjoyed the quirks of the tape's song "Fingertips," the clanky "Dinner Bell" and loved the beginning of "Words Fail." "I Palindrome I" was a little embarrassing to listen to, because then I wasn't cussing and I thought it was a bad thing to listen to cuss words or say them in my house, and in that song is "son of a bitch." Singing along, I think I sang, "you son of a beeeep." I eventually got over that.

Later, I bought <i>Flood</i>. <i>Flood</i> was the ultimate TMBG to me. It had such a complete feel all the album through, a sound that really connected with me. I loved how the tape was nearly the same length on each side, so it spun around over and over on my truck's tapedeck without my intervening to fast-forward over dead air on one side.

I remember starting to use little TMBG lyrics here and there to attract attention. Away at some honors retreat one summer, during I think a volleyball game I just shouted "Minimum Wage!!!" and a few girls cracked up, later telling me because they hadn't realized anyone else knew of that kooky, short TMBG song. Perfect, girls liked me!

In college, very soon after I started using email, I joined the TMBG Digest, a listserv of sorts on which people posted things related to TMBG. During this time was the coinage of my popular online presence, "Ben or Been," a nomiker derived from my not calling myself "Benny" anymore, but not simply "Ben."

For the TMBG Digest, I would spend a lot of time looking over the lyrics of TMBG songs on their first album, on <i>Lincoln</i>, <i>Misc. T</i>, <i>Flood</i>, <i>Apollo 18</i>, and whatever other TMBG songs I could get my hands on, and I'd write these long analyses for the songs. Some of my interpretations are still listed on http://www.tmbg.org, you just have to hunt around for them. When <i>John Henry</i> came out freshman year, it was the new <i>Flood</i> for me, sounding like a more complete version of TMBG with their addition of horns and a more live sound.

I eventually subscribed to John Flansburgh's Hello CD of the Month Club, and my musical ears were opened to all these new sounds. Before, I had been buying a lot of music, quite addicted to buying CDs for rare, quirky songs. This club really appealed to me with its tendency to guarantee the Quirk. With the club, I got to hear of bands like My Dad Is Dead, Mono Puff, The Candy Butchers, Brian Dewan, You Were Spiraling, Spondee, Freedy Johnston ... The club also turned me on to the poetry of Hal Sirowitz.

These tastes have sent me on journeys to see these bands or people associated with these bands play in concert, and even opened my ears to more exciting music. I've made connections to XTC, Sean Altman, Miss Tammy Faye Starlite, Atom & His Package, Mark Donato, Joshua Fried, Moxy Früvous, Ween, Fountains of Wayne, Bob Wiseman, Soul Coughing ... there are only a couple degrees of separation amongst these bands for me.

I regularly attend TMBG concerts, so much so that I go out of habit more than out of excitement. I enjoy them from a distance while pretty close to the stage off to the far sides, hoping to grab another snippet of history. I saw a lot of the early Mono Puff shows in NYC, and I have some setlists and some great memories of hearing things for the first time ever, or hearing some things that made it onto albums live.

There is a cast of characters who attend TMBG concerts I've observed, and while they don't recognize me, I recognize them, and I even look for them.

There's "Geechy Guy," a guy I suppose is from New Jersey or somewhere farther out than just Manhattan. He has thick, almost hornrim glasses and a kinda greasy, kinda hunched-over persona. He usually has a beer or four, and while possibly in his late 30s, he sings along to every word of songs. He's maybe 5'5". I see him at Sean Altman concerts too, and when my old roommate has gone with me, I point out Geechy Guy to him. I think he thinks he's really hot.

There's "TDK," who is an evil sort of person it seems to me. He doesn't seem to have much class, but I've never really talked to him, only observed him. TDK is the name he goes by on the internet, and he has a webpage dedicated to TMBG bootlegs. He will sometimes pass out slips of paper with his website on it. I remember him from 1997 TMBG and Mono Puff concerts at the Mercury Lounge--he had a digital camera before they were really popular and when they were really expensive, and he'd be snapping away from the very front underneath Flansburgh, showing his photo artistry off on the camera's monitor as if it was his cock. I understand that he is infamous with TMBG, and may have pissed off Flansburgh in the past with his antics and bootlegging, but I don't really know the whole story.

Then there's "The Pretty Girl," a girl who seems Hawaiian or Polynesian to me. She seems like the one some of the regular TMBG geeks want to be their girlfriend. She wears fairly nice office clothes often, and she stands in the very front, in the very middle. I don't know too much about her other than I think she has a lot of status in the TMBG internet community. She typically has one beer with her, but she doesn't seem to drink a lot. She often comes with "Pseudo-Gay," a happy guy who seems to like The Pretty Girl's company but doesn't seem romantically interested in her ... he seems oddly gay in his fervor for TMBG.

Back to The Pretty Girl: I'm not sure where she comes from, but I rode the same car of the N train way into Astoria after one concert with her so perhaps she lives in Astoria. I've seen her at You Were Spiraling, Candy Butchers, and Atom & His Package shows, as well as some others. We like the same kinda music, apparently.

There's also The Albino Girl, a large girl with a somewhat upset or lonely expression on her face all the time. She may or may not be friends with the above people (who I believe know each other), but she's at the TMBG concerts regularly. She seems younger than me. She's 100% albino, with long, white hair.

At the TMBG documentary filming in Williamsburgh, The Pretty Girl was there. The creepiest part of that concert was during the song "Ana Ng." The Pretty Girl, along with other TMBG geeks, were in the middle of the audience, and they had choreographed some dance that may have been stolen from the video for the song. It was Nazi-reminiscent, with sharp, angled body movements to the staccato guitar. She, along with a mass of about ten other people were doing this Nazi dance to the chorus. It sent chills down my spine--I remembered back when I might have been that enthusiastic about TMBG, but The Pretty Girl seems about my age. I used to shout every TMBG lyric at the top of my lungs at concerts. Now, I'm too embarrassed to do that. I just bob my head like a grooving white boy. That still provides me with enjoyment, though.

The most recent TMBG concert I attended was the one in Central Park this summer. I'd seen them enough so I didn't need to pay $10 to get in and see them. Instead, I chose to sit outside the concert at the base of a tree and have the most wonderful evening left alone listening to the crystal-clear music. It was a great concert as usual, with their standard two encores. The weather was comfortable and perfect. It was a unique TMBG concert experience, and that's what I look forward to nowadays--seeing them in different settings.
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I first read a review of Atom & His Package's album, I think the album <i>Making Love</i> but it may have been an earlier one, in the <i>Village Voice</i> a couple years ago.

They made him sound like a badass nerd who could only sing over a synthesizer. But he sounded really good. And the songs sounded funny. My favorite genre of music is stuff that I call quirky. It might be mainstream quirk like Fountains of Wayne or They Might Be Giants, or it might be lesser known quirk like The Horsies or Sean Altman. Usually, quirk for me is music that makes me wanna share with someone while saying, "Here, listen to this! It's funny! It's clever! Don't you agree??"

I get rather embarrassingly obsessive about sharing my music collection sometimes. I go, "Listen to this! Okay, now Listen to this! Okay, one last one ... Okay, <i>ONE</i> more ... Okay, have you heard of??? No? Okay, lemme get that out ... Listen to this!" It feels like a integral part of my being, my music, hence the need to share. If you don't hear what kind of music I like, you don't understand me.

I do not like showtunes. My second girlfriend was a big showtunes girl. She made me a mix tape once with Forbidden Broadway songs on it, and while they were kinda funny, I didn't understand what songs the Forbidden Broadway songs were spoofing. And they were showtunes.

She also put <i>Sesame Street</i> songs on the tape. I kinda liked those--I think she put on it Big Bird singing "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ" (pronounced like a whole word)--but it was also a real hard thing to really get into.

Showtunes and children's songs like the ones she included just made me think my girlfriend was a little dim. I didn't like that.

Conversely, she didn't understand my taste for They Might Be Giants, <i>and that was just wrong</i>. You are supposed to intuitively get the strangeness of TMBG, and if you don't, I don't understand you. That relationship went 10 months, or 9 months too long. When the showtunes came, it was a big test.

So, new people in my life are sometimes put to the TMBG test. If they like it, they are approved. If they don't get it, or think it's stupid, then probably they are too. This test is not 100% accurate, but more often than not it is, at least with respect to their relevance to my life.

(Not all my friends are TMBG lovers. I have very few friends, and of them, I am not thinking of them as TMBG lovers. So I'm probably just talking outta my ass here.)

Atom & His Package has supplanted the role TMBG had in my life. TMBG appealed to the quirky side of me perfectly, with their brainiac references and geekiness, all sounding really good and churning out more and more non-standard songs to keep them alive with the quirk.

However, as I've gotten older, I've begun to tap into my semi-repressed punkish side. When I discovered a couple tracks by Adam Goren aka Atom on Napster, I was interested:

"Punk Rock Academy"
<i>I was fighting the mold in the bowl with my pee when a thought popped into my brain
If all of us hated high school so much, how come nothing's ever CHANGED??</i>
... and the song ends with his saying over what sounds like a large, applauding crowd: "Thank you, Philadelphia!"

"Pumping Iron for Enya"
<i>I can see it, Enya: Your synthesizer or mine, it's all the same
And isn't Enya Goren-Orinoco Orinoco Orinoco Orinoco Flow like the perfect name?</i>

His sound was certainly quirky. I laughed at the ridiculousness of his songs, but he sang them with full attitude. The music was like a MIDI, or is a MIDI, I don't know. Really kinda bleep-bleep.

He appealed to the kind of music I made. When I was introduced to a dorm monitor's band's tape recorded with one-string guitar and pots and pans, I decided I wanted to make my own inane music. I turned on the alarm on my alarm clock and sang. My first song was called "Tourette's," the obnoxious alarm clock serving the obnoxious lyrics well.

I've wanted to be a rock star despite my inability to sing or play an instrument. The tagline for my mp3.com website is "Can't sing. Can't play. Doesn't stop Ben or Been."

Atom was the incarnation of the rock star I've always wanted to be.

Atom for the most part programs his songs into a sequencer and then tours the world, getting up onstage, pumping out a firestorm of bass and treble, and getting gritty and punky and all-out obnoxious-beauty in concert. I was witness to that in December of 2001 and was immediately hooked. I had only a few of his songs to go off of from the internet. I loaded up with his music at that concert, and there's rarely a day that passes that I'm not listening to one of his albums and living in my head the dream to do what Atom does someday.

I had a taste of this kind of rock-obnoxious expression a few times last year when I went to Punk Rock Karaoke at Arlene Grocery. I only knew one song--rather, I <i>learned</i> one song--for the event, which was the Dead Kennedy's song, "California Über Alles." I knew of this song because I had an mp3 of John Linnell of TMBG doing the song live. When I got the "original" track off the internet, I unknowingly had a cover of the song, apparently done by a death metal band. The lyrics were sung like a monster.

The first time my name was called to do my song at PRK, I had been standing alone I think in a black t-shirt against the wall. I went up onto the stage; no one knew me. The musicians who back you live at PRK did their awesome, kickass backing thing--I didn't need the page to sing along. That confident.

I started off intentionally timidly. (I had it all planned out.) Then, when the lyrics "Your kids will meditate in school" came up, I changed over to this super monster voice as in the death metal cover. The crowd's attention was mine.

Little innocent looking boy never done this before, turning fucking EVIL.

After the song was over, a girl offered me her beer, a guy in a real punk band and a regular at PRK said I was awesome, and others complimented me, too. I was immediately and thoroughly exhausted and euphoric, left, crossed the street, and called the friend I wanted to witness the occasion the most. I wished someone had seen it (other than Vadim of Mr.A$$, who goes a lot).

I had the world's biggest thrill off that. It was the top event in my year to that point, only made penultimate when I did it again, even better, and that time wearing some kind of religious-themed vintage t-shirt for irony. A girl afterwards asked if I'd like a sponge bath. I had no idea what she was talking about, and I said I was fine.

That was the entertainment I loved to do. I can go balls to the wall. Despite the challenge of being listenable when singing, I'll still put on a good show. Atom has helped me realize that it ain't impossible. Just because all your music is prerecorded, you can still rock out with your cockofbenorbeen out.

P, that's me.



In my early childhood days living in Atlanta, I created a monster.

I don't know what spawned this monster that it grew to the size it did later in life, but it really annoyed my brother and provided me with non-stop entertainment. I also got in trouble a lot when I brought out this monster.

The monster's name was "Baby Woblith."

Woblith--pronounced "WOOB-lith" ("OO" as in "took"), except when he pronounced his own name, "WOOB-iss"--derivation unknown--was a character I made up with a whole backstory and whole routine, and my brother from time to time played it with me.

Woblith was a 501-lb. baby who only wore diapers. He always spoke with an underbite. He had a strange idiolect that might sound akin to the fat kid on <i>South Park</i>. Woblith was the hundredth baby of 101 babies in the family, a gang that consisted of other babies with different theme names. There were babies called "Baby Run-and-Fun" (he would crawl really fast and steamroll Benji), "Baby Walk-and-Talk" (he would continue to walk and babble and ergo annoy my brother), "Baby Baby" (an uncommon baby who was annoying by just being an infant, I suppose), and others I don't really remember. By having 101 babies in the family, I always had room to create more.

My brother had a few characters that he'd play. Rather, he wouldn't play them so much as passively agree to being called by their names. I only remember his doing two characters, the most important of whom was "Brother Benji."

Benji--or as Woblith pronounced it, "BEZH-ee"--was roughly 18-20 years old to Wobbie's toddler age or less. Benji had a girlfriend named Tiffany, who wore, according to Woblith, "high slashed skirts made my Guess?."

Woblith was constantly irritating Benji. Benny was constantly annoying Charles.

Woblith had some things he would say, kinda as introductions or just for the heck of it:

"Me a Baby Wobiss and me am always Wobiss cuz a Wobiss is a'Wobbier than a Wobiss."
"Shu'p, you smell like a pig."
"Shu'p, dokus."
"Haaa, Bezhi."
"Wo' fo' quo'?"

"Shu'p" was a contraction of "Shut up." "Dokus" was "dorkus." Because of Woblith's underbite, he pronounced things very strangely.

"Wo' fo' quo'?" developed when I was in high school, I believe. (I was still annoying my brother with this character at that age.) I used to always have a cold mug of water next to my bed when I went to sleep, and one night I didn't wanna go to bed so I went into Charles's room and held the mug over my trying-to-sleep brother.

"Bezhi, you want wo' fo' quo'?"

"Wo' fo' quo'?" was short for "Water for a quarter?" In the game, Woblith would threaten Benji to give him a quarter else he pour the water on him in bed. I don't know how Charles really tolerated this game, but maybe he just liked the attention. But he indubitably hated Woblith, though.

A lot of the time when Charles had had enough, he would yell, "MOOOOOOM!! BENNY'S BEING WOBLITH!!!!" And my mom would fire back some order to stop. But it was too hard to stop. Being Woblith was addictive. I would keep annoying my brother. I liked making my face ugly with Woblith's underbite and doing his silly voice.

Another strange game was that when Woblith would eat Blimpie sandwiches, his 501-lb. body would start to float, and usually float toward the direction of Benji to land on him. The game would start out with Woblith's pantomiming eating a Blimpie sandwich and saying in a warpened (sic) version of his voice, "BLEEMPIE! Blimpie! BLEEMPIE! Blimpie!" Woblith would then stand to suggest he was floating, cross the couch where we had been watching television, then sit on Benji.

Baby Woblith derived from Baby Bottom, which may have been essentially the same baby in behavior. Baby Bottom was the first baby character I came up with in Atlanta. Baby Woblith I think materialized toward the end of my time in Atlanta, survived my stay in Houston, and moved with me to Mansfield, Ohio. Woblith didn't pop up much more after then as I went to college and wasn't home over the summers to annoy my brother with Woblith.

I think Woblith for me was done as an escape from boredom, as a creative outlet, and for a rise. I seem to remember that Woblith flourished over the summers in Houston when my brother and I would be watching gameshow reruns all morning or afternoon on the USA Network. In tedium lay inspiration.

I can still piss off my mom if I break into Woblith. She gets this disgusted look on her face when I bring him back. I probably still could do it, but it would be really weird. Maybe Woblith was extinguished naturally when I had my first girlfriend in high school senior year. I had grown as a person as a result of that relationship, and was distanced from the desire to annoy my brother by the desire to behave more maturely and self-respecting.

I haven't thought about Woblith in ages. It was a big part of my family life, a genius creation, but one that will likely never be understood by anyone other than my brother and me.
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When I fly home to North Carolina to visit my family, invariably, the first meal I want is at the local Cracker Barrel.

Cracker Barrel is a restaurant primarily found in the South. Its logo features an old man sitting on a chair, I think he's wearing overalls, and there's a barrel next to him.

Cracker Barrel's facade is covered with a row of nicely crafted rocking chairs. They are there for you to sit in when you're waiting for your name to be called.

Cracker Barrel is a very busy restaurant where my family is.

Another way to keep you from noticing how long you're waiting, Cracker Barrel has a large store filled with displays of country crafts and knick-knacks and things. You can find toys, you can find wooden eggs, at Christmastime you can find Santas and other decorations.

When they call your name/party of number, you go to the podium at the threshold to the dining area and they sit you down. Typically, the waiters at Cracker Barrel I find really like their jobs, and provide very good service.

The menus are made of the kind of paper you see in paper grocery bags. They have a lot of items on the menu, most of which are very fattening and very down-home comfort foods.

I order the Country Fried Steak those first nights I'm at Cracker Barrel.

I get a choice of not one, not two, but <i>three</i> side orders, plus biscuits and corn bread.

Tonight, I chose corn, fried apples, and steak fries. The steak fries were bad. But everything else was good.

I delight in the Country Fried Steak because it is smothered in this thick gravy. Yuuuuuuuuum-my. I can't get Country Fried Steak anywhere I live. I only find it at Cracker Barrel.

I am not a huge Country Fried Steak fan, though. I don't deserve a Country Fried Steak t-shirt. I don't wrestle women in the aisles of Astoria grocery stores for the last slab of pre-made CFS. I just look forward to eating it as part of the tradition I've helped shape in my family when I go home to NC.

We tend to have a happy time at Cracker Barrel. Sometimes, we play the little puzzle they put on every table in the dining area--a wooden triangular block filled with golf tees in all but one of its holes. You are supposed to jump the golf tees and eliminate the jumped ones until one tee stands. And the writing on the triangular block mocks you if you don't win, or do so well as to leave only three tees standing.

I am the loud New Yorker when I'm there. I'm not very New Yorky, I'm just loud. I get excited and have difficulty toning it down. Cracker Barrel is a pretty noisy place with all the families there, but I guess I get loud enough to embarrass my family sometimes. I didn't do that tonight.

The aim of the dinner at Cracker Barrel is to get "packed out." "Packed out" is a term our family created when we lived in Atlanta in the early '80's, when our favorite restaurant was a chain called Po' Folks. I would dip my fries in butter. We all would get full. That is, we all would get "packed out." Going to Cracker Barrel and eating a lot of fattening food is a good reason for us to use one of our favorite family terms.

I salute family tradition and Cracker Barrel.
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<b>So I Became An Improv Coach</b>
<i>They said it couldn't be done.</i>

Some friends of mine from college know me as the one who knows something about improv.

For some of you who read these boards, that may really, really scare you. My orientation to improv is a measly four consecutive levels of training at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, plus a practice group that lasted for a measureable amount of time before it dissolved. I was no standout player, and I wasn't necessarily very funny. I come from an acting background, the kind that uses lines on a page. I have the tendency to freeze up when I'm put on the spot.

Some of these friends of mine are associated with a theater company that uses in the rehearsal process improvisation--as in, spontaneous invention and discovery--as a heavy influence on their productions. The theater company is very new, and very ambitious, and they are holding different cool fundraisers for their company.

Their first official fundraiser was a lingerie runway show. Another fundraiser was a beach-themed bingo party.

For their latest fundraiser, they are doing an improv night. More correctly, they are doing an improv & sketch comedy night. Being that to them I'm the one who knows something about improv, they asked me to be a part of the planning.

In particular, they wanted me to be a part of their own improv troupe, and also serve as their "improv guru."

I am no improv guru, and at first was very wishy-washy about taking it on.

Eventually with some coaxing, I agreed to coach their fledgling team. It consists of six people, five of whom went to my college +/- a year or two of me, and one person who's become a friend to most of us, who also is closely tied to the theater company.

In the weeks before our first rehearsal, I studied up on improv as I never had before. I looked through <i>Truth in Comedy</i> a few times, and I read the improv forum on the IRC. I was searching for pointers on improv, exercises, rules, etc. I was reacquainting myself with improv, how it was taught to me, and also formulating how I could structure a rehearsal so that they could learn the material and technique even faster than it was taught to me.

I put all my notes onto a double-sided handout and gave them to the players. On the notes were a breakdown of Harold, 9 long-form rules that I assembled, some improv pointers, plus a list of all the chapter-endings of <i>Truth in Comedy</i>.

It was nice, I felt, that they have something visual to refer to, either in rehearsal or at a later date. I wish I had something tangible like this when I was taking class.

The troupe seemed to really respond to my coaching. That was exciting; <a href="http://improvisation.ws/mb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=7360">a thread on the IRC</a> rattled a little bit my confidence in what I could pull off. But there I was, not only coaching them in improv, I was entrusted with the responsibility of teaching them an introduction to long-form!

My "lesson plans" for the evening of our first rehearsal were simple and thought-out. One person in the group had short-form experience, some of the people had gone with me to Harold Nights and seen Harold (some more than others), some had no contact with long-form improv, and one person did stand-up comedy. I thought it would be appropriate not to touch Harold form in the first few rehearsals, but instead to work on getting people up and doing two-person scenes, along with a little group-mind work.

At first, we had a warm-up which consisted of an exercise to improve the integration of the brain hemispheres, akin to the process by which a baby integrates her brain: the cross-crawl. A simple and somewhat stupid exercise, its effects supposedly can be attested to in the field of kinesiology (see <a href="http://www.brainlinks.com">http://www.brainlinks.com</a>); a person simply raises his knee and touches it with his opposite hand, alternating sides at a quick and steady pace, and does a similar version of the exercise at the back of his body. I also had them do crazy 8's, which seats penultimately to my favorite energy-generating game, "Czechoslovakia Boom Chicka Boom," and we did only because it was easier to teach as time permitted. The girl with short-form experience wanted to do some warm-ups she had learned to get minds working, so she taught the group a couple things, one of which involved meeting and greeting people as continually different people.

I then ran through an extremely quick overview of the "rules" of long-form that I had decided on from my recent research and put on my handout. I didn't want to spend very much time at all on them, as we would flesh them out as time went on. They are:

1. <b>Establish who you are and where you are immediately</b>, esp. in your first 1-3 lines.
2. <b>Agree.</b> Avoid conflict and confrontation. Avoid denying something's existence.
3. <b>"Yes-And."</b> Accept and add new information.
4. <b>Support.</b> Incorporate everything offered in a scene. There are no mistakes.
5. <b>Commit</b> to what you're doing, what you're saying, and the premises of the scene.
6. <b>Avoid questions.</b> Instead, make statements that answer these questions, or make assumptions.
7. <b>Play at the top of your intelligence.</b> Avoid dumb characters playing dumb; have them play smart.
8. <b>Make your partner look good.</b>
9. <b>Pantomime or become.</b> You have two chairs. Guns are held at the trigger, glasses are sipped at the rim. Chairs are only seats, not dykes or dogs. If you don't have a tree to reference, become one.

Without much explanation, I launched into two-person scenes with three lines only. The object we concentrated on was Rule 1, establishing who you are (your relationship) and where you are as immediately as possible. The lesson to be learned from such practice was that you make the scenework incredibly easier if you establish such information at the top.

As the different pairings of players worked and seemed to gain momentum and comfort in playing, I limited the game a notch more by making it that they could only say one independent clause or less as their line--they had been making their lines to be rambling, long monologues. The strategy was to force them to give information out more succintly.

After each pairing, we all talked about what we saw, and how we might have been able to improve it. We touched on concepts of agreement, adding new information, avoiding questions, in addition to establishing character and location. We covered different kinds of relationships, and how calling your character by name in the first line can not only make the scenework more specific (and humorous), but also reveal status which can add to the dynamic of a scene.

After a break, I worked them in some group-mind development via Kevin Mullaney's exercise, "Building a Website."

I had only read about the exercise on the IRC rather than encountering it in class, so I was faced with the responsibility of interpreting it and hoping to teach it right. I left some of the rules of the exercise up to the group (to allow their own groupwork to shape the rules of the game they create), and while they were a little puzzled about what to do onstage in building a website, they took my direction pretty well.

I found that they wanted to do a lot of drop-down top-ten lists (kinda jokey) and animated .gif's that supplemented people's ideas of content on the site. The animated .gif ideas seemed a nice demostration of support of other players, but sometimes it didn't add to the site they were building. Their choices, at times, were vague. I realized that when you're curious about something on the internet, you click on it, so that was the power I took on: I would point and say, "Click!" to get more information on a player's choice.

That forced the group to listen to what each person was doing, as they would then need to illustrate a whole new webpage when I went "Click!" They tried to flesh out vague choices in the new webpage.

When their new pages were fleshed out, I might click on another element on the new page, or I might say that I'd like to go back to their homepage. That forced them to recall elements they originally developed, another good improv exercise.

While the group seemed rather in-over-their-heads with the exercise, I think it was an excellent exercise and a nice taste for them at working together as a group, with a group mind.

For the next part of rehearsal, we moved to our first real two-person scenes. They were to think of the lessons learned from the 3-line scenes (who you are and where you are, immediately), making sure to agree and add, as well as avoiding questions.

The players really locked in to the concept of yes-and, and when they did it, their scenes soared.

Sometimes scenes would start off rocky, and I then forced them to join at the tops of their scenes, keeping in mind Mullaney's last lesson from Del: <b>joining is scribbling with a scribbling child, not sitting in a rocking chair watching like pa</b>. When they joined, they related even more quickly. One scene I remember that was particularly good involved two women, one a golf instructor holding the golf club from behind the other, a beginning golfer, as the instructor was hitting on the beginner.

That scene was particularly enlightening because while it was a dreaded instruction scene, it wasn't about the instruction but more so about the seduction. The game (the concept we were addressing in this wave of two-person scenes) was about the teacher seducing the student more and more while teaching, not about teaching more and more.

My teaching strategy involved a lot of repetition. At the start of each scene, very fast I would say, "Establish who you are, where you are, immediately, look for what's fun and unusual, agree and add," etc., much like handholding but serving as a obvious attempt to reinforce good habits and mindsets.

We ended the night with quick word-association exercises as a group. This worked as additional group-mind development and a nice cool-down. The short-form player started them off in a circle, passing word associations clockwise and then I added counterclockwise, then I lined them up to associate from what they heard the others say, without seeing each other.

I think there are a lot of really good things to come from this group, and I am so excited how they responded to my coaching. I believe the name they settled on is "Devil's Dancebelt."



I don't understand why pride is a sin.

I'm not religious, so sin isn't really a concept for me to care about. I tend to do things in my life considering the consequences of my actions, and how my actions may affect other people. My rearing wasn't religious, but, as my brother puts it, it was more a "moral" upbringing.

I think essentially that means "Do unto others."

I have poison ivy right now. It started as an affliction on my nose and my left arm. My nose bubbled up and pussed over and over, and was really disgusting. My arm had the one mosquito-bite sized rash spread to this rough, bumpy dermatitis that is waiting to burst all over the arm. The poison ivy has spread minimally over my body, affecting my other arm, my forehead, above my eye, around my lips, and a few other tiny spots (for now). It is a miserable condition because you can't satisfy an itch when you scratch it; when you scratch it, it feels so good and you don't want to stop. Then, you can bleed, as well as spread the condition. Fortunately, I have been able to keep this case of poison ivy pretty mentally in check, and I rarely scratch.

I killed my knee again over the weekend, deciding to ignore anything my doctor might have said against my biking at this stage in my post-op recovery. And as a result, swelling on my knee ballooned to nearly the size it was just after the arthroscopy, and I'm back to using a cane. I had ditched the cane on Labor Day.

Today, I went to an open call for background work on some Julia Roberts film. I brought with me my folding chair (which weighs about 7 lbs.), my messenger bag, and my cane, plus an instable knee and an ugly rash on my nose and arm. I felt like a warrior who was insisting on not dying. There was no chance in hell anyone would cast a young person like me who looks as if he was crippled and riddled with nose cancer, but my pride was too strong.

I waited in the line for about an hour and a half, number 225 in line. I had to stand most of the time because the line kept moving every few minutes and moving my chair would have been a hassle. Eventually, I just decided I couldn't stand anymore and dealt with the intermittent line and chair movement.

The direct sunlight I was in was starting to irritate my poison ivy blisters. Heat stimulates the desire to scratch.

When I finally was let into the area where the casting director takes a look at you, I was the last person after whom they cut off my group. I lonely hobbled down the flights of stairs and into the large hall, then sat down. I was neither playing up nor playing down my handicap; this just was the actor I was today, and if they liked it, great, if not, fine. Today I just thought put my best face forward and they can only decide how they want to decide.

They were looking mostly for college-aged girls, but some Harvard boys were also helpful, plus teachers. Most college-aged girls were sent over to get a Polaroid made, while people who didn't fit the descriptions they needed were told simply to turn in their headshots.

I was the last person the casting director was going to evaluate in the group of about 100. As not to totally ruin my chances, I concealed my cane under my chair, and I used my headshot to cover my arm blisters. I turned my headshot to face the casting director, in the slight chance that when he saw my red, blistered nose, he'd look at my headshot and realize it's not a permanent problem I have.

He sent me over to get a Polaroid.

The whole time I was wrestling with excusing myself to people there, saying, "I have poison ivy." That would have been a lame attempt at trying to console the casting people that I wasn't always like this, and that it was just a temporary thing. The same would have applied to the cane I was using. I looked pretty damn beat up. But I chose not to hide it today. Pride. I rationalized that even though I'm a mutant right now, I have my SAG card, and I have a right to work.

I was given info on how to do my hair should I work on this film.

Later in the day, I got my first call from Liz Lewis Casting Partners for a Perkins commercial audition for Tuesday. I have this bright-red, scabby nose, and I'm going to be on camera for the audition. I am wrestling with wearing concealer (which I don't know how to apply appropriately) and maybe powder, versus just going in <i>nez nu</i> and letting them deal with their imaginations about how good I could look with some makeup. I'm still torn.

I'm glad I'm not like some girls. I think I'd think it was the end of the world that I'd be seen for an audition with a pus-y tumor on my face and rash on my arm. Instead I just think, <i>I'm human</i>.

I don't know what the opposite of pride would be, or if I do, it seems really pretty weak.

I have been living the life of Chumbawumba all summer long.
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