Things are looking up!

Georgia O'Keeffe, photographed by Alfred Steiglitz. Good things are happening.

I’m pleased to announce that Wide Open Spaces will be read as part of the Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival this summer!

Wide Open Spaces is the play that I wrote about Georgia O’Keeffe, and her personal changes that made her the painter we know today. It has forty-some odd characters played by eight performers, and takes place in one room and all across America over three years, so this is going to be a good experience. I’m really excited about this, and grateful that the festival coordinators see what I’ve seen in this story.

Philadelphia’s never had a theatre festival specializing in work created by women, before this year. Ms Fest at Plays & Players was a huge success, so the energy of supply and demand is high for a women’s theatre festival.  Currently, the PWTF is raising funds to make the festival happen, and you can support this project.  They have four days left to meet their fundraising goal, and donations are tax-deductible. 

I know so many people who complain at being left out of opportunities. There’s so much “they don’t want me because I’m too (x, y, z) for them” that I hear, and I want to be in a culture of saying “yes, and.”   This is one of those times where we can step up and build the sandbox in which we want to play.

Speaking of building your own sandbox, progress on Jarnsaxa Rising continues. In addition to the script, I’m working on “meet the artist” posts for the podcast’s blog. Every time I open up my e-mail, see the performers’ headshots and read their bios, I get all warm and giggly inside. This project is going to be Really Good.

And, of course, if science-fiction-fantasy podcasts are your thing, you can join us on the journey.

IMG_3686 And last night it rained, finally, so the garden is getting wild again. The red lilies are blooming and doubling and trebling, and the morning glory vine has started to fight with the lavender, but they’re no match for the mint, so I have to get in there and break up some of this battle.

 

 

Mint vs. Lavender vs. Morning Glories. QUIEN ES MAS MACHO?

Mint vs. Lavender vs. Morning Glories. QUIEN ES MAS MACHO?

 

 

 

Advertisements

Orphan Black Is My Personal Trainer

Not only are the Sestras of Team Leda my personal trainers, but also, as a result, I can survive car crashes, get stabbed through the side with rebar, run, fight, shoot with accuracy, and dig a grave through a cement floor. Impressed?

Don’t be. I may be exaggerating. Let me back up a bit.

During the summer of 2013, I lost about eighteen pounds. This happened through a combination of hopping up and down on an elliptical machine at Planet Fitness, and eating mostly blueberries and almonds in order to win the respect of  [popular Philadelphia actor and local vegan] Doug Greene. It was fun, for a while. Then,
a) I learned that Doug Greene’s kindness is so vast that he really doesn’t care if I eat things which can not be easily foraged, and

b) The televisions at my local Planet Fitness succeeded in driving me out of there. That’s right. The terrorists’ televisions won.

Here’s the battle. I had a pretty good system for making regular exercise part of my life. Roll out of bed, pull on the pile of work out clothes I thoughtfully placed [okay, dumped] on the floor next to the bed the day before, put earbuds in ears, and with my gym only a few blocks away, I’d be at the gym and on the elliptical, chugging along to “Doctorin’ The Tardis,” before I really woke up.

OB1-596x335  Unfortunately, the Wall Of Televisions across from the elliptical machines were extremely distracting. The morning parade of anorexics, invented health scares, and celebrity bullshit which passes for news drove me far away from sense and sensibility. One day I saw Olivia Wilde, being interviewed about her role in a movie in which her character allegedly liked to drink a lot of beer. I thought, she doesn’t look like she’s ever touched a beer in her life. She’s as light and luminous as a snowflake. She probably eats nothing but organic arugula and pure mountain spring water. Then, some weird part of me thought, you could look like that if you ate only twelve handfuls of almonds a day. It’s possible. And just look how much better her career is than yours.

Fortunately, some reasonable part of my brain (the part that likes eating, moving around and having cognitive function) said, NOPE, that’s not a healthy mind set. I got my priorities in order. After that, the televisions at the gym made me so angry, that I stopped going to the gym. Music wasn’t enough to keep me going, with TV flashing and flickering away in front of me.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep10_251-596x335 Recently, I was talking with some friends about how I wanted to write a Tv drama spec script for my portfolio. My co-worker Kevin suggested that Orphan Black might fit my sensibilities. I hate sitting and spending copious amounts of time staring at something without doing something else along with it, so I thought, I’ll watch it at the gym. I bought the iTunes season pass for the first two seasons, and away I went on Leda’s Big Adventure.

This show is absolutely ideal as a companion for cardio, especially if you’re stuck indoors at one spot*. Its style, as a one-hour adventure-sci-fi-drama- is ideal for a 45-minute workout.

ob121-596x335  TV writing is formulaic, even for a genre-defying show like Orphan Black. Dan Harmon’s narrative structure method shows this formula best. Essentially, with a 40-45 minute show, you’re going to have moments of tension every five or six minutes. Every other moment of tension will be a major moment of tension, and they will increase in intensity throughout the story.

To try to make things simple, these are your big turning points of story.
1) A person is in a place of comfort
2) But they want something
3) They enter an unfamiliar situation
4) Adapt to it
5) Get what they thought they wanted
6) Pay a heavy price
7) Return to where they started
8) Having Changed.

OrphanBlack-Ep5-1-596x335In the case of a serial thriller like Orphan Black, you’re not going right back to the beginning, necessarily, you’re only back to square one in the sense that you’re still fighting The Bad Guys. Your favorite clone makes progress, but not enough for her to win freedom for herself and her family.

So, when you’re working out, these points of tension will make you move faster. The first ten minutes or so, even if they start with Sarah or Cosima or Allison or Helena in a major pickle, are at least a pickle with which the viewer is familiar. The episode is establishing itself, and this gives you time to get warmed up. After about ten minutes, our heroine gets presented with a new difficulty, and that makes the tension pick up. Usually, by about fifteen minutes into the episode, there’s a bar fight, a critical code to be cracked, or a chase that makes the viewer more tense. So, the natural response is to do what? Move faster. Each conflict increases the tension, leading to a plateau, and then another increase, until the inevitable cliffhanger ending, which leaves the viewer wanting more.

OrphanBlack_S2Ep9_20-596x335Mirror Neurons being what they are, we can’t not get tense along with our favorite characters. Every time they get into trouble, we do what they know they should do; tense up, and run, or fight. It’s a perfect thing to keep you going when you’re at the gym. There are some exceptions, however. When Paul pressed the stolen (spoiler object) into the palm of Felix’s hand, I hauled on the brakes on the elliptical foot pads so hard that I almost fell off of the machine. So, be careful. This show is not to be taken lightly.

It’s true that many television shows follow this formula, and probably any one-hour drama or police procedural could fit the bill. Why not just go to the gym a couple of hours after dinnertime, and catch one of the many variations on CSI or Law & Order? Because this is Orphan Black, and it’s a whole new modus operandi in story.

251-596x335

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

One actress, Tatiana Maslany, plays the main characters, all of whom share the same DNA, but are as different as chalk and cheese. Each of them has secrets, and has to pretend to be something she’s not. Anyone who wants transformation, or has just had a very bad day (why else would you get on an elliptical machine?) can empathize with Clone Club. The clones battle and support each other in similar but unique voices, much as different facets of one human’s personality. Yet they all work toward a common goal; independence and safety for themselves and their family. Because one actress plays all the roles, the viewer gets pulled into the concept of transformation. The body becomes immaterial; what matters is the clones’ desires, actions, and manners of self-expression. For someone who’s trying to get more exercise, this hits home. Ultimately, the premise of Orphan Black is, “Is biology destiny?” Is our body all we are, or can be? For all women, we want to feel like our bodies are less important than our personalities, thoughts, and desires. In the case of Orphan Black, the human body is a part of oneself, but not the entire existence.

OrphanBlack_HelenaGallery_02-596x335  Having this show accompany me as I work out makes me more excited to go to the gym. It makes me think about the body in terms of strength, health and autonomy. It distracts me from all of the usual chatter in which we engage, concerning fitness and working out. Maybe I’m not doing this because I want to look like the women on The Today Show or Good Morning America. Maybe I’m doing this in case I ever have to dodge a sniper’s bullet or run for my life or fight off a bunch of armed goons. The characters on this show are flexible but tough, capable of change, but focused, and always moving up. It’s the best workout companion I’ve ever had.

I have not yet seen Season 3, other than the occasional trailer or sneak peek. Like I said, I don’t have cable (although Episode 1 of Season 3 is available online. BUT FOR HOW LONG???). As far as I can tell, some of what the new season concerns is how big business (i.e., Dyad), can control the human body, how the government and military can get involved (such as in the case of copyright), and what people can do with their bodies. These ideas scares me, particularly since we see this all the time. We see it when women starve themselves to fit a business’ idea of what a clothing size is, when people make choices about food, self-care, residence or birth control based on what corporations say is safe and healthy. I’m glad this show is exploring these ideas, in an interesting and inventive way.

And no, I never wrote the spec script, because I was too busy being in love with the show. I probably will eventually, anyway. Wide Open Spaces made the semi-finalist level for the National Playwrights’ Conference at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, so I can’t possibly be that bad at this whole thing, right?

Illness, health, and creativity

I know nobody’s looking at the Internet on a Friday evening in Spring (and if you are, please, step away from the screen and go enjoy some fresh air). But, I’ve had a cocktail, and since I haven’t posted anything here for a while, now seems like a good time as any to post.

Plague Doctor, Rome, 1656  I’ve been way underground for a while, and here’s why. First of all, I had the black plague. It’s possible I may be exaggerating for comic effect. I had pneumonia for a little bit over a week, probably a by-product of the weather vacillating wildly from warm to cold and back. In any case, I lost several days in bed manufacturing sputum of many colors. I learned something very interesting in the course of this illness.

If you take an SSRI, as many of us do (I think Zoloft will be OTC by 2020, but that’s just my opinion), you may want to consider its interaction with your over-the-counter cold medication, specifically, dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant). It clearly states on medications such as DayQuil and Mucinex DM that this medication should not be taken in conjunction with any medication that is an MAOI. I may be the exception to all of this, but, to make a long story short, the combination of dextromethorphan and sertraline resulted in a case of restless leg syndrome which should have made me eligible to join the Rockettes. Hence, what should have been a 5 to 7 day recuperation period stretched into 10 days because I had to take 36 hours with no medication which suppressed symptoms (other than antibiotics)  to let things get out of my system, which meant I couldn’t sleep. The moral of the story is, Cough Syrup Is No Joke.

Know your drugs, know your doses. It’s elementary.

But I digress. Here’s the heavy lifting which I’ve been doing this semester.

Walter Lowenfels  I’ve been writing a play about poet and journalist Walter Lowenfels. He lived in Paris during the 1930’s, hobnobbing with such literary luminaries as Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. After the Depression hit, he returned with his wife, Lillian, to New Jersey, where he worked in his father’s butter business by day and wrote poetry by night. In the 1940s, he moved his family to Parkside, in West Philadelphia. There, he edited the Pennsylvania edition of The Daily Worker and was active in the Communist Party and the Civil Rights movement. In 1952 he was arrested for violation of The Smith Act, allegedly for trying to overthrow the government, and briefly held at Holmesburg Prison. The case was thrown out for lack of evidence; apparently the FBI does believe the pen to be mightier than the sword.

Lowenfels lived a multifaceted life, stretching between the demands of his family, his community, and his art. In the play created for my Seminar in Community Arts Practices, we’re exploring how he maintained that balance, via the metaphor of  his kitchen table. The play, Walter’s Table, will be presented as part of the Radical Jewish Culture symposium, at Paley Library, on Temple University’s main campus, on April 25 and 26. This production stars Philadelphia veteran actor David Ingram (most recently on the Wilma Theater stage in Cherokee).

Georgia O'Keeffe, photographed by Alfred Steiglitz.  My thesis project is the real elephant in the room. The working title is Dream Of Wide Open Spaces. To make a long story short, from the fall of 1932 to the spring of 1934, Georgia O’Keeffe stopped painting. During that time she had a physical and emotional breakdown, lost all her appetite for creativity, and gradually found her way back to become the visual powerhouse we know and love.  As I’m working on this play, I am madly in love with The Beinecke Rare Book And Manuscript Library at Yale University, which holds much of Georgia O’Keeffe’s correspondence. Reading her letters in her handwriting, and interpreting the nuances with which she wields fountain pen or pencil is an adventure in and of itself. I’m also reading My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Steiglitz by Sarah Greenough, Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle, Georgia O’Keeffe by Roxana Robinson, and O’Keeffe and Steiglitz: An American Romance by Benita Eisler.

Black Hollyhock, Blue Larkspur, 1934

Black Hollyhock, Blue Larkspur, 1934

My process has been to read, read, and read, either before going to sleep for the night, or while on the train commuting, and then either sleep or go for walks, and let the data roll around in my head. Unfortunately, I know what it’s like to be creatively frustrated, as O’Keeffe was during that period, and what it’s like to be in a relationship with un-chosen non-monogamy. I also know what it’s like to be sick, and not to trust one’s own body,  and have to regain that trust. So I let things marinate, and then get up early in the morning and write what makes the most sense.

It’s a slow and painful process, but so far, I feel pretty good about it.

Coming up in the next month, Liz Carlson and I are banging our heads together again, for Temple University’s MFA Playfest. Liz will direct the play which I wrote as an independent study with Ed Sobel this past fall, The Wreck Of The Alberta. It’s a family drama about the weight of history, mental illness, puppetry and the secret life of objects. I love working with Liz, and our previous collaboration, Fox Haven was very successful, so this should be a good time.

Finally, if all goes well, I get to graduate in May. I will be wearing a cap, gown and hood made from the equivalent of approximately 23 recycled plastic bottles. I’m pretty tall, so let’s say 25.

So. That’s all the news that’s fit to print right now. Hopefully, I’ll make it through to the other side with two good scripts, and I can write about something other than balancing art with one’s mental health, someday. Right now I’m really feeling the experience of being on the fence between mentally healthy and productive, and crazy and frustrated. But, I’m walking the fence one step at a time.

 

 

Twins. I’m having twins.

woman-typist-at-typewriter  No, I haven’t been posting lately, although I have been writing.  To say I’ve had a lot on my mind would be an understatement.

Last night I was sitting in an armchair in a hallway at school, waiting for Screenwriting class to start. I was tired and cranky, looking over my script pages and cleaning up some formatting. I saw Bob Hedley, and I said, “Hey, Bob!” he said, “Hey, how’s your semester going?”
I said, “Great, I’m having twins!”
The look on his face was of total shock and amazement.
I realized that because I was sitting down, wearing a heavy baggy sweater, with my coat tucked around me and my laptop on my lap, I probably looked about 18 months pregnant with quadruplet quarterbacks, so I said, “With scripts. I have two scripts to write this semester.”
Relief washed over his face, and mine as well. Sheesh, you can’t kid around with that pregnancy shit.

This semester, I’m working on two scripts, and it is a lot like being pregnant. Before I get a ton of shit from all the mommy bloggers out there, let me give you some examples.

–The mind-body connection is FIERCE.  Can I eat that bowl of pasta, or will it make me too sleepy to pound out more than a couple of pages?

–When I get to be able to sleep, it is Very Important. I have to organize my sleep schedule around what the work wants.

–I only want to wear the baggiest clothes I can find.  More layers means less availability to others, as if I’m trying to insulate my own thoughts. I keep a pile of black sweaters and favorite jeans in a basket next to the bed, so I can grab something to wear as soon as I wake up. One day a week, I wear sweats, and wash my black sweaters and favorite jeans, and hang them on the line to dry. It looks like disembodied hipster ghosts swaying in my back yard.

–I have to plan my day based on how much walking I have to do, and how much I need to carry. If Vince needs the car on a day when I need to carry my laptop and my books in my backpack, I know I need to pack ibuprofen for the extra back and thigh aches later, and snacks.

–I carry these ideas with me like a 40-pound weight all the time. They always want a little bit more.  Does the next scene want more puppets, or more cake? Or I’ll see or hear something which makes me think of something and then I have to write it down, RIGHTNOW.

–Hyper-sensitivity and mood swings.  Oh God, the leaves are so beautiful! Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick, do you believe he said that? The world is ending, I can’t find my earbuds! And so on.

–Stopping what I’m doing to use the toilet feels like an invasion on my time and energy.  Sure, biologically pregnant women feel like they have to pee all the time, because they do. I feel like I have to pee “all the time,” because I’M BUSY.  The bladder does not conform to the schedule I’d prefer to impose.

–I have a due date, at which point, either the scripts will be finished, or from my womb untimely ripp’d. *

Of course, I don’t have the benefits of biological pregnancy that women do. Nobody’s given me a shower and brought me prezzies, no one’s told me I’m beautiful or glowing.  I just hope that when these scripts are finished, plenty of people will want to play with them.

Here’s what’s going on.

I have one play about mental illness, The Wreck of The Alberta, and I’m not ready to describe it much more than that. Okay, it has puppets and cake. This makes me want to a) make puppets, b) bake cake.  The cake is, specifically, a diet soda cake.  I have made this before, and it’s delicious. However, I would cheat the recipe with an egg white to bind it up a bit, because it’s also a messy cake. I’m working with Ed Sobel on this, and it’s made him laugh a few times, so I can confidently say that so far the play doesn’t suck.  His bar for quality is very high, however, and I can confidently say that he is not letting me get away with average work.  One day he said to me, “This scene is clever, and it’s kind of funny. But it sounds like a Lindsay scene. It has all the things you usually do. I know you can do better than this. Go rewrite it.” and I limped away, grateful.  and I rewrote.

When I get this work finished, I am so going to make puppets and bake cake.  I am going to sew and bake like nobody’s business.  I will frigging have a puppet and cake PARTY.

The other script on which I’m working is a screenplay for a Western. This breaks a lot of new ground for me, because I have never written a screenplay before, and I have never written a Western before.  It’s tentatively titled The Legend of Hot Shot Annie, and it’s an origin story intended to have future episodes, about a young woman who goes from being the pampered and well-educated daughter of a Wyoming cattle baron to being an outlaw in the Johnson County War.

To prepare for this, I’ve done a lot of reading. Recommended to me by actress and muse Jennifer Summerfield (aka Trillian Stars), was the book Letters of A Woman Homesteader, by Elinor Pruitt Stewart.  Her story takes place a good 15 to 20 years after the one I’m writing, but it’s rich with detail and compelling. Not only do you get a visual sense of the beauty of Wyoming, but also a diary of this woman’s daily activities. She hunted wild game, kept house, mowed fields, arranged marriages and filed homestead claims in a bureaucratic shark tank. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an escape and a reality check.  I also read The Wyoming Lynching of Cattle Kate, which has been very helpful in showing not only what women in late-19th-century Wyoming had to deal with in terms of obstacles, but also the political and social landscape of the Johnson County War.

To get a sense of language and pacing, I watched The Quick and the Dead, which I enjoyed more than I expected to, and a lot of Deadwood.  The latter is vastly entertaining, but I’m learning more about how cable dramas are structured than about the Old West. It’s no wonder that the biggest response to this show has been “OMG THE PROFANITY,” because the writers use it to the point that it loses all its power and makes you stop listening. The former was also vastly entertaining, and more feminist than I would expect a Hollywood movie with big-budget stars to be. In terms of gaze theory, especially, it really works: Ellen/The Lady is constantly under the visual scrutiny of the female townspeople, and the way they squint into the camera puts the viewer on edge as much as Ellen feels responsible for their potential future.**

In all this work, I’m breaking new ground personally, because it’s making me push past my normal tolerance for writing. Normally, I love to write, but these pieces have gone to the point where I stopped caring, hated them, but had to keep going, and finally found new reasons to like them. They haven’t quite earned my love yet, but I’ll finish them. I probably won’t love them until I hear them read by actors. Rose Fox  sent me the most wonderful novel writing progress chart, by Maureen McHugh, which I have saved on my phone, and I see it every morning on my way to school and work, and it keeps me sane.

Chili-EXCELLENCE-Bar_main_450x_438092  That, and Lindt Chili Dark Chocolate.  I read an interview with Joss Whedon about How To Be Prolific where he said, “I have a reward system. I am the monkey with the pellet and it’s so bad that I write almost everything in restaurants or cafes [so] that when I have an idea, I go and get chocolate.” I thought, okay, if it works for him. So, I keep bars of Lindt 70% Cacao or Chili Dark Chocolate around and give myself squares of them after every few pages or so.  Writing goes much better with chocolate. I can write without it, but I don’t write as well and I get really grouchy. What’s a bad idea, though, is Ghiradelli Dark and Sea Salt Caramel chocolate squares. Those things are an orgasm in a snack. After one of those, I need a nap.

So, anyway, that’s where I am and what I’ve been up to. and hopefully I’ll have some results soon. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

*Much like Macduff, but I seem to recall that he did pretty well for himself. Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 8.

** It’s a good thing I work in a library. Librarians are awesome. They are the warrior-poet-guardians of our society.

A tale of two Georges

GeorgeHarrison-LivingInTheMaterialWorld-poster  Last night we watched Living In The Material World, the George Harrison documentary that Martin Scorsese made a few years ago. It’s very good.  It’s about half George’s solo career and life after 1970, and the other half is his childhood and the Beatles years, without going into too much detail. Overall, the film makes the point that George Harrison was very good at balancing his spiritual and earthly selves: he could perform, have relationships, produce movies, play jokes, and make money, but he also was the guy who could just float away on a cloud of spiritual sound.

The documentary has no narration, so the individual clips and interviews speak for themselves. Which is nice. You don’t feel like you’re being spoon-fed or distanced. So, for example, it opens with film of the World War II bombings in England, coupled with the song “All Things Must Pass.” The documentary also includes letters George wrote to his family, while the Beatles were in their first years of touring, read by Dhani Harrison, which is heartwarming and also kind of eerie.

Dhani Harrison is totes adorbs, by the way.

So, for three hours, I put away my phone, knitted, and watched this documentary about someone who spent their life trying to make the world a better place for everyone he met.  It seems as though he did. George Harrison was no pushover, there is a part that shows him telling a reporter to step off shortly after the announcement of his cancer diagnosis. But in general, people talk about his literal and spiritual generosity, his peacefulness, how he could walk into a room and make everyone there calm and happy.  It’s infectious, and leaves you wanting to sign up for a meditation course.

Trayvon-BTMP-SHEP-COMP  Then I picked up my phone, checked Facebook and Twitter, and found out about the Zimmerman verdict.

When I was young, and learning to drive, my mom and grandmother, on the other hand, gave me the talk about Driving While Female and Dealing With Police.  They said, “if you are driving alone at night, and a cop tries to pull you over, drop your speed, get over towards the side, and drive your car to the nearest well-lit and populated area, where people can clearly see you.”  and then, don’t sass off, make eye contact, make sure they can see your hands.

One night, I was at home on a Saturday night because my boyfriend was working at the local movie theater. This was back in the days when movies were on magnetic tape in small plastic boxes and you had to go to a store and borrow them in exchange for money. I had a hankering to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, so I went down to the local video store, rented the movie, stopped at the convenience store next door, got some tasty snacks, and thought, I bet my boyfriend would like a tasty snack (not a euphemism). so I took the long way home, stopped by the box office, said hi, gave him a snack, got back in the car and headed home. I knew my parents would be pissed at me for being gone for more than the fifteen minutes it really takes to rent a movie, so I was a little anxious.

It was probably about 8:30pm, after dark, and I turned onto a long downhill stretch that’s clearly marked at a speed limit that is less than your car would take if you were coasting. It’s the kind of road that suburban teenagers and idiots love to burn through, so you almost have to fight your car’s weight a bit to stay under the speed limit. I always liked this strip of road, and I always liked the challenge of trying to coast and stay as close to the speed limit as possible. So I coasted the mile or so to the next stop light. Was I speeding? I don’t know. Was I pressing the pedal to the metal? No.

At the next stop light, I noticed that the car behind me had its high-beams on, as if the driver were trying to intimidate me, or see what radio station I had on, who knows. It was bright enough to make me think, Jeez, somebody’s a bit too interested in me.

Having been followed late at night by guys trying to intimidate women before, I thought, that doesn’t look good. Delaware County has a lot of bored people, and a lot of cars. It wasn’t uncommon for bored male drivers to try to intimidate female drivers around there, and I had been followed by unsavory creepy drivers before (once I had to drive back to the movie theater after a late-night shift because a drunk guy followed me, and as he told my friends after they got between his car and mine, “I was just tryin’ to get some pussy”).  I told myself that this was all in my head, and to get home so my mom wouldn’t be mad.

So, I turned onto a winding, forested back road to get home, and the car followed. I thought, okay, please leave me alone, pal. The high-beams filled my rear window, and I got scared. I sped up. Next thing I know, the rearview mirror was full of spinning red and blue lights.

Within sixty seconds, a young State Police officer was shining a flashlight in my face and asking why I was driving so fast on a back road. In a panic, I spit out that I had been followed by Bad People before, that I thought this was happening again, that I was scared and trying to get away from him.

A few seconds of silence passed.

The officer apologized, gave me back my documents, and said I was free to go.

When I got home, I told my mom what had happened. She told me that in my dad’s years in criminal litigation, he’d heard many stories from police officers in suburban areas who used to intimidate young women with threats of speeding tickets and having their license taken away in exchange for blow jobs.

Is this the same as The Talk and Driving While Black? No.
Have I encountered police officers whose ego was bigger than their intelligence? Yep.

Similarly:

-An ex of mine had a story about how, at about age 17, he was walking from a girlfriend’s house to his car, parked several blocks away, after dark, and was picked up by the police because someone had seen trespassers in the area. He was handcuffed to a radiator and hollered at by cops until they got bored and let him go.

-Once upon a time in New Jersey, I carefully made a legal left turn onto a road and was pulled over by a bored State Police cop who didn’t like my rainbow bumper sticker, and offered to take apart my car to search for marijuana. I was dumb enough to say, “Go right ahead, knock yourself out, you won’t find anything.” He decided not to search my car. I guess he didn’t want to do the paperwork. My car was impounded, and when he asked if I understood why he was taking my car and issuing a ticket, I said, “No, I don’t. Why did you pull me over?” he said, “I always pull over cars that have…” then he gestured at the back bumper of my car, waving left-to right, following the pattern of the rainbow sticker, and said, “License plates like that.”

The Zimmerman case isn’t about police intimidation. He wasn’t a police officer. He’s a small man with an ego bigger than his intelligence. It’s “hey you kids get off my lawn” taken to the worst possible conclusion. I’m angry that the prosecution didn’t make a stronger case, and wondering exactly what kind of rocks the jurors live under.

I’m wondering why we’re a nation of intolerance and ignorance. We all have the capacity for compassion and empathy, we all have the opportunity to sit down and quiet our minds or de-escalate a drama.  I don’t understand the attachment to violence George Zimmerman must have to not just leave Trayvon Martin alone.

It’s a dangerous precedent.

On that note, here’s a classic piece of American literature which I think should be recommended reading in all schools.  Be kind today.

Free Range Theatre!

Guess what, folks, I, Lindsay Harris Friel, Crazy As A Loon Playwright, am having a CRAZY LINDSAY’S GIVING IT AWAY FOR FREE SALE!  Are you looking for a  short play for your theater company, church, school, speech class, ESL class, whatever, with four characters, a simple setting, and a timely conflict to perform, but can’t afford the royalties? Well, WORRY NO MORE!  With all the hubub and froufrou about reproductive rights, pregnancy as the latest fashion accessory and tabloid cover headline, and personhood, this play guarantees that your audiences will have plenty to laugh or complain about for weeks! Just read the following and copy or paste it into the text editor or word processing software of your choice, print it out, memorize the lines and let theatrical MAGIC ensue! All I ask is that you credit me as author.  I own the copyright, and you can’t change the script, but I’ve left you plenty of room for subtext, and all you have to do is pay me in exposure!

Thanks, and have a super day!

BREAKFAST IN AMERICA

CHARACTERS:

MICHAEL: a man in his late 30s to early 40s

KATE: a woman in her late 30s to early 40s

FREDDY: a waiter, a beefy, overly-jovial lad in his early 20s

EILEEN: a waitress in her 50s

SETTING: A diner in Northeast Philadelphia. Typical diner accoutrements: formica and chrome table and fittings, so on & so forth. Television on the wall broadcasting the news.

TIME: The present day, a lovely Saturday in springtime, noonish.

AT RISE: MICHAEL and KATE sit at a table sipping coffee. The table is right next to a wood and glass partition, slightly higher than the diners’ shoulder height. MICHAEL is playing with his cell phone.

KATE: I’m so glad we have this time together.

MICHAEL: What? You’re as bad as I am with the whole cell phone thing.

(FREDDY comes bouncing up behind the partition)

MICHAEL: Oh, crap.

KATE: Don’t say anything, stay low.

FREDDY: Hi, guys!

MICHAEL AND KATE: Hi.

FREDDY: How y’seguys dooin’?

MICHAEL AND KATE: Fine.

FREDDY: So, y’seguys gettin’ breakfast or lunch?

MICHAEL AND KATE: Breakfast.

FREDDY: Ehh. Y’seguys go out last night?

MICHAEL AND KATE: No.

FREDDY: oh, Y’seseguys goin’ out tonight?

MICHAEL AND KATE: No.

FREDDY: Yer not?

KATE: Nope, this is our big adventure for the day.

FREDDY: Why not?

KATE: I have a research paper to do.

MICHAEL: Yup, we’re got stuff we have to do.

FREDDY: Ah, I hearya. I never get out any more either. I won’t be gettin’ out for a while neither, cause my girl, she’s havin’ a baby.

MICHAEL: Yup, we know.

KATE: You told us.

FREDDY: yeah, my girl’s havin’ a baby. I’m so scared. I’m terrified.

KATE: mm-hm.

MICHAEL: mm-hm.

FREDDY: An’ this time, it’s not like the las’ time, cause this time, it’s a boy, and my daughter, I don’t know, I mean I see her, but she’s a girl, and-

KATE: Wait a minute. How many kids do you have?

FREDDY: Well, I got the one, my daughter, an’ like I see her sometimes, an’ her mom, we’re like, friends and stuff, but-

KATE: Oh, look, the president’s on TV. (starts playing with her fork)

FREDDY: -but like, now, you know, I got a son, and it’s with my girl.

MICHAEL: Mm-hm.

FREDDY: You guys got kids?

MICHAEL AND KATE: Nope!

FREDDY: Ah, come on! No? No kids?

(KATE starts stabbing the palm of her hand with her fork)

MICHAEL: Nope!

FREDDY: Why not? What’s wrong witchyew?

(KATE starts corkscrewing the fork into the palm of her hand to keep from stabbing FREDDY in the eyeball)

MICHAEL: Cause we have stuff to do. We’ve got projects. Right, honey?

KATE: Right!

(MICHAEL and KATE high-five)

FREDDY: yeah, but I mean, come on, what would you guys do if you had, like, an accident?

(KATE continues stabbing herself in the hand with her fork, looking at MICHAEL)

MICHAEL: You cross that bridge when you come to it.

KATE: What kind of accident? Like a car accident?

FREDDY: No, you know, you know what I mean, if it happens?

MICHAEL: You just cross that bridge when you come to it.

FREDDY: Cause, like, my mom, she had my brother when she was forty-six-

(EILEEN comes rushing out with a tray of food, talking just a little bit too loudly.)

EILEEN: Here we are!

KATE: Oh, scrambled eggs! That’s me!

MICHAEL: There’s our breakfast! Yum!

EILEEN: Can I get you two some more coffee?

KATE: That would be lovely! Thank you!

EILEEN: Is there… anything else I can get for you?

(KATE dives into her food. MICHAEL looks up, FREDDY is gone.)

MICHAEL: I think we’re fine now, thanks.

EILEEN: I’ll be right back with your coffee. (she exits)

KATE: That is absolutely not okay. That is not okay AT ALL.

MICHAEL: It is not okay.

KATE: I mean, what if you asked someone why they were using a cane? Or told them to just drop the cane? It wouldn’t be appropriate. It would be rude.

MICHAEL: Honey, I just want to have a nice breakfast.

KATE: I wanted to have a nice breakfast too.

END OF PLAY

And SCENE. Questions? Comments? Anecdotes? Let me know!