April 9th, 2013
After my tour through the (freezing cold) UK and Europe last month, I’m feeling renewed, refreshed, and excited about the future! HOLY CRAP! There’s actually a world outside of America! And that world is…. EXPEN$IVE!
One of the fruits harvested from last year’s exhausting Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was an invite to come back to the United Kingdom and perform “Going Green the Wong Way” at the Flying Solo Festival at Contact Theater in Manchester, UK (you know where Morrissey and the Smiths came from).
The public transportation in Manchester is pretty great. If you miss a bus, one comes five minutes later. Reliable public transportation? How novel! Somehow Manchester’s Chinatown is right next to the Princess Street! The Gay neighborhood! And there’s a “Chinese Arts Centre”– and it’s not just Chinese people who work there. And there’s a “Curry Row” where you can eat Middle Eastern, Pakistani and Indian food!
And that’s about all I got to see of Manchester. The rest of the time was inside the theater.
It was a lot of work to pull of this tour! Lots of paperwork, lots of planning, and because it’s cost prohibitive to ship the set and props, we had to arrange to have a lot of junk collected in England upon our arrival to build our set. The key way to tell that I’m really working hard on tour is because I hardly have any pictures from the week. Most of these pictures came from my technician!
I am grateful that a last minute United States Artists International grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation was able to help support the travel expenses of my technician Jen Cleary! THANK YOU USAI GRANT! Jen has toured the country with me (you may recognize her from some of our video diaries on the road) and was really key to getting the show up. It was also her first time going to the UK and the second stamp on her passport. She was excited! I was excited for her.
If you are familiar with my scripting process, you know my scripts are honed over many live performances, so following my “script” is very difficult because I often change things up with each show. So teching my shows is a lot about learning my timing, not just following a document. This is why it’s tricky for me to tour without a technician.
If you aren’t familiar with the theater process, you might naively assume that I show up five minutes before showtime, talk to my audience for 80 minutes and go home. It’s so much more involved that that. What you don’t see is me writing grants to help support the insane costs of touring (something I frequently bitch about on this blog), us troubleshooting the show’s file on QLab, meticulously preparing the set, marketing the show so that people know I’m still in business and still working, rewriting parts of the show to suit the local audience, rehearsing, trying to sleep normal hours, loading in all those show cues, pulling audience members where we can. Phew! The show is the easy part.
A good show should look like it was easy to put on. Had I not had Jen present, I would have been trying to teach the Manchester technicians to do the show, then rehearsing, then doing the show. I’ve done that before at some theaters, and it’s incredibly difficult. Having someone who can actual do the “tech speak” and knows the show, alleviates a lot of stress. We were so swamped on this tour, and were kicking off so much jetlag when we arrived, we didn’t get a chance to make a video diary!
That’s a lotta seats that we had to prepare with trash for the audience to throw at me!
I got to meet Chella Quint! An American ex-pat in England who is a super funny woman in her own right who also is the Comedy Editor for the F-Word Blog. She took the train from Sheffield to come see me!
We had our set built in Manchester!
The shows all kicked ass. They do a crazy thing after shows where they let audience members evaluate their experience. PUBLICLY. GASP. I told them I didn’t want to see these forms after but Jen made me look at this one.
I’m a dork who couldn’t stop oohing and aahing and laughing more than the average Brit at everything sort of life reflection as filtered through a British accent. In the above picture, I got tired of an endless queue of boys doing the freestyle rap at Contact’s RAW open mic night and jumped in to do a very strange hip-hop poem to vaginas.
What was even cooler was teaching a workshop to ten artists working on new solo works. I felt like I was learning. It was the FUNNIEST workshop I’d ever taught. We did exercises where they gave fake lectures and told convincing lies, and everything as filtered through the deadpan of British English was just so much more funnier.
Here I am hosting the “Pitch Party” for Contact. Imagine if grant applications were actually live performances in front of a panel of judges who vote on who will receive a commission at the end of the night. That’s a “Pitch Party”. What a nervewracking and intriguing premise. And for some reason, they let my American ass host it! I learned a lot about their funding culture that week.
As you can imagine, with flight costs, work visas, and the whole Atlantic Ocean obstacle– I don’t get out to Europe much. I tried my damndest to string up additional shows in Europe before getting out there– lectures, open mics, I was game for anything like I was 23 again (that’s right, I’m not 23 anymore). I wrote everyone I could think of who lived out there, but the only offers I had would have me zigzagging from Berlin back to the UK for 20 minutes of stage time in Brighton (Not that that wouldn’t have been awesome).
But we did get a show in London! A FABULOUS SHOW! Out of nowhere, a fabulous producer of local events named Vera Chok who had heard about me from a new fan from my show in Edinburgh emailed and asked if I was doing any shows in London. And with eleven days to go, she set up a whole evening in London for me at the Bethel Green Working Men’s Club. Vera is an amazing soul. She made cucumber sandwiches, bought flowers and vases for each table. She really made it a classy and sweet evening. This kind of generosity is everything!
London was EXPENSIVE and EXPENSIVE and EXPENSIVE. Did I mention it was expensive?! It made New York look bargain basement. Right now the exchange rate for the the British pound is $1 to 1.53 BPS, but changing currency in London really gets you closer to $1 to 1.70 BSP. ARGH! $17 bowls of noodles! Just our Tube pass for the few days there was close to $60!
And when looking for accommodations (even on Airbnb) the best we could do was the Women’s Prison of Central London, aka the Central London Youth Hostel (above). Imagine eight women crammed into a room of bunk beds, storing their personal items in lockers, one of the woman a Romanian woman with night terrors, the other a woman running her hair dryer as you try to sleep and a shared bathroom down the hall (don’t forget your key, or you will get locked out)… this is what we were dealing with. The cost for a bunk? About $45 US dollars/night, per person. Add insult to injury, they make you rent a towel. YES. RENT a towel for about $3.50 with a $8 deposit. Do new towels even cost that much? And wifi isn’t free either. I tied a plastic bag filled with underwear to my bunk railing to ward off evil spirits.
The London show went really well. I’m glad that I had Jen with me to transform a bar into a functional theater space. Above, is Vera Chok dancing to kick off the show!
Despite the pricey cost of living in London, the museums are free! I finally got to check out the White Cube which I had read about in “The $12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark” and also a wool exhibit at the Sommerset House. Here I am at the Saatchi Gallery, contemplating the art. I tried to post an unedited version of this on Facebook and almost lost my account with them. So I’ve put up an edited version of the art photo to my left.
At the Berlin Wall.
I spent some time in Berlin and Amsterdam afterwards. I went to those two cities because I know so many American artists who have moved there and tour through there and wanted to stake them out for the future, and hopefully connect to local artists. Ever since going to Cambodia in 2011, I’ve been fascinated with transplant communities. I was pretty lucky to hook up free places to stay through friends and friends of friends. I’m so happy to be part of a generous community of artists!
I watched a show entirely in German– a language that I do not speak btw. I literally wandered in off the street. Took a chance and bought a 3 euro ticket ($4) to see a show. The woman at the box office tried to discourage me from being bored, but this play made it rain onstage the entire the show!
**Here’s a funny story about how umlats are REAL.**
I was traveling with my buddy J.Keith and we asked our German friend Elke to recommend a town between Berlin and Amsterdam. Rick Steves had no suggestions in his tourbook. Elke suggested “Munster” near the border of Germany. So we bought a ticket from Berlin to Munster, then Munster to Amsterdam.
Something wasn’t right about Munster. The locals at the bar had no idea why’d we would travel to their town and the only thing they said was worth seeing was the Tank Museum. We realized the next morning, we were in the wrong town with a similar name. Somehow, the rail site sold us a ticket to “Munster” and not “Münster.” But they had also sold us a connecting train from “Münster” to Amsterdam.
When we got to the tourist agency in Munster, the woman explained that we weren’t the first person to make that mistake, and we wouldn’t be the last.
So, we spent our day trekking across Germany to get from Munster to Münster.
After six hours of trains and missing one of our four transfers, we arrived in Münster and got to pop our heads out for half an hour to look around. I actually prefer Munster over Münster. Though it was a monster to master the trip.
In Amsterdam, I did the tourist loop, including a canal tour, the Sex Museum (where I learned nothing new BTW), and I saw two shows at the MC Theater! One was totally in dutch! I also went on the “Prostitute information Tour” where I learned that for about $65, you can have 15 minutes with a window prostitute and usually, they finish up in 6 minutes. I also spent a whole day in the modern art museum.
***NOW I’M BACK IN LA***
I got home and in one week got myself together for a one night only show of “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at Ohlone College in Fremont. It was great! I still got it!
And here is an omen/future plumbing issue that things are growing my way. I come back to find a plant growing out of the drain in my sink. Tomorrow I do what might be the last show in Southern California of Going Green the Wong Way at UCLA! We’ve got a pretty large RSVP list. Then I go to Canada to work on the new show, then give a keynote at UCLA! Then… maybe, sit a little?
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January 17th, 2013
I have been in Miami almost one full month! The show has been going over so well and we close this weekend! This audience really gets me!! The reviews have been fantastic, but the feedback from the audience is even more interesting. A lot of audience members say things like, “I can’t believe you share yourself like this every night!” And people just really seems to get the themes in the show– the loneliness, the inability to feel like you can participate in “real life,” that sometimes there feels like there is a choice between living inside art and life.
Read the Rave Reviews from the Critics!
“You never know what to expect!” ~ Jesse Leaf ~ Around Town
“This Cat Lady purrs!” ~ Bill Hirschman ~ Florida Theatre On Stage
“Entertaining Olio! ~ Marj O-Neill-Butler ~ miamiARTzine
“Rules-be-damned!” ~ Christine Dolen ~ Miami Herald
“Everyone needs to see CAT LADY!” ~ Happymamatravels
“Laugh your head off!” ~ Neil de la Flor ~ KnightArts
“Offbeat!” ~ Hap Erstein ~ Palm Beach Arts Paper
I’m not sure if it’s my sobriety or what… but this is the tamest trip to Miami I’ve ever had. No hook-ups! No coke binges! No bodies in back alleys! Where am I? Dejavu, I think I said that of my last trip to Miami. That trip was Hedonism compared this one. Now that I don’t drink, I just find myself staying out of trouble by working pretty hard here, taking a lot of naps when I can’t stare at the computer any longer. When I leave here I will have taken yoga class for 20 straight days! Talk about fulfilling some serious New Years resolutions! As much as I’m hating the monotony of yoga, it’s like my body doesn’t know a day without it.
I wrote an essay that xoJane published about my experimental year in sobriety. The user comments are a trip– everything from people telling me I’m an alcoholic to calling the essay drivel (because of my first paragraph) to telling me to drink again. Oh world! Admittedly, I did write the piece projecting myself as much more conflicted about whether or not to drink again (Hey! It makes for more interactive responses)! I feel pretty clear that for now, I’m probably not going to booze up anytime soon. As much fun as my life was when I drank, I actually can’t imagine drinking that way again. And holy crap my skin has really cleared up this year! I gained a bit of weight which is weird though.
I am proud to say I’ve met 2 out of 3 of my writing goals for my time out here– the xoJane essay and another essay proposal for The Los Angeles Atlas Project. The unmet goal was to write a book proposal for “Going Green the Wong Way” but that was just too difficult to wrap my head around while working on this show. When I get back to LA it will be for over a month! I’m so excited! It will go by so fast and then BAM! I’ll be living out of a suitcase.
I’ve pretty much been on the road since July. I just want to feel at home.
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Category: Blog, cat lady, cat pee, miami
January 2nd, 2013
Happy New Year from Miami!
Omens that the year is already off to a fantastic start:
1. I saw a couple doing it doggy style on the beach of South Beach last night.
2. A gross guy hit on me.
3. A man yelled from his car “Ride on the sidewalk you bitch!” while I was bike riding on the side of the road. (Even if it was legal to ride on the sidewalk, there was none.)
All these signs point to Hell Yes! 2013! Let’s do it!
For me, 2013 is going to be a year of major SHIFTING. Last year was supposed to be a year of major shifting away from theater and more towards a balance between that and writing/acting/ commentating/ filmmaking, but somehow I ended up on tour for six months– not a bad landing spot, sure. But this year, I’m throwing my girl balls to the walls and am really giving my life the space to make dramatic change so I can really be more balanced, healthy, and happy as a creative person.
Like any good self-help junkie, I’ve been sampling different life coaches to build a regimen of support and accountability around my goals. After looking at some long term coaching options that ran at $2500-$4500 for a few months to a year (wtf?!), I joined Michelle Ward’s “Clubhouse” at $147/year. She’s a fantastic career coach for creatives with an amazing business model herself. On her recommendation, I am doing two things: sizing up 2012 (below), and writing a letter from the year 2014 where I size up and visualize 2013 (that will be in a private google doc for nobody to see but me!).
Great stuff that Happened in 2012, by Category (Michelle says to do it by the month, but that’s too tedious right now)
Dealing with Crap: With the exception of a big freak-out at the top of the year that had me wondering if I should move to Japan and teach English, a few weirdo situations, some total teary breakdowns at a career coach’s office, and some blow-ups with friends that eventually got figured out, it was relatively drama free so far as I can remember. I still deal with things like insecurity, jealousy, anxiety– but I am also a lot more patient than I ever remember being, and better able to sit in the NOW. How did this happen? Is it the yoga? The self help tapes? Age?
End of an era: Oliver, my cat/boyfriend since 2001 (officially 2004) died in February. I wrote a play about him, so obviously the sudden loss was devastating. I do miss having him follow me around the house, but I don’t miss the pee and having to keep all fabric off the floor. His memory will live on forever in my play.
My body: I exercise so much now! Practically 5x a week! Leaving the house is so important for health! I stopped drinking for a year and my skin cleared up! My mother reports that I became a fatass this year because I am at a record high of 155 pounds. But I look fantastic, and the only thing that I feel bad about is that my mom and aunt told me I looked pregnant. Ouch! that hurt. (The only thing that got me pregs is a cheese pizza.)
Travels that weren’t for work: I got to see London in the closing ceremonies of the Paralympics! I spent a month in Edinburgh but don’t have a lot of memories there. It was just sort of a whirlwind of flyers going by me and just walking a lot and watching a lot of shows. I also was in Ireland. It was a wee bit boring but peaceful. I especially loved the Aran Islands and staying in Bed and Breakfasts in West Ireland.
Love Life: While I didn’t fall in love with anyone this year, I met far fewer douchebags than I usually do. I also have sifted more new friends from this year’s dating pool than ever before. Many who supported me by coming to my show this year! Thanks guys! And I did find myself just being much more genuine with everyone I met. This improvement comes because I have been able to be more honest with myself, set better boundaries from the get-go, love myself first, and I’m less on the defensive having finally recovered and moved on from some bad blows in the past.
Creativity: I took two levels of Improv at UCB with a bunch of 20-somethings. It was so much fun to just be in a room where I didn’t have to facilitate anything. I also made a bunch of silly videos on tour which reinvigorated my creative spirit. Sewed an obscene number of vagina puppets for my Kickstarter donors. And of course, I got to exercise some muscles reworking Going Green the Wong Way and now, CAT LADY for the stage. I also saw some great movies and shows this year! And read some great books!
Career: Yes, unfortunately, making a living off what I love seems to suck down most of my life focus. But there is a lot to celebrate.
I am incredibly proud of this Artist-in-Residence Project I did with the Bus Riders Union.
- I raised a heartstopping 18K thanks to almost 400 Kickstarter donors to get my first international tour in Scotland underway at the Edinburgh Fringe!
- I was on the road for about six months! It was tiring, but nice to be spending more time in the year doing the actual work, not waiting at home to work.
- A 4 week run of Going Green the Wong Way in LA that kicked ass!
- Raised 10K in seed money thanks to individual donors and a matching grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation to develop a new work called “The Wong Street Journal.” Super thank you to my new and returning donors! I can’t believe we pulled that off!
- Life on tour brought me to some great cities in 2012: Edinburgh; Savannah, GA; Putney, VT; Portsmouth, NH; Providence, RI; Hartford, CT; Bethlehem, PA and Miami!
- Did an amazing Artist-in-Residence theater project with the Bus Riders Union. Tri-lingual! See video above!
- Recorded some great commentaries for Marketplace, guest blogged for KCET, and wrote a few funny blogs for xoJane!
- My film version of “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” allows me to finally retire from touring that show live, and still share the message of the show with new audiences. I was present at five campuses that screened the film this year! Lots of campuses are stocking their libraries with the film and our Amazon sales aren’t half bad either!
- Started to commit to working with a part-time assistant once a week. I’ve worked with assistants on and off in the past, but I am finally COMMITTING to having someone help so I can focus on the creative work. She is a budding artist herself and it’s great to be able to feel like a mentor and realize how much I’ve grown in the last few years. And how fortunate that I can give her something to help her grow.
Money $: It was looking pretty ugly early in the year, but once the onslaught of tours hit, it felt like that scene in Indecent Proposal… just more $1 bills, than $100 bills!
My Home: Another year of equity under belt! Yes, I’m still a homeowner and an artist! And I paid off my property taxes on time (and lemme tell you, that bill ain’t cheap and gives me a good scare every time it shows up!) And after almost two years of twiddling my thumbs about how to really “own” my home, I finally threw some nails into the walls and put art up everywhere. It still has a ways to go, but now, it’s definitely MY roost and I’m proud to bring people home to it.
Some big steps I’m taking this year:
I’m going to look into a “co-working” space to get more work done.
Even if I barely am in LA, I am over working in my PJs all day. This girl needs company, to get out of the house and a focused space to write, and I need to get a lot of work done while be connected to the big city.
Use the “N” word more often. “NO.” I’m taking only tours and gigs that I feel strongly about. I’m not applying for grants for projects I’m not interested in making. I used to take shows to make me look and feel busy. Sure, it impressed people, and paid the bills. But really, all I was doing was distracting myself from really making new work and exploring new ideas and really challenging myself to be capable of even greater things.
Becoming really smarterer! By not drinking anymore! By learning everything!
I really need to learn new things and churn out new ideas, not just proliferate the old ones. So right now, my one year experiment in sobriety will extend into 2013. And I’m hyper focused on learning more about the world.
Writing a book proposal
Yes, I did at one point go to graduate school for a year to try to finish a novel (I did finish a 110 page novella that is sitting in my computer) but now I’m going to commit to finishing one kick ass book proposal for “Going Green the Wong Way.” Whatever happens after that is whatever happens. But it starts with a proposal and a sample chapter.
Being Open and Not Panicking
Fear helps nobody. My mantra is, “I’m exactly where I need to be right now, drinking in the world.”
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Category: the secret, vision, winnings