austin rocks Archive

Yee haw!

August 11th, 2010

I’m back in Austin for a week working on my CAT LADY show with my director Shawn Sides!  I love this town, mostly because they have figured out how to serve breakfast tacos all day long every 10 feet.

I am on draft NINE of the script but I do feel we’re coming very close to having the actual working script so so very soon.  I find leaving town is the only way to get work done. In just two and a half days I’ve made miles of progress.

All sorts of crazy stuff has found its way into the script.  Verbally abusive relationships, intimacy issues, fear of friendships, customer service people…  it’s like the insides of my brain have stopped editing and are just spewing (fantastically, not violently) all over the place. This is what being a writer should feel like.  Like the spill can’t be capped.

Last night I was up late and couldn’t move from the computer I was so possessed by writing.  Which is excellent because the last few weeks, I couldn’t stop sleeping away my anxiety about finishing this play.  I was literally in bed most of Saturday hiding from my computer.  I’d fall asleep and wake up scared that I had to face my unfinished draft which only made me more anxious and doubtful if I was really an artist.

Of course, Murphy’s Law kicked in the first day I was in Austin as I found out I was missing a callback in LA for a national commercial.  Why do they always actually want me when I leave town?  These LA problems, I tell you.

Last week, I created a new show for the FORD Amphitheater.  I had known about the show for months and months and was in denial that they didn’t have a projector or screen for me (my sthtick of choice).  So with five days and only an impending nervous breakdown to go, I did something I rarely do, which is to create an ensemble show from scratch.  The show was a fundraiser for Tia Chucha, an AMAZING community arts center in Sylmar that serves a largely Latino base.

The audience was going to be predominantly Latino and so I decided, “Why not arrest the whole audience?”  It was my response to the BS happening in Arizona.  I revived my Officer MacGillawongster character, told a bunch of really awesome off-color jokes (which when told in character make people laugh more than get nervous).  My friend Cory (who was my student at CSU Fresno Summer Arts where I taught last month) played a Neo Nazi who serenaded everyone before deportation.  Then we had a “dramatic” alien landing on stage where my friend Eddy played an alien who told us how we all have so much in common and that humans shouldn’t be so mean to each other.

It sounds corny, but it really was brilliant, profound and FUN.  And the audience went nuts for us.  I was pretty proud of myself that I gathered volunteers over Facebook to make this piece with me and that we collaborated in the span of three days.  I also felt like everyone shined in their roles.  Last minute successes like this can make me get cocky about what I can pull out in the 11th hour.


A look at the “Wong Post-It Method” for creating shows on the fly!

It’s been the busiest summer in all of history.  A couple months ago I was having the whole, “Maybe I should go build wells in Africa, it’s so slow here…” thought and then BAM!  I’m slammed again. I’m finding myself slaying a pile of projects that include two world premieres of two DIFFERENT shows in the next six months (this means, I have to write, rehearse, memorize, market and get two DIFFERENT shows performance ready).  I have to read 113 grant applications (with work samples I need to view) for a grant panel I’m sitting on.  Then I shoot this web series the week I come back. Then I have to get the word about Cuckoo’s Nest, the film. Then I have to…. Then I have to…  sleep at some point?

This has all been a complicated a bit by the not owning a car thing.  But, now that I live in Koreatown, the carless thing has been a lot more manageable.  I love that I have so many friends who live only a few blocks away and are happy to scoop me up and carpool with me.  And the LA subway, when it works, is amazing.

I was a little nervous about living in “dangerous Koreatown” and not having a big metal car to protect me, but every time someone tells me about taking their car to the mechanic, I just start shaking, flashback to my pink biodiesel car on fire on the 405,  and am happy to be a ride moocher.

I’m totally feeling blessed, all this work, while I’m drowning in it is great.   I feel like I’m coming back to a place of overworkaholic peace and quiet… I just wish this freelance project stuff would pace itself out better.  I swear I look at my dry erase board with this giant “to-do” list and I want to faint just looking at what I lined up for myself.

Bird by bird, I tell myself.

I did have a brief moment whilst drowning in my work that I thought, “Maybe I should try cocaine, I hear that helps keep people awake.”

Good thing I’m too much of a cheapass to ever pick up a drug habit huh Mom?

By the way, me and the playwright Alice Tuan were on an obscure internet talk show about artists in LA.  The whole thing looks like a no budget public access porn show, it took two tries to get the show actually rolling along (and they didn’t bother editing out those mistakes) but if you have an hour to kill, you can watch it archived here.

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Category: artist life., austin rocks

Austin, I love you!

June 28th, 2010

There are dead crickets in the sink here.  Why?  It's Texas.

Austin, where sinks greet you with dead crickets galore.

I am enjoying my downtime here in Austin, TX after a much needed creative retreat to work out CAT LADY.  I hadn’t really touched the play since I was at MacDowell in January.   I spent the last few weeks rereading what I wrote and was just mired in confusion.

It’s my first play for an ensemble and it has me yanking my hair out.  I can barely get myself alone out onstage, and now I’m trying to get five people onstage?!   That’s some expensive theater.  Argh!  It’s kind of a headache.  And a whole new growing experience as an artist that I’m grateful for.

I outsourced LA jobs.  What it cost for me to fly out here for nine days, work with local Austin actors and pay an Austin director here was less than the cost for paying four LA actors, local hire LA directors, and renting Los Angeles rehearsal space.  And far more productive.

Oh Los Angeles.  It seems the only way stuff gets done lately is if I get the heck out of LA.   Fancy K-town loft and all.

From left to right on the board you will notice a list of our avatar names, philosophy of how to leave women, basic pick-up structure and miscellaneous pick-up terms.

As part of my time this week, I taught an ensemble of actors basic pick-up artist technique. This show looks at existential loneliness through the personas of professional pick-up artists and cat ladies.  So I’ve been doing lots of research on the teachings of pick-up artists.

I’ve been watching so many of those PUA videos the last few years that  I found myself giving my actors a lecture with the same vocal intonation of some of those pick-up artists.  Sometimes I found myself quoting these videos word for word.   Scary.  Above are my notes for the guys from my impromptu lecture.  I was pretty proud of how good and comprehensive it was on the fly for someone who had never taught a pick-up artist lecture before.

We also required the guys to have done some basic reading from pick-up artist manuals I downloaded for free online.

Then we hit “the field” (a bar) with our knowledge.  This is something I’ve not tried before– trying these scripts out on real people.  Above is Aron (aka “Cash Baxter”) running a oneset that went really well.  I was the wing woman and would come up to these guys between sets to give them DHV (“denote high value”).  I’d hug them and saying “Wow!  Half a million?  What are you going to do with all that money?! Come over later and let’s celebrate.  You are a rock star!”

It was all pretty unnatural and odd.  I felt like we were doing a combination of guerilla theater and a three card monty scam.  We look like such set-ups approaching women and high fiving them.  But we wanted to see if these pick-up structures would work.    Telling them complete lies about shooting music videos with Kanye West in Portland.  It was so funny to watch the guys so committed to it.  And to also witness how confused the women were that these very glib guys had stopped to talk them up.

Here is “T Gravel” wearing a cowboy hat as his peacock.  The guys forgot we were sarging that night and forgot to put on better clothes.

Pick-up works.  But my theory is that it’s a numbers game.  We approached twice as many sets as we got results from.   And most of the guys said they weren’t approaching women they’d want to date, they were just approaching who seemed most open to being approached.   All in all, we had four number closes and one kiss close.  All by Aron, who seems to already have natural pick-up in his blood because he’s so flirty and cute in real life.

Me dressed for a Texas hip-hop video with my friends’ baby Liberty!

What I’ve enjoyed about the Austin is the low-key normalcy of life that I don’t get to see in LA.  I was in a car riding around with friends and loving how it didn’t take 30 minutes to drive to the next neighborhood.  I love how the lawns are loud with the sounds of bugs.  I love watching people walking in the streets.  I love seeing all these outdoor patios that the bars have and people gathered in the heat drinking beer and cheering for the US in the World Cup.  I love that Long Island Ice Teas are only $4!

Regular living is such a novelty.

I am hating Facebook.  I spent most of the week fairly unplugged from the internet and still completely addicted to Facebook which I could only access from my phone.  If I check Facebook in the morning, the next thing I know, the sun has gone down.  WHY?!?!  I am making obsessive lists of things to do besides update and comment my life away.  So far I have things on this list like:  read books, write poems, and make lists on what to do in lieu of Facebook.

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Category: austin rocks, the pick up artist

I am in my cave.

June 21st, 2010

Oliver is chilling atop my outline for my new play “Cat Lady.”

I leave on a plane to Austin, TX in a few hours and am like a crazy lady trying to rewrite my script before it gets read by actors.  That’s right, I’m using actors from Texas to workshop my new play.  I’m outsourcing LA jobs.

I couldn’t wait to get home a few months ago, and for the last few weeks, couldn’t wait to leave.  I’ve been meaning to update the blog but have been wanting to focus inward.  I hadn’t touched this script since I worked it over in March.  Before that, I hadn’t touched it since January.  It’s a trip.  It took over a week for me to understand what I wrote.  It really takes a long time to get into the cave.

I’m an antsy lady.  If there is nothing going on, I really lose my mind.  It’s especially hard because being creative sometimes requires that I have time to myself, but usually time to myself makes me go crazy.  And I am learning that getting real work done means I need to bounce out of town.

I am working with Shawn Sides, an amazingly talented director in Austin (another outsourced LA job).  She’s been amazing at helping wrangle actors from her company to do the reading, setting a work schedule (which includes time to hit the bars every night, god bless this woman), and also schedule rest time.  I had no idea that directors could be so helpful.    And I need this help because I’m writing for other people for the first time.

I get two days off after we work like crazy for six days straight. In those two days, I will have earned the right to do nothing but drink and go swimming.

Can’t wait.  Now back to the grind.  I am drinking red bulls and rewriting this play!!!

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Category: artist life., austin rocks

“Artist Travels with her Own Contextualizer”

February 16th, 2008

What a trip it’s been in Austin. It’s been so nice to be such a celeb pants out here. My second show was tonight and the houses have been full! So nice to come to a town and think about the performance and not flyering the town to get people to come. They’ve done a great job of bringing in an audience for me and letting me be an artist. The people in Austin are such a great audience and it makes me feel excited and like the future is bright.

This town is amazing. I’m adding it to the list of cities I will move to (so far, Miami, New Orleans, and NYC are on the list, also Portland).

Austin rocks! You can buy a condo for 140K!!! Shoot! I can put a down payment on my credit card. THAT’S CHEAP!

(compared to LA)

YAY Austin! This motel they got to sponsor the festival is cute as pie. It’s right on the hip stretch of South Congress, each room has cute as pie bedsheets and each room is different theme.

The motel cat keeps this place country.

My friend, the famous playwright Alice Tuan, flew in a few days ago care of UT Austin who had her “contextualize” my work during an open Q&A for a theater class today. It was such a privilege. A “contextualizer” flown in to talk about my work?!!? I am not used to having a whole audience of attentive grad and PHd students listening to me and my esteemed colleague shoot the shit. I felt a little bashful about all the attention. Really, I did!

One more show tomorrow and I return to LA life for five weeks! So much more to say, but I’m exhausted.

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Category: artist life., austin rocks