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.
My Facebook friends may have noticed that here at MacDowell my FB updates have been super existential of late. This new CAT LADY play has me asking why we settle for faking love, what the meaning of life is, and where do we find the end of loneliness. I’m not sure how healthy it is for me to be exploring such heavy stuff for this long of time in total isolation in a cabin in New Hampshire, but thought I’d start sorting through some of this footage to organize my thoughts. I’m pretty proud of this edit done on the most basic of Final Cut skills.
For some extreme theater goers there are performances like NYC’s Elevator Repair Service production of Gatz. For six hours, you sit and watch ERS bring the entire story of the Great Gatsy to stage. I’m told your ass hurts, you get tired, but the process of watching the story unfold is riveting. For pop culture obsessed theater junkies like myself, I spent 10 hours watching even more interesting theater at the 3rd Annual Pick-Up Artist Summit in Hollywood. Yes folks, pick-up artists are so organized that they actually have their own conferences. And yours truly scored a press pass.
I’ve been invited to guest blog for Tavis Smiley, and I also have some other magazines I’m writing for over the next few months so I’m making a little documentary about my visit to this fraternity of grown men that call themselves “PUAs” (Pick-Up Artists).
I don’t know how to describe everything I experienced, which is why I spent most of this Monday in a half daze trying to shake off the 10+ hours of being surrounded by “professional” and aspiring pick up artists. If you’ve read my blog, you know I’ve been obsessed with this subculture for the last couple years. When I actually got picked up in Miami by a trained pick-up artist, I was more intrigued. I don’t condemn them, but am more fascinated by how they are guerilla theater performers with obsessive, analytical, and overcompensating personalities just like mine.
Images from the weekend invaded my dreams all last night: the pie charts presentations on “Inner and Outer Game,” the Powerpoint demonstrations about “Hooker Game” (the art of picking up hookers, who according to the pick-up artists are some of the most attractive women in the world….), and the live demonstrations onstage of kiss closing.
Who knew picking up a drunk girl in a bar would be such math?
Oh yes, I saw it all my friends. I even participated as an onstage model in one presentation. (It wasn’t hard, the girls usually don’t have any lines).
It was like a cross between a frat, the Landmark forum, Hot Topic, Comic Con, and a Sex Starved Anonymous Meeting. I’ve not really spent much time in any of these places, but my guess is that if you were to cross all of these into one space, it would be the Pick Up Artist Summit.
There is this thing in the community called “peacocking” (wearing an accessory that grabs attention and helps you stand out). And these guys were doing it. It was like a tattoo artist and Ed Hardy’s bastard daughter gave birth to a baby at the teen apparel section of Kmart. Sheeze louise I didn’t know it was possible to mix acid wash, metal studs, and silkscreened dragon/cross/ swirls to such proportions.
I even got picked up in the lobby by a guy who was trying to work out his game. He didn’t know I was doing press for the event and I obligingly listened to him as he stumbled through his set. I mentally graphed it all from his spontaneous opener (“Your shoes look like candy canes”), neg (“You don’t sound like a tourist”), false time constraint (“gotta meet my friend soon”), into a story with DHV spikes (“I used to own a punk rock record store in San Francisco”).
I stopped him before he could “Kino” (touch me) and confessed that I was actually doing press coverage of the event. I think he was a little embarrassed. From what I could make out from his mumbles, he was not actually attending the conference, just hovering around it? He scurried away when Mike arrived with the camera.
It was contemporary theater at it’s finest.
I freaked out that the 50:1 ratio of men to women at this event might turn my arrival into a “flies on shit” situation, but it was surprisingly ok. The first few hours I was on super high alert. I was both hyper aware of being picked up, but also kind of insulted that nobody was making a pass at me (after all, the event advertised that the Hollywood and Highland locale of the summit would allow the men to sarge sarge sarge whenever they took a break). I actually got to see a lot of these guys conduct themselves like the gentlemen I never suspected they could be under the trademark PUA subculture of internet “field reports” that broadcast their sexual exploits and rank the women they bag from 1-10.
I have a friend who just finished her time as a contestant on a reality dating show. She’s an artist and we’re both obsessed with the meta-ness of reality dating shows. She took her obsession the extra mile by actually going on one so she can create art on the experience. She said of her time living in the house with all the girls: “I kept thinking about you Kristina, it was so unreal, it was like, I’m in the televison set.”
I kept thinking this weekend, “I’m on a public access channel.”
It’s going to take a few months to get the video up because I am simultaneously trying to leave town for New York, show excerpts of new shows, and relearn Final Cut Pro. So hold your horses. It will be good though. Believe me.
Anyway, trying to shake off the surrealness of the PUA theater scene to get back into my world of making theater theater.