Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scooters!!! TAKE THE POLL

Please draw your attention to the poll along the left-hand side, under the "About Me." Vote, respond, if you feel like it. It's anonymous. Do it. Dooooooo it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

pegasus players ypf: first rehearsal

I've been working as a playwriting mentor the past few months as part of Pegasus Players Young Playwrights Festival. It's the 22nd year of the festival, but only the second year they've wrangled professional playwrights to be mentors . This year it's me, Aaron Carter, Tanya Saracho, and Lisa Dillman. We're paired with one of four winning young playwrights. Our job is to guide, inspire, teach, nudge, and to harass our young writers via e-mail, phone, and in person to help them get their scripts in tip-top shape for a full production. Each of the plays is workshopped with actors and directors. There are multiple table readings and multiple opportunities to hear revisions. It's a dream opportunity for a young writer. I'm not sure any of the young playwrights will know exactly how awesome an opportunity YPF is until it's over and done.

None of the young playwrights could attend the first production rehearsal tonight. Some had work, some had other things going on. They're all stressed-out high school students being pulled this way and that. Theatre isn't their life.

Still, it was disappointing for that not one of them could make it for the first table reading rehearsal with the company. They don't know this, but the first rehearsal is the best part of rehearsal for a writer! It's when everybody's just thrilled to be in the room. You get to meet the company, and see sketches or models of your set. Actors aren't freaking out about memorizing lines and then freaking out that you cut a line they memorized and then making you feel guilty because it was their favorite line and how could you cut that??? Directors aren't yet offering up suggested cuts, y'know, just to think about, you don't have to, but what if... Nothing's going horribly wrong. Nobody has been injured by your play. Everybody thinks you're a genius (until a favorite line is cut and the genius may be downgraded to "somewhat competent")

It was a good first rehearsal to hear all 4 plays together. I'll write more about being a mentor. It's a new experience. I suppose I could've used a "How to" manual. Trial and error and more error and breakthroughs and a bit of awesome.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

thanksgiving giblets

I went out to the 'burbs for T'giving with Ma and Pa Wegz and sis Carly. Laundered my bloomers, watched some DVR'ed Project Runway, and ate good grub with the family, minus sister Amanda, who called in a happy mood from Kansas on Friday to tell me that (1) Chuck E. Cheese's now sells beer, and (2) She is awesome at Skee-ball.

Yesterday I went to see the Disney movie Enchanted with Mom and Carly. It was charming.

Nomar is going home to my sister tomorrow. Here is what happens when I don't lock the bathroom door:

He didn't give me the opportunity to clean the toothpaste spit out of the sink. He just doesn't care.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your holiday travels are better than this:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

guess who's back. Back again. Nomar's back. Tell a friend.

My sister is out of town for the Thanksgiving weekend, going to Kansas somewhere with her boyfriend, so her cat Nomar Rasputin Kittycat Mofo Garciaparra is on holiday at my apartment:

The red things on his paws are Soft Paws, the "humane alternative to declawing." I call them Nomar's "tap shoes." Just in time for the holidays you can get the Red & Green holiday color combo for the low low price of $18.95. Here is the advertising:

Dashing through the hall, Kitty will look festive and bright adorned in holiday-themed Soft Paws. The alternating colors of the red and green combo pack add cheer to a room as Kitty helps wrap presents and inspect boxes. This option is sure to delight Mr. or Ms. Claus Claws.
Note: Nomar Kitty has never ever ever helped wrap presents. Are these benevolent claws a miracle?

Nomar is a character. And he is incredibly clumsy. He has problems gauging distances for jumps and balancing on narrow ledges. The theory is that he has bad eyesight. What do you do about that? Eyeglasses? Lasik 4 Kittehs?

The last time Nomar stayed at my apartment (sans tap shoes), he clawed the holy crap out of my reading chair. It's the one piece of furniture I own that isn't second-hand. Strike that. I also own a first-hand IKEA leaning bookcase that I assembled myself. The reading chair is my only legitimate and solid piece of first-hand furniture. No big deal about the clawed chair, though. I'm cool. Just cut some loose threads away it looks good as new. When Amanda dropped Nomar off last night, she brought some double-sided tape to cover the scratchable parts of the chair that he might get at, even with the tap shoes. Wrap the chair in tape! Great idea. Good. Problem solved.

Except in the morning, Nomar had yanked every inch of tape off the chair and wadded it into a big ball of "Fuck You."

He can't do much damage to my chair with the tap shoes -- even though two tap shoes are missing because he gnawed them off -- he can't do too much damage with only two exposed claws. Right? (...right?). He's persistent. My mom brought over the power drill a few weeks ago to Nomar-proof my bathroom with a couple of locks. One for the inside of the bathroom so he doesn't Kamakaze into the tub while I'm showering, and one for the outside just to keep the door shut at other times. The situation with the door: I live in an old apartment, and I have a cockamamie bathroom door that doesn't close shut because it doesn't fit in the door frame. Seriously. And I want to keep Nomar out of the bathroom because it's dirty behind my old clawfoot tub -- where he likes to go, of course -- and I end up with dirty kitty prints all over my apartment. (Don't tell me to clean behind my tub. You clean behind it. I can't reach back there). Here's Nomar attempting to break into my bathroom for the 100th time today:

Over the workday g-chat, Amanda says: "I think my cat is just a dick."

And then she dispatched my mom over to my apartment with a giant sheet of yellow plastic to wrap my chair. This is what I came home to.

I recently gave Mom keys to my apartment in case of an emergency or, as my dad joked, they "needed to get the body." Well I thought it was hilarious. Mom, not so much digging the gallows humor there. Sparing my favorite chair from a vigorous feline clawing = emergency.

Fingers crossed this thwarts him. He can't do too much damage in a week. Right? (...right?)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

theatre magic 101: how to ricochet a rock off somebody's face

I saw Lifeline Theatre's The Island of Dr Moreau on Friday. It was violent and disturbing -- and that was just the walk to the theatre through the Rogers Park neighborhood. Zing!

I loved the show. Charlie, who built the set, showed me this little trick. There's a part in a fight scene in the play when one character throws a baseball sized rock at another character's head, when Predick is fighting off one of the Manimals. The rock ricochets off the character's head, and hits the ground (the rock, not the head) with a convincing weight. It happens so fast in the midst of the fight, and it looks (and sounds) so real that the detail might not register.

The rock -- not a real rock, but something that would hurt a crap-load if someone chucked it at your face -- is tethered to the stage floor with a length of fishing line. The actor throws it and it snaps back at the end of the line, and the rock smacks the ground with the thud of a real rock. The actor on the receiving end of the rock sells the hit to the face with his proper placement -- likely a bit downstage from the trajectory of the rock -- and the reaction of getting hit in the face with a rock. Voila. It looks amazing. You can try that at home.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

rock paper scissors rant

found at Found Magazine.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

isherwood owned

Link via Justin and Adam and Mark:

Playwright Jon Robin Baitz gobsmacks Charles Isherwood in the Huffington Post:

My sentiments exactly, in more words, and not written after 3/4 bottle of 3 Buck Chuck.

great american smoke out

Today is the Great American Smoke Out. The anti-smoking deity declares you quit smoking for the day. I had a conversation about it with Smoking Baby this morning.

Marisa: Hey, Smoking Baby, you gonna kick the habit?

Smoking Baby: (stares. smokes)

Marisa: It's bad for you. Gives you cancer.

Smoking Baby: (stares. smokes)

Marisa: All righty then. Have a good day, Smoking Baby.

Smoking Baby: (stares. smokes)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

the days are just packed

My current job is internet-based and doesn't require attention beyond moderating the slackness of my jaw to dam the drool. It ain't such a bad gig when I fill the hours at the keyboard with Ira Glass and the "This American Life" gang, 300 episodes archived and available for FREE here:

Some favorite episodes so far...

The Act I story of a legendary voice-mail is a whole lot of funny.

Featuring a story of a production of Peter Pan that went horribly awry

Stories of people's last words before death. (I want to think I'll say something meaningful, but the biographers may be left squeezing meaning out of "oh, shit")

Monday, November 12, 2007

Go East, Young Writers?

Not sure what to make of this Charles Isherwood pep talk to striking West Coast writers: Go East, Young Writers, for Theater!

But writers today may see no benefit in continuing to fail toward success as playwrights when an easy living as a writer on a television series seems within reach. Young writers who win some acclaim for a first or second play will probably continue to head west before they have had time to develop, which means the theater is potentially losing important voices before they mature.

-Charles Isherwood
I read a fair number of NY Times reviews, and it's no secret to the theatre blogging community that Charles Isherwood isn't, exactly, the most supportive of critical voices in the realm of new plays and new/young playwrights. I can't defend the validity of his criticism first hand (I'm not seeing those productions), but you have to acknowledge the culpability of the NY Times of driving talented young writers into the warm and moneyed embrace of acceptance and a fat paycheck on the other coast.

The flip side of this is: well, a writer has got to take a drubbing, and if she really wants to write, she'll keep doing it. A writer has to move on after getting spindled and mutilated by critics who just want to dish a solid zing. But a snarky, dismissive review -- and Isherwood has thick portfolio of these -- will slam many doors so hard on writer's face, the cartilage in her nose will crunch, and she will bleed down the front of her shirts. A few shirts. The bleeding lasts more than a day.

It's difficult to value the sage wisdom of a man who refers the realm he lords over as a "dinky kingdom" -- and, yes, I know, he's trying to be amusing. He's trying to be funny. He's trying to be a good read. But it's that attitude that may prevent a very talented and very-willing-to-fail-in-order-to-mature writer to pack the U-Haul and head West.

This is a round-about letter of affection to the critics out there who are consistent and reliable evaluators of new work and young writers. They exist. I'm not arguing a bad play should be coddled by critics, but if a critic truly wants to nurture the writer, if not the play, she or he should fan that faint spark of talent instead of squashing it like a cigarette butt under a glib foot.

(more) killing women photography

Theatre Seven Lighting Designer extraordinaire Justin Wardell has posted a gallery of KILLING WOMEN production photos. They're mostly full-stage shots for his portfolio. I make an uncredited cameo in one of the shots. Can you find me? It's like Where's Waldo.

This way to Justin's album:

Is anybody in Ohio right now? Like around Columbus? Available light [theatre] is doing a reading of KILLING WOMEN this Wednesday, November 14. It's fuuuhh-reee. (more info)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

doing dishes: a hazard to your health

My favorite juice glass broke in my hand tonight. Washing the dishes. I gotta wash dishes before I go to bed cause dirty dishes in the sink in the morning make me crazy. I was doing the twist around the rim with the sponge to get the early morning pre-toothbrushing lip-print goobers off and - BOOM - the glass is now in two parts in my left hand and holy crap what just happened???

Wow, that really could've been bad if it cut me.

Oh. I'm bleeding.

It's so sudden you don't feel it at first so you don't look for the blood. Then you see the blood. Then the brain goes, "Ohhhhh riiiiiight... PAIN!!!"

That's when you feel like you just cut the crap out of your finger with a jagged piece of glass.

I have a bad track record with favorite glasses. And my favorite glasses tend to be those smallish sort of glasses ideal for juice or wine or spirits, preferably with some humorous/retro design. I'm good at breaking those glasses. I'm especially good at breaking wine glasses. My parents bought me a set of short, stout, tumbler-like wine glasses, impossible to break, the Titanic of wine glasses. I broke one. It jumped out of my cabinet. It got tired of boxed-wine so it killed itself.

My finger is fine. Nothing serious. Nothing a SpongeBob Band-aid won't fix. I'd have a glass of wine to soothe the pain, but now I'm afraid of my glasses. So I'll have to drink from the box. Safety first, classiness second.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

how to win at monopoly

This link is from

For those of you who are super serious about winning at Monopoly, here is some strategy that will help you completely crush your friends:

I haven't found a link that will help you win your friends back after they quit the game when Monopoly strategy turns you into a total bastard.

Monday, November 05, 2007

my favorite movie quotation (of all time)

"Hey, Marisa, what's your favorite quotation from a movie?"

People ask me this question all the time.

Not all the time, but a lot.

Not a lot a lot. Sometimes.

Nobody asks me this question.

Here it is, completely unsolicited, my favorite movie quotation of all time, Madeline Kahn's performance of Mrs White's confession in the movie Clue.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

haunted city

Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.

--ARTHUR C. CLARKE, 2001: A Space Odyssey
I met fellow ghost hunters, Tracey K and Annie, at Fado on Clark & Grand to have some spirits before chasing spirits on a ghost tour. A few Jameson's set us off into the night, a perfect night for ghosts. Dark and crisp and wind-whipped. We met the tour bus outside the former Rock & Roll McDonald's now the monolithic flagship two story holy crap of a McDonald's on Clark. The bus: a painted black school bus retrofitted with comfortable seats and a rockin' audio system. Our particular bus was "The Untouchables Gangster Tour" bus with decal bullet holes on the outside.

We were held up waiting for some late-comers. Tour guide Wayne announced if anybody had to pee we should take the opportunity to pee in the McDonald's because the next pee break wasn't coming for a couple hours. Half the bus emptied out and while I didn't get off the bus, once someone suggests I won't be able to pee for two hours, I fixate on the state of my bladder.

Stop#1 - The Iroquois Theatre fire
Off we go, south on Clark to Randolph to Dearborn as Wayne tells the story of the Iroquois Theatre fire (mentioned in this post) and how shady politics and building shortcuts for the sake of a few bucks contributed to the death of hundreds of people, mostly women and children, at a holiday matinee. We got off the bus and visited "Couch Place", the newly spiffed-up well-lit yet assuredly haunted alley behind the Oriental Theatre where many many people died in 1903. Wayne told us to take pictures in all the haunted locations for spectral evidence. Here's my Iroquois Theatre fire ghost:

I really don't care if you have a reasonable explanation for that orb that showed up in my picture. It wasn't there. That guy in the tie? ...he wasn't there either. How do you explain that?!

Stop #2 - The Eastland Disaster
Back on the bus for the next stop on the tour, the 1914 Eastland Disaster in the Chicago River, one of the worst nautical disasters in history.

I used to bartend at 10pin in Marina City, right along the Chicago River, near the disaster site. The only unexplained, supernaturalesque feeling I've ever had took place as I was counting down my register after my shift. I was at the bar, alone, all was quiet. I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turned around. Of course, nobody was there.

But I used that feeling of the supernatural in one of the monologues in my play Diversey Harbor. Now, I walk along this part of the river, along Wacker Drive, every day, the spot where hundreds and hundreds of people drowned just a few feet from the dock. I took a picture of the water:

The bit of trivia here is that many of the bodies were taken to a warehouse set up as a make-shift morgue west of the Loop. The building is still in use today as Harpo Studios, where Oprah Winfrey tapes her show. It's haunted too.

OMG!!!! Ghosts in my studio?!?!

Stop # 3 - Hull House
Our next bus stop was Hull House (It was also the bathroom break. I really really had to pee. Too much pre-ghost tour Jameson). Jane Addams moved her school of social work into the haunted Hull Family House built in 1856. The house is west of the loop, south of Greek town, surrounded by the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. The student center -- containing restrooms and a bowling alley firmly stuck in the 1970s -- sits right behind this house. The famous creepy story here is "The Devil Baby at Hull House." Jane Addams took in on odd child, a misshapen imp: hooves, a tail, spoke in tongues, vomited everywhere, y'know, typical evil baby stuff.

Well, that's the story anyway.

The house itself was haunted before Jane Addams moved in. Addams wrote in her autobiographical book that she kept a pail of water at the top of the stairs, thought to be a way to ward off ghosts who couldn't cross running water. The house was closed for the evening, but I took some pictures of the outside. I caught a ghost in my Ghostbusters trap of a camera:

Supposedly, the land the house was built on was the spot where the Potawatomi Indians cursed the the city of Chicago after the white man forced them to treaty away their lands. Also there's, like, a portal to hell under this tree:

The ground... feels... evil?

Annie and Tracey K won't smile. Too much evil.

Stop #4 - St Valentine's Day Massacre Site
After a detour to check out the site of Mrs O'Leary's barn, where the Chicago Fire started, we had a long trip back to the North Side, but it was a nice ride up Lake Shore Drive. The lake was roiling and crashing on a windy night, one of my favorite sites in Chicago on a fall evening. Something a little scary seeing the lake churning its guts.

2122 N Clark street is where a bunch of gangsters were gunned down by some other gangsters dressed as cops. The massacre happened on a cold Valentine's Day in 1929. The garage where it happened was demolished in 1967 to make way for a senior citizens apartment building, and the land was fenced off to ghost-hunting rubberneckers. Taken through the fence at the approximate location of the garage. Not much to see, unfortunately.

Tour guide Wayne really lit up his storytelling here; unfortunately, it was so windy I could barely hear what he said. I wished he had told his story on the bus. Ah well. We headed back to the McDonald's for the end of the tour. I stepped off the bus and took off running to catch my Metra train.

I don't know if I believe in ghosts. I believe in imagination. Our imaginations need to have an empathetic conversation with history and the dead. The result may be a touch of the unexplained. A chill up the spine, goosebumps, a tap on the shoulder. It doesn't really matter if it's real. A good ghost story is a good ghost story.