This smart and adorable woman, Jacqueline Suskin, sits at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market and writes poems on command for perfect strangers, for however much you want to pay her. You give her a topic, let’s say, love, and she asks you a question, what kind of love? and you say about how I feel about the girl in my Chemistry class or about how I love my child so much it makes me nauseous and then she goes to town on one of her many vintage typewriters, and hands the poem over, and never sees it again. It’s like my monologue business kind of but way more adorable and way more immediate. She doesn’t seem to ever have an unsatisfied customer, especially because she doesn’t demand a certain amount of $ for her work, but instead, just suggests, well, ‘whatever’ (oftentimes receiving 20 bucks for a poem that takes her a minute to write.) What I love about this woman is she’s taken her craft, poetry, and kept her life simple, but also, figured out a way to make a living while doing what it is she was born to do. (I could be wrong, she might not actually make a living, maybe she secretly Temps or like fills out online surveys a lot, but couldn’t find a mention of another job.) She skipped grad school and opted to work as a vegetable farmer instead. To totally contradict my rage fest of early this week about playwrights being tossed under the bus for writing for TV: perhaps there is something to be said for the inspiration that comes from a simpler life?
My grandparents, some cousins and my uncle throwin’ down on some Maryland crabs today. I want to straight up Mary Poppins jump my way right into this picture story!
I sat in on callbacks for a production of a play of mine today, which I always find enlightening. You just sit there, hearing your words over and over and also over, and the actors, as they try and make sense of what you’ve written, school you hard, exposing the inconsistencies in the characters and the TERRIBLE MOMENTS OF EXPOSITION. Today I found myself thinking a lot about what good acting is, or what personally grabs me when I’m watching an audition and makes me want to hire the actor to follow me around and act out the scenes in my head. And so actors, here is your entirely unsolicited advice that you’ve probably heard before:
Act like you’re not acting.
Do not act.
Do not act, like, at all.
Unless, of course, it’s a specific, larger than reality character, in which case, you should probably act.
But also, be 13% more self aware than an actual human so that you might craft an emotional moment.
So I guess act but act a little.
Okay fine. Act A lot?
Speaking of acting, I’m going to stop acting like I know.
I do not know.
I tried for semesters to hold and feel the imaginary coffee cup and I never could.
One time in college I auditioned so bad I got ‘cast’ as the stage manager.
So basically, never listen to me at all.
Sometimes this blog is for feelings, sometimes for observations, sometimes for HEY LOOK AT MY PANTS, and sometimes, like today, for to do lists: Hey Bekah, fall is sort of nigh, i.e., its 80 degrees instead of 100 and you can walk to your car without drowning in backsweat / getting skin cancer, so hey girl, why don’t you slap on a sweater and an ella fitzgerald record and make the ever loving crap out of this PUMPKIN BOURBON BREAD PUDDING, EH? TO DEFINITELY DO.
I’m going to see NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL TONIGHT HURRAY, so I thought I’d start the day off listening to some songs. As I shuffled through, Glue (THEIR MOST WONDERFUL GERBILS COVER) came on, and suddenly I was car-crying, ripped back ten years ago when this song was the most important thing in my world, and I listened to it over and over and over, because it spoke some sort of truth to me, and I played it from an iPod dock in scene study class when I became Richard Brautigan throwing himself a suicide birthday, and then played it more and more and more. I hadn’t heard it in years and it I was overcome with this strange nostalgia, for a sadness I felt then that was somehow empowering.
She comes to me
Whenever I am locked inside my room
Buried in the tune that I call love
She sings to me, the words I cannot hear
But then, the melody’s so clear it makes me cry
Her love is so beautiful
Her love is so real, it smells like glue
She’s leaving me to find a place she never will call home
I stand shaking like a stone
And smile inside
She’s calling me to come to her and curl inside her womb
I hear lies, acid too
But I won’t die, the pain is so beautiful
The urge is so real, it smells like glue
And I will scream, she hears me
I will tell myself she loves me
And all the lies and fears
Will stick to me like glue
And I will scream, she hears me
I will tell myself she loves me
And all the lies and fears
Will stick to me like glue
My playwright buddy Sam Hunter has just been awarded a Macarthur Genius grant, which is a generous and life-changing gift of $625,000 to support further work on his plays. I HAVE A LOT OF CONFLICTING FEELINGS WHICH I WILL LEAVE BELOW.
1.) JOY. Sam IS a genius. He really is. Not to mention a very kind, grounded, and thoughtful and humble person. He deserves this.
2.) ENVY. Sam grew up in a christian, conversative home in Idaho, and he writes frequently about people of faith with deep questioning but also deep love. I love his plays, but reading and seeing them always makes me turn inward. Makes me mad at myself. I wish I had the intelligence and emotional maturity to explore faith in a plays in a real way, which I’ve been trying and trying to do, with so far, not much success. He nails the thing I so badly wish I could do.
3.) ANGER. In an LAtimes article about the award, this quote: “…A bumper crop of talented American playwrights more interested in artistic expression than commercial validation is being recognized with the most prestigious awards and lucrative fellowships available. Yes, that’s right, playwrights, not screenwriters-in-the-making, not stage dabblers until HBO comes a-calling, but dramatists through and through.”
WHEN ARE PLAYWRIGHTS GOING TO STOP GETTING SHAMED FOR ALSO WRITING TV? The playwrights that are lauded as noble for maintaining their artistic integrity and not selling out are most likely the ones who are currently having so much success as a playwright, that they don’t have the financial need to pursue a career in TV or film. I had three years of living just off commissions, fellowships, and royalties, but the money ran out. I tried teaching and I was not good at it. Was I supposed to turn down an opportunity to get paid to write in a different medium just so that I might not be able to pay my rent, my debt, but also express myself? Maintain my ‘integrity?’ I’m still writing plays, but also not worrying about where my rent is going to come from. Is that terrible? Is TV so terrible? Currently, isn’t so much of it interesting, character driven, truthful and relevant? LATIMES, WOULD YOU LIKE TO PAY MY STUDENT LOANS? NO? OKAY.
Lady friend Mamrie’s web series, Hey USA, in which she spends the summer jaunting from town to town in various onesies, doing vodka shots on glaciers, surfin drankin paintin and fishin, all with her best friend Grace, LIKE THAT WAS HER JOB THIS SUMMER, in addition to writing her book for Penguin, has now been purchased and is going to be distributed by Conde Naste, like of Vogue, you guys, further cementing the fact that this woman is one of the hardest workin and luckiest gals in (my and probably The) Hollywood, not to mention pretty much the only one who gets that sometimes I need to talk for two minutes then do work for ten minutes then talk for two, and call it hanging out. So proud of this woman. END OF GUSHY RUN ON SENTENCES!
I’ve made a completely arbitrary and self-imposed promise / deadline: I will write two TV pilots this school year. I will do that. I’ve got two incredibly vague ideas that are each about 8% percent fleshed out, if I’m being generous. Whereas I know how to start a poem (feelings, wine) a play (humans, conflict, some sort of animal or plant, words) a movie (images, also wine) I cannot for the life of me figure out how to start writing a television moving picture program. I should know this. I really should. How do you begin something that should, in theory, never end? All I know is that good television, or at least the kind of I want to write, starts with humans at breaking points. High Emotion. Through the lens of a certain world. But not like, GIMMICK world. Like world that’s organic to the theme. Theme being the thing that you should know and also forget. Does watching hours of old people in overalls do historical reenactments of how people used to reap and cure tobacco in the early 20th century on Youtube count? DOES IT COUNT?
Sup, kooks! (kook: n: people who hang around surfers but aren’t good at surfing, see also, myself:) As a writer, my absolute favorite thing about surfing is in fact NOT the actual act of surfing (v.: to shred the gnar,) or the DOLPHINS THAT SWIM RIGHT BY YOU, but in fact making up surf words and terms and saying them with great confidence and with frequency in hopes of tricking actual surfer people into saying them. Surf is by far my new favorite language, one that is constantly growing and evolving, and one I’ve decided that I can contribute to. A few favorites from today:
Commitment issues: when a wave only takes you a little ways. Ex.: Bruh that wave had commitment issues, we flirted a bit but I didn’t seal the deal.
Rockabye: when you’re really good at surfing and you actually catch waves and ride them and at the end of the ride, you just sort of casually step down off your board into the water. Ex: aw man, that ride was so smooth I rockabyed right off it.
Carve that Christmas turkey: when you know which way a wave is gonna crash so you paddle with in the right direction. Ex.: I carved that Christmas turkey with a real sharp knife, bruh.
I took that wave home to meet my parents. When you take a wave all the way to shore. Ex: Bruh did you see that? I took that wave all the way home to meet my PARENTS!
Let’s go get some tacos. When you’re doing surfing and then you want tacos. Ex.: let’s go get some tacos. OKAY!
A few years back, I realized something: creative jealousy is inevitable. While you sort of have to trick yourself into thinking that you are the only painter / writer / dancer / cake maker in the world to do your best work, you are, of course, not alone. Other artists’ careers rise, and then there’s a link and you must click on it and then you create a narrative of their life that can only be described as PERFECTION! and a deep gross visceral knot forms in your gut. Another thing about jealousy is that it is toxic, and if you hold it inside you will carry an anger-baby that will make you nauseous and kick you from inside until you birth it and then it will grow up and max out your credit cards and name its memoir I HATE MY MOM AND OTHER TALES. And so, I realized that it’s so much healthier and easier to just ADMIT THAT YOU ARE JEALOUS instead of pretending like you are not. Release it. Try it. It’s so liberating. And so: Here’s Ruby Rae Speigel:
A lovely young playwright who has not yet even finished her undergrad (AT YALE) whose first full length play just received a very glowing New York Times review (side note: the play sounds incredible.) Her career is most certainly launched. Ruby will never have to take the G to the 7 to the 1 at 7 am to remove bed bugs from a corporate apartment.
Ruby: I applaud you, I am jealous of you, I salute you, I envy you, I support you.