Feels

Why do I like to hurt myself?


I have ugly cried in the mirror since I was young. Like since I was 10-ish?

I have made faces, had pretend conversations, made-up television interviews, fake arguments, indignant tirades, rousing speeches–all delivered to my own reflection. For over 30 years.

Does anyone else do that?

Is this a completely narcissistic exercise that sane people don’t engage in?

Or is this a honing of craft?

I have no idea. But I am compelled to do it. It’s not something I even consciously do. I just do it. I can’t help it. It would be harder to stop than changing my name.

In fact, call me Janet.

I have imagined being someone else for most of my life. Smarter, prettier, funnier, nobler. Stronger.

I have imagined being a surgical nurse on MASH, powering an entire corporation as a CEO, commanding WW2 troops on the beaches, dangling from the peaks of Colorado.

I don’t actually want to do those things. I just want to act like I’m capable of those things.

Most of the time, people walk around completely obtuse about their own power, capability or talent.

Who am I? What do I like? What can I live with? What can I live without? What am I really good at?

But I’ve known. KNOWN. For a large chunk of my life. That I can act.

I became good at acting because I was good at lying and pretending. I used acting to have a voice and power. I was so lost that I didn’t know who I was. I needed other people’s words to stand in the place of my own. Until I found my own words. I needed a voice for all the horrible feelings I had.

My superpower is acting. My salvation is expression.

I only acted like I cared about other people. Or myself. Until one day, I did.

Thank you, Acting. You saved me.

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I’ll Fly Away

The state of Florida has reduced spending this year and many organizations are struggling to find funds, especially art programs. Our family gave to two organizations, Ringling Art College and Venice Theatre. We are proud to offer any amount of money to these two art-based communities.

Please consider giving. https://givingpartnerchallenge.org/
You can give to Venice Theatre or to any organization. Until noon today, your gift between $25-$100 will be matched. Thank you!

Here’s a video about why my family recently volunteered at Venice Theatre in the play Grapes of Wrath.

I’ll Fly Away is playing in the background as they are doing sound checks. How sweet. That was our ending song for Grapes.

Ma

I open tonight in Grapes of Wrath. I’m nervous, excited and filled with emotion. All the things you should feel right before a debut. Except. I miss my mommy.

I chose to move to Florida. I chose to risk everything and make a new life, here in paradise. But I left behind a few things to come this far. Not possessions or a home. Friends. Most of all, my mother.

We had a beautiful day before we left. It was Mother’s Day 2017. We went to her hometown and drove around for the day. It was really special. Had lunch in a small cafe. The whole day was relaxed, yet compelling. Exciting and at the same time, comfortable. Familiar.

Perfect day for pictures. Sunny, cool and countrified. I snapped a pic of my mom and daughter at the restaurant in a very comfortable moment.

belarussian two lillies
Love those smiles. My two Lillis.

I put my own mother’s picture, the picture above in black and white, in my memory box on stage. That’s the one that gets me.

I have a box of pictures and a pair of earrings. I take the earrings and leave the pictures to burn. There’s no room on the journey for papers and keepsakes. I have to summon emotion to hold back tears to leave this precious box. So the one picture that always gets me? The one of my mother and daughter.

I ask myself, when I see the long, lonely road, “Will I travel this way again?”

I ask myself, when I look at her childhood home back in Missouri, “Will I see this place again?”

I ask myself, when I look at her picture, “Will I see you again?”

And I don’t have to do anything but that.

It’s a real concern, when you stray far from home, will I see these faces? Will I return to these places?

I’m homesick. Terribly so. But honestly. I feel like I’ve found a home at theatre again.

Whenever I have been lonely. In need of care. In need of laughter. Tears. Emotion. Connection. I have found that home on stage.

It’s bizarre. I know. Most people would chalk acting up to the pinnacle of emotional cutting. It is. But I have connected with people in audiences from all walks of life.

I met a downright Marlboro Man from western Nebraska who shared his tragic life story with me after I shared my story with him on stage. He waited at the end of the receiving line after the performance of my original play Fat. He waited to be last in line, hung back, so that when everyone had left, this chiseled-and-hewn rail of a man could cry in my arms. That would have never happened without theatre.

The breeze was blowing over my legs last night as I sat on my front porch. I was relaxed and happy at the work we put in yesterday to prepare for opening night. I’ve felt the same feeling before.

Sitting outside my community college, just starting back to school in 2009, waiting for my husband to pick me up. Late at night. I looked up at the trees. The wind was swirling through the shuddering leaves. The night was cool. I was happy with my effort. And I just felt God’s overwhelming presence as I sat and meditated. It brought a smile to my face and warmness to my heart. I didn’t know where God or my feet would take me, but I had hope for what was to come. I was right to have hope.

Whenever I feel those same cool breezes, I know God is with me. I just wish my mommy was, too. Love you, Mom. This isn’t for me or for you, I’m telling this story to share God’s grace and mercy for those who have hard times and continue to rise up and labor for goodness. For simple souls who need a voice.


Thank you, God. For such an amazing opportunity to share this story. Thank you for reminding me–God is with us. Even when our loved ones are not.

Roundabout Okie

Hey y’all! I’s done did it now! I was cast in Grapes of Wrath here in Venice. I get to play Ma Joad. I can’t tell you how excited I am. I’m fit to be tied, I tell ya.

Grapes of Wrath is epic. Christian-themed, full of religion and tragic as hell. You could tell me it’s based on an ancient Greek play and I’d swaller that whole. I can’t wait to get started.

Hear tell, I’m an Okie. Sorta. Little bit. My kin come from all over, but my granddaddy’s daddy married a full-blooded Native American down in Oklahoma and had hisself a brood with her’n. My dad’s dad was 1/2 Chickasaw, came up from Oklahomie and put hisself thru Chiropracty schoolin’ in KC. He was a farmer, doctor of sorts and fishing lure inventor. He even patented a complicated, new-fangled, unsuccessful lure design, had a couple made, and sold a very few. My ma still has one. Ugly thing made to impress with multiple hooks, shiny plastic housing, and bright, fake insect-like bait, but in all probability, totally useless.

I am particularly proud of my tangential Okie connection. My Native American heritage. My own Missouri family history through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. I am proud to come from a long line of working class folks. The people who work hard and do what it takes. I’m not sure how or why they (we) made it through such a terrible time, but it tells me even this minute detail:

“…we’re the people that live.” (Ma, Grapes of Wrath)

I’ve overcome terrible sickness/surgery, my own personal depression, and raging food addiction for the last 5+ years, but I am the person that lives. πŸ™‚ I come from a long line of hellers. πŸ˜‰

Allegations

Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Louis CK.

All stand accused. Are they all guilty?

For Harvey and Bill, let’s check the Magic 8 Ball–all signs point to yes. For Louis CK, I just don’t know. I really like his truthful, real-life comedy. I hope it’s not true. I would have to stop watching his stuff if it is. But it’s not for me to say in any case. That’s somebody else’s job.

What I do know, not all accused are guilty.


In the early 2000s, my husband and I served on a community theatre board. We were involved in day-to-day operations and acting in shows. We directed, performed, coordinated, sold tickets, designed, painted, printed, anything that needed doing we did. And loved it, mostly.

Our board was a tight-knit group of friends. Every show was just a pretense to hang out, laugh and sing some songs. I would linger long into the night with these people after rehearsal/performance. Talk big about the world, dream big about the future. It was a golden time.

Then the whole thing started to slide off into the ocean. Tremors were rumbling regarding allegations of sexual harassment.

The director of the summer musical was an older man in his 40s. A bachelor. He was a kind man with clear ideas. He was a bit arrogant, but friendly. He was the music and creative director of the show. A large task, but he was more than capable. He actually came to our home, had dinner. I cooked meatloaf. We got to know him. I’m glad.

Late into rehearsals, we had a costume parade 1-2 weeks before opening night. In community theatre, costuming was always a last-minute detail. Usually, each actor must provide the bulk (or lack thereof) of their costume, coordinating with the costumer and other actors to pull of a cohesive theme.

The show was not necessarily risque, but that summer Moulin Rouge had just come out and all the teenage girls in our production aspired to be the best dance hall vixen. Their costume choices reflected that mentality.

During one of our costume parades, the three girls in one of the lead ensembles came out in sparkly, festive, revealing costumes. Everyone reacted. Mostly appropriate reactions. Our director blushed, looked down at the floor and said with a shit-eating grin, “I’m not going to say ANYTHING!” Most everyone laughed.

That’s it.

That night or the next night, I’m standing in a parking lot, in an impromptu board meeting, talking about sexual harassment.

I tried to defend the director. These conversations went on for several weeks. I felt sympathy for the girl making accusations, but knew, for sure, nothing happened.

Should he have kept his mouth shut?
YES

Should he have said, “You look nice.” or “I approve.”
YES

Should he be black-balled and strung up?
Hell to the NO.

It was an awkward fumble. It was not sexual harassment, in my opinion. I was there. My husband was there. We saw it all and witnessed the alleged harassment. Nothing happened.

The loudest torch-carrying villager was a woman who was not even present during the incident. She bullied me for defending the director.

I relay all this, not to excuse the director’s faux pas. Not to excuse Weinstein, Cosby or Louis CK. To illustrate, sometimes there are witch hunts. Sometimes, the accused is just mildly stupid, awkward or mentally disabled, but not guilty. Sometimes, well, all the time, we need to withhold judgment and hear all the facts, first! Especially, if it’s up to you to decide what happens to the alleged creep. Let’s not crucify all men for what a few assholes did.


But. If it is true (and it looks like there’s mounting evidence), why did everyone sweep it under the rug? It’s disgusting!

And Harvey, if you did all this? Karma’s a bitch. That you molested for years. Time to pay.

Guy Maggio (Kacey Moe) said, “He may have been rich and powerful. Now, he’s just rich. But not for long.”

I agree. Taking this man’s power and money and reducing him to just an average toad is a well-deserved punishment. Should he do jail time? Would someone without his power and influence do jail time?

Tell Me About Chris Churchill

I love interviewing people. I just wish I knew more awesome, famous people. πŸ™‚ But I know at least one and he’s super awesome and almost famous. To me anyway. He’s brilliant, creative, fascinating, funny, talented, accomplished and so, so friendly. Embracing. Welcoming. Decent, kind, inspiring. He’s my friend, Chris Churchill.

He so kindly agreed to let me interview him. He has quite a few things out right now. Book, songs, documentary. Thanks for reading and checking out my friend, Chris. He’s the coolest. Thanks, Man! for letting me probe your brain.


Background about Chris:

I’m an artist of many types of art. Writing, visual art, music, comedy, film-making. But, of course, not many make a living doing these things. So, I give tours and have recently started teaching.
Where did you start performing?

Started performing in high school. School plays, etc. Also tried, here and there, to play in bands. Wrote a lot of stories and little plays. In retrospect, any shiny artistic object, pulled me away from the previous one. I saw a good friend in an improv show in 1992 or ’93. I thought, “That’s really funny. And I’ll bet I could do that.” So, I auditioned for Lighten Up Improvisation Company and got in. This is where I met your husband (Guy Maggio).

How did you get to Chicago? What led you there? Anything you miss about KC?

I miss everything about KC. Home is always home. When I come home, the wind is the right kind of wind. The birds and insects are the right kind. The sky is the right sky. The Chiefs. The Royals. And all the people of course. My whole family is
still there.

I got to Chicago because I met Adam McKay and David Koechner at an improv fest in Austin, TX (I was performing with your husband and others). They were teaching an improv workshop which I took twice when I was there. Once as a participant. The second time, I just sat in the back and watched. I had never had a conversation with a famous person before. And Koechner had this amazing, positive, “you can do it” energy. He told a group of us that if we were serious about this, we had to move to Chicago. Eventually, I did.

What’s the best thing about following your love of and talent in music? Improv?

The best thing is that you can go to a place on your heart that needs massaging, when it needs massaging and massage it. Flood yourself with serotonin when you need it. The finished product has never really gotten me too far. The process makes me happy, though.

What inspired you to come up with β€œAbraham Lincoln: The College Years”? What is just improv or something you thought about?
When I was recovering from a psych issue I’d had a few years ago, I finally got to the point where I could artistically express myself again and it helped me get back to “normal”. At this point, I just made up the worst ideas for television pilot episodes and wrote 12 of them. For fun. Because I was crazy.
Later, I decided to have staged readings at Second City for four of them. Well, obviously, they’d need theme songs. So, I made up these silly theme songs and recorded them. Originally, I thought I’d just play them at the live show but, since I already had an audiobook on Mint 400 Records, I asked them if they’d put out my “Doomed Pilots” soundtrack. As far as the Lincoln song goes, I started with the lyrics, searched within the lyrics for the rhythm and recorded that. I added the simplest of bass-lines so that when I sang the lyrics I’d be on key. Or at least I’d know where the key was. Then, from within that framework, I improvised the recording or the rest. The guitars, the backing vocals were improvised because I don’t like planning too much when I’m in creation mode. I think it worked out. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever recorded.
How did the project β€œTell Me About My Mother” start? (check out the video here)

My siblings and I constantly find ourselves telling these old family stories over and over again about how crazy our mom was/is. After I’d had an internship at a video company and had begun to make more of my own independent stuff, my sister Deb said, “This should be your next project.” And she was right. It turned out really well. It’s been getting a lot of emotional responses from people.

I’m sure it was difficult reliving the past, was it healing or just messy?

It was definitely healing. My mom needed validation for a lot of what she went through. It was nice to hear my dad’s side. Even though some might say he doesn’t come off smelling like a rose in this movie. And my siblings, as usual, served as comic relief when necessary. Some of these stories are pretty intense.

Do you think that your past/childhood set you up for how you live your life now in terms of music, improv, life goals, career choice, or creativity in general? Do you think it propelled you? Or do you think it was a detriment?

My childhood gave me both the artistic tools for survival as well as the need to use those tools to keep my sanity (most of the time). The problem and the solution are wrapped up in the same thing. My upbringing was alternately exciting and fun and sad and lonely. In terms of being able to make any money, it’s never really happened for long stretches. That is probably just a case of not having the right backing, connections, luck and also, let’s face it, I’m not making mainstream anything. I don’t know how to do that because I don’t feel the same way most people do.

What are you working on now or hope to be hearing about in the near future? What’s coming up for you?

Always working on something. Thinking about raising money so I can edit the rest of the story of me and my family and release the whole thing on DVD. Mixing an album for the label. Writing for an online magazine called Literate Ape. Teaching one college course and still giving tours of Chicago.

Thanks, Chris! You’re amazing. ❀

Smokin’

Martha_Busybody
I started in a different role, so I was dressed as the femme fatale secretary. Ah, to be 25 again. I ended up in the starring role as Lily Piper. So fun!

This is me. At 25. I had just met my husband and we were starring in a college production of Busybody together. It was a brilliant time. No wonder he liked me. πŸ˜‰
This is a face for the stage and screen! lol

And here’s my hubby. I think he was 28 or 29. We’re so lucky.

Guy_Busybody
Harry Baxter, Detective-Busybody at Longview College 1998