30 April, 2018

from As You Like It, "All the world’s a stage..." by William Shakespeare

Jaques to Duke Senior
 All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

12 April, 2018

The Lie of "Brian"

Meet Brian. GOD, he's the best. (PS ^actual Southwest ad)
As an artist, people are often asking me to speak at things where audience members will have thoughtful questions, or various recording devices and my internal monologue is always WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME I’M FAKING ADULTHOOD. But off I went on book tour.

It was on my third stop that I met Oscar: Nosey Man of Scotch Plains, New Jersey. It wasn’t a remarkable crowd that day in Scotch Plains; mostly older people, a few flat-out almost-dead people accompanied by the teenagers who had wheeled them into this lecture hall, plus a handful of perfectly nice Jewish Gen-Xers who had clearly planned this event.

I spent about an hour chronicling my London and New York theatrical career, my research journey in Siberia, the story of how my first novel came to be, the pertinent information about my upcoming novel

Let me be clear: talking to a roomful of strangers for an hour about anything is not fun. Like what could I possibly be an expert on? Even current eleven-year-olds know more about what is up with my iPhone, and probably have a 401K or two in better shape than mine.  But talking at length about yourself? That's the pits (maybe it's fun if you’re Oprah? but I honestly doubt it...) It is far more interesting to speak about what you value, believe in and your personal mission statement. But book talks are a wily hybrid of selling a product and selling your actual self. It’s more intense than being an actor, oddly, because you are the entire cast and creative team, and this “show” never closes. In the theatrical talkback, you very rarely have to talk about your own damn self which is fantastic because talking about yourself, no matter how profoundly awesome you may be, is seriously boring.
    Why have you even invited me here to talk about myself? I think. I’m just a 30-something with a barely verified Twitter account and a PhD-level specialist knowledge of both Murder, She Wrote trivia and pre-1998 musical theater. I’m basically the same awkward teenager I was 18 years ago. Except now I have a utility bill and ulcerative colitis. Do I inform them of my encyclopedic knowledge of Angela Lansbury trivia? Do I make them follow my cat on Instagram?
    The answer: I eventually come to do both of those things.

But anyway there I was in Scotch Plains talking about myself. When I had finished my talk I asked, in the now-forever-lost innocence of pre-Scotch Plains book tour events:

    “Any questions?”

In the back of the room, an older man named Oscar had been trouble the whole book talk. Oscar was handsome, popular, with the charisma of a cult leader. Terrific. In response to my invitation for questions, Oscar the octogenarian class clown raised his hand.

    “I have a question,” he said with an air of faded-but-not-forgotten Mad Men; the white-guy bravado that comes from any 85-year-old with all his hair, and can still drive a car unsupervised.
    “Yes, Oscar?”

—Record Scratch.—
Hold on a minute.

Would Oscar have asked a male author this question? Why does it feel as though the onus is on me, on us, the women, to identify and justify independence? Why are women always the victims of some kind of Marriage Inquisition?

Also, there’s no short but positive answer to this.

I mean I guess I could be coy:
    “Why, oh my gosh are you proposing, Oscar?

Or be socially strong:
    “No, but I am really content to [blah blah enter completely honest statement you’ll write off as feminist bullshit blah blah]

Or I could simply have some damn boundaries:
    “I meant questions about the BOOK, anyone have any of those?

There’s really no version of “NO I AM NOT MARRIED” that could satisfy a person or crowd that had the audacity to ask. Mind you— all of this crossed my mind in 1/1000th of a second.

Reader? You’d be as shocked as I was to hear the phrase:
    “Iiiiiiiiiiiii aaaaaaaaam, yeeeeees I aaaaaaam married yeeeeeeees” fall out of my mouth in slow motion.

Time stopped. I imperceptibly moaned as I prayed fervently for a flaming hot meteor to strike the lectern here at this Jewish Community Center.

    “Um… any other questions?”
    “Yeah!” Oscar again, “What does he DO?”

But before I could worry about diarrhea soaking my skinny jeans I found myself spewing the following out of my unruly mouth:

    “Heeeeeee is aaaa pilot. YES! He’s a pilot. He flies planes…. Because he is a pilot—BRIAN!” I screamed, “—Brian: The Pilot….

I ran.

With shocking, and extremely creative ease, I had lied outright to a room full of senior citizens and barely broken a sweat. Thus I ran from the JCC of Scotch Plains New Jersey. I ran with the ferocity of Harrison Ford running from Tommy Lee Freakin’ Jones.

I’m sorry Oscar.
I’m sorry Scotch Plains, New Jersey.
I’m sorry Brian, wherever you are…


Once on the train back to New York City I immediately texted people to assess my level of trash can person:

  • I called my best friend and former high school roommate Lilly who has seen me far worse than this! Lilly was there the day my Dad died, the day I got LASIK eye surgery and had to wear the weird goggles, Lilly has even picked me up from a colonoscopy or three. Lilly laughed so hard she almost asphyxiated. 
  • I texted Laura Benanti, the only adult in my phone who knows how to capably handle a real-life-Nora-Ephron-essay-plus-sensitive-etiquette situation and she told me I’d done the right thing to both panic-lie AND run away. Plus she's from New Jersey. So.
  • I texted Danny Burstein who virtually high-fived me and told me to tell the world about Brian, suggested contacting Central Casting for a full fake-wedding photoshoot, and made a few vivid additions to the backstory almost instantly.
  • I texted Julia Murney, who thought Brian was lovely (He is duh), though was concerned with how quickly Brian and I were moving in the relationship.
  • I texted my also-single, kick-assiest-woman-I know friend Amy Maiden in Australia,  who reminded me that “it’s the end of days so fuck it it’s fine.”
  • I texted Samantha Massell, daughter of a successful, single, working mother who was outraged on my behalf.
Sent this to everyone on the list, above
Basically: I got most of the moral support I required before I even reached Trenton.

Not that I shared it with more unsuspecting senior citizens, but the Lie of Brian grew. And grew. Brian is amazing, you guys. God he loves flying so much, #blessed! He loves flying and tennis and sunsets and me. His father bought Amazon at 6 so he’s loaded! Plus he’s an orphan so no irritating in-laws, and he’s super sorry he can’t be here today but he’s flying the red-eye to Beijing …again.

Anyway the next day I went to Claire’s and bought the biggest, most hideous rhinestone fake wedding and engagement ring combo $27 could buy. And no one ever asked me about being married again. (Lesson? Props matter).

I am grateful for the experience in Scotch Plains. I am better armed for the future, and both impressed and horrified that a prop wedding ring can help keep everyone focused on discussing my attempt at an artistic contribution to society and less focused on discussing my damn love life.

Protector of the skies and my heart.


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