Saturday, September 30, 2006

Steven Wright Saturday

I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time." So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.

All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand.

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

I almost had a psychic girlfriend, but she left me before we met.

Change is inevitable....except from vending machines.

Shin: a device for finding furniture in the dark.

42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Small Part

I recently subscribed to Backstage West, a news magazine for actors on the west coast. In today's issue, amongst the 5 bazillion advertisements for headshot photographers and acting coaches (Learn what it takes to be a STAR!), I came upon this ad, which I shall share with you verbatim:

Calling All Angels


Help someone else's dream come true
while you pursue yours.


We'll treat you like a star:
chocolates, massage, flowers,
and beautiful headshots.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Perfect Dance

Sometimes, when my perfectionism rears its ugly head, I remember the lesson I learned when I was asked to be a Sri Lankan dancer.

One of my many tasks as an MFA student was to understudy the plays performed in three separate theatres. Almost always, my classmates and I had a full day of classes (and were in a play already), so learning the lines of a different play, and finding the time to see that play so we could learn the staging, were rather challenging endeavors. The situation was further complicated by the fact that, because there were only 14 students in the program, we were often assigned multiple roles to understudy. One summer, the 14 of us were understudying over 60 roles, which made for some frenetic, confusing, and often hilarious understudy rehearsals. During a run-through of Julius Caesar, for instance, my classmate was understudying a man who is being chased across the stage, the man who chases, catches, and kills him, and the person who berates the killer. Watching my friend attempt to portray all of these characters simultaneously was one of the most entertaining moments of theatre I have ever experienced.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I drove myself crazy over my understudy assignments. I resolved that if I ever had to go on, I wouldn't miss a line. I wouldn't miss a word! This resolution came in handy when I got the call late one afternoon that an actress had lost her voice, and I better get myself down to the theatre and into costume. With little time to rehearse, and having met the other two cast members only briefly, I stood behind the curtains that night feeling very grateful for my obsessive, perfectionistic tendencies. And went on to have a wonderful time.

During my second year of school, I attended a rehearsal of a play I wasn't understudying, and got there just in time to see a beautiful scene in which a Sri Lankan woman performs an intricate dance, narrating it in her native language. Rumor had it that no one would be asked to understudy the role because of its difficulty. That night, I got a call. Rumor had it wrong.

After crying for a while, I resolved to be the most perfect Sri Lankan dancer a 5'9" white girl with minimal dance experience could be. My first step was to ask the actress for help with learning the dance. Miss Sri Lanka seemed very nice, but she was kinda busy, she said. And she was sure she'd never get sick, so I didn't have anything to worry about. Good luck, she said.

Next, I asked for a videotape of the dance, so that I could pause and rewind it while trying to learn it. Sorry, they said. Copyright laws. I then tried standing in the back of the theatre, looking over my shoulder at the actress so that I could mirror her movements, tripping over myself and kicking my own shins numerous times in the process. At night, after rehearsals for the other play I was in, I listened to a tape of a Sri Lankan man speaking the pages of dialogue, sounding out each word phonetically.

I began to have nightmares involving dancing naked in Sri Lanka (at least I think it was Sri Lanka), while a man yelled phonetics at me from the audience. I cried. I prayed. Failure was not an option. I was going to be perfect.

And then, one day, when I was near despair, a classmate sat me down and said:

"Listen. I know you don't want to let anyone down, but face it. You are never going to be a Sri Lankan dancer."

And, as much as my perfectionism hated to admit it, I realized he was right. No matter how many hours I spent listening to that strange man's voice on tape, or tripping over myself in the back of the theatre, it just wasn't going to happen. And I didn't even want it to happen. I was going to let people down, and that was okay. What they'd asked me to do was completely insane. And I was driving myself insane because of it.

Since my Sri Lankan epiphany, I've tried to redefine perfection for myself. I've realized that I'll always feel driven to do things perfectly, but I've decided to focus on the gospel definition of perfection. In the footnote for Matthew 5:48, perfect is defined as "complete, finished, fully developed." I love that definition. Because, as delightful as they are, eternity would be really boring if we were all Sri Lankan dancers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm in need of a little inspiration.

Therefore, I hereby proclaim today (September 13, 2006),

Inspirational Quotes Day.

Or, if you prefer,

Words Worth Pondering Day.

Here are a few to start with.

"Apparent failure may hold in its rough shell the germs of a success that will blossom in time, and bear fruit throughout eternity."

-Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar."

-Helen Keller

"And it struck me that the most difficult thing had been the decision to act, the rest had been mere tenacity - and the fears were paper tigers."

-Robyn Davidson

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."

-Anais Nin

"Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost. Sometime, somewhere, somehow, we shall find what we seek."

-Helen Keller

"Industry is the handmaid of good fortune."

-Martha Wilson

"The detour of course became the actual path."

-Gretel Ehrlich


Monday, September 04, 2006

The Drive Thru

So I have a new boyfriend.

It's only fair, seeing as how, for several years now, my husband's had a girlfriend:

No, not Julie Andrews. Anne Hathaway! And can you blame him?
You can't, can you? I mean, have you seen The Princess Diaries?
She's adorable!

Anyway, back to my boyfriend. One Friday evening a few months ago, I had a hankering for a Del Taco Ultimate Taco with no tomatoes. When I handed my money up to the drive thru window, a smiling man looked down at me and said:

"Hi, I'm Juan."

I gave Juan my $1.53, and turned to adjust the radio volume. When I looked back up at the window, Juan was still standing there, smiling at me. Then he disappeared, and returned with my bag. It felt a little too heavy for one taco (even an Ultimate Taco), so before I drove away, I checked inside. Resting next to my taco was an order of fries.

"Juan? I've got fries in here, and I didn't order them."

Juan's smile got even wider.

"I know. For you, they're free!"

Still smiling, he closed the window, and I drove away with 500 more delicious calories than I'd signed up for.

Before I go any further, I feel that I should mention two things. First, Juan couldn't have been more than 18. Second, if we'd been standing next to each other, I could probably stare down at the top of Juan's head.

About a week later, I drove through Del Taco again, and whose smiling face should appear at the window?

"My friend!" He said. "How are you?"

"Hi, Juan! I'm great!"

When he handed me my bag, it felt even heavier than before. Sure enough, I opened it to discover the largest order of fries that Del Taco offers. The largest order of fries that I had ever seen. More fries than I could shake a stick at.

"Juan. You can't just give me all these fries for free!"

"But I want to!"

"Juan, this is a lot of fries."

"I know!"

When I got back to my apartment, the french fry smell was so powerful that I knew I had to come clean to Steve about Juan. I confessed everything, and showed him the fries.

"Wow, Em. That is a lot of fries."

"I know!"

A few days later, Steve expressed a hankering for Del Taco. Let's go, I said.

"Well, maybe you should go by yourself."


"Well, because maybe your boyfriend will be there."


"Well, because maybe he won't give you free stuff if I'm with you."

A good point. But I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable about young Juan's french fry overtures. I mean, what exactly did he expect in return for the french fries? Where exactly was our relationship going? So Steve came with me. And Juan wasn't there.

A few weeks later, I drove through Del Taco for lunch. Surely Juan won't be there, I thought. I've only seen him at night.

I drove up to a familiar smile.

"Hello, my friend!"

"Hi, Juan! Are you working days now?"

"Nah, I'm just covering for someone."


There was an awkward pause. This was unfamiliar territory. We'd never seen each other in the daylight! I wondered what would happen.

When he handed me my bag, it didn't feel too heavy. There was a breathless moment of anticipation as I opened it. The smell of french fries filled my car.

"Juan, you really shouldn't keep doing this."

"I know!"

And, smiling, he closed the window.