Tuesday, July 17

Spin me some theater.

I recently saw a good play, and took a good spinning class, two of my favorite things to do. I also recently saw a bad play and took a bad spinning class, two of my favorite things gone awry. For those of you who don't spin (and by that I mean take that intimidating-looking cycling class at the gym), spinning instructors are a lot like plays: there are a lot of bad ones out there, but when you find a great one, they'll change your life. Which got me thinking about other similarities that exist between what makes a good play, and what makes a good spinning class:

1. You gotta grab me.

If I'm not into it after the first ten minutes, I'm gonna zone out to some degree. And after that, it's hard to win me back. Plays change my mind more than spinning instructors, though. You can basically tell from the second the instructor walks into the room if he/she is going to be a dud.

2. Rhythm is everything.

I think one of the most crucial aspects of a writer and director's collaboration in mounting a stage production is finding the rhythm(s) of the piece. It's gotta flow. And it's got to flow in a way specific to that play, a way that supports that particular play's storytelling. This is probably something most people take for granted when a play works -- it simply flows the way it should. But believe you me, it takes a lot of work to make it seem so easy. And did you know there are spinning instructors out there (and more than one, I might add), who actually count out loud a pace you're supposed to match that doesn't match the beat of the music they are playing?? Did these people grow up on Mars? Where do they come from?

3. Variety is good.

You know, that makes sense.

4. Audience participation is bad.

No, I will not raise my hand when you ask, "Who's up for it?!" Trust me, I am an active participant in your event if I am there, engaged, and, if appropriate, pedaling.

5. Never, ever ask people to go up into third position without any resistance on the wheel!

OK, that one is just for spinning instructors.

6. You can't please everyone all the time.

There will always be people who walk out at the end saying, "Wow, that was great!" even if you think it sucked. And vice versa: there will always be someone who doesn't like even your most favorite of plays/spinning classes. So, as a writing mentor once told me, just do what you feel is good, and eventually, hopefully, someone else will think it's good too.

Wednesday, July 11

[A story I wrote.]

The boy detective woke up with his eyes still unopened.

“I have a feeling,” the boy detective thought, with his eyes still closed, “that there is a big mystery out there today.”

The boy detective opened his eyes and got out of bed. He smoothed his cowlick and rubbed his face to polish his freckles. He put on his smartest outfit, tied his shoes and stepped outside into the sunny, suburban day.

On his front lawn, the boy detective noticed something strange. On the grass, there was a single white roller skate with blue laces. This was strange because the boy detective did not own any roller skates. And if he did, he would certainly own more than one.

“How curious,” thought the boy detective. He noticed a stamp on the heel of the roller skate that said, “SkateWorld.” “Why, that’s the roller rink right up the street!” thought the boy detective excitedly, and hurried in that direction.

The boy detective made a left out of his driveway and followed the street uphill. The street curved right, then left, then down, then up again. At the end of the street, he turned left and walked until he reached a busy, two-lane road. He looked both ways and crossed the street into the parking lot of SkateWorld.

The roller rink was a large building. As the boy detective got closer, he began to get a funny feeling. He noticed that there were no cars in the parking lot, and that the windows looked dark. The big SkateWorld sign was gone, and part of the roof was missing. There was grass growing out of the sidewalk in front of the main entrance. There was no one around.

“This is very curious,” thought the boy detective. “SkateWorld has disappeared!”

The boy detective looked around, but the doors were locked, and the windows were as black as night.

The boy detective got a funny feeling. He felt his cowlick stand up and smoothed it down again. He decided to ask Bert, the ice cream man, if he saw anything unusual happen to SkateWorld. Bert’s ice cream shop was right behind SkateWorld, so if anyone had seen something, it would have been Bert.

The boy detective crossed the parking lot to Bert’s shop. He opened the door and saw a man at the cash register, but it wasn’t Bert.

“Excuse me,” said the boy detective to the man behind the counter, “may I please speak with Bert?”

The man chewed on a piece of gum. “Who’s Bert?” the man said.

The boy detective smiled. “Why, Bert, who owns Bert’s ice cream shop,” he said. “Bert, the king of the root beer float!”

The man kept on chewing his gum. “Do I know you?” he asked. “Do you want some ice cream?”

The boy detective did not want some ice cream.

“This is very curious,” thought the boy detective, and left the store.

The boy detective squinted in the sunlight. He had a very funny feeling. He felt his cowlick stand up straight, and he smoothed it down as hard as he could. His freckles started to itch and he rubbed his face so they would stop.

“First SkateWorld, and now Bert!” thought the boy detective. “There is certainly something afoot. I have to go and find Vernie right away, we’ve got a big case on our hands!”

Vernie was the boy detective’s best friend and sidekick. Vernie was short for Veronica, and even though Vernie was a girl, she was the smartest and prettiest girl the boy detective knew. Vernie lived two houses away, if you took the shortcut through the backyard of the boy detective’s across-the-street neighbor. Otherwise, like when the boy detective’s mother drove him, or when his neighbor complained about the boy detective trampling on her daffodils, Vernie lived down the street and around two corners.

The boy detective ran to Vernie’s house and arrived there out of breath. He rang the doorbell. “Vernie! Vernie!” shouted the boy detective, before anyone had even answered the door. “We’ve got a huge mystery to solve!”

The door opened and the boy detective got a very funny feeling. A little girl, about Vernie’s age, was looking at him, but it wasn’t quite Vernie. She had the same straight brown hair and big, brown eyes. She even had on Vernie’s favorite purple dress. But her nose was smaller, and her smile was crooked, and her face was altogether different.

“Vernie?” the boy detective asked, confused.

“She’s not home,” said the girl. “Can I take a message?”

The boy detective shook his head and walked away. He could feel his cowlick leaping off of his head. His freckles were on fire. His shoelaces tightened around his feet.

“This is very, very curious,” said the boy detective, feeling dizzy. He pounded his cowlick down into his head, but it stood right back up again. He rubbed his freckles, but they only got warmer and warmer. He kicked his feet to loosen his shoelaces, but they pulled themselves even tighter.

The boy detective cut through Vernie’s backyard, trying to examine the facts. “First SkateWorld disappeared,” said the boy detective. “And then Bert’s Ice Cream Shop wasn’t Bert’s Ice Cream Shop any more. And who was the strange girl in Vernie’s house, wearing Vernie’s dress?” The boy detective pressed his cowlick and rubbed his freckles one last time. “There is certainly something curious going on.”

The boy detective arrived back home. He went into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. His freckles were still hot. He ran the faucet and scooped up some water in his hands, and pressed the water to his face. His freckles sizzled from the cool water and the boy detective felt better. He took his hands away from his face to turn off the faucet, and saw a very curious thing in the mirror.

There was a man there, with a wrinkly face, dotted with faded freckles, and a mop of silver hair with a giant cowlick at the back. The man looked confused. He looked the way the boy detective felt. “This is very curious,” thought the boy detective. “Who are you?” the boy detective asked the man, and the man asked the boy detective the same thing.

The boy detective could hear the water running, and then he heard quick, light footsteps coming his way. Suddenly, a boy appeared in the doorway, a face full of freckles, and a thick mess of sandy brown hair, neatly combed except for a stubborn cowlick at the back.

“There you are, grampa!” the boy said. “You’re letting the water run!” The boy reached across the sink and turned off the faucet. The boy detective looked down at the boy in the silence.

“We didn’t know where you’d gone off to!” said the boy. “It was a great mystery. But now I have solved it!” The boy galloped off, yelling “I’ve solved it!” as he went.

The boy detective turned back to the man in the mirror. He waved to him, and the man waved back. “SkateWorld, Bert’s Ice Cream Shop, and Vernie,” the boy detective asked the man. “Where did they all go?” And the man asked the boy detective the same thing. “Where did they all go?”

“I’ve solved it!” the boy was still shouting down the hall. The boy detective looked at the man in the mirror. Neither one said anything.

Thursday, July 5

The glasses, half-full.

To spice things up a bit this summer, I have taken to wearing my glasses more. I've actually had my glasses for a couple years now; I purchased them in a fit of Peter Cooper-esque foresight back when I was leaving my full-time job and its full-time insurance plan, and mostly have donned them just for driving. Here is a before and after shot of my bespectacled transformation:

Sans spectacles

Avec spectacles

It's true, wearing my glasses makes me look more like a) an L-train rider and b) an up-and-coming musical theater writer, two things which, I suppose, I am, but which sometimes I like to pretend I'm not. But, much like my practice of dyeing my hair abnormal colors during my college years, wearing the specs makes me feel like a slightly different person than before, and July is a good month for finding personal renewal.

And heck, I can even see things better. Go figure.