Friendship and Storytelling

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#NationalBestFriendsDay is trending on social media today. I smiled when I first saw the hashtag, because it reminded me of my best friend growing up: Julia Hanaway.

Julia and I were backyard neighbors. We would often hop the fence to play with each other after school. Julia was a year and eleven days older than me (she had my grandmother’s birthday.) I am a naturally gullible person–that, paired with our difference in age, made me a prime target for Julia to scare me with stories.

She once told me that my duplex was built on a graveyard and that the ghosts were going to come and kill me in my sleep if I didn’t do exactly what she said.(I would have done exactly what she said with or without the threat of the ghosts.) The scary story that she had crafted just for me bonded us together with an otherworldly secret.

We weren’t into playing dress up or tea parties or Barbies. The one time we played with Barbies, it was to cut off their hair and transform them into superheroes. We pretended we were Power Rangers and Mutant Ninja Turtles, pretending to fight with nunchucks and swords (made of sticks and duct tape.) We memorized and acted out Disney songs, but we focused on portraying the villains and comedic relief instead of the princesses.

We would play video games together. And by that, I mean that Julia would maneuver the character through the world of the game and I would shoot and monsters that came our way. We sat close together at the computer, terrorizing the villains that dared to cross our path.

One summer afternoon, we saw a squirrel fall from a tree. Her dog, Trixie, ran over and claimed it as prey. We shooed the dog away, ran into the house to find kitchen gloves and a 2 x 4. We pushed the dead squirrel onto the plank of wood and ran it around the backyard pretending we were paramedics before dumping the body into the sizeable hole we had been using to dig for gold. Covering up the squirrel in the gold hole/grave, we felt triumphant in the day’s escapade. We didn’t even need to use our imaginations to create a grizzly scene: a corpse had fallen from the sky.

Months later, Julia had a dream that the squirrel (which she had named Chucky) became zombified and attacked her in her bed at night. As she recounted the tale, it became clear that she concerned that she had angered the ghosts that she had told me were living under my house. The folklore of her own story had come back to haunt her. Needless to say, we had a much more even friendship after that.

Julia still writes stories. She’s working on a graphic novel, which I cannot wait to read. She reminds me of the character of Katurian in The Pillowman.

Katurian is a young man who has devoted his life to being a storyteller. Of the 400 stories he has written, only one has been published. When a string of crimes in town start to mimic his dark stories, he is brought in for questioning.

Katurian’s best friend is his brother, Michal. Max Cole-Takanikos and Aaron Simpson play the two brothers. Just like Julia and I grew up together, Max and Aaron grew up together, as their mothers are close friends. When two actors know each other as well as Max and Aaron do, it creates a short-hand for interacting with each other.

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Just as Julia told me stories and I believed every word, Katrurian tells his stories to his brother. It is their ritual. And from that ritual springs the drama central to the play.

Stories connect us: friend to friend, brother to brother and actors to audience members. I hope you’ll come to OutCast’s production of The Pillowman, so you can watch me and my cast tell you a darkly comedic story that you’ll remember for some time to come.

The Pillowman runs July 10-25. Tickets go onsale the second week of June. Learn more at http://www.outcastproductions.net/

Opening Night, Illuminated

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On Friday, May 8th, at 6:25 PM, I was backstage at the fairgrounds black box theatre, getting ready to open In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play.)

I had taken the day off of work, sleeping in until 11:00 AM and having a relaxing day. I had spent the afternoon having my hair dyed, cut, primped and styled by Chava at 2nd Street Hair Boutique.

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At 6:25 PM, the lights in the dressing room went out suddenly. It’s an old building, so our first thought was to check the fuse box and see if a breaker had tripped. But we soon realized that we had a bigger problem on our hands.

It wasn’t just that the breaker had tripped–there had been an issue re-wiring a telephone pole on Langley Road that had caused a fire UNDER THE ROAD. Our lighting board operator hopped on his motorcycle to find out what had happened. He reported seeing scorch marks on the road, which was closed.

The cast stood backstage in varying states of undress. Those of us wearing corsets had already started the intricate process of being laced in. 30 minutes, they had told our messenger. 30 minutes, 45 five minutes tops and the power would be restored.

We waited eagerly for updates as the audience started pouring into the darkened theatre. We thought the worst case scenario would be delaying the start of the play by half an hour. We were wrong.

At 7:35 PM, our motorcycled messenger scurried down Langley Road again to see what progress had been made. The crew informed him that it would be until 10:00 PM before the power was restored.

There is a saying in theatre that the show must go on. The cast stood backstage in disbelief as one of our volunteers suggested bringing lanterns into the theatre.

“It’s a play ABOUT ELECTRICITY,” exclaimed one of the actors. “We can’t do it with lanterns.”

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Like troops admitting defeat on the battlefield, we slowly took our corsets and other Victorian underthings off in the dimming backstage light. We would have to cancel opening night.

I’ve never had a show cancelled before. I’ve performed to audiences of ten or fewer and had wished the show had been cancelled. We were so ready to share our world of the play with the audience. We felt lost and betrayed by Thomas Edison’s creation, which is arguably a leading character in the play.

Since the power was on in the rest of Langley, most cast members decided to go to Mo’s and drown our sorrows. We took over a corner of the bar, some of us watching the Mariner’s game. And we talked. And we laughed. And we invited our other theatrical friends who we haven’t seen in weeks because we’ve been rehearsing the show.

At its best, theatre creates community and helps us discover more about what it means to be human. As we felt the very human emotions of disappointment and frustration, we were feeling them in tandem with a community of actors. We bonded.

I left the bar a little after midnight, feeling grateful for my theatre geek friends who lift me up, tease me, hug me, make me laugh and keep me sane. These people are why I live on Whidbey Island.

The next night, we opened the show to a nearly sold-out house that couldn’t stop laughing. They gave us a standing ovation. With the illumination of restored electricity came redemption. And we were ready for it!

This piece originally appeared on OutCast Productions’ blog and can be accessed here.

In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) runs through May 23. Get your tickets!

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In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) runs through May 23. >>Purchase tickets.

Pumpkin, by Kate Lebo

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>>Learn more about A Commonplace Book of Pie.

Kate Lebo is the author of Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter (Sasquatch Books), A Commonplace Book of Pie (Chin Music Press), and The Pie Lady’s Manifesto, a zine republished by The Rumpus in 2014. Her poems, essays, commentary, and recipes have appeared in Best New Poets, New England Review, Gastronomica, Willow Springs, AGNI, The Washington Post, City Arts Magazine, 94.9 KUOW, Poetry Northwest and other places. She teaches poetry and food writing workshops across the nation, but especially at Richard Hugo House and The Pantry at Delancey. A graduate of the University of Washington’s MFA program, she’s the recipient of a Nelson Bentley Fellowship, the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize, and a grant from 4Culture.

Kate has judged the Iowa State Fair Pie Contest, baked at the American Gothic House, and won Best in Show at the first annual Cake vs. Pie Competition. At Pie Stand she taps into the social magic of pie to create conversations across communities and give people a taste of her original baked creations.

A devotee of book art, she’s an editor for the handmade literary journal Filter and has a long history of zine-making. Her video installation for Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery, Bliss, asks viewers to eat a book and read their food.

Kate was raised in the Pacific Northwest by Iowans and now lives in Spokane, Washington. She has ambivalent feelings about pie a la mode. She adores rhubarb.

Basket, by Jennifer Nöel Klouse

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I take a moment
I listen to the noises around me.
The living violins of the forest I traverse.
The yellow wind is in my hair
And I gallop down the red lane to the meter of hooves.
They dig in the soil, iron rich. A blood red road.
Blood red road.
I say it out loud with relish.I enjoy the sensation of phonetics dancing across my white teeth like thick, delicious pasta.

I play with the idea.

Dentals:
Taper
Slavery
Lackadaisical

Bi-Labials:
Pride
Misogyny
Brevity

Fricatives:
Thankful
Delta
Fuck

Triplets trip over my tongue
Trapezoid
Null and void
Caucasoid

This meal tastes better than the last one I had.
The one I forced down my throat,
It was so vile, I had to wash it down with the bitter tang of my ex lover.
Sex like chewing a raw leek.
Afterglow that requires palate cleansing.

He made my tongue big and awkward.
A lumbering dullard
Rolling oddly into consonants
Trying to right itself by overcompensation.
Like a clumsy person walking on ice.

Well.

Attempting.

I’m drawn from my reverie.
I’m a bit lost in the woods by now.
The violins have grown silent with the condensation of trees.
I try to choose a specific path, but I am unable to turn down the way I wish.

It’s not me. It’s my horse.

“When the time comes, you’ll know your way,” he declares.
What a miserable douche.

There are children alongside this undesirable road.
They reach for me

And in their hands, a basket full of promises.
In their hands, a basket empty of everything else.
I am unable to reach from my saddle.I screech phonetics at the basket in frustration.
The children back away wide-eyed and shocked

God damn it!
(Glottal dental)I want the basket

It’s mine. 
It belongs to me.
 
I start to move.
Headed once again down the road.
It’s not me. It’s my horse.
I strain my neck back
Try to spy the basket
Keep it in my sights
It’s mine.
It belongs to me
I want the basket
I can no longer see it.
I just keep moving down the road.
My neck hurts.
The actualization of words like food no longer feels like such a delight.
My mouth might as well be empty
Like the basket
Might as well be quiet
Like the forest
Might as well be blood red
Like the road
Like marinara sauce
Like my frustrationMaybe my horse will let me turn off this road soon.
Maybe I will make the decision.
Maybe I will stay on this horse forever.

A miserable douche.

Jennifer Nöel Klouse is a Seattle writer, director, actor, singer and producer. Her work includes venues such as Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center NYC, the American Cemetery in Normandy, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and the Vatican in Rome. Locally she’s worked with Seattle Rep, Copious Love Productions, StageRight: DSR and runs her own small theater company Rogue Theatrics. She loves, and is loved by many. She has cats. She gets excited by meter and she’ll eat anything that is flavored with lime. If that’s not enough for you, she showers. Daily.
Her favorite poet by far is Alexander Pope.

LOUISIANA or THE CASE AGAINST HAVING CHILDREN, by Brenda Perrott Williamson

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The Case Against Having Children
Is summed up by Huey P. Long’s
Son Russell being owned by the oil companies
His father had fought for so long.
Brenda Perrott Williamson lives with her husband, Civil War author David Williamson, and their cats, including Wilde Oscar (a Katrina-rescue cat who is working on his memoirs.) Brenda’s blog is http://Brendaperrottwilliamson.wordpress.com. You can also follow Brenda and Wilde Oscar on Twitter @BrendaPerrott and @WildeOscarCat.

Favorite poets: “My favorite poets include Thomas Gray (of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard fame), Thomas Hardy (Christmas 1914 & so much more), Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. (Everyone needs the Complete Works of Robert Burns.)Calvin Trillin is my favorite modern poet.”

Jayne Mansfield, by Amber Tamblyn

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Order Amber Tamblyn’s new book of poetry: Dark Sparkler.

Amber Tamblyn is a contributing writer for the Poetry Foundation and the author of two previous works of poetry, Free Stallion and Band Ditto. As an actress, she has been nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and an Independent Spirit Award. Her writing has appeared in Bust, Interview, Cosmopolitan, the San Francisco Chronicle, Poets & Writers, Pank, and elsewhere.

Wilderness, by Rose Woods

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the light will cut through this terrain of darkness soon.
the moon, suddenly out of itself, disappeared behind some trees. or perhaps a
mountain. or an owl’s cry.
I have navigated the thickness of night’s forest in each minute.
each one.
(not always with delicacy. which was perhaps what was needed)
nevertheless, there will be light soon. it will open its
unreadable pages. without knowing.
slowly.
billowing.
incidentally.
and the day will dawn (as they say) too bright for seeing
(though the ever-wound in my heart might actually hear if my hands
can quiet themselves of their keening secrets)
in the meantime I will unravel. carefully.
touching with eyes stretched. body pulled from the debris of another
collapsible night.
and continue. (undone by the smallest bird pushing his thin knife
of song between my ribs)
seeking that place from whence breath arrives.
only the trees know how thin the skin is behind the ears.

 

 

Rose Woods is the Founding Artistic Director of Island Shakespeare Festival. She has been the Artistic Director of three theatre companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and has worked across the country with both professional and youth theatre companies, most recently with Seven Stages Shakespeare Company in New Hampshire. She is a professional screenwriter and playwright as well as a published poet. She was awarded a commendation from Senator Barbara Boxer for her work with youth theatre and is the recipient of a number of awards for both her writing and directing, including the Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, Humanitarian Teacher of the Year Award, the Bay Area Critics Award and a variety of national and international awards for her screenwriting.

 

Favorite poets:

William Shakespeare
e.e. cummings
Mary Oliver
Anne Carson
Maya Angelou
Edna St. Vincent Millay
T.S.Eliot
Elizabeth Bishop
Kevin Dyer
Alice Anderson
Wislawa Szymborska
so many poets… so little time…”

Shape, by Jaimie Gusman

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Read the full text of the poem here.

This poem was originally published by Moss Trill.

Jaimie Gusman lives in Kaaawa, HI where she is a freelance writer, blogger and founder of Mixing Innovative Arts. She has three chapbooks: Gertrude’s Attic (Vagabond Press, 2014), The Anyjar (Highway 101 Press, 2011), and One Petal Row (Tinfish Press, 2011).

Favorite poets: “Gertrude Stein, Alice Notley, Adeena Karasick & Catherine Wagner have been major influences on my work!”

 

Trigger-hand Trevor: the Bug-Spraying Man, by Suzanne Kelman

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I was having so much trouble with my roses
you couldn’t see the poor leaves for black spot,
so I called up the gardening centre,
They said they’d send the best man that they’d got.

With pomp, he arrived on that Monday
His chariot – a weathered landscapers van.
Written across the sides in bold letters,
“Trigger-hand Trevor The Bug Spraying Man.”

Behind my net curtains, I eyed him
As in spurs, he clanked to my door
a swaggering weed-wrangling cowboy
in my chest something started to soar.

He towered over me on my doorstep:
a mass of smoldering good looks and brown skin.
Clad in cowboy boots and jeans of tight denim
He must have jumped off the truck to get in

He wore a frayed, 10-gallon hat of raw leather.
His belt was crammed with every tool, an array.
Stretched across his great barrel chest a tight T-shirt
With the words “Come on, bugs. Make my day!”

My whole body started a’ quivering
at this beautiful masculine sight.
He uttered, as if gargling gravel
“I’m here to put an end to your blight.”

Still shaking, I led him out back then
to the place where black beetle still reigned.
He slipped on his gloves like a master
His hawk eyes my garden surveyed.

Pulling out two spray bottles from his belt loop,
armed and deadly, he pulled down his hat.
As his fingers twitched on the triggers
he warned, “Ma’am, you’d better stand back.”

As a master, he started a’ firing
first to the left then the right with such speed,
little bodies dropped all around him,
when he’d finished, there wasn’t even a weed.

“It safe to come out ma’am,” he called to me.
“You won’t be having no more trouble with your pest.”
As he blew smoke from the tips of his bottles, added
“That’s why they call me the best trigger in the West.”

As he left, I just couldn’t stand it
Running up my path I clung to his leg.
“Trevor I can’t live without you.
Please take me with you,” I cried, and I begged.

He flashed me a smile that did melt me
Pulling me close, rasped, “hop on my van.”
My days are now spent filling his bottles –
My Trevor, the Bug Spraying Man.

 

 

Suzanne Kelman is the author of “The Rejected Writers Book Club” and her writing voice has been described as a perfect blend of Janet Evanovich and Debbie Macomber. She is also a multi-award winning screenwriter whose accolades include Best Comedy Feature Screenplay – L.A. International Film Festival (2011) Gold Award – California Film Awards (2012) and Winner – Van Gogh Award – The Amsterdam Film Festival (2012). Born in the UK she now resides in Washington State.

Favorite poets: “Pam Ayres–great comedy poems.”

 

Lower the Flags, by Bonnie Stinson

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Lower the flags;
she approaches

clasping a cloak
red with clay and

blood from battle
deep in the valley.

A broken shield
wants to glint

in the sun,
downtrodden by hooves

mindlessly collapsing
carefully shaped steel.

Armistice of ash and oleander
for the villain slain

hovering still over
bodies living and dead

with no reprieve offered
for the victorious hero

who also requires a pyre
adorned with white and brambles.

Leather groans at the sight
of hands drifting toward

release of ties that bind
the maker to her tools.

Hoist the flag;
the hero will not die today.

 

Bonnie Stinson writes about feminism, travel, identity, and trust. When she is not writing, Bonnie is either baking, watching films, or designing installations.

Favorite poets: Walt Whitman, Warsan Shire

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