Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankssleeping

Iiiit's Thanksgiving! The American holiday that originates with the destruction of indigenous peoples but more and more is being reclaimed by everyone who is not ok with celebrating *that* as a day for showing your love and gratitude to those around you.

For me at this point it's just a chance to show off and get accolades for my kitchen skillz.

I am not cooking a full meal this year thank goodness, nor am I hosting in any capacity. I will be going to a 'Friendsgiving' hosted by two of my favourite people the charming and beautiful Alison Blair and Ben Holbrook. Ali is on turkey detail. I'm bringing homemade cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and I'm thinking warm butternut squash and kale salad. Also may attempt something gluten free with pears and chocolate for a coeliac in our midst. I anticipate a warmth- and fun-filled day of relative ease.

Thank goodness cos I am exteeemely tired from a frantic 3 days multi-jobbing, soliciting businesses for donations to FTP event, dance rehearsing and having really fun talks with my talented roommates who have both been roped into playing music/creating video content for the staged reading at our event on the 15th. Fun stuff. I'm writing this as I carry shopping bags full of whipping cream, flour, squash and eggs around the city because the only time I had to shop was in my break between jobs today. Better that than the alternative which is going at 9pm when it will be carnage.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I forgot to include this...

This is the webpage for the Solocom show I was part of - 6 ladies doing 15 minute sets. Read all the way down to my show summary, it's my favourite part.

https://thepit-nyc.com/event/2015-11-20-solocom-character-kick-off-hosted-by-marshall-york

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mavericks

He's Maverick, I try to think like a maverick. Mav is helping me recover from a tiring but extremely creatively fulfilling weekend - I love this dog!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Get up Stand Up

Well I've never done THAT before.

In a nutshell, last night I did a 15(ish) minute stand up comedy set at the People's Improv Theatre in Manhattan.

Here's roughly how that came about.
I became Facebook friends with Peter Michael Marino, a comedy performer who had a show in Edinburgh this year. Yes he knows Ben - I found out after the show last night. Peter posted on Facebook about Solocom and he wrote 'just submit, write the show afterwards' so I did just that, thinking 'I won't be accepted because I don't have any past material or an improv background or anything else they're asking for'.
I submitted about 3 months ago, they accepted me about 2 months ago and about 2 days ago I ran my routine for the first time. I spent the 2 months since being accepted thinking 'I really need to write some material', occasionally writing some but not using it and answering the question 'what are you going to do?' with 'no idea, seriously none'.

You'd think that by 6pm yesterday an hour before the show I would've been FREAKING OUT. Lack of preparation, never done anything remotely like this before plus I was, through some clerical error, in a show of 15 minute solo shows which were all character comedy pieces. I didn't do a lot of planning but I do know that I never planned to do a character show. So I was the odd one out on top of everything else.

It's the damndest thing - not once in the past several weeks have I had a moment of 'oh God I can't do this'. I also never thought oh yeah I'm all over this, I know exactly what I'm doing. I can't explain - I kept waiting to be nervous yesterday before the show and the nerves didn't come. I did, once, say to myself 'what have I done?' But more in a funny way than a panicked way.

The girl before me, Sharon, was doing some crazy stuff with costumes and wigs and sound cues and music and really got the audience going (I was after her so I couldn't see her show but I watched her set up). And the evening's host Marshall York did his interstitial bit and he introduced me, I heard my name and walked onto the stage...it was like an out of body experience.

I'm so delighted that the audience was on board, they laughed a lot and in places I really wasn't expecting a laugh. I was really only expecting a couple and that was me being optimistic. So an amazing reaction but more than that I'm so happy that I've never felt more comfortable on a stage in my life.
I know, right? I've been on stage a lot, doing all different things and I don't get stage fright or anything but there are always pre-show butterflies and the clutch of fight or flight adrenaline. This - nothing. Not once. I can't understand it or believe it really because it doesn't make any sense to be that relaxed about something I've never done and barely prepared for.
And I was comfortable enough to riff some things on the spot - again, can't explain it don't know how it happened but they popped into my head and I said them and the audience LAUGHED...man.
Out of body experience.

Peter came into the dressing room afterwards and congratulated me and then said 'is Ben your brother?'
Yup, you got me - I'm trying to start a transatlantic Fairey solo show comedy monopoly.

The whole thing actually comes down to Ben cos if he hadn't done his show in Edinburgh he wouldn't have met Peter and become Facebook friends and he wouldn't have shared an article that Peter posted so I wouldn't have seen it and also shared it which is what led to Peter adding me on Facebook and me seeing the call for Solocom submissions PLUS if I hadn't just seen my brother perform a solo show in Edinburgh then no way would it have crossed my mind to submit. So thanks Ben!

Really glad I took a leap and put myself in a position to sink or swim, relying 100% on just me no props no costume no director no choreography. I hope I swam. I at least floated.

All the places *from Sunday 15th

Goings on about town...hmm what's been going on

Well.

I am in rehearsals for 'I Could Never Love Anyone', a piece of dance created by my choreographer friend Katie Pettit (remember her? She's been in this blog before) which explores the facets of addiction. I am one third of the 'hydra head' of the protagonist's addiction, that is to say we are no zoning in on one say specific addiction but addressing it as a whole but representing different elements with different dancers. It's pretty melancholy subject matter but not at all a melancholy group of dancers, I LOVE my two co-hydra head guys I've danced with them both before and hope to again, they're awesome. And I've met two new dancers which is always nice.

Last Monday I sang for the incomparable Kevin Winebold who I've known for the most random reason for nearly 3 years now (random reason being that we were both briefly members of a Jewish feminist tap group) he is the music director for a Methodist Church in Bayside Queens though his most recent pro gig was playing piano for Ringling Bros circus so you know he's the real deal. He puts together this annual fundraiser for the church, it's very laid back but really nice and they are a super appreciative community. Plus they raised $2000 for a malaria charity.
He really is one of the best accompanists I've ever worked with, so rock solid you could hand him any piece of music and perform it straight away no rehearsal without worrying at all, because he would follow the music meticulously while also following you for tempo, and if you mess up he goes right with you so noone knows. It's amazing, it's like the most relaxing scenario you could have as a singer. I sang Maybe This Time (for the second time with him) and For Good from Wicked - never sung it before in my life nor have I ever sung with Morgan before. As I said Kevin is rock solid and I know both parts the song extremely well so only having one run through 5 minutes before was not panic inducing. This whole thing is a great no pressure environment to just sing whatever you want with a mic and nice church acoustics.

Fundamental Theater Project are gearing up for a fundraiser evening on Dec 15th - getting donations, securing catering, staging a reading, trying to hook in some 'names', sending invitations to potential patrons. It's exciting but also very nerve racking - we have a wonderful and high end theater, we have a poster and a press release, we have a name secured to star in the reading sooo no backing down now.

And speaking of no backing down on Friday 20th come hell or high water I will be alone on a stage with 15 minutes to do...SOMETHING. What that will be is anyone's best guess. I don't have zero material anymore but I'm not entirely sure I won't just black out as soon as I step out. Here's to being a complete rookie!

I went to see The Martian with Lauren yesterday. Very good, very sciencey, very intense, almost made me want to be an astronaut until I remembered my mortal fear of hurtling untethered through space.

Right this minute I'm on my way to the Bowery Poetry Club to see the wonderful Moorea Masa play and sing. I met her in Portland because my Swisster* Wave found out I was there and told me to go and see her friend Moorea play a show...Wave's boyfriend attended the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts he's a rad saxophonist, Moorea also went there so Wave and Moorea met and somewhere in there Wave and I met, a few years after that I went to Portland and Wave found out and told me to go see her friend Moorea perform, I did, she opened her mouth to sing and I fell in love with everything she does because she's unbelievable, she defies superlatives and the rest is history...well not history because it's only 5 months since we met BUT Moorea was in NYC doing some gigs and she told me about the one tonight to which I said YES...and I started this post before going in and I'm finishing it after coming out. Needless to say I am many things now...blown away...overflowing...possibly overblown? Anyway
Let me try to explain what just happened because it's important.
There is a man called Sean who runs a monthly night at Bowery Poetry Club called Symphonics Live. It's a variety of performers - I enjoyed a rock band, beatboxers, freestyle rappers, spoken word poetry, avant garde neo soul piano, a bunch of Broadway actors utilising hidden talents, a couple of multi-musician live jams, and at the center of it all Moorea who is captivating, she's iridescent...she's a lot of words that could also be applied to a unicorn now I think about it except that she is not a mythical creature she's flesh and blood but she sounds like a mythical creature...

It was such a warm, loving and respectful room of people, performers and audience alike. People used the evening as a forum to express their sadness over the events of the weekend and their gratitude that they have this medium, music, to help people understand how they feel. It made me think of how the arts always takes a big hit in terms of funding for schools and programmes whenever cuts need to be made...I understand the difference between needing money for hospitals and needing money for arts, we all do. But for millenia, art has been the thing that draws people together out of emotional need not intellectual interest and the world needs good, pure artists with no agenda beyond sharing their gift in the hope of shining a light on something more than it needs a new iPhone.

This evening was just the tonic and I feel fully restored after a week of feeling fine  but spiritually underfed. 

Title of this blog is a song by a group called Made In Heights that I want to choreograph to. Right now also listening on repeat to a song called LA Lately by Israel Nash, swoony acousticy psychedelicy stuff.

Friday, November 13, 2015

#prayforParis

I'm reading updates as they come on the nightmarish events in Paris.  My heart hurts for the people there and for all my dear French friends. It's not fair that such a thing could happen. There are no words really but I feel very sad and want to put my condolences out into the universe.

#prayforParis

I'm reading updates as they come on the nightmarish events in Paris.  My heart hurts for the people there and for all my dear French friends. It's not fair that such a thing could happen. There are no words really but I feel very sad and want to put my condolences out into the universe.

The Beauty Myth and Ugly Truth

Something happened over the Halloween weekend that shook me up. This is going to be a long and unapologetic one, buckle up.

I was on my way home on the 3 train.
There are a series of heinous ads on the subway that showed up sometime just before the summer, as I remember anyway, for a plastic surgery place on the upper east side. These ads are not subtle, they are not clever. My least favourite one features a young woman holding two clementines in front of her chest and making a sad face. Next to that image is another image of her, this time holding two grapefruit in front of her chest and beaming with joy. Subliminal, right?
No. Absolutely disgusting. It's hard for me to explain what is wrong with that because I become frustrated at how glaringly obvious it is and yet there are those who just don't get it.
Summary: implying that women - and it is exclusively women, there are no men in any of these ads and they all refer to female not male anatomy - will be happier when they have permanently altered their bodies through surgery is fundamentally wrong.  It preys on women's insecurities, insecurities that were created in the first place by the 'beauty' industry, and attacks women on a basic psychological level, telling them 'you are not good enough as you are' and 'you don't deserve to be happy with the way you were born'.
I believe in maintaining a healthy BMI, I believe that if you are unhappy with something about your body and it's within the power of diet and exercise to change it then by all means you should make it happen. I also believe that there are things about human bodies that cannot be altered through diet and exercise. Aesthetic perfection is a man-made ideal and the culture surrounding it exists for precisely one reason: so a few people can make big money.  They promote dissatisfaction with self, then tell you they have the magic fix for that dissatisfaction, so they must be good guys right? We are being held hostage.

There is a feminist collective who have been putting stickers over these ads and other obvious violations of women's equal right to healthy self-esteem that read simply 'This insults women'.
I firmly advocate for this - it's a very not aggressive way of keeping the conversation open and also reminding people not to BELIEVE what the advertisers want you to, because you do not have to. Anything that provokes discussion in a harmless way is good.

And discussion it provoked. Some stupid teenager stood up, took a pen from his pocket and doctored the sticker to read 'this helps women's confidence'.

He sat down again and I looked at him. He smirked at me and asked what, so I nodded to the sticker.
He proceeded to tell me that 'yo guys want women to look good if it makes a woman feel good to get a bigger booty she should be allowed to'
Let's break down some of what's wrong with that quickly:
- So? Womens choices are not to be dictated by what men want
- The only reason many women feel the need to change their appearance drastically through surgery is because they have been unfairly duped into thinking it will improve everything in their life
- The stickers do NOT deny a woman's right to choose surgery or not they merely state the accurate fact that to suggest women should have 'mommy makovers' et al is insulting

He also told me that it was whoevers right to put the sticker there just as it was his right to deface it.  Which...well they're both technically not allowed but let's assume they are for a minute - yeah its your right, I suppose. You're not actually hurting anyone directly...but by so openly admitting to being part of the problem you're hurting a lot of people indirectly whereas the stickers are there to defend not hurt. So yes technically speaking you can do it but it is not your ethical right to deface a piece of media that is part of a wider campaign to protect.

Mommy makeovers is the one that really killed me. This is an industry that wants women to inject toxins into their bodies and also apparently negate the pride they should feel in their bodies' ability to create life by reversing the physical effects of pregnancy as fast as possible after giving birth or something.  It's hard to believe that there are human beings behind these campaigns, who must have their own mothers daughters and sisters. Or their own female bodies.

So I had a brief and pointless exchange with this kid where I was mostly too gobsmacked to say anything useful but I just wanted to know if he really thought those ads helped women's confidence. He really did. Then he got off just as I was about to start seeing red so it was good timing. The other passengers were looking at me - a couple with some trepidation and a couple with support. A middle aged couple got up and came down the train car to look at the sticker and ask me what he'd been saying so I told them. The woman was great and also likes the stickers, and another girl from down the train called out her agreements.

I was still feeling pretty enraged so I said most of what I've written here during our discourse...and then the little fucker GOT BACK ON THE TRAIN and walked right into the conversation. So this time the woman spoke to him asking him why he did that. A favourite answer of his was 'that's how the world is' and 'welcome to America'...so it's not like we were dealing with a seasoned debator or something and yet the part of my brain that says 'there is no point having this argument this guy is a moron' was having a snooze (it's usually having a snooze to be honest) so I saw red and went back in feet first. I asked him if he has a mother or sisters and he said yes he has 3 sisters. And I suggested that he imagine someone telling his sisters that they are valued purely on their appearance which must adhere to a strict formula at any cost. And he charmingly said that he was honest with his sisters and he'd 'tell them that they are pieces of meat' because, all together now, that's how the world is.
By this point I'm almost spitting fury and raising my voice and really getting ready to throw down (the other woman was still valiantly defending reason too) and around about that point he
a) devolved into shouting about being a troll and how fun it was for him to witness our anger
b)mocking feminism in general using a whiny voice
c) began the sentence 'it's like with race...' at which point I shouted him down
d) got off the train but not before threatening to fuck up the woman's husband.

So a real class act and beacon of logic.
I KNOW you can't argue with people who are willfully ignorant, I KNOW you shouldn't 'feed the trolls'. I know. I know getting in a loud fight on the train with a complete lunatic isn't the answer. But dear god...you also can't just let them go about their day doing and saying whatever they like with the pure intention to upset. You just can't. If EVERYONE in that train car had stood up, come over and said to him 'you are wrong, you are ignorant and you will be despised your whole life for your nasty hurtful attitude' - I don't think he would have changed at all but at least he would not have been able to continue with his pathetic agenda in the face of a united front. But there is never a united front. He represents a much bigger problem. What if every time that kind of behaviour was witnessed, everyone stood up to it? It might be a hundred train car graffiti idiots not listening and not caring BUT what if the 101st one was contested by a train full of people and actually learned something from it? That's one less agent of the bigger problem.

I will also point out that the images in these ads are nothing to do with any notion of beauty beyond a very narrow western ideal. The images promote being thin, cellulite and stretch mark free, having big boobs and a golden brown tan. So really not reflective of what a variety of people actually consider beautiful. I have a favourite book set in a Jamaican village which describes women who are considered beautiful as being 'nice an' fat with a bumpa botty' - use your imagination. I'm not going down that rabbit hole now but that's another big problem staring us right in the face - 'ladies if you want to feel better about your lives and your looks you should get this popular look that some guys made up a while ago and advertised it until it came true! Don't worry if you're not a thin white girl with a tan because SURGERY' god.

After he and the couple had got off I looked around and apologised to the train in general. The girl sitting further down was very kind and agreed with me while reminding me that he was an idiot and not worth it.
The two guys sitting opposite me looked kind of terrified which is funnyish now...but they both had a comment along the lines of 'I don't get why its a big deal if women want surgery why shouldn't they have it'

Even just writing that makes me want to flop to the ground in sheer despair.
Let's reiterate:

The ads for plastic surgery on the subway are NOT championing a woman's right to choose the fate of her own body. They are not denying it either. They are subliminally undermining her satisfaction with her body by presenting a tummy tuck, mommy makeover or facelift as something that will improve her life, something that she really ought to invest in - the very existence of these ads does that BECAUSE Like the vast majority of advertising, they are trying to convince you that you NEED something - because if you don't think you need it why would you buy it? They falsify a need to sell a product it's as simple as that, there is no deeper message here and imagining that there is an agenda beyond financial gain is naïve.

So these two poor scared blokes, who probably should've just kept quiet honestly, chimed in. They did try to mitigate slightly - they were genuinely confused it seems. I gave them some suggested reading and encouraged them simply to put themselves in the place of those who are targeted by these subway ads. Empathy could go a long way and I find it strange that so many people don't think of doing that first then speaking.

After I'd given a milder rapid fire diatribe attempting to debunk the myth that ads for plastic surgery on women are anything more than propaganda meant to perpetuate a cycle of unhappiness and therefore big money spent on a 'fix', everything was quiet. I cooled down from borderline combustion to smouldering embers. I got to my stop, left the train, walked home, sat on my bed and burst into tears. The whole hideous incident made me feel utterly helpless and like there is just no hope for humanity or the planet.
Luckily my ace roommate and his ace girlfriend arrived home shortly after and I recounted the tale. They immediately understood everything wrong with what had happened, David offered up a number of both brilliant and hilarious suggestions for dealing with those kind of people and Christina shared some of her own experiences of disgusting ignorance and sexism - I am not alone and there must be some hope after all because the people understanding my frustration are so much cooler and cleverer than most people who don't.
I also posted on social media about the incident which I don't do a lot but enough people responded with support that I didn't feel like a lone crusader against complete imbecility.

The one final thing that upset me a little was that the response from a couple of people was 'he sounds like a stupid guy don't worry about him' which is well meaning but completely misses the point. It's not the individual, it's the pervasive attitude held by too many individuals. I'm not ranting and crying because a boy was mean to me on the train. I'm shouting because an entire sector of the population is willing to accept that psychologically manipulating women to aspire to unrealistic beauty standards is an ok thing to do and I will not stop shouting about it any time soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ode to Roommates

In the US they're called roommates so that's what I'm using.

Roommates old and current. I have been so unbelievably lucky to have lived with four specific people who have not just been the people I live with, they've been fully fledged friends.
I still refer to Jacob and Lola as my roommates and obviously Dan and David who are my roommates now.
It's a rare and special thing to make new friends in any case once you're outside the world of school or uni or if you don't have the kind of steady job where you can have work friends. It's also a rare and special thing to move in with close friends and remain close friends, and also to move in with someone you are only acquainted with and end up counting them as one of your best friends and kindred spirits.
I can never express enough my appreciation for these people and how they enrich my life and make the place I live a home.  Happy thought of the day!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Play by Play

This is Autre Ne Veut who I went to see last Monday. His real name is Arthur. He sings with a gravelly falsetto and makes yearning r'nb with dark currents of synth running through the bass, drums and gospelly backing vox.  I'm fully addicted to the song Play by Play. He puts on an awesome live show. As electronic as the music sounds recorded, it's played on stage with live instruments and singers. Props to his excellent band. He also brings it, and has the kind of vocal rasp live where you feel like he might not make a note, but he unfailingly does - it's just one of those freak voices that operates in a unique way.
For now I've run out of bands to go and see so I need to check the latest wave of concert announcement emails that have me on their mailing list.

Maverick

My newest doggy best pal is Maverick the beautiful retriever, he's the dopiest, squishiest best full-grown dog I've met in the city so far. We obviously became instant best friends. Lauren was dogsitting him at the time filling in for Alison. Lauren got tired of him very quickly so I came over to give him some fuss. He's the greatest.