Midnight Confession #24: Face for Radio, Voice for Biopics

  
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Another installment of my audio confessions!

My voice is one of my few personal attributes about which I feel unequivocally good. I really like my voice! I’ve always felt like I could a lot with it. Although sometimes I get asked to do voice-over for a preteen or teenage role, and then I’m a bit lost —I didn’t even sound like a teenager when I was a teenager! I’ve had a voice like Bea Arthur (if she were doing a cover of Moon Unit Zappa’s part in “Valley Girl”) since I was eleven.

I’ve been told by other people that I have a great voice, too, but I do wonder sometimes if my hybrid New York/Valley Girl dialect diminishes things. A few weeks ago I asked people on Twitter what they thought the sexiest English-language accents were. Nobody said New York or Valley Girl. Most people said Irish, which I could definitely understand, though I personally said Scottish and New Zealand were my favorites. The Kiwis fell all over themselves to insist that their accent wasn’t pleasant at all, and the Scottish response was basically just “Damn right, we’re sexy!” (Apparently people in the UK agree, it comes up on polls as the best or sexiest accent all the time — although surprisingly, it’s often tied with the Geordie dialect. I only learned that Geordie was a thing like a month ago.)

A few people said Southern U.S. (especially Louisiana), but aside from, that pretty much nobody said any other American accents. Northeast accents aren’t considered attractive, Midwest and Pacific Northwest accents aren’t even known about outside of the US, and our baseline General American dialect seems to be considered about as exciting as water. Maybe because it’s all over TV, so we’re used to it? Although honestly, most of the TV and films I watched growing up were made in Canada. One of my favorite games to play when I was watching movies as a teenager (especially when something was set in “New York” but very obviously filmed in Toronto or Vancouver) was “Spot the Canadian.” When Ellen Page asked Jason Bateman why yuppies loved “herbs” so much in Juno I all but stood up in the theater and yelled “CANADIAN SPOTTED!” Not that it’s a bad thing; as I’ve mentioned on here before, nothing makes me feel closer to an actor than an accent slip. I heard Sarah Snook say pronounce “been” like “bean” the other day on Succession and my heart fluttered a little.

But please don’t tell anyone I’ve been watching Succession, or I will be legally obligated to tweet about it. (Probably something about how I want the theme as my ringtone. Who even uses ringtones anymore?)

Stuff I Did This Week: I was on the podcast Coming Out with Lauren and Nicole! They were so wonderful, welcoming and funny. I talked about imposter syndrome, myths about bisexuality, and which world-famous actress that I worked with as a child was my first big crush.

I also did an interview with the International OCD Foundation about facing fears, and discussed one very specific one I am facing right now!

Coming up soon, I will be performing a very personal true story on RISK! at Dynasty Typewriter in LA on October 24th! It’s a great show, one I’ve always loved doing, and I can’t wait to do again. Get your tickets now!

I’m also going to be on the Wrestlesplania podcast! I recorded this with my good friend Rachel Millman, and I cannot wait for it to come out!

Fake BBC Show Title of the Week: Let’s Fetishize the Geordie Accent

For Those About to Playwrite

A Suggestion for Those Just Starting in Dramatic Writing Programs

Content Note: Mentions of all kinds of weird and disturbing sexual assault, violent, controversial, and taboo topics in this one. Nothing you wouldn’t read about in a Theater Studies class or writing workshop, but maybe not something you want to read about right now. And that’s fine!

Hello, young writers! You are at college now! It’s exciting, isn’t it? And probably also terrifying! You have the freedom to create whatever you want. This is the time for you to try out some new ideas. But I would like to give you a word of advice, based on my six years of art school (two in high school, four in college).

You really don’t need to write a play about incest.

There’s always at least one person in the class who does it. They’re nearly always an only child. They’re never a survivor working something out (which I’d never tell someone not to do), they’re someone wanting to be seen as original. They always include it as a big revelation near the end, one that adds nothing to the rest of the story. After the girl’s drug overdose or the boy’s murder, it’s revealed that the young lovers were actually… SISTER AND BROTHER?!

I don’t know why this always happens. And it’s not just incest! (Damn, there’s a disturbing sentence.) There are myriad other taboo subjects your peers will be tempted to write about—I’ve lost count of how many times I read plays or sketches about cannibalism, for one. Sometimes it’s just a controversial issue: I don’t know what it is, but college students love to write about abortion. And yet, it’s almost never written about in a political way, that is to say, a morality tale about why abortion should remain legal, or why it shouldn’t. Instead, it’s used to show that a character is evil (usually because they tried to force their partner to get one), or joked about in an “edgy” way, or just used to heighten stakes. There’s never much consideration of what it actually is. It’s just a hot-button issue, so it’s a good attention-getter.

And that’s part of the issue: you might want an attention-getter. You’ll likely be worried your writing or imagery can’t stand on its own. You gotta get a gimmick, and the gimmick is a hot topic, or, you know, incest or patricide or fratricide or infanticide or mutilation or any of the other things you’re reading about in Theater History. Actually, that’s probably a major contributor to this: you’ll be wading through the mire of The Oedipus Cycle or The Oresteia or Senecan tragedies, so you’ll be absorbing all this subconsciously. (Maybe at some point you’ll actually take a day to focus on something other than Western Theater History and you’ll get to watch that Kabuki play where a long-lost, seemingly amnesiac fox spirit is drawn to a drum made of its parents’ skins? I thought that was very sweet!) Kind of hard not to think of the worst things humanity does when you’re writing essays on it every week.

But you can also just learn your own voice. Writing workshops, in my opinion, are safe spaces. I don’t mean in the way that conservative pundits, or former comedians who mostly just complain these days rather than actually do comedy, mean “safe space.” I mean a place for you to experiment. “Everything we write in here will suck,” my playwriting teacher Jeni said on the first day, and she was right. Everything we wrote did suck, at first. Then we talked about it, and did rewrites—which I was shocked to learn could just mean re-writing a single line; I did that for the first play I ever wrote and it changed the story completely—and read them again, and learned how to give feedback, and suddenly they didn’t suck so much anymore. Some of them were even really good.

Even if you don’t think you are writing about yourself, you are, in some small way, writing about yourself. Fiction is often way more revealing than nonfiction. You can still be a good person and write about disturbing things, of course. Maybe you want to write something darker because you have trauma you think it would be cathartic to write about. Sometimes your characters will just lead you to strange places. But for the love of Aeschylus, Kālidāsa, and Izumo no Okuni, you don’t need to write the grossest, edgiest thing to stand out.

Then again, I started writing my first produced play when I was 20, and it had references to the War on Terror, underage drug and alcohol use, suicide, abortion, statutory rape, and satanism. So what the hell do I know?

Fake BBC Show of the Week: Death and Mrs. Purley

Midnight Confession #23: I Want Candy

  
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Another installment of my late-night confessions!

Sometimes litter tells a story. Once I saw a bunch of men’s clothes and belongings that had very clearly been thrown from a window, and knew that someone had just been broken up with. Sometimes it’s a story you’d rather not know, like the time I saw a condom on the floor of a McDonald’s in Toronto.

I’m not sure what this story was, though I’d like to think it was a child’s birthday party. The sunscreen was from a responsible parent, the Topo Chico seltzer from someone trying not to drink too much at a kid’s birthday party, candy for the kids. I feel like birthday parties, for kids, are all about getting a sugar fix: one girl I knew growing up even wrote on her tenth birthday invitations “Come if you like Sandy Candy!”

Sandy Candy was basically just Pixy Stix, but for some reason, it was huge at the time. (I was reflecting on how much Beverly Cleary got right about childhood today, and this is one example: Ramona and Beezus always have strange food-related “fads” at their school—gummy bears, hard-boiled eggs, putting a banana sticker on your forehead.) There was also Raven’s Revenge, which was basically just goth Pixy Stix. I somehow remember there being a scary-looking raven on the label? But maybe I was just a gothy kid.

It was definitely a sign of strength to be able to withstand a sour or spicy candy, especially ones with disturbing names, like Warheads or Atomic Fireballs. Although someone in my second grade class once got in trouble for bringing Lucas candy, a Mexican tamarind-and-chilies powdered candy, to school. It was a bit too spicy for some of the white kids in our second grade, I guess, and our teachers actually took it as an opportunity to talk to us about… drugs? I guess the message was “never put something in your mouth without knowing what it is,” but when I look back on it as an adult it feels a little racist. You probably shouldn’t eat Lucas candy nowadays, though: I just learned that many varieties of it have been found contaminated with lead.

Anyway, if anybody wants to have a sunscreen, seltzer, and sour patch kids party, hit me up. It may be a little late in the year for it, but there’s always next summer. And don’t litter!

Stuff I Did This Week: My essay about an Akira Kurosawa movie that changed how I saw Shakespeare forever went up on Talkhouse Film! If you’ve never seen a Kurosawa movie, I can’t recommend him enough: he really was a master, and his work is very accessible.

Also, there was a really great episode of Passenger List this week, and you should definitely listen to it, not only because one of my FAVORITE PERFORMERS EVER guest stars on it, but also because it leads very nicely into next week’s episode, which was written by someone you know and love! Or at least know and like enough to get a newsletter from! If you haven’t listened to the first few episodes, though, don’t ruin it for yourself, go back and listen from the beginning!

Fake BBC Show of the Week: Mrs Crimble’s Christmas Sweetshop

Things I Believe Carly Rae Jepsen To Be

I don’t believe Carly Rae Jepsen is human.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her music. She is an underrated pop icon. I just kind of don’t believe that she is real and living. She seems more like a concept to me. I haven’t watched interviews with her for this reason, I think it would be too uncanny. She is very obviously from another realm, and not just Canada.

I would fully believe if you told me she was any of the following:

A sculpture come alive, except the sculpture was made completely out of Funfetti icing

That scene in Ghost, except instead of clay it is Funfetti icing

The only thing able to melt the Ice Queen’s frozen heart

A little changeling girl raised by the Fairy Queen

A little changeling girl (with a tuft of magical blue hair) raised by humans who will grow up to take on the evil Fairy Queen

What rose out of the sea on a neon clamshell off the coast of Fire Island when somebody threw a broken candy necklace into the waves

What sprung out of God’s head fully formed when they gave themselves a headache trying to think of a nice gift to give the gays for having had a rough go of it for so long

What would happen if Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were actually a couple

What would happen if HedonismBot ate TimBits instead of grapes

What would happen if a deity fell as a shower of gold glitter into the lap of a (consenting) Canadian woman rafting down the Chilliwack River

Everything you log in your mood-tracking app

Everything you thought Prom would be when you first found out about it as a child

Everything you made your Barbies pretend to be and do when you were pretending to make them live grow-up lives, except not constantly having lots of sex

Everything you made your Barbies pretend to be and do, including constantly having lots of sex

One of those sex toys that does not actually look like a sex toy, but like a rubber ducky or a tube of lipstick or something else completely innocuous

Ramona Flowers’ only non-evil ex from her former life

Alexis Rose’s only non-evil friend from her former life

The neon lights of L.A. reflecting off the clouds on one of its rainy days

The taste on your lips after you kiss someone who’s wearing flavored lipgloss

The feeling of being “hyper,” which is all but forgotten after you go through puberty and realize there are other things you can be (caffeinated, drunk, horny, stoned, etc.)

The word “lover,” except somehow it’s not gross

A single tear that dropped into your diary

A synthesizer that has been taught to feel love

A bra that fits!

A secret chord that David played, and it pleased the Lord, except it’s a club remix

Stuff I Did This Week: I was on the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression! It’s funny and sad, listen to it!

Fake BBC Show of the Week: With the Utmost Respect, Prime Minister (I know I say this every week, seriously, what the hell is going on over there?)

Midnight Confession #22: No Stage Banter, Please, We're British

  
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Another installment of my audio confessions!

OK, it wasn’t actually last night, but I did The Secret Society of the Sisterhood this past week, and it went great! The audience there is always so lovely. I was a bit nervous about telling the story I told, but they made me feel so comfortable and accepted.

Do people really do the “picture the audience in their underwear/naked” thing when they have stage fright? I’ve never tried it, even when I’ve been really nervous. I can’t imagine it making me feel any less uncomfortable. And I did have stage fright as a kid! Not when I was very young, but it kicked in around nine or ten, once I was finally old enough to care about what other people thought of me. Then I took improv classes and did plays and sang in choirs and eventually I felt more comfortable on a stage than anywhere else.

As for flirting, well, just like being onstage, sometimes you feel it and sometimes you don’t. Not only am I bad at flirting, but I feel like people around me aren’t good at conveying whether or not they’re flirting with me. This was especially true in my early twenties: I once asked a friend I had a slight crush on, whom I’d been hanging out with one-on-one in very date-y ways, if he was interested in me. He moved his head back and forth for a few seconds, as if he were mulling it over, then responded, “I’d say no.”

It’s still one of my favorite ways I was rejected. (Another friend said it sounded like a “30 Rock cold open,” and it kind of did!) A few years later I called him on it, and he apologized, saying he was trying to turn me down in the most polite way he could. “Well, you failed there,” I said, and we both laughed.

Flirting, I think, is heavily dependent on local culture. I’ve learned a lot about this from traveling. Australians greet you with a hug and a drink and make you feel like they’re your best friend, so it can feel like it’d hard to discern whether or not they’re actually into you — but I’ve learned that when they are, you’ll know. Most Canadians and Scandinavians, in my experience, tend to try to be polite and not draw too much attention to themselves, so you can usually tell when they’re trying a little harder to get your eye. In Italy, it felt like I was never not being flirted with, my Spanish was too bad to tell whether or not anybody was flirting with me in Mexico, and I’ve never been there, but I already know that absolutely nobody would be interested in me in France. Without a doubt, though, there is no worse place to try to flirt than England.

I grew up in a time when a lot of American girls had crushes on British actors and singers, and would talk about how they’d love to have a cute English boyfriend. That was incredibly dumb of us. Not only are English men the same as men everywhere (many are great, a lot aren’t great, most are somewhere in the middle), but there is absolutely no way to tell if an English person, of any gender, is interested in you. They don’t talk about their feelings, they don’t know how to accept compliments, they’re not physical even when given consent. Asking an English person to just tell you whether or not they “fancy” you would be akin to suddenly punching them in the stomach. It’s extremely hard to try to flirt there when you don’t drink, and of course, even harder when you’re a woman trying to flirt with other women. Maybe it’s different in Ireland or Scotland, but you’re never getting past that stiff upper lip in England. Do yourself a favor and see if there are any cute Australians around, instead.

Anyway, the show I did went really well, and in the near future, I hope to both do more storytelling shows, and visit New Zealand. (I have no ideas how Kiwis flirt, but I intend to learn.)

Stuff I Did This Week: Oh man! I have not one, but TWO big announcements! First of all, the Faceless Old Woman is getting her own book! Pre-order it now, I’ve just started reading an advance copy, and it’s wonderful. I am so grateful to Joseph and Jeffrey for this; she is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever played, and yes, I will be reading the audiobook!

Also, the podcast radio drama I worked on, Passenger List, is out! You can listen to the first two episodes now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts, and more will be coming out soon. The episode I wrote is further down the line, but in the meantime, follow along with the mystery of what happened to Flight 702! You’ll also get to hear some really amazing voice actors, many of whom I cannot believe I got to write for — Kelly Marie Tran! Rob Benedict! Colin Morgan! Queen Patti Lupone! It’s amazing.

Fake BBC Show of the Week: Great Britain’s Worst Flirts (Might just be an extended overhead shot of all of England)

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