Artistic Statement For Sundance

default-2013Dear Sundance Person,

I have no doubt that you have received many qualified applicants for the Playwright’s Lab. Pretty kick ass reputation you’ve got, Sundance.  I’m no slouch, but in regards to my chances of making the cut I do feel akin to a snowball in, let’s just say LA over the past few weeks. (I walked five blocks in the valley on Monday, so I have a sense of Hell).   Nonetheless, I believe in Affirming To The Universe my worth as a human being by Putting Myself Out There.  Sure, I’ll send you my play and $35. However, one aspect of this application gives me great pause: the Artistic Statement.   WHAT IS THIS?

Do you think Shakespeare wrote an Artistic Statement?  Is this statement writing process how jazz got invented?  Did F. Scott Fitzgerald summarize his relationship to metaphors in a letter to Maxwell Perkins prior to writing “The Great Gatsby?” He did write many letters to Maxwell Perkins about it, but as many of us Gatsby nerds can agree, the point of “The Great Gatsby” and every other great piece of  “art” in human history can only be found in a person’s relationship to it. In other words: THE WORK SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.

Putting aside these questions, I forged ahead.  My heart sank at the words “Artistic Statement” but I nonetheless scoured my brain and history for the most pretentious things I’ve done and said.   The list is long, varied, embarrassing and hopefully ends around the year 2001, but maybe not.   Yes, I took to Creative Writing in college.  I once placed the classic quote from MacBeth that begins with “Tomorrow, tomorrow…” before a story because I thought I had discovered it.  Ah, youth…

Frankly, I’m not sure I can find a way to do this that doesn’t read like something written by a pretentious ass. Also, I can’t imagine the degree of douchiness this kind of thing might attract.  Frankly, I feel a little sorry for you, dear reader, sent to weed through everyone’s dissertation on experiencing discrimination for being dropped off at school in a Ford Escort or having no nanny. Ok, so I’m being judgmental here and assuming that 90% of your applicants are, if not white, hardly came from humble means.  Am I wrong?  I mean, we can’t raise the minimum wage, protect abortion rights, or guarantee that 9-year-old Guatemalan refugee who has survived  abuse can be guaranteed asylum in the US.  In the grand scheme of life, an Artistic Statement is the equivalent of a teenager’s journal about her unrequited crushes.

What is a Artistic Statement?  Well, Wiki can show you how it’s done here.  Wikipedia says (and they KNOW) an artistic statement “is a written description of (the artists) work. The brief verbal representation is about and in support of, his or her own work to give the viewer understanding.”  (This sentence sucks.) SINCE WHEN IS THERE A CONSENSUS ABOUT UNDERSTANDING ART?

What is a “Statement?”  The Internet Dictionary (another valid source) defines a “statement” as “a definite or clear expression of something in speech or writing.” Definite and clear? WHEN IS ART DEFINITE AND CLEAR? I’M WRITING IN CAPS NOW BECAUSE I’M MAD.  I SAY WE WRITE ALL ARTISTIC STATEMENTS WITH CAPS LOCK ON.

If there’s any statement I can make it’s the desire to not make statements.  Politicians make statements.  Scientists make statements.

“The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.” – Anton Chekhov

What he said.   THERE’S MY STATEMENT.

Sincerely,
Solange

P.S. Please choose me.

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Recap Of The Entire First Season Of The Leftovers In Four Paragraphs (Spoilers Ahead)

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Hitting a wall with your fist always conveys inner-torture.

Don’t have HBO?  Never fear. Here’s the entire season of “The Leftovers” in four paragraphs.

“The Leftovers,” a show that sounds like a sitcom about family dinners, is a disturbing David Lynch-ish drama about the aftermath of the most boring apocalypse ever; no zombies, incurable viruses, or natural disasters, just a lot of people vanishing in one big Star Treck-beam moment. The details matter little to the central plot.  Suffice it to say that dad walked out for a pack of cigarettes and we’re dealing with our abandonment issues. “The Departed” (people who got beamed) include cool people like Michael Jordan and Bill Clinton, but a lot of jerks, too. There’s a lot of debate over whether “the departed” went to heaven or hell.  Creepy Priest Guy (Christopher Eccleston) believes they were punished, but we, the viewers, understand that death has no rhyme or reason…I guess.

Three years later, Cults have replaced Pilates and Yoga as the new thing. The most popular cult, the Guilty Remnants, recruit members stalker-style and instead of wearing yoga pants and developing nice muscle definition, dress in white and smoke cigarettes.  Chief Of Police, aka, Super Hot Cop (Justin Theroux), has sympathy for the GR because his ex-wife Former Therapist Who Reminds Me Of My Last Shrink (Amy Brenneman) joined the GR because, as we come to understand, she was always too It’s-All-Good-I’m-Really-In-Denial (hence, being a therapist) and his daughter may be next.

Super Hot Cop keeps blanking out from his drug and alcohol addiction and doing things like accidentally sleeping with his teenaged daughter’s best friend. WHOOPS. Super Hot Cops’ Son (Chris Zylka) has joined a different cult and is assigned to protect the Asian Pregnant Girlfriend (Annie Q.) of Sadistic Leader/World Savior (Paterson Joseph) who also has a gift for removing emotional pain. (More paradox!) She’s actually one of many impregnated Asian girls by Sadistic Leader/World Savior because Asian women can’t get a break on TV. Her baby turns out to be a girl which she leaves in a public bathroom because Chinese girl babies also can’t even get a break on TV.

Super Hot Cop gets together with Lady Who Lost Her Whole Family (Carrie Coon) and they find some momentary happiness before he goes into a fugue state and kidnaps the Also Sadistic Leader of The Guilty Remnants (Ann Dowd) to torture her. Then she kills herself by sticking a shard of glass into her throat because the Guilty Remnants don’t do anything half-assed. The GR demonstrates this when they enact the last stage of their evil master plan of recreating the last moments The Departed with terrifying mannequins and dredging up the past AGAIN.  There’s no one to direct your anger towards, but maybe that’s the point.   The townspeople go into white people riot-mode and light the GR apartment complex on fire.  Super Hot Cop saves his daughter, who tried to join the GR when she realized that cult-members at the very least have more company, from the dramatic fire.  The next day, Lady Who Lost Her Whole Family adopts Chinese baby. The End.

The acting is as good as the story is confusing.  Or rather the real plot vanished more than the people.   We never learn what really happened, but we tolerate the mystery of life and death…right?

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Hangin’ With The Professional Picnic People

61415nLast night I went to Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival’s “Taming Of The Shrew” performed by the Independent Shakespeare Co. (which was excellent) with two friends. Lucky for me these friends happen to be Professional Picnic People.  If it were up to me I’d be sitting on grass and dead bees with a bag of TJ’s chips and pre-packaged guacamole.  But these were Professionals.  They brought a SPREAD: deli sandwiches, cucumber and bean salad, fresh cookies, a Bed, Bath & Beyond ground cover (that folds into a pillow!), and, most importantly…THE CHAIRS.  Cozy Outdoors Chairs…PORTABLE!  You think Shakespeare In The Park is all about the Shakespeare? You think concerts on the Santa Monica Pier are about music?  You think Summer is about Outdoors?  THINK AGAIN.  It’s all an uncomfortable awkward affair without The Cool Chair.

I do not have a cool chair.   So, my butt froze on the cold hard ground until my friend let me use hers for half the show and guess what?….Holy, shit, my life changed.   You want a good life? Forget about a husband, promotion, or daily gelato or frozen yogurt intake with no consequences to your thighs… GET A COOL CHAIR TO SIT ON AT OUTDOOR EVENTS AND YOUR LIFE WILL ROCK.

My friend is buying a chair with a heater for next summer.  She is BAD ASS.

Does my affinity for chairs mean I’m old?  YES.

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Some Job Interview Advice

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Vying for an H&M sponsorship.

Job interviews can be stressful.  You tow the line of professionalism (aloof, yet competent), while still trying to come across as accessible, real and cool, without creating any awkward David Brent-style TMI moments.  I use words like “intuitive” and “process” (extra points for “methodology”). And if anyone mentions “responsive design” I nod my head like a mofo.   I am a decent interviewee, I think.  But I’m only human.  Keep me in an interview too long and I will eventually crack.

I had an interview a few weeks ago.  Everything had been going fairly well.  My H&M Blazer killed it, as I did my best to rock the District Attorney look (sans glasses and legal brief).   I offered positive and true statements about my work style and assured everyone that I’m extremely “organized,” “detail oriented,” and “OCD-but-in-a-good-way.”  I didn’t include any needless information about therapy, car repairs, or my salsa dance team.  (I can see the raised eyebrow expression on the face of the interviewer along with the thought bubble, “Salsa? Healthy outlet or sexy cult?”).  I made it through several rounds of questions with grace, and appropriate wit…until I started run low on Interview Juice (Peet’s Coffee), and things took a turn.  It was the tail end of an hour and a half of solid delivery, and like a basketball team twenty points ahead, I started to lose my edge.

“So, I heard you’re getting married…congratulations,” I said.

“Thank you.  It’s very stressful.  I wish it wasn’t such a big wedding…”

“Well, at least you’ll have your whole family in one place.  That probably won’t happen again…until your funeral.”

Boom! When do I start?

Take away:  1) Managers have little no interest in my morbid sense of humor 2)  keep the coffee intake going 3) if you can’t do small talk, don’t try and 4) avoid the discussion of death.

I considered not writing a blog about this as I continue to interview for jobs. However, I think it’s a positive attribute that I am aware and reflective of my interactions.

Just for today, it’s a process…

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Blow It Out

blow copy

The sweat dripping down her face not shown.

“So, do you live here?” asked the woman volunteering at the homeless shelter.

“Well, uh…no. Do I look homeless?”

“Well, it could be your first day.”

Hmmm, I see. Women arrive at a shelter looking smokin’ hot and put together. I tried not to act too annoyed, after all homeless women these days look like pretty much anyone. But I took her words as a sign that I need to do the following:

a) Get less sun
b) Shave legs more often
c) Become better acquainted with the blow dryer.
d) All of the above

Yes, D, might be a good answer, but I choose C.  I fully blame the “blowout” salon movement for making the rest of us look homeless.  I will concede that I despise  blow drying my hair.  Crazy, I know. Who doesn’t love hot air blown on her face by an object the shape of a gun for thirty minutes in the summer?

Like any mortal woman my hair does not naturally dry in a fluffy, strand-separated way like a glossy Revlon model.   In the last few years, “Blowout” salons dedicated to the art of The Blow Dry have cropped up in West LA (along with Cupcake and Macaroon stores) and at 35+tip for a single service rake in women’s hard-earned retirement money.  It’s the new waxing of the VJ. (An activity involves paying someone to place hot wax on your privates and subsequently rip off the hair so we can all look 9-years-old and further pervify our culture…NO. THANK. YOU.). The relatively harmless blow dry movement  might score less points on the pain scale, but how long does a blow out last? I’ve never deigned to enter a Blow Out Salon, as within a 12 hour period my hair would go limp from humidity or a work out.

Just for today, I will become closer with my blow dryer.

Posted in Annoyances, Beauty, misogyny, This Los Angeles Life, Uncategorized, White People | Leave a comment

Glamour Project

god_cap

Oh, she is ready…

I read about Glamor Project, an organization that offers homeless women a make-over and photo session, in Westside People in June and felt instantly inspired to volunteer my services.

This past Tuesday I arrived at Daybreak, an interim housing and day program that offers services to homeless women living with a mental illness.  On my way in someone asked me if I lived there.

“Do I look homeless to you?” I asked.

I might need to spend more time with the blow dryer (thank you, blow out movement in West LA), but once I entered and interacted with the residents, I realized that a lot of homeless people don’t look or seem “homeless.”

I met Evvy and Kara, the two founders of Glamour Project, and helped sort out jewelry, scarves and hats.  After each woman received a makeover, I had the privilege of working with her as a “stylist” and watched her transform in ways that went far beyond her physical appearance.

She has a strong sense of her personal style.

I was instructed not to ask any questions.  My sole purpose and focus being to help these women find their style, blossom, sparkle and shine.  To be honest, they could have all been lawyers or postal workers, just women, like myself, discovering that they looked great in pink, hats or when they smiled.

Most of the women put their trust in my Forever 21-developed fashion sense.  One woman, however did not need my help at all.  We’ll call her Grace.

“How about this chain of pearls?”

“Nope.  Not me.”

“A red hat?”

“Nope.”

It was looking grim.

“How about this gold hat?”

Grace looked at it skeptically and then tried it on.

audrey

No caption necessary.

“Oh, this is me,” she said.   From there she went on to assemble a gold and white look that reflected her true beauty and badass self.

I’ve always felt that the girlish delight in style and beauty has been undervalued as frivolous pastime in our society.  And while, yes, in 2014 women spend far too much time and money on their appearance, the experience of women working together to help each other find their beauty offers the opportunity for great connection.  The delight and joy reflected in the pictures and smiles of the women at Daybreak humbled me.

All women who participate receive a gift, either a toiletry or make-up item.  Glamour Project is a 501c non-profit and in need of donations.    To learn more about Glamour Project, please visit the website here.

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Does My Work Reflect Misogynist Thinking?

Zooey Deschanel.

Unoffensive Manic Pixie Dream Girl has tainted my writer’s imagination for female characters. Thanks Hollywood.

Guy meets girl. Guy falls for girl. Girl falls for guy. Guy meets another girl.  The. Drama. Begins.

Who is the Guy character?  He’s a loser. What kind of a loser?  The kind that doesn’t commit to anything, but feels sorry for himself.  Who is this (first) Girl character? She’s smart, but dysfunctional and relationship-challenged.  What does she do about this jacked-up love triangle cliché?  Well, either she leaves and starts a “journey of self-discovery” along the lines of “Eat, Pray, Love” (orders deep dish, reads The Secret, gets groped by her OKCupid first date in his Ford Mustang). Or she becomes…what? The long suffering girlfriend/wife? The magical waif who changes him? Or the Psycho Hose Beast who we all pity.  Either she stays or she goes.  The play hasn’t even been written and I’m already falling asleep.

I, sadly, found that I cared more about the loser guy than the dysfunctional magical-waif would-be hose beast. A loser guy can redeem himself. A loser woman?  What is that? A victim? A trope. (noun, trope; a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression…I was an English major and still not sure what it means.)  The girl becomes a thing, an idea, something we roll our eyes at.  I could make her into a righteous feminist, then we’re getting closer to Solange territory and now I’m even more bored.   Or I could make her ambitious and unfeeling, getting into Lady MacBeth evil woman territory, and now it’s a Hollywood premise.   Female characters are often anything but multidimensional. We are queens, dark angels, fairies, or pure physical matter, we consistently live at the edge of the emotional spectrum.  We are anything but complex.

I got tired of banging my head on the walls of my media-drenched brain, drove to Yogurtland, and asked myself “Am I really just bumping up against my own internalized misogyny.”

It’s not (entirely) my fault.  It’s not like my brain is exempt from a life-long bombardment of misogynist thoughts, images and attitudes that reduce women to talking points in a conversation a male dominated culture has with itself: Cruella De Vil, Daisy Buchanan, Blanche Dubois, Ophelia, Juliette, Psycho Hose Beast, or the latest, Manic Pixie Dream Girl…..fantasies, victims, bitches and psych ward candidates.  The Western literary Canon of male characters is overflowing with complicated, nuanced, loserish or evil-ish characters, from Falstaff to Lebowski to Lecter Hannibal. Even sociopaths get cool guy pass, because they are so smart.  Want to write a male character and not have to worry if he is sympathetic or not?  The world is your oyster.

Like corn syrup and gluten, misogyny leaks into most every aspect of gestation when it comes to culture, media and art.

I do think that Black Women writer’s have done the most to bring women to a place much closer to an experience not defined by the male oeuvre. (oeuvre; noun; the works of a painter, composer, or author regarded collectively…I don’t think I’m using it right).  I can’t trace “Beloved” to anything a man wrote.  “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “The Great Gatsby” were my favorite books in college but could not have a more different approach on the topic of the female search for love.  Janie is a woman who “with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny, while Daisy cries about shirts and Myrtle turns into road kill.  (I have since re-vamped my entire perspective on “The Great Gatsby”).

In short, my imagination has been tainted, yes maybe even raped, when it comes to creating full-spectrum Good And Evil dark, likable and annoying, female characters…

Regardless of what I churn out, I now know that I need to put it through the litmus test of Hollywood Taint.  And that is sad.

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Birthday Piñatas

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Fixing my hair before taking my turn at killing the piñata.

I doubt that many moms today would look kindly upon the practice of allowing a blindfolded kid to swing a bat or other stick-like object with total destruction in mind.   Not to mention, the blindfolded kid first gets spun around until he/she is fully disoriented.  Who doesn’t love a blind disoriented kid swinging a stick in random directions amongst children?  Want a piñata party Ms. White Middle Upper Class Professional Mom?  Might need to sign some legal documents and get an on-call paramedic.

My mom made me a piñata every year until I turned about 8 or 9.  The night before my birthday she stayed up until the wee hours carefully gluing tissue paper onto a paper machete object that originated from a balloon.   She did this with full knowledge that the final work of art would see complete death and destruction within 24 hours.  TALK ABOUT DEDICATION TO THE “PROCESS.”

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This guy is a little scary.  Please note: Not the same piñata as the one above but they are definitely siblings.

I don’t know if she had a vision of what the final piñata would look like, but due to the roundish nature of balloons, they usually became a face, often a clown, per the evidence of these pictures.  One time she used a long balloon and we decided to make it a fish or a whale, we weren’t sure…however, everyone thought it was a submarine with a smiley face.

pinata_apartment_house

A fish or submarine?

I don’t think my mom was slaving away with resentment at fulfilling her duty.  I don’t doubt that the piñata-making party didn’t involve some wine and cigarettes and friends dropping by to do some gluing and decide what this thing should be.

One year we took a box and made a Rubik’s Cube.  It came out beautifully, but was impossible to crack open.  My dad eventually had to break it open.

My father would control the swing that made sure the piñata wouldn’t be destroyed too soon and that all us kids would have an opportunity to enact blind violence on this purveyor of candy.  He made sure to torture us sufficiently so that every kid got to swing into the air or anywhere before he lowered it.   Eventually, we got tired of the game and wanted to collect the booty.  So he would let someone, usually one of my male cousins, destroy the thing and we all dodged flying Tootsie Rolls. I’m sure more than one party guest got a Jolly Roger in the eye socket.  But that’s where the Budweiser came in.  I remember one year nobody could crack it open and eventually my dad took a bat and beat it to the ground.   Parents had fun too.

Eventually, I must have stopped caring about party games. I wanted sleepovers with other girls where we rented VHS movies like “Valley Girl.”  And my mom could no longer express herself through piñata.

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Salsa Teachers

My friend Solomon helped me out with my pitch for the NBC Playground Submission.  It’s kind of a snowball’s-chance-in-hell situation, but we had a blast making this.

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Defending My “Not Tired” Piece

XoJane.com published a blog post I wrote entitled “Not Tired” and day-um people wrote some intense comments. I got called “lazy”, “condescending,” “self-righteous,” and “defensive”.   HEY INTERNET, DON’T HOLD BACK OR ANYTHING. Also, one commenter noted that my frequent use of all caps and parenthesis is a textbook sign of poor writing. OK, SHE HAS A POINT.  (But talk about condescending…). And then the comment-ers debated amongst each other about the seriousness of gluten allergies and Game of Thrones.  I did learn one thing: DO NOT READ COMMENTS.

I want to defend my stance in Not Tired, but the fact that I feel shamed for writing it illustrates the problem perfectly.  However, I have deep-seated desire to be liked, understood and accepted…on the Internet. I know. Not gonna happen.

Yes, I am well-rested…NOW.  But this has not always been the case.  I spent most of my life feeling VERY TIRED. In high school, I woke up at 5:45 AM, went to school and ran 6 miles (even in the rain), attended my roster of AP classes (in which I often stared into space) and the afternoon worked as editor of the yearbook, or met with student council or studied.  I often got home at 5 or 6 and fell asleep on my Calculus homework. I also took care of my toddler-half-sister and maybe once in a while hung out socially.  I loved school.  Without school, I might have run away from home. I commuted between my parents’ homes and it never occurred to me I could change this schedule. So at 18, when I graduated  from high school, I felt pretty tired.  Working that hard got me into an Ivy League school where the pressure to work felt even greater.  I often wondered if I had gone to a UC school I might have some time and space to figure out who I was.  But such is the folly of youth.

Forget about my college-bound geek schedule (which now would be ten times as busy), but the issues in my home and family that drove me to such intensity.  As an adult, I’ve worked many 40+ hour jobs and commuted, and woken up at night in a pool of sweat dreaming about deadlines and projects and art directors who hated me.  I have stressed out my adrenal glands to the point of illness, and none of this advanced me in work, creativity, life or health. It wasn’t about surviving, but about avoiding my feelings, and figuring out what I really want to do, or who I am.

And asking yourself that question is a huge pain in the ass responsibility because it’s terrifying.

Are we good? Ok, I’m done.

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