Monday, July 28, 2014

IRL: Being Depressed is Lame

I know I am depressed.  Surprisingly, that's not the problem.  The problem is that I keep getting told that I am not allowed to be depressed because my life is so awesome which is really unfair.  Way to completely invalidate my feelings, what I am going through, etc... because you don't immediately understand what could possibly be wrong with me or my life.

I have battled with depression for most of my life.  Yes, sometimes it has external triggers, but generally it is something that I cycle through because of chemicals in my brain.  If it's just the chemical cycle I can usually shake it off and power through it by keeping myself busy.  When things are actually wrong on top of one of these cycles it gets really bad.  Telling me I have nothing to be sad about is not helpful.

Why are you stressed out about work, at least you get to do something you love?  

It's true, I do get to do something I love for a living and it is amazing!  I do often get to work on stuff that I am so proud to be a part of and really fuels my soul with awesomeness, but not every job is artistically and creatively fulfilling.  Sometimes I'm working tech for a panel, for a school's meeting, for terribly written shows, etc...  However, as a recent graduate (I finished school this past December) I am trying to get myself more into the job market.  I am a freelance technician which means I have ZERO JOB SECURITY.  My employment is on the whims of others and is only every temporary.  Sometimes these contracts are for one day, one week, one month, etc... but they're going to end.  This means that while I am working on one job I am also having to constantly line-up additional jobs and I can't really say no to any of them because I don't know if there's going to be another one after that and I have to keep all my bills paid and try to stash as much money as possible for the dead times when there is no work.  Which brings me to my next point

Why are you so stressed out about money when you your boyfriend pays your rent?

This one just generally pisses me off.  B pays for our apartment, this is true.  I cover the storage unit that we share which costs around 1/3 of what he pays for where we live.  I also pay for my own health insurance, cell phone bill, car insurance, gas, etc...  you know the general things that one needs to exist.  Oh, did I also mention that I pay almost $1000 a year on property taxes for a house I don't live in 4 hours away?  That I also pay the electric bill for this house each month?  Don't forget the phone bill and the alarm system that I have to keep since the house sits empty on top of buying things for repairs and up keep ON A HOUSE I DON'T LIVE IN.  And somehow I pay for all of this while making an average of $500 a month.  Some months are better than others, but some months there is almost nothing coming in.   B and I have taken turns helping the other out if one of us gets a head, but neither of us completely financially supports the other.  When we first lived together I covered all the rent and he paid for the storage unit so things come around.  Which leaves me to my next point.

You have an awesome boyfriend, how could you possibly be sad?

Your happiness is not based on another human being.  I'm going to say that again, your happiness is not based on another human being.  It doesn't matter how awesome another person is, happiness is internal.  External things can contribute to your over all happiness, but if you are not basically happy it won't magically make you happy.  Depression includes:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches,  cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

These all cause major stress on any relationship; be they friendship, your partner, your co-workers, etc...  Being depressed affects all of the aspects of your life because it is an underlying theme in your existence.  Again, your happiness is not based on another human being, it has to come from within.  If you don't have it no one else is going to give it to you.  Significant others, friends, family, they are all helpful; but they are not your source of happiness.  It is something you have to work on for yourself and you have to work on it every day.  Some days are harder than others to keep it up.  This is normal.  It is a daily struggle to be a functioning member of society if you suffer from depression, especially if all you want to do is hide under a pile of blankets.  

I didn't write this as a "poor me, I'm so sad" post but as a "hey, these are things that happen so please don't invalidate my feelings because you don't get it" post. You may not understand why this happens because it may not happen to you.  If it doesn't happen to you then congratulations, you don't suffer from depression and that's great.  For those of us that do, this is our reality.  This is our daily struggle to keep going and try to make the best of what we have even when we don't feel up to it.  So please, PLEASE, don't tell someone their experience is doesn't matter because they're going through something you don't understand. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014-07-20 Late: A Cowboy Song

I was fortunate enough to be invited to go see The Weird Sister's Theater Project Late: A Cowboy Song's preview last week at Actor's Express.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am friends with Christen Orr, the actor playing Red in this production.

The show is nestled on top of Actor's Express production of The Rocky Horror Show so the setting is very much found space with the elaborate Rocky set wrapped in black and the floor is covered in a painted drop cloth.  It is a very interesting way to make a set being used for such an opposite feel work with only the occasional glossy red marble from Rocky peaking through.  The rest of the set (designed by Lee Maples) seemed very literal as there was talk of being fenced in and the set was comprised mostly of chain link fence.  Though appropriate, I would have liked to have seen something a little deeper.

The script, written by Sarah Ruhl, is a bit jumpy and hard to follow at the beginning of the story.  The opening seemed very forced with trying to establish the central relationship.  I don't know if it was because it was the first showing, the director's choice or how it was written, but the relationship between Mary and Crick did not seem natural.  The scenes were short and the scene changes were as long as the scenes they were between.  The second half the transitions went much quicker and the holiday montage was pretty amusing.  The second half explained many of the choices in the first, I just wish we hadn't had to wait so long for things to become clear.  The script dealt with multiple issues such as abusive relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation and traditional genders roles.  These were a lot of issues to cram into a show that was around an hour and a half long and made dealing with each issue seem weaker than if the author had chosen to pick just one to have as the focus of the story line.

One of the choices I thought was interesting was not having the baby be a doll and was instead portrayed by a blue light.  Once I understood that was the case it was a nice touch, but it did take a minute to realize what was going on due to site lines as it was not always visible from where I was sitting.  In general, I understand that the lighting design (done by Tara O'Neill) was probably difficult for the same reason the set was hard, as it was focused for Rocky, however, there were moments due to the angles of the lights that the audience was blinded by the LEDs used.  I am unsure if this could have been avoided somehow, but it was very distracting during the show.

Over all the acting seemed to match the intention of the script, but some of the directing (which was done by Jaclyn Hoffman) felt like very obvious first choices and I think it could have been pushed further and emotionally deeper.  Crick, played by Jacob York, was the emotionally abusive husband with homophobic tendencies, who went between nice guy to possessive, needy and jealous.  It was not an easy role and I think York did a pretty good job with what he had to work with, however his nice guy was much more believable than his villain.  After seeing his amazing performance in 7 Stages 2013 production of Topher Payne's Angry Fags, I know he has a lot more to bring to the table if he had been pushed in the right direction.

Mary, played by Kelly Criss, was a very complex character with the internal struggle between her childhood love, her intersex child and confusion as to her sexual orientation.  The underlying emotional struggle was there in many of her scenes, but again some of the directing choices seemed to actually be holding her back.  I really felt she had a lot more to give to the role.

Red, played by Christen Orr, was the stereotypical lesbian cowboy playing guitar and wearing chaps.  As someone who grew up around horses I felt that the chaps were unnecessary in inappropriate in the non-horse scenes, but that may have been due to time constraints for costume changes to work.  Some of the highlights were when Orr played guitar and sang during some of the scene changes where the songs were funny and complimented the previous scene.  They also gave the audience something to do rather than just sitting in the dark waiting for the many scenes changes to finish.  As the role was written to be stereotypical that is what you get from Orr and it is appropriate, but I would have liked to have seen more layers than the stereotypes that we keep trying to reject in society.

Speaking if highlights, the shadow puppet of the horse, created by Beau Brown, was amazingly well done. The joints were articulated and very much represented an actual horse. I do wish that the actors had also been behind the screen and the scenes with the horse were purely in shadow. With the actors standing in front of the screen interacting with the horse it was sometimes hard to see duty sightlines as the actors bodies were actually blocking their shadows.  Due to this site line issue there was actually a very powerful moment at the end with the shadow of Red, Mary, Blue and the horse that was almost completely lost due to not being able to see all of the shadows.

Overall I wasn't wowed by the preview, but I did see that it had a lot of potential and I hope that during its run it reaches it.  Though nothing can be done about the script, I think that if they can settle out of their roles it can still become a show that the actors can be proud of.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014-06-29 Last Pasties Standing: Motown Showdown

Not long after we moved the Syrens of the South Tease Tuesday shows to Red Light Cafe a second super awesome burlesque show popped up there as well called Last Pasties Standing that is produced by the ever amazing Sadie Hawkins.  Sadie's vision is a ridiculous game show of improv and intrigue!  Each show has a theme which dictates the music that will be used for the acts.

Here's the description from the website:

"Last Pasties Standing is a burlesque game show in which two (8, actually) will enter, one will…. well, nobody will end up wearing much.

This show is all about on-the-spot, creative improvisation and audience response. Eight burlesque-a-teers will take the stage and create spontaneous performances in head-to-head strip-offs to songs selected right as they get on stage. Who does it better? That’s for the audience to judge. Winners will go on to the next round, playoff style. There are additional burlesque-themed games inviting audience and performer participation, as well.

Join us for a night of spur-of-the-moment striptease and silly, sexy fun!

So how this works is that each performer brings 3 costumes (one for each round) and you find out who you're up against and what song you'll be performing to by the luck of the draw.  The audience decides the winner of each pairing and they go on to the next round.  In the case of a tie they become a duet, another tie they become a trio, etc... until at the end of the three rounds there is a winner declared.  The winner gets bragging rights and assorted crappy prizes!

After months of this amazing event happening I finally got to go see the June 29th Motown Showdown.  The show was silly and fun, full of ridiculousness and a a great time.  Watching the performers pull the routines out of thin air along with trying to make their chosen costumes work with their given song was really an amazing show of skill.  The performances sometimes got really weird, you can tell a lot about the performer by what their default improv styles are, but they were always fun to watch even if they were kind of a train wreck because of not being familiar with the song or trying to duet a trio with people you had never even met, let a lone worked with, before.  The winner was Benjamin Elizabeth and she was very excited about her crappy prizes!

The shows are one Sunday a month and a seriously fun time.  I highly recommend going and enjoying yourself immensely.  The next one is on July 20th at Red Light Cafe.  Doors are at 8pm, show at 9pm and it's usually done around 11/11:30ish so you can still get a decent night's sleep before you go to work the next morning.

Monday, July 7, 2014

July Performer Spotlight: Nikki Nuke'm

Photo by Trent Chau Photography
I met Nikki Nuke'm almost a year ago at the open house for The Atlanta School of Burlesque.  She was an amazing teacher, a wonderful person and with Ursula Undress's recommendation I began hiring Nikki for Tease Tuesday shows that evolved into her having a open invitation to perform with Syrens of the South whenever she was available.  She's a great addition to the Atlanta Burlesque community!

1. How did you come up with your stage name and tag line?  Does it have a special meaning to you?

I came up with Nikki Nuke'm while I was driving in my car coming home.  I was thinking about my persona...whacky, daring, almost cartoonish.  Nuke'm (like Nuke Them!) holds a special place in my heart from my love for the Fallout franchise and all things post-apocalyptic themed.  

2. How did you get started in burlesque?

I was first introduced to burlesque by Ursula Undress, Lola LeSoleil, and Fonda Lingue!  I saw them perform at the South East Mosaic Festival last year and became enthralled with this fabulous art and dance form.  Within a month of moving to Atlanta I was performing in local burlesque shows as a fire eater and snake dancer and before I knew it...I bought my first pasties!

Photo by Lisa Eckman June Tease Tuesday

3. What has been your best moment as a performer so far?

Honestly it would have to be when I was stripping for the first time and my tearaway pants got stuck in my butt cheeks.  I was SO scared all night that my butt was going to grab hold of those pants and I was going to be so embarrassed.  And it happened.  But it really wasn't as dramatic as I thought it would be.  Everyone laughed and cheered anyway and no one died and I relaxed way more with my mistake.  Mission accomplished.

4. What is your favorite act to perform?

I really love eating fire and it's the act I perform the most.  I love the "rise" I get out of the audience!  But honestly...I would have to say my favorite act to perform is anything with my ball python Mordecai.  A lot of people have misconceptions about these gentle creatures and at EVERY SHOW I bring him to, I get to show people just how sweet snakes can be!  Some people who were too scared to be near him will have him around their necks by the end of the night!

Photo by Broken Skulls Productions
5. What is your burlesque dream show?

Oh gosh...I don't really know!  I'm still so fresh to the burlesque scene I haven't even witnessed a fraction of the possibilities!!  I guess...I would be tickled pink if I could see an all "legends" show...I have a love for classics and to see women who ruled the stages then, take those stages yet again, would be really amazing to me.

6. Where do you see your self in the next five years?

TAKING OVER THE WORLD!  But no seriously, I see myself getting more involved and more brave and going on tour--with fire, snakes, swords, canes, and more!  And of course...making more and more sparkly costumes for people I adore!

7. Tell us something outside of burlesque that you are involved or interested in.

Outside of burlesque, belly dancing is actually my main source of income.  But I could talk about dancing all day!  My actual hobbies include:  swimming (recreational and dance, of course), exercise and weight lifting, video games, and drawing.

8. What do you think is your greatest skill, not including burlesque?

I'm a pretty great swimmer, not gonna lie.  Not just swimming laps I mean, but modeling underwater, inversions, free diving, coaching, etc.

9. What are you most looking forward to this year as a burlesque performer? As a civilian?

As a burlesque performer, I am most looking forward to learning!  There is so much history and knowledge for me to access that I can barely contain myself.  It's like entering a huge cave system--but instead of stalactites, it's tassles!  As a civilian, I love how many shows there are in the area that are so easy for me to access.  As someone who performs constantly for a living, it's very refreshing to have so many options to just put on a nice dress and grab a cocktail and see a show.  

10. Who is your favorite performer to watch?

Photo by Trent Chau Photography

That's a tough one...there are so many I love to watch!  But I'll go ahead and choose the latest celebrity performer I saw--Franki Markstone.  Her muscular isolations, her smile, her costumes... everything!  She's funny and has a great stage presence.  And she's super sweet to boot!  She's definitely someone I look up to now.