The Grinch!

Let me tell you about Christmas:

Nobody gets Christmas like I do.

See, Christmas, is wholly and completely consumed by capitalism.

See, back in the way back when, we had this little thing called “Sol Invictus” or “Saturnalius” depending on whether your gods wore togas or drank mead from skulls. Anyway, it was all about the long cold winters and the fear, the very real fear that everything would die in the dark and in the cold without the light of the sun.

Because every year, people didn’t know if the sun was coming back or not.

So on December Twenty-Five , the longest and coldest day of the year, everyone would huddle around, cut boughs off evergreens, bring them inside, and pray that the sun would return.

They didn’t know better. They didn’t know that the shortest day of the year was actually the Twenty-First and that the length of the day is based on the earth’s orbit around the sun in relation to its axis.

So, basically idiots. But, …well meaning idiots.

Nevertheless, “Christmas” was all about love and warmth and kindness, right? Wrong. It was about keeping out the cold. It was about when is the sun gonna come back?

Well, we know better today don’t we? We’re so smart that we know better, don’t we? We know the sun will return. Because we’re not idiot like them, right?

Wrong-o.

See, nowadays we have to keep the spirit alive. Because we worship the dollar. The big, fat King Dollar Bill.  And He is a fickle god isn’t He? We don’t know if He will ever come back do we?  Do we? No no no no no noooooooooo….

So what do we do? What do we do? We buy presents. We buy tinsel. And lights. And stockings. And stocking stuffers. And trees, because weren’t those other idiots quaint back in the olden days?

And here we are, hiding in our homes, trying to keep out the starving, the destitute, the poor…

Just buying presents to prove that we can, buying presents to prove that we’re not like them, buying presents hoping that one day we won’t have this fear inside of us.

Guess what? It’ll pass. Someday, we’ll figure out the laws of economics just like we figured out the laws of astronomy.

And then we’ll move on to something new. Something else to keep out the cold.

But, til then, you’ve got me.

I am the cold, the hungry, and the poor.

I am the forgotten, the lonely, the destitute…

Me?

I’m the Grinch.

A girl walks into a comic shop.

A girl walks into a comic shop

Her father close upon her heels;

She looks around at all the heroes

Their super sigils on their super chests;

Their glass eyes staring down at her.

These hyper deities are learning us a lesson

In spandex and colored undies of how to be human,

But, there’s a funny thing, a thing that only she can notice:

Where are the heroes that look like her?

Where have all the girls gone?

 

She looks for them behind the beer bellies,

Behind the balding heads and too long beards,

With ever watchful glasses fogging overhead

Their shorts too short to hide their scabby knees

And much too low to hide their plumber’s cracks.

 

She makes her way away through shelves

She makes her way anyway

To find the heroines she believes in

She finds the girls, but something’s wrong

They’re in all the wrong places–

They’re under thumbs of mouth-breathers,

Their breath is staining twice used middle spreads

As the girls in handkerchiefs called costumes

Are asking for help instead of taking names

They’re kissing one another instead of doing deeds.

These are not the heroes she wants

These are not the heroes she deserves

 

Approaching the mouth breathers, she demands they release her friends

They lash back calling her tease and strumpet,

They fling venom and make suggestions on where to go and who to be.

She turns to find her father standing there,

But, he isn’t there, she finds his friends are there

They lock in rows and form up ranks

There’s safety in numbers she learns that day.

They lock up shop and dress her up

In costumes of their making

She wants to wear what she wants to wear,

But the men say differently than her

She’s forced into tiny tights and skintight skin in which her opinion is deferred.

She’s pretty young, but pretty still, and pretty still, but oh so pretty

They pet her hair and pat her privates

They breathe on her and over her and on top of her

She never forgets her father’s friends

She never forgets when she wears a costume of their making

She never forgets when her costume was ripped from her.

She understands how heroines are made not born.

 

A girl walks into a comic shop.

 

Relevance.

Grumblings in the Dark

Because I could not brook

A single lie, instead I shook

The bonny lass until she snapped.

My mind she cracked,

Even while my poetry she took.

 

Grumbling, I stumble,

Stumbling, I tumble,

Tumbling, I fumble

Choking down the well-worn grumble

Ignoring the clear and present rumble

Thunder echoes inside my head

Causing me to crumble

And as I lie in bed

A heavenly, hellish jumble

I can hear,

though no one near,

My muttering’s mumble.

 

Radioactivity

Fruitful is my hatred, blossoming
Just like Mother’s always saying;
Just like Mother’s simple sayings,
”                                                              ”
She didn’t say a thing,
Not a tear drop anything,
then why am I still bleeding?
Why are my insides seeping?
Why do my bones, still aching,
Lie in radioactive sludge, still dripping
Through my worn out casements, spilling,
As the bellows they are billowing
My innards, they are singing,
Into radiation, they are glistening,
Through the metal bolts, they are eating,
Turning me to filings they are flinging
‘cross the wasted whorl.
To be released, they are screaming,
Upon this tin and tiny world.

Adam & Eve without a Sieve

The demons singing out of heaven now
The angels winging out of hell-maw now
Eternal ministers
seeking reparations
From sinister
Administrators.
The fruit of the garden
Has ripened into children
That wasn’t part of the bargain
Made with the Lord and Adam
Made in the shade of the trees of Eden.
Forgetting Eve in ignorance,
She cannot be held in grievance
For apples in their absence
For preserving her own presence
For doing in her silence
What they daren’t in omniscience
They’ll have to practice patience
They’ll have to practice
Instead she’s punished.
Seething teeth
and gnashing breath
Upon the rotten heath.
Her cries are worming open
Pandora’s hoarde
Labelled:
“ From the Lord,
With Love”

The Sunshine Clown

I was taught to never start to never start an essay with a quote:

Depression (n.): common, but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

Also to cite my sources: Source

boom.

Also, also:

If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Depression

Everyone is going to leave me.

That is what it is like:

Depression.

Everyone is going to leave. Specifically me.

They are going to leave. And I have to tell you, I will be hard pressed when the time comes to tell them why they should stay.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism

It gets really bad when people threaten to leave. Even for a little while. To “get some air” or “go somewhere” or “get away for a little while.”

Because at last the time has come. They’ve realized that now is the time to do it. I get upset that they take their time with the leaving. If they wanted to go they should just say so and get it over with and DAMN IT WHY AREN’T THEY LEAVING?

  • Irritability

And so I lash out. I say mean things that I wouldn’t normally say. I say horrible things that nobody should ever say. I apologize to my friends, my family, my partner and they say it is all right. And I cannot imagine how or where it could possibly be all right.

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

So we try to do things. Things that we both enjoy, things that we do enjoy, things that we have enjoyed in the past in the way back when. Like go places or do things: scale a mountain, read a book, play video games, work on stuff. But, it somehow isn’t the same. The feeling is there, the ever-present feeling that I screwed up, that I did something wrong. So I don’t enjoy it; I expect them to enjoy it, but I have to hold back, I have to be punished for my behavior.

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

Most of the time I just want to go to bed. There is something tiring about mental illness that just wipes you out. You don’t want to deal with it, so I sleep.

  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly

But, of course, the problem didn’t go away. You didn’t go away. I didn’t go away. The problem must be me. So I wake up from dead sleep hyperventilating. And I lay awake for a few hours just thinking about getting up and all of the things that I have to do to make up for this behavior.

  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

Once I am finally vertical, I have shit that I need to do. See, I have set myself up for so much success at this point by going to bed early, waking up late, lying in bed all day with little to no mobility and why, oh why haven’t I moved this whole effing day?! So what can I do? What is left to do? Everything? Shit. I have to move. I have to do something. But, what? Suddenly, I have to decide what was most important to me four hours ago, six hours ago, eight hours ago. What appointments haven’t I missed?

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

This of course means that I don’t eat. Why would I? Food wasn’t the most important thing on the list anyway, besides, if I wanted to eat, I should have gotten up earlier. Much, much earlier!

  • Appetite and/or weight changes

  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

I can’t explain this one:

  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Except to say what the website says:

Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many.

Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom.

But, you need to experience a few.

I experience a few of these symptoms.

But, I do not experience them in a linear way. I do not experience them and the people around me do not experience them in a logical way.

Because mental illness is not logical. It doesn’t make sense.

But, even as I type this, even as I say the words aloud: Everyone is going to leave me. I can’t help it.

I can’t help feeling this way. I hate feeling this way.

I look in friend’s eyes and see them looking away. I think they are looking for the exit.

I hear someone is late to an appointment, I cut the game short, I say I’ll call them an Uber because it is my fault that they are late.

Every time someone does a kind deed for me, I feel karma like a cruel and bitchy mistress cutting into me saying: Why aren’t you a better person? Why didn’t you think to offer? Why couldn’t you just do better?

So I try. I really, really try.

Every single day I fight and grapple and contend with every single aspect of this.

I don’t know how and I don’t know if any of it gets any better.

But, I try to be there for my friends. I try to help them. I try not to be a burden and hope that I make some small progress.

Because everyone is going to leave me. And when they do I hope it won’t be a bad thing.

Because I’m not defined by this warped and twisted thing that nobody else can see. Or everybody else can see. It changes.

I want to be better. I want to feel better.

But, I can’t.

And maybe that is okay.

I hope to hell that it is okay, that I am okay on my bad days. On my worst days.

Because I am told that even at my worst, even at my most worst moments, I am still my best self. But, it is my best self in a belly of suffering that I just can’t seem to come out of.

Every time I think I have tricked my brain into behaving, it turns around and I find myself further from the people that I care about.

So this is me trying.

This is me writing through the worst of it. I hope that there can be a kernel of joy somewhere in this heinous mess. Because that is what I want. I hate depression because it feels like an excuse.

I fight every day to be happy. I am at war with my inner self. I am a peaceful warrior and I think that I am winning. But, my foe looks like me. He sounds nothing like me, he thinks nothing like me, but I am afraid that he is me and that scares me beyond reason.

Maybe there is no winning for good. Maybe there is no eternal happy state. But, I can fight the good fight and hope that I don’t get my ass handed to me for years on end like I did before.

Here is to hoping.

Okay…

The End

From Sister to Murderer & Other Tales of Love (Adapting Kafka’s Metamorphosis)

Today, let us discuss The Metamorphosis.

Mine!

1

Doesn’t he look excited?!

So this ties in to my work on adaptations.

To give a brief idea:

I think adaptations are usually terrible.

I have an old article kicking around somewhere:

Adapting Dracula (Why Epistolary is a Four Letter Word) (Boucher 2015).

In it, I outline a lot of my concerns when it comes to adaptations.

Namely:

  • The story works in whatever medium it originates (unless you are in a living medium like theatre, in which case you might be screwed)
  • The story may work (better) in another medium
  • Changes to the story are necessary to make it work in the new medium (books to film)
  • “faithful adaptation” is a meaningless phrase

I had a wonderful discussion with Bailey Boudreau, Artistic Director of Slipstream Theatre Initiative about adaptations the other day.

It boiled down to figuring out what made the theatre, at the time, immediate/important, what was the author attempting to do at the time of writing and attempt to do that in the time in which we currently live.

Now, I believe this has some thorny problems:

  1. You cannot argue objectively about history and therefore anything that occurred surrounding a theatrical piece has to be considered correlative, not causative
  2. And it is almost impossible to determine  what the author intended
  3. Therefore, any and all choices are still based in our own personal artistry.

I wrote an article consumed with the problem of author’s intent:

It boils down to:

  • The author intended something while writing
  • The art stands separate from the author (if it is good)
  • The art cannot stand separate from the audience’s interpretation
  • Therefore, what is our interpretation?

At the time I was working on Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which, unfortunately, never materialized.

Maybe a work for a later time.

But, I was later approached by Slipstream Theatre Initiative to help assist to direct, write, and produce their Penny Dreadfuls.

We had some brainstorming meetings and I threw in my hat hoping to direct and ended up writing for it instead.

I had no idea what I was doing, but was excited for the project.

The Penny Dreadfuls

In years past, the Penny Dreadfuls had been adapted from older sources (like much of Slipstream’s season).

Last year they had a carnivale feel where the production company (in the scenario) was performing in order to lure everyone into the back room so they could unleash a monster upon them. Much like Pippin!

2

This year, the talk was more of madness, transformation, and subtler things.

Immediately Metamorphosis jumped out at me, but I couldn’t say why.

It was always something that I wanted to work on, so I suggested it.

Luna, the lovely director said that she was excited and off we were to the races.

The Process

I feel I should be pretty explicit here:

I had no idea what I was doing.

I felt really awful for everyone around me. Much of my life I feel like I am bouncing off of walls people already told me were there. So there is that.

Anywho, a few weeks out from opening, I had neither solidified a script, nor cast, nor rehearsal, nor tech, nor anything. I was pretty boned. So I settled down to read the text.

The reading.

Anyone read Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis? 

If no, here is a really great Blog featuring synopsis and one of the best comic summaries EVER:

In it, Gregor awakes one morning to discover himself transformed into a giant vermin. That’s pretty much it. He wakes up and he is relatively okay with it.  His family kills him.

A lot of metaphors happen here about isolation, depression, anxiety, and dehumanization, but really that is it. He feels like a bug or some sort of monster and everyone treats him like one. His family still feeds him sure, but they are no longer sure it is him.

Eventually, through neglect and downright abuse, Gregor lies down one day and dies, leaving his family a little bit wealthier and a little bit happier.

The Realization

That is it! I really did not feel comfortable with it.

To be honest, I get really uneasy every time that I read the text.

I couldn’t say why when I was in high school, but something profoundly disturbs me about the family’s response to Gregor. He seems like such a nice bug. He loves and cares for his family. Why can they not recognize him? Why can they not see him for the the caring creature that he is?

And that is when it hit me:

The story is not Gregor’s…

The moment that I hit that realization I knew I had something.

Tadashi Suzuki writes beautifully in his The Way of Acting and other collected texts that in order to do justice to a production he tries to:

Tell the story from the most compelling perspective

OR: to put it another way:

Ask the question, “From whose perspective should this story be told?” 

He did this very famously in his Women of Troy, a play about the women mourning the sacking of Troy and the horror that they endure after its fall.

Now, remember the Trojan War lasted for ten years…

For ten years these women had already witnessed war literally at their gates.

Now, it was inside, running rampant and destroying their homes, their families….their babies.

Tadashi Suzuki, a masterful director, set the Trojan Women in the mouths of Japanese women in Japan…after the Holocaust.

 3

 

Those women needed to tell this story in this way at this time.

I was so moved when I read what he did.

I cried.

On a New York City subway, I cried while reading a theatre book.

I was the crazy person that day.

(The photo isn’t from his acclaimed work, but it gets the sensation and it was directed by him La Dame aux Camelias)

So that question has stuck with me for years now.

  • “Whose story is it?”
  • “From whose perspective should this story be told?”

I had a clue from the final paragraph of the translation:

All the time, Grete was becoming livelier. With all the worry they had been having of late her cheeks had become pale, but, while they were talking, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa were struck, almost simultaneously, with the thought of how their daughter was blossoming into a well built and beautiful young lady. They became quieter. Just from each other’s glance and almost without knowing it they agreed that it would soon be time to find a good man for her. And, as if in confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions, as soon as they reached their destination Grete was the first to get up and stretch out her young body  (Kafka).

*shivers*

The argument could be made that it is the parents’ who are the aggressors in Gregor’s torment and the objectification of Grete at the end.

I think the case could be made and I know I certainly made it in high school.

However, upon further reflection, the setup between the two siblings could not be clearer in Kafka’s prose:

  1. Gregor: the lowly, virulent vermin, crawling across the floor, sticking to walls, hanging from the ceiling, feasting on refuse, collecting no income, sitting idle, or otherwise playing and becoming an unnecessary burden for the entire family
  2. Grete: the exact opposite, young, vibrant, musical, industrious, hard-working, jovial, and pleasant to see.

So that was the basis of my thought.

We have the one (did you know that the original title Die Verwandlung translates more literally to “transformation) transformation into beauty and the other into beast.

However, what to do with it now that I had my cornerstone.

The Concept

Considering the story from Grete’s perspective opened up a whole new avenue of ideas.

Of course she told Kafka’s Metamorphosis. She had spent the better part of a year, isolated in her own home, chained to caring for a beast that had almost certainly devoured her brother.

No wonder she had insisted on calling it “Gregor”. No wonder she wrote the whole story making “Gregor” as kind-hearted and well-meaning as humanly possible.

He is the closest thing we have to an existential saint.

It’s all a lie.

Grete told a lie to save her brother’s memory and very selfishly explain away the last year of her life.

With those ideas in mind, I started crafting a piece that was in that vein.

The Script

So the script was designed with Grete as the protagonist.

She would be the lens through which the audience would grasp the narrative.

She needed an adversary, Gregor would do.

Her parents proved too irresistible not to write into the narrative.

But, where/when would I set the action?

Dramatis Personae

GRETE: A youthful, vibrant young woman. She has been kept like a china doll by her mother, her father, and her brother. She is strong and curved like a violin.

GREGOR: He is dead. An enormous and virulent vermin. He begins transformed. There is no way to know what he was before.

FATHER: He is dead. A man lost and losing more of himself each and every day, but with a core of iron somewhere under his flabby exterior.

MOTHER: She is dead. There is not much to say of her. She loves her children. She is sad when they are gone.

The answer occurred to me after I wrote the character introductions: after the event.

Gregor is already dead.

So are her parents.

Everyone is dead save Grete, but the story still carries on.

It provided too many interesting things to play with.

  • Who was telling the story?
  • Only Grete?
  • How?
  • Who would play with her?
  • How would she get them to play?

All sorts of possibilities.

And we explored a few of them during rehearsal.

The production was really remarkable, but I have no artifacts to present here.

Only my words.

However, I was fortunate enough to be able to present my rough draft as a workshop performance last week at Young Fenix Fellowship.

I plan to host more, but the central question was:

Does the play work as a standalone piece and should it be expanded?

Overall, audience response was largely positive. I think there was some serious confusion based on the reading of the stage directions. I write lengthy stage directions that are meant to help more than they hinder. I don’t think I always succeed.

Take a look:

Excerpt from After the Transformation by Miles Boucher

There are hundreds of newspapers. All carefully arranged. They are in piles, in stacks by date and time and organized by geography. There is a system to this. It is a very complex, but comprehensive system to the person who made it, but to no one else. 

The newspapers wait. 


Enter Grete


She leaves


Enter Grete


She leaves


Enter Grete


She feels it. That was it.


She paces out the room. She takes its measure. This takes time. 


It is an (un)satisfactory room (depending on the day).  She works with it. She places herself in the ideal spot. She places the audience in the ideal spot. This takes time. 


She lays herself down for bed. This takes time. Perhaps she starts with a newspaper. Perhaps she doesn’t. She makes for herself a pillow, a bed, a sheet, etc.


When everything is perfect she begins:

GRETE: One morning,

She pauses to fix a corner.

One morning, when Gregor…

Did it move? No? Again.

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.

Vermin.

Vermin.

Vermin.

Vermin.

That was it.

Moving Forward

I think that I would like to rewrite it, cutting much of the superfluous stage directions while keeping the bare bones and see what is left.

Afterwards, there are at least a few moments that were and are definitely rushed as far as action goes.

Some of the scenes where Gregor kills his parents are really solid and tight, but I think there are moments to explore between the siblings.

How do you communicate with a wild animal and how long does it take?

Stuff like that.

So that is about where I am at with the piece. I am excited to keep workshopping it and continue to present it at YFF and elsewhere.

Anyway, that is my critique of my own work and an explanation of what I have been doing with my fall.

I hope you all enjoyed it!

Auf Wiedersehen!

Bibliography

Kafka, Franz. “Metamorphosis.” Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg, 13 May 2002. Web. 3 Dec. 2016.

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PATRONS GET EARLY ACCESS

So no new posts today.

I know.

SO sad.

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