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Panglossian Was I

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Dec. 28th, 2015 | 10:23 am

We had $250,000. We earned it with tears, we earned it with arrogance. Kevin the Shark-Tank-Shark/Dragon’s-Den-Dragon yelling in person is 100% less funny, especially when it’s at you. Did you know the judges’ platform is raised, that supplicants are lit from below the platform, that our two minutes and thirty seconds was edited from almost an hour, that I didn’t cry until minute forty-five?

No matter. I know when reruns are on—people stop me on the street and say, “don’t let anyone take away your dream!”

They seldom remember that we won.

We had $200,000. Finally enough budget to get everyone in the same room for rehearsals, the dream team, the list of “If you could work with anyone you wanted…” I brought them to Florida in February, paid better than Equity, rented a seven-bedroom house with a pool, a theatre for the mornings, a gym for the afternoons. Made gift baskets and stocked the kitchen with snacks and beer. Flew in the musicians to make songs from us. Had a dramaturge lead rehearsals, coach us through writing our true experience, the things that happened to us, the things we wanted to tell an audience when we could talk to them for real. That was when Dan got sullen. When Kim—my partner, his girlfriend—said nothing was wrong, everything was fine, though her mouth got tight and her eyes looked sad. When Zay, my other partner, decided she was on Kim’s side.

We had $150,000. We practiced in a high school with a low ceiling. We practiced in a gym full of kids. When Ryan double-backed off the tramp wall the whole gym paused. We drove to Illinois, rented hotel rooms, per diems, a theatre. I told the cameramen to zoom in while Dan was sulking. My mother came as costume hand, years of Halloween and church dresses and handmade faux-Cabbage-Patch-Kids, now sewing sequined leotards in the workroom on the other side of the building, and roller-blading down the hall for fittings.

The cast sent the trampolinists to my room—“Everyone figured we were the ones you wouldn’t yell at.” I’ve made a typo in the contracts. They think they are getting show pay instead of rehearsal pay. I give up my pay to pay everyone, but I already know it’s over—the assumption that I’d cheat them rather than screwing up somewhere in a pile of paper.

It can’t possibly be over.

Our investor flew in. The show wasn’t finished, it wasn’t supposed to be, there was a preshow speech, there was a program note. On the way out, a trapeze-girl from Chicago, my acquaintance, Kim’s friend, leaned in and said to Kim, “even you couldn’t make that act look good.” Fuck you, Chicago girl. Fuck you still.

Dan smashed a prop in front of my mother, and that was the last time I thought I “needed a reason” to fire someone.

We had $100,000 and we finally had a show. A good show. Trashed the last act and the last-act costumes. Cut lines and rearranged. Two new acrobats. A full house of happy people, a standing ovation. After strike we went back to the rental house and the Kenyan acrobat cooked Kenyan cornmeal and chicken. We ate in a circle on the floor with our fingers, we loved each other. I thought they loved me again. I hoped.

We had $50,000 and I found out the stage manager had been starting every command with “Allison says you have to…” and the reason the stunt coordinator no longer liked me was he’d been sleeping with the stage manager.

I still thought I could make them like me. I still thought they would like me when I gave them everything they said they ever wanted.

We had $25,000 and I wasn’t invited to the wedding. In Long Island, conversations in the dressing room stopped when I walked in. The new stage manager, Niki, was on my team, she’d worked for me when she was still in high school. She loved me the way everyone else used to, an island of loyalty in a sea of money and malice.

Everyone wants a job. Everyone wants to be paid to do what they love. Everyone wants creative license. Until they get it.

We didn’t spend the last of the money, didn’t ask for it. I sold the trampoline back to the gym, the money paid for my honeymoon. I still own a 20-foot box truck, the lock rusted shut, still full of things I should look through, things I should sell. Anyone need a keyboard?

Years later Dan and Kim apologized. They are a couple, they have a show. I never hated them, so it’s not that hard to like them now, to say, well, two hundred grand down the drain but I guess you learned something about yourselves.

And then Niki-the-second-stage-manager called for a recommendation. She told me how when she worked for me, when she worked for the circus, that was when she knew. That was when she went to Chicago, to theatre school, to the Shakespeare Festival to stage manage for Teller (of Penn and), and now, to grad school for arts administration. She thanked me for her life.

It’s worth two hundred grand.



______________________________________________________
(No pressure, Niki.) When the show was good, it looked like this.






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Comments {42}

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drwex

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from: drwex
date: Dec. 28th, 2015 04:18 pm (UTC)
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I always wondered what had happened. I think I entered your story much after this and wondered what had come before.

One phrase: "...musicians to make songs from us." Was that intended? Or "for"?

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drwex

(no subject)

from: drwex
date: Dec. 28th, 2015 04:19 pm (UTC)
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P.S. And now I have Cheap Trick stuck in my head comma dammit.

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orockthro

(no subject)

from: orockthro
date: Dec. 28th, 2015 06:59 pm (UTC)
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Oh wow. That's one intense set of circumstances! You guys sure looked great, though. That video was neat. And I loved how you constructed your writing using your dwindling finances as structure.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 12:13 am (UTC)
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Thanks! That's what I started with, because it's been on my mind :) Hoping for exorcism...

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lriG rorriM

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from: lrig_rorrim
date: Dec. 28th, 2015 08:34 pm (UTC)
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Ouch. Creativity and work and money and friendship in one big mess that should have been glorious, and instead... well, just ouch. I'm glad you got apologies, and the thanks. Those connections do make it worth it, but damn the road there can be rocky.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 12:14 am (UTC)
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Seriously! But it was like paying tuition for management school, in a lot of ways :)

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dmousey

(no subject)

from: dmousey
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 12:03 am (UTC)
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Well now, that was interesting! Loved the act. Damned shame things didn't work according to - rake in enough cash to retire - plans. Good for you, having a great honeymoon and getting married salvaged a lost cause in the best way! Let's hope for bigger and better things in the future!

Peace~~~D

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 12:15 am (UTC)
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Thanks! Perhaps the thing that made this feel better in my head was that a couple years later I made a smaller show for a special event, and it totally killed, and was much more my directorial vision and me being confident about bossing the people I hired. So I had that moment of "OK, it wasn't all me!"

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 12:09 am (UTC)
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hug

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 12:15 am (UTC)
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Thanks - I still kind of regret what might have been, but I like what I have now.

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(no subject)

from: faerie_spark
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 03:31 am (UTC)
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OMG. That all sounds so viscious. Thanks for sharing vulnerable parts of yourself here. Also, I loathe Dragon's Den and Shark Tank. Just a minute of either show makes my skin prickle and my jaws clench. My father likes to watch. When I visit, I retreat, or lobby for less obnoxious "entertainment."

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 03:55 pm (UTC)
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You're welcome, thanks for reading :)

I watched every episode of Dragon's Den before going on the show, to make sure I could answer every question that had ever been asked. And it was kind of funny to see people who looked unprepared, or like their idea was a little silly. After going on the show, not funny at all any more - and I can't watch it either!

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Dan

(no subject)

from: muchtooarrogant
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 05:29 pm (UTC)
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This sounds like an awesome experience, even with all the people acting like asshats.

I particularly liked, "My mother came as costume
hand, years of Halloween and church dresses and handmade faux-Cabbage-Patch-Kids, now sewing sequined leotards in the workroom on the other side of the building, and roller-blading down the hall for fittings."

That's such a great image. Go Mom!

Dan

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 03:57 pm (UTC)
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I am so proud of how much I get from my mom - she's totally awesome!

It was an awesome experience some of the time, and I'm glad I went through it. I'm also glad it's done!

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penpusher

(no subject)

from: penpusher
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 07:46 pm (UTC)
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I wish I wasn't quite so,self absorbed. I have some catching up to do. But this is a memoir entry at the very least!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 04:08 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! And don't sweat it - I think I violated my belief that entries for Idol should be self-contained :) It's from when I was a circus girl, and I just retired from circus performing this year to write full-time.

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kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatre

(no subject)

from: bleodswean
date: Dec. 29th, 2015 08:57 pm (UTC)
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I don't know your history and am only able to piece together what it might be....but this bit of writing still works and works very well. I love how immediate you are in your words. They leap off the page and demand to be understood.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - I sort of violated my personal rule about Idol entries being self-contained :) but I wanted to get it off my chest! I was a circus performer (and owned a small circus company) until this year, when I retired to start writing full-time. I've been easing out for two years, but it's time.

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inteus_mika

(no subject)

from: inteus_mika
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 12:44 am (UTC)
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Enjoyed the image of your mother skating down the hall in rollerblades to get costume fittings. Have an appreciation for older women, or strong women, who don’t care anything about expectations. Nice to be supported. Sorry it didn’t work out.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 04:11 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! My mom is a pretty awesome supporter, and I'm proud to be like her as much as I can! She's 73 and still racing canoes and chainsawing trees :)

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tijuanagringo

(no subject)

from: tijuanagringo
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 12:46 am (UTC)
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.
I am like one of the comments just before me : I did not know any of the history, did not realize it could even be non-fiction. But now that I learn/realize you might be telling a true story, I am stunned almost into silence. It reads so much like a prose poem, and yet, it seems like a contemporary tragedy. I, for one, love and hate 299% the theater and often refuse to spell it theatre just for spite. Heheheehehe oh yeah. Well. I seem to have run on at the mouth here.
.
All I really wanted to say was I have enjoyed this, and read it as a kind of confessional poem.
.
The money count-down definitely gives it a strong edge, emphasizing the pressure and the loss.
.
Thank you for sharing this.
.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 04:13 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - and it's overdramatic to say this, but it sure felt like a tragedy at the time. To have a dream that big get funded and then watch it dissolve. I definitely learned it only takes one person to poison a group, and it's all downhill from there. I'm glad i went on to do other shows (and I was performing other things and staging other events the whole time), but I'm also glad I retired from circus this past year to focus on writing full-time.

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Teo Says

(no subject)

from: eternal_ot
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 11:45 am (UTC)
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I loved the promo..sorry that it didn't work out the way you wanted it to..*hugs*.. but like the bit of positives that came off it..:)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 30th, 2015 04:15 pm (UTC)
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Thanks :) I learned a whole lot, for sure!

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alycewilson

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from: alycewilson
date: Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:13 pm (UTC)
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I remember when you were touring with them, and it was clear there was some underlying drama, but I never heard the whole story before. At least you know you did everything you could do.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 3rd, 2016 12:03 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - and it did actually help to write it out!

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rayaso

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from: rayaso
date: Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:09 pm (UTC)
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This was really absorbing, especially the way you prefaced certain parts with your dwindling money. I'm sorry the project did not succeed, but I enjoyed your writing about it.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 3rd, 2016 12:09 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - I'm glad the countdown worked! And at least this way I got something out of it :)

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Murielle

(no subject)

from: murielle
date: Jan. 3rd, 2016 12:52 am (UTC)
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Very much enjoyed reading your entry. I didn't realize it was a true account. As I read, memories of a few similar experiences, though not as big or important, bubbled to the surface. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Beautifully written.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 3rd, 2016 02:18 pm (UTC)
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You're welcome, and thank you for the empathy - higher praise I cannot imagine :)

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