New Route Theatre production of my work….

for those of you who have asked me to explain my “get barbie to normal” donation campaign, here it is. : )

when i was 17 and a senior in high school my houseparent’s brother-in-law came to Mooseheart Child City (a sort of “orphanage”, for lack of a better word) to meet with me. Jerry Dellinger immediately took an interest in me and my future. he insisted that i dismiss my childhood dream of going to harvard university where i would be swallowed up by the tidal wave of incoming freshmen and instead attend lincoln college, the school where he taught theater classes, speech and oral interpretation.

over the next 20 years, Jerry was a formidable power in my life. he was the person who sweetly explained that i would never be a good lawyer, but that i would excel as a writer. he offered his support, encouragement and driving determination for my success at every opportunity which came within 100 miles of my timid ego. when i finally made my debut as the only rhyming poet at a barnes & noble in bloomington, illinois, Jerry didn’t just merely attend. he cheered me on, critiqued my performance and stole the sign which the store had put up to advertise the evening’s events.

when Jerry passed away in august of 2010, there was no hesitation to my driving the 650 miles to lincoln, illinois for his memorial service. before i left i discovered that some of the incredible actors & directors Jerry had introduced me to 19 years earlier would be attending the service as well. having lost contact with them since my move to north carolina in 1999, i brought along books of my poetry so they could see what i had been working on.

in december, one of those actors & directors named Phil Shaw, contacted me about the possibility of putting my work on the stage for New Route Theatre in bloomington, illinois. if it were technologically possible, i would have replied yes to his email before he had even finished typing it.

since i am living and breathing the world of the “paycheck to paycheck” class, my being there to attend the show is a dream. a dream which i am hoping to transform into a reality. i’m not very good at the online busker routine. i’ll be launching a fund raising project with the people at kickstarter.com soon, but money given there will be to purchase items, not just secure a wonderful memory for me.

and so, that’s the story. the “normal” part of “get barbie back to normal” is because the town which connects to bloomington is called “normal”. my website designer’s little joke.

i think if there is an after-life, Jerry is watching me and reveling in the irony that he is still helping me to realize my full potential and expand my opportunities. and yes, i’m certain this amuses him to no end.

the show will be held at Eaton Stage & Gallery in bloomington, illinois on february 9th. more information is available on facebook
New Route Theatre production of “And She Said….”

you will also find a link there to New Route Theatre, or you can visit their site New Route Theatre
thanks for supporting starving artists….

barbie.

a poem for my mom friends….

A Mother….

A mother is the heartbeat
of the essence of a laugh.
A mother holds the future
and knows each moment passed.
She is every child’s savior,
healing miracle of touch.
She is everything they hope for.
She is inner strength and love.
A nitelite in a darkened room.
A smile when you are sad.
A hero when you need her most.
Solemn words when you are bad.

A mother is a child’s love,
and all that they will do
will be the dreams and secret hopes
that can only come from you.

how to get your kicks on your route….

ah winter….i love this time of year. a time when, among other things, we ramp up the ordinary car games and take them to the extreme. what? could it be possible that you don’t realize you’re playing games while driving your car? come now, i’m certain you’re at expert at a few of these time-honored vehicular diversions.

standard in the art of recreational driving are “keep away” & “tag”. keep away is most commonly played during rush hour & becomes most popular during the holidays as it requires quite a few players. it’s tremendously easy and will frustrate your opponents to no end. merely wait at an intersection until you are positive that you will not be able to fully cross before the light changes, then pull in front of the cross-traffic lanes. once you’ve sufficiently blocked them from moving at the light-change, you’ve won. keep in mind there are some sore losers out there, so it’s important that your car is equipped with side-curtain airbags.

“tag” is easily played with two or more participants and is most fun when the other people don’t realize you’ve started the game. it’s terribly simple to learn and even the novice can become quite skilled in no time. just tap the car nearest to you and speed away. be careful though, sometimes the “tag-back” is executed with more force than you’d expect.

tag is often unintentionally coupled with the another sport often referred to by two names: “i’m not touching you” or “look, i can see my face in your rearview mirror”. this one is not for the unseasoned driver. pull your car as close as possible to the car in front of you without making contact. the true expert at this game can even do this at high speeds on icy roads. however, one slip up and you change the game to a rousing game of “tackle tag”….which tends to upset your challenger if you don’t ask permission first. of course, “i’m not touching you” can be altered if you are in grid-lock traffic. bonus points are gained if you can actually clean the trash out of the other person’s back seat or truck bed.

in the winter time we add a little element of danger to our regular competitions, as well as a new pursuit; “car snow fights”. preparation for this venture is essential. you must refrain from removing the snow from the top of your vehicle before heading out on the road. once you’re out and about however, this game is quite simple. the shelf of snow flying off will happen randomly on its own or, with some careful maneuvering, can be aimed at another driver in particular. it does require care on your end though, don’t unintentionally slam on your brakes and get all that fun on your own windshield.

the most enjoyable aspect of all these endeavors is the camaraderie which stems from engaging your fellow traveler. you’ll find that many more people will reach out to you using the art of nonverbal communication. and really, isn’t that what playing games is all about? enjoying some time with the people whom we encounter in the world and raising our insurance rates in the process.

have a great time out there kids.

the season of the….

I think I’ve finally figured out why people send holiday cards with farm animals on them. While most may believe it’s a gesture toward the religious aspect of Christmas, I maintain it’s actually an unconscious nod to the underlying icon of the season. In each illustration there is one animal that is rarely left out of the picture….the donkey. This is not unintentional, and in my view, may not actually be homage to the biblical story of Mary & Joseph riding into Bethlehem. The real reason? Although relatively few people are aware….this is the season of the ass.

The ass is portrayed everywhere this time of year. Consumers are out on the roads running Yuletide errands and driving like assholes. Workers are getting drunk at company parties and grabbing any subordinate’s ass they can see through their eggnog infused haze. I see shoppers being a smartass to the girl behind the retail counter, being a lazy ass about taking care of their shipping priorities and a badass when they discover that their procrastination has left them bare-ass-up on options. All the while, the “girl behind the counter” is me, and I am running my ass off to help everyone who was apparently unaware that Christmas has been moved to the 25th of December this year. I’m getting my ass handed to me by customers who are unable to calculate ratios; one employee to each 10 people in line means that you will most likely have to wait. Of course, this wouldn’t be as bad as it is, if only I didn’t have six coworkers doing a half-ass job. If we had a couple more people putting their entire ass into their work, I probably wouldn’t be getting my ass kicked.

I’d wish you a “Very Happy Ass Season”….but really, don’t you think that would be asinine?

wendy lou’s poem….

Buttons….Dashes….& Clouds.

Dunk Clouds of Hope in your coffee each day,
Button yourself to your Dreams.
Dash off to your Heart when your World goes astray
and Chaos unravels its seams.
When it all starts to freeze and your life misses step
remember the Words in your Mind.
The girl you can be is the woman you are
both existing at the same time.

written for wendy lou.

poetry from Type-A-Mom talent show….

Running into Life

Life smacked me in the face

while I was looking the other way

and he said I should be watching

where I walked.

I should be careful what I say

and the silly games I play

‘cause the ones who never listen

always talk.

I said he didn’t make much sense

and that I’d build myself a fence

so he’d have to get the hell

out of my yard.

He smiled, then he laughed

and he said I was a blast,

then got serious and said,

“Let’s play some cards.”

I thought it was a joke.

I nervously lit a smoke,

then invited him to have

a cup of tea.

But I guess he was no joker

‘cause he dealt a hand of poker

and he said the stakes were going

to be me.

If I win, the world is mine.

There’s no hunger and no crime

and I’ll finally make a living

with my words.

But if I lose then I won’t write

and I’ll never sleep at nite

and whatever my pen bleeds

will be absurd.

When I looked at what he dealt

I couldn’t hide the way I felt

‘cause I figured he could never

beat my straight.

Life didn’t bat an eye

but he sighed a peaceful sigh

and I wondered just how tight he was

with Fate.

Then he said, “Well it’s been fun

but I’m afraid that you are done.”

and I said, “You know it does no good

to bluff.”

He said, “You just don’t understand,

your life cannot be planned.”

And to prove it he laid down

a royal flush.

Then he smiled just a little

and said that every life’s a riddle

and the answer is to follow

where it goes.

Every road has many turns,

it’s not where they lead but what you’ve learned,

and when you succeed it’s only you

who knows.

Current Situation

So I’ve been here awhile

But I’m way out of style

And it seems I will never be vogue.

And my van’s still half-packed,

Old regrets in the back

And mementos of all I called home.

And I sit here and write,

But I’m losing the fight

To be who I thought that I was.

Cause the girl in my eyes

Lost all thoughts of the prize

When she found the one boy she could love.

My dilemma’s quite clear

Where do I go from here?

Should I write something

When nothing is wrong?

And if I really am happy

Will my thoughts come out sappy

Like all of those teeny bop songs?

Will my friends think it’s treason

If I forgo rhyme and reason

And write only of flowers and birds?

Will they think that I’m spun

And my career’s finally done

Or I’ve expended all my favorite words?

Or is that the true sin?

That I may just give in

And speak like a top 40 tune?

If I find that’s the case

Then I’ll crank up the bass

And find a nice mattress-filled room.

So I think that instead

I’ll shove the voice from my head

And write of the truths I believe.

So I guess I should start

I’ll just write form the heart

Of all I have tried to achieve.

Do I lead with my hopes or the fears that I choke?

Do I scream all my secrets and sins?

It all seems so easy

Unless the person you’re pleasing

Is the critic who’s living within.

Should I strike the next line?

Does this voice smack of whine?

Cause I get on my last nerve a lot.

Should I try to bedazzle

With a chaos unraveled?

Obfuscate with some Pynchon-like thoughts

So what do you think

Should I just grab a drink

And fall into a dull drunken void?

Cause I’m more than confusing

And quite less than amusing

And I’m certain you’re getting annoyed.

Should I write of my past?

And how long would that lost?

Would it interest a soul besides me?

Or go back to the attic

And the words much more tragic

And invite you all over for tea?

Where’s the Benchley for my table

And why aren’t my thoughts more stable?

Why is comedy found only in my glass?

And does anybody care

That my words have led me here?

And I landed on my head and not my ass?

Should I finish with a smile

Or commend my lack of style

And tell you that I’m sure I’ll be okay?

Or should I be more honest

That I don’t know how far I got us

And I’m sitting here with nothing else to say.

Life as a Girl.
Lately I’ve been breaking off all over the room,

so if you’re going to visit, you’ll want to bring a broom.

And I guess that I should let you know, I’m a little bit confused,

but I’m sure you won’t be bothered, most people seem amused.

See, sometimes I still see myself as this brilliant, sweet young girl,

until somebody mentions how I look upon the world.

Yeah, jaded is my color now, I must look great in green.

But I’m afraid I’m a little bitter, and I’m scared I’m being mean.

So bring a good strong vacuum with when you want to come on by,

so you can suck up where I’ve broken off while I drink and smoke and cry.

Yeah, it’s fun for everybody, a smashing good old time.

Did I mention that I smash things while I scream and yell and whine?

I can tell just what you’re thinking. How did I end up like this?

And really, more importantly, are you, yourself at risk?

Well I know just how it started. I can pinpoint that sad day,

when a stranger sauntered up to me and I didn’t know what to say.

So I started to get worried, and I pondered and I thought.

I used to know just who I was, but I guess I just forgot.

So I looked for help from others, you know, girls about my age,

I guess I wanted references. Some sort of “woman’ gauge.

And I watched all of their TV. shows and I read all of their books,

and I started to get worried about the way I really looked.

From that point on I lost it. And I tried so fucking hard,

but I’m too poor to be a woman, for new clothes and a perky car.

That’s when I succumbed to all the Pretty People lies,

like I’ll never be truly confident unless I have thinner thighs.

And I questioned what my value was without the perfect dress,

and would I ever get that far with these preteen, tiny breasts?

And who do I go asking then? And why would they ever care?

‘Cause my bible’s name was Cosmo and no one heard my prayers.

I soon tired of the life I led, and the low-cal, fat-free food.

I was sick of my appearance and my weary-broken mood.

I couldn’t listen anymore about why my wardrobe’s wrong,

or that some fantastic makeup will make me beautiful and strong.

Now I’m boycotting the companies who can’t do ads without nude chicks,

do they think that I won’t buy their shoes unless I see a little tit?

I don’t want another sleazy ad by Hardee’s and Diet Coke.

All I’m offered is body work when it’s my engine that is broke.

Why does society do this to their women and their girls?

And what do you do as a rag doll when you live in a Barbie Doll world?

poem for 9/11/01….

 

Absence

 

It was the absence of a soundtrack

that confused me.

I’ve never been one for that

type of action movie anyway.

 

I never saw Armageddon or Independence Day

or whatever that one is where the

White House is hit with a space ship.

I have too much empathy for people

to watch them suffer and die

tragically, horribly, needlessly.

 

I like suspense,

I like psychological thrillers

(without the gratuitous gore)

I like dramas and romance

and I love comedies.

I don’t like movies about devastation.

I don’t like movies where the bad guy wins,

and I could care less about special effects.

 

 

And as I sat there, home,

sick from work, absently watching TV.

It was the absence of a soundtrack,

that scared me the most.

 

It was the absence of applause that impressed me.

 All of these actors, singers and musicians

that I have admired for many different reasons

over the years and no one was applauding them.

The singers performed with energy,

the musicians with a passion I’d never seen,

only the actors seemed out of place.

Fully aware that they were there as celebrities

but with no need to act.

Merely react or answer the phone.

No introductions, no commercials,

no scandalous outfits or off-color jokes.

No need to change the channel.

And though I tried for 3 hours,

no way to reach any one out there.

 

It was the absence of applause

that impressed me.

 

It’s the absence of thousands of people

that keeps me awake at night

 

If you’ll pardon the writer

who always seem to have an opinion,

or feeling about everything

that crosses her path….

 

I apologize for my delay

at expressing myself on this subject…

I have been speechless,

without words…..

They have been absent.

 

 

 

my review of “Guru – My Days With Del Close” by Jeff Griggs.

It’s true. I’m a fan of biographies. Not all biographies, but I do love a well-written one. By “well-written” I do not mean that the person’s entire life is dissected down to the minute. I certainly do not care to know the name of an actor’s great-aunt’s Sunday school teacher, nor do I want to know how adept she was as crocheting doilies which looked like animals. No, a well-written biography is one where the story flows effortlessly. When the author brings out those subtle nuances that made the subject truly unique and worthy of writing about. It is disheartening to me that so many of the individuals whom I am the most interested in, never put pen to paper to tell their own story. Some of these people I had barely heard of until I read the biographies of their friends and colleagues. For example, Del Close in the “well-written” memoir, “Guru – My Days With Del Close” by Jeff Griggs.

I wished him a happy holiday and walked down the stairs. The door opened, and I turned and looked up toward the third-floor landing. Del bellowed down the stairs, “Don’t eat too much and get fat. I’m oh for three with fat, funny guys. Belushi, Farley, and John Candy–three fat funny guys and all three of them dead.’” Then he added, “I was pretty fond of that fat bastard.’” it was quick, it was quiet, and it was devoid of emotion.

What I discovered upon reading this insightful and humorous book is that Mr. Close seemed to live his life as if he were involved in one, unending improvisational exercise. His habit was to not merely to push the envelope. Del first had to design the envelope, determine where its weaknesses were, and only then would he push that envelope anywhere he wanted it to go. For approximately two years, Jeff Griggs was that envelope.

Woven amongst the flashbacks to Del’s tumultuous and varied career are the day to day interactions between the guru and his reluctant assistant. Mr. Griggs masterfully propels the reader into this relationship with his honest and vivid writing. Taking a wry and sarcastic view of a legendary comic genius and unearthing a deeper meaning to the stories and myths which have surrounded Close for decades. In essence the reader discovers not only Del’s humanity, but a view of what life would be like to be thrust into a companionship with a man who is both feared and admired.

 

“You there, on the stage. What were you doing? Why did you make that girl turn into a hooker?”

Joe answered, “I thought she was playing the part of a hooker.”

“I don’t believe that’s true. I think that it’s very rare that a female improviser takes the stage with the intention of being a prostitute. Usually they’re forced into those roles by inexperienced young men who have little imagination,” Del said.

“Actually,” he continued, “I think it was very clear to all of us that she was working in a garden until you barged in and called her a whore. Isn’t that right?”

The girl nodded sheepishly.

“She obviously was working in a garden, which you completely ignored. So tell me, young man, why did you force her to play the part of a hooker?”

“I don’t know,” Joe answered. “I thought it would be funny.”

“Well that blew up in your fucking face, didn’t it?” Del asked him.

The story unfolds with Griggs agreeing to chauffeur Close with his errands in exchange for tuition to the Improv-Olympic Training Center, and concludes with Del’s death in March of 1999. As a reader, I was mesmerized not only by the mechanics of the world in which Close lived, but the measures he would take to determine if a person was worthy of occupying space in his life. And so it appears that Griggs proved he was not only worthy, but he demanded a welcoming party when he arrived. By drawing on his wit and his intelligence, he was able to turn his job into his own private tutoring. Not only for the world of theater, but his life lessons as well.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of this book is its conversational ingenuity, because it is not merely a biography of Del Close, it is also a memoir of Jeff Griggs’. The banter is rapid and razor-sharp. At times it is a constant tug of war to see how far Griggs can be pushed and embarrassed, but in other instances it comes across as dialogue written for an offbeat summer comedy. Whether in personal conversations or in those interactions that the author was able to observe, Del’s voice comes across loud and clear. He is offensive, he is abrasive and above all else he is a destructor of social conformity.

It was astonishing to discover that this irreverent and antagonistic man was the compass which led so many of our iconic comedians to the upper echelons of their careers. I firmly believe that if I had the power to cross barriers of time and space and could ask such comic icons as Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, John Candy, Harold Ramis or Chris Farley who taught them to bring out the brilliance that they were yearning to attain, I would get the same answer from each one of them; “Del Close.”

my poem for Jerry Dellinger….

i guess i had more brain cleaning to do….and so here’s a poem to sum up today’s thoughts….

 
 
disorganized brilliance.

i am caught up in a breath
and it’s measuring the depth
of the circus flying ‘round inside my mind.

i am lost among the crowd
and my thoughts are just a shroud
to protect me from the pointed hands of time.

i remember long ago
when my world was all a show,
the stage would breathe a magic through the air.

while the sets would strike & change,
and we’d all use other names,
the chaos was in lovely disrepair.

here’s a last thought from the writer,
you made my life appear much brighter.
you lit it like you would a morning sun.

with a smile in your eyes,
i will imagine your good-bye
and know that your work will never be undone.

written for Jerry Dellinger.
august 4th, 2010.

by barbie dockstader angell.
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Jerry Dellinger….

So there I was, standing in the lobby of the theater building and still unaccustomed to my freshman life on campus, when my new advisor/director walked up to me. “So here’s the thing.” Jerry said, “You want to study to be a lawyer, but that’s not right. You’re not going to ever be a lawyer no matter how much you study, because you are a writer. That’s what you’re good at and that’s what you should do.” He said this as easily if he were telling me that rehearsals for “Cabaret” had been bumped back by a half an hour. It was a matter of fact. There was no other option. There would be no discussion or debating ….yet, the words were confident and kind. I didn’t know at the time that this was his style. I didn’t know that he seemed to have an endless supply of alternate paths hiding somewhere in the organized chaos of his mind. Never did I hear a “No” about something that it wasn’t coupled with a “How about this instead?” Always as if he hadn’t sought me out to give me this information….and always with a twinkle in his eye because he knew that he was correct.

Jerry Dellinger was aware that I had wanted to be a lawyer since I was six years old. In fact, Jerry knew all about me when no one else did. His sister-in-law had been my houseparent in a sort of orphanage called, “Mooseheart”, in Aurora, Illinois. She thought that I was intelligent and funny but worried that I was a little too odd for an average life in a mundane place. When Jerry heard about me he asked me to come visit Lincoln College to determine whether or not I would attend in the fall of 1990. While I tried to impress him with my brain, he sought out my humor. After telling him that I wanted to get my degree at Lincoln College and then go on to Harvard to be a lawyer, Jerry looked at me as if I had expressed a deep desire to go to clown college and then get my master’s in pie-throwing. To his credit, he kept his disapproval to himself. Now I know that if he could not give me a better option, he wouldn’t advise me at all. After the tour of the campus, he sat me down in the lobby of the theater building. I learned then that he would be my advisor and my major would be in Theater. Discussion about this was minimal. While I tried to dissuade him from his plan by telling him I had never acted or worked on a play, he dismissed all of my concerns. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll teach you all of that.” I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the first of hundreds of decisions that Jerry would guide me through over the next 18 years.

With Jerry I learned the magical world of the theater. I built sets, ran lights & sound, did hair & makeup, acted and was generally in awe of my the brilliance of my mentor. He taught me how to excel at everything by entrusting me with tasks beyond my self- perceived capabilities….but he knew better than I did of what I could achieve. Even my friends were handpicked by Mr. Dellinger. Steering me toward the right people and away from the bad ones may have been a full-time job for him, if I hadn’t been such a quick learner.

The most telling part of our relationship came in January of my freshman year. I needed to find the person whom I knew I could trust unconditionally. As any girl in my situation can tell you, it isn’t easy to confide that you have been raped. In my case, it was an acquaintance rape. The perpetrator was another student on campus. Jerry took it well. He first offered me his sympathy and then his outrage. Then he switched gears to look at things logically. What were my options? What were my concerns? What could the two of us do to turn this situation around and get past the feelings I had? We talked into the nite. It’s unclear how many appointments he canceled so that he could stay with me. I remember him telling the people in the theater that they had to leave. We sat on the stairs which led to the far side of the auditorium, a set of three or four steps, and faced the closed door a few feet in front of us. We never did go into the theater, we stayed on or by those steps for several hours as we tried to figure out my life. Eventually I went back to my dorm to get some sleep. Promises were made to Jerry that I would call him day or nite if I needed anything at all and that I would return in the morning for further solutions.

It was decided that I would start working on my final piece for my freshman acting class. Jerry picked out the scene himself. The play was called, “Extremities”. It is the story of a woman who is attacked in her home by a would-be rapist. During the attack, the woman blinds him with a spray for killing bees. She then cages him in her fireplace as she tries to determine how to make him pay for what he tried to do to her. Playing opposite me would be a classmate whom Jerry knew to be a good friend. Don Johnston was much larger than I and had great range in his abilities. I had always thought that Don knew why he was chosen for this scene, but it turns out he did not. However Jerry, as always, was entirely correct. We performed our acting final so well that the theater department decided to produce the play on the main stage the following semester. Don reprised his role as the villain and I declined to play the lead. Actually, that was Jerry’s decision too. He felt that the therapy had worked and it would be best for me to move on with my life.

After I graduated from Lincoln College, I continued on as I had before. Working on summer theater projects with Mr. Dellinger and pursuing my writing career. When Jerry told me it was time for me to start performing my poetry in public, I did. Not only did he come to my debut reading at Barnes & Noble, but he stopped by my apartment afterward with a small gift. He had stolen the sign with the list of poets who would be appearing that nite….I still have it.

Boyfriends never got to the next level without meeting Jerry Dellinger. Big decisions rarely got any further than vague thoughts without his approval. He took the only two wedding photos which are displayed in my house. He is the reason I am still trying to make it as a writer. It is only fitting since he is the reason I found that passion at all.

Jerry Dellinger passed away on August 2nd, 2010. He began almost every conversation with me in the same way, as if our last conversation had never ended. “So there I was….” Or “So here’s something….” and off we’d go to discover what new twists and tumbles my life was about to take.

My heart aches as if I have not only lost a teacher, but a director, a father, a friend, a confidante, a mentor, an advisor and a part of myself.

So there I was….when my friend Jeff sent me the message that Jerry had died….and as a writer I was at a loss for words.

So here’s something….in all of the menagerie that embodied this lovely and inspiring man….there is no one who will ever come close to being that magical in my life again.

 

barbie dockstader angell.

august 3rd, 2010.