Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wedding Bliss

By now you may have heard that Matt and I are engaged and getting married. A wave of odd embarrassment flows over me when ever anyone says "Congratulations!" Not because I am not proud and excited about our upcoming nuptials (because I am, truly, very happy) but because I don't know what to say other than "Thank you." The congratulations always makes itself out to be a conversation starter, but really it puts an end to any conversation at all and both myself, my fiance and the congratulatory party are left looking at the ground or the wall or anywhere other than at each other hoping to God some more interesting topic resumes. And, inevitably, everyone feels happy they brought it up, as if it were a duty or chore to be discharged, but now are at a loss as to how to strive forward.

The first question that usually occurs next is "When is the date?" Thankfully I know that this will mean the end of the conversation is soon because, right now, there is no date. And even if there was, there really isn't any rejoinder. "Oh? My parents got married in December. How nice." "June, in San Antonio, it will be hot." "February. A Valentine's Day Wedding?" Then it's over. There is only commentary...and it wains and falls away until we can talk about playwrighting again. If it's not the date it's the engagement itself. "How did he ask?"

"How did he ask?" What a very personal question. After having been subjected to it, I don't think I'll ever ask it again of anyone else. It was an extremely beautiful and intimate moment. It was the culmination of ten years of being together. It had it's ironies, it's comedies, it's little tragedies, it's wonders and it's miracles. I could write a novella about that moment. It was one of the single most beautiful and honest moments in our relationship. It left me feeling faint, and after 10 years, I really wasn't sure if it was possible. Romance. Real, tangible, honest, aching romance.

"He pulled me into our office after a long weekend. We were both tired and had just finished watching "Point Break" and eating pizza. He lit a candle and told me it was the 10th anniversary of our first kiss. I had no idea. He pulled out the ring and 'against the clutter and gloom' (his words) he got down on one knee and asked."

The story doesn't to the moment justice. And, in fact, if you've seen our office it sounds silly and awkward, even though I feel it was anything but. I tell the story and they focus on the first kiss thing and giggle and chordal and then...the pause. Then they ask when we are getting married.

I have been asked a few times what my colors are and that brings up some conversation. I have been asked where and that always leads to the "Why San Antonio?" Conversation. No, it's not really a destination spot for weddings. And, in fact, I think most San Franciscan's hate all the states that reside between California and New York (this includes the central part of California). Most people forget Matt and I are from the Southwest. Or they remember and there is an unfortunate moment when they think they've forgotten some vital part of our family histories and they stutter and stammer and try to answer their own question.

We're getting married in San Antonio because, as much as I love Albuquerque, it doesn't feel like my home town anymore. And most of my family would have to travel in no matter where we got married and we both felt it was unfair to make them pay for hotels in San Francisco. My mother lives in San Antonio, and soon Matt's family will also reside not far from there in Killen Texas. My sister and my brother both spent their high school lives in San Antonio. It's where my brother met his wife and married her. It represents a very happy part of my mother's life. My father, for his part, isn't fond of San Antonio and he has good reason for it. It pains me to hurt him by having the wedding there, but in a phone conversation he said "You should do what you want for your wedding, not what's best for other people." And, truth be told, I want to get married in San Antonio with a licence from San Francisco. This, it seems to me, is what is truest.
This is too much to explain. So, I just say "My mother lives there now and Matt's family is only two hours away." Can you just see me throw the excess over my shoulder and slap my hands clean?

But, it isn't other people I blame, it is myself. How perfectly odd the whole arrangement of a wedding and nuptials and receptions seem now. What a strange country of dresses and cakes and rituals I've traveled into. I've always wanted to come here, I've always imagined I would, but it turns out the distance is further than I thought it was and the people here are strange and they don't speak my language.

I am at a crisis right now in my career. I'm a playwright and for the first time I'm really giving it a go. I've quit my job, applied for unemployment and I'm trying to write. A daily task that seems to need the obstructions of a 9-5 so that one can yearn to sit and type...not endless hours of emptiness stretched out before you like so much empty paper calling out to be filled. What a pickle I've gotten myself into. Just at the moments when I feel least theatrical, I'm being asked to put together the most ancient and theatrical of events.

And to top it all off, I am an atheist. Matt is a Christian, and I support his faith fully. This does cause some problems. Do we get married in a church? Do we get married by an ordained believer? Do we bring God into our vows? I told Matt that I would make my promises to him, my family and friends, and to myself. That was all the higher power I needed. That if I promised to something I didn't believe in then it wouldn't be true. Yes, I celebrate Christmas. I, unlike other Athiests I know, think there are beautiful parts to Christianity. Besides, Christmas hardly has anything to do with Christ anymore. And I love giving gifts. And I love chocolate. And there are some Christmas songs I can't get enough of. And I gave Matt a cross for his birthday one year. Why? Because he believes and his faith gives him strength and guidance. I wanted to celebrate that and show my support for it. I don't even have anything against getting married in a church. It is just a building built for a purpose of community and love and faith. Sounds good to me. It's the God part. The specific higher power and the vows that get me.

And then, there is the last thing...the name.

To Gunnison or not to Gunnison. That is the question.

Who am I?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Edge San Francisco: Review!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Lost My Virginity
by Marvin Candle
Monday Nov 16, 2009

Aileen Clark in one of her many poses.
Aileen Clark in one of her many poses. (Source:Guerrilla Rep)
Guerrilla Rep continues its process of creating art in its own unique way withHow I learned to Stop Worrying and Lost my Virginity. Much like their previous success Third Eye before it, Virginity is a piece made up from interviews. And while their previous piece certainly was entertaining, Virginity follows the formula of the biographical (or in this case, autobiographical) show much more to the letter, and because of this is easier to follow, and is a much more lighthearted journey.

It certainly helps that the performer/co-author seems to be an amalgam of all the great things about performance and stand up comedy; Aileen Clark doesn’t merely earn and hold on to the audience’s attention, she rewards it with a wonderful groundedness that obviously comes from her actually LIVING through these can’t-make-it-up events. Her ability to switch between the light and the dark is certainly something special; the stress of the performance isn’t about how many characters she can perform (the program says 21; one loses count after a while), but conveying the emotions and messages behind each event in her life. In other words, don’t expect Greater Tunaesque character transformations here - it’s more of a hint as to who these people were in her life, the key is how these people change her into who she is today.

Virginity is an autobiographical piece, and what Ms. Clark shares with her audience doesn’t seem to be edited for posterity at all. With the an air of self effacing humor that all great one person shows should keep, she shows the beautiful and ugly side of her, her family, and her friends. While the one person performances aren’t new, it’s always refreshing to see someone look back with a normal perspective, rather than rose colored glasses; one sees her longing as she looks at her father’s empty chair, and one can relate. We also know that when she says "I’m okay", she really is. Which is certainly saying something; she had experiences before she was 16 than many people have in their entire life.

With the always good shaping hand of John Caldon as co-author, and a great eye for direction by director Claire Rice, Guerrilla Rep and AMD have teamed up to create something with a whole lot of awesome. There were vry few problems; when Ms. Clark did switch to darker times in her life, her good intensity was upstaged by words falling too quiet. In lighter times, some of her characters bled into each other a little too easily - it’s obvious she wanted to share these great people with us, but the rapid shifting in characters was confusing at times. Also, unfortunately, it’s about ten minutes too long to not have an intermission. But those are simply nitpicks. There is so much fun and poignancy in Virginity, its problems hardly detract from a wholly terrific evening.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Lose My Virginity plays through November 21 at the Exit Theatre Cafe, 156 Eddy, San Francisco, CA. More information can be found at the theater’s website

Thursday, November 12, 2009

San Francisco Bay Times Review!

How I Stopped Worrying and Lost My Virginity: Surviving Heartbreak Without Becoming a ‘Ho’
By Linda Ayres-Frederick
Published: November 12, 2009
San Francisco Bay Times

Aileen Clark in How I Stopped Worrying and Lost My Virginity.

Aileen Clark does not consider herself to be a playwright, but she certainly knows how to tell a rich story. Produced by Guerrilla Rep and Ann Marie Productions, she does so with the help of co-writer John Caldon in How I Stopped Worrying and Lost My Virginity. Premiering at the EXIT Theatre Café, Ms. Clark takes on the 21 personae of her childhood and adolescence as she recounts in Spanish, Portuguese and English her unique tri-cultural, starry-eyed life.

While the opening is relegated to three taped answering-machine messages from her Hispanic grandmother trying to reach her, once Clark enters, the show comes to life. Her parents are a feisty combo. Her beautiful, Latin-tempered, devout Catholic, Nicaraguan mother meets her handsome-but-reserved Scottish father in the U.S., but the couple eventually settles in Brazil. Her father travels frequently for business, leaving Aileen as an only child to bond closely with her mother and enjoy the avid attention and solitude their comfortable life offers. Her mother is the perfect role model of a devoted wife preparing delicious meals whenever her husband returns. Life proceeds with occasional visits from her mother’s family members, all of whom adore the bright girl Aileen is becoming. As she grows older, Aileen’s challenges are those pre-adolescents endure worldwide — crushes on one pal or another and the daily embarrassments of school life such as being called “fat.” When she hears that the worst offender is being transferred to another city, Aileen looks forward to the “best year of her life.”

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and in this case, it’s paved with expectations as well! That very year, Aileen’s mother becomes seriously ill. Her father brings the family to San Francisco, where hopes of a cure for his wife seem better. Surrounded by her mother’s family during the prolonged treatment, preteen Aileen is left out of the communication loop and never told what is really going on until her mother succumbs to the cancer.

At the wake one of Aileen’s cousins shares her “gift” with Aileen. The gift is the promise of enduring love all wrapped up in losing one’s virginity to the “man of one’s dreams.” Through trial and much error, a now buxom Aileen eventually realizes the myth of her cousin’s “gift.” She barrels through two years of absolute rebellion in which she discovers her father’s emotional betrayal of her; has a fist fight with the same homunculus of a woman her father hires to take care of her; moves to Nicaragua to live with her Tia Ileana — a second true mother — and continues to endure the challenges of being a 21-year-old virgin in a world of easily granted sexual encounters.

Directed by Claire Rice, Ms. Clark is a dynamo of energy, switching in an instant from one distinct character, mood, or language with ease. In 90 short minutes, she brings humor, heart and substance to this more than coming of age story. “If,” as she says, “you came to see this show expecting tons of stories about sex and men and all that, you are highly mistaken.” What she delivers is much, much more!

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Lost my Virginity continues (Thursdays to Saturdays at 8:30pm) until Nov. 21 at the Exit Café, 156 Eddy Street, San Fransicso. For tickets ($20) call (800) 838-3006 or at brownpapertickets.com.