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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Word of the Day, vol. II

Word of the Day: INSPIRATION
Apartment 8. The words are nearly legendary to a group of 20-somethings who graduated from UC Berkeley between the years of 2003 and 2007. It was a strange apartment. With two entrances separated by a hallway, a rat maze of a bathroom, large French doors between the living and dining rooms through which even I saw ghosts, a fridge in the dining room, a balcony that peeped right into the dorms across the street.

I moved in the summer before my junior year of college. And my three roommates and I spent three straight days painting it and cleaning it and building it up over Labor Day weekend. I wasn’t sure I could live with them. They all seemed so…optimistic. So creative. Like dreamers. I mean, S’s dad built us a BAR in the dining room. We repainted the kitchen a cozy yellow, the dining room a sexy red, and the anteroom a beautiful turquoise. It was the kind of TLC I’d never given to any living space. A kind I didn’t really think was necessary.

We hosted a housewarming party. It was only the first of many, many ridiculous, themed parties that we’d host over the next two years. At the Halloween party we had that year, I dressed up like a callgirl, complete with a calling card stuck in my black push-up bra that said 555-SEXX. I wore bright red lipstick and called a boy back to the party, after he had left, so we could make out in my dining room. S found a dress that had the design of a fox made out in sequins on it. She wore her hair out to here and carried around a plastic mic, as a drunken 80’s lounge singer. At the First Annual Holiday party, we dressed up, drank from martini glasses, sang carols, and put mistletoe in every archway. We hosted an 80’s Fiesta, which I only remember because I left it to have a heart-to-heart with a new friend and wore a crazy outfit, complete with bright red poncho (which I still have). Our Flappers to Rappers party was the only one that had to be broken up by the police, after the drummer from the pit of my production of She Loves Me got alcohol poisoning and had to be carted away on a stretcher. Our last party in that house was a prom, complete with formal attire, a photo backdrop and tiaras for all four of us. People talked about these parties and showed up to them from all over Berkeley.

It was a magical place. And I remember realizing very early in that first year that I was living with people who would become my best friends. I remember physically feeling myself, my life, change while living in that house.

I became the kind of girl who scribbled poems on napkins. I thought of song lyrics on walks home and would have to run back to the house to write them down.

One of my roommates was studying composition; S was doing a ton of singing, and I was juggling acting, directing, and writing. I will never forget one night when a few of us were sitting in our living room, and M was pounding out notes in her room. S started singing, to compete and compliment the music, and then I started booming out the Shakespearean monologue I was working on.

It was inspired cacophony. It was chaotic, creative joy. We had a karaoke machine, for God’s sake.

I discovered Suzan-Lori Parks during the time we lived in that house and found a quote of hers that literally became the stamp of our lives there. A poster superimposing the text of the quote and two pictures of my roommates and me hung in our dining room for almost a year and is still hanging in the apartment I moved out of in Brooklyn two winters ago.

After we all moved out of that house in Berkeley, there was a burglary in it and, separately, a shooting right in front of it. The ghosts must not have liked that we left. At some point, S and I returned to the apartment to pick up some mail that had been delivered there and we saw that the girls who had moved in had painted over all our vibrant colors. The dining room was now a boring and cold light blue. The anteroom a strange teal, and the balcony door barred by a lofted bed. We felt betrayed and grief-stricken.

S and I moved to New York, and I seemed to lose myself and all my inspiration on the flight east. I remember having a fight with her in Prospect Park once about whether or not I could ever stage a production of Into the Woods site-specifically there. I was convinced it was an impossible and illogical idea. S couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just pull my resources together and do it.

It only occurs to me now, as I write this and anticipate the site-specific production I plan to helm in the fall, that maybe I’ve finally become a dreamer. It all started with those three days of painting, which turned into two of the hardest and best years of my life.

Laughter isn’t a way of escaping. It’s a way of arriving on the scene. Think about what happens to your body when you laugh. It’s almost the same thing that happens to you when you throw up.—“Elements of Style” by S-L P.

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