Monday, April 30, 2018

A love letter to live theatre in general, and to a recent production of Othello in particular

Part One: F*** Your Patriarchal Gender Roles Bulls***

The other day, I was sitting and chatting with a guy friend about my costume for Othello, and the topic of fishnets came up. And then he said, “I’ve worn fishnets onstage. Wait…I think I have…I don’t remember?”

And I love that theatre is a world in which men can’t remember whether they’ve ever worn fishnet tights onstage or not.

The theatre world probably has its share of toxic masculinity. But in my own personal experience, there isn’t much. Theatre is a world in which straight, cisgender men can wear fishnets and nail polish and high heels, and hug and touch each other, and show emotions, and kiss each other onstage without freaking the hell out about their masculine identity. And I know there are other worlds outside of theatre where this is true, but I love theatre for this reason.

Part Two: We Are Not Strumpets! 

In Othello, there’s this dramatic scene where (spoiler alert but come on people it’s 400 years old) Roderigo’s been murdered, and Cassio’s been stabbed, and Iago is trying to blame my character, Bianca, for all of it. Iago calls Bianca some version of the word “whore” almost a dozen times within a few short pages. That scene has always been really intense to act, both in rehearsal and performance.

But for some reason, during our third show, it just…really got to me. We didn’t do anything particularly different. Maybe the actor playing Iago got a little bit closer to me, or said a few of his lines more intensely. But there was just something else going on for me. All of Iago’s lines suddenly felt like all of the things the world seems to shout about women’s sexuality. “This is your fault. Your fault. You are bad. You are a whore. Your fault.” As a survivor of sexual assault, those are the words you hear the most loudly. “What were you wearing?” “How did you lead him on?” “This nice young man’s life is ruined because you reported this.” So much blame. It’s overwhelming.

At the end of that scene, Iago grabs my wrist and calls me strumpet (again), and I pull a knife on him and yell, “I am no strumpet! But of life as honest as you that thus abuse me!” In rehearsals, and in the first few shows, I would usually kind of fall apart on the second half of that line, dropping the knife and sort of collapsing into a breakdown. But on that Saturday night, all of the rage of millions of women screaming “ME TOO!” welled up inside me and I yelled my entire line at Iago, full of righteous anger, before throwing the dagger violently to his feet.

I had a director once say that acting isn’t therapy, but it sure can be therapeutic. I kept the Saturday night interpretation of that scene for the rest of the run, and every night, I felt like I got to yell “I AM NO STRUMPET” not only for myself, but on behalf of so so so many women.

I love that theatre creates these unexpected opportunities to do something meaningful for yourself and for others. I definitely don’t think people should intentionally use theatrical productions to work through their gunk—it doesn’t make for the best theatre, and it can get pretty selfish. But often, the gunk sort of gets worked through anyways, through the simple act of telling a story that you connect with. I love theatre for that.

Part Three: The Give and Take

I’m no good at small talk. Words like “mingling” and “networking” set my heart racing with nerves. Some of the most important things in my life are the relationships I have with other people, but I’m definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert. It often takes me a while to open up to new folks.

But theatre gives me a chance to form meaningful relationships with other people without the “mingling” or small talk. It allows me to connect both face-to-face and side-by-side with so many caring, funny, smart, perceptive, hard-working people. The process of putting a show together automatically creates so many opportunities to connect. There are conversations in dressing rooms and green rooms. And there’s the give and take onstage, learning to listen to and trust each other. I love theatre for that.

Part Four: What It All Comes Down To 

Look, I know the world is kind of a mess. I think that in some ways it always has been, and it’s very possible that it always will be. But we do the best we can to make things good in the world while we’re here. And if there’s one thing I believe deeply, it’s that empathy makes the world better. And if there’s another thing I believe deeply, it’s that live theatre is one of the best teachers of empathy in the world.

I believe that as an audience member. But I also believe that as a maker of theatre, too. Participating in a live theatre production keeps all of my empathy muscles alive and well. It validates empathy by letting go of damaging gender expectations. It lets me know what it is to walk in someone else’s shoes, and gives me chances to tell other people’s stories. It helps me let my walls down as I learn to trust my fellow actors.

There are so many reasons why I love theatre. So so so many. I’ve got several volumes worth of love letters to theatre stored up. But today, after the closing weekend of “Othello,” this is the love letter I wanted to write.

Monday, April 16, 2018

My New Tattoo and I, a short imagined dialogue during the two-week healing period

Scene: The living room of 32-year-old Liz. The carpet is old, but the room is filled with houseplants and art, giving it a pleasant, lived-in feeling. Liz sits on the couch, staring into space, lost in thought. Then, the tattoo on her left thigh speaks up.

TATTOO: Hey, will you please scratch me?

LIZ: No, I’m not supposed to. You have to heal.

TATTOO: Oh yeah. (beat) Hey, I have a question.

LIZ: What?

TATTOO: How the hell did you even brave a needle for 45 minutes to get me? You’re not generally cool with needles. You get light-headed when getting a flu shot. You’ve passed out almost every single time you had to have blood drawn. When you were three years old, you fainted in your father’s arms while your mom tried to remove a splinter from your foot. You get real anxious about simple medical procedures. You--

LIZ: I know. (thinking) You know, I kind of didn’t think of it as a needle. Just an abstract source of pain. I intentionally did not think about the fact that it was a needle creating a tattoo.

TATTOO: Huh. Interesting. (beat) Hey, will you scratch me? I’m so itchy!

LIZ: No.

TATTOO: Okay, fine. (beat) So you just ignored the needle and everything was copacetic?

LIZ: Yeah, actually. (beat) To be fair, I definitely did not once look at the needle. Not while it was sitting on the counter or when it was in Paige’s hand or when it was going into my skin. I just refused to think about it. I mean, I’m getting a little light-headed just having this conversation.


(A pause as both Liz and the tattoo become lost in their own thoughts. Then the tattoo speaks up again.)

TATTOO: Hey, I’m itchy.

LIZ: I KNOW. I’m not supposed to scratch you.

TATTOO: Okay, okay. So…do you think your fear of needles is cured now?

LIZ: Probably not. I’ll probably still pass out the next time I have to have blood drawn. But in my defense, I have really teeny tiny terrible veins.

TATTOO: I guess that makes sense. (getting distracted) Ooh ooh! Look! Look at me! A little flake of peeling skin! Peel that off! Do it!

LIZ: Do not tempt me. You have to just heal!

TATTOO: But think how satisfying it will be to peel off this little flake of skin…

LIZ: I know! But if I do that, it could pull the ink right out from my skin and then you'll look bad.

TATTOO: Oh. Okay, well how about you scratch me?

LIZ: No.

TATTOO: Fine. Know what I miss?

LIZ: What?

TATTOO: Just living my damn life without having to be cleansed and moisturized 3 times a day.

LIZ: Believe me. I miss just living my damn life without having to cleanse and moisturize you 3 times a day. I also miss sleeping on my left side.

TATTOO: But you'll smoosh me! I'm still healing! Don't smoosh me while I'm healing!

LIZ: I know. That's why I don't sleep on my left side.

TATTOO: Oh. Thanks. (beat) Hey. I'm itchy.

LIZ: This is getting real old.

TATTOO: I can't help it!

LIZ: Well, I'm not going to scratch you no matter how many times you ask. (sighing) I can't wait until this phase of healing is over.

TATTOO: How do you think I feel?

LIZ: Itchy?


LIZ: Know what else I'm excited about?


LIZ: Being able to put my actual bedding back on my bed.

TATTOO: You have different bedding? But I thought--

LIZ: Those are my actual pillowcases, but I’ve also been sleeping with an old fitted sheet and comforter. That's why they don't match. At all. The juxtaposition of teal and yellow pillowcases, and rust/marigold fitted sheet and comforter is SO TERRIBLE. It hurts my soul to see such a terrible color combination. It's been bothering me this whole time.

TATTOO: Then why did you do it?

LIZ: Because Paige and the internet told me to sleep on old bedding for the first few nights because you might ooze blood and lymph and ink and ruin everything I own.

TATTOO: That's...gross.

LIZ: I know.

TATTOO: Hey, I'm--

LIZ: Don't say it. I know. You're itchy.

TATTOO: AND peeling.

LIZ: I know.


TATTOO: (thinks for a moment) So why did you keep the terrible bedding combination for so long?

LIZ: Because I had to do laundry. I put the comforter and fitted sheet that match the pillows in the laundry but then I didn’t have time to actually launder them until now.

TATTOO: Oh. (beat) Hey, I’m itchy. Will you scratch me?

Friday, April 6, 2018


My sister Beckah and I both write. We both have blogs. And we both want to write on our blogs more often and more consistently.

So we decided on a six-month challenge! Here are the rules:

Each of us will post a 750-word blog entry on our respective blogs by 11:59 pm Mountain Standard Time every other Monday, starting April 16th.

Entries have no content restrictions--they can be fiction or essays or poetry or journal entries or movie reviews or whatever. But they must be original.

Should one of us fail to post by the deadline, the other is authorized to post a "tasteful but silly shaming post" on the other's blog. (We have each other's login info.)


If you'd like to follow Beckah's blog, you can check it out here. I highly recommend it.

photo via

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"I have not eaten the heart," or The Time I Got a Tattoo And Didn't Really Tell Anyone For A Minute

"If I don’t get cast in this part, maybe I’ll get that tattoo. If I don’t get this job, maybe I’ll get that tattoo. After I make it a year after divorce, maybe I’ll get that tattoo." --My inner monologue for the past...5 years? 

(I don't really have the energy to go into the whole "Mormon getting a tattoo" thing at the moment. I know, I know. Maybe someday I'll talk about that, but not today. I just thought I'd get that disclaimer out of the way.)

I’ve had the design made and taped to my bathroom mirror for over six months now. It’s an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph, the feather of maat (click link for explanation), surrounded by a geometric pattern of an icosahedron (20-sided die). There wasn’t necessarily any planned symbolism to the icosahedron—I just liked the way it looked. But when I thought about it later, I also liked that there was a tabletop RPG connotation to it. I decided the tattoo would go on the outside of my upper thigh. Easy to cover for acting gigs, but not too hard to show off if I really wanted to. So I made an appointment for a consultation. And then I made an appointment for getting inked.

And on Wednesday last week, I walked into SLC Ink and got my tattoo.

Originally, I was going to have a friend or two come with me. It turned out that both friends who were going to come along were out of town, so I went by myself. Which ended up being perfect. I was doing something for myself, by myself.

Me laying in the chair at SLC Ink and wondering
what the hell I'm doing
I opened the door to SLC Ink that afternoon and thought, “What the hell am I doing?!” But I walked up to the reception desk and told them I had an appointment with Paige. I filled out the paperwork. I lifted the hem of my skirt and watched Paige clean and shave my thigh. I held still while she put the stencil in place. I laid on the plastic-covered bed and tried to get comfortable. I gritted my teeth for 45 minutes while the picture I had designed months ago became a permanent part of my body. Paige and I chatted about astrological signs and gun violence. And the whole time, every few minutes, I kept thinking, “What the hell am I doing?! I don’t have to do this. I can walk away. I’m so scared of this. Who am I? What am I doing?”

And then it was done.

Paige wrapped my new tattoo in a protective bandage and I stood up and swiped my debit card and limped to my van. And couldn’t stop grinning.

I didn’t really tell anyone what I was doing. Not right before, not during, not after. I didn’t post on social media while I was getting inked. I didn’t tell friends as I chatted and messaged and visited with them throughout the day, even though it was consuming 75% of my thoughts. I texted my sister about it that night, but I didn’t tell the two friends who were possibly going to come with me. Over the next few days, I didn't tell anyone while it was stinging during Othello rehearsals, or when it ached as I bent down to pick up my nephew. I know a week isn't that long to keep something quiet, but I wanted to for just a little while. Because I didn’t do it for anyone else. I did it for me.

I did it because I’m so damn tired of worrying about what other people think of me. Positive or negative. Spoken or unspoken. I’ve spent so much of the last year worried—terrified—that the people I care about don’t care about me. It has made me anxious, jealous, angry, heartbroken, and desperate in turn. And all of those fearful thoughts I had while getting my tattoo were, at their core, about other people. What they would think. What they would say. How they would react.

But the thing is that it’s no one else’s body, and it’s no one else’s tattoo.

It's not quite that I was afraid of what people would think if I talked about my new tattoo right away. But I wanted this important thing to be just mine for a little while, with no one else's input. Just a few days. It took so much energy to fight all of my fears just to get the tattoo, and I didn't want to use any more energy to field responses from other people, even if they were positive.

I still kind of can’t believe I did it. But I did it. I did it after a year of life post-divorce. I did it after one of the worst callbacks I’ve ever done, for a bucket-list dream role with a theatre I love. I did it despite a fear of needles and pain. I did it alone, despite my underlying fear that I will actually be alone forever. I did it while my anxiety about what other people think clamored for my attention at the back of my mind. And now this lovely pattern on my thigh reminds me of the principles of maat (truth, balance, morality, justice). But it also reminds me of a time when I overcame a whole bunch of fears, and a whole bunch of pain, and did something meaningful for myself. It reminds me of a time when I let peace speak louder than fear.

The phrase "I have not eaten the heart" is a part of maat, the hieroglyph at the center of my tattoo. It's one of the "42 Negative Confessions" listed in the Papyrus of Ani, and it's a poetic and ancient Egyptian way of saying "I have not grieved needlessly. I have not felt needless regret."

There have been times in my life, when making big decisions, when I have been filled with terror. Going to BYU-Idaho. Getting married. Going to grad school. Moving to Utah. Auditioning for that role. What if it was the wrong thing to do? What if I regretted it? What if what if what if?! But I did all of those things because in the moments when I was the most still and the most connected to myself, I was completely confident about the decision I had made. I felt peace about it, and knew that it was “the right thing to do.”

Not all of those things worked out the way I thought they would. I took 8 years to get my Bachelor's from BYU-Idaho. My marriage didn't last. I didn't (and don't) get every role I auditioned for. But that doesn't change the fact that those were the "right things to do." I'm so grateful for my time at BYU-Idaho. I'm so grateful for my time being married to Jacob. I'm so grateful for chances to do what I love at so many wonderful theatres. It took a lot of courage to do some of those things, but I don't regret any of them.

And I don't think I'll regret this tattoo either.