#wcw Alicia Barnatchez

I can remember going to two slumber parties in my youth. Maybe there were more, but I was a weirdo and I doubt it. At one point I was pretty consistently referred to as “Freak of Nature,” and nobody wants one of THOSE braiding their hair.

Once in 6th grade a few of us went to this girl’s llama farm for a slumber party and we watched “The Other Sister” and afterwards I announced I hated donuts, which was a lie. The next morning we had donuts for breakfast and I had to sit and watch everyone eat them. I’m pretty sure I know why that memory sticks out to me. (THE LESSON I LEARNED WAS TO NEVER TELL A LIE).

The other sleepover was hosted by myself, and I was dared to pull my pants down and turn around in a circle three times while saying “I’m Madonna, I’m Madonna.” After that I went to my bed and read a book alone while everyone watched “Pet Sematary.”

Naturally, I grew up and wrote a play about girls at a sleepover, and one of them flies into a murderous rage, because I have some sort of childhood psychological something to fulfill / repair.

Also, I wrote this play because Alicia Barnatchez was delightfully pregnant and I thought it would be silly to place that beautiful expectant body of hers in a teenage slumber party situation. I feel really weird about that sentence, but seriously, the first time I saw her in the full glory of her pregnancy I was stunned. Never have I seen a woman carry a child so gracefully, so luminously. On top of that, she’s one of the funniest performers I know. I always feel safe with her onstage.

Alicia, Emma, Caitlin and I made up the lady component in the Annoyance NY’s first graduating class. We’ve all known each other for just over a year and we have had a great time growing together as performers, so it wasn’t hard to write bawdy characters for a few gutsy ladies that have faked demon hell orgies together. And then Annie Donley said she’d direct it and it became a real thing. If I ever have a baby like Alicia did, I would like for Annie Donley to direct it. I am obsessed with Annie Donley. If anyone wants to get together and talk about it over coffee lmk. 

I thought we were going to do our show a couple times, Alicia was going to have her baby, and we would all move on to the next thing. But, its a fun show and we were asked to expand it a bit, and perform it at the end of April- which was realllllly close to Alicia’s due date.

Due to false labor pains and a case of hobbit feet, we didn’t have a chance to rehearse the new script all together until the day of the actual show. Which was terrifying for me. Everyone else was totally cool with it. How do you people relax? What’s the damn secret? I am so lucky to be surrounded by cool chicks who are not as neurotic as I am. 

By the time we all got together to rehearse, around 3:30pm, the baby was fumbling with the keys to unlock the door, but Alicia hauled her pregnant ass all the way up to Times Square anyway. We even choreographed a dance.

We did the show, it was a blast, and Alicia’s water broke in the cab on the way home- just a few minutes after leaving the theatre. Baby Oliver took the stage the very next morning.

People put up shows in unusual and imperfect situations all the time. That’s one of the fun things about a live performance. And you know what else people do all the time? Back out of shit last minute. NOT ALICIA BARNATCHEZ. This lady is the boss. So think about her the next time you “don’t feel like it.” 

Back in March, when Alicia was somewhere between 8 and 9 months pregnant, our improv team, Sweet Valerie High, performed at the PIT’s NYC Improv Festival. When Michael Condon inevitably picked her up and began to carry her around the rest of us cleared the sides of the stage like a hockey team. She didn’t bat an eye, of course, because she’s fearless, trusting and unusually easy going.

We got a run of the show, so we will be performing it every Saturday night at the Annoyance in Brooklyn. Our first rehearsal after Alicia had her baby started on the floor, as we laid there and listened to her tell the four of us about the hours after she left the theatre that night. I couldn’t help but think that it felt sort of like a sleepover, this time surrounded by women I admire and love to goof around with.

From the sounds of it, Oliver is just as laid back as his mom. And I’m sure he will grow up to be just as committed, courageous and hilarious as well. 

poopers

blood, sweat, and busy

Funny world we live in now where we celebrate women for speaking loud and proud about our periods, but it’s now taboo to say “I’m Busy.”

This week I am very busy AND I am getting my period, so everyone just sit the fuck down.

I am so grateful to the Annoyance Theatre for giving me so many wonderful opportunities to write and perform my own work. Sunday night I have the second installment of a one-person science show that I’ve been developing. It’s been difficult. The science part. Character-wise it’s a dream. But damn it’s hard to get your hands on snakes and chemicals in this town. This is New York City! If I can’t find 35% hydrogen peroxide around my neighborhood…well, where the heck am I supposed to live?!?!?!?

And then NEXT SATURDAY, JUNE 27 at 8:00pm: The run of The Sleepover + Three Busy Debras begins, and hopefully we don’t get picketed by pro-life advocates. Lotsa guts, metaphorically. Lotsa blood, too.

Click here to see the flier

Funny how this lil’ blurb just about came full circle.

#wcw Nicole Day

I am lucky to know so many women who radiate confidence, grace, and a playful amount of sass. But it takes a special kind of woman to make you feel at home without doing a damn thing.

Nicole Day is the epitome of the Cool Aunt. The one who takes you to all the best gay bars and doesn’t judge when you sheepishly bum a cigarette. The one you go to when you think your mom won’t understand. I’ve actually gone to her apartment and eaten too much homemade pizza and taken a nap in her bed. Nicole is an A+ storyteller and sometimes I want to sit at her feet when she talks. When she and her roommates clean their apartment they all wear wigs and heels. I could list all the ways she is cooler than everyone you know all day.

I met her in the women’s break room at a fine dining restaurant we worked at on the Upper East Side- exactly two years ago this month. Nicole had blue hair, a killer tan, and a tattoo on her thigh of Darth Vader holding a balloon. I know this because neither of us were wearing pants. It took no time at all for me to realize that she’s also got a razor sharp sense of humor and a magnetic field around her that points everyone’s negativity in the other direction.

It’s easy to make friends in this city but it’s hard to keep them. You may live 1.5 miles away from someone, but it could take an hour to get to their apartment. Everyone’s always working. Everyone’s always busy. Nobody wants to take the train if they don’t have to. Pretty soon that new best friend you made at a deli and shared your life story with just disappears back into the dark folds of your memory labeled, “people I think I knew but probably just dreamed about.”

Nicole moved here just over two years ago from Orlando. She’s a hair stylist, and even though she accidentally hit me in the face with a blow dryer once, she’s extraordinarily talented. When she talks about hair she explains the science behind it, which I appreciate, as I am curiously anal-retentive.

We don’t work together anymore. She’s successfully moved out of the restaurant scene, and I prefer to work in a bar where people laugh at my jokes and can’t tell that I’m still wearing my pajamas. Therefore, we don’t really see each other that often.

But here in NYC, Nicole is my “person.” Which means, even if we don’t see each other for two months, we can still hang out in silence when we finally get together.

Silence is rare though. It’s just a benefit to being very comfortable with someone you love, admire and trust. Nicole is also my person when it comes to having fun. I am a huge advocate of Fun, which means I’ve found a way to overcompensate for my anxiety, which isn’t really that much fun. I need people like Nicole to get me to chill out for once. 

One night last year Nicole and I went to see our friend Charlie’s new play on the Lower East Side, and found ourselves at a bar afterwards with nothing but tequila and our whole lives ahead of us. Thus, we befriended a middle aged pair of bros who thought that we were a couple.

The bros were both married to women but they seemed like they were in love with each other and therefore miserable, so we ended up hopping in a cab and going to a club with them, snickering to ourselves because they audibly thought we were gay and we secretly thought they were. The rest of the night is a blur of pumping music and flashing lights, but I’m pretty sure they ended up in a little tiff and had to leave early, and we got tired. That was the craziest night I’ve ever had in New York City. 

Once, Nicole and I were walking around the Financial District and a man said to her, “Hey Baby, I think I saw you in my dreams last night.”

And, yes: ew. But I believed him. She’s that woman in a good dream that makes you feel like your troubles are gone.

#wcw Senior Airman Tasia Reed

I have a handful of very detailed visual memories from high school. I’ll never forget, for example, what I wore on my 14th birthday (September 11, 2001), or kicking a girl from the opposing team in the ass during a basketball game while she bent over to pick up the ball.

A memory that sticks out to me, for less obvious reasons, is the first time I saw Taz Reed. I had not yet met her, but she was preceded by her reputation: a drum playing transfer student from Germany. Germany! How exotic!! A chick drummer! Woah!! In my mind, I pictured a tiny blonde. No clue why. (Germany).

I was pretty surprised when I showed up at marching band practice on a hot August afternoon to see instead a tiny black girl in a Korn shirt and Jnco jeans, with a blonde stripe running itself through her short hair. Does it ever matter if anyone is black or white or purple?! Actually, it feels like a necessary detail because it was at that moment in my life, my brain, which had only left the Midwest 1 or 2 times, chewed up the word “stereotype” and spit it right out onto the timpani Taz was standing behind.

I ask Taz if the memory of her outfit sounds about right and she says, “Unfortunately… yes… what the actual fuck was I thinking?”

Maybe in this memory I am wearing my red Dickies and oversized John Lennon t-shirt. So I console her with that.

“You never got mistaken for a boy or a lesbian.”

Touche! Oh high school.

Speaking of foreign languages: Taz isn’t really FROM Germany. She was a military brat. There’s no base in Waterloo, Iowa, but she had come home to live with her grandmother.

We became friends immediately. She had a car and could help me with physics, but more importantly, we were both navigating through high school life as gap-toothed introverts hiding inside baggy clothes, with very specific taste in music. And, at the time, we were good kids. Which meant we could stay occupied and out of trouble just by eating chicken wings or laying in bed listening to hardcore music. I had never in my life met anyone more boy crazy than Taz, and Korn frontman Jonathan Davis topped her list. I leaned more toward the pretty boy type. Orlando Bloom. YEARS of longing. Taz and I were both accidentally goofy. The only girls in a group of nerdy guys (sorry dudes), which made us the butt of many gentle jokes. Pretty soon Taz knew all my secret AIM screen names, which is how you define true friendship!!

Taz is older than me, so she graduated earlier and headed off to college to study physics and philosophy and continue being boy crazy. Eventually she headed down to St. Louis to finish school and be close to her family, and we would meet up for Pancheros and intellectually stimulating conversation whenever she would return to visit. Pancheros, btw, is Iowa’s Chipotle, and it is better than Chipotle because they will “Bob” your burrito. (Mix up the ingredients).

Eventually Taz decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the Air Force. So off she went to Germany, the apparent home of tiny blondes. It’s easy to lose touch with someone when you don’t get a chance to connect with them, physically. Taz is back in the states, in Baltimore, actually. Even though we don’t see each other, it feels nice to know we can.

In the movies, part of growing up is going to your high school reunion and seeing who’s fat and who’s successful. I would be lying if I said I didn’t compare. Thanks, Facebook. But Taz is someone I could never hold a candle to. She graduated from basic training in 2011, and has been steadily stacking up the awards ever since. Along with her actual job (Cyber Systems Operations Journeyman, Training Manager- “Sorry, I can’t tell you where I work”), she is a Suicide Prevention Monitor, a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate, a musician, a student, a basketball coach and a Dr. Who fanatic. She addresses most people affectionately as “Friend,” and refers to Civilians as “you guys.”  In certain circumstances, she can arrest people. A benefit she has just recently learned of and seems very excited about.

I love to hear about the work she does, because there are so many stigmas associated with the military. We talk about the riots in Baltimore and how she could protest as long as she’s not in uniform. We lay bare the discussion about whether or not soldiers are heros. We fondly remember our friend Jake, a victim of the war in Iraq. We don’t talk about boys anymore. We don’t need to because our everyday lives and our career goals are interesting and complicated enough without them. Taz doesn’t plan to be in the military forever. But it has helped her focus and given her a sense of purpose.

“If anything, the military has helped me realize that I want to contribute to my community and make things better.”

My friend Taz is a badass.

taz