Fictional Soul

“I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.” Woody Allen from “Annie Hall”

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I went to Writing Cabaret last night. After reading what I wrote about a character who…

  1. breaks up with hyper-normal boyfriend
  2. gets pregnant by a priest
  3. murders a rapist
  4. prays to be a nun
  5. sees visions
  6. throws a party with someone wild
  7. runs away to NYC to be a painter
  8. drops LSD and paints on the walls
  9. falls in love with a heroin junkie

…several participants came up to me afterwards to sympathize about my “experiences”. They assumed I wrote memoir.

I write fiction.

I told fellow writer/performer Tiffany what I’d done.

She said, “Oh but fiction is so hard.”

Nope. So much easier… much MUCH easier.

My life is limited. Fictional lives, unlimited. Though I hafta say, it felt dirty. Like I was cheating, the same at a writer’s conference when I won the Mark Twain Lying Award, named after Mark Twain because he famously said, “Never waste a good lie. You never know when you might need one.”

But ya gotta shake what you got. So be it.




Persist! (yeah, sure, but how?!?!?)

If I hear one more person say “persistence furthers” I’ll scream.

I need to know that magic word “how”.

HOW do I persist when my performance sucks, or 9/10ths of every sentence needs a make-over, or when America’s Next Top Model + carton of ice cream = no rehearsal?

Generally the day before a performance, I go into the DARK ZONE (and I do mean DARK). I declare, “This is it. I’m done. I’m toast. I’m through. No more. This is the last time I perform. This time is the last for sure. Really.”

Right? Have you been there?

Lily climbing on chair

My family’s heard me say this stuff so much it’s a joke.

To change this horrible state of affairs, I wrote on a 3 X 5 card every reason I wanted to do a kick-ass performance. Then I used it to remind myself why I really-really-really wanted to do a great performance.

Some reasons were petty. (I’ll show you Miss Rama, my evil fourth grade teacher who cast me in the chorus as Bookworm 1 instead of a glam role in “The Merry Bookmobile.”)

Some were the obvious reasons. (It’s fun to emotionally transport an audience.)

Some reasons were Berkeley-style socio-political. (Solo performance is a highly democratic art form. It makes the world a better place. It deserves our support!)

Every reason went on that card. It was fun. Like throwing a tantrum with a cookie afterward. And it worked. I read my card before rehearsing. It fueled my writing, rewriting, rehearsals, and performance. Most of all, it kept the light on during the dark zone.

If you try this method or other motivational methods, please share.

Next Tuesday I’ll write about permission slips and include one for you to download.

When to Perceive, When to Analyze a Performance

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In my mid-thirties, bloodied, bludgeoned and battered by falling in love at the drop of any number of hats, it was clear to me (and my therapist) I wouldn’t know a decent guy if I was locked in a room with one.

Being a researcher by trade, I took the methods I’d used in my Libre Nicaragua in Solidarity with Oppressed People’s Everywhere Berkeley Career Support Group and used them to find a suitable mate.

My strategy was to date 100 men in a year. After every date, I’d analyze the results according to the Suitable Mate criteria previously established.

My husband (number 24) and I just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. I still get a thrill when I see him. Gah. Forgive my mushball-ness.

So, Andie, where are you going with this, you ask. What’s the connection with performing?

The answer is, Blogland, this post is an analysis of what went right and what went wrong about Tuesday night’s performance at The Marsh in Berkeley.


Triggers (see previous post) are mos def working for me. With a minimum of effort I was able to have my lines as solid as I wanted them. Not once did I get that awful feeling of not knowing what came next. Gary was standing by with the script in case I called line but I didn’t need to. Yay!!!!

Perceiving instead of judging also worked. I felt relaxed onstage and even in some parts, enjoyed myself. My younger self used to enjoy performing but I’d lost the pleasure. Double Yay!!!! I’m now perceiving instead of judging in daily life and find it reduces mass quantities of anxiety.


My dear master teacher, Leonard Pitt, came to see the show.  He said my performance lacked awareness and conscious choices around voice production and that words are only indicators of where I want to take the audience, but delivery is my car for taking them there.

Monday I’ll pick a chunk of my show to work on for delivery:  rhythm, phrasing, timing, articulation, etc. to go beyond “willy nilly” to  the land of awareness and conscious choices.

I’ll post what I learn on Tuesday.


Sunday, David Ford asked me about my goal for the performance. I answered, “My measure of success is to peel away my skin.” I love writing and performances that accomplish this, like Ellen Hopkin’s YA novel, Crank.

On that front, I give this performance three out of five stars. Good. But I didn’t knock it out of the park.

What went wrong? What methods can I use to improve? Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly on hold at the library. Maybe her social science research on vulnerability has something to say.

My New Way to Learn Lines

PerformI needed a way to learn lines without tearing my hair out. I found a method that worked quickly, beautifully, and seems to deliver a much more natural performance. Check out a little Kindle book called “The Actor’s Machine.”

Buy it at for $7.99. Even if you don’t own a Kindle you can get the app for your PC or smart phone.

Here’s the strategy in a nutshell.

The worst thing you can do is memorize lines off a script. What the Irhig Method has you do is assign what your character

  • sees,
  • hears, or
  • says to herself

to every beat in the script. Memorize only these “triggers” and see, hear or say the self-talk (to yourself) before saying the line.

Note: A beat is considered a change in behavior happens in the scene.

Worked like a charm on 6 single spaced pages with a bare minimum of effort. Normally, I’d be paralyzed with sweat trying to get those lines over the course of weeks.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Let me know if it works or doesn’t work for you.