I’m a bit tired of my bullsh*t. Whatever’s gonna happen is gonna happen. My whole life has been “I’ve never done [x] before” and I figured it out. This is no different. If there’s anything I love, it’s a free fall so I’m kind of done talking about it. As the greats say, “Don’t talk about it. Be about it.”

Lately, two things have been on my mind that are completely not related:

  1. I’m afraid to fly again.
  2. I don’t think theatre is church or ritual; it’s a playground.

Flying Again

A lot of folks have asked about this blog and its purpose. And I swear it used to be pretty specific, pre-pandemic. It used to be that this blog was a way of recording my progress in playwriting through the places I traveled. It was very specifically a travel-playwriting blog. Then the pandemic happened and it became a place to dump all of my anxious thoughts, for better or worse.

So it’s weird to me to admit on my travel blog that I’m afraid to fly again.

I used to travel at least once a month. And I loved it. If I went three months without going anywhere, I’d get stir crazy, usually creating an impromptu trip for myself just so I could get out of town. I always hated flying. I’m fat and the flight attendants would side-eye me when I asked for a seat belt extension. I had to first prove it didn’t fit for some reason? And then even if I was asleep, even if I had headphones in, the flight attendants would wake me up and sort of force me to take the snacks even when I said I didn’t want them. Because flying makes me so anxious, I have to pee a lot so I also usually really need an aisle seat. But despite being fat and people not noticing, I’m also pretty tall and have long legs. And it’s almost like the flight attendants go out of their way to kick me.

So honestly, I never really liked flying. I liked that it made traveling easier and I love traveling.

I need to be in San Diego in early September and NYC in late September. I will have to fly from Minneapolis. But honestly, I’ve realized how anxious I am about adding all of my usual problems with flying with the fear of also catching COVID-19 or any of the variants.

To be frank, I was not as safe as I could’ve been during the pandemic. I won’t get into it but I definitely could’ve been more cautious. I wore a mask as much as possible. I washed my hands constantly. But…I wasn’t as careful as my friends were. Part of it was I knew two people who did all the right things and still got COVID. It made me feel like it didn’t really matter how careful we were which I know isn’t the best thing to jump to. But that’s just where I was.

So it’s weird to me that I have all of this flight anxiety. I am so, so afraid of catching one of the variants on a plane. I trust the people in my inner circle; I do not trust Barb from Lakeview. It’s the rich folks I’m the most concerned about because I know they weren’t careful and I know they have better health insurance than I do. (I don’t have health insurance right now is also a factor.) This won’t kill them but it could kill me just on the fact that they have access to health care that I don’t.

I’ve been driving everywhere. I drove to Arkansas when I visited in November, I drove to Alfred, and I’ll be driving to Minneapolis. Mostly because I need to fit all of my things and it’s cheaper than paying movers when I don’t have a lot (although I have enough to completely fill up my car).

Eventually, I am going to have to get over this anxiety but I’m not really sure how. I feel like the world is rushing to get back but we’re not ready yet. I’m not ready yet.

Theatre is a playground

cw: mention of s*xual assault

Of all my more radical ideas, this is the one that’s going to get the most pushback I’m sure.

When people say “theatre is church,” it literally makes me a bit sick. I hate it. I realize we all come from different places religious-wise and we all have a different vocabulary. In the best of times, church to me was a place of like-minded individuals coming to pay reverence to a common, uniting idea. If I had to pick a place that was church for me, I’d pick a gay club or a drag show. It’s queer folk coming together to be united in our resistance and celebrate our existence.

That’s not theatre. Or at least that’s not what it is right now. I am a Black, Afro-Latine queer nonbinary person. The chances of me finding someone else like me, who has a shared experience to mine in a theatre audience is slim. I am not surrounded by like-minded individuals; I’m the outsider on display.

And that’s me giving church the highest of credit I can.

Frankly, as I unpack my religious trauma, I don’t even like calling gay bars “church” anymore. The church was not a positive place for me. I was silenced and assaulted at church by the preacher’s son. And then was slut-shamed for it. In the churches I grew up in, you weren’t allowed to question authority, you weren’t really an active participant, and you were stuck playing a very submissive role. You were there to listen and to be talked at. It wasn’t a discussion.

(Also, it needs to be said: I can’t believe we have the audacity to charge $100 – $1000 for theatre tickets and then have the NERVE to call that church. Church, at the very least, should be accessible. If you are a playwright calling theatre church while theatre companies are charging prices that aren’t accessible to the community, you need to check in on that.)

Church wasn’t a safe place for me nor was it a place for growth so I don’t know why we’re holding so tightly on this “holy ground” idea. So many queer folks I know call theatre “church” or “ritual” but when I ask about what their experiences were like at church, they always say “not great.” And that they’re reclaiming it. Which, to each their own.

Personally, I need a new word. And I don’t think every word and experience that’s been used against us needs to be reclaimed.

And then on top of that, there are theatre writers who don’t want to use the word “play” anymore. I’ve seen “I create experiences” a lot and then I read their “experiences” and nothing happens in it that differentiates it from a play. Most of these “experiences” don’t have audience participation or even break narrative form.

When did the word “play” become a bad word?

No shade to anyone. Come to this practice/field as you may. For me: Theatre is a playground and I’m the schoolyard bully who fights for the people you’ve been bullying.

Lately, I’ve started to say that when I write plays, I want people who are used to feeling uncomfortable on a regular basis to feel welcome/comfortable, and for the people who are used to feeling comfortable, I want them to feel uncomfortable, just for a bit. If you step into the world of my plays, into my playground, it’s going to be an active experience. I’m not here to preach at you or tell you some sacred wisdom. We’re here to drop our walls down and play. And let a piece of ourselves that we’ve shut down come back out and have some fun.

Remember when theatre was fun?

Church was not fun for me. I had to wear uncomfortable clothes, say words I didn’t mean, and not speak unless spoken to. I had no autonomy in church. I don’t want my plays to make anyone feel that way.

I realize that isn’t everyone’s experience with church. And again I’m not knocking (or at least I don’t intend to) people who genuinely believe this. If theatre is church for you, great. I just really hope you consider who you’re excluding when you name your theatrical experience after a traumatic one. And what message that sends about what to expect.

I got into theatre because it was fun and let me be whoever I wanted to be. It reminded me of playing make-believe as a kid. And playing make-believe during my most traumatic moments saved my life. Playing make-believe, playing in general, is so f*cking powerful and we’ve been sleeping on it.

A playground can be just as holy and sacred as church. I’d argue it’s more so at times.

I don’t miss the south often but damn I miss that purple/pink sky.