Kabuki Theatre and Oiwa #theatre

I am a theatre junkie. Kabuki is at least as old as Shakespeare.  It’s one of THE drama traditions I heard about as soon as I decided theatre was my life. Going to a kabuki play was on my must-do list while I was in Tokyo, but it was also felt, for me, like going to a cathedral and I hadn’t been to confession.

The Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginzu, Tokyo, the largest in Japan.

The Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginzu, Tokyo, the largest in Japan.

Billboard for the show outside the theatre. Of course no photos were allowed during the show.

Billboard for the show outside the theatre. Of course no photos were allowed during the show.

It was utterly amazing. It was actually four short pieces I saw, which — with intervals when you could get full meals and beer to have at your seat! — was three and half hours long. The style of acting and the men playing women (I’ll need to post about that separately—because) took some getting used to, because it’s so utterly different from any show I’ve ever seen before, and that’s part of the reason it was enthralling.

One of MANY screens hiding the stage over the performance.

One of MANY screens hiding the stage over the performance.

Everything I felt seeing my first kabuki was wrapped up in what I’d felt earlier that day while trying to track down Oiwa…the main character in one of Japan’s creepiest ghost stories, most famous kabuki plays (I didn’t see that one, sadly), and many of the country’s successful horror films.

There are a few different versions of Oiwa’s story: here’s one of the shortest, yet best and scariest. Horror and/or Japanese film fans will recognise her likeness from the Ringu series.

I have presumed to put her into one of my stories…the short film I started work on in France over the summer, and the related feature-length screenplay I just drafted. They both concern domestic violence, culture clashes, racism, sexism, revenge, and guilt.

Theatre people are, put mildly, superstitious. We call it “The Scottish Play” or “McBoo”. We leave a “ghost light” on in the middle of the stage when the theatre is otherwise empty and dark. And in Japan, whenever an actor onstage, or an actress on film, takes the role of Oiwa, they go to her shrine in Tokyo and ask Oiwa’s permission to play her.

And that’s what I did too.

The shrine in Yotsuya, Tokyo.

The shrine in Yotsuya, Tokyo.

The trope of the Maiden Ghost, based on Oiwa, has appeared in so many incarnations now that she’s thrown the first pitch in a baseball game. Which sounds silly, but I find it actually shows that Japan takes her as seriously as kabuki; she is embedded in Japanese culture — everyone knows her, and everyone, in a strange way, loves her. She embodies something genuinely wrong — vengeance — but it’s something everyone understands and has, at some point, wanted against someone else. I’m frightened by and enthralled by her.

I hope it’s not cultural appropriation — Gore Verbinski’s remade Ringu, quite well, I thought. Yes, I went to visit Tokyo to see the city, yes I met up with an old friend who’s been in Japan 14 years. However…I also went to Tokyo specifically to visit Oiwa’s shrine and ask “is this okay?” I hope it is.

A closer look at one grave.

A closer look at one grave.

Cemetery behind the shrine.

Cemetery behind the shrine.


Today, I’m out of love with #playwriting. It’s like a bad day in a long term #relationship.

I realised something this morning, on a sunny day in the south of France. It’s a bit of a whinge. But it’s also a bit scary for me, and makes me sad.

I just sent off an application for a playwriting venture. One should keep track of how many competitions, initiatives, etc, one enters…but I’ve given up. Yes, everyone gets rejected, and I admit, tracking the number of things I entered and got rejected for became too much.

My FB and Twitter feeds have recently been filled with invitations to the Fringe shows of friends, as well as previews and reviews. I posted that I was a bit sad I didn’t have a show this year. That’s true…but not quite accurate. I’m also relieved I’m not doing a stage production, and THAT feeling makes me sad. I used to live for the insanity of putting on a show. Even when things went wrong, the result was a show I was proud of. I got the festival’s Artist Badge. I got reviews — good ones — and I could say “Yep, that’s me.” Audiences have told me how much they liked what I did.

Last year, I got my first ever 5-star review for It Started with an Allergy. I leveraged that, I promoted that show every hour of every day, and my houses still never got very big. The spectators who came loved it — there just weren’t very many of them. There’s a prestigious award given to theatre productions every year in Edmonton, and I really, REALLY hoped I might get nominated for Allergy. I didn’t. It’s occurred to me since that I don’t remember if I, or my director, invited the jury to the show! How can I not remember that? But I was also writing, producing, acting, flyering, doing the show. And I just…don’t… recall. That’s bad.

I submitted this play to yet another contest, out of resignation. I couldn’t muster anything to say in my cover letter: “yes, my play’s really good, these other industry people have said so, here’s my amazing CV of other amazing plays which nonetheless didn’t take off, PLEASE GIVE THIS TO ME.”

I wonder if that’s why I’m doing pre-production on a short film. Because it feels like I’ve done everything I possibly can in theatre, and I’m tapped. I’m on the French Riviera, on a writer’s retreat (which I paid for, didn’t get paid for, again). And still, today, I’m discouraged.

Dear @Marvel : this geek girl is angry at #GOTG. Here’s why.

Yes, I put the @ and # into the title on purpose, because when this gets posted on Twitter, I want people to see it. Discuss, troll, don’t care. Oh, and SPOILERS.

I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy on opening day. The trailers looked amazing, hilarious, and well done, so I wanted to see the film as soon as I could. Most of it I loved. What I didn’t love was a sliver….but that sliver is poisonous, it’s been getting bigger, and I’m furious that such a pernicious poison found its way into what should be simply a big, fun, movie.

It started with Peter Quill admitting he forgot not only the name, but the existence, of the lady-alien in his spaceship while he was off adventuring. Charming, handsome, Indiana-Jones-like hero…who takes after Indy in conquests too. I watched through my 3-D glasses, sighed inwardly, thought “Really?”, and decided to let it pass.

And then, near the end, Drax calls his new friend Gamora whore.

Drax is one of the heroes. We’re meant to like him. He’s been desperately, furiously missing his wife and daughter the whole story. This woman Gamora, his now friend, has proven capable of caving his head in. But when begrudgingly admitting his affection for her, the best he can come up with is the fallback sexual epithet.

In a movie for which 50% of the audience is women, and which Marvel intends for kids to see. Nice job.

So. Am I woman who’s taking this out of context, or just can’t take a joke?

When I was in junior high – 12 to 14 years old – I was a major target for abuse by the boys in my classes. Their favourite things to call me were “slut” and “whore”. It was clear that they had no clue what these words meant – only that they were nasty things one said specifically to girls. I, however, READ BOOKS, so I DID know what those words meant. And knowing that I WAS NOT what they were calling me, but also knowing that telling my teachers never stopped the names, I was forced to put up with it until I finished school.

During Guardians, once that word was said, its sliver was implanted. I did enjoy the rest of the movie…but I kept asking, “why that? why THAT?” And I’m still asking…of the screenwriters, the producers, “why did you let that happen?”

That word – and the fact that charming, funny, amazing Star-Lord is also (still) the kind of hero who’s blasé about at least seeing off home the girl he picked up for a good time… tells me that this movie was ultimately made by guys who simply don’t think what a girl would think about these things.

So: Marvel. I paid to see The Avengers in the cinema, twice. Same for Thor: The Dark World. I also own both of them. I won’t go see Guardians of the Galaxy again, and I won’t buy it. I’m going to remember the brilliant parts, and edit out THAT WORD, and THAT ATTITUDE, in my head.

Why I hate being single #4: Food

I will say first: I love to cook. I make killer chocolate trifle. The Ukrainian lady who gave me her recipe for borscht said I was a very good cook – high praise. I make cookies every year for Christmas presents, and people anticipate them.

But here’s the problem: When I cook for just me (which is almost always) I always make too much. If it’s something that doesn’t keep well – which happens often, because I like trying new recipes to prevent boredom – I end up throwing away most of it. So I find recently I’m not cooking as much. It’s a waste of money, and time. I’m…enjoying it less.

I have a Costco membership to get the cheaper gas, and it’s good for bigger things that you can store – paper towels, bottled juice, canned tuna. I’ve learned NOT to buy the single servings of amazing greek yogurt or hummus though…because I’ll only get halfway through the box before the rest expires.

Every now and then, I take myself out for dinner, and I’ve learned over time which restaurants are nice to single people, and which will treat me like a fast food customer because I take up too much space and don’t spend enough money. If a restaurant has a bar, I usually squeeze in there, and ignore the rowdy university students on either side of me while I drink ginger ale.

Yesterday, the pain came. Yes, this is how I know my endometriosis is back, when I’m in horrendous pain for NO REASON. It’s on days like that when I should really be eating home-cooked vegetables. But it’s on days like that when I feel least like cooking – which involves standing. So I end up eating take-out instead. Because there’s no one to cook for me, but me.

This would require finding a man who can cook. Which is reason #4 (of several) that my crush on this man hasn’t abated yet.

Why I hate being single #3: Clothes

When you’re little, you have your mom, aunts, and grandmas to help you get dressed. When you’re older, your sisters or girlfriends help you choose what you’ll wear, and help you get into it. Presumably, when you have someone else at home, be it a roommate or significant other, they’ll do up anything out of reach.

A number of years ago – okay, 12 – I made a disconcerting discovery when I tried to get into my red dress. It was my bridesmaid’s dress from my friend Jessie’s wedding.


I loved this dress, and some time after the wedding, I wanted to wear it to a theatre event. Problem: it had a hook-and-eye closure at the top of the zipper. I got the zipper at the back done up fine (it took some flexibility), but there was no way I could do up the very top myself. The day of the wedding, this had been no problem: I had two fellow bridesmaids, a bride, and the bride’s mom to choose from in doing it up. I have no idea who DID – because it was irrelevant. NOW, however, alone in my apartment in a beautiful dress that I realized I couldn’t wear, it was agonizing. I ended up introducing myself to a neighbour by asking her to finish doing up my dress!

That night, when I got home, I realized I had the same problem in reverse. But it was after midnight, so I was stuck figuring this out on my own. I figured if I undid the zipper, maybe I could slip the dress off over my head, which worked. And then it occurred to me…since the hook-and-eye was still done up, maybe THAT would work in reverse. I slipped the dress back on over my head, did up the zipper, and voila.

I love dresses. I have lots of them. And, because I’m still on my own, 12 years later, that’s how I get them on. But it means doing this kind of contortion in the store change room for every piece of clothing I buy.

Single = Invention.

Reasons I hate being single #1: Roadside Assistance (or, How I spent Father’s Day)

Most men like cars, and thus, most men have a car. Many also fancy themselves mechanics: whether or not they are, they’ve made the weekend trips to Canadian Tire, and acquired the tools to do basic auto repairs without causing too much harm.

So: If you’re in a relationship, you likely have access to:
A) another car besides your own,
B) tools, and
C) a person who can provide one, or both, A and B.

I am a newly-minted car-owner, and I’m single. Therefore, I have:
D) none of the above.

Today I picked up a piece of assemble-yourself furniture (more on that tomorrow), and was on my way home, going 60km/hr on a major road, when a lady pulled up beside me, and signalled for me to roll down my passenger window. I did, and she called out that my back right tire was looking very wobbly. ACK!

I pulled into the first tire-repair place I could find, but today’s Sunday, and it was closed. I called their 24-hour emergency number, and after a couple of tries (and 40 minutes), I learned there were no after-hours technicians available in the city. I briefly considered calling AMA (hey, what’s emergency assistance is for, right?), and thought…Sunday… Father’s Day…how long will I be stuck here?

In the end, I called my friend Barry – an auto-body mechanic who helped me choose my first-ever car. Barry is a dad. And I called him on Father’s Day. He happily came, and checked the torque on all my tires.

I have done pretty well at being an independent person: I hold down a job, I pay my own bills, and even before I had my car, I successfully got around on my own most of the time. I haven’t relied on anyone, out of necessity, but the upshot is, I am self-reliant. But while I sat in my car today waiting, I thought of the countless times I’ve heard girlfriends on the phone say: “Honey, can you pick me up?” Today…I felt helpless.

Yes, it is mostly that I really wanted to have a family, and that I feel alone. But I’m realizing recently how many tiny, everyday things are harder because I’m on my own. And I hate it.

The reason I walked out of a show? Endometriosis.

Brigitte: Are you sure it’s just cramps?
Ginger: Just so you know…the words “just” and “cramps,” they don’t go together.
From the film Ginger Snaps

This is something I had never, NEVER, done before.

I have a condition called endometriosis. (WARNING – description of female biology coming!) Basically, the stuff that comes out during a woman’s period doesn’t all come out…because some of it is growing where it shouldn’t. I’ll provide a link, should you wish to get really squirmy.

It’s hard to say how long I’ve had it, but from the time I started telling a doctor “This isn’t normal,” to a diagnosis took FOUR YEARS.

I’ve had oral birth control, painkillers, and surgery to stop the pain. Each one worked for a while, and then either my body developed a tolerance, or the tissue grew back. In 2010, I had an IUD put in by a gynecologist (I’ve already said this onstage, so online, whatever) which sends contraceptive right to the source of the problem. I’ve been normal for three and half years. But since February this year, the pain has been getting steadily worse. Again.

A week ago tonight, I was at the Citadel Theatre Young Company’s play readings. Brand new playwrights having their work read, out loud, in public, for the first time. And ten minutes into the second play, I had the icy thought –

I’m going to break in half and throw up on the floor.

I had to leave. I had NEVER before left a show, reading, concert, ANYTHING, ever – whether the show was terrible or not, because it’s a horrendous thing to do. It disturbs the audience, it makes the creators involved feel like garbage. I e-mailed two friends later who were there, and who I knew saw me leave, and I just said “I was really sick.”

“Sick” isn’t the word. It’s a consistent grinding in the abdomen. You need your abdomen to walk, to sit, to stand, to pick things up. Before I had the IUD, I was dragging myself to work, because I HAD to work, and then going straight home. Every night. For months. There’ve been two shows I was desperate to see this past week, and now they’ve closed and I didn’t see them because I was terrified I would have to leave. Again. My life is being screwed up by this. Again.

I’m seeing my gynecologist on Thursday, to find out what else I can do. The final thing to try on endometriosis is a hysterectomy. THAT is not happening. But…I am turning 40 this year…

There are so many ways being a woman sucks.