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At least, I hope so. Mostly I just wanted to make the Eliot reference.

It will be April in a few days, and of course it promises to be busy. Mrs. Hawking rehearsals start back up again on Tuesday, and I'm trying to get prepared. About half the cast is new and half the cast is from the previous production. I've never worked on a show like that before, so it will be interesting to see how that makes the process different. I'm hoping it will be EASIER in some way, but we'll see.

It's turned out that it's taking up my Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Four days a week is not terrible, and really only the leads (and me, of course) have to be there all those days. A very manageable schedule. The play is short, and as I said, I hope half the cast being familiar makes things smoother. Unfortunately that worked out to be over BOTH my ballet nights, which makes me sad. I love ballet and I don't want to get out of practice with it. I won't be able to start attending regularly again until late in May. At least it should save me some money.

I've been focused on this project so much lately partially because it takes up a lot of my time and makes up most of what I have to talk about, but also because I'm making a serious go of getting it out there. Maybe it's a crazy pipe dream, but I'm hoping to some day make a writing career out of it. My current strategy is to build up a following for the property, so that it might get noticed by the right people due to a higher profile, and if and when I get a chance to pitch it to that or another somebody, I can point to an established fan base. It's a lot of work, I don't know if it will succeed, and it's basically guaranteed to keep me a starving artist for the foreseeable future, but I'm giving it a shot.

I'm sorry if I've been flogging the Mrs. Hawking stuff too hard. I don't want to get on anybody's nerves. I hope I've made it clear that all this stuff is opt-out for people who aren't interested. Like, I hope people who enjoy it come to the show, but don't feel pressured. Especially if you already attended the Arisia production, don't feel like you HAVE to unless you want to.
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On Monday I went for a run through the cemetary, since I didn't have a workout and I didn't have a lot of time. It was the first warm (or warmer, as it was only forty-five or so) day I'd gone running in a while, so, without the threat of those cold-air-induced asthma-like symptoms, I decided to challenge myself. Normally, given how cold it's been, I take it at a fairly easy jog, so that I can make it there and back without my lungs siezing. But this time I wanted to see just how fast I could take it.

So I set a timer, and took off. I always have a bit of a mental block against going physically all-out; I'm always afraid I'm going to burn myself out before I finish whatever challenge I'm trying to get through, so my instinct is to ration my energy. But I wanted to see where I was at the top of my capability.

I was pleased to find I did really well! I made it from gate to gate in just under seven minutes! Better than I thought I would do, especially since technically that span is actually 1.1 miles, and it's all up and down hills. I used the downhills to speed me, of course, but I also had the ups to contend with, so it averages out. I usually do it in around nine, so that's a heck of a difference. It made me feel strong.

I've also been doing well with my ballet dancing. I've been a bit concerned, as my schedule has required me to miss so many classes lately, but I seem to be dancing well every time I have made it. Ballet is difficult and takes years and years, so I wouldn't say I've gotten to the point where I'm good, but I do see definite improvement in myself and am gaining in strength, precision, and balance. I joke that I have moved on to be able to attempt to fix more of my inadequacies than I was before. Until recently I'd struggled so hard just to do things like maintain balance and keep my legs' form that my problems with my shoulders were basically a lost cause. Whenever I'm tense or focusing, my shoulders go up around my ears, but ballet shoulders must be "relaxed". Well, making them "relax" is a hell of a lot of work for me! But it all comes in stages; I struggled a lot with the shape of my arms a lot at first too, but they've gotten hugely better in the three and a half years I've been at it. This will come too.
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And just like that, as I worry I'm having trouble getting into ideas for Base Instruments, I write two scenes of it in a row! I'm not sure where this falls in the story, but I would guess after "#2 What If I Don't Want To?" but before "#11 Haven't I Always?"

This one is pretty much pure idea and very, very little refinement. I know I want to have a ballerina for the client in this one, who can bring up ballet as a metaphor for exploring some of Mrs. Hawking's issues. Ballet dancers, particularly broken down ones, are a favorite subject of mine to write about. I really like using this conceit in the story, and I think I'm really on to something in this scene. I hope it's as subtle as I'm working for it to be.

The trouble is I don't know the context, so this will definitely need editing once I figure out what the mystery and plot is. For this I just threw in a few details as placeholders; I don't even know who "Alexei" is supposed to be, for example. But I can sort that out later. For now I just wanted to take a stab at the idea, and even in this rough form I think it's going to be a good one.

#12 - "Your Vessel Has Not Betrayed You" )
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Today's piece is a snippet for the third Mrs. Hawking story, tentatively titled Base Instruments. While I'm fairly certain I have the major themes and journeys hammered out, I find that there's a lot I don't know about this story yet, the plot in particular. I might have to do a fair bit of thinking before I can do scenes of it for 31 Plays in 31 Days. But here's something, getting at the idea that as much as Mary wants to be Mrs. Hawking's protege, she may not be ready for everything Mrs. Hawking's going to expect.

Day #2 - "What If I Don't Want To?" )
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My ballet class just went out of session for the summer-- boo! --and I've resolved this time to do better about practicing on my own than I did last year. It's a big chunk of my workout that I don't want to just chuck out, plus I want to preserve and develop my skills. I actually did it tonight, for about forty-five minutes, holding onto the door frame into my office so I could switch between my door and vanity mirrors as I did barre work without the barre.

Musings on positive body perceptions. Content warning for body talk. )
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New post on www.mrshawking.com!

image

"The ballet metaphor"

I’ve always been fascinated by the art of ballet. It is viewed as a very delicate, refined art, coded feminine in most modern people’s eyes. But those who practice it at the highest levels is run like an army with just as much discipline. The image of the broken down ballerina— whose tragedy is that she can no longer practice what she has sacrificed everything to be able to do —is one I return to again and again in my writing. I find this could make for a perfect parallel to Mrs. Hawking.

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!
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I've hit a bit of a plateau when it comes to ballet. Last October marked two years of about two classes a week, and while I know I've really improved in that time, I've not made any real progress some time. It hasn't been my biggest focus lately, and I pretty much never practice outside of my three hours a week of class. That's not nothing, but I'm sorry that I'm not feeling much progress. Right now I consider it mostly just to be regular exercise, rather than a project I'm undertaking or a goal I'm working towards. Sadly I can't really afford to divert any more focus to it right now. I still enjoy it very much and plan to keep up with it, but I don't expect to make any great leaps forward anytime soon.

The one thing I did accomplish recently is I had "click moments"-- the experience when something suddenly becomes clear or makes sense to you --regarding how to balance in two particular instances. When performing a battement or jete, the lifting of the leg, balance is maintained by steeling the muscles in the back of my standing leg's thigh. It finally occurred to me to concentrate particular effort to that in order to stay in position without falling over. Also, when on eleve, up on the toes, to prevent falling forward, resist with the abdominals, and to prevent falling backward, resist with the gluteals and the back of the legs. It holds you in the center. It takes a pretty significant effort on both counts, but that's the way to keep correct position. It may seem obvious, but to me thinking of those isolated efforts in particular makes a big difference. I have to practice and tone those muscles in order to do it better, but having the mental understanding will aid in my ability to physically accomplish it. And that's a bit of progress I'm glad to have.

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[livejournal.com profile] katiescarlett29 suggested getting massages at a local massage school, because going to students meant that they'd be cheaper. It was a great suggestion, as we got thirty-dollar forty-five minute massages that were really very nice. The therapist I had said my tissues were very clean and healthy, which I was very curious about; I guess physical issues in the joints and muscles is something they are trained to perceive when they touch you. I work out a lot and dance ballet and I'm often slightly sore, so I was very glad to hear that everything felt proper-- no misalignment, no scar tissue, no anything. The only problem detected, interestingly, was in my left hip. While most of the massage was fairly gentle and straightforward, when he got to my hip he really dug in, so much so that it was almost painful. Apparently my flexor on that side was much tighter than on the right, and the difference in pressure he used on it compared to on the rest of me was rather shocking. That was very interesting to me because I always feel when I'm dancing that I can never manage to get quite enough of a stretch in my hips. They are much more flexible than most people's but I think because of that the standard stretches usually done for hips, such as butterfly, are too easy for me and don't actually do anything to stretch them. Afterward I really did feel loosened up. I will definitely go back sometime, since I felt so good afterward and it really wasn't too expensive.

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Since my new job makes it so I can no longer attend Wednesday morning ballet class (boo!), I've decided I am going to add on an extra appointment with the trainer at that little gym I've been attending on High Street in Waltham, Synergy Personal Fitness Training. It costs almost the same amount for a session as it does for a ballet class, so it won't make a big difference in my budget, but it will keep me exercising just as often. In fact, it's a pretty intense workout they put you through, so it may mean I will be be working out harder overall for the week.

Even going there once a week the way I have been for the last year has made a huge difference in my strength and fitness level, particularly in my arms. They look more toned than they ever have, and I am now ridiculously strong for my admittedly modest size. And even though it hasn't done quite enough to make my abs more VISIBLE (grumble grumble), they are even crazier-strong than they were before. I can easily do fifteen sit ups while holding a forty-five pound weight on my upper body, and I can even do a few if I go as heavy as SIXTY-- which is OVER HALF MY BODYWEIGHT. Super proud of myself for that. Still can't see the damn things, but at least I know they're there.

I wish I were better at making myself exercise on my own, especially since it would be more cost-effective. But with the current amount of stress and busyness in my life, having a class or appointment has been the easiest way to get myself off my ass and get a workout in. I'm sorry to miss a ballet class, as I really want to continue developing that skill, and I haven't been good at practicing on my own lately. But at least I'll still be ensuring a serious workout.

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Had my first ballet class after the summer break tonight. I was worried; despite doing a decent job of exercising this summer, I could not seem to motivate my ass to practice dancing, so I was sure I'd be a weak, stiff mess that had lost all my progress. But you know, I was more tired afterward than previously, but I managed pretty damn decently anyway. The teacher was going easy on us, and I took an extra half hour to carefully stretch beforehand-- even followed along with a YouTube yoga video, which is unusual for me --and I was not even particularly sore afterward. Maybe my body is adapted by now, after almost two years of it. I noticed that when ballet classes adjourned for the summer, my Achilles tendons started to hurt because I WASN'T dancing, I guess because they'd gotten accustomed to being stretched that way. They hasn't been that sore since I first started, and then they were hurting because they weren't used to it! Strange how adaptable the human body is. Hell, the mind is probably even more so, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I'm glad to be getting back to dance class again. I've come to love ballet so much. Watching it is one of the purest pleasures I experience, and I want to keep making my body stronger and better at it. God, why didn't I start doing this years ago?

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31p31d5

This piece is to introduce a character I've had in mind for a while now, a ballet-themed superhero called Chasseur that would be an addition to my superhero universe. I'm considering calling it "Vantage" after the name of the fictional city it takes place in. It was surprisingly hard to figure out how to present, until it occurred to me stage it as a conversation with Bantam, questioning his credentials to be a superhero. It helped up the conflict a little bit. This needs much more shaping to be a full ten-minute play, but it has a lot of really fun, funny ideas in it that I would like to develop later.

Also, sharp-eyed readers may note, he can only do TEN consecutive pirouettes. He may be a superhero, but he's still not Baryshnikov. ;-)

Day #5 - "Chasseur" )
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Found this photo on a ballet-themed Tumblr I follow.


It's like a gender-swapped professional version of Lise and Marina mirroring each other as Odette and Odile in Lame Swans. :-)


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Merchant of Venice's run has been finished, and I have completed my piece of it as dancer/choreographer, one of the most difficult theatrical challenges I've ever undertaken. It still didn't come out at all how I wanted, but it wasn't going to under the messed-up circumstances, and I guess I made it work satisfactorily. Still, it was high-stress for me, so I'm glad to be finished with it.

Having the several part-time jobs suits me in lots of ways, but in other ways they've been a struggle. I have to travel straight from one to the next fairly often, and having to get from one place to another makes any situation more stressful to me. My schedule's been fairly strange lately, as I have some work-related things to do during the day, but more often lately I've had to be at my obligations at night. It's been a real shift, and makes socializing with most people a lot harder.

This week isn't so bad, it's going to be a nice little break. But the week after I have my final residency for grad school before I graduate. And after that I go into tech for the show I'm doing costumes for, and a major part of that obligation is to run wardrobe at the dress rehearsals and shows. That means that I've crammed a lot of my own stuff that I need to get done in this week and evening commitments in the rare free moments around the show. It's not an ideal schedule, but I'm making it work as best I can.

But hey, if anybody else is flexible during the daytime hours normal people are occupied, I'm probably free. 
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My feet hurt. My skin is a volcanic hellscape of acne. This weekend promises to be pretty lousy. But at least I have a router again and I made every ballet class this week when I thought I wasn't going to make any of them, so that's something.

Reworking my dance piece and dealing with all the myriad other accompanying problems has been stressful and mentally draining. I'm still pretty sure it turned out to be garbage. >:-( So I haven't done much of anything else this week. I had started work on editing Mrs. Loring and did some decent work on a new scene it needed, but lost momentum and haven't gotten it back yet. I also got a job doing costumes for a show at the Apollinaire Theater in Chelsea. Costuming has been something creative I've actually been in the mood for lately, so it's nice to have a chance to get paid for it.
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Phoebe, you can't write a ballet.

Why would you want to write a ballet? I mean, yeah, you love ballet, and have a strong tendency of when you see an example of an art done well it usually makes you want to run home and MAKE YOUR OWN VERSION JUST AS AWESOME AS THAT ONE, but seriously. You are a writer, and writing only has the most passing involvement in the creation of a ballet! Usually somebody strings together some vague semblance of a plot and a handful of recognizable characters to facilitate the soloists that is barely discernible if you haven't read the program and completely drops out in favor of "And now they celebrate!" or "And now they mourn!" for the entirety of the third act. Thats why they usually just steal from Shakespeare or fairy tales anyway, so nobody has to write much. And the point of a ballet is to see the dancing and hear the music. The people who really make ballets are the composer and the choreographer, neither of which you have the skill to be, so why do you want to make a thing that even if you made it would be missing so many fundamental pieces that it'd be like you didn't make anything at all? And it's not like you don't have a thousand things you shouldn't be writing instead.

And you especially don't want to write the ballet you're thinking of. Because you'd probably need a composer who was familiar with African traditional music and a huge corp of dancers who were trained in both African dance and classical ballet. I doubt they'd be easy for you to sign on. And it's probably impossible to dance like that when you need big animal masks and headdresses and stuff and people would probably just ask why you felt the need to write Lion King fan fiction in ballet form.

Why am I cursed with ideas I can do nothing with?

(Still. I would totally go see a ballet like that.)



...think they could do ballet in those getups?

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I've been pretty much just in burnout mode since finishing my thesis. Because of having to scrap my original project and restart, I had to do a ton of work in a short period of time to finish it, which I'm proud to say I did, but it left me feeling pretty drained for any sort of mental work. As my accomplishment charts show, I haven't been doing much that requires strenuous braining since completing that script. I guess I earned a rest, but it's been almost two weeks of this, and I should probably get myself together and figure out what my next project will be.

One thing I have been devoting a lot of time and energy to lately is my ballet and workout regime. I have been dancing two or three times a week, attending a circuit workout with a trainer that alternates between weights and cardio, and I just started adding a couple jaunts to the gym for running or lifting on top of it. A friend suggested I try this if I'm serious about wanting to get defined muscle tone, and I figured what the heck, my schedule is the most flexible that it's been in a long time, why not give it a shot. Accompanying this I've started trying to eat six small meals a day every three hours or so, to keep my metabolism up and give all that exercise something to build muscle with. I enjoy the frequency of it, but it cuts out pretty much all sugar, which was my typical unhealthy indulgence. It takes a ton of planning ahead, something I'm still getting used to, but it's gotten me cooking and thinking outside the box regarding food. I haven't seen much visual change in my body yet, it's only been a couple of weeks, but I do love how strong I'm getting. I feel so capable, and I love how it's improving my ballet dancing. I'm just going to have to get into good habits, including practicing ballet over the summer when classes are on break. I am loving ballet dancing so much, every class I kick myself that I didn't start doing this when I was a little kid. I will improve yet!

Still. I should think about what my next (intellectual) project should be. I have, as always, many options. I just need to choose what would be the best to pursue right now.
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Today I submitted my thesis to my reader. That means it is technically complete. After I receive her comments, I will get a couple more days to revise before it gets bound up in its final form on Lesley's record, but that is the last time any of my teachers will read it. I confess I am a little disappointed it will basically still be in first-draft form by that point, as the majority of it was written for the last submission, but I am happy it's done. I do believe it has potential. I will just have to work on it in my post-Lesley career. I'm thinking of scheduling a reading of it with just my friends to hear how it sounds. I know it needs revision, but at the moment I'm too close to it to really know what it needs, and I'm hoping that a reading will provide a better understanding. Still needs a name. I submitted it under the name of "Mrs. Loring," which is probably right, but I still don't like how similar it is to Mrs. Hawking. Eh, maybe it would only matter to my biographers.

Also I got a cool assignment at work. I'm going to be choreographing some pre-show dancing for Merchant of Venice, which is set in a New Orleans speakeasy, as put on by Zero Point Theater. It's going to be a fun challenge, I think, and I've always wanted the chance to do more work in dance. I will likely also be one of the dancers myself, which would be cool. I dream someday of getting to dance ballet in performance, as that is the form of dance that interests me most right now, but I am excited to have this opportunity. Here's to another point of variance on my theatrical resume, and a chance I probably wouldn't have had if I didn't have this job at Zero Point. 
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Generally, in the grand scheme of things, my body image is pretty good. That's thanks to a combination of mostly looking the way I want to look and having a realistic perspective on how warped the beauty standard is in our culture. But it shifts a little this way and that, depending on how I really look or how I think I look or things that happen in my life or how I'm feeling about other things. The last couple of years I've been a little heavier than I used to be. I guess I didn't look too different, but I didn't like it. I have a really broad rib cage and really flat hips, so I like to keep my midsection as small as possible to keep my proportions looking right. I wish I were a little more hourglassy, but it looks like the closest I can get is straight up and down. A big tummy really looks awkward on a figure like that.

Perception's a funny thing. I mean, even as all this was happening, I was still modeling for photographers, as I do sometimes. On occasion they have even paid me for it. (My rates are extremely reasonable, if you know anyone who's interested!) You'd think that would be enough to convince a person that they look good. But I've been kind of invisible to men in the last few years. In my social circle I'd been taken and unavailable so long, and I'm not really a flirt, so I've haven't seen much in the way of male attention in a very long time. Whatever, I tend to be attracted to very very few people, so I understand how it's not so much fun to compliment someone who can be gracious, at best, but can't really return the favor. But it was a pretty strong contrast to the way people used to treat me a few years ago. It was hard not to wonder if it was due to something, my weight gain, or just maybe looking as bad as I so often felt. It didn't help that the number one person who theoretically was supposed to think I was beautiful no longer seemed to like anything about me.

The stress of the last few months caused me to drop some weight pretty quickly, but now that I'm a little less raw I've been a little more inclined to lazy eating, so I've got to be careful not to let it all come back. I am pretty active, at least. I've been getting at least four hours of serious exercise every week, in the form of two ballet classes and one circuit workout with a trainer. I can even attend an extra ballet class in the mornings if I want to, bringing up that total to five and a half. While I have definitely been thinner than I am now, I have certainly never been stronger. I can see it most in my arms and legs, but I feel it all over my body-- my endurance is greater, I can do more difficult physical tasks, even my ballet dancing is benefiting from it. The circuit workouts I've been doing have been extremely difficult, and the trainer is always increasing them as I get stronger, so it never gets any easier even as I improve. I've never loved physical activity for its own sake, and I like the feeling of being physically exhausted even less, but it really makes me feel good thinking, wow, I can do this. It makes me feel strong and capable. A lot of people couldn't get through what I can. It helps make me do it, even when I feel lazy or resistant.

My ballet ability is also improving. Just the practice of keeping at it with as long as I have has helped. Control and balance have always been the toughest parts for me, but that's where getting stronger has helped. I really love dancing ballet, and the more proficient I get, the more I enjoy it. I can feel my body adapting to it, as except for my weak ankles, I'm rarely sore after class. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment to go through the routine exercises my teacher shows us and see how much better I can do them now than I could when I started. I also like how it gives me a metric for body image independent from its appearance. 

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