I Accidentally Co-Wrote a Musical Comedy About Britney Spears, and Then It Made Me Cry

I contributed a post to the new Stage Rights blog!


It’s My 20-year Quitting-Smoking Anniversary

Stack of journals

As part of my current writing project, I’ve been combing through a series of journals I kept for nearly a decade (from the late 80s to the mid 90s). The very last page of the last journal contains a few simple sentences meant to catch the diary up after a long absence. One of the passages:

I finally quit smoking on September 9th, 1995. I’ve gained a lot of weight but I don’t care. I quit for mom, but mainly so I can do hormones again if I get to that point.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of getting away from that habit. I smoked for 16-ish years and I truly thought I would never escape it. My mother always wanted me to quit, so I was happy to be able to do it for her. But as you can see, I was always acknowledging the rising tide of my trans feelings. The first time I tried to transition (in 1991) my endocrinologist expressed how risky it was to smoke while also pursuing the necessary hormone therapy. So I knew if I was ever going to attempt transition again I would need to tackle this thing once and for all.

I’ve broken a lot of bad habits in my life. This was one of the hardest.

As soon as I quit smoking I started to take my life more seriously. I found a singing teacher, which led to my performing career, and I was well beyond the addiction once I finally faced my gender once and for all.

Happy Anniversary to me!

I only hope 20 years has been enough time to heal any damage I might have done back when I didn’t care about my life.

Tiresome casual racism…

Dear bitter middle-aged white woman who works at my local Sprouts with whom I was only making small talk to be polite –

Just because my skin color is approximately the same as yours doesn’t mean I want to hear your ignorant, bigoted comments such as “There are all Chinese and Indians now. They are taking over!”

When I abruptly change the subject, I am trying to spare you the embarrassment of exposing how idiotic you sound. It’s not a good idea to bring the subject right back to that same set of dumb statements 2 more times.

When, instead of walking away, I decide to stand firm and engage about it, you should have an answer. I assume since you spend so much time thinking about this, you must have a solid reason for your opinion. When I ask “Why does it bother you?”, it’s a good idea to have your thoughts immediately available instead of stammering. Obviously I surprised you by attempting to break it down, and your answer was as tiresome as your prejudice.

I don’t want to be part of your club when it necessitates listening to you ramble about “being taken over”…and overusing the terms “them” and “they”.

How do I unsubscribe from your verbal newsletter?

Thanks for listening, and next time you see me, please keep your racism to yourself. It’s depressing as hell.

“Sunday Afternoon in Line at Safeway” – A Dramatic Play in One Scene

Daya and Mark stand in line at a grocery store, sandwiched between a man in front of them debating a coupon with the cashier and an older woman behind them. The woman is late middle age, short, stout, possibly Greek. She is looking at the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Daya’s and Mark’s items are already placed on the belt and they quietly await their turn.

Woman: (Pointing to Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of the magazine.) Instead of doing THAT, this guy should have had his HEAD fixed instead!

She has successfully grabbed the attention of Daya and Mark.

Daya: (Heart pounding, trying to control the rising anger.) That’s not very nice!

Woman: (To Mark.) I want to get a man’s opinion. What do you think about him?

Daya: (Interrupting Mark.) HER.

Woman: Well, I just think he’s doing that for publicity.

Daya: HER. That’s not very nice. She’s just trying to find herself.

Woman: I don’t trust those Kardashians.

Daya: Neither do I but that has nothing to do with Caitlyn.

Woman: He just wants publicity.

Daya: Why did I do it then?

Woman: (Without missing a beat.) Because you wanted to be yourself.

Daya: And that’s exactly why Catilyn is doing it.

Woman: Those Kardashians…

Daya: They have nothing to do with this. You have to separate them from this. It’s hard to be transgender.

Woman: Believe me, I know. My brother had a terrible time. He was the same, and he lived a terrible life. The world was terrible to him. They called him crazy. He was a recluse.

The woman is now tearing up, which makes Daya tear up. Daya doesn’t quite understand what the woman is explaining about her brother and doesn’t want to delve too deeply. But now Daya wants to make sure this woman isn’t too upset, sympathy breaking through the anger. Mark has turned his attention to the coupon drama at the register. The man has also teared up about his own problem and is using Mark as a sounding board.

Daya: I totally relate. (Pointing to Mark’s back.) If he didn’t exist in my life, I would likely be a total recluse as well.

Woman: He’s a good man.

Daya: Yes, he is.

Woman: I just don’t know.

Daya: (Lightly touching the woman’s arm.) Caitlyn says she wants to help trans people. I’m waiting to see what she does with her celebrity. I’ll be willing to criticize her if she fails to do anything but be a celebrity. But we have to wait to see what she does with that power. She says she wants to help.

Woman: You’re right.

Daya: We have to lead with love.

Woman: (Her eyes are now red and look ready to spill over.) I understand, honey.

Daya: You’re going to make me cry! I don’t want to cry off all my makeup in line at Safeway!

Woman: OK, I’m going to hug you.

The woman opens her arms and Daya welcomes the hug. It’s a surprisingly firm and personal hug between total strangers.

Woman: I understand, Honey.

Daya: Thank you.

As Daya’s and Mark’s items are rung, the awkwardness mostly dissipates. There is welcome laughter and light-heartedness. As they roll their cart away, Daya blows a kiss to the woman.

Woman: Thank you, honey.

SAG screener #10: WHIPLASH

For some reason I had a built-in aversion to this film even though I had no real idea what it was about. When we found out we had to watch it as a screener we were both eager to put the viewing off as long as possible. Neither of us care much for cruelty…or jazz for that matter!

Boy was I wrong.

Right away the colorful cinematography let me know we were in the grip of something more cerebral than I anticipated. The palette was primary, fundamental. You could taste the hues.

We’re both fans of J. K. Simmons, and if you’ve seen him in HBO’s OZ you will recognize the energy. He’s perfection with this kind of angry intensity. And the cruelty of the character did force us more than once to cover our cringing faces.

But the piece carried us, and before I knew it we were about halfway through, past that point where you think “OK, we’ve seen everything from the trailer. Now what the hell is going to happen?!?!”

Like with BIRDMAN and NIGHTCRAWLER, we reached a point where we simply couldn’t predict where the plot would go, or even what kind of movie this would be in the end. This is a fun place to be. The rest of the film was a suspenseful ride that was unpredictable to the very last frames.

Mark commented that the film took a form of music he doesn’t usually care for, and made it thrilling and compelling…and I agree. This was a unique way to present a story, and uniqueness is so hard to come by in film these days.

I have a feeling this will stay with me for a long time. Bravo!


SAG screener #9: STILL ALICE

Not much I can write about this. I knew it would be hard to watch and trigger all sorts of personal fears, which it did. And thanks to Julianne Moore’s heartbreaking performance, it was so so so real.

We loved it. I cried my eyes out.

Beautiful, frustrating…terrifying…

In this society we ignore, disrespect and warehouse our elderly. Because we already aren’t paying attention, it’s easy to move through our lives without thinking too much about Alzheimer’s. When you watch it happen to a middle aged person, the horror is unforgettable. And then I consider our older citizens, already commonly ignored as it is, and then think about how terrible it must be to also be losing oneself on top of that. Just…disappearing.

The film is great and it deserves all the accolades it gets. I not only viscerally loved Moore’s performance, but we had also seen an interview where she explained she didn’t do anything in the film she didn’t witness in an Alzheimer’s sufferer herself, or was told by a sufferer. That goes a long way toward making this feel less like a “performance”. It did not feel “actor-y”.

It’s a challenge to watch, but worth it.



We didn’t get a chance to see LOVE IS STRANGE on its initial release, but have been eagerly awaiting it on VOD.

I love me some John Lithgow. His performance in THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP will forever be one of the touchstones that got me through my 20’s without completely self-destructing. I am hungry to admire his work in any form.

This small, beautiful and devastating film is urgently important. In many ways it played like an anxiety dream. I’m hyper aware of how fast the Bay Area is changing around us, and I’m very worried about how long we’ll be able to make it work. Watching this film unfold tapped into those concerns, and not necessarily in an agreeable way.

As I say, I believe the film is important. But it’s very sad. It was past my bedtime when we finished it, but we had to watch something happier to clean the palate. While I appreciate the filmmaking prowess, I can’t say it was an enjoyable hour and a half.

It’s raw and it’s mournful. And that sounds like a terrible recommendation. But still, it’s worth seeing. Perhaps it should be mandatory viewing. But I don’t need to see it again. Once is definitely enough.



I didn’t used to see Paul Thomas Anderson films on the big screen, only discovering them on home video. I saw BOOGIE NIGHTS first (and loved it) but even so, I didn’t rush out to see MAGNOLIA a couple years later, eventually catching it on VHS a year after its release, and the experience is burned into memory. It was a Sunday afternoon, and sun shone through the windows and reflected, nearly too much, off the hard wood floor. I had no-to-low expectations. I had heard the film was good but “weird”, although I didn’t have details.

PTA films play like a symphony, and MAGNOLIA with its unabashed emotion was my gateway drug. I started to weep from the first scenes, and continued to cry unabated for the length of the piece. It exhausted and thrilled me. So, needless to say I started paying much closer attention to anything PTA creates, and I’ve never felt let down. I also made a conscious decision to always approach his films with a meditative spirit. Instead of “PAYING ATTENTION”, I simply let his work wash over me (at least for the first viewing). I allow the overall vibe to invade my senses, and worry about plot points later.

So I knew I would see INHERENT VICE on the big screen. That was a given. It was a wonderful adventure which didn’t let me down.

I didn’t actually understand a lot of the story. While it played, I knew I was missing some plot details, but I didn’t want to pay attention in that other way, so I took from it what I could in each moment. There were fantastic oddball performances, funny and unselfconscious. The whole affair was, not surprisingly, beautiful to look at (and another win because of a bright presentation on a projector without a 3D filter), with great ’70s styling of both the costumes, hair, makeup and speech patterns.

Afterward, I discovered Mark not only loved it, but understood things about the plot that my brain never hinted at. I asked questions and Mark filled in those gaps, and I was thrilled all over again.


SAG screener #8: BOYHOOD

After a break, we are finally getting back to the screeners.

When I first heard about Richard Linklater’s 12-year experiment I was intrigued but not overly excited to watch it. There is nothing particularly high-concept about it to tickle my fancy. It’s possible I may never have taken the time to watch the film unless it was provided as a screener. But I’m very glad it was…and that we gave it a shot.

Way different than I expected and much more entertaining than I would have imagined. I expected Linklater to make a bigger deal about outlining the passage of time (with subtitles or some such device). Instead, the film moves along in an unbroken fashion and one is allowed to discover the (sometimes subtle) changes organically. This was a smart choice and made me take a more active role as a viewer than I might have otherwise. I also loved the cinematography and lighting…bright and crisp…and the seeming lack of hip filters which create such specific color palettes in so many modern films. The simple realism of the picture was somehow exciting to me. It felt rare.

Does it measure up to a “best film”? I don’t know. Certainly it deserves to be acknowledged for it’s audaciousness. It’s not like other directors are going to start filming for 12 years to make their own versions. So it’s a unique piece of art, and that alone kept it aloft for me during it’s 2 hour 24 minute run time.

The performances were solid almost everywhere (the exception was one short scene with bantering teenage boys which felt very stiff to me). It was refreshing to see so many actors I didn’t know or recognize. This unfamiliarity let me settle in with fewer preconceived ideas and just enjoy the ride.

So I loved it. There’s nothing particularly haunting about it, but that doesn’t matter. I appreciate and value the experience.



One of my favorites of the year, and Cumberbatch is the one to beat. Economic storytelling, which brought the devastation of that war to me in a way no war picture ever has. Coming at it from a personal angle works so much better for me than overblown battle scenes. Sumptuous color, simultaneously warm and steely cold. I especially love the invasion of the deep teal blue, which permeates nearly every shot.

We saw a Turing Machine on tour at The Computer History Museum a few years ago, so this felt like a prequel in some ways. A disgusting and sad state of affairs to treat a brilliant change agent like Turing with such carelessness. The fact that the bloody Queen waited until 2013 to pardon Turing remains shameful. But I digress.

The score was also a standout, my absolute favorite so far from 2014. The costumes are tweedy and gorgeous. The cast, uniformly fabulous.

It’s really just all-around wonderful!