Pay me now

Jesse is at the salon getting a haircut. I have a to-do list that is a mile high and a meter wide but it’s going to have to wait because all I can do is think about what his hair is going to look like.

Last time he went to the salon, Teresa gave him a short, punky ‘do. I liked it. She cut it in a way that made several sections of Jesse’s hair go in different directions. It was controlled but a little erratic. My kinda cut.

I like symbolic haircuts. I like it when the style reflects the inner workings (and trappings) of the wearer’s mind. I want this for myself, but I still haven’t figured out how to ask for it.

Asking for things. Is there anything more essential to one’s survival, success and sanity?

Is there anything harder?

I know there are many people who have this skill, but I am not one of them.

I’m reminded of the first time I went to a nail salon at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. I was 28 years old.

After soaking my my fingertips, trimming my cuticles, clipping and filing my nails, the manicurist rubbed hand lotion into my hands, wrists and halfway up my arms. It was the first time anyone had ever put lotion on my hands. It was shockingly relaxing. I had to force myself to keep my eyes open.

Be cool, Connie. Act like it doesn’t feel amazing.

She wiped the excess lotion off my hands and arms with a rough towel.

Hold your head up, you idiot. Act like you’re used to this.

With a final swipe, she gave my wrists a little shake and said three words that forever changed me.

“Pay me now.”

It was time for her to apply the nail polish and she wanted her money so I didn’t have to dig through my purse with a fresh manicure. Genius!

“Pay me now!”

I quickly paid and tipped her. She painted my nails and ordered me to stick them under a dryer. She was very bossy and I was very obedient.

Shit, I was terrified. I didn’t really know how long to sit there with my hands under the dryer so I kept looking back at her for direction. After several minutes, she looked at me with disgust and waved me away.

I walked back to my car, admiring the hell out of my nails. They looked so nice! But what I really admired was how the manicurist went about her business. She knew how to ask for what she wanted. I think of her every time I need to be direct but am still working on being as clear and effective as she was and hopefully still is.

Jesse (and his haircut) should be home soon so I’ll have the peace of mind to properly prep for Tuesdays@9 Chicago. I have a two-hander about a mom who kills her twins being read tonight. A real laugh-a-minute! Jesse and I, and possibly Jocelyn, are going to the city together tonight. Looking forward to all of it.

Thank you for reading my blog. Hope you’re having a good hair day. -Connie

Chicago’s Tuesdays@9 Musicians and Comedians perform at The Annoyance through May

JJ Smith was the Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago musical guest on April 12. Just brilliant. Tell your smart speaker, “Play JJ Smith” and enjoy.

Naked Angels is the longest cold reading series in the United States and there are still several weeks left in the season. Every week we read five pieces of new writing. During the intermission, we feature a musician or comedian.

Actors show up at 8:30 and say they’d like to read. A whirlwind casting frenzy takes place and the new work is then read onstage.

If you are curious about what these “naked angels” are all about, stop by The Annoyance Theatre & Bar every Tuesday night through May 17, 2022 to experience the glory! It’s free, but bring your ID and proof of vaccination to get in.

Once you’re in, let us know if you’d like to read. Joshua Fardon and Patricia Mario and I are positioned close to the door, so we’re easy to find. To increase your chances of being cast, show up no later than 8:30. The show begins at 9:00 in the little theater. The intermission begins around 10:00 and that’s when the musicians and comedians perform. A lot of fun.

After two years on Zoom, we finally resumed in-person shows in March and Gail Gallagher was our first in-person musical guest.

On March 29, Robbie Ellis was our musical guest.

And on April 5, we hosted Heather Styka.

April 12 was JJ Smith and on April 19, comedian Izzy Salhani will be perform her standup during the intermission. Here’s the schedule for the rest of the season.

Apr. 26 Gail Gallagher

May 03 Matt Keeley

May 10 Robbie Ellis

Robbie Ellis shares his interactive comedy songs with an assist from Rebecca Carver, Maeve Devitt and Michael Bassett.
Aviva Jaye (left) and Heather Styka

For our final May 17 in-person show of the season, Aviva Jaye will be our musical guest. Whether you’re a writer, actor, musician or comedian, Tuesdays@9 is for you. In fact, Tuesdays is for everyone.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you at a Tuesdays soon! -Connie (the music director)

I don’t know what it is, but I like it

It was a beautiful day in Rockford. I know this because I looked out the window once or twice. For the most part, however, my eyes were glued to my manuscript and my buttocks were firmly planted in my seat; the same seat I am sitting in right now.

Connie: Buttocks, don’t be rude. Say hello!

Buttocks: Hellooooo!

Connie: Thank you, Buttocks. Dismissed.

Buttocks are confused and stay put. Connie changes subject.

I hope you like the picture. I took it yesterday at Rock Cut State Park. I’m using it for today’s blog entry because it’s a visual metaphor of my writing. Other than it being a dead tree, I don’t really know what I’m looking at, but I do like its shape and textures.

Writing all day isn’t a new sensation, but there is a special shame that accompanies me when a deadline is involved. That’s because other things get ignored in the process. Things like my chores and hydrating. My children. But the good news is I checked Facebook 14,097 times so at least I’m caught up there.

In case you are wondering what I’m writing: I am sharing scenes 3 and 4 of my full length drama Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be In Southwest China at Tuesdays@9. I’m introducing a new character, Shan, with these scenes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the peek into my process (and negligence). I suppose a haiku would have been a more economic approach.

guilt is worse than pain
when you spend the day writing
buttocks stuck to seat
 

That’s the long and short of it. Thank you for reading my blog. Inside or out, I hope you had a decent weekend. -Connie

Your sustenance, your desire

It’s Tuesday afternoon so that means I’ll be heading into the city soon. Tonight I’m sharing Scene Two from Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be In Southwest China. I feel pretty good about my new pages even though the scene itself is rather upsetting as it involves drugs, violence, birth and square dancing.

Tomorrow I’ll start working on Scene Three, which is set outdoors. I’m excited for the pandas to experience sobriety and real fresh air, but they have a tough road ahead of them, especially with a little one. Good luck, pandas!

Most playwrights I know bond with their characters and wish them well. We fret and fuss over our fictional characters, even the “bad guys.”

I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about the feelings of half-written fictional characters. In other words, I send my thoughts and prayers to things that not only aren’t real, but aren’t even vaguely complete. It comes naturally to me, more so than thinking and praying for real people.

I like to think I’m sending thoughts and prayers to the creative future and honestly, I wish more people would. I strive to be creative but worry that I’m just regurgitating ideas.

At angst-ridden moments like this, I usually bust out a poem, but today, I offer a writer’s prayer.

God, do we breathe the same air, share the same dust, use the same alphabet? What is your sustenance, your desire? Guide us to the originality of your vision so that we may create from your goodness a future as nourishing as your sunshine, water and sky. Amen.

Glad I have the commute to and fro Chicago to think about this. Thanks for reading. -Connie

P.S. Tuesdays@9 Chicago poster art by Joshua Fardon.

Ridi, Writi, Looki – What I Read, Wrote & Saw in 2021

Books we handed out at the Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling event in December.

There’s an old Latin phrase that serves as a mantra for artists who wish to keep it fresh. It’s “ridi, writi, looki.” It means “I read, I wrote, I saw.” Every year, I compile a list of the books I read, the shows I saw in person and the plays I wrote. Here they are.

BOOKS

susan, linda, nina & cokie by Lisa Napoli

Ida B. the Queen by Michelle Duster

Nothing Personal by James Baldwin

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Smile, The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl

Mingling with the Enemy by Jeanne Martinet

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl

Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson (Illustrations)

Beautiful Things: A Memoir by Hunter Biden

I Hate Running and You Can Too: How to Get Started, Keep Going, and Make Sense of an Irrational Passion by Brendan Leonard

People Who Love to Eat Are Always the Best People: And Other Wisdom by Julia Child

Dearly by Margaret Atwood

Habitat Threshold by Craig Santos Perez

Owed by Joshua Bennett

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

Selected Poems by Arthur Gregor

The Shining Moments: The words and moods of John F. Kennedy by JFK, edited by Gerald C. Gardner with an introduction by Adlai E. Stevenson

Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration by Reuben Jonathan Miller

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow: an organizing guide by Daniel Hunter

A Libertarian Walks into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place by bell hooks

Just Under Clouds by Melissa Sarno

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngugu Wa Thiong’o

R.U.R. by Karel Capek

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Letterman, The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman

Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy – Edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll

Blubber by Judy Bloom

The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America by Tommy Tomlinson

SHOWS

It was a relief and joy to see live theatre and dance. Even ordering tickets is fun! I will never take seeing live productions for granted again. That’s not just a new year’s resolution–that’s a lifetime promise. Looking forward to seeing more theatre in 2022 and here’s what I saw in 2021:

These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich at Winnishiek Playhouse in Freeport, IL. Years ago I read Radium Girls by Kate Moore. Though written after Marnich wrote the play, I read the novel first and it inspired me to see the play.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare at Rock Valley College Starlight Theatre in Rockford, IL. This was a sprawling outdoor, nighttime production. Side note: The first time I saw Macbeth was in 1999 at Jungle Theatre in Minneapolis, inside.

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl at West Side Show Room in Rockford, IL. After I saw the play, I read Ruhl’s script and her memoir “Smile” about her experience with Bell’s Palsy.

My daughters just before going in to see Eurydice, their first in-person play since February 2020.

Laughterreise by Fourth Coast Ensemble at The Annoyance Theatre in Chicago This performance included classical music, opera, poetry and sketch comedy.

Expanding Universe at Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago (50-year Anniversary Celebration / dance in October).

Jeeves Saves the Day – Margaret Raether’s adaptation from P. G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves” story / stories at Artists’ Ensemble in Rockford.

Spring dance recital at Ruth Page. Jocelyn is the dancer on your right.

I also saw my kids’ spring, summer and intensive dance recitals, also in person at Ruth Page, but can’t remember the names of those shows, sorry.

PLAYS

I have been writing plays for more than 20 years. My first play was the 10-minute mother-daughter drama, The Mason Jar. It received a staging at Stages Theatre Company in Minneapolis, a staged reading at Chicago Dramatists and was a finalist at the Turnip 15-Minute Play Festival in New York City. I have lost count of how many plays I have written since then but I know I will never forget my first. Here’s what I wrote in 2021:

The Dumbwaiter is a 10-minute absurd comedy about hospice and ageism and it was read at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago in February.

What Comes Next is a 10-minute drama about homelessness and it received a staged reading at Chicago Dramatists’ 48-Hour St. Patrick’s Day Play Festival in March.

I finished another draft of the one-hour play Feverland. It’s about Al Capone as seen through the female gaze. It’s written for an all-woman (non-binary) cast, including Al, and challenges our society’s obsession with gangster life. It received a staged reading with the First Draft program at Chicago Dramatists in March. I am still working on it and I hope to workshop it in person in 2022.

I conceived and directed the Quarantanniversary at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago, also in March. I wrote interstitial dialogue as well as the character “Rhonda Ross.” For this event, 40 artists showed up as their twin and stayed in character for the entire night. This means that the writers wrote as their twins, actors acted as their twins, the musician performed as her twin and the hosts led the meeting as their twins. It was a vibrant and cerebral evening of thoroughly unique theatre.

I wrote and tested six episodes of Chicago-based mock show The Stormy, Husky, Brawling Show at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago, April through May.

I wrote and produced five more episodes of The Stormy, Husky, Brawling Show in June and July. Episodes aired on Facebook and YouTube. My intention with this project was to create a show that bridged pandemic online theatre to in-person theatre. We filmed some of it on Zoom, the outdoor scenes in person, and the studio scenes with a skeleton crew of fully vaccinated, socially-distanced actors. We stayed safe, created new art and moved toward the new frontier of theatre. You can read more about it here.

I wrote the 10-minute ghost drama Dora’s Bait Shop in October. It was read at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago as part of the Halloween show.

Dora’s Bait Shop is a 10-minute play for three actors. It’s about a hunting accident.

I wrote the 10-minute filicide drama Natural Life in November. It was read at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago.

I wrote the 10-minute holiday drama The Lunker of the Lake in December. It was read at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago.

I also wrote this blog and organized two outdoor artistic events that were free and open to the public. In October, I conceived and directed the Silent Hiking & Writing Retreat where writers met, hiked in silence, wrote and shared their work with the group. And in December, I conceived and directed Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling. Instead of Christmas Caroling, we caroled our friends, neighbors and family with winter-themed poems. Both “pandemic proof” events were artistic, intelligent and fun. I plan to continue these events into 2022 and beyond.

Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling. Photo Credit: Raine Sides.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago for giving me the space to test and share my new work. This is also where serve as music and comedy director. If you’re a writer or actor or musician or comedian, and you’re curious but skeptical about checking it out, let me tell you something: This isn’t your ordinary theatre clique! It’s inclusive, safe and fun. It’s a mecca for writers, actors, directors and musicians. It is brilliantly led by creative directors Joshua Fardon and Patricia Mario. Check us out! Or if you live in New York (the original!), Los Angeles or Miami, check out those branches of Naked Angels because they are excellent, too.

Thank you for reading! Happy New Year! -Connie

P.S. “Ridi, writi, looki” is not really a Latin phrase. I made it up.

I Still Think About That Night…

Hear the short report and a sample of Heather Styka’s gorgeous music!
Poster art by Joshua Fardon.

Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago held their fourth event of the season on September 28. Five writers had their work read by professional actors, and the brilliant Heather Styka performed during the intermission. Buy her music!

If you’re interested in Tuesdays@9 Chicago, the best way to learn about it is to attend one of our free events, so skillfully led by creative directors Joshua Fardon and Patricia Mario.

Until the hideous pandemic is over, or at least manageable, we will continue to meet online every Tuesday…at 9:00 (Central) on Zoom. To get the link, email me or visit the Tuesdays@9 Facebook Page. -Connie Kuntz (Music & Comedy Director)

Do You Want To Perform Your Music Or Comedy At Tuesdays@9 Chicago?

Hear the 44-second report and “I Can Wait” by Aviva Jaye.

Chicago is a city known for its actors. That’s according to a story published last week in the Chicago Tribune. While I agree, I say Chicago is also a city known for its writers and musicians. Case in point, Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago met for the third time this season on the eve of the autumnal equinox.

Five writers had their work read by professional actors. During the intermission, Aviva Jaye performed three songs that soothed, haunted and mesmerized the audience.

If you are interested in performing ten minutes of your original material on one of the available dates you see below, email me! -Connie Kuntz

2021-2022 Musicians

Sep. 07 Robbie Ellis

Sep. 14 Gail Gallagher

Sep. 21 Aviva Jaye

Sep. 28 Heather Styka

Oct. 05 Shawn Erker

Oct.  12 Robbie Ellis

Oct.  19 Jake Dewar

Oct.  26 Ian Sutherland

Nov. 02 Aviva Jaye

Nov.  09 Joshua Fardon & Atlie Gilbert

Nov. 16 The Famous Brothers (Darren Stephens)

Nov. 23 It’s a Surprise!

Nov. 30 Ezra Muse

Dec. 07 Gail Gallagher

Dec. 14 Joe McDaniel

Holiday Break (Dec. 15-Jan. 10)

Jan. 11 Jamie Shriner

Jan. 18 Robbie Ellis

Jan. 25 Aviva Jaye

Feb. 01

Feb. 15

Feb. 22

Mar. 01

Mar. 08

Mar. 15

Mar. 22

Mar. 29

Apr. 05

Apr. 12

Apr. 19

Apr. 26

May 03

May 10

May 17

May 24

May 31

To learn more about Tuesdays@9 Chicago, visit our Facebook page or reach out to me and I’ll connect you with the creative directors Joshua Fardon and Patricia Mario. -Connie Kuntz, Music & Comedy Director for Tuesdays@9 Chicago

Gail Gallagher Delights Tuesdays@9 Crowd ‘As Art Is Wont To Do’

Hear the 25-second report with a sample of Gail Gallagher’s “Spacesuit Days.”

Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago is successfully underway!

This week’s event featured new work from Chicago playwrights as well as writers in Maryland and New Mexico.

Tuesdays newcomer Gail Gallagher was the musical guest. She delighted the crowd with three songs that expressed her spirit, humor and grace. Gallagher recorded and released her debut album “Power of the Unnamed Passion” last year. She said it’s a concept album about those moments in life where everything falls apart and you learn to make new meaning.

“Oddly enough,” she said, “all these songs were written pre-pandemic but gained new meaning through the production process, as art is wont to do.”

The following musicians are scheduled for the remaining first half of the 2021-22 season.

Sep. 21 Aviva Jaye

Sep. 28 Heather Styka

Oct. 05 Shawn Erker

Oct. 12 Robbie Ellis

Oct. 19 Jake Dewar

Oct. 26 Ian Sutherland

Nov. 02 Aviva Jaye

Nov. 09 Joshua Fardon & Atlie Gilbert

Nov. 16 The Famous Brothers

Nov. 23 Mystery Guest

Nov. 30 Ezra Muse

Dec. 07 Gail Gallagher

Dec. 14 Joe McDaniel

Holiday Break (Dec. 15-Jan. 10)

Jan. 11 Jamie Shriner

Jan. 18 Robbie Ellis

Jan. 25 Aviva Jaye

Feb – May TBA

If you would like to perform as a musician or a comedian (or both) on a Tuesday sometime in February through May, it’s not too soon to get the ball rolling. Send me links or mp3’s of your music at connievkuntz@gmail.com. Thank you! -Connie Kuntz

Poster art by Tuesdays@9 creative director Joshua Fardon.

Tuesdays@9 Chicago Kicks Off 2021-22 Season

Email connievkuntz@gmail.com if you’d like to perform at Tuesdays@9.

Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago kicked off their 2021-22 season on Tuesday to an enthusiastic audience of more than 30 writers, actors, directors, producers and musicians.

Five writers had their work read by professional actors and the intermission featured fan favorite Robbie Ellis with a delightful cameo by Eytan Raviv on cello.

Tuesdays@9 is still on Zoom for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic and the following musicians are booked to perform online:

Sept. 14 Gail Gallagher

Sept. 21 Aviva Jaye

Sept. 28 Heather Styka

Oct.   05 Shawn Erker

Oct.  12 Robbie Ellis

Oct.  19 Jake Dewar

Oct.  26 Ian Sutherland

Nov. 02 Aviva Jaye

Nov.  09 Joshua Fardon & Atlie Gilbert

Nov. 16 The Famous Brothers

Nov. 23 Mystery Guest!

Nov. 30 Ezra Muse

Dec. 07 Gail Gallagher

Dec. 14 Joe McDaniel

Holiday Break (Dec. 15-Jan. 10)

Jan. 11 Jamie Shriner

Jan. 18 Robbie Ellis

Jan. 25 Aviva Jaye

Feb. 1

Feb. 8

Feb. 15

Feb. 22

Mar. 1

Mar. 8

Mar. 15

Mar. 22

Mar. 29

Apr. 05

Apr. 12

Apr. 19

Apr. 26

May 3

May 10

May 17

May 24

May 31 (Last show for 2021-22 season)

If you would like to fill one of the available slots, email connievkuntz@gmail.com. We are also booking comedians this year! That means if you have ten minutes of original music, comedy-with-music, music-with-comedy or comedy you would like to perform, we want to see you!

Naked Angels formed in 1986 in New York City. There are also chapters in Los Angeles and Miami. Our Chicago chapter just celebrated its third anniversary.

The best way to get to know Tuesdays is to attend a Tuesdays. Our creative directors Joshua Fardon and Patricia Mario have created a supportive, inclusive environment in Chicago, but because we are online, you are welcome to join us from virtually anywhere. Let me know if you have any questions!

Connie Kuntz

Music & Comedy Director for Tuesdays@9 Chicago

connievkuntz@connievkuntz

Poster Art by Joshua Fardon

Feverland – Monday, March 8 at 7:00 p.m.

Feverland is an all-girl tribute play by Connie Kuntz about the life and times of Al Capone.

Al’s story — performed by female actors — begins in Brooklyn when he falls in love with Mae, peaks in Chicago with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and ends in his Florida mansion when he is dying from syphilis.

Told mostly from Mae’s perspective, Feverland gives the audience an intimate look at at a seasoned — but paranoid — criminal who values loyalty over family, appearance over reality, and routine over love. Mae — instead of being a patient and blissfully unaware wife — is introverted, calculating, and strategic.

The cast is rounded out by Al’s loyal hitmen, Boy #1 and Boy #2, and Al’s soft-spoken, bed-wetting son aptly called Junior.

Feverland is a one-hour one-act drama with comedy. It’s getting a virtual reading at First Draft through Chicago Dramatists on Monday, March 8 at 7:00 p.m. and it is free and open to the public. There are violent themes along with implied nudity, some sexuality, and mild profanity.

Feverland by Connie Kuntz

Al Capone – Jessica Rivera

Mae Capone – Meg Elliot

Junior Capone – Maeve Devitt

Boy #1 – Rhiannon Frazier

Boy #2 – Stephanie Grilo

Stage Directions – Jesse Kuntz

To receive the Zoom link, email First Draft director Maria Pretzl at mpretzl@chicagodramatists.org.