As writers, we were totally annoyed by Lip Service at the Miracle Theatre
last night. How dare they choose an attorney, a marketing teacher, and a television communications director to stand on stage and read their writing to a full house of eager listeners? In our book, writers are supposed to be penniless schmucks (like us) whose main recognition comes from angry Internet trolls who offer such insightful feedback as "You suck." Worst of all, most of these so-called writers had the nerve to be pretty frickin' great at the craft. How obnoxious.
This installment of the quarterly local lit fest was completely sold out. Host Andrea Askowitz appeared, looking like a kooky high school art teacher who'd just changed out of her batik dye-stained overalls and into an out-of-character black party dress.
"I'm taking my role as host very seriously, so I decided to dress up and shit," she said, before warning the front row that she wasn't wearing any underwear. She explained that the night's true personal stories, which were chosen from an outpouring of submissions from community members, all danced around the theme "Things aren't always what they seem ― but sometimes they are."
Lee Zimmerman, a middle-aged guy wearing black jeans, a floral retro shirt, and a shaggy sheepdog haircut came on to tell his story first. In "Acting Up," he told of his illustrious career as a movie and TV extra, capped by some earth-shattering words of wisdom he gleaned from Miami Vice's Philip Michael Thomas. "Hey man, can you duck down a bit? You're blocking me out of the scene." Zimmerman was boyishly charming, but the stories that followed had more substance.
Sharon Rothberg, the next reader, cut a very different silhouette on stage. In an elegant but simple black dress, the former English teacher read her story, "It's About Time," without much ado.
In conversational language, she explained that her husband of 47 years shared with Sir Isaac Newton his perception of time as being composed of rigid and uniform intervals. She, on the other hand, stood with Einstein on the idea that time is relative.
"Time moves slowly, moseying along, until suddenly you run out of it," she smiled. She ultimately related these musings to a painful loss of a family member. Her unassuming story raised the question of what is lost in our daily race against time, and also offered a more fluid, potentially comforting view on the matter.
Then came Marisa Jones, a young Jamaican woman in a fitted jacket, Beastie Boys tee, and skinny jeans. She gave us "Hardcore," a fun and culturally insightful account of how she and her girly girlfriends, titling themselves "Team Jamaica Que Fancy," braved a smelly, sticky, and dirty three-day music festival.
The "fancy" ladies breathed port-o-potty stench, ate pot brownies, and $2 bananas, drank boxed wine, and lived to tell about it. The story was lovely to listen to in Jones's gentle Jamaican accent.
Next up was a tall, professionally dressed, blond woman, who claims to be "possessed by Miami," but seemed to be equally consumed by what she was about to impart (she was the only "reader" who didn't even glance down at her papers once she got rolling).
From the very beginning of assistant state attorney Brenda Mezek's "Lesson from a Ghost," we were on the edge of our seats. Brutal murder, jealousy, mystery, and ghostly apparitions worked together to formulate Mezek's chilling story. Based solely on her passionate performance, we've been forced to reevaluate our former perception that all lawyers are bloodless robots.
Jeffrey Weinstock, a tall, conservatively dressed gentleman, shared a beautiful, thoughtful, and classically American family story, "A Bench in Luxembourg Gardens." In his young adulthood, Weinstock had tried his damnedest to distance himself from what he thought was his father's pitiful, provincial life. He only realized later how badly his loving dad had wanted to bridge the intercontinental gap. This one was a real tearjerker.
Winding up the show, diminutive Dena Stewart, a painter, writer, educator, and film editor, unleashed some "Gossip" she's had on Jackie O. for several decades (it involves farting), and Esther Martinez, co-producer of Lip Service, told us how she really wished a man was playing with himself on the subway in "Busted."
Our personal jealousies aside, it was a brilliant event from start to finish (well, nearly). Lots of praise was heard from other audience members as the crowd trickled out. True story.
To submit your own true story to be considered for the next Lip Service show (in January) or for print in City Link for those shy writer types, go to the Lip Service website.