Play List

Mini play list for you all riffing of the song obsessions post.

So, of course (again)

This and this.

Here are a couple of other songs that I was feeling when I wrote i stole lance armstrong’s bike

Wild Horses – this is not the original, but I like her voice and that drifty, far-off quality is more like the mood of my play. Though, Rolling Stones, I mean, come on. This is a great song.

Some Velvet Morning

You getting the idea that this play is a modern western? There’s lots of landscape and expansiveness. 

Also, Pat Parra did the music for the first reading back in 2010. I’ll see if I still have those recordings somewhere, but until then, here’s one of his tracks with a music video directed by his brother who is a filmmaker, Danilo Parra.

This one has not much to do with the above songs and is just a song I like (but probably also more related to a different play for a future post)

The Man Who Sold The World

I have song obsessions. This is one of them.

This song relates to i stole lance armstrong’s bike in that it was the impetus for the whole play. I will share that next, but first, a really long digression… 

I warned you.

Of course, I felt tremendously sad to hear the news of David Bowie. A friend put it best – and I’m paraphrasing but she said whenever there was a report of another celebrity death in the back of her mind she’d go, “Please not David Bowie.” I could relate to that.

You know, sometimes you think the stars are going to go out with a bang – and sometimes they do, but I think it’s equally as sad when the page just turns and poof, they’re gone… Like, “Bowie? Oh, yeah, he’s not here any more.” Well, that sucks. Not that things and people and places can last forever, but you know…

When I was first starting to get into collecting records, I found Ziggy Stardust in a dusty dollar bin underneath the main stacks at this record store, Streetlight, in San Jose. I didn’t know what it was or really anything about David Bowie at that point except for The Labyrinth – which is another obsession from back when I was a little kid. I listened to the album and over and over again. I guess I was in my late teens or something.

It’s funny because though this post is about song obsessions and about the beginnings of i stole lance armstrong’s bike specifically, I could actually weave this song into my other work too.

In my punk play, a character is introducing a song and says something along the lines of, “I was about to tell you that I wrote this song during a very difficult time in my life, but then, when have times ever been easy?”

That is a quintessential feeling I get from listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Low. And that is who David Bowie is to me. I was depressed and listening to David Bowie’s music often moved me through those feelings. 

So, yeah, this song, I’m obsessed with. I love it when Bowie sings it and I love it when Kurt Cobain sings it.

For me, song obsession is kinda like this– I’m modifying a little what the character Biz said in a play I wrote, It’s All In The Mix.

BIZ: I just thought of this song. I knew I’d have to play it at some point during the day. I mean, really, I’m probably gonna have to play this song a couple more times before I feel past it. And that’s the thing too cuz I could be playing this for weeks. Or months. Finding a way to work it into every mixtape, every time I play a club or party… Cuz if I got really obsessed with it, I’d be trying to figure out a way to work it intoeverything I do. I’d be with my friends like “(David Bowie) is the shit!” Just claiming it, I’d know that’s it. That feeling. The song. It’d be me by then. My motto for life…

The Man Who Sold The World…

Sometimes in generative writing workshops, the instructor will ask you to think of what your play sounds or tastes or smells like. Like my first playwriting teacher, Naomi Iizuka, would say this and you would free write for a while with just whatever popped. I started with a desk, a desire to write something new, an idea about a bike theft, and this song.

I played this song and it would run out so I’d play it some more. And then, I’d play another version. 

A monologue resulted, but more than that, I could see, feel, and touch the world of my play within my mind. And I knee exactly how it would feel to be in that space at that time with those people.

This monologue was first and I kept on writing around it, completely or mostly out of order. It was more or less the equivalent of a sketch when I passed it onto another teacher, Octavio Solis, who asked how I wrote it. I said that I just wrote it as it came to me. He said “what if you put it in order?” Huh! I hadn’t thought of that.

So, I did. And this monologue which was first, and was originally a letter, moved to the middle. I’ve edited and shaped it a bit along with everything else.

But the songs…

Okay, so have you seen these live versions?

I personally prefer these acoustic ones – one sung by David Bowie and the other by Kurt Cobain.

And so recently I’ve been thinking that maybe I will sing songs for people. Live. But for realsies, not just karaoke. And maybe I will do my version of this song. Of course, I would like create my own music too. Like if I made an opera it would sound like that harmonizing haunting part at the end.

 I can’t seem to find any good versions by female singers, except for this one with a theramin. So maybe I should create what I want to see and experience. I think I’d aim for more like those acoustic ones above though. And that definitely feels like the spirit of i stole lance armstrong’s bike

Oh, this one is really interesting too. Dark, kinda like a sci-fi noir film soundtrack or something. It would have really gone well with this radio show I used to have called Miz Scarlet in the Lounge with the Turntables. 

And there’s this epic on on SNL with Klaus Nomi. They used to have the whole version up, but this one with the intro and frame will have to do.

So now, the monologue from i stole lance armstrong’s bike.

I don’t know why this song illicited this monologue, but it did, so I’m going with it. Even though now the song reminds me more about this recent writing than it does angst. Says on wikipedia that the song was alluding to multiple identies, but I thought it was just a memory of a person from another lifetime. 

But isn’t this interesting?

“I guess I wrote it because there was a part of myself that I was looking for. Maybe now that I feel more comfortable with the way that I live my life and my mental state (laughs) and my spiritual state whatever, maybe I feel there’s some kind of unity now. That song for me always exemplified kind of how you feel when you’re young, when you know that there’s a piece of yourself that you haven’t really put together yet. You have this great searching, this great need to find out who you really are.” — David Bowie

This monologue is towards the middle. They’ve met this busker they call Joe Schmoe. And there’s this sort of power/attraction triangle going on. Like I said, originally this was a letter she sent to another character who was never in the play. So I played with it more in the editing process.

I can’t take the despair anymore. It’s too much and it’s enveloping me like a snake. I can feel it coiling around my body my stomach and my throat and I have nowhere else to turn. How else to get out of this 4 by 4 space with her there judging every move every thought every action turns into something I regret. How do I get out of this place?  

We’re in the desert now making our way back to civilization and time seems to be speeding up infinitesimally exponentially. It’s growing without end. I see no end in sight. She looks at me waiting for me to break. I look back defying that will. I will not break, you see. That’s something she doesn’t see. 

I could never understand what she wanted with it. Why travel this far. Why not ditch it? At anytime we could and she holds onto it. Holds it over me. I can’t take it anymore. She’s getting to me. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m crazy or that maybe she is. I’m not sure which one of us is right. So maybe it means we both aren’t.

Behold me, Ella. I am the carrier of the wind of change. I will be here and propel myself in front of the car Ella drives with Lance Armstrong’s bike in the back seat tire sticking out the window. I am the change that she didn’t see coming. I will force my way out of this trap. This cage. This prison. She doesn’t realize what a power she’s messing with. But I know. You know, you’ve seen it. And could vouch for me if I needed you to, right?

I’m open. At your beckon call. Without you I’d go blind.


The Real World – Theater Edition: An Interview with Libby Emmons

Recent interview with Libby Emmons for SF Theater Pub was way cool. Loved hearing her perspective on art-making and not “asking permission”. 

And it’s so true! We do ask permission all the time to do art. Why? Isn’t that somewhat the point of art (possibly) to not ask permission?
I remember something Rob Handel told us at CMU though – that you submit to playwriting/creative opportunities AND you create your own opportunities. The first is because hey, you never know. It’s so much determined by undefinable factors that you can never truly know. I call BS on anyone or thing that says otherwise! 

And the second is because it’s fun to make art, yeah? I think so…

Anyway, wanted to share this interview again here to help promote the Morrissey Plays at PianoFight tonight and tomorrow and because I wanted to share what Libby said once more! 

Oh, in the spirit of not apologizing for one’s existence/art and also Morrissey —
You’re Welcome. 
Barbara Jwanouskos interviews Libby Emmons. Kicking off the first interview of 2016 is Libby Emmons who starts us off right by talking about indie theater and the importance of creating your own opportunities. Libby is a playwright as well as a producer and has a similar theater in pubs type of play series going with […]

the bike play

There’s this play I wrote about two girls that steal Lance Armstrong’s bike while he’s doing the Tour of California. Just a crime of opportunity, you know. So they go on this road trip to get rid of it, but end up being in over their heads. They post about it online and become internet-famous. It becomes a meme. A hashtag. An event. It gets really big and more than they can handle. Things escalate – you know how it goes.

This is a play that I send out a lot as a sort of “here’s what I write” thing. It was written in such a weird way – different than I had done in the past, but I felt good when it was done. I mean, not that I think it’s done done. I gotta hear it again. I’d love to see it, but, you know, that takes commitment from a theater company or something. I suppose I could do it myself… Hmm…

Anyway, so I’m going to share a couple of pieces of it over the next couple of posts. Feel free to enjoy.

This is about midway through the play. They are now starting to steal cars to cover up their tracks. I played with the formatting a bit from how it is in the script. I want to see how it reads.


SCENE TWELVE: jamie’s secret blog

JAMIE updates her blog while simultaneously remembering a part of the journey. The two are driving down Highway 5, California. The screen is a blurry California landscape from a car window. ELLA drives the car. JAMIE leans her head against the window. Silence.



Ella drives fast. I don’t, but she does.

She likes the flow.

I get nervous, I put my foot on the gas, I drive fast, my heart beats fast. She drives fast, her heart rate slows down. To a pulse.




Like it’s sounding its last beat.

The one thrill it has left isn’t a thrill at  all. It’s soothing to her, the flow of traffic.

She bobs in and out of cars, I grip the edge of my seat, the Jesus handle, anything I can latch onto, I hold on for dear life like that’s the only thing I can do. The only thing I’m supposed to do. Fight for my life. A new one.

When Ella’s like this I wonder how much longer before the other shoe drops. I used to relax too – go with the flow – but I can’t anymore.

I can’t.

I see everything.

I see how close we come to dying every time she passes another car.

I grip the seat.

There’s nothing else I can do, you see?


Punk As Fuck – reading on 1/12 at the Gallery Cafe in SF

Super lucky to be selected as a guinea pig for Custom Made Theatre‘s new plays development program. Myself and Megan Cohen, another fantastic local playwright (who happens to be in the cast of my play!) were asked to share a play we’d been working on for these one-off readings at the Gallery Cafe

The point of the readings is to hear the next draft of a script in progress and receive public feedback through a talkback immediately following the reading.

Originally, Punk As Fuck, was developed as a part of Just Theater‘s New Play Lab. We did a public reading last April and I was very proud of the work and everyone involved. Since then, I’ve had a chance to ruminate on the feedback I received as well as step back ftom the whole thing and figure out what exactly is next.

Right now, the play sits between a linear and non-linear structure. Like you could go in and make changes that would push it to be more like a Shakespearean structured comedy. Or you could trim the references between characters. You could diverge every time the want for some sort of logical linear reasoning came up. And I admit that it does probably exist between those two spaces right now.

I did have a thought this werkend when working on the latest revisions. We always talk about “the event” in theater, meaning why are all the characters there, tonight in this space? I had this step back and suddenly see the mural moment where it was like, “what if the event being staged is that each person lets go or attempts to come to terms with is trying to define what punk rock is and what that means for their identity?” 

And it’s a little disappointing in a way because that opens up a whole huge set of potential re-writes that I simply don’t have time to put into place until after the reading is over. But at least I may have a little more clarity for the next time I go at it. And who knows? Maybe the changes I made were what allowed me to arrive here in my thinking.

In any case, I hope you can come out (if you’re around/available)! I’d love your thoughts and perspective on the whole thing. 

Here is the facebook event. Join us! Oh, and let me know if you do so I can say hi! 

Acoustic Set

So I’m thinking of this new portion of my blog like my little regular acoustic set. it’s just stuff i’ve been working on– no big deal. No accolades needed.

In fact, you gotta imagine me like in this cafe or bar that’s kinda hard to get to and maybe just the regular locals come out to. It’s just the bartender or barista and maybe like two other people. Someone’s playing on their phone — no, reading, let’s make this classy. And I’m like on this stage with all these dust bunnies. The sound system is on way too loud and there’s feedback in the mic when I say, “Ahem…” No one’s paying attention. I look around like should I keep playing or…? Okay, well, guess so I say, “So this is a new one… it’s about this guy who has a vision.”

Guess I’ll more or less leave it at that. This is something I wrote to kick off a play influenced by the Greek god , Thanatos, god of (benevolent) death. His brothers were Morpheus and Hypnos. So my writing partner, Julie Jigour (hey Julie!!), and I proposed writing a play that’s kind of a mystery or detective story. We came up with an interesting way to   write the thing, which I’ll say more about another time. But for now…

A room. Two people.

T: The vision begins the same.

I’m falling into darkness – swirling light and I don’t know where I am. In fact, it feels like I’m the guy in the Bond credits, you know? Like if the credits were a reality that was real – I’m the dude falling into this swirl of nothingness.

And I would br scared – I can’t remember whether I was at first, it’s been so long since I’ve had this dream, you see… 

Well, or vision… 

I don’t know…

You say it’s important, but…

So there I am in this swirling vortex and then poof – I’m on a train. Clear as day. Real. Warm and soft diffuse light and I know then exactly what’s happening. You see, he only talks to me in dreams and it’s never in the same place.

He’s well dressed. So am I. He’s reading the paper and I notice his tie. Red. Well, burgandy. Deep red like blood.

“Can’t be good,” I think. Never is, you see. 

He’s got this –what is that fabric? Herringbone? The checked kind It’s not exactly plaid, you know what I’m talking about? But grey.

I have sunglasses on. Not dark ones. They’re tinted brown. Gold rims. This seems important, the clothing, for some reason. 

In any case, my hair is parted and slicked back. Freshly showered. Like almost too perfect. And by the time I notice where I am, he’s turned the page of his paper.

I look out the window and a crow flies by. But right alongside the train and it’s… looking into the train. At me. 

Before I turn to see it, I feel the guy gently set his paper down. 

“Trying to get in,” he says.

“Excuse me?”

“I just mean the crow… looks like he’s trying to board the train. See, even he knows this is a much faster way to travel,” the old guy chuckles.

And when I finally do turn to look him in the face, I have this profound moment of remembering. I know exactly who he is and who he is to me. 

But what am I doing here? And why am I a man? 

No, look, yeah, I know I’m a man, but in the vision I remembered something else. It’s… useless to understand unless you’ve ever experienced this. You won’t know what I’m talking about.

The guy. It finally hit me why I keep seeing him. You gotta realize just how long it took him to find me. Just to give me this message.

He… we were deeply connected in another lifetime. I forget how exactly, but in the dream, as I looked at his face, I remembered who he was and who he was to me.
H: Then what happens?
T: I wake up, of course. I only remember a couple minutes at a time at best. 

But I think I know where to find him. I think that’s why we’re here.


Scene from a play – the punk play

I thought I’d start off a little something different.

This is a scene from a play I wrote called Punk As Fuck. It’s about the punk scene and three different generations coming together on one night.

A little bit about it – I originally wrote it for Just Theater’s New Play Lab over 2014 and the beginning of 2015. It’s this play where everyone’s dissatisfied and possibly depressed, but shows it in different ways. Some people get angry, others feel the need to have “fun” all the time, others play music. You know, just regular stuff people do.

Anyway, I’m excited about this play because it has a future life! It will get a second public reading on January 12th from Custom Made Theatre. Very jazzed about that… And hope people come see it because it’s always nice to have support, and feedback if you feel the need to give it, or even a nice word or two. Oh, it’s free.

So here’s a scene from the script about halfway through the play. Lydia Cooper is in her late twenties/thirties. She’s been positioned as this new punk rock singer goddess. Ray’s about 15. He’s the son of the lady that owns the place – it’s his house actually. He lives there with his mom, who was legendary in the scene back in the day.

Oh, apologies if this is weird formatting to read. I’ll fix it later and add a picutre. I just wanted to put it out there.

And does this scene make it to the final cut of the script for the reading on the 12th of January?? Well… you’ll have to come out and see!

From Punk As Fuck by Barbara Jwanouskos

A private place. LYDIA sits in the shadows, out of sight.

RAY storms in.

He paces.

He kicks a stray can.

He gets worked up.

He recovers.

He flips off the house with both middle fingers.

He paces.




Fuck you, you know that!


I fucking hate it here.

I fucking hate this house.

I hate this tree.

I hate the stupid backyard.

I hate my fucking friends.

I hate this fucking band.

Anyone even care what I think?

No! Never! Why would they?

It’s like, it’s not enough that I’m fucking even like this shit.

Like actually legitimately like this shit

Like following in your fucking footsteps or whatever

Which is so dumb

Like it’d be better off if you’d just let my mom die without ever having me.

And you.

I fucking hate you so much.

I do. I really do.

Cuz it’s like you don’t care.

You don’t get me.

No one does.

And I really hate that I just said that because I’m such a fucking teenage cliché.

Like all I want to do is fucking mean something to someone and I can’t.

I gotta sit on the sidelines watching.

Always watching.

Watching you. Watching them.

Like I could do it, you know?

If you just let me-
If you could just-
I just want…

I don’t know what I want.

But, I fucking hate Combat Rock.

That’s for sure

And I fucking hate Lydia Cooper.



Oh, okay, well, I’m just gonna go then…


RAY jumps, startled.



What the fuck are you doing here?




I don’t know?






No, that’s not true.

I fucking hate people.

There I said it.


RAY scoffs.



Well, you know, not that I really hate hate people. See, I actually really love The Idea of people. You

know, togetherness, relating, all that. But then…

Well, you get disappointed pretty often, don’t you?



I’m not having some come-to-Jesus talk with you if that’s what you’re looking for.



No, hey, I get it.

Like I literally was hiding from my manager over here.






Oh, you know, it’s just…

Okay, so you’re this kid right?

This girl from the Midwest that actually has this really great life.

Like you live in not a fancy house or a fancy neighborhood,

but because of the cost of living in the middle of the country,

it’s relatively nice for what your folks make.

And your folks are all together and they’re happy and perfect,

well, maybe not perfect, but pretty damn fucking cute

even when they get mad at each other.

But you, like fit in and don’t fit in at the same time?

Like they love you with all their heart

and your brother is amazing and your sister is brilliant

and they all are fucking wonderful people,

but you just gotta maybe get away for a while

so you start hanging out with this group of like quirky people

that actually kinda reminds you of your family in a weird way

but they dye their hair black

and maybe one of them gives you a stick and poke tattoo

that comes out really badly

and the other gives you a friendship bracelet

that you still wear to this day because

actually they have the fucking problematic lives you hear about when you think of

runaways, degenerates, outsiders

and it actually surprises you that other people don’t think

your friends are all that cool or fun or see how sweet they are

like other people go out of their way to make fun of them

and treat them like worse than you see people treat their pets

and it’s like what’d they ever do, you know?

And one of them

– the one that gives you the friendship bracelet

That you still wear to this day –

One of them disappears one night

Just poof into thin air

Like a fairytale

And you want to believe in the fairytale

But after a week, a month, a year, five years…

And during that time you just want to vanish.

You get really into Vanishing Theory.

Maybe parse out the thoughts.

Make the plans.

You learn it and understand what it means to


And you kinda do for a second every so often.

Every so often when you need to

Just when you really need to

Like now, for instance,

“now’s a good time to vanish”,

Is what you say.

And it’s cool in one way because you wonder what

People think of you when you’re gone.

But then someone says that they fucking hate Lydia Cooper

And you’re like, “whoa! Really?

In a way I feel honored that someone even cares enough to not care for me.”




Looking Ahead

So I’ve been sharing this interview that I did with Stuart Bousel of San Francisco Theater Pub (among other Bay Area theater companies and capacities) because something Stuart said resonated with me as I think of the Bay Area theater scene, and also other scenes and communities. 

What will save theater in the Bay Area is creating a culture of abundance and opportunities for those who are invested in creating a life here.

So often we’re told and expected to believe the life that there is not enough room at the table for everyone. That only if you have a certain level of polish and experience backing you up will the scene move over a bit so you can sit there too. This is true only because we’ve created a system of scarcity. We tell ourselves that a play or an artist has to be X and if they are not that, that’s all we’ve got. Try again later. It shouldn’t be surprising then when the people you tell there is no room for make their own communities, experiment using nothing, and guess what? Make some interesting as hell art. Art that then turns heads because it creates space where there apparently was none. 

I am absolutely not calling out anyone and at the same time, I’m calling out all of us. How can we get over this idea that we’re in competition with one another? I wonder if we stopped thinking in these terms, if we could start looking for creative, collaborative posdibilities instead of responding with what wouldn’t work.

I guess I am fundamentally kind of a Pollyanna about it because I see the potential, but on small (and sometimes large) levels, I’ve seen how it is possible for large institutions and known artists to work with the artists that don’t have that kind of noteriety or clout.

Stuart’s response makes me think of all the different ways we could start and further the conversation and also how we can move beyond conversations into action. And action is the part I get really excited about. Words on the page and thoughts floating in the air are so beautiful or compelling sometimes, but as a lady on action, I’m much more interested in what happens next.

Theater Around The Bay: Save the Empire

Also, Stuart Bousel filling in for me always works out for the best… 🙂

San Francisco Theater Pub

Stuart Bousel, subbing for Barbara Jwanouskos.

Is it just me or does the week after Labor Day always kind of suck?

It didn’t in school. But that’s because the week after Labor Day was really the week things started to kick into gear, whether you had started classes that Tuesday or had started the week before in August. Labor Day meant new beginnings, a new year, and the countdown to everything I love in life- the start of autumn, Halloween, my birthday, Thanksgiving, the start of winter, Christmas, New Year! Labor Day meant making new friends, catching up with old ones, and taking a bit of a breather after a long summer that, because of its lack of class, was always distinct from the rest of the year. Maybe because I usually hadn’t been working much all summer, Labor Day ironically was like, “Back to work day!” Something I used…

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