Tonight was the Open Stage at the Oakland Theater, which my friend Brooke organizes. Brooke is a force here in Youngstown. She brings together so many different kinds of people from the various branches of the arts, and has, in my opinion, been the main reason why Youngstown's arts scene has begun to cross-pollinize over the past few years, bringing about a rebirth in the downtown, which now has so much more to offer the citizens of this cold steel town. It's so nice to be able to have something like the Open Stage Night at the Oakland because there's something for everyone, and all the local talents can showcase themselves for each other. Tonight we had a spontaneous artist painting throughout the show, and there were fiction readings from people like myself, and poetry and standup comedy acts, and bands, and singer/songwriters, and storytellers, and monologues and odd science projects. I heard the most amazing songs written by a young woman who only recently put together a band by the name of The Crissie McCree Band, and it was like hearing Neko Case, only to be honest, in my opinion, at least three times better. After the show, I went up to her and told her how much I loved the songs her band played and asked if they had a myspace page or somewhere online where I could keep track of when they might have dates to play in or around town, and Crissie said she enjoyed my reading as well, so we exchanged information and can now keep track of each other much more easily in order to enjoy further projects we're doing in the future. An event like the Open Stage Night at the Oakland Theater just didn't really exist a few years ago. And wouldn't have been well attended like it has been the past few months here, so I take it as only one of the many good signs that life is stirring in this town that for decades has been in the process of disintegration.
The Open Stage is one aspect of one of the changes I've been experiencing since returning from Japan. I find that I'm being more active in the arts scene here in town, perhaps only because there's one that's more consistent and has more serious artists working in it since I can remember. In December, on the 16th, I'm also going to try my hand at acting for the first time. My friend Rob has written a Christmas musical and asked me to be in it. It's called, "How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas". Rob works in the Oakland Theater and also makes a lot of the costumes for local drag queens, and also makes dresses for former Mrs. Americas and beauty pageant type women. He also writes funny plays. When he asked me to play a role in "How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas", I was a little surprised and confused. I'm not an actor, though I've always secretly wanted to try it. Then I found out he wants me to play the main character's flashback 17 year old shy, nervous, sad self before he becomes a drag queen (no, I will not be wearing women's clothes for this role), and also before the character has a surgery to seperate the conjoined twin from his head (I'm not kidding). He said, "It's a flashback modeled off the Ghost of Christmas Past scene from Dickens. You'd be the main drag queen character's younger, slimmer self, before she had the surgery to remove her conjoined twin from her head, and you'd have to be sad and shy. That's not a stretch." Yes, I know most of my readers would not consider me sad and shy, though I once was sad and shy, but sometimes I still can be. Anyhow, I went to the first read-through for the play last week and it was a lot of fun, so I'm excited to see how things go on December 16th. Who knows? If I like being on stage, I may occasionally try to find ways to help out in the local theater.
It's odd for me to think about my life in Youngstown now and what it was before I went to Japan. My life here is different now than how I lived it before I went to Japan. I like what I'm doing, and who I'm around, so much. And I like becoming more involved in the arts scene here that's developed while I was away. I still think about Japan often, though, and think of my life there, of my apartment and the roads in town I ran every day after school, and the schools where I worked, and the children and my co-workers, and my friends and neighbors, and well...everything that was a part of my life there. I think of Japan and my life there almost every day. I still speak to myself in Japanese every day throughout the day, still study the language and listen to the music my adopted mom in Sapporo sends me, trying my best to hold on to that part of my life, that other country, this other self of mine which I found while I was there. It's odd to be home and to feel like another part of me is away from home, and I'm still not sure if that feeling will ever change.