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Poetic Larceny Artists Reveal #14 - Crystal Skillman

Monday, April 6, 2009 Leave a Comment

What is Poetic Larceny?

And how can I learn more about Flux's upcoming production of Pretty Theft?


Playwright, April 13th

Previous Flux stuff: First time with Flux, now on the regular invite list for Flux Sundays

We asked the amazing artists of our upcoming staged reading series Poetic Larceny to answer some questions about stealing, beauty, and consequences. Read on for their answers!

Question #1: What is the worst thing you've ever stolen?

When I was around like 13, I went on a little vacation with my best friend and her family up to her grandparents’ place in Massachusetts. While there, we went to this warehouse store called Building 19 (which still exists! http://www.building19.com). It’s a crazy place full of books and crazy ass shit - tons of books, toys, clothes. Now, my friend and I had recently gotten into “testing our coolness” with doing the old “five finger discount”. We were still doing it that day, when an older big, fat guy in a suit came and found us, while we were joking around trying on men’s shoes, clomping around. He asked us to come with him and took us into this little wooden paneled backroom, sat us down. He said he had seen me stealing and had me on tape. I knew my friend was also stealing, but he never mentioned her, just me. He showed me the tape where I’m doing some of the dumbest shit in my life – stealing like a transformer or go-bot or something (!), a scarf, maybe like a pin. Cheap $3 things I didn’t need, didn’t even really want and for what? I had $40 in my pockets that my parents had given me. I’d never really understood what I was doing. I think I was just following through on the act of stealing to belong, to have that little secret of getting back at the world or something. Anyway, when I was sitting there watching the version of me that was doing these stupid, stupid things, I was shaking and crying like no tomorrow. This guy was scary and he was saying I could go to jail. It felt like everything was ending right there and then (only later did the comedy of my 13 year old friend saying things like “Let her go. She’s only a kid!” sink in). My friend’s parents got called in of course. It was agreed that the store wouldn’t press charges unless I swore to never return to the ill fated Building 19. I had never felt that kind of humiliation, especially as the sweet, nerdy four eyed best friend, which is what I was to my friend’s family. Later in their living room of this posh New England house, my friend’s parents drilled me and I must admit I was pretty awesome about taking the fall, really protected my friend to the end (of course the irony was she was way more of a shoplifting junky than me). But the worst thing was that they left it up to me about telling my own parents when I got back. The choice was mine. And I did tell them. My dad was disappointed but fine, like “we all make mistakes” kinda thing. But my mom? She wouldn’t talk to me for like a month. That was hard. But I’ll tell you what – I never was tempted to steal again. :) All it takes is a teeny wooden paneled room, a fat guy in a cheap suit chewing you out and a shitty video of you being a moron to teach you that lesson.

Question #2: What is the worst thing that's been stolen from you?

My name! My current dayjob is being the receptionist at an architectural firm (I actually write a lot of my plays at the front desk ☺). Anyway, at my job, I order cars for my bosses when they go to the airport. One day I got a call from those that do the billing in Chicago who told me the car service we use was insisting I’d ordered a pick up (for a name non of us reconized) that cost about $300. The car place tapes all the calls and the manager, who knew me for at least a year, said she was dead certain it was my voice on that call! That she listened to it and it was me going on for 12 minutes. When she talked to me, she said “That’s you Crystal.” I felt really crazy. I asked to listen to the tape myself. When I did I recognized immediately the old Admin’s voice (she was fired a month ago). On the tape, she was clearly setting up an inside pick up (the expensive, fancy one where they wait with you for a sign!) for some friend getting picked up at JFK going to the Bronx. On the tape, when the car place asked the name of who was calling you heard her say, in the most chilling, calm manner, “Crystal”. Said my last name without them asking. Spelled my last name out letter by letter: S-K-I-L-L-M-A-N. When I heard her pretending to be me, I was stunned. Never had experienced that before. Here I was, actually sad she got fired because I thought we were friends at work! Man. I also learned through this event that a perky, happy women’s voice sounds the same to everyone, even to this car service lady who was fooled. Eventually this tape was played on a conference call for others in our office, who confirmed it was not me, but this crazy wack-a-doodle. But it was really, really strange to know someone had pretended to be me and for the silliest of reasons. And it was a real damper as this happened a year ago, about this time, on my birthday. Luckily this year, I’ve had the best birthday ever with Rising Phoenix Rep opening my new play Birthday (actually on my Birthday last Thursday!) which’ll run thru April 10th. And the comedy does continue - now whenever I call up that car place they always ask: “Is this the REAL Crystal Skillman?”

Question #3: What do you find pretty?

I can officially say a Betsey Johnson dress because I just bought one on sale (with awesomely mis-matching shoes!) for the Women’s Project Sadie Hawkins Day dance on April 29th (http://www.womensproject.org/on_our_stage.htm) and I’m in love. I looked right at it and was like, now that – that is pretty!

Question #4: What do you find beautiful?

Moments lead to big epiphanies. Like the dusk evening turning black with the streetlights glowing, someone confessing a secret to you, you realizing something important just to yourself while rocking out to your ipod on the train, turning the page and feeling a real connection to what you’re reading, feeling yourself change as a result. And there is a very corny but true one – my husband’s face every time I come home.

Question #5: If you could steal something beautiful without consequences, what would it be?

I went to the Morgan library a few months ago and one of the cool things they had on display was Tennessee Williams’s private journal. It was open to a page where he was figuring out how much to tip this male prostitute he’d just been with. It was so awkwardly touching, funny and sad about these teeny everyday things for him, scripted in his large script on this simple lined notebook. Amazing stuff. Would love to steal that. Take that Mr. Morgan!

Bio: Crystal Skillman's play The Telling Trilogy was produced by Rising Phoenix Rep and is published in Plays & Playwrights 2008. This summer her play 4 Edges, produced by Amphibian Productions and written in the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, was workshopped as one of the four selected plays at the 2008 New Harmony Project Theatre Conference. As well, Crystal's new play The Sleeping World was workshopped at Lincoln Center (with director Scott Ebersold) as part of the 2008 Director's Lab. The Vigil or the Guided Cradle, featured in hotINK 2008, received a mini-workshop directed by Erica Gould for New Georges and will receive a reading at Rattlestick. Past productions and commissions include: Summerland (Gideon Production's Blueprint Project); Apocalypse Neo (co-written with Rob Neill and Justin Tolley, NY Neo-Futurists); Flow (E.S.T/Sloan Commission) and Ballad of Phineas P. Gage (Drama of Works/HERE). She is the bookwriter/lyricist for the musical That's Andy (composer Kevin Carter; conceiver Robert Jay Cronin) and is co-writing the rock musical 72 Devils with director/composer Jerry Ruiz. Her play The Ride, second play in The Telling Trilogy (directed by Daniel Talbott), was nominated for a NY Innovative Theatre Award. In addition to being a member of the Women's Project Playwrights Lab, Crystal is a member of the MCC Theater Playwrights' Coalition, E.S.T, Rising Phoenix Rep and the Dramatists Guild.