SubVerse Aphrodesia

underneath the chatter… whatever turns you on

On the art of dialogue

Communicating with others is an art that can be practiced and should be, if we value our relationships with others. -ag

Independent Forum of Opinion

In our society we have a paradox: on one hand the prevailing individualism that weakens the development and stability of the links between people, including family ties, and on the other the presence of the word dialogue as a ‘solution’ to all evils in public life. Only that in this case it is used as a tactic to defeat the other.

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This side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920


New York seemed not so much awakening as turning over in its bed. Pallid men rushed by, pinching together their coat-collars; a great swarm of tired, magpie girls from a department-store crowded along with shrieks of strident laughter, three to an umbrella; a squad of marching policemen passed, already miraculously protected by oilskin capes. The rain gave Amory a feeling of detachment, and the numerous unpleasant aspects of city life without money occurred to him in threatening procession. There was the ghastly, stinking crush of the subwaythe car cards thrusting themselves at one, leering out like dull bores who grab your arm with another story; the querulous worry as to whether some one isn’t leaning on you; a man deciding not to give his seat to a woman, hating her for it; the woman hating him for not doing it; at worst a squalid phantasmagoria of breath, and old cloth…

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pray anyway

you’ll never be catherine mary stewart

Catherine Mary Stewart is coming to town
and you never watched Days of our Lives
or saw The Last Starfighter or Night of the Comet
but you know that face from before you knew the names of actresses.
She was everything you didn’t have in the ’80s:
skinny-belted, dark denim,
perky-collared, tucked blouse,
feathered waves of frosty highlights,
beach-ready bikini wax suntanned dignity,
insinuating blue eyes, nonchalant cinnamon lips and zeitgeist eyebrows
confident and strong with long aerobic dancer legs—
everything you couldn’t be
no matter how hard you tried.

The doctor said you were going to be 5’10.
He literally said, “You are going to be tall,”
when he looked at the x-rays
before your first bunionectomy in seventh grade,
but it was like a curse
and you never grew another inch.

In college you wore leotards and flowing skirts
with your hair twisted high in a knot,
but you didn’t dance unless you got drunk,
and you skipped dance class to sip bloody marys
mixed with Absolut peppar vodka by your friend Christopher,
the two of you passing Anais Nin’s diary back and forth
reading her descriptions of Antonin Artaud.
“To be kissed by Artaud was to be poisoned.”

This was after the acne faded,
and the braces came off and you got contacts
(Catherine Mary Stewart probably has perfect vision)
and you permed your hair like the other girls, now that it had grown out from when your mom clipped it short,
because you swam every day and the chlorine turned it to straw,
and she couldn’t comb through it anymore without making you cry.

Your mother wasn’t a professor like Catherine Mary Stewart’s
and you didn’t know your dad.
You don’t remember being encouraged,
not that they didn’t praise you, you just don’t remember that part.
You couldn’t hear their love under the roar of white trash doubt.
You weren’t Canadian and you missed your chance to go to London.

And now that you finally learned to love yourself after all these years,
you still aren’t photogenic—
you never had the right look at the right time,
you had child-bearing hips and peasant breasts even when you were skinny.
You didn’t get to take time off from work while you raised your kids,
and you still haven’t remarried.
You don’t understand how your daughter learned to be popular,
because she didn’t learn it from watching you.
Your social media accounts will not be verified.
You won’t go on tour or have a cult following.
You’d never look that good with short hair.
You’ll never be Catherine Mary Stewart.

—ali grega, may 2016

name change

Common Play Factory of Scranton

It’s time to take action.

Theatre is a communal beast by necessity. When the goal is to make something that matters universally and not only to an elite, the name of the creator should be easily grasped. The idea of superstruction – building positively on what already exists – is still key to the mission of what we are trying to accomplish, but it’s not the best name for a company for which accessibility is a such a huge priority.

And so the Scranton Superstruction Company will henceforth be known as the Common Play Factory of Scranton.

Creative Operatives are encouraged to join us. A series of formal founding meetings in which we will discuss project ideas and concepts and the possible means of accomplishing them will be held in the near future.

The future is what we make of it.

alicia grega, creative operative


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poem promo

lost tail questions, excerpt #creativesprint


So just excerpting a poem doesn’t count as publishing it, right?

This is one stanza of a poem I wrote for today’s #CreativeSprint challenge to make something inspired by a children’s fable or fairy tale.

“They told us not to eat the poison, drink the poison, but we didn’t listen.

Given wings, how could we possibly resist the sun?

We didn’t see that we were the brave little children who would be forced to grow up too fast.

That the stories were instructions for survival

Maps to find our way to new homes we would make with new families that might love us for our honest humility,

Honor us for the royalty of our character, instead of taking advantage of our goodness.

That was all we really ever wanted.

It was never about a palace or a prince or golden eggs.”

– ag

Martz Bus Station Demoltion


Shot these photos yesterday (Tuesday, March 29) morning on my way to work on my iPhone 6. Edited with Hipstamatic’s Oggl app.


Klush does right by The King

Shawn Klush as Elvis on HBO Vinyl with Bobby Cannavale (left)I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. Working in journalism you’re wise not to believe the hype. I had never heard anyone suggest Shawn Klush wasn’t a talented Elvis tribute artist. He’s won awards. He gets plenty of gigs and draws large crowds. But the press releases I’ve seen proclaiming “World’s Greatest Elvis” came from the man’s own PR team, and so you question it. And I had never bothered to personally see one of the many performances the Pittston native had given locally. So yeah sure, whatever, there’s no way he could have been that good on Vinyl (season 1, episode 7) this week.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate Elvis. True, I didn’t for a long time. At least, I didn’t respond to the cliches and symbols that came to characterize Elvis in popular memory. (Fun fact: my mom’s second wedding at the American Legion Hall in Moscow back in the ’80s was conducted by an Elvis impersonator/DJ and while the guy had a nice voice and a gentle spirit, he was good at his job, but I wasn’t a fan of that whole scene.)  It wasn’t until a few summers ago when I developed a taste for The King’s feelgood films that I realized I was a fan. I had always liked the Christmas songs. I loved Dwight Yoakam’s covers. The gospel songs were groovy. I basically liked all of the music I hadn’t heard too many times growing up, tracks like “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears.”

It occurs to me now, that I may have actually interviewed the Klush for electric city at some point. I honestly don’t remember and our archives are maddeningly unsearchable. I talked to at least three Elvis tribute artists through the years, back before all the other tribute acts came out of the woodwork. It was literally all Elvis all the time for these guys. There was something obsessive of this degree of specialty that freaked me out. How does somebody make a living pretending to be someone else? And not lots of someone elses, as actors do, but just one person. For their whole life until they outlive the idol by a couple of decades and can’t conceivably pull it off anymore. The idea has perplexed me enough that I’m working on a play (Pepper Canyon Blues) centering around the members of a fictional tribute band. The fun of this is I get to make up the legendary band (The Playboy Riots) and the characters who take the stage in the guise of those unseen characters as Pepper Canyon.

Getting to the point, I’ve been watching HBO’s Vinyl since it debuted and was glad to be up-to-date on the episodes when it was announced in The Times-Tribune last week that Klush would be portraying Elvis on the show. My expectations were not high, and that’s partly because all of the other celebrity portrayals on the show so far (excepting John Cameron Mitchell’s Andy Warhol, which I liked even as some critics did not) have been the mildly-to-severely disappointing experience I imagine watching most tribute artists must be. But Klush blew me away. He was not only a believable Elvis, and more believable than any I remember seeing on film before, but he was also a good actor. There was stuff going on under the surface. He was thinking thoughts Elvis might have thought, because part of has brain has come to accept the dichotomy that he is as much Elvis as he is Klush. And he can sing. That is to say, he sang, a capella, a song that is not Elvis’s music, and it sounded how I imagine it would sound if Elvis sang it.

It wasn’t a pretty scene. This was a sad, sweat-shiny, puffy pill-popping Elvis only a few years before we know he would die. The cinematography was challenging, the set design was overwhelmingly Vegas, and the scene really was the climactic heart of the episode. It was just Klush and Cannavale – here playing a freshly sober Richie Finestra who’s unanchored and not comfortable in his own skin – and they’re talking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Cannavale is an intense and powerful actor and it cannot be easy for even trained actors to hold their own against him. Klush did it.

The New York Times agrees that Klush’s performance was satisfying, writing: “Shawn Klush, a professional Elvis impersonator, gives one of the best acting performances by anyone portraying a celebrity on this show. He’s not the spitting image of Elvis, but he skillfully captures the singer’s bloated charisma and his insecurity. It’s the culmination of seven episodes’ worth of musical vignettes by 1950s rock stars: Here Elvis is drinking a Tab, showing off his martial-arts moves and spouting his philosophy of rock ’n’ roll.”

Klush’s Pittston roots are not the only NEPA connection in this episode. One of two girls Richie and Zak pick up in Vegas confesses that she is from … you guessed it, Scranton. It’s nice to see Klush fare so well because people in northeast PA derive a disproportionate amount of their pride from our local boys and girls done good. We’re still seeking that outside, “credible” affirmation before we’ll fully commit to patting ourselves on the back. We are so starved for attention, every time anyone with any status or celebrity says “Scranton” anywhere beyond our immediate forest, we get a molecule of our collective self-esteem back.

I also appreciated Klush’s performance because it helped me better understand this whole tribute phenomenon. Watching the scene, I was grateful we had this person who had given such serious study to Elvis and could respectably honor his legend. And that’s how music fans must feel when they see performers that can get the music right. There is an art to assuming another’s identity with such soulful respect and precision. I love music but I’m not that much a fan of any one artist that seeing a tribute act would do anything for me. I’d rather see an obscure, authentic original musician any day than a cover band. But that’s just me. I do plan to see more tribute bands perform as I get deeper into work on Pepper Canyon Blues. I’ll let you know how that goes.



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