Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reader Meet Author

Megan Mercier

It's is almost a battle, writer's vs. bloggers! Okay maybe not a battle, but I heard the questioned posed, "Are bloggers actually writers?". The answer is it all depends on how you blog. Some use their blog to post their stories and poems, others blog about current events, some use their blogs to promote themselves without shame, and some promote others. The root of all writing is expression and writer/actress Megan Mercier expresses herself in several different ways.

What comes through when reading Megan's blog, Rubberneck Whiplash, is a mixture of daily trials and triumphs, political views, personal news updates, and so on. However, a blog can be more then what it appears to be. A blog can keep you writing, keep you thinking, expressing yourself, and keep people reading. You also get a sense of Megan personality, which is undeniably vibrant and a welcomed edition to the Chicago literary scene.

Recently, Megan was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): The Neo-Futurists seems like a lot of fun. What has your experience been like with them?
Megan Mercier (MM): Well, I actually haven't started contributing to Too Much Light… yet, although I did streak the stage during the show while I was still an intern with them. I'm not scheduled to start until early January. I spent about five months with them as a production intern for Picked Up this past spring while I was finishing college and I think it was more beneficial to me in dozens of ways than my last semester of classes. The entire ensemble was so welcoming and truly took me on like a member of the family. They are all uniquely brilliant artists who are so constantly aware. The most valuable lesson I've learned from working with them is to be present, engaged, and alert. The rest will come if you can be those things. And simplify. Simplify, simplify, simplify and you will discover the golden nugget of what you are trying to say.

OA: Do you see theater struggling over the next several months as a result of what is going on with the economy?
MM: People are hesitant to spend money on live theater and that's been the case for quite some time. Let's face it---for the cost of a midsize theater ticket you can get at least 3 Jagerbombs on Clark Street. Theater audiences tend to be segregated in a variety of ways, and income is definitely one of them. The average Too Much Light audience member, for instance, is not as likely to pay $60 for a ticket at Chicago Shakespeare Theater as a middle-aged professional. Young people cannot generally afford to see shows in the bigger houses, but affluent adults can. You can go see TJ & Dave at iO for $5. But from a production perspective, when money is tight, you're forced to be more creative than you might be with an extravagant budget. Minimalism can be invaluably freeing. Limitations force you to scale back on extraneous crap and delve into the meat of your purpose. The golden nugget. It makes for stronger work, and if you're lucky a few people may come to see it. I think if theater and its artists know nothing else, they know how to struggle financially. I feel like struggle within theater is more evident in terms of theme, content, & style. My hope is that, with the recent election, theater may begin to crawl out of its sardonic cave and bring some inventive, inspirational work to the foreground.

*I should mention that most houses will allow you to at least usher to see a show for free. some even have a hush-hush pay-what-you-can.

OA: You are a writer who blogs. Why do you think it is so important for writers to keep blogs?
MM: I am torn between great shame and great pride in my blog. Blogs are self-indulgent pockets of reverie, like junk-food journals. Which is precisely why I have one. The accessibility of a blog is comforting, to know that you can feel isolated and publish your personal 'now' into the ether where you may hit another point of isolated contact. The self-indulgent nature of a blog can be a blessing, because when I realize how desperate I sound as a writer, I realize that I am interpreting events in a way that is not good for me. If you use them the right way, a blog can be a good way to keep your attitude in check without censoring your thoughts. I go through spurts where I'm diligent about writing in a journal, at least every night before bed, and I'm at a point in my life where I'm not as able to do that. I think too quickly, and typing allows me to process and arrange my thoughts more to the speed of my brain. Yet when I'm typing in a .doc, it always feels formal and I get too careful. I think blogging can be a blessing for scatterbrained writers. It caters to an inability to focus for long periods of time like a synaptic incubator. You can get away with anything in a blog, especially as an unknown writer. It's immediate, it's pretty amateur, and that lack of formality allows me to cut loose with a creativity that otherwise can feel milked. I'm trying to teach myself how to dive in with less sludge. It's a personal preference for me at this point.

OA: What are your thoughts on the current stage for Chicago literature? Do you attend or participate in any of the monthly readings around town?
MM: I love literature as performance. It's vital. I have seen vastly less than I should have since moving here, mostly small readings at bookstores or open mics here and there, or solo performance showcases. It's truly always been a matter of time constraints. I moved here three years ago to get my theater degree from Columbia, and I was always going to class or working or doing shows and often all three. Now that I've graduated I hope to get more involved in the literary scene. I love David Sedaris and read that Ira Glass discovered him at a public reading in Chicago long before he was ever published, so I have great faith in the scene here. I've seen 2nd Story and I like what they do, so I'll probably submit there. I think Chicago Public Radio has some wonderful things going on from a literary perspective, and I'm a huge fan of The Believer (magazine) which is affiliated with 826CHI. I'd love to work with 826CHI in the near future.

OA: I don't normally touch on politics, but we were both recently moved by the same line spoken over the NPR airwaves. What do you feel will change if Obama is elected? What might happen if he is not?
MM: My mom is flying up tomorrow from Alabama to go to the Grant Park rally with me. I don't think she would have flown up for a Kerry-Edwards rally. If Barack Obama is elected, the world will not come up roses on Wednesday, but he is a compassionate, charismatic, gifted communicator. That is the foundation for a strong leader. He is not the messiah and he is not without flaw, but I trust him. I might have liked to see more of him from a foreign diplomat perspective, but I don't worry for him in an international forum. You cannot acknowledge Obama's story without ignoring his ethnic background, which can integral to our nation re-evaluating core ethics that America was supposedly build upon and never realized. As that NPR quote implies, this journey is a monumental event in American history. My mom gave me a necklace for graduation that says, "the journey is the reward." Win or lose, I will be infinitely proud to mark my ballot and stand in Grant Park regardless.

*since writing this, Obama triumphed. getting my hands on copies of the Tribune & Sun-Times the next day was almost a more exciting journey than the election.

OA: What next for Megan Mercier?
MM: Student loans. Too Much Light. Painting my room. More writing.

Bonus questions:
Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in Chicago?
MM: Oh boy, I'm torn. I love Metropolis up on Granville, especially that French press coffee I had one time (because I am the sort of person who keeps a blog, I must of course indulge the French press), but I am a tremendous fan of Noble Tree on Clark (just north of Fullerton). That place has swell coffee and three floors of comfortably furnished WiFi. Love love love that place. Ask barista Tif to make you a dirty chai. P.S. the guy who owns this place also owns Dollop in East Lakeview and a killer vintage store called Haystack. I got my bedside table there and it was a steal.

OA: What type of music do you listen to, and who are a few of your favorites?
MM: too many to list---I'll offer instead a playlist to sample:

Megan Mercier Playlist

For more information on Megan Mercier you can visit her blog, and also check out her recently piece published by the2ndhand, The Birth of a Nation.


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