13 6 / 2014
Summer is back and so ARE WE! The Awkward Phase is returning home to The Annoyance Theatre June 23rd at 8PM. Everything that makes for a good party will be there: stories, music, balloons, and tears! Sharing their Awkward Phase tales will be Wes Perry, Shantira Jackson, Tara DeFrancisco, Rebecca Loeser, and Robert Bacon! We hope to see you there with your party dress on (crushed velvet preferred). Love Always, us.
23 5 / 2014
Last year my best friend Tyler and I started a project called The Awkward Phase. Since we were both awkward children (and adults) we decided to create a space where people could share the story of their awkward phase. In return we would all celebrate that phase, including the person who lived it.
Two weeks into our project we stopped using after photos.
What I have learned throughout this project is that awkward looks different to everyone. I cannot simply look at a picture and judge if it’s awkward or not. For instance I have never sent in a picture of the time I permed my bowl cut, because that was probably one of the most confidant time periods of my life.
Awkward is not how someone looks, awkward is a feeling, and for some it’s a lifestyle. Awkward does not disappear by ditching your braces, outgrowing your windsuit, or learning to tame your wild hair.
The triumph is not in the way a person looks, the triumph is in a person feeling happy and comfortable with who they are.
We do not use after photos, because the end goal has nothing to do with the way a person looks. We want to celebrate who we were — in most cases, still are — and make those awkward kids proud.
29 4 / 2014
Our hearts are beating out of our chests to let you know: The Awkward Phase is going to be a book!
Dear Awkward Kids,
It has been so great getting to know all of you this school year. We’ve felt so honored being in your in class and learning more about you.
We are still taking photo/story submissions (to be included in the book) at [email@example.com]. We would love for you to send us something.
Also, if you’re in Chicago, we have our first “Awkward Phase Live” at the Annoyance Theatres’ new space, 851 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL 60657 on June 23rd.
We’ll be tweet-tweetin’ you all the updates @_AwkwardPhase
Thanks for everything and H.A.G.S. (Have a Great Summer)
Tyler and Claire
Official Announcement: Pale kids and brace-faces unite in comedians Tyler Gillespie and Claire Meyer’s THE AWKARD PHASE, a collection of triumphant stories by awkward kids all grown up ready to claim their identities rather than disown, to Holly Rubino at Skyhorse, by Lauren MacLeod at The Strothman Agency. (World English)
13 9 / 2013
When I was a child, I loved country music. I didn’t just LOVE country music; I was collect-country-music-trading- cards, record-every-country-music-awards-show (both on VHS and cassette), write-weekly-letters-to-country-stars in love with country music.
From the get-go, my parents had a microphone in my hands, and they had me performing Randy Travis’ “Diggin’ Up Bones” and George Strait’s “All my Exs Live in Texas” in our living room. We have VHS tapes of me at age four singing these songs with the conviction and bitterness of a middle-aged divorcee. While I sang about negligee and ex-wives, I didn’t understand the content, but I understood the rhythm, and I understood that a story was being told. And I was in love.
By the time I got to fourth grade, I narrowed my sights and focused my passion into one singer in particular: Reba McEntire. I spent my days in rural Iowa listening to her songs on my Walkman while mowing our 20 acres of lawn. I would belt out above the sound of the mower the lyrics to “Fancy” and “That’s the Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” I read about her in my Country Weekly magazines (which were tenderly cared for and alphabetized on my bedroom bookshelf). I read her autobiography. I prudently studied her biographies. At one point I could tell you every.single.detail about her life. Husband’s name? Narvel. Birthdate? March 28, 1955. Middle name? Nell.
With my handwriting skills excelling by fourth grade, my letter writing efforts to Reba ensued. I would even go so far as to make my mother take pictures of me holding my father’s guitar, which I did not know how to play, and sending them to Reba so that she could see that I had what it took to be a star just like her. How many letters I sent her, I don’t know. What I told her in these letters, I can’t remember. But I wrote and wrote with hopes that she would, just once, write me back and acknowledge my love for her and invite me to visit her in Nashville.
The summer after fourth grade, my parents made a dream realized. They packed me up in our burgundy Cutlass Sierra and drove me on a blistering August day to see Reba McEntire in concert at the Iowa State Fair. I was confident that I was going to meet her. Why wouldn’t I? I was clearly her biggest fan. In preparation for our meeting, I packed my yellow backpack with the following items: my Reba music video VHS tape, my Reba books, my Reba cassettes, my Reba CALENDAR, my Reba t-shirts and, of course, a Sharpie so that she could sign every last one of my Reba memorabilia. After the show I stood around with my ever-so patient parents, waiting for her to emerge and meet me. She never came.
I remember that walk back to the car like it was yesterday. My head was hung low and tears bit at my eyes as I trudged my backpack full of unsigned Reba McEntire merchandise to the trunk. While I was so thankful to have seen her singing in the flesh, my nine year-old heart was broken. I had been so close to her, yet I was still so, so far.
That next fall when I entered fifth grade, my parents open-enrolled me into a bigger school where I would have the opportunity to learn how to type on a computer and meet more friends. Not knowing a soul at this new school, which was five times the size of my previous school, I knew I had to dress to impress. I carefully selected my outfit for that first day: my hot pink, cut-off shirts and my XL Reba McEntire t-shirt. Being the new kid in town, I quickly acquired the nickname “Reba.” Now, at age 29, I for the first time consider the possibility that people may have been calling me that out of jest. But fifth grade Lyndsay responded to that nickname with absolute honor.
By sixth grade, I had expanded my hobbies to also include story writing. My stories were all basically the same and included a plot that focused around Reba and a star struck girl who hung out with Reba all the time. One particular story I wrote called “The Ninth Caller” was about a girl (me) who won a radio contest. The grand prize was a trip to Nashville to spend a weekend with Reba and her backup singer, Linda Davis. Using the new typing skills I had learned at my new school, I typed up the story (including a title page) and sent it to Reba. I sent one to Linda Davis too, just for good measure.
Weeks went by after sending that story, and I had almost dismissed “The Ninth Caller” from my memory when I hopped into my mom’s car after school one day and she handed me a big manila envelope. The return address label pierced my heart with volts of excitement. It was an envelope from Re.Ba.McEntire. I tore open the envelope (the whole time reveling in the fact that she had touched the same envelope that I was now touching and that her spit had possibly sealed the envelope that was now MINE). Inside, I found an 8X10 glossy that read in Reba’s pen, “To Lyndsay, Thanks for the great story! Love, Reba.” I could barely breathe.
I tore out of the car and ran into the school to show my teacher, Mrs. Soeder, who had also taken to calling me Reba. I ran through the halls showing anyone who would look. Tears of joy flooded my eyes. My hands shook. Reba knew I existed! She read my story. We were FRIENDS.
I proudly framed and hung my 8X10 glossy on my bedroom wall, and I continued to love Reba throughout the years. But, as all things often do, my love for her faded. Junior high brought me exposure to bands like Spice Girls and Ace of Base. I retired my Reba t-shirt in order to adorn more “trendy” duds like Jnco jeans and No Fear t-shirts. But even though my obsession for her eventually faded, I will never undermine the fact that, for most of my childhood, I was able to pour my energies into admiring a strong, confident female who tastefully shared her gift of music with the world. And while Reba McEntire most definitely does not know who Lyndsay Legel is, Lyndsay Legel is most definitely better because Reba let me love her and shower her with letters and look up to her in a way I have never looked up to anyone else in my life.
Lyndsay currently sells insurance and dreams daily about what to do when she grows up. When not filing claims on destructive raccoons, she enjoys writing letters and drinking beer. When done simultaneously, her letters are epic.
10 9 / 2013
When I think of what an awkward phase is, I think of the traditional middle schooler, uncomfortable with their body, and they don’t know how how to act around group of people. I never really had that “traditional” awkward phase. Growing up, I was known as the golden child. I am the youngest of three, and my two older brothers gave my parents a run for their money as they were the ones to tend to cause most of the mischief at school, playgrounds, pizza places, etc…They never had to worry about me, as I was a quiet, friendly, and a happy-go-lucky kid. This carried on with me all through high school, as I prided myself for never drinking, smoking, and rarely ever skipping classes.
I would say that my awkward phase came later in life when I made it to college. In college is when I started to discover who I am and test my own limits. I think that is what the awkward phase in your life is about. Those moments where you are not quite sure what to do with yourself, to where you are feeling the most vulnerable. College is also when I started to get, “wild”. As I have mentioned before, I never drank is high school, so it wasn’t until I was 18, and nearing the end on my freshman year that I really got drunk for the first time. I was a theater major, and it was the cast party for Twelfth Night, so all the guys were wearing dresses and the women were dressed as men to carry on the theme of the play. At this party I borrowed my good friends cocktail dress that had cherries all over it. I had make up on, and I did my hair. I was told I looked like a sexier version of Jamie Lee Curtis.Since I wasn’t much of a drinker, I didn’t know what the “good” alcohols were or really even how to drink. That evening I pounded Smirnoff Ice with Skittles in them..
By the middle of the night, as I was dancing, I decided to close my eyes and someone led me to a couch to sit. At one moment, I realized that I had my eyes closed to a long time and I decided to open them. When I looked up, I saw a friend of mine looking at me pensively and then, all of a sudden, I saw him in double vision. I did not like this at all, so I closed my eyes again, and then proceeded to vomit. Thank god I had wonderful friends around me taking care of me, and one was using plastic grocery bags as his boobs, to which he would use to catch all my vomit.
Eventually, I was led to my friends car, and the put me into the front seat and they very slowly drove me back to my dorm. (I need to point out that I lived in the “Wellness Hall” that meant for people who don’t drink and quite hours are sooner) I don’t remember my car ride or the walk to my dorm room as I had blacked out, but I am told that when walking to my dorm entrance, I was projectile vomiting neon colors.
That evening was one of the quintessential moments of my awkward phase of becoming the person I am today. I have always been a rule follower, and even when I “get wild” it is still in a tame and funny way.
I don’t think we ever really leave our awkward phase. It is all apart of who we are, and it still helps create and define who we are as people. When I moved to Chicago, I didn’t know anyone, and so I had to go through another awkward phase as I was trying to figure out how to make friends as an adult and not a student, which isn’t very easy. You have to own your awkwardness, and realize that, that awkwardness is not something to be embarrassed about, but it’s that awkwardness that leads you to meeting some of the best people in the world.
Looking back now, I am so glad I got to have that experience of being, "that drunk freshman" all the while wearing a dress and looking like a sexy Jamie Lee Curtis.
- Mitchell Harvick is a Chicago theater director and a company member with Bailiwick Chicago. You can follow him on Tumblr.
29 8 / 2013
It’s spring picture day at the elementary school. It’s time for the fun photo, with the cool backdrop and maybe even a tree to hug. This is the picture that doesn’t go in the actual yearbook, but exists for the sole purpose of taking your parents’ money in exchange for years of your embarrassment as it sits framed on the mantle.
This year, the lucky 1st graders get to pose with an item of their choosing, “your favorite thing!” Now, I must have missed the memo. Either that, or my mom really dropped the ball. Regardless, I arrive at school grossly unprepared. Thankfully the good people of Lifetouch Portrait Studios have three generic items for the slacker kids to choose from: a teddy bear, a girly chapter book, or a basketball taken directly from the stash in the gym.
The obvious choice for me, a rather advanced reader for my age, would be the chapter book, with the little teddy bear coming a close second. Never in a million years should I, the girl whose athletic ability was limited to hula hooping and hopscotch, pose with a basketball.
As I wait in line with the rest of Mrs. Titus’s first graders, I watch as child after child smiles, holding their favorite stuffed animal, toy horse, dance shoes, or random piece of sporting equipment. Thankfully a couple other kids in my class also arrived sans their trinkets from home. Sean, a playground bully and general punk, and Dora, my good friend and loyal recess playmate. Sean makes the obvious choice for any 7-year-old boy, the basketball. Dora, in line directly in front of me, does not hesitate. She always talks about wanting to play basketball for the school team when we get to middle school. She grins widely as she holds the basketball for the picture.
Now it’s my turn. I look at the crumpled and torn cover of the paperback and think about how nerdy it would be to pose with a book. A book I’ve never even read! That doesn’t seem right. Book dismissed. My eyes pan to the teddy bear. It looks sad and abused. Gross. Bear dismissed. The basketball. Yep. I bet I would look kind of cool if I had my picture with the basketball. Dora did it, so I should too.
I step onto the backdrop, a primary-colored, paint-splattered canvas of terror. The impatient photographer grumpily instructs me to place my leg up on the step stool and prop the basketball on my knee. Before I can rethink this regrettable life decision, I hear “say cheese,” and automatically open my mouth to display a frightfully crooked bunch of loose baby teeth. I feel anything but lovely.
Fast forward one week to the first day of basketball in gym class. In a simple game of “horse,” Sean passes me the ball for my turn. Panic! It hits me square in the face.
As an adult, I realize the beauty of the basketball hitting me in the face. Hello, kid! Wake up! But I was only 6-years-old. A 6-year-old, painfully shy, only child with a microscopic amount of confidence. It didn’t take much to hurt my feelings and make me cry, and as the years went on and I reached middle school my confidence and low self-image remained pretty stagnant. I wish I would have known how little it all mattered. Microscopic would be better suited to describe the size of this school portrait in the grand picture of my life.
23 8 / 2013
I was invited to my first coed party in the 8th grade and it was a big deal. Folded triangle notes were circulating the junior high all week in preparation. It was a Halloween party so most of the girls decided to dress up as bugs. But unfortunately for me, I had done something to piss off the queen bee that week and wasn’t invited to her house for the pre-party, the house where all of the girls were getting ready together.