A Distressing Evening with Stephanie

This topic contains 12 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Lawrence Meyers 1 month, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #22887
     Lawrence Meyers 
    Participant

    [Apologies in advance for the long post. This is one of those nights where details matter.]

    Stephanie’s energy was wrong as soon as she came into Republic of Pie. Wrong wrong wrong. We’ve gotten to know each other really well because of the show, so we can read each other instantly. She was annoyed, she said. But there was something else. She was preoccupied. Distracted. We split a piece of cheesecake pie as she mentioned a few stray things bothering her, but I could tell there was something much deeper going on.

    We all know Steph to some extent. Steph doesn’t do dark. Stuff rolls off her back. Nor does she bury stuff. When something bothers her, I’m able to get it out of her (and vice-versa).

    Not tonight. Not yet, anyway. Something was wrong, and I was concerned. Still, I know from having two teen girls that sometimes it’s best to wait and let the words come when they are ready.

    I managed to cheer her up in the car as we drove to Pasadena for Annie’s show. I, of course, managed to screw up the times so we were there more than an hour early, so we hopped back in the car, zipped over to the Gamble House (despite being a BTTF fan, she had never seen it), and scooted into Pasadena to grab a drink and snack before returning to Annie’s show.

    It’s late August now, and without a heat wave, we get a pleasant little chill at night. You can sense autumn pushing against summer’s last stand, those nights where you throw a light jacket in the car because you just might need it. I never notice a chill around Stephanie, because her spirit somehow warms the air around her no matter where she goes. So I didn’t bring a jacket.

    I should have. Because tonight, I felt the chill, and I did not like it one bit.

    That’s when the No Caller ID came. Several times, actually. The signal was terrible, even when we were on the street. “Don’t answer it, if you don’t want to,” I said. She reluctantly did. It was obviously Mason Silver. She answered very tersely. “Yes. No. No. In Pasadena.” Then the call crapped out. She said he wanted to know if he could meet her.

    Now, I have not really seen Stephanie angry. She was angry. Not annoyed. Angry.

    “Let’s get a drink”. We walked into the nearly-empty Slater’s, sat at the bar, and ordered drinks. And “deconstructed guacamole” with chips. WTF. The chef was so fucking lazy, all he did was slice up some avocado, drop some cherry tomatoes…

    I digress.

    She was pissed at Darren. Very pissed. “I cannot believe Darren would pull me into this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want phone calls. If he wants me in LUST, then just tell me.” She was genuinely furious but not showing it. That’s not her style.

    I thought – of course she’s pissed. If Darren was pulling this stunt, perhaps because the only way for her to fool me was for him to keep her out of the loop, then the subtext is “I don’t trust you to be a good enough actress to sell this.”

    I’d be fucking pissed, too.

    Dang. I hated this. This is not the energy I know from her.

    We hit Annie’s show, and as we were waiting to enter, there were barrels of juiced Valencia oranges outside, waiting for disposal. The smell was divine, and I joked about jamming my head right into a barrel, but then recoiled and said, “Oh, wait, then you’ll think I routinely root through the garbage” – recalling my…regrettable…choice to poke through the garbage in the side room at registration.

    “Yeah, there was, like, cat poop in there.”

    And her face changed. That moment when you have a genuine revelation.

    “I just had an epiphany.” That’s when Annie appeared and took us into the show.

    “I’ll tell you after.”

    After the show, we got in my car. She was near tears. What the hell?

    “What’s the epiphany?”

    “What if this isn’t theater?”

    Okay, my skin crawled a little there. “How did that epiphany come to you…from mentioning cat poop in the garbage?”

    “Gordon called me to go in that day, not Darren. It would have been Darren.”

    [Not only that, nobody even knew she was in town. She was supposed to be in Vegas with her in-laws all week for an Elton John show. But Elton got sick and cancelled the shows — which I confirmed with his booker, whom I happen to know].

    We went back into town to get some food. At first, her theory sounded far-fetched. But we must entertain all possibilities. And she seemed really upset at this idea.

    I started spinning out how this could be – what evidence was there, what was in favor and opposed to this idea? Some stuff played to this idea. Others didn’t. Yet by the time we were eating Thai food, she was truly upset, more upset than I’d ever seen her. Now she was back tearing into Darren, quietly though, almost as if doing so were heresy, and pissed that somehow Mason had gotten her number.

    “That’s not difficult. I can do a background check on anyone for $4 and get their number”.

    “Unless you gave it to him”.

    Stephanie has the kindest eyes of anyone I know. Tonight I saw those eyes turn to daggers. This was not her saying those words. Which is why I wasn’t offended, but instead spoke with the firm and confident tone of the truth, to whatever voice it was that said those words.

    “You know better than that. I would never do such a thing. I would never put you at risk like that”.

    “Maybe you wanted to do it.”

    “Why would I do a thing like that?”

    “To be the hero. To save me. To WIN.”

    Those last words stung. She had weaponized those two words.

    “I know that you know better than that.”

    “Don’t try to save me. Don’t try to protect me.”

    “I’ve learned that lesson, Steph. There’s no saving anybody. We have to save ourselves. And I would never do such a thing to you.”

    Uncomfortable silence. She picked at her yellow curry. I picked at my orange chicken. I had lost my appetite.

    “….I just don’t want anything to happen to you guys…,” she said.

    “Nothing’s going to happen.”

    We climbed back in my car, I suggested a drink back in NoHo, and somehow in the car, we found a better place. We joked about being intuitive, and reading each other. We’ve had oddball moments of synchronicity. She challenged her to read my mind. I failed. Big surprise.

    At Idle Hour, we sat for quite some time, and she was the same Stephanie I knew again. We played some theater games. We did the exercise called “Who Am I?” – it’s a wonderful thing I learned in a class in college. You look in the other person’s eyes and ask, “who am I?” They say the first three things that come to mind. If you ever need validation for all the wonderful things you are as a person, do this with someone.

    She got in her Uber and felt better. I was glad I was able to bring her around.

    But too many questions lingered.

    Okay, so let’s be rational. There are 3 possibilities.

    1) She was acting.

    Of course it’s possible. Absolutely. But here’s the thing — you know how it is when you’ve been with someone for years, and you can read them. For eight weeks, Steph and I spent a shitload of time rehearsing. Improvising. Getting to know each other as people. I have a pretty damn good read on her. Not perfect, but pretty good. Tone and volume of voice, body language, rhythm of speech, eye movements…I pick it up by osmosis. She may be an actress, but around us, she’s an open book.

    In my experience, even when improvising, there is this – how to describe – awareness that you are in a scene. No matter how real it feels, your mind, your unconscious, your instincts, are hyper-aware and you are hyper-focused on responding to the other person’s every move. But you KNOW it is a scene because you have to push it forward, even when improvising with no audience. Even in moments when we were fucking bawling our eyes out, and that’s how intense the improvisation got, as much as we were living the feelings we were having in that moment, it was still a scene in the back of my mind. There is an awareness.

    I detected none of this tonight. As soon as she said, “what if this isn’t theater?”, my performance instincts kicked in. I was searching for any lack of honesty, any lack of authenticity, any clue that this was a performance, for the rest of the night.

    It. Was. Not. There.

    Yes, it’s absolutely possible that I’m wrong. This is the most likely explanation, after all. Perhaps my observational skills were muddy tonight. Perhaps a million other things.

    However, while we all know Stephanie is an exceptional actress, then let me say that if she was acting, then I am the luckiest asshole in American theater, because I just got treated to the most astonishing piece of 5-hour-long improvised theater EVER.

    2) Darren is fucking with her

    Also possible, but there is far too much at risk here. They’ve known each other for a very long time. For Darren to just pull her in without informing her is, to my mind, the height of unprofessionalism, not to mention disrespectful as fuck to both the actor and the friendship. I know some directors will do shit like not tell actors things to get “reality” out of them. But every director I’ve ever met has said that is the worst thing ever, because it totally undermines trust – the most critical thing between actor and director. As I said above, the subtext of that move is a lack of trust in the performer’s ability.

    Possible? Yes. Probable? No way.

    3) This isn’t theater

    There’s a flaw in this theory in that we don’t have strong evidence to support it. However, we don’t have evidence to discount it, either. Okay, that part is a logical fallacy – Bertrand’s Teapot – we don’t have evidence that a teapot isn’t orbiting the sun, either.

    What we have is Stephanie’s genuine fear and concern, and in the words of Sherlock Holmes, “What we eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

    So I leave this with you now, to see if the collective can parse this.

    I will add one more thing, I am sufficiently concerned that, should I awake feeling the same, I am going to put in a call tomorrow. Up until now, only 3 people in the community (CS being one) know that I occasionally do some communications consulting for a private security firm. I’ve discussed immersive with them in the past, so I will run this scenario past them. Just for input.

    Because I know that everything will be fine (?)

  • #22889
     Maranda 
    Participant

    Shit Larry, thanks for writing this up in full detail. First, a question to clarify: why is it relevant that Gordon is the one who called her, and not Darren? I thought Darren was at the registration on 5/1, so does it matter who made the call? Second, I don’t know Stephanie nearly as well as you do, or as well as everyone else does, as I’ve never met her (so take everything I say with a grain of salt), but just from reading your account I don’t think she is acting. If she were I don’t think Darren and Gordon would be so casually mentioned like that. “What we eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth” – that’s difficult to do when we don’t even know what’s possible or impossible any more.

    There is one thing she said, though, that makes me think she was talking to you within the Lust universe as we know it, and not speaking OG-OG: “I just don’t want anything to happen to you guys.” Things happening to us is the name of the game. She’s an actress who has seen how Ascension worked from the other side of the curtain, and should know that at the end of the day, Lust is something that would never hurt us for real. So her saying something like that is a bit odd.

    Regarding Mason, if Stephanie acquiesces to meet with him, she should be the one to set the meeting place. Give him a zip code/time/date, and the exact address only shortly before the agreed-upon time, like Lust usually does for us. Mason is the one who wants to talk to her so badly, so he should be the one to accommodate.

    Regarding “not theater” – unless I see some evidence that this Briarberg foundation of his is real, in my mind Mason will be sorted into the pile of characters containing Otis, Joyce, Noah, and the others.

  • #22890
     Megan 
    Participant

    This makes my overly literal head hurt.

  • #22891
     Bryan Bishop 
    Participant

    You seem legitimately concerned @larry, but since this is the game board I’m sending you all True OOG thoughts privately.

    Back to the board…

    The truth is, we still don’t know with absolutely certainty to what degree Darren and Clint are currently involved and under what circumstances. I definitely thought the latter was out and the former perhaps only involved through coercion, but I’m not so sure about that anymore. Both of them were following the Hostess in Black leaks the other day, and Clint seemed concerned that the revelations there could interfere with meetings they had taken recently. Was this general reputation ass-covering, or a sign that they are more actively involved in this thing than we’ve been led to believe? I don’t know.

    Stephanie’s concern that this isn’t theater also strikes me as key. Gordon pulled her into the registration event and we know why. He was scrambling; trying to save face with The Investors after bringing them Darren and Clint (and Tension) didn’t work out as expected. Her comments seem to confirm that – if it had been regular “immersive theater”, DLB would have called her. It seems she didn’t quite realize it at the time, but definitely understands that wasn’t theater now.

    Which leaves us with Mason. We don’t know who he is, or where he comes from. But it seems we ARE starting to get the sense that he’s not part of any immersive theater show. At least not one that Darren Bousman was ever involved in running.

    So, I see (at least) three options with him:

    1. He’s an actually real (albeit odd) researcher, trying to uncover how all of us have been manipulated.

    2. He’s part of some nefarious initiative, as we’d surmised earlier, but it’s potentially something entirely new – one never run in collaboration with DLB/CS/GB.

    3. He’s part of something and DLB/CS are still in control, but they have begun manipulating people close to them (like Stephanie) in a way that suggests their intentions are more sinister than we’d ever assumed.

    Or, as you would say @larry: we’re all gonna die.

  • #22892
     Mike 
    Participant

    What if it’s a combination of all three and she’s in just as deep as we all are? We all think this is theatre and treat it as such…as participants. What if the same is true for the actors? They all think it’s theatre and treat as such…as a job…as an actor.

    We’re all fucked

  • #22893
     Cristen 
    Participant

    Thank you for your honesty here @larry. Steph does sound distressed, and I do NOT like to hear her like that. She sounds pissed at her situation, but worried for ours. That of course speaks to her wonderful and caring nature, but is also concerning, since she knows what this “theatre” is capable of. And if it isn’t theatre, if she of all people thinks it isn’t theatre…then none of us know anything at all.

  • #22894
     Brad Ruwe 
    Participant

    Jesus…. thank you for sharing that with us @larry. There’s a lot to process with all of this. He seems super focused on Stephanie right now for sure. Has anyone else heard back from @masons72 recently? Hey Mason, we know you’re here on the forums. Would you like a chance to tell us all why you’re calling Stephanie so much?

  • #22897
     Russell 
    Participant

    Interesting observations, certainly. @larry, you certainly are in a unique position because of the work history involved with your interactions with Stephanie. I am sure they inform/color/enhance/taint every interaction you have with her.

    I have encountered several of the “actors” in casual social settings… running into them at shows or clubs, etc. I have always been impressed with their willingness to be friendly, to be fairly open about things that happened last year. But, I do not consider any of them friends… there just isn’t that deep a connection. So, anything they tell me concerning current unfolding “stuff” I have to consider as part of the performance. If Stephanie finds herself, now, in a position where she is more on the outside rather than the inside of the “in the know” circle, then this might explain her anger and frustration. It sounds like some of that frustration comes from lack of information.

    The next step for her would be, in my opinion, to ask herself who she can truly trust in this universe. (I know… I am the guy with “trust issues” when it comes to this world. All I can say is… I see some very good reasons not to trust whoever is in control.)

    In this case, it seems like she – and maybe others – might want to consider throwing a little trust towards… Mason. It might provide her with some answers.

  • #22898
     Anonymous

    I don’t naturally trust people. I observe and then make my judgement. I would try to trust Mason but his actions give me cause not to trust him. Also, he has not responded to my emails, so we are at an impasse.

    However, I agree with @russell in terms of perhaps you guys letting down your guard just a teensy bit in order to acquire the answers that you all seek. There are a lot of questions. And until he thinks you have trusted him enough, he may not relinquish those answers until you all soften up.

  • #22900
     Cristen 
    Participant

    @russell that’s an interesting point about trust and control. Having not done Tension, I guess I personally don’t have the ingrained wariness around the “actors” that others understandably have. And I very much do consider Stephanie a friend, and as such trust her, and most everyone in general. More importantly, I trust her ability to make the right call. You’re right; Maybe she should speak with Mason. If she’s concerned about us and frustrated by her own lack of intel, then the only logical step is to follow the path.

  • #22904
     Lawrence Meyers 
    Participant

    I want to drop one other thing in here. It’s a writing thing that will serve us well.

    Any time something happens, I suggest always bringing it back to the overall themes:

    Ouroboros — Becoming Whole
    Plato’s Cave — Becoming Enlightened

    The dramatic climax of last night, so to speak, was Stephanie’s accusations — lessons I needed to learn.

    “To be the hero” — there are only two kinds of heroes. 1) The ones who put their lives on their line every day for an objectively good and noble cause. 2) Ourselves — not because of external actions, but like Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” — completing a journey of growth like Luke Skywalker or Frodo. (Or in my case, Gollum.)

    “To save me” — “YOU CANNOT SAVE ANYONE. You can only love them.”

    “To win” — There is no winning, so to speak, except in competition. Even when you lose then, you win. But in life, winning is becoming whole.

  • #22905
     Cristen 
    Participant

    just some thoughts I had about trust and @larry I’d love your feedback in particular.

    Trust is giving up some of your control. You give someone the ability to hurt you by removing your guard, and have faith they won’t. Trust is an inherent risk that if you give up full control of a situation by interacting with others, it will positively change you in the end. It’s why we’re all here, I figure. Do you trust your own story, even when it hurts you?

  • #22906
     Lawrence Meyers 
    Participant

    @cristen Beautifully stated. As to your question —

    I think you have to trust your own story, or your story becomes, “I hid in my closet my whole life”.

    There is no Hero’s Journey without obstacles. You must go into the cave. Maybe it means leaving a relationship, which is best for the both of you, but hurts. There is no sweet without the bitter.

    (Unless you are in the middle of being hurt, know you are being hurt, see no benefit from the hurt, and therefore need to change your story.)

    I searched “the risk of trust” and this came back. Looks like an interesting read.

    https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-540-24747-0_11

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