An Interview with Zury Ruiz: Aging, Grunting, and the Grotesque on the 101

So, tonight is the first reading of !What a Piece of Work is Man!, and the final interview of our trilogy is long overdue. We’re gonna go with a podcast for the last one, and if you listen, you’ll get to hear about Zury’s inspiration and plans and process. (You’ll also get to hear me try to drive and interview, and speak in a weirdly grating monotone, and say, “cool” a lot. Who knew?)

Zury talked about working with images for this play. Here are some of them below!

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I interview Megan Kelly

Hanging out in the TA office, our home away from home away from home, I interview Megan Kelly.

Megan Kelly touches a store decoration

Megan Kelly touches a store decoration

MADHURI:     Hello Megan.

MEGAN:         Hello!

MADHURI:     It’s nice to see you. We haven’t talked in a while.

MEGAN:         (laughing) I know! (uncertain pause) No, wait, we have.

MADHURI:     I’m going to ask you something you asked me the other day. If you were going to create a comic character for a TV show, based on your own personality, like what Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm, what would that character be?

MEGAN:         Well the thing about Larry David is that- he’s this guy who just has to be right, and can’t keep it in, that he has to be right, and he keeps doing it over and over again. So the thing that I do over and over again is… care. An inordinate amount. About being liked, and about everyone being happy. And that can get me into trouble that can sometimes be funny, so I think that’s where most of the comedy in my life comes from- needing to be liked. And it’s kind of a ridiculous desire, needing to be liked by people I don’t like.

MADHURI:     Can you point to an example or a story of something like that?

MEGAN:         Um…

MADHURI:     We can change the names to protect the identities. We here in the interview studio.

MEGAN:         (laughing) Okay. I had a nemesis. (Madhuri squeals and claps her hands.) Well, you know about her because I talked about her constantly and was obsessed with her.

MADHURI:     Yes!

MEGAN:         But the only reason she was my nemesis- the single only reason- was that she didn’t like me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get her to like me. I think she found my, uh, accommodating sweetness like, really annoying. And she was very open about that. And so I would try harder, and then… yeah.

There wasn’t any single thing that happened, except she told me that I mispronounced your name, and that really annoyed me. And I came to you and said I absolutely DIDN’T mispronounce your name, and you said, well, yes, you do.

MADHURI:     (laughing) I tried saying my name the way you say my name, today, and it felt weird in my mouth.

MEGAN:         Yeah.

MADHURI:     So-

MEGAN:         Also, my character- my character is pretty personal. My character in my play. She wants to be liked, but that’s not really… her thing. Her thing is that she’s a Christian and an intellectual, and those things are constantly at war between her. Within her. So… I’ve written a play about that character based on me… there’s enough comedy fuel there.

Megan Kelly watching a bad stand-up set.

Megan Kelly watching a bad stand-up set.

MADHURI:     And it’s funny, because you’re on this weird meta journey with your play- you’re going through the same journey your character is going through, where she kind of has to balance the Christian world and the comedy world. And that’s you- because- when we do this play, we will have people from the theatre world seeing it, and responding to it in a certain way, and we’ll also have your family and friends from your Christian community also there, so it’s kind of like- how to you serve both?

MEGAN:         Yeah. Yeah. It’s like this endless loop of… (laughing) 

… anxiety- that I’ve put in the character, and then I behave the way she behaves in real life. And her mother behaves the way my mother behaves… well, in some ways. Actually the mother in the play has gotten further and further away from my mother. Like today, I was on the phone with my mom, and I said, oh, I wrote this for you, I’m writing this for you, and she said, oh, that’s sweet, but then she was like- But… the mother’s crazy! She thinks Jesus told her that thing! And I was like, she’s not crazy, what if Jesus told you that same thing, what if that happened, and she’s like, yeah, I guess I’d have to believe it.

I’m rambling, what was the original question?

MADHURI:     I don’t think there was. I made a statement and we talked about that statement.

MEGAN:         Oh, yeah.

MADHURI:     I really liked your personal statement that you wrote for that fellowship application recently. Can you talk about- your- your- artistic statement?

MEGAN:         Oh yeah, artistic statements are always thrilling. (laughing)

Thrilling to write. I think artistic statements are- are a way of making sense of yourself as a writer in a compelling way. Making sense of yourself as a special writer. That’s what we’re all trying to do, and I don’t think that’s bad. I finally found the thing I’m trying to be in life and work, which is something my Mom came up with. She says I always defend the stranger, that I always, always am on the other side- it’s something I’ve done since I was a kid- in an argument between a stranger and the Kelly family, I’m always on the side of the stranger. This annoys her, and my brother- one of my brothers- and I used to think this was because I disagreed with my family, but it turns out that it’s just- I just do that. Like, I was always against Christians- well, no, because I’m one of them, but theoretically, you know, I was against them, and then I came down here, and here, there aren’t any Christians to disagree with. (laughing)

So I started disagreeing- or rather defending the stranger, Christians, down here- because I didn’t realize people didn’t know what they were like. That never occurred to me. So I think that’s what happens in all of my plays, and all of my work. Because even when it’s not about Christians per say, it’s about something that- someone that’s misunderstood.

So, yeah.

MADHURI:     Yeah.

I have to think of another question now.

MEGAN:         Yeah.

MADHURI:     (pause)

There are so many things we talk about, and they’re all so interesting, so it’s hard to pick one.

MEGAN:         We’re so interesting.

MADHURI:     We are such interesting people.

(long pause) (Madhuri decides to put up a picture of Megan Kelly instead.)

Megan Kelly at the beach.

Megan Kelly at the beach.

MADHURI:     I think this was a very good interview.

MEGAN:         Yeah. Thank you. I feel special and self-conscious.

Megan Kelly's got the moves.

We’ve got the moves.

Baby Megan Kelly & Friends <3

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Baby Megan Kelly is a cutie. Did you all see her last blog post? If you didn’t you really should, because there you will see the cuteness that is Baby Megan Kelly. I kept telling Madhuri– “I want to draw her” and she was encouraging about it but I wasn’t inspired to do it quite yet. BUT THEN Megan went ahead and made the bear cub comment (please refer to Madhuri Shekar’s last entry to read that little gem) and that changed everything.

Above is the result. It was effortless, really. I drew it late saturday night after the three of us (Madhuri, Megan and I) went to South Coast Rep to see David Henry Hwang’s “Chinglish”–which was really funny, btw. 

I wanted to keep the drawing a secret, make multiple color copies, and use them for Valentine’s Day cards (hence the hearts), but then I remembered that required effort, so… that wasn’t going to happen. 

Madhuri and Megan already know about this drawing, btw. I showed it to Madhuri on Sunday afternoon (via email) and to Megan in class earlier today (Madhuri and I both wanted to see her reaction, so we had to wait). Megan’s reaction wasn’t what we expected. She was confused. 

“It’s Baby Megan Kelly”, said Madhuri.

“Is that a rolled up piece of paper?” asked Megan.

“No. It’s Madhuri “Cinnamon Stick” Shekar. See, she’s wearing her green coat”, I said. 

“Oh”, Megan replied– still confused.

“Zury’s supposed to be the bear cub. See, the glasses”, Madhuri added.

“Oh”, said Megan, clearly still processing it.

Well, that was a bust. 

 

 

MEGAN E. KELLY—FREAKY SECRET OR SECRET FREAK? I DECIDE.

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*Megan Kelly & me (Zury M. Ruiz) in San Francisco during Thanksgiving break a year ago. This would make an awesome engagement photo. Just saying.[Picture taken by Madhuri Shekar]

It’s really fun for me to be able to write about my friend and fellow writer, Megan Kelly because I get to make up a lot of stuff. Stuff like– Megan was engaged to a hunky Russian astronaut but left him for somebody better. Better than a Russian astronaut?! Oh, yeah, Megan did that. True story… Okay, no, but I predict it.

But seriously, the reason I feel I have to invent is because Megan is an enigma to me. Just when I think I’ve got her pinned down she goes “Nah-ah, trick!” and kicks her way out. You see, I had already written Megan off as dainty, and in a lot of ways she is (hardly—if ever—curses, is first to volunteer, and she baked a cake for me on my birthday—Aww, shit!) but in a lot of ways she isn’t. Case in point: Her writing. As part of our program’s New Works Festival, Megan wrote and developed her play: “The Solace of St. Marks” (pretty striking title, right?), a play about a congregation trying to keep their church, and faith, alive during a time of financial struggle. Walking into the black box theatre, made to look like a church, one felt that they had to be respectful, quiet, serious, even, that is, until we open into the first scene. In a pre-Lent celebration, the congregation dresses up as religious figures, though they’re far from the part as their own awkward, messy personas seep through. The result: hilarity. It was so unexpected of a play dealing with this sad but relevant topic. An unexpectedness only Megan could bring to life.

For this, her final New Works Festival, Megan is developing her play “And All the Trees Shall Clap their Hands” (yet another striking title!) a piece about an up and coming comedian, Sarah, who must negotiate between her two fulfilling but seemingly distinct worlds of comedy and Christianity. From our previous post, Madhuri so clearly stated that while she and Megan work closely together I am mostly out of the loop, so my introduction to this play was two weeks ago during an in-class reading with our professors. Once again, Megan managed to blow my mind. I am most amazed by the comedians that have influenced the lead character, Sarah, and in turn Megan herself. YOU like that kind of comedy?” I found myself thinking of Megan, but of course a secret freak would, and in this play she doesn’t make it her freaky secret. It’s all out there. The language, tone and characters of this play are written honestly and open. It’s personal for Megan, like it’s personal for Sarah—there is much more to them than the worlds they are trying to marry (or at least make cordial acquaintances).

I am excited to see the development of her third year play. I am excited to see whom she leaves the hunky Russian astronaut for. Both will be wonderful, I know it.