BRENDA CULLERTON has a tiny tattoo of an open book on her left ankle. She blogs instead of jogs, shops occasionally, reads compulsively, and is no longer wise beyond her years. She lives and works in New York City. She also writes books:
The Craigslist Murders
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Posts tagged "one woman shows"


(It’s 8 pm and snowing.  I’m in a seedy 3rd floor acting studio on 37th St. with my master teacher, Matt Hoverman, and a small group of fellow students.  It’s our last class of the semester.)


I want you to close your eyes. Relax your shoulders. That’s it.  Now a gentle inhale. You’ve just finished the first performance of your solo show. Picture the room. Maybe you’re at the Public or the Beacon. It’s standing room only. Imagine the feeling… The exhaustion, the adrenaline, the triumph…

Now open your eyes and write the review. The rave review that brings Frank Rich out of retirement and back to The New York Times.  You have five minutes.

My headline?

4 DIAMONDS from Jay Z for extraordinary show at Joe’s Pub! 

I’m not going to humiliate myself here with just how good Frank Rich thought my performance was.  Suffice it to say, by the third sentence, even I would have been on line, buying tickets. The point is, every one should do this exercise at least once a month.  Because I’ve always believed in the concept: That if you say something out loud often enough, it becomes true.  This is also why people who suffer  horrendous  trauma, repeat the story over and over again.  Not just because it dulls the edge of the pain but because it makes the trauma real.   


Speaking of which…. It is an amazing experience to sit in a roomful of strangers and listen to their stories.   We seem to live in the new/neo age of story telling. The success of Moth and the TedTalks, stand up comics, one man/woman shows. It’s fascinating, this trend, this desperate need for truth. It’s also occasionally, excruciatingly boring. Maybe it’s a reflex reaction to the so called miracle of technology; to the reduction of our desires to data, of talk to text, of snap chats, and  posting on walls. “ Perhaps, it’s an attempt to reclaim what we’ve lost  in what Ballard once dubbed “a world of monastic machines passing down memories.’


The best part of the past five weeks has been experiencing this hidden, secret life of New York City. A life of artists; of ordinary people who report to day jobs in hair salons or as real estate agents or office temps (who isn’t a fucking temp these days?) All of them together, animating the night in dingy studios and rehearsal spaces—- dancing, acting, singing, sweating… Wishing and working on dreams that we’re told are more impossible, more implausible, than ever but somehow are NOT. Yeah… I love that.


I’m excited. And nervous. Monday, I start workshopping my solo show. The first assignment from the coach? Write your life story in one page or less. The glorious thing about an assignment like this at my age is that it is all in the edit.

My Life Story

The most revealing thing about me, in terms of my life story right now,  is the fact I don’t own a cell phone. Not owning a cell phone in an age and a world defined by that device, probably speaks volumes about a certain disconnect—a disconnect that dates back to childhood.

I was born, the eldest of three, in a small Connecticut town. My father was a hugely charismatic and ambitious man who made a fortune selling shoes while my mother inherited a fortune from a family that made hats. Despite this peculiar affinity and a shared passion for reading, they did not get along.

Like my mother before me, I left home at 10 years old for the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Albany, NY.  This was a boarding school for young girls that also functioned as a nunnery. I did not become a nun. Instead, I left hurriedly (I seem to have left many places in my life hurriedly) for Simon’s Rock, an early college now known as  Bard, There I remained until my departure for a spring semester in Paris. A spring semester that soon turned into summer, fall, winter, and yet another spring and summer before a belated return home.

I left home, again hurriedly, to finish college—a blessedly lengthy process that entailed a short, depressing stint at Mc Gill in Montreal and at N.Y.U where I majored in French medieval poetry. This was a subject that inevitably led to a career in advertising.    I loved advertising. Not only was I paid to think—the greatest luxury of all —I also earned more money for a three word tagline than I would later earn for a 60,000 word book.

My memoir, The Nearly Departed or My Family & Other Foreigners, was published to very quiet acclaim in 2004. My satire/novel, The Craigslist Murders, was published to even quieter acclaim in 2011. I long for somewhat louder acclaim—the kind  I associate with 20,000 screaming fans at a concert venue.

I have been married for thirty years to the same man and am the mother of two extraordinary ‘adult children.’ All of whom own cellphones. I am currently working on a show, Jay Z and me, a Talking Memoir, which I hope to perform at some point before I am on a walker.