Monday, May 16, 2016

l'heure bleue

I love, love, love the concept of the blue hour... I discovered it a couple years ago thanks to a poetry collection, but even before I knew it was a thing, I've always felt that dusk especially has an energy about it, a feeling of potential, of possibilities -- it's such a relatively brief transition between day and night, but so much can happen during that change... the same thing happens as dawn breaks, but I'm so rarely awake to experience it. These paintings are by an artist I found named Evgeny Lushpin. He has some others that are absolutely incredible. Now that the semester is over -- and as happens to me so often in the spring -- I don't have any words left to write, so I'm turning to painting again. I want to explore this concept more in my own art.

I've been dealing with some loneliness and some depression that I haven't really wanted to admit, to myself or to others. Some of it feels like unrealized potential, some of it feels like just a general weariness of being in the world. I'm trying to look for meaningful moments instead of distractions, but the distractions are so much easier to find. Painting is one thing that makes me come back to the moment, and I don't have to articulate my feelings in words -- just colors.

Friday, February 19, 2016

I feel... boring.

It's probably just the midwinter doldrums, coupled with the fact that today is the first NICE nice day of the new year. But I'm feeling like life has become too one-dimensional.

I love school. (That in itself might make me boring to some.) I love learning and I'm starting to cultivate an enjoyment of teaching as well. This semester I'm a TA for a brand new Broadway Musicals class which, though still a 100-level gen-ed fulfiller, is also generally full of people who have a real interest in the subject (instead of taking it solely for the easy art credit, as is the case with so many of my Theatre 101 students). Never mind the fact that I don't know much more about musicals than the students do (and in some cases, I know less) -- I get to learn as I prepare my lessons.

The thing is, as with writing -- in fact, maybe even more so than with writing, which gives me an excuse to basically research any subject I want to -- theatre only represents one facet of my interests. This semester I'm super fortunate to be taking classes outside of the department, including a children/youth lit class and elementary French II, and in fact one of the things I love about this degree program is that it is so flexible. But not all of my interests are academic and, as I'm getting older and honing in on things I actually have a passion for (as opposed to a passing interest) it's harder to put those things aside once the semester starts. It's also harder to find the mental energy to pursue those things when I do have downtime (but such is life in grad school).

I really need to learn how to deal with and eliminate clutter. Mental clutter, clutter in my physical space -- even in conversation, I think, with making small talk instead of pursuing conversations that actually have depth and meaning. I take some pride in having become a person who can make conversation with almost anyone (I used to have a hard time speaking up) but now, I think, I need to find the line between just talking and actually saying something.

In my activities, I think the same thing is important. I waste a lot of time (in 10-20 minute intervals) doing nothing of consequence on my phone or online throughout the day. Some of it serves as a sort of mental break, but some of it is just clutter.

I guess all this is to say that my daily sphere of existence has become too narrow, and I want to open it up more. I guess recognizing it is a good place to start.

I also recognize that now is as good a time as ever to actually learn and practice the art of meditation.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Survey Returns

After a hiatus of a couple years, I'm bringing back the New Year survey.

1.What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before? Visited New Orleans; got hired for a job I applied for online (at a public library); ice skated; played the lead role in a play (August: Osage County); saw an opera and the Russian ballet (live in both cases); taught a class...

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make more for next year? I don't even know if I made new year's resolutions. The last couple years, instead of setting hard and fast goals, I've had some vague concepts of things I'd like to work on over the coming year.

3. What countries did you visit? Just the U.S., but hopefully this year will be different.

4. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? A new stamp in my passport.

5. What was the most memorable moment of 2015? I think either announcing that I was quitting the stage management program or having my petition accepted to transfer to the Theatre Studies program. It was an interesting experience to discover something I know I was not meant to do.

6. What were your biggest achievements of the year? A new (fully-funded) degree program, and a trip to St. Louis/New Orleans despite being fairly poor over the summer.

7. What was your biggest failure? There were a couple of narrowly-averted crises, but no outright failures, I'd say.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury? Mostly minor and stress-related.

9. Whose behavior merited celebration? Jake's and a few of my friends and schoolmates at UIUC for being so supportive.

10. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Donald Trump -- how can anyone take him seriously? Also, the Republican party for continuing to waste government time by voting to defund Planned Parenthood and overturn the Affordable Care Act. 

11. Where did most of your money go? Besides the usual bills and rent, I'd say toward Fiona, my new-to-me car.

12. What song will always remind you of 2015? Hm. I think "Sugar" by Maroon 5, "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars, "Goodbye" by Who is Fancy and... many songs off of Hozier's album -- all songs from summer and that I listened to while trying to write a play.

13. Compared to last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? I'd say happier. Or at least of sounder mind. Last year was tough, particularly with school.
ii. thinner or fatter? I think I've more or less leveled out. (I don't have a scale, so it's hard to be sure.)
iii. richer or poorer? Richer, at least in the sense that I'm living off of money I've earned, instead of student loans.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of? Exercising; creative activity; traveling

15. What do you wish you'd done less of? Procrastinating; needlessly worrying about things 

16. How did you spend Christmas? We took a trip to Green Bay to visit Jake's parents; a couple of his brothers and their ladies also came. 

17. What was your favorite TV program? I think I'd have to say Top Gear -- it's one we watched the most of. Also, Broadchurch (come on season 3!) and Smash, though it was admittedly bad.

18. What was the best book you read? I'd say Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was up there; I also started a couple of really good mystery series -- the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman and The Yard series by Alex Grecian.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery of 2015? The CD collections at the public libraries.

20. What did you want and get? A car, a new (rented) house (with a fenced-in yard!), a new program of study.

21. What did you want and not get? A road trip to the Pacific Ocean.

22. What was your favorite film of this year? As usual, I didn't see many "new releases." In fact, I think I only saw 1. Trainwreck; 2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens; and 3. The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 29. I had class and rehearsal for February dance until about 8, but then Jake and I had a tasty dinner at a local restaurant called De Stijl.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?A more exciting/eventful summer (though there's something to be said about hanging around a small town).

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015? Transitioning from a "fast fashion" tendency to a more unique-to-me sense. Also, trying to move away from basics and cheaply made clothes/shoes to higher quality stuff that will last longer. 

26. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Probably David Tennant.

27. Who was the best new person you met? That's tough. I met a few good people in class and working on shows at school (Nick, Tyler, and Stephanie among them), and a couple fun coworkers at the library. I don't know that I could list anyone as the standout best.

28. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015: You can't be good at everything; you have to eliminate certain hobbies/pastimes in order to make time for/get better at the ones that are important to you. Also, sometimes you just have to put yourself out there, even if you don't think you're "ready" yet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, Same Me

Rather than use this as an archival space (which is what I'd started doing -- I'm guessing by the lack of activity here that no one's any more interested in reading that than I am in typing it) I'm going to start using it as a place for things that are on my mind, or that are more current. 

In exactly two weeks from today, I turn 30 years old. I've been trying to come up with different ways to commemorate it, to make it "special," but I think I have to face the fact that I'm just really not good with ceremony. I made a list of "30 Things to do by 30" on a cool website that I found, but given that I only made it this past summer, I didn't have much time to plan for/do anything too outlandish (though I did sort of cheat and add some things that I'd already done). And yeah, a few of the other things are leaning more toward lame and aren't particularly noteworthy. 

Not to mention, my birthday itself is on a Wednesday, one day after the spring semester starts. I'll have class from 9am-5pm. It doesn't really leave a lot of time for adventure (though I do have tickets to the Russian ballet which will be on campus for a few performances that week).

I realize the value of reflection, and I realize that milestones like this are good times to do so. But I'm much more future-oriented, and I think I always have been. I like making lists and setting goals, and I think looking ahead, beyond the immediate future, is important for perspective. But the further you look, the more of an effect unforeseen circumstances can have. To me, the as-yet-unknown opportunities are way more exciting than any plan I might outline. 

So I guess the point is, I don't really have a point. Or a plan -- one of my "30 Things" was to write one for the next 5 years, but I can almost promise I won't stick to it. Maybe I'd get further if I did, but then I'd miss some of the fun detours that will come up along the way.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Life in Illinois: Update for May

Classes ended, I got a job as a page at the local public library, and I visited Baltimore. The library job is only part time, but it's just enough to pay the bills. Plus I like being back in the library regularly. I've also checked out more books and movies than I'd ever have time to read/watch during the school year (or even now that school has ended; admittedly I've returned a few things unread). It's an easy job -- put books, movies, and CDs away, shelf-read and clean up -- though they've started giving me more to do now that I've caught on to the initial job. There's a whole army of pages -- a couple dozen -- who range in age from high school to grandparents; in fact, most of them seem to be in one category or the other, though there are a few closer to my age.

I went back to Baltimore to see the UB MFA reading and thesis presentation and to visit friends that still live there. I flew in from Chicago on a Thursday and stayed with Maureen for the weekend; I hadn't made any real plans with anyone in advance but managed to find a friend from the library to hang out with for the evening and then met up with another friend/former classmate, Roger, for wine in Little Italy Thursday night. I was quickly reminded, trying to get back to Maureen's, of the public transit's shortcomings; the free buses stop running at 9pm on weeknights, and the light rail by 11pm. It became a recurring problem throughout the weekend, and even trying to get to the airport on Monday to fly home (luckily for me, my flight was delayed a bit). I had forgotten how hard daily life in Baltimore is in general -- not just getting around, but having to pay attention and to constantly be aware of what's going on around you. Nothing bad happened; in fact, with the riots having occurred so recently, there were more officers and security guards around than usual. It was a bit weird walking into the Rite Aid I used to go to all the time and seeing a security guard hanging out at the kiosk by the door. But it was a reminder in general of how different life is in a city like Baltimore vs. a town in the Midwest.

I was reminded of some of the good things too; I visited campus and saw former professors and classmates at the reading, and ate at my favorite pizza place in my old neighborhood with my friend Dave. Maureen and I spent Friday afternoon in DC at a WWII commemoration and visited a great market and used book store there with her friend Nora. I also got to spend some time writing at one of my favorite coffee shops Saturday afternoon and go to Maureen's birthday party that evening (where I caught up with a friend I hadn't seen much of even the last couple years I lived in Baltimore, which was an unexpected surprise). On Sunday, I had brunch with my friend Mike, then Maureen and I made it to the beach (though it turned out to be a private beach, so we didn't get to swim; it was a bit too cold anyway). I went back to the shop on Sunday night to hang out with Maureen and my friend Dewey.  And Monday I had brunch with my friend (and former Spotlight UB supervisor) Kimberley before heading to the airport. 

It was a good trip, and I'd like to visit again, but I think I'll rent a car next time. I don't think I'll ever move back to Baltimore, though. It definitely felt like that chapter in my life had closed, at least for now.

One other less exciting thing happened in May; on the night of my last final exam (for theatre history) I was driving my new car to meet my friends Nick and Sami in Urbana for a celebratory drink, when the battery and gauge lights came on and I lost power/power steering. I turned off the busy road I was on and mostly coasted on to a side street while the engine sounded like it was struggling to stay running. I turned the car off, and it wouldn't turn back on after that -- it acted like it was out of gas. It was, in fact, leaking gas onto the road. I called Jake and he came and checked it out and called a tow truck; in the meantime, I talked to Sami and told her what had happened. "Do you want us to come hang out with you?" she asked. I told her no, thinking it wouldn't be very fun for them to hang out on a side street next to the apartment complex where I'd stopped, but a little while later they showed up anyway. Which, I discovered, actually meant a lot to me, that they were willing to stay and keep me and Jake company while we waited. It was sad to watch Fiona be towed away, but we found out next day that it was only a bad fuel pump -- a relatively inexpensive fix, in the grand scheme of things. I had my car back by noon on Friday.

Also in May, most of my stage management friends (so basically all of my friends here in Chambana) went off to their various jobs and internships out of state (or at least out of town), so I got really good at spending time by myself. I did work my first Krannert event -- commencement, actually -- as an events stage manager, which took up most of the day on Sunday the 17. The university had one huge commencement on Saturday in the football stadium, then department-specific commencements scattered throughout Krannert Center's theatres the next day. I got acquainted with both the Great Hall and a couple of the other Events SMs. The job mostly involved me telling students when to walk in and occasionally opening the door to the stage for a guest speaker or musician; I spent a lot of time during the actual ceremonies (I was there for three of them) reading Sherlock Holmes on my phone.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Jake and I met my mom, her husband, and my sister in Indiana and drove out to Pennsylvania with them, to visit my grandpa and step-grandma where they live in a tiny former mining town called Wyano. It'd been probably 15 years since I was there last and almost that long since I'd seen my grandparents. It was interesting to catch up with them and see the town (if you could call it that -- about all it has is a post office and a truck repair shop) as an adult. We went out Sunday and saw the site where United flight 93 went down (it is quite literally a patch of grass in the middle of nowhere, though they've built a memorial and have broken ground for a huge Welcome Center. I have mixed feelings about that). We also saw the site where they rescued the miners at Quecreek (it's more or less in someone's yard) and drove past the house my mom lived in as a kid. It was generally a relaxing weekend, though we spent a LOT of time in the car. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

My life in Illinois: Update for March and April

All of March and most of April were spent working on Tennessee Williams' "Not About Nightingales," which ran April 9-19. It went better for me than my first show did, of course: I liked the story of the play itself, I had a better sense of what I was supposed to be doing, and the director was really easygoing (plus he rarely kept us for the full 4-hour rehearsal period -- in a six-day work week with 15 credit hours, every hour makes a difference). It was in the Studio Theatre, with a much different set layout (and no 10 out of 12 -- in fact, with no complicated transitions, tech went really well). I also worked with a few actors that I knew from "The Skin of Our Teeth," and the stage manager (who of course I already knew from class and worked with on Feb Dance) and I ended up becoming pretty good friends. I kept track of props instead of costumes which was more complicated in some ways (it was a prop-heavy show) and simpler in others (no constant back-and-forth with the costume shop trying to work around everyone's schedules). Unfortunately my Theatre History paper (10 pages) was due three days after the show closed, so I was drafting and reading articles in the pit between my ASM cues. 

In March we also had a week off for Spring Break (which helped make up for the fact that we had tech on Easter) and I decided to fly down to Florida to visit my grandparents for a few days. They spend winters in central Florida (a couple hours away from all the major attractions) but there were some excellent thrift stores and flea markets. It was nice to just spend a couple relaxing days away from the hectic schedule of school and I was really glad to be able to spend some time with my grandparents and great aunt (since for the last few years I hardly saw them, especially when I lived in Baltimore). My grandpa took me to this crazy huge outdoor flea market one morning (after it had been raining) and there were rows and rows of tables and pavilions (he said there were even more on clear mornings). We found all kinds of interesting things -- he collects those old-fashioned oil lamps (which they had, at a few of the booths) and I found a bunch of little odds and ends -- a new purple watch, a pair of cheap sunglasses, and a new writing notebook, to name a few. My grandpa also plays in various bands and at various jams around his community there and he hosted one the second afternoon I was there. He was worried about how many people would show up but of course there was a full circle (at least a dozen) of guitar players and banjo players and bass players. 

My last full day in Florida, I did borrow the car and drive out to Indian Rocks Beach to meet some school friends (who were also on Spring Break in FL) for the afternoon, which was a lot of fun. I took my first swim in the Gulf AND we saw a dolphin. We also collected a few sea shells and I had some fish tacos at Krabby Bill's. It was a perfect day for the beach weather-wise and not too crowded.

When school started back up again we moved into onstage rehearsals and I announced my official decision to quit the stage management program. I realized that while I was enjoying working on Nightingales, it wasn't what I wanted to make a career out of, at least not in the capacity of stage management. I didn't really have a plan for what was next; I was thinking maybe some time off from school and then back for some other theatre-related discipline. But then my advisers (who were amazingly supportive -- it wasn't exactly surprising, but it was touching nonetheless) suggested I stay at UIUC and talk to the chair of the Theatre Studies MA/PhD program. To make a long story short, I did just that, and after filling out a petition and having it approved, I made the transfer to the MA program with a concentration in dramaturgy and playwriting. I start in the fall. (I also start a teaching assistantship, which I'm a little nervous about, but I've felt like the universe was slowly pushing me toward teaching in some capacity for awhile now. I don't know that anything big will become of it, but I no longer rule out the possibility). Meanwhile, I finished out my stage management classes and helped out with auditions and callbacks for the fall plays.

My mom, her husband, and my youngest sister came down the first weekend of performances to see Nightingales, and after some shopping (at a couple of book sales/stores) and some Skip-Bo, I got the chance to check an item off my bucket list: try ice skating. The university has its own ice arena (of course) and they were hosting a public skate, so we caught the last half hour of that. My sister, who's been ice skating before, was the only one to accompany me on the ice, and despite never having done it I think I did pretty well -- I didn't fall once. I have been rollerskating and rollerblading since I was a kid (with a number of long hiatuses, but still) and some of those skills transferred over. My mom took lots of pictures (and a video or two, I think) to commemorate the occasion, ha.

The second weekend of the show, my dad, stepmom, and other younger sister came down for the afternoon and brought me a long-awaited (well, since February) purchase: a burnt-orange 2004 Sunfire which I promptly named Fiona. After about four and a half years without a car (most of which were spent in the heart of midtown Baltimore) I decided that I needed one in my life again. Living in the Midwest is much more challenging without a vehicle, even in a town with as good a bus system as Champaign's. It took me awhile to get used to being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want (I'm not sure I'm all the way there yet) but I did drive myself to the final performance of Nightingsles in it, which was empowering. 

My family also had Chicago-style pizza for the first time ever [at least in my sister's case] while they were here.

So, the show ended with a successful run and, with my afternoons and evenings now (mostly) free, I got back to the business of completing my production assistantship hours and catching up on school work. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

But my heart is in Ireland

Since I lied several posts back and never published anything about my 2014 trip to Ireland, and since the 2015 Armagh Project is currently in full swing, I figured it would be fitting share a few photos from last year. I was super lucky to go as a teaching assistant this time around (which meant all I paid for was my flight) and even more so that one of my best friends, Maureen, got to come along. We were both part of the group that wrote 10-minute plays to be performed at the JHISS, and we got to visit Belfast, Giant's Causeway, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, and Dublin together. It was a lot of fun for me to see what had changed and what hadn't, and what I still remembered. It was also interesting to feel how much I've changed since my first trip in 2012.

Armagh City

We got to tour the former Armagh Gaol...

Rumor is they're planning to turn it into a boutique hotel.


The view from our hostel window in Belfast, not far from Queen's University

Me, contemplating life, the universe, and everything from the cliffs near Giants Causeway

After the end of the program, Jake flew out and met me in Dublin, and we did a whirlwind tour of that city, plus Cardiff, London, and Paris.
Our view of London from the plane (we flew in from Dublin)

The Blue Cock in Trafalgar Square (in front of the National Gallery)

The National Theatre, where we saw Billie Piper in "Great Britain"


Paris from Le Tour Eiffel

Notre Dame, Paris
We toured the opera house in Paris... it was gorgeous. This is the lobby.