Monday, March 26, 2012

Éirinn go brách

Back in January I got info regarding a summer study-abroad opportunity in Armagh, Ireland. One of the professors from UB will be teaching a screenwriting workshop during the month of July, and so they were seeking more UB students to join.

Well, also on the flyer was a creative writing poetry/memoir workshop in the same city. After some correspondance with my program director, we arranged it so that I could attend the creative writing workshop and get graduate credit for an independent study course. I submitted my application and $500 deposit (refundable only if I wasn't accepted or the trip was cancelled) and waited for a response.

The response didn't come in the email form I expected, but a meeting was held on campus for the prospective Armagh students. The program coordinator was there, along with the screenwriting professors, and we were informed that we were all accepted (about 7 of us total). But, it turned out, I was the only one who'd applied for the creative writing segment of the program. Not just at UB, but anywhere.

So, this put a bit of a stick in my spokes. The coordinator told me that I could still attend, and while they wouldn't be able to bring the poetry/memoir professors to Ireland, she could arrange for me to work with one or both of them remotely, as well as someone from a literary foundation in Ireland. I would still take the Irish culture and history classes with the screenwriting students, so I wouldn't be completely isolated. Additionally, it could lead to other opportunities, like the chance to return next year, all expenses paid, as a T.A. ("I wish I could take you along as a T.A. for this trip," the coordinator told me, but since I've never been to Ireland, she wants me to have the experience of taking the trip as a student first). It's the first year they've tried this creative program in Ireland, so we're all essentially "pioneers."

On the other hand, she said, if they could get even two more students to attend the memoir/poetry workshop segment, at least one of the professors could accompany us to Ireland.

So, I'm trying to figure out what to do now. The rest of the money for the trip is due April 15, so I need to make a decision by then. I can either accompany them on the trip, as a "pioneer," or I could take the money I'd be spending on the trip and finance my own trip to Europe.

My thoughts are this: I wanted to study abroad in undergrad but never pursued the opportunity with any real vigor. The cost of a graduate class at UB is about half what this trip will cost me (minus airfare and most of my food), so to get four weeks in Ireland AND one class paid for seems like a good deal to me. Also, the knowledge that it could open opportunities for future travel at reduced cost is a major factor. I've never travelled abroad before, so having experienced travellers along (the coordinators all have been abroad) for advice is also appealing. Plus there's the immersion into a different culture, which is also a rare opportunity.

However, if I travelled independently, I could visit places I want to see (like Paris and other cities/countries in mainland Europe). I would be able to see a lot more in the same span of time and could also bring Jake with me (since, years ago, we got our passports together for Christmas. Neither of us has any stamps yet). Also, odds are that it would cost me less overall even if I did stay there for four weeks (depending on what I did and where). Both of us are open to the idea of spending a couple years in another country someday, so the immersion experience might be available later.

So, I've got some pondering to do. If anyone else wants to weigh in on this, feel free. In fact, I encourage it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

the weekend in review

I've been trying to live a lifestyle that's a little more conducive to creativity lately, which mainly means wasting less time with all the technology in my life. I've done all right so far -- I've been reading more, and I wrote some things on Saturday (I say "things" because I'm not sure what they are. Essays? Stories? Musings?). I also printed up some flash cards with music notes on them to practice my sight reading. I'm going to need to laminate them somehow, I can already tell. I had them in my back pocket most of Saturday night (I took them with me to my St. Patrick's Day festivities to practice on the bus) and the edges have turned blue and rounded from my jeans. Hooray for clear packaging tape...

My St. Patrick's Day: I changed plans at sort of the last minute. I was going to catch a play that evening then meet up with my friend Jay and some other theater people afterward, but while trying to make dinner plans with my friend Regina, I was invited to join her, Maureen, and Chris for some festivities in Federal Hill. I'd never been partying down in Fed Hill before, and I decided I was more in the mood to talk with friends than watch a play by myself, so I ate some food at home then off I went.

It was a great night of drinking, Hawaiian BBQ pizza, talking, and dancing. Lots of dancing (it doesn't look like a place to dance, and who knows, maybe usually it isn't, but Saturday night it was an excellent venue). Perhaps a little-known fact about me: I would go every weekend if I had people to accompany me. That is not an exaggeration.

Anyway, it was a good night, capstoned by Regina's failed attempt to steal a cement pig (it was too heavy and I was laughing too much to be any help even if I'd wanted to). So, we took our picture next to it instead. I wonder what the owners thought when they found it in the middle of the sidewalk the next day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

the theater just won't leave me alone

People ask me all the time (based on my unusual height) whether I play basketball (or, occasionally, volleyball). My answer is, of course, no; I was (am) an art nerd. Back in high school I was in drama club. I was onstage a few times in various plays and dinner shows. I won best supporting actress in our Moscars. I helped build/paint sets and went with the rest of the club to acquire costume pieces from various thrift stores. Once or twice, I even dressed as a bobcat and played in a State Park.

In college, I took one theater class that required service hours in the department (which mostly involved cleaning out the warehouse-like costume/props/set room). I tried out for one play and didn't get a part. I was disappointed but not broken-hearted; I was starting to focus more on visual art and especially writing. In fact, my degree is in creative writing.

Then I got to Baltimore.

My friend Dave works as a G.A. in the theater here at UB doing tech stuff. My first semester in the program, he badgered me into taking on an Assistant Stage Manager position for the production of The Laramie Project. So I did. I enjoyed the experience; met some cool people and whatnot. It was fun to be part of the production without the stress of being on stage (I was mostly in charge of placing props/costumes and keeping track of the actors backstage).

Well, two more semesters go by. I have my hands in a little of just about everything: I'm working a retail job, doing work-study at the university library, running the student newspaper, and then being accepted for the G.A. position at OTS [see previous post]. I run into Kimberley, the theater coordinator, who tells me that they're looking for an ASM for The Exonerated, and that a few people involved in the production (who also were in Laramie) were asking about me. And I, like a crazy person, was like, "Send me the schedule! Maybe I can work it in!" Even she was surprised that I was actually considering it. But we talked back and forth, and she decided that she'd hire two ASMs so that I didn't have to be there for everything.

So I'm back in the theater. And the people involved with this show are incredible -- the ones I talked to seemed to have their hands in everything. The director's the daughter of a famous comedian and she's just taken over as artistic director for a local theater, plus she's got her own one-woman show (which she wrote) going to NYC next month and another she directed showing in Chicago. One of the actors I befriended studied musical theater at NYU then lived in Paris for six months and is now involved with at least three different shows simultaneously. Yet another is basically the quintessential performance artist: he plays piano and guitar, he sings in a band (which is apparently well-known locally) and is part of the decorating crew at Charm City Cakes. Others have TV acting credits and music and dancing and poetry and writing credits... it's exhausting. And inspiring.

Well, the play ran last weekend, and the cast party was Saturday night. So it's over, and while I love having my evenings free (well, some of them) I am bummed that I likely won't cross paths with most of them again (because who wants to be that pest on facebook going, "So, what's new?" all the time. I mean, I might anyway, but still).

But, Kimberley approached me during production and asked if I'd like to take over as her G.A. next year. After some pondering (the schedule likely won't be conducive to a social life, but my future at OTS is still sort of uncertain, and it wouldn't break my heart to get away from the desk job life) I accepted the position.

Her squeal of delight pretty much sealed it for me (who doesn't like to feel wanted? :P ). I don't know what I'm getting myself into, fully, but it looks like I'll be regularly involved with the theater for a couple more years now.

I'm feeling pretty excited about the possibilities, though.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Anybody out there?

Time to shake the dust off this here blog, I guess, largely because my new job leaves me a lot of time to kill.

Yes, I have joined the realm of the "grown-ups" and have acquired a real desk job. I have my own cubicle in an office and everything (I have my own phone extension! Wow!).

I've been here for three weeks now and have yet to decorate the cube at all. I only actually think about it while I'm here, staring at the blank walls hued in various shades of white and grey. The woman in the cubicle next to me has plants and a lamp and a little office supply organizer (pens and pencils and scissors, oh my) and photos of a cat, presumably hers. I don't know how long she or any of the other employees have been here; I just know it's longer than I have. I suppose I could spend some of my downtime shopping for office decorations and supplies on Amazon... but I digress.

So the new job is actually only part time, and is actually an assistantship. Which means although my average hourly wage (according to my time sheet) is $3.06, they're paying for six credits of graduate tuition this semester (which would bring the average up to -- well, I don't know, but a lot more than $3.06). I work for technology services, which sounds really fancy, but thus far has meant spending a lot of time in my cubicle, at my computer, waiting for assignments which involve making small changes to the university website. For example, I added a question mark to an FAQ entry which lacked one, and added the second "M" back into "commuter" at the top of a title page.

Yes, some (most) of my assignments have been more involved than this. But I still have a lot of downtime. I've invested some of that time into learning Adobe Illustrater (and by "learning," I mean "becoming frustrated by") from a book. So far, this is what I've made:

A priceless gem waiting to be discovered by the design world, I know (wow! A flower in the sky!?). The book itself is actually rather helpful, despite being two versions behind the 5.1 I've been given (I've also acquired a couple of new skills in Photoshop, but those were mostly by searching the "Help" box and wading through a lot of useless results).

So anyway, I'm at my own desk in my own cube with my own phone (which never rings) and I've met most of the other people here (thanks to my boss, who is actually pretty cool) but they're all roughly a decade older than I am, and they often have important meetings in the conference room nearby (which means I got to snag some of the leftover candy afterward) and I try not to spend too much time on Facebook since my computer screen is visible from the doorway.

So, you shall be privy to my time-killing activities via this blog.