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. 

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