Time Capsule: “Curtain Call: Happiness Is…”

“Happiness is. . . Simple.”

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Still on this road trip back to Louisiana Tech, and now I sit in Starbucks in Manchester, Tennessee. This time the store has been completely remodeled, and it’s just another sign to me that things are changing, continue to change, and will forever change.

(What’s that whole law of thermodynamics about nothing being created but only changing? I don’t know. I do art.)

One of my next destinations will be back to my alma mater, Bryan College, where I will get to visit my friend Alexis Landry, the newest edition to the Fine Arts faculty. Last night she cast her first show, The Matchmaker, and I cannot wait to see her in her element, directing the next generation.

STORY TIME:

My junior year of college, Alexis and I played Lucy and Linus Van Pelt in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I got to share the stage with some of my all time favorite people. On the other hand, it was a show in which the music director made me cry. I was also struggling to find my character within the freedom given to me by my director. It was a show that challenged my voice range and my ability to carry a musical number on my own. It was also a disjointed concept musical.

But with great struggles come great lessons.

TIME CAPSULE:

“Happiness is. . . Making new friends. Dancing, anytime with anyone. Singing with people you love. Getting to share the stage with someone you love, even if it’s for the last time. Having everyone you love in the same room. Simple.

I’ve learned. . . Sometimes the people you work with are not going to be supportive [in the way you’d like them to be] because they want you to prove how good you can be and that you’ve got to work hard to see the reward at the end. So, take the phrase “It’s coming. . .” as a challenge to better yourself. Sometimes people close to you die, and sometimes you’re sick throughout show week, but the show must go on. Not everything is a [linear] story, meaning character might not develop and a tragic or happy ending may not occur in the end. Sometimes it’s the small things in life that mean the most.”

FLASH FORWARD:

In just a few days, I get to see Alexis Landry, to see the stage we got to share. And this time she’s the director, working with the next greats. And they’ll learn what happiness is from a woman who has had to learn what happiness is in just the same way.

This is a tribute to all the actors and actresses who have shared Rudd Auditorium and Brock Hall with me, to those who came before me, and to those who come after me.

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Curtain Call: Speak Less Than You Know

How do I sum up my first year of graduate school? It was definitely a challenge. It was definitely trying. It was anxiety-ridden, fear-inducing, and I’m not sure I came out of the year as the same person I was before I started attending school. Correction, I’m sure I’m not the same person. But I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

I currently sit in the Manchester Starbucks as a detour on my way to Westport, Connecticut, where I will be working as the Marketing Intern for Westport Country Playhouse. And I have no idea what to expect, but I have to believe there will be plenty to learn while I’m there. It’s a mystery to me – the North. And that’s okay.

Being here in the small town that raised me, I have flashes of long-lost memories, happier times when I did not know what lay ahead of me. These fields are shining and full of life, green and vibrant. The skies reach to the furthest heavens, showing artwork by the Creator that I cannot purely describe. While visiting my old home, I’ve seen familiar faces I thought had long forgotten me, recalled lost laughs at the dinner table, heard the melodies of our heritage, and told stories that had slipped my mind.

Being here makes me miss who I was before the undefined whenever, scorn what could have been, and mourn what never was. Home. Is. Complicated. Family. Is. Enigmatic. And somewhere along the way I forgot who I was. Perhaps, as the Doctor has said, I’m coming home the long way round. Perhaps. We shall see.

All that to say, I live in the ebb and flow. I live in a now that has no structure. Although this body is confined to time, I’m so unsure. I’ve made commitments that I regret for my past and asked questions of myself without giving a definite answer.

The tempest surrounds me, although you cannot see it, but shipwrecks are not the end of the story.

The greatest thing that came from my first year of graduate school is a friendship I don’t have the words to describe. I adore these four for braving it out with me.

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Thank you all for your sincerity, positivity, support, and humor, and for making this year worth it.

Curtain Call: Living Dead

The Louisiana Tech Department of Theatre’s production of Living Dead in Denmark by Qui Nguyen closed Sunday afternoon, and, boy, was it a hell of a show.

Currently I’m sitting and reflecting upon the impact that this show had on me. It wasn’t about the story; it wasn’t about the lights, the music, or the stage combat. Nothing about the story truly taught me anything, but it entertained me to a certain degree.

Instead I learned a valuable lesson about my place in the Theatre. I learned the practicality of everything that I am and of everything that God has made me to be. First off, I was the First Assistant Stage Manager, with a great crew surrounding me, teaching me, encouraging me, and helping me stumble through the rehearsal process and the document developing process. Second, I got to work with some of the most genuine, uplifting, and committed artists, from the designers to the actors and so on. Most importantly, I got to change a little bit…

Again, I say that God has made everything in me with a purpose, from the innate core to the steps along the way that have brought me up to this point. He poured into me a little bit of the organization skills it takes to make documents when he brought me through journalism. He poured into me the appropriate response to anxiety, depression, and emotional trauma when he brought me through counseling classes in undergrad. He brought to me a genuine response to actors’ needs when he brought me through various theatrical experiences throughout the years. He gave me a chill personality in moments of stress (for normal people) when he brought me through a life with a large family. He gave me concise and immediate communication and work skills when he brought me through a ministry for men. All that to say, to be a stage manager you need these skills, and I could not have pulled these things out of nowhere. But I never dreamed there was a job where all these things could be compiled into one person.

All that to say, even though God had granted me these experiences and skills along the way, I still felt like a failure. Hours upon hours of work, late nights, lost time with friends, less time for homework, barely any time to eat or sleep – It was a strain on my entire being. And even though it was exhausting mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and so on, it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my entire life. And I will never regret the strain.

I walked into my boss’s office a few days ago; I closed the door, and she sat smiling behind her desk waiting for me to start, “First of all, I just want to say thank you for allowing me to stage manage for this show. Secondly,” I just looked at her, “I don’t know how you did it for so long!” It’s more than just a job; it’s a commitment to something so important and so involved. I poured my heart out to her about my experience, and she just said, “You know why it’s like this? Because you’re doing it from the heart.”

I could have all the skills in the world and everything that God gave me, but what made this show matter so much to me was the amount of heart I poured into it and the amount of hope poured into me by others. Working with the cast and crew meant the world to me, and I’m so grateful for every minute I got to be a part of Living Dead in Denmark, even though I was walking around like a zombie by the middle of production week. C’est la vie. At last I know I’m on a path toward a career that I’ll love.

Curtain Call: Expiring Minds Want to Know

“You don’t understand it, but that’s understood.”

What exactly is a curtain call? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “an appearance by a performer in response to the applause of the audience.”

In the past, I had written blog posts in response to the closing of a show. And typically, I had been cast as characters who taught me valuable lessons, or I had been cast in a show with a greater spiritual or emotional tangibility. Collectively I have learned a lot in Theatre. But with the closing of my first show at Louisiana Tech, Six Women with Brain Death or Expiring Minds Want to Know, I can hardly reflect upon anything that I learned spiritually or emotionally.

Instead, I learned practically: every night is opening night for someone.

Perhaps I simply needed to remember what it’s like to be submerged in a world in which you can laugh at yourself – a world where you can dream and be anything you want to be. Maybe not all Theatre is supposed to teach you meaningful, wise lessons. Maybe the point of some Theatre is “to entertain.”

Personally, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around something so surface-level as sheer entertainment, because I yearn for what Peter Brook calls Holy Theatre – a Theatre in which we call to the Heavens, a Theatre in which we latch onto the spiritual realm, where wisdom comes down from the clouds and helps us notice our fragility and brokenness.

But Rough Theatre must have its place as well, mustn’t it? Even though I long for the intellectual, the discussion. . . So be it.

Immediate as Six Women with Brain Death was, I still longed for something deeper. But maybe this was the perfect show for me to come back into the Theatre. I got to do a few different voices as a voice over actor. I got to know the other students in my program. I got to learn marketing from some really cool people. I got to learn a little bit more about sound operations. And I spent many nights laughing at the six talented women who brought each and every character of theirs to life, over and over again.

It’s a slow start, but it’s a start.

And I’m back in a world that I somewhat understand.

Overall, I don’t regret my choice to come back to school for Theatre. I look forward to the next five quarters – and whatever they may bring. Most importantly, I’m thankful that I got to have two months with these two very best friends of mine, all three of us – quite different from the past – working backstage instead of onstage:

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Howard Stage, 5 November 2017

IT’S A HAPPY PLACE, A HAPPY TIME, WHERE MOUNTAINS ARE MIRACLES MEANT TO CLIMB. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS DREAM FROM THE HEART, AND YOUR DREAMS WILL COME TRUE.”