It's the final countdown

Cue the music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw

But really, it's so crazy to think that it's going to officially over! Where did it all go? Who am I? What is this brave new world? Will I go to graduate school? Will I have the same existential crisis for the rest of my life?
Probably.
But I'm also just being dramatic. In many ways it feels like I've already graduated. I've barely seen anyone from Otterbein and I've begun my life in Chicago as a professional actor and overall person. I also never really knew what this would feel like, coming to the end of my undergraduate schooling. In all of our imagination as humans, nothing ever turns out exactly the way we thought it would. There are times when it comes pretty darn close, but life is such a volatile thing that we can only hope our wildest imaginations come true, with no guarantee of any of it. I've imagined my life a thousand times going a thousand different ways, and here I am living a life that I never imagined, even in all the different combinations of thoughts that have crossed my mind. It's pretty close to something I've imagined, and don't worry I'm very happy with how it's going, but with each new step into my future comes a wealth of possibility and emotions and choices and obstacles. I'm enraptured with every new moment that I live, and I hope I never lose that as I grow older.

However, graduating is something I haven't really imagined. It's not a day that I've played out in my mind or thought of going wonderfully or poorly or any of that. It's just been a day in the future that I knew was coming. I wasn't sure how to exit. Now that it's almost here, I feel waves of gratitude for the things I've learned, the people I've met, and the ways in which I've grown. I mourn and fondly recall the days spent studying and living and figuring out how to be human with my fellow classmates, and how there will never be another day like that with those people again. Nostalgia is something I've always been drawn to, and as I ponder what the end of this chapter in my life is, it's become a dear friend to me. So much of what I have uncovered within me is because of my time spent at Otterbein. With peers and teachers and friends and mentors who poured themselves out and into the work of theater and the work of life, I am immensely sad to leave that behind, but also immensely happy to know what it feels like to be yourself, to be truly loved, and to be in a place you're meant to be. Thank you, Otterbein, for giving me that.

The changing of seasons marks the end and beginning of infinite parts of life. As I leave Otterbein, I enter into Chicago. I help with auditions and see some incredible talent. I audition and lean all that I can from each one. I become a yoga instructor and find a different kind of confidence I never knew I had. Beginning this chapter of my life hasn't been easy, but I wouldn't imagine it any other way.

A Chi-town bean in the Big Apple

Visiting New York for Showcase was amazing!! It was wonderfully fun to see all of my classmates again, experience the city, and explore New York in a way I never have before. Between bites of fried rice, mushroom pizza, and ooey gooey cinnamon rolls I was very thankful for the abundance of vegan food. Chicago, of course, has an abundance as well, but it was exciting (and expensive) to try so many new things! AND I saw two phenomenal Broadway shows, Come From Away (many thanks to Randy Adams!) and Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812. Come From Away blew my mind, the story was unique in itself and then the musical told the story in an even more unique way. I was enraptured from the first beat of the drum to the last hum of the fiddle. I had forgotten how much I loved musicals, and I left the theater with renewed faith in humanity. The Great Comet was wonderfully energetic, playful, and heartbreaking. Such beautifully and tragically crafted story, with the simplicity of it allowing for more depth and exploration of the human condition. I would be amiss if I didn't thank my family, as well, for coming out to see and support me. It came as a surprise, but with some last minute vacation changes, it was nice to have a little bit of Colorado in NY. I'm excited to see them again at the end of April for graduation :) I am truly lucky to have them.

If I'm being totally honest, I must admit that I hadn't been to New York since 6th grade. I know I probably should've visited again before deciding on Chicago, but there was something in my gut that drew me to the Windy City. 
I didn't expect New York to be so different from Chicago, but here are a few things I would like to point out:

  • New York is dirty
  • So dirty I couldn't believe it, or the smells that resulted from said dirtiness
  • There is so much going on all the time and everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere
  • The subway system/MTA is confusing and I've been SO pampered with the public transit in Chicago
  • AMAZING theatre happens there. I know this is stupid and obvious but I forgot how incredible broadway shows are
  • Weird stuff happens, but it's just a normal part of life there

As opposed to Chicago:

  • Chicago is much cleaner and not as stuffy
  • The CTA runs very efficiently and it doesn't smell half as bad because 90% of it is above ground (unless someone urinates in the car and then it's bad obviously)
  • AMAZING theatre happens here, but it's not quite as abundant or extravagant as in NY (see my previous post about storefront theatre)
  • People are really nice, and it's not weird to talk to strangers in coffee shops and then become friends with them
  • The neighborhoods are (mostly) all nice/cute/have their own personalities and are close together and easy to hop around to

Keeping in mind that I was only ever in Manhattan and I never visited Brooklyn, Queens, Astoria, etc. I was happy to visit NYC, but I was also relieved to see for myself that I made the right choice in trusting my gut when it told me to go to Chicago. Absolutely nothing against NYC or the people who live there (more power to you, I don't think I could do it at this point in my life), it's just so different from what I need in a city. While seeing my classmates every day and feeling the support of so many alumni at the showcase performances and reception made me miss them and wish that I was in the same city, I returned to Chicago happy to be a windy bean.

Showwwwcaseeee

A case of shows. A showing of cases. Cases of suits! Cases of talent! Cases of wine! Just kidding, merely a showcase of our work and who we are. It was a great experience for me, I had a lot of fun. In reality all it is is one audition for a few people all at the same time. It's hard to not put a lot of expectation or wondering around the whole event, seeing as how it's an audition that we've been practicing and perfecting for months now. In a lot of ways it makes sense for us to to feel like it's a new beginning, an official end to our undergraduate actor training, and an official start to our careers. But I've already been to many auditions, had callbacks for some, and plan on going to many more. I submitted for a few agencies in Chicago, and whether I hear back or not, I am doing something to further my career.

Putting pressure on yourself to be an incredible artist right out of school is an easy thing to do. But it's not the most productive, because while you can control how much you prepare for something, what you do in the audition room, and how often you put yourself out there, you can't control other people. Getting others to believe in your artistry and your artistic capabilities is one of the hardest things to do. For some it happens right away, for others it takes time. I am incredibly proud of my class for doing great work and fully putting ourselves out there. Seeing everyone on their A-game performing one last time will forever be one of my favorite moments. Our time will come. If we want to be teachers, or writers, or go to graduate school, or solely pursue performing, the important part is to keep pushing forward.

Nearing the End

It's incredibly strange to think that graduation is only a short month away. Part of me is surprised at how quickly time has passed, but that's always how we feel when any kind of time has passed at all. We are always shocked by how quickly it has gone, even when each day felt like it would never end. Once again I am back to pondering time, and how strange it can be. The stretch of life is long and unknown, and yet the span of what has past grows each breath we take. I recently saw Uncle Vanya at the Goodman Theatre, and there's nothing like a Chekov play to remind you of your suffering existence and make you question every choice you've made. But there's also nothing like a Chekov play to inspire you to live in each breath you take and not waste a single one. The entirety of the show was astounding, from the lights, sound, and decaying set, to each of the actors so specific and different from one another, it was a truly inspiring and sentimental production.

With everything finalized for our summer show, Akvavit is gearing up for auditions for Hitler on the Roof. I'm so excited to begin this next step, as I feel like we've already done so much work, but the hardest part is yet to come. Once auditions are over, I will transition into being a co-production manager, and I think my intern-duties will begin to dwindle. We are going to be in a totally re-vamped theater space, which will be perfect, and I'm jazzed up about all of the raucous clowning and crazy subject matter of the show. It's going to be a unique and poignant piece.

I got a job with a babysitting/nannying service in Chicago where I can make and manage my own schedule, which is the perfect job for an actor! I'm excited to start meeting some families and working with kids. Yoga Teacher Training is also wonderful, we are in the sixth week now (what?!) and practicing teaching a lot. So many classes, my body is exhausted from all of the work, but it's been worth it. My practice has changed a lot, and I notice how when I come to my mat it's much easier to just let go and only focus on the yoga. With all of the big changes happening in my life, it's been great to have yoga as a place of comfort and somewhere to come back to. That's important, no matter how slowly or quickly life passes by, we all need a baseline. A place we know will be there for us.

Storefront

Before I moved to Chicago, I had no idea what storefront theatre was. I knew that the kind of theatre happening in Chicago was different than the kind of theatre happening most everywhere else, but I honestly didn't actually know exactly what it was or why it was. When I first heard the term, "storefront", I immediately pictured a space nestled in between a nail salon and a grocery store covered in posters announcing a new show. And that's pretty much what it is, when you look at it from an objective standpoint. It's a space that at one point was probably a drug store/restaurant/accounting office that has been transformed into a theater. But when you look at it from an artistic standpoint, from the point of view of a young theatre artist, it's a space where anything can happen. Brimming with possibility, there is no limit to the type of play you can produce, the kind of life and experiences you can put on a stage for the world to see. Okay, well maybe not world, these theaters only hold around 50-200 audiences members, but that's beside the point. In these tiny spaces filled with the ghost receipts of businesses that came before, walls dappled with holes from nails pulled out of previous sets, and seats worn with the butts of hundreds, something special occurs. It may not be the most fantastical theatrical experience or a performance that makes you forget what day or time it is, but people are walking off of the streets into these storefronts and are supporting small, local theatre.

In the past two weeks, I've seen three different shows at three different venues. The Nether with A Red Orchid Theatre, Gentle with Tuta Theatre, and Skin for Skin with The Agency Theatre Collective. Each vastly different from the others, and yet all still dramas, I was overjoyed to be seeing and connecting to so much theatre. I had been wanting to see a staged production of The Nether for a while, so it was wonderful to go on my own and become enraptured by the dark and twisted world of the Hideaway. I will say out of the three, their scenic and lighting designs were the most effective and interesting, in my opinion. Gentle was an adaptation of a Fyodor Dostoyevsky story, a world premiere, and I absolutely loved the performances of the two females in it. Their set was also very different, though it didn't quite connect to the world of the characters to me. Skin for Skin was also a new play that dealt with the enhanced interrogation performed on suspected terrorists after the attack on the World Trade Center. With some great performances, the subject matter was daring, but the writing wasn't as compelling as it could've been.

I spent last week compiling and writing a grant for Akvavit for the Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theatre Award, so I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get it! I also read a few plays for a co-production that we are doing with another company, and did work for some upcoming staged readings that we are producing. I'm going to transition into being a co-production manager for the spring show, Hitler on the Roof, so I'm very excited to begin pre-production work in April! That's also when auditions will be, and we finally set the dates for the performances to be in June.

I've been busy with Yoga Teacher Training, which has been great, as well as babysitting and house sitting and making new friends! The best part of it all, though, has been getting to know just exactly what kind of theater is produced in Chicago storefronts, and I have to say, I like it.

Spring in February in Chicago in the world

The weather has been so unusually warm the past week, and not just in Chicago, but all over. It makes me seriously worried for our planet, but I also selfishly love it because the sun makes me incredibly happy. And what a happy week it has been! From meetings to readings to friends to teacher training, the beautiful weather has brought with it a bounty of joy and gratitude for the new beginnings in my life. I'm really starting to feel like Chicago is home, a place that I want to spend time in and be with, somewhere I can come back to and know that I'm loved and safe. Not to reiterate too much, but it helps that everyone (okay well mostly everyone) in the theater and yoga communities here are truly invested in helping each other out. Even when I went to a get together where I only knew one person, it was with ease that I was able to sit and talk with complete strangers about our mutual love of theatre and art and collaboration. I went to a staged reading of a new play called The Zionists, with the company Silk Road Rising, and afterwards the audience was able to have an open and honest discussion and exploration of what the play meant. How Jewish communities are connected to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what it means for Jews living in Chicago as well as in Jerusalem, how we deal with war in the modern era.

I've been attempting to find the space where Akvavit will perform our spring show, and we've had a few meetings to talk about who will work on the project, when it will be, and how it's going to be done. The process definitely needs to be expedited, as we are so short on time, but it's coming together. I'll be a part of the general casting when we have an open call in April, and they are also going to hire me to be their spring production manager, with some guidance and mentorship of course, and I'm excited to learn all about it and take on this new role. We also had a company reading of a play that's being seriously considered for the fall, The Stylists, and I absolutely love it so I really hope it's chosen. It's a wonderful feminist examination of what it means to be a woman, and how relationships, appearance, and even changing identities form what a woman is. Also very meta, the play examines how others influence and even dictate our lives, even though we may seem to be in control. Needless to say, I think it would be a killer show to produce.

Last night was the first night of the 200-hour Power Yoga Teacher Training that I will be completing over the next 8 weeks! It's going to be a lot of work but I'm ready to take this next step on my yogic journey and really dig deep into my compassionate and disciplined self.

I have a call back this weekend for a play about Marie Curie so hopefully that will go well! Other than that, I've just been going to a few auditions, spending time with new friends, and recovering from this weird cold (that I think was brought on by the sudden change of weather). It's been so nice, I walked to the lake front with a friend the other night and we just watched the waves crashing around in the distance. I can't wait for the summer when I can spend all day on the beach/run along lakeshore drive/gaze out into the water. I'm not letting my cold get me down, though, as the feelings of joy and gratitude abound within me for the new developments in my life!

Aesthetics

Chicago's landscape is like nothing I've encountered before. It's incredibly urban, but even in the nicer neighborhoods and parts of town (save for the loop), it's nothing extravagant. Every building stands on it's own, humbled by the surrounding parts, and yet still stating it's claim and scuffing up the territory. Maybe that's why I like it so much, it doesn't overstate itself and it's wonderfully down to earth. Hip restaurants stand proudly next to small liquor stores, Dollar Trees, and family-owned pizza shops. Large theaters house everyone from equity names that draw crowds from all over, to small, scrappy companies trying to chisel out a name for themselves on the marquee. It's a city where hard work is rewarded more often than luck, and once you know one person, you know everyone. It's inspiring in a homegrown, paint peeling from the walls, windows cracking open while doors are swinging on their hinges, kind of way.

This week I contacted a whole bunch of theaters about using their spaces for our spring show, as well as kept up on the upcoming grants. I helped Kirstin babysit her daughter, Margot, which I do every Friday, but we also went to the Art Institute of Chicago last Wednesday to look at specific pieces that her class is going to study (she teaches at Morton College). The Institute is truly amazing, I forget how much wonderful art there is, and you could spend days looking at everything. It was nice to get out and explore some more! We also walked through the Magnificent Mile and Grant Park as we were in the loop, though it was a bit chilly!

This upcoming week I have some reading to do to decide which radio play we are going to do for a reading with The Danish Home, as well as keep on trying to find a space for our show, and compile a list of industry folk Akvavit has ties to so we can invite them to our shows.

Filming for Chicago Justice was awesome!!!! I loved being on set (as cold as it was) and I definitely won't get cut out of the episode, because it's about my death! And figuring out who kills me! So look for yours truly the season finale! (It's not airing until May) One of my friends from Elon was also there, which was crazy, it's such a small world! It was great to catch up with him, though, and have a friend on set.

I also went to see Improvised Shakespeare with some friends at iO, which was hilarious. Although I do have to say I wish the improv team had a few more diverse members. The aesthetic of it is a bit (all) white and a bit (all) male.

Here are some fun photos taken at the Institute and at the restaurant we went to after. I just love the one of Margot with Nutella on her face, she looks like a little puppy!

Fall in love with the life you are currently living.

Tonight in my yoga class we focused on the second niyama, samtosa, which is a part of the second limb of yoga. Samtosa is about finding contentment in oneself and where you currently are in life. Not finding contentment in where you want to be or in your future goals and aspirations, but in the present moment. This is a challenge for me. My mindset for much of my adolescent and young adult life is that if I work hard enough, I will achieve my goals. Very cliche, I know, but I really did work on putting that into practice. So far, it has proven to be mostly true, so I keep on pushing myself to continue putting in the work, in the hopes that when I get there, when I finally achieve whatever goal I'm after, I can look back and think, "wow, that hard work really paid off." Now I am here, though. I am in Chicago, I am working with a professional theater company, I am auditioning, and I am practicing. So many of my goals have been reached, so why is it still hard to find contentment? Why do I still feel like I haven't worked hard enough, like I don't deserve the things I have earned, like I still need to prove to myself that I can do this?

I auditioned for a production of Peter and the Starcatcher on Saturday. I was very nervous. I took the Metra out to the suburb it was in, and when I got into the waiting room and handed over my headshot and resume, I told myself that I was allowed to be there. That I had gone through countless auditions, countless rejections, and I was still existing and still working hard. I miraculously found contentment in that. It's hard to feel like you've earned the right to be happy with who you are and what you're doing, to fall in love with the life you are currently living without thinking about all of the things you have yet to experience and all of the things goals you have yet to achieve. I'm going to work on finding contentment where I am, still working and thinking about my goals, but also taking the time to really enjoy where I am at this moment. It's going to change, and I'm ready for that. But I'm also ready to start loving the life I am living in each moment.

Last Tuesday I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (because it's free on that day for Illinois residents!!) and absolutely loved it. It was like taking myself on a date, and I got to examine and read about each piece as long as my little heart desired to. There was an awesome Riot Grrrls exhibit which reminded me that it's okay to be loud and messy and overtly female. Speaking of which, I also marched in the Women's March in Chicago on the 21st! It was a glorious day (literally, it was 60 degrees) full of people dedicated to preserving and furthering women's rights.

I begin filming tomorrow for Chicago Justice (I submitted my headshot/resume and was cast), it's my first time being on a professional set and I'm very excited! It's a very small role but I do have a name, Kennedy! I'll be sure to take lots of pictures for my next blog post. 

Akvavit has been going great, I've been working on more grant-related things but it's more specific now like what to do for each grant and when it's due and all that jazz. We also had a company meeting to discuss our season for the year. One of the shows we are considering is very political and very on-the-nose with what's happening in American politics right now. Akvavit isn't necessarily a political company, but we had a long discussion about what our job is as artists, and how we can incite change through cultural and artistic expression. It was a great discussion about how we respond and fight back against adversity, and how we can use our art as a means of resistance. I can't wait to see where we go!

 

Another 7 Days

I can't believe it's already been two weeks! I keep telling people it's been a week and a half, but that's wrong so I should stop doing that. Time is so funny. Chicago is becoming home more and more every day, but at the same time it doesn't fully feel like I'm here yet. Some small parts of me are still in Colorado, Ohio, and even New York. I guess this is what growing up and going away does to you: you become more fluid and your heart doesn't break anymore. Instead, it leaves trails of love and friendship and memories wherever it goes, making you feel like your life is painted across state lines and hundreds of miles. The more I leave, the more I want my canvas to stretch. The more I leave, the less my heart breaks. The more I leave, the harder it is to keep myself whole. The expanse of my self and heart jumps from place to place, and I really don't mean to sound negative (even though as I reread it, it sounds like a bad thing), but I'm merely wondering when my whole self will come to Chicago. Do I call her to me? Do I gather my heart up and pour it into this city? Or I do I continue, day by day, to build my life again? Build it by putting myself out there and making new friends, by showing up and doing good work, by walking into the lion's mouth and hoping that the chew and swallow doesn't rip me in two.

I realize all of this is simply my daily existential crisis just put into writing, but when I feel this way, I find myself going back to this poem by Sandra Beasley:

"To the lions

Stop perhapsing-
the savannah will not save you .

Everything is dead or dying;
running, or about to run.

Time to stop lifting the wallet
from the corpse's pocket.

Time to gather your most
fuckable queens.

Isn't that the sun, draped
around your neck?

Stop this kitty kitty nonsense,
this apologetic yawning:

Show us why your tongue
is covered in hooks."

 

Now that I've gotten all of that off my chest, my internship is going really well! I did a lot of work on grants this week, updating our current list of possible grants/funding and finding new ones to apply for. Kirstin and Brea also wanted me to find travel grants as well, so Akvavit might be making a trip across the pond in the next year or two! I've also been looking into building a website for Chicago's Nordic businesses, as well as reading the plays "The Stylists" and "Hitler on the Roof" as possible candidates for the season. Both very good plays, both very strange plays. I'm slowly getting acclimated to Nordic theater, and it's a lot more experimental than I had originally thought. Which I love! I also spent time working on Akvavit's blog (introducing our new members), and organizing our donations from the past year and putting together thank you letters for individual people. I think we are going forward with the "Future is Female" festival and we got in touch with some other companies who want to participate! Hooray for females! 

Despite the wallowing in the first paragraph about not knowing what to do with myself, I have made friends and started to network. I've said it before, but everyone here is so nice, the concrete evidence just keeps growing. I only have to remind myself that it's the second week and I'm not supposed to have everything together already. I'm looking forward to another 7 days in rainy/sunny/snowy Chicago.

Week One...and done!

Woohoo!! I’m here!! I’m loving Chicago. The people are SO NICE, seriously maybe it’s something they put into the water because I haven’t had a single bad interaction yet. My roommate is equally awesome, we hit it off right away and he is officially my first new friend in the city. Speaking of…as great as it’s been, it’s really hard to move to a new city where you know next to no one. I miss my friends a lot. I think I’m going to set up a Skype or FaceTime session with one/some of them because I need to see their faces to keep my sanity. 

I began working with Akvavit, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild and fun ride. They recently had a change in leadership, so they have two fierce females co-artistic directing the company. They are also itinerant, like most small companies in Chicago, so they rent space out as needed, which means that I’m doing most of my work from home. Kirstin, one of the artistic directors, and I have been meeting and making to-do lists for me for the week, which has been working out well. Luckily, I have no problem motivating myself to do work when I have a set list of things to do. Every Sunday we’ll have a meeting with Kirstin, Brea (the other artistic director), and myself. We had our first one last night where we discussed the year’s season, the possibility of being part of the “The Future is Female” festival, and fundraising and grants. The festival seems like a great opportunity to be a part of something, partner with some other awesome female-centric theater companies, and get new people in the door. However, if we don’t get four other companies to participate with us (the festival is 5 new 10-minute plays), we might have to do something other than a Nordic play and that would go against our mission statement. Dedication to mission is something we talked about in my arts administration class, but it never crossed my mind during this conversation until Brea brought it up. We also would only have a few weeks to get submissions, decide on a play, hire a director as well as actors, and put up the festival with the other companies by the end of March. I’m all for it, but we’ll see what happens. I’m going to be working on website integration, grant-hunting, other fundraising, and donor communication this week. I’ll also probably read a few plays that we are considering for the spring show. It will be a good week.

I’m also meeting up with some friends from high school and Elon that are living in Chicago now, so it will be great to see them and get re-acquainted. OH ALSO, I almost forgot, the nicest part about my internship being from home is I can look for and submit for auditions. Kirstin and Brea don’t mind, as long as I get my work done. I’ve inquired about a few auditions to make appointments, and I’m filming for Texas Shakespeare as well as a commercial this week. AND I registered for Yoga Teacher Training with CorePower, and I've been going to classes almost every day. It’s going to be an amazing spring!

 

The Crucible

Rehearsals for The Crucible are well underway! I'm loving every second of it, Miller's writing is incredible and almost like poetry. It makes me laugh that essentially every character says "I cannot" at some point in the show, very much a motif. 

We have begun acting rehearsals, and my first work though of Act 1 Scene 2 is tonight. I'm excited to find the goodness and pure love that Elizabeth inhabits, the connections I feel with her and John are growing more with each rehearsal.

 

The start of senior year!

It's finally here! Part of me loves Otterbein and Columbus and is really going to miss it, but part of me is excited for all of the open opportunities I have in front of me once I leave. Very bittersweet.

Rehearsals for The Crucible are off to a great start, I'm really starting to find Elizabeth and connect to her. The deep love she has for John is something I understand, but the fact that she doesn't feel free to fully express it is also something I relate to. Working with other such wonderfully dedicated and talented people is shaping it up to be a lovely process, and I can't wait to dive down even further into it!