Tuesday, May 25, 2010

scenes from life

What's a good opening sentence? Too tired to figure one out.

This week - this day - (nay, this... summer?) has been ripe with new experiences, perspectives, and questions that have left me in a complete daze; I am all at once aware of so much more about myself and those around me, but this same discovery has also lead - as such things often do - to a larger awareness of what is still out there that I do not know. It's always interesting to me that when one door opens, there's usually a corridor of locked doors waiting behind it. The journey never ends..

Anyway - today: 8:00am load-in at the festival stage; hauling in scenery, constructing set pieces, installing lights; all under the blazing midwestern sun. 5:00pm; end of load-in, dinner with Scott Irelan, the Riverside Theatre's dramaturg for the festival. 7:00pm; rehearsal on the festival stage - fight choreography and scene work. 11:00pm; home, sandwhich, hungry cats, bed.

It's been a long day.

The load-in today was great. 1) It reminded me of those good old days as a Production Assistant at APT; though I was there only one year ago, it seems decades away. 2) The manual labor was a much needed break from sitting in a stuffy theatre, and 3) I always enjoy the comradeship that thrives on days like these. Actors, interns, and technicians come together to work as a unit for an entire day; yes, the work is hard, but in sharing that load we become closer, appreciate everyone's contributions, and we bring ourselves that much closer to our end product. It's an exciting part of the process, and it's great to shake things up every once and a while.

My short time here - as I think is the result any time I find myself away from the "norm" - has made me, once again, aware of the extraordinary quality of every day moments in my life. My walks to and from the theatre, lunch with friends, or just being able to sit in the park and read and write! - these small scenes that make up my life are where I find my solitude and peace of mind. Every day has brought me new clarity about where I'm headed in the coming year and what needs to happen in order to make those ventures possible. Last week I received my final grades for the spring semester, meaning that school is officially over and I am free to explore what's in front of me without what's left behind looming over my head. This past Saturday, my dad paid me a surprise visit and took me out for breakfast. When he left town, I retreated to the park across from my host home and napped in the shade on a picnic bench. The sounds of the neighborhood were positively invigorating. I sincerely feel renewed energetically, spiritually, and physically. It's great to be myself again, and to take joy in restfulness and leisure, to pursue my "work" with happy dedication without whatever myriad anxieties usually cloud my plane.

There have been many "happy collisions" so far this summer - one such collision has come from the man who introduced me to this phrase: Ted Swetz. He is the director of Love's Labors Lost, one of the original founders of APT, a student of Stella Adler, and, as luck would have it, he's my monologue coach this summer. The acting interns have the great fortune of spending a handful of afternoons with Ted, at which he shares his philosophies and life lessons, his secrets and his methods, and I am soaking up his gospel with all my might. I have been writing like a fiend these last seven days, taking note of every new insight, specific moments, and new questions provoked by chance encounters. Stella Adler, with so much passion, urged her students to listen with their blood - Ted's approach to acting, to teaching, is very clearly derived from such a passionate instruction and I am happy to say that this passion's contagion continues to progress.
Another such collision has been with Scott Irelan. Today we got together so that I could pick his brain and learn more about the role of Dramaturg in a theatrical production. Scott had great insights to share and great tips for me as I prepare for two dramaturgical processes this coming fall. Immediately after our meeting I called my professor, Lisa, to tell her about this great encounter. More research, writing, and teaching on the horizon, and I couldn't be more excited.

It's hard to believe I'm having such a great time in Iowa. It's hard to believe that such a small theatre could be offering me such a hugely exciting theatrical/life experience. This place and these people are truly teaching me, day by day, that theatre and life must merge in order for the experience of the theatre to be passionate and engaging, for it to be real, and for it to warm you. "All creativity must come from joy," Ted told us actor-hopefuls. "Nothing comes from negativity." I am happy here; dare I say it: joyful. In this joy and learning I'm rediscovering confidence in myself, and in that confidence more creativity.

Doors within doors, and always something just beyond.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunshine, at last

Week 1 has officially ended; my second Tuesday has begun (as of 30 minutes ago) and already I am preparing for the day ahead (a classical monologue workshop, followed by a few hours in the scene shop and R&J rehearsal are on special today). This past week has floated by; not because of any sort of slack in my workload, but simply because I'm feeling very restful here, and finding my way into myself again (I hope that makes sense. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe I'll clarify).

I'm very happy to be a part of the company at Riverside Theatre. I feel completely engaged in the rehearsal/artistic/collaborative process of this theatre's summer festival, and already I am learning myriad valuable lessons from my new colleagues. On Sunday during the intern production rehearsal, I was thinking about this group of 8 young actors I have the privilege to learn and perform with this summer. - Okay, first, they made me think about the students at Parkside I've been working with. Over the past two years, I have worked side-by-side with the same group of artists in a familiar environment, processing new information and its application to myself as a human and an artist and, furthermore, attempting to open myself as an individual to these people. Two years, and at times I still find it hard to be as openly expressive as I feel capable of being; two years, and although I'm comfortable at Parkside, there are still parts of myself as a performer - as a human - that are difficult to connect to and feel safe enough to expose to those around me. And now I find myself in a new city, faced with this same challenge, but with different peers in an alien setting (and only a few weeks to find and embrace that comfortability that is so necessary to the execution of this craft). I watch the acting company during R&J rehearsals and I am amazed by their abilities to be unabashedly open with their emotions; on stage they play and connect and effect each other almost instantaneously. There is an unspoken agreement amongst them all that, whether they succeed or fail, the aim is to believe in one's own power of humanity and ignite passion between us all.

How brave a thing it is to be human and, beyond that, to reach out to others knowing full well that all might be for naught.

I wrote once about the difference between being vulnerable and becoming receptive. Now, this summer, is the time to put my perceptions of these ideas into play and step out of my comfort zone to be open and receptive, but also to give myself wholly to others around me. The last seven days have been pleasant and enlightening - I have observed new things and taken note, but I have yet to put these acknowledged insights into action and advance myself actively in my pursuit of performance skill and understanding.

I've been journaling a lot in this past week, and it's been good for me. I write about myself, about the play, and other things as well. Every fiber of my being is bent on absorbing every moment I experience here, and I am determined to glean as much knowledge from these fleeting instances as possible.

I look forward to this week; more challenges, and more opportunities to push the boundaries of my experiences and learn a bit more about my abilities. It really is now or never, after all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

and a second summer away from home begins...

There is a long-haired tabby sleeping in my lap. Rain is gently tapping at the windows and the creeks and groans of my home-away-from-home are helping me settle in to these new surroundings. For the first time in many months, I feel very at peace with the "here and now."

This afternoon I arrived in Iowa City to begin my 10 week stay while I intern with The Riverside Theatre as an actor in their production of "Romeo and Juliet." The last few days have been filled with numerous stimuli - the pressure to complete my semester's work a week earlier than scheduled, the joy of coming home to see my family for two short days, the anxiety of moving out of my apartment and ensuring that all will be well during the last few weeks of our lease, and the looming anticipation of today, which has arrived, commenced, and is now coming to a close. Tomorrow is the next step, and I'm glad to say that the fear I've carried with me was washed away with today's spring rain, and I look forward to the new faces, new opportunities, and new self-revelations that this experience is bound to unfold.

Two things so far: this city, and this family. I arrived in Iowa City a few hours ahead of schedule, greeted by wind and rain, and so I retreated to a cafe near the theatre to take a breather and collect my thoughts. For that period of time, a lot of anxieties and insecurities led my train of thought and, for a moment, I felt my inner introvert attempting to take over and send me into panic.

All of that was thrown aside, however, when I got to my host family's home. I am staying with Kevin and Helen Burford, who own a beautiful Victorian home a few blocks from the University Campus, where Kevin works at the Law Library. Helen works for a Historical preservation association and their daughter, Maddy, works in a daycare. The family took me on a walking tour of the downtown on our way to dinner, and I enjoyed their anecdotes about the city, the buildings, and the history of the area. Iowa City is absolutely gorgeous; its a place that vividly reflects the character of its rich history - beautiful victorian homes, neoclassical style buildings, the wonderful campus (all of which Helen had stories about to share!) - but is electrified by the hustle and bustle of today. This family and this city find meaning and wonder in their history, and I appreciate and am overjoyed by that. I look forward to spending time with them (they are constantly working on renovating their beautiful home, and I have offered up my services to them whenever they find them necessary) and learning more about this city and its unique character.

This week will be a hectic one, but I'm looking forward to every second of it; classes with the company actors, hours in the shop, time in the rehearsal hall, and best of all: my days start at noon! This means, I hope, that my mornings will be spent exploring the city and getting to know the Burfords.

If this damn weather ever cheers up, I may even go for a run through City Park.

Long live summer :)