The Not-so-Epic Beach Trip

On the 28th, my friend Kelsey celebrated her twentieth birthday at Stone Harbor and invited a bunch of people from our college to celebrate with her. I was super excited- while I usually hate the beach, I haven’t actually been in years and a bunch of my friends were going to be there and it was going to be a good time.

“Was” being the operative word. We never saw what actually happened that day coming.

I happily ended up in Jess’ car with our friend Kaitlin, and we took off after Kelsey to drive to the party location. We hit the first problem about forty-five minutes into the drive: ridiculous traffic. Between all of the people heading for the beach and the accident blocking the road, we were inching along for nearly two hours. Finally, though, the exit we needed came into view, and we snailed toward it.

Two hundred yards from the off-ramp, Jess’ car suddenly lost power, and she only had enough to steer onto the shoulder. We were only sort of surprised by this- the car had been doing weird little jerky movements for most of the ride, but we thought that it was just because we weren’t moving much. Wrong.

As soon as we rolled down the windows and turned the car off, the heat of which we had been previously unaware, crept over us. It was hot. And while we weren’t wearing much- our suits with dresses or shorts over them- it was still hot. At one point, I spread my towel on the seat because I was sticking to it.

Triple A was called and, after transferring Jess a few times, they determined that we were one highway too far for them to help us. I didn’t even know Triple A could give an answer like that. They transferred Jess again to a company they work with, but that is not Triple A. Again, didn’t know this was allowed. It was decided that we would need to be owed and dropped off at a random location so that Jess’ car could be fixed/look at and/or her mom would come and pick us up. It was looking like we would not be partying on the beach.

Through all of this, our friends were calling and texting, trying to find out what the next steps were. We didn’t really know; obviously we had to wait for the tow truck to come for us, and considering the traffic, that could take hours. We had to pee, we were hungry, and it was starting to rain. Being girls meant we couldn’t take care of the first one, but Jess had packed food and juice boxes like the apocalypse was coming, so we were more than able to work on the second. We had a delicious, albeit sweat-soaked roadside lunch, and probably forty-five minutes later, I saw the tow truck driving along the shoulder in our direction. That was when we met Palmer.

Palmer the tow-truck driver was twenty-four, bald, and had a really long, pointy beard. He was nice, if a little strange, but I will gladly take “eccentric” over “rapist” any day. After telling us the deal- he could take us to Stone Harbor, but we had to pay the tolls since he wasn’t part of Triple A- we climbed over the driver’s side seat into the wide-but-not-wide-enough-for-three passenger seat. None us are particularly wide, nor are we egregiously tall, so while it was a squeeze to get all of us on the seat, we made it work, especially after Palmer looked at the tight fit and said to Jess, “Uh… you could sit on the cup holders…”

The ride, which, we found out later, should have only taken half an hour tops, took an hour, even with Palmer going 85 and occasionally using the shoulder to bypass cars. He was nice, though, and seemed to find the three of us very amusing. When at last we arrived in Stone Harbor, he dropped us off in a space by the beach and Jess called her mom to try and figure out what to do about her car.

In the end, we think it was the antifreeze. Once Jess’ mom had advised her to put water in the antifreeze area, the car ran just fine. So, good, one problem solved. Now we could go meet up with our friends. Unfortunately, we didn’t know where they were because no one was answering their phones. I figured they were in the water, where they obviously wouldn’t have any electronics, but then people started coming off the beach saying the crowds had been banished due to the incoming storm. So where were our friends?

When we finally got ahold of someone, we found out that they were eating ice cream. Did we want to come join them? To be honest, we didn’t. We were hot, we were tired, and we were annoyed that they hadn’t been picking up their phones. We just wanted to go home. But it was Kelsey’s birthday and we wanted to celebrate with her at least a little, so we asked for the address of the place where they were. We walked eight blocks to the location and no one was there. We contacted them again and were told that the address was wrong. We walked to the corrected address. No one was there. Our anger was such that we knew we shouldn’t contact them right away, so we sat down on a shady bench and tried to let the relative coolness sap both the heat of our bodies and our frustration. Neither really worked, but we knew we needed to meet up with our friends. We got the new address and when we got there… no one was there.

This was kind of the last straw and we probably would have just gone home if I hadn’t seen one friend’s hat three blocks away. We called to them and they waved at us. We didn’t wave back. Three of them came back to walk with us, and unfortunately, we kind of took our anger out on them, which wasn’t very nice of us, but we could no longer contain ourselves.

By the time we reached the beach (walking back to the place where we’d started), people were allowed on it again and blankets were spread and clothes were ditched for swimsuits. Jess, Kaitlin, and I didn’t have our things since we didn’t want to haul them into an ice cream place, and we decided that we weren’t going to get them; we were all still frustrated and were developing headaches from the heat and the general craziness and we were dreading the long ride home. We agreed to only stay for a little bit and then head back. Perhaps it was rude of us, but we were just unhappy and it would be worse for us to stay and spread that around.

It was nice to see my friends, especially Kimmy, who I haven’t seen since May, and Trevor, who, in addition to having been abroad since January, will be my roommate very soon. I wish the circumstances had been different so we could have really enjoyed the day, but after about forty-five minutes, we said our goodbyes and headed home.

The three of us made it home in a laughably short amount of time and went to the hotel that Jess had gotten to avoid taking the long drive home after driving all day. We still wanted to swim, and so went to the hotel pool and splashed around and pretended to be hippos. Afterwards, we went out to dinner in a monsoon-worthy rainstorm and had to-die-for Italian food.

All I can say is, thank God Jess and Kaitlin were the ones I went through this with. We made it through the day without snapping at each other, managing instead to joke our way through the broken down car and help each other contain our anger, and then ended by having fun. It wasn’t a great day, but it ended up being pretty all right.

ROAD TRIP DAYS TWO AND THREE

DAY TWO: FROGS, THE APPALACIAN TRAIL, AND ICE CREAM TRUCKS

(I’ve been saving this entry so I could put pictures in it, but my computer is refusing. Sorry.)
After our night in the tent, as I was using the shower in the bathhouse, I looked down to see that I had a shower buddy- a little frog was hopping around the stall. This wasn’t as disturbing as you might think, considering how he compared to the creepy spider that was crawling around on the opposite wall. I made sure not to crush the frog as I showered the best I could under the not-so-steady trickle of water.
Once we were both ready to go, we ate bagels mauled by my kitchen knife (I’m really bad at cutting stuff…) and then hit the road, headed for Kingston, New York. We wanted to visit the Trolley Museum because trolleys are the awesomest, but in Kingston, things are open on weird days, mostly not on Wednesdays. However, we had a great time walking through historic Kingston and before we left, we got some gelato at a local shop.
Off we went to our hotel in Purling. The hotel is a converted manor house, and it was super awesome and pretty. Because we were there midweek, we were pretty much the only guests, and it was kind of like staying in someone’s house because the owners spent the time, when they weren’t helping customers, hanging out on the porch. It was pretty cool.

After dropping our stuff off in the room, we went to find a place to eat our food. To keep the costs of the trip down, we had decided to live on sandwiches, fruit, and non-perishables, and most of our meals were classily eaten in the car, while walking, or at picnic tables. We found a park and settled down at a table and ate baloney sandwiches and apples and trail mix. Then I heard it: the far-off tinkle of an ice cream truck.

You have to understand what this means to me. I have never in my life lived in a place that had an ice cream truck. Stuart informed me that the town in which we both went to high school, where he lives, does have an ice cream truck, but I lived one town over, where we don’t even have sidewalks. My childhood summers involved much lamenting that tasty frozen treats would not be coming down my street anytime soon. And so whenever I see an ice cream truck, I must buy something from it. It was delicious.

I continued my period of childishness by insisting that we swing on the swings, despite the fact that even my short legs were bent level with my chest when sitting down on said swings. It was only when the park started to clear that we decided to go back to the hotel. Earlier that day, Stuart had said that he might want to pick up a bottle of wine, but never ended up doing so. Instead, we went down to the hotel bar, where we were served by a man who wasn’t technically the barman but knew how to do it. Stuart ordered one of the beers from the very German list and I decided that I wanted to try some wine. Even though I serve wines all the time, I had no idea what to order, so Stuart recommended White Zinfandel, assuring me that it was good.

Lies. Drinking that wine was a little bit like I imagined what it would be like to ingest battery acid. While Stuart and the barman chatted, I kept trying to drink it, turning my face away from the other two so they wouldn’t see me grimacing, probably very comically. I think I got down ten small sips of the quite full glass, even after Stuart advised me on how better to drink it. I just don’t think alcohol is for me; I hated the burning sensation in my mouth and stomach and the aftertaste was not great. The sip I had of Stuart’s drink was more bearably gross, but I didn’t have anything more. Bleck.

We wanted to go stargazing again, but since it was due to rain the next day, the sky was overcast. We went back inside and after laughing at comics on xkcd (mostly this one), we went to bed.

DAY THREE: THOMAS COLE AND THE END OF THE TRIP

It was in fact raining when we woke up, but stopped after our delicious breakfast of French toast in the beautifully homey dining room of the hotel. Stuart wasn’t feeling well, so even though I had refused to do so before the trip began, I drove his dad’s car to the Thomas Cole House.

Thomas Cole, if you don’t know, was an English painter who lived in and painted the Hudson River Valley. Stuart thinks he’s swell and though I don’t really jump for joy over art, I enjoy seeing historical houses, so this floated both of our boats. We learned after the tour that they were stunned that two young people were there and geared the tour to us. I guess we should be used to this- on Stuart’s birthday, we toured some cloisters and everyone else on the tour had about thirty years on us. But it was very interesting and historical and cool.

After the tour, it was about one o’clock and we decided that we should head home then so we could do it leisurely (and work our way through the streets of New York City, if need be.) We reached my town around 4:30 and got dinner together (not baloney sandwiches) before Stuart left for home.

I’m so glad we got to go on this trip; though it was short, it was a nice departure from every day life and I got to see a beautiful place with one of my best friends and we had a great time. Hooray for trips!

Next time, a story of a trip that went almost 100% wrong…

ROAD TRIP DAY ONE: DELAYS, DUI, AND THE UNIVERSE BEFORE US

So Stuart and I have returned from our road trip!

DAY ONE: DELAYS, DUI, AND THE UNIVERSE BEFORE US

Stuart’s car was in the shop for a few days before the trip, but he had been told that he would have it by the end of the day. We had been hoping that this meant noon-ish, but even two p.m. would have been acceptable. So when Stuart called the shop to see when he might pick it up, he was pretty surprised to hear that they hadn’t started to work on it yet and it probably wouldn’t be done that day. On the phone with me, Stuart said that the work could be done by the next day- did we want to leave then? I ranted a lot and finally said I’d rather leave on our planned day, because I’d given up covering a shift at work that night, and I didn’t want to sit at home knowing that I could be working. Stuart’s dad graciously offered his car for the trip and Stuart was at my place by seven. We were off.

Our first stop was Clarence Fahnestock State Park, where we were camping that night. But we hit some bumps along the way. The first was almost ending up in New York City. We missed an exit and, as anyone who has driven on a highway knows, that doomed us. All of the exits after the one we were meant to take led to New York, and there was no way out of it: we were going into the city.

This did not make either of us happy. Driving in cities is terrible, we were in a borrowed car, it was dark, and there was no place to pull over. The city, which I had just been admiring as a place of dreams, loomed in front of us, more threatening than dreamy. Finally, after taking an exit that looked promising, we found our way. Unfortunately, our near-foray into New York (as well as our stop for dinner) added nearly an hour to our journey, and we were very tired. This apparently showed in Stuart’s driving, because as we made our way down the highway, a cop car suddenly pulled out behind us and began to chase us, lights whirling. Neither of us had ever been pulled over before, and there are few words to describe the fear I felt in my heart. The worst part was, we had no idea what we had done. Stuart had just set the cruise control on the car, so we hadn’t been speeding and, well… what else could we be being pulled over for?

DUI, as it turns out. I guess in his tiredness, Stuart hadn’t been staying exactly between the lines, enough to convince the cop that there might have been some bottle-hitting before road-hitting. However, as soon as he and Stuart started talking, I think it was pretty apparent that the only thing leaking from our pores was terror, and he let us go without any trouble. As soon as we started driving again, I began to laugh, because what else was there to do?
Because of all of this, we didn’t pull into the park until nearly midnight. We found an empty camping site and, by the glow of the car headlights, set up the tent. It was a pretty impressive job considering that there were lots of small pieces, and we used rocks as makeshift hammers.

We laid down to sleep, but then Stuart suggested that we stargaze. We had noticed the vibrancy of the stars as we set up the tent, but without the car headlights and the little light around us in general, the sight was just amazing. I’ve never actually seen the Milky Way in the sky in person, but I saw it that night, and it was incredible. I’ve never seen a sky so ablaze with stars and it left me in awe. I thought I couldn’t be more impressed until I saw something bright streak across the sky. “Was that what I thought it was?” I asked Stuart. It was, and it wasn’t the only shooting star we saw that night. I used to think that I’d seen shooting stars before that night, but now that I have, I think those were the first; they’re pretty unmistakable. Finally, when our necks hurt too much to keep gazing upwards, we retired to our sleeping bags. The tent lasted us the night without any trouble, it didn’t rain, and we got a good night’s sleep. A successful night, I think.

Tomorrow, tales of Wednesday!

Tibetan Swimming Lessons

As I’ve mentioned, there is a pool in backyard of the house in which I live. One day, I came home from work and after chatting with my landlord and her friend, the two of them left to go somewhere, leaving me alone to get things together for my reading. As I was binding scripts together, I heard a car pull into the driveway. I looked out the window and saw an Asian man and two young kids heading toward the pool area.

This was kind of confusing- my landlord has mentioned several times that she has a son, but there’s a picture of him in the kitchen and, well, he’s not Asian. But hey, maybe her son was already in the pool area and this man was his friend or boyfriend or husband or whatever. But when I looked out my window that overlooked the pool, there wasn’t anyone else there.

I watched as the family casually entered the pool area and spread out their towels. The kids jumped into the pool and started splashing around. A part of my brain was saying, ‘Maybe you should, you know, go check that this man isn’t a murderer. Your landlord never mentioned that people would be coming over to use the pool. Maybe they’re not supposed to be here. Maybe you’re going to be killed when you go downstairs to make a sandwich.‘ But the anti-social part of my brain was going, ‘They’re probably regulars, and if you, the new girl, go down and demand to know if they’re supposed to be here, they will be offended.’ I tried to picture the scene in my head: “Hello, sir. I’m Rachel. I live here. Are you- um- should you be here, in the pool, in a backyard that is not yours?”

I snuck another peek out the window. Now they were having a picnic on the lawn.

As usual, I took the anti-social route. In hindsight, this was pretty stupid; there were people I didn’t know eating food in the backyard, and what if my landlord came home and was like, “Rachel, do you know these Asian people on my lawn? They must be your friends because I’ve never seen them before, RIGHT?” And then she would kick me out.

I looked out the window again. The man was giving the kids instructions in a language I didn’t know. WHAT WAS HAPPENING?

About an hour later, my landlord came home, and when she passed my room, I braced myself. She had to have seen the strange car, right? So she was either going to comment on how this was her best friend and his kids, or ask me why I wasn’t outside swimming with my best friend and his kids.

Thankfully, it was the former. “How are you enjoying the Tibetan swimming lesson?” she asked. “They come every now and then to use the pool.”

YAY I STILL HAD A HOME!

…I don’t really have an interesting end to this story. The family still comes by every week or so, but now I know that they’re not trespassers who want to kill me. Being shanked by a six year-old wearing swimmies is a bad way to go (especially since he probably could actually take me. I’m really weak.)

There should be some stories and pictures coming up in a few days, as I leave tomorrow for a mini road trip with my friend Stuart! We’re going to the Hudson River Valley and it should be a good time 🙂

The Girl I Mean to Be (or: unavoidable angst)

I’ve been trying to write this entry for a long time, but every attempt came out sounding stupid or ridiculously angsty. But just now, a friend posted a quote in her Facebook status that said exactly what I was thinking:

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” (E.E. Cummings)

I think about growing up a lot (hey, I wrote a play about it), and lately, especially, I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve been changing. I was told, when I went to study abroad in England, that I would come back a different person, and innumerable people observed how much I had upon my return. But I couldn’t feel those changes. They were all good changes, as far as I was told- that I was more confident, more “myself,” more mature and independent- but I didn’t feel any different. Now, though, the changes are almost as palpable as if I could see them in a mirror. It’s hard to name them, but they’re there.

My entire life up until my senior year of college, I feel like I was the same person. That sounds dumb- of course I was the same human being. But I mean that I feel like my personality was the same, I held basically the same beliefs and reactions to things and outlook on life. Of course, there were subtle things- a different political view here, the courage to do something there, but not much changed from the cradle to last summer, I felt.

Then I began my senior year, and suddenly, it was like I had a new set of eyes or a new brain or something. Perhaps this was a result of England; I returned in June of 2011 after living in a foreign country where I started out knowing a single person, cooking for myself and making more independent decisions than I ever had. I do know that the refreshing thing about living abroad and only knowing one person was that I didn’t have to be the person everyone knew me as. So, yes, perhaps my life in the UK was a warm-up to the changes I would soon be going through.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always been a good girl. Always. I was a good student and dedicated teammate, friend, actor, you name it. I was the reliable one, the quietly determined one, the one assigned to motivate the not-so-motivated in classes. I was the kind of student where, if I forgot to do my homework, my teachers called my house, sure that something traumatic had happened.

I liked being this person until last year, when something began to needle at me. Sure, I was good- but why was being good the thing that kept me from being normal? Because it has. I am a strong believer in the universe giving me back what I put into it, which in part means (to me) that if I behave badly, I will be punished. Low test grades, not being cast, and any other bad outcome that can’t be attributed to something concrete, are, to me, a sure sign that I’ve wronged the universe in some way.

While this belief keeps me in check, it’s also an extremely frustrating way to live. I’d watch my fellow students and friends live normal lives- going to parties, doing regular college stuff- from afar, knowing that if I indulged, I would be paid back in negative full. Everyone else, though, seemed exempt from the universe’s wrath. And I was jealous. I worked hard to be good and keep the universe happy with me, but my peers seemed to do whatever they wanted and remain on the good side of everyone and everything.

Additionally, I’ve recently become aware of how much I live my life for other people. In some ways, it’s not a bad thing- I make decisions or act a certain way to make my parents and teachers proud of me, and to be a good example for my sister and younger friends. In other ways, though, it’s really held me back. I highly doubt my parents would be shocked or disappointed to hear that I had a drink or went to a party (correct me if I’m wrong here, Mom-who-is-reading-this-right-now 😉 ), but still, the need to be the good daughter I’ve always been holds me back from doing that, even though other good daughters around me are doing just that and turning out just fine. Last night, my friend asked me if I would avoid getting married just to spite everyone that’s doing so right now, and my answer was no. Among other things, I wouldn’t not get married just to stick it to someone, just as I wouldn’t get married solely to please someone. The latter may have happened a few years ago, though. That’s the kind of person I was.

I graduated college with a lot of regrets. While I’ve been assured that I’m not as weird as I think I am, I have a hard time believing that. As I’ve mentioned, after many years of being terrified of alcohol, I’m still scared of it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable around it, and my refusal to drink it gains me the label “cute” or a “Good for you.” To be honest, these two reactions fill me with anger and confusion, because they’re always spoken almost pityingly and I don’t know how to respond. While I do, in part, not drink so I will be “good,” I absolutely don’t do it to be “cute.” There is nothing cute about my fear of adult beverages, but to go into the why is yet another abnormal move. I feel like I can’t win.

But I think it all goes back to the idea of the quote: I need to have the courage to recognize the person I’m becoming and have the further courage to become that person. In many ways, the way I think of this is having the courage to be a “bad” person (or, as I tend to term it, a “real” person)- swearing, not feeling fear or shame if I order a drink, etc., but that’s not the extent of it. I also need to be able to stand by my personal views, whether they be a lifelong decision to not drink (or the opposite) or be the rare Democrat in my home county of Republicans or writing something that people will be shocked even entered my good-girl mind.

I don’t want to keep living my life for other people. I want to live my life with other people and have them accept me for the person I’ve had the courage to become. I don’t exactly know who that person is yet, but information is coming in rapidly and I’m trying to figure that out as quickly as I can.

“I am coming to realize that I should like to feel special. That I should like to make my mark upon the world. And that I don’t want to have to apologize for it.”

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

Feel the Burn(out)

One of the things I hated about being in school (middle school, high school, college…) was not being able to go on all the auditions I wanted to go on. Until I got to college, I was rarely allowed to miss school for auditions, and I was never the class-skipping type, so usually if an audition fell during a college class time, I didn’t go. Especially at university, this made me feel trapped and frustrated and though I loved my school, that was one thing that made me want to leave as soon as possible.

Now that I’m out in the real world, I’ve been on a ridiculous amount of auditions. I’ve tried out for Fringe shows, films, some things in New York, a ton of local stuff (both professional and not), and, yes, one community theatre. My past self is rejoicing. So is my present self. I’ve been on twenty-two auditions in less than two months. I’m proud of that number. Basically, I’m living the audition dream.

But there’s a downside to all this auditioning that I never saw when I didn’t have this freedom, and that is that I am completely burned out. Yesterday, I had two auditions. One of them was at the community theatre, and though it didn’t go the way I wanted to, it wasn’t really my fault: there are three roles in the show that are exactly, perfectly my type and age range, and I read well, but the director had zero interest in me from the time I walked in the door. It happens and it sucks, but there’s nothing you can do. The other one, though, is a perfect example of the burn-out I’m talking about. I knew I had an audition yesterday. I knew what song I was singing and when I would leave the house that evening to get there early enough. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled home from work at ten thirty the night before and took a peek at my planner just to make sure I knew where I was going, only to see that I was thinking of a completely different audition. The one for the next day (for a great professional theatre that I’d love to work at) involved delivering two one-minute contemporary contrasting monologues and was at 10 a.m.

Crap. I have many, many monologues stored in my head that I can pull out at a moment’s notice, but not a single one of them is actually one minute. While no one stands there with a stopwatch at auditions, my best contemporary monologue- and the one that would have been perfect for this audition- is definitely pushing two minutes, possibly more, and it can’t be cut. Had I not been so rushed and overwhelmed with my crazy previous week, I would have been able to sanely cut two monologues, or maybe even memorized a new one. Instead, there I was at eleven p.m., looking through my personal monologue book and basically going, “That’ll have to do. I’ll just cut here and here and here. Does that make sense? It’ll have to.”

I hate that I had to do that. While it was an honest mistake, that knowledge doesn’t help or excuse that I was unprepared and panicked. When I was limited to only ten or so auditions a year, I approached every audition with meticulous planning and rehearsal. I had things ready days ahead of time so that all that was left to do was obsess over what I was going to wear. Then, when I went to these calls, I was nervous and excited and eager to perform. When I went to the audition for which I was unprepared, I was… tired. I got excited just before I went in, but in the room I was jumpy and forced and my performance was terrible, terrible, terrible. I was in my head the whole time telling myself how terrible I was and worse, I was mush-mouthed. Even I couldn’t understand a word I was saying. The director, who had been all smiles and friendliness when we were chatting, was quickly and visibly losing interest in me.

That audition was a huge wake-up call for me. A few days before, I worked a double shift and ran to two auditions in between. I was unprepared for those, too, but I got lucky and managed to do well. This one, though, could not be saved, and it got me thinking. It is definitely good to go on a lot of auditions. It is not good, however, to go on so many that you’re exhausted and uninspired at the later ones. When I would go on ten auditions a year, I would land a few shows and get called back for most of them. Now? I’ve only gotten one callback and haven’t booked anything. A 3:10 ratio is much better than 0:22. Sure, there were crappy auditions in there and others that I’m sure I just wasn’t “the one” for, but something’s not right, and I think the solution is that I need to cut back.

Doing so is going to be really hard for me. It is not a joke or an exaggeration that I am addicted to auditioning. I will audition for anything, and as I said, I enjoy it, so it’s not a chore for me. But it’s getting to be, and I don’t like that. I haven’t even been out of school for two months. I can’t start getting tired of auditions already. I want to go to an audition happy for the chance to perform, not dragging myself there and thinking about how exhausted and unprepared I am. While I don’t think I necessarily need to go back to my six-to-ten-a-year audition schedule, I do think that I need to give myself real preparation time, not just jump from theatre to theatre and praying that my old standards fit the audition bill. It’s not a smart or healthy way to get myself out there.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to cut back right away. Not going to an audition that I’m fit for is painful for me. I think this is probably like any other addiction, and I’ll have to pull myself away from it slowly. Of course, I’ll still go on more than the average person, because I’m an overachiever. But burning myself out and performing poorly at 98% of the auditions isn’t working, and I need to change that. Now.

Staged Reading!

This week has been so full that I didn’t even realize a week had gone by until I looked at a calendar this afternoon. I’ve been working almost every day and yesterday, in between a double, I ran to two auditions. Now that I’m home for more than three seconds- although not much more- I can talk about one of the more exciting things that happened this week: the reading of my play!

Most of the people who read this blog know what I’m talking about, but in case you’re not one of those people: I started writing a prequel to Peter Pan in 2010, and after finishing a first draft of it at the very end of that year, it became my senior thesis. As part of that project, a reading was staged. I was super lucky to find an awesome director who assembled a wonderful cast, and the reading was pretty successful. However, the head of the theatre department was unable to come, and he and I agreed that another reading would be staged for him. That reading happened on Thursday.

I was able to get most of the original reading cast back, save for one person, so I did a bit of rearranging. I worked the lunch shift and was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to get to the theatre early to make sure things were set up. It hit me before work that while I had asked for five music stands, I had forgotten to mention that I needed chairs, too. I stressed about this through my entire shift. When I arrived at the theatre, I saw that someone smart had given me exactly enough chairs… but only two music stands. We ended up having the school safety office break into a music room so we could steal some more, one and a half of which ended up being broken.

Though the reading was technically just for the head of department, I really didn’t want it to be just him because then I’d spend the entire reading staring at him, watching his reactions. I had made a Facebook event, to which a surprising number of people RSVP’d “yes,” but as always happens with Facebook, that number didn’t show up. A few people did though, a few of whom had already seen the first reading, and that was really awesome. It was enough of an audience that, though I still felt like I was going to throw up, I wasn’t quite as nervous.

The first act went pretty well, and I got some good feedback during the break. One girl came over and started talking about all of the themes that she saw and then was like, “Sorry, that was stupid, that’s just the sociology major in me coming out.” I told her that what she saw was absolutely right- those themes were there on purpose. It was great to hear that someone could see them in the play.

Once the break was over, no one wanted to go back into the theatre because it was ridiculously hot. When we had exited before the break, all of our clothes were soaked with sweat, and no one was willing to go back in and sweat for another hour. So we grabbed the stands and the chairs and set up a make-shift reading space on the lawn outside the theatre. It was a little harder to hear out there, and of course every plane, train, and automobile decided that it needed to come by during that hour. I always get worried when I find it hard to hear (and therefore understand) things during the reading, because if I, the writer who has a few chunks of the play memorized, can’t figure out what’s being said, someone who’s never heard it will have even more trouble. However, as I was told afterward, the heat in the theatre made it really hard to concentrate and the play was more enjoyable outside.

Readings are super weird for me. I’ve only had a few pieces of my work performed, and this play has only been read before an audience three times, but because I’ve been living with the material, I’m always terrified that the story is boring. It’s not that all I see are flaws- that’s the great thing about plays over, say, stories solely on the page. The actors bring something new and often very good to what’s been written- but still, the errors, big and small, always stand out in my mind much more than the things that work. Overall, though, I think the reading went well. It was lower energy than the first one, but the actors really can’t be blamed; most of us had come from work, some people were acting with others they’d never worked with before, and no matter where we were, it was still hot. In any case, the audience seemed to like it and I enjoyed it, too.

Afterward, the head of department asked if I wanted to have a mini-talkback with him. I said absolutely. “We can do it now,” he said, “or in a week.” Since he can be kind of hard to get ahold of sometimes and I’ve been working like crazy, I said that I wanted to do it right then. So we sat down in the lobby and he asked me what I had written down during the reading. I got out my notes and started rambling on about too-long opening scenes and how this and that line had to be cut, and he stopped me. “Let’s think bigger.” We discussed the themes and time jumps that were jarring and characters and scenes that were unnecessary. I didn’t agree with everything he said, and he said that was fine. “You, especially, need to be told over and over again that no matter what feedback you get from anyone, this is your play and you decide what goes into the story.” He also said that though the play wasn’t at the point where it only needed little tweaks, the writing was interesting and sophisticated, which was really great to hear.

What we discussed the most was the event in the play that is the catalyst for everything that happens in the second half of the play and in the rest of the main character’s life. It’s not fleshed out enough, and though this has been said to me before, I could never figure out what exactly I needed to do about it. What he said that night though, made everything make sense. Sometimes someone says something a little different, even changing a single word, and something huge clicks. That’s what happened during the talkback, and my mind has been churning with all the things I can and need to do. It’s probably going to mean huge changes, possibly big cuts, and going into subject matter that I’m not completely comfortable with or even prepared to write about. But I was and am so excited about this revelation that I can’t wait to have a free second to work on it. I’ve already started scribbling ideas onto the back of my order forms at work. I don’t know what it is about this summer and all of this writing inspiration, but I am definitely not complaining.

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