King(s) of New York: Newsies Auditions

In March, I found a casting notice for Newsies in the actors’ newspaper Backstage. I wrote it in my planner, but assumed I wouldn’t go, since, due to not being seen at open calls for the past two years, I don’t go to them anymore. But my acting career has been slow and one night at the end of April, I was talking to my friend Kaitlin who said, “I want to be an actress NOW. Someone cast me in a Broadway show…” Kaitlin happens to be a HUGE fan of Newsies, so I mentioned the audition. She was very excited and it was basically decided then that we were going to go together.

Fast-forward to Thursday, five days before the big audition. I had a callback for a musical and my throat was feeling rather scratchy. I was very annoyed; the NYC plans were already made, the tickets had been bought and the hotel paid for, and, if my allergies were acting up as usual, I wouldn’t have a voice by Monday, the audition day. On Friday, I woke up super achy, but still had to teach for six hours. I felt progressively worse as the day went on, and when I got home, I took a shower, fell into bed, and did not move except to eat dinner. Saturday morning, I was in so much pain that I cried. I had planned to so some serious scriptwork for Time Stands Still, and I attempted to do so, but that only led to me shivering in a cafe because a fever had started up. I took to my bed and there I stayed until Sunday afternoon when I could finally move my limbs. And while it sucked that I had some sort of flu-plague (which as of two hours ago was diagnosed as bronchitis), it does not affect my singing voice like allergies do.

By Monday, I was feeling much better. I rose at 6:45 to get ready and was at Kaitlin’s house by 8:20. Even though our bus to the city wasn’t until noon, there were no trains from her town after 9 am, so we did what we could. We ate breakfast while waiting for our bus and made good time into the city once we departed. I took Kaitlin to Pret a Manger, a sandwich shop that fed me most days when I was in London and has now, to my delight, migrated to NYC. After dropping off our bags at our hotel (the awesome European pseudo-hostel that I stayed in in January) and changing out of our rain boots, we hit the subway again to get to the Strand, an awesome three-story bookshop that Molly told me about. We both spent WAY too much money there; I got three books and one play, and Kaitlin got more than that. For dinner, we hit up Ellen’s Stardust Diner, famous for its singing waitstaff. They have great food too, but my bronchitis had stolen my appetite, so instead of having the cheeseburger and fries that I wanted, I had lentil soup. NOT THE SAME. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was about ten, so we took our showers and got ready to rise very early the next morning.

At 5 a.m., the alarm rang. At 5 a.m., the only thing going through my head is WHY: “Why am I up this early? Why is any actor up this early? Actors work at night. This is morning. Why don’t we just go back to sleep and shop later (much later)? Why did we think this was a good idea?” But I had not paid to stay in a New York City hotel to go shopping. I had done so to audition for Newsies. So I rolled out of bed and heard Kaitlin grumbling all the things I had been thinking from the top bunk and turned on the light. She grumbled louder and I promised her that if she got out of bed, we’d stop at Starbucks before getting in line. By 5:45, we were out the door, headed for the subway. We stopped at the promised Starbucks and then made our way to casting company office.

Let me explain something before I go on: it is customary for actors to show up to open calls hours before the call actually starts. But that does NOT mean that the office is open then; it’s not. Which means that we are voluntarily lining up on the sidewalk with nowhere to sit, sometimes in terrible weather conditions. We got lucky on that day, though- not only was it not raining or anything like that, it was also pretty warm for 6:30 a.m., which is when Kaitlin and I joined the line. We were #3 and #4. My plan had paid off: unless a thousand Equity actors showed up, we were going to be seen (keep in mind, though, that a thousand Equity actors showing up is ENTIRELY possible in this economic climate and career field.)

While we were waiting outside, someone in line got smart and started the non-Equity list, which would ensure that those of us who got there first, would be seen first. According to the actor who started it, they HADN’T made up a list the day before and it was a madhouse. Kaitlin was worried that people would try to cut ahead anyway, but, as I explained to her, actors, in these situations, are generally pretty nice to each other. We all know what the others are going through and we appreciate that people rose earlier than us to get in line first. Though we all can be pretty cutthroat, we have our moments of caring, and they often come out at auditions (but still, watch your back…)

Though the audition didn’t start until ten, a nice office worker let us come up to the office around eight, where there were chairs and bathrooms. While Kaitlin and I had gotten pretty in our hotel room, most of the girls had the right idea of coming in their sweats and making themselves presentable in the bathroom mirror. Kaitlin and I took turns freaking out. It was her first Broadway audition, so she was very nervous. I generally don’t get nervous at open calls until it’s my turn to go in, because being nervous for six hours of waiting is kind of pointless. But that day, I had my bronchitis, and it was getting worse by the hour. It was at the point, by 9 am, that normal things like getting up and walking across the room or laughing would wind me, and that did not bode well for my super-belty song that I had chosen to sing pre-illness. I stressed over whether to change my song and then decided I had to- I was not going to go in there and wheeze at them. Like any good actor, I can sing any of the songs in my audition book if asked, so I handed Kaitlin my audition book and said, “Pick a song that matches Katherine’s [the character we were going for] personality, and I’ll sing that instead.” She pointed out three that would work, and I chose one that allowed me to show personality while singing in a way that didn’t involve too much deep breathing. I was still really nervous though. I know I can sing that song, but I was having issues breathing out, which is basically what singing is, and I had visions of completely choking (something literally), to the point where I nearly decided not to audition.

While we were waiting, an announcement came over the loudspeaker of our floor and told us that there was a fire drill and we all had to exit the building. Not a single person moved… because we are actors and would rather die in a fire than lose our spot in line to audition for a show.

The monitor (the person who takes actor’s names for the order of auditioning) arrived and though he was grumpy, he was competent, honoring the list we had made and shifting those of us who were Equity Membership Candidates (e.g, me) to the EMC list, which gets us in before the non-Equity people. Once the clock stuck ten, he started reading off the names of the first group of actors to audition- and I was in it! I lined up with the others and waited my turn, getting very nervous because as I tried to hum my song, I kept wheezing; I didn’t want to think what would happen when I tried to actually sing it. Also, I felt a nosebleed coming on.

When I entered the audition room, I couldn’t find the pianist. The piano was the tallest one I have ever seen, and I couldn’t even see his head over the top. Eventually I located him on the other side and gave him my music. The casting directors were super friendly, as has been my experience with this company. I introduced myself and my song and stopped myself from adding, “And I’m sorry.” The pianist played the intro of my song and I opened my mouth- and sang as well as I ever have. You would never have known that I was sick. Upon shifting into the big belty end note, I did come across as I little weak, but that could have happened in any audition (and definitely has.) The CDs were smiling and nodding and I thanked my lucky stars to have had such great vocal and theatrical training that allowed me to project in a way that not only hid the fact that I was sick, but also kept me from further injuring myself. After finishing, the CDs smiled and said, “Thank you so much, that was great. Thanks for coming in!” and then I skipped out of the room, thrilled with how it had gone. Even if I hadn’t been sick, I still would have been pleased.

After I went into the bathroom and suffered the nosebleed I had felt coming on pre-audition, Kaitlin and I waited for maybe twenty minutes before the monitor read her name off of the non-Eq list. I gave her a hug and wished her broken limbs, and when she was next in line, I went over and did it again. I watched her go in and then what seemed like three seconds later, emerge. It was so fast that I worried she had left mid-song. But as it happens, she started over once and said the CDs were super nice to her- and why not? She’s the perfect type for the part. On the elevator on the way out, I saw she was kind of tearing up. “Don’t worry,” I said. “You can cry. I cried the first time I auditioned for a Broadway show, too.”

So our plan paid off- we were seen within the first hour of auditions, the first time I’ve been seen at all at a NYC open call in two years. Sadly, I don’t have the money or the time to take two days off of work and pay for a hotel room every time there’s an open call I want to go to. But this HAS restored my faith in them a little bit. Free from our stress, Kaitlin and I went to a theatre bookshop, then got lunch, and after some celebratory froyo, we decided it was time to come home. We hopped on an early bus and were back at her house in time for dinner to talk about our adventures. NEW YORK SUCCESS!



That Tour Was a Little Too Exciting

Today, I was scheduled for two historical tours. The first one was at 10 am, and the second wasn’t until 1 pm, so I packed a sandwich and a book for the in-between time and set off for work. My first group was one of three groups from an elementary school, my charges around eight or nine years old. They were, comparatively, a pretty good group- besides the constant inquiries about whether we were going to go into any of the historical sites (No. No no no no.), they listened and asked good questions.

When we were about three-quarters of the way through the tour- so, about 45 or 50 minutes in- I was leading the group of kids and chaperones down a street when there was the sound of breaking glass. I turned around in time to see my tour patrons being showered with sizable pieces of glass, all falling from somewhere above. We all just stood there stunned for a few seconds after the glass stopped falling, looking up. Then everyone started getting a little freaked out, realizing what had just happened. No one was screaming or crying, but everyone, included me, was very obviously shaken by it. The pieces of glass that had fallen on us ranged in size from very small to about as long as my hand. I asked if everyone was okay and got a yes, so I moved them away from the site, and as I did, a man ran to the doorway of the building and stared at us.

Outside of our next stop, the teacher asked if we could stop. She asked how many of the kids had been hit; five raised their hands. Four of them claimed to feel no pain, but one girl was pressing her hand to her head and saying it hurt. The teacher checked her head pretty thoroughly, but there weren’t any cuts or bumps. Still, the teacher requested that we end the tour and go back to the museum where we started.

I led the group back to the starting point, where I asked for the hundreth time if everyone was okay and the students sat on the grass and started on their lunches.  I stayed and talked to the teacher, who was on and off the phone with the school and the school nurse. The girl was still complaining of pain, so I ran into the museum and asked if they had a medical professional on site. Amazingly, they didn’t. The teacher requested ice for the girl’s head, and I had no idea how I was going to get it, or carry it. But then I remembered that I had a sandwich in my backpack for lunch, so I took my sandwich out of its bag, put the sandwich into my backpack, and took the plastic baggie to the museum’s cafeteria, where I filled it with ice at the soda station. The teacher handled the situation in a very level-headed manner, but she was worried about the girl’s mother, who, apparently, is wont to sue, even though the whole thing was an accident.

Eventually, there wasn’t any more I could do, so I went back to the incident site and took a ton of pictures on my phone, and as I was doing that, the guy who I’d seen run to the doorway appeared. I wondered if he would kill me if I went over and asked him what had happened. I did, and he was very nice, and also very worried about the kids. He waited while I talked to my boss on the phone a few times, then waited with me while my boss made his way to us, and then for another hour as the three of us waited for the police. Yes, it took the police nearly an hour to get to us. We were hoping that an officer would walk or drive or horse-ride (seriously) by, but not a single one was to be found. When one did drive by and stopped when we waved him down, he told us that we weren’t his call and that someone would be by soon. “Soon” turned out to be twenty minutes later, and after all that waiting, giving the report only took about seven minutes.

Because the officer took so long to get there, I missed my second tour and went home early, where I had to transfer all my pictures of the incident and write up a report for my boss. All of this, after the excitement of the afternoon, was tedious, but having been in car accidents, I know how important an accurate report is. It will be interesting to see what comes of all of this. Whatever happens, I can safely say that I do not want anything like this to happen again.

The Accidental Date

Even though I have a boyfriend now, I’m still not quite used to it. I’ve never been the type of girl that boys line up to date, but I’ve always had a good number of guy friends. So if a guy is nice to me, I may get an instant crush, but I assume that he’s just being my friend. And, as far as I know, that’s the case 99% of the time.

During the training for my new tourguiding job, I met my fellow tourguides, one of whom is a guy named Sam. He was very friendly and talkative to everyone the first day we all met, but by the second time we went on a group training tour, he was paying much more attention to me- walking with me, chatting almost exclusively with me, and being more physical than most people are in general. I didn’t chalk it up to anything, really. Again, it had been over four years since I was even asked out. He found out I was an actor and told me that he worked in the offices at the biggest theatre in the city.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve met up to work on the tour and rehearsed over the phone a million times. We never did anything outside of the tour; as soon as we were done doing the tour in person, we parted ways, and it was only very recently that Sam followed up socially after we rehearsed over the phone. I did notice that this was more interest than a guy usually showed me, but at that point, I was single and probably desperate, so I figured I was just being hypersensitive. It was during these conversations that Sam told me that he could get me comps to the current show at the theatre. I said that I’d love to see it. We at first decided to see it in April, but since I’m assistant stage managing a show that has the same run time, when he invited me to see it on Friday, I said yes.

Perhaps it should have occurred to me that this was more than a friend thing, and it did, a little. I made sure that the dress I wore wasn’t too date-y, but that was hard because I ALWAYS dress up to go to the theatre, especially evening shows. I did also mention to my boyfriend what was going on, and he was suspicious of Sam’s motives, much more than I.

It didn’t take long for me to get just as suspicious, though. Sam and I met up an hour before the show, and when he saw me, instead of giving me his usual hug, I got a kiss on the cheek. Since we had time to kill, we went to a bar so he could see the basketball game. There, he paid for my drink (and by drink, I mean I got a soda and so did he.) While he is, as I mentioned, a very touchy-feely person, he was touching me more than usual- the hand, the waist, etc. When we went into the theatre to take our seats, he practically guided me into my seat by my waist, calling me “sweetie”, and though I pulled away, I felt like the damage was already done. During the first act, I was terrified  he was going to try and hold my hand, so I kept my program in the hand closest to him and kept my hands on the other side of my body, leaning away from him. He didn’t try, as it happened, but better safe than sorry.

But even though he didn’t try to hold my hand, he was still very… date-y towards me, and I decided during the first act that when intermission came, I would subtley let him know that I was taken. When the lights came up, I escaped to the bathroom, figuring the mile-long line would allow me enough time away from him. But I went too fast and there was no line and before I knew it, we were standing around in the hallway and he was way too close. So I’m standing there thinking, ‘How can I hint to him that this can’t be a date?’ Finally, we ended up talking about Philadelphia theatre and I saw my chance. “I saw Seminar last week with my boyfriend,” I said,  then mentioned how much said boyfriend enjoyed the show, as did I.

He got the hint. In fact, he reacted to it so abruptly, moving away from me to look at a display case, that I thought perhaps I had been rude about it. But he recovered within seconds and was friendly, but not so touchy, with me. He did still touch my hand as we sat down for the second act, but in general, it felt less like a date… though I still sat the same way I had during the first act, even though it got uncomfortable after awhile.

We ended up taking the same train home, though my stop was a good half hour before his. Thankfully, he kept his hands to himself and didn’t use any terms of endearment, and we arrived at my stop without incident. And while I’d like to think that he understands my relationship status, I’m not positive. So while I’d certainly like some more comps, I’ll have to make sure he knows what the deal is before I accept anymore.

The Guy on the Bus Fondled My Knee (And Other New York Tales)

Yesterday, I arose at five a.m. BY CHOICE. For those of you who know me and have seen how I react when the sun first wakes me, this will probably shock you. I like my sleep (especially lately, when it’s been eluding me.) But I did climb out of bed before the sun was awake and got ready to go to NEW YORK!

I actually get up at five (or earlier) to go to New York fairly often, for auditions. But this time, I was not headed to an audition, but to my friends Molly and Ryan’s apartment to hang out before going to see one of Molly’s short plays in a one-night event. I’ve wanted to go to one of these monthly shows for awhile, and since I’m super free due to, you know, not working at all, I figured I’d at least fill my time with something.

So I got a window seat on the bus, hoping I could sleep a little bit. At the very last second, this guy around my age took the free seat next to me. I tried to sleep the whole way to the city because I knew I’d probably be out late that night and didn’t want to be dead on my feet. For a lot of the bus ride, I was leaning against the window with my eyes closed, listening to music, and the guy’s heavy canvas coat kept drifting onto my leg. I didn’t really think much of it or do anything about it; buses are close quarters, and it was just a jacket, and as a bonus, it was keeping my leg warm. But at one point, the coat was heavy enough that I was thought, ‘Obviously, the guy is asleep and it’s fallen on me. I’ll just make sure it doesn’t look like I’m stealing it.’ But when I went to move the jacket… it wasn’t the jacket, but his hand. On my knee.

For as much as I wish I weren’t, I’m a very naive, trusting person. I sincerely thought this was an accident. I didn’t look at him as I inched my knee out from under his hand, so I don’t know if he was asleep/pretending to be asleep/mooning at me, whatever. I just sat closer to the window. But then it happened again! I moved away a second time because I was wearing tights, not pants, so there wasn’t much between his skin and mine. I put my own hand on my knee, hoping that would sort of scare him away… and it didn’t. He took that as an invitation to touch my hand instead. I hadn’t been weirded out before, but that definitely did it.

When the bus stopped at the first drop-off point, my seatmate asked if I was getting off the bus. I asked him which street we were on, he told me, and I said no, I wasn’t. That was our only verbal communication on the trip. When we got to the place where we were both disembarking, he went to get his bags and I, having kept mine with me, went looking for a subway entrance. I found one, and guess who was standing at the top of the stairs? My bus buddy. “You going on subway?” he asked in his Asian accent. I said yes and he walked down the stairs next to me, then waited as I bought my Metrocard. The entire time I had my card out, I was thinking, ‘Oh, so THIS is the day I get mugged,’ and held onto my wallet very tightly. He accompanied me through the turnstile and asked where I was going. “To visit my friends,” I told him. “You have time for a coffee?” he asked. This took me by surprise and I think it was a few seconds before I replied, “No, my friends are waiting and I don’t want to be late.”

But he was not deterred. He asked me again where I was going. “Queens,” I told him. He kept after me as I figured out which line I had to take, and when I found the signs directing me there, I saw that they were leading me to an elevator. As nice as this guy seemed, NO WAY was I getting into an elevator by myself with him. “You know what?” I said as he walked speedily to the elevator. “I think I’m going to take the stairs.” And he followed me there, too. As we stood waiting for my train, he tried to get more details about where I was going, eventually asking for my phone number. I said no,trying to be as nice as possible because I have to be nice even to the strange men that stalk me into subway stations. Thank God, when my train pulled up, he did not follow me onto it. While I’m sure he was a nice guy, I think I would have freaked out if I had to ride the subway with him, because then he might have followed me all the way to Molly and Ryan’s, which would not have been good.

The last few times I’ve been to NYC, my bus has been super late getting in, and I didn’t want to show up on their doorstep two hours later than proposed, so I had gotten an earlier bus, and since, after I ditched my suitor, the subway didn’t take the hour MTA Trip Planner predicted, I actually ended up standing outside their door a bit earlier than expected, wondering if I should press the bell. (You have to remember that these are the friends of whom I am big fans. I had to act “right.”) I did, of course, press it, and Molly came down to get me. It was really cool to see their apartment- I’m kind of obsessed with seeing where other writers do their writing. They have tons of books, the titles of which I spent a long time tilting my head sideways to read. It was very much a fly-on-the-wall day for me as they finished up various chores, but that was fine with me. Ryan was finishing up some work, so after getting lunch, Molly and I wandered around some Williamsburg shops, and now I have a huge list of books that I need to get when I have an income again. Then we headed to a Manhattan arts company building  for the rehearsal of Molly’s short play.

I thought it might be weird for me to be sitting in on the rehearsal, since I obviously only knew Molly, but her director and her two actors were super nice to me, and when we all headed to to the theatre together for tech, we were all making conversation and they were really easy to talk to. It helps that two of them were really familiar with Philadelphia, and we talked about everything from the Fringe to the King of Prussia mall to the drag bar I once went to for my friend’s bachelorette party. Molly was very apologetic that I had to sit through tech and offered me some free wine to get through it, but it was only cue-to-cue and only about 45 minutes long, and I was just really excited to be at that show. Though I have obviously been through a million techs for my own shows, I always feel super special when I get to see other people’s tech.

Tech did run a little long, though, so there wasn’t time to go anywhere to get food. Instead, I just hung out in the lobby with Molly and and a few of her friends. The company had thought that they’d be able to squeeze a bazillion people into the theatre, as they usually do for these standing-room-only shows, but a fire marshal had been sent to make sure that no more than 72 people were sitting in the theatre. Because I had gotten there for tech, I got a seat, but there were 20 people who actually watched the show from the lobby (they got free wine, though, throughout the entire show, so I don’t think they were too put out.)

I really enjoyed the show. The basic premise of the event was that all of the playwrights were given a theme two Sundays ago and had a few days to write a script, and then they gave it to their actors and director. Because it’s script-in-hand, they playwrights are allowed to make changes basically right up until the actors make their first entrance. After the show, on the train home, one of Molly’s friends (who is a fantastic playwright himself, but had not taken part in the show) said that he wasn’t terribly impressed with the quality of the plays, but I enjoyed all but a few of them. While yes,  the quality of the writing wasn’t awesome, I also kept in mind that these plays were written in a week- probably less- and rehearsed in even less time. And to be honest, a few of them, and Molly’s especially, were in a state that mine are lucky to see after months of revision. Even with the ones I didn’t like, I tried to put myself into their shoes; my own play probably wouldn’t have been much better. In any case, I really enjoyed the show.

Afterward, I went to my very first dive bar. I don’t know what dive bars are supposed to be like, but this one was pretty nice, and dogs were allowed inside, so there was a Bernese Mountain Dog hanging out by the ATM. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to get drunk, but last night, I really did not feel like being the awkward of-age girl sipping a Coke. So I decided to put my pride aside and ask Molly for help in choosing a drink. She suggested a few, and in the end, I ordered a vodka cranberry. And you know what? I actually liked it! So now I finally have something I can order and know that I won’t be wasting my money on something I can’t stomach.

After about an hour of hanging out there, Molly, two of her friends (who live right around the corner from her and Ryan), and I left for home. Again, I marveled at the fact that I was walking through the streets of New York laughing with two playwrights I admire. When we got back to Molly and Ryan’s place, Molly made some pasta for us because she hadn’t had anything since lunch and then at 1 a.m., it was time for bed. Running around from five in the morning til one in the morning certainly solved my not-being-able-to-sleep problem. I was out the second I laid down.

Today was spent completely in their apartment. At first, Molly and I were going to go to a cafe and write, but in the end, the coffee in their apartment was free and neither of us got around to changing out of our pajamas (I only changed eventually because I had to go home.) So Ryan went out and got us some breakfast sandwiches and he worked on a lecture and Molly did a book review and I worked on a play. It was really nice and I got some good (well, hopefully good) work done. When three o’clock arrived, I sadly had to leave. I wish I could have stayed forever and ever because I had a such a great time, but sadly, that can’t be done (mostly because I would feel bad making them keep an air mattress where their kitchen table usually is.) But for the first time in recent NYC trip memories, the real life truck did not hit me in the face on the way home. I actually have some stuff (which is stressful stuff, but in a good way) to look forward to this week. I was also all aglow with happiness because I got a frantic e-mail from a director whom I love and who cast me in my first Equity show four years ago, asking me if I would be willing to step into the assistant stage manager spot for a show that opening tomorrow night. In the end, I wasn’t able to do it and they found someone else, but it was a completely unexpected e-mail and I was shocked and flattered that he thought of me.

So all in all, bus stalkers aside, it has been a fantastic two days. I’m so glad I was able to go up to see the show and my friends 🙂

Awesome Plays and the Real Life Truck

On Thursday after a 9:30 am rehearsal, I set of for New York City for a trip I’d been looking forward to for awhile: seeing a play that was written by my friend Ryan. Though I’ve read some of his work and loved it, I’ve never seen any of it onstage, and I really wanted to. So at 2:30, I hopped on a Megabus headed for the city that never sleeps.

The bus was a little late, and my hotel, picked for its proximity to the theatre, was quite far from the drop-off point. Even though I didn’t get lost, it took me about forty-five minutes to walk there, so between the late arrival and the long walk, I only had time to drop off my stuff, make myself look presentable, and grab half of my sandwich before I needed to head to the theatre.

The theatre itself is small and homey. It was a little awkward being there by myself because I felt like everyone knew everyone else, but about half an hour after I arrived, my friend Molly (who is Ryan’s girlfriend and an amazing playwright as well) got there with her mom and brother and I was no longer alone.

The play was so amazing. I knew it was going to be well-written, but the acting was amazing, too, and the audience as a whole was really responsive. I love it when I forget I’m watching a play. All in all, it was just really inspiring, and I love being able to support my friends and theatre and see plays in general, especially plays I can’t see every day.

Afterward, Molly invited me to go out with them, which was awesome. Though I count both of them as my friends, I was a fan of their writing before I got up the nerve to talk to them, so I get a little bit flustered in their presence. But if they notice, they don’t let on and treat me like I’m a sane equal, though I definitely don’t act like one. We had a lovely dinner with Molly’s mom and brother and it was just a wonderful night.

My hotel was super awesome- very European, kind of like my flat in London. I let myself sleep in the next morning, and for the first time in awhile, I felt totally relaxed and rejuvenated. Apparently NYC trips just do that for me.

But just as with my last trip there, almost as soon as I returned, the Real Life truck hit me… a few times. I knew I would be busy, but my schedule blew up in a terribly stressful way that had me in tears. Can’t I just stay in blissful NYC trip mode forever?

At the same time, though, I don’t think I see my life clearly. I don’t see myself as having achieved very much since I graduated, but Molly said a few times, “You’re doing so well!” and every time, I thought, ‘Am I?’ Am I?

Thankfully, things are working themselves out slowly, but I would much rather be hanging out with cool playwrights/friends and seeing plays.

NYC Trip Day 2: I Read Banned Books

On Thursday, day two of my EPIC NYC TRIP, I was awoken from a blissful slumber by a lovely text message. It was my friend Paul, asking when and where we were going to meet up. I met Paul at my very first audition, when I was thirteen and he was twenty-one. As soon as my mom and I got there and sat behind him, he turned around to talk to me. I thought he was the coolest person I’d ever met, with his actor-y look and his awesome ear piercing that I thought of getting for many years afterward but was also to chicken to actually do. I was also too chicken to stay at the audition. At one point, I got so nervous that I stood to leave, and Paul stopped me and told me to stay, that’d I’d be fine. We ended up being cast in the same ten-minute play a few days later. Almost nine years later, we’re still friends and he now lives in New York. We decided to meet at a Starbucks in Chelsea at eleven. Once we managed to find two seats in the place (no small feat in a New York City Starbucks; there is one one every corner, but they’re always full. New Yorkers like their caffeine; it’s why they walk so fast), we got down to our socializing. It was really, really nice. We haven’t seen each other in person for over two years, but we picked right up where we left off, talking acting and playwriting and New York living and many other things. Like Molly, Paul asked when I was moving to NYC, and I have to say, both of them made me want to pack my bags that minute.

Around 12:30, Paul had to head to work, and I was near enough to Libba Bray’s booksigning location that I decided to stay in the area until it began at six. Molly had told me about an awesome bookstore four blocks away from the Starbucks, so I headed in that direction… and got lost for about forty-five minutes. Though I have a terrible sense of direction, it wasn’t completely my fault; that part of the city is… rounder than the parts in which I usually spend my time. But finally I found it, and it was just as amazing as she had promised- four stories of books, new and used, and other beautiful items like postcards and bags and t-shirts, the latter of which I bought- a cool one that says “I Read Banned Books” with the flames made up of “scandalous” authors and book titles.

After I grabbed a very late lunch and walked around a bit more, I went to Books of Wonder where Libba Bray’s signing was, to hang out and read for a bit before it started. Then it was six and the AUTHORS ARRIVED! In addition to Libba,  there were six other YA authors who have new books. I had never heard of five of them, but they were all so funny and great to listen to. I was one of about five people that got to ask a question, and I asked Libba about how she handled the giant cast of characters in her books. Her short answer: “Not well.” She expanded and quoted Ray Bradbury and was, in general, completely amazing. Then came the signing, and I was first in line. I had planned all these things I wanted to say to her, but as she sat there signing my book, as well as my friend Kaitlin’s, I could only blurt, “I LOVE THE DIVINERS!” She thanked me, said she liked my red tights, and asked if she’d answered my question. I assured her she had and told her that I was a longtime fan and that Kaitlin has cast herself as Evie in the movie version of The Diviners, and then Libba talked to me about writing the screenplay for the movie. “It’s like math!” she exclaimed. Then she asked me where I went to college and was so so awesome. I love her so much.

I left the signing right after I got Libba’s inscription and headed for my bus location. I had bought a ticket for the 10:30 bus, but was hoping to get a standby seat on an earlier bus, which meant that I could call off Beth from pick-up duty. But when I got there, the standby line was huge, and the last bus before my scheduled ride was full. The girl behind me, with whom I had been conversing, was very distressed and went to get some food. When she came back, I was sitting on the sidewalk, reading and she came over to me. “There’s a Megabus leaving in fifteen minutes five blocks away. Want to come?” I said yes, and we hurried over to the other bus stop. The bus was pretty empty, and they only charged us $15 for a seat, which was less than I had planned to give Beth, some for gas but also some for gratitude. So my new friend and I hopped on the bus. I considered sitting alone, as is my custom, but I thought it would be rude to ditch my adventure buddy, and she was very happy I sat next to her because I let her charge her phone with my computer.

I returned to Philadelphia and my adventure buddy wished me safe travels and I caught the train back to my car. The whole way home, I couldn’t stop thinking about how relaxed and happy- like, incandescently happy- I felt and how I loved everything and everyone. These last few weeks have been really hard, emotionally, and I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I felt as good as I did on Thursday night. For a few weeks now, I’ve had the ridiculous notion that I have no friends, which I know and knew was not true, but nothing could convince me otherwise. But between meeting up with Molly and Paul and both of them being so great, and Beth being able to pick me up, and Stuart calling just to say hi Thursday afternoon, I was feeling very loved. And while I decided while traveling in Europe that  it’s much better to travel with someone (seeing awesome stuff has much less thrill when you have no one to share it with), and it would have been fun to share the concert or the signing with a friend, I’m actually glad I went by myself. I think I needed two days to do things on my own time- meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in a long time, going to bookshops and listening to music… I think it was just what I needed to recover from my terrible few weeks.

Unfortunately, I’ve started to slip back into how I felt pre-NYC, which before I didn’t count as unhappiness, but compared to how I felt Thursday night, it’s not happiness. I don’t know what is missing from my life that is making me feel this way, but I wish I could figure it out.

NYC Trip Day 1: Potentially Lovely, Perpetually Human

Wow… I can hardly put into words how amazing this trip to NYC was (she says before writing two separate, lengthy blog posts.)

In early September, I found out that Regina Spektor was going on tour. Actually, she was already mid-tour, but I’m also slow on the uptake about these things. It happened that her show in New York City, on October 24th, was the one that was easiest for me to get to. I bought tickets- with my own money! Because I had no idea when the show would end, I knew I’d have to stay overnight- my first night alone in NYC, ever. I booked a hotel- with my own money! (Many people have pointed out that New York, like most cities around the world, has hostels. A little tip from me to you: some hotels, like the one I stayed in last night, are actually cheaper than the hostels and unlike the hostels, you don’t have to share a bathroom.) Then I found out that my favorite author, Libba Bray, was also on tour for her new book The Diviners and was doing a signing the day after the concert. So I nixed my plans to leave the city in the afternoon, extending my stay until 10:30 that night.

As epic as being there for the signing was most definitely going to be, it did make things slightly more complicated, since there are no parking garages that allow you to keep you car in the same spot for 48 hours, and the last train to where I could park my car (about half an hour outside of the city) left five minutes after the bus I booked arrived at the train station… and these buses often arrive late. So I sent out a plea disguised as a Facebook message, begging a few of my friends to consider driving into the city at 12:30 in the morning to pick me up and drive me to my car. One friend said she could do it, but on Tuesday, thought better of it because she was in rehearsal until eleven. So I texted my friend Beth (yes, the same one who tested me for the tour guiding job) asking her if she could do it, and she blessedly said yes. So I was set.

Then I added a little more awesome to the trip, as if seeing one of my favorite performers and my favorite author weren’t making the visit almost unbearably awesome: I asked two of my friends to meet up with me, on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. You must understand what a huge deal it was for me to do this. As an introvert that has an intense fear of rejection, I rarely invite anyone to do anything, in case they say no. But I really wanted to see both of my friends, so I mustered up the courage and asked. Both of them said yes.

So off I went Wednesday morning for NYC. It’s only the second time in about four or five years that I haven’t gotten up at five a.m., at the latest, to get there, and it was very nice to sleep in. I got to New York around 1:30 and went to my hotel, hoping they would allow me to check in an hour and a half early. They did. I will say here that my hotel room was not pretty. It was plain and sparse and outside my window was a roof containing a lot of garbage and a pair of sneakers, but it was clean, and there was the added glow of it having been paid for from my own pocket.  At 4:15, I left to go meet my friend Molly for dinner. We were meeting at 5:30, but I’m glad I left so early, as I had to figure out the subway system and walk a bit, and I got very lost.

Something you have to understand about me meeting up with Molly is that, to me, it’s almost the same as meeting up with, well… Libba Bray. Yes, Molly is my friend. But she’s also a writer I admire greatly, and because I knew her first as a writer of whom I was a fan, I sometimes forget that she is a regular person who, like, breathes and does things other than write amazing plays. It also doesn’t help that I haven’t seen her in person in over ten months, though we’ve e-mailed back and forth a good number of times since then and talked on the phone a time or two. So I was pathetically nervous as I waited for her outside the restaurant. But then she arrived and was somehow more normal and still way cooler than me. Eventually, though, I relaxed enough to talk to her friend to friend and we talked of many things, including writing and Annie and post-graduate life. She also asked me if I was planning on moving to New York, and gave me a few tips on how to do so. All in all, the dinner was awesome and the restaurant, a Mediterranean wine and cheese place, was cool and I was able to find something to eat on the menu, which was very good.  When our phones struck 7:30, we paid and left so that I could get to the concert on time. Of course, it turned out that I had the wrong address for the theatre; thankfully, Molly had the right one and I made it to the theatre on time.

The concert was… magical. That’s the only word for it. I’d never been to a concert before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t think Regina Spektor fans are mosh pit-ers, but I thought they might be people who sing along, which is equally annoying. (My sister and I debate this point all the time; she says that singing along at concerts is acceptable and expected. I say that I didn’t pay to hear you or myself sing.) But everyone stayed in their seats (well, mostly. The people in my row kept getting up to get drinks which then made them have to pee. I swear they missed half the concert) and no one sang along. The band Only Son, with whom Regina Spektor has collaborated on a song, opened and I enjoyed their music, particularly the song It’s a Boy.

After the intermission, during which I bought a t-shirt, it was finally time for the guest of honor. And holy crap, she was AMAZING. I didn’t cry because I was in her presence or anything, but I understood the impulse- it’s incredible to be in the same room with someone so talented. Her songwriting and vocal skills are a marvel, and I never wanted the concert to end. Since I’m a new fan, I thought she might play some of her earlier stuff that I’d never heard and I’d be a little lost, but I knew all of the songs she played. It seems strange to call a thirty-something woman “adorable,” but that’s really the perfect adjective, besides, of course, talented. She’s not very tall (5’2″, according to Google), with hair that makes me want to let mine go natural more often, and a very youthful speaking voice, though her singing voice is very mature. And she was so nice and humble- the first thing she said when she got onstage was “I feel extra at home and extra nervous.” She was very gracious to both her band and Only Son, saying before she performed with the latter, “I seriously head-banged through [your] whole set. With clips in my hair, which is why my hair probably looks funny right now. But it was worth it. Because fuck hair.” One thing that surprised me about the concert as a whole was how casual it was- both bands talked to the audience a lot and Regina (’cause, you know, we’re on a first name basis) started Dance Anthem of the 80s over again. Before she started Ballad of a Politician, Regina said, “I’m so pissed off that sanity is becoming a lost cause. It’s pretty obvious who wants to support women and artists and basically everyone  who is fucking cool.” (She swore a lot.) After she finished and said goodbye and we all gave her a standing ovation for so long that she came out and did four more songs, ending with Samson, which is one of my favorites. It was just an amazing, amazing show.

After the concert, I walked the thirty or so blocks back to my hotel; it was a nice night and I was jazzed from the concert. I was pretty exhausted, so I went to bed almost right after I got back. On Sunday, I will report on my second day (I work from tonight until forever :p)

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