Tony Season

I have a confession to make. As a theatre artist in NYC, who’s been involved in theatre for most of my life, it’s rather shameful.

I have not intentionally watched the Tony Awards since 2012. I have not even been tempted.

In all honesty, when the Tony’s come around, I feel a mild sense of burn out and guilt that I’m not more excited.

Not to say that I am not over the moon for the familiar faces and names. I scour the nomination list in the NY Times, and I look up the winners the next day. I squeal to see colleagues, friends, mentors, even the kid I babysat have their names up in lights.

A Juilliard grad I worked with won a few years back. I caught that clip when the bar I was in changed the channel on the screen. I screamed to see him accept the award and laugh myself to tears remembering how I had creatively threatened him into being on time for rehearsals (with only moderate success).

But I have no interest in watching the awards show. I avoid social media the day of and after because the hype around it always annoys me, it gets under my skin in a way that I have never been able to name.

It’s not jealousy, I know envy and how it tightens my shoulders and sends a lead weight straight to my intestines.

This is itchy. It’s an irritant, like a wool sweater that doesn’t fit.

This year, the kid I babysat, (who is now 19 and no longer a kid), was part of the cast that won Best Play. His posts and photos show a glowing face and the awe of someone who is young and achieving their dreams. He’s in shock. Another winner worked at my company when he became Equity. I filled out the paperwork and contracts to make him a union actor. Now he’s a Tony winner in a show that he tells us changed his life and helped him celebrate his identity. His smile might break his face in two.

And suddenly I realized why it is I have such a physical and visceral reaction to the Tony’s.

This isn’t my dream. It never has been.

As a theatre artist, a stage manager, and a producer, this is supposed to be the goal. The award and party you are always working towards in everything that you do. And I’ve discovered that I genuinely do not care if I never get to see a Tony Award up close. It is not my dream. I would not have the same glow as those people I care about and celebrate.

So what does that look like? Is this the post where I publicly denounce my undergrad degree and walk away from the industry that I’ve been connected to my entire life?

Of course not.

But as I’ve come to terms with my life patterns shifting, I do know one thing. I have gotten involved in theatre and the arts, not for awards or glory, but for the people. The best people I have known are people I have met through art and theatre. The people who inspire me, who taught me to hustle, who give me such amazing stories to tell, are artists, are people who have dedicated their craft to the theatre in all its forms, including the Tony’s.

But it is time to change direction. If Broadway has never held much appeal to me, why I am so dedicated to living in New York? If I don’t care about the Tony’s, what do I care about?

I care about people. I care about making people smile, changing lives, changing perspectives, I care about taking care of people, about learning new things, about being challenged, about problem-solving, and about having fun in my work.

I care far less about a statue and national recognition than I do about the about the ice cream cake, bad jokes, and homecooked meal my company put together for my birthday this year. There are photos of me nearly in tears surrounded by these once-strangers from all over the world who went out of their way to spoil me (before once again driving me crazy about 10 minutes later).

And I’m sorry, but pretending to my south Indian crew that Tres Leches is an American cake (they were so proud of themselves for finding an American sweet for my birthday!) will always rank high on my happiest and proudest moments.

So while I love New York, and recognize it will always be home, I don’t think I love New York theatre. And that’s okay.

So one step at a time, to a new path, a new adjustment, and another global experience. Or at least defining what that looks like.

In the meantime, to all the Tony winners, nominees, and dreamers; Congratulations on achieving and being one step closer to your dreams. I am always so proud to share a city with you dreamers.

 

Xx

Home That Was

What is the word for home

that is no longer “home”?

No longer a base, a fortress

or a regular destination.

But once, it was.

It was

Where your dreams were planted

and your life was

changed, once and again, and again,

shaped and molded and pushed and prodded,

challenged and changed.

The place that was once your sanctuary

and is now…

what?

Quiet.

A place of memories, old familiarities.

New faces, new storefronts, new routines.

New. Different. Changed.

But yet the same.

Same blinking stop light, same broken harbor, bridge under construction.

It once was home.

Now?

A place of myth, nostalgia, the place that was,

A placebo, a pattern, a reflex.

Home that was.

The salt air smells the same.

Culture Shock; The Reverse

I’ve been back from my 6-month stint in the Middle East about a month.

I’ve noticed several changes in my body and temperament.

To put it mildly, I came back from Dubai an Emotional Wreck.

I got off the plane and wanted to cry. My initial thought upon entering JFK that morning was “I want to go home”

But I was home. I was coming home after being gone for so long.

The boy who had waited for me brought wine and cheese to my house, all waiting for me when I arrived. I wanted to cry again, for all the wrong reasons.

I have an event that day. I sit with my business partners and run our tech rehearsal. The performers were so good, again I was nearly in tears after our Hamlet spoke.

I went to dinner with these partners and friends I hadn’t seen in 6+ months and wanted to cry in relief at being with them again.

At the event I gave a speech and raised over $400 in donations for #TimesUp and felt so alive in my skin, skilled and connected, I was brimming with pride and love and ready to cry in sheer joy.

My best friend and roommate reunite again. It’s not instantly joyous and we slowly adapt to sharing our lives again. We get there, but it takes time. In that time every bump, every brush off, feels like a burn. I forget how to live here. I feel out of place in my own home, my own city.

This is all within 18 hours of my landing in the USA.

This does not go away.

A boy who is not the boy I am dating messages me. We met in Dubai and are now 8,000 miles apart.

We talk about life and love and our separate futures.

He tells me how he misses me. He describes a woman I do not recognize. But a woman I desperately want to be.

And I realize something. I realize why I am an emotional wreck.

Because in Dubai, amidst the stress, the chaos, overstimulation, and drama, I was happy. I had a purpose and a job I enjoyed. I was eating well and doing yoga daily, I had a supportive network and professional team and was surrounded by friends and some really good people.

Somehow, I had become a happy human being. And had not recognized it.

I had spent years in NYC struggling through my anxiety and depression, finding pools of sunlight in the murky dark of my mind for so long that I had confused contentedness for being happy.

But in New York, I had been merely surviving.

In Dubai, in this job, I had thrived.

And now, my entire physical being was fighting against going back to the familiar murky depths of my broken mind. Against going back to the patterns I’ve kept up for years because they were safe, small pockets of light that allowed me to ignore the dark,

I will not be put back into survival mode.

I will not let these small lights and glimmers of love distract me from the gloom trying to take me back.

I know better. I can be better.

I am better than my complacency and laziness. I am stronger than my darkness.

And I have a freaking awesome support network.

A week later, I end things with the boy in New York.

I admit to myself (and him) my feelings for this boy halfway around the globe in Mumbai.

We start talking about finding each other again.

I roll out my yoga mat and I attach a pen to my physical being at all times.

I start to rebuild my body and sharpen my mind.

I start to pray again.

I’m learning Hindi.

I’m writing every day.

I get a small contract to pay me for my writing and PR assistance. I’m learning how to sell my mind and get paid by the hour.

I surround myself with love. My friends, my roommate, my chosen family, my books, my stories,

And I celebrate them.

I am still far from free. But the happiness and hope I am cultivating and working on every day are real.

And they are still beating back the darkness.

I am still a weepy mess at happy news. because joy and hope in this world are so important. Sometimes the only way I can honor it is by blessing it in salt. ❤️

Changes

Life changes quite rapidly, have you noticed?

When I last posted, I had made decisions about the next six months of my life. I everything planned out and had a future in mind. The only variables were the boy I had just met and grad school looming in the future. It was going to be a wonderful and structured summer. I knew where my life was going and what was happening.

Then on a whim I rented a car and drove up to Pittsfield, Massachusetts to see a new musical I had been involved in years ago. I told none of my friends or former colleagues I was coming. It was just a spur of the moment trip. I also thought it would be fun to surprise them if things looked quiet in the office.

I stop to pick up flowers as I cross into town and finally check my phone that had been on silent the last three hours. Something close to 16 missed messages. 5 from my former boss/mentor and the rest from my good friend, and his current assistant. They had seen my name on the house report, was I really coming to see the show? Where was I? Was I here yet?

Then the two that would change everything.

“Do you want my job?” (This is an old joke as her former intern. I laughed to myself and didn’t respond)

“No, I’m serious this time. I just gave notice…”

I walk into the office and am promptly picked up and deposited in her chair. “See ?”she says, “I fixed the problem!” After more chaos and hellos from old friends and colleagues, I sit down with my mentor. I ask if he’s serious about this all. And while he’s still wrapping his mind around her departure, he’s serious. If I want the job, it’s mine. He’ll be putting out a search in the coming weeks, I should expect a call.

“Weeks” becomes one, we have an informal chat about what this would mean and the actual duties of the job. He’s interviewing two others, I’m still first choice if I want it. I won’t hear from him for about a week or so.

It’s less than 24 hours when he calls back with an offer. What’s my decision?

I remember being in my office in New York, between Madison and 5th avenues. I’m doing well, by all definitions I’m successful. But this job isn’t the one I want. It’s barely in the field I want to be in. I look around at my framed pictures and bulletin boards and folders of materials for the incoming students and suddenly feel trapped and stifled. The chains of academia suddenly are a crushing weight on my aspirations.

So before I barely think the words. Yes. Yes, I’ll take it. Send me a contract and we’ll begin negotiations for my arrival in Massachusetts.

My boss arrives several hours later. I give notice at the end of the day. I have done many scary and crazy things. Giving notice at Syracuse University still may be one of the scariest things I’ve done so far.

And somehow, I float on my way to dinner with an old friend. Who nearly drops his laptop in his shock at the sudden turnabout.

The weight was gone. And I had two weeks to pack up my life and try starting a new one.

So here we are in the Berkshires, helping run a theater company. My mentor/boss and I share looks and laughter over our desks of how utterly insane we are to be here and the utter insanity we deal with on a regular basis. But every night, the show goes on, the beautiful moments happen, and we make some art and make some difference.

And it makes all the difference.

 

A Goodbye

Have you ever noticed how crying, the real heavy sit down and bawl crying, sounds like laughter? My neighbor in the hall asked what was so funny. Before he noticed my eyes were red.

I am not a pretty crier. I don’t glisten like the girls on tv who look ethereal and shimmering through their tears. I snot and wheeze and bawl every ounce of my being fighting the unfairness of the world that brought me here to tears.

I’m red and puffy and sniffling. It does no good. You’re still gone. Nothing has changed.

And the wheel keeps turning. It’s both beautiful and cruel how the world keeps moving. Time stops for no one.

When you leave for college your freshmen year, you expect your world to stay the same, much like your childhood bedroom you leave behind. It’s as though the past 18 years of your life are a painting, you simply step out of it leaving a white patch, when you return, you slip right back in. The kids you babysat remain kids, the puddle in your driveway remains unfilled, your siblings are still short pre-teens, your room remains brightly painted and filled with posters covering every inch of ceiling space your parents would allow you to pin into, time is supposed to halt without you to watch it.

You were supposed to be the same. We lost teeth together, in fact, you definitely punched out one of my baby teeth. We learned how to write in cursive together then we joined the same local Brownie troop, you teased me for not being a member of the Daisy troop the year before and then again when I continued to be a girl scout once you quit, and later a cadet.

We did Math Olympiads together, and some silly terrible youth cleverness team competition where we shocked the judges. Not because we did well, but because our team had been so damn terrible at our performance project we had spent months working on and yet came in first place by far in the team problem solving tests. I think our score wound up being somewhere in the middle when averaged out. We didn’t care though. We were all so excited to play on the really cool playground on the quad at GHAMAS. We played tagged and got covered in mud because it was still early spring. Your mother never forgave us for that.

We learned about death together. We were 13 when he had the accident and later she took her life. We knew death of course, but for grandparents, for reckless teenagers. But our friends? Their siblings? It was inconceivable. I was sitting between my parents in the catholic church when I saw you. I didn’t know what to do, so I waved. You’re not supposed to wave at a funeral apparently.

I wish I could go to yours. I’d wave at  you. One more time.

We drifted apart in high school, you were better at math and science, and couldn’t have cared less about grades. I loved languages, theatre, and psychology, and I wanted good grades to help me leave our hometown for good. We didn’t have a class together for years. Until photography, then other art classes, and you joined the ballroom team with Rachelle and laughed at me as I pretended to know what I was doing and teach the underclassmen. You loved to laugh at me, I was stubborn but I was also aware that I provided plenty of material. I would laugh along with you.

You watched me as I pretended to be an artist creating jewelry both beautiful and horrendous. You also pointed out the obvious, what kind of crazy high school teacher left me alone with a blow torch?? I had allowed myself to think I was special. I was a responsible adult-like student who could be trusted with an open flame. Looking back, you were totally right. She was nuts. Thank God the building is still standing.

Then we graduated. I don’t remember seeing you in a cap and gown. I don’t remember seeing you since. I can hear your laugh, see the chipped dark polish on your nails that you never really stopped biting. Did I see you when I taught at the Summer Arts Academy? Or are those halls just so full of our memories that I hear your laughter in them and insert you into the recent years?

Our friendship felt like my childhood bedroom, no matter many years, it would still be there, unchanged. I waited for the day we’d cross paths, maybe a quick coffee chat at the Avon Starbucks we used to think was so cool. We’d chat and promise to hang out again. Then years later, it would happen again. One day we’d see each other and vent about how our children are just like us, God knows how we survived to adulthood! We would maybe exchange christmas cards, in the way that old friends do. We would lead different lives but honor that history. We were each others “weird friend” who’d always been around. Who always would be, maybe on the periphery, but always there, a social media click away.

But that’s not how the world works, is it?

I came home after a year of college to find my childhood bedroom rearranged and repainted. White. From purple and green and eclectic to white. The posters were neatly wrapped and packed away for me. There was a sewing machine in it now. The kids I babysat were entering Jr. High, High school, driving even, my parents filled in my favorite puddle, and my baby sister became a tall, beautiful  cheerleader.

You died. And no one thought to tell me.

Time doesn’t stop moving just because we aren’t watching.

You had only started your quest to see the world. You’ve done amazing things in the 24 years you were given, but oh what could you have done, had you had one more chance?

I was waiting for our paths to cross again, because of course they always will.

My mother called to offer condolences today. I had no idea what she was talking about.

In what world could you have been gone four days, and I have not noticed?

The same way we barely noticed each other anymore.

The last time we spoke was a Facebook birthday wall post. That was the only communication we had for years. Facebook. Years of playing and teasing and being stupid kids then teenagers reduced to Facebook.

Of course no one thought to tell me you’d died. Facebook would do that for them.

 

You deserved better. From me, from the world, from the damn drugs, all of it should have been better. You deserved a bit longer.

I am sorry for what I could control. You deserve better. You deserve more.

May the angels protect you. May you give them hell.

With love, always.

As Life Moves On

Dear Friend,

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new chapter, a new adventure in this crazy story we’re trying to write. You took the brave step, you looked around and realized that what once was our home has become a new story where you no longer fit.

I want you to know how proud of you I am.

Your infectious smile and attitude brightened the halls of that office. You welcomed hundreds of nomads like us into a temporary home and each season for them, and for us, it was home. It was our lovely sanctuary. Every inch of that small town is covered in memories of silliness and kindness and making names and lives for ourselves for the first time. We lived for years in a fairy tale.

There’s something so heartbreaking in outgrowing your fairy tale. Your happily ever after is no longer. Did they change? Did we? Somehow the shoe no longer fits. You waited longer than I did. Determined that the world we loved would return, you stayed to save it.

Then overnight it became beyond saving.

You grew so brave. The girl I met with so many years ago would never have been able to face down our mentor, father figure, and friend to tell him you’ve been pushed too far. You gave your notice and walked away with barely a backward glance.

I remembered the first night we met. Our cars full with everything we could call our own, stashed in the attic room of a dilapidated intern house. We’d be moved to another house the next morning, they didn’t know what to do with us so they stuck us there for the night. You had long dark curls and a huge bright white smile that lit up the room. We sat cross legged facing each other on a creaky twin cot and began telling each other our life stories. Somehow in those first hours we knew, our life stories from here on out would include each other.

By the next year we were known as a pair. They roomed us together, and when our contracts changed, they moved us again under the same room. We spent our days working to support a company we loved and our nights on mountaintops, covered in paint, or slipping each other love notes and McDonald’s apple pies when we got caught working or loving too hard.

Ups and downs have always been the two of just skipping rope and stepping on forward.

Then I got an offer out of state, you got a full time contract, I fell in love with my city, you created a life in the small mountain town.

I hitched up to see you this summer, and when you had to work, I cleaned houses alongside you just to be able to see you and pretend like old times we were still moving side by side. We moved like nothing had changed, while around us, everything was changing.

I produced a play I knew you’d hate. You raced the Metro North to Poughkeepsie after missing your stop in order to make it for the closing show. You brought a card for me, I had chocolate and a stuffed animal for your upcoming birthday waiting with your ticket.

You wrap up your end at this place that was our beginning. There’s a love note like this one waiting at your door. In a few weeks, I will be waiting too.

So much is changing, one story ends now, the next is just beginning.

I don’t know where these new stories will take us, but I know one thing for sure; your name will be in the pages.