Candles on the card game table

When I was growing up, my family and I were lucky enough to have a cabin located alongside a cute river. We travelled there to find serenity probably about 3 times a year and every time we were there, I would find solace on the makeshift swing set my dad constructed between two trees. It was placed adjacent to the only pathway we took to get around the property. So essentially, I was always in the way. I swung back and forth watching my family dodge me as they needed to get somewhere, listening to my digital mp3 player that was stocked with every Disney Channel soundtrack. Camp Rock and The Lizzie McGuire Movie pushed me to swing higher and faster so that I could fly off the Earth. I remember this experience to be so exciting as a kid. Then, my mom would call me in to the cabin to have dinner. We didn’t have use of electrical power, so candles lit the way for us to eat and play card games before bedtime.

Tonight, I sat in my room during a power outage at my apartment and reminisced about what it felt like to enjoy an evening by candlelight. It seems I haven’t been away from electrical light enough because I felt completely relaxed. There’s something so natural about a soft light that only gives you a small diameter of vision. I read my book, listened to old music, and almost fell asleep at 7pm. 

Of course, as soon as my power came back on, I instantly opened up my laptop and connected to the internet. I can only dream.

A look back at January 2019…

I know I am capable of more than I think I am.

This mantra came to me during an improv class I took in New York at the beginning of this month. It stayed with me as I came back to Toronto and started my 2nd semester of third year. Saying this to myself, especially in times of desperation and sadness, helps me to crawl out of the dark place that I tend to go to often. The difference between knowing something and thinking something is so tricky, but if there’s one thing I know to be 100% sure it’s that I have more abilities than my brain can think up. That rumour that says we only use 10% of our brain scares me to bits. So, why not try to do more? To be more? To think more?

New York City, thank you.

My trip to NYC set up my 2019 in such an exciting way. The 7 days I spent there changed my negatives to positives and the city taught me to dream bigger. I woke up each morning ready to surpass my expectations of myself. By the end of the day, I was so tired that I fell right to sleep. This doesn’t happen in Toronto. Yes, it’s a big city too, but in Toronto, I can’t find the constant energy that I feel when I’m in New York. Could be the fact that some of most hard-working people live there and I would feel completely defeated if I hadn’t risen up to their level. Could also just be that I want to live there some day. I picture my life as a 25-40 year old in this city, working hard and playing harder. If only I could get my visa, everything would fall into place. I danced a lot while I was there. Not just in the classes I was taking at the Mark Morris Dance Centre but in the apartment I was staying at, and in the way I walked to the subway each day. I had a glide to my step that I’ve never felt before. I truly feel connected to the way New York functions. I love the art of the buildings; I love the lights that flash all night long; I love the sounds of tourists not knowing how great this city is. It brings me home every time I go there. I don’t feel like I’m just on a trip to another place. I feel like I’ve arrived to a joyful location that I’ve been away from for too long.

My new-found love for class.

With the classes I took in NY and the classes I have each day for school at Ryerson, I have found a new love for what it means to really use a class for its full benefits. My body and mind are shaky, but my heart is happy from the exertion of cardio and physicality. I’ve been striving to stay mindful during the ENTIRE class (which is so difficult somedays) and make sure to warm-up properly. I think what was holding me back from this for so long was that I was scared to mess up in front of people. Even my peers. I was anxious to fail for some reason. I want to be focused on my personal growth and on working smart and swiftly. This will help me achieve the body structure and artistic choices that I desire.

Helping children achieve!

Another happiness in my life has been and always will be teaching children. This month has brought new classes and rehearsals where I got to watch children enjoy the magic of dance. Teaching at Elite Danceworx lets me move away from my selfish tendencies and give my time to kids who just wanna dance! I can’t wait for more.

Bullet journaling, but not really.

I started watching bullet journalling videos on YouTube before bed to help me relax. The minimalist approach to the video (one shot with a book from bird’s eye view) has brought me into a state of calm and it has weirdly helped me stay productive. I’m not actually doing the bullet journalling, but watching other people organize their lives in creative and simple ways has been so inspiring. Maybe one day I’ll try to finish a journal, but I decided it would be too much to handle for the schedule I have currently.

No more clouds, but lightning remains.

My depression has been non-existent this month. The rainclouds have lifted from over my head, even though Toronto weather has been snowy to the max. Although I don’t feel down as much, my anxiety has been on full blast this month. I think that’s normal for a student of my level, and so I hope that next month I can find a balance of stress. Lightning strikes so quickly and powerfully and it causes my brain to run a million miles a minute. I’ll have a deadline to complete and my mind and body can’t seem to complete it without taking care of my heart. Luckily, February is my birth month and so I hope some extra love from my family and friends will guide me to find the balance I so greatly desire. My goal for February is accept all forms of love so that I can also give love in return. After all, Valentine’s Day is during this time of year!

Does purpose hold our creative process back?

During my Creative Performance Studies class on Thursday, January 17, my professor asked us to answer these questions in regards to our individual artistic endeavours. I wrote a lot and also gathered some answers from my classmates. Please enjoy.

1.Why is your work important to you?

Performing is precious to me because it helps me understand my life better. If I am playing a character or simply feeling an emotion, I use that to exercise my own thought process from different lenses. My own experiences are the only real feelings I’ll ever have but if I can understand the alternate universe of a performance, my experiences transform. I use the performance as therapy. Also, to help others have a sort of therapy.

2. Why is your work important at all?

Without sounding too pretentious, I think art and performance is crucial to human survival. Even art that may be considered “bad” has a place is our society. We must release our emotions and thoughts at some point. I would prefer to do that a lot, but some people just choose to do it every so often.

3. What makes you want to start something?

Honestly, I’ve been trying to push my limits more and performing helps me do that. Recently, I’ve been saying to myself “I know I am capable of more than I think I am.” This remind me not to feel comfortable. Using performance as a way to challenge my expectations and try new things. It feels more like a way of life, not just an in-the-studio thing.

4. Does purpose hold us back or no?

-gives us more confidence in what we are trying to express
-sometimes doesn’t really bring about new ideas
-makes us ask why
-offers a new learning experience
-can make us think too much about what the audience will think
-creation vs analysis: give a separate moment for each because trying to force the magic out of an idea is not truthful
-might end up thinking that everything we create is stupid because we haven’t fully created it
-everyday is different*

5. What are some factors that change our process?

Tiredness, happiness, an audience, desire, musical influence, sensation, goal setting, etc

6. What are the roles of the artist?

-make people feel something/tell a story
-help viewers understand themselves
-offer an escape from the viewers’ tough lives
-to shock or to trigger
-speak the universal language
-to educate
-say out loud what you can’t necessary say in public
-simple concepts
-to create magic

7. What are the responsibilities of the artist?

-to take instructions without losing authenticity
-the overall work has to be purposeful
-make the audience feel welcome in the space
-can’t try to please all the time
-try not to vomit too much to the audience
-educate ourselves and research the topic

My fourth night in New York City.

The strangest feelings came to me on my 4th night in NYC. 

I decided to go see The Waverly Gallery at the John Golden Theatre. The cast was stacked with Michael Cera, Élaine May, Joan Allen, David Cromer and to my delight, Lucas Hedges. I’ve always had a little crush on Lucas since I saw him in Manchester by the Sea (another Kenneth Lonergan piece of work). His talent and cuteness won me over right away.

So when I got my ticket (only $66 by the way- what a steal!), I ran back to the place I was staying at to clean up a bit. What if I run into him? What if he runs into me? What if we get married tonight? What if by some crazy chance, he bumps into me and feels so bad about it that he gets me into a bar and buys me champagne that makes me giggle with happiness and we end up spending the rest of our lives together in New York as two working actors who just want to get through life together? These were the thoughts in my head. Why did I want so badly for him to bump into me?

I arrived early enough at the theatre to scope out some celebrities. I knew that on a Friday night, this show would have a packed audience with friends of the cast coming to visit. Coincidently, I spotted Kate Burton, who played Ellis Grey (THEE Grey from Grey’s Anatomy). Her poise as she talked to some guy in the aisle had me realizing that tv stars are real people too. What a cool thing to be so close to her though.

The show began and the first scene had Lucas right into the action. I started to internally smile so wide. Couldn’t blow my cover, though. The show went on and I wanted so badly to be able to discuss it with the cast afterwards. Mostly Lucas, but I would give my left big toe to just have a conversation with the cast about the sad but charming story of these characters. Thank goodness I looked cute because I knew that if I got the chance, I could win Lucas over and get him to buy me a drink. 

What an idiotic thought that was.

By intermission, I needed to walk around to clear my head and so I decided to walk closer to the stage to check out the ceiling of the theatre and the foreground flat that covered the stage during scene changes. You know, theatre stuff. When I came to the closest part of the aisle that I could, a 40-something man beside me was giving me strange looks. I turned away from him knowing full well that as a young, alone woman, I am a prime suspect for something to happen. As it turned out, he asked me what I thought of the show. I answered to him but kept my body orientation towards the stage. I wasn’t really interested in talking to him. He proceeded to ask me about my life and why I was here and I felt like I had to respond. I wanted to just explore the theatre and not be bothered but he was very polite and I felt inclined to start a conversation. I tried to ask him about his life, as any adult would, but he kept the flow of questions projected at me. We talked about my cottage, and the fact that I am a dancer and his strange gaze never left my eyes or my body. Once the show was about to begin again, I told him to enjoy the second half and he asked me if I wanted to hang out afterwards. My anxiety kicked in and I muddled to him that I had to go to bed. What a childish thing to say. It wasn’t that he was being rude or anything it’s just that I was an underage, alone in the city woman who just didn’t get a good vibe from this person. I’m sure he was very kind but he was also alone and seemed to be wanting more than just to hang out. Also where would we go if I can’t get into the bars? So, I did my best to let him down and walked back to my seat.

I could have said “To be honest, I don’t really know you and I don’t have anyone I could go to if you were a serial killer rapist who ended up drugging me.” But, I kept it light this time.

The show finished and my mind was excited to try and find Lucas. There didn’t seem to be any other audience members at the stage door so I assumed that it wasn’t a thing. Bummer. I walked slowly towards the subway, hoping that maybe Lucas was a fast dresser and wanted to get out of the theatre fast enough to bump into me on the street. Again, more bumping thoughts… It’s New York City. Anything could happen!

On my way home, two other random men cat-called me as I walked. Great. One of them even Joey Tribbiani-ed me and said “How You Doin’?” Classic New Yorker. Are these the guys I get so dolled-up for?

I began to wonder why I put so much expectation on myself to win the affection of a celebrity actor. What arrogance did I have that I could imagine my night going that way? All I got were disappointing interactions with men that I just didn’t care for. But maybe that’s who I attract. Maybe I’m just destined to be in the arms of a much older man than me who is lonely for attention.

I made it a promise to myself that I would try to find love this year. It’s 2019, I’ve never had a boyfriend for longer than a month and I need to get on with it. No more waiting around for Prince Charming. Or Lucas Hedges for that matter. 

If I expect fate to play out like a movie scene, all I will get is the lonely scums that want me for the most superficial reasons. Sorry, girl. It’s just how it is. 

And that was how my 4th night in NYC went.

Mike Birbigulia’s The New One (Broadway show)

Post-show reflection.

His charm had me hooked right away. When Mike walked on, someone in the 7th row centre clapped and pointed so loudly that it rang above everyone’s else’s clapping. Mike immediately told this guy that he was “too drunk for theatre” and I knew then and there that this was going be a special show for me. 

Mike ran through stories of medical issues, sex experiences, his wife’s poems and more. It wasn’t what he talked about, it was the colloquial and softness to his delivery that made me laugh so loud. To be honest, I was worried others would get offended by my outbursts. I tend to watch comedy shows in the comfort of my bedroom with my headphones on and Netflix is the only view I have. So experiencing a live one man comedy show was new for me and I’m so happy I got to fit it in my life. My Saturday night was perfected with this show. I was satisfied, although I didn’t leave with an amazement that I usually do with the theatre. But that’s okay.

There was a moment in the performance where (spoiler alert) a truckload of baby toys falls from the ceiling and onto the once-empty stage. This almost brought tears to my eyes because I felt like I was on a rollercoaster. I was simultaneously nervous for Mike because I was scared he was gonna collapse underneath this heap of paraphernalia, and shocked because the first half of his show consisted of nothing but him and the stage. It was a smart move to add in something extra to wake up the audience, and it was also hilarious to watch him navigate through the maze of stuffed toys and baby products. 

I feel very attached to comedy after this show and it reminds me to take life a little bit more unserious. Nothing has to be stressful if we want to enjoy it. Right? I think this is something my parents never taught me and I hope I find more of this in my journey to being dead.

The Waverly Gallery (Broadway play)

Post-show reflection.

Lots to think about with this show. As an avid musical theatre lover, I have to say this play was a slower pace than I’m used to. That being said, I was engaged the entire show. The dialogue was human. The acting was executed in a humanistic fashion. Kenneth Lonergan’s play was a human in itself. Troubled and lonely, just as each human watching the show has been their whole life. I paid for my ticket and I got my money’s worth.

Michael Cera and Lucas Hedges took the younger perspective to a great depth. I connected with their characters’ feelings more, obviously, because they were just as lost as I would be if an old person was going crazy in front of me. The only similar situation I’ve been through is with an aunt I knew at the ripe age of 8. She died, but I didn’t realize how sad her life had been. I was too ignorant. Having to be the light in someone’s life without even knowing it is so weird. 

Élaine May grabbed the stars with this performance. With every “what” or “huh” that she mustered, her character, Gladys, fell deeper into a state of insanity. From what I saw, Élaine handled this difficult human experience by caring for her character. She let Gladys go to that horrid place but made sure there was a pillow to land on. If she doesn’t get a Tony, I don’t know what will.

Joan Allen and David Cromer as the middle-aged babysitters for Gladys were both sad and hilarious at the same time. I really enjoyed watching them work through the dialogue that was made up of a lot of repeating themselves. It must be exhausting to make sure the second time they said the line, it had more umph to it.

I did notice that the audience laughed a lot. Maybe it was because Alzheimer’s is such a horrendous thing to discuss and so, the natural reaction would be to make a joke of it. I didn’t feel like the play was trying to be funny, in most cases, so being in a crowd of awkwardly giggling people was very strange for me. I tried to just feel my own emotions towards the play but some times I just went along with the group’s decision to laugh.

I can honestly say I feel like I went to a masterclass when watching this show. The professionalism and dedication to the craft had me so inspired to be a performer. I’ll always be a dancer, but this show helped me appreciate the wonderful world of acting.

Waitress (Broadway musical)

Post-show reflection.

It’s more than just a musical. It’s a story of domestic abuse turned into a woman’s new-found strength. I found myself in tears from the first few songs as we learned of the main character’s situation. She is stuck. And her husband is too dopey to notice that he’s ruining her life. When she discovers that her doctor actually cares about her, Jenna’s first reaction is to hate him. She says “I think you’re strange” because she’s never felt compassion from another human. Only selfish love from her horrible husband, Earl.

Oh Sara. Your melodies are timeless. I feel so connected to the story of these characters because the music has such a vibrant colour to it. I noticed that the cast really had to push their breath out with each note due to the rhythmical complexity of Sara’s score. The cast also had to really focus their performing on singing rather than acting and moving to execute the high-low pitch ratio. I listened to Sara’s other albums on the way home because I couldn’t get enough.

Christopher Fitzgerald is a MASTER of comedy. He knew exactly how to get the audience on his side. Watching him work was a real treat that I won’t forget. I’ve followed him since his run as Boq in Wicked and I was fan-girling so hard. The people behind me were probably so confused as to why this broadway-lover was jumping up and down in her seat. His timing and physical abilities were just the cherry on top of the pie that this character needed. Every single audience member was laughing, even when he cartwheeled off-stage. True performer.

Also, June Squibb! I mean, could there be anyone better to play Joe?! Better than the original cast member!

I will say that the performance I saw had four understudies and it was very noticeable. Dr. Pomatter was flat and tried too hard to sing like a musical theatre actor. He was more gifted in his comedic lines but that’s probably because the character is so lovable in the book. As well, the woman who played Dawn missed the mark in terms of capturing the anxiety-ridden waitress. Undoubtedly, she got lost next to Chris Fitz. Sorry girl! *backwards snap lean-back*

Stephanie Torns as Jenna made everything better. She definitely carried the show and didn’t fuddle with the intensity of multiple solos. I could tell her voice was a bit coarse from the weather of January but her version of “She Used to be Mine” had just the right emotional range. I especially enjoyed her stoic gaze as Earl prodded her and grabbed her during their scenes. Very well done. She also looked oddly similar to Jessie Mueller (who originated the role) so that helped!

All in all, I cried a lot and laughed a lot and appreciated the story more than anything else. If only I could have seen Gavin Creel and Sara Bareilles in the main roles, but their schedule doesn’t start until I leave New York. Still glad I saw it.