Becoming your chosen path, being successful, all comes at a cost, one that I've managed to avoid for years but finally, am tackling it head on. Family holidays, and not being with the ones you love as is "tradition."
Back in Undergrad I was very lucky that I lived a mere 20 miles from home, easily enough to get home and visit family, visit friends, and maintain doctor appointments, and chiro care, etc. But one thing that never crossed the radar was holidays. Until I studied abroad in London, and then suddenly, Easter was whisked away from family dinners and family reunions.
I became okay with the holidays starting to shift their meanings for me. I'm a family type guy. At the end of the day, the most important people to me are my family. Always have been, always will be. Why did I have to start abandoning our traditions? My mother had a different plan however, she, being the other half of the glue gun in our family chose to shift our traditions in a different fashion. Do holidays have to be celebrated on their actual days? Can they be celebrated under the same traditions but under another date? Surely.
Now, becoming a busy little beaver here in DC, I'm refocusing my efforts again on the Holiday conversation. Thanksgiving, the time when we should be thankful for all that we have, seems to have the blues in me playing at full volume. WI is just far enough that it's nearly impossible and improbable to get there and back in 24 hours to celebrate. Luckily, we were able to double dip in a way, when I was at home for a family wedding a couple weeks ago. Although it felt strange to celebrate a bit way early, it still was an enjoyable afternoon.
I celebrated my first Orphan holiday two years ago at Easter time, where I invited everyone at grad-school over to enjoy an afternoon of food, fun, frivolity, and card games. We had a few people show up and enjoy the whole day. Although it was not the typical day it had once been, it was refreshing to spend it "off" and in a sense of relaxed fun. Recently, the idea of an orphan holiday became a more full fledged acceptance while working with a fellow sound designer. We discussed the notion of what it means to take friends in, and just celebrate together, ditching the Thomas Kinkade romanticism, and instead, focusing and refocusing on the enjoyment of life, and frivolity... and maybe a drink or two.
Who knows what the future has in store? Can holidays get a full day off again in the future? Are holidays staying a thing anymore in the world?
Food for thought.
While going into work at the local venues across DC, I've become increasingly aware of those who are familiar faces in our production team, and those who are completely unfamiliar and unknown to me. At what point do we raise an alarm and ask who these people are? Sometimes simple spectating now, has become a fear in the workplace.
I was cruising through the Facebook interface and found this fantastic article regarding performing venue safety, and I have to say- I would strongly agree with the article. There are very horrific images in this, please use caution when viewing. http://www.jimonlight.com/2015/11/20/what-if-im-attacked-at-work-a-crew-primer-part-1/
What is it that we can do to keep us all safe? Is the next stop TSA style screenings just to enjoy an evening? When do we get "normal" back?
As I sit here in the middle of technical rehearsals for Sons of the Prophet at Theater J in Washington DC, shaken emotionally from the turmoil that rattled through the streets and venues of Paris last night, it also forced a new thought into my mind: "What about here? What about where I live in DC?"
I was out with my friend last night, she is currently a lead in the National Opera's Appomatix at the Kennedy Center, she and I both sat in a restaurant near our homes meeting for some friendly frivolity and good eats at the local Copper Canyon Grille, I sat there and thought, what about us? What about right now? What happens if a gunman pulls out an assault riffle and shoots us, right here, in the midst of our dinner? What happens to Leah? What happens to me? What happens to the world and the lives we're living? Will someone know to call our stage managers and tell them we're unable to come in? Will someone notify my parents? Will someone even be able to identify my body? What if it is a bomb instead of a gun? Will I be able to have my death plans still intact? Will my soul find heaven? Will my loved ones guide my journey to the next realm? What happens to the survivors? Will I be one of them?
I am terrified.
September 11th happened a while ago, but I remember it like yesterday. I lived in a town 7 miles from a mostly inactive military base. Terror to a 12 year old is watching military trucks roll in like it was a post apocalyptic film. Watching gas stations run out of gas, watching people panic, watching inactivity go to full blown training center for death and destruction in the efforts of war. Suddenly, it hit home. Knowing now what that feeling was like, I cannot fathom the profound sense of grief, loss, and pure terror of being in an active situation like Paris has seen, and yet, it is the societal norm in many middle eastern countries and for many other locations in the world. The normal is terror, hatred, and death. When did the world become this way? Why?
Can we change the world through love?
I can only hope that the world is changing. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's dream has been realized in some small capacities, and yet, there are MILES to go before we walk hand in hand, arm in arm, together. We have marriage equality, we have strong people of every ethnicity in many locations, but it is not enough. What is enough? What goal do we feel is the appropriate end? Is there an end? Can others find a similar path to healing and rebuilding? Who is right?
I had the very good fortune to work alongside and see the work of some very influential people of this era. Both in Chautauqua, and here in DC, Eva DuVernay, director of Selma the film, spoke at Chautauqua about her thoughts in directing this pivotal American film. She mentioned that her interest sparks not only from growing up in the namesake town, but also hearing the push for freedom, the cry of the mother who's child was dumped at a hospital and not taken care of, and the terror of the unknown members of the KKK knocking on your door with bricks while crosses burn in your front lawn. I have to wonder, is this how the people of the Middle East feel? Are these terror plots comparable? Is comparison right?
Sons of the Prophet may not be directly about anything to do with terror and all the horrible awful going on in the world; and yet, to me, it has everything to do with terror in life, A gay man works for health insurance to survive, a father's death, an uncle's concern for family, a boss who has nothing but her assistant, a brother torn on where to care, and a sense of desperation about being alone in the world. Is this where we find the root of the world's problems? In our differences? Is it too difficult to accept each other for the uniqueness that is our global differences?
Food for thought on this Saturday.
Tonight I had the distinct honor of being invited to the World Premiere Invited Dress Rehearsal of Appomatix at the Opera House in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, by non-other than my good friend Leah Hawkins, who is one of the lead cast members in the opera.
First: my small unimportant review.
Act 1: Far too lengthy with only about 35 - 40 minutes actually being necessary information. Although beautiful in its design and performance!
Act 2: BRILLIANT, I wished that Act 1 had been more like Act 2. Here's why: 100 years after we see the end of the Civil War, we are in 1965 D.C., the White House, and seeing not only the struggle LBJ was facing, but truly focusing on the core of the whole show, which was the Civil Rights movement, the equal voting movement, the equality divide, and so many other components. There was an electricity in Act 2 that just did not exist in Act 1, and I was so removed from it. Act 2 brought me right into the story immediately, I felt for all of the characters, I felt challenged by an opera which is what I had wanted in Act 1.
Act 3: Short, direct, and full of an almost unbearable tension, that made my blood boil but also brought tears to my eyes.
The Finale: God if only the whole show could have been that on repeat, absolutely STUNNING cohesion of all the design elements, the singers, the musicians, the management, everything was flawless. I could have listened to that until I died and been happy all the days of my life. More about this below! :)
Now- the fun part.
Phillip Glass was in the audience. Why? Because he wrote the music and created this production with libretto by Christopher Hampton. First off, let me start by saying how much I admire Glass's work. I have used it as inspiration for my job in the theatre industry, and have turned to it when I needed to have an emotional purge. My favorite piece of his is still Dead Things.
That said, I sort of had an inkling he might be there tonight because there was an extra tech table in the audience not near any other table, and with two lights on it, I sort of did the math and thought, well, maybe, just maybe by some happenstance it'll be him. Sure enough, 2 minutes before curtain, I spot him taking his place at this table.... 4 rows in front of me. Yes, a mere 10 feet separated me and one of my composer idols.
Now, let's be honest, I'm not ashamed of fan-girling when appropriate, behind closed doors, and with close friends, but I had all I could do not to rush down to him and thank him for everything. Luckily, instinct kicks in after about a split second and you suddenly realize how uncool that would be to do that sort of thing, and not to mention how deranged I would look just bursting over 4 perfectly good rows of seats filled with no one. So, I sat back, thought, well, I have one of the most unique perspectives tonight. Not only did I get to watch this world premiere as a first audience, but I also got to watch it through Phillip Glass's perspective. I literally sat directly behind him, and although I was not seeing it through his direct eyes, the vision was still there, listening and riding every single melisma of music, every nuance played so accurately by the extremely talented orchestra at the Opera House. Watching the conductor's baton rise and fall, arms outstretched cueing the singers, watching Leah ride the waves of sound in her big debut on the Opera House stage, it was surreal.
The most exciting moment for me was the end. A group of 30 or so women stand in a collective clump and have an absolutely haunting melodic and harmonious phrasing structure while the 5 lead women press on with another Glass specialty in counterpoint. It suddenly fades into the 5 women only singing, and then we are left with one sole singer, center stage, holding a 10 bar high note, delicately placed with the orchestra completely cut out. She releases the note, the orchestra provides the resolution to the music, everyone starts clapping, and Phillip Glass without a break in the moment puts his hands in the air as if to silence a room, and by God did everyone immediately stop their cheer, as the entire collective group of women RE-RESOLVED the counter point that was previously going. Mind. Blown. I could not keep sitting and as soon as the lights hit their black out I was on my feet feverishly applauding the gorgeous work I had seen.
It still does not occur to me the number of people that I will meet and watch do their craft who I so greatly admire, it is a bewildering labor of love and also excitement to be in this industry, to sit mere feet away from names I had only ever known by hearing their voice or listening to their brilliance in composition. I continually pinch myself when I walk in those hallowed halls at the Kennedy Center, one of the largest and most prestigious venues in the world, undoubtedly perfect for so many reasons, most of all, to me, because I get to call it my job, at least for now while on this fellowship. I am blessed. I am honored and humbled daily in my work.
More postings coming soon!
Remember to be kind, be humble, and be the you inside that wants to live on the outside of you.
Friends, Colleagues, Family:
Please help my dear friend Joshua Runkles, who just went under emergency open-heart surgery for an Aortic Dissection that came at quite possibly one of the worst times in his life. No insurance, no income due to the severity of the issue, and a really large medical bill.... he needs all of the help he can get!
Visit the GoFundMe page and donate to help this incredible theatre person out!
We're close to the original goal, can we surpass it!?