There is mere hours that stands between us and the yearly tradition of bombarding relatives with gifts, drinks, songs, and merriment. Working in the entertainment industry is of its own #Framily (Thanks Nova Payton!). We all spend countless hours making sure shows are up and running, but what really comes down to, are the mega millions (insert sarcasm here), to the box office sales that can happen on the holidays too. It's actually quite something to behold, and exciting that so many people are going to live entertainment, but how do we get them the other 11 months out of the year? How do we, in theater, dance, art, etc, keep butts in seats, how do we bring in people to see our work?
I am excited to go "off grid" for 5 days starting on Christmas Day. I will be flying home to WI, and spending time with my loved ones. I can't wait to take a small break and unplug for a bit. Always fascinating isn't it? We used to be able to turn off our phones when we went to bed, or when we wanted, but lately, if we're not available 24/7/365, someone's not happy. To them, I say - relax. Live. Breathe. It's going to be okay. I know this, because I've appreciated a distance break before. Have you?
Wrapping up a tremendous 2015 will be my last blog of the 2015 year, and then 2016 will start another huge adventure. Details to come! :)
Love and blessings friends!
Has your heart ever been so full that all you can seem to do is allow the steady stream of tears to flow from your eyes, because there clearly isn't anything else to do? That seems to be a reoccurring theme this past week for me. From mixing this beautiful cabaret at Signature Theatre, to designing a Jewish Holiday-esque show, to reading 20-something brand new plays written by very talented young writers, to talking shop with fellow alumni, talking about the summer plans (of which I have no idea which route I'm planning to take... someone need a sound designer?!), to just being swept up by a gospel choir in the cabaret... ya'll, it's the HOLIDAZE!
I say "holidaze" because I am truly dazed by the amount of stuff I'm doing, interviewing for, and just finally seeing all the puzzle pieces fit together for the first time. Maybe it's not the pieces so much so that I've been stumbling trying to put together a puzzle in the pitch black of night with no light and no idea where to find the pieces. There have been many lightning bug echoes of illumination along the process, but it is often difficult to see everything you need to see at the moment the flicker happens. So, here you are, fumbling, with tiny little bug butt lights going crazy, you're naturally half crazy anyway, and you're trying to put this damn puzzle together and you don't even know what the final picture is supposed to be; suddenly, you've got the brightest shining stars lighting your pathway and suddenly everything feels solid, committed, and sort of laid out like this magical path that diverges in the woods... somewhere along that divergence, I must have taken the one less travelled, for I am all the wiser and better for doing so.
On Equality and The Dream.
Tonight, our fantastic drummer and I had a great conversation about children today, how there is a serious lack of respect and discipline in many of today's youth. We had quite a lengthy chat about how to correct it, how to keep kids out of trouble, and yet allow self expression... it all stems from the ARTS. We're all hell raisers at some point, if you're not, are you living life to the fullest?
I just had a moment during our show tonight where I felt as not only one of the group making this production happen, but pure acceptance. I can't describe it more than that. The feeling is pure, it is from a place of holy light, and it does not judge, it does not boast, it does not act in selfish ways, it is pure radiance. The gospel choir tonight and for every performance sings three songs: Emmanuel, Honor The King, and Celebrate (It's not the one that popped into your head either). I cannot begin to describe how emotionally invested and quite frankly overwhelmed I felt when I finally got the mix I wanted, but more so, the grove and the audience's enjoyment of the moment, but the small revelation that had happened in my mind too. For once, I felt that I truly missed my church core... the Newman Center group that I felt like I could be pure radiance in as well. Is it a time for religious change for me? I don't know. Do I suddenly want to drop my Catholic faith and join these fabulous singers because their soul and spirit call me to worship with them? Perhaps.
I think what really sold me tonight was watching and remember Dr.King's words breathe life in these people, these strangers, these creatures of holy inspiration. I truly felt connected. There were no duds in the audience, we were all there, clapping, singing, breathing, rejoicing, and most importantly, being. We were being, together. We did not have pretense, nor did we have discrepancy of religions, race, sexuality, identity, no, we had music, we had rhythm, we had harmony, we had Nova Payton leading a song that I think Dr.King himself would have rejoiced along with. Tonight I felt connected, hand in hand, heart to heart, soul to soul.. and did it feel good... you bet your sweet soul it did.
Greetings one and all!
This week's blog is a bit different than my traditional experience/reflection style, but I think it's going to be relevant all the same.
This year I decided to take on a personal goal of writing as many holiday cards out to whomever I had an address for and who supplied an address in a two week long campaign on social media platforms. Now, I'm an AVID Facebook'er but once I leave that realm, I'm sort of over social media, twitter, linked-in, blah..blah...blah... I just rarely use anything else.
So, I began my journey a few days prior to Thanksgiving. I created a social media event and invited the most amount of people my profile would let me (500, when I have well over 1800 people I'm in contact with) SO, I turned to posting every few days about sending me the address in a private format or public, didn't matter, I just wanted to spread the holiday cheer.
Quickly, I had received nearly 250 responses from all over the globe, and I set out to work on writing up and sending out these cards. I can safely say- that every day I have at least one last straggler coming in, but I love it. I've sent nearly 281 cards, and received a bunch in return! It brings an absolute joy to my face and my eyes to see my mailbox plump full of holiday cheer. So, when someone responds to me via social media that they've received my correspondence, I put the challenge out to them- continue to spread that joy and cheer to someone you would not have normally done that for today.
I think sometimes we forget what a personal touch, an extra smiley face scrawled next to impossible-to-read handwriting can do, it can bring joy, it can bring tears of happiness or sadness, it can also inspire, and bring about a change.
So, my readers, this is where you come in. Have you spread holiday cheer to someone you would never ever spread joy to? Have you stopped to sing a merry tune in the middle of a metro car just because? I know, it's hard, and I don't even have the balls to bust out a tune on the metro, but, I think with enough folks doing it, maybe we can effect change in this community/country/world. One step at a time I suppose. right?
PS- Who says they have to be holiday tunes? Bust out some Frank Sinatra or something equally epic.
Happy Holiday Season! :)
Middle of December.
It's a busy time of the year! What a blessing and relief to see so much art happening in the world.
I'm busy working on mixing a cabaret performance at Signature Theatre in VA, while designing Stars of David at Theater J in DC, and discussing shows coming up for the next few months, what a great time to be alive and well in the theatre scene of the DC area! It feels absolutely blissful to be working, experiencing, shadowing, and above all, changing the world through art... and by changing, I mean keeping theatre as a relevant art form in some capacity.
More coming later this week.
This week is nuts, but I wanted to continue to keep my readers and my commitment to myself up. Time to keep trucking and working! ;)
I'm still crying. Super. Ugly. Crying.
Today has been a day of so much good coming in my way that I was literally overcome with an emotional onslaught tonight when the final amazing thing happened before I went to bed.
I woke up, started my day like normal, woke up before I intended, rolled out of bed and got ready much earlier than planned. This is normal, this happens at least 3 to 4 times a week, I can go to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning and be WIDE awake by 7am, it's a blessing and a curse. I thought, okay- cool, let's check the usual morning's musings: Facebook- done, nothing too exciting... Gmail- okay a few emails I should respond to, perhaps send some out if... Banking - nope, no direct deposit this morning yet, will have to... Gmail- send out email saying no direct deposit yet... Phone call? "Hello- this is Justin Schmitz"... "Uh, hi Justin, this is So and So from your bank back home in WI," "ah, yes! How are you doing?! How's the kids, how's the husband? How's life?" (These are great conversations because I know if it's an imposter quickly as I know my banking staff from back home, tight knit communities leave much less vulnerability for fraud, especially when the whole bank knows exactly what I'm doing.) "Yeah, so were you expecting a direct deposit today?" "Uh, yes actually! Hopefully it's finally figured out!" "Okay great! We'll go ahead and post your check!" (Insert at home, in chair victory dance) Gmail- send email stating infact life is better now that we got things sorted out! Praise jeebus, all praise be unto him.
Drive, by myself, across the actual brutal part of D.C. Alone. Scared. and a touch weary of what might happen. Within 3 minutes of what I had planned on, I was alive, well, and visiting with another job location that will take me through December and also into January. So it was also exciting to see a very familiar face and get in touch with good people in this industry. It has been firmly my fear from my first job I had ever taken in this industry that there was a bitterness that just came with engineering, and it has been to my own fault that I may have disproved this theory for years, but for some damn reason it keeps resurfacing in the back of my mind.
Got through our wonderful point, talk, discuss, bro-code agree life will be fine, head out to get home before rush hour traffic kicks into high gear. Monday will come soon enough, and so will working great weeks of mixing again!
Later, this afternoon.
I get back to my little nook of the DC metro area, and I stop at our grocery chain store. As I'm shopping around, passing along smiles to complete strangers, I get to the deli counter, and the sweetest woman was working today, treated me like I was one of her own family members, and made me feel absolutely valued. Blessings. Then, to my surprise as I was turning a corner, my stage manager from a recent production is suddenly embracing me in a wonderful hug! Both completely surprised the other was in this same grocers! Some great conversation and an "It's so great to run into you!" later, I'm pursuing the last few items on my mental check list of what it is I needed to get. Suddenly, another tap on the shoulder, and it's my composer from another show, saying hello! (I swear I can't make this day up.) We get a chance to chit chat and shoot the breeze, and we're both called off, he by his girlfriend, and I by the sweet tones of the probiotics aisle. (Trying to restore good body health after antibiotics is confusing when you're not used to sorting through the aisle.) Of I go again, to the check out, and this is where a great day turned into seriously?! day. The poor cashier, a gentleman of a mature age (read later 50's early 60's) has accidentally switched his computer from right handed mode to left handed mode, started my transaction and can't fix the machine, nor can he scan my spaghetti squashes.. insert me being one of the most patient people in the world... until 10 minutes later nothing is fixed and I'm bagging my own groceries. I think, it's okay- it's the holidays, this guy obviously just had a moment. Manager comes over, fixes the problems, and I'm on my way.
Early this evening.
I'm home, groceries in tow, and getting ready for a relaxing dinner of my own creation. Chicken breasts covered with fresh mushrooms, scallions, and topped with cheese, baked for an hour and brought out to resting perfection. Previously I made a small batch of pull apart cookies because I figured why not!? Dinner is halfway done and my roommates inform me that I will be alone for a good section of my night as they both are attending a rehearsal in VA, we live in MD, so that's a 40 minute drive away. I think- cool, whole place to myself, I can do a lot of cleaning, tidying, and organizing of my life during that time. Insert a wonderful text message from my dear friend Ally. We have a long standing pact that we invite each other to everything we do, and if we can't attend, no hard feelings, our schedules are insane, but when things line up, we promise to go. Tonight's event, a rousing little social at a bar only 5 metro stops away from me. I instantly say I'm in! We agree to meet at 10pm. This leaves me 5 hours to do things.
The in-between early evening and later shenanigans.
Not much happened during this time, I did dishes, packed up left overs, worked on tax materials organization, cleaned up my room, tidied up our living areas, and put in The Muppets Christmas Carol to watch and chat with friends on Facebook. My mom calls, we discuss Christmas travel plans and hopes, and then figure out a few odd ball personal things.
Ally messages me, she and her friends are at the establishment, when would I be down? I quickly change, jump onto a metro and arrive to the area. Nom Gallaudet University area. Now, for those of you going "why does that sound so familiar?" it's because it is America's university for the deaf. Tonight, I drank and partied with an entire social gathering of deaf folks, and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I walk in, there's music playing, the bar is packed, but it's quiet. Everyone's signing. I realized I'm a fish out of water, I have no means of communicating other than I know one phrase: "Hi, my name is Justin, and I'm a sound designer." Ally grabs me and introduces me to my new group of friends; Eric- who'd lost his hearing at 2 years old, and Alex and Coral- both hearing individuals, but like Ally are enrolled in a sign language course at a local community college and were invited to participate in DC's Deaf Nights Out. (Usually the first Friday of the month.) So, here we are, having an absolute blast, me learning and experiencing a completely silent communication, and trying my best to explain my job, finding and absorbing new words in sign, meeting new folks, watching hundreds of folks talking and enjoying company when it did not matter for one moment what any other person looked like, it didn't matter if they were gay, straight, brown, black, Asian, white, purple with pink polkadots, or hearing or deaf, no barriers were up, everyone was communicating like old friends. And I thought, here it is, here's the dream come true! Martin Luther King Jr, come down from heaven in this room and see your dream realized! We all chatted for a very long time, had some enjoyable libations, and then proceeded to head out on our own ways, me feeling bitter at WMATA for not having ANY metro trains heading in my direction for at least 45 minutes,
I Uber'd home.
To my surprise as I walked in, there were decorations everywhere. Christmas decorations. Adorning all of our common space. I started to become extremely overwhelmed emotionally. I had all but given up that I wouldn't have decor this year, except for Christmas day when I get home to WI. I look around, there are three curtly hung stockings on our kitchen bar window, a mini tree sits in our window, and garland, beautiful blue-teal garland adorns our dinning room table light. It was a lot to take in, because it was absolutely perfect, a dream truly to walk into... and there is a shutter fly envelope on my desk... thinking it was probably more Christmas Cards that I was sending out I didn't think much of it. It's 3am, and I was itching for a shower and rest... but I thought, screw it, I'm opening this. As I tear back the wrapping, a beautiful ornament falls out with none other than one of my closest friends' faces pops out with me next to her... a Christmas present from her was what sent me into a full out ugly cry. Not even a little consolable one, but a full blown, full out Felicia, sob fest for one.
I couldn't explain it.
It just came over me, literally every emotion just sort of worked its way out in one heap of a mess. I think really it finally means I have relinquished some of the angst and journey from grad school, from life in general, and from being a very active person. There are so many times I don't stop and take a moment for me, it's always the next project, always working, always bringing in income... never reflecting, never doing yoga and asking the universe for guidance and emotional divestment. I'm happy now, a good cry out of the way, but dang, what a blessed day! I've absolutely felt like a million dollars tonight.