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Contemplating My Crazy Weekend Over Matzah

Well hello everyone. The past 72 hours are almost lost to memory, but in an effort at preserving them, here’s an update on what’s going on in my life, AKA why I’ve been such a slacker of late:

Friday: No class, as usual, but an afternoon rehearsal for Saturday’s ballroom showcase with my partner. Then, at 5:30, we initiated about 20 pledges into APO. Immediately following, I went over to Hanna’s place for the first seder, which was a motley collection of ragtag misfits, including my brother from another mother Raimund; Hanna’s son Josh; his girlfriend, Bobbie; her friend, Becca; Haruki, a Japanese guy who is one of Hanna’s tenants; Esti and Gidon, an Israeli couple; Judy, a flight attendant; Bonnie, who I didn’t get a chance to talk to but had a great voice; Helene, an insurance agent, and her lovely mother, Daisy; and from the band, Nick the sax player and Isham and Ibrahim, two Muslim brothers who play percussion instruments. It was the first time sat between a Christian (Haruki) and a Muslim (Isham) at a seder, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. It really felt like a community dinner, and Hanna was an excellent hostess and provider of tempeh, charoset, chicken, and potatoes. Raimund made a salmon salad and baked potatoes, Helene and Daisy made a TON of matzah balls and soup, and Judy made matzah meal brownies. I’m not used to musical instruments at the seder, but Isham and Ibrahim did a great job on the bongos and the darbouka while Bonnie played the shaker. It was all just so homey and fun, and inclusive without feeling diluted. A fun time was had by all.

Saturday: Up early to work on my paper, then to the SAC at 10:30 to present it. I was on a panel alongside Jo, a speaker from the art department, and a speaker from the gender and women’s studies department. The theme of the session was minority women and performance, with papers delivered about modern Indian theatre (Jo), Navajo textiles (art department woman), antebellum slave narratives (GWS woman), and mine, reimagining the Gypsy woman. Only a few audience members, but it was special all the same.

Then, after a quick lie-down at home, I was back up at 3 to meet my partner at the SERF for an hour of practice. Then, back home to relax a little and gather up my costume and makeup for the dress rehearsal at 5. Dress rehearsal went really well, despite the fact that not everyone was in costume, which kind of defeated the purpose, but whatever. The formation group did a hilarious jive to “Dear Future Husband,” there was a samba round and a waltz formation. Other dances included a paso doble, a Viennese waltz, and a few different jives. My partner and I ended up with a combination of American waltz, International waltz, rumba, and Israeli folk dance. The performance started at 7:30, and we were fourth. It was so much fun, and we got some good applause, as well as good photos and a video that’s already up online ::cough::lastsemesterschachachastillwaiting::cough::

I left at intermission/social dancing to hopefully catch part of Avremel’s seder for the second night of Passover, and actually came right on time, it hadn’t even started yet. It was very different than Hanna’s seder, but just as special. It was very classy, with cake from New York and fresh fruit as a starter, and just so much food: brisket, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and two different kugels. It was shorter than I thought, but there were a lot of really nice and fun people there.

Today: sleep and grade.

Welcome to my crazy life.

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Hey, Minnesota

Well hello there, and greetings from Northfield, Minnesota, home of St. Olaf College and, more importantly, the APO Region IX Conference. Rather than stay home this weekend and grade papers or compete in ballroom, or go to ASTR in Portland, I am here with a fun bunch of brothers and pledges from around the region. They are all staying at a hotel, while I am snuggled up in a lovely, soft bed at a local AirBnb, which I am trying for the first time.

This morning I managed to get a little done. I probably have to redo at least half the PechaKucha, though. But other than that, I thought about grading, packed for the trip, and did some desperately-needed apartment cleaning, so that I could leave a clean apartment by 1 PM when I was set to head out to Northfield with Melissa and Joni from the chapter in tow. We managed to leave only about 5 minutes after 1, which is amazing for APO time, and other than stopping for Dunkin Donuts in Wisconsin Dells and me almost hitting a deer (but ultimately avoiding it…the key word there is “almost”) it was a pretty uneventful four and a half hours. It did take just about a whole tank of gas, so sometime tomorrow, I will need to fill up for the trip back on Sunday. We arrived at St. Olaf at 6 PM, and then…pretty much just waited for everyone else…the next group showed up at 8, with the others trickling in after. Around 9:30, all the brothers had arrived, so I said goodbye to the other advisors and drove Melissa and Joni to their hotel with the other brothers and made sure nobody was left behind or anything, and then I headed back to this place, and got here about an hour ago. Tomorrow, wake-up is 7 AM, so I can help shuttle brothers over from their hotel to the conference site.

So, how am I feeling right now? Honestly…still stressed. Very. I should be more tired, especially after driving for four and a half hours, but after learning that I probably have to redo half of my PechaKucha in addition to getting started on my lesson plans for this week’s classes and working on the mini-reports, it’s just looming over me like a monster hiding in the little closet in the corner of this bedroom, or a deer waiting in the dark only to jump in front of my car. I told myself I would get stuff done, and have a happy, fun time here, but I feel like I should probably sneak away from at least some of the conference tomorrow and get some kind of work done hiding in a corner somewhere. Probably not grading, but maybe doing a redo of some of the PechaKucha or research for lesson plans or something.

Okay, I just yawned twice, so that’s probably some kind of cue to get to sleep.

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ATHE 2015: Broad Strokes

How did it get to be August so quickly?

ATHE seems to go by more and more quickly every year, and this time, it was gone in just about a blink of an eye. Probably because I was having so much fun, so here are some broad strokes before it’s completely lost to history and memory.

Day 13 (July 31): Awake a bit later than I wanted, but at least managed to make it to most of the 10:15 AM all-conference plenary, which was just as full of ideas and inspiration as the previous year’s was, after which I probably got something for lunch, somewhere. Then, at 2:15 PM, it was time for my panel, where I presented alongside Teresa as well as two people I didn’t know, Susanne and Michael. It went much better than I thought it would: 11 audience members and a very lively conversation afterwards. I didn’t stumble over my words as much as I thought I was going to, and that reminds me, I need to email Teresa. I had planned to go to another panel immediately after, but instead took a celebratory coffee break with Teresa and her husband Rick. Back at 5:45 for a panel on dramaturgy pedagogy led by LaRonika which included a Skype presenter whose plane got delayed, leaving her stranded in the airport in Toronto. Evening highlight was dinner at 3 Brasseurs with new friends Jenny from Yale and Sylvie, one of this year’s Dramaturgy Debs from Ontario.

Day 14 (August 1): Again, missed the 8:15 AM panel, but made it to the 10 AM all-conference membership meeting, after which was a reprise of my annual pop-in to the Religion and Theatre membership meeting and mad dash to Dramaturgy membership meeting, at which I got elected as a new Member-at-Large with Martine and Megan (yay! a position once again!) and brainstormed ideas for next year’s conference. It was there that I noticed that so many people were missing, and the mood was kind of subdued, but overall, it went better than last year’s meeting in terms of business that got done. Then, at 2:15 PM, I decided to take a break from the constant sitting and go to Joan Lipkin’s movement workshop that was an hour and a half according to the program book but actually went on for three hours (!) but it didn’t matter because it was fantastic. Sometimes you gotta take some chances and miss a panel or two. After a quick cheese sandwich for dinner, it was time for another dramaturgy panel, followed by a reading of a newly-translated French play which was incredibly funny, aided by the talents of Laura and Cindy. And then, of course, DNO, which was at the somewhat-more-expensive-than-I-thought Balsam Inn, where I sat and caught up with Dassia and Martine. Also, back at the hotel, I randomly met Penny Farfan, one of the editors of the book I reviewed in the entry called Ladies Who Write Plays.

Day 15 (August 2): Final day of ATHE 2015 😦 Even though I was dead tired, I managed to make it to a 9:45 AM dramaturgy panel, which Laura thought was “admirable, considering I’d already finished my panel days ago” (thanks Laura!) followed by a panel on Asian performance which lasted a bit too long and then…ATHE was over. I managed to extend it as much as I could by hanging out in the lobby with Bryan while he waited to catch his flight back to Chicago, but all good things must come to an end.

And so began the “playing tourist” phase of this leg, which will be up later tonight or tomorrow, along with general thoughts about the lovely city of Montreal!

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ATHE, Je Suis Ici!

I’m typing this from a bed in a hostel room in a completely different COUNTRY from my last entry. How crazy is that?

Montreal is beautiful, historic, dizzying, crazy, awesome, sexy, weird, hot, classy, and so much more. I’m staying in an awesome hostel room with six beds, and at the moment it’s just myself and Ariana from New Jersey, who’s here for a music festival. We had two other roommates last night: Neil, an aerospace engineer from England who left this morning for Toronto, and Julie, a kick-ass coal miner from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory with the quintessential Canadian accent complete with sayings like “up the ying-yang.” She also left this morning. There is free breakfast, wifi, and lock-boxes here; it’s a few Metro stops away from the conference hotel, the Fairmont, but it’s all I really need for the duration.

ATHE is, of course, ATHE. This morning I went on a culinary tour of Old Montreal which I’ll write about in another post, then I went to lunch with Christine from California and Krysta from New York in the underground city. Then, Debs panel, and after that, back to the hostel for a quick shower and change. I missed the keynote, but came back just in time for the reception, where I reconnected with so many people, some of whom I had not seen for years. Finally, I went to dinner at a Mexican place with Laura from Northwestern and a group of her friends, and even though they’re still out, I got about 3 hours of sleep last night and I have a paper to present tomorrow (yikes!) so I came back to hopefully get a little more work in and a little more rest in.

Stay tuned!

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Mi Primera Post en Puerto Rico

Greetings from Puerto Rico, where it’s day 3 (I think?) of my trip to Puerto Rico for the week. I think that this is so far the most surreal leg of the trip, but I’ll quickly give a rundown on the funzies in Arizona first.

Getting to Arizona, I was immediately greeted by ATHE, in a way; my friend and fellow dramaturg Walter ended up having a ticket on the same shuttle as I did (his flight from Newark came in slightly after mine). Also in the van was a woman who was going to ATHE who hadn’t been in years, but was glad that grad students were there.

At the Fairmont Princess, I check in to the conference first and the room second (priorities!) and see the first of my three roommates, Kathleen, on the way, walking with Carrie and Sarah. At our room, C1122, which is actually in a pretty good central location, I see Bryan, the second of the three roommates, and find out that the fourth in our group, LaRonika, hasn’t arrived yet due to storms delaying her plane in Baltimore. The first night of the conference is usually blah, waiting for something exciting to happen, but the most excitement I had was spending $40 on a margarita and a tiny bowl of grilled vegetables, and going to the Transit Performance, which wasn’t spectacular but did lead me to meet Eleanor, Matt, and Dorine, the latter two of whom I kept running into throughout the weekend. LaRonika finally arrived at some late hour and we prepared for an early wakeup call for Pre-Con.

Thursday: Pre-Con! The first dramaturgy Pre-Con ever! Hooray! Bryan rented a van and packed twelve of us ‘turgs inside (Walter, Carrie, Sarah, Kathleen, LaRonika, Shannon, Kristin, Ben, Jean, Maria, Lindsey, and myself) for a day at Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s southwestern home. It normally costs $32 to get in, but with grants and a deal, it ended up costing us only $5 each! Char, our tour guide, was fascinating and the home itself was brilliant, with light and beauty around every corner. We all had a great time. Afterwards, I bought a tiny journal in the bookstore, and asked everyone to offer some thoughts or reflections in it over lunch. Being dramaturgs, everyone wrote something meaningful, and I spent most of my lunchtime catching up with Maria, who was sitting next to me.

Opening night! The keynote and official opener were great as always, and Luis Alfaro was pretty funny. The reception at the exhibit hall was great; I wasn’t as boozed up as last year so I think I probably made less of a fool of myself. I met Cissie, a wonderful new friend all the way from the Netherlands, spent awhile talking with Jane, and then found Iris for our traditional wine-glass-selfie, this time in front of the ATHE banner. We spent awhile hugging and catching up with each other and it’s just so great that she’s lucky enough to come in from Taiwan every year. I picked up the usual stack of catalogs, and then hit the pool for awhile with Bryan and Kathleen.

Friday: Panel time! In the morning, I saw Bryan/Kathleen/Aoise/Sarah’s panel, and then went to a panel on playing games where I saw Annalisa. My panel was, unfortunately, poorly attended (3 panelists and 2 audience members) but it was in the death spot, where everyone is doing stuff at the SAME TIME, including ANOTHER dramaturgy panel with Walter, Talya, and Joan. The plenary was that day, I think, and I sat with Karen Jean the Dramaturgy Queen.

Friday night was one of my favorite conference times, DNO or Dramaturg’s Night Out. It was more of a Dramaturg’s Night In as we congregated at the Plaza Bar. I met newbie and recent grad Jacob, and immediately liked him for his name. At least he is Jacob D. and not H. I got to say hi to Joan, and had a nice catch-up chat with Cindy. By the end of the evening, I’d talked to so many people that I can’t remember them all, probably I’ve already mentioned everyone but D.J., Julie R., and Shelley, who made a surprise appearance, driving in all the way from San Diego. And then it was pool time, where I met Rosa and her friends who drove in from Los Angeles for their Saturday night performance.

Saturday: Panels, panels, panels. Also attended a workshop. Also, it was Dramaturgy Focus Group membership day, where I gladly handed over my title as Grad Student Rep. Honestly, I think Walter and LaRonika probably did way more than I this past year, but all three of us got some very nice praise. I had a quick chat with Talya, which turned into a several hour chat over Starbucks. (I think that happened Saturday but I might be wrong). Dinner was at La Hacienda with Bryan, Kathleen, LaRonika, Sarah, Carrie, Walter, and Jacob D., and even though it was, again, expensive, it didn’t really matter because we were all together, our little family, and we had so much fun and booze. After, we went to see the Banned Plays performance. We missed the first piece, but came in midway through the second, which was Rosa and her group – who were amazing – and stayed for the third, which was also awesome. I ducked out for the final performance though.

I get back to the room, and a lightning storm hits, and of course, LaRonika was planning for this night to be her pool night, so she was feeling blah. But we cheered up when she did a dramatic reading of the spa menu; I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time. That spa menu though. It dried up outside, and while Bryan took a phone call, LaRonika, Kathleen, and I shared a swing – we fit perfectly, just like roomies! – and when Bryan came out, we moved to a ledge, where we sat, drank, and laughed for awhile, mostly about equipment and Kwame Kwei-Armah/Quvenzhane Wallis. So many other ATHE people walked by but we were too drunk to care.

Sunday: The worst day of the conference, every year; time to say goodbye. Bryan and Kathleen left rather early, and LaRonika got some pool time in before leaving as well. My flight was not until 1:15 AM, so I caught up with Claire, found a geocache, and took a swim before heading to the airport.

Fast-forward to Monday.

8:00 AM EDT: I arrive in Charlotte, dazed and confused because I got on a plane four hours prior in Phoenix where it was 1 AM. My breakfast was something from Starbucks, and I jumped on my San Juan flight, totally in disbelief that this was actually happening. I watched Saving Mr. Banks on the way, which was delightful, even though I was super tired. We touched down early in beautiful San Juan and I managed to get to Thrifty pretty quickly and use my Spanish to pick up the car, and then…I was on my way! Driving in San Juan! Crazy!

My directions took me not to Isabel’s place but a lovely nearby church where she came and found me. We hung out, caught up, and then Axel came back and we went out for dinner. Four meals (us three + an extra for me should I get hungry at night) was $50, only slightly more than 1 meal at the Fairmont Princess. I wasn’t tired, but by the time we got home around 8 PM, I was getting there, and officially turned in at 11:30 after being half asleep for two hours.

Yesterday: Early wake-up to go exercise with Isabel and Axel, something I haven’t done for ages (more like two weeks). It was fun and we went to a panaderia (bakery) afterwards for food. Eventually, after resting at home, I went to find Riley, which was really tough because iPhone Maps and Puerto Rico are not friends. It took me way too long, over an hour, but we went back to Isabel’s place, walked to Condado Beach, and had four glorious hours of swimming and laying on the beach. We had Pizzeria Uno for dinner – surprisingly cheap! – and then I took him home.

Today (finally): Was supposed to go with Isabel/Riley to Ponce, but it didn’t happen for various reasons 😦 maybe tomorrow. Instead, we went for a lovely breakfast, and I just rested until about 3, when I went out to Old San Juan for 4 or so hours of exploring. I found 6/7 geocaches I looked for in pretty good time, and just about sweated my face off. My phone died, but I’m clever enough to get back here on my own, and that’s where I’ve been for the past two hours.

Going to get some dinner now, probably on my own, and then see what tomorrow’s plan will look like.

Vamonos!

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Raising Hell In Arizona

It’s about 1 AM here in Phoenix, and I’ve only got a few more minutes before boarding, but I’m just checking in to say:

ATHE. was. AWESOME.

Though attendance was down (700 as opposed to 1400), it’s the quality of the people that I met, the sessions and workshops I attended, the performances I saw, and the time that we spent together at the bar, in the conference rooms, at the pool, or commiserating over the expensive hotel and its isolation from the rest of the world. There were several people who I missed that were there, several I missed who weren’t there, and several with whom I had extended conversations with for the first time. I met scholars, actors, dramaturgs, and playwrights. I saw and made friends all over the USA and the world: UK, Ireland, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Trinidad & Tobago, off the top of my head. I roomed with three of the funniest and nicest people I know, and my stomach hurts from laughing so much. I feel full; inspiration percolating, heating me like a coffee urn and breathing life into me.

The oasis rejuvenates.

That’s the dream, and the message I left everyone with, along with hugs and “see you in Montreal, or sooner.”

Next up is leg 2: Phoenix to San Juan via Charlotte.

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A Moment in Orlando

For the past 4 days, I’ve been here in Orlando, Florida, at my favorite event of the entire year: the ATHE conference. This it the fourth consecutive ATHE I’ve attended (Los Angeles 2010, Chicago 2011, Washington 2012) and by far the most chaotic and busiest. There was just so much going on, so many amazing panels and workshops and performances that I desperately wanted to attend but couldn’t for whatever reason. I’m typing this from Orlando International Airport where I’m waiting for my flight back to Houston. I can’t believe that the trip is already almost over.

As a veteran conference-goer, I advised newcomers against “conference burnout,” or attending too many events and getting sensory overload and brain saturation. I kind of did the reverse this year, I felt, conference “underload,” since between staying at an off-site hotel and skipping basically two days of the conference to explore Magic Kingdom and EPCOT with Nana – who, after much deliberating, decided to come with me on her first-ever vacation/flight/hotel stay, I managed to attend two half-panels, neither of which were particularly insightful. I did, however attend the LGBT pre-conference cabaret show, three grad student sessions, the keynote speech/performance by Bill Irwin, the opening reception, the all-conference meeting (which I got to for the first time ever and won’t be missing again), 2 focus group meetings (Dramaturgy, where I got elected as Grad Student Rep alongside Walter and LaRonika, and the first ten minutes of Religion & Theatre), and the Mickee Faust paid performance. Not included in that list were multiple nights in the pool and hot tub, Dramaturg’s Night Out, catching up with old friends, and making new ones. Oh, and I also spoke on a panel this morning.

An interesting moment happened yesterday as I was running in between the two focus group meetings, which were 2 floors apart. Right in the middle floor, between the escalators and the registration booth, was a camera overlooking 2 chairs with a clothesline strung between them. On one chair was a marker, some blank slips of paper, a jar with written-on slips of paper, and a jar with written-on slips of paper rapidly disintegrating into water. On the other chair was a real-life person (the identity of whom I discovered later when I saw her setting it up elsewhere) with a black hood over her head and body and an exposed back, with words written on it in Sharpie. The instructions, written on papers clipped to the clothesline, stated to write down a fear or anxiety on the paper, put it in the jar, draw another paper, write that word on her back so she could “carry around our burden,” and then place that slip in the jar with water.

I was in a rush, but was drawn to the jar. I wrote down “constant self-doubt” and dropped it into the jar, drawing “loneliness” out. I wrote that word in neat script under her left shoulder blade, and then dropped the paper in the water jar. Other feelings were written on her back too. I walked back to the person and the camera recording her, stood for a minute, and reflected on both the feeling I dropped in the jar and the feeling I wrote on her back. I can’t remember what I specifically thought about; I just focused. To the woman’s back I stood and whispered “thank you,” and then darted away to the dramaturgy meeting, where I was elected grad student rep. This meeting is always fun but this time, I was feeling particularly inspired and at peace, enjoying every moment of the room around me and the people in it, my dramaturgs, my colleagues, my friends. As I rushed out at the meeting’s end, I slipped back downstairs for something and passed her by again. Someone had written my phrase, in big, bold letters on the right side of her back, right at the top over her shoulder blade. I didn’t even stop as I walked by, but smiled knowing that someone else had drawn the paper and hopefully had been as affected by the words as I had been when writing down someone else’s biggest fear. It was a moment of peace in an otherwise busy vacation. I felt rejuvenated and refreshed, if only for a brief moment.

I can’t wait for next year’s ATHE, which will be in mid-July in Scottsdale, Arizona. Right now, people are lining up to get on our plane, but I think I’m going to sit for a moment more to enjoy the last bit of Orlando.