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Feeling Over the Rainbow with APO!

What a crazy, incredible weekend. My internal schedule is all messed up and I ate way too much, but it was the annual APO Region IX conference, and for the first time in several years, it was right here in Madison. Over 100 students and around 18 staff members from chapters all around Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota came here because there’s no place like APO (our conference theme!)

Some of the highlights from the conference for me were getting to present a panel and a workshop, going to banquet, the usual post-banquet staff hangout in the hotel, and post-con morning brunch.

My first panel of the day was one on diversity and inclusion, which I co-presented with past national president and one of my personal favorite people, Maggie Katz. We had 90 minutes and even though both of us are big talkers, we managed to only go 40 minutes before taking questions. After that, there was a lot of audience interaction, both with us presenters as each other and a lot of great ideas were exchanged. Current national president, JKO, was in attendance and told me later how much I impressed him, as did one of the students from Coe College petitioning group.

After a giant staff lunch at the Nitty, I presented my brand-new theater workshop. The first time I tried to present one at a regional, many years ago, I had 3 people. In March at Sectionals, I had about 13 people. This time, a whopping 21 people were interested in my course, and packed into the atrium: 13 from Wisconsin chapters, 7 from Iowa, and 1 from Minnesota. The room I was given was not conducive to moving around, so we did it in a small hallway atrium. I had my fingers crossed the whole time that no one would come yell at us, and I guess it worked. Most of the activities went over pretty well and I got great evals, despite running out of worksheets, a too-small space, and the fact that the ceiling acted like an echo chamber so I pretty much spent the whole time talking as loud as I could. I found out the day of that I only had 45 minutes, when I had planned an hour (yikes!) but ended up running about 50-55 minutes, speeding up some parts and probably skipping something here or there. No one seemed to mind. It was a little disappointing that not everyone got to perform, but about 3/4 of the participants did.

Banquet was delicious, and Maggie gave a great keynote speech. I got to catch up with Andrea, an advisor I met in Pittsburgh and came up all the way from Chicago, and then we headed back to the hotel for the usual staff hangout/eval session, which is always a highlight. We packed into this tiny hotel room, pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder, and I couldn’t help but feel so appreciative that I was in the same room as all these amazing, lovely people: Andrea, Maggie, JKO, Ginny, Stockdale, Zach, Brandon, Michelle, Ding, Kate, Kelly, Derek, Kristin, Ken, and Glen (I think that was everyone), with appearances from Eden in Texas and Natalia in Minnesota via FaceTime. The best part was when a woman knocked on the door at midnight, not because we were loud, but because she was a bridesmaid at a wedding on the other side of the hotel and needed to pee so badly that she couldn’t make it back to her room. Of course we let her in, unfortunately we didn’t catch her name so we could make her a Section Chair or award her with a DSK. We did, however, applaud as she exited the bathroom, so that counts.

It’s cliche, I know…bu there’s no place like APO.

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The Long-Awaited ATHE Recap

Now that I’ve recovered from what was an insane week of travel, here’s a recap of this year’s ATHE conference, my 7th and the 30th to occur, overall.

Day 1 – Thursday

Caught the 10:30 AM bus down to Chicago, and once there, waded through the heat to the Palmer House. Within minutes of stepping into the hotel, I saw Iris and her daughter, Angela, who had just flown from Taiwan and were trying to caffeinate. I checked in, rode up to the 14th floor, put my stuff wherever I could find a spot, and changed outfits for the Dramaturgy Business meeting. So many regulars were there, and a few new faces. Bryan and Carrie led the meeting, and I sat between Natalie and Martine. After, I went upstairs to change clothes again for the keynote and opening reception. Lydia Diamond, the playwright, spoke very well, and they had FREE WINE AND PIZZA at the opening reception, where I got so many hugs from so many folks I hadn’t seen in forever, and of course Iris and I got our conference selfie with red wine, which we’ve been doing since before the word selfie was invented. Also at the reception, I finally met my roommates for the weekend, Kate, Carrie, and Rebecca. I made it an early-ish night to get some writing done, along with Rebecca, while Kate and Carrie went out to a social.

Day 2 – Friday

Early rise for 8 AM panels. We managed to get ready for the day without getting in each other’s way, and I started off what would become the motif of this conference, choosing the wrong panel to go to. I started off at a panel on theatre of the Middle East, which ended up being not so interesting, so I stole out for an Asian theatre panel and just missed Jasmine’s paper. At least I got to say hello to her and meet her new baby. Then, I saw Jill Dolan in the hall, and she asked if I was going to the panel on Pulse, but I decided to go to a directing panel on Brecht instead.

Note to future self: always listen to Jill Dolan.

I got lunch on my own over at Freshii, and then headed to the All-Conference Plenary. I could only stay about half the time though because I needed a break. I ended up skipping the next round of sessions, which in hindsight was a good thing because the one I was planning on going to ended up getting cancelled. So, at 4 PM, I went to the Debs Panel (where I was actually on time for once, go me!) and saw three wonderful dramaturgy presentations. Cindy and co. really do a great job at picking quality panelists – after all, they chose me 7 years ago 😉 Next, I went to a panel on food and performance led by 3 alums of my department, Niccole, Kristen, and Megan, and had a great time there. It ended up being another pack-it-in night. I can’t remember where I had dinner (or if I even had it).

Day 3 – Saturday

Panels started at 8:15, but I was fully attentive at Natalie’s panel, “Babies R Us: Laboring Bodies in Academia,” in which female professors and grad students talked about being a mother and academic at the same time. It was a really warm atmosphere in the room, and it was great to hear personal stories that you wouldn’t normally hear on the day-to-day. After the panel, Natalie was officially finished with her duties at the conference, so we escaped the premises and took a walk to the Chicago Cultural Center, where we saw some really cool art exhibits, and then had lunch at Peach and Green. It was so nice to be able to catch up with her; we talk online all the time, but I hadn’t really gotten to sit down with her since probably Orlando, which was 3 years ago. We got back in time for the 30th anniversary celebration, and I sat with Bryan, Carrie, Cindy, and Rachel as we toasted ATHE with champagne and a delicious layer cake. The rest of the panels that day were a blur – dramaturgy follow up meeting, a panel on theatre and TV, and then a quick lie-down before one of the best parts of every ATHE, DNO (Dramaturg’s Night Out). It was huge this year, and we practically took over Berghoff. The food was really good, and our waiter was hilarious. Thanks to our table pic, I now know who all was there: me, LaRonika, Annalisa, Cindy, Jim, Bryan, Karen Jean, Martine, Brad, two faces I can’t quite make out, and newcomers Jessica, Rachel, and Alex. I sat between Annalisa and Alex and got to know them better over salmon and spaetzle.

Most importantly, that night I sat down and resolved to finish my prelim writing. At 1 AM, in a corner of the 4th floor of the hotel, I passed the 20 page mark, and hit save on my final draft at 1:30 AM. I didn’t carve my name anywhere, but I did take a picture of the spot, which is why there is a random photo of a table on my phone.

So that’s done now.

Day 4 – Sunday

I woke up refreshed, knowing that my prelims were done, and as a reward, skipped the first session of the day for a nice breakfast. We checked out of our room, and then I headed to some acting panels, just for fun. At the first one, we played some games I already knew, plus a few I didn’t (Hi-5 or Death and Move Me). The second acting panel was a little less interactive than the first, but it was led by Margie who is just this electric ball of energy. I capped off my conference with lunch at Le Pain Quotidien with Iris and Angela – a nice bookend to the trip.

There were so many people who were there that I didn’t get to say hi to, but there’s always next year in Vegas.

Just when I was retrieving my bag from the hotel and contemplating whether it had been a successful ATHE or not, THE Holly Hughes (!) appeared out of nowhere and we had a big hug before I stepped out of the Palmer House.

So I think that pretty much cemented the weekend as a successful ATHE.

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Dump

The other day I did something that I don’t normally do. Mostly because I don’t take the time to think about it, but I have my reasons.

I cut down my friends list on Facebook, unfriending people who I do not believe to have a place in my life any longer.

I have never been a vengeful person (okay, maybe just a little), nor an extremely private person, but after a conversation with Julie in the car on the way back from Wyoming last week, I decided that it was finally time. For the record, there is nothing on my Facebook that I wouldn’t mind anyone seeing, future employers included, and the way I see it, the Internet is basically like a bulletin board piled with advertisements and flyers; some might be concealed, but if you really wanted, you could read every one of them. And people out there knowing about me and my life doesn’t really scare me that much. If I don’t want someone to know something, it’s as simple as just not putting it out there.

I tend to keep friends around on Facebook once I make them, just because unless they post something really offensive, I have no reason to unfriend them. Whenever I do hover over the unfriend button, I get a small wave of guilt, as if I’m burning a bridge. What if I might need that person in the future? What if they become really famous and because I clicked a button, I can’t prove I know them? What if, what if, what if…and then I go and do something else.

But I made up my mind to do it, and see just how many of those 1,750 people are worth keeping a connection. After I scrolled through the obvious keepers, like family members and friends I still talk to with some degree of regularity, I came upon the people who I haven’t thought about for years, from high school, freshman year, summer camps. Delete. Some guy I had one class with freshman year, some girl I met at a Starbucks, a guy I never met but liked some of my pictures, a girl who now lives in South America and probably would not even recognize me if I walked past her in the street. Bye bye. A few names didn’t even ring a bell. Unfriend.

In the end, I didn’t think I’d made much of a dent, but my Friends list was down to around 1,630. In a matter of minutes, roughly 120 people disappeared from my life in a few key strokes. And to top it off, I probably couldn’t name more than ten of them if you asked me who they were and how I knew them. I don’t feel much different, but interestingly enough, it did make me think how many connections I actually cared about maintaining. So, maybe, I’ll go through it again sometime and pare down the list even more. A lot of my friends have less than half of the connections that I do, and they seem to be doing just fine for themselves.

Then there’s the question of deleting Facebook altogether, it being a source of drama, a time-waster, and just and overall life-sucker-upper. Julie said that the only real reasons she keeps hers active is so her mother could see family pictures and she can have an extra avenue to contact relatives in case of emergency. My reasons are pretty similar, although I also have the added weight of having lived in several states and countries, and wanting to keep tabs on friends from all over, especially those in Israel who I can’t text anytime I want, or if I ever want to visit them, only to find out that they moved or something.

Alternatively, I can look at “the dump” as a way to clear out space for new friends, like the influx of friend requests after a conference. It’s a thrill when you log in and have 10 new friend requests from people you’ve met who you actually care about and might have a chance of building an awesome new friendship with.

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Oh Say, Can You NVC?

Just realized that it has been five days since I’ve posted anything, and I’m already halfway through Leg 2 of my Summer Odyssey…well, completely through with the first part of this leg, but I guess I was just too busy having fun.

Anyway.

I’m posting this from my parents’ kitchen in Baltimore, Maryland, also the location of APO NVC 2015 (Baltimore, not my parents’ kitchen – we’d have to move the potted plants around a bit) facing two days of mostly sweet nothing before heading out to Montreal for ATHE.

But first…

Day 4 (July 22): Last full day in Utah (which seems like ages ago already even though it was only Wednesday). We all slept in and enjoyed a pajama breakfast/brunch and a day of general relaxation after two days of strenuous hiking and traveling. I got in some geocaching with Julie and Iris, and then went out for more geocaching, some Starbucks, and some food-shopping with Julie, who prepared a lovely dinner of tuna steaks. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but hopefully Julie will rally the troops together to get to next year’s ATHE, which will be in Chicago, a much more feasible road/plane trip. I arrived at the Salt Lake City Airport in plenty of time for my 11:55 PM flight to Philadelphia on US Airways. The last thing I experienced in the Beehive State was one of the loudest cheers I’d ever heard in my entire life for four Mormon missionaries returning from overseas. And…back to the East Coast I go!

Day 5 (July 23), or the 22 hours I had of it since I crossed two time zones, began with a flight to Philadelphia which was actually not as bad as I thought it would be. Probably the worst part was being in a middle seat between a grumpy-looking but silent Hispanic girl and a chatty Mormon guy. The guy was actually pretty nice, and thanks to him, I got to watch the second half of Little Miss Sunshine with my own iPhone as soundtrack; thankfully, I’d seen it before. He also tried to give me his self-recorded album, to which I politely said no thank you, because for some reason it’s a gut reaction when a Mormon offers me a gift. I’m still not entirely convinced it wasn’t actually a Book of Mormon on a CD in a case with his likeness on the cover wearing angel wings. We arrived in Philly about 30 minutes early, making it only about 3 and a half hours of actual flying time, which was much more palatable than last summer’s Phoenix-Charlotte slog.

Even though we got in early, I still hustled over to my next gate. I had to take a bus to the next terminal for that one, which kind of sucked because it took forever to find a place to get coffee and food. Oh, did I mention that they didn’t even give us water on that CROSS-COUNTRY flight? Anyway, next up was my second and final flight of the day, a whopping 20 minute flight to Baltimore. The plane was about the size of my apartment, and I ended up in seat 1C, so I got plenty of legroom but had to gate-check everything. I actually managed to close my eyes for a few moments. This flight seemed longer than the previous one, maybe because I was just so ready to be home.

And then…Baltimore, at 8:30 AM local time, 6:30 AM body clock time. Dad picked me up and took me home, where I laundered what I’d worn since leaving Madison (remember that place?), took an inadvertent several hour nap, and wound up at the hotel just in time to pick up my registration information for APO NVC, aka Alpha Phi Omega National Volunteer Conference, the reason why I came back to Baltimore in the first place.

To get you in the know, APO NVC is an every-other-year summer opportunity for alumni, advisors, and staffers of the fraternity to get together for some brotherly bonding, workshops, seminars, and listening to the national board members make jokes about each other in speeches. Even though I’ve been in the fraternity for 9 years and attended 2 national conventions, this was my first NVC, and hopefully not my last. It’s like a microcosm of Nationals; basically, around 200 people, all college graduates, with interests in helping others and sharing stories of doing so, without any of the drama of college students. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I had happy reunions with, some of whom I haven’t gotten the chance to catch up with in person since Nationals in Boston in 2008! But that first night, at least, I went to dinner with Kate and my fellow Region IX-ers whom I got to know very well, our region director Ding from Minnesota, and section chair Eden, also from Minnesota. After, I went up for the night to room 732, where I was surprised to have no roommate, and just as I was about to celebrate this fact at 11 PM by taking off my clothes and going to bed, the door clicks and in walks my roommate for the conference: David, all the way from Quincy, Illinois. He had actually come from New York City on the Megabus, though, after visiting friends, so he’d been traveling almost as long as I had. Though initially we were just going to go right to sleep, of course we stayed up talking and getting to know each other until 2 in the morning. We both set alarms but agreed to let the other sleep if the occasion merited it.

Day 6 (July 24): Up and at ’em at about 8 AM. David stayed in the room, but I went downstairs and liberally doused myself in coffee and pastries from the buffet, sitting alongside, Kate, Eden, and Ding. After a fun speed-dating activity, it was time for the first slate of workshops. I am glad that I took tons of notes in my little yellow notebook, because at the moment I’m blanking on details of most of time, but suffice it to say, they were informative. (Side note: I skipped the morning lecture to meet and catch up with a few other people, and had a fantastic lunch with members of Region I). There were five concurrent sessions offered at each time slot, and I’m proud to say that out of the 7 slots, 4 on this day and 3 on the next day, I managed to make it to 6, only skipping one on the 24th because I was engaged in conversation with a fantastic brother from Pennsylvania called Jessica. My three sessions of this day were Essentials of Advising, National Policies and Paperwork (an EXTREMELY informative session led by Ping and mrn, aka Region 1 and Region 10 directors), and after a break, Developing Leaders and Mentoring, a new session led by the conference’s chair.

After that, we were on our own for dinner. I spent a little while catching up with Fulori, who was probably the only person there who I knew from Texas, then went back up to the room. While reorganizing my bag, I decided to call my dad, who suggested that I could come home for dinner via train.

And you know what?

I did.

Once I got down to the lobby, I found out that the airport shuttle at the hotel was free and ran every five minutes, and once at BWI, I could just hop on the Light Rail and be home in under an hour. As I never like to travel alone at APO events, I managed to convince a group of six brothers who were indecisive about where to go to dinner to take the train into Baltimore with me, so we did. It turned out that out of those six, 3 were from Maryland schools (2 from College Park and 1 from Towson) and 1 was a New Yorker working in Baltimore for the summer. The other two came from Virginia and New York; not too far, but they hadn’t been to Baltimore before. I probably made way too many suggestions about what they should do (they wanted to see the Inner Harbor), but I set them loose at University of Baltimore/Mount Royal station, telling them to walk down to Mount Vernon for dinner at XS and hoping they’d make it back to the hotel okay. After a seeming eternity, I got off at Mount Washington station where Dad was waiting for me. We had a quick dinner and then Mom drove me back to the hotel.

Day 7 (July 25 – Wow, this post is getting really long. Halfway done, I promise): Decided to sleep in, since I brought some breakfast from home and I’d had a big day the day before, and it didn’t seem like there was much going on in the morning. In the obverse of yesterday, David got up really early for breakfast. At about 11:30 AM, I got myself together for lunch just as David was returning to the room with a large bag from CVS; poor guy had an ear infection. I headed down to lunch, which was a delicious buffet.

Three afternoon workshops were in store for me: Working Directly with Chapters/What Would You Do? (basically, a worst-case-scenario thing), Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers (something I probably could have skipped in favor of another session), and finally, Dealing with Difficult People (which was led by this incredible, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners presenter who really told it like it was).

In the meantime, I had caught up with Adrienne and David, two of the six brothers whom I’d sent off to Baltimore the night before and had thankfully gotten back. It turns out they didn’t end up taking the newbies to the Harbor, which was probably filled with tourists anyway, they ate at XS and stayed there for two hours, walked back around Mount Vernon to the Light Rail, and went back to the hotel. Their only complaint was that I didn’t join them (aw, shucks) but at least I made great new friends and they had a good time. Oh, and I’m also in debt to Adrienne for saving me by looking up my phone number on Facebook and calling me after I left my credit card at the crappy coffee kiosk in the lobby, so thank you Adrienne!

The final event of the evening was the big dinner banquet, at which I said my goodbyes to everyone until next time. Even though the conference didn’t end until the next day, after having dinner on Friday with my parents, I realized that if I stayed until the next day (the events were only until 11 AM), I’d only have about two and a half days with my family and three short nights in my own bed. It’s always that weird thing, do you leave early on a high note with a lot of goodbyes in a short amount of time, or stay longer, and say an entire cascade of goodbyes over the course of the afternoon? This time I chose the former (and it’s getting super late as I type this, so I’ll be brief) but it was probably one of my favorite APO banquets ever. First, I got mentioned in the speech; the program director picked a person from each of the 11 regions to highlight, and Region IX was me, so that was pretty sweet, and I ended up sitting with Jessica from Pennsylvania on one side, and on the other side, Arturo and Crystal from Puerto Rico who got mentioned for their region’s highlight, so it was definitely a cool kids’ table. And then, wouldn’t you know it but the 2015 Region Cup, having something to do with chapters in good standing, went to…Region IX! I was so proud when Ding went up to accept the trophy. The rest of the evening was a blur of pictures (both Blondie AND Lillian from Region I made sure I was pulled into the giant Region I picture despite not having been in Region I since 2009) and probably the funniest and most poignant Maggie Katz soapbox talk ever. It made me wish I could stay and sing the toast song, but I guess that will have to wait until the next Nationals, which will be in Pittsburgh, PA in December 2016. Mom came and picked me up around 11:00 PM and it was just nice to have a little bit of an extended stay in my own bed.

Day 8 (July 26, finally, as the clock on my computer rolls around to July 27): HOME! I forgot what it was like to be in “home mode,” as I call it; sleeping in and generally being lazy, with my parents close at hand to hug or bug, whichever the case may be. We had brunch at the club, after which Mom swam while I was going to exercise at the gym but took a nap on a comfortable chaise instead, followed by watching a movie and having dinner back at the house. Tomorrow: NOTHING, except for a few errands, and hopefully becoming at peace with my ATHE presentation, and maybe writing a few posts to make up for my near-week of non-posting.

And that brings me to an hour later, still in the kitchen when I could be in bed. Good night everyone!

7

Mid-April Life Update Post

I am so, so, incredibly tired right now from a busy few days, so I thought I’d just take a moment and do some free writing about how my day, and things in general, have been for me. Sorry if you enjoy my more didactic or literary or multimedia or humor-related posts, but I just need to be real for a moment. K?

So, how has it been for me lately?

Well, fantastic!

Weather-wise, that is.

I don’t have too much to complain about, though, I guess, except for the things I have to complain about. I’m so super nervous about re-mounting the show the week after next; it’s going to mean a lot of early mornings and opportunities to screw something up and make everyone hate me, so that’s no fun. My other classes are going okay, but a lot of questions about the future and the unknown occupy my time so much so that I forget about the here and now, the work that needs to get done and the reading I have to do, which seems to just pile up. In terms of dance, I leveled up in Latin, which was great, but I need to find a permanent partner for the fall if I want to continue competing, and maybe even look for some more outside lessons. Definitely need to exercise more, eat better, yada yada.

In other news, part of my MIA status this week is because I was picked (well, more like volunteered) to be a background dancer in a music video. I can’t say much more than the fact that it happened, that I danced waltz, and that we filmed today from 9 AM to 2 PM. Then, I went to present my paper at the department conference, which went fairly well, and then returned to the video shoot to help them out packing up, because I just didn’t want to go home and sit alone.

The summer and the fall semester are on their way, faster than I think. I still have no concrete plans for the summer, other than Montreal for ATHE and a possible trip home. Fall semester will be my first as a TA (I found out my assignment already, which is great), and of course, the beginning of the end of coursework, paving the way for prelims, pre-dissertation…

I think I’m going to need to invest in a good sturdy life jacket, or maybe just some good sturdy tequila.

2

10 Things I Learned from ASTR 2014

10. Large backpacks and crowded reception halls do not mix.

9. I could totally open a business giving people third-floor skyline tours of the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Also, I have mastered the Disney Point.

8. When people start falling asleep at your presentation, spice it up by doing the robot.

7. Delicious cannolis make everything less awkward.

6. Don’t buy the books in the exhibition hall before they’re 30% off 10% off giving them away for free.

5. Even people with advanced degrees bond over the juicy details of first kisses and conference hookups.

4. There is nothing more awkward than watching your colleagues drink another’s breast milk. With cookies.

3. Fancy, expensive plaques make lousy banquet napkins.

2. Lampposts most certainly can perform.

1. One thing that makes every paper better? Serving your audience wine.

What a long, strange weekend it’s been. 4 days of ASTR followed by a day of going back and forth to visit my sister and her kindergarten class in Rockville. Right now, I’m sitting in my parents’ basement here in Baltimore, and one week from today, I’ll be back in Madison, bracing myself for the cold, the snow, and the end-of-semester projects.

The best thing about writing the above list? It made me realize that I learned more at ASTR than I thought I would, and than I thought I did.