Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lessons Learned This Week

Just last week, the Barre Opera House hosted the Moving Lights Dance Company's annual Green Mountain Nutcracker performance. The Nutcracker is the standard Christmastime show for anyone in the business; a lighting designer I know saves light plots, paperwork, and color for a variety of houses that hire him back for their stock Nutcracker every single year. Last year I worked the show as stage manager during my college exam week-- not a fun experience, especially given the reception I was given by the company as a new member-- but a learning experience for sure.

This year was a little different. Earlier in the year at the Opera House, the technical supervisor I had worked under for several years stepped down. I came in for the Nutcracker load-in and strike as technical supervisor, a new position for me, but one I had exemplary models and teachers for.

I started by looking at hours and timesheets from last year. Without a lot of guidance from the company itself, I wanted to be sure we stayed close to their budget from the year before, so I hired about the same amount of people and tried to work about the same amount of hours. Our main goal was electrics: hang, circuit, focus, and troubleshoot. I asked Peter Monahan, the previous tech guy at the Opera House, to come in for the calls and he agreed. I also had the help of Jeff Salzberg, the lighting designer, who had some specific mechanics, cabling, and effects he wanted to use.

It was kind of hard to plan going in without having done this before. I acted mostly on suggestions, pairing people up on tasks whenever possible, trying to use peoples' strengths. My first mistake was to bite off too much at once: we had enough people to start rehanging all the electrics, but the hemp system at the BOH means things shift pretty quickly when weight changes. I didn't warn people about it and we had to stop and reassess with the people on the weight rail and then handle one or two electrics at a time.

Another thing I wished I had thought of beforehand was the rules about hours worked/breaks needed, especially meal breaks. Sunday was a hard day because we were focusing lights, which only takes a few people, and once the special projects like hanging stars and getting booms together were done, I had people standing around and was struggling to fill the 4-hour minimum call. Once I released the majority of the crew, three of us stayed until 1am focusing-- which is just how focus works, a few people at a time.

The strike of the show went well. We restored the stage to a rep plot, which was simple enough. I learned a little about conserving cable and twofers though, and also about coming in with a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished. I think we did well for the most part. I think the final lesson learned was that fake snow can actually pop the base off of an instrument-- namely parnels-- when it melts onto it. Watch out for that one!

The highlights of the whole job included bringing back my mentee/best friend from last year, Alan, to work the call, as well as another underclassman from St. Mikes, Dee-jai, to work. Connecting my worlds and helping my rising techies get work is a pleasure I discovered last year when I roped Alan in for spotlight operating the very same gig. I also enjoyed not having to be present for the whole week (something my exams this year wouldn't have allowed for), not having a lot of contact with the actors and company (something I've been appreciating more and more as I get away from stage management) despite the uncertainties and unspecified details it presented, and the pay raise.

While I'm not sure how much time I will have in 2012 to be the house TD at the Opera House (not to mention the body strength when it comes to that fly system!) it was a great experience this winter. Many thanks to the crew and my mentors who have been so patient with me through this learning experience!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

First Snowfall!

Yesterday, Saint Mike's got it's first permanent snowfall! It was a beautiful night. When I got home from an Irish Christmas music concert (Cherish the Ladies at the Flynn theater) I took a walk with my camera.

The campus was hushed and misty, and took me to a natural, wild place. I love winter, despite the cold, and winter nights are the best. Whether the snow is blanketing down or the sky is clear to the stars, it's a beautiful time of year. I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and my walk last night reminded me that if I do get to work on a cruise ship, I should apply for the Alaskan lines.

There's something so still about the world in December that goes beyond cheery Christmas music and decorations, something deep blue instead of bright red, something that you can't help but feel if you stop and take deep breath and really open your eyes to what's around you. Thank God for my Vermont upbringing; I have the ability to do this and to appreciate the beauty all around me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Crunch Time!

The weeks following Thanksgiving break are always packed with end-of-semester assignments and activities around Saint Mike's campus. Although every day is exhausting, it's rewarding to be productive, especially when I'm more aware than ever of the money going into my education and the benefits I'll gain when I'm done with school and job hunting.

This year I am noticing finals more than ever with a lot of my close friends finishing thesis papers and research projects: Becky and Heather, my friends who are senior English majors, are both part of the senior seminar about monsters in culture and society and have been doing a lot of work relating figures like Frankenstein, Hannibal, and Jekyll & Hyde to the real world. I love going to a liberal arts school because so many classes and themes are related and I'm able to draw concrete parallels between many theories.

My four classes for this semester are Spanish Literature, Shakespeare, Early Christianity, and Run Crew Lab. Since Crimes of the Heart is over, my time in the scene shop and backstage has diminished, though with various end-of-the-semester performances and theatre finals going on my friends and I have been putting in a few hours a week preparing for events. I have one exam for Christianity and one on Spanish theatre; an essay on Spanish theatre to do; and then a group presentation on Titus Andronicus in Shakespeare and also an advanced research paper on Hamlet to do. Although things are winding down for the most part, Shakespeare is still a very intense class!

Some of those end-of-semester events include the Saint Michael's Playhouse Holiday Benefit Concert, a sold-out show performing tonight only, featuring some of Playhouse's familiar faces, and the directing class scenes, which will be Monday of exam week.

Other than that, I'm also looking ahead to next weekend, when I'll be working as technical supervisor at the Barre Opera House loading in for their annual performance of The Green Mountain Nutcracker. I've also been doing some research for summer stock jobs, since the time to apply is drawing near. I'll keep you posted!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stage Combat Workshop

On Saturday, my friend Ken Nicholas came to St. Mike's to give a stage combat workshop with our Drama Club! It was a great day. We started at 9am with warm-ups and basic hand-to-hand moves like slaps, punches, falls, and chokes. There were about 15 people from the club present, and we all got the chance to do each move.

During the afternoon we worked on a line of choreography using the hand-to-hand pieces from the morning and filmed them! It was definitely the most moves I've remembered in a long time; I find dance classes very challenging. I worked with Julia, my mentee in the drama club, and we had a lot of fun!

Later, we learned how to use whips. It was like genuine Indiana Jones material! Cracking whips is harder than it looks and some of them were really heavy. The workshop was only supposed to go until 5pm, but we had some interested students stay until almost 8pm with the sword work!
The champs that stayed for hours afterward!!

I got to spend some time with Ken and his friend Jenn who came up to see Vermont as well! We went to the Skinny Pancake, the Single Pebble, and around Burlington a little. I hadn't seen Ken since leaving Gateway Playhouse this summer, so it was a real treat to have him come up. Check out a video he made from the weekend: Welcome to UVM (pun intended).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Class Registration...for the final time!

Last week I registered for classes for spring semester...my last semester at Saint Michael's College! It is so hard to believe 4 years have gone by. In a lot of ways I'm ready to be done with school: I often feel that classes and homework are holding me back from what I really want to do, but I know in the long run it's definitely worth the time and effort. I will miss the social life, however, and the safety net that school provides.

My final semester here includes 4 classes: my senior seminar class (during which I'll be discussing and presenting my work on my showcase piece, which is lighting design for the spring mainstage); a class on J. R. R. Tolkein, where we will read his works and discuss/analyze; a Spanish conversation class to keep up my skills; and Costume Crafts, where I'll learn the basics of costume use, history, certain stitches, and patterns. I will spend a lot of time in the theater again, as lighting designer for the spring mainstage, helping out with various tech elements of the other senior showcase plays, and as with this semester helping out with the tech classes there. I also may try to help out with the costume building labs more, since I'll be in the costume crafts class and haven't done costumes at all during my college career yet.

Class registration at Saint Michael's is hard. There isn't really a good way to do it, to be honest, and the registration days are often very stressful for students. I've been pretty lucky getting into the classes I need/want, but this time around especially I've heard a lot of people who haven't gotten any of the classes they needed. It seems that this is a downfall of the idea of small classes with the incoming classes growing every year.

With that update, I'm off to work on researching jobs! The life of a college senior....

Friday, November 11, 2011

University of Vermont's The Good Woman of Setzuan

Last night, I drove some first-years from Professor Nick Clary's first-year seminar class Drama & Culture to see UVM's performance of The Good Woman of Setzuan, a Brecht piece usually classified as epic theatre. The plot is fairly complex, involving a benevolent woman in the imaginary Chinese city Setzuan who is noticed by the gods for her goodness and rewarded with money. She buys a tobacco shop...and immediately is beset by the impoverished and the wealthy alike. The twists in the plot are unpredictable, and the ending left me absolutely stunned and wanting more.

While the point of epic theatre is to alienate the audience, or for the audience to always be aware that they are watching a play, this production directed by Peter Jack Tkatch emphasized the humanity of the characters and elements of both eastern and western theatre styles.

I was particularly interested in the scenic and lighting elements, even more than usual because I know both designers. Hannah Bean Brosnan, currently a senior at UVM who I worked closely with as a fellow stage management intern in 2010 at Saint Michael's Playhouse, designed a flexible world that emphasized oriental aspects, which is a change from the usual epic theatre starkness, but worked with the production very well to create coherency. The lighting by John Forbes was remarkable, creating several dramatic moments, especially with flying specials that isolated characters for certain moments, a dreamy sewer chute, and highlighting and silhouetting the gods. The costume design was an essential part of the revised theme of humanity, emphasizing reality, and differentiating characters.

The questions posed by Brecht in this play are endless, crossing lines of myth and religion, society and government. It fits this country's-- and the world's-- current struggles with poverty and economic crisis perfectly. Is it possible to be good to the world and good to oneself as well? How much is too much? Are the gods able to change anything? Can human nature be changed, or is the solution to change society?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crimes of the Heart update

This weekend we are going into tech rehearsals for Saint Michael's College fall mainstage, Crimes of the Heart! Written by Beth Henley and set in Mississippi in the '70s, the play is a dark comedy about three sisters reuniting in the face of their grandfather's illness and a family scandal. Katelyn Brisson stars as Meg for her senior showcase; sophomore Kit Rivers and first-year Evyn Whiteley are featured as Lenny and Babe, the other sisters. The supporting cast is a great mix of students, especially first-years. I have been continually impressed so far this semester by our freshman class in the theater program!

For Crimes of the Heart, I've been working on a variety of projects. Officially I am the assistant scenic designer, the props master, and the master electrician. I have been hunting props for the most part: digging through the Klein basement, where our props storage is, shopping for the strangest combination of things, and doing small projects like outfitting my bulletin board with hooks and fixing spindles on kitchen chairs. We also have a fair amount of consumable food in the show, which means the people at Shaws have gotten very familiar with my face (or hair) and eccentric purchases. Props has definitely taken up most of my time in the past few weeks and has been pretty stressful-- if only I didn't have classes and homework to worry about as well!

This is the set about a week ago...coming along!
There are 2 classes that meet during the week to build the set and hang lights, and for the past month I've been coming in to work with all of them. The work study students have also been a huge presence in the shop this fall, which is great. Some of the projects I've been given during those times include wiring and hanging the ceiling fan, putting in wall scones and pendant lights, building walls, and helping the lab kids figure stuff out.

I had excellent help with the ceiling fan.
John Devlin is one of the most patient people I know! I can't imagine having to explain things over and over to students who sometimes only care about the credits. This semester's classes have gotten pretty invested in the process, however, which is very exciting to see. The play opens next Wednesday, Nov. 2nd at 7pm and runs through Saturday, Nov. 5th. Admission is free and open to the public, as always. Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 24, 2011

American Shakespeare Center at Saint Mike's

Last Thursday, Saint Michael's College welcomed the American Shakespeare Center's Almost Blasphemy tour for an afternoon performance of Midsummer Night's Dream. The company comes every year to UVM and St. Mike's, and students flock to see the shows. The ASC performs in the style of Shakespeare's time, as much as possible, with a thrust stage, contemporary music pre-show, and with all the lights on.

The ASC's A Midsummer Night's Dream features 9 professional actors and 2 acting interns. I attended a workshop Thursday morning with some of the actors as a part of my Shakespeare class with Professor Nick Clary, which was a great chance to meet the cast and the troupe manager/assistant director Glenn Schudel and ask them some questions. We learned a lot about their rehearsal process, which is different from a typical theater schedule: rather than starting out with the director assigning ideas from the start, the ASC cast gets together and has a day to put the play together with all of their ideas-- the bigger, the better-- and from there the play gets toned down or worked out by the director and the artistic director.

The play itself was, as expected from the ASC's comedies, side-splitting. Myself and some friends sat onstage and enjoyed the different perspective; the recital hall was nearly full. They had performed the other 2 shows in current repertoire at UVM the weekend before: 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore and Winter's Tale, which I am sorry to have missed. 

Afterward, a veritable host of theater students stayed to help the company load out, despite the fact that they are completely self-sufficient. Professor Nick Clary of the English department has seen the ASC tour at Saint Michael's for the past 20 years and extended his gratitude and love for the work at a presidential dinner post-show, which several of his classes had the pleasure to attend. It was a great experience meeting the cast and learning more about them, especially for those of us who may be doing similar things for years to come!

2011/12 Almost Blasphemy Troupe (Clockwise from Top Left): Kevin Hauver, Rick Blunt, Ronald Peet, Stephanie Holladay Earl, Patrick Earl, Bridget Rue, Michael Amendola, Jake Mahler, Denice Mahler, Eugene Douglas, and Daniel Stevens.  Photo by Michael Bailey.http://www.americanshakespearecenter.com/v.php?pg=88

The company was in town for a few days, during which time we saw them a few times and gave some local sightseeing advice. They are currently in Canton, NY, and I may be taking a road trip up there (weather depending) to see the other plays we missed out on! For more information on the American Shakespeare Center's annual tour, visit their touring page here. Several of the actors keep blogs as they travel: check out Michael Amendola's blog here

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Saint Michael's College Theatre Department

This fall, Saint Michael's Theatre Department is producing Crimes of the Heart, a dark comedy by Beth Henley. It performs in the beginning of November and, as always here at St. Mike's, admission is free.

I'll write more about the play itself when we get closer to showtime. For now, an update on the production side of things and a look at how St. Michael's College gets things done. While over the summer the professional summer stock company St. Michael's Playhouse hires interns and professionals to design and create the set, props, and costumes, during the school year the academic shows work a little differently.

We have one professor in charge of all elements technical (excepting costumes): John Devlin, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, and my advisor. During the school year, he supervises several lab classes in the scene shop made up of students who come in, often knowing nothing about carpentry or lighting, to work for credit. He is also usually the scenic and lighting designer on the mainstage performances, unless a competent student is interested in designing. There are also design and history classes available with John. For an update on the scenic elements of Crimes of the Heart, please visit the department blog.

Peter Harrigan, Professor of Fine Arts and head of the Theatre Department, usually undertakes costumes for the mainstage productions, which involves a lab setup similar to the scene shop lab, only with costumes. He also teaches costume crafts, theatre history, and intro. to theatre. Every other semester, Peter directs the mainstage production, and this semester he is the director for Crimes of the Heart.

Another professor in the Theatre Department is Cathy Hurst, Professor of Fine Arts. She teaches acting, directing, and several specialty courses in both of those fields, in addition to directing every other mainstage season (alternating with Peter). Cathy also spends a lot of time with her duties as the Co-Chair of the New England region for ACTF, the American College Theatre Festival, a big event in January that colleges send students to every year. Plans and preliminary rehearsals for the spring mainstage, APP-etite, are underway as well.

As you can imagine, our faculty has a lot on their plates! This power trio produces two mainstage productions every year, one per semester. I've noted throughout my time here that other places do more shows, probably a result of more faculty members and greater funds. Cathy, John, and Peter have to work extremely hard as it is to give each of us a personal learning experience, not to mention put in extensive time in rehearsal, production meetings, and labor for each of the productions.

Other theatre opportunities at Saint Michael's College include getting involved with the Drama Club, which hosts numerous events, trips, and performances throughout the year, including a 24-hour play festival, a mentor program, and most currently a haunted house! Also coming up, auditions for the directing class scenes this Friday: anyone can try out and the rehearsals are less intensive than the mainstage schedule. There are also classes offered through the English department: Shakespeare, First-Year Seminar Drama & Culture, and more!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Month of Senior Year

We're almost at the end of September- it's so hard to believe! It feels like we just arrived, but the semester is well underway.

The Drama Club has had a few fun events already: the 24-hour play festival a few weeks ago was a blast! We had four great plays created by teams of writers and produced all in one day. I played 4 roles in one skit: a caveman, a crusader, an American Revolutionary soldier, and a futuristic Billy Mays robot-vending machine set in Russia....clearly a good time! The other big news was that our team led Burlington's Light the Night walk in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society this past Friday. It's so great being part of a club that not only does fun and crazy theater things, but also is a part of the community!
 Classes are going well. I spend 4 afternoons a week in the scene shop now, since I'm assistant scenic designing the fall mainstage, Crimes of the Heart, which involves pulling a lot of props and working on dressing the set to make it look more realistic. I find it really enjoyable to alternate working in the shop and then going to pick props from our storage area. It's fun to look for period pieces (Crimes has props that range from the '50s to the '70s) and to see the designer's choices on which pieces to use as well.

Other than that, I have Spanish Literature, which is extremely challenging but amazing. We've been reading short stories from various periods in Spanish and American history, all very dark times and atmospheres, but very informative about the time, not to mention great practice for my Spanish.

 One of my favorites is my Shakespeare class, taught by an expert, Professor Nick Clary. We've read 3 plays already this semester and analyzed them through discussion and worksheets. I'm starting to learn to appreciate reading a play, where you can make many interpretations, while when a play is performed it usually is presented to be seen in a certain way, even if it does make the dialogue easier to understand when performed live.

Early Christianity is a fairly interesting class as well. If I had a choice for my second religion class I would have chosen one I know less about, like Buddhism, but the Liberal Studies Requirements at St. Mike's include 2 Christianity classes. I find the history classes are the best because they still give you a healthy dose of the Bible, but it's also good to see how things started and how they have changed throughout history to get us where we are today.

Otherwise, not much news. I did not get accepted to the Aca Bellas, the a capella group. Since 30 people tried out and only 5 girls were accepted, I am not surprised. I did however join the liturgical choir, which sings at the Sunday evening mass. My house is doing well; we jumped our first hurdle together. We also made a successful vegetable soup with croutons from scratch this evening!

Thank you for reading! More soon!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Adventures in Cooking for the Townhouse

This year, as a senior at Saint Michael's College, I've discovered the joys and pains of townhouse living- specifically, in the kitchen. Most seniors have a limited meal plan, meaning we have to get out and go grocery shopping and start fending for ourselves. All part of a good plan to ready students for the future.

This summer, I got used to shopping for myself and labeling every piece of food in the Gateway staff kitchen, and doing a little cooking- mostly salads, pancakes, and the occasional soup or microwave meal. Now I live with 3 other people and we have a tiny kitchen, and have to do a lot more planning.
The biggest challenge for me is in the grocery store. There are so many options in each aisle, and you think about what you want for yourself and then how you'll be having group and individual dinners during the week, and it's pretty easy to go crazy and buy almost nothing, like I did the first time I went on my own. Then I realized not only did I not have much to eat during the week, but also that my housemates were planning group dinners and I had nothing to contribute. And let's not forget that we go through a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs a day.

Going home for a night last week gave me some ideas to remember in the grocery store: the basics. You can make a meal with meat, veggies, and bread, and that's a good place to start if you aren't ready for the complicated sauces and addendums that other people might have under control. Make a list with your roommates beforehand, and if you all go together you can split up the group stuff at the register (and that makes your personal purchases a little easier!) You can also have one person go and everyone else pay them back afterward, if they're comfortable with that. Laying out how things will work and communicating with your house is always helpful.

We've found so far that frozen stir-fry mixes work really well, as does stocking up on canned food and pancake mix and pasta for the rushed meals or when we don't feel like making other things. Becky and Molly are pretty good at making chicken and veggies or other meals more from scratch. Some of the other things we use a lot of are tea, hot chocolate, bread, any juice or drinkables, butter and cooking spray.
 A final note on cooking at SMC: the 200's and 300's townhouses probably have the smallest kitchens out of all of the options. The 100's and 400's have large kitchens, the suite buildings have a decent kitchen per floor, and there's a kitchen in the International Commons space as well. All good things for underclassmen to keep in mind for the future!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Upcoming Events at SMC

The year here at Saint Michael's has started off well! We are starting week 3 of classes, and already events are starting up. I'm planning on attending some cultural events around campus in the next few weeks, the first of which is auditions for the Aca Bellas, which is the ladies' a capella singing group on campus. Those will be Thursday night at 7pm. I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it Thursday but I'm hoping they will let me audition another day! There are 2 other a capella groups on campus as well: Sleepless Knights, which is our co-ed group (auditions tomorrow, Tuesday 9/13) and Mike Check, the guys (auditions Wednesday 9/14).

Also coming up this week is the 24-hour play festival hosted by the Drama Club. The play fest is one of my favorite events of the year! It's so great to see people who are somewhat interested in theater, but aren't always able to commit for long periods of time, come out and have fun. At 7pm on Friday all people interested in writing, acting, and directing will meet up at the McCarthy theater and sign in. Then the writers stay all night to hash out their skits in groups. The directors come in at 6am to cast everyone who signed up to act; the actors come in at 7am and start rehearsing all day! It's so fun. The performance at 7pm on Saturday is always a goofy blast. Come and have fun, bring some friends, the show is never more than an hour or so; we all can enjoy our Saturday night!

On Sunday the 18th there is an event in the recital hall at the McCarthy Arts Center called Join Hands Vermont: Irene Relief Benefit Performance. This starts at 2pm and accepts all donations, proceeds to go to the Vermont Response and all those who are still struggling in Hurricane Irene's aftermath. I know I'm very interested in this because 1) there is a great lineup of local performers and 2) my hometown and the surrounding areas were hit very hard by the storm and there is a lot of damage.

Later on this month, the Drama Club has its second annual team participating in Burlington's Light the Night Walk, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We have been working really hard to raise money this summer and fall to heighten awareness and help fight cancer in the name of the Devlin family. John Devlin is our adviser and in charge of all things technical in the theater, and his family lost their son Patrick just 2 years ago to a leukemia relapse. Recently their daughter Kat has been fighting a similar illness, and we are so relieved that she is back in school this year and well on the road to recovery. The walk will be September 23rd in Burlington, and we welcome all members of the SMC Community to join our team.

Thank you for reading as always!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Internship Reflections

This summer, I spent around 13 weeks working as an electrics (lighting) intern at the Gateway Playhouse on Long Island. I stepped off the plane from my study abroad in Spain straight into a changeover into their second show of the season, 'S Wonderful, a Gershwin tribute musical. My boyfriend and I broke up the week I got back into the States; I met a great friend while running spotlight, who got me through the summer.
all production photos taken from the Gateway Facebook page

Next, I was the light board operator for Legally Blonde: The Musical, a perky show based on the movie. I learned a lot and happily got a bit of time on the board and watching programming...and learning how to reset pesky movers. I also got a bacterial sinus infection, which is a common affliction at Gateway, and recovered in due time. I don't think I will ever recover from the sight of pink rope light, though.

We took Spamalot to the Patchogue theater, a town over. Loading the trucks, hauling equipment, and running fresh cables in that theater was a hell of an experience, but a good one. I will never forget the cast and crew of that show, nor the fact that I didn't get sick of it, even though I watched it over 20 times from behind my spotlight. Patchogue held some new tricks, like the focus track seat that moved with the front of house truss we hung lights on; and how we climbed up the booms to either side of the stage perched behind Juliet balconies to hang lights. Our electrics crew separated to work on the student production Tommy at that point as well.

Next came Sunset Boulevard....hauling Dora along with it. I enjoyed Sunset more and more as it went along, though my friend Ken left partway through the run, along with most of the other interns, and things started to change into fall mode at the Gateway: lots of new faces, overhire, prep for the final show and mentally gearing up for Halloween. We won't talk about the Dora load-ins and load-outs on crappy split ramps.

Finally, after living with 5 (or was it 7?) people in one room, I had the room to myself for my final week at the Gateway, finishing Sunset and moving into Sweeney Todd, an absolutely thrilling show. I am thinking about going back to visit and see it again this weekend. As rough as the tech was for it, the show blew me away.

All in all, a crazy, but good, summer. I learned a lot about troubleshooting and fixing stuff, and now have a huge appreciation for the theater here at St. Mike's (both the summer playhouse and the academic world) and beyond. Although I had worked in a hemp house before Gateway, and it had an even worse weight system, I found myself at a loss sometimes this summer about the conditions that we worked in and the terrible equipment we made work. I find myself missing it despite this, somehow.

I suffered almost no culture shock because of the intense work schedule; I grew to like many of the people I worked and lived with, especially as the summer wore on. The shows the Gateway produces are pretty high quality, and being just outside of the city means good names come through to act and direct and design. It's a step I'm glad I've taken, and makes me feel like I could survive anything. Thank you to the staff and various departments who taught me and took care of me this summer.
The house at Gateway

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Townhouse Living

So we've made it through week 1 of school here at St. Mike's, and my friends and I are sufficiently settled into our townhouse in the 200's to write a little bit about it.

The 200's is a little neighborhood of 4-person apartments on campus. There are 4 series of townhouse, the 100s through the 400s. I live in 220 with 3 friends, Jess, Becky, and Molly, and we are loving our house and the friends who stop by constantly. In fact it's a challenge to get work done with the independent living and enjoyment we get! I guess this is why townhouses are usually for seniors, to prepare us for real-world living, and to give us one last issue to overcome.

We have a limited meal plan and have to cook for ourselves a lot.

The 200's townhouses each have a large living area and kitchen in the downstairs. The living room comes with a couch and 2 chairs, a little table, and a larger dining room table with 4 chairs. The kitchen has an oven and fridge, sink, and cabinets. Upstairs we have 4 single bedrooms and a large bathroom. The bedrooms have large closets, a desk and chair, and a bed. Molly and I, having both studied abroad, decorated with pictures and maps from Europe, as well as posters. The 200's have actual plaster walls, unlike the concrete freshman dorms, which is nice. 
Classes have started up as well. I am taking Spanish Lit (which is extremely hard), Theater Lab (where I work in the shop and will be on stage crew for the show in November), Early Christianity, and Shakespeare. I thought about signing up for another class, but it would put me in credit overload with SMC's new credit system, and I'm glad at this point because Spanish Lit and Shakespeare are very challenging. 
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 1, 2011


It's been a while since my last post because things have been busy, busy, busy! I survived through the end of my contract as an intern at the Gateway Playhouse; I will write a post about Sweeney Todd, our last show of the season, after hopefully returning to visit and see it again; and I'll also post some reflections about the summer soon.

I drove home right in front of Hurricane Irene, and had a nice day with my parents and seeing my family before loading up the car for school. I'm glad I left a day early, given the devastating rain and flooding that Vermont is still recovering from. Luckily my family suffered no damage to homes and are all unhurt, myself included, but our hometown and surrounding areas were completely flooded and many people are left with ruined homes, no jobs, and dismal businesses. Another point of damage in Vermont includes its historical covered bridges, many of which were damaged or destroyed in the storm. Check out the NYTimes article for more information about that.

Moving back to Saint Mike's was and is a pretty big deal for me...I am now a senior and living in a townhouse with 3 good friends. It has been 8 months since I spent time at St Mike's! Unfortunately our happy reunion was marred by the death of a close friend of my friends, a young woman who was our age and closely related to the SMC community with Fire & Rescue and Common Ground. It's been a very stressful week for my friends, who spent a lot of time with her last semester while I was in Spain, and I'm doing my best to be there for them and take some stress away! It helps that I am not on the SMC Drama Club Executive Board this year, but have been for the past 3 years, so at least they can leave some of that stuff to myself and others for a while.

It's been a rough week in many ways, but I know VT and my friends will pull through. Thinking of the many people who have suffered losses this week. More updates to come soon- including on my wonderful townhouse and classes!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tragedy in Indiana

This past Saturday, disaster struck at an Indiana State Fair with a freak wind storm that collapsed the stage with a 70-mph gust, killing 5 people and injuring around 40. Luckily, the concert was between sets, with Sara Bareilles off the stage after opening for Sugarland. The sudden burst of wind toppled the rigging and speakers over within seconds. Here is a video of the collapse; be warned, it is disturbing:

While weather forecasters and officials have started to point fingers, it is for the rest of the nation watching this tragedy to realize that the National Weather Forecasters gave their warnings; that most outdoor stages across the U.S. are inspected and approved after setup, before use, and that while human error may have been in play for not evacuating the fairgrounds earlier, it is up to us to realize that nature can't be predicted. No one could have noticed this sudden gust approaching, no more than we can see flash floods on their way in. While the fairgrounds were paying attention to the worsening weather and were prepared for 40-mph gusts, no stage is built for sudden wind attacks of that velocity.

It is, in fact, surprising to me that this sort of disaster does not happen more often. While we say a prayer for those who died- 4 immediately, and one stagehand later on Saturday evening- we can also give thanks that many more people weren't killed.

Working in theater is a dangerous business. Every day we face fly systems with thousands of pounds of scenery and lighting that, if weighted incorrectly, could fall; we hang scenery and lights from very high, hard-to-reach places, which can be scary for the person on the ladder or in the genie lift, as well as for those below. Many places use harnesses and hard hats. Carpenters face power tools on a daily basis; electricians risk shock and electrocution often. It's a career path that requires careful work, quick thinking, and nimble hands and feet.

For more information on the deceased, visit here

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Andrew Lloyd Weber's SUNSET BOULEVARD

The Gateway's current mainstage production is a dark, somber piece compared with the summer's earlier offerings. Based on the 1950 Billy Wilder film noir, Sunset Boulevard is set in 1949 L.A. and tells the haunting tale of Norma Desmond, a silent film actress who has faded from the screen of the '20s. When desperate screenwriter Joe Gillis stumbles upon Ms. Desmond planning her return to the studio, he convinces her to hire him...and when the tables are turned, he is hard-pressed to escape from 10086 Sunset Boulevard unscathed.

Our production features Loni Ackerman, a powerhouse who made her Broadway debut at age 19 with George M! and went on to star in Evita, Cats, So Long 174th Street, The Magic Show, and No No Nanette. I have seen the show 14 times so far and still can't get enough of her portrayal of Norma Desmond and the psychology behind the faded movie stars' slides from hopeless un-reality to an elegant woman the audience can hope for, especially with the recurring "New Ways to Dream" and the famous "As If We Never Said Goodbye." For Loni's recent Playbill.com interview about our production and more, please click here.

Joel Robertson deserves a hearty bravo for his depiction of Max, the ever-watching, mysterious servant to Ms. Desmond, the only man who truly shares her dreams, and the one who built up her world around her. His melody "The Greatest Star of All" is reminiscent of the grandeur of old Hollywood and the birthing of film entertainment that Norma and himself played a prime part in.

Robert J. Townsend gives a solid performance as Joe Gillis, the slippery writer falling for the American Dream of luxury; his successful delivery of the title number anchors the musical underscoring throughout the show. The supporting cast, including Gail Bennet as the sweet Betty Shaefer and Phillip Hoffman as great director Cecil B. DeMille, whisks the audience scene by scene through the thickening atmosphere to a stunning closing sequence.

Although I find the character psychology fascinating, and like to look for similarities in Andrew Lloyd Weber's choice of musicals (the idea of the entertainment business driving people to madness, for example, when we also look at Phantom of the Opera) I have to say this was probably a script better left for the screen. Mundane conversation in song form doesn't always make it interesting. Musical director Jeffery Buchsbaum and orchestra have done a stellar job using the score to support the script; I often hear a strain of a certain melody and think to myself "pay attention, this is a plot-affecting moment." I did tell my parents to listen to Phantom before coming to see Sunset, and I would recommend brushing up on the story of John the Baptist as well.
After the rough changeover for electrics into Sunset, I've been able to relax somewhat. Running spotlight for the show is a new experience because we're using regular Source 4 lighting instruments as spots, which involve their own challenges. We're also spotting from high side angles close to the stage instead of the usual back-of-the-house platform.

I found the first few nights frustrating to watch as the stage crew was still getting their feet and are short-handed at this point in the summer, but one of the things all interns have to learn at some point is when to mind their own department and keep their heads down. Now we are well underway and more settled into the run of the show and our routines of maintenance and building and somewhat normal living. Just 12 more days until I go home! Leaving Sweeny Todd maybe be bittersweet but I'm very ready for Vermont.

Here is the Gateway's video preview of the musical drama:

Thanks for reading! For the NYTimes review on Sunset Boulevard, visit here. For tickets, calendar, and more about the Gateway Playhouse, check out their website here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gateway Summer

It has been a few weeks since I last posted an update...it's been a busy time here at the Gateway! We closed Spamalot in Patchogue over a week ago with great success. Loading out of Patchogue and having a complete changeover from student production Tommy into mainstage Sunset Boulevard on the Bellport stage made for a very intense week. This changeover in particular was hard because not everyone was prepared and we had a week straight of rushing to get things done on time. I've said it before and I will say it again: I'm learning a lot this summer, especially things to avoid.

We then went into a midnight tech and Friday morning opening of Dora's Pirate Adventure: Gateway's own Dora the Explorer musical, live. More to come on Sunset and Dora in another post!

This changeover marks the end of the summer for many people here at Gateway. A lot of interns have left and are leaving over the Sunset run, which is a relief in some ways, and makes things harder in other ways. The stage crew, for example, is short-handed. Luckily we have some great high school kids who have started to work in the shop and help out more and more often, especially since Tommy closed. The extra space and peace is certainly welcomed by those of us in the staff house and kitchen!

I have 2 more weeks here on Long Island; through the run of Sunset Boulevard and then until Sweeny Todd opens. I am sad I won't be here for the run of Sweeny Todd, but at least I'll get to see it and work on it a little. I will be celebrating my birthday opening night, and heading home for a few days before school starts up again.

There's lot of activity on the class of 2015 facebook page for the incoming class, which is very exciting! I'm ready for a great senior year, without too many outside commitments to take me away from the McCarthy stage and the exciting projects I have waiting there. I will be back in Vermont with friends and family for the first time (for more than a few days, anyway) in 8 months!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gateway Playhouse Presents: Spamalot! at the Patchogue Theatre

Last week, Spamalot opened in Patchogue, NY, directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews. Spamalot is based on the 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and won three Tony awards on Broadway. From killer rabbits to a disco-Vegas Camelot party, Spamalot keeps audiences laughing throughout the evening. Join King Arthur (played by Peter Simon Hilton) and his loyal sidekick Patsy (Jeremy Morse) and their knights, ladies, French enemies, Knights of Ni, and more as they hunt for the Holy Grail (and for various shrubberies, Jews, and damsels- er, gentlemen- in distress!

The biggest challenge about this show has been the distance. Patchogue is about 15-20 minutes away from the Gateway Playhouse, and getting our equipment over there, loading in and completing tech rehearsals, and now constantly traveling to perform the shows, is very tiring for all of us. Not to mention that we've gone into changeover and tech for Tommy, the annual student production, this week; splitting the crews and staff and stretching our gear thin.

Working at the Patchogue Performing Arts Center is definitely a new experience, especially because it is much bigger than most of the places I've worked. The theater has a lot of potential, and were it better taken care of perhaps the Gateway wouldn't have the biggest shows performing on its stage.

I'm running spotlight on Spamalot, which means I spend a lot of time in Patchogue (especially two- and three- show days). It's been very rewarding in some ways for me because this is the show that stood out for me in the Gateway's season when I first applied to be an intern. Seeing Keith Andrews again, a director whom I worked with on many shows at the Saint Michael's Playhouse, was fantastic. I enjoy the run of the show, especially with Matt Crowle on the stage again (he starred in my first show here, 'S Wonderful) as a Broadway-aspiring, tap dancing, cowardly Sir Robin. Almost all of the actors double roles at some point or another. I also enjoyed working with Doug Harry, our lighting designer.

To see the NYTimes review of Spamalot, click here. For more information on tickets, calendar, and who's who, please visit the Gateway Playhouse website.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Upcoming Events

Things are about to get crazy around here at Gateway! We are on our closing week of Legally Blonde: The Musical and will be striking the show this weekend. Our next show, however, will be performed at a different theater in the town of Patchogue; the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts is bigger and has had a long history with Gateway Playhouse, making it the perfect setting for Spamalot. We've started loading equipment in already, and this weekend will be like changeover on steroids because of the distance and the new space.

Luckily Tommy, the annual student show, opening at the Gateway Playhouse while Spamalot is running, starts a week later so we'll have a little more time to actually change over this space from Blonde to Tommy. I'm excited to be running spotlight on Spamalot, though it means lots of trips to and from the Patchogue theater and also that I probably won't get to see Tommy.

Oh, and to top things off...tomorrow morning the childrens' shows start! We have two performances of Cinderella tomorrow morning, which I'll be running lights for before Legally Blonde. It's going to be a hectic nonstop time for a while here, but that's what summer stock is all about!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Legally Blonde: The Musical at Gateway Playhouse

For the past few weeks, we have been preparing for and performing Legally Blonde: The Musical at the Gateway Playhouse on Long Island. Based on the movie "Legally Blonde," starring Reese Witherspoon, the show tells the story of Elle Woods, a blond sorority president at UCLA who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard, and finds her own path on the way. Our production was directed by Tom Kosis and Leah Hofmann.
All photos taken from the Gateway Playhouse Facebook page
Ruby Lewis portrays Elle's surprisingly touching journey very well. As my father said when he saw the show, you find yourself rooting for Elle, despite the fact that she's rich, from Malibu, and gets into Harvard with nothing but a cheerleading routine.
The Harvard acceptance is, however, the only part of the script that sticks out for me as positively ditzy. I learned I would be running the light board for Blonde and was apprehensive at having to watch and listen to the show every day, sometimes twice a day, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how not-tired I am of the songs and the story. It moves along at a fantastic pace and with a huge amount of scene and character changes by almost all of the cast, it's impossible to be bored.Our production also stars Brent Michael DiRoma as Emmett, Ruth Pferdehirt as Paulette (and Matt Nolan as Kyle the UPS guy, together they perform some of my favorite parts of the show!) as well as Kristin Wetherington as Vivienne.

As an electrics intern on the show, I worked on preparing some light-up set pieces called portals (basically false prosceniums) by embedding different colors of rope light inside of them. They are used during the show in several cues, especially the pink (of course!) with a glow that adds to the scene. The scenery was designed by Robert Andrew Kovach for the Ogunquit performance of Blonde in August, where our sets are moving next; we worked closely with Kim Hanson, our lighting designer, to get the lights in place and focused and into cues.

Running the light board means that I come in before the show and turn on the power, unlock backstage doors, turn on all the lights, and go through one at a time to make sure everything is working. Myself and the other electricians- one of whom is running spotlight, and one of whom is our deck electrician to keep an eye on things from onstage during the show- will fix things if needed before the show begins. Then during the play the stage manager calls the light cues for me and I watch from the booth for any surprises, in electrics or otherwise, being one of the only people who can see what the audience is seeing. It's a lot of responsibility, but I love it.

To see Legally Blonde at the Gateway Playhouse, check the website here. Also visit the NY Times review of the production here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The magical weekend of summer stock has arrived upon Gateway Playhouse: changeover weekend. This is the 3-4 day span starting about half an hour after the first show closes on Saturday night (in this case, 'S Wonderful) and lasts until opening night of the second show (Legally Blonde: The Musical). All of the technicians work crazy hours to strike the first set from the stage and then arrange and finalize the second set- and all the lights- for the next show in the space.

To prepare for this process, the carpenters spend daylight of the 2-3 weeks leading up to a changeover (while the first show is performing nights and matinees) building set pieces so they're all ready to put together. This was a huge set for the space and for our carpenters to finish. It's going on tour to Ogunquit, Maine for the Ogunquit Playhouse's production of Blonde, which opens in late August.

As an electrics intern, I spent the past few weeks running spotlight for the 25 performances of 'S Wonderful. I also helped repair and maintain all the lights used in the show, clean and organize our workshop, and work on the lights embedded in the Legally Blonde set (also known as practicals). Practicals can range from table lamps and flashlights used by the actors to wall sconces, chandeliers, flashing signs, and in this case, rope lights and belt lights, most of which are attached inside set pieces to make them glow.

Today is Tuesday of changeover weekend, so we're done striking the set from 'S Wonderful, done hanging and focusing the lights for Blonde, and the set is pretty much in place and ready. Tech rehearsals have started. These are long rehearsals where the cast spaces and gets used to the stage (like the technicians, the actors have not been able to prepare for the show on the stage with 'S Wonderful performing daily). These rehearsals, however, are primarily for the stage manager to organize all the scene changes and lighting and sound cues. The lighting designer can use this time to write or change cues; often they will come in knowing what they want or having already written basic prototypes, a foresight that makes the rehearsals less tedious.

Tomorrow we'll have dress rehearsal, where the actors will be in costumes and wigs, and the technical elements will be pretty much settled (in an ideal situation, that is). I'm running the light board for Legally Blonde, and while I can watch some of the programming of the cues and moving lights during this process, there isn't a whole lot to be done while the run-through is going on, which is why I have the time to write this blog. I also have a sinus infection, and my boss the Master Electrician, Jose Santiago, has been telling me to rest more. They're treating me really well here, with a trip to the doctor's and all. It's hard to sleep or relax when I know we're in changeover, though: it's the process that we all gear up for ahead of time and drink Red Bull and worse throughout; it's that time when you know you should be doing something or helping out somewhere. That's something that has taken some getting used to here, as opposed to Saint Michael's Playhouse where I spent the past two summers: there's a bit of a division between departments here, so even though the carpenters were short-handed on this show, we electrics interns weren't really sent to help. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, simply different.

Thank you for reading! If you're interested in the changeover process in theater, look it up on Youtube- there are some fun videos of the process, fast-forwarded. More to come on Legally Blonde!

Monday, June 13, 2011

'S Wonderful at the Gateway Playhouse

The Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, New York, is currently producing 'S Wonderful, a musical conceived and directed by Ray Roderick using only pieces by the famous Gershwin brothers. The show is composed of five mini-musical stories set from the 1920's to current day, and each revolves around the theme of love while incorporating historical elements and events that the Gershwin brothers experienced.

Running spotlight for a musical can get tiring, but there are many moments of this production that still entertain me. The highlights of the show for me include Matthew Crowle's comedic acting as Harold in the first story, and his physical presence and movement in a rousing rendition of "Swanee," which is one of those songs I will never tire of watching. Stephanie Koenig is the entertainment of the evening with the tale of Jane, a daydreaming makeup artist who learns to love herself. Deidre Haren and Sean Watkins tell a classic love story based on the 1951 American in Paris movie with a ballet number inspired by Gene and Leslie. And Ashley Betton croons some of the most famous numbers with a more melancholy story of love and friendship, set in 1950's New Orleans. All together the musical captures all those mixed emotions that come with life and love and sets them to words and music.

'S Wonderful runs through this Saturday, June 18th. For a memorable evening of classic American songs applied through the generations, order your tickets here. Up next at the Gateway Playhouse is Legally Blonde: The Musical. For photos and more, visit the Gateway's Facebook page

Monday, June 6, 2011

Start of Summer

At long last I'm settled in enough to post a new blog! Since my last post, I traveled for over 24 hours to get home to Vermont, which luckily enough was a fairly straightforward trip and my luggage didn't get lost or anything. I spent two days at home unpacking, repacking, seeing friends, spending time with family, and avoiding rain and huge lightning storms...and then drove 7 hours down to Long Island to start my summer internship!

This summer I'm interning at the Gateway Playhouse, a summer stock theater in Bellport outside of the city. I've been here for one week and have already gone through an overnight changeover and tech rehearsals. We opened 'S Wonderful last Wednesday, the second show of the summer. 'S Wonderful is a Gershwin tribute musical that tells love stories through the generations with the famous songs.
Photo of Harold in 'S Wonderful: Taken from the Gateway facebook page
It's really a fun show. I'm running spotlight, being an electrics (lighting) intern, and this week and during the tech I got to do a lot of hands-on work with hanging lighting instruments, circuiting and cabling things, working on wiring, troubleshooting problems, replacing bulbs... the inventory here is pretty big and involves moving lights and color scrollers, so hopefully I'll get a little more experience in with those this summer.

One last thing that's happened in the past week and a half or so since I've arrived back in the U.S.A. is that my boyfriend Mike and I broke up :( it's been pretty discouraging to have made it so far, only to find that the distance did more damage than I knew. Being at work helps, but it still doesn't really feel real, and I feel naive to keep hoping so much. As my family says, keep looking to the future, and you never know what will happen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This week is my final week in Granada, Spain for my semester abroad. I can't believe how fast it's come; just as I have begun to enjoy my time here and appreciate the past few months, despite its ups and downs, it's almost time to go home. I can't say I'm sorry, though; things here are amazing but I miss my home and my family.

I spent the weekend with friends in the Federico Garcia Lorca park in Granada, and then in Carmen de los Martires, a peacock garden near Granada's la Alhambra palace, taking a photo shoot for a friend's senior pictures. I also went hiking in Sierra de Castriles in the next province over from Granada, which was a great trip. This week is final presentations and the beginning of exams, but I'm not really stressing out over them. The relaxed way of life and the simple class activities- all geared towards our greater understanding of Spanish and the Spanish lifestyle- is very calm compared to exam time at our universities at home.

After exams, I board a 2am bus to Madrid and spend all of May 25th traveling. I will arrive in Burlington, VT at 10pm that day and am looking forward to being greeted by my family. I will spend 2 days at home unpacking and repacking and adjusting before I head off to Bellport, Long Island, where I have an electrics internship waiting at the Gateway Playhouse! I will be there for the entire summer, and while it would be nice to have more time at home I really miss theater and the work ethic it requires. Hopefully the summer will put my schedule back on track for my senior year, which won't be nearly as relaxed as this semester has been!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cadiz y el Torcal

Last weekend, API took all of us American students to Cadiz, a beach town on the Atlantic in the southwest of Spain. It was a great weekend!

We had a farewell dinner with the program in the upstairs of a VERY pink restaurant, where they served us various courses of salad, fish, gravy fries, chickpea stew, and more.

I got to release one of the tagged birds!
The next day I participated in a volunteer project called API Gives Back, during which we built boxes that get birds water, cleared rubble out of an old house, and learned the process of tagging birds to gather information about their habits. There were unfortunately only about 20 of us, but it worked out okay. We were given a snack of fish- I am slowly getting over my dislike of fish, if only the very mildest flavors. They literally had dead whole fish that they thew on a fire and then gave us to eat with our hands! We were all pretty proud of ourselves for that one. Some people even ate the eyeballs! (Not me, you can be sure).

After that we had a lot of time out on the beaches! The water wasn't too bad; the sand was fantastic; and a lot of people got sunburned but the frisbee playing was worth it :) Now we're back in Granada for the last two weeks of presentations, papers, final exams, packing, and enjoying!! I've definitely come to enjoy my remaining time here and to appreciate the last few months, despite their difficulties. Going home will be a welcome mix of relief and uncertainty and change.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Internships at SMC

I just posted a new blog for Saint Michael's College Internships about Saint Michael's Playhouse and other theater news! Check it out here.

It seems like every day I have something new to write about...but with final exams, projects, and papers coming up during our last two weeks in Spain it's hard to find the time! Coming up soon, a post on this past weekend in Cadiz with API!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Another Quick Update!

This weekend I'm off to Cadiz, a beach town in the southwest of Spain, with API. I've posted some recent pictures to Flickr, so be sure to check them out!

We've been learning about flamenco in my Spanish Culture and Civilization class. Flamenco is considered one of the purest art forms, although in recent years it has been influenced by other types of music like classical, jazz, and pop. There are 3 main aspects: the dancing, the singing, and the guitar playing. The origins of flamenco are unknown, but it's an art highly practiced by the gypsies in southern Spain (and is also very popular in Japan, oddly enough) who are thought to have come from Egypt. Granada is really a city of flamenco because you can walk to el Albaicin or Sacromonte, the older quarters of the city, and hear music playing. Flamenco dresses are also sold in many places here. I have a flamenco video posted from a show API took us to a few weeks ago.

When I get back from this weekend I'll be working on a post for SMC's Internship blog and another update here! About 20 more days in Spain...enjoying every minute :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

America's News: As Heard From Abroad

I woke up this morning in my bed in Granada, Spain, in the residencia I have been living in for almost 4 months now. I ate some breakfast and then checked facebook, twitter, and various news websites, all of which featured a story of justice that the American people have been waiting for. For me, the news of bin Laden's death was a mixed relief.

Seeing the news all over the online and social media worlds about the death of Osama bin Laden, after 10 years of hunting for him and fighting the war on terror in the Middle East, is certainly something to celebrate in terms of a huge American success. As President Obama said in his eloquent address last night, the people of our country can feel united again in a way that we haven't since 9/11/2001. Osama's death may even be something of a turning point in our efforts in the Middle East, especially given Pakistan's agreement that yesterday's events were good for both of our countries.

But. For someone studying abroad, the victory is a strange one. For one thing, no one in Spain is pumping shots and screaming "USA!" I received an email from the U.S. Embassy this morning with a heightened travel alert due to events in Pakistan, and warnings to be aware of more anti-American sentiments that may follow. While I think I can safely say I doubt I'll be in danger here in Southern Spain, the message made me wary.

Finally, on a personal note, I don't believe anyone's death should be celebrated just for the sake of death. While the thousands of people who lost loved ones or were injured due to bin Laden can find some relief and closure, and I doubt bin Laden could have been taken and held alive, it's a sad sight to see from afar the American people screaming victory over a death that may or may not help the real battle in the long run. And the idea that some of our people are continuing with anti-Islamic ideas is hard to hear as well: my class on Islamic Culture, as well as the huge influence of the Arabs here in Granada, has taught me that more than anything, Islam is a peaceful religion. In the words of our President last night: "The United States is not– and never will be– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims." For a people that value peace and dignity, bin Laden was just as much of a bad guy as he was to the U.S.

It's a start to the end of the war, we hope, but there is a long way to go in the Middle East.

Read or watch President Obama's address here.

Related link: What to Expect From TSA and Airport Security

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Flamenco Show Video

Here is a video I took at the flamenco show that API took us to a few weeks ago!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Semana Santa Culture

I spent the remainder of Semana Santa, the Holy Week, in Granada. Although it rained and many of the religious processions were canceled, I was able to see one.
The creepy-looking KKK costumes are actually a religious tradition...and it's a huge honor to wear one. Some of the people walked in their socks (it was too cold for bare feet!) as penitence.
This was the first "float," if you can call it that when it's actually carried by 20+ people underneath it, which portrays a bloody Jesus. It is, again, a big honor to carry one of these platforms, and they practice all year with tiny, coordinated steps and lifts just for this week.
More costumes, these ones green- and some kiddies in the parade! Like any parade, there were marching bands and groups of soldiers marching as well.
This is the main attraction of every procession: the platform with the Virgin Mary. 

These women were wearing black with large traditional combs and mantillas, or veils. They were so beautiful!

It was sad that many processions were canceled, but I was glad to be able to see one. It was so interesting and chilling all at the same time: the members of the processions were very solemn, as was the music. It's good to see another very different element of culture over here. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Break in Barcelona

This week is Semana Santa, or Holy Week, in Spain, the week leading up to Easter. It also marks spring break for those of us studying abroad, and I planned a trip to Barcelona for the first part of the week. My mom surprised me by deciding to come and visit and spend 4 days in Barcelona with me! This was a big surprise, since my parents had already determined they weren't coming over; and plus, Mom doesn't speak a word of Spanish so it was really brave of her!

We met up in the airport and navigated the metro to our hotel. The first night there, we walked to the Arc of Triumph, a landmark that would become our route back to the hotel for the rest of our stay. That night there was a huge fair going on around the arc, which was fun to walk around and look at all the open markets. We went to a cafe off of the Park Cuitadell, only to find that they weren't serving food (so we ordered a pitcher of sangria instead)! That was definitely one of the issues we had in Barcelona: the mealtimes. Our hotel was outside of the city center so the small places around us were pretty set on the typical Spanish mealtimes. We had a good evening despite that, and found a different place and ordered Spanish tapas: croquettes, tortilla, and Irish potatoes.

Santa Maria del Mar
The second day we walked to the Gothic Quarter of the city, where the city center becomes winding little streets with shops, landmarks, and restaurants scattered throughout. The big museums were closed on Mondays for some reason, but we saw St. Mary of the Sea church, the Barcelona Cathedral, the famous Music Hall, and St. Pere church. It was a lot of walking, and we looked at bus tours that the city offered for the next two days.

We started off Tuesday waiting in line at the Sagrada Familia, the huge cathedral designed by Gaudi. I had heard a lot about the Sagrada Familia, especially that it was hard to get inside, so we arrived early. The cathedral has 2 facades: the Nativity, with the familiar scene surrounded by ornate animals and figures; and the Passion facade, which shows several scenes carved with curves and geometric figures. The inside was incredible! It looked like something out of the movie Avatar. Gaudi was inspired by many different forms found in nature, from flower and tree shapes, to geometric shapes and spirals. We were also able to climb one of the towers and look out over the city and the construction- the cathedral is still not completed. The missing piece is a massive dome, which would rise over the 100-meter-high towers. It will be truly awesome!
Sagrada Familia: Nativity facade

Not 15 minutes after our visit, the Sagrada Familia was hit by an arson attack in one of the towers. The place was evacuated of 1500 people, and Mom and I were lucky to escape the mobbed park on our tour bus. We next went to Park Guell, a famous site also designed by Gaudi, and from there around the city and back to the center, where we saw 2 of Gaudi's houses. Truly Barcelona was Gaudi's architectural playground.

We also enjoyed Basque pinxos (pinchos are like tapas, small portions served with drinks, only with large toothpicks holding them together) at a place called Euskal Etxera, which was a highlight of the trip for me. It was so cool! I thought of Dad, and of home in general, with the appetizer-like servings. There were some pretty interesting combos of flavors, and although we had to scrape some very strong fish out at one point, it was really great. 

On Wednesday, we went to the Picasso Museum, which was really interesting. I didn't know Picasso started out with realistic portraits and landscapes, and the museum showed his evolution really well. My favorite part was seeing his variations on the Spanish painter Velazquez's famous painting, Las Meninas

We continued on the tour bus to see some upper-class parts of the city, including the old Royal Palace, the soccer stadium, the 1992 Olympic stadium, a monument to Christopher Columbus, and finally the beach!
We woke up before dawn on Thursday to start our respective journeys...it was an amazing trip with my Mom :) we bonded a lot and enjoyed the sights together, and it is probably the longest amount of time I'll be spending with family for the summer, so it was well worth the problems I had actually getting to and from Barcelona! Luckily Mom's longer and more complicated trip was easier than mine. Thanks for reading: up next, the Semana Santa processions in Granada.
Mom on top of the Barcelona Cathedral!

Casa Batllo, designed by Gaudi

Gaudi's famous residential building