Monday, February 13, 2012

College Living

It’s my last semester at college. I am living in a house with 3 other girls, and have discovered a lot about my own housing preferences and practices, and housing at Saint Michael’s College in general. Here are some of my thoughts about living situations thus far!

If you are an underclassman thinking longingly of the day when you will live in a townhouse, consider carefully. (If you want to cook often, don’t live in the 200’s series. The kitchens are tiny.)

Moving into an apartment or townhouse can be a rewarding, independent experience. It’s also hard to get used to how other people live, and the tendencies they have developed all of their lives, when you yourself have different practices and habits. The ability to live with other people is important in our society. Chances are, you’ll be living with people for a few years even after college, and you don’t want to be “that” person who gets kicked out or can’t find a roommate because of bad habits.

Kitchen etiquette in any shared living situation requires communication. If you don’t want your food gone, let it be known. If you want to have communal items, make sure everyone pitches in for them! Sometimes I feel unreasonably selfish when I buy myself things and label them or put them in my own little cupboard, but it shouldn’t make me feel that way. We can’t have every meal together, and if we did, we’d all go nuts.

Cleaning is another thing to get used to. Mom’s not here to pick up after you; figure it out before your roommates get annoyed. If you have a single room, keep your mess confined to that personal space. Even if you are BFF’s with your roommates, some things absolutely need discussion—like who cleans the kitchen, or the bathroom, and how often.

My townhouse didn’t really make an effort to schedule those things, and while I like to keep the kitchen clean and everyone occasionally vacuums the main room, the bathroom last semester was continually dusty and splattered with makeup and fake blood and who knows what else. This semester we’ve been a lot better about making a schedule and keeping to it. It can be harder than it sounds, unless you simply don’t procrastinate or dread it and just get it over with. It takes less than 10 minutes every day to keep your space tidy, whether it involves spraying down the shower, taking out the trash, or washing your dishes accumulated during the day. It’s much more pleasant afterwards, too!

Shared living can make and break relationships. I regret living with friends sometimes, when things get hard or when we get tired of each other. I had at least one close friend who I’ve come to consider as only a roommate at this point, and that is sad. Sometimes when the house is cluttered or the kitchen piles up with one person’s dishes, it sucks. Sometimes the house decides to throw a party when you just want to sleep or study. The atmosphere can be tedious; tense; dreary; fun; indifferent. It’s important to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and that making compromises could save a friendship, or at least help you last through the year.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Champlain College Presents HUMBLE BOY

Last night, I went to see Champlain College's production of Charlotte Jone's play Humble Boy directed by Joanne Farrell. Having stage managed a play for Champlain last year, I was prepared for a similar production. My friend Heather Lessard, also a Saint Michael's student, was stage managing this time.

When I walked into Alumni Auditorium, I was impressed by Jim Lantz's set. Unlike The Shape of Things, where we had boxes that changed placement and decorations between scenes to set up the scene, this outdoor garden didn't change at all, which, with Champlain's limited resources for producing plays, worked in their favor.

The play itself captivated me. Felix Humble returns home from Cambridge for his father's funeral and discovers less is left of their family than he ever imagined. He stays for the summer, despite a decaying relationship with his mother, trying to find the right words. In the meantime, another family interacts with Felix and his mother, forcing us to question the idea of family values. Joanne Farrell, the director, says: "Jones' dysfunctional family portrait entertains and horrifies us while making us think about life and death, grief, immortality, love, and forgiveness. I was fascinated by the theme of the senses, especially hearing, and how it relates to physics and bees and being in touch with the world around us. It was truly a touching play.

While I was a little disappointed to again see no students among the cast, the many aspects that go into creating a piece of theater were well-covered by student crew members, designers, graphic/photography people, and more. The cast is made up of local professionals, giving students a chance to network and to work with veterans in the field. Champlain College also does not offer a theater program, so students in the arts are focused on computer science, graphic design, and photography; the plays Joanne directs gives them a chance to use their skills outside of the classroom setting. There is little technical experience among many of the students, so it's good to see Saint Michael's theater students putting in the time and patience required to help produce quality theater. It is an opportunity for us as well.

Humble Boy closes tonight, 2/11/2012, with the performance starting at 8pm in Champlain College's Alumni Auditorium. I'll be keeping an eye out for Champlain's next production! It is again a tribute to living in such a great arts town that a college with no theater program, no majors, not even a real theater, can produce plays like this and introduce students and audience from different schools to this kind of theater.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ben Cameron on the Power of the Performing Arts

For my senior seminar class, we've been doing a lot of reading on the importance of theater in the world, including in Anne Bogart's book And Then, You Act, which has been riveting so far. One source we've been introduced to is Ted Talks, a site featuring videos on talks and performances in many different areas of interest. This video featuring Ben Cameron was assigned, and we were asked to find at least 2 more related videos. I found a bunch, and will post them throughout the week!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

2 Shows in Burlington

Yesterday, I saw two shows: the matinee performance of Vermont Stage Company's The Clean House at the Flynnspace and the evening performance of Circa, an Australian dance company on the Flynn mainstage.

The Vermont Stage Company (VSC) is Burlington's local professional theater company in its 18th season, mainly producing shows at the Flynnspace, a black box theater run in conjunction with the main Flynn theater. Recently, producing artistic director Mark Nash retired, and direction of VSC changed to Cristina Alicea, who made her directorial debut with The Clean House. I am fortunate enough to know several contributors to the artistic side of VSC's productions, and so was hired to help load-in the set and work on lights to prepare for this show. Seeing the final product of something I've worked on, even when it was just for a few days, is always a great reward.

The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl is a quirky play edging toward surreal. The relationships developed by the 5 characters throughout the show are moving, making the audience laugh and tear up; making us think. I enjoyed the light atmosphere maintained by wit and real-life interactions, change of location, and the occasional aside by Matilde. It wasn't too long. I also enjoyed the use of space in the intimate Flynnspace and how John Forbes' lighting showed us location and mood-- always important with theatrical lighting, but especially well handled in this instance. I saw the play with my mom, which was nice!

The evening's show was a series of dances and acrobatic feats by Circa, a dance company from Australia. The Flynn usually features many companies from all over the world, making its mainstage season varied and interesting. I went with a class; it was nice to see a performance surrounded by peers (especially in those moments when my stage management side took over and started praying for the performers who were twirling and flipping way up in the air) and during those moments where the lights or music were especially nice and we could all appreciate it fully. (Yes, I'm a nerd like that!) The performers were incredible. The sheer balance and daring required for some of the moves they did-- not to mention the trust in one another!-- blew my mind. The muscles they each have are intense. It makes me wish 1) I could dance and 2) I actually tried to stretch and work out more! Alas the busy life!

It's great to be living in a city where the arts are so prominent! Not all places have such great performance calendars. Thanks, Burlington!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Articles on Theater as a Career/Lifestyle

I've been seeing some articles around the online theater community about the importance of theatrical skills in the wide world. Here are two examples that really stuck with me: they speak the truth!

Tom Vander Well's Wayfarer blog post "10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success" from this January is a fun and engaging read.

Louis E. Catron, professor of theater at College of William and Mary, posted this article: "What Theatre Majors Learn: The Advantages Theatre Majors Have For All Jobs."

Many thanks for the recognition, clarification, and inspiration, gentlemen! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

KCACTF: Region One

Last week, the Saint Michael's Drama Club sent 16 people to the Kennedy Center's American College Theater Festival at Fitchburg, MA, a convention featuring workshops, acting competitions, design and stage management competitions, the best shows from our region performing, devised theater and short play activities, and more.

We sent 3 Irene Ryan competitors (the acting competition award is known as the Irene Ryan) that were chosen by ACTF reviewers who came to see and evaluate our largest shows; their acting partners; Heather Lessard to compete for stage management after she was nominated for Romeo & Juliet which performed last spring; and the rest of us mainly to attend workshops and support our fellow students. Marla Caram tried out for and participated in one of the short plays, and Heather also stage managed for the director/choreographer competition. I went as a tech intern, which was an amazing experience.

As a tech intern, I was assigned to Jim Dougherty's crew at the Dukakis theater, around a 1100 seat house at a local high school with a fairly new weight loft/catwalk and grid system, though not without some challenges. Wednesday-Friday I went there each morning to assist with the load-in of whatever show was coming in each night. Then I went to workshops or other shows for the afternoon, before returning to see the performance and strike it. Each school that was chosen to come perform at the festival brought set and some lights and a crew (or actors who could help), all set up, tech'ed, performed, and struck within 16 hours or so.
Sweeney Todd load-in
On Wednesday, we worked with Western Connecticut State University on Sweeney Todd, which was fun. That afternoon I went to a stage photography workshop given by William Kenyon, which was awesome. I hope the notes I took will help me practice taking better pictures of my work-- stage lights change the exposure and so we looked at settings for that. I also saw Spelling Bee by Emmanuel College that afternoon, which is always a fun experience. I returned to see Sweeney that evening, and for a college production it was pretty good! The music and singing was amazing, lots of talent there. We got to help a lot more at the strike than we did during the load-in; as the house crew, we didn't know their set as well as they did and were really on hand to answer questions. Loading out is easier than loading in, however, and after a big performance and long day they could really use the extra hands!
William Kenyon at the Stage Photography Workshop
Thursday dawned bright and early with a 6:45am call to help LeMoyne College load in Rhinoceros, an absurdist social commentary piece. I knew a few people from LeMoyne already, so it was kind of nice to be able to say hi. Because they had a smaller crew, the interns were able to help out a little bit more, especially with lighting and rigging stuff. They had a pretty cool set of metal scaffolding covered by paper walls, with windows and flower-boxes all drawn on, which during the show the actors ripped right through when they needed to look out the window or come through a door. That was fun! That afternoon I went to a Vectorworks drafting workshop, which all agreed needed to be tackled differently next year because of various levels of advancement with the program. The performance of Rhinoceros was a lot different than I expected, but I really enjoyed it-- the beginning was funny, and the second half and ending were thought-provoking. I think I worked on rigging and weight loading for most of the strike, which I am really coming to enjoy.
St. Mike's represent!!
Thursday also featured a show from Boston University, who always has shows worth seeing, called Our Lady. This was a one-man written and acted by James Fluhr show about his experiences growing up homosexual and the effect the recent suicides had on his life-- including the suicide of his boyfriend. It was incredibly moving, and had its light points and dark points, and culminated with a transformation and growth of the boy overcoming his fears and accepting himself in the world. Given the past year's events at Saint Michael's, the piece touched many people. Absolutely unforgettable.
Our Lady pre-show
On Friday we came in for the load-in of The Icarus Project, an original devised piece from Suffolk County Community College about the legend of Daedalus and Icarus. I also already had a friend among this crew, a carpenter from Gateway last summer. The crew was huge, and despite the large amount of lights, truss, equipment, and a few scenery pieces they brought in, we weren't really needed. I could tell a few things could have been done differently to be safer, like some of the weight loading and flying things for the round truss that hung over the stage, but they managed it in the end. The lighting crew was nice enough to tolerate me observing some of what they did-- with an ion board and moving lights, this community college was way beyond the level of technology St. Mike's has to offer.
Stargate in the sky? It could work
 I was thinking about staying for the tech rehearsal because they had such interesting stuff, but Jim and my friend Paige encouraged me to go to a workshop, and I'm glad I did. Friday afternoon I attended Rafael Jaen's Digital Design/Tech Portfolios workshop. Rafael is the head of the design/tech/management program at ACTF and works at Emerson College in Boston as costume designer. He had some great advice and ideas for young (or any!) professionals hoping to get their name noticed and trying to keep up with modern marketing. His book Showcase has a similar theme. Because of this workshop, I've been working this week on reformatting my resume, creating a website for myself, and pushing to connect this blog and my other online resources. He covered paper portfolios and basic interview tips, as well. It was a really great workshop to go to!

That evening was Icarus performance...which absolutely blew me away! The costumes and lighting reminded me of Avatar. There was little speaking, but lots of movement and physical telling of the story. The children were played by puppets, which their students had the opportunity to use and learn how to control. Daedalus had a light-up jacket and helmet (the helmet, of course, representing knowledge). The lighting was as if for dance, with sidelight and saturated colors; the props and set were rustic and provided contrast. The king and queen were huge puppets, and the bull and minotaur were awesome. There were some breathtaking moments for sure. It was hard to believe a college was producing this, though some moments (from each day of the trip!) reminded me that we're all still learning, always. The strike went all right; I was put on the task of inventory for the ALPS rental stuff the house had from the beginning of the week, which presented some wracking moments between the Icarus crew and myself. They made it out just fine though, and I worked with the rest of the interns to load our own truck with the rental equipment. That was it for the Dukakis center!
the bull head
Saturday was a more relaxed day. I saw my friends among the interns often, between tech olympics, the job/college fair, and the dance that evening (during which the electricity went out and we were called on to help keep things calm). Sunday's drive home was exhausting, but our mammoth SMC vans made it just fine.

I had a great week! It was a good blend of workshops, learning, and working, which I love. I'd rather be busy in the theater. The people I met were incredible-- my supervisor, Jim, who works at Middlebury College was fantastic and I'm hoping to see some of their shows this semester; my friend Paige who lives in NYC and works primarily with props, we have a lot of things in common; friends from Johnson Stage College among the tech interns and stage managers; Fitchburg State students who were interns as well; people on the crew from each of the schools who came in.... Thanks to all for making it a great week! Keep in touch!

Stairs to the weight loft/catwalks/grid in about saving space!