Saturday, October 27, 2012

How I Beat Insomnia

Once upon a time, from age 8 to age 18, I suffered from insomnia. Night after night I laid awake, afraid because everyone else in my house was asleep and I wasn't. Later, as I grew older, I started wondering why I couldn't sleep. I counted sheep and read boring books and listened to soothing music. I was tired by day. I didn't care about much during high school. When I started college and found I needed the natural energy that sleep provides, I was incredibly frustrated. I took sleeping pills which didn't help me, and was afraid to take more. I tried herbal muscle relaxants. I panicked sometimes, knowing it would affect my classes and my life more than ever.

The summer after my freshman year of college was my first summer stock experience, spent as a stage management/rotating shop intern at Saint Michael's Playhouse. And it was there I discovered I could work myself into such exhaustion daily that I would sleep, at last. Maybe that is some of the reason I love summer stock so much, and why I love days in general that leave me wiped out. This week, my first week working at a scene shop in Boston, has left me silly-tired every day, and I absolutely love it. The work, the people, and the sleep I get at night. Don't get me wrong, I love my job for many other and more important reasons...but somehow sleep is the final factor that tells me I'm doing things right!

My sleeping problems are far from over. I started having vivid dreams around the time I started college, dreams that stress me out, that make me feel like I haven't slept at all when I wake up, dreams that disorient and frighten me. I'm never in control, I'm not a lucid dreamer or able in any way to wake up or realize I'm dreaming. I've woken up sick, shaking, crying, or startled. Sometimes I do wake up contented, which I'm thankful for; occasionally, it seems, a dream will come and resolve a problem or an issue in my subconscious. I guess whatever my brain is working on at night, it's important. I'd rather have it do its job than be that teenager who couldn't sleep and walked around in a hazy dream all day. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Post-College Life (so far)

Life after graduating is definitely a shiny new experience so far. For something like 16 years in the beginning of our lives we go to school and it plays a large role in dictating our friendships, our free time, our activities, and what we do with the rest of our lives. After graduation, a lot of that simply stops.

Immediately after graduating, I worked at a summer stock theater for 3+ months, where I did the work I love and was paid (albeit slightly) and provided with housing for that time. Maybe those benefits are part of the reason I'm a big fan of summer stock; in any case, it meant I had a few more months to figure out my year following the summer.

I didn't waste my time this summer while I was enjoying myself. I started applying for "real" jobs in June and July, searching sites like and stagejobspro and artsearch and more. I looked at websites and made phone calls. I asked for references and advice from my many wonderful mentors in this business. I applied for about 15 different jobs in various areas of expertise, since I have a wide range of skills to offer and am interested in many parts of the process.

Despite all of that, I am writing to you now from my parent's house in Vermont. Which is fine for now; I'm not ashamed and they're not bothered, and I can certainly earn my keep helping out here. There isn't enough work in Vermont to support myself with, however, and it's almost time to break into the theater scene elsewhere. I'm working on it, with a lot of help from friends and contacts and again, mentors. It's been a roller coaster month out of summer: I wanted to move right away, but didn't have the money so I decided saving up at home and joining the local stagehand's union, the I.A.T.S.E. Local 919, would be a good idea for my future. September went well: I worked with the local, with VSC, and in Boston a little, feeling it out.

Then October hit, and I realized that work is scarce enough I'm not really saving money. It's time to make the leap and make a bigger effort elsewhere; to spend the money now to move and search for apartments and jobs and hopefully make it up once I'm settled somewhere. Every day brings something different and big. I thought I was working hard throughout college, and I was, but not like this. I work hard every day to stay focused on what I want, to write and talk and think about where I want to be. It sounds simple, but it isn't. I know now I want to move to Boston and work there for this year, at least until the summer season comes around again. I work hard to not become a bum in my parents' basement, to suck it up and ask for help, to make use of the contacts and friends I made in the last 22 years.

Sometimes I feel really stupid about all of this. It seems so simple. But I've learned a lot already. Some of the problem with all those applications I sent out was my over-willingness to relocate. I applied to places all over the country, so long as it wasn't in Vermont. I didn't choose a place and focus on the many opportunities within it-- and each city does have its own type of opportunities. I hoped for a contract right out of college, which in this field doesn't always happen. I've learned just how much other people can and are willing to help, if you cultivate good relationships and ask for it. And I know that someday, I will be one of those people helping the next generation find their way.

Thank you for reading about my life lessons today! More updates to come.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


The Vermont Stage Company started its 2012-2013 season with a boom...quite literally! Written by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Boom tells the tale of a nerdy biologist who predicted the end of the world...and in preparation, stocked up his underground bomb-shelter-turned-lab and put an ad out for a date. Little does Jo, the punk chick who responds know that Jules' real intention is to preserve the human race.

Genevra MacPhail and Alex Koch as Jo and Jules. Photo Source:
 Directed by Cristina Alicea, the Artistic Director of VSC, this production is a quirky glimpse into the future and appropriately liberal for Burlington, Vermont. Working in the Flynnspace is always a welcome challenge to VSC's directors and designers: it is a small black box space with support columns and a low ceiling to work with. The stage is set as a three-quarter thrust for Boom; the staging carries the actors all over the space, often in unusual and interesting ways. Alex Koch turns a sweet geek into an impressively motivated character when it comes to surviving; when his limits are finally pushed by the often offensive Jo, we see Jules as he had never been seen before in probably all of his tragic life. Genevra MacPhail plays a captivating Jo whose vulnerability changes in very interesting ways throughout the show. I liked her immediately. Carol Spradling plays Barbara, the character who provides a mind-blowing plot twist with increasingly opinionated interjections.

Working on this show has been fun. I met Jim Dougherty, the technical director, back in January at the American College Theater Festival, where I was a technical intern and he was our supervisor. Working with him again to load in the set and flooring was a blast.
Load-in for Boom
Jenny Fulton's scenic design certainly captures the scientific-turned-home-turned-stockpile setting, complete with cold metallic architecture, homely Star Wars bedding and mismatched rugs. Sue Wade's props and dressings complete the space: filing cabinets and crates of important survival things (right down to the baby knits and diapers, tampons, and red Solo cups). I worked later with John Forbes and Sarah Simmons on hanging and focusing lights to create wonderfully diverse effects and a shadowy atmosphere that only furthers the feeling of being underground.

All in all, this is certainly a show worth seeing in the Champlain Valley area. Whether you are interested in the sleeping habits of fish foreshadowing the end of the world; side-splitting laughter and entertainment at the simple facts of life; or the astounding possibilities of human existence and perseverance, Boom is not a play you want to miss. For information on tickets, calendar, and more, please visit the VSC website

Thank you for reading!