I am a work in progress

I am a work in progress

It’s been over a year since I graduated college, moved back home, went unemployeed for over half that time, borrowed too much money from my parents, moved to a new city, started a new job, and began this thing called, “adulting.”

It’s been over a year I told myself I would give myself a break from theatre (participating, not seeing), to give myself a chance to understand who I am outside the performing arts.

It’s been a year ago since I really felt like myself.

Maybe it’s my crippling anxiety and depression but let me tell you, nothing prepares you for life outside the bubble that’s college. In college, you’re surrounded by the same people, places, entertainment and expectations. Now, in adulthood, effort to keep friendships is even harder, saving money becomes near impossible and fulfilling life-long aspirations become more of a dream than a promising reality.

Maybe it’s just my journey where I feel this way but seriously, like “Dear Evan Hansen” puts it:

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To put it as eliquently as I can… Adulting is hard, and I’ve learned it can be really lonely.

For one, I’m a social butterfly. Think of it like Tinkerbell: I don’t need attention, I need people in order to live. I enjoy my alone time and doing things by myself but it’s not the same as actively feeling lonely.

I live for the personal connections we make in this world. We’re nothing without the people we hold close to us: family, friends, mentors, coaches, teachers, directors, you name it. Those are the people who make us who we are today. Even that, I haven’t been able to see all those people who mean the most to me as often as I’d like.

But for over a year, I’ve put a lot of what I’ve wanted on the backburner. Any dreams I once had have gone out the window. Any expectations I had for myself and my future have disappeared. I don’t look forward to really much anymore, except when I see a show or the chance I do get to see my friends.

In the beginning of the year, I left my home in Ithaca, in the comfort of my best friends and my family, to move three hours away into the unknown to take this chance. A chance to start over, become someone instead of something.

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It’s been almost seven months and the most exciting thing I’ve done is see almost a dozen shows. I’ve seen my friends in Buffalo, but since I work weekends, it’s a rare adventure now. I’ve seen my friends in Ithaca, but we haven’t all been together since March before I started working. I’ve crossed shows off my list, but I haven’t been a part of the theatrical process since Playground last summer. I have a job that pays decent for what it’s worth, but I’m in a never-ending loop of getting up, going to work and then coming home to sleep.

There’s no excitement. There’s no fire, spark. I don’t really have that purpose in me anymore. I’m lonely, I’m lost, I’m struggling and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Maybe I haven’t been the best of friend, maybe I haven’t reached out like I usually do, maybe I’ve kept all of these feelings to myself because to me, I just feel like I don’t know how to handle this whole adulthood idea when everyone around me does. I feel like I’m behind everyone who’s much more successful than I am at this point in life.

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I’ve become what I’ve feared the most; a failure. I’m only 24, I know I shouldn’t be feeling this way, but here I am.

Now, I’ve always been behind everyone else my entire life. Newest trend? I got into it after it was a thing. Supposed to be reading at a fifth grade level? Whoops, I’m reading at a first grade level. Discovered a new hit song? Well, it’s been number one for over four weeks now. Should be getting a job related to my field of choice like my friends are? Nope, I’m no where near that.

No matter how hard I try, I am always four steps behind everyone else. I’ve always have, and I’ve grown accustomed to maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

If you’ve kept reading thus far (thank you!), I promise, I’m not here for pity or anything like that. I’ve been feeling like this for quite some time and since speaking from the heart can be the trickest to articulate, I’ve found comfort coming back to my writing. Finding that one security of putting my feelings and thoughts out there that maybe, just maybe, someone else is in the same boat as me. That I can stop feeling like I’m alone in this huge world.

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I’m trying to find that passion within me again, but it’s only getting me so far when I’m stuck living the same reality each day. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, maybe I haven’t really started over like I’ve planned since this whole year began.

I’m an ambitious person, when I have my mind set to something, there’s no changing it. I find that to be one of my best qualities. But when you don’t have anything set as a goal, where do you go? How do you start?

Something has to change. My job? Maybe. My aspirations? Probably. Where I am? I don’t know.

Maybe this is what rock bottom feels like. Well, if I’m at this so-called bottom, I can only go up from here. That’s the first goal, going up!

Hey, look! We’re already making progress.

Casting in the high school theatre

Casting in the high school theatre

High school musical. No, I don’t mean the hit tween Disney Channel Original Movie, I am talking about being in a musical during your high school years.

The last couple weeks I have seen multiple articles about whitewashing happening in the high school theater department I spent my younger years participating in. I’ve heard views on both sides, seen what posts on Facebook has produced. Some have been against what the students have said, commenting that their is no issue of racism present in casting.

The issue that is being talked about is, the role of Esmeralda, who is culturally known as a woman of color, was cast to a white female. Above you can read two different viewpoints of the issue at hand incorporating students, faculty and administration’s testimonies. This is not the female who was cast’s fault, this issue is not her fault. It’s the system.

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As an alumna to such theater program, I find myself with opinions that I want to voice. I am white, yes, however: being part of a minority, being plus-sized, I understand where this issue roots from. I’ll break the issue at hand as we continue this discussion. Let me reiterateI do not have the same experiences as those who face race problems, as I am white. But being judged and looked over for who you are holds similar feeling.

I’ve seen a black man portray Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” who is always portrayed as a white man. I have seen a black man portray Frank Abagnale Jr. in “Catch me if you Can,” who is, in real life, a white man. I have seen a black man portray the Pirate King in “The Pirates of Penzance,” who historically, is usually portrayed as a white man, as the term “king” is often associated with someone being white. Hell, the title character of the now 30 year long run of “The Phantom of the Opera” has been portrayed by a black man on Broadway and touring companies.

I’ve seen black women portray white characters in youth theatre: “Annie,” “Catch me if You Can,” “The Wizard of Oz.” One of the articles I read, if I recall correctly, mentions composer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda discussing how kids participating in high school theatre should play the characters they want to play now before they hit the real world and are placed into a “type.” Playing the type of characters kids have always wanted to play and portray should be encouraged. Miranda encourages that for his musical, “In the Heights,” if high schools choose to pursue that.

Even though one composer and creator gave a blessing of casting whomever in his show in a high school setting doesn’t mean that is a blessing to all musicals or characters who are traditionally a person of color or different ethnicity.

Putting white people in specific roles made for black people proves the point that we don’t take black people, any person of color, or ethnicity, as seriously as we need to be.

My freshmen year musical was “Aida,” with the title role portrayed by a black woman. Would people understand the concept of racism and privilege if Aida was a white woman falling in love with a white man? Or would we be seeing just another love story?

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My junior year musical was “The Wiz,” with half of the prominent principal roles, including Dorothy, being black performers. The only people called back for Dorothy were black women. Would we call a production of “The Wiz,” “The Wiz” if a white woman portrayed Dorothy, or would we call it, “The Wizard of Oz?”

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We wouldn’t cast an all-white production of: “The Color Purple,” “Fences,” “Hamilton,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Miss Saigon,” “The King and I,” or “Once on this Island,” would we? It wouldn’t be the same story if we did.

There is work made for people of color and different ethnicities for a reason, because 75% of theatrical material, straight play or musical theatre, is made for white people.

Those who caught the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards might remember Sterling K. Brown earning, as the first black man ever, to win the Golden Globe for Best Performance in a Television Series – Drama. He then said revolutionary words in a revolutionary moment:

Dan Fogelman, throughout the majority of my career, I have benefited from colorblind casting, which means, ‘you know what, hey, let’s throw a brother in this role. Right? It’s always really cool.’ But Dan Fogelman, you wrote a role for a black man that could only be played by a black man. What I appreciate so much about this is that I’m being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am. And it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me, or dismiss anybody who looks like me.

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Dismissing black people, any person of color, or different ethnicity is harming. We feed into the notion that white people are on the top while everyone else is underneath. Roles made for people who are not white, whichever ethnicity or race the role calls for, should only be played by those people who are not white.

It’s not “casting the person who’s best for the role,” it’s casting the person who has the best talent. And I learned through my collegiate years that it’s not about who is the best, it’s about who’s right. Someone might not have a strong voice but they bring something to the role that a director wants and that person is going to get cast rather than the person who has a better voice or dance skills. That is revolutionary. Giving a chance on someone who might not otherwise get one is what makes live theatre thrilling.

And I get casting a show take a lot of time. I have sat ten hours straight one time as a stage manger watching audition after audition to then spending almost three out of those ten hours figuring out, with two directors and my one ASM at that moment, who would be called back. Then add another day of callbacks and preliminary casting, so maybe 16-18 hours total. But within those various hours, I don’t think it was hard to realize that we shouldn’t cast a role made for a person of color to someone who is not a person of color.

The woman who directed each show I was in was a white director but she never dismissed the importance of having people of color, various ethnicities portray characters meant for people who aren’t white. The casts of the productions I was cast in were based on who was right for the various roles.

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

People have stepped down from shows because casting has been unfair.

People haven’t auditioned for shows because they’re only seen as a stereotype based on their race and skin color.

People have called out the problem to challenge the status quo and dismissed.

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We can’t change the status quo if we don’t say something is wrong. When we are so used to something being a certain way, we’re scared of change. We sometimes don’t see or acknowledge the problem because it doesn’t affect us directly. That is a notion of privilege.

It’s been 10 years since my first show ever, a show that was produced by Ithaca City School District. If we want to change, we need to listen and not pass over the emotions, experiences and comments the students have. This is not going to change over night; we all know that and can agree upon that. But it’s going on for far to long to let it continue happening.

But what these students are doing, speaking up when so many have told them not to, will make sure that ten years from now, this doesn’t happen to another student who wants to audition for a role made for them. They won’t have to fear they won’t get the role made for them because of their skin color or ethnicity.

We can do better than this. We need to do better than this.

Three weeks out of school – so what’s next?

Three weeks out of school – so what’s next?

Well, I finished college three weeks ago now. I know, scary.

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All I’ve done thus far is cry over the overwhelmed feeling inside me from all the things I had (and still have…) to unpack from school, I’ve moved back to my college town for the summer a week after graduation, start my summer employment and have binged watched three, going on four seasons of “Shameless” in five days.

I only hold a little shame. No pun intended.

But I keep asking myself; what’s next? And to be honest, I’m not too sure.

I can only imagine how many times parents and guardians say, “What’s next?” repeatedly to their recent college graduates. If I got a dollar for every time someone asked me, “What’s next? What are your plans?” I could pay off all my student loans.

I just spent the last five years in this little bubble, changing my major too many times for me to really know in my indecisive brain what I want to do. I have to figure out some sort of idea before Nov. 13 as that’s when my grace period for student loans stop and the real “adulting” begins.

That is a lie. Being an adult began the minute I walked down the ramp at graduation.

I studied theatre in my undergraduate career and most of us in our various, respected programs know what we want to do, where we want to end up and are determined to figure out the steps along the way.

I don’t know what I want to do or where I should end up.  I don’t even know where I fit into the theatre realm anymore. I love theatre, it is my home and has been my world for so many years I could never say goodbye to it. My aspirations, goals and interests have changed since I started studying communications and began my journey as a journalist. I can’t ignore the signs that lead me to new opportunities and knowledge I’m hungry to earn.

For the last year, every decision I make derives from the, “eh, we’ll wing it,” approach. I’m proud to say the “winging it” mindset hasn’t failed me yet! Check back in a few months, I could possibly (read: most likely will) have a different answer to this approach.

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In all seriousness, I don’t know what I want to do. I’m not sure when I will find the answer, or if I will truly find it anytime soon. And that’s okay.

As I approach my first year out of public education (yes, these last 17 years have been through public schooling, secondary and collegiality), I plan on finding a job that will:

  1. Allow me to make money in order to save, pay off loans and budget effectively
  2. Make me self-fulfilled professionally and personally
  3. Let me enjoy coming to work every day.

I’m not too picky right now with finding a job. As my summer employment nears the end by early August, I will start applying to various positions within the Ithaca area towards the end of July. That will be next month…

Right now, we think about tomorrow.

I plan on enjoying my last summer in the town home to my Alma mater. I plan on spending time with my friends. I plan on getting in shape. I plan on spending time with myself. I plan on mapping out a game plan for these next couple years. I plan on looking at graduate programs for communications.

I plan on doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do. To conquer my fears and just do it.

“So what’s next?” they ask.

That’s what’s next,” I respond.