About Me

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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Volunteering Blues

On Tuesday of this week, I showed up to BikeABQ's first meeting of 2012, with no idea what to expect.

Volunteering for the advocacy group has been slow-going so far. Soon after volunteering my services, I was teased with the vague prospect of an event at a new coffee shop that I could "help organize." But it seems that the event will be much smaller than initially anticipated, and, in any case, very far in the indeterminate future.

Beyond that, it's been pretty minimal. A board member enlisted my help writing the invitation to the meeting, and I offered to show up a little early beforehand to help her set up. I got there about half an hour before the meeting's "refreshment hour" was supposed to begin, to discover that most of the set-up had already been finished. I poured some Chex Mix into a bowl, and then stood around awkwardly, unsure of what to do next.

After a while, I was joined by a woman who looked very nice and extremely cool as she rocked a vibrant orange sweater and some fabulous heeled boots. We discussed enthusiastically a beautiful, vintage-looking turquoise bike in the corner, and then fell silent. I shifted from foot to foot, unsure of what to say or what exactly my place there was. Did we really need two people to watch over a pretty self-explanatory refreshment table? I grasped for suitable conversation topics; in my desperation I talked way too much about how much my bike needed a tune-up.

At the meeting itself, I didn't fare much better. Besides the young woman in the orange sweater, I met one other person who seemed close enough to my age to relate to; most of the members were older men. Well, that's okay. I didn't exactly join the group to make friends... although I had kind of hoped. More frustrating, though, was how little I felt I was able to contribute to the meeting. I stayed almost entirely silent while the members around me discussed strategy and logistics for upcoming events.

It may sound odd to feel discouraged for not practically running a meeting for a group I hardly know anything about yet, but it highlights a particularly frustrating trait I see in myself. When I'm given very specific instructions, I work hard. When initiate a project, or am otherwise ostensibly In Charge, I have no problem assuming responsibility. But it's that grey area in between, that area where, to assume responsibility you simply have to find it and take it, that I become mousy and fade into the background. I second-guess myself. I wonder if I'm doing it wrong. I wonder if I'm stepping on other peoples' toes.

But I don't WANT to fade into the background with this group. I joined this group to try something new. To really help. I worry that I'll end up going to monthly meetings, sitting quietly in the back, and leaving equally quietly.

I volunteered enthusiastically for the next big fundraiser, a mysterious event called a Bike Swap, which I'm sure I'll be learning more about in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, I wish I could do more. To be perfectly honest, a big part of my intention when it comes to volunteering is to cultivate skills and experience while doing something that I care about. That's not going to happen if I'm in the back folding sweaters because I can't think of how else to help.

I want to be somebody capable of grabbing that responsibility and holding on tight; I want to be a leader. I think the best thing I can do is to use this experience as an Opportunity for Growth, and to discover new ways to step outside of my comfort zone. The trouble is, I'm still hazy on how, specifically, to take that step.

What about you? Have you ever had trouble taking on greater responsibility? What did you do?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things I Love, Part II: Food

One night, not long before I moved to Albuquerque, I cooked a sort of goodbye feast for me and my ex-boyfriend. The meal was made from the spoils of a day up on Arthur Ave, and contained unnecessarily excessive riches in the form of cheesy breadsticks, pasta, sausage and heavy cream. By the end, we were both stuffed, but I still wanted the chocolate I had bought for dessert.

"Not me," said Andrew. "I'm too full."

"Well, I'm going to have some," I said. "Sometimes I think I'd really excel as a competitive eater."

"Yeah," Andrew agreed.

"HEY!" I said, "You're not supposed to agree with me! That is NOT a good boyfriend response!"

"What?" he asked. "I love you, but do you want me to lie to you? Do you want me to tell you that the other night you didn't eat an order of cheese fries, a bacon-wrapped chili-cheese dog, three sliders, and another order of fries?"

My response? "In my defense, it was only two sliders."

Okay, yeah, I really love food.

I love eating food, I love cooking food, I love watching food on TV, I love talking about food. I loved waiting tables for a surprisingly long time, partly because I like talking to people but partly, I suspect, because I love food.

A number of people have suggested that I become a chef, or at least go to culinary school. I cannot state emphatically enough that I DO. NOT. WANT. THAT. I love cooking; it makes me very, very happy, and I don't want to turn it into something that doesn't. Cooking is an art, and if there's one thing I've learned about making art on a serious or competitive level, it's that you have to cultivate a willingness to hate yourself a lot. Pursuing something that requires such a high level of passion and self-expression is always going to be a love-hate relationship. And right now, my relationship to cooking is love-love.

Besides, I don't just love food, I'm interested in it.

Here's what I mean. When I was thirteen, I became a vegetarian. Back then, I wore my little thirteen-year-old heart on my thirteen-year-old sleeve, and I couldn't bear to think of all the living beings that were dying just so I could enjoy my Chickent McNuggets. Fast-forward seven years later: I'm twenty, I'm overweight, I'm lethargic, and I want a change. I've tried changing my diet and eating healthier before, but with little success. I have a sinking feeling I know what I have to do. I start eating meat again on a trial basis. And I immediately feel better, more alert, and more energetic. So, dilemma: do I sacrifice my morals or my health?

Over the years, as I grew and evolved, so did, obviously, my relationship to vegetarianism. Although I still cared - and care - about the well-being of all living creatures, the choice had become less about poor Wilbur and more about the spiritual and environmental consequences of eating meat without thought. We as a society just consume - just destroy and consume, and we don't really understand or appreciate how much we consume and destroy, because we've created system where we don't have to be aware of it and we don't have to give anything back in return for what we take. We just take, and we don't give back. It throws the whole system out of balance and that imbalance must certainly be destructive both to the world around us and to our own spirits. So far, my response to a system that I had observed to be broken had been to remove myself from it as entirely as possible. But didn't it make as much or better sense to try to bring balance back to the system by being a part of it? By being appreciative and aware within it, and attempting to give back as much as I took?

Okay, I thought. I'll eat meat again, but only if I do so respectfully and mindfully, and only if I accept the sacrifice that's been made for me, by sacrificing of my own time or money or whatever else I can to give back.

Friends, let me tell you: easier said than done. In the entire time that I lived in NYC I almost never found myself with sufficient time or funds to consume as mindfully as I wanted. I soothed myself by saying I was making up for it by having no car and living (through little choice of my own) incredibly austerely. But it's never felt like enough, and perhaps it never will feel like enough, and so I continue every day to strive toward honoring that promise.

That promise, coupled with my deep love of food, has made me increasingly obsessed with things like small farming, local and seasonal food, sustainable, organic practices and basically anything else that moves us away from the huge, corporate monoculture that is stripping our country's resources bare. It's something that I believe is vitally important, mentally, physically, spiritually, and environmentally. And, while I hope I've always been a conscious consumer, I've never had the time and money to give the cause the attention I know it needs to have.

And now... well, at least I have the time, and that's somewhere to start.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An Impromptu Jam Session Is Worth A Thousand Tweets.

(Or: Lessons That Should Have Been Fairly Obvious, But Somehow Weren't.)

The lesson? Get off your ass and go out and talk to people.

I've been spending a lot of quality time with a cup of coffee since I got back to here. That is, I spend most of my days plunked in front of my computer screen with my beloved caffeinated beverage, searching for jobs, writing query letters, and cruising the internet for people, places, and things to do in Albuquerque that might appeal to me - might get me closer to my goal of following my passion.

But Googling "Cool stuff in Albuquerque," and all the permutations thereof is not going to get me the answer I'm looking for.

Getting out is gonna do that. Talking to people. Getting to know this city.

This seems to be a fairly obvious truth, and yet I cling to my keyboard with bony little white knuckles. Why? I think a part of it is due to the success I had extending my community through Twitter and blogging last year in New York. But the key word there is extending. Not building from scratch, which is what I'm doing here. I already knew the New York theatre community when I jumped in online; I already had a good idea of the people I wanted to talk to, the things I wanted to do and see.

But you can't become a part of a place by reading about it. You can't understand a community by asking Google. Obviously.

This facepalm-truth hit me with its full force this past Tuesday night, when I crawled away from the bright, calming light of my computer screen long enough to attend the kick-off party for Tricklock Company's Revolutions Theater Festival - an international theater festival that, while I WAS excited about it before Tuesday, I don't know why I wasn't jumping up and down and gnawing at my knuckles to stifle high-pitched squeals about it. Well anyway, I am now. It looks awesome.

The very moment I got to the party, I opened the festival's event calendar and learned something all of my furious searches across the internet had kept from me. A new restaurant is opening next month - a kind of business that looks right up my alley. I made a point to call the owner the next day and learned more about it: it really is exactly everything that I'm passionate about. Organic food sourced completely locally, much of it from the very farm it sits on. A focus on community and culture, complete with events and workshops on site. Collaboration and support of local artists and musicians. Oh lord. It's actually overwhelming how awesome this place seems. But more on that later.

I also ran into my very first mentor, the person who first got me hopelessly, irrevocably addicted to theater when he cast my 12-year-old self as Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a thrill to see him again, an even bigger one to see the look on his face at seeing me and an incredible ego-boost to hear him immediately say, "I want you to audition for me!" Why, little old me? Act? Oh, you flatter me, sir.

Even better: I told him I'd love to audition for him, but I'd love even more to assistant director. How delightful would it be to AD for my first and most beloved mentor?

But this isn't about networking, or making connections, or even about theater at all. It's about actually taking action to be a part of something. Being at the party, hearing about the shows in the festivals from so many of the people involved, got me excited about theater in a way I haven't felt since moving here. It made me excited in a way I haven't felt since moving here, period, really.

The night was tough. I won't lie. I felt stiff and awkward for most of the evening, knowing very little of the people in the room, and even less what to say. But there were some introductions, and a few fleeting moments of real, genuine, lovely conversation, and I feel happy knowing that now, next time I see those people, maybe I WILL know what to say.

The night ended with a house party and a little impromptu jam session. Me, despite 8 years of piano lessons, I don't have a musical bone in my body. But I sat and watched, and don't think I enjoyed the evening less for it. And even if only for a fleeting second, even if only on the periphery, it made me feel like a part of a community.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Year's Evaluation: Where Is This Going, Anyway?

It's a new year and a new slate, and I'm starting it out the traditional way - with a look back at this blog over the past year, and some subsequent thoughts about the future.

The year started out strong for Scenes in the City; the blog really hit its stride around the spring of this year. But, as my own future became unclear, so did my blog.

As I'm sure it's plain to see, managing my poor little Scenes in the City has been rough going over the past few months. Understandable, I suppose, since - as I mentioned before - neither the "Scenes" nor the "City" part necessarily applies anymore. And, with whatever vague structure this blog once had ripped from underneath it, it's been difficult to stay focused. I can't decide why I'm blogging at all, let alone what I'm blogging about.

The purpose of continuing to write here was to track my transition from city girl to hometown soul, as I worked toward discovering new projects and passions and, hopefully, eventually, finding a new project with its own focus and structure.

It sounded good in theory, but in practice I can't really figure out how to not feel like I'm just saying, "I don't know what I'm doooooooing!!!" over and over again. Which is 1) boring and redundant, and 2) whiny and obnoxious.

Conclusion: I need to tighten it up and wrap it up.

So here's the plan for the new year:

1. Happily, I think I actually DO idea for a new project that I think will lend itself perfectly to a blog. It's going to be a big switch from this here clunker because the project is going to be very focused and very finite. And also, I think, very fun. I'm really excited about it. I'll talk more about it as it gets closer.

2. HOWEVER, all that doesn't start until March, and in the meantime, I want to make the most out of this time and this space. I'm still very much exploring my passions and persuasions, and seeing where that takes me. So, until the end of February, you're going to see more of that. A real honest and focused exploration of what it means to approach life with a blank slate and an open heart.

Oh my dear, lovely blog, my little-blog-that-could, I love you so. You've given me so much since we started up, but I'm afraid our time together is quickly drawing to a close. Don't cry, though, dear. It's for the best. We've grown together, learned together, and, when we finally part ways, we'll have a true and hard-fought understanding of where to go from here.

Well, at least I will. You probably won't, because, you know. You're a blog.