Thursday, December 31, 2015

100x2015

Inspired by the brilliant and adorable Tim Sailer, 100 things that made my 2015 so good:


  1. Speaking at my first conference in Washington, D.C.       
  2. Speaking at my second conference in Greensboro, NC.
  3. Speaking at my third conference in Indianapolis.
  4. Spending an evening with cousins in Ohio at an event called Monocles & Bourbon.
  5. Lunches of cheese and grapes at the end of the summer.
  6. Spending two weeks in August and September in a trunk while playing Iachimo for my Shakespeare company.
  7. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.
  8. Graduating at the top of my class with my first master's degree.
  9. Winning the thesis award on the day I graduated.
  10. Having my father and my brother in Staunton to celebrate graduation with me.
  11. Doctor Faustus at the ASC.
  12. An extraordinarily wonderful conversation about theses and ideas in Indianapolis with my dear friend Molly.
  13. The Great British Baking Show.
  14. Spending winter Mondays with my best Marfall watching Downton Abbey and Wolf Hall.
  15. House sitting for Matty for a week and enjoying all the delights of his garden, his porch swing, and his cat, Prince Madoc.  
  16. House sitting for Doreen and JP for a week, and enjoying all the delights of their magnificent kitchen, their deliciously plush carpets, and their kittens, Jellybean and Snickers.                                                    
  17. The Winter's Tale at the ASC.
  18. A Midsummer Night's Dream at the ASC, especially Greg's face.
  19. Getting a doozy of a first publishing contract—a chapter in a book on early modern stage directions, published by Arden, co-authored with my favorite professor/the director of my program.
  20. Getting my first article published in a small academic journal.
  21. Everyman in his Humour at the ASC. Specifically Ben's socks, Ben's face, and Chris's everything.
  22. Shakespeare Prom, aka the ASC annual benefit gala.
  23. Rick Blunt's triumphant return to and victorious departure from Staunton.
  24. A delicious summer research trip to the Library of Congress, wherein I spent an entire day touching 400-year-old books.
  25. A picnic in front of the Capitol with my rad gal pal Haylie and her super cool husband Ross.                                                            
  26. Listening to the entire first season of Serial for the first time, one after the other, on my drive to Indianapolis.
  27. Walking 2300 miles this year.
  28. Two days in Richmond at the Library of Virginia touching letters, diaries, and documents from the Civil War.
  29. Voice class with the amazing René Thornton, Jr.
  30. My darling Haylie's incredible podcast, Philia.
  31. Julius Caesar at the ASC, specifically Tim's incredible turn as Cassius.
  32. Seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, and finding out that it's kind of charming. 
  33. Marriage equality, y'all.
  34. The Importance of Being Earnest at the ASC.
  35. Speakeasy night at Queen City Brewing with Sarah, Merlyn, Aubrey, and Kayla.
  36. The Boston time capsule.
  37. Putting up the amazing Clyomon & Clamydes with my very best Marfall.
  38. Getting to sit through the Textual Culture class for a second time by TAing for Dr. Menzer.
  39. Getting to caress a three-volume set of Jonson's 1640 folio and meet the lovely people who donated it to our program.
  40. Being asked to be a "guest expert" for an event that ultimately never happened. But still, thrilling to have been asked!
  41. Finishing my Master of Letters thesis and creating this great word cloud of it.
  42. A late-night trip with friends and pajamas and blankets and cocoa to see if we could see the northern lights. We couldn't.
  43. The New Street ducks.                                  
  44. Presenting at my fourth conference, right here in Staunton, in front of about 200 of the finest scholars my field has to offer.
  45. A tour of Gettysburg with my darling Meredith.
  46. Starting my second master's thesis, and writing the entire thing in six days. Then making this great word cloud of it.            
  47. Wearing ribbons in my hair nearly every day of the spring and summer, and most of the fall.                                                                                    
  48. Joan of Arc, aka 1 Henry VI, at the ASC. Hung be the heavens with black.
  49. Dessen &Thompson's Dictionary of Stage Directions.
  50. The new Norton Shakespeare.
  51. This gorgeous font.
  52. A summer of long, long, long walks full of bunnies (in the morning) and fireflies (in the evening).
  53. Sending off all my PhD applications.
  54. Making this great patriotic cake for a super fun fourth of July party.
  55. Having blue hair for two and a half months in the summer and the fall.
  56. Mystery Show.
  57. Meeting a fellow Oregonian in the parking lot of Kroger the day before Thanksgiving.
  58. Eating funnel cake at the Augusta County fair.
  59. Lots of gelato. A whole summer of gelato. So much gelato.
  60. Turning 30, and having the best birthday in a very long time.
  61. Wearing so many cute dresses.
  62. Feeling better about my body at 30 than I ever did at 20, and loving it.
  63. Learning and growing so much.
  64. Fuck in the 14th century.
  65. Dirty Dancing in the park with Merlyn.
  66. A perfect week in September in which I got a publishing offer, went to Shakespeare prom, saw The Winter's Tale a zillion times, and had great good times in class.  
  67. Learning to tolerate Antony & Cleopatra at the ASC. Made easier by Rick's dancing and Greg's face.
  68. Getting the biggest coup of my career so far: a solo-authored chapter in an anthology on absent mothers in literature.
  69. Getting to interview the amazing Stephanie Holladay-Earl about her role in The Winter's Tale as research for my chapter on absent mothers.
  70. Selfies with Marshall at Shakespeare Prom.            
  71. Cutting a super-weird seventeenth century play about cuckoldry.
  72. Getting accepted to one of the biggest Shakespeare conferences in the world, and finding out my panel includes my favorite professor/the director of my program.
  73. Making plans to travel and room with my dearest Haylie at this big awesome conference.
  74. Finding a love note in my wallet after a play, left by the dearest Ellie.
  75. My sequined gold skirt, which got me a wink and a nod from Greg on my birthday.
  76. A delicious fall break staycation in Staunton with my dear Haylie and her husband Ross.
  77. Getting business cards for the first time.
  78. Another delicious, long conversation with that delightful Molly, this one full of gossip as well as ideas and research.
  79. Seeing my bestie Tiffanie for the first time in two years. And meeting her husband!
  80. Deep lunges.
  81. Overcoming two enormous personal events that should have ruined my year and having one of the best years ever in spite of everything. 
  82. Becoming actual friends with people I'd hero-worshipped for two years.
  83. Not Your Father's Root Beer.
  84. A June weekend in Staunton with Haylie where she made me try guacamole for the first time and revolutionized my entire existence.
  85. Being hit on by an ASC actor at the Blackfriars closing night party.
  86. Creating an index for a great book by my favorite professor/the director of my program.
  87. The amazing five days that was the Blackfriars Conference.
  88. Dressing as a footnote for Halloween.       
  89. Becoming Twitter friends with several of my academic crushes.
  90. Six weeks of bruises all over my arms and legs because of Hamlet combat rehearsals.
  91. Spending every spare minute at the playhouse during the fall.
  92. Bath bombs.
  93. A tiny Christmas tree from my very best Marfall.
  94. Nights of drinking and dancing at the breweries with non-Wag friends.
  95. Accidentally teaching rhetoric to my freshman comp students.
  96. A crazily uncharacteristic program party right before Thanksgiving. There was loud music and dancing and someone puked and people made out.
  97. Cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal in my teensy, barely-functional apartment kitchen.
  98. Skyping with my darling Ellen in the summer and with my nerdy brother and father on Thanksgiving.
  99. Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  100. This actual video of what my soul looks like.

Monday, November 2, 2015

new life goals

In order of how quickly it might be possible to achieve them:

1. Me, Tiffany Stern, Beth Burns, and the Hidden Room Theatre crowd put together a mind-blowing rendition of Colley Cibber's Richard III.  I serve as mixture dramaturg/historical consultant/fangirl.

2. Fellowship at the Folger.

3. Paul Menzer becomes the Blackfriars Conference honoree. I get to be part of the honoring.

4. I become the Blackfriars Conference honoree.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

triumph

My favorite time of every-other-year is officially over.  The 2015 Blackfriars Conference ended two hours ago.  I'm finally free to nap (sweet merciful heaven, but I am completely sleep-deprived and exhausted beyond reason), get some work done, respond to emails, eat a real meal, do laundry, clean my apartment, and resume functioning like a normal person.

For me, this week was a series of triumphs, both personal and professional, both powerful and petty.  On Wednesday, the first day of the conference, I presented a paper to a room of 200-ish scholars.  Well-received all around, I made my faculty and my colleagues proud, and most importantly, was able to be heard in the entire room.  I hope this is the first of many times I'm invited to share my work on the stage.

I networked with scholars, handed out business cards, live-tweeted, and schmoozed, all without making a fool of myself.  I talked to scholars I respect and admire without seeming like an addled fangirl, and I carried myself professionally.  Well done, me.

And then last night, at the masquerade ball, a gentleman I admire said very flattering words about my appearance.  A petty, insignificant triumph, to be sure, but one that I found deliciously sweet.

I am living a very good life, my friends.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On the occasion of my thirtieth birthday.

I've always been in a hurry to grow up.  When I was 13, I lied and said I was 15.  When I was 16, I lied and said I was 18.  Once I made it into my twenties, I began to round up as soon as I was within six months of my birthday.  I've spent so many summers telling people my false age that last summer, I completely forgot that I hadn't already had my birthday, and was very confused when October rolled around.  I wasn't sure if I was turning 28, or 29, or 30.

I've been idly thinking about 30 off and on for the last couple of years, but it's really ratcheted up since January.  What have I accomplished?  What have I learned?  How have I made the world better?  What do I have to show for my time on this earth?  I think perhaps these questions are resonating particularly deeply with me because my mother only lived to be 40.  I pray I'll outlive her, and I probably will, but by how much?  Life is so short, and so precious.

And so, on the occasion of my thirtieth birthday, here are thirty things I've learned about myself, life, the universe, and everything:

1. It is okay to ask for the things you want in life.  If you ask, you just might get them!

2. Hard work really and truly, almost unbelievably, does pay off.

3. There will always be people who don't like you. It doesn't even matter why. Ignore them, and/or kill them with kindness.

4. I am competitive.

5. Write thank you cards.  Just do it.

6. I am compassionate.

7. Learn to budget, and stick to it.  Debt is actually the worst thing ever.

8. Don't rush into an expensive decision, even if that expensive decision is your education.  

9. I am a work in progress.

10. Enjoy the journey.  I know what I want and where I'm going, but I'm in no hurry to get there.  I'm having so much fun along the way!

11. Crying solves nothing, but it sure can help me feel better.

12. Life is too short to read boring books.  If I'm two chapters in and not feeling it, it's okay to give it up.  I don't owe that book anything.

13. Don't live apart from your spouse unless your circumstances absolutely demand it.  Even then, try to find a way around it.  Love is precious, rare, and fleeting.  Hold onto it. Don't take it for granted. Nurture it, respect it, work on it.

14. Cooking at home and sharing a meal with loved ones is quite possibly the zenith of happiness.

15. Support your local public radio and television stations.

16. The dinosaurs died because they were average. Find the thing that makes you shine and do it.

17. While you're sleeping, someone else is working.  Other people may be smarter than you, or richer than you, or prettier than you, but don't ever let anyone outwork you.  Also don't ever let anyone be nicer than you.

18. We're all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind.

19. Sometimes being an adult means you can have cake for breakfast and ice cream for dinner.  And that's okay.  But only sometimes.

20. It is not actually as hard as I think it is. Read the directions and give it a try.  If I fail, order a pizza.  Try again tomorrow.

21. Invest in good bedding.  A great mattress, cozy sheets, soft pillows, and a warm blanket are sometimes the only things necessary to make everything better.  Also, sleep is important, and we do so much of it.  I might as well do it somewhere nice.

22. Someone who doesn't like your friends, doesn't like your family, and criticizes the way you dress, or talk, or act does not love you.  That is not love.  That's not even like.  That's manipulation and isolation and control.  Run now, run far, and don't look back.

23. Getting up and moving around for 10 minutes every hour makes the day feel so much more productive.

24. Being an adult doesn't necessarily mean growing up.  I can still go to the park and ride on the swings and make silly faces at the people around me.  That is a legitimate way to spend an afternoon.

25. In-laws who love you are worth their weight in gold, and infinitely more.

26. Family's family, love 'em or leave 'em.  But the friends you choose can also be your family, and that's just the greatest.

27. My hard work and success doesn't diminish the hard work and success of the people around me.  Their hard work doesn't diminish mine.  If a friend accomplishes something they worked hard for, be happy for them.  It's so much more enjoyable than seething with jealousy.

28. It's okay to be proud of my accomplishments and not let anyone ever make me feel like I need to downplay what I've achieved in order to maintain relationships.  

29. Listen to your body. Be kind to it. Maintain it wisely.

30. Finally, a lesson I've learned only in the last six-ish months: I am strong, confident, and capable.  I will be okay.

Friday, October 16, 2015

philia.

Not quite two months after I turned 11, and not quite two weeks before Christmas, my mother died.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991, when I was six. My childhood memories of my mother are almost entirely colored by her sickness.  I remember only one family vacation when she was healthy.  The rest of my memories are of long drives to her radiation treatments, of the summer she was so sick that we set up a hospital bed in the living room, of watching cartoons very quietly so she could sleep.  On the day she died, I came home from school to find she'd been taken to the hospital. Her oxygen machine was off, and the house was quiet.  I wasn't worried.  Mom spent a lot of time in the hospital.  I got dressed for my school's Christmas program, went off to the gym with my friend Amy and her mother, proudly sang a solo, and came home.  I went to bed.  Sometime after 10:00, my aunt and our priest woke us up to tell us she was dead.

My mother has been dead now for almost twenty years.  I've gotten very comfortable with her loss, with my grief, and most days it is small enough to carry around quietly and unassumingly.  But being a motherless daughter is an important part of my identity, and it seems fitting to start this story of what I love with a story of what I lost.

I can quite accurately pinpoint the moment I fell in love for the first time.  I was thirteen and I was in Doug Knight's English class at Astoria Middle School.  Mr. Knight, if you're out there, I want you to know how thankful I am for you.  Mr. Knight was passionate about what he taught us, and I absorbed that passion like a sponge.  Mr. Knight introduced me to the French language (which I'm still struggling to master), to The Outsiders, to Robert Frost, to Stephen Sondheim, and, most importantly, to Shakespeare.  

In the spring, Mr. Knight started a drama club.  Our first play was A Midsummer Night's Dream, and he cast me as Oberon.  (Seventeen years later, I still think of Oberon as the star of the show, even though he is most assuredly not.)  For six glorious weeks, I lived in a world of fairies and magic, and when I came out the other side, I was completely, totally, and irrevocably in love with a dead man.

I am now in the final year of a combo Master of Letters/Master of Fine Arts program in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia.  I stumbled into this program completely by chance.  I wanted nothing to do with grad school after I finished my bachelor's degree, but in 2012, my husband almost lost his job.  While he was looking for other work, I was at a loss to what I'd do with myself if we moved, so I began idly looking at grad programs in theatre and history.  When a brochure arrived from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I sent a text message to my friend Sara, who lives there, and told her I was looking at JMU.  She asked if I was applying to Mary Baldwin.  I said, "what's a Mary Baldwin?"  The rest is, as they say, history.  

The MLitt/MFA program is one of a kind.  For the first two years, students focus on the scholarly aspects of early modern drama and Shakespeare studies.  We learn about the canon, the language, the contemporaries, and the history of early modern England.  We study rhetoric, learn to perform the language, take courses in dramaturgy and movement and research methods.  We write theses on everything from magic books to the American Civil War, provided they relate to early modern theatre in some fashion.  At the end of the second year, we earn the Master of Letters degree.  Most students go on to the Master of Fine Arts degree in the third year.  The MFA year, which I am now in the midst of, is a beast.  Over the course of thirteen months, a cohort of students forms a working theatre company, chooses a season, mounts five MainStage shows, two staged readings, and a devised piece, tours to area schools, and writes a book about the process.  We also have another thesis—though this one is shorter, thank goodness.  Graduates of our program go on to PhDs, form theatre companies of their own, are actors and stage managers and working theatre professionals all over the country.

Now that the stage is set, let me tell you my story.  This is the story of girl meets book.

I began working on my Master of Letters thesis in April of 2014.  After three agonizing weeks in thesis symposium (and nine agonizing months in the program at large), I'd finally settled—at the very last second—on a thesis topic.  I was going to write about performances of Shakespeare in the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.  I'd amassed a huge collection of Civil War newspapers trumpeting performances of Shakespeare's plays. I'd built a database of journal articles and books on far-reaching aspects of my topic.  I had five weeks between the end of symposium and the beginning of my summer intensive, and I planned to get all my research done then.  I was going to be off the grid for three weeks in late June and early July, and I wanted to begin composition on August first so that I could turn in a full draft of my thesis on the first day of fall classes.

Sidenote: I had this ambitious research and writing schedule because I hoped to win the award for outstanding thesis.  A girl in the year above me had turned in a draft of her thesis on the first day of fall term, and she won the award her year.  I hoped to follow her example, win the award, and sail off into the sunset on a wave of admiration from my faculty and peers.  Spoiler alert: I won that award.  I won it real hard.

I am nothing if not an overachiever.  Not only did I finish all my research ahead of schedule, I was able to continue hunting and reading and working new sources though the entire summer.  I even managed to work on my thesis during my summer intensive—until I had a panic attack halfway through and had to put a hold on the research for a week and a half.  Le sigh.

When I returned from my intensive, I made a handful of visits to the Library of Congress looking for extra materials.  I was after playbills, broadsides, promptbooks, and general theatrical ephemera, all of which I did not find in DC.  I suspect everything I wanted is in the bowels of the Folger Shakespeare Library, which won't let me in without a PhD.  Jerks.

What I did find at the Library of Congress, though, was a single copy of the first folio.  My holy book.  The Folger, I hear, which owns nearly half of the world's surviving copies, won't let you look at a folio without three forms of identification, a letter of recommendation, your first born child, and a damn good reason for needing to see one.  And even if they deign to allow you to see a copy, they make you wear gloves and touch it under a plexiglass case while a pair of goblins stand by menacingly with swords and salivate in your general direction.

Legal disclaimer: that may be a slight exaggeration.  Please don't sue me, Folger. I love what you do and all I want in my life is to get into your reading room.

My dear, dear friend Haylie, a brilliant medievalist working on her dissertation at George Washington University, lives just down the street from the Library of Congress and the Folger, and whenever I'm in town, I make a point to get together with her, usually after a day spent in the archives.  After my first day at the LoC, I met Haylie and her husband Ross for lunch at Good Stuff Eatery.  I talked excitedly about the Library's folio and how I wanted to touch it.  I've wanted to touch a folio ever since I knew what one was—so for roughly half my life.  Haylie, who has a reader's card for the Folger, told me how difficult it was to get access to the folios there. I despaired of ever getting to touch one.

But once a thought's in my mind, I have to chase it down.  

I went back to the LoC the following week, at the end of July, just before I was scheduled to start composition on my thesis.  I anxiously filled out a call slip for the Library's folio, and steeled myself for the inevitable cross-examination about why I wanted to see it. It never came. The librarian directed me to a table and told me to wait.  I did.  Anxiously.

Not ten minutes later, a large, white cardboard box appeared in front of me, along with a cradle, page weights, and a pair of white cotton gloves—which they told me I could use if I wanted to, but didn't have to.  And then?

They left me alone.

Not alone alone.  I mean, there were still three other librarians in the room.  And I was on federal property, so, you know, there were cameras everywhere.  But no one was hovering, no one was assigned to make sure I didn't write in the book, or steal a page from it, or, you know, lick it.

I really wanted to lick it.

I didn't.  But I wanted to.

I laid my palms flat on the top of the box.  This book represented everything I wanted my life to be.  These 400-year-old pages were a symbol of everything I loved in my life, and everything I'd lost.

Oh.  This might be a good place to tell you that my last name is Hamlet.  Yes, really.  I met my husband in a Shakespeare class—yes, really—when I was nineteen.  

Back to the box, which held a hundred expectations and a thousand hopes and dreams.  I'm a recovering Catholic, agnostic at best, but I believe in Shakespeare. The text is a lie and nothing is real, but the first folio is my holy book. The Folger is my temple. The Blackfriars Playhouse at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, is my local house of worship, and I attend services there three, four, and fives times a week.  I'm an Orthodox Shakespearean.  I believe that William Shakespeare wrote the words of William Shakespeare, that authorial intent matters except when it doesn't, that dick jokes are always present and always hilarious, that textual instability is delicious and fascinating, and that, above all, Shakespeare understood everything that goes into being human.  My textual orientation is voraciously bardonormative.  To me, the folio stands for love and loss, beauty and pain, truth, life, and comfort.  I'm building my life on the words contained therein.  It looms large in my mind, sits at the front of my heart, and sets my soul on fire.

Not wanting to look like a crazy person feeling up a box, I lifted the lid.  Slowly and reverently, but with great purpose.

I'm not sure what I expected—a chorus of angels and dancing beams of light, perhaps?—but what I found inside definitely wasn't it.  Instead of a dusty, faded, fragile tome, what faced me was a brilliant red cloth cover with an oval, silver plate in the middle.  On the silver plate were the engraved initials of my first love—WS.

The cover certainly wasn't original, and the title page was a forgery, but the rest of this dear, sweet book was the genuine article, littered throughout with marginalia from each of its many owners—including H.G. Wells. I spent the next few hours happily touching every single page, documenting and deciphering the margin notes, and taking pictures of the title pages of my favorite plays—Pericles, Twelfth Night, Midsummer, As You Like It, and, of course, Hamlet.

And not once did I lick the book.  I smelled it, though.  It smelled—thrillingly—like paper.

A year later, some three months ago now, I returned to the LoC to look at the folio again—this time with an actual, research-based reason.  I greeted the book like an old friend.  No less reverently, but ever so familiarly.  

Midway through my last master's degree, I think about the folio often.  Daily, even.  My everyday work revolves around creating theatre out of Shakespeare's words, but my long term plans focus on scholarship and research, both Shakespearean and generally early modern.  My first publication is due out next month; I'm writing another right now; and I just began research on a third today.  My MFA thesis, due in April, has been more or less complete since July—because of course it has—and I spent the better part of today just thinking about my work. I have big dreams, big ambitions, and big ideas.  All of them are based, in some measure, on that beautiful book with the silky red cover.

In January of this year, the director of my program told me he'd been asked to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming book on early modern stage directions and that he wanted to co-author the piece with me because I'd had an idea that he wanted to trouble.  That single compliment, that this incredibly smart man wanted to work with me on an idea I'd had, for a freaking BOOK, gave me the confidence to go out and get more publication contracts.  Three weeks ago, I got my first single-authored book contract.

I'll spend the winter writing a chapter for a forthcoming anthology on absent mothers in literature.  In case you couldn't figure it out on your own, I'll be writing about Shakespeare's motherless daughters.  I haven't yet found my argument, but as a motherless daughter myself, I feel sure that these girls will help me find what I need.  This chapter, this first huge success of my career, is based on the two things I carry with me in my heart every day—my first love, and my grief over my very own absent mother.  Love and loss, beauty and pain, truth, life, and comfort.

Girl meets book. Girl meets next book. Girl loves them both.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Some thoughts on seeing The Winter's Tale for the 25th time

The Winter's Tale opened at the American Shakespeare Center, in Staunton, Virginia, in the middle of July. Since then, I've seen almost every performance of this particular production. Why?

I don't particularly love the play. I think Leontes is pretty awful and barely redeemable, I think Paulina is completely terrible and not redeemable at all. The first half is so dour. The second half, though, with its unbridled joy, passel of clowns, and true love triumphant, gives me life.  And for the first five or so times I saw this show, the joy and laughter of the second half were more than enough to keep me happy.

After the fifth time, I started listening.  And when I listened, I heard things.  And I learned.  I'd wager that I know TWT the best of all the plays right now, even with only having read it once, two years ago.  Every time I go to the playhouse, I hear lines I haven't heard before, and I hear lines I know in a new way.  I'm uncovering depth of meaning, variety of choices.  (And I get to watch the actors continue to play and try new things, which is such a joy.  Even better when I get to talk to them about the little details of their performances and ask why this choice, why did you stop doing that other thing, how did you discover this piece?)

Somewhere around show eighteen, I started taking a voice class with the actor playing Polixines (who is incredimazing, talented, pleasant, and unfailingly generous with us), and began to listen differently.  Now I'm not only listening to the words, but also how they're being said—where the words originate in the bodies of the actors, how they hit the ears of the audience.  It's opened my eyes and has added an entirely new, ridiculously challenging, incredibly educational layer to the production.  

Of all the classes I'm taking and things I'm learning in this final year of my degree, the voice class is the most valuable. It's also the one I'm having the easiest time applying across all the work I'm doing, and I think that's due, in part, to the amount of time I spend at the playhouse listening.  Accessing all the vocal resonators isn't easy for me.  Identifying them in others is even harder.  But I am learning so much just by making time (sometimes stealing time) to show up at the playhouse as many times a week as I can and listening.  I listen to René the most (because I've heard him break down the resonators, I find his easiest (but still really hard) to identify—and also he just has a lovely voice that I could listen to all day long), but all twelve actors are doing things with their voices that I'm learning from.  (Like, how did Pearl manage to sound completely normal onstage for weeks when he was so damn sick?  And if Keegan has a cold, why isn't he modifying his performance to preserve his voice? (Or is he, and I just can't tell?) And why does Alli's voice always sound like liquid gold, even when she's raspy?)

I'm struggling a lot with this program, especially the final year, but I'm already nostalgic and missing a place I haven't yet left.  Snaps for the ASC, and snaps for René—he's a fine actor and a wonderful instructor, and I can't quite believe I get to learn from him. Snaps for René always.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Today I got an email about the contract for this book chapter I'm working on.  Someday this kind of email will cease to thrill me (maybe).  Today is NOT that day.  I want to hold onto this feeling forever.

I HAVE A BOOK CONTRACT, Y'ALL!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thesis, round two.

On Monday I will officially begin research for my next thesis.  One week after a successful MLitt graduation (in which I won the award for Outstanding Thesis and also had a paper accepted to an internationally-renowned conference in the fall), I'll begin a new, albeit much smaller thesis project.  The MLitt thesis is 50-80 pages; the MFA thesis is roughly 30 pages.  Cake, right?  Right.  

I've just finished my research/writing schedule, and am feeling anxious about taking on such an important task in such a short amount of time.  Because the MFA fall term starts four weeks earlier than the MLitt term, I have less time this summer than I did last summer. I keep telling myself that the MFA thesis is SO. MUCH. SMALLER. and it's not going to be an issue, but I'm staring at that begin-composition-deadline that's only seven weeks away and sort of feeling like I'll never be able to make it.

I'm trying to remember where I was at this point last year, and how it all felt insurmountable then as well (right?), but it's not helping.  There's so much to do, and so very, very little time to do it, especially if I end up taking that internship at OSF in July.  That completely negates three weeks of research/writing, thereby collapsing my timeline even further. 

I'm terrified.  My life is a mess and I'm trying to hold on to anything I can, even this thesis. Especially this thesis.  And all I want to do is go home to my husband.

Everything's going to be fine, right?  Right?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thesis, by the numbers

I defended my thesis on Monday, and passed.  Without revisions.  Which means I'm only the second student in program history to achieve such a distinction.  And also means I'm done with my thesis and have the option to never ever ever look at it ever again ever (but actually means that I'm just going to take a week off before I start revising for publication).  Huzzah!

My thesis, by the numbers:

Words: 43,951
Citations: 227
Total Pages: 139
Pages of argumentative writing: 67
Footnotes: 55
Shakespeare plays quoted: 8 (and a half, if you count Cibber's Richard III)
Images: 8
Appendices: 7
Drafts: 6 (three more than strictly necessary)
Abstract attempts: 5
Chapters: 3
Titles: 1


Like a boss.

I don't know what happens now, but at least I've finished on a high note.

Friday, February 6, 2015

In which I discover, actually, I might be kind of smart.

I have always been near the top of my class.  Always.  From elementary school through middle school (when I discovered that checking out thousands of books from the library was more fun than doing my homework) and into high school, I always maintained pretty good grades.  (Middle school was actually barely average--see the part where I preferred reading to working.)  I did well in college, too.  Since starting grad school, the lowest grade I've received was an A- (which is really the lowest acceptable grade to get in grad school, but it's still good).  GPA-wise, I'm in the top third of my cohort.  But in terms of actual intelligence, I always believed I was firmly middle-of-the-road at best.  I can regurgitate information with the best of them, but I really struggle with critical thinking and have believed for a very long time that I don't have a single original thought in my head.

This morning, for the first time, I spoke to a group of graduate students and faculty members about my thesis project.  This was at a conference, the first one I'd ever presented at, and I knew only two people in the room.  I delivered my paper smoothly and clearly, and then was able to thoughtfully engage with the questions I was asked and express myself cogently.  After spending nearly a year with this material, it seems that I may have actually mastered it.  I'm so incredibly pleased with how this went, and am feeling ever so much more confident about all the speaking engagements I have coming up.

At the end of this month, I get to present my thesis project in a bit larger scope, as I deliver a presentation to the entirety of my graduate community.  In mid-March, I present a different portion of my thesis at a conference at UNC Greensboro, and at the end of March, I present a non-thesis-related paper at an enormous conference in Indianapolis.  Almost as soon as I return from that conference, I get to defend my thesis.  After today's experience, I'm hardly anxious about these events at all.  

And, you know, the director of my program is writing a book chapter--WITH ME--based on an idea that I had.  So, maybe my brain is actually doing something right.  Maybe I'm getting my start.  Maybe I'm going to do good and great things.  This is a very exciting prospect.

A post-script on 2/10: today, a very smart man told me my thesis is publishable.  Last night, a very smart woman told me I should apply to the PhD programs at Harvard and Stanford.  Eeep!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A rather momentous thing.

This afternoon, my thesis adviser/the director of my program told me he had been invited to write an article/essay for an anthology being published next year.  He wanted to write about an idea I'd had last spring, and asked me to co-author the piece with him.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First, I'm WILDLY flattered.  Second, I'm just tickled pink that I get to pursue this idea that I think is so fun and great, but doesn't fit into my academic trajectory in this program.

And finally, I'm irritated beyond belief that I can't share this with my friends in the program. If I announced it, they would only be snarky and belittling.  I understand that it comes from a place of jealousy, but I think it's completely fucked up that I have to choose between being publicly proud of my hard work and keeping my relationships pleasant and free from resentment and ill-will.  I wonder how much of me feeling like I need to keep my accomplishments private stems from me being a woman who's been conditioned to be seen and not heard.

If my classmates could realize that my accomplishments and hard work doesn't reflect on them in any way, doesn't diminish the hard work that they're doing, I think they'd be genuinely happy for me.  But I learned my lesson in the fall--they don't want to hear about my work, and they don't want to be happy for me.

But it doesn't matter what they think, because the smartest man I've ever met wants to co-author an article WITH ME!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Big things!

Since it's the beginning of the semester, I'm getting excited about all the things coming up in 2015.


  • Being a teaching assistant for my favorite class and my favorite professor
  • Putting up a production of a totally rad early modern play that's only been performed once in the last 400 years.
  • Presenting a paper at a conference for the FIRST TIME EVER!
  • Stopping in Ohio on my way to and from that conference to see my cousins.
  • Finishing my thesis and defending it.  Passing without revisions (I hope)!
  • Graduating with my first master's degree.
  • Starting my second.
  • Summer with my husband (maybe in Oregon)!
  • Beginning the application process for doctoral programs.
  • Submitting papers for the Blackfriars Conference.
  • Attending the Blackfriars Conference, whether or not my papers are accepted!
  • Watching my classmates present at the Blackfriars Conference!
Big things.  Big things!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: A Year in Selfies


In the spring, I snuggled this sweet girl.  It was great.


Tim came to Staunton and we went to Monticello.


We went to the end-of-season benefit concert at the Blackfriars.  Big smiles for these lovely people who've made my year so wonderful: Marshall, Adrienne, Jordan, and Molly.


We celebrated the end of the semester by eating obscene amounts of gelato.


We hiked around the National Mall on Easter.


I spent the summer researching my thesis at the Library of Congress.  I didn't get much useful information there, but I did get to spend an afternoon with a First Folio.


Jim Henson went to UMD.  I took a picture with the Kermit statue.


My oldest friend got married.  This was the only high school reunion worth going to.


Tim and I made faces.


Top Gun in the park with dear, dear friends.


Five-iversary waterfall visit!


I was sporty in the fall.


Spent a day in Baltimore with a sweet friend from fight camp.


Hamlet Christmas Eve Civil War Battlefield Tour Extravaganza 2014.  We went to Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, and Wilderness.


Christmas day trip to see the model train at the Botanical Gardens.


Fort McHenry on a lovely, temperate day.


And finally, the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.  We got excited about trains, and I bought a newspaper from 1861.  Have a happy 2015!