Eating Disorders and Disney Princesses (or I’m Too Fat To Be A Princess).

Disclosure: This has taken off in popularity in a way that I never expected. I am profoundly touched. However, in reading this, I realized that I was not originally clear in my message. This was never about Disney’s casting practices (as some people very rightly seemed to take away) but more about my own insecurities. I believe that writing is a living thing, so I have opted to edit this to reflect as such.

I have never particularly liked my body.
I have always particularly wanted to be a Disney Princess.

Keep both of these in mind, they become important later on.

Last summer, my boyfriend, Chris asked me casually if I might want to go to Disney World sometime. Roughly two weeks later, he surprised me with an invitation to tag along with his family on their trip this year. I was floored at the generosity, but even more excited when I found out that we’d be going during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party– the one time of the year that Disney allows grown-ups to wear costumes in the park.

Naturally, I was excited. Costumer problems.

We decided, after some debate, that we would do a group costume. Chris would be Lumiere, his brother would be Cogsworth, his mom Mrs. Potts and his dad would be Gaston. I would be Belle.

When I was a kid, Belle was always my favorite Disney Princess. She was the one who read books (just like me!) and people thought she was weird (just like me!) and wanted adventure in the great wide somewhere (just like me, cuz someday I’d be old enough to drive!). It’s cliche, I know. But I love that movie. I still remember falling asleep to the soundtrack and dancing around in the basement, pretending to be Belle.

I am not proud to admit that when Chris suggested the group costume, my first thought was not excitement, it was “But I’m too fat to be a princess. Will people take me seriously in the costume?”. Even after four years of being in recovery (with slips and trips and failures along the way), it is startling how fast my mind goes into Eating Disorder Brain whenever I’m confronted with dealing with my own size.

Disney’s requirements for playing Belle at Disney World are simple: be a decent actor, know your character, be between 5’4″ and 5’7″ and, most importantly, for the purposes of this story, fit a size 10 or smaller.

I am a size 12.

As such, my scumbag Eating Disorder Brain has a literal numerical value by which to compare my own body. According to “the numbers”, I don’t measure up. (Ha ha ha get it). My Eating Disorder Brain latched onto that number and that voice of self doubt in my head constantly told me that I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t pretty enough, I was too big to be a princess. I wasn’t “right”.

I have been, over the course of my journey with an eating disorder, anywhere between a size 0 and a size 20. As I have gotten further into recovery, my body has settled into the range of a 12. I’m not particularly stoked about it, but I have found that trying to be much smaller results in the danger of relapse and any larger makes me, well, in danger of relapse. It’s a tightrope.

So we made the costumes. Over the course of three weeks, I meticulously built the costumes from scratch, drafting my own patterns, staying up late and sewing during spare moments between classes. About a week before we were slated to leave, I tried my costume on. It didn’t fit. It was about 4 inches too big in every direction. I was pissed– I’d spent a solid day building the dress, and it didn’t fit. I cried.

Chris looked at me and said “Maybe it’s time you reevaluate how you see yourself”. I hadn’t trusted my own measurements– I couldn’t possibly be THAT size. I added inches for safety because12118623_904267604074_8426076473956985471_ne I didn’t want to face the humiliation of putting on a too-small dress. Instead, I’d wasted a week of work because I couldn’t accept that might actually be the size written on the tape measure.

I fixed the dress (well, completely remade) and off we went. On the night of the event, I was convinced that the dress wasn’t going to fit, that I’d somehow gained 40 pounds on our trip, that I was going to break the zipper, that people would laugh at me. Eating Disorder Brain is an ugly thing. The dress fit.

All night, people kept stopping me. Frankly, I was surprised, since Chris had told me not to expect much attention since most everyone was going to be in costume. I’d expected maybe a couple smiles, but the minute we stepped out of our hotel room, kids were whispering and pointing.

Over the course of the night, about a dozen people stopped me for photos. Many more stopped me to ask if I worked at the park. Several people didn’t believe me when I told them I didn’t work there, one cast member approached me and told me I looked more like Belle than the Belles she works with.

One guy insisted that we track down a cast member who could connect us with the casting department. “Your entire outfit is your audition, you should be working here”. My Eating Disorder Brain whispered “They won’t hire me, I’m too fat”.

A group of parents came over and asked me to take a photo with their kids. I told them what the people at the gate had told me to say: “Just so you know, I’m not the REAL Belle, I’m just dressed like her tonight– the real Belle is somewhere else, you should try and find her tonight!” They took their pictures with me anyway. My Eating Disorder Brain wondered if I looked fat in the pictures.

Several of the moms pulled me aside and thanked me, they were relieved to have a picture with “Belle” (even a fake one) because their daughters had desperately wanted to meet her and they couldn’t afford the park hopper pass that would have taken them to the other park where the “real” Belle was appearing that day. My Eating Disorder Brain assured me I would never have groups of little girls hoping to take their picture with me.

What particularly frustrated me was I happened upon a (park official) Gaston, who was legitimately the worst actor I have ever seen. Not only did he barely know enough about the character to converse with the little girl who was interrogating him about his desire to murder the Beast, it was abundantly clear that he didn’t really care– he wearing the costume, therefore, he was the character and that was good enough.

But he fit the costume, so he got the job. My Eating Disorder Brain told me “see? It’s not about your talent, it’s about your size”.

Later, two little girls bum-rushed me, hugged me around the waist and yelled “OHMYGOSHITSBELLEYOUARESOPRETTYCANWETAKEYOURPICTURE?” I told them my Official Disney Rules Statement within earshot of two Disney cast members. One of them looked at me in confusion and said “I thought you worked here!”. The little girls got their picture, their dad shook his head at me and said “If you don’t work here, they are doing a terrible job in casting”. My Eating Disorder Brain whispered “Size 10”.

20151020_224116My favorite moment came when we went to go take a picture at the Be Our Guest restaurant. We watched several people ask to go inside for photos, and they were granted access. When we asked, the cast member out front paused and apologetically explained that we couldn’t go inside– our costumes were too good and he didn’t want people to have the impression that “official” actors were visiting to do meet and greets. He took our picture outside for us…..sort of. (Potato camera is a potato).

It’s stupid, I know. And probably not even worth a blog entry.

But there’s something important, I think, about recognizing the damage that Eating Disorder Brain can do, even when I am eating healthily and maintaining recovery.

But I am, still, a size 12.

Not everyone has Eating Disorder Brain, but I am fairly certain most of us struggle with self-doubt. How can we ever be the Disney Princess when Disney tells us that only women size 0-10 can be the princess?

I have considered many times trying to lose enough weight to meet the requirements and showing up an an audition, just to say I did. Just to see what happens. Maybe I’d get the job, maybe my nose would be too weird for them and they would say “thanks but no thanks”. I don’t know.

Disney says that Belle has to be a size 10. That’s fine, and their right as the owners of her image. But what I learned is that number doesn’t magically make someone a princess. I’m not calling for some massive political movement, or really even change. I am the size I am, and that is okay. Disney says that to be a princess, you have to be not the size I am. And I suppose that is okay.

But a couple of nights ago, I felt beautiful. That is not often the case.
No little girls pointed and said “she’s too fat”.
Instead, a couple of nights ago, little girls stopped me in my tracks and begged to take my picture.
A couple of nights ago, I was a Disney Princess, size 12 and all.

Not many people talk about the recovery end of Eating Disorders as something ongoing. Most people think that it is a “go to rehab and you’re cured” type thing. And that’s not the case. Every day, I struggle with that gnawing, shitty voice inside my head that tells me that I’m too fat, not good enough, not pretty enough– recovery is learning to ignore that voice, to silence it, to find ways to remind yourself that you are worthy. And it sucks. Because even in truly magical moments, being at Disney World, dressed as a character I have admired my whole life, feeling beautiful and strong and confident and excited with a man I love more than anything in the world and his incredible family, that voice still tried to tell me that I wasn’t good enough, I could never be a princess.

And I suppose, at the very least, on one night in October, I proved that voice wrong.

An Edit:

I am honored that this post resonated with so many people, and so many people have shared it among their friends.

Somehow, through one of those shares, this got posted on the internet in a public forum. Thank you to whoever shared it, I am happy that you thought it was worthy of the Internet’s attention as a whole.

However, a bunch of people have jumped on the bandwagon and started criticizing me, saying that “I feel entitled to the job” and that “just because a few kids liked my costume, I think I deserve to work there”. That is assuredly not the point. My point is that just because Disney has mandated that their princesses are a certain size, everyone has the right to feel beautiful. Everyone has the right to feel entitled to the space they fill. Everyone, of any size, has the right to feel respected and included and valued. I often fail at many of these.

Disney can hire whoever they want.

What I hoped to do was start a conversation regarding the self-doubts that many people feel regarding body image and the pressure to be a certain size. I think I have done that, to the best of my small ability. My experience is my own, and I can only speak for myself. Do I think my costume was balls awesome? Yes. And I will admit to being proud of it. But this isn’t about getting a job at Disney. I’m not asking for a job.

What I’m asking is for the people who read this to consider how many times their self-doubts negate the truth. How many times are you told “you look beautiful” and wave it off? How many times have you looked in the mirror and only seen imperfections? How many compliments do you reject as flattery, not truth? It’s not about the job, or the costume or really, even about being a “princess”. It’s about learning to accept myself–ourselves– as we are. It’s about recognizing the beauty and humanity that others see, even when we are too clouded with our own self-doubts to see it ourselves.

Love yourself. You are beautiful.

Catie out.

My Wandering Feet and Important Work

Last night, I was mustering up the motivation to actually do some real work on my thesis when an email popped up.

” I came to your blog by the way of Reddit. I sniffed around the /r/WilliamShakespeare subreddit for anything and everything Titus Andronicus and found your comments. I was cast as Lavinia in a production of Titus Andronicus! ….I just wanted to say: Thank you. Thank you so, so much.

As you know, Titus Andronicus isn’t produced very often, and even then, there’s not very much about Lavinia. Aside from the “oh she’s pretty and quiet and just sits there”, which of course infuriates me. Being able to go through your process was absolutely amazing and I know I’ll return to your blog as rehearsals start up.”

I waited until after Chris had gone to bed and I snuck back to my computer, intent on sending the Best Email Ever to this girl, to offer her my support and advice, but instead, I cried.


Awhile ago, I posted this photo on my facebook.

In it, I am describing how Iambic Pentameter works to a group of students from a Children’s Theatre in Minnesota. The reason, in particular, that I was giving this workshop is because they are doing Titus Andronicus this year, and wanted a workshop on it.

I love giving workshops. Teaching Shakespeare in a an environment where I can casually crack jokes and answer questions and go on weird tangents about the timelines of Shakespeare plays feels, to me, so very ‘right’ that I have a hard time not launching into Education Artist Mode whenever asked about Shakespeare. I’m good at it.

I have never really believed I am *truly* good at a lot of things, but I believe that I am good at this.

Anyway, on my Facebook, I posted this statement along with that picture.

I still have a moment when I think “Wait, me? you want ME to do this?!?”– because I’m still not used to being the one who knows things, I’m used to being the awkward kid who’s way too excited and has way too many questions. And every time I present a workshop or teach a class, I wind up in a room full of incredible people– sometimes kids, sometimes adults, sometimes students, sometimes retirees who always give me new insight into this thing I love. I get really emotional about it sometimes, but it means the world to me that I get to do this, that the people I work with understand the passion and fire I feel about Shakespeare and trust me to impart that on others in a way that speaks to who I am.

One of my friends, one of those insanely talented, clever and witty women I seem to have been blessed with commented back, admonishing me, in her friendly way, to “start believing it”.

That was hard to read. Because she was right. She was really quite right.


Earlier this year, I got turned down for an education job that I really wanted. I’d put a lot of work into my audition/presentation and when I was turned down for the position, I was told, essentially, that I move around too much and, basically, got too excited and so didn’t appear professional enough to represent their organization. I was too excited about Shakespeare to teach Shakespeare.

That. Hurt. I was devastated. After spending so very long in my adult life trying to first figure out and then accept who I am as an artist and a teacher, it felt like a very direct personal attack. I wasn’t good enough for them: not because I didn’t know the material, but because I couldn’t turn off who I was. Now, to be fair, it was also a very fair assessment. I do move when I talk, quite a bit. I pace, I gesticulate wildly. I shift back and forth. I tend to wander. I like to look everyone in the eye. I like to use the space I’m given. I make a point to try and fill it with the energy and passion I feel about what I’m teaching. I get excited. I get distracted. That’s just who I am.

And then I watched this video:

Amanda Palmer is one of my personal heroes, sort of the quintessential non-traditional Strong Female who helped me to stop being embarrassed about how my voice sounds and whose voice, writing and lyrics served as sort of the “if she can do it, maybe I can do” type-muse in regards to my poetry and art. She’s awesome, basically.

But Amanda Palmer can’t stand still. She wanders. She paces. She shifts back and forth. And still, Amanda Palmer has a TED talk with 3 million views. And she is not afraid to be herself.

On the drive back to Virginia, I listened to her audio book– sort of a 12-hour version of this TED talk, interspersed with biography and personal musings and stories. It’s a brilliant, lovely book. One of the first things she talked about was giving the TED talk. Nowhere does she mention being critiqued for moving around too much, she only talks about the audience members who came up to her weeks and months and years afterwards, thanking her.

This summer, I got to give a short 15 minute lecture on King John before each performance. I’d been asked to put together the educational materials for it, and along the way, someone looked at me and said “why don’t you just do it?”

The first night I gave the talk, I was terrified. All I could think of was how I’d been turned down for a job just like this. I stumbled. I stammered. I lost my place. I literally lied to the audience and told them the wrong king was in power. (Richard the Lionheart is Richard I, not Richard II, as I had mistakenly typed). After the talk, I thanked the audience for their attention and let them know that I would be available for questions and comments over at the merchandise booth after the show.

I went back to my little merchandise table and sighed. What the fuck was I thinking, like I have ANY right to be here, to do this? I was selling the t-shirts for fuck’s sake, I wasn’t some notable scholar. I was just…me.

And then, during intermission, people started coming up and thanking me. They thanked me for the presentation, for the educational materials we hand out– most of them were overjoyed to learn that I’d designed them for all of the shows, not just this one, which is why they all sort of matched– and, most meaningfully, for my energy and passion. The first night, about 15 people came up.

Well, I figured, it WAS opening night. The fancy donors and board members tend to come to openings, and they are usually a little more vocal. It was a fluke. Except it wasn’t.

The next night, the same thing happened. And the next night, the same thing. People coming up, thanking me for explaining the show, for helping them understand it, for being “so excited about Shakespeare!”. I heard that one over, and over again.

Slowly, I started to believe it. I was still terrified that someone would call me out as an impostor, that I’d drop my note cards and humiliate myself in front of 60 people, that I’d be laughed off the stage….but instead, something entirely different happened. Every night, people listened as I talked about lineage and symbolism– interspersed with Star Wars jokes and shitty puns. It was entirely mine, and the audience laughed with me– not at me.

And I wandered. I would gesticulate wildly, drawing diagrams in the air of relationships and plot points, often getting so excited that I would wheel around 180 degrees mid-sentence, to address the end of the thought to the audience on the opposite side of the 3/4 thrust, only to turn again a split second later to send a joke to the lady in the first row. It was Shakespeare Education: Catie Style.

And it worked. It worked so well that some people, not content to just thank me, personally, started seeking out my boss or the artistic director to compliment me. It was a really, really cool feeling.

Maybe, I thought, I was good at this.


Getting rejected from that first job didn’t ruin my life or drastically change the course of human existence, it was just disappointing. But ultimately, it wound up being the best thing that could have happened to me. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t fit for teaching, that no one like ME could teach, that no one would take me seriously or trust me as a teacher.

But instead, this summer, I was given that trust, fully and completely, because other people believed for me. Not only did I get to teach, I got to create the workshops that I taught. Not only did I get to teach Shakespeare, but I got to be funny and silly and nerdy while doing it. I learned that someone like ME can teach, because I was doing it, every day, and the response I got was nearly unanimous: that what I was doing mattered, and that I was good at what I did.

I have jokingly told people that my life’s goal is to become like, the internationally recognized expert on Titus Androncius. I want to be The Titus Girl, the one you call when your theatre is doing Titus so she can come teach her goofy Titus Workshop to your actors and make your production phenomenal. I’m like 90% serious about it at this point.

So last night, in the middle of a pretty big bout of depression and self-loathing for my inability to focus on Real Important Work, I got this email, from a stranger on the internet, asking my advice about being Lavinia, because she’d found some comments I’d made.

And something about that was just…profound to me. In probably a really douchey, eye-rolling way, it was profound. After spending all summer worrying about if I was really worthy of this, if someone like ME would be taken seriously— it wasn’t a fancy workshop or teaching seminar, it was a few simple, pointed statements that I’d made on an internet forum, where I hadn’t worried about how I sounded or how I presented or if I wandered around too much– I’d just spoken honestly, with the passion and joy I feel about Shakespeare, and someone had trusted me enough to email a complete stranger and ask her opinion and her view.

And so I cried.

I think, sometimes, the Real Important Work isn’t just my thesis, or research papers– it’s found here, on my blog, where I talked about the process and my personal experience, where, even when I wrote it, I would think things like “no one is ever going to want to read this” and “this is so self indulgent”….

But maybe it’s not. Maybe the most important work we can give is the work that comes not from a writing prompt or a looming thesis deadline. Maybe It’s the most honest work that is truly important. The work where we get to be ourselves, where we speak truth into the void, –truth filled with Star Wars jokes and shitty puns– and trusting that there is an audience who will hear us, as we are, and recognize that our individual voices and stories –stories told with wandering feet and wildly gesticulating hands-are all remarkable, all valuable, and all worthy of sharing.

I am starting to believe.

Oh and if you feel the need to check out or support that all-women Titus, check them out and send them some love.

Act 5: The Choice, A Risk, and the Alignment of the Stars (and What I’ve Learned).

Today marks exactly the one-year anniversary of the Birthday Party and the Boy with the Coat, and so it seems appropriate, if not ENTIRELY a little late to finish the story. It needed distance, I think, and a little time, before I started back in on things. But now, a year later, (and nine months since my last entry), the way it worked out– the way everything worked out– seems like it needed that time to fully comprehend.

And so, exactly one year to the day, I present to you the end of the story.

The Choice

So. Remember Nora and the Red Postcard? It’s been awhile, I’ll refresh you. On our impromptu tour of Staunton on the day of the birthday party, Nora gave me a red postcard that had the information for the MFA Shakespeare program on it. I tucked it in my purse and forgot about it for the rest of the day.

The next morning, when I got back to my office still hyped up on Squintibus and magic playhouse tours, I was digging around in my purse and found the postcard. I didn’t think much of it, but it served as a memento of the weekend and so I pinned it to my bulletin board along with my ticket stubs and it faded into the background.

The rest of the week went fairly innocuously. Chris and I continued to email back and forth– emails that were WAY too long, but we were still riding that wave of “did that really happen” in a way that I think has paved the way for the rest of our relationship.

Then Friday happened. Now, to contextualize this a bit, I was, at the time, working for a Fancy Casino as a salaried employee. I was the “Entertainment Manager”, which was a super sweet gig that basically meant I was in charge of all of the concerts and events at the casino, as well as a number of other duties that fell under my OTHER title as “Digital Technologies Manager”.

So that Friday, (on the night of a concert), we got called into the office and basically told that the entire department was fired due to “restructuring”, and that our six(once-salaried) positions were going to be replaced by 5 hourly positions. So, basically, we got told that one of us was going to lose our job, and those who kept their employment were getting demoted. Awesome.

The next two months were really weird. We were expected to keep coming into work and act like nothing was wrong while they “sorted out the situation”. The problem here was that because there was that one spot open, this weird Hunger Games morale came into play in a way that I really hated. I don’t want to go into specifics in the interest of tact and privacy, but there came a point where the level of “under the bussing” got so bad that I went back to my office and had a moment of “What do I do? I can’t stay here”….and I looked up and spotted Nora’s red postcard.

It was in that moment when I had a really douchey epiphany. I admit that it was douchey and also super idealistic, but I just remember sitting there and looking at my ticket stubs and Prenzie posters and seeing “Shakespeare” repeated over and over and over, and looking back at the postcard and thinking “I’m not happy here, and I KNOW what makes me happy, why the fuck am I not just GOING for this? ”

The Risk

So I did. I sent in my application that day (at work. TAKE THAT, THE MAN) and heard back from the lady who monitors the program almost immediately, telling me that Nora had mentioned I might be applying and that she was really excited to show me more about the program .

At that point, my life became a blur. So much happened so quickly– professors and friends stepped up to write me beautiful letters of recommendation. In January, I took the GRE and panicked because my score wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I continued panicking over whether or not I’d get cast at the ASC (spoiler, I didn’t. Memorize your sides, kids). Chris and I continued to email back and forth. He visited me. I surprized him on his birthday and visited him. I got accepted to grad school with a 50% scholarship.

The day I got the letter, I didn’t react much. My mom was mad, I think, that I didn’t do the whole “jump around and yell” thing. I just stood there and quietly smiled. Hard. For a long time. Eventually, we sat down and figured out how good the scholarship was and I because a lot less fearful about my imminent bankruptcy due to student loans, but suddenly, This Was Real in a way that I hadn’t really planned on.

The next day, I went into work and told them that I’d gotten accepted into Grad School. They were happy for me, but I also realized it caused a problem of whether or not they should keep me on until I left or whether I should just consider that my two weeks. I wasn’t surprised when they told me “thanks but no thanks” for my offer to stay on, and suddenly, I was unemployed. And it felt awesome.

The Alignment of the Stars

The realization, of course, that I was out of a job was a sort of scary one, but once again, the stars aligned in a way that I had never expected. I was bemoaning my plight with my wonderful friend Emily, who had just taken a big kid job of her own as a marketing director at the Great River Shakespeare Festival. She suggested I apply for an internship. So I did. And I got it.

Suddenly, my unemployment turned into “getting to work for a real life Shakespeare company”.

There was a month where I was supposed to work at a Renn faire making armor as an “educational artisan”, but they somehow wound up double-booking me or something, and that gig got cancelled shortly before I was due to start. It was disappointing, but I figured that it would work out better in the long run– plus, I wound up replacing THAT gig with a few smaller ones, so I suppose it works out. Those done, I was headed to the Shakespeare Festival.

The Great River Shakespeare Festival lives in this magical small town in Winona, Minnesota. It’s bordered on one side by bluffs, and there are two giant lakes. There are also chai lattes. That summer, I got to do a bunch of the educational design, and I also designed the t-shirts. I don’t know why I consider that such a point of pride, but there you go.

It was my first summerstock, and so I made a lot of mistakes, namely mistakes fueled by $2.50 Long Islands and the excitement of being around “real actors”. I got upset and frustrated and sometimes lazy and occasionally bored and spent all my money and it was WONDERFUL.  I was living in a tiny dorm room out of hockey bags, and for the first time, in a really, really long time, I just felt….right. I felt like I was finally getting to be myself–that I didn’t have to worry about offending the delicate sensibilities of my co-worker by talking about theatre and I could get REALLY EXCITED ABOUT SHAKESPEARE and no one would mind. I bought a bike and crashed it on the first day. I still have a heart-shaped scar on my knee and was on crutches for a week after I decided to start running.

I met some extraordinary people, especially the girls who I got to work with in the box office. They introduced me to Chai Lattes and the phrase “salty” and feminism and were an example of meeting the right people at the right time. I was terrified that everything was going to come crashing down around me at any minute, but there they were, having the time of their lives, and maybe it would be okay if I got to go along. Beautiful people in a beautiful town. Emily became my saving grace and sanity-provider in the center of our hectic, crazy office, and I realized how grateful I am to have friendships like hers in my life. Quiet, not always present, but suddenly a life-changing offer or just a hug when I needed it, and it was just because she believed that I was more capable than I even thought I was. Turns out, I don’t actually suck as much as I thought I did.

I also somehow managed to find an amazing apartment in Virginia while I was living in a dorm room in Minnesota. Chris gets most of the credit, as well as the copy machine at GRSF, but signing my lease made me feel….competent. Like maybe it was going to work out. I came home for a week and a half after summerstock ended but before classes were going to start and had one last hurrah with my friends.

That was hard. Like, really hard. I remember sitting at the Blue Cat and realizing that this could very well be the last time I see some of these people for at least three years. My world was shifting. I came home and cried and cried and wondered if I was doing the right thing, if leaving everything behind to study something as silly as Shakespeare was worth it, losing the life that I had known for so long, but I think, even then, I knew that I needed to get out, at least for awhile. Things were The Same in the Quad Cities, and it wasn’t what I needed.

And so I packed up a giant moving truck, attached my car, learned how to drive a box truck through the mountains at night with a trailer without dying and made it to Virginia in what seemed like both 3 days and three years after I’d made my decision to do this.

Moving sucks, especially with your mother in a tiny moving van cabin for 17 hours, but I was also grateful for the time I got to spend with her– we spent most of our trip through the mountains debating sex and religion, and I feel like I know my mom a little bit better now, and I can at least say that she’s heard the entirety of the Book of Mormon soundtrack.

And then, suddenly, everything was loaded off of the truck (thanks, Chris’s family) and I was…here. I had a key and an address and books were arriving in the mail for classes, and then classes started and now I’m here.

Grad School is weird. I mean, it’s awesome, but it’s weird. I feel like I could spend the next three years blogging every day about what happened and what we did and what Shakespeare we studied, or I could just write “We talked about Shakespeare” and it’d be, essentially, the same thing. Sometimes, it’s just hard to find the words.

What I’ve Learned

Today has been strange. I walked to the coffee shop (home of the vanilla lattes in the world) and overpaid for my delicious cup of goodness, and turned to see Patrick sitting and working on some stuff– at the EXACT same table I met him at a year ago.

In a little less than an hour, I’m going to go perform in two directing showcase scenes on stage at the Blackfriar’s. My sacred space has become my classroom. Later this week, I’m going to sign up to be reviewed as a tour guide there as well. My midnight tour has become my day job. Tonight, Chris and I are going to celebrate a bit. The boy in the stupid coat has become the boy I come home to. The Shakespearean Asguardians have become friends with names and the town that I didn’t want to leave has become the town that I live in. The thing that I wanted to do most in the world is the thing I get to do everyday.

I have learned that sometimes, out of disappointment comes new choices you never even imagined. I’ve learned that out of fear of the unknown can come the strongest happiness you’ve ever felt. Out of hard choices can come the knowledge that you’ve made the right one. Out of loss and anger at what you thought your life was going to be can come a discovery that maybe your life was never headed in that direction anyway.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that if you spend every day waiting for everything to fall apart, for everything to disappear and for the other shoe to drop, you might miss the most obvious thing of all- that there is no other shoe, and that maybe this wonderful, extraordinary, beautiful, crazy unpredictable life is just the one that I get to live.

It’s been a really, really good year.

Act 4: A Birthday Party

The next part of this story is my favorite part to tell, if not because of the disjointed and half-remembered parts of it but for the reactions that I get when I tell it. Most people think that I’m bullshitting, or at least somewhat exaggerating.

I’m really not.

Act 4: A Birthday Party.

This is a story that pends on the understanding of a very specific timeline:

I flew into the Dulles airport, which is about 3 hours away from Staunton. I had rented a car, which was located off-property from the airport. I was told to leave at least half an hour between car return time and getting to the airport time, to allow time for their service shuttle to pick me up. My flight was leaving at 8:01AM. I needed to be at the airport no later than 7AM, meaning that I HAD to be out of Staunton by 3:30AM, 4:00AM at the latest.

This becomes incredibly important later on.

So Saturday night passed without incident. I was exhausted from the day, and had grand plans to go find a rowdy bar to pass the time, but instead spent the evening with a hot date of a Subway sandwich in my hotel room.

Sunday was going to be my wrap-up day. I had tickets for the matinee of Romeo and Juliet, so I planned on wandering down to the coffee place with the extraordinary lattes and hanging out. I had already packed, so I put my suitcase in my rental car, checked out of my hotel and headed into town.

On my way there, I happened to get a text from Nora asking me if I wanted to hang out for a while before the show. We met up for coffee, and then went on an impromptu adventure around town, including a brief stop to the MFA rehearsal space, where Nora handed me a red postcard with website details for the MFA Shakespeare Program. I stuck it in my purse. Remember that, it becomes important later on.

We continued around town, where she clued me in to the fantastic vintage store hidden in an upstairs shopping complex. I bought an orange dress and dinosaur earrings to commemorate the day, and Nora thoughtfully invited me over for dinner again after the show, and I readily accepted.

So, I saw Romeo and Juliet at the ASC and it was fantastic. I mean, the thing with Romeo and Juliet is that a bunch of semi-literate mutants could stand there, and once you hit the speeches, it’s just…pure magic. I can’t imagine what I must have looked like from the stage— this wide-eyed doofus sitting and grinning during the sad parts because they were just SO GOOD (and, because I directed Complete Works, “call me but love and I’ll be new baptized” is ruined for me. Forever.) but I was just…really impressed.

After the show, I wound up back again at Nora’s place, where we ate dinner. During the meal, Nora casually mentioned that she was headed to a birthday party that night with a great band she thought I would enjoy, and would I be interested in going. I protested—I didn’t know anyone, I hadn’t been invited, I didn’t want to impose, but Nora assured me that it would be fine. I was about to protest again that I had an early flight and needed to get some sleep, but I figured that I’d stop by for awhile, stand around awkwardly and leave by 10, giving me plenty of sleep before I had to leave at the ass-crack of dawn.

Oh, and it was a black and white party, so not only did Nora invite me, she also let me raid her closet. There is hospitality, and then there is Nora. Good lord, she deserves a medal.

Anyway, so dressed in some semblance of a black and white outfit, I left my clothes and possessions at Nora’s caught a ride with her to the party. (remember this, it becomes important later on).

For the sake of the timeline, we’ll say that it was 9:00pm.

I thought we were headed to a bar, but I quickly found out we were headed to a house party—the best kind, one of those hot, sweaty, sort of squished together and too loud parties with jello shots and crazy outfits—the difference, however, was that three seconds into the party, I ran, literally, face-first into their impossibly good-looking Romeo, and stumbled backwards, only to be caught and steadied by their equally dashingly handsome Lord Montague.

Fuck me, this was an ACTOR party, and here I was, an awkward theatre geek from Iowa standing amongst the Shakespearean Asguardians, wide eyed, terrified and too nervous to make eye contact.

I realized that I had two options: make friends, or bail, and goddamn it, this was an adventure.

I started chatting with some of the actors, and it turned out that the timing of the celebration coincided with three happenings: the return of the touring company for a brief stop in town, the final performance of a band comprised of actors from the company, and two birthdays being celebrated at one party.

The band was squished into the living room and surrounded on three sides by theatre people rocking out. At one point, I turned to my side and noticed a guy in a horrific 80’s jacket. I said some smart ass thing like “hey, nice jacket”, and he sort stared at me and skulked away. Great. I’d offended one of the Asguardians. Keep 80’s jacket guy in mind, he’s going to be really important later on.

Really, really important.

I hit it off with some of the touring troupe actors, and suddenly, from behind me, this great behemoth of a man with a giant beard and a giant smile clapped me on the back, handed me a pair of plastic sunglasses and roared at me to take a Jello shot. I complied. He handed me three more.

And that was how at a birthday party I wasn’t invited to, I did Jello shots with Falstaff.

I talked to anyone who came in a four foot radius. I made jokes. I talked Shakespeare. I danced. We argued about the best Slings and Arrows character. I drank cheap beer and had a few jello shots. I was. So. Happy. I went for a walk with one of the actors and had one of those deep introspective and slightly embarrassing looking back conversations about how much I admire him for getting to do this for his JOB. He didn’t get it.

I realize that going to a house party isn’t like, the greatest achievement, but for me it was…meaningful. It was an unplanned adventure, a chance to talk to people who got to work in Shakespeare for their jobs, and, for the first time in a very long time, I felt like I had found the land of my people. It was proof that I could, even when terrified to open my mouth and embarrass myself, make friends, meet people, and talk probably way too much about what makes Titus a great show.

11:00 pm.

We returned from our walk to find the party still in swing, if not slightly less intense—the band had finished, so the living room had cleared out enough to allow some room for conversation. I found myself talking with a couple touring actors and then, suddenly, 80’s jacket guy reappeared and joined the conversation. Turns out, his skulking away was more of an awkward not knowing what to say and less of a being terribly offended sort of thing, so that worked out for me.

Somehow, we started talking about Halloween decorations, which led to a discussion of
building props, which led to me playing the “I Make Armor” card (which, you know, is…mostly kind of true, but it sounds more impressive than “I’m totally learning at how not to suck at making armor”), which led to him asking me, perhaps, the single greatest question I’ve ever been asked.

“Do…do you want to see the armory?”

I thought he was kidding. Yeah right, we can just up and go check out the damn armor supply store to while we’re at it.

“No”, he said, “ You don’t get it— I’m the props master for the ASC…the armory is literally my office. Do you want to go check it out?”

I can only imagine my face at this moment, but apparently, I didn’t embarrass myself enough for him to change his mind. I excused myself to go ask Nora if she mind if I checked it out, and she assured me it was fine, that 80’s jacket guy wasn’t a serial killer, and that if it got too late, she’d leave the door unlocked so I could return and get my stuff.

So I went off with another complete stranger, this one in a bad 80’s tuxedo (honestly, I swear I’m smarter than this story makes me sound) and suddenly, after a lot of giggling and awkward conversation, found myself at the stage door for the ASC.

He opened the door for me (southern gentleman: confirmed) and gestured me inside.


I have always believed in the kindness of strangers. I believe, fully, with my whole heart, that people are intrinsically good, and that there is far more good in the world than bad. I believe that everyone has a story, and I most assuredly believe that the only way to experience life and the extraordinary moments it has the possibility to bring is by talking to people. Because sometimes, you’ll talk to the right person two years before you talk to the right person at a birthday party, and suddenly you’ll be handed, once again, proof that true, real good exists, in many ways—and my proof, that night, was a complete stranger taking a girl from the Midwest unsolicited and unprovoked to see the swords because he knew how much it would mean to her.

There was no motive or reward in it for him, no reason at all to offer to leave a party for some girl to ogle hilts and thumb blade edges, but he offered. Out of just…kindness. And yes, I realize that some might read this and be very quick to cry “motive”, but it just—it wasn’t a pick-up line, it was just…an offer from a good heart, because somehow, I think he sort of understood the chance I was taking, and returned it, in kind, with good-natured kindness. Just…because.

I have tried, many times, since that evening to explain, or at least replicate, the feeling that I had that night. It was something akin to sheer joy mixed with deep longing mixed with HOLY FUCKING SHIT mixed with “is this actually happening?”

So I got a midnight tour. I saw the swords, and the costume shop. I saw the props loft, he took me to the “heavens” where the over-stage storage lives, showed me the trap, took me to the props loft where I teased him on his organization, let me peek my head out of the tech booth… I was in heaven.

The details of this experience are both simultaneously incredibly blurred but also, somehow, seared into my memory. The bucket of gauntlets. The cluttered make-up counter. The smell of the costume shop. The whiteboard with dumb comments scribbled around the margins from smart-ass actors. It was like getting a glimpse backstage at my nerd version of Disney World—this was where the magic was made, this is where shows were built, this was where I’d dreamed of being.

It meant so much to me.

We wound up on top of the adjacent parking garage that overlooked the downtown. We stayed up there for a while, just talking, until it got too cold and we were forced back inside, but I would have stayed there all night, just talking and looking at the stars over the mountains.

1:00 AM.

When we went back inside, we took a detour to the music loft, where the instruments used by the company are stored, and then he brought me downstairs, brought me through a set of doors and through a curtain and then, suddenly, I opened my eyes and I was on stage.

There is this moment in Beauty and the Beast where the Beast gives Belle a library. As a kid, that was always one of my favorite parts because holy shit, she got a library to a soundtrack of sweeping strings.

That night, I got a theatre. Unfortunately, in life, there are no sweeping strings, but the effect was still the same. There was, perhaps, a bit of a grand reveal with a grin because he understood the significance of this hallowed ground to me, but my reaction was just as strong. And by strong, I mean humiliating. Because my reaction to this amazing moment was to burst into tears. Now, I’ve never been a crier. I cry, sure, but it’s a rare occurrence that I am very careful to keep private.

But there, in that moment, in front of this stranger in his jacket with velvet lapels, I burst into tears. I stood, I’m not sure, for how long, just…staring. The thing of it is, there is something about this particular theatre that is just…incredibly hard to explain. Most of it is, honestly, self-ascribed, I know, objectively, that it’s just a building that happens to look like a recreation of a period-accurate playhouse. I know, objectively, that all theatres tend to have high ceilings. I know, objectively, that wood is generally used to construct stages with…but all of that just…disappears there.

I am sure that once I am there for a while the novelty will wear off, but for now, since then, I’ve set foot in that space twice more, and every time, it’s almost embarrassing how excited I get. It’s just…what it stands for, I guess. What it means, personally, to me. Objectively, rationally, reasonably, it’s a very pretty building in a very pretty town. But to me, it’s like walking into a cathedral. It’s just…silly, I know, and maybe a bit over the top, but that’s just how my mind works.

Anyway, so I was told after the fact that apparently my face was delightful to witness as I stood on stage, but I don’t remember anything about that moment except sheer, utter, pure, honest joy.

2:00 AM

After generously putting up with my meltdown for the better part of what felt like eternity, we made our way to the foot of the stage, where we just…talked. You know when you meet a stranger on an airplane or a bus and somehow, by the end of the ride, you’ve gotten their entire life story? It was sort of like that. Just…talking. Easily. Freely. No pressure, no feeling of having to impress the other person, just sharing stories and talking theatre

At some point, I was looking around the theatre as we talked, and I noticed that there was a door hanging slightly ajar. I remembered, weirdly, overhearing a conversation at the party between two actors complaining about the fact that there was a door at the theatre that wouldn’t hang shut, and I asked if that door was the door in question.

It was, and I, being me, went over to examine it and wound up spotting the problem: the door had been originally hung to open the other way, and when it was turned around, the stop had been placed too close to the hinges, resulting in the hinges pressing on the wood, which popped the door back open.

I pointed this out, and made some lame comment about how if I was correct and he managed to fix the door, he had to buy me flowers. (These become important later on). The deal made, we continued our conversation and fell, somehow, on the subject of names.


As we talked, I realized, suddenly, that I had absolutely no idea what this guy’s name was. At the exact moment the thought crossed through my head, either by happenstance or because it was obvious on my face, he asked me “Hey. What’s my name?”


I realized that there was absolutely no way out of this, so I admitted that, well, I had absolutely no idea and apologized profusely.

He offered his hand. “I’m Chris”.
I shook back. “I’m Catie”.

The thing of it was (as horribly eembarrassing as that moment happened to be)…this whole night had happened between literal strangers. I was humiliated that in my freak out of excitement I had somehow either forgotten (his insistence) or never learned (my insistence) his name. But even without knowing it, even if I had walked away without ever learning it, the thing that strikes me most is that this stranger handed me my dreams that night. For free. For the joy of giving another person joy. Out of a generosity that I am am learning to try and emulate every day.

And so the boy with the dumb jacket became a boy with a name.

2:45 AM

As my “holy shit I have to leave time” loomed closer, I realized, suddenly, that I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to end the conversation, I didn’t want to leave the theatre, I didn’t want to leave the town—I wanted to stay. I wanted, I suppose, the feeling of a perfect, perfect night to linger for just a little bit longer.

There’s this line in Romeo and Juliet that goes
“It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden,
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say “It lightens.”

Suddenly, that line made a whole fuckload more sense. This had all happened so quickly, so just…bizarrely and perfectly and magically that it didn’t seem real, and I was going to have to walk away from that feeling and back into real life.

We sat onstage until 2:58 and talked, ignoring the countdown timer on my phone, until we just…couldn’t anymore.

3:00 AM

So, finally, I just…had to go. Chris hugged me, thanked me for a wonderful evening, drove me back to Nora’s where I snuck in, changed my clothes, regretted that I had nothing to leave her a note in which to express my thanks, and was in my rental car and on the road by 3:15.

I didn’t get any sleep that night. I drove through the grey dawn and stopped only once—to watch the sunrise over the mountains, feeling slightly embarrassed at the notion of being so romantic as to watch a sunrise, but it was beautiful, and I just wanted 5 more minutes of that feeling of adventure and happiness and joy before I drove too far away to remember what that felt like.

The car drop-off and flights home were uneventful, and by 10AM I had changed into the only clean thing I had with me—the orange dress I’d bought with Nora– exhausted and at work, checking emails.

The events of the past two days seemed like, well, a dream, except that my proof was that I hadn’t slept. At all. And a bright orange dress and some dinosaur earrings.

It was a bizarre juxtaposition. Literally less than 6 hours before, I’d been in a room crammed with people who laughed at my Darren Nichols references and entered into a hot debate with me regarding the “top five” Shakespeares… and now, I was back in the office, blankly nodding through discussions about football scores and, well, everything that glaringly pointed out how much I didn’t make sense in this world. After a weekend consumed by art and creativity and the admission that I had, maybe, figured out in a strange trial by fire just what exactly my passion was, I was just as quickly back in a world of spreadsheets and data reports.

At some point, I reached into my purse to find something and I pulled out Nora’s red postcard. For some reason, I tacked it to my bulletin board. Don’t forget about the postcard, it’s still going to be important later on.

The rest of it…the party, the tour, the people…I just sort of wrote it all off as this once in a lifetime experience, a fantastical set of circumstances that aligned to create something magical, resigned myself to remembering as best I could and decided, resolutely, to remember the weekend fondly, but not to expect anything else to come of it.

4:45 PM:

Later that day, just before work ended for the day, I checked my email. In it was an email from Chris.

That is, I suppose, sort of where the rest of the story begins.

Up next: Act 5: The Choice, A Risk, and the Alignment of the Stars

The Next Bit (Act 3)

So, it took me awhile to get to this post, because, well, I needed to make sure that information didn’t leak before I had all of the moving parts together, but now, with tomorrow being my last day of work after my official two-weeks notice, I can officially start the next part:

Act 3 Part 1:

Backstory,  Journey and Half of a Story

The Backstory:

I believe things happen for a reason. I don’t necessarily believe in fate as an all-controlling factor in my life, but I believe that sometimes, things happen for a reason, you just might not find out about it for awhile.

And so begins the story of how responding to a Craigslist ad changed my life. (This is going somewhere, just bear with me).

About three years ago, I was looking for a job and, of course, trolling Craigslist for audition notices. At some point, I came across a notice for a small company in Chicago called “Storefront Shakespeare”, looking for a replacement Laertes for their Hamlet.

It happened that I’d just gotten done playing the role, and so I submitted, explaining that yes, I was a girl, but no, really, I could be Laertes. It also happened that I was going to be in town that weekend for my uncle’s wedding, so it worked out.

So, I headed up to Chicago for the weekend, and as it happened, I got a phone call back from a very, very nice and very, very enthusiastic woman named Nora.

Nora becomes very important to the story later on. Stay with me.

It wound up happening that I couldn’t get away for the auditions, so we parted ways amicably, but as it happened, Nora sent me a friend request on Facebook. I friended her, not thinking much of it, and, like often times, we went about our own lives.

Three years go by. Life was lived, enjoyed, so on and so forth, until Nora happened to see a post I’d written about auditioning for the ASC on my Facebook.

So it turns out that Nora had left Chicago and is a student at Mary Baldwin College and interning at the American Shakespeare Center. You know. Where I was going to be.

Not only was she filled with advice (and, really, spent way too much time patiently listening to me blather about HOW SO EXCITED I WAS about the auditions), she offered to meet up with me when I was in town.

…So why not meet up with a complete stranger I’d talked with once on the phone 3 years ago? Adventure, right?

The Journey:

So, after I got word that I was, in fact, invited to audition, my life became, admittedly, about those auditions. I had never wanted anything more in my entire life, and, for the first time in what had been a pretty shit year, I had something to hope for. They…mattered. They mattered in a way that I absolutely needed at that point in my life, and I think they also helped me realize that as much as it was convenient to ignore my passion, it was not going to go away just because I layered justification after practicality on top of why I could never “go for this”, why I had to “be practical” and “be responsible”. Fuck it. I am never happier than I am when I am standing and saying those Words….and my heart, as much as I ignore it for fear or frustration, was not going to be ignored. I had to do this.

I really do feel like I owe my friends an apology for putting up with me for those two months. I was….a bit…intense about how excited I was, but I also learned, once again, that my friends come through. And they did.

My friends listened to me blather about the audition, donated space for rehearsal, donated time to over-rehearse my audition pieces until I was exhausted, donated drinks and hours and hours and hours to listening to me hem and haw about whether or not I was making the right choice on audition pieces and songs and, well, even if I should be going for this.


But I went. For the first time in my big-kid, Big-Dick-Has-A-Day-Job life, I went for something I believed in and wanted more than anything.  I blew my savings and the last of my sick leave to fly to Virginia for one glorious weekend of seeing two shows and going to the audition.

The thing of it was, the audition was going to happen.

That was the guarantee. I knew I was going to show up, say some words, and leave.

It was the stuff that happened in between that made the story interesting.

The Story:

I couldn’t stop smiling. The entire way there, I just kept smiling. Through getting stopped constantly by airport security because they thought my harmonica was a gun clip to getting my flights delayed, I just kept smiling because I was going to the goddamn ASC to an audition to be a real life goddamn Shakespearean actress. I had a copy of Titus in my bag and a ukulele on my shoulder and I  when I walked, the fucking world trembled that weekend, I was just the only person that knew it.

There were a lot of dumb things that I remember, things that I gave special significance to because, well, this was a weekend of magic. There was the fact that the rental car had Sirius so I listened to showtunes the entire way there, or that the drive took me through the breathtakingly beautiful Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains, or that it was an amazing, crisp, clear sunny day when I got there.

There was the day of adventure I had, where I fell in love with downtown Staunton, where I discovered the best vanilla latte I’d ever had in my entire existence, where a man bought me my ice cream after I sang Part of your World with the girls behind the counter because he told me I had a beautiful smile, where I discovered this crazy antique shop that sold dinosaur earrings, there was the Godzilla expert I met in a used bookstore and the nighttime festival that I happened to show up on the right weekend for….oh, and then there was the parade. (Remember this, it becomes important later on).

I arrived at the theatre 15 minutes early, ever the dutiful actress, and reported to the front desk. I checked in, went upstairs, and tuned my ukulele while I watched the others trickle in. We made conversation—there was a guy who’d just graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Scotland…fuck. There was an Oliver Welles-esque older gentleman who’d had years of experience. There was a gorgeous, leggy, wide-eyed blonde, there was a girl I can only describe as “literally every musical theatre major at ACTF”, there were two insanely hot guys, and then…there was me. Me in the corner, clutching my ukulele, frantically going over my sides one last time, praying that they wouldn’t have me read the Cyrano scene, since that was the one I had the hardest time remembering. (Rememebr this, it becomes important later on).

Finally, they called us in. The co-artistic directors were in the room, and one of them, one of the men who’d founded the theatre and built the Blackfriars stood up and gave us a little speech. I didn’t hear a damn word of it. I was too busy staring at the hundreds of posters lining the walls of the rehearsal room that detailed the history of productions there and freaking out that the fucking artistic directors of this company I would give my left arm to work at were just calmly sitting here like it wasn’t a dream come true just to be in the goddamn room.

Royal Conservatory Guy went first, and blew through two incredible monologues in this rich, lofty baritone. I clapped. It was just…instinct. His performance was amazing, so I clapped.

One of the artistic directors gave a “let’s not clap so we don’t hurt people’s feelings” speech.

Fuck me, I was THAT kid now.

The next guy went, and did one of my favorite speeches. The older guy went, and completely blew his audition, which, while I felt terrible about it for him, it also put me at ease—these were all still people, and the glances we shared around the room made, I think, all of us feel a little better. We were all on the same team.

Gorgeous blonde girl went next, and did…Emelia and something else. It was good.

Musical theatre girl followed with a delightful, if not slightly over-the-top rendition of Puck’s final monologue, contorting her body and rolling around the room. It was pretty great.

Then, suddenly, it was my turn. I stood up, introduced myself, and…”Oh for a horse with WINGS!” then, suddenly, I was back in my chair and thanking one of the hot guys for being my audience participant.

I knew, instinctively, that I didn’t do very well. I’d gone too fast, and, well, I kept clapping. My excitement at being in the fucking building had put me in Manic Pixie Dream Girl override, and I was overcompensating for my terror at blowing my one shot at this one thing I really wanted by BEING REALLY FUCKING ENTHUSIASTIC.

Next came the sides audition. Musical theatre girl got the Macbeth side which I can recite in my fucking sleep, I was asked to read the Cyrano scene (told you).  Mother of fuck. Karmaically, I absolutely deserved it. The side I didn’t put in the time with was the one, inevitably, I was chosen to read. Which, if for nothing else in its utter disastrousness, made me promise myself one thing: I will always, always, always memorize all of the fucking sides, regardless of how small the chances are that I will be asked to read the ingénue role.  I read with hot guy #2. I apologized afterwards to him. He deserved one.

We stuck around for the singing portion, and Musical Theatre Girl delivered with a sultry accapella version of some Madonna song I’d never heard of. Blonde girl played the accordion, hot guy #1 busted out some bodhran and played “Loch Lomond” (which also earned him a whispered “OHMGODTHATSMYFAVORITESONG” from me…*facepalm*…hot guy with a bodhran. I mean, come on.), Royal Conservatory guy sang something on his guitar and then chivalrously volunteered his guitar when hot guy #2’s guitar wouldn’t stay in tune. We were all on the same team.

I played “Leaving on a Jet Plane”  on my brand new ukulele and tried to match my strumming to the tremor in my voice. Maybe it’d sound like I did it on purpose.

And that…was about it. We were asked to go back upstairs to wait to see if they needed us to read/perform anything else, and while I silently prayed to the gods of Shakespeare that they’d call me back for one more shot, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

I packed my things, and when we got the “thanks and you can go”, I thanked the hall monitor, smiled wide and left.

It was over.

I walked out of the theatre into the crisp fall day with that sort of “well, that’s done” sort of attitude that slowly devolved into an embarrassingly intense weeping fit.  I huddled in the back seat of my rental car, crying for, really, way too long.  It wasn’t the audition, really. I had done, given the circumstances, the best that I was able to do, it was just…everything, finally, letting go.

It was knowing that after three months of waiting and two months of preparation, I’d let my nerves and my excitement get the best of me. It was admitting to myself, fully, how much it meant to me, how much I wanted it, and how very, very hard I had set myself up for failure.

It’s funny talking about it now, with a *little* perspective. I’ve tried explaining this feeling to other actor friends and they always kind of blankly stare and nod a little bit, but to them, working actors, this would have been just another audition, just another job interview, just another go in and do your thing and leave. The difference, to me, was that this was the perfect job. I didn’t—and still don’t—really want to be the actor that auditions for every last gig until they find something—I wanted to find the job that I was excited for, that I was passionate about, that meant something to me, that I could bring my ridiculous skill set to in an environment that I would thrive in—this was that job. It wasn’t just another audition for some company—it was a dream job for a company that I believed in.

So now, I had to wait for a call that might change my life, wait for a call that for me meant affirmation and confirmation that this hadn’t just been another stupid dream, wait for a call that would mean I’d finally gotten what I wanted, wait for a call that, if I was honest with myself, I knew that for any number of reasons might not come.

I had to let it go. I forced myself to stop crying, wiped my eyes, stepped out of my car determined to make an adventure out of it, and almost got run over by a horse.

I had found myself smack dab in the middle of a small-town parade celebration for Veteran’s Day.

It was that kind of day.

Story Part 2:

After the audition, Nora contacted me and asked if I wanted to catch some coffee since I was in town. I was scheduled to see Troilus and Cressida that night, but I had about three hours to kill in between, so I readily accepted.

I got to the coffee shop early, where I made small talk with a guy named Patrick who was working on a paper. When Nora arrived, it turned out that both Patrick and Nora were in the same grad school program, so I spent a wonderful afternoon just bullshitting Shakespeare and feeling, unequivocally, that I had found the land of my people.

There we were, three twenty-somethings, sitting at a coffee shop on a beautiful fall day, swapping show disaster stories and arguing about symbolism and racism in Shakespeare. I was. So. Happy. I kept commenting on the situation, which I’m sure made me sound like a RIGHT weirdo, but it was all I could do to explain why I was so happy. “You guys, we’re TALKING ABOUT SHAKESPEARE AND STUFF”. I am. So. Cool.

As we wrapped up coffee, there was still some time to kill before the show, and Nora, in her amazing, huge-hearted friendly way, invited me over for dinner. The weekend had been so full of adventure and wonder and excitement already, I figured “what the hell, she doesn’t LOOK like a serial killer”, and I hopped in her car and was welcomed into her home, where she and her wonderful fiancée Neil served me one of the most amazing home cooked meals I’ve ever had.

Nora and I talked theatre while Neil and I talked video games, and afterwards, sent me on my way back to the theatre with a full stomach and very, very full heart.

I saw Troilus, and was….floored. It is important to the story at this point that I explain that to me, people who do Shakespeare–and who do it well– are like rock stars to me. It took me a long time to work up the courage to do Prenzie because of the same reason—I have always been intimidated by talent, and the actors of the ASC are nothing short of Asguardian Shakespeare Rockstar Gods in my eyes. Oh, and did I mention that they’re all incredible musicians, too?

I HATE Troilus and Cressida. It is. The worst. But the production I saw, while serving to solidify my opinion that it’s a shit script (said the girl with the obsession for Titus Andronicus), also solidified my impression that the ASC was where I wanted to be. I wanted to do this, to learn from this creative team and work with these incredibly talented actors.

I wanted to do this.


At this point, I am going to fully admit that this is reaching TL;DR status, so I am going to break the story here, but the second half of the story will continue in my next post: Act 4: A birthday party.

(and since I’ve got my notice in, it won’t take me three months to update, I promise).

Of Show, of Swordfighting, of Day Job and of Happiness.

Of Show:

This weekend I went mostly on a whim to see The Hypocrites’ production of Coriolanus in Chicago. Then, thanks to some connections, I got to have a “few” drinks (ahem) with some of the cast, who wound up being a group of really, really cool guys.

It was a really odd (but awesome) experience having the same arguments about Shakespeare that I’ve had at home a million times in a different bar and with different people, but they all spoke my language. That was the best part. I speak Shakespeare, and so I can make friends.

It was also interesting talking with the cast because I have a little bit of show/theatre/company/actor envy, and to me, these guys were absolute rock stars. They did the one thing I was never exactly brave enough to do, they moved to Chicago to pursue acting…and they are acting, in a phenomenally produced play in a company I would give both of my hands to do some Shakespeare with. (heh heh. I’m hilarious).

But the glorious thing, the thing that made me smile when I went to bed is that I went out with a group of rockstar Shakespearan actors…and left knowing a high school math teacher, a waiter, a customer service rep and…a something. Who also happen to be rockstar Shakespearean actors…but the necessity of a day job is felt and recognized in this fabulous group of actors. I felt…better about my life.

I do, however, have massive theatre envy. Seriously. The Hypocrites perform, currently, at the Chopin Theatre in North Chicago, and the place is incredible. It’s somewhere between walking into Moulin Rouge crossed with a fortune teller’s waiting room crossed with a soda fountain from a Dr. Suess book– and that’s just the waiting area.

The actual theatre is in the basement, and what they have done with the space borders on magical. As much as I am determined to define myself as “an actor”, the truth is that I will spend just as much time watching as show as I will counting instruments and mapping out grid lines in my head, and I was a happy, happy girl. Low ceilings are a bitch to work with, and not a fuck was given about them during this production.

The show itself was fantastic and I was many times inspired, and many, many times reminded why I do this– why, as an awkward college student looking to find her place, I stumbled half-heartedly into Shakespeare and never looked back. This show was a reminder of that, of how staging and passion and fire can come together to tell a story 400 years old and still make it interesting.

Sure, the show had its problems– I thought the cut (1:45 running time, no intermission) was good, but there were times when things just happened for the sake of the cliff notes, and I missed the moments of lead-up and intent. Also, there was a hideous, hideous chevron dress that the poor actress playing Virgilia was forced to wear– I’ve been on the short end of the costume stick more than once in my life, so I felt for her.

Seeing the show would have been enough, but the aforementioned drinks session afterwards made for a very excellent Saturday.

And that would have been enough.

Of Swordfighting:

However, on Sunday, I also wound up getting to sword fight in the park.

I’m going to be really honest– I’m not very good. And I know that. I’ve got loads to learn, my technique is intrinsically flawed, I’m sloppy and I spend more time apologizing then I do actually fighting.


I don’t know what it is, and I don’t really understand it, and I actually feel really lame admitting this, but there is a part of me that is intrinsically drawn to it. It just…makes sense in my head.

Part of it is the work. I’m used to being good at things. I’m used to things coming easily and being immediately successful. And I am not that with a sword in my hand. I’m awkward and usually confused and thinking– very hard– about just what it is that I’m doing. I get corrected, snapped at, occasionally mocked and constantly reminded that I have no idea what I’m doing, and I love that. Because I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be perfect– I want to be, so I am usually incredibly frustrated, but my frustrations are not about how I look or what size my jeans are or what I forgot to do at work today, my frustrations are about my shitty blocks and keeping my edge facing the right way.

And that is the best part. My mind is never quiet. Ever. I’ve talked enough about my various and annoying health problems and fear of cheeseburgers, but I have noticed that when I am holding a sword (or two swords, or a dagger…) that I’m not afraid of cheeseburgers, or really, anything. I have never been graceful. I have never been a dancer, nor, really, except for a brief period while I was 8, have I wanted to be. I’m stocky and grounded and I can move decently, but with a sword, I feel…awesome. I feel graceful.

The bonus part of all of this was that I also choreographed my first fight. I learned more in an hour than I did in a semester of stage combat…and learned, mostly, that I have a lot to learn. My notation sucks, I’m bad at communicating and I have a bad, bad habit of apologizing as frequenty as I give directions.

But still. I did it. Kind of.

It’s silly and dumb and really, kind of trite, but it’s true,and I accept that about myself. Sometimes, I’m silly and dumb, but that’s not going to stop me from loving every sweaty, frustrating and mistake-filled moment of it. And I know I’ve talked about this before, but it still just..amazes me that something as simple as footwork and the connection between my elbow and my brain is the one thing in this world that makes everything okay, even just for an hour.

Of Day Jobs:

I have a job now that I love. It’s pretty fantastic, overall. There are parts that suck, like any real job, but for the most part, I love it. I’m good at it, I haven’t biffed too many things, the people I work with are awesome and, despite some sometimes late nights, it’s…well, it’s really awesome, and I know that I am really, really lucky.

This morning, I woke up and went to work. One of the little perks of my job is that I have to walk from my office to other parts of the facility, and so I decided to walk outside. As I was walking, I was thinking about everything that happened this weekend– the great show, the fighting, the hanging out with good friends, the weather, generally how much my job does not suck, and I felt…weird.

Of Happiness:

And I suddenly realized that I was smiling. And that for no reason other than the fact that I am alive to experience this beautiful, wonderful world, I am happy. Happy that I get to live a life with drinks with Shakespearean rock stars and late night discussions about the reletive merits of Titus Andronicus and swordfights and planning for next season and amazing friends and being just, so very, very lucky.

I am not used to being happy.

That sounds sad and depressing, but I don’t mean that I am constantly depressed– I just mean that that giggly, bubbly, spontaneous happy is usually something I plan, or look forward to- rehearsals, performances, designing posters, website building– these are the things that make me happy, that I choose to do because I love doing them– but being just…contentedly happy for no reason is a new thing.

And you know what? I don’t mind it at all.

Whirlwinds and Big Kid Pants

Somewhere between February and March, I got the itch. 

That same, familiar “I need to do something else” itch, the itch that leaves me searching for Shakespeare festival auditions and dream jobs at 1AM and then talking myself back out of applying by 2. 

Only this time, I found a job that I thought I might be good at, one that played to (some) of my strengths, and in a whirlwind of an application and 2 interviews the same week, I was offered the job. 

Suddenly, I was a big kid. Thrust into a world of spreadsheets and deadlines and criticism on the casual nature of my tennis shoes, I am suddenly a member of corporate America, barely trained and holding on for dear life. 

In the middle of all of this, I was directing a play. And not just a play, I was directing Antigone, a play that still, even years after my first reading, still moves me and inspires me every time I hear it…and there I was, directing it, and, to add to the significance, directing my best friends. 

I’d not blogged about the directing aspect because most of directing is private– annoyances at actors, personal frustrations at the lack of comprehension, irritation at lateness, uninteresting paperwork and scheduling– boring stuff, stuff meant for the private world, not here, on this blog. 

So you may have noticed I disappeared. 

Time spent writing became time that I could spend eating, or napping, or finishing correspondence or a hundred other things I hadn’t gotten to just yet but needed to. 

It’s been an exhausting few weeks. 

The dualities of a new job and directing are challenging, but not impossible. Sleep is lacking, there are tears and frustrations and over-sensitivities to, well, everything, but somehow, I made it. Not because of my own personal strength, that much must be made clear– it was never because of me. It was because of the people around me, my friends, who kept me sane and focused and hugged me, even when I was too tired to ask– it wasn’t magic or sheer strength of will– it was my friends unquestionably being there that made this show happen. 

This weekend, my show opened and I worked my first event at my new job. Two beginnings. 

The show went up, as shows often do, and people came, and people said nice things about it and everything was okay, even though I never ironed the curtains and the address was wrong on the posters and a hundred other little things, but at the end of the night I went to bed satisfied, then woke up and went to work. 

And my job went just as well. There were things forgotten and things misplaced and I got punched and there were four arrests, but at the end of the night, I locked up and drove to the theatre where my friends were waiting for me. 


By day, I wear fancy clothes and talk in my professional voice and take memos, by night, it’s sweatpants and climbing ladders and swearing to get the point across, and I fit– comfortably– in both worlds. 

Today I had the day off of work– the benefit of working a Saturday is your Monday is free– and all day, I had this grey cloud about my new job– even in the same breath of telling people how much I enjoy it, I can feel the hesitancy. 

Today I realized why. I still get audition notices in my inbox– three this week, in fact, and more last week– and I know that I will always, always keep looking at audition postings. I will always have that choice, that blasted temptation— and what I had forgotten to do, in the whirlwind of everything, was mourn the passing of that period in my life, where I could take off on a whim and audition for whatever thing I wanted. That’s gone now– at least, for awhile, and in the whirlwind of change. I forgot to accept that, so trivial inabilities to meet for lunch or do things before 5pm have become huge mountains of anger and frustration, which, admittedly, is just dumb. 

And now, along with audition emails, I get emails asking about spreadsheets and check requests on my day off. It’s the nature of what I do, and I accept it, but I do not like it. I have never been good at delegating, and even worse at separating, and now, I absolutely have to, or this job could easily seep into my “real life”, and that, simply, cannot happen for the sheer practicality that I cannot do both at once. 

I can be one person at a time, and that is the limit. Professional Catie in her suits is a separate entity from Catie the Shakespeare Nerd and narry the two shall meet. 

I am a person who loves certain, particular things with a wholehearted passion, but the ironic (or at least, unfortunate) part of the love story is that I seem to fall in love with the those hobbies and interests that have the lowest rates of pay. 

And so, I made a choice. For now, at least, I will wear my big kid pants. I’ve been fortuanate enough to find a job that I like, and that seems to fit well, but I know that there is a long, long, learning curve ahead. And I am hard on myself. An email suggestion about a more practical scheduling solution to me reads like a warning that I’m getting fired tomorrow, and that is really, really hard. Because I’m the new kid, and I make mistakes and I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m just trying really, really hard to keep up…and I hate that feeling of inadequacy, because I am damn good at the things that I do when I’m not at the office, and so it doesn’t fit with the rest of my life when I don’t get how check requests work. 

In time, it will come, and it will be second nature. I know that, and I am excited for that. But there will always be a part of me that peeks at summerstock auditions and wonders. 

I am not ashamed of my choice, because my choice was responsible, and necessary. A living wage and health insurance has to trump five-hour unpaid drives to auditions at some point. 

But what I keep reminding myself is that this isn’t an ending, per say. I will always have outside hobbies and outside interests. Florescent lights and a desk will become climbing 20-foot ladders to get to the par cans by night because that is how it has to be. 

I am starting to know myself. It’s weird, and it’s happened rather suddenly, but I think between this new job and this play, I realized some things about myself, and one of them is that I have to keep doing this. I am, at the core, a person who thrives on late nights arguing about King Lear, and I cannot accept a life without, at least, that much creativity. 

And so, tomorrow I will go to work, and learn new things and hopefully, start to get a handle on just what it is I’m doing, and I will enjoy it. I will send reports and do official office type things, and then, at 5, I will turn off the lights, shut my office door, and drive to rehearsal, where my real day will begin. 

Blog-A-Day #4– “Why are bananas important?”

Someone jokingly sent this to me as a suggestion for my blog a day project.

What they did not know, is that, in all seriousness, I take bananas very seriously.

When I was a kid, I hated fruits and vegetables, and I generally refused to eat them whenever I got the chance. My dad, however, figured out that if he made it “cool” to eat fruit, then I would play along, wanting to be “cool” like my dad.

It is also important to note that my dad was a traditionalist, and was the type of guy who would eat the same thing, every day, because, well, “That’s just what he liked”.

Every day, before school, my dad would make himself a breakfast of either a bowl of plain cheerios or a bowl of plain rice chex. If he was feeling particularly fancy, he might make an egg or two, but generally, he stuck to cereal and one important side-dish– a banana.

Now, my dad was really, really particular about his bananas. As a kid, I remember endless fights between my mom and dad about the state of the bananas that had been brought home from the grocery store– my dad liked them nearly raw, and my mom liked them nearly composted.

So. Every morning, my dad would solemnly break me off a small portion of his bananas and offer it to me. I would accept, and he would declare us “banana buddies” for the day. It was incredibly stupid, but man, being banana buddies was THE COOLEST thing ever when I was seven.

As I got older (and a bit wiser), I finally figured out his game, but by then, it was too late. I liked bananas. Most fruit, actually, but I still loved bananas, and I would always accept his offer of being banana buddies for the day.

When I was finally able to drive myself to and from school, the tradition of banana buddies became lost in the shuffle of life, except on Sundays. Sundays was a day for church and family breakfast and my dad would wake up early to make chocolate chip pancakes— with his daily banana. I don’t think I ever refused his stupid “banana buddies” deal. It was…just….one of those stupid things that we shared.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he encouraged (read:ordered) me to continue with my plans to go to England. I did, and while I was over there, he got a lot sicker, sicker to the point where I knew that I was going to have to come home. So I did.

The day that I got back, I took one look at my dad in his hospital room, ravaged by infection, and knew that he was going to die. Maybe not then, maybe not right there, but sooner or later, I knew, somehow, that he wasn’t going to make it.  He was too weak to eat anything but “thin” foods. I remember that the hospital brought him a “regular” lunch tray by accident, and on it, was a banana.

My dad was too weak to lift the tray cover, so I did it for him. He looked at the banana, I looked at the banana, and we both started laughing. He was bald, covered in disgusting sores, shitting into a bag attached to his leg and was half the size of the huge man that he had been, and still, we both laughed.  I spoon fed-him strawberry yogurt that afternoon, and that night, he died. Not even 12 hours after my flight got in, my dad died.

When I was about six or seven, still too young to really understand the implications of my dad’s job, we were at the grocery store, when a elderly, bedraggled (and, frankly, smelly) African-American man walked over to my dad. He shook my dad’s hand and thanked him, and he leaned over to me and said “Young lady, you have a fine daddy. You should be proud”.

I was terrified. I knew that my dad dealt with “bad men”, and for some reason, I was convinced that this guy, as scrappy as he looked, was obviously one of the aforementioned “bad men” that my parents talked about. To this day, I still feel bad about hiding behind my dad when the other guy reached out to shake my hand.

When he left, my dad was (rightfully so) embarrassed and a little pissed. He asked me why I had hid behind him, and I told him my theory about the guy being a “bad man”. My dad, ever the lawyer, asked me why I thought this guy was a bad man. I shrugged.

“Was it because of his dirty clothes?”

I shrugged again.

“Was it because of how he looked?”

I shrugged again.

Then my dad pulled me over to the display of bananas, and told me to pick out any bunch I wanted. I picked, (responsibly, or so I thought), the “best” looking bunch– free of any bruises or markings. We bought them, and I took them home.

We were sitting at the kitchen table, and my dad pulled out an older bunch that we’d had for a couple of days, that were marked up and dirty on the outside. He plunked both of them down on the table in front of me, and then proceeded to say something that I will never forget for as long as I live.

He took one banana–one from the “perfect” bunch I’d selected, and one from the bunch that’d been sitting around for awhile.

“People”, he said, “Are a lot like bananas”.

I was seven, so I started laughing.

“Don’t laugh”, my dad said. He said it in his SUPER SERIOUS voice, so I got kind of scared. “I’m not joking. Listen. Look at this banana you picked today. It’s really nice on the outside, right?”

I nodded.

“Try it”.

He peeled the new banana and I tasted it, and it wasn’t ripe, so it was hard and it tasted terrible.

“Now try this one”. He peeled one of the marked up bananas.

The one he’d peeled was super, super questionable looking, with a bunch of grody black marks and bruises all over the peel, but when he opened it, the fruit itself was perfect, and it was just ripe enough to be delicious without being mushy.

“That man at the grocery store today is like this banana. He didn’t look very nice or very clean, and he has been bumped and bruised by life,  but on the inside, he is one of the best people I know. You can’t always judge someone by their outside. You have to talk to them, and get to know them–peel away their outside so you can get to know them on the inside. Does that make sense?”

I don’t remember what I said to him, or what we talked about after that. All I remember is sitting at our grey Formica top kitchen table, sharing that ugly, marked up banana off of one of my awesome Lion King plates.

Years later, I brought up that story to my dad. I asked him if he remembered it, and he told me that I did. I was in my (perpetual) smart ass phase at the time, and I asked him what he would have done if the shitty-looking banana had actually turned out to be bad.

He paused for a moment, looked me straight in the eye and said “You’re old enough to know now, for years, I was terrified that you were going to become a serial killer, because for weeks after I told you that, you kept talking about how you wanted to take off people’s skins so you could get to know them better. I figured at that point, I’d done enough damage”.

Then he went back to watching his baseball game and I went to rehearsal, and life continued on, as it often tends to do.

I later found out that that guy who had spoken to my dad in the grocery store was an ex-felon who my dad had put in jail. While he was in there, he had written my dad a letter, telling him about his problems with drug and alcohol abuse, and my dad went out of his way to get him transferred into a treatment program, instead of just sitting in jail. I the guy went on to get his degree and become a teacher. That guy (and a number of others) were the start of what would later become the Drug Court program in Illinois, which my dad helped found and organize.

I never realized how much of an impact my dad had until his funeral, when a whole bunch of guys stopped me in the parking lot, and when they found out who I was, they thanked me, telling me that they were graduates of the program, and that my father had saved their lives because he went out of his way to get them into the program instead of letting them “run through the cycle”.

They shook my hand and told me that my father was a good man. I’d known for years, but in that moment, I was entirely sure.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that my dad kicked ass and bananas are delicious.
(Side note, please keep sending in your suggestions. I’ve only got enough to last for the rest of the month so far). You can send them in with this HANDY FORM!!

Blog-a-Day Suggestion #2– “Write about Darkness”.

The bridge was silent. The engines were running, but they’d upgraded them years ago as part of a government push for low-emission engines. The boss downstairs has decided it was a smart move– play along, play it safe– “Always under the radar. Don’t make waves”. So the engines had been silenced, and the boss had happily accepted a large kick-back for the upgrade.

A.V. hated the silence. As a kid, he’d been lulled to sleep by the hum of the engines on his father’s ship, but now, there was only silence. He looked at his watch. He’d been at the bridge for hours, covering yet another shift for the boss, but now, his eyes burned and his neck was stiff. He shifted in his chair, and the glare from the console below him appeared on the observation panel he was staring into, and he jumped, thinking, for a brief moment, that he’d spotted the lights of an oncoming ship.

“You can only stare into the darkness for so long before you start to see things”.

A.V. jumped again, this time spilling his coffee down the last clean bit of his pants, cursing at the sudden warmth.

His boss laughed, a loud, jovial, raspy laugh that ended in a hacking couch. He spit, and wiped the corners of his mouth on his sleeve and slapped A.V. on the back. A.V. jolted at the impact. His boss was a huge man, barely able to stand in the bridge, his greasy black hair grazing the recessed lighting of the steel ceiling. There were plenty of rusty spots overhead, and A.V. had a sneaking suspicion that they weren’t caused by moisture from the ship, but from the sweat of his boss’s endlessly receding hairline.

“What can I do for you?” A.V. instantly regretted the phrasing.

“What can you do for me? Save that for your granny, son. I don’t need your help, I just need you to keep this pile in the air long enough to make the drop!” He laughed again, this time coughing for even longer. A.V. went to the water panel on the wall and filled a small paper cup, but his boss waved it away.

“Don’t–don’t waste that on me, son. Don’t– don’t want you to think I’m getting s-soft”. His boss sat heavily in the seat next to him, gasping for breath.

A.V. shrugged. “If you insist”. He went to the coffee pot and refilled his mug, joining his boss at the main console. He tapped a few keys, checking their altitude, then their trajectory, then checked the radar. There was nothing. Only them and maybe a few rocks. His boss looked on approvingly.

“You’re a lucky find, you. Didn’t think you’d amount to much of anything when I picked you up. Weren’t but a speck of a kid. Now look at you. You’re what now, 26? 27? Getting old….” His boss laughed again, then spat.

A.V. looked over the arm of his chair at the puddle on the floor. Even in the dim lighting of the bridge, he could see that the spittle was tinged with blood and dark with infection.

“28 next month, and you really need to do something about that cough”.

“Don’t think I know that, boy? Nothing they can do. I’ve been to every doctor that’d have me this side of Bode’s, and they all told me the same thing. I’m dying”. The old man looked dramatically into the darkness and coughed pathetically.

A.V. rolled his eyes. “You aren’t dying. I’ve seen people come back from twice as bad. You need to get some meds, Bass”.

Bass roared with laughter. In between coughs, he manged to sputter out a few choice insults.  “First name basis, now, eh? You got a mouth on you, son, I like that. Problem is, where’m I supposed to find meds around here? We’ve got a good three weeks before we hit anywhere close to civilization, and in the meantime, I’m not taking any damn traders aboard. Knew a guy from back in school, took on some traders to make a little extra cash, weren’t more than three minutes aboard before everyone had their throats slit, AND I heard they raped the bodies”.

“From who?”

The old man started. “What?”

A.V. grinned. “How’d you hear about it? If everyone had their throats slit, how’d word get out about the evil traders raping the bodies?”

Bass made a face. “How’s anyone hear about anything these days? I heard they recorded it, then posted it up on the video channels for other people to find– as– as a warning”.

—“And then they showed their severed heads hanging on pikes, with written messages about which government officials were next?”  A.V. smugly folded his hands behind his head. “They ALWAYS say that, Bass. That’s…just…the story. I don’t even think there are that many traders capable of that much destruction in this whole damned galaxy”.

Bass looked at him seriously. “Don’t matter how many of them, boy, it matters what they do. Two men can conquer an entire planet if they’ve got the most guns. I’ve seen it happen. Little settlement, not expecting nothin’, then BOOM, next thing you know, women ‘n children bein’ sold into slavery, men gettin’ shot and killed, it’s a horrible business, I’ll tell you what”.

A.V. looked out into the darkness, thinking.

They sat in silence for awhile, lost in thought, when the faint light of the blue communication channel light lit up. A.V. and Bass glanced at each other.

Bass spoke first. “Now, who in the hell— all the way out here?”

A.V.’s finger hesitated over the button. “Do you want me to–“.

“Might as well, might be a distress call or somethin’. Never know. Just don’t say anything stupid”.

A.V. hesitated for a moment longer, then pressed the open channel button. He gave their call and registration numbers as per standard procedure, and then waited for the response. Nothing.

A.V. looked at Bass. Bass shrugged.

A.V. gave their registration numbers again, and waited. There was a long silence, and then a faint crackle of an open connection.

Bass rolled his eyes and stabbed the button. “Look, sweetheart, airtime ain’t cheap in these parts– either get off our line or spit it out”.

They both waited, listening to the static on the other end. The connection crackled again, then a small voice on the other end replied. “Hello? Is anybody there?”

The two men looked at each other. A communication this far out was unusual, but not unheard of. However, the voice on the other end of the channel was a kid, or at least, someone pretending to be a kid.

A.V. pressed the button “Hello? Who is this?”

“This…this is Elena. Elena Sigrun. I’m scared”.
“Elena, my name is A.V. Where are you?”
“…I’m in the room where they drive the ship”
“Okay, Elena, is anyone else there with you?”
“No. I’m all alone. Everyone else is sleeping and they won’t wake up”.

A.V. glanced at Bass. Bass mouthed “Traders”.

“Elena, how do you know everyone is sleeping?”
“Because they’re all sleeping in the hallway”.
“Everyone is in the hallway?”
“Yes. And there is a lot of blood everywhere. I was hiding from the bad men and when I came out everyone was sleeping”.
“The bad men?”
“Yes, the men in the funny hats. My daddy let them onto the ship and then they hurt him”.
“How did they hurt him, Elena?”
“They put a knife into his neck and now he’s sleeping”.

A.V. looked up at Bass. Bass was absentmindedly chewing at his thumb, staring out into the darkness. Bass motioned for A.V. to switch seats. As the older man took his seat, A.V. watched him hesitate for just a moment. Then, in a gentle voice that seemed almost alien coming from the huge man, Bass spoke.

“Elena, my name is Bassem. My friends call me Bass. Let’s be friends, okay, Elena? How old are you?”
“Seven”. There was a pitiful sniff.
“Elena, do you know where you are?”
“I told you, I’m in the driving room”.

Bass paused. He thought for a moment, then he spoke again.

“Elena, do you want to play a game with me? ”
“…No. I’m scared”.
“It’s okay, Elena, you don’t have to be scared. I’m here, and so is A.V.”.
“But I don’t know you. You could be bad men”.
“Elena, I’m not much of a man, not much of anything really, but I promise you, we are not bad men”.
“…What does A.V. stand for?”

Bass looked up at A.V. and grinned hugely, miming a gesture akin to “what are you gonna do?”  A.V. sighed. He bent over the console. “Elena, A.V. stands for Adaeze Valerija”.

There was a giggle. “That’s a funny name”.
Bass tried valiantly to hide his amusement, and failed miserably. “You’re not the only one who thinks so, Elena. Now, how about that game?”

“….Okay. How do I play?”
“Elena, look out the window. What do you see?”
“…Nothing. It’s dark. ‘Sides, I’m too little to reach the window all by myself”.
“Okay, and what about around you?”
“I can see…..I can see the buttons that the driver pushes. and his chair. He’s sitting in his chair, but his head is off”.
Bass started. “His head—- his head is off?”
“Yeah, the bad men took his head off”.

A.V. swore under his breath.

Bass took a deep breath. “Okay, that’s really good, Elena, what else? What else do you see?”
“….My daddy”. Her voice warbled.
“Good, Elena, where is your daddy?”
“He’s in his chair. He’s sleeping”.
“And where are you, Elena?”
“I’m sitting on my daddy’s lap. He won’t wake up and I’m scared”.

A.V. couldn’t be sure, but as Bass turned suddenly to gaze out into the blackness, it seemed like Bass’s hands may have swiped at his eyes. Bass turned back to the panel.

“Elena, where is your mom?”
“…the bad men took her. They took all of the mommies. and the kids, but not me cuz I was hiding”.
“So…so you’re all alone, then, kiddo?”
“Okay, kiddo. Do you know how to use the transporter system?”
“The what?”
“The trans— the machine that your daddy used to bring the bad men onto the ship. do you know how to use it?”
“No. that’s for grownups”.

A.V. suddenly understood, and lept to their own transport system and began the lengthy boot-up process.

From across the bridge, Bass spoke.

“Elena, look over into the corner. Is there a big box where the men came out of?”
“No, that’s in the underneath”.

Nearly simultaneously, A.V. and Bass swore. With no way of knowing what class or style of ship these people were running, there was nothing they could do. If their transporter was on another deck, they’d run the risk of losing contact before they could get the girl over to to them.

Bass thought for a moment, his face contorted with the effort.
“Elena, when the bad men came, where did they come from?”
“That’s easy, they came from the storage room. That’s where I hide sometimes. It’s warm”.
“Can you see the storage room?”
“Yeah, it’s down the hall a little bit”.
“Okay, I want you to go down and look on the main access panel and tell me if it’s enabled to dispatch “.

Bass swore silently.
“The box with all the lights on it. Should be to the right. Go see if there is a big green light at the top”.
“Ok! I can do that, easy!”. Her confidence was heartbreaking.

The two men waited anxiously, listening to her footsteps fade into the empty crackle of the open line. Then, suddenly, she was back, and breathless with excitement.

“I did it! I found it! It’s on, it’s on!”
Bass smiled. “You did great, sweetheart. Now, here’s what I want you to do. I’m going to give you some numbers. I want you to go over to the big panel, and type in the numbers EXACTLY how I tell them to you. Do you know how to write down numbers, kiddo?”
The sweet voice on the other end was tinged with annoyance. “I know how to write, I’m almost 8”.
Bass smiled again. “Great. You’re right, I’m sorry. You’re almost a grown up. Do you have a pen?”
“Yes, there’s one here in my daddy’s pocket”.

The smile faded from his face. “Right. Okay, kiddo, I’m going to tell you some numbers now, and I want you to write them down, then go put them into the transporter exactly how I told you, okay?”
“Okay! I can do that!”.

A.V. listened intently as Bass rattled off their transport id system numbers from memory. There was a pause on the other end of the line, and the tiny voice tentatively and haltingly repeated them.

“Good, kiddo. Now here’s what you gotta do. Go down to the transporter and type those in just like I told you. Then, push the big button that says “activate”, okay?”
“Then jump in, and we’ll see you on the other side”.
There was a pause. “But…what about my mommy and daddy?”
Bass closed his eyes and looked down. “Once we’ve got you safe and sound, kiddo, we’ll come back for your mommy and daddy, okay?”
“You promise?”
“I promise. Both me and A.V. promise that nothin’ bad will happen to you, okay, Elena?”
“Okay. I guess…hey, I guess I’ll see you soon!”
“We’ll see you soon”.

Bass sprung up, an impressive feat for a man his size and cross the bridge, banging his head on a low-hanging pipe and swearing. Both of the men started intently into the transporter, willing Elena to appear.

A.V. didn’t turn his head. “You realize that if she fucks up those numbers, she’s either going to get sent over gods know where or get torn apart, right?”

Bass didn’t either. “I know”.

Suddenly, the incoming light flashed once, twice, and then the familiar whir of the transporter activated. The doors slowly opened, and there was Elena. She smiled, stepped forward, and then, without warning, fell to the ground as the gash on her throat slowly wept blood onto her white dress and onto the steel floor of the bridge.

A.V slumped against the wall, hands over his mouth, suddenly lightheaded. Bass dropped to the floor, kneeling over Elena’s body, then scooped her up into his arms. His head flew up and he looked at A.V., eyes full of tears.  “Man up, boy”, he roared,  “we’ve got to get her to a medic, there might still be time–“.

Suddenly, two men stepped from the inside doors of the transport system. Silently, the two men slipped into the bridge. Without speaking a word, they broke off, methodically, one towards A.V., the other towards Bass.

A.V. was the first to scream, once, then twice, and then, as the reflection of the bridge lights on man’s silver knife cut silently through the darkness, Bass joined in.

A.V. fell, his blood mingling with Elena and Bass’s. It was cold.

Bass coughed, once, twice, but this time, the coughs were deep and gargling, wet. Blood dripped from the corners of his mouth and down the front of his shirt.

Then, there was nothing.

In the darkness, the bridge was silent.

Being Disappointing

I like to think that I’m a pretty good friend.

Not a perfect friend, not always, but I like to think that for the people I genuinely care about, I am a good friend to them.

And now, I’m going to be a director.

I’ve been a director before, for different people and for different groups, but usually (with the exception of Complete Works), I’ve either hand-picked my actors or had my actors thrust upon me. Either way, I’ve never really had to make waves. Even with Complete Works, I had a few people I couldn’t find spots for, which sucked, and I felt bad, but most of the people whom I couldn’t find spots for were “theatre friends”, good friends, people who I would like to get to know better eve, but they were not “people to whom I have bared my soul to” friends.

And now, I’m going to be directing Antigone.

The problem, you see, with Antigone, is that there is only one Antigone. There’s only one of…well, everyone. And that’s it. Ten parts, ten people, that’s it, that’s all I get. I literally thought about casting 2 Antigones, or two Creons, or splitting up the Chorus, but then I realized– none of that was serving the play or my dramatic vision, it was serving my desperate need for everyone to like me, all the time.

It’s daunting and humbling, all at the same time. Next week I will be sitting at a table and listening to some of my best friends in the entire world read for my show, offering me their time and talents and supporting me, telling me that “I want to be here, I want a place in this show”, which is a HUGE gift to me, a really meaningful  gift, and I am going to have to tell some of them that “Sorry, I don’t have a place for you”.

That sucks.

It especially sucks because quite a few of my friends, as my friends, in honest conversation,  have told me honestly what roles they are interested in…and many of them want the SAME role. And a lot of them have wanted the role they’ve wanted for a long, long time. I’m going to have to choose between them, all talented, beautiful, fantastic people, and I’m going to have to let some of them down. And that sucks.

I wear many hats. I am “Director” Catie, I am “Friend” Catie, I am “Girlfriend” Catie, I am “family member” Catie…and in all of these roles and in all of these situations, I am good at delineating– at face value.  I have always been really good at shutting down personal feelings and conflict in order to get the best show possible, and that’s what I plan on doing. But I also have a guilt complex– about everything. I have talked before about being a serial apologiser, and in this case, I know that I don’t have to apologize for anything– I’m not doing anything wrong, or offensive, I’m just—casting. But I still feel bad, and auditions haven’t even happened yet.

I am so amazingly, fantastically excited for this show. I have a ton of (what I think are) really good ideas, and I have (what I think is) a really neat vision of what this show can be– but I’m still dreading having to call 25 people to tell them “sorry, friend, but you didn’t make the cut”.

What’s weird is that for the first time, I’m going to be doing a show where more people are going to have to meet “director” Catie. And I’m nervous.

I’m not scared about directing the show– I am a damn fine director. I’m not perfect, but I know how to do a good job and to do things well. What has me thinking about this is that today I realized that for some of my friends, some of the people I care about most in the world, the only time they are going to meet “director Catie” is going to be when I call them to tell them that they didn’t get the part they want. Because eventually, no matter how long I put it off, I’m going to have to choose. And then, that will be it.

And I know. I know it’s the nature of theatre and how the system works and all of that, because that’s– well, it’s just how it is. But I’ve been on the other end of that. I know how much it sucks to be told “You were good—just not good enough”. I know what it’s like to lay awake wondering what you could have done better, where you messed up, or why God just didn’t make you 8 inches taller and a leggy blonde. It happens to actors, it’s a part of theatre, but it’s still a shitty feeling.

I have no idea how auditions are going to go next week, and I am SUPER excited to see what people bring to the table.  I’m excited to be able to work with the people I DO get to cast, to welcome them into my little world, to share my ideas and vision and to hear theirs, and build a show together—

I’m just not excited to disappoint anyone.