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.
IMG_1511

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.
http://baretheatre.org/titus-andronicus-2015-2/

30 Days Of Summer

I forget how quickly time passes when I’m not specifically paying attention. All of the sudden, it’s Friday, and then next Friday, and I haven’t written anything interesting in a month.

It’s weird. I knew, going in, that a full-time job is, exactly, that– full time– but it’s just weird to me how FAST the day goes, even when I’m bored– suddenly, it’s 5PM and I have 3 hours to get all of my errands done before the stores close.

I feel like someone pushed “fast-forward” on my life, and I hate it. I hate the feeling of rushing around trying to get everything accomplished right now, or, when waiting for something, having the delightful anticipation of “it’s coming up in a month” suddenly be “it’s tomorrow” and I am woefully unprepared.

There are two thing that help this. The first, (strangely) is fighting. Something about a sword in my hand and forcing myself to worry about my footwork–and only my footwork– and not about SEO optimization and social media reports and the million billion trivialities that make up my day somehow, magically, makes me feel like a person, not just a cloud of dust on the way to another stupid thing.

I tried fighting *for real* for a couple weeks. It didn’t go well. I had to stop and examine whether or not my desire to instantly Know Everything was getting in the way of me actually Learning Something, but I realized that for now– and maybe this will change in a year, or a week or a day— but what makes sense to me are drills and repetition and the boring technique stuff that takes me out of my brain and into my body– but actually being faced with an opponent is overwhelmingly stressful for me, because I don’t know what’s going to happen so I don’t know what to do and then it’s right back into my brain again, which defeats the purpose.

The second thing (and this segue ways nicely into my next topic) is making …things. “Things” is vague. Some days, I am a poet. Some days, I am a graphic designer. Other days I am a baker, or a writer, or a set designer, or a costume stitcher or a million other things– I wear many hats, because I enjoy hats. And doing things.

I have, suddenly, become more of a writer as of late. There was a performance that I did at the Establishment Theatre to open a stand-up comedy night (because nothing says “comedy” like slam poetry about Shakespeare), there was having the amazing opportunity to perform at the One State Conference, my sudden adoption into a group of insanely talented writers and artists (more on that later), and that sudden remembering that “oh yeah, I like doing this”.

Life gets in the way, and I hate that.

So.

I suppose this is where the announcement comes in– I am sure most of you noticed the abysmal failure that the “blog a day” project took– yeah, that didn’t end so well.

However, in the next few weeks (okay, months), I am going to be restructuring this into different sections that better parallel my interests, and post about them, which, in my mind, will spur me to write more/do more things instead of just letting the days fly by.

So look forward to that.

The Girl With the Shakespeare Tattoo

Shakespeare Tattoo
Shakespeare Tattoo

 

Some day, when I’m older and bolder and wiser and stronger, I will explain what the significance of this was, and why I did it when I did it. But for now, it is good enough for me to say that I did, and that I like it, and that day was a good day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Possibilities of Cymbeline, or how a box and a sheet changed my life.

I just realized I never updated about our impromptu roadtrip last week. I knew you were all worried.

Last year, I went to New York on a whim with my mom. Standing in line at the TKTX booth, we were arguing over what to go see, and I noticed that there was a single Shakespeare listed on the “plays” side of the board: some random theatre company was doing Cymbeline.

I talked her into it under the promise that I would go see Mary Poppins the next night. The deal made, we set off for Greenwich Village, to the Barrow Street Theatre where my life would change completely in an evening.  Alright, maybe my life didn’t change, but my opinion on the possibilities of theatrical convention were entirely shifted.

I thought that I had written about this before. Frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t, but then I realized, I’m glad that I hadn’t because it took my third viewing of the show last week for what it was about the show to really get to me.

(We’ll get to the 3rd time in a minute).

I often say “the best thing ever” and “it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen”. Here, please note that I really do mean that quite literally, without a hint of my usual sarcasm and/or hyperbole.

Hands down, the Fiasco Theatre’s production of Cymbeline was the best show I have ever seen. Ever.

I have turned into a Fan Girl over this company, and it is a little bit embarrassing. Okay, a lot embarrassing because I’m not the “I get super excited” kid. I’m the “yeah, it was pretty cool I guess” kid. I don’t run out of theatres going “ohmygodohmygod”, I coolly amble out of theatres going “I can’t believe she didn’t announciate the third troche”. (Okay, I’ve never said that in my life, but you get the idea).  Like, I sent them an email. A GUSHY email.

Anyway, so the show, the first time, was kind of a haze of magical amazingness.

Frankly, I don’t remember much about that actual viewing aside from the sheer joy I felt afterwards. That over-arching “holy shit, I can’t believe I got to see THAT happen just witnessed something magic” theatre joy that renders you an addict and keeps high school kids doing drama even after their parents stop patronizing them. That magic. You remember. The first time you saw something that “clicked” and you said “that. that is what I want to do”. That was the moment I had, again. Only it was better, because instead of being excited that people were clapping for me, I was happy for the actors. I was clapping because they got to do this, because they got to see this vision realized, because I got to be there for it.  I was happy that this got to exist.

I can’t imagine how hard it must be to put on a show in new work. I have friends who are playwrights, I’ve written plays of my own, but in New York, especially, where it seems like big flashy musicals are the focus— here was a troupe of 7 performing a 300 year old play with a bedsheet and a wooden box. I loved them for that.

When my mom asked me if I wanted to go back to New York, I had one caviat– that we go see the 2nd to last performance of Cymbeline again. I wanted to re-asses. See if maybe those sneaky actors hadn’t just impressed me with their costume design and their staging but secretly sucked.

Nope.

The 2nd time I took notes. Not like, douchey high school kid doing a report notes, but mental notes. The verse work. The simplicity. Oh, the simplicity. (We’ll get to that in a second, too).  Everything was still amazing. Sure, that particular evening had some snafus, but that made it better for me– see, real people!

It’s ridiculous, even now, because I’m trying to write a fair and balanced account, but I can’t, because I just want to gush all over this blog about OH MY GOD THE BOX and OH MY GOD THE SONGS and well…just…oh my god, right?

So it happened through a series of events that I found out that Fiasco was going to be performing Cymbeline in San Diego. I was bummed, because it was so very far away, but then I realized that on their way out there, they were going to be stopping in Milwaukee.

Holy shit, bro.

I can’t talk about this play as an actor. I can’t because I get far too excited and derpy about the ridiculous attention to detail to in anyway convey that I am a mature, trained Shakesperean actress with actual experience and technique under my belt. I can’t figure it out. I can watch goddamn Captain Picard play Macbeth and be like “yeah that’s pretty cool I guess”, but watching 7 random strangers performing Cymbeline renders me physically incapable of using any terms more complicated than “ZOMG ITS LIKE SO GOOD”.

Anyway, so I convinced a group of friends to tag along, most specifically Jake, which was awesome, because after months of listening to me yap about the show, he finally got to see it for himself.

It timed out perfectly, too– our one night off of rehearsal was the night they would be in Milwaukee, so at 3 that afternoon, we began the trek down. (It is here that I would mention that driving to Canada to see Titus still ranks as the most ridiculous of roadtrips, but the there-and-back nature of this trip made it pretty epic as well).

And…there it was. (Mostly) just like I remembered it, save for the details in the house of the theatre and two replacement actors (who I thought did really well, except that a have a small crush on one of the original actors…and his ukulele).  Anyway, it was the show I remembered with the added thrill of getting to look over at Jake and my other friends during the bits of Particularly Outstanding Awesome and seeing their faces. And then regretting taking them because they’d know that I totally ripped off my brilliant directing ideas. Damn. I guess I’ll have to come up with my own.

Still wonderful, still fantastically simple, still seamless, still brilliant.

The next day, I went back to rehearsal and someone asked me why I seemed so bothered, and I couldn’t put my finger on it, until someone else asked me how the show had been.

Then I figured it out.

What I love about Fiasco’s Cymbeline is that for me, personally, it’s a challenge.

How do you take a small group of actors and produce something extraordinary? You do it with a bed sheet and a box that becomes ALL THE SETS. You do it with music, with sets, with costumes. Right now you’re like, duh, Catie, that’s what a show is—but it’s more than that.

It’s the vision. It’s the simplicity of meaningful words produced in a meaningful way. It’s why I am so excited for Antigone this spring. It’s because I have that chance. I have limitless possibilities to create that magic. It’s not about a complicated set and a bazillion flashy costumes or set pieces or props.

It’s about the words and the action and the seamless blending of the two into something bigger than the elements and the actors themselves. I would kill for an opportunity to work with Fiasco on a show like that, to experience that sort of intense process in creating an altogether seamless show, but I know that is a pipe dream more than something that could ever come to fruition (but if you’re ever looking for a Lavinia, Fiasco…you know who to call.)

What is not, impossible, however, is bringing that aesthetic, that drive, that passion home with me.

I am challenging myself to walk out of the theatre feeling like I did the first time I saw Cymbeline. Granted, Antigone is a tragedy and Cymbeline has a wacky, plot-twist filled happy ending, but I believe at the core, it’s not about the subject matter. It’s about the passion and the knowledge that a wooden box and a bed sheet can create an entire world.

And I want to create it.

Fiasco Theatre <—-clicky link.

The Night of Fails and Fats (Or, Fuck the Guy In The Second Row). A Tale of Playing Lavinia.

Tonight’s audience was a college night crowd, meaning that a generous 62% of them actually wanted to be there– and this was evidenced even more vividly after intermission when I walked back on stage to notice that about 20 audience members had left.

Now, I was of two minds. On the selfish side, I thought to myself “Well, at least they got to see all the good stuff I do”. On the other hand, I thought “ARE YOU SERIOUS?” You’re not going to stay to see Aaron’s brilliant revenge against Chiron and Demetrius, or Jessica rock the shit out of Revenge, or Maggie own the fuck out of wondering what wrongs are being wronged, or Cole’s hilarious Clown or David’s epic last words or Angela’s amazing end speech or Bryan becoming emperor or Cara teaching us all a valuable lesson?

I was hurt on behalf of the cast. And I get it. Hell, I’ve had friends who have done the same thing– Got program to prove they were there, bailed. But seriously. We have all worked so hard to make this show amazing, it was almost insulting to not be able to share that with everyone in attendance.

Then I LOST my costume. I don’t even know how one achieves that, but I had a pretty good panic moment during intermission when I realized I had no idea where my second act costume was. Thankfully it’d just been set in a pile of towels, but there was a moment where I thought I was going to have to run home and find something to wear.

On top of that, tonight seemed to be the night of “oops, the audience got some blood on them”. Normally, this has never been an issue. Somehow, however, (and I will fully admit that I still think this is hilarious) Bobby somehow wound up just chucking his blood pack into the audience and splattering it on the back wall. I think may favorite moment of the show tonight was coming out for the post-show discussion and seeing two big pieces of paper STUCK onto the blood on the wall so as to protect the audience members sitting near by. Thankfully the girl who got the majority of the blood on her was a really good sport.

I also managed to accidentally spit one drop of blood perfectly onto some poor guy in the front row. I think he actually thought it was pretty cool though, so I was happy I didn’t offend anyone.

Speaking of good sports, there are good sports and there there are…not good sports. (And we’re going to get real here, so everyone hang on for the ride). Tonight, after the “reveal” scene of Lavinia, I have a pretty painful (both mentally, physically and literally) moment where I have to crawl my way up onto the big set piece we have. It’s difficult, actually pretty fucking hard to do (one, because I don’t have hands and two, because I have a fucking mouth full of blood at the time) and I have to be acting the entire time as well.

So I’m climbing the set, minding my own business, acting pretty hard (if I do say so myself) and I notice these two guys in the second row kind of snickering. And I think “okay, you know, uncomfortable audience, they’ve probably seen my underwear, ha ha, whatever, moving on”. So I go on with the scene and I try to ignore their disruptive attitude and then it happens.

Right at one of the most important moments of the scene, I hear one guy say to the other “Why is Lavinia fat?’.

Now.

Okay.

I get that I may not be your “typical ingenue”. I get that most Lavinias are tiny little things who can be easily thrown about. I get that I’m…normal sized. I will fully admit that I could stand to lose a few pounds.

But here’s the fucking thing.Actually, a few things.

One. This is in the middle of a GODDAMN FUCKING SHOW. I’m literally a foot and a half away from you. I can hear you breathing, so what part of whispering insulting jokes to your friend in the MIDDLE OF A SCENE is okay?

And then there’s just my confusion about why you needed to address the fact that I am not your ideal beauty in that moment. What part of looking at a bloody and actually bruised girl with no fucking hands and or tongue makes you go “this is sad and all but it would be better if she was a size four?”

And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly. (Again, the get real train is leaving from the station, so get your tickets ready), and I know the person who made the comment would have absolutely no idea about this facet of his comment going in, but I have spent the last eight years in and out of recovery for bulimia. Am I proud of this? No. Do I talk about it much? No.  Am I incredibly proud that I have been practicing “normal” eating patterns and practices for the last eight months without a single issue? Am I happier than I have been in a long, long time? Yes. To both. And then something like this happens. And it would be super fucking easy to go home and binge and purge until I stop feeling upset at one asshole’s opinion. Did I immediately want to? Absolutely.

But what I realized, and no, I’m not trying to get to the “we all learn a valuable lesson” part, but tonight made me realize how proud I am of my recovery and of the support structure that I have surrounded myself with. It hasn’t been easy, and I still have days where I fuck up and weeks where my views on food and my body are less than stellar– but I have been working continuously towards a goal of being able to manage this disease and I think maybe tonight was proof that I can. Kind of.

During the show, when I heard that, I was…devastated. I have worked SO fucking hard on this show. I have lost sleep, skin, blood, tears and a jeans size for this role (the jeans size was kind of an accident) and to have all of that decimated because my ass wasn’t small enough to appease the asshole in the second row upsets me in ways that I cannot accurately express without sounding like a sociopath, so I won’t.

I have a stretch during Act 4 where I have some time to just sit and have my make-up done, and while I was sitting there, I was thinking back to four or so years ago when I had absolutely hit rock bottom in terms of my eating disorder. The sordid details are an entry for another day, but thinking about where I was and how I felt as opposed to how I feel now…it’s like I was a completely different person. I was desperately unhappy, at a totally unhealthy weight, living this horrible life of secrets and lies and barfing in closets so people wouldn’t find out– it was a humiliating and degrading way to live. It took me a really long time to figure out that what I was doing wasn’t the answer to my problems, or even the reason I had problems– and no, my life is still far from perfect, but I cannot begin to express how fucking happy I am nearly every moment of every day, getting to do the things I do with the family that I have built for myself– it’s an incredibly humbling experience to realize how fucking lucky I am every single day.

Even more than that, what I realized is that….I’m PROUD of what I’ve done in this show. I’m proud of the work I’ve put in and the actual scars I’ve earned. I’m proud of the late nights I’ve spent eating burgers with my friends and I have absolutely no regrets. This show has helped me so much in my journey of recovery, and I refuse to let some douchenozzle (who couldn’t even be bothered to stay for the 2nd half) ruin that for me.

Do I still feel like total shit? Absolutely. Do I want to punch things? Yes. Did I for totes eat the hell out of pancakes at Village Inn tonight after the show? Yes, and even though every fiber of my being is telling me to yack them up, I know that it’s not going to change what some asshole said about me, and I would rather be a fat Lavinia in an amazing show with one of the greatest casts I have ever had the opportunity to work with than a skinny…not…Lavinia in a…not… amazing show with a not…incredible cast. .

That was going somewhere. Damn it.

Grad School….

There is something terrifyingly satisfactory about thinking about the future. One one hand, you’ve got…well, every possibility in the world. On the other, you’ve got everything you have, right here and now. And sometimes, those two worlds are incredibly different.

It’s like a venn diagram with no intersection.

Writing my statement of purpose has been a terrifying adventure into “real life”. It’s getting a taste of a completely different new life, and knowing that there are still a huge number of variables that need to fall into place before anything happens.

I’ve been working on my statement of purpose for ….a long time, and it’s still not exactly right. It’s getting close, but there are so many possibilities of the stories I could share, the reasons I have for following my passions, the hopes I have…and it’s frustrating as hell because I don’t know what they’re looking for or if what I choose to say will sound exactly like every other hopeful applying to the same school.

But here’s what I’ve got so far. The ending is crap, don’t judge me.

THE PROMPT: 

In an essay of 250 – 500 words, state your purpose in undertaking graduate study in your chosen field. Include your academic objectives, research interests, and career plans. Also discuss your related qualifications, including collegiate, professional, and community activities, and any other substantial accomplishments not already mentioned on the application.

My desire to continue my exploration of classical theatre and my determination to better myself through a focus on classical acting comes down to one terrible Midsummer.

It was a really bad production. Most of the show had been slashed and rewritten to accommodate an impossible time limit, the actors were mostly drunk, there were no lights, costumes or set, and the audience was jammed into a tiny tent with an incredibly loud waitstaff while the show went on–outside– in the pouring rain. And I, with bright blue hair and more raw enthusiasm than actual skill, was Helena.

We were a group of passionate (and very broke) actors who had aspirations far beyond anything we were actually capable of, but we were determined to pull it off. And while the end product may not have been entirely extraordinary, it taught me more about myself and what fuels my passion for acting more than any other role I have ever undertaken.

It was an intensely challenging, frustrating and, I found, enthralling process. With only two weeks to pull the entire show together, I found that the faster and more chaotic things got, the more the text and language became the calming focus and drive behind my work. I dove, wholeheartedly, into exploring the mathematical patterns and meticulate word choice that lent such absolute, simple beauty and honesty to every speech.

Before Helena, I had acted in a number of Shakespearean plays, but this was the first time that something “clicked” so well and so entirely. I attribute much of this to the two-week intensive verse and text workshop I took with Andrew Wade. Not only did this expand my knowledge on the importance of verse and text work, it also marked my first contact with someone who got to “do Shakespeare” every day. That, more than anything is what I wish to achieve my own life— the ability to follow my passion for Shakespeare’s work every day and share that enthusiasm with others through both performance and outreach education.

Since then, I have leapt at every opportunity to further my knowledge and experience in classical acting. I realize, of course, that a well-rounded classical actor’s training is not just confined to Shakespeare. I have been lucky enough to have opportunity to explore various theatrical techniques and schools, and what attracts me to the [grad school I am choosing] is the dualities between a modern, physical focus and classical technique and theory.

In January 2011, I had the incredible opportunity to perform my own verse at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. While my style may be far from Shakespearean, this experience only intensified my desire to encompass a deeper understanding of performance technique and to continue to grow as an artist.

Elia Kazan, the Tony-Award winning director of the revolutionary Broadway productions of “All My Sons” and “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” once said that to be a successful creative artist, “[..you’ve got to see] how much you have to know and what kind of a bastard you have to be. How hard you have to train yourself and in how many different ways. All of which I did. I’ve never stopped trying to educate myself and to improve myself.”

The sum of my experiences thus far is eclectic and varied. I have written, directed, performed, worked production, designed and taught. However, where my true passion lies—where I wish to improve and educate myself, is in where I truly feel my passion—classical acting.