This is what adulthood looks like.
At least... I think so.
A lot can happen in 7 months. In this time, so many things have happened, and while I've wanted to blog about them, I've had a hard time starting, particularly because I've had so many thoughts about these big things that I can't even get them organized. And, since I'm an achiever, and I need to accomplish the task of blogging before I can feel satisfaction, here's the short version of all my thoughts from the past half year before I go into a current update:
I defeated my last year of college. Between my classes, homework, senior practicum, job searches, endless rehearsals, auditions, apartment surfing, social stimulation, and the occasional sleep cycle, the last two semesters of college seem more like a dream now than historical fact. A dream of something that maybe happened, but probably not. I guess I have a diploma to prove it, but you can trust a piece of paper about as much as the Internet nowadays. I had been chosen to give the student reflection speech during my graduation ceremony.
Yes, that is me, amid a sea of intellectuals. I find it hard to believe too. Must be my charisma. I have 21 points of it.
It was an honor, to say the least. And, it was probably the best way to end my college career. Being obligated to direct your 4-years of experience into cohesive and entertaining thoughts for 2000 people has that effect. If nothing else, I now have a sheet of paper I can read over if I ever forget what happened in college.
Everything that I experienced seems so small, so long ago, and so far away. I could dwell and write an entire blog about the memories I made. But, then I wouldn't have any stories to tell you in person, and that makes for a boring person. And I don't like being boring. It's dumb.
The day after that graduation ceremony, I started my first professional theater job as a touring Actor/Director with Prairie Fire Children's Theatre. I am partnered with a lovely lady named Haley (the one wearing a red bandana and who looks like a frog/dragon in the picture below). We travel to a new city every week to produce a play with the local children. Our show is Tom Sawyer. I play the villain "The Rightful King of France" and Haley plays "Aunt Polly." Ironically enough, I have never felt more adult in my entire life.
How a group like this can make me feel more grown-up, I'll never know.
Perhaps it's the amount of thought that goes into a week of this tour. Let me break it down for you.
Sunday, we spend the day driving towards our residency in the next town. The drive usually consists of casual conversations that eventually drift into the dramatic description of an epic picturesque story happening within our surroundings, all to the music playing from my cell-phone. Or, it's just 5 hours of us singing to Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog. Eventually, we arrive in the town and get acquainted with our hotel/motel/second-floor-of-the-gas-station. We find the laundromat, the school/rehearsal/performance space, and usually enjoy a fancy meal at the nearest Subway. Then, we finish the paperwork for the previous week and make sure everything is ready for the upcoming week.
Monday, we audition the kids and begin our first rehearsal. First impressions are important, so we make sure to show the kids that we left any sanity we once had at the curb and it's garbage day. We can have anywhere from 18-84 cast members, and as strange as it sounds, the more the merrier. YOU try producing a full 75 minute show with EIGHTEEN 7-10 year olds and tell me it's easier than producing one with EIGHTY 7-17 year-olds. Depending on how the rehearsal went, Haley and I will either indulge in another local eatery or explore the nearest (mostly) organic grocery store while pretending to be a couple of New Yorkers escaping their hellish family by going to their cabin in Smalltown, Minnesota.
Tuesday, we rehearse with the kids and teach them everything about the show that they didn't learn on Monday. Technically, this should be called the day of "energy," but we call it the day of "CLAP YOUR HANDS AND SCREAM AS LOUD AS YOU CAN UNTIL THEY PAY ATTENTION." This is the day where the kids realize that Haley and I are just taller versions of them, and so the mood of the rehearsal wavers between friendship-fun-times and fear-me-forever-for-I-will-eat-your-soul. After 4 hours of this, they have hopefully learned the show, and they skip off into the sunset, while Haley and I return to the (h/m)otel, collapse in our rooms for an hour, enjoy the pool if they have one, order pizza/chinese, or otherwise find a cloud to float away on. We usually communicate only in mime for the rest of this day.
Wednesday, we do our first run-through of the show. Depending on when rehearsals start that week (the crack of dawn or the crack of noon), we will need caffeine for this day and will find the best coffee shop available, purchase tea because neither of us like coffee, and pretend it's just as useful. By now, the kids realize that we really do have some sort of authority, and a level of trust develops that is somewhere between the surface tension of water and a person's unfaltering conviction in the veritability of Facebook articles. After pushing through the learning curve with the patience of a newborn lion, we complete the rehearsal, and return to our favorite local eatery to enjoy some familiarity and a glass of wine. If time allows, there will then be several hours of playing Minecraft. Or watching Superhero movies on FX. Or both.
Thursday, we run-through the show twice more for continuity. The kids now realize that the show they're doing is fun and actually makes sense, and the phrase "can we play a game now" disappears from local vernacular. All of the set, the lights, the sound, and the props are now in use, meaning "Is that your prop?" and "That is NOT a sword!" are now more frequent than "What time is it?" Haley and I leave the rehearsal feeling competent (you can tell, because she will have her hair down) and we celebrate by picking up the package of more Show T-shirts from the woman/man at the front desk with the heavy cough and the helpful eyebrows, counting the money we made from previous sales, singing in the raining money, rolling the t-shirts, and tying them with twine in beautiful Japanese bows (knots).
Friday, before rehearsal, we make it to the nearby beach and accidentally become babysitters for several children that we haven't met because of our trustworthy faces, get sunburnt because we haven't been outside in a week and forgot lotion, and quickly explore downtown, hoping for an art festival. Then, we do a full evening dress rehearsal (which goes more swimmingly than our afternoon), eat dinner/snack/water, apply make-up to the children, and start warm-ups before the performance (which mostly consists of convincing the kids that feeling nervous and feeling constipated are often symbiotic). Before the performance, we introduce ourselves to the audience and get everything that we've been working on underway. The show usually goes wonderfully, and if we have a show the next day, we go home (after selling lots o' t-shirts) and bask in the bliss of parental compliments and affirmation. If we do not, we dismantle the set and sleep well, preparing for a full day off on Saturday.
Lastly, Saturday we find something exotic and/or exciting in the town to enjoy before/after the final performance such as a local Pelican statue, a concert in the park, or a trip on the lake to visit Canada with an adventurous dad. Anything and everything that hasn't happened yet, does. We pack up the car after the show, sleep long and hard, and start all over again on Sunday. And that's the week.
It's a long, yet fast-moving, 7-days. 5 days, really. After we descend from the heightened level of enthusiasm we must rise to every day, each night's diluted home-adventures allow us to keep in contact with our loved ones through Skype. 'Twere not for these conversations, we'd likely end up choking each other with the costumes of the characters we had the most trouble with. And children need directors that can breathe.
Not only have we learned a lot about managing and teaching children of different sorts, we have learned how to get along the best with each other. For example, Haley now knows that I get ornery when I'm tired, and so she'll leave me alone so I can take a walk to the nearest ice cream shop(pe) and eat my woes, but I also know that she sometimes just needs me to assertively make a decision or talk to the sponsor first so she doesn't have an anxiety attack. Both necessary tasks when you spend as much time together as we have. We get along great, and I couldn't have asked for a more well-suited partner.
I can also say that I've truly felt more like an adult than ever before. Normally, I would be the kid jumping off of railings and practicing my pratfalls during rehearsal, but when suddenly the safety of 60 fragile adults is in my hands and I must maintain the focus of 15 young boys or else the River Rats will never learn their tableaus or their dance, my playful side takes a backseat.
In the end, I tally up my newly learned superpowers to the following:
I'm not done with this summer yet. In fact, I still have another month and a half. I'll probably learn more and hopefully someday feel confident in playing with children. I'm sure that I'll keep setting goals that I won't achieve, like "run more often" and "read more books" and "eat the salad not the pizza," but it will at least keep me motivated to move forward towards making the unknown known. Until then, I guess I'll be the first one to put my finger in the outlet.
I'm an alright adult. :)
Actor, Director, Creator, Dork