In ten days, I can celebrate being a member of this city for a full year.
New York City: Day 355
I came here on August 22nd, 2009. It is absolutely mind-blowing that a year is close to passing. It doesn’t seem right. It happened so quickly. It also doesn’t seem right in that I feel like I’ve been here for lifetimes. I remember having that sense that during my first weeks exploring the city. It’s still there.
The start to my second year as an MFA Acting Candidate is nearing. I remember how panicked, how excited I was last summer. Now, I’m anxious. I’ve given myself plenty of work, but it’s time to be back in the theatre with the playwrights, with the directors, with the rest of the actors in my cohort. In two short weeks, I’ll enter my second full year of Alexander Technique, Vocal Production, and Co-Lab but will also face entirely new beasts in Classical Technique, Theatrical Clown, Stage Combat, Dialects, Scene Study, Auditioning for the Stage, and British Theatre of Anger. And that’s only first semester. Layer on evening rehearsals for our two big Second Year productions (in the fall, The Adding Machine by Elmer Rice, directed by Lou Jacob and in the spring, The Chekhov Project adapted by Casey Biggs and Robert Hoyt, directed by Casey Biggs– both of which I’m extremely excited about…) and hopefully I’ll emerge from it all in May to tell you how it went.
I hope I’m kidding. I like to think that I’ll be careful enough with my time that posts will be frequent, but the fatigue and constant state of motion I watched the Second Years walk around with last year make me wonder if I’m completely delusional.
I need school to start. Lately, working on my book (which is the largest reason for my ten-day absence) I’ve been letting my head go wherever it wishes to go. After five trips to the Haunted exhibit, consuming multiple essays on memory in art and Derrida’s idea of hauntology, devouring a beautiful book on the idea of the listener as a medium (chapter titles include “Chair creaks, but no one sits there” and “Snow falling on snow”), and a resent trip to the town in which I spent my childhood, my mind has taken itself to strange places. Places I’m fascinated by, but places I might be ready to come back from.
My weekend, for example, consisted largely of sitting at my desk (which is covered with Poe, Joyce, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, and Proust at the moment… aaaand I’m suddenly sickened by how pretentious I sound…), picking up whatever was closest, reading it for a few hours, listening to David Byrne and Brian Eno, writing for a few hours, then smoking cigars, drinking wine, and talking to The Poet all night. Sneak in a few hours of sleep, hit repeat. They’re nights I’m happy to have. Empty wine bottles and ashes in the morning are usually signs of an evening well-spent. But get too much further into my odd little brain and I’ll have trouble not staying there. And I certainly can’t stay there if I want to do the kind of acting work I know that I’m capable of in the coming months. Nobody likes an actors who’s too much in her head.
In many ways, I’m glad graduate school is swooping in to hand me texts I’ll need to read by Day X or Day Y. Left to my own devices, I’d continue to hunt down essays by Guggenheim curators and read them into oblivion.
Though, I recognize that the mind is going to focus on what it wants to and that school might not even be able to save me from that. I prepare for my coming auditions, for the work I’m to do this year, and I can’t stop re-reading The Cherry Orchard. (“Look! There… in the orchard… it’s Mother! In her white dress! …it’s alright. I was just imagining things.”) Over and over, Chekhov in my brain. And I still want more of these people haunted by ghosts they’ve created for themselves. Allowed to choose a monologue from any play I wish to present on the first day of Co-Lab, I’ve been pouring over plays and I keep coming back to a piece I had the privilege of doing in undergrad— Language of Angels by Naomi Izuka, directed by Tom Martin; it remains one of my most-cherished stage memories, partly because it terrified me. Am I surprised that I’ve essentially chosen a piece of a ghost story to share? Not at all.
Yes. I’m delusional if I think school is going to keep my mind from exploring the things it wants to explore. This happened last year, too. Everything I worked on, everything I wrote, all of the ideas I explored all circled around and fell back in the nature of dreams. That’s certainly still there, but something bigger is also at work now and I’m excited to find out what these explorations will produce.
You know– there’s something funny about The Cherry Orchard, about my recent obsession with the past, with memory and its place in art, with the ability of things in my life to circle back on themselves. In ten days, I’ll have completed my first year in New York City. In Chekhov’s play, the orchard is to be put up for auction on August 22nd. And because of inaction on the part of the family, on August 22nd, the cherry orchard is sold. On August 22nd, I made the move here. There’s something in that, I think.
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