Sunday, July 01, 2012

And Then I Was Awake

It's a holiday week.  Not a weekend...Independence Day falls on a Wednesday this year, so the entire week becomes some sort of strange wash.  This is not to say that I will spend much time worrying about the holiday as I continue to move my things slowly into our new apartment and pore desperately over my list of things to do as the date of my flight to Chile looms ever closer.

I would love to be the girl in orange below...any of those people actually.  Beating the heat by joining it sounds like a much better plan than braving the sweaty, humid apartment as I move my things out one-by-one.

My lengthy list is what has me wide awake at 2:30 in the morning.  I guess the good thing about this time of night is that it's the coolest that it will get during the day.  The oppressive heat makes the idea of working on anything that involves thought a complete nightmare...hence the lengthy list and ever-present insomnia.  I spend many minutes a day staring at my to-do list, trying to figure out what important thing I should tackle first.

Should I....

•Pack up my dishes and books?
•Make chorus staging templates for Moby-Dick so that I can send my scores on to San Francisco?
•Make up a scene breakdown for Madama Butterfly so that I can send a supernumerary request to Santa Barbara?
•Email Chile to make sure that someone is picking me up from the airport?
•Find a parking garage that will take my car for six weeks for the least amount of money?
•Put together a staging scheme for Figaro?

It's so hard to decide that I often just want to throw everything aside and watch old movies in front of my air conditioner, but this is simply not an option.

The list is overwhelming, the heat is oppressive.  Summer in the city...

At the beach at Coney Island in Late June

Monday, June 25, 2012


This is not a return to blogging.

Or perhaps it is.  Goals are sandy these days.

A year ago this week, I made a gigantic change and moved across the country to New York City.  Brooklyn to be exact.  The exact opposite of my ten-year, Southern California existence.

It's strange to feel unsettled for as long as I've felt unsettled.  Somehow it becomes normal and your brain starts to only concentrate on what will get you through the day.  The future is shifty and so you don't deal with it until it's upon you.

I moved to New York City, put my belongings in a dusty sublet, and went on the road for 8 months.


It's taken a full year for this giant change to turn completely in the lock.  Having your hand on the door knob means you're only partway there, and so I've stood with hand poised all this time.  Now is the moment that I want to fully step through the door.

A few truths:
  • I'm moving into an apartment tomorrow that will have my name on the lease.  This implies, if not full ownership, then the opportunity to feel that my possessions have a home in which I am fully in charge.
  • I am leaving for another 6 weeks in 15 days.  In a sad admission, this is one of my shorter trips this year.
  • I'm leaving a partner and a pet in my new apartment.  Roots.  I'm leaving roots.  Small, somewhat shallow, relatively unformed roots, but they are solidly in the soil.  I would have to yank swiftly and forcefully to pull them up.
  • This is the first year that I can truthfully call myself an opera director.  I have three directing gigs  in the next five months.
  • I miss dancing in a way that I never thought possible.  This morning, after my breakfast, I stood up in my dusty sublet and danced my way through some music and felt so alive and strong...and then so weak and scared.  Part of my full transformation must include coming back to where I started.
  • This blog post is a maintenance post.  It is a test for myself to see if writing can be part of my experience once more.  I stopped writing a while ago and my creativity drained away as well.
More is coming.

Friday, December 28, 2007


So I'm not sure if I'm taking an official hiatus or not. Obviously writing has been the last thing on my mind lately since it's been nearly a month since I've gone to my blog and each of the posts immediately before that were few and far between. My idea was always to force myself to write regularly but as my job gets more involved, I have less inclination to take up time to write.

I'm just not going to force things right now. So, for my few regular readers out there, it may be a while. Or not...I may suddenly have the urge to record again. I just have to wait and see.

As it were, I'm sitting at my little desk in the production offices of San Diego Opera on my third week of prep before we start a jam-packed season. We jump in with both feet right off the bat with a new production of Wagner's "Tannhauser," then move directly into four more operas with absolutely zero breathing time. Everyone I've talked to who's done this season says it's a crazy maelstrom every time. We'll see how I fare in terms of time for outside projects. I'm not hopeful right now.

As far as after that all ends, my summer is up in the air. I'm thinking of taking a trip to Italy to do a language immersion program, or going to Upstate New York to study up on Edna St. Vincent Millay a little more, or perhaps going to England/Scotland just for the hell of it. We'll see what pans out. I feel strongly that if I take the summer off from working on a show or at a festival then I need to be improving my skills that will help me be the best director I can be. Maybe a summer of me is really what I need.

I just got off of an airplane taking me back to San Diego from visiting my parents in Missouri for the holidays. It's the last time I'll have to fly until next May/June-ish. I'm hoping that my nerves will right themselves as I remove the travel-factor from my life for a while.

I feel out of order still and am hoping for some repairs. I'll keep you posted.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rainy Travel

Writing has not been my strong point while working at the Dallas Opera. This particular show kicked me in the butt harder than I've been kicked in quite some time. I came here thinking that this show would be a bit of a breeze and I would get all sorts of stuff done in the meantime. Truly not so...I've been playing catch-up since we opened and now I'm sitting at DFW, waiting for a delayed flight (no explanation...just delayed), and thinking about the fact that I have to go into work tomorrow to a brand new job and I feel totally and utterly unprepared (I'm sure that's not the case...but I'm a preplanner. I get sick if I'm not 15 minutes early and if the check's not in the mail a week before the due date).

The good thing is that I'm going home and if this plane isn't delayed further I'll actually be home early enough today to get my ducks in a row before making my first entrance at San Diego Opera tomorrow. We start prep for a stint of five operas in a row. I need to feel confident with all five scores before the first rehearsal because once we start it's like a downhill soapbox race: there's no stopping us until we hit the hay bales at the bottom.

Despite any stresses I've experienced in Dallas, we had a very good closing last night. Quite a few pranks and loose ad-libbing, but my director seemed pleased as punch that the cast was relaxed enough with each other to dive into the unknown in such a way on stage. I never watch final performances because I know what happensk when there's no recourse. I was a performer for years and did my share of onstage pranks...was also the butt of many jokes as well. I've been part and parcel to many a "let's see if we can make so-and-so bust up in the middle of this really serious scene" schemes and I've added a little something-something to quite a few closing nights. One of my favorites was my Junior year of high school. I was a dancer in "Hello Dolly" and our little group of dancing waitresses chose to wear racy garter belts underneath our circle skirts. We gave all of the geeky band boys in the pit quite a show.

Of course I wrestle with how much to frown upon now that I'm in a position of authority. I try to keep a straight face and discourage bad behavior, but the performer inside knows how hard it is to keep enthusiasm and wish I could be out there too, yucking it up.

Boarding soon. Maybe someday I'll get back to regular writing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yet Another Tech Week Survived

I'm at the end of two days off. I needed the time so badly. I go through a tech week about every two months and they still rear up in front of me and knock me on my ass. Generally speaking, once we start the lighting sessions, I have about two or three days in there where I come into work before 9am and leave just before Midnight. By the third day, coffee does . . . well . . . pretty much nothing.

The other thing that always amazes me about Tech week is, no matter how much of a mess a production is on the first piano staging, it always seems to come together as a show by the time final dress rolls around. I left final dress on Wednesday night with weightless shoulders. There were a couple of off moments: props getting stuck in pockets, hats rolling down stairs, a drop off it's in-spike....silly things - easy fixes. But the show itself was there. People were laughing, the dancers were beautiful, the dialogue was on. It was a huge relief for me and I KNOW it was a huge relief for my director.

So yesterday, instead of stressing about notes, thinking about whether or not people would go on, wondering how something was going to come together, I did nothing that had to do with work. I went shopping. I bought a dress for the opening and had lunch at Neiman's with my stage manager. It was all very chic, ladies-who-lunch, holiday cheer etc, etc, and it felt great to be weightless.

My health is starting to return. I still feel my heart rate speeding up at night when my thoughts go wild, but I'm waking up feeling rested and looking ahead to home and Christmas with the fam, and all of the important things in life on the other side of my work...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Holidays Away...

Holidays away from home are tough on many levels. Part of it's the obvious missing of family members. Part of it, for a foodie like me, is the inability to cook holiday foods with the meager kitchen utensils and amenities I have in my little corporate suite.

There are also smaller problems. The reason I didn't go home for Thanksgiving this year (besides the poor factor) is that I have rehearsals on both sides of the holiday. There's a guilt that washes over me when I take a full day off while rehearsing a show. I worked all day yesterday so that I could take today - a holiday - off, but I still woke up feeling like I should work. Holiday breaks in the middle of a deadline-based gig are horrifying for the workaholic.

There's also an anti-social aspect that sometimes comes sneaking in. There's always a part of me when waking up on a holiday that wants to spend the day in my pajamas watching Christmas movies and eating takeout. I know myself enough, however, to know that if I don't go to my holiday plans I'll regret the lost connections and I'll never truly be able to relax and blow off steam.

A member of our production staff had access to an incredible home this holiday season and so he invited us all over for Thanksgiving dinner. Ten of us showed up. The table was set with real china and crystal, we toasted with champagne, we went around the table (just like my own family's tradition) and told everyone what we were thankful for, and we feasted. My, how we feasted! All of the trappings of a traditional turkey dinner plus a few little extras here and there. I brought pineapple timbale, an old family recipe that dates back to when my ancestors were whalers... It was my own contribution to the family atmosphere.

Afterwards we laughed hysterically while cleaning the kitchen, then collapsed in front of a roaring fire and talked for several hours - until the tall candles on the coffee table burned down to nubs. I sat there and looked around at everyone smiling, red-cheeked, clutching pillows, and thought about this idea of connections that I keep coming back to as I slowly try to figure out this business. We get close so fast in these little 6-week gigs. Everyone I work with is like a member of some sort of strange, dysfunctional family. We keep coming together and falling apart, but if I find these people in another city we'll be right back where we left off.

It's a comfort to know we're all in this together and I'm thankful to have so many people who share in this traveling existance wherever I go.

What else am I thankful for? I'm thankful to have a husband who is so unbeliveably supportive in this crazy career I'm carving out. I'm thankful for a family who loves me no matter how different my world is from theirs. I'm thankful that my career is still growing; that what I'm doing thus far seems to be working.

I'm thankful for life experiences and evenings like this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


So here I am in Dallas, putting up an operetta that has proved to be a scheduling nightmare. We're done with the show (in a week mind you). Everything is blocked, the dancers are here and fitting themselves in beautifully. They actually flew in from Los Angeles the other night, walked in the door straight from the airport, suited up in their off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, legwarmers and flexible dance sneakers, and ran through this show they hadn't done in months with nary a flaw in their unison. Muscle memory is an amazing thing.

Our singers are all thinkers. They are analyzing their dialogue, asking for changes where things don't make sense, discussing character and audience comprehensibility. Our chorus has learned all of their movements, reactions and moments in three rehearsals. For all intents and purposes, this whirlwind rehearsal period has been pretty successful.

But for me in this moment, it all comes back to making this schedule every day, which has pitfalls and snafus in it that literally make me want to bang my head against the desk. I'm having flashbacks to when I first tried to learn long division. Ask my mother about that joyous experience. I'm not the only one feeling this pressure but it's getting to me all the same. It must be getting to me. I've visited the E.R. three times in the past week with heart palpatations, massively high blood pressure and dizziness/numbness/shortness-of-breath. The doctors at the E.R. (who I've gotten to know well mind you) all think it's major anxiety. I think they're probably right but it's hard for me to accept because I've always seen myself as someone who handles stress well. I've always been the unflappable one; the one who takes everything in stride and then gets things done as needed.

The more I think about it though, the more I realize that my way of working has allowed all of this stress to fill my coffer until it's truly overflowing. My job is to listen to and absorb other people's stress and problems and I think I've finally hit my limit. I've spent the last few rehearsals fighting with an irregular heart beat and an inability to get a deep breath and I think, "geez! What the hell is going on," but if I look back at every confidence I take, every problem I solve, every argument and disagreement I'm privy to, well....I guess it makes sense that my body would finally tell me to stop listening. This is my 7th show in a row and none of them in my home.

So enough about that. I'm going to see a doctor tomorrow with an actual appointment and hopefully I can figure out how to manage this in the few weeks I have left of traveling, living in a hotel room by myself, working on a show at my makeshift desk/kitchen table while watching bad television and eating take-out.

This life. This life gives me amazing experiences. Amazing. But I think there's only so much a psyche can take before it needs to regroup, refuel, rejuvenate.