Something’s Coming: Part 7

This ends–for a little while–the story of the journey towards choosing SDSU.  A year ago last week, I was auditioning in San Diego, and a year ago this week, I was being offered a position in the 2016 MFA class.  Wild, right?   So, here are a few final journal entries that retell a small part of my process.  Sharing it has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the events of the past year, consider how I make decisions, and revel in those who have helped me along the way.  As I’ve stated in previous posts, if someone out there in cyberspace is also considering a big change, hopefully reading about my journey has showed him or her that he or she is not alone.  

March 2014--The SDSU campus on a cloudy spring audition day.  Little did I know I'd be there every day one year later.

March 2014–The SDSU campus on a cloudy spring audition day. Little did I know I’d be there every day one year later.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wow.  Having a little freakout.  No, not freakout…just struck with reality that all of this might actually happen.  Lots of thoughts, no order.  Here goes:

I kicked off the singing/acting auditions today at SDSU.  I nailed it.  Was ready.  In the zone.  Felt amazing.

The people have been really nice so far.

Saw Pal Joey last night.  Impressed with some individual performers, but all together not a whiz-bang show.

Still amazed at all of the vegetation that in Illinois would be considered “houseplants” and here is just plunked in the ground.

Strolling the campus:  gorgeous.

They are dedicating a new student union this week–which is where I’m writing–which is also gorgeous.  Everything is buzzing.  It feels good.

This is a bigger school than I imagined.  This is way bigger than Lawrence.

People actually ride skateboards here.  Like to go places!

How am I going to pay for this?

As much as I have been dreading the question “What do I do if I don’t get in to this school?” for some reason the prospect of uprooting and moving to San Diego for two years suddenly feels scary as well  I would probably be skeptical if it didn’t  give me butterflies, though.

If there’s times, Jared is going to take me to their new house in Escondido.  I think I still want to live with them.  I wonder if they feel the same.  It is a stressful time for them right now, too.

I should learn Spanish if I come here.  That would be fun.

As I’m walking around, I am wishing loved ones were here so I could show this to them.  I think that is a good sign.

And here are a few excerpts from writing on the plane home the following day:

Yesterday’s audition was exceptional.  The whole day simply felt good.  After my individual audition and my own stroll around the campus, I returned to the Musical Theatre Archive for the “group interview.”  This was a time for all of the candidates to sit and hear a little more about the program.  Everything they related resonated with me.  Paula Kalustian–the MFA director–has had a long career as both artist and educator and she–like me–said that they have always grown together.  She’s not been able to let one or the other go, and so the program is also geared towards that.

The individual interviews came after that, and once again, I started.  It was at this meeting that I was able to convey how much it seemed like the philosophy of the program gelled with my own.  Paula expressed the same.  She asked about my professional goals.  I said I wanted to “kick it up a notch.”  We talked St. Louis theatre; she had done some work at Webster.  She asked about my dream roles and about my type.  I said that as I’m about to turn 34, I would like to play Bobby in Company.  She said she has directed it four times, looked straight at me, and nodded, “Yeah.”

In summary, I felt a real click with these people.  I think this could really happen.  And…I should know in a week.  How crazy is that?!

I feel a sense of peace in that it is now out of my hands.  I have done everything I can.  Now we wait.

On March 7, 2014, I was auditioning for the  MFA Musical Theatre program at SDSU.  On March 7, 2015, I was receiving the President's Award for the Arts at the Student Research Symposium.

On March 7, 2014, I was auditioning for the MFA Musical Theatre program at SDSU. On March 7, 2015, I was receiving the President’s Award for the Arts at the Student Research Symposium.

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New Works, New Life

A solid two months have passed since the clock chimed in the New Year, and one persistent theme has emerged thus far in the way of my musical theatre life:  new works.  Thus far in 2015, I have…

…finished writing a new work.

…auditioned for a new work.

…performed in a staged reading of a new work.

The truth is that I’ve found religion in the new works process.  Though I never claimed to be on the cutting edge of new musicals, I felt ahead of the curve.  I had a bootlegged CD—yes, a CD—of The Last Five Years before most had heard of it.  I knew someone who worked on The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee before it moved to Broadway.  I enjoyed seeing new musicals.  I was hip, right?

My older, wiser self would tell my younger, more naïve self, “Nice try.”  I’ve come to realize that what my younger, more naïve self was actually enjoying were new ‘hit’ musicals.  Even the freshest, newest work that I could have hoped to see was already years, if not decades, old by the time my butt made it into the seat.  When I thought I had found a jewel of a show, I really was seeing only the most polished version of that stone.  That the work probably started out as a crude rock escaped my awareness as did any thought of the cutting, faceting, and grading of it.

My younger, more naïve self really had no concept of how shows developed.  I mean, I knew musicals had composers, lyricists, and book writers.  I knew there was source material out there—sometimes.  I knew there were things called ‘previews’ and ‘out-of-town tryouts’ where creators could change their mind about many facets of a show before officially opening it.  But really my knowledge was the theatrical equivalent of a four-year-old asking “Where do babies come from?”

It’s only been in the last fourteen months that I’ve been learning the answer.  When Orin and I decided we should write a musical together, we more or less walked upstream until we arrived at the headwaters of that mystical river known as ‘New Works.’  There’s not much up there.  It turns out most people who know what they’re doing are already in the river somewhere, paddling downstream towards a clearer destination than what we had.  We waded—and waited—up there in the headwaters for a couple of months.  I remember in our earliest meetings at Shaw Coffee, Orin and I just looked at each other.  The territory felt remarkably uncharted.

But we gradually started piecing together a boat for ourselves, and we launched our ship downstream.  Fourteen months of collaboration later, we are proud of our story of Esther, and I am anxious to share more about the process of creating Just Pretend as we draw closer to its premiere on June 27.

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All the cool kids of St. Louis theatre and/or liturgy realms gathered for a reading of ‘Just Pretend’ on Jan. 10, 2015 at St. Margaret of Scotland in St. Louis.

Aside from that, I had the supreme pleasure of auditioning for a new work recently for some real stars of the musical theatre world right now.  I hesitate saying too much right now least I jinx it.  Truly, I am not holding my breath that I will be cast in the show, but that doesn’t stop me from praying for it daily.  The real takeaway for me was being able to read a script and score from some highly respected creators and see that it was a) not perfect and b) not finished.  It seems like everyone has to go back to the headwaters and work downstream.  What a relief.

The last project I alluded to just wrapped up yesterday.  Our MFA class at San Diego State was honored with the opportunity to work with Tony Award-winning actor and La Jolla Playhouse Artist-in-Residence BD Wong to perform a reading of his new musical Mr. Doctor, which he wrote with Wayne Barker.

The piece tells a beautiful story, and the themes it weaves using the play within a play (within a play) are intellectually and emotionally rich.  Theoretically, Mr. Doctor is at the same stage of development as Just Pretend, but let’s face it:  BD and Wayne know how to paddle a canoe better in these waters than Orin and me.  I have much to share from the experience, and I am excited to do so in the weeks ahead with this new series I’m calling “New Works, New Life.”

Next week, however, I’ll be revisiting the MFA process again with “Something’s Coming—Part 7” as we will be passing the one-year mark of an audition that literally changed my life.  Thanks for reading, friends.

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The SDSU MFA Musical Theatre class performed ‘Mr. Doctor’ in the Experimental Theatre along with La Jolla Playhouse Artist-in-Residence BD Wong on Feb. 27-28, 2015.

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