Week 4 is now in the rear view mirror. Significantly. To the point that those gentle readers who have followed me patiently down the path picking up my discarded crumbs have begun to wonder if I’ve fallen off that path. But no, merely attempting to stay the course well into week 5.
Notable last week was the opportunity my non-theatre students had to read Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. They’ve experienced a trajectory of plague themed plays beginning with Richard Nelson’s And So We Come Forth, Karel Capek’s The White Plague, and last week, Part I of Kushner’s masterpiece. They may be ready to run screaming into the night, but their engagement seems to belie that desire. They come to class read and ready, with thoughts about how these works relate to our own experiences in Fall 2020. We’ve shared the universal recognition of the repetitive nature of history through literature, and reveled in humans’ uncanny ability to survive, our fortitude, our empathy through sustained, cascading losses.
In fact, I’d like to take a moment to send a virtual hug to the many thousands in the west coast who have sustained losses of their homes due to the fires resulting from rampant climate change. I received the news from my brother on Sunday that his wife’s family’s cabin in the Sierras had not survived the fires related to the Creek fire. This news was like hearing of the loss of a dear and treasured grandparent. I hadn’t been there more than three times, but just this summer had retreated to spend some time in nature, and last Thanksgiving, we’d cooked the turkey I’d so carefully and comically brought from Los Angeles in the new stove that my brother said “I never got to cook on.” Here are some pictures from a family reunion we spent in June 2006 at the Cabin. So many happy memories. The memories are still strong, even if the structure that held them is now gone.
And some of our pictures from last Thanksgiving –
All around us, the entertainment and theatrical world news is bleak. Last Thursday, one of my current colleagues shared the Los Angeles Times story about Center Theatre Group having to lay off half their staff. This in addition to all the actors, crew, etc. who had been sidelined since March 12th when theatres all over the country closed their doors. The shared pain is pervasive. It was definitely a self-protective move on my part to remove myself from social media. Like a mindfulness breathing exercise, I was managing my tasks pretty well, flowing from day to day, watching as “Oh, this is planning” or “Oh, this is memory” whizzed by the car windows. I realized I didn’t have any expendable time for following, liking, getting sucked down the rabbit holes of the pre-election conversations. I agreed with most of my largely liberal friends. Occasionally I would get snagged by something, and respond, feeling ultimately that my voice was impotent, less considered than others’ and the ROI of my time better served in the sphere of spending time preparing to meet my students at the vertical tabletop rather than in the mayhemic maw of FaceBook or the idle scrolling of Instagram.
Similar to when I stopped drinking back in the 80s, initially I felt the very real FOMO pressure when someone would mention news that had bypassed my daily digestion of the New York Times, or LA Times or via the few minutes I might spend in evening listening to CNN. Like the 80s cocktail parties where I swirled my ginger ale in a highball glass, I soon gained confidence in my willful ignorance and turned my attention to the other tasks ahead this year such as my upcoming promotion.
As one well-versed in remodeling, I know that when you begin a project, you carefully define the scope of the work, create a budget, then shop for a contractor who will both take you through the project from messy demolition to the punch list at the end, and provide the necessary handholding to have you survive in tact. I’d remodeled my kitchen and guest bath, added a bonus room in my previous home, as well as the kitchen in my current apartment, plus two bathrooms. It’s an addiction, truth be told. It’s always worst at the beginning, then hopefully takes shape to a pleasing finale (with the right contractor). In preparation for my upcoming promotion, I’d examined my current CV, which had stained formica, and out of date tile. It was serviceable, but lacked flair, the fixtures definitely out of date, a bit leaky and not representative of their owner.
A few months ago, I happened to be in a zoom chat with some SDA Production Alumni. People were sharing what they were doing to stave off hunger and penury, now that all live theatre and events had ceased. One, a former stage manager, one of my first students when I came to teach at USC, said that she’d begun a resume and coaching business. At the time, I filed that useful information, thinking to myself, what a well-timed business idea and clever name for her company.
Jenn turned out to be the perfect contractor to take me through the remodel of my resume. So we completed that work in Fall 2020 Week 4. If you have holes in your professional drywall, or an upcoming job search, I heartily recommend her as your CV contractor.
Week four ended in CommUnity Day, led by Anita Dashiell-Sparks, a series of informative talks and exercises and workshops exploring the breadth and depth of our SDA Community. It was a moment to reflect on our goals as a school, as individuals and a collective of individuals. At the end of the day, Anita revealed the SDA 30-Day Anti-Racism and Advocacy challenge, which I urge you to participate in.