Wrapped like a human burrito in my new weighted birthday blanket, raked by the late afternoon sun across my shoulders, Dead President’s Day is the first hiatus I’ve had since the start of the spring semester. Hence the long silence. Today I got a hot beverage from the Starbucks, got my hair cut, posted a flier about the free piano I will give to anyone in my building (or Los Angeles for that matter), and recovered a bit from the flurry that was the past four weeks. I know that I should be doing something more somber and presidential-invoking than lying on my couch like a pneu gonflé (those of you who played Milles Bornes may recognize that phrase as flat tire), but sometimes a girl just has to put her feet up.
Most recently, we’ve been in tech rehearsals for the 2021 MFA Y3 Rep shows. There are two plays featuring the five graduating third year MFAs this year: Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Motherf**ker with The Hat, and Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline. I can safely say that Pipeline is my favorite contemporary play.
Nya is a single mom and dedicated teacher at a high-poverty city school, who is determined to give her teenage son Omari opportunities that her students will never have. When a controversial incident at his private school threatens Omari’s future, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. A searing, eloquent and deeply compassionate look at a broken education system, the moments we are pushed to our limits, and the ferocity of one parent’s love.School of Dramatic Arts ONstage Description of Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau
Suffice it to say I need only hear Omari’s unfinished “scripture” of instructions at the end of the play to elicit a fountain of tears. This semester, unlike the fall, where our production/design students played apart from the actors, we have allied our designers with the MFA actors’ capstone projects. We’re currently in tech for these two productions, me with my hopeful hat on that the actors can get their bodies and minds around the inclusion of technical elements which enhance their acting. This COVID school of production is grueling, much in the way it is in the theatre normally, but I acknowledge that it taxes the actors in a way they have not been trained to expect. Somehow in the medium of Virtual Theatre, there exists the idea that what we’re doing is supposed to be easy, but it is even harder than on ground. Success is completely dependent on the actors’ willingness to shoulder complex technical, logistical elements, and in the designers’ willingness to simplify during the collaborative process. The growing pains are evident, and I just hope they all (directors, actors, stage managers, designers, and streaming technicians) are wrapped up like human burritos on their couches today. Everyone has been working so hard. We open these two plays on February 26th and 27th. I urge you to come see the terrific performances of this class. The links are above. All of our SDA productions this spring (eleven of them) are free!
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, my second since the youthful age of 24 to witness unmarried.
I learned about Palentines, as in “my pal, Rob and I walked to the Last Book Store today and offloaded some extra books.” I acknowledge that in recent weeks, I’ve struggled to define what my life looks like as a single woman north of her fifties. Okay, a mile north of sixty. Early last week, I received a letter from a realtor about a property in my building going up for sale and for a few days I toyed with becoming the Professor in the Penthouse. This was a fun fantasy until I sobered up and became instead an Associate Professor Refinancing her Condo to Allow for some Renovations and a much lower Payment. A much more satisfying narrative since as any friend knows I thrive on renovating. I must admit that it will be strange to do so without my partner weighing in on the style choices and the inconvenience I’m putting him through…Baby steps in the redefinition of a life.
Lately the only dance card that is filling up consistently is my zoom dance card. A week out, and my work calendar looks pallid and uncertain, blushing in the corner, shifting her eyes left and right, her card filled only with the standing meetings poised to twirl her around the floor. Last week, I filled out four doodle polls within the span of twenty minutes, instantaneously rendering each one irrelevant. Somehow, in spite of that, I managed to only double book myself for one hour long block when the actual meeting invites came. Nevertheless, by the end of last week, I was red-cheeked and glowing from the fervent pace of the dance. On most days, I sat down at the desk at 9AM and finally shut down the computer at 10 at night at the end of tech. Being a college professor is a little grueling. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.
The other very exciting addition to my life was the adoption of Asana. I know some of you are thinking “Oh, she finally got a puppy!” And in fact, if I were to adopt this puppy, I might have been quite happy with the name Asana.
But no, Asana is a project management software. I know, much less comforting than a squirming mass of furry fun.
Until Asana, the tasks related to virtual production, my duties on the faculty council, my committee work at the university had been inefficiently catalogued on a yellow pad with a pen, or in my Microsoft Notes pages or in a handy excel sheet. Things were getting overlooked, and I had a general feeling of too many plates spinning over my head and not enough poles to keep them aloft. While nothing had crashed yet, collision and collapse felt imminent. Then my colleague and general wunderkind Communications Associate Dean, Delphine, shared a presentation in the senior staff meeting of how she was using the tool in her group. I left the meeting last Thursday and instantly downloaded the app and began populating projects and haven’t looked back. (I even have one for my personal reno project.) The next day, during a meeting with the alum whom I’d hired to mentor one of our seniors on supervising our MFA Y3 New Works Festival projects, Alex also shared that she uses Asana, and I broke out in a happy Zoom dance. Kismet! These are the little things that make production managers happy.
So you see, it’s never too late to renovate, either your work flow, or your life flow. Remaining curious and innovative is age-appropriate at any age. And seriously, if you need a piano, hit me up.