No. 61: Dylan.

Dylan is my friend Dominique’s brother. When I casually mentioned to Dominique that I was watching a seemingly endless playlist of dog training videos for Daisy, she asked if I would want her brother to come over to work with her. Dylan’s worked in animal shelters for years and is, as Dominique put it, their family’s “Cesar Milan.” So an exchange was worked out, and I provided the pizza and Dominique provided her brother.

Dylan not only brought himself, it turns out, but several gifts Daisy: a blue hippo, a big Kong dog toy, and treats in abundance. He asked what I wanted to work on with her, and I flat-out told him that I was overwhelmed with several things. He kept my reality in check and asked if we could just work on “sit” instead.

And then, for two hours, Dylan sat on my kitchen floor and attempted to teach Daisy to sit. He got a lot of laughs from her and her apparent cluelessness and patiently waited it out as she tried to put the pieces together. He exclaimed more than once, “I just want to leave here having accomplished something!” And accomplish he did! I’m happy to report that while we didn’t advance any further than just “sit,” Daisy’s been sitting on command, whether I had a treat or not, including on our walks, which is especially impressive given how she loves to pull at her leash.

Dylan, I may have given you a tough case to work with, but even so you were able to help me out with her! Thank you for your time and effort in making Daisy a better-trained dog.

No. 59: Walt.

I want to take a moment to brag about one of my colleagues. (Yes, again!)

I have been fortunate enough to work with many talented people over the years – and perhaps none more so than Walt. Walt is the theatre manager at work, a title which doesn’t nearly encompass all his many responsibilities. He is the first face our lower school girls see when they arrive through the carline in the morning, and the last they see when they depart at the end of the day on the bus. He cares deeply about the girls, lower, middle, and upper alike, taking the time to stop what he’s doing and teach them when he finds that they are curious. It is apparent to everyone that meets him that he is devoted to his family, and he’s kind enough to share his adorable kids with us for our shows and on special days. Walt will take the time to ask you – really ask you – how you are, which is a rare quality to find in someone.

On top of all of this, Walt is undeniably talented. He has designed and constructed for me five beautiful sets: two fall plays, two lower school musicals, and one summer show. When discussing the show I’m currently directing, he presented me with a stunning concept (a sundial, people!) and executed it with such precision that the sundial will be able to function accurately for our lower school STEM classes. He will talk at length with me about minute details in a script, make sure that he squeezes in time to get our set just where it needs to be for a photo call, and stop without hesitation whatever he’s doing when I need someone to talk to.

Walt is, in some ways, a big brother to me. He’s covered for me and helped out when I asked, he’s looked out for me more than he lets on, and he’s someone I aspire to be more like.

Walt, for all you do, thank you.

No. 58: Bus driver.

To the NJ Transit bus driver, who stopped to let the late passenger on,
I watched the whole thing. The man, decked out in a suit and a tie, sprinted past me towards the stop. I was impressed with his speed, actually, and marveled at his athleticism before assuming sadly it was still no match for the bus’ schedule.
And then, the bus stopped. Several yards later, the man was let on.
I’ve frequently complained about you, as a train service. But I think remembering that at times, a late train or bus could have saved someone else from waiting too long or being uncomfortable- I will be more patient next time.

Thank you for the reminder.

Yours,
A Customer and Observer

No. 57: Pennington Players.

Musicals have been my “thing” since I was 10. I was a terrible athlete, I quit ballet because I wanted to talk on stage, and found a perfect home with the group of misfits that loved theatre. My last full musical was in 2011, my senior year of college, and my most recent production was in 2012 when I did a school tour of Hamlet in graduate school. My goal, after surviving my first year of teaching, was to give back to the artist side of me.

Enter Pennington Players at the Kelsey Theatre. I was receiving audition notices on the suggestion of my friend Jess, who grew up in Hamilton and whose mother plays in the pit often.

I signed up for an audition for Into the Woods on a whim. It was the end of the summer, I needed a challenge, and I figured I had nothing to lose- as my dad put it, “the worst they can say is no.” I agonized over my audition song choice, practiced my 16 bars over and over again, and sweated it out at callbacks with dozens of other talented actors. I was pretty sure it was going to be a thanks but no thanks.

And then last week, I got a call from the director offering me the part of Cinderella.

I am over the moon to be returning to the stage. So many of my happiest memories are grounded in show experiences, from finding a home in middle school (remarkable in and of itself), to sharing shows with my families, to the exhilaration of opening night, major’s night, in college. The winter can seem really bleak, and I am delighted to have something to look forward to each week, especially alongside such talented actors.

To return to being a student, to learning with my cast mates, to discovering something… so many things to look forward to. You can find more information about the production here.

Thank you for casting me, and wanting to work with me, Pennington Players! I am so, so grateful.

Yours,

Christina

No. 56: Chris.

I have a close, personal relationship with my hair. It has been various lengths over the years- most notably, straight down my back when I was 16, before cutting into a bob to be donated. For the past three years, I’ve had a short pixie: a choice I made in the middle of a heatwave of 100+ degrees in New York City, where I was living without air conditioning.

Chris has been doing my hair for almost ten years now (boy, do I feel old when I say things like that.) She was the first one to dye my hair, the one I go to when I need big bold changes, and the person I saw when that random stylist in New York just wouldn’t quite get it right. She is a friend of my mom’s, and a remarkable woman. Chris makes time for me, whenever I’m in the neighborhood, and is always looking out for me, steering me towards choices that are better than what I think I want and closer to what I really, deeply down, do want. She’s a perfectionist and totally open to feedback – a rare and beautiful combination in the salon world.

She has heard about my college application anxieties, my grad school applications, finding a job, and all of my personal ups and downs. And partly because she’s a great listener, and partly because her haircuts are always so great – I always leave feeling better.

Thanks Chris, for another great haircut on Friday. I am ready to take on the world now!

Christina