No. 154: The ITW Cast and Crew.

Note: It’s been a really busy weekend with closing weekend of Into the Woods and the baby shower of a dear friend on Saturday morning. But there was gratitude and thankfulness in abundance! Please enjoy a host of updates, accordingly, as I catch-up and fully capture my sentiment of thanks!

Photo taken by Alan, one half of our fantastic production duo.

I shared months ago that I was cast in Pennington Players’ production of Into the Woods. This weekend marked the closing of the show, and even now, I’m struggling to find the words to capture how impactful this experience was on my past year.

I wrote back in October:

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.

To my good fortune, it was a “yes, thank you,” and I began to rehearse with one of the most talented ensembles I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. It was honestly intimidating: I kept looking around the room going, “oh, she/he is really good.” And then, I got to know them on a more personal level, and again, I was intimidated: “she/he is really nice. And still really, really good.” While I was constantly nervous about holding my own amongst that group, they provided such immense support that my own insecurity faded into the background. We cheered one another on as we made discoveries, worked through challenges, and laughed so hard rehearsals would occasionally come to a full stop. The crew worked tirelessly to create our beautiful set and tech elements. It was more than I could have ever hoped for.

As the show closed yesterday, there were definitely tears from many of us. In the women’s dressing room, we marveled at the complete lack of drama or ego in the cast. I was spoiled by working with these people, and I’m almost nervous to audition for anything again knowing there’s a good chance the experience will fall short of this new precedent that’s been set.

But there was also this overwhelming sense of fulfillment and accomplishment: we ended with a strong performance, blips and all. We told the story and we “went there,” as our director Ky would always encourage us to do.

I’m trying not to think of how hard it will be in the coming weeks when the number of bad musical theatre jokes I tell will fall on mostly deaf ears. But above all: gratitude, gratitude, gratitude,

I was so proud of this little show family we forged over hours of rehearsal, and I am so thankful to have shared this moment in the woods with them.

No. 153: Kim.

Note: It’s been a really busy weekend with closing weekend of Into the Woods and the baby shower of a dear friend on Saturday morning. But there was gratitude and thankfulness in abundance! Please enjoy a host of updates, accordingly, as I catch-up and fully capture my sentiment of thanks!

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For my friend Jess’ shower, which was on Saturday, I have to admit I felt a bit of pressure when doing the planning. After all, Baby Girl is my Goddaughter, and I am already excited to spoil her as much as I spoil my dog. I wanted the event to be memorable and really special. Jess had the idea for a great theme, the Pixar movie Up, but I wanted to do it justice and somehow implement the million ideas i had in mind.

Luckily, Jess had the foresight to put her friend Kim in charge as well. Kim and I had met briefly before, but it was in the planning that I truly got to appreciate how similarly we viewed this shower. It certainly didn’t hurt that Kim is organized, super responsive to emails and text, and crafty! For two months, we sent each other pins on Pinterest, co-conspired over email, and sent picture messages of our projects and Michael’s finds to one another. Did I mention that Kim pulled this off while planning her own wedding, which is taking place out of the country in less than a month? I’m searching desperately for her super hero cape, which she must keep stashed away, lest anyone be on to her true identity.

Thanks to Kim, the shower went off without a hitch, and I had a wonderful time planning it alongside her. If we can have fun picking up 30 balloons from Party City on the morning of the shower – I can’t begin to imagine what a blast it will be visiting Baby Girl and taking her on adventures!

Thank you for being such a blast to plan with, Kim! I can’t wait to see all the photos from your beautiful wedding celebration in Punta Cana.

No. 152: A Capella.

Singing our alum song with Drew’s All-Female group, On A Different Note, back in 2011.

Today, the Wiffenpoofs from Yale came to visit my school. (Cue a few hundred of our girls falling in love with Ivy League crooners). While their style was vastly different from my own college a capella experience, it had me craving syllables (zwa da dim da dow), the fishbowl (RIP to new construction), and getting to harmonize with some talented people I am proud enough to call friends.

Here’s why a capella is awesome:

– It’s portable. Whether on the T in Boston, on the streets of Santa Barbara, or in a house occupied by Drexel students, we took our voices and percussion with us without a baggage fee.

– There is an instant bond with anyone else that did a capella. “Oh, you write your own arrangements? Cool! Us too!” or “Pitch Perfect was totally accurate, wasn’t it?”

– Perc circles. Here’s how it works: one person sets a beat, another adds a vocal line, then we layer and layer until we have a piece of completely original music that will never again be replicated (for better or for worse).

– It has brought me some of my closest friends.

Thank you, a capella, for being a special part of college and my life. You are aca-awesome.

No. 151: Mrs. M.

Mrs. M was a teacher I had in middle school. Sixth grade, to be exact. It was in this formative year that, as a student in Mrs. M’s Social Studies class, I first studied the Holocaust.

I mention this today because it is the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. My roommate and I watched a series of interviews with survivors on CNN, and I remember first hearing about the atrocities committed out of hatred on that day. It was one of the first times I remember crying because of the material we were covering in class. We spent a long time on this unit: looking at photos, reading primary sources, having really important conversations. It was never comfortable, as you can imagine; but we never lost sight of the importance of what we were learning.

Mrs. M kept this very much at the core of her teaching. We were asked to produce artistic responses, engage personally with the material we were learning- I remember writing a lot of poetry then. Our teachers never flinched in the assurance that we were old enough. We had to know, but it was tempered with keeping our best interest at heart. They gave us hugs, they listened carefully as we formed questions with disbelieving hearts. It was up to us to carry forth the message of love, of differences, of growth, they reminded us. As a teacher, I do not think I could have done a better job of leading this learning.

Today, I am grateful that I was exposed to this volatile and important time in history. I was shaped by the lessons it provided, lessons which were not only academic but based in the necessity of love to triumph over hate.

Thank you, Mrs. M for being brave, for sharing this with us, for making us sit up and pay attention so that it may never happen again.

No. 150: Grilled cheese and soup.

When my roommate Jane ventured out to the supermarket yesterday to prepare for the pending snow, she was kind enough to ask what I wanted.

My response: provolone cheese and 12 grain bread.

Why? Well, I ready had ingredients for a Sweet Potato and Cauliflower soup, and the thought of spending a snow day without grilled cheese just seemed depressing to me. It’s the perfect combination of crunchy bread and thick creamy vegetable goodness and lends itself beautifully to sandwich dunking, which is one of my favorite things to do with food. (Really.)

So after I helped clear off the cars in the driveway and got appropriately coated in a dusting of snow, I made my way back inside for the perfect lunch. It brought my perfect snow day to a perfectly fulfilled level.

No. 149: Ezra Jack Keats.

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This book has been a part of my collection for a long time. I have always loved Peter’s sense of adventure and his self awareness, especially as he explored the wintery city. The snow in the book was somehow just as magical as it is in real life, with flakes leaping off the pages and piles taking up expansive spaces of the book.

What I didn’t appreciate as a child was how rare it was in 1962 for a boy like Peter to appear in a mainstream storybook. Keats sought to make the story a tale each one of us could relate to, regardless of age, race, or where we lived. As my kindergarteners will attest, it is still as vibrant and classic now as it was then.

It will always be one of my favorites, and I’m so thankful to have generations of new readers to share it with.

No. 148: Our Producers.

On Sunday, Into the Woods performed its first matinee to a nearly sold-out crowd. It was my personal best performance, which I consider quite a feat… because I was REALLY HUNGRY during the second act.

The thought that got me through it: a cast and crew BBQ at Wayne and Alan’s house. Wayne and Alan are our incredibly giving, involved, dedicated producers. They have been instrumental in every step of the process, from auditions through rehearsals and our performances. Their kindness is evident in every post in our private Facebook group, their offers to assist with anything we need, and encouragement they freely give.

Wayne and Alan, in addition to their many other talents, are also spectacular hosts. They had a spread of pulled pork, and a pot (probably more aptly described as a vat) of delicious vegetarian chili to accommodate me, complete with an inventive topping selection. Their home is beautiful, and they so graciously opened it to us for a really wonderful evening of good company and celebration. In many ways, their home is an extension of who they are as people: beautiful, fun, unique, and welcoming.

Thank you so much for being wonderful hosts and new friends!