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Another New Year: a look back and forward

I’ve been feeling that strange combination of reflective, nostalgic, and hopeful as another new year takes its first steps.

2015 went like this:

January – Sundance’d and skied; prepped for SLAC’s first Davey grant and first Playwrights’ Lab.

February – Felt joy and creativity permeate through SLAC as the first annual Playwrights’ Lab firmly made its place.

March – A DC trip marked the beginning of my once-a-month travel for the rest of the year.

April – A magical weekend at the Humana Festival not only introduced me to great new plays, but also to a pretty great new person. Then, the best little person came into the world and made me an auntie.

May – I embarked on the last year of my 20s, visited Pittsburgh for the first time, and got inked.

June – Jake was on Jeopardy, TCG was in Cleveland, and I began rehearsals for How I Learned to Drive.

July – Visited Joshua for his first CATF as GM, and saw Father John Misty play in Pioneer Park.

August – Opened How I Learned to Drive, celebrated the nuptials of Charlie and Danielle in Virginia Beach, and had a babes reunion in NYC.

September – A loverly Labor Day in PGH, SLAC opened its 45th season, and I directed a reading of a new, dark, hilarious Steve Yockey play.

October – Nurtured some new SLC friendships, saw Elvis Costello in SF and then stayed at the most beautiful AirBnb in Santa Cruz.

November – Performed in a lovely evening of poetry and theatre, and got super thankful for a weekend in NYC with some of my best people.

December – Miami and new plays, then holiday love with my terrific family and friends.

I look back on an incredibly rich year. I am fortunate to have had such creative, fun, passionate, and lovely experiences with so many good people. I discovered new parts of myself, I had a few firsts, and I feel excited and ready to welcome 2016.

I look forward to a year of reading more news, creating and maintaining flexibility – both physical and mental, more comfortably owning and expressing my thoughts, feelings, and desires, directing more projects, combating fearfulness with thoughtfulness, being really funny, taking bigger steps, and making more memories.

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happy anniversary, dc

One year ago today, I arrived in DC, car packed full of suitcases and boxes, mind packed full of anxiety and excitement. It’s so easy to put myself right back into that time, that mindset of everything being new, nothing being familiar – the crossroads of trepidation and possibility. I listened to this one million times and hoped I’d made the right decision.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year and at the same time, it feels like it’s been ten.

I love DC. I miss my family. I love the east coast. I miss the mountains. I love my program. I miss my savings account.

As a little recap, and a reminder to myself of why I’m so happy I made this move, here is a list of things I couldn’t do a year ago that I can do now:

  • help tourists with DC public transit
  • read an organization’s 990 and make smart assumptions about its fiscal health
  • drive 6 hours and be in the Berkshires (5 to New Haven, 4 to NYC, 2 to Philly – the east coast is way cool)
  • conduct a SWOT analysis
  • navigate DC traffic circles (sort of)
  • say I’ve read the entirety of the AEA League agreement
  • boast photos of the Pres & VP driving down Pennsylvania Ave on Inauguration Day
  • scenario think
  • email really cool people like Russell Willis Taylor, David Snider, Johnna Adams, Jeff Herrmann, or any one of my amazing professors with questions, coffee invitations, or good jokes
  • identify the essentials for a non-profit’s bylaws
  • buy wine in a grocery store
  • add Arena Stage to my resume
  • add the hilarious, smart, and ridiculous likes of Brooke Norris (and her funny friends), Heather Koslov, Joshua Midgett, Charlie Rohlfs (insert all amazing classmates here), Maria Edmundson (and all Arena pals) to my friends list – both on FB and the list I keep in my heart.

All in all, a year full of learning and loving. Thanks for the lessons, DC. Here’s to the next!

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Supporting Mike Daisey

If you happened to be into edgy theatre or This American Life last year around this time, the name Mike Daisey probably rings a controversial bell. If not, click here.

            At that time, the Salt Lake Acting Company had just produced a reading of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and when Ira’s exposé hit, we were all pretty pissed. At least initially. The more I learned about this Daisey dude the less I wanted to be his buddy and the less I cared about his kind of theatre. (There are a lot of interesting reads surrounding this, if you care to explore. I particularly liked this very frank blog by Woolly Mammoth’s Marketing Director at the time, Alli Houseworth.)

            So cut to last Thursday night. My financial management class is wrapping up and Jeff Herrmann (our way cool teacher and Woolly’s current Managing Director) lets us know that the following night is opening night of American Utopias – Mike Daisey’s newest work. I’m a little skeptical and a little intrigued and I decide to go. And I’m really glad I did.

            It’s a testament to Daisey’s writing and charisma that I could sit there for two+ hours (with no intermission) and be totally captivated by a (pardon me, but) fat, middle-class, white guy who just one year earlier had whined his way onto my ‘do not care’ list.

            American Utopias is sharp and smart. And Daisey can hold an audience right in the palm of his hand. Even an audience who hates him in the beginning will love to hate him by the end, and when he takes his bow, they heartily applaud because he’s earned it. He is a master storyteller. There were a few times throughout when I took myself out of it to evaluate how I was really feeling. I thought, “Well, I’m thinking. I’m challenged. I’m engaged. I’m laughing. FINE. He’s very good at what he does.” Though I also thought a few times, “How much of this is really true?” And then he’d say something hilarious or really provoking and I wouldn’t care because it was great theatre. A large part of my overall enjoyment of the night was that dichotomy of skepticism of his character and respect of his craft.

            I’m still not convinced I’d want to get beers with him (other than to maybe have a really frank one-time discussion) and I don’t know that he’s totally earned back my respect as an artist of integrity, but he brought an audience together, took us on a journey, made us laugh, and made us think. He created a captivating night of theatre.

            It’s a real pickle trying to reconcile supporting the art of an artist that ticks you off. A similar discussion was had after a production of Race by David Mamet. It’s tricky and political and everyone has varying opinions and degrees of flexibility. What I discovered about myself during American Utopias is that it’s pretty easy for me to look past the person in order to appreciate the art.

            If I saw Mike Daisey in the street, I’d probably give him a fist bump. But I’d do it with squinted eyes.

            Go see it for yourself. www.woollymammoth.net You’ll be glad you did.    

Women I Love

In honor of International Women’s Day, I want to write about the amazing, powerful, smart, and funny women who have impacted my life. You babes are the tops.

First and foremost: my amazing mother. She is hands down the most kind and patient person I know. She has loved Dalton and me fiercely and unconditionally. She is hilarious (oftentimes without realizing it). Her constant love and support have given me confidence and bravery. I would be nowhere and nothing without her. She is my favorite person.

Next, my two lovely grandmothers. My mom’s mom is the reason my mom is so perfect. My Grandma Ellis was the sweetest, purest example of kindness and gratitude. She took exceptional care of everyone around her. Everyone that knew her loved her. I miss her every day. My dad’s mom will have a special seat in heaven for raising (and surviving) her 5 hellion children. 🙂 The crazy Musgrave clan has a good-humored, strong-willed matriarch at the helm. She’s a wonder woman. I am so lucky to have had such close and significant relationships with both of my grandmothers.

Moving chronologically through my life, I’ve had some pretty amazing teachers guiding me along the way.

Starting in elementary school. Carla Petersen – in 3rd and again in 6th grade – made a huge impact on my young life. She made art and creativity a priority, which is such a rarity these days. She was loud and funny and messy and unapologetic. I loved being around her. She glowed. And she introduced me to Ms. Rumphius.

In junior high school, Joan Heap somehow managed to remain graceful, classy, and kind amidst the raging attitudes and awkwardness of 13-15 year olds. I loved her classes and her wardrobe.

Weber High School’s faculty boasted some pretty incredible women. The one I spent most of my time with was Melanie Nelson (now Day). She was my drama teacher, and to her, I owe a lot of the direction my life has taken. She was passionate about theatre and instilled that in her students. We worked hard and proudly, and she gave so much of herself to us.

In addition to AP Literature, Nancy Reed taught me about overcoming adversity with strength and grace. She is a remarkable woman.

And my most favorite teacher of all – Hirsch! Joan Hirschi was the funniest, most generous teacher. Everyone loved her and she made our class feel like a family. I’m so happy to have stayed in touch with her all these years.

In college, Tracy Callahan truly lit my theatrical flame. She taught me about the kind of theatre that makes me tick. She challenged me and pushed me and supported me and excited me. I feel so lucky to have her artistic influence in my life as well as her friendship.

Now I’m in grad school, learning from and with some of the most brilliant women in the world: Sherburne Laughlin, Ximena Varela, Anne L’Ecuyer, and all the beauties sitting beside me, studying with me, and helping me along the way.

When the Salt Lake Acting Company graced me with its presence, it brought with it the most inspired, intelligent, artistic, funny, brave, sassy, and beautiful women I’ve ever known.

I’ll start with Cynthia Fadel Fleming. I am immensely grateful for this leggy, amazing, brilliant force in my life. She’s taught me about leading, about listening, about choreographing, about accepting, and about giving. She is a constant source of love and support and has hugely shaped my life.

Nancy Borgenicht is inspiration in its most funny, exciting, and raw form. Every chance I get to spend time with her, I walk away feeling more ready and more thrilled to pursue my life. She’s so smart. She’s so generous. She’s wickedly funny. I love her.

There’s a woman who embodies generosity, research, passion, and poise: Andra Harbold. She’s a brilliant artist, a compassionate friend, a baker of perfect scones, and the most diligent researcher I’ve ever met. Collaborating with her is an artist’s dream.

I’ll never forget the first read-thru of Charm at SLAC and then listening to Kathleen Cahill speak about it – her magical, transcendent play. Kathleen’s mind is a gift to the theatre world. And her friendship is a gift to mine. Her words are enchanted and her soul is nurturing. (And her pup is a dream, and her kitty is my BFF.) I’m so lucky to have called hers my home away from home.

Robin Wilks-Dunn tells the best, most ridiculous stories I’ve ever heard. She is the most fun director. She is so funny and so generous. A joy to be with in and out of the rehearsal room.

Teri Cowan, who I first met at SLAC, is now my DC mama. She is the most beautiful actress and the most loving, generous woman. So happy she’s in my neck of the woods.

There are dozens of other incredible women who grace (or have graced) the offices, hallways, and stages of SLAC, including (but not limited to): Heidi, Erika, Jennie, Jan, Janice, Brittany, Lu, Meg, Annette, Jeanette, Shelby, Ellesse, Mel, Una, Tracie, Daisy, Becky, April, Heather, Alicia, Adrianne, Julie, Penny, Colleen, Deena, Nell, Jayne, Christy, Arika, Shanna, Holly, Stephanie, Ashley, Elena, Lauren, Emilie, Kalyn, Camille, and the list goes on. What a gorgeous group.

Now onto the babes that I boastfully call my friends.

Cassandra Stokes-Wylie is the funniest, weirdest, sexiest person I know. She is captivating onstage. She is the best dog mommy. She makes me laugh HARD. I want to hang out with her every day. She’s brave and resilient and I love her immensely.

There’s probably a lot you don’t know about Polly Pocket Nevins because she’s so humble. But I will tell you that she is a beautiful writer, a smart leader, extremely organized, ridiculously good-looking, hilarious, and kind. She’s a dream and makes every situation better just by being there.

Do you all know Victoria Elena Nones? You will soon. She’s kind of a big deal. The voice of an angel and the devil’s wit. A force to be reckoned with. An empowerer of women and a lover of great danes. She came bursting into my life, quickly made her way to my BFF list, and there she firmly remains.

If everyone had a friend like Elise Groves in their life, no one would ever be bored ever again. We hit it off over our twin cars and loved each other ever since. She is a crazy, hilarious spaz. She’s the best gambler I know. She makes everything fun. Never have a party without her.

Nicole Finney is the most beautiful, deep, mysterious soul. She’s a searcher and a traveler and a seeker. I love her curiosity and her passion. I’m lucky to know her.

Kelsie Jepsen. I just don’t even know where to begin, where to go, or how to stop. She is the epitome of positivity and light. Everyone who knows her, loves her. She is hysterical. She is smart. She is charismatic. She is talented. She is genuine. She works incredibly hard. There is no one like her. I love her beyond words.

And Nicki. I actually don’t think it’s possible to convey my love, my bond, my fierce connection to Nicki Nixon in words. She is my soulmate. My best friend. My sister. I am inspired by her loyalty – to the people she loves, to the truth, and to justice. She is so good. She is wise. She is intelligent and articulate. She is hilarious. She is beautiful. She occupies a large and permanent place right in the center of my heart.

This post is long. It makes me want to cry. I am so lucky. I could have written 5,000 more words about all of these women and then some. There are countless women not in this post who have impacted my life. There are women I’ve yet to meet who will help me and support me and shape me. Women are amazing. Happy International Women’s Day. Very happy indeed.

Four More Years

It’s pretty special living in DC during an election and an inauguration. Particularly when a really terrific man is reelected President.

Last night I went downtown with a friend. We walked around a bit before and after seeing a movie. (Argo. Fantastic. Way to go, Ben Affleck.) The streets were buzzing with politicos young and old. Some were in ball gowns, some were bar hopping, all were in total inaugural bliss. (Except for maybe the crazed group of protesters dressed all in black holding two large, obscene signs and screaming their way down 7th Street at 11:30 pm. But I suppose they were in their own kind of inaugural bliss.)

ANYWAY. There were close to a million people here this weekend and while the traffic has never been worse, the celebrations have never been better.

I woke up early this morning, watched Matt Lauer broadcast from Capitol Hill while I drank my coffee, then put on my red lipstick and my warmest clothes and walked down to the National Mall.

It was a mad house. (In the best way possible.) People of every age, race, class, and gender were there to celebrate our President and our country. It was a very unifying, equalizing spirit among an exciting and diverse crowd.

Now I have to take a minute or so and air my only criticism of the day: crowd control. When a million people are expected at an event of this scale, you hope for some semblance of an efficient admission tack. But you are sorely disappointed when you stand for THREE HOURS barely moving as they let SIX PEOPLE in at a time, checking each person’s electronic devices and bags before inviting them one at a time to move through metal detectors. It was a little outrageous. We didn’t make it through the security check-point in time for the speech so we watched it on people’s cell phones and iPads in the crowd. We could hear echoes of Obama and Beyonce and the cheering crowd, so it still felt real, but I was bummed that security was such a nightmare. (However, I stopped feeling sorry for myself after talking to some people next to me who had driven ten hours to get there and had been in line since 6 am.)

After finally being checked and inspected and detected and admitted, I walked through the mall toward the Capitol Building. The city looked so beautiful. All the buildings were decked with flags and signs of support for President Obama. People had donned their pins and hats and all kinds of Obamapparel. It felt big and exciting. I started scouting out a good spot along Pennsylvania Ave for the the parade.

I found a place and stood with a retired elementary school teacher from the Bronx, a mother and her 7-year-old daughter from North Carolina, and a young guy and girl from New Zealand who were in DC for an internship. Everyone was buzzing and a little exhausted, but happy.

When the parade began and they announced President and Mrs. Obama, the crowd went wild. (I posted a video below.) It was sort of surreal watching the motorcade go by. It was a very historical and significant feeling. I was so grateful to be there.

Tonight when I re-watched his speech at home, I felt incredibly proud to be where I am right now. Proud and lucky. And energized and enthusiastic and ready for four more years.

Inauguration Parade

President Obama making his way down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Inauguration 2013.

Film and the art of articulating an opinion.

It’s awards season and I’ve seen four films in the last month – two about past presidents, one about [almost too] recent history, and one that has sparked the fiercest of Facebooking from musical theatre lovers and haters. When the critics and critiques get right up to the verge of driving me crazy, I step back and realize that that’s exactly what art does. It sparks conversation and curiosity. It makes you think. It makes you ecstatic or infuriated. It forces you to have an opinion. So here are a few of mine. Because it’s my blog. 

Les Miserables was an epic film of an epic musical based on an epic novel. I was nervous to see it for a few reasons: 1) I had read ad nauseum on Facebook how much everyone loved or hated it. 2) Les Mis is so iconic in the musical theatre world that it’s often overdone, easy to make fun of, and ridiculous. 3) I didn’t actually know the story or music terribly well. (I know, for shame!) But despite all my reservations, I was hooked from the first scene and was really very moved. The acting was phenomenal. I will admit to being skeptical about Anne Hathaway. She’s bugged me in everything I’ve seen her in. Until now. “I Dreamed a Dream” was heart wrenching. Hugh Jackman can do no wrong. And yes, please, by all means argue that “Bring Him Home” should use falsetto. True though it may be, I don’t care. I think that singing only has the power to mar a performance if the acting isn’t brilliant. And clearly that was not the case. The Thenardiers were disgusting and amazing, Marius was a dream, and Russell Crowe was just fine. I can’t believe it’s taken this long to make a movie musical with live singing and I hope not a single other is made recorded. This film did the iconic music and the epic story proud.

Hyde Park on Hudson was about the skeazy, weird love life of FDR. Terrific performance by Bill Murray. I think the lessons learned were: historical figures held in high esteem were still just human beings with gross flaws, and early feminism may have looked liked being okay with being one of many mistresses and just keeping your mouth shut about it because you like it. And Eleanor Roosevelt was a bad ass.

Lincoln. Oh, Daniel Day Lewis. Is there any actor better than you? Are you really the same man who gave the milkshake speech in There Will Be Blood? This movie was brilliant and compelling. The history came to life, the politics were fascinating, and seeing it in DC was extra special. Maybe in another 150 years a similar movie will be made about Obama and marriage equality and I’ll be proud to have been on the right side of history.

Zero Dark Thirty was so utterly captivating and terrifying that I absolutely have to see it again, and read every story and article I can find about the real-life operation. It’s sort of surreal to watch a movie about an event that happened so recently, and while it’s not 100% factual, it somehow makes real this world – this CIA intelligence world that I know nothing about. Yet. And the fact that Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for Best Director discounts the entire category. She is brave and brilliant.

So for whatever it’s worth, there’s my two cents. And that’s a wrap.

Inaugural post.

2013. The year the Mayans never saw coming. The year Barack Obama becomes the first black man to serve a second term as President. The year Nicki and Eric get married. And the year I write more.

Welcome to my new blog.

I have no idea what I’ll write about, but it’ll probably be something like: how grad school is hard, how grad school is fun, cupcake successes and failures, how weirdly consistent it is to get the double-honk/whistle from utility workers in DC, how I want to have a slumber party with Tina Fey and Lena Dunham, how I miss Utah sometimes, awesome theatre that I see, terrible theatre that I see, babes I meet, dorks I meet, how not supporting the arts will ruin us, and probably a lot about food.

I’m excited about this. This feels really exciting. Stay tuned.