For as long as I can remember, theatre had always been a big part of my life. From my first role as the Big Bad Wolf in kindergarten, to countless productions on campus. I’ve worked backstage, on stage, off stage, spectated, directed, written, produced, breathed, cried, and studied theatre. It will forever be a part of me and my life.
Much like anything else, it is not easy. People look at theatre makers as “starving artists” who will be working as waiters for the rest of their lives. If there’s anything I’ve learned at college, it’s that no matter what field you’re in, it’s up to you to make it happen. Whatever “it” is. If you spend too much time dreaming instead of doing, then you will be stuck in one place for the rest of your life.
On top of being in theatre, I’ve also encountered problems with being a woman in theatre. They expect us to be actresses, not builders or directors. They expect us to want the spotlight, not program it. The truth is, I have met more female directors and builders at Purchase than anywhere. It’s expected that men will do the heavy lifting when it comes to sets and other equipment. Women in theatre are not worried about breaking their nails. We are not afraid to get sweaty. We are producers, technical directors, set designers, stage managers, run crew...we are behind the scenes and in the scenes. We are everywhere.
I’ve witnessed sexism in the theatre community this past semester. I was involved in a production that was part of the spring theatre festival, with a producer who talked down to anyone who was female/female identifying. He outwardly gave a pair of actors notes in front of their director, who was a woman, and when she told him that she was going to give them the same notes, he wouldn’t listen and continued to talk over her. He repeatedly disrespected our production stage manager, the stage manager for my show, and me and my cast. He claimed our actors didn’t know what they were doing, our show was too long (even though we had previously mentioned it went over), did not pay attention during our tech day to give us any notes, and took credit for the festival at the end of the run.
A good majority of people involved on the festival were women. We were the ones keeping it afloat at the end of the day. I took pride in the work we did, because at the end of the day we pulled off one hell of a festival. This only made my love for theatre stronger.
Being a playwright made me aware of how women are portrayed in the media. I wanted nothing but to change the way they were represented, and we have to start somewhere. Most attempts to write strong female leads often ended up slipping into stereotypes that have been dominating the industry for years. Women would do outlandish things because they were rejected by a man, and letting their emotions get the best of them. Of course, because women are only angry when they get their hearts broken, which in turn influences every decision made thereafter. Women are portrayed as these beautiful objects and artifacts that men keep behind a glass case. People look at them and admire their beauty, not their wisdom or their strength.
This is why I write. I want to read a story about women who are funny and rational, and don’t have to end up with a man to feel validated. For sure, there are shows and movies out there. But the truth is, film, television, and even theatre, is a male-dominated industry. The only way to change this is if we encourage women to be designers, directors, writers, and operators. We should encourage men even, that women do have a place backstage and in the writer’s room. They should start listening to the ideas of people who are not male/male identifying, because there is more than one perspective in the world.
My life is dedicated to making the world of theatre a better place for women. I think the world itself needs to be a better place for women, but we gotta start somewhere, right?
Every now and then I lock myself in the basement of the library to see how productive I can be. I’ve always had trouble focusing on what’s important, and spend more time on things that are also somewhat important, but shouldn’t take priority. Like this blog. That’s right, coming to you live from the Purchase College Library, in these small, tight rooms called “the cages” where miserable college students hopelessly hang on to any strand of motivation left to get their work done for finals week. Christmas is in the air, or rather the speakers at Starbucks, but the holiday spirit is put on hold until exams are over.
Shout out to the people who are still able to be in the holiday spirit. I envy you. It’s been a long time since I was excited for Christmas, and I thought either I’m depressed or I’m growing up. Turns out it was both, but being away from home once the holidays start is a huge factor as well. Thanksgiving break lasts as long as my mashed potatoes and gravy (savory, but I’m still craving more), and winter break is nice until I’ve finished binge-watching "Twin Peaks" and "Black Mirror" for the umpteenth time.
I’m bad at breaks. I don’t know what the word “relax” means. I either become lazy or drive myself into a work coma, tirelessly typing at my keyboard to see what comes out. Then before I know it, it’s Christmas, and I’ve spent the money I was supposed to save for presents on food and useless shit, ripping myself a new one for how bad I am at saving money.
But, I’m not bad at everything. That’s where my book comes in; "Bad at Everything" is a love letter to myself, even though it opens with A List of Things I’m Bad at, which is self-explanatory, but the rest of the book is honest—and it’s about getting better.
We all think we’re bad at something just because other people are succeeding in it. Maybe it turns out we weren't meant to do it in the first place. However, with the right patience and practice, we eventually become better. I’ve taken ballet, karate, soccer, the viola, singing, acting, guitar, and a whole list of other shit, and what happened? I gave up because I either wasn’t into it, or I saw other people who were better and doubted myself. Writing, however, was the one thing I never gave up. "Museum of Mistakes" had the theme of looking back at past mistakes; "Bad at Everything" is embracing those mistakes and saying “okay, how can I be better? What’s my next move?”
It’s never too late to try something new, or pick up something you once loved and do it again. Who knows, maybe you'll be better than you were before. And speaking of trying new things, maybe before my undergrad is over I’ll finally get this “study” thing down…
June 7th, 2018––
Andy Spector and I sit across from each other at the Hudson River Coffeehouse, a cozy shop on the corner of Hudson and Quail in Albany. We’ve spent our mornings and afternoons here to recharge and refresh with a cup of coffee, or for me, a freshly brewed iced tea (my favorite was the Strawberry Rumba). The first full day together we spent about two hours at Hudson River, then walked to Washington Square Park and explored Lark street in Albany. What I came to notice, was that Albany is very old and “hipster-esque.” There’s an aesthetic about the city that felt liberating. Everyone was young, too. So many young people here, and compared to Rochester, it is way more urban.
Andy hadn’t warned me that there wasn’t anything to do or that I would be bored after the first day, which he wasn’t wrong about, but the highlight was exploring downtown Albany and visiting the New York State Museum. I described myself as a “closeted history nerd”, and that museums were something I wanted to check out while I was here. The restaurants in Albany were locally owned and operated, much different than the larger companies around Long Island. The food was good; I had a small but filling breakfast at Madison Cafe down the street from Andy’s apartment. Last night, we went to a place called the Madison Pourhouse for a beer, and boy do they have beer. I know nothing about beer; I’m a Wine Mom at heart, but I am always down to try new things. I chose a lemon wheat ale, a light beer with a citrus kick. We had arrived an hour before the Pourhouse closed, so we were only able to have one drink, but we headed down the street to Junior’s for another, and of course some wings and mozzarella sticks.
I think the most memorable experience in Albany was going to Stewart's for the first time. Andy was really excited to take me there, later mentioning that Stewart's is a "generic gas station convenience store that happens to have really good ice cream and coffee." I assumed it was an old fashioned ice cream place, but I wasn't disappointed. (I recommend the Fireworks flavor if you get the chance to go).
In honor of Pride Month, I was really pleased to see many businesses, homes, and even churches sporting the Pride flag around Albany. What really excited me was seeing the Transgender Pride flag and Bisexual Pride flag adorned on a building in the Capital Plaza. So often, we forget about these groups in the LGBT+ community, and it really warmed my heart to see them represented in this city.
Will I be back to Albany? I hope so. I really did enjoy myself, and Andy was an excellent host, making sure I had what I needed every night before I went to bed. His apartment was small, but homey and clean. As I sit in Hudson River with Andy, enjoying their coffee for the first and last time (for a while), I am ready to go home and prepare for my next upcoming trip. Stay tuned for more “Greetings From…” this summer. I’m so excited to see what’s in store.
Hellooooo Readers! It’s me, coming to you live from Albany, New York! Well, on a train to Albany, New York. What brings me to Albany? A few things, actually. I’m planning on visiting a few friends while up here, as well as exploring the capital of the great state I was born in. In a recent post, you all saw that my next project coming up was called Lunar. It takes place in a small town outside of Rochester, New York. Unfortunately, I am not able to venture there this summer. I don't doubt that there are small towns near Albany. I know that it's the capital and that there are probably a few buildings, but I expect the surrounding area to be a bit suburban or rural.
My experiences in Rochester, however, have been nothing but educational and exciting. All I did was eat and go shopping. I did get to see Lake Ontario in its glory, which is one of the most invaluable moments on that trip. Rochester is home of the Garbage Plate, which is a platter of food that you would find at a barbeque. Cheeseburgers, hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni salad, french fries...and not to mention “spicy meat sauce”. You can't go to Rochester without having a Garbage Plate. One restaurant I couldn’t stop talking about was called Mad Hatter, a small luncheonette and bakery, with phenomenal food. A trip to Mad Hatter would not be complete without having a cup of tea to celebrate your "unbirthday". I beg Dennis to bring me back an ounce of tea when we come back from break. It's incredible. There's so much I haven't seen there yet, but I promise I will be back.
So why did I set Lunar in Rochester? As you will find out in the play, the protagonist Selini lives on an apple orchard with her mother. The orchard has been in the family for generations, in order to keep up appearances around town. Selini’s mother Zoe, assures Selini that her future is set for her on the orchard. Dennis, my partner, grew up in a town called Williamson, which is where the Mott’s applesauce factory is located, and they have tons of apple orchards there. He told me that he wanted to get out because the town was so small and there’s virtually nothing there for him. This sounds like something out of a movie, but I promise he isn’t the only one wanting to escape the small town woes of upstate New York. Selini wants to go to college in Manhattan, what she wants to study is yet to be determined. Selini doesn’t know she’s a werewolf, which is why Zoe wants to keep her in Rochester. Besides the elements of feminism in Lunar, it is overall a love letter to Rochester, New York.
I am very excited to arrive in Albany. It is a place I've always heard about but never been to. I didn't research or ask questions about what it's like, hence my assumptions from the first paragraph, but I'm eager to see what it has in store. The sights from the window of my train consist of the murky waters of the Hudson River and lots of trees. I'm comfortable, although the coffee I had bought earlier has gone cold and I'm not sure where the trash is located. The first time I ever took AmTrak was when I went to Rochester last summer. I had a wonderful trip going up (lots of trees!), but coming home was...well, something I hope never to experience again. I'm convinced that Penn Station at 3am is another dimension. Albany is about a two and a half hour commute from Manhattan, while Rochester is a 7 hour trip if you’re lucky. One of my lifelong dreams (if you could call it that, I’m only 21) is to discover all of New York state. I love it so much, and I feel like traveling around New York is underrated. There's so much to explore.
Part of my writing process for this play is to learn about this Small Town State of Mind, from real people I know who grew up in such a place. I did not grow up in a small town, although I had that mentality for a while. When I went to college, I met so many people from upstate New York (and learned a thing or two about what is considered "upstate"). It got me thinking about what life is like up there, and why people from big cities romanticize this idea of a small town life. What makes it so appealing? What do the people who live there, both young and old, think about it? What makes them want to escape and why do they romanticize a big city life?
I’m expected to arrive in Albany at 11:45. Hopefully. This will be continued after I’ve experienced Albany. Until then, stay tuned for more updates about my future travels!
Dear White Noise,
I can hear you. You are as annoying as you are relevant and as loud as you are prevalent. I can't ignore you forever, but believe me I have tried. I love being on my own; it gives me time to reflect, get things done, and just be with myself for a while. But boy do I hate feeling lonely. I know I'm not totally alone though, I have friends at home but the adjustment to being away from school is taxing on both my mental and physical health. I went from being able to walk to my friends' places to being forced to drive everywhere. Long Island is beautiful in the summer but it's so boring. If you're not a beach person or rich you're basically screwed. I get cabin fever from going outside.
I must say, you have taught me a lot about myself. You made me come to terms with things that I would have blindly accepted if I wasn't on my own all the time. I realized I should do more to better my mental health, so thank you for all the times you've made me curl up in bed and cry. I realized I need to let go of some people in my life in order to be happy, and that sucked at first. I got tired of thinking "maybe it'll be different this time" and here we are, four months since we last spoke and still in the same place we were when I last let them go. I'm not wasting time reaching out because I know I'll just be disappointed. So thank you, White Noise, you've allowed me to move on.
It's 5:30 in the morning, and I've woken up about an hour ago because my body decided I've had enough sleep. Truth is, I may have gotten a full seven hours, but I don't feel well rested at all. That's all I want: to wake up in the morning and actually feel motivated to get out of bed and do things. I constantly feel like I'm walking through a fog; slowly making moves and trying my best but something is blocking me. I feel overpowered by this fog, and while I can see and feel the sunshine, I still have a long way to go before I get there.
Tell me, White Noise, why do you keep me up at night? Why do you insist on haunting and taunting me until I drive myself to madness, wondering if there's a way out? What if the only way out is to keep walking down the block until I reach the water, and even then I can't get away because I don't have a boat and I also hate the ocean? What if I'm supposed to feel you with every bone in my body until I become numb? Because of you I'm bad at keeping in touch because I feel like no one really cares about me. I feel there's no point in reaching out.
In the end, no matter how much pain you cause me, I'll never forget how you comforted me when I needed someone.
What a freaking year.
That's it, that's how I'd describe it.
I have no regrets from this school year. None. From a professional standpoint, I got a lot done this year I never thought I would.
In February, I released my poetry compilation Museum of Mistakes, and held a poetry reading/release party in May. I invited other poets I knew who had work to share, and celebrated with friends. Special thanks to Mitch Angelo, Derek Sherry, Andy Spector, and Sara Ramsawak for reading their pieces at this event. (Videos coming soon!)
Last year, I came up with the idea to create a festival for the Playwriting/Screenwriting program to showcase the work of the major on a bigger scale. When fall rolled around, with a little help from some friends, P.O.V. Film and Theatre Festival was born.
P.O.V. Fest went up in March 2018, and is slated to go up around the same time next year. I was the Artistic Director, alongside Julia Koyfman, with Sara Ramsawak as Producer. Having these two women by my side made doing this festival a breeze and a blast.
Through P.O.V., I was able to work with Andy Spector by directing his 10-minute play Cereal. Spector has demonstrated his talents in the right way with Cereal, and then again with Transcriber, featured in this year's Make it Play festival. Spector and I work really well together, making the process that much more productive. We are planning to collaborate again in the fall, producing our own adaptation of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. The actor who played the lead, and only character, in Cereal was a freshman named Trevor Vaughan. He was our Tony, and I was ecstatic when we found him. He is a very talented individual, and I was so happy I had the chance to work with him. I definitely plan on using him in the future on whatever projects I do.
After P.O.V. Fest, I signed on to direct two short pieces called Ruah and Dinnertime, part of a collection of works called Out of Silence: The 1 in 3 Project. The pieces in this collection dealt with abortion and women's health, two things that have been threatened in recent times. I signed on because of how important these topics are and to discuss their importance through theatre. Though they were performed as readings (as was Cereal), I enjoyed working with the actors and asking them to do minimal blocking, and really trying to pull out the best performance they could give. I was proud of how they turned out.
As the semester winded down, so did I. I started focusing on ideas for my senior project, as well as declare a new minor in Journalism. I was asked to direct two senior projects in the coming year; the first one The Role of Della by John Wooten, will go up in the fall, and in the spring another Andy Spector original called Access. I will be returning as Artistic Director on P.O.V. Fest in the spring as well.
And of course, I will be working on my own senior project. It will be a full-length play called Lunar and I plan to finish it with enough time to do an "elaborate staged reading" in the spring. Lunar tells the story of a young girl who learns about a curse that was placed upon her family and does whatever it takes to reverse it. It involves werewolves, feminism, family, and lots of apples.
Whew. Let's hope I have time to update this blog.
P.S. You can learn more about P.O.V. Fest on the tab "P.O.V. Film and Theatre Festival".
I've been thinking a lot lately about tying new things, whether it's a writing style or eating at a new restaurant, the only thing I'm not ready to try is any kind of seafood. I'm not the type of person who puts myself out there; I was always quiet in school, and I still am, but I had the opportunity to go to a speed networking event in Manhattan a few weeks ago. I met so many new people who were also artists just trying to create things, and as overwhelming as it was, I had a lot of fun putting myself out there. I got to break out of my comfort zone, that holds me hostage every now and then.
Last semester, I did something a little risky. I was able to be in a class that was all about musical theatre, specifically songwriting. In the past, I have tried to write songs, but I came to the conclusion that I was never any good, on top of having little to no musical ability.
It was the only class I looked forward to going to during my 20-Credit-Semester-From-Hell, due to the fact that it was just so much fun, and everyone in it was really cool. Like most of my writing classes, it was an environment where we all became invested in each other's characters and where the story was going. In this class, I learned about song structure, and eventually wrote a 15(ish) minute musical called Letters to Meghan. I've been able to try my hand at songwriting again, and haven't stopped since. As soon as our professor told us we could bring in music to go along with it, I immediately thought of my friend Dennis, who is an aspiring composer. His main goal is to write film scores, but he was excited to work on Letters with me. The style of the music is similar to that of contemporary shows like Dear Evan Hansen, and even though Dennis's style was more on the classical side, he broke out of his comfort zone too and wrote exactly what I was looking for.
This process wasn't easy. It was hard to communicate what I wanted from him, considering how little I know about music. It was frustrating, but at one point he played a few notes on the piano that I really liked. Those four notes became the opening for "Was I" which is the finale of the show. I wrote the lyrics within an hour and we had 3/4 of a song. The song is still coming along, but in the meantime feel free to listen to the demo I've posted. Just like everything, this will take time to develop. I'm very excited for this project, and hopefully will be releasing a final version soon.
Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to try something new, you may come to find that you enjoy it, and end up creating something really great.
If you have the chance, check out Dennis's website. If you're looking for a composer, or someone to arrange music, Dennis is your guy!
*ominous jazz plays in the background*
It's August 2017, and school starts in less than a week. Derek has come down to Long Island in order to make a smooth trip up to Purchase for the fall semester. Over the summer, we bonded over Twin Peaks, which was the first show that I was able to binge-watch within a week. I absolutely fell in love with it, as well as David Lynch's style and compelling characters. It was only appropriate that Derek and I do a shoot inspired by the show. We took turns taking pictures of each other in the woods near my hometown. It was around 5 or 6 o'clock, and the lighting had an ethereal glow to it that matched the aesthetic we were going for.
For the shoot, I decided to channel Audrey Horne, while also taking inspiration from Donna Hayward and Laura Palmer.
Derek was not channeling any particular character; he dressed as if he was just a citizen in Twin Peaks heading to the Double R Diner for Norma Jennings' famous cherry pie, and some "damn good coffee" (which, of course, we enjoyed back at my house after the shoot).
"I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange"
**PHOTOS HAVE NOT BEEN RETOUCHED**
It seems as if the first year at college was just a free trial before you get sucked into buying a three-year member ship without knowing it. Then it becomes real; the fun and games are over, and you're trapped in the library for six hours working on a paper you had three weeks to do, but really, you didn't. You were too busy working on a resume and cover letter for an internship you're applying for, and too busy cleaning your room and doing laundry. On top of that, you're producing a theatre festival, or doing something else that is extracurricular, and all you really want to do is read a book and take a nap for the next decade.
This is chaos. This is college.
It's crazy to think how much we've grown since we first came to the school. The bubbly hormonally driven students are slowly transforming into mature and career driven individuals. It's pretty amazing. I worked as a peer mentor for two years, and I got to see it myself. I remember the first day; I was shy and excited and I made sure to wake up with enough time to do my hair and makeup in order to look presentable for my 8:30 lecture. Ah, the good ol' days. I see this in the freshmen too. They're excited because it's the first time they're really on their own and they wanna do everything. Clubs, parties, classes...how do you do it all? What about schoolwork? When do you shower?
Fast forward; it's junior year and I've given up on appearances because I am too concerned with getting to class on time. I don't eat, I can't sleep, but I know it's going to pay off. My room is a mess, I have appointments I need to keep, I'm trying to go to yoga, maybe the gym, my family hasn't heard from me in a week and probably think I died, and no one has yet took me by the shoulders to ask me, "are you okay?"
This is chaos. This is my mind.
I have yet to learn how to not overload myself (i.e. taking 20 credits), but there's still so much I want to do. Add a second major, study abroad, become a club president...but I don't have that much time left. That's fine. I don't have to do all of that, but damn do I really want to. I don't want to stop learning, and there's so many classes I want to take but when? Is there a way I can still do all of that with the time I have left?
This is chaos. This is life.
Of all the things I learned this year, it's that you should never rush into things. Good things really do take time, and if you want it to last you have to be patient. I felt that excitement when I first published Chasing Sam, and if you went to purchase it recently, you saw that it doesn't exist. I'm working on revisions, and while I think it's good, there's a chance it could be much better.
While we're on the subject of growing, I feel like I have grown as a writer over the last few years. I always loved telling stories, so I'm going to share my own. Museum of Mistakes, a poetry compilation, is about growth. It's about love, heartbreak, staying up all night, and yearning to be free. It'll be released on February 1st, 2018, which is also my 21st birthday. I'm growing up. We all are. I've watered and nurtured the plants and they have blossomed into beautiful flowers.
This is chaos. This is writing.
And boy, am I excited.
A year ago today I published my first full-length novel. It was something I'd always wanted to do. Since then, I've kept writing, but hadn't had a good idea to go off of. Just little scenes that would run through my mind with no connection to each other. I've also neglected this blog, big time. But I figured it felt right to say something about the anniversary of my self-publishing "success".
I say "success" because it was a personal victory to work on something and put it out in the world. I'm not rich. I made maybe, $50 total on the book. Truth is, I don't think it's my best work. But I put it out there, because at the time I was proud. I wanted to make something. I'm always open to the idea of improvement. I haven't released any other writing since this book, but that doesn't mean I've stopped writing.
In the time that I was on this "hiatus", I've written a one act play, a screenplay, a short story, poems, and now I'm working on a new book. But it's not easy to sit down and write. You have to channel it. Really immerse yourself in the world of your story. Get to know your characters, hell, have lunch with them if you'd like. Finding the time to do all of this is another factor; the dreaded hands of the clock tick away, and what have you got done? Nothing. You've been staring at that blank page for an hour, eaten half of the snacks in your pantry, checked Facebook and Twitter seven thousand times and all you have seen are the same dog videos, or you've been at your day job. But that's okay. Time sucks, and sometimes it isn't on our side. Pressure, stress, all of these things haunt us. Let the inspiration come to you. Soon, the time will too.
I'm not famous. I'm doing this because I love it, and I'm proud of the work I did. It's like I'm a singer, and I've posted my first cover up on YouTube. The work I put into it was a lot, and I need to keep doing it if I want to get somewhere. Artists need ways to get their art out, which is exactly what I did. Which is exactly what I encourage every artist to do. Write a blog, or at least start one. If you stay standing in one place, you go nowhere. In a literal sense, and a figurative sense. Upload your songs on YouTube, start a Bandcamp or Soundcloud. Find ways to well your artwork on your school campus. Offer your photography services. Make a really low-budget short film with your friends. You got this.
And last but not least, believe in yourself. Believe your art is good. Believe you can do it. Get out there, kid. The world is waiting for you.
(Picture of me in July 2016, after buying Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).