The Good and the Bad

This is day 65 of quarantine for me. Isolation. Lockdown. Social distancing. Physical distancing. Sheltering in place. Stay at home orders. Whatever you want to call it, it’s been 65 days. I think. Time? Math? Who cares. It’s been AWHILE, is the point.

Since I’ve been in quarantine, I’ve been trying to write a blog post. At the beginning of this year when I “re-branded” my site, or whatever, I wanted to write one creativity based or creativity connected blog post per month. When we went into lockdown I figured, “Hey. At least this is one thing I can still keep up with in quarantine.”

Big ol’ NOPE.

I’ve been trying to write a post since the end of March and I keep hitting a wall. Cause, really, what am I gonna say?

Every good thing that’s coming out of this comes at an astronomical price. I haven’t lost anyone to the virus (knock on every wood surface in my home) but I know people who have. My friends with kids who are working from home and crisis schooling are stretched thin. I have other friends who feel the isolation deeper than others due to where they’re located. Everyone has a unique struggle. So, I’m not gonna sit here and type out a blog that suggests that the quarantine might be a good thing. Cause it’s not. I get good things can happen in the midst of tragedy. And those things are worth celebrating and acknowledging. But I’m just really tired of it being used as a bargaining tool.

Believe it or not, I’m actually in a good mood while writing this. I’ve been busy the past week and have had actual things to look forward to. Not that my interior design and plant projects are not fun but ya girl works well with projects, deadlines and scheduled meetings. I was a production manager/reader for a live reading of Three Sisters through TSqaured. My theatre friends and I perform and watch each other in play readings via Zoom on Monday nights and I’m reading in The Women next week. I’ve been taking weekly voice lessons and I am making good progress. I had a really good lesson this past Monday and I’m proud of myself, just saying. I’ve been writing more and I have some ideas on how to fix some my problems in the plays I’m writing (I think)(Well, I have time to find out). I’m doing some research on how to keep my career moving forward while the theatre industry is adjusting to the new normal. I’ve been feeling pretty positive this week. So, I know good can happen in the midst of trials cause I’ve been experiencing it. Plus, my time in quarantine hasn’t been as hard as it has been on others. I have a roommate, I don’t have kids, my job is waiting for me, I have an understanding landlord, I have a strong WiFi connection, a TV, a cozy home with amenities, a residential neighborhood so I can go on walks, and family and friends nearby that I can social distance visit. I’m OK, and I’m finding the good in this, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not hard. Literally a few days before my positivity streak hit I was crying in the kitchen because I can’t find my footing in my career path anymore and prior to the pandemic, I had found it. I have at least one stress dream per week. Some days I just wake up sad and if the only healthy thing I do that day is go for a walk, it’s a win. So even in positive stretches of time, there’s difficulty. Which is why I won’t write a “OMG, look at this great thing quarantine made it possible to do!” post cause it’s not that simple. Balancing the pain of this experience and celebrating the good that comes during it while knowing that one does not negate the other is tricky. But it comes with grief territory, and we’re all experiencing it in one way or another.

I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say here. Maybe that’s ok. I don’t have to know what to say. Plus it’s probably too early to try to jump to the “meaning” stage of grief. It’s been a rough few months. It doesn’t mean the good isn’t good but it also doesn’t mean that the bad isn’t bad. I know I’m not alone in feeling that way.

So I guess the point of this is…

You’re not alone either. This is weird and painful for everyone, even for the people who look like they’re thriving. The pandemic brings grief and it is going to be difficult to find that balance of acknowledging both the positivity and the pain in this time. It’s one of the hardest parts of grief, in my opinion. Don’t be hard on yourself if you tip too far into sadness or too much into the happy distractions at one time or another.

We’re gonna get through this.

There will be good.

But it’s still gonna suck.

And that’s ok.

Featured image: Heather McBride

Endless Night by

It’s Act II of the Lion King on Broadway, 2005. I’m sitting between my father’s best friend, Mr.Steve, and his daughter, Danielle. Mr.Steve’s wife is on his other side, and my mother next to her. Danielle’s brother is next to her and my brother on the other side.

The backdrop changes to a night sky. Simba steps out and begins to sing:

Where has the starlight gone? Dark is the day. How can I find my way home? Home is an empty dream, lost to the night.

I’m loving every second of the production. I feel present, which is a rarity for me at the time.

Father, I feel so alone. 

I’m fourteen years old and my father died a month ago.

You promised you’d be there, whenever I needed you .

I know this feeling.

Whenever I call your name, you’re not anywhere. I’m trying to hold on, waiting to hear your voice. Just a word, a word will do, to end this nightmare.

I’m not caught off guard by the content itself. I know the movie and Mufasa died in Act I. But to hear this pain expressed clearly is an experience that I haven’t had. And that does catch me off guard.

When will the dawning break, oh endless night? Sleepless I dream of the day when you were by side, guiding my path. Father, I can’t find the way.

I’m just really hoping I don’t cry. Not that I wouldn’t be comforted, I just hate to cry. With each line I feel dread that I might cry, and surprised at how much I resonate with the lyrics.

You promised you’d be there, whenever I needed you. Whenever I call your name, you’re not anywhere. I’m trying to hold on, waiting to hear your voice. Just a word, a word will do, to end this nightmare.

I haven’t heard any song that so purely expressed how I feel, and at the same time lasted for so long. Every movie/TV scene, song or devotional touches on the pain for a moment and then moves on.

With each line I feel surprise that it’s continuing. As Simba closes the last line, I’m sure it’s over now.

I know that the night must end, at that the sun will rise, and that the sun will rise. I know that the clouds must clear and that the sun will shine, and that the sun will shine. 

My heart leans forward. If I felt surprised before, I feel stunned now.

I know that the night must end, and that the sun will rise, and that the sun will rise. I know that the clouds must clear and that the sun will shine, and that the sun will shine.

My mother says this. Not these exact words, but essentially. That I will always miss him but that eventually my grief will be like a broken bone. That when the wind blows just right, it’ll ache but it won’t hurt all the time. I believe her, but this might be the first time I’ve heard someone else express it with such certainty.

I know! (I know that the night must end) Yes, I know, the sun will rise (And that the sun will rise). Yes, I know! (I know that the clouds must clear) I know, the clouds must clear! (And that the sun will shine, and that the sun will shine)

This is also the first time I’ve heard this expressed with such celebration. With each line I feel stunned delight that this whole song is about how I feel and hope to feel in the future.

I know that the night must end.

Someone understands.

I know that the sun will rise. 

Someone knows with confidence that it will be OK. It’s not just church platitudes.

And I’ll hear your voice deep inside.

Comfort jumps into my chest. I think I smile.

I know that the night must end, and that the clouds must clear. Oh, the sun, the sun will rise! 

I am fourteen years old and my father died a month ago. And I’m so grateful at how uplifted I feel right now.

The sun, the sun will rise!

I’m so grateful for this moment.

I lean forward a little and turn to look at my mom. She’s doing the same. We exchange a little nod as if to say, “Glad you’re OK, and I heard it too”

—–

I would later buy the Broadway Cast Recording and I would listen to that song on repeat. I would just sit in the car or in my room with my portable CD player and listen to it again, and again, and again. It was such a comfort to me, and one that I desperately needed.

Strangely enough, I hadn’t thought about that song in years. It came back to mind while I was talking to my friend Mimi about our grief experiences (keeping our friendship light and fun, ya know). I went to the album on Spotify and I was immediately back in that theatre. The memory came back to me vividly and a new-found gratefulness for it emerged.

Grateful for the community we had, and still have. Grateful that I was given such needed “Seen and Loved” moment. Grateful that this is the art form I’m immersed in (I wonder if subconsciously this moment set that in motion). Grateful for Mr.Steve, The Redmonds, our neighbors, Riverside Community Church, and anyone who made sure that we could still find pockets of joy in our lives.

It’s been 15 years since my father passed. The song promised me that the night would end and that the sun would rise.

It has.

And I’m forever grateful to the people, the scriptures, the music, and the stories that got me through the night.

 

[Endless Night can be heard here]

The Creators of Little Women

    I read Little Women in middleschool. You would think that I wouldn’t connect with Little Women, being a pre-teen in the early 00s, far disconnected from the world as described by Alcott. But I did connect to it. Hell, I loved it. The themes are universal. Familial love, forgiveness, friendships, loss, dreaming big dreams, and the fear of growing up.

     I haven’t read it since, though. I remember it very well; a testament to the book and my connection to it. But I was excited for the 2019 movie nonetheless. In Gerwig’s adaptation I found those same themes that I had connected to as a pre-teen…familial love, forgiveness, friendships, loss, dreaming big dreams and the fear of growing up. But I had forgotten about topics like the loss of what could have been, the importance and beauty of platonic intimacy, advocating for yourself, and advocating for those around you. It was invigorating to reconnect with such a beloved work. After watching the movie I reflected on it for awhile and I realized another beautiful aspect of the story. It told the story of four women who were creators, each with a different artistic expression, and each with their own prioritization of it.

We have Beth, the quiet pianist. Meg, the generous actress. Amy, the motivated painter. Jo, the spirited writer and appreciator of the arts. Each woman expresses her interest in the arts and creative expression differently. Each one prioritizes it differently as well. One is not right and the others are not wrong. Each one is just different and beautiful in its own right.

“Write something for me. You’re a writer. Even before anyone knew or paid you…Do what Marmee taught us to do. Do it for someone else.”-Beth

    Beth is soft and gentle. She observes everyone around her silently, with the most loving attentiveness. Her gift to them is the piano. She’s a talented pianist. Despite her talent, she is completely against even the idea of playing in front of people. She only wants to play for the people she loves.

Artists are generally stereotyped as self-absorbed people. I don’t want to say I get where the stereotype comes from….but of course I do. However, the bulk of respectable artist I know, whether they be writers, actors, painters, theatre makers, singers, musicians, ect, want to give back to the world in some way. They want to give back to the community, they want to help educate, they want to give other’s experiences a voice. At the end of the day, good artists do what they do for someone else.

“Just because my dreams are not the same as yours doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.”-Meg

Meg happily participates in her sister’s acting troupe. You can definitely see Meg’s joy in the performance, but there’s something she finds more joy in. It’s apparent that she loves to act because she loves being with her sisters. She loves community. She loves family. Ultimately, that’s what’s most important to her. A family.

There are a lot of people I know who loved theatre/music/drawing/writing in highschool and college but ultimately didn’t pursue it. They might have kept the discipline in their lives in some way but it definitely doesn’t hold the same place as it once did. But is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so. It taught them valuable skills, cultural knowledge, and the importance of self-expression. It gave them a community and it made them happy when they needed it. Even if they didn’t need it forever, what a blessing it was.

“I want to be great or nothing”-Amy

Amy is fascinating. I know that I was not the only reader who hated Amy and only begrudgingly accepted her because Jo eventually did. We don’t see Amy’s growth unless Jo specifically points it out. In Gerwig’s adaptation we not only see Amy grow, but we understand her connection to Laurie, the societal pressures she navigates and how much she actually adores her family. We also see her practicality and how grounded she is. She has self evaluation skills that are admirable. In Paris, we see her painting and content, only to look over and see her fellow artists breaking the mold. She does not. She packs up her studio and tells Laurie in a matter of fact tone (with a hint of passion) “I want to be great, or nothing.” She is not angry with herself. She is not jealous of her fellow painters. She merely sees what is in her wheelhouse, it doesn’t meet her standards, so she moves on.

An argument can be made (and is touched on by Laurie) that artists have to push themselves to be better and abandoning the craft is not necessarily the answer. Yet, Amy’s ability to critique her own work and abilities while not sacrificing the high standards she has for herself is admirable. Most talented creatives I know push themselves because of similar sentiments, mainly that you should try to be better than you were yesterday.

“I’m sick of being told that love is all a woman is fit for”-Jo

I never thought I was like Jo. Jo’s in-your-face boldness is in stark contrast to my slowly built confidence. So, I was surprised when I found myself really seeing myself in Jo. I still don’t think I’m like Jo personality-wise, but I do think Jo’s expression and pursuit of her creative endeavors reflect mine. More importantly, I think they reflect the expressions and pursuits of anyone who has chosen to make the arts a living (or priority). The way she scribbles in her notebook by the fire, stands in the back of the audience of Twelfth Night and shares (and vehemently defends) her work with others seems deeply familiar.

Yes, Jo marries, despite Alcott’s wishes. But you know what she still loves and fights for? Her writing. Teaching. Caring for her family. Yes, love is fit for Jo. But that’s not all she is fit for. Professor Bahear or not, Jo is not going to lose sight of her passions. Jo’s love pours into every area of her life, it doesn’t have to be restricted to romance. I think Jo resonates with me and so many other creatives is simply because of that. She loves what she does SO much.


I don’t know what I was expecting from this adaptation of Little Women. I know I wasn’t expecting to find it so relevant. Whatever way you express and prioritize creativity, you’re not alone.

2019 Year in Review

I have a vivid memory of sitting at a musical rehearsal in college, looking around, taking a deep breath and thinking, “This is all I want to do. I want to do theatre and work with kids. That’s all I want.” Little did 21-year-old Alicia know that all she wanted was actually really hard to achieve and would include so many detours. She also didn’t know that once she technically achieved her goal that the work would make her so busy. So busy in fact, that she would forget that at one point in time this was is all she had wanted. But every now and then I have a moment where I think, “Man. 21 year old Alicia would be thrilled to bits right now.” I’m so grateful that 2019 was full of those moments, creatively speaking. Here’s a review of the projects this year that would have made college Alicia proud.


 

 

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The Boys in the Band, Studio Playhouse

Stage Manager

The Boys in the Band was my first theatre project of the year and easily one of my favorites. I had a brilliant director, a stunning and loveable cast, a gorgeous set, and profound and historically significant source material. Of course it was going to be good. I looked forward to every rehearsal and despite yelling, “This FREAKING show!” while dealing with my almost two pages of preset, it was one of the best creative experiences I’ve had this year, and possibly in my career.

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How It Really Happens, Philly Fringe 2019

Stage/Production Manager

My friend Tim and Tess (TSquared! Get it?!) started a production company and invited me on as stage/production manager for their inaugural production, How It Really Happens. Stage managing an original work was a brand new experience for me. It required me flexing different stage management muscles, learning from mistakes, and excelling in tech and production. I feel like I am more prepared for the next Fringe while also being proud of the work that was done there. Our goal is to take the (re-branded and updated) version of the play to Edinburgh Fringe in August 2020, so stay tuned*.

*Psssst…you can stay tuned either by checking in on my Projects&Promotions page or by following TSquared directly. Updates will be on their website as well Instagram (@therealtsquared)

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A Doll’s House, Part 2, Summit Playhouse

Actor-Emmy

A Doll’s House, Part 2 was special to me for many reasons, one of them being that this was the first time in awhile where I was in a play that had substance. Anyone who has seen or read Hnath’s work can attest to the fact that he does not write vapid, baseline characters. They all have depth, nuance, and are self-contradictory in a beautifully human way. Emmy was certainly no exception. I loved playing her. Being entrusted with this piece was a rewarding challenge that I’m so grateful to have been a part of.

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Unidentified Stages Inaugural Evening of 10 Minute Plays, South Orange Performing Arts Center

Actor-Death

When working with TSquared, I really felt that I was lucky to work with a company that had been founded by my friends. Imagine how lucky I felt when I got to work with TWO companies that had been founded by friends. If asked about Unidentified Stages* founder, Alicia Wheavers, I always sing her praises. So, naturally when she invited me and some other friends to participate in a reading of 10 minute plays, I agreed. I was in a reading called A Simple Game with Death by Gary Earl Ross, in which I played, Death. I wound up really enjoying playing a role that I would not normally be cast in and it was fascinating to experience the difference between a play on the page vs being played out. I truly enjoyed being a part of it and I look forward to working with them again.

*Psssst…you can check in on my Projects&Promotions page for the next reading or follow them directly on Facebook or Instagram (@unidentifiedstages)

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Over My Dead Body (Auditions), Studio Playhouse

Final Product Coming Soon!

Director

      Over My Dead Body is my first time directing a main stage production at Studio Playhouse. I’ve been very excited to get started with this process. In the beginning of December we held open auditions. After a lot of pouring over the puzzle, I finally have a cast! I’ll be announcing the cast soon, I know you’re DYING to see it (drum snare).


Whatever your career may be, sometimes you take on projects for mundane reasons. Whether it be networking, resume boosting, or staying relevant, not all projects have a deeper significance. Looking back at my theatre projects from this year, every one was meaningful in one way or another. Considering that all I wanted in college was to “do theatre”…well, I think I’m doing pretty OK. Junior year Alicia would be elated.

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