If you give a girl a year…
I was thinking about writing a little piece about the riskiest and the most wonderful thing I have ever done for myself: drop out of college, and spend a year at home without any concrete plans. Like my time in my hometown, this has not been planned. I was thinking, maybe I’ll start by talking about why I dropped out of college, or even at the beginning, when I applied to college and or when I first attended class in the fall of 2014. I’m sort of going at this ass-backwards, which I’m pretty used to at this point. Ass-backwards has become my style.
I was attending a lovely private school on Long Island, and towards the end of my first year there, I had a gut instinct that that was not the place for me. I had applied to a study abroad program for acting at the Moscow Art Theater, and thought that I just needed to get away for a while, that I can get what I needed from this program, and not dwindle from the perfect vision my parents had laid upon me: to finish college in four years, get a degree, and then a job (I’m an artist, let’s be honest, it was never going to be like that). When various obstacles came in my way, it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be rushing off to Russia (ha ha) anytime soon. So what to do? I learned all of this in July, before I was supposed to leave. I had prepared to not go back to the safe confines (which to me felt more like suffcating padded walls) of my university. I was heartbroken to say the least.
I soon began reaching out to people. Amongst them, now one of my dear friends, a person who had helped me land an internship (more on that later), and who I knew I liked. We were barely strangers when I emailed her, but we started chatting. I hadn’t registered for classes, so the thing that made the most sense to me was to drop out of college. It was more like a matter of convenience. No classes lined up? No obligation to take them! Huzzah! Problem solved! But no no no. I wanted to do something with the time I was taking off (at the time, it was only supposed to be for the fall semester). I needed to stimulate that overactive mind of mine, and I had come to her for help.
During that summer of 2015, I was working at Bay Street Theater as a production intern. I won’t get into the details of the job, but it was easily one of the best experiences of my life. I had worked on great shows, and met some of the warmest people ever to have graced this earth. I consider that place to be another home for me. Lucky for me, it was only a five minute drive from my real home.
I knew that summertime wouldn’t last forever, so I needed something lined up for the next season. With the help of my friend, and favorable circumstances, I was able to land another internship come the fall. But before I could leave for a 5-week trip to upstate New York, I had gotten involved with the Neo-Political Cowgirls, and their production of EVE in New York City. The going back and forth to the city, the exhausting schedule and unconventional sleep patterns I had developed, was worth it, because like my internship at BST, I was just happy to be apart of something I believed in. In every way, I was always choosing my art. Art over sleep, art over money. It was glorious.
After EVE, I went to SPACE on Ryder Farm in Brewster, NY. It was the first time I was living away from home with the sole intention of working. I worked in the kitchen at the residency, outside sometimes, but I really fancied the food-making process. I met wonderful people there, and planted a new abundant appreciation for the work playwrights do. We actors, are merely translators, people. Playwrights do the real dirty work.
I came back home in the beginning of November, and lept right back into BST. A production of Of Mice and Men was staged for the purpose of bringing the book onstage for the local schools to see. I had some of the most fun working on that show. Because of that production, I was asked to be involved as an assistant stage manager for another play in March. Everything was falling like dominoes.
Until it wasn’t. After Of Mice and Men closed at the end of the month, and while I waited for rehearsals to start again, I didn’t have anything to do. Like the Grey Gardens line, “another winter in a summer town”- the winter hit me hard. Not only did the town basically shut down for 8 weeks, but I was house-bound without a job. So I baked. Every day I was baking scones, or muffins, or anything sweet. I would bake all day, starting from 8 am, and sometimes not finishing until 2pm. And oh I ate it too. I felt like I was taking up more space, as I tried to fill the immense emptiness inside of me. My friends were in school, and I didn’t have money to go anywhere. So I ate my way throught the holidays. Ho ho ho.
While I was going through my own internal battle, I was also applying to other institutions. With the help of that same person I had called up in July, we began working on monologues that I would present to my choice of top-tier conservatories in the coming winter and spring. That, and my part-time job at the Bay Street Theater box office (I told you I basically lived there), where my only saving graces for my emotional survival. I basically “went dark” for two months, talking only to people that I was in the immediate vicinity with.
In my perfect vision for myself, I would apply to conservatories, get in, and then I would train for 3–4 years (depending on the school), and I would become a wonderful actress and I would be so happy because I would be good at my job and yada yada yada….
So I did the first part. I worked my butt off on those pieces, I did. But when regection letter after rejection letter came, I was forced to confront reality in the face: it’s not your time…yet. When I finally did get accepted somewhere, my impression of the place was less-than-stellar. As soon as I walked into the audition, I felt that same suffocating feeling as I did at my old school. There was no way I was going there. Not if I had any desire to be happy. And I did not take time off to be unhappy.
The winter came, and gone, and I worked on This Wide Night with a group of some really spectacular people, all of whom I consider to be amongst the best I’ve worked with professionally (and on a personal level, they’re all wonderful people). I had an environment that allowed me to do the thing I had never done before: to act as the assistant stage manager. My mind and heart were back in business.
After that show, I was asked to stay as the house ASM for the summer season at Guild Hall. I nearly fell off my chair when it was offered ( I get to work in my industry, for a whole summer, for a paycheck????). I said yes, because I didn’t have any other plans, and I’m glad I did. It was an unforgettable summer, and I cannot thank the people there enough for accepting me with open arms. I worked on plays that I was proud to be a part of, and met incredibly generous and gifted people, who know how much I love them.
In the middle of this summer, I had come to the realization that I was coming towards an empty fall semester again. Through a lot of internal reflection and soul searching, and conversation, I realized that conservatory was not the place for me. The signs were so clear. I was yearning for step 5, when I hadn’t gone through steps 1–4 yet. The acting programs that interested me the most, were the ones that offered non-acting classes as a requirment. I knew that I wanted to go to school; I knew I really loved learning. So, I decided that I would apply to a liberal arts school with concentrations in theater (you can take the girl out of the theater, but you can’t take the theater out of the girl) and performing arts, and attend in the spring semester.
Of course, since I’ve decided that I’m never going to take up a traditional route (that school of thought I believe, was bestowed upon me when I went through two years of preschool just because I felt like it), I decided to carve out some time to travel. I had wanted to during the year, but I was either with a show, or had no money. Or both. I had set up a plan to leave Sag Harbor.
But before I get there, I did leave Sag Harbor, if only up to the Catskill mountains. You may have heard of the Witness Relocation Bootcamp I had spoken about on social media (with all the help I had, which I am eteranlly grateful for). I had the time of my life up there. I realized then, that movement as the centerpiece in theater was a huge passion for me. For the two weeks I was there, I grew more and more into myself than I had for the past few months. I buzzed my hair off, and I felt free. That camp is something I wish upon everyone that is a theater maker/dancer/actor/artist. I needed it more than I realized.
I came back, feeling sexy and wonderful, and I lept into a new job (a normal barista job!), and I lept into a new production. I was back with the Neo-Politcal Cowgirls once more, but as a performer this time. I am grateful for the things I learned over this year about production work, and being in a position of dependence, and to have people throw their trust at me. However, what a breath it was to be onstage again! Dancing! The things I learned at Witness almost directly led me into the rehearsal room for Andromeda. Working with gifted storytellers, and learning about my body again in this context was thrilling. It was such a gift.
We closed Andromeda on Sunday, and now I await for my next adventure: India! I have chosen to embark on a semester-long experiental education trip, where I will take courses based on the area I’m traveling in, with a group of people whom I haven’t yet met, to the Northern region of the country. In combination with studying, we will be traveling, volunteering, and engaging with the local communities in the cities we will be staying in.
After 15 months, 10 productions, 4 monologues, 7 school auditions, many many new friends, and a lot of dessert, I made it. I feel proud of what I accomplished, and confident in my ability to decide for myself; that I will do what’s best for me where ever the road may lead me to.
Many many thanks to everyone I met on this journey! I look forward to cultivating the beautiful potential in the friendships I have forged in the lifetime to come.
*For obvious reasons, I have not covered a lot of personal things I went through during this year. Should you wish to ask me anything, I’m here for you! If you are looking to take time off from school, I highly encourage it, and will supply you with endless love and support.