Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the worst year ever, in review

I decided to do a year in review because I have nothing to do at work and a lot of time to sit here, doing nothing.

At the beginning of the year, I had high hopes for 2008. I was on tour with the ASC and having a great time. I got to go to some places that I would never, ever want to go to again (Fairmont, WV and that horrible, smelly place in Illinois) and a few places that I think of literally every single day of my life (Sarasota and the Florida Keys). Let me tell ya, there is nothing like a breezy 85 degrees in the beginning of February at night right next to the ocean. Oh my God. I miss Islamorada SO MUCH!!!

In March we went to Minneapolis for a couple of days and VA Beach (which was a nice area although it wasn't warm enough to GO to the beach) and our last stop on tour was the greatest hotel ever, in Rockville, MD. Chris and I went to DC for a day and that night I started watching Jon and Kate Plus 8. I realize this is a stupid MILESTONE, but I like the kids. They're funny. The biggest thing, of course, to happen in March, was at 12:01am on the 28th, right after Chris's birthday ended, when he proposed to me. The next day we went running, picked out a ring and then had to wait for a week before we could tell anyone, because the ring was getting resized (I have tiny fingers). I did, however, tell my friend Ben, and he was SO EFFING EXCITED!!!

In April we opened in residence at the theatre performing The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice and Henry V. I was also, finally, able to tell everyone that we were engaged and that was great fun for me. I LOVED telling people. It was one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me. NOW it's all old news... but THEN it was AWESOME! :) I remember April was a very environmentally-aware month for everyone in the world. "Being green" was HUGE and I wish that the economical mess wouldn't have trumped that state of mind.

In May I watched a lot of American Idol, performed 8 shows a week, went to Ohio for, like, 1 day, and went to Kings Dominion amusement park (which was fun because of the water park. The roller coasters were only so-so).

We closed our shows on June 15th and I had to say goodbye to many wonderful people (LIKE RAFFI!!!!). The next day Chris and I moved into our own apartment where we will stay until... March. At least, I guess. The apartment is super cute, despite having no water or counter space in the kitchen and limited hot water in the bathroom. I also started working in the box office here at the theatre to try and save some money for... you know... my life.

In July I started getting depressed over working in the box office. I eventually realized it was a mixture of being sad that my troupe was no longer together and because I was too close to the performing without doing it myself. I never got to go anywhere because I worked all day and there was nothing to do in Staunton. The entire summer was not a good time for me.

HOWEVER, it was over the summer that I ended up losing 15 pounds. I couldn't believe it because my activity level had decreased so much since my shows closed. A mixture of eating TONS of fiber (usually around 40 grams a day), cutting my sugar waaaaay back (giving up regular pop) and upping the amount of protein I was eating. All my pants stopped fitting so I kept having to buy new pants, which was totally annoying.

October was my birthday month and I threw a huge party for Halloween. It was great and October was relatively painless.

November started out good, with the Obama win, but it gradually fell apart, with my dad getting laid off from work and the theatre telling us they might not be able to make payroll for the last paycheck of the month. December was worse: the theatre laid off 5 full time positions (including mine... I got dropped to part time), dropped all but 2 equity contracts (including Chris's) and is now begging the world for $200,000 by January 31st... or else. Or else WHAT, I'm not exactly sure, but I can't assume it's a good thing. So, you know, if you have any extra money and don't want me and Chris to be completely jobless as of February 1st, please consider donating to the ASC. They do some good stuff. And if you want an example of HOW GOOD, watch this video.

The good thing in December was getting to perform the pre-show for Santaland Diaries with my friend, Chris Johnston. We played 5 songs, 3 from Sufjan Stevens' Christmas album ("Hey Guys! It's Christmas time!", "Come on, Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!", and "Get Behind Me, Santa!") one called "Have Yourself a Bitter Little Christmas" by David Ford and "The Hat" by Ingrid Michaelson. My guitar playing has improved so much that I was able to accompany myself at a regional theatre with only one other person. I've never had a lesson and have only owned the guitar for 2 years! We had so much fun doing this show and even though I got hella sick at the end of the run, it was some of the best music I've ever done.

Now it's December 31st and there are only 8 hours left in the year. I just found out my Uncle Rudy died today, as if the year couldn't haven't gotten any worse. At the end of 2007 I was very sad to see it go... but 2007 was a great year. 2008 has sucked. MOST of the year was bad. I haven't been more excited to see a new year in a long time, if ever. If nothing else, it can't be much worse. BRING IT ON, 2009!!!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

i still like starbucks better than any other coffee shop

The week was crazy but the week is over. I still don't have a day off until Thursday but at least I can just sit here and do nothing for hours. If only I could come in at... like... noon and sit here and do nothing for hours. I worked more than 12 hours a day both Friday and Saturday. Every other day was 8-10 hours (depending on how much laundry I did) in split shifts, all days with my only break being to perform a show in the middle. I'm tired. I wish the touring troupe was still here. They were a lot of fun. They're on break now and then they'll go back on the road until April.

Christmas was fun. We went to Dan and Alex's for dinner and watched a marathon of Dogs 101 on the animal planet when we got home. The night before this guy who works for the theatre threw his annual Christmas dinner for people stuck in town and we got to take home all the extra turkey. Chris and I only exchanged stockings but inside mine I received WALL-E which was cool. I do love that movie. Mainly, Christmas was a day for relaxing and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

I got sick on Friday. The sickness was, and still is, contained only in my throat. It doesn't hurt (except when I wake up) but it's totally mucusy and once in a while I'll have a bad coughing fit. This was bad timing to get sick since I still had 3 shows left of Santaland. Yesterday I was doing will-call tickets for Carol and coughed my face off. I knew that I would have problems singing. In the song "Come on! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" I belt really high at the end. I don't know how high because I'm playing it on the guitar and not piano, but I'd say it's somewhere in the high F-G range. As I was singing I'm feeling my throat start to tickle and I'm thinking, "I have to get through these next couple measures and then I can cough. Also, if I can do this, it will be a miracle." I cut the last note short but I got through it and then I coughed and coughed through the ride out of the song and probably messed up the guitar because of it. Then I had to do the actual pre-show speech which was what made me almost lose my voice the last two days. I drank some water, popped a Halls into my mouth and coughed my way through it. Apparently it was charming. Anyway, I am sad to not be doing it anymore. I had so much fun with Johnston and now I just have the box office and that is NOT fun. Even though I was paid what can only be described as a "stipend" for doing it, it was the best thing to happen since June. Goodbye, Santaland.

I am going home in a week! I am happy. I will miss Chris but he'll be really busy anyway so he'll be ok. This will be the first time I've travelled without him since May 2007 (and we have travelled A LOT since then being on tour and living in the same town and all). It will be the longest I've been away from him since we stopped being long distance, too. AWWWWWW. But, yes, I am very excited.

The weather has been really nice lately and it makes me want spring for real, even though it's still December. It also makes me want Chipotle. The closest one is 45 miles away. Boo. Maybe I'll go to the cheap replacement, Qdoba instead. That's only 30 miles away. DAMNIT, Virginia! You suck so much.

Monday, December 22, 2008

my search for christmas

This last week was so incredibly long and this coming week will be even longer. Most of the week my day went like this: do laundry in the costume shop, work in the box office, do preshow, work in the box office, do laundry. After the matinees this weekend I would be working the gift shop, run into the theatre and start picking up trash, run backstage and move our seats and bells into place (the turnover is really fast between the end of the Carol matinee and the start of our preshow), run downstairs and throw the whites into the washing machine, go back upstairs and finish working the gift shop.

Next week there are only 3 of us left on staff... which means we are working literally the entire day. I will work from 9am-10:30pm the 26th - 28th just in the box office. There is only one hour of time where I will not be working, and that is from 4-5 when I am doing the preshow. We can't even take lunch breaks because there is no one to cover them. Why is it like this, you might ask? Because they fired or moved our employees into the positions of other fired employees right before the busiest season of the year and two people went on vacation. Now, the people who went on vacation... I mean, good for them. If I could leave, I'd go away too. But the firing and moving of employees just baffles me. Why now?? You could't wait THREE WEEKS? I mean, what if I would have said, "You're taking away my full time position??? Screw you! I'm not taking that kind of pay cut!!!!" and stormed off? They would have been left with TWO PEOPLE to run a business open from 9am-10:30pm that has 600+ people coming in and out of it a day.

Sigh.... so, as my dad said, "at least you're working." This is true. A lot of people are not working these days (my dad included). My mom slipped on some ice the other day and twisted her ankle. She has broken this ankle I think 3 times since 1999. My dad sent me a picture mail over the phone of her bruised and bloody foot. Thank you, dad.

I still can't make it feel like Christmas and I don't understand why. I am singing and playing Christmas songs every day, I hear Christmas music several times a day, I am right on the other side of the wall when Scrooge blesses everyone with the spirit of Christmas or whatever... I've watched my fair share of weird Christmas Carol adaptations. I have a tree (with butterflies on it!) and stockings hung on the fire place. It's even COLD today!!! And yet... it's December 22nd and it might as well be August 22nd. I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that I'm miserable. Lots of people are miserable at Christmas. I don't think it has anything to do with the lack of presents to give or receive.... that has happened several times, now. WHERE ARE YOU, CHRISTMAS?? I really do miss Christmas. I wish I could feel Christmasy.

Ugh. So, yes. I am miserable. Well, I've been under a lot of stress, you know? I already take things personally but now I am REALLY taking them personally. Chris decided to take that non-equity contract here. I'm not happy about it. I KNOW it was my idea in the first place but... I don't know... I guess I didn't think he'd make the decision SO SOON. I thought he'd actually REALLY think about it for a while instead of making the choice in about 5 minutes out of fear. He gets housing back which basically means I have to move away alone (if he takes actor housing) because they won't let me live there. There is MAYBE one other thing that could happen... they could give him an extra stipend or something to cover his half of the rent at our apartment. I would have to cover my half... but then I'd be stuck here. What if I got a job somewhere else? One of us would have to pay the other half of the rent (whether I was living here or not). I don't know what to do and it's making me crazy.

And I need to choose a song, a monologue and a dress. Soon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

i feel like i'm working summer stock

Thankfully, I was able to take over Emily's job in the costume shop. This probably sucks for Jenny because now she'll be re-training someone for everything, but I have never minded a costume shop. A long, long time ago I worked in the one at Kent. I promptly forgot everything I learned as soon as I left, but I relearned it a year later when I worked, for a week, mainly in the Huron Playhouse costume shop. I even made a whole pair of pants in there. They were Dan's in this weird Indian dance in Annie Get Your Gun and one night they totally split down the middle. I don't know if this was my fault, his, or both of ours, but it sure was funny. I took a long hiatus from costuming, but I was one of 2 costume people on our tour last year. Costuming and Props are the two worst jobs on tour and I had both of them. Both jobs involved a lot of cleaning up after other people and not knowing things were broken until <2 hours before a show starts.

So, I'm back, costume world. I can listen to music in the shop and if I had any hobbies anymore I could do those, too. I was trying to relearn how to use a sewing machine last night. After 6 or so attempts, I finally gave up. I think I will like the costume shop way better than the box office. What I already do not like is having to work a 12 hour day to make up the pay cut I got. I did laundry from 10:30-12, then I worked in the box office from 12-4, then I had Santaland from 4-5, then I went home for an hour and ate a microwaved Weight Watchers "Smart Ones" and then I went back from 6:30-11 to do more laundry. This was just yesterday. What is worse about this day is that yesterday was supposed to be my day off. Today I am ACTUALLY taking the day off. Hooray. I didn't sleep very well last night, but at least I have no further responsibilities. My other day off this week was supposed to be Friday but I'm already working in the box office from 6-9:30 and I'll probably need to come in before Santaland to do laundry.

I don't have insurance anymore so I guess I better not get sick. I never even got to use my dental insurance. I'm sure, based on how things have been going, that now I will get sick AND chip a tooth or something.

Chris is currently at an audition at the Barter Theatre. He hasn't auditioned anywhere except here in 5 years. Even when he worked at Porthouse with me he didn't have to audition. He said he was pretty nervous but that it went well. We had both talked about going down there when they had this call but after I saw the season I was kind of like "ehhh" and never made an audition time. Chris didn't either, but since he is equity he can just stroll right in and they HAVE to see him. If there's any perk to being equity, that's it. Well, that and the better pay. And the not having to work more than 8 hours a day. And only having to be an actor, not an actor/slave laborer. (You'd be surprised how many theatres can get their non-equity actors to do this.) ANYWAY, he is considering take a non-equity contract here, but I don't know. I mean, it was my idea in the first place for him to find out about it, but it's just so depressing here. I don't think I can watch more people that I love lose their jobs and the rest of us have to work 12-hour days to make up for it. Plus, you know, *I* don't want to lose my job. If we left and went somewhere else, people would still be losing their jobs, but at least I wouldn't know them. It's harder when it's everyone you know. So..... I just don't know. I mean, for right now, we have jobs through March. My biggest fear is that Christmas is going to be HUGE at all the theatres in the country doing anything even remotely Christmas-y. People WILL spend extra money to be able to go and enjoy themselves.... but then the January numbers will be lower than they've ever been at every arts center in the world and it won't get better until people have jobs again and can afford to do things. Who KNOWS how long that will be. I am afraid a lot more theatres will have to close and even if you have a job lined up for whenever, you never know if it'll be taken away from you or even if you start a season and the theatre is forced to close in the middle of it.

Chris and I have decided to celebrate Christmas in January because of our money problems. I guess we're leaving up our decorations until then. This month has not felt even in the slightest way like it is Christmas, so it's no big deal. I miss Christmas. I wish it felt like Christmas.

In much, much better news, the preshow for Santaland starring me and Johnston is awesome. So far, we have had only minor playing screw-ups, one broken string and we seem to be more funny than annoying (knock on wood!!!) which is all I can ask for. Yesterday I realized a few things:
A. I am very high strung ("MY PICK FELL IN THE GUITAR!!!!!!!!!!!!"; or the fact that I actually screamed when Johnston broke the string)
B. Almost everything I say is improv'd. If, while speaking and making everything I say up, I can pronounce a multi-syllable word without adding extra letters, syllables or just tripping all over the entire phrase, I consider my life a success.
C. You can't sing soprano and chew gum at the same time. You can, however, chew gum, sing in your belt, and play guitar at the same time.
D. Johnston and I should start a vaudeville act because we work really well together, we harmonize really well together AND he is the George Burns to my complete Gracie Allen-ism.
E. I don't think vaudeville is still happening

SOOOO!! It's been so much fun and I was only half kidding when I told the audience yesterday, "This is the only joy I have in my life right now." I still have my Chris, so it is one of two joys. Speaking of my Chris, he takes over the role on Friday. John has had some really great audiences so I hope they continue for Chris. Oh.. hahaha... I did hear, however, that someone walked out during the middle of the show yesterday, offended, told the box office that "[i'm] going to shut this place down!" and walked back into the theatre to see the end of the show. I mean, first of all, I tell them during the preshow that it is an offensive show and that if they are offended, do NOT tell the box office (because the box office doesn't care). And secondly, he's going to shut us down???? Not if we get to us first, man!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

worst week ever, this is not hyperbole

First there was my dad getting laid off on Thursday...

On Monday I heard through the grapevine that 4 people had been laid off in the main offices of our theatre.

On Tuesday the 5 or so people left in the main offices kept being really nice to me and asking if I was okay. It did not take me very long to piece together that my position was going to be eliminated. This was confirmed... luckily they want to keep me on part time. I mean, I had no choice. I could have completely screwed them over and left them with 3 people to run the box office, but I need the money. So, my pay cut is pretty extreme. I am HOPING that there may be a part time position in the costume shop that I can take as well... but that might have been eliminated, too.

While I was in my "official" meeting telling me I'm getting my pay cut by $2.50/hr (AND my hours are cut), Chris was in a meeting with the artistic director who told him that they needed to eliminate the Equity contracts. If they get rid of ALL of them they can never get them back so they're probably keeping a few... Chris is not included in that list. He's been here longer than the people who will probably get to keep them, but his is still gone. ACTUALLY, he would have had more seniority than all but 1 other actor in the company. 5 years and the most rewarding artistic experience of his life and instead of being able to leave on his own terms like he was going to at the end of next fall, now he is unemployed as of April 1st.

I mean, unless he takes a non-equity contract out of desperation, we have to move. We don't have any MONEY to move, but there is nothing for us here. I don't know that any theatre is in a good situation right now... but we can't stay in this awful town. I don't know what to do. As long as we have friends we have a place to live for a while... I just can't believe this is happening. I mean, theatre, as a whole, will survive. It's survived EVERYTHING. I just have to wonder if it will be a career or just a hobby for the rest of my life.

... and if I am going to be miserable because of that for the rest of my life.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

so sleepy at 3pm

The summer/fall season is closing right now at the theatre. Well, it was a good run. All the shows were popular and good so great job, everyone! Next week is the beginning of the madness. Well, okay, next week is actually going to be okay but the two weeks after that are going to be AWFUL. Two people are going on vacation for two weeks and Johnston and I won't be available from 4-5 any day because of Santaland. We are ridiculously short staffed for this month. And THEN... Johnston's last day is the 23rd and Emily will be gone the day before and after Christmas. It will be the 3 full time people working ONLY! I think we have something like 12 hour days for that week. It is not going to be fun at all. My only salvation will be getting to do this preshow.

So, speaking of the preshow, it will be fun for me. Today I was using Alyssa's guitar (it's a smaller guitar and I wanted to get a feel for it to see if I should get a short-scale guitar, too) and on the last song my capo was pulling the strings down (which I didn't see until, like, the end) and we were waaaaaay off tune. It sounded so bad. Luckily, this was just a dress rehearsal so it's not like it really mattered, but I still don't like that. I had been using Chris's guitar, which is a JUMBO guitar, and it has been hard for me to reach the end of the neck, really heavy and it also makes my right arm go numb from sitting over it. My guitar is better for me, but it's been here at our apartment and it's too cold to walk it down to the theatre. I'll be taking it down there before Tuesday of course, but I still think I might need a 3/4 length or something. I think that's why I play all my songs on the 3rd fret-- because it's hard for me to REACH the normal positions. I've been looking more and more at the Daisy Rock guitars online. I'm not in the market to buy a new guitar any time soon, but when I am, I really think I'd like to get a Daisy Rock. The body and neck are a lot thinner so they're easier for people with small hands to play. PLUS, they come in great colors and/or designs and one of the models comes with DECALS!!!! You know I love decals.

Anyway, again, yes, Santaland will be fun. Playing music has been the only thing to really get my mind off of some troubling events happening lately. Most of our songs sound really good and the ones that aren't really good are still good (except when the capo is pulling down on the strings. Then it's just... not good). I have a lot of fun with Johnston and I have more fun with the fact that I don't really have to censor myself with the preshow because nothing I say will be worse than what is already written in to the real script. My Chris told me he's really impressed with how much I've improved and how effortlessly I am able to sing while playing. I only received that guitar 2 years ago, I've never had a lesson and here I am, accompanying myself at a regional theatre. I mean, I'm no Chris JOHNSTON, but I'm doing alright. :)

So, on Thursday my dad wrote my siblings and I to tell us he got laid off. This is not good. My dad can't just get a job anywhere. He's got a bad heart condition (his first surgery was in his 20s and he's had many since then) so it's not like he can be doing any kind of lifting or being on his feet all day. Plus, you know, he's 56 years old... and then is the fact that there are no jobs anywhere to begin with. Ugh... it's really not good. Chris is really upset about it because he thinks my dad is like the nicest guy ever. My mom cried. I don't want them to move. I really love Huron and they have such a nice view. My dad really likes being able to watch the Lake from our living room. You know how some people are happy to be laid off because they can go on vacation or whatever? We're not those people. It's not good.

Times are tough. It's cold outside. I'd actually go back to the theatre and watch the end of Richard if it weren't so cold. Last night I finally watched the beginning of Close Encounters and I have so many unanswered questions. That kid is really adorable, though. That must be why the aliens abducted him.

I'm really in to the most recent Death Cab for Cutie album. I'm also really in to the idea that John Lennon, George Harrison, John Entwistle and Keith Moon play as "The Whotles" in Heaven.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

i'm watching the tree lighting on nbc!

I love Thanksgiving. I am so happy it exists. Chris and I left for Ohio last Monday, drove in Ginna's car to Bethesda, MD, picked UP Ginna, and then drove to Columbus for the night and Chris's mom picked us up on Tuesday morning. My sister got in late that night and we had my family's dinner on Wednesday, as we always do. My brother told us how he's either going to go to China or Chile to teach English as a second language and I guess he is going to Germany next year for some course before he graduates. That's CRAZY! I wish I could go... abroad.

On Thanksgiving proper I went to Chris's mom's house for deep fried turkey (if you are offered this TRY IT!! It is so effing good!) and then to his dad's side where I met, or at least saw, the 41 family members that were there and that I had never met before. Chris's grandma had 8 children (she's Catholic) and they've all got kids... and some of them have kids, now, too. So, anyway, I had only met only 3 people from that side and 38 more was a little overwhelming.

Unfortunately we had to leave on Friday but we were able to take our time and stop by my Grandma's house. I was so happy to go home, though. I hate being so far away from my family. It makes me really sad.

Sigh... so, on Saturday I was back to work. There is a Santaland dress on Friday and Sunday of this week (first preview is next Tuesday) so Johnston and I have been working a lot on music. We have 6 songs... some of them are better than others but they are all coming along really well. I've gotten so much better at guitar (than I was in June)! It's a good thing I practiced so much over the summer because we've been playing for like 2 hours during our rehearsals. I would have never been able to do it if I wouldn't have been practicing... my fingers would have hurt waaaaay too much.

Last night Chris invited our friends Pasha, Rick and Dennis over for wings and... Guy Time, I guess. They ate homemade chicken wings and watched Ocean's 11 and Boogie Nights. I, of course, emailed my 10-page play, Boogie Knights to Pasha and Dennis because... well, how could I not? It was my best achievement in life. A play about a time travelling knight who wants to learn roller disco. Brills. They had fun and it was ridiculously hot in the living room because of the oven and the guys.

I am watching Jon and Kate Plus 8 and they are at Disney World and I am crying. This episode is old and it was the first one I ever saw. It's actually why I started watching this show, even though the kids go nuts and Kate yells a LOT.... but still. It's DISNEY WORLD!!!! If I could say there were only two true good things in this entire world those two things would be Disney and Christmas. I don't care... it is just FANTASY at Disney! I love it.

On Monday Chris and I went on a little date! We weren't planning it... we never, ever get out so I suggested we get some coffee. We had coffee and some cake at the coffee shop... then we walked around downtown. We came home for an hour or so then went back out and got some pizza and then went to see Rachel Getting Married at the Visulite. During the dancing at the wedding Chris said, "these people are eclectic!!" Yes.... yes they were. I think it was good although it's not the type of movie you feel good or stand up and cheer after. I would have applauded the seats at the theatre, though... they were AWESOME.

Listen... did anyone else watch that Britney Spears thing on Sunday night? I know my die-hard Britney fans did... but did other people? I'm just kind of proud of her. If she can keep herself out of trouble than I think she can be forgiven for going nuts. I would have hated it if everything I did during a break up was on the NEWS. Plus, you know, she lost all that weight by basically giving up sugar. *I* basically gave up sugar and lost a bunch of weight, too. That and all the fiber I eat. But anyway, Britney Spears is no longer the worst thing in the world and I say, good for her!