How Musical Theatre Shaped Who I Am

I started theatre at the age of nine and continued with it until the age of 18. I always felt happiest up on stage in front of an audience. Theatre forced me to become comfortable in front of large amounts of people very early on which boosted my confidence more than I ever knew.

I never really had dreams of being on Broadway, my goal for each show was to do my personal best. I love going back and watching old DVD’s because my stage presence gets significantly better every show. Theatre is an amazing way to boost self confidence because the audience gives so much reassurance about what you are doing. It is not easy as a nine-year-old to remember choreography, song lyrics, and lines, but I have seen so many young kids perfect their performance in the end. It’s impossible to tell what you’re capable of before your first performance but once you leave it all on the stage you feel an instant wave of relief and accomplishment.

The Spring after my freshman year of high school I was nominated for EMACT’S (Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres) Best Young Actress award which was a high point of my theatre career. It was for my role as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. The nomination came as quite a surprise to me and I felt elated to attend the award gala and see many other talented actors. 13-year-old Hannah did not exactly feel at place in a room surrounded by much older actors  who had been performing longer than I had been alive. Looking around me and realizing that I was being recognized side by side with so many other amazing people made me hold my head up a little higher and smile a little brighter. Although I did not win the award, being recognized for doing what you love is always an achievement in itself. The nomination showed me that what I was doing was meaningful not only to myself, but to others. I had always felt a little different being a theatre kid and never getting involved with sports so this source of validation made a big difference in my social development in high school.

Through the Easton Children’s Theatre I was able to perform for nine years as well as become an assistant director for about five years. I helped out with two musicals during the year and over the summer I was a counselor for a four week camp that resulted in a completed musical. This opportunity allowed me to choreograph many shows and help young actors between the ages of 9 and 15 sharpen their acting skills and gain confidence on stage. It is amazing how much a young actor can change between their audition and opening night. The amount of joy I feel watching a completed show has brought me to tears multiple times because I feel so much pride in the actors. I wouldn’t trade my theatre experience for anything in the world and I would do anything to relive every show I directed one more time.

Flash forward to my senior year of high school, I knew that my theatre career was coming to a close. My major was declared at Emerson and I wasn’t too sad about my final curtain call at my high school musical. Theatre was the right choice for me throughout high school and I did not regret any of the late night choreography sessions or stressful dress rehearsals. To all of the theatre kids out there, you are making the best decision by sticking with it and performing on a stage. You will carry the skills and confidence with you for the rest of your life and it will bring you many, many opportunities (theatre related or not) in the future.

Because of musical theatre, I am now able to speak in front of crowds, hold myself with poise, and watch young actors grow  with my guidance. When I start to reminisce on my theatre experience I miss it more and more. There is absolutely nothing else like live theatre which makes the feeling irreplaceable in my heart. I hope one day I will step foot on a stage because I really do still hear it calling my name.

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Being Present

 

Credit: Pinterest

Last week I came across the above quote and it really spoke to me. Being physically present and being mentally present have two completely different definitions. Lately I have been feeling the absence of deep, meaningful conversations in my life and I yearn for that void to be filled.

I cannot remember the last time a phone wasn’t pulled out at some point during a conversation. When hanging out with a group of friends all it takes is one person to pick up their phone and everyone feels obligated to check theirs too. We have grown accustomed to the presence of technology and it is getting harder and harder to be fully present in day to day life. The truth about technology is saddening because no one my age knows how to entertain themselves without a screen. Someone whip out Yahtzee or Pictionary, PLEASE.

It may seem ridiculous to live without technology but pulling back from constant screen use is a great way to slow down your brain. Lock your phone and instead pass some time by reading, journaling or drawing…unleash the creativity! Once enough time is focused in a more constructive place than the depths of someone’s Instagram page a feeling of relaxation arises. There will always be time to be engrossed in social media but I hope more than anything that young people can learn to stay present in the more simple joys of life.

When having a conversation, I try to remind myself to continuously look someone in the eye and ask questions about what they are saying. That is the best way to show your true interest in another person. It is just too easy to get lost behind a screen when the world is going by around us. We walk around engrossed in the latest Tasty video or Snapchat story, completely oblivious to the beauty passing by with every step.

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It may seem impossible to go a full day without your phone but the experience will allow you to see the world a little differently. You don’t need that perfectly staged Snapchat video or Instagram story to show that you are having fun with your friends. There is definitely pressure in our world today about posting constantly to ensure that your followers know you are maintaining an interesting life. Your friends that you are hanging out with already know how much fun you are. Pictures and videos are great, but soaking in the memories with your eyes and ears is more organic and fulfilling.

It is always great to snap some pics of a new place or some cool food, but save the editing and posting until after in order to enjoy the rest of the day. People always seemed surprised when I say I left my phone at home for the day or night; it’s like a security blanket that is thought to be a necessity when I can function just as well without it.

Right now you are looking at a screen, as are billions of people around the world. Try taking a breather from all the screens and pay attention to the beautiful details all around you because the world is a lot more interesting than the Instagram popular page.

I snapped this pic before embarking on a beautiful walk down the beach a few weeks ago. Left my phone in the car (:

 

Backstock for Standing Rock with Pub Club

It has always been important to take action, but now is an essential time to be advocating for social and political change. That includes taking action here on Emerson’s campus, in the greater Boston area, or beyond.

But, sometimes advocacy can mean showing solidarity. Or fundraising in support of an issue or movement. That’s why Undergraduate Students for Publishing (or Pub Club) has decided to spend a week selling its back stock to fundraise for Standing Rock. If you’re unfamiliar with Standing Rock, here’s a brief summary: The Standing Rock protests are in response to a proposal to build the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). If built, the pipeline would threaten the water that many indigenous people in the area depend on. Despite the freezing weather, protests have continued at Standing Rock for months now.

Continue reading “Backstock for Standing Rock with Pub Club”

Pub Club’s Fall 2016 Book Launch

What is Pub Club exactly? Pub Club is short for Undergraduate Students for Publishing, which is one of several publishing organizations operating on Emerson’s campus. The organization provides students who hope to work in the publishing industry the chance to gain some valuable experience while at Emerson. One of the ways Pub Club does this is by publishing two books a semester, under the name Wilde Press.

Continue reading “Pub Club’s Fall 2016 Book Launch”

Back to Campus: Quelling College-Related Anxiety

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Last August, I was terrified to start college.

On another hand, I was also excited to get to campus. Soon, I’d be taking classes in the areas of study that most interested me. My roommates and I had already become well-acquainted through the power of Facebook, which ensured I would not be entering my college years alone.

Still, I had lived in the same comfortable, yet boring, town for the majority of my life. Though my most valuable friendships were not made until high school, I had gone to class alongside the same students for years. My school wouldn’t be too far from home but I recognized that college would still bring tremendous change to my life. And, unfortunately, change can be scary.

Continue reading “Back to Campus: Quelling College-Related Anxiety”

In Defense of Young Love

As I packed up my boxes to leave my dorm room for the summer, I felt all the usual end of the year nostalgia. Saying “goodbye” to the friends I’d begun to call family was certainly not easy. But, I also could not help but feel a wave of excitement rush over me. Of course I was happy at the prospect of no more school work or final projects to stress over, but more so I was happy at the idea that for the first time in over nine months I was going to be able to wake up each morning next to the boy I loved. This meant no more FaceTimes with roommates intruding, no more crying simply because he was so far away and no more late night fights about how much we missed each other. Finally, we would be able to return to our in person relationship, and I could not be more thrilled.

This year marked my three year anniversary with my boyfriend, John, as well as the beginning of both our first years of college. We’ve been together ever since sophomore year of high school when our chemistry as lab partners was undeniable. We held hands across the lunch table for weeks before even exchanging phone numbers. We officially became boyfriend/girlfriend after a friend asked if we were “a thing” and both of us just looked at each other and smiled. “I guess so,” was the final decision. Thus, began three years of seeing each other everyday nonstop and falling more and more silly in love. We even spent a summer living together.

However, in the fall of 2015, our college plans separated us by over three hundred miles. John attended a university in New Jersey while I chose a school in Boston. Despite the distance, we knew that we were going to continue on and make our relationship work. Though he now plans to transfer closer in the fall, we always knew that we wanted to stay together no matter what time apart or distance we may have to endure. Many people, especially “adults”, have told us to simply give up, claiming that breaking up would just be easier. Since we are young, they believe our relationship is not something worth fighting for. I have heard one too many lectures on “all the fish in the sea” to ever consider using the hackneyed phrase again. John’s own mother has infamously said that she thinks “high school relationships should stay in high school.” But, for us, from the beginning, breaking up was never an option or even a conversation.

Now, I am not going to pretend that long distance is an easy feat. There were times when the mere fact that we were physically so far apart led to fighting and mental distance. Both of us were having new experiences and changing so much in such a short period of time that we of course had to wonder if we were growing in opposite directions. Still, our relationship stood strong as we texted and FaceTimed and made room for each other even in our ever-evolving new worlds. And, guess what? It worked. Now that we are finally on the other side, I am so happy to be reunited with him.

Though we may be “high school sweethearts,” I would venture to say we’ve been through a lot together already, and our relationship is just as valid as any other despite our ages. We’ve been with each other through some of the most pivotal and life changing moments. We’ve made so many memories together and encouraged each other as we’ve grown. I feel so lucky to have had him by my side these past three years. From holding me up at my grandfather’s funeral to holding my hair back when I’m sick, John has been there for it all. There have been so many tissues and sleepless nights both good and bad. He truly knows me better than anyone else in many ways simply because he’s been there for so much.

Sadly, it is still so often assumed that our relationship’s long standing will only eventually end in tragic heartbreak and the idea that we have wasted these years together. Many family and friends wonder if we’re planning too far ahead, especially as John transfers to a school that while academically more rigorous than his current institution also happens to be geographically closer to me. They think we are too young to allow our lives to intertwine quite so deeply and to decide upon such a definite future. Although I can try and understand this concern, I am dead set on the fact that they are unbelievably wrong.

This is mainly because John is not simply my boyfriend but my best friend. He is the first person I want to go to with my problems and the first person I want to share good news with. No matter what we are doing we always manage to have fun together, we can laugh together for hours over silly things. He is the person I want by my side on my every adventure. Our favorite thing to do; get in the car and just drive. Already, we have seen so many places together from the coastline of Maine to small art museums across the North East. We have admired the Brooklyn Bridge at night and the beaches of Newport at sunrise. Our mission to see all fifty states together began the first time we took a train into Philadelphia. I can not wait to see even more and learn even more. I am so excited to continue exploring the world with him.

But, I also have made a point not to sacrifice other friendships and relationships in my life for him. I have always been a big proponent of the fact that while having a boyfriend who is your best friend is nice it is important not to make him my entire world. It is important to us both that we both have friendships and interests outside of our relationship. Thus, we share our interests, challenge each other, and celebrate the times that we can have adventures hand in hand.

Despite the fact that I am young, I am quite certain that I could never see my current relationship as anything but a benefit in my life. Even if circumstances abound and for whatever reason we go in separate directions, I can not imagine seeing our time spent together as a regret. In addition each choice that we make is ours to choose, and at the moment we are certainly quite happy with my choices. So, let us be happy. We are constantly making new memories and having new experiences because we are young, and at least at the moment we want to experience it all together. It is certainly not easy to be young and in love but, it is definitely worth it. 

Queer Monologues: Emerson’s Archive of Queer Voices

Written anonymously

Before this year I would have never considered myself a performer. Before this year I would have never considered myself a part of the queer community. Now I can say that I’m both. This year I became a more active member of EAGLE, Emerson’s LGBTQ+ organization, and through a lot of their events, I stepped more and more out of my comfort zone. Queer Monologues was probably the height of this.

Queer Monologues is an event created by Emerson senior, Nathan Coffing, who modeled it after Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” In Ensler’s play, she has a varying number of monologues that are typically performed with multiple women reading together. According to V-Day’s Website, “the Vagina Monologues” are “based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women. The play addressed women’s sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse, creating a new conversation about and with women.”

“Queer Monologues is a collective art piece intended to create a living book of experiences of LGBTQ+ people,” Coffing says about their vision for the project. “I wanted to bring the project to Emerson because we have so much talent in both writing and performing and I wanted to create a way that queer memory would exist and retain itself at the college, so that our stories would stay and hopefully resonate with someone else in the future.”

This project takes that same central concept of “The Vagina Monologues” and it extends it to the queer community. Emerson students were encouraged to submit their own work or audition to perform the works of those who did not want to perform them personally. Some students, like myself, chose to submit as well as perform. I wrote a slam poem about my gender identity and was able to see it given life on the stage as I performed it alongside three other Emerson students. This happened with the majority of the monologues which were written by one person but then were broken up between multiple voices, with some lines having more than one person reading them in unison. A few pieces were read solo to give the performance a quieter feel, especially if the piece was particularly personal. The first and last pieces, “What is Queer” and “Hi, Little Girl” were read by the entire cast.

The monologues address many personal aspects that a lot of those in the queer community can relate to. There are pieces about break ups, sex, coming out, and gender identity. The Queer Monologues is designed to give a space for queer people to be empowered and share their stories. So often queer people are discriminated against, erased from the media, not given a voice, but the Queer Monologues starts small and gives queer people a chance to speak and to be heard.

The performance happened on Thursday March 31st which fittingly and coincidentally happened to be on Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness for Transgender people. The fifteen performers read out the monologues of their fellow students and performers to a filled Cabaret in Emerson’s Little Building. The audience was extremely receptive, often snapping and laughing in response to all these emotions the performers placed into this space. Queer Monologues is going to continue in future years, with these pieces from the first performance being included in years to come. That way, even after students graduate, their voices will still be heard and their stories will take on new voices and new meanings as others step up to the stage to perform them.

At the beginning of this semester, I never thought I would get to a place where I could be comfortable enough to take a huge step out of my comfort zone and perform a personal piece as well as the pieces of fellow students in front of a crowd. I was able to find a way to express myself through Queer Monologues, and since the event is expected to continue throughout the years, hopefully this will be the beginning of an experience that will empower more Emerson students for years to come.

All The World’s A Stage

While sitting in the audience of a production of “Twelfth Night” during a particularly hilarious scene, I saw a hand creep into my field of vision. The hand was inviting me to come with it onto the stage and a jolt of fear ran through my body. Though dubious, I ultimately decided to follow its command and found myself on the stage dancing and singing with two of the main characters in the play. When I didn’t think it could get any more bizarre, the ushers started running through the aisles and onto the stage with boxes of pizza. This, my friends, is the magic of live theater.

As essentially an English major I’ve read a lot of classic plays. Even if you are not cursed with a literature class every semester you’ve probably taken at least one, or remember having to read some plays in your high school English classes. And, as you’ll recall, it’s pretty hard to get into Shakespeare when you’re listening to a teacher you probably don’t like all that much talk about major themes in the least interesting way possible. Unfortunately, that is the way most of us are exposed to great plays rather than seeing them on stage as they were meant to be. And without that opportunity, some never get to experience the way a production can breathe new life into something everyone thought they knew inside and out and make you experience something entirely new, like two plays I have seen recently.

The first was an ArtsEmerson production of “Twelfth Night.” I went into this play not realizing how different it could be from my experience of reading it out loud in my high school Shakespeare class. It was almost as if it was an entirely new play despite them using the same words my classmates and I had stammered out two years before. There was no real set to this production, just a few musical instruments placed in a semi-circle around the stage. These instruments were used throughout the play because there were many random outbreaks of rock music when the characters would suddenly stop and dance for a while in between monologues, giving this production an entirely different atmosphere than that expected of a Shakespeare play.

All the characters except for Sir Toby Belch, the comic relief of the play, were in casual contemporary clothing. This made everything Toby (who was in period garb) did a lot funnier and all of the other characters much more accessible to the audience. The audience participation also added a new dimension to the play. For example, the main character, Viola, decides she must dress up as a man and asks the audience if anyone has a men’s jacket or hat that she could borrow. She was then thrown a men’s hoodie and a beanie that served as her costume for the rest of the show. Another great moment was during one of the play’s opening scenes. The characters threw balls back and forth with the audience and caught them on velcro joker hats. This production made Shakespeare entertaining in a way that some people don’t believe it can be.

Recently, I also saw a one woman production of three short Samuel Beckett plays: “Not I,” “Footfalls,” and “Rockaby.” Though these are not plays that are usually read in English classes, some of his other work is much more popular such as “Waiting for Godot” and “Endgame.” This production in particular disoriented the audience, because the entire 55 minute performance is a blackout. Every light in the theater is off, including the exit signs and the actress is the only thing lit up. 

In the first monologue, “Not I,” all the audience can see is the actress’ mouth floating around while she babbles her speech so fast it’s almost incoherent. This use of blackout added a very intense element to the production. In the words of an audience member, “the words are everything” because in the darkness all you have to focus on is the words. It was an extremely intense experience that I could could never have gotten from just reading these plays.

Plays seem to be in a unique position to be so incredibly enhanced by their productions.  Live theater has the opportunity to bring something new to every performance because it interacts live with the audience. “Twelfth Night” pulled the audience right on stage. The darkness of the Beckett plays allowed the audience to in some ways become alienated and unified in others. No one can see anyone else–so if anyone coughs it’s shocking and disruptive–but on the other hand you feel unified by such an intense experience. As well as many other aspects of performances such as the use of music when you wouldn’t expect it, unusual costumes, or a unique lighting choice can mean a world of difference to how you experience a play. Both of these plays show how small elements of a production can turn words on a page into something entirely new.

Get Org-anized

“I’m going to a meeting. And then another one after that.”

“Didn’t you just have a meeting?”

“Yeah, but I have more. And another one tomorrow.”

This is kind of how it goes for me. Being a member of four organizations, it’s not uncommon for me to have three meetings in a week. One night I even had three meetings in a row. At a school like Emerson, sometimes it’s hard to say no and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the stress that your organizations are adding to your already busy workload. Here are a few tips from someone who knows this stress firsthand.

Get Organized

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If you don’t already have a way of organizing all of the work you do, that’s your first step. Since college is so busy, it’s best to have a place to keep everything that you need to do in one spot so that you know all of your obligations. It might be easier to rank assignments and meetings in order of priority or due date so that you know what to do first. I usually highlight all of my assignments based on class or organization so I can quickly spot what I need to have completed for everything I’m involved in. If there’s a lot of things you have to do, it’s only going to be worse if you don’t hand things in or forget deadlines.

Prioritize

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If you find that you’re too stressed, consider doing less next semester or maybe dropping a club that same semester if you can. There are certain clubs, like magazines, where it’s harder to do that mid-semester because you’re on the staff. But if it’s a club where the only requirement is to go to meetings, it might be beneficial to take a few weeks off to get a hold of things or even drop the club entirely. You can always rejoin next semester if you think the workload will be lighter.

Focus on Yourself

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It’s so easy to compare yourself to others, especially when it comes to all of the activities that your peers are involved in. It’s easy to go on Facebook and see the films your friends have worked on or the articles your classmates have written and feel you’re not doing enough. I know I’ve often looked at classmates who are more involved than me and had the thought that I’m not doing enough, even when sometimes I’m way over my head. Having a heavy workload forces you to learn a lot about yourself, about what you can and cannot handle. Focus on what you can handle and not what everyone else is doing. That person in your class who’s in seven different organizations may look like they’re doing okay, but they probably barely have time to breathe, and if you can’t handle that (because honestly who can?) it’s okay to take a step back and reevaluate what you’re involved in.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

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Don’t be afraid to say no. Emerson students are especially bad at this because everyone around us is always doing so many amazing things. It’s easy to feel like you’re underachieving if you’re not in seven different organizations. Every person is different and you know what you can handle. If your workload is too much, don’t feel pressured to stretch yourself too thin. It’s okay to miss a meeting or two every once in a while if you’re feeling too stressed. People will be understanding as long as you’re responsible about it.

Take Time to Destress

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If it’s 1 a.m. and you’re in between writing a paper, reading for a class and trying to prepare for meetings and classes the next day, maybe take a deep breath and take a minute to yourself. Take a long shower or watch an episode of a TV show to give yourself time to relax and decompress. The paper will eventually get done, but you probably won’t be successful if you’re too stressed or tired. Remember that your health is your first priority.

Sometimes it seems like attending an arts school pressures students to think that if they’re not doing well in all their classes as well as taking on multiple organizations, then they’re not getting the most out of their college experience. I have friends who go to more traditional schools and they may take more classes that have a larger workload, but I feel like the pressure to be involved is a lot less. It’s okay to not be involved in 101 things; just do what makes you happy and enjoy your college experience the way you want to.

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How to Survive Boston’s Weird Weather

“How’s the weather today?”

This question has been on my lips every morning for the last three months. Growing up in Rhode Island, I have learned from a young age not to question 60 degree days in December, snow in April and everything in between. But what about Emersonians from warm places like LA, Miami and New Orleans who have never known this kind of debauchery? How are the people from even harsher places handling this–the ones who have always relied on cold staying cold? How are the international students who are just now experiencing life in this hemisphere? My advice to everyone baffled by these strange occurrences: look no further and have no fear. There is a way to cope with Boston’s madness and I suggest you take notes.

Check the Weather Reports

If you have a smartphone, you can access weather data instantaneously with the touch of a finger. Don’t make the mistake of relying on friends’ opinions of what it’s like outside. Each person’s experience of temperature is subjective and unique to their own perspective on the meaning of “cold.” I have one friend who wears nothing but converse and a blazer in a foot of snow. Do the smart thing and check the temperature on your phone–it even gives you an unbiased estimation of what it “feels like” based on wind chill. Just be aware that forecasts going later into the week are subject to error.

Listen to Your Mother

Even in the event of an unseasonably warm winter like this one, a cold snap is always lurking around the corner. Don’t get faked out by a week of t-shirt weather; the next day it can drop to below freezing. Try to dress accordingly to the weather app’s predictions, but also pay attention to how long you will be out. If you leave your dorm or apartment in the morning and come back at night, things will be quite different. This is why I say to listen to your mother and dress in layers. When I was just a tiny tot, my mom used to put me in the puffiest coat she could find. To further the marshmallow effect she added mittens, a hat much too large for my head and huge snow boots. Now that we’re all adults here, you can make these choices for yourself. That means that you can exclude certain dorky factors if you wish, but you still might want to wear a third item on top of your shirt and beneath your coat. Think of it like this: if it ends up being colder than you thought it would be, an extra layer will be appreciated. If it gets up to 50 or so, you’ll be glad to have some middle ground between your ski jacket and t-shirt that you can peel down to. Another tip from all the moms out there: bring a hat and gloves!

Plan Around the Temperature

If you’re like me, you had some cool stuff planned during the last snow day that unfortunately did not happen. If I had been smart like you are and read a blog post like this one, I would have known to look ahead and plan that stuff for a day when the wind wasn’t trying to rip my face off.

I personally am still getting used to the concept of not being able to hop in the car and drive somewhere. The T is arguably a problematic fave, to be favored only above walking. In nor’easter conditions and light flurries alike, you never know when some tracks will get shut down. Keep in mind that rush hour times will be particularly bad when the train you need is only running half as often as usual. Plan ahead and don’t get caught in the middle of a blizzard with no milk for your cereal!

Learn to Love It

When you’re feeling particularly resentful towards the weather, remember that not everyone gets to witness all four seasons in a year. Boston may be annoying from November to March, but hey, at least there’s never a dull moment. When it rains, put on your moody poet face and sit in a coffee shop–you can even glare at people broodingly as they walk by the window. When it snows, go outside and try to catch snowflakes on your tongue. And when it’s a bitter cold, take a walk down memory lane and remember all the good times you had when it was sunny!