Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Stepping Into the New Year

"Our intuition comes from innocence." 
That was my Yogi tea bag tag message for the new year. My intuition, my gut, my instinct, comes from innocence, purity, no muck. It comes in the silence within myself, when I can close out the bickering devil and angel on each shoulder. It comes in the feeling, not the label. It comes in my secret smiles to myself when I'm driving alone in the car, listening to Michael Bublé. It comes in the happy rumble in my stomach when I satisfy my potato and ketchup craving. It comes in the lightness of my step as I run along the beach at midnight. 

This year, I aim to listen to my heart. It's where I'm happiest. It's where I feel the most connected to myself. It can be hard to get to sometimes, mucked up with clutter and indecision and doubt. I'm good at talking myself out of things. I tend to focus on what I don't know, rather than what I do.

I need to start with what I know. Start with what I can do. For example: 

I don't know what to eat. What do I know? I know I like vegetables. Good. I know I like rice. Good. I know I like chocolate. Good. Go from there.

I'm feeling crummy right now. What can I do to make myself feel better? 

I don't know what I want to do. What do I know that I don't want to do? I don't want to watch a movie. Okay. That's one thing off the list.

It's like working on a math problem. 

Step 1: Reword the problem into words that make sense. 
Step 2: Write down what I know
Step 3: Solve.
Step 4: Check my work. Did I come to a solution? If not, try again.  

It's like writing an essay. Ernest Hemingway said in his memoir A Moveable Feast, "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." Then, "go on from there." If I can write one true sentence, I can write another.

It's like putting one step in front of the other. Just take each day one step at a time, one moment at a time. If I can take one step, I can take another. Step through the muck. Be patient. Keep walking until I find my heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Solstice Run


11:45pm and we laced up our sneakers. The car idled in the driveway, the exhaust against the night air like the stream from the tea that awaited me when I got home. It was December 21st, the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, meaning that starting the next day (today), every day gets a little longer. And we–my mom, Michael, my dog Mocha and me–were ready to welcome the longer days.

This is the fourth or fifth year we've ran on the winter solstice. The first year we did it, the solstice fell on a full moon, and we ran by moonlight while the "cows" howled in the distance, or so my mom told my brother. The solstice hasn't fallen on a full moon since that first year, but the solstice runs have become a tradition. There's something about waiting up until midnight, seeing your breath fog up in the night air, feeling your way blindly on the trails, listening to the lull of the night. It's as if the world and we are in on a little secret. "Shh..." it tells us. "Don't let anyone know I'm awake."

This year was kinder than some years. There wasn't any snow on the ground and the air was cool but mild. Although it was cloudy, it wasn't too dark; our eyes adjusted quickly.

We did four laps this year–one for each runner–and then came home to tea and Trader Joe's gingerbread men. We each had four cookies for four laps for four runners. I went to sleep with my cheeks still rosy from the night air and my stomach warm with tea and cookies.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

21 Pages of Peter Pan

My Wendy costume.
Last night, my fellow castmates and I took flight one final time to Neverland in our high school's production of Peter Pan: The Official British Musical. I specify that it was The Official British Musical because it is so much richer than the Disney version. More true to the book, it primarily tells the remarkable coming of age story of Wendy Darling.


I didn't fully realize until last night at IHOP that we have been working on Peter Pan for the last six months. In June I was cast as Wendy, the twelve-year-old girl struggling to balance her desire to grow up with the temptation to stay a child alongside the whimsical Peter Pan––the perpetual little boy. Since then, I have invested myself in the story, like I do for every play.


This story was unique in that I had an entire book and several movie adaptations to construct my own interpretation of Peter Pan, and more specifically, Wendy Darling. I was also fortunate to have castmates who shared my love for analyzing the play––in particular, my friend Emily, who played my mother (Mrs. Darling), and my friend Joe, who played Peter Pan. I scrolled through all our Peter Pan e-mail exchanges and Facebook messages and copy and pasted them into a document. That document is 21 pages long. There's so much I want to talk about, so I think the best way to address them is to break this post up into sub-divisions.


Wendy, Peter and Mrs. Darling


Mrs. Darling and Peter are the embodiment of Wendy's coming of age struggle. In Mrs. Darling, Wendy sees her adult self. J.M. Barrie's book implies remarkable similarities between Wendy and Mrs. Darling. It is because of Mrs. Darling that Wendy realizes she needs to grow up someday. The book begins:


One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.


To say "she must grow up" has a tone of negativity, yet there is part of Wendy that is excited about growing up. She loves taking care of her brothers. She loves to play house. In picturing herself grown up, I imagine that Wendy thinks of Mrs. Darling. To Wendy, growing up is inevitable. She doesn't question it.


Until Peter. Peter flies into her window and enchants Wendy. He talks about flying and mermaids and fairies; about the Neverland, a world filled with fun and games and make-believe. Peter has somehow managed to beat the system and not grow up. In meeting Peter, growing up is no longer inevitable. Wendy has a choice, and her decision about whether or not to grow up is one of her many coming of age moments in the play.

The book says Wendy "grows up of her own accord," so eventually Wendy grows up because she wants to, not because it’s inevitable.
Wendy and Peter


Throughout the play, I was obsessed with figuring out Peter and Wendy's relationship––in particular, Peter's feelings for Wendy. How appropriate, considering in the script Wendy asks Peter, "What are your exact feelings for me?" It was a line that got laughs every performance, which made me defensive of Wendy. "She really wants to know!" I thought. "This is really hard for her!" But then again, it is a very adult line for a twelve-year-old girl.


Joe and I talked about this a lot, each proposing our own theories. Below are two of our many theories.


My Theory: I definitely get the sense that Wendy loves Peter, and she wants Peter to love her too, but love is too grown up of an emotion for Peter. What I can't understand (and maybe you have some insight/ideas?) is where Peter stands. When Wendy asks how Peter feels about her, he says that he feels like a "devoted son." Do you think that's all he feels? I know he enjoys Wendy's company, but the book doesn't seem to show any adolescent romantic interest (that's the weirdest way to word that) on Peter's side. There's no kiss on the cheek at the end, or sweet song. Peter forgets to get Wendy for spring cleaning the second year, and forgets a lot of their adventures. But, although he doesn't come back for almost 30 years, he does come back eventually, so I guess he still remembers Wendy, which, I don't know, is maybe significant because Peter forgets so much (including Tinkerbell and Hook)?
Wendy desperately wants Peter to love her and to grow old with her. I think Peter does love Wendy to some degree, but he doesn't know it's love because it's too adult of an emotion for him. I think Peter is sad Wendy isn't staying with him, which is another new emotion. But ultimately, he sacrifices Wendy because he loves being a child more. So why does he kiss her? I don't know.
Joe's Theory: Well...maybe he can't admit he does love her so instead of admitting it he just kisses her instead. Oh I've got it. Peter does love her. And he does want to grow up but his ego is too big and he won't admit it... I could probably keep coming up with weird things to answer your question but I really don't think I know either.


The kiss at the end of the play was hard for us to figure out, because it shows a remarkable amount of character development for Peter. It was important to us that this kiss contrasted the kiss at the beginning of the play. For the first kiss, our director instructed Joe to make a surprised look after I kissed him–like "What is this?"–immediately followed by a, "I like this" look. At that moment, the kiss is just, “This is cool.” The kiss doesn't have the same emotional attachment for Peter as the kiss at the end does, when he kisses Wendy. But where does that emotional attachment come from? And how much emotional attachment is there?  


Here I am talking about Peter even though I played Wendy, but I can't help trying to analyze him, because Wendy spends the whole play trying to analyze him and her relationship to him.


Wendy and Me


I still don't think Joe or I have the entire relationship figured out, because I don't think we're supposed to. A few weeks ago, Joe and I watched an acting video of the renowned German American actress and acting teacher, Uta Hagen, with a group of friends. In it, she warns her students to not think about what they're feeling onstage––the words “think” and “feel” themselves are contradictory.  


“I do that to you all the time,” I said to Joe. “I’m always asking you, ‘What are you feeling?’ ‘What are you thinking?’ ‘I’m going to do this here because of this.’”


In this way, I realize I am more like Wendy than I thought I was: the desire to always put a label on my emotions, rather than just feeling them; wanting to have it all figured out; wanting to know rather than feel, or rather, know how I feel, because knowing is so much more concrete. But the more time I spend trying to know how I feel, the less I feel. I understand this when I’m onstage. My best performances are the ones when I’m in the moment, not thinking about, “What is my character feeling at this moment?” but just being that character in that moment.


This show comes at a very apropos time for me. It’s my senior year, and as I prepare to wrap up this chapter in my life, I’m torn between the desire to grow up and the longing to stay a child. Like Wendy, who grew up of her own accord, I am leaving home of my own accord next year. No one’s telling me I have to go to college or that I need to go far away. I’m optimistic and nostalgic; excited and scared. I’m taking ownership of my life, which scares me because if I’m wrong, there’s no one to blame but myself.


Last night was my friend Connor’s last performance ever on our high school stage. Three Novembers ago, we were performing together onstage in Romeo and Juliet, our first high school play. As I watched him bow, I couldn’t stop crying, thinking about the time when I will need to say goodbye to him and my other senior friends. We’ve been through so much together. I have so many emotions about it all and I’m not always sure what I’m feeling or how I’m feeling, and somehow I want to find a name for it. But there I go again, thinking instead of just feeling.

My favorite part of Peter Pan was the final number, when Joe and I slow danced while he sang “Don’t Say Goodbye.” I believe that is Wendy’s freest moment of the play, because she is not thinking, just feeling. And in my performance, I too was not thinking, just feeling. Nothing made me feel freer than when Joe would spin me in my blue nightgown, and I could feel the fabric swishing around me and the wooden stage beneath my slippers.  


"Don't think of when we meet again, if it will be the same. Don't cry too hard, just smile, be happy now, be strong,” sang Joe as Peter, urging me not to worry about the future. "Don't wonder how we came to now, don't wonder why,” he sang, telling me not to think about the past. Just think about the present. Because if you read the book, you know that Peter forgets to come back for Wendy most years. He’s too preoccupied with his own adventures. But in the moment, Wendy believes with all her heart that Peter will come back for her, and that’s all that matters.

Monday, October 6, 2014

In the Presence of Greatness



I have frequented the streets of Washington Heights a lot in my blog posts in my writings about Nina Rosario, the "failed" neighborhood superstar of the barrio. I wax and wane myself off from the musical In the Heights, telling myself, "I need to move on" one day. But no more than a week goes by when I'm back waving my Dominican Republic flag. Tonight, I had the honor of seeing and talking with the man who brought Washington Heights into my life: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony-winning composer-lyricist of my all-time favorite musical, In the Heights.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's advisor at Wesleyan University (where he received his undergraduate degree in Theatre) is the father of the Headmaster at Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA. This is the fourth year of Lawrence Academy's J. William Mees Visiting Scholar's program. Miranda was this year's featured scholar. The night featured a video overviewing In the Heights, a few gracious performances from several of Miranda's works, and a question and answer session with the audience.

Miranda opened the night with songs from the Wesleyan draft of In the Heights, including one of Nina's original numbers on the subway, and a song from her brother Lincoln (who was cut in an earlier draft of the show). He wrote the first draft of In the Heights his sophomore year of college as a 90 minute, one act show at a time when he had a lot of "time and angst on his hands."

"Time and angst are all you need to write a musical. 'I have all these emotions and I just need to sing.' That was really the birth of 'In the Heights,'" he said.

He explained that he drew inspiration from home life, his summers in Puerto Rico, and his own "What if?" questions about the characters in his life. Attending Hunter College High School in New York City, he said he didn't have Latino friends his age until sophomore year in college. This allowed him to re-explore his Spanish roots, and write about them. He references the rock musical Rent as his epiphany that musicals could be written about everyday life––about "stuff."

When question and answer time came, the audience was silent. I myself, who had drafted three questions before I came, felt my hand twitch in my lap, but could not muster the courage to raise it. My stepdad, who is never afraid to be the first to volunteer, raised his hand.

"How do you go from In the Heights to Hamilton? How do you go from Washington Heights to Washington D.C.?" he asked, referencing Miranda's new musical, Hamilton, written about the life of the founding father, Alexander Hamilton. The musical premieres at the Public Theatre in New York City on January 20, 2015.

"I'm so glad you asked that question," Miranda said, and I cursed myself, because that was the big question I wanted to ask, and I wanted to sound smart in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer-lyricist of (have I mentioned?) my all-time favorite musical. Regardless, I took a deep breath, and raised my pen, ready to absorb every word he said.

Ultimately, Miranda said to write about what you know. His mother, he said, was a psychologist. She told him everything he experienced in life was, "Grist for the mill." It's how she got him to take out the trash, and also how she convinced him to work at McDonald's painting little kid's faces when they had the deal on Happy Meals on Friday nights. Coincidentally, Miranda said his experience at McDonald's became the "grist" for a later song of his.

Miranda said he first picked up Alexander Hamilton's biography on a vacation from In the Heights in Mexico.

"You can ask my wife," he said. "I was two chapters into the book and I said, 'This is going to be my next musical.'"

Miranda said he relates to the "ticking clock" Hamilton is so aware of, that idea that you never have enough time. Hamilton brilliantly interweaves current day inspiration into the characters of the 18th century. For example, Thomas Jefferson raps like Drake. Although it's a period piece, he explained that the debates of the 18th century aren't too different from the debates of today, like the issues of taxation and foreign policy.

"What does it take to bring a production like In the Heights to Broadway?" an aspiring playwright in the audience asked.

"I'm going to start with the bad news," Miranda said. "No matter how hard you work, no matter how good your show is, there is an element of luck." He then proceeded to explain the "elements of luck" that played a part in the success of In the Heights.

Most of them were with regard to the connections he made. He highlighted the importance of inviting anyone who is remotely involved in theatre to workshops of your play. He frequently talked about inviting "a guy who knew a guy who dated her," or someone of the sort. He also said it's important to have something physical (like a physical recording of your musical and/or a draft of a script) to give to someone so when that "element of luck" comes your way, you're ready to seize it.

At the end of the evening, I finally had my chance to personally meet Miranda himself. It was surreal to be able to shake his hand and thank him for this show that makes me feel at home; for writing songs that on my worst day, can make me laugh and fall in love; for giving birth to this character (Nina) who helped me find my voice. It was intimidating, inspiring, and incredible to meet the man who is where I want to be someday.


We talked about directing. He emphasized the importance of collaboration with actors, producers, and others involved in the show. It's important to be open-minded, he said, and not get married to a particular vision of the show. It takes a great amount of trust.

I asked him whether it was hard to let his vision go. The only part of the original Wesleyan draft of In the Heights that remains in the final version is, "In Washington Heights." More than sixty songs were cut between the first and final draft. Several characters were, as Miranda terms it, "killed."

"No," he said. He's just always excited about what's next.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Crazy Dreamer Caught in a Greenhouse


In honor of the background of my blog, I felt compelled to share this photo from my senior photos collection my dear friend Madison Busick put together for me. As I'm preparing to send off my college applications, Carrie Underwood's song "Crazy Dreams" has been very present with me. I started this blog freshman year as a "wild magnolia, just waiting to bloom."

High school has given me lots of room to grow, but I feel like I'm caught in a greenhouse. I have been protected from the harsh winds and cold winters, from the too powerful sun and the leaf-biting pests. High school has given me a safe space to establish my roots, but I'm still gazing out through the glass roof, waiting to bloom. I want to be watered by rain, not a hose. I want to smell the fresh air, pollutants and all. I want to stretch my limbs without hitting a wall.

Last week at a college interview, the admissions representative asked me about my college application process. I said, "I feel like I've been waiting to apply to college forever. I'm just so excited to look on these college websites and know these are my deadlines."

I don't know where I'm going to be next year at this time, but for once, the uncertainty of what is next is exhilarating.  


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Patchwork Quilt

These last two months, most of my writing has been stitched together from patches of work I've done over the last four years. As I've been constructing my college and scholarship essays, I've flipped through every journal since freshman year, skimmed through every blog post, and browsed my folders on Google Docs. All of this material makes up the meat of every essay I've written so far. It's the raw material that captures the essence of the moment. Without these journal entries, blog posts, and class assignments, I would be forced to toy with my memory, which at the surface does not produce much more than cliché muck. Mind you, there is still lots of muck I have to trudge through, namely the food anxieties and the unrequited love. I should tally the number of journal entries in which I promise I have "cried for the last time" about a boy; I will no longer "use his name;" I am "over him," only to find his name three pages later. For my own self-dignity, though, it is probably a good thing my journal is physical and therefore doesn't have a "Find and replace" word feature. 

But, amidst all this muck, I have found some gems––single lines or paragraphs or ideas that shimmer. I love seeing the themes that repeat––justification on the stage, experimentation in the kitchen, dreams of travel. It has been gratifying to finally string these together, and try to formalize, for example, why I love theatre. Writing these application essays, I have been able to relive the highlights of the last four years, and I am so grateful I have these words to jog my memory.

As senior year continues, I will keep my needle and string in hand, sewing together the best patches of my last seventeen years. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beyond the Barricade

"Fire!" Enjolras shouts from the top of the barricade. Our final shot for freedom. After 55 nights, maybe we'll actually win this time. My foot digs into Susan's waist. Willow takes a blow to the stomach and collapses center stage. Zane leaps to catch the flag. He screams and for the last time, I stumble, flop, and drop, dead on the barricade. I channel each breath, as my director told me, and wait for Javert to hit his suicide note so I can breathe normally again.


***

This past summer, I had the honor of performing in the revival run of Les Mis at the Academy Playhouse of Performing Arts in Orleans, MA. Sixty times I have formally died on the barricade (four times in my high school production of Les Mis and 56 times at the Academy), but I have spent more than 366 hours in the theatre performing the show. This doesn't include the time I spent outside of rehearsal memorizing lines and music, and developing my character. It doesn't seem possible that it is over.

I think everyone in our cast was expecting our director to make some changes from last year. We certainly didn't expect to run Act I right off the bat in our first rehearsal after ten months being away from the barricade. It was a test of muscle memory at its finest. Apart from a handful of new cast members, the performance was more or less the same as last year as far as our director's artistic vision went. But the show was tighter. After 28 shows last summer, we no longer needed to worry about remembering our lines and blocking, so we could dive into the hearts of our characters.

This summer, I journaled before every performance––about the show, any pre-show anxieties I needed to flush out, dressing room observations. I also became obsessed with Yogi Throat Care. The inspirational messages on the tags were like fortune cookies. Finding out, "What will Yogi say today?" soon became a favorite part of my day. Sometimes the messages were apropos to Les Mis. Other times they were good pre-show soothers––reminders to live in the moment, be kind to myself, and breathe. I started saving the tags and taping them in my journal.

Below, I posted some highlights from the 28 shows. I picked them for their variety. As I was flipping through my notebook, I travelled back to every day of the summer: how work was that day, what I had for dinner, what backstage drama was going on. Some nights I was in a better place than others. There were times I had difficulty motivating myself to go the theatre––I was tired; I ate too much; I wasn't invited to go the beach. I hated those nights, because it made me question whether I am going into the right field of study. But then I would have the great nights, and I would remember there is nothing else that fulfills me more. I tried not to edit the journals too much to keep the heart of the moment, which is why they sometimes jump around a lot. Sometimes they're meditative rambles to myself, sometimes they're a list of observations, and other times they're more reflective. I also switch between using character names and real names, but the essence of the journals doesn't depend on knowing who these people are. Taking the time to journal helped me take stock of where I was before every show, address any obstacles that would taint my performance, and settle into my theatre zone.

Opening Night: 7/23


Opening night #2 of Les Mis at the Academy, my third opening night of Les Mis ever. Katie (the stage manager) just called ten minutes until places, which means I still have thirty minutes before I go onstage. The factory girls lace up their corsets. Marius kids around with Eponine. In about two hours she’ll die for him on the barricade. As the minutes tick by, I slowly travel to France. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your places call for the start of Act I. Break a leg,” Katie says. It’s time to push this snowball down the hill and let it roll.

Night #2: 7/24


I don’t know how Enjolras waits so long to go onstage. I’m costumed. I drank my tea. I had my cinnamon Altoid. I peed. I just want to go to France. It reminds me of the feeling before a race, except I don’t want to go onstage to get it over with. I want to go onstage because I want to be in it.  

Night #5: 7/27


“It’s strange,” I told Mom. "Normally I would be getting ready to settle in for the night, but the most energizing part of my day hasn't even begun.” While Mom curled up on the couch in her yoga pants and glasses, my face was caked with makeup. I drank tea not to settle in for the night, but to coat my throat before I performed. This is my life six nights a week for the next month. I’m so lucky.  

“Do you ever get tired of performing the same thing?” Mom asked. I would be lying if I said there are never nights I would love to stay home. There are days–many days–when I’m tired from work, my shoulders sore from yesterday’s swim, my eyes still stinging from the makeup I wiped off half-heartedly at 11:30 the night before. But it’s like exercise. Of course there are days I don’t want to do it. But I have to get out there. I have to keep myself conditioned. 

“It’s like a sport,” my high school director says. “If you don’t do it for a season, you set yourself back.” Theatre is part of my rhythm. If I go too long without it, I get antsy. So even on the nights I may not be thrilled to go to the theatre, I go––because I have to, but also because I know I’m going to feel great after it’s over. I’ll feel that natural high.  

It’s different performing a show 28 times. It’s not the same adrenaline I get from my high school performances. It feels more rhythmic. It feels more natural. Because it’s a natural part of my rhythm. I can’t live without it.  

Night #7: 7/29

"I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am blissful." 


Thank you. Thank you Throat Care. I should wear this tea bag on a chain around my neck. Breathe the mantra during my sun salutations. Stroke it in the water. Pedal it up the the hill. Pound it on the pavement.  

Tonight I had grilled tuna, $25/lb. In about fifteen minutes I’m going to go begging on the streets. It’s not exactly method-acting, but if I were to have a last meal, grilled tuna would be a fantastic one to end with.

Night #8: 7/30
"Love is where compassion prevails and kindness rules." 

Very apropos for Les Mis. "To love another person is to see the face of God." 


Night #17: 8/10

"Let your manners speak for you."
Maybe “Let your mannerisms speak for you.” I know I sometimes give off the "stay away from me" energy. I don’t mean to, usually. And then people go away and I want them to come back, but they’ve already formed their cliques. I’m starting to miss my home friends.
Night #19: 8/12
"May this day bring you peace, tranquility and harmony."
Lots of rain tonight. Sweatpants and a baggy rain jacket. I wish I had the tighter-fitting TriFury jacket.That’s okay. I’ll just accept the bum.
Night #21: 8/14

"There is nothing more precious than self-trust."

As the revolutionary, I need to trust the cause I am fighting for. Trust it regardless of what my mom thinks, regardless of what others say. I will not throw my life away.
I dined like the bourgeois tonight––mussels and pasta with homemade tomato sauce, and garlic bread to wipe the plate. 
My hairspray exploded in my backpack. The floor reeks of hairspray. 
Crystal tries to fit her corset around Enjolras.

Night #22: 8/16

50th performance tonight––if the performance happens. Five minutes until we’re supposed to start and Jean Valjean is still in Wellfleet. There was a big accident and traffic has been backed up for hours. They’re working to get a police escort for him. I really hope the show goes on tonight because 59 shows sounds a lot lamer than 60.


Night #23: 8/17
Night #51, and I don’t want to be here. I’m tired, my throat is clogged from lunch. Our director gave a really nice speech tonight about how proud he is of us, how he knows most of us would’ve killed to be back. But I don’t feel that way tonight and I feel guilty that I feel that way. 
Channel the tension. In “At the End of the Day,” channel the tired eyes. In “Lovely Ladies,” channel the self-hatred. In “Innkeeper,” let yourself be free and don't care about what others think. In the “Beggars,” channel the anger. On the barricade, channel the tears.



Night #27: 8/22


"Life is a gift. Experience is the beauty." 
Two more shows. Enjoy them. It hasn’t sunk in that I might never perform Les Mis again. I’ve begun to take it for granted. Enjoy every moment onstage. Speak every word with honesty. Make every interaction real. Live in the moment. Be in the moment onstage. Breath. Breathe.  
Jean Valjean's wife stencils in “24601” with liquid eye liner on his chest. Fantine curls her hair; she parted her hair differently tonight. “Does it look more period?” she asks. Marius drinks his Odwalla. He has the "Original" flavor tonight. They were out of chocolate. He likes the chocolate one better because it has B6 and more protein––and it’s chocolate, so that’s nice.  
I’m actually organizing a cast breakfast at Hearth n’ Kettle. I’m organizing something social!  
Jean Valjean paces around the room, unable to sit still. I understand the feeling.   
I have a chocolate chip cookie sandwich waiting for me when I get home! I just can't think about it on the barricade. 

Closing Night: 8/23


This is it. My 60th performance. Tonight I will live the moment I wrote about in my college essay. It doesn’t seem possible that this could be my last Les Mis performance ever. It got to a point where it seemed like I would always be performing Les Mis. But tonight, for the last time, I will ascend the stairs for “At the End of the Day” and watch Cole and David do interpretive dance as Valjean sings, "What Have I Done?" 
I want to remember everything. The pain that rushes through my leg when I stomp in “At the End of the Day.” How I tuck my skirt in for "Lovely Ladies"––I need to make money on the docks somehow, and my breasts certainly don't do much for me. The creak of the stairs under my bare feet. The ratted hair that sticks in my mouth in “The Beggars,” and the indifferent faces of the audience members as I beg them for a fraction of their privileged lives. Cole’s mockery of Marius in “ABC Café.” The harmonies in “One Day More.” The cinnamon Altoid during intermission. The backstage toilet that pees out the side every time it’s flushed. The backstage "hurrahs" when the boys stampede the stage at the top of Act II. Dressing Melanie’s battle wound. Tucking up Susan after she dies. Crying after Gavroche is shot––I love the moments I can cry onstage. “Bring Him Home.” “Javert’s Suicide.” Watching Jen’s mouth in “The Wedding” to make sure we get the timing right. The blinding lights in “The Epilogue.” Holding Thea’s hand during the bows. Katie's air kiss from the sound booth as the lights fade and we head backstage to hang up our costumes––tonight for the last time. 
Last warm-ups. Last double-checking my props. Jean Valjean gave everyone a yellow rose––very apropos for his character. Melanie and Katie ordered Les Mis shortbread cookies for everyone from Thea. It’s going to feel really great eating that after the show tonight.


It did.

I already picked where I want to sign the wall. I decided to tape tonight's Yogi message on the wall next to last year's signature.

"To be calm is the highest achievement of the self." 


Enjoy tonight. “One last ride,” Thénardier says. “If I got one piece of advice from my theatre teacher in college, it was this: ‘Leave it all on the stage. No matter what’s going on in your life, leave it on the stage and hold your head up high.’”


***

Stage right, I hear Javert ascend the stairs to his death. As he hits his final suicide note, escaping a world he no longer knows, I get up to clear the barricade one last time, ready to "discover what our God in heaven has in store" beyond these crates, barrels and broken sofas.