Saturday, June 30, 2012

A View from the "Other Side"

When I left South Pacific it was not without some tough decisions, but I new that an opportunity had presented itself that I had to take!  I was asked to help teach the choreography to a show that I love, 'S WONDERFUL.  The director and choreographer from the piece were the same as the tour and I was thrilled to be able to come in and help set the show in a SUPER fast rehearsal process.  
In high school and college my biggest thrills and joys came while I was teaching, directing, or choreographing.  It's certainly something I see myself doing more of in the future, so to have this opportunity placed in my lap was HUGE.  It was so huge that I almost felt as though the creative team had made a mistake.  Of course my imagination went wild with visions of much more experienced actors looking at me and just laughing while I fumbled over myself and tried to teach the show.  I saw eyes rolling and scoffs and I knew I had gotten in over my head.  The fact of the matter was... I was terrified.  I have always said that when an opportunity comes and it's scary, you are in the right place.  I had to realize that I needed to take a dose of my own medicine.  Being timid, nervous, and not confident was only going to hurt me, so I sort of decided to "fake it till I make it."  
I worked non-stop to prepare myself for the job, picking apart each and every bit of the show, studying tape, shifting the show to work on a thrust stage, and trying to anticipate any and all problems.  When rehearsals began I was so nervous, but I was quickly put at ease.  The director was his excellent, jubilant self and the cast was incredibly receptive and welcoming.  I quickly realized that while these performers were more experienced and incredibly talented, they also respected me and wanted the best for the show and I think they immediately recognized that common goal.  We were all there for one reason: to tell the best story.  
For the first time professionally, I was able to work creatively and alongside the director, hearing his thought process and bouncing ideas off one another.  It was terribly exciting and energizing.  As I said earlier, the rehearsal process for this particular show was SUPER fast (7 days rehearsing and 2 days of tech/dress) and on our first day of tech rehearsals the choreographer came to see the show.  It was the most nervous I have ever been in a rehearsal.  Here I had just taught his choreography and he was there to see my work.  Well, the show sort of fell apart that day, as it usually does on the first day of tech.  It was somewhat in tact, but really... pretty rough.  I had such a mix of emotions.  The choreographer was gracious and gave me a few notes and helped clean some things, but I couldn't help but worry.  I knew in my head that it would all come back together, and it did by the time we opened.  My own insecurities were really what was plaguing me.  I eventually realized that my worries over what the choreographer thought were all in my head.  He knew that tech rehearsals are crazy and he's a smart guy; he could see the big picture and where things were going.  It was me that was short-sighted and couldn't see the forest for the trees.   I didn't need to worry about how the show looked in one rehearsal, it was how the story would be told for the next month, 8 shows/week.  My own pride and concerns were pushed aside and the work was completed.  In fact it was not just completed: it was excellent.  The show was quick and clean and wickedly witty and smart, just as the choreographer designed it to be.  It really was... 'S Wonderful.  
I'm sorry.  I had to.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Proud to be a Hampton Man

This may seem like an obligatory Father's Day post, but truly... it's not.  While I was writing my Mother's Day blog I couldn't help but continually think about how incredible and unique my dad is, too.  I have such amazing parents and I am excited that today I get to honor Berry.  My dad is an only child of an only child.  He grew up in a house about 10 miles from where he lives still today.  He went to college about an hour away.  His parents didn't raise him in the most abundantly loving environment.  All of these things could add up to a pretty closed-minded, tough character, but somehow my dad came out of all of that.  There's so much I want to write about.  He made me fall in love with the outdoors and he can make me laugh (sometimes AT him) like no one else.  Plus he does a pretty awesome karaoke rendition of "Mack the Knife."  But I can't cover it all.
When I was growing up one of the things I cherished was our family dinners.  Every single night we would gather around the table and eat together.  If our schedules were crazy it would sometimes mean eating at 9:00 at night, but that was ok because it was our time to check in with each other and eat gorgeous food.  My mother can follow a recipe like you wouldn't believe.  She hates to cook, though, and as soon as my parents had kids my dad started doing all the cooking.  If you have been to our home you know... he is ridiculous.  My dad could open a restaurant right now and be successful.  He cooks with love for sure.  When I come home after having been away working for a long time I have a list of Berry's best dishes that I request.  We're talking fried chicken in the cast iron skillet, ribs, fried green tomatoes... and FAMOUS mac 'n cheese.  From the time I was little he was always pushing us to try new things, experimenting, and whipping together new concoctions.  Honestly- I'm mad at him for it because it spoiled me!  I remember going to other kids' houses and having to eat these sad dinners.  One of my favorite things is being able to have my dad cook for my friends.  He's done major cookouts for multiple casts and people can hardly believe it!  He truly shares so much love through his cooking.  To this day he goes to the grocery store almost every day, tries new dishes, and cooks beautiful meals.  He's inspired his kids to do the same and don't you worry- I've already got an inheritance claim on his cast iron skillet!
My dad also has a great sense of style.  As a farm boy born and bred in Kentucky you may not expect it, but my dad knows what he's talking about with fashion.  Haha!  He worked for an upscale men's boutique for years as a buyer, traveling to New York and selling clothes in Louisville.  Growing up he insisted that we dress well.  I remember multiple mornings when I would come down dressed for school wearing my latest weird middle school trend.  "Go back upstairs," he would say.  I was allowed to come back down when I dressed better.  For my first school dance my dad went with me to buy a suit.  There was a nice sales lady and I was happy to have Dad there making sure everything was good.  As the saleswoman got out her measuring tape to do her first measurement my dad just spouted off a list of numbers.  When the saleswoman and I both looked at him confused he insisted that those were my measurements.  He listed them off again.  I was thoroughly confused as my dad had never measured me for anything.  The saleswoman insisted, "Oh!  That's great!  Well- I'll just double check then," but you could see in her eyes that she thought my dad was as crazy as I did.  She went to work, but it was no use.   My dad was spot on with those measurements!  My dad taught me to tie a perfect tie, bowtie, how to wear a pocket square, they beauty of white bucks, and the value in your favorite ratty t-shirt.  In college and even now, I have friends often say that I dress like a dad.  I tend to wear classic, preppy stuff.  I laugh because I am so proud of that.  I do dress like a dad; I dress like my dad.  Around our house it's become a little bit of a running joke because my dad and I own multiple items that are identical, but I couldn't ask to be merging styles with a better dressed dude.  
I love this cultured part of my dad because it is such an enigma.  He has always lived with a 15 mile radius of where he is now.  He hasn't really traveled out of the country, and yet he is stylish, a foodie, terribly smart, and can get along with anyone!  As a farm boy it's not necessarily surprising that Dad is a great gardener and landscaper.  He has such a green thumb!  But I always marveled at my dad growing up because to me it seemed he could answer any trivia question ever written.  To this day I dont' know how he knows the stuff he does.  It's like he studied some trivia book.  He loves doing crossword puzzles and watching Jeopardy.  He knows so much about history and other cultures, too.  It's amazing to me. When I picture my dad the first image that comes to mind is of him telling stories and laughing with people.  He has friends from all walks of life and has always loved getting to know my friends in theatre.  I think that's something I got from him, too: the ability to talk with people and tell stories.  It's what I get to do for a living now.  In the theatre my job is to tell stories.  I think it's important and beautiful and joyful and all of that comes from seeing my dad tell great stories.  
My mother is an accomplished musician and music teacher.  She is brilliant with what she does.  When people learn this they often jump to the obvious conclusion that I must get my artsy, dramatic sensibility from her: that natural theatricality that comes with being the son of an artist.  They are wrong, though.  My mother is a brilliant musician.  My father, however, is where I get my emotional, dramatic side from.  Dad has always been one to get... What shall we say... passionate?  My dad has always LOVED to tell a joke.  He loves to laugh and share that with people, but there is a key to his jokes.  One word: delivery.  My dad can deliver a joke like no one else.  He LOVES a good hyperbole.  He thrives on  detailed imagery.  And he LIVES for... a dramatic pause.  Every good story, joke, or prayer must have a dramatic pause.  Berry has perfected the dramatic pause, making sure it is placed at just the opportune time.  The more important the point, the bigger the pause.  Prayer pauses are the best, though.  You can drive a MAC truck through those suckers.  I love it.  
My father crying after opening his Christmas present... a television.
My dad also gets worked up over politics, religion, and other major, life-altering occurrences like movies, sports, and memories.  Have you ever seen anyone cry watching a basketball game?  Come to our house.  My dad loves to cry.  He knows it, too.  His favorite movies are a select few gems that trigger the water works.  They are as follows: "Return to Me", "Legends of the Fall", and the first half of "The Way We Were."  I can hear him now insisting I watch the latter.  "Look at this!  Watch this!  Watch when she brushes back Robert Redford's hair!"  Oh please!  If he hasn't had a good cry in a while he will just read a sappy romance novel to get it out.  He has no shame.  The most amazing part is that as much as I tease him, I am so grateful to have grown up around a man who taught me that it's ok to have emotions and to feel and to love, and get upset.  With Dad being an only child on a farm with tough parents he didn't have to come out embracing his emotions, but somehow he did.  
That fashion sense is wearing off!
As over-the-top as he is with he feelings, he is even more over-the-top with his love.  I am so lucky to have a dad that made sure to tell me how much he loved me every day.  I have heard my whole life that my father is proud of me and loves me.  It's a part of Christianity not everyone can understand.  The whole loving Father image of God is tough for a lot of people, but for me it's been a concept that has made sense from day one.  My dad showed me what a loving father can do.  Dads can look at you and tell you who you are.  They can determine your destiny in so many ways and when my dad looks at me and says, "You are so talented, you make me so proud, you are so loved,"... I am.  Just yesterday I overheard my dad telling his youngest grandson who is only a year and a half old, "Jonah- I love you.  I want that to be the first thing you hear in the morning and the last thing you hear at night.  I love you."  My dad always made sure that was what I heard every day.  Today I want this to be the first and last thing my father gets to hear.  "Dad- I love you.  Thanks for teaching me to love food, how to dress myself, how to tell a good story, and to be open with my love, anger, and joy.  I love you."

Friday, June 1, 2012


I have recently discovered a blog I love and this commencement address was posted.  I thought it was so delightful and excellent.  Neil Gaiman spoke to the University of the Arts 2012 graduates and said:

"People who know the rules know what is possible and what is impossible. You do not and you should not. The rules of what is possible and impossible were made by people who have not tested the bounds of possible by going beyond them - and you can."