Tuesday, December 18, 2012

November Notes

I suppose at some point I'll be posting regularly, but right now it's easy to just let weeks go by while I'm busy doing all the little things that one does when one is busy doing things. How to be more reflective? I'm keeping a list of stuff that happens and then going back to expand the thought when time seems to allow or the spirit moves or what have you.

Waiting...the pretender syndrome continues...more waiting. The month of November was mostly about getting the grad school applications done. It seems like there is an interesting assortment of schools represented now that I am basically done with this process. I say basically because I am still going to create two more videos related to The Street Project and The Crucible and then combine those with the longer overview video into a DVD that I will send to the schools. Meanwhile, I have an essay to finish for Brown and an essay to finish for UNLV. Should have all of that done this week. So, I initiated applications for Yale, Brown, UT Austin, UC San Diego, Portland, Columbia, MN Mankato, UNLV, and the University of Iowa. In addition, the following schools participate in the NUIA process: Illinois, Indiana, CalArts, UC Irvine, Florida State, and Purdue. Now I wait until mid-January when they announce decisions about who will be invited to interview.

15 schools, many of whom are only accepting two or three MFA Directing candidates...so, what...maybe 50 spots all told? How many applicants are they browsing through? 300? 500? 1,000? Pretty long odds. So my thoughts start to drift back to plan B. Travel for a year and then return to Minneapolis to live cheaply and do nothing but theater. Work in box offices and do odd theater jobs. Teach workshops? Intern at places like The Guthrie. Look for paid directing gigs. Avoid January and February commitments and look for internships or other opportunities in THE SOUTH during those months. The year spent traveling could provide some opportunities to make some connections. It's not a bad plan and gets at the essential thing that I am seeking -- a life that is focused on the activities that I am most engaged by.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Plan A isn't going to still work out.  Its really hard to imagine how my credentials stack up.  The places where I have done my work are not high profile (a high school and a theater operating out of a church...doesn't exactly scream cutting edge).  I know that lots of great things have happened in those spaces and I believe in what I bring to this party, but it's hard to communicate it on paper or even in video.  I look at the video I did and it seems to communicate such a litany of traditional presentations of known stuff.  The things around the edges...The Street Project...Nineteen Cows...Everyman...all the strange original one acts...those things get a bit lost in the way my portfolio presents itself.  There is little in the way of artsy video footage of theatrical experimentation.  And then there's the age thing...which folks are quick to assure me is not a deal breaker and in some instances can be useful...but it would probably have been more useful if I did this about a decade earlier (of course, a decade ago I was just starting this part of this journey).  And then there's the extent to which my gifts are not strictly academic...can't remember titles, characters, plots, etc.  I imagine that in the interview there will be lots of opportunities for me to acknowledge large gaps in my ability to access allusory material.  In any case, it's very easy to see how Plan A might not work out.  I just need to bring all the folks who believe in me along to the interview.  ;-)

Wow, that's a lot of negative thinking.  How do you communicate a life?  And I hate trying to sell myself.  Brag!  Okay...  Balance those negative thoughts against the innumerable ways in which I see great moments and have a vision for edgy and creative images and settings that would be so much more easily expressed in the kinds of settings that an MFA Directing program might provide.  Against the many folks who seem to believe that these programs would be lucky to have me.  Against the sheer volume of work that I've done in the past decade.  Against my ability to be engaging and passionate in an interview.  Against the fact that I have absolutely nothing to lose.  It's not so bad.  Just really long odds.

***sigh*** probably should think about something else

Recapping my wonderful journey to Portland, Maine!

First of all, the area where I was staying, which was in Gorham, ME, was as charming as you would expect it to be.  Everywhere you looked were this colonial homes looking like they'd been there for hundreds of years, which most of them probably had.  It was interesting, too, that they were all very lived in looking.  Not run down, but lived in.  Each one was its own unique home...all in a similar style but also very different.  Some had clearly been cared for deeply and possibly even gotten some renovation work in recent years.  Many had electric candles in the windows rounding out that holiday look.

The B&B I stayed in, the PineCrest Inn, was completely wonderful.  Okay, backing up, so here's the weekend...

I flew Delta, which has always in the past been a particularly painful experience for me.  I'm quite sure that for a time they had the narrowest seats in the airline industry.  I have since learned that it's worth the extra $20 or $30 to upgrade to an exit row or something to get a little extra leg room, and that has helped.  So the flight from Mpls to Detroit was uneventful and pleasant.  I read and listen to music from my iPad, and its a great way to travel.  The plane from Detroit to Portland was a new experience for me as it was a small commuter jet...probably had room for about 70 folks?  And the seats were super tiny.  Everything was super tiny.  Kind of flying in miniature.  Also, they made me check my bag which had I known that it would go that way I would have just checked it on the front end in Mpls...but live and learn.  In any event, it was comfortable enough and in short order we were bouncing around on the approach into the Portland airport.  Lots of water and industrial looking wharf laden images.  On a  gray day from the air there wasn't much about it that looked appealing...lots of sailboats, which was cool.

I arrive and my host, Rick, met me at the baggage claim along with another traveler...David Sumner, an old college friend of Ricks' who is a designer and is doing the keynote for the conference.  We hop in Rick's car and head out to the Gorham High School, where preparations are under way for their Regional Thespian Conference, scheduled to start the next morning.  This is why I am there in the first place.  Normally the EDTA sends a representative from the home office in Cincinnati to attend conferences, but when things are busy they will ask state reps from other locales if they would be willing to stand in for them, which I was and I did.  It's a great way to attend a Thespian Conference.  You have very little in the way of responsibilities, though you can be useful, and you get to see how other States handle their conference.

Anyway, we get to the school and immediately begin stuffing registration bags and sorting t-shirts.  Dinner is planned for around 6:30 and since we arrived at 4:30 or so there is plenty of time to get lots done.  They have plenty of volunteers and by around 6:00 the work is getting wrapped up.  Rick is busily arranging the dinner to be delivered and set up, and since I need to check in at the B&B by 7:00, he gives me a quick ride to the Inn (it's only a few blocks away) as he is waiting for the last of the food.

Scene shift to the parking lot of the PineCrest Inn.  A large colonial home with an extension in the rear that turns out to be a private dining room.  I wave goodbye to Rick, promising to walk over to the High School after I get checked in, and find my way to the entrance, which is situated a bit to the rear and turns to deposit me in the kitchen of the dining room.  This is, in fact, the main entrance, and I am met immediately by a blast of warm, rich, staggeringly aromatically overwhelmingness.  There are two or three folks working in the kitchen and to my left is a door through which I can see diners and a waitress.  "I'll let Matt know you're here," they tell me; which I didn't entirely get until I thought it through a few moments later.  So, I wandered to the room to my right, which has a little hotel type counter for registering and appears to be the office area of the Inn.  There are several very comfortable chairs and a love seat and, since Matt doesn't immediately appear, I settled into a stuffed chair and just basked in the aromas and images.  It was cold in Portland that day.  Biting winds and damp temps that, even for someone from Minnesota, made the contrast with the warm Inn remarkable and pleasing.

Apparently, the chef forgot about me, so it was a bit later that Matt appeared, apologetic and ready to get me checked in.  Did I care that he took a while?  I did not.  Could I have sat there for quite a while...indeed, I could have -- though at some point I would have ordered a glass of wine.  In any event, after working out some changes in the reservation (they had me leaving Monday rather than Sunday...which would have been nice but wasn't in the cards) Matt showed me to my room and wandered back to help with the dinner service.  The room was predictably lovely...quaint and comfortable.  I dropped my bag and headed back out for my walk to the high school where I was going to be eating catered pasta and such.  ...and it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I could get back to the B&B in time to enjoy some of its benefits...perhaps...one could hope...

On the way out the door, "How late do you serve dinner?"  Matt says, "We usually do our last seating at 7:00 or 7:30."  I look at the clock...it's 6:45.  Hmmmm.....  I exit into the cold world and trudge up the street to the Gorham High School.  A new school, by the way.  Very nice.  So I arrive at the school...all of the things that need doing are done (check)...I have no other duties (check)...it's still only 6:55 (check).  "Rick, do you need me anymore?"  "No."  "Well, then, I think I'll wander back to the Inn and eat there, if you don't mind..."  "Not at all."

Out the door.  Down the street.  Quickly.  Damn, it's cold out.

Into the Inn, into the dining room, belly up to the bar...to begin a several hour journey through a truly wonderful assortment of gourmet foods and fine beverages while enjoying a good book and warm ambiance.  First, the setting.  The dining room is attached to the back of the house, a few steps down from the kitchen, with a hall that runs along the kitchen back to the main part of the house.  It could have been a shed and couldn't have been more than thirty feet square.  A bar was situated against the common wall with a little passthrough window, so that Matt could tend bar but could also communicate back to the kitchen.  There were two people working in the kitchen, a waitress (Kat) and Matt.  That was it.  There were maybe eight or nine tables plus seating for about six at the bar.  Apparently, Matt can't get a license for a regular restaurant, so the dining room is a private club (named 91 South) and can't advertise.  It's only open on the weekend (Thursday through Sunday) and only seats for a few hours.  They have a small menu, but ooh, la, la.

Lots of wood.  Lots of candles.  Warm.  Friendly.  Classy but not too formal.

Here's what I ate...don't ask what it cost.

Pinotage wine.  -- Matt has taken advantage of having opened the inn to become knowledgeable about wine.  Any of you who have done this know that it takes a fair amount of time and energy to really do it right.  Matt shared some interesting stories about his journey into wines and the various tastings he had enjoyed.  Clearly, it would take some time to get to a place where you could taste dozens of wines and make any sense of it.  In any case, he was promoting a wine made from Pinotage, which is not a blend of grapes but a hybrid grape.  My habit of late has been to just ask people like Matt, "what would you recommend?"  Folks in the service industry make a career out of having knowledgeable opinions about what is best, and I am finding that following their lead is way better than guessing about what I might like.  In any event, it was splendid.

Ceasar salad with paprika.  -- Really interesting way to do salad.  The paprika blend had a number of different paprikas and really gave the salad a zippy and unexpected flavor.

Louisiana shrimp étouffée with shelled Maine lobster.  This was absolutely scrumptious. Enough said.

Foccacia dukkah.  Foccacia slices and a small dish of olive oil, in which you dip the bread, and then the dukkah is an eastern blend of spices and nuts.  Really tasty, light but delicious.

After dinner I was thinking about having something other than wine and there was a bottle on the shelf I had never seen.  Tuaca.  A bourbon with lemon and vanilla.  Yummy.  I had several of these after dinner, the last one blended with decaf coffee and Gran Marnier. 

And lovely conversation.  Matt turns out to be a former thespian with notions of opening his own one man show, and Kat was delightful and lovely.  It was a really charming evening all the way around.  I stayed there until the staff were having their own nightcaps and then excused myself to my bed.

The next morning is December 1st...I'll leave the rest of the story for the next post!

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