Most of my musings can be found on Instagram these days. If you’re interested follow along @brieahnj. Considering resurrecting the blog but for now it’s all on Insta.
Show me something breathtaking
Dream me something impossible
See me reach for something wonderful
Inspire me to do
Gather me up something brilliant
Collect all my farfetched dreams
They’ll sparkle and shine in the pitch black
Inspire me to see
Fill the universe with wishes plenty
A few dozen trillion will do
I’ve filled all my dreams up with Starstuff
Inspire me to be
It’s officially 2014, which means:
It’s the last year that I can say “I’m in my Twenties.” But that’s OK because what I’ve learned over the last year is that 30 is something that I am very much looking forward to. And as much as I thought I needed to be a “grown-up” by the time I hit my third decade of life I’ve realized that being a grown-up simply means having the wherewithal to know that you will always be young and the sense to act on that knowledge with life and love and a healthy dose of playfulness.
It’s the first year that I’ve really thought about what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve got a storyboard of a plan. It will change and fluctuate as new adventures are conceived but the end of the story is more clear than it’s ever been before and the end point…wait for…it will set me right back in the place where I was born and raised Sonoma County. But don’t worry I’m not going anywhere just yet–D.C. I’m not done with you yet and NY you keep those broadway lights blazing I’ll be there soon enough.
Now, I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I am of the mind that if you want to change something in your life just change it, you don’t need to wait around for January 1st to do so. But in the spirit of fresh starts and new years I’ll share a few things with you that I’ve been preparing to bring into my life.
Last year I did very little writing, be it public or private. As my WordPress annual report will confirm I did not write a single new post in the year of 2013. Life happens. I was transitioning into a new job where I manipulate words all day ( I write marketing emails for the Kennedy Center), the last thing I wanted to do was come home and write more. And with that creative outlet lying dormant, so too, many other artistic endeavors were lost. I sang less, adventures to D.C. museums and galleries ceased, while I was seeing a lot of performances at the Kennedy Center I don’t think I saw a single show outside of that building all year–for shame. So this year I resolve to write more, to blog more, to say more. About what? I haven’t yet decided. I’ll start small. Perhaps write a blog about the New Year and then just go from there.
October found me deepening my yoga practice with a 200 hour Teacher Training course. I have now been practicing for about 4 years and I realized that in order for me to bring yoga into more of my life I needed this intensive. I entered the training with a very clear idea of what and where I would be by January. I wanted to teach…plain and simple…I wanted to share the movement and music that has proven to be invaluable for me over the last few years. What I’ve learned is that I am not ready to teach, not yet at least, and that is ok. I’ve learned a lot, I’m learning a lot, my physical practice has suffered a little, but my mental practice and my understanding of the mind body connection has grown, when I do have a moment to practice this internalization becomes apparent–my practice is growing stronger. The training will be finished in a few weeks and I look forward to incorporating asana back into my daily routine. This year I resolve to be more aware of my practice both the asana and the other.
About halfway through last year I realized that I had become very disconnected. From January to May 2013 I was so focused on work and getting it right that I didn’t have time for much of anything else. Then in June I had a revelation (if I may be so bold) that the people in my life–and there are some pretty amazing ones–are the point. As the years go by people enter and exit your life for any number of reasons, but there are a very special few that stay and you just sort of know that no matter what happens, where you go, or what you do they’ll always be a part of it. They’ve notched themselves firmly into your heart and soul, and no matter what you’ll never be rid of them (in the most loving way possible of course). These people are your chosen family and while you might not get to see all of them as often as you would like and while the phone calls are sometimes few and far between (because I am no good at the phone) they are the most important. 2014 will be a year of re-engaging, of maintaining, of making the effort to eliminate the “few-and-far-betweens.”
In 2012 I traveled to China (scroll down a bit to read all about it!) but it was somewhat of a missed opportunity. My thesis was over, the Masters was in the mail, and I was exhausted. I did a lot, I saw a lot, but I never felt like I experienced it all. There were moments of clarity sure, but all my energy was being used to sort out my life-after-grad-school future. It was challenging to say the least. 2013 was all about recuperating from that and laying low. Getting life in order so that I could start enjoying again. A new year means new adventures so bring them on I’m ready for it all.
So there you have it folks, 2014 is gonna rock and I’m gonna dance my way through it.
It’s always about the music. My heart and soul lies in musical theater, Sondheim will forever be the most brilliant composer and lyricist of all time, Les Miserables will always bring me to tears as soon as the overture begins, and theatre will continue to be amplified by the musical choices made by it’s directors. Last year I saw War Horse at Lincoln Center and what struck me the most was the use of music throughout the production. Maybe this is because I pretty much have a constant soundtrack to life running through my head at any given moment, continuously singing melodies to myself, suppressing the urge to belt them out at the top of my lungs. My rendition of ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses” remains one of the shining moments of my 10-year-old life, but this remains safely locked away in the deep recesses of my parents storage, where no one will ever ever see it.
I think NPH sang it best at the Tony’s.
But in all seriousness the choice to include or exclude music can be a tricky one for a straight play. Is it appropriate? Does it enhance the story? Will it lessen the authenticity of the play by using a ‘gimmick’ like music? I’ll admit that sometimes music is an inappropriate choice, it can lead the audience to a specific emotion rather than letting them get there on their own. But I think, more often than not, it is the right choice. It creates an internal connection with a person, whether they realize it in that moment or not. There’s a reason the human species created music in the first place, a reason that everyone listens to music in some form or another. It might not all be your cup of tea, but I would venture to guess that every single person has at least 1 favorite song. It’s why movies have soundtracks, why we whistle while we work (well maybe we don’t all whistle) but you get my point. So why am I rambling on and on about music in theatre?
Well, last night I had the pleasure of seeing Black Watch (in full this time) at The Shakespeare Theatre Company. I knew what I was getting myself into from the preview I was invited to a few weeks ago. I’ve been out of town a lot recently, dancing my little feet off on wedding reception dance floors, and didn’t know whether I was going to get a chance to see it before it closed. But I did, and can I just say that STC’s $18 under 35 ticket discount is AMAZING. As a person who currently works 3 part-time jobs in order to continue this dreamlife of living in our nation’s Capitol, sometimes my tight purse strings can get in the way my theatre going plans. But I was able to snag a ticket to Thursday night’s show, which also just happened to be #STCnight. As I settled in for the 2 hour, no intermission production, I was anticipating how many times I would go flying out of my seat due to ‘loud noises’ cautioned on the signage outside the theater ( I tend to startle quite easily), and how I would nonchalantly play it off as intentional to the 2 strangers sitting on either side of me. I wondered how much of the play would be set in the field, and how much would be brought back to the pool hall. I knew I would probably tear up, just a little, as I often do when faced with anything regarding war and soldiers, I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that what would resonate most in this production would be music, sung by these soldiers, these boys; or rather I wasn’t expecting much music as all.
It seems like such a small thing, two soldiers singing a tune that I’ve never heard before. It sounds traditional, but I can’t be sure. Standing above us, across and diagonal from each other, their harmonies meeting in the middle, and washing over the theater. The Golden Thread that they spoke about earlier on, seems to make its connection here. This song must be old, a piece of the past, a tradition that connects the soldiers of the Black Watch regiment to their predecessors and now with their comrades. This was what connected me to Black Watch, the moment when all the pieces sort of fell into place. That goose-bumpy feeling. ‘Twa Recruiting Sergeants’ And rest assured, this is about to be on repeat on the good ‘ol iPhone, though I doubt any recording will do it the justice that this production did.
So here I sit, typing away, attempting to express what it is that I love about the theatre as best I can. And what it boils down to this. Sometimes I think we’ve lost our sense of wonder in the world, our sense of simple joy. Everything is so serious, we don’t sing enough, we don’t dance enough, we don’t enjoy enough. I don’t really wish that the world were a constant barrage of people singing and dancing in the streets (well actually I kind of do) but whenever I am sitting in that dark theater, and someone starts singing…out loud…I’m reminded that even at its saddest, music lifts. When that music is intertwined with the real life (ok sometimes make believe) stories on stage, something truly great happens. It’s why I love theatre. Plain and simple.
You know those moments when it just makes sense, when you’ve stumbled upon the thing that breathes life into your universe, the very thought of it can raise the little hairs on your arm and send a jolt like electricity through you. These moments are small, often quiet, and a bit contained, they are remembered because they are perfectly ordinary, but then again, maybe not so ordinary at all.
The lights above illuminate the thin haze of smoke and dust as it begins to settle onto the stage. Our small group makes its way down the steps of Sidney Harman Hall to the front of the house. There are a few members of the crew scattered about the theatre, but for the most part it’s empty. We’ve been invited to preview The Shakespeare Theatre Company‘s current production of Black Watch. As I take my seat I look down, the stage is level with the floor of the auditorium, I look up into the fly space, exposed to the audience, expansive and a bit jarring, I look out across the stage where a block of empty seats stare back at me, I watch the dust float under the lights, and I pause. That’s the moment. Surrounded by the world created inside of this theatre.
* * *
I love watching dress rehearsal, I even love watching tech rehearsals, probably because I am not the one rehearsing them. There’s a feeling of being let in on a some sort of a secret, an anticipation of seeing the creative process in action. I had the same feeling as I entered that theatre. No, we were not watching a full dress rehearsal run through, but we were being shown two scenes of a production that had not yet opened. My little theatre heart could hardly contain itself. This would be my first time in an STC space since they were awarded the Regional Theatre Tony Award in June. I must say I was quite proud of our DC theatre that night, and I was looking for an excuse to see one of their upcoming productions. So when STC invited me to preview Black Watch, and not only allowed, but asked us to snap photos and video a few scenes, I was all aboard and let’s get going.
Viewed through the eyes of those on the ground, Black Watch reveals what it means to be part of the legendary Scottish regiment, what it means to be part of the war on terror and what it means to make the journey home again. John Tiffany’s production makes powerful and inventive use of movement, music and song to create a visceral, complex and urgent piece of theatre that is as relevant now as ever. (Shakespeare Theatre Company)
Presented by The National Theatre of Scotland, Black Watch has returned to DC after a sold out run at Sidney Harman Hall in 2011. The story was drawn from interviews conducted by Gregory Burke with soldiers in the Black Watch regiment who served in Iraq. Black Watch is directed by John Tiffany who recently won the Tony for Best Direction of a Musical.
So basically I was invited by a Tony award winning theatre company to watch a production by a Tony award winning director. Needless to say I was eagerly anticipating what was in store for us. Tiffany stood on stage and explained they would be performing two scenes.
The first scene, a red carpet runway of sorts, took us on a journey through the evolution of the Scottish Black Watch military uniform. As Cammy (Ryan Fletcher) is hoisted into the air by four soldiers, and two others quickly remove and replace pieces of uniform, we are told the story of the Black Watch regiment. Where it began, why it persisted, and how it came to find it’s soldiers in one of the most dangerous regions of an American War. The staging is spot on and the costume changes, I think there are about 16 in this one scene alone, give us a visual connection to the story. As the lights were brought back up, my first thought was “Can we just keep going.” takes out phone, marks calendar for next available open evening.
The second scene, inserts a bit of humour into the show. The soldiers, back from Iraq are discussing who will play them in the movie adaptation of their story. A writer has been interviewing them about their deployment in Iraq, and they want to ensure that they are accurately portrayed, it seems Ewan McGregor is just the man for the job. Finding relief in the seriousness of their stories, perhaps? It’s a hard topic on any front, but from what I saw it seems that Burke and Tiffany have done an excellent job of telling this story. I will most definitely be catching it, in full, before it closes on October 7.
For social media folk out there October 4 is a Twitter night, Shakespeare Theatre will be hosting conversations online before and after the performance #STCnight.
* * *
We had some time before being let into the theatre and so I started reading through our press kit materials which included an article written by Nicholas J. Cull “The National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch: Theatre as Cultural Diplomacy” It’s not often that an article by an academic is included in a production press kit, but I had some time to kill so I set about reading it. Its actually really interesting. It walks you through the creation of Black Watch the stage production in the context of cultural diplomacy within the theatre as a whole.
There are so many details that were included in the conception of this production down to the configuration of the seats within the theatre. I mentioned that there was seating on the other side of the stage. The set is designed to mimic the armory near Edinburgh castle, where Black Watch first premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe. The armory is home to the Edinburgh Tattoo, a parade performance of the Scottish Military, a source of pride in Scotland. At first wary of the Tattoo, Tiffany ultimately decided that this armory-like arrangement within the theatre would re-inforce this sense of Scottish tradition and pride. As an audience member the un-traditional configuration only enhances the uniqueness of the production.
Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a short story in 6 words (or so the legend goes)
For Sale: baby shoes, never used
This has been an interesting, and at times challenging period in my life. Having finished writing my Thesis last December, I decided to take some well earned time off. Time off for me meant traveling, literally, to the other side of the Earth. Exhausted from the bear that is writing, I needed to take some time to sit and breathe. To figure out what my next step would be. I had watched my fellow cohorts struggle to find job opportunities in our ever financially declining field, knowing that within a few months I would be right there with them in this struggle. So when it came time for me to face the drums of reality I chose to postpone real life for a little bit longer. I went to China to escape, to gain some perspective, and to maybe glean new insights into what I was facing back home. Escape…worked like a charm; perspective….I’m discovering it everyday; new insights….I’m still working on those.
The funny thing about writing a Thesis is that even though your subject matter inherently places you directly in line with the thing that you love, you become so isolated in the creation of it that you become even more disconnected from it. It becomes theories and metaphors instead of conversations and actions. It loses a sense of reality as it becomes immortalized on paper. It’s strange…it’s there but it doesn’t quite seem real. I flew to China with the hopes of grounding myself back into the world of the living, and to reconnect In Real Life with the themes I had been writing about for the last year.
3 1/2 months later I came home feeling more disconnected from my creative life, than I had at the start.
I arrived back in the USofA with barely a penny to my name, custom made clothing for below market prices paired with a Silk Market of every fabric imaginable will do that to you. So first on the agenda was to find some sort of temporary employment so that I could get my bills paid on time. So I did what most graduates do when they can not find employment in their field, sign on to a temporary agency. My placements have been fairly consistent and I’m currently working for a publication that is allowing me to learn a bit more about the other side of non-profits, but it’s not permanent. And stability is something that I not only crave, but need. Still the current placement is not in the arts, a step in the opposite direction, it sometimes feels like. My saving grace has been my yoga studio Flow Yoga, they have been so incredible over the last few months. They trusted and took me on as a manager when I didn’t know if I was going to be able to stay in DC, it is here that I find my grounded self. I owe so much of my sanity to them. My practice continues to grow each day, and I know that sounds strange coming from me, but it’s true. Next year I plan on going through their Teacher Training Program and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Still I continued to feel disconnected to from the art world. It’s rare that I have a spare moment, to visit a museum, see a play, go to a concert. The people that I connected with the first few years I was in The District felt like friends from a different lifetime. Trying to come up with ways to reconnect myself with this world, I first turned to Twitter, because what better way to maintain ones network than through social media. I discovered #artsmgtchat which allowed me to listen to the new conversations that were circling the arts world ( as expected they are very different conversations than those found in China regarding the arts). I was also able to make a few new connections. But I’m all about the In Real Life (or IRL) encounters, finding the time in my 13+ hour workdays is next to impossible.
Then I spotted that Theatre Washington and Social Media Club DC were co-hosting a Panel Discussion on building your online community, focusing on the arts sector. I happened to have this Tuesday evening free, and so I quickly grabbed a ticket.
After last night’s event I feel not only reconnected but reinvigorated in my commitment and place in the arts. I have more to say on the panel discussion, they were all saying things that I absolutely agree with, but I’d like to break it down a bit more.
This is a step in the right direction. To the Arts and Everything Else.
Fridays are #artsmgtchat days. I recent discovery of mine within the twitterverse. Each week presents new topics facing arts organizations these days. The first week I participated we were talking about social media and arts advocacy. While I sometimes question if all the chatter will motivate us to get out there and implement the ideas we toss around, I think that the #artmgtchat(s) are a step in the right direction. They also allow a real-time conversation to happen across regions rather than some of the blogging-response-commenting situations that occur during these conversations (also legitimate mediums for these discussions).
Every Friday at 2 pm EST
**image from artsmgtchat.com
Last friday’s #artsmgtchat was focused on symphonies and their place within Millennial lifestyles (essentially). One question asked us
“As an arts consumer+arts manager, what are some of the major barriers to symphony orchestras+classical music?”
Now my focus is not in classical or orchestral music, but I do enjoy it. I spent much of my youth singing in choral groups staged behind orchestras, it is not unfamiliar to me. However I am not one to necessarily spend my Friday nights at the Symphony. A large reason for this is budgetary, but another is that I grew up singing the same movements over and over again. The music has grown stale for me, and uninteresting, still beautifully composed and conducted, but lacking that little bit of life.
This leads me to wonder what it would take for me to throw down my hard earned dollars at the symphony. Innovation. Reinvention. Something-Completely-New-And-Interesting.
Why is it that new composers/conductors have not thought to re-mix, if you will, classical music. I’m not talking about new compositions, they stand on their own merits. What I’m talking about is taking Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and completely re-imagining it. I think about contemporary music, and groups on youtube that have become successful, their success is based primarily on their ability to re-imagine songs that we are already familiar with. Take the group Pentatonix (They won The Sing-Off this year). What made them so sensational was their ability to take a song that we all know well, break it down to its base elements, and then completely re-tool it so that it was completely different, but still recognizable.
Could symphonies attempt this on a grander scale? Would they even try? I have been scouring the internets since Friday trying to find some examples of symphonies who might have attempted this but have come up with nothing more than youtube videos of DJ beats behind a Beethoven melody. So my question to you is this. Do you know of any symphonies or orchestras who have attempted/succeeded in reinventing the Classical wheel? What does it take to make these imaginings a reality. Or are we locked into listening to the same classical music we have since childhood.
So life is a bit crazy right now, I’m working 3 jobs as I seek out full-time employment. I work, at minimum 13 hours a day including weekends. The last thing I want to worry about is whether or not my nails are looking presentable. Budgets and time-constraints prevent me from making it into the salon to keep my manicure in check, and most days my nails look less than polished. Enter Couture Gel Nails. Now I’ve done the gel nails at the salon, I like it because it it provides a hard topcoat that allows my nails to achieve a nice length. Without it my nails will grow to a certain point and then simply begin to break before I can really have any fun with them. I wanted to try the Couture Gel Nails to see how comparable this product was to an in salon manicure, which will run you at least $30 a pop.
Couture Nails offers a $129 Kit. This includes 3 bottles of polish, a base and top coat, manicure tool set, and the UV Espree Salon Lamp (essential for curing the polish). 4 manicures and it’s paid for itself
My kit arrived within a week of ordering it which is impressive since I’m located on the opposite coast as the company.
I wanted my lady friends to join me in this, so I had them all over for a sunday afternoon of mimosas. We are all very impressed with the product.
Tip number #1- FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. There are a few steps to this process, make sure you follow all of them, otherwise the manicure will not last as long as it could. Also, if for any reason you end up with a bulb that does not work, be aware that it will affect the longevity of the manicure as well. We had one bulb that was burnt out and our manicures were chipping by the end of the week. A replacement bulb came within 2 days of informing Couture of the issue (they are so speedy over there).
It’s been almost 3 weeks since the first manicure, there were a few mishaps and repair jobs that were necessary but the great thing about this system is its a quick fix. If you are repairing a single nail it will only take you 10 minutes ( a full manicure for both hands about 20 minutes), and your nail/s are completely dry, ready for the rest of the day.
I did a second manicure a few days ago, with all 4 UV bulbs in working order. This round feels stronger and more permanent. I get bored with my nail color quickly so I’m going to try and hold out as long as I can for the full life of the polish