We are yet but young in deed

May 27, 2016 / The beginnings of a San Diego Summer / by Sara Holdren, Classical Fellow


Hello world.

So, this is the Blog equivalent of a #latergram (is that the phrase? Hash-phrase?). Point being, I wrote the following on Tuesday of this week -- which feels like about five years ago now. I'm posting it now because in my hasty preparation to get on a plane for San Diego, I left the very helpful instructions for how to post on this Blog in Brooklyn, with my heart. Yes, I'm that Fellow. The one that forgot the instructions. Nice to meet you.

Anyway, below are some thoughts from the Me that existed three days ago, soon to be followed by thoughts from the Me that exists now. In an endeavor like this one, I always feel like I'm undergoing a long, slow moulting process -- every day a layer of existential skin is shed, so one day to the next, the Mes are not quite the same. Such is, how you say, life. 

I'm Sara, for those of you who might be encountering this voice for the first time. I'm thirty, 5'8", from Charlottesville, Virginia, and enjoy biking, period miniseries, Victorian novels, builders' tea, cats, Werner Herzog, and Studio Ghibli. For starters. Also directing. Yeah, I enjoy that. ('Enjoy' meaning: am vicerally compelled towards and eternally thrilled/inspired/maddened/frustrated/elated/renewed by). So enough intro. Here's what 3-days-ago Me had to say:

Greetings sports fans!

So, less than 48 hours ago I was in New York City, nervously waiting for a shuttle to JFK (having managed to miss two due to standing on the wrong block). That anxious shuttle ride was the culmination of a whirlwind week, and thank goodness for the almost mystically calm and kind-eyed Australian woman who sat next to me on the way to JFK and talked me out of my stressed place. Sometimes the world just sends you those people. Thank you Genevieve -- I hope things are well in Sydney.

Now, I'm sitting in a huge rehearsal room in a fancy Spanish colonial style building called the House of Charm. There's a garden outside full of palm trees and massive yellow trumpet-shaped flowers and hummingbirds. All the buildings here look like something from the set of The Mask of Zorro -- apparently they were all built for a world’s fair early in the 20th century, so they're trying to look a bit older than they actually are. But no matter. This place is a constant shock to someone who's been living in the northeast for the last several years. The local flora feels like it belongs in Jurassic Park -- hibiscus trees and cacti, succulents and enormous gnarly above-the-ground roots. There's a tree near the Old Globe -- some kind of fig -- that's 101 years old and over forty feet around. The root system looks like Cthulu’s tentacles. It's Epic.

[This is the Cthulu tree! Actually, it's a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla).]

And then there are the lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The OG is in Balboa Park, which is huge and sprawling and contains not only the theater complex but gardens, museums, walks, and the zoo!! Which is depressingly expensive BUT free to folks wielding an OG employee pass -- I plan to spend all my breaks during tech hanging out with sloth bears. It's okay to be jealous.

I'm now about a day and a half into Macbeth rehearsals. The acting company is lovely and welcoming but it's definitely a challenge to come in a week late. By the time I arrived they had staged almost all the way through the murder of Duncan. Obviously there's plenty left to do -- it's just an interesting thing to make a place for oneself in an existing rehearsal room dynamic. Those things develop quickly and are delicate ecosystems. I'm finding my place… Don't know how active it will be. Assisting is a tricky thing. If I'm ever at a point in my career where I'm assigned an assistant, I dearly hope I can create a worthwhile experience for her/him. I'll elaborate more on this later… Right now, I'm trying to take a deep breath and combat my naturally impatient nature -- to take the time to breathe and observe and let my role in the room develop naturally.

[A shot from the beginning of load-in. This Mackers takes place in a kind of WWI infirmiary/asylum-of-the-mind. Lots of rolling metal beds and old wooden wheelchairs and massive head-wounds and creepy syringes.]

While I'm watching murders and witches and such, my mind is also still very much on the week I just passed in New York. What a thing. Honestly, I think that the well kept secret of the Drama League fellowships might be that it’s really not the fellowship at all… It's the League. I'm being a bit facetious of course, but what I mean is: what I'm doing right now is great in its own way, but this is the part that I anticipated -- it's the part that's advertised on the website. What's harder to advertise -- more ephemeral and, ultimately I think, even more valuable and rewarding -- is the immediate sense of lifelong support I now feel from everyone I encountered during “Professionals Week”. Roger and Gabriel and Maggie-Kate and Miriam and the rest of the amazing DL team, my ten brilliant fellow-Fellows, the artists we met and talked to… I feel like I've just been gifted an enormous pair of water-wings in the choppy crowded pool of NYC theater. I don't think of myself as jaded, but I honestly didn't foresee this immediate and powerful outpouring of support -- this gift of a new family. It's overwhelming and deeply humbling. Even in the brief (barely) seven months I've been in NY, I've had plenty of moments of existential despair (no surprise there). Every so often I'll encounter a play so desperately mediocre, a HowlRound article so unbearably pompous, a professional roadblock so seemingly insurmountable that of course I'll think to myself, “Really, what's the point? I should just move to Portland and work in a book mobile.” There's so much I want to change about theater in America. Too much. And I know I'll probably always feel that way. But what I couldn't have predicted is how much this week with the Drama League would actually raise my spirits. And NOT because it was all cheery-easy-funtimes. There were plenty of frustrating discussions about the director’s (secondary) place in the American theater -- no one blew smoke up our asses and told us that, Yeah! No problem! Tomorrow you'll all be Diane Paulus and Joe Mantello! There was encouragement AND there was also real clarity about how difficult this path is. (I'm trying hard now to avoid calling it a “profession” or a “business” as per the advice of the brilliant Michael Krass.) But there was also such a deep respect for the Path -- for the audacity or insanity or dedication or whatever that it takes to throw yourself into this life. There was a recognition of the fact that really, none of us had a choice -- we simply Need to make art. I am infinitely grateful to the DL for acknowledging, sharing, and encouraging that Need. And beyond Macbeth or Love’s Labour’s or anything that might happen this summer, I look forward to the years of thrilling new projects and friendships that I now feel sure will arise from this enterprise. And I am forever grateful.

For now, it's time for a big bloody ghost to interrupt a banquet. More soon.

You stay classy, San Diego!


[Sunset over San Diego, just before landing.]