31/13September 7, 2013
A little over a year and a half ago, I had the great pleasure of playing the piano for a production of Tick, Tick…Boom!, a semi-autobiographical musical by the late Jonathan Larson, better known for writing Rent. The first song in the show is called 30/90, referencing the lead character’s impending 30th birthday (in the year 1990) and related uncertainty about his future as an artist in New York City; facing down my own 30th as well as a move to that city, I considered the upcoming year. 30/12 didn’t have much of a ring to it. 31/13, now, that was a little more interesting, especially since I was born on March 1st. The numbers were clearly telling me that turning 30 would not be such a big deal (and it wasn’t; I spent a pleasant, rainy evening in my Queens apartment with six good friends, drinks, and a plethora of tasty snacks), but I had better make the next birthday count.
Thirty wasn’t a bad year. I spent five months in two different sublets in New York, where I taught some piano lessons, worked on two shows (one of them brief but exhilarating, the other much less so), saw (and loved!) Once and the revival of Godspell and a lot of smaller things, traveled to Providence for Cabaret, and wrote the music for a new production called Little Red and the Wolf, as well as a couple of other songs for my own amusement. I flew to San Antonio for a cousin’s wedding, read Miles Davis’ autobiography, and watched 5 1/2 seasons of Doctor Who. I landed a summer job in a cute seaside town in Maine; as the season wound down, I applied to jobs in Boston, New York, and elsewhere but only got nibbles from places back home, which was what I’d secretly hoped for. I’d missed my family, friends, cat, and a particular friend who had told me he couldn’t handle a long-distance relationship, but who I hoped might give me a second chance if I came back for a while. He did, and two weeks before I turned thirty-one, we drove to Toronto to audition for future productions of Once, a completely ludicrous adventure that I never would have expected, yet one that forced me to think seriously about singing in front of people, and also got me to listen to a lot of female singer-songwriters I hadn’t known very well.
I spent the last day of 30 – the year I got paychecks in four different states – helping my boyfriend move from Providence back to Massachusetts: one good reason for me to limit my ramblings. And the reasons keep coming. In April I played second keyboard for a not-very-good college production of a show I had already played and programmed before; it was easy money but there was nothing artistic about it, except that the trumpet player was excellent. His program biography told me he was also a contractor for a handful of local theaters; when I asked if I could send him a resume, he said sure, though he doubted there’d be much work anytime soon. Not two weeks later, he called me to ask if I could accompany a rehearsal that afternoon for the Huntington Theatre‘s annual Spotlight Spectacular. Their music director had missed his flight from New York and would make it in time for the performance, but they needed someone to run songs with the singers. Of course I agreed, but when I got there they asked me to stay for the gala too, which is how I ended up accompanying Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana.
Then I was hired to music direct Bernarda Alba, Michael John LaChiusa’s dark, flamenco-tinged adaptation of the Lorca play, for Stoneham Theatre‘s summer youth festival. I was already excited to work with a small cast of high-school aged girls on this challenging piece, and even more excited when I got to know the rest of the artistic team, who were hands down the most supportive and truly collaborative group of people I’ve ever gotten to work with. The girls were also extremely talented and committed, diving headfirst into the complex rhythms, tonalities, and difficult subject matter with no complaints. I think they all grew in the five weeks we worked together, and I did too.
I hit the halfway point of being 31 a week ago, which was also opening weekend for the production of Ring of Fire that I’m currently music directing in Grand Lake, Colorado. The job started the day after Bernarda closed; they’d had a mid-season opening in their staff, so I sent my resume, interviewed and auditioned via Skype, and got on a plane for the mountains. The theater itself is beautiful and very professional, with a company of seriously talented actors, technicians, and musicians. I was lucky enough to see all three of the summer productions before they closed, and was astounded by how well the shows were cast and how spectacular they looked and sounded. And now that Fire is open and I have some time off, I’ve gone hiking twice this week, and while I am woefully out of shape (more so than I can blame on the altitude), the incredible views are easily worth all the wheezing and muscle fatigue. I look forward to another three weeks of performances and wilderness adventures. And another six months of unexpected journeys.