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Pike, Twist, Entry

August 22, 2010

It struck me that on the eve of the official beginning of my grad school experience, I should write.

Like a cliff diver gazing into the horizon, with still arms spread wide and firm toes gripping the edge of the earth, I have a pretty good idea what to expect from the rare, fantastic leap of faith I’m about to literally and quite metaphorically heave myself into. I know how to execute, I’ve practiced a million times. And yet here I am, with more than a shade of curiosity about how the whole exuberating ride is going to feel.

How do we prepare? Eliminate expectation.

I’ve been more than fortunate to meet a large majority of the second and third year MFA students, all of whom are brimming with advice, insight and even a little warning. They’ve been extremely helpful, of course. But I can’t really explain the kind of unique feeling I got when several of them greeted me for the first time with a smile, a hug, and a proud declaration, “Brendan Ragan!” (Beyond becoming friends on facebook, it seems the conservatory has a yearly practice of posting the incoming students’ headshots on a wall somewhere for what I’m guessing has been several months, so they knew us when they saw us). The teachers, no doubt, will know us as well. A recent email from an acting professor started:

“At the beginning of the new conservatory year I try to imagine what kind of artists, what kind of human beings my future students might be.  So, I look at your photographs.  I try to learn, from your resumes, about your theatrical backgrounds.  I strive to foresee your creative individualities.  I imagine that, as you prepare for your journey at the Conservatory, you also summarize your past experiences, and dream of your theatrical future.”

I’m elated to report an unbelievable array of outgoing, interesting, sensitive, and loving personalities in the program. Actors, you know the comforting feeling you get at a first read when you meet someone you’re about to work with, and their energy, pleasentries, and personality tell you that you just know they’re going to be talented? I’ve had that feeling more times than I can count. In a selfish way, one of my small pre-move, can’t-get-to-sleep paranoias about the program was that I was going to show up and all of the students would be downright terrible actors. It’d be a big ol’ collection of dolts from the Next Day Floors commercials (Baltimore, you know), and they’d all be borrowing my highlighters and asking how on earth they were going to remember all these lines!

Alas, that paranoia was squelched, processed, and turned into a reminder to keep my head free of anxious, endgaining notions.

So, I’ve stopped asking questions aside from logistical ones. “Tell me about this professor” or “what should expect from this class” get truly unique answers from every student, and while each is valuable, each is equally loaded with personal history, bias and baggage, however sweet or salty.

What I have been doing, is enjoying the time off, indulging in the area’s attractions, and spending time with my fellow first years. We figure since we’re about to spend every waking moment together for the next three years, we should spend every waking moment together pretty much right away.

We’ve been beaching, caffeinating, nightfall-drum circling, barring, eating, cooking, swimming, playing, reading, and working out together. With my fingers crossed and plenty of wood to knock on nearby, I’m happy to report that my class is full of hilarious, outgoing, brilliant people, and there isn’t a bad egg in the bunch. We’ll see what loads of pressure, loss of sleep, and too much time together does to the dynamic and that statement. For now, though, they are impressively lovely people. From Siesta Key to Anna Maria Island, my little neck of the woods in Florida has quite a bit of culture and opportunity, and I’m happy to report that the annual murder rate in the city I live in has changed from 240 to 4. Old people let go of grudges easier, it seems.

I’m soaking up as much as I can. Yes, I’ve been sunburned already.

Today, we caught our first play in the area. The Banyan’s production of Side Man by Warren Leight. You know you’re a bonafide theatrical nerdo when you can say you’ve seen a play like Side Man three times in three different states. And, all three times (one even being a college production), I’ve enjoyed my experience, but never had I such harrowing feeling of sympathy and sorrow for the characters as I did for this production. The exploration of familial impossibility, mental illness and the waning years of the jazz age were all executed with care. Seeing solid theater (especially by a company that rents at the venue I’ll be working in for three years) is a big. fat. sigh. of relief.

A post with pictures from my week off will be forthcoming. I don’t intend on going two weeks between each post, but I’ve been busy enjoying what life is like when you aren’t busy, and as this is a blog about my MFA journey, I don’t have much to report other than that it all starts tomorrow. 9am.

With my pseudo-vacation about to an end, I can say, for the first time in a year, that I’m rested, calm, and ready. I’ve woken up every day of my life wanting to be in the position I’m in now, and even though I’m sure I know what to expect, it’ll take everything I have tonight to let these conceptions go. 

We’ve been here before. We know what to do.

All we have to do now is jump.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rofo permalink
    August 23, 2010 1:00 am

    A good friend of mine was in that production of Side Man! Roxanne Faye(played the Mom/Wife). Glad you got to see it, wish I could have!

    And btw, you’re in central FL now. The commercial you want to refer to for bad actors is 1-800-ASK GARY.

  2. August 23, 2010 10:47 pm

    I knew you were meant for greater things when we hired you.

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