Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Amy Goes to Washington, DC: LMDA, Part 3 of 3

Regional Lunch was a highlight for me (we just ate at the cafeteria in the Kennedy Center, but I must recommend the calamari po'boy, it was top notch!). I don't believe we had this last year (or if we did, maybe I didn't go for some strange reason??), but to share some time with a group of six Philly-metro dramaturgs was pretty awesome. I learned a lot about what's going on in the area (like that PlayPenn is going on right now, so a lot of area dramaturgs were busy), and am thrilled with the involvement potential.

The Annual Meeting was next, and it was great to hear some statistics [72 individual members in the US (59 in Canada) and 54 student members] about the growth of LMDA. Updates about the website and the journal were discussed, and of course there were a few board transitions. They did announce next year's conference will be at the Banff Center near Calgary, which was hard for me to swallow. While we're getting a good deal on lodging and food (this is a retreat-type center), airfare is currently around $700 roundtrip from PHL, and I don't know if it'll go under $500 from what I read online. But, it's practically a year away, so there's time yet.

I then went to a mind-bending session on Digiturgy, or Digital Dramaturgy. All four presentations were great, and I was among the MANY to line up and give our names as volunteers to help with a new database project. The most impressive way to think about digiturgy in the audience sense (as opposed to for the actors, etc.) was the comparison to "extras on DVDs," and that was quite thought-provoking for me.

A few of us went for a cup of coffee (mocha in my case) at Cup'a Cup'a, a local place next to the Kennedy Center during the break. I took some pictures of the Kennedy Center (and the view from it) as well.

Afterward, we migrated over to the Watergate Hotel, where we had our banquet at 600 Restaurant. The setting was a bit different from last year, in that the tables were mostly four people, whereas last year they were much bigger. We were also spread out into multiple sections, so when speeches were given, many of us had to stand in the main room to hear (and eventually sit on the floor, as time went on). But it was great to have the opportunity to talk with a few more people (although I sat with 2 people I had met back on the Library of Congress tour, the third person was new to me and had smart things to say). The Caesar Salad was average, the bowtie pasta with asparagus was plain (I actually added pepper), and the apple pie was not completely cooked. The bread, however, was quite good... and our table polished off two baskets before the salads were even out. More amazing things were said by those who gave/received items/awards, and I can't wait to buy Geoff Proehl's new book. The only sad thing was that one of the "auction items" was a flag that had been flown at the US Capitol, complete with a certificate dedicating its service to the LMDA... it raised only $50. An old t-shirt even got $55! But, the application of a shirt is much greater than a flag, so I guess that was a part of it.

Leaving the banquet, a friend had given me her farecard - she was leav
ing town in just a few hours, and knew I was having horrible luck. It turned out to be a miracle card, since I was able to get three rides from it without a demagnetization! I got to the hotel that night and slept well.

In the morning, I slept a bit long and ultimately missed the first session on "Theatre of War." Worse though, was my trip to the final session. I checked out with plenty of time, and lugged my bags to the metro. I entered without a problem and went to wait at the Glenmont platform. The area was crowded, and I quickly was made aware that the 10:15 train didn't come, and the 10:21 wouldn't be coming, either. Those were my two possibilities, so I became slightly frustrated. A moment later, the boards showed 20 minutes until the next train, so I put my shoulder bag down a
nd went to lean against the wall.... in doing so my sunglasses tipped off my head and back behind a 15-foot cement barrier. Since I had time to kill, I went to plead with the station manager for assistance. She was more than willing to help me out, and actually built a pole-like device to retrieve them. I ultimately board the first train, only having to wait 10 minutes for a transfer (which was nothing in comparison to what ended up being 40 minutes for the first leg). I got to the final session of the conference at 11:40, so I made the last 50 minutes or so. We did a group sharing moment, revealing enlightening/memorable events... I mentioned the awestruck feeling I had with the documents we got to see at the Folger, and the awesome networking that took place this conference for me (my first LMDA conference was partially dwarfed by my shyness around famous-in-the-field people).

Because really, this conference did a lot for me because of the people I spoke with. Finding out what others were working on, how they got their current positions, where they did internships, how they use their degrees, etc. was quite eye-opening. To know that many of the ECDs I met this year (I also reconnected with two I met last year) could be my colleagues-of-sorts for the next forty years was just plain neat.


Leaving DC wasn't a picnic (back to the metro, over to the airport, a shuttle to the terminal, no free wi-fi, junky sandwich, two-and-a-half hour layover in Atlanta, worst Sbarro ever, tiny under-seat space on plane), but I prefer to end this entry on the positivity of remembering the wonderful people with whom I have become acquainted, and whom I look forward to seeing year after year to come.
end note: photo from Dupont Circle

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Amy Goes to Washington, DC: LMDA, Part 2 of 3

Friday morning began with a special tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library. It's a really neat place, and very few people see anything other than the one exhibition hall with three cases. The outside of the building has images from various plays (I include the Hamlet image below). To do research there, you have to be working on a dissertation, be affiliated with a University, or be a "special exception" person. We were able to see the "old" and "new" reading rooms, tons of the less-rare books, some fantastic small art pieces (tiles, trinkets, statuettes, etc.), and even the outside of the vault! It's intense... fireproof, climate- and humidity-controlled, the whole nine yards! PLUS, they had pulled out 12 volumes for our group to see - including a folio and a quarto, costume designs and photographs from the 1800s, prompt books from Shakespeare's time (!!), and other neat things. I think everyone had a good time! The tour ran over a bit, so a bunch of us were late getting to the Early Career Dramaturg luncheon. This year it was catered (Geppetto's Catering), and the turkey sandwich was pretty good. I was also mighty tired and glad to have a coke. The session itself was semi-useful... about half of the speakers were there last year (basically telling the crazy things they've done to get where they are now), so I only heard a few new things. One story was particularly amusing, but since it is so unique, I won't recount it here for privacy purposes. I will say, however, that never in a million years had I realized that a dramaturg might have (or need!) an agent!

Then there was a large group session on dramaturging in the museum, which was great. Speakers from Air & Space, Newseum, and the Folger talked about various aspects of their exhibit planning and such. It got me very interested in the museum studies side of things. I liked hearing about exhibit planning and design, and interactive exhibits. I loved the examples of majorly successful exhibits, it just blew me away... creativity is amazing.

There were three choices after that, and I headed to Classical Dramaturgy over at the Shakespeare Theatre. I kinda felt like everything that was said had been said before... but it was interesting to hear some of the comments made about handling adaptations in new ways, and handling all plays like classical works (rather than new works). "New Approaches" would be a great summary.

I then made a poor choice and went to the other Early Career panel. It was very depressing in that I am soooo "early" in my career compared to others my age. But that's a whole diatribe. It brought me down for the rest of the day, but the next morning redeemed my self-value, so no worries.

We then had several hours off to eat and see shows and such, and I went to Steam Cafe and Lounge and grabbed a Norwegian Panini (smoked salmon, cream cheese, onions, capers) and a fruit punch. It came with a salad which was nice, but the sandwich was average. I went back to the hotel and napped before heading out again for the 10:30pm monument tour.

Of course, my farecards didn't work, so that held me up a bit. And I got on the wrong train because I had the next morning's location in my head when I was thinking about which one to get on. So I got off when I realized it (three stops later or so), and didn't have time to get back the other way, so I hailed a cab and made it just a few minutes before it began. We saw the World War II Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial. WWII was a beautiful design... very well planned (as everything in DC seems to be).
Lincoln is SO BIG. It was neat to see it, as that's one I've known of since I was very little. I also was astounded to know that there is a typo on the stone, but I don't know that I would have noticed if I hadn't been told. (It's very difficult to see, so I didn't include it. I'll put it on Facebook tho.)I was surprised with how moved I was with the Vietnam Memorial. I've read about it a bit before (and Maya Lin's story), but as I walked past the black granite blocks filled with over 58,000 names, I was overwhelmed with emotion. After the tour (which ended quite a bit after the planned 11:30) I was quite tired, as was everyone else, so we hailed a few cabs (but I wasn't near the other groups, so I took my own). Strangely, and in a one-in-a-million sort of way, I got the same cab driver!! He recognized me right away as I was telling him where I was headed. He said that had never happened to him before, and he'd be buying a lotto ticket the next day.

Saturday was the first morning I didn't have a tour to be at, but at the same time our first session started at 9:30, and it took me about an hour from door-to-door, so I didn't get to sleep in, either. Instead of being at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre like we were for most of the first two days, we were at the Kennedy Center for the second two days. There were three great choices (all were mentioned by others as "favorite sessions of the conference") but I attended "Advanced Freelancing," which was just where I needed to be. The honesty in the room was valuable, confrontation basics were mentioned, and the reinforcement of "create your own opportunities" was what I needed.

Joe Palca, a science correspondent for NPR, was the guest for "Dramaturging Science" and he was pretty entertaining. He talked about many different things, from stories to process to interviews. It was also during his session that I had my "conference revelation" which I tend to have at some point during every major conference I attend (this is my 11th since entering the conference world in January 2005). This time, it was a very profound question dealing with what I want and how I want to achieve it, basically.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Amy goes to Washington, DC: LMDA, Part 1 of 3

I had my annual LMDA (Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas) conference just a few days after we moved. Given our proximity to the Nation's Capital, I took the Amtrak from Trenton straight into Union Station. It was an easy ride, and I enjoyed it. From there, I took the Metro (aka subway) to my hotel.

Actually, the Windsor Inn was a Bed-and-Breakfast. I didn't realize that ahead of time, but it was very nice. I had a room on the "garden floor" (photo below). The room was European
in style, but quaint. The breakfast left something to be desired, since it was pretty much just bread and mini bagels, with apples and yogurt. There was cereal on the final day (maybe I just didn't notice it before that?), and pastries that often went fast.That same day, I grabbed a chicken caesar wrap from a random place near the Dupont Circle station and then headed to the Holocaust museum. My ticket was for the 12:30 entrance, and they said to estimate 2-3 hours. Well, the Holocaust is a particular historical interest of mine (many papers have I written, memoirs read, documentaries seen... I even took a class specifically on Responses to the Holocaust when I was in undergrad), and I had only reached the halfway mark at 2 hours, 30 minutes. The exhibition is very informative, and it gets to be exhausting to read. There were some neat models, but I won't give it all away.I had wanted to go to the National Museum of American History afterward, but it closed at 5:30 that day. So I walked next door to the National Museum of Natural History (the one from Night at the Museum II), which was open until 7:30. I actually made it through the entire thing in time (I obviously didn't spend a lot of time with the mammals and such... I just like zoos so much better, LoL!). Included below are a few highlights - hippo replica, fossils, shells, gems, state soils.
The next morning I went to a VIP tour of the Library of Congress with part of the LMDA group. I actually wasn't that impressed with the tour itself... I feel that it didn't give me too much more than I would have discovered on my own, but it was particularly neat to see Jefferson's play collection and hear about all the art and architecture in the building (it is the costliest building in the city to keep up).From there it was on to a VIP Capitol Tour. We had the most amazing tour guide EVER. He seriously spoke like 25 languages. He did Albanian, Greek, Filipino, and Bulgarian for us, and told stories of using Estonian and Latvian as well. He was full of information, and the Capitol is just plain neat. From there a group of us went over to the National Museum of the American Indian's Mitsitam Cafe to have lunch. It was recommended since the Native American cuisine was really unique. I had pulled buffalo and squash slaw -- both were amazing! I can't even describe buffalo... it's tender and tasty and different. The squash slaw tasted like cilantro and onions, so it was quite tasty. In fact, everyone enjoyed everything they ordered, so I'd definitely recommend the place. It is slightly confusing tho... it is a cafeteria, but it has like 5 different stations (for the Great Plains, Pacific Northwest, etc.), so walk around first, then decide which line(s) you want to wait in. [Buffalo sandwiches are Great Plains. For the current menu, click here]

The first conference session was at 3pm, so we walked to the Woolly Mammoth theater, where we checked in. LMDA did the "green" thing and so there was no contact sheet and the two copies of the bios were for table use only. The first session dealt with the various innovative things that people are doing in the field. The entire concept of "exiturgy" was amazing, as I had never before considered it. Nutshell: having packets of stuff that audience members can take home if they want to learn more. The concept behind The City of Wine Project being done across Canada is
fabulously interesting, and it totally deserved to win this year's award. The idea of using Twitter to facilitate conversations about the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival also caught my eye, and I'm sad that I didn't get a chance to talk about it with its creator more directly!

After that, a group of us walked over to the National Archives, where we had a VIP tour planned. However, the tour guide didn't show up, so we were left to explore it ourselves. It was nice to get around the lines for things like the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta, tho! Overall, they had some neat things at the National Archives, but I wasn't impressed as a whole, especially at their "BIG" exhibit... which included things like Shaq's shoe and Former President Taft's bathtub.
I stopped at the Red Velvet Cupcakery on the way to the next session for a snack. For a whopping $3.25, I bought a "Southern Belle" cupcake, which was like a red velvet. They had about 8 different flavors, included cookies and cream, vanilla bean, and "b'day cake." I wouldn't have even paid a $1 for that cupcake at a bakesale.

The next session (at the Shakespeare Theatre) had three panelists discussing how politics and dramaturgy intersect in different ways. It was interesting for the most part, but there was a 10- or 15-minute period where I started to zone out, so I read the rest of the conference packet. There was a reception back at Woolly Mammoth, where many of us thoroughly enjoyed the hummus, cheese, veggies, and crackers. I met a few people from the Philadelphia area, which was nice. Heard good things and bad things about working in the theatre scene there, but at least one exists.

I headed out around 10:15 or so. The party was still going, but I was getting tired. Unfortunately, my farecard demagnetized at some point during the day, and I had trouble getting through the Metro. The next morning I went to the Metro Center and had them issue a new card, but by the end of the day, I had demagnetized 3 more cards. I even kept them away from my credit card, phone, and camera.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Arriving in Pennsylvania

We flew out bright and early Saturday morning (the 11th) on US Airways. It had its ups and downs. We were fairly rushed getting to the gate because of how slow the woman was checking our baggage (and being unwilling to help with my extra $5 charge I shouldn't have gotten, but that's another story). We had a layover in Phoenix that was decent... we had a bacon-egg-cheese quesadilla and then bought some Pizza Hut for the plane ride. There were a lot of storms in the midwest, so our plane didn't land in PHL until almost 7pm. We rented a car (another Impala), and headed on our way. I took a few photos as we took I-95 past Philly and to Newtown.We had a fabulous hotel the first night, but it was booked during the week so we needed to move. The first place was like a studio apartment, and I would have loved to stay there a few more days!Sunday we drove through Newtown (not a big place), and to Richboro for lunch. We had some great grub at FreshWorks. We shared a "full" (2 FEET long!!) Bronco Chicken Cheesesteak (with bacon, provolone, and bbq sauce) and some of the best cheese fries I've ever had. They were lightly fried crinkle fries, and the cheese was like a spicy mild cheddar.
The new hotel was pretty standard, but offered a full breakfast in the mornings, which was nice (the first hotel allegedly did too, but we were too jet-lagged to make it to breakfast). It also had a business center that allowed me to print out my travel documents and maps. Plus there was a laundry facility which helped our living-out-of-suitcases situation.

We had subs from McCaffrey's for dinner on Monday night. I had salami and provolone, Jonathan had an Italian. Both were great, think Publix-style!

Monday night we went into town and had Isaac Newton's. I had a Caesar salad and ribs combo, Jonathan had the London Broil sandwich, and we shared an order of Mozzarella Sticks. The complimentary bread was boring and cold, served without butter or anything. The appetizer was delicious, in the top 5 mozzarella sticks I've had, I think. My entree was very large, and very good. The salad was pretty standard for a Caesar, but was heavy on the dressing and light on the anchovy, which is fine with me! The ribs pulled right off the bone, but the sauce was a Tennessee Whiskey-flavor, which isn't a favorite of mine. Jonathan enjoyed his sandwich as well. It was served with chips and coleslaw, and was a little overpriced.

Tuesday afternoon we toured four apartment complexes, one of which we liked more than the others. We're going to see what happens... picking a place isn't as simple as taking the one given to you (like we did in Cali).

Then we went to dinner with Andrew (he was in Sunnyvale when we first moved in January, but rotated to Newtown in the spring) at Venezia Pizza. Now that place was a good deal! If you order a dinner, you get a medium salad and bruschetta. I loved my chicken parmagiana (the ziti was HUGE), as did Andrew. Jonathan had the baked ziti, which he liked as well. We also ordered a dozen garlic knots (before we knew the dinners came with so much!), which was delicious. A little bigger and different than the ones at Big Apple, but very good nonetheless. Highly recommended (but at the same time, I have a feeling that many an Italian dish will woo me up here!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Leaving California

We left on Saturday morning. Thursday night, our friends had a going-away party for us over at Jim & Viv's. We had Korean BBQ, burgers, handmade spring rolls, shrimp kebobs, flan, banana-pudding-cake, and a variety of other things. And I mean crazy variety... we took two large boxes of everything we had left and let everyone just have what they wanted. Some stuff went faster than others, but in the end we got rid of a lot of stuff easily. We played Apples to Apples and shot some pool as well.
Jim doing some grillingJonathan's ready to eat!
best group shot I got

Friday morning the movers came. At a whopping 9:06, which was pretty impressive. They were FAST compared to the movers who packed our FL stuff. By 10:45 or so, everything was gone. Jonathan went in to work to tie up some loose ends, and I packed the remaining bags (after all, we may have to live out of just a few bags until August!). We ran a ton of errands (library books, post office, Comcast, etc.), grabbed some In-n-Out one last time, and then took a nap.

Andy, Jim, and Vivian joined us for dinner at Claim Jumper. The food was pretty good - I'd recommend the cheese potato cakes. I had the baked potato cheddar soup in a sourdough bread bowl for dinner, but it didn't stay hot by the time I was done. Most everyone enjoyed their choices, although the chicken-fried steak was looking a little ragged... probably because it was the end of the night so the oil had been used many times by that point. It was really nice to get to say a second goodbye to those three... we have done a lot together in the past six months. Jim has family in Orlando, so there's a good chance we'll see him and Vivian come Christmas. Andy is originally from the Newtown campus, so we'll see him when he visits his "home," too.
I really liked this antler lighting fixture at the restaurant.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Apartment

This is extremely late. As in, I said back in January that I'd post some pics of the apartment. But, I still wanted to throw some photos up there, mostly for personal memory at this point.

When you entered our apartment, we had a hall closet to the right, which we deemed half cleaning supplies and half coat closet.
Heading straight, you walk into the second bedroom, with the guest bath on the right.Back out and turning left, we head into the kitchen, passing the dining area on our right.The kitchen is small, but manageable. The only major hassle is that only one of the burners on the stove is large; the other three are small.The counter separates the kitchen from the living room. Off the living room we have a large balcony, with two chairs and a table (I managed to never take a balcony photo in six months).

From the living room we turn the corner and head into our bedroom, with large closets and a good-sized bathroom (these were being packed when I went through to take these pics, so they're a mess and not being posted).
So we had a strange variety of problems with our apartment while we were there. Some of them are typical, and others notsomuch. While I still loved our apartment, the complex, and the location within the city, it's not without its downfalls...

Broken entertainment center. The day we moved in, we noticed that the lazy-susan which the television sits on was crooked. We tried to fix it, but realized that there was a broken support beam or something. So we went down to the front desk and let them know. They immediately sent a couple of workers up, and they ended up having to bring a whole new entertainment center, since the lazy-susan was part of it. Quick and easy.

Broken DVD player. Probably two weeks after we moved in, we tried to use the DVD player. But none of the discs would load, and it sounded like whatever spins inside was broken. They never came to fix that, but it wasn't a big deal, since we can played DVDs on the xbox.

Light out in the dining room. We actually never had to report this one. Somehow, the front desk got our apartment number as one that needed a new heat lamp in the back bathroom. This wasn't the case, and when they arrived, they asked me if I had a light out. I mentioned that we did, and he replaced the dining room light, and we were set.

Spiders. Yep, this was a strange problem. One night, there was a tiny spider (not as tiny as the baby spiders that attacked me at my first year of camp, LoL) on the wall. I killed it, thought that was that. Then there was one on the bedroom television. And one on the comforter. The next night, there were six or seven on the overhead lamp in the bedroom. And three on the wall. We let maintenance know, and a guy came the next day and surveyed the bedroom. He took a broom to all of the corners and along the ceiling. He took apart the light and checked inside. This was probably a Friday or Saturday, and he said Orkin would be out Monday or Tuesday. Each night, we found another 3 or so spiders on the walls. Jonathan didn't seem concerned, but because of the Great Spider Attack of Circus Camp, I was kinda afraid it would turn into another epidemic. Orkin came and sprayed on Tuesday morning, and the fumes took almost a whole day to fade, even with the window open. But, no more spiders.

Microwave freaking out. One night I was microwaving some butter or something, and the microwave started freaking out. It made a crackling sound, and sparked a lot inside. If you've ever put a CD in the microwave, it kinda acted like that (I haven't done this, but in undergrad my friend Trea showed me, and it's creepy). Well, Jonathan came over to see what I was yelling about, and it wouldn't do it for him. The next day, I was warming up some leftover pizza, and it happened again. Again, it wouldn't do it on command for Jonathan. Weeks went by, and it didn't happen anymore. So, I forgot about it. Then, I was making macaroni and cheese (again, melting butter), and it happened again. And it wouldn't stop. I ended up mashing the butter since the microwave wouldn't cooperate. It acted up the next afternoon when I tried to warm up some chicken. So I gave up on the microwave and we went downstairs and told them. Surprisingly, they understood the problem exactly. The next morning, the main maintenance guy came and examined it. They he took out the metal plate on the top, and put a new one in. Good as new.

Slowest oven in America. Another one that never got fixed. It was always slow to heat up, and would take about 1/2 an hour to make it to 400 degrees, and then we'd always need to cook things a little longer than expected (not more than 25% longer though, so generally not a real issue, unless I was doing a lasagna or brownies).

TV going out. When we got back from Denver, the televisions in the bedroom wouldn't get channels above 40. No idea why. Luckily, I just tweeted my Comcast contact (@ComcastBonnie) and she diagnosed the problem immediately: the need for a DTA on those TVs. I went and talked to the front desk, and they came and installed one in the main bedroom within a few hours. It took him a while to get it all set-up, but by that night, all was good as new.
view of the pool & some vegetation around the complex this was the room where we had breakfast and happy hours.