Always Coming Back to You
My friends and colleagues may have noticed that I totally disappeared from the EdTA Conference on Friday afternoon… and I’m sorry! I often pull the “Irish Goodbye” when I feel guilty that I have to leave. But it was wonderful to see old and new theatre friends and teachers there, and what part of the conference I did attend, was certainly inspiring in that short amount of time. The keynote speaker, actor/writer, John Cariami had some beautiful and appropriately-timed, encouraging words around advocating for the arts. And the PigPen Theatre Co.‘s workshop on their aesthetic and process was super illuminating; I was totally fan-girling seeing them and hearing them speak. I definitely got my money’s worth!
The reason I had to leave was to take off for a weekend trip to Minneapolis to be with some friends and family. This had been scheduled before I knew the dates of the conference, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. I can’t tell you how much I wished I could be in two places at once. But it was a really nice and much-needed trip during which I got to step foot back into my theatre building on the University of Minnesota, which for me is an emotional and humbling pilgrimage.
As my daughter is getting bigger and I am sharing more and more experiences with her, I have been nostalgic for my own youth and beginnings. Experiencing firsts with her takes me back to my own life experiences and sheds light on all the ways I have grown and changed over the years. My parents are most likely moving out of my childhood home and out of my hometown within the next year, and it’s made me long to go back more than ever before. Endings are beginning, but beginnings are also beginning. As the seasons literally change, and as my season of life has changed into being a mother, good and bad memories often flood my emotions and I am not always sure what to do with them. Bringing my daughter to my college was surreal, even though she is so little. But it made me realize the importance that place holds in my heart and the profound effect living and learning there had on me and who I am now.
Walking back into Rarig, I remembered the fresh, eager and excited student I was. I have memories walking in and out of there in the cold weather, the warm weather, late nights, early mornings, walking in and out with friends, foes, the teachers and professors I looked up to with so much admiration and curiosity. Freshman year, knowing absolutely nothing about anything but being so excited to read, learn, experience, do, which the U of M’s Theatre Arts program definitely delivered. Through the years, participating in productions, projects, working with amazing guest artists, exchange students, people from the community, I was exposed to so much. As a senior, feeling proud to share with my peers the work I had done in my practicum project with The Children’s Theatre Company which helped me to more clearly define the direction I couldn’t initially see that I needed to go.
It wasn’t clear from the start of college what I wanted to study, but making that space my ‘home’ made a giant school seem much smaller and made an unclear path, much clearer. The connections I made with the Minneapolis theater and educational community made me feel important and rich with experience. The performances I got to see and learn about and read made me hungry to debate, criticize, argue, and feel plays the way they are meant to be felt. The friends and colleagues I worked alongside helped to shape me into the person that I am today. While I know that the college experience is not for everyone, this experience for me was monumental and still helps me to clearly define and know why I do what I do.
Reflecting and honoring the important parts of my past helps in the healing process of growing up. It’s been 10 years since I was a senior in college, and I still wish I could go back and do it again. Being inside of Rarig Center and observing the sameness of the architecture, the staff pictures on the wall, and the feeling of campus was certainly comforting. But also to
walk through that space as a ten-year veteran theatre teacher, having put on many productions at this point and to be a leader in my Denver theater education community, made me feel accomplished in what I have done since I left. We each bring with us a set of tools, experiences and philosophies to what we choose to do with our lives, and I am proud of what I bring to what I do.
I didn’t see anyone or anything while I was there, but there was one thing that caught my attention. There’s a ghost light on at Rarig Center, and I read the message and took these pictures of it because I was so pleased to see the continuance of that space being dedicated to creating so much safety, student-choice, dialogue, and learning. I am proud to come from there and move forward into my future endeavours with Minnesota as a place I love dearly and miss calling home.