Arriving in New York City ended up being a little scarier than I had anticipated. I had set up a living arrangement with a girl on Craigslist. The plan was for me to come to the city, sleep on my friends’ couch for a week, and then move into the Craigslist apartment. Just minutes after I arrived in the city, however, I received an email from the Craigslist girl saying she’d given the apartment to someone else. I cried for a while as I figured out how to get a bus ticket and a Metro Card and lug my suitcase across town. ( I know now that taking a cab to and from the airport is not as much a luxury as it is a necessity.) Eventually, I made it to my friends’ apartment and crashed. I am so thankful for Harrison and Jen, my friends from SMU, who let me stay on their couch an additional week while I searched for apartments. It was interesting to realize that the only things keeping me from being homeless in New York were my friends. It was a bit humbling to realize that being homelessness is not always a result of irresponsibility, but, more often, a result of lacking friends and family who can and will provide when needed. If I never want to be homeless in this world, I’d better be good to my friends and family.
Searching for apartments is not an easy task, especially in New York City. I started work at Signature Theatre Company the day after I arrived in the city, so I only had evenings and weekends to pound the pavement. I went all the way down to some uglier parts of Brooklyn and all the way up to the Bronx. I looked at an apartment almost every day. Nothing was working out. I was often the only white person in a neighborhood. This is something I thought wouldn’t bother me at all. I thought, “It???s a bunch of families, why should it make a difference? Any fear that I have is just my prejudice and judgment.” But then, when I felt all of the stares, I realized that even though I was with mostly good people, with families and grandmas and kids, I was an easy target for the small group of people who did want to do harm. Young, rich girl. Alone. Looks like she’s 12. Easy, easy target. I decided that I would feel much better living in a place where I was not the only one of that description. So that I wouldn’t stand out so much. It made me feel sick, though, to realize that I couldn’t live in a neighborhood where I was the only white person. Racism just became a lot bigger.
Eventually I got in touch with a very kind, young girl who needed a subletter right away. The apartment and neighborhood sounded like such a good deal that I said yes right away. As it turns out, God himself picked this place out for us. It is in a beautiful neighborhood, with lots of families, of several different races, and a large Jewish population (since there is a Jewish school nearby). There is a park one block down from the apartment that has beautiful gardens and running trails. In the middle of the park is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum called the Cloisters. We are right on the Hudson River, which makes for beautiful sunsets! It is quiet here, with two small grocery stores, a bakery, a couple of cute restaurants, a pharmacy, a vet, and a laundromat. Our apartment is large, for a NY apartment, and we got a good rate, right in our price range. I am so thankful and relieved to be here. Karoline and I keep talking about how God must have had this place saved for us because it is such a perfect fit.
My work at Signature
Work at Signature Theatre Company has been challenging and exciting. I am the literary intern, which means I do research on the plays Signature is producing. Most of my work goes into creating a large binder with contextual and historical information about the play and its characters. I am essentially an assistant dramaturg. The main reason I haven’t written about my Signature experiences until now is because everything I was working on was top secret! Until a week and a half ago we were all preparing for Signature’s giant press conference where we announced the next four seasons (four years). Signature Theatre Company is unique in that they choose to devote each season to the work of one living American playwright. The playwrights they select each year serve as the “playwright in residence” for an entire year.
The next four seasons will include Charles Mee (this season), Tony Kushner, Susan Lori Parks, and the Negro Ensemble Company. Even though the Negro Ensemble Company is not one playwright, Signature felt that the body of work that came out of the NEC needs to be celebrated and recognized in the same way that Signature celebrates and recognizes the work of each playwright in residence. Another “exception to the rule” is that Signature will be producing Edward Albee’s Occupant at the end of this season. Edward Albee was Signature’s playwright in residence several years ago, but his Occupant never opened because the lead actress got pneumonia just before opening, and, since the part was for a 75-year-old woman, they had no understudy. Signature has decided that this spring is a good time to revive the play.
In addition to announcing the next four seasons, Signature also announced that ticket prices will only cost $20 for the next four years. This is amazing because it is nearly impossible to find theater that inexpensive in New York City, especially at such a well-respected company. The tickets actually cost $65, but Signature has found sponsors who are paying to subsidize the tickets. This allows Signature to offer cheap tickets without cheapening the quality of the work. This is one of the reasons I love Signature.
Meeting the stars
The press conference itself was a thrill because I got to meet Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, Edward Norton, Bill Irwin, Charles Mee, several of the actors from the first production of this season, and three of the directors from this season (Tina Landau, Daniel Fish, and David McCallum). After the press conference, Bill Irwin (who has been dubbed “the prince of Broadway”) needed a script from the office, so I got to walk with him 5 or so blocks from the theater to the office to get the script for him. I was delighted to take him! He was so kind and humble and interested in who I am and what I love and what I want to do in theater. I asked him where he did his movement training, and he said, “Oh a little here and there.” I later found out that “a little here and there” meant Barnum and Bailey circus school, and some of the most prestigious circus and modern dance companies all over the world. He told me some about his family and what he is doing right now. He treated me like a young friend. Then he came to the office, got a script, did a little work on my computer, and headed off to a rehearsal. I think I have a bit of a crush.
Karoline currently has a cast on her arm (she broke her forearm in a tubing accident on the lake) so she asked Ed Norton to sign it. I think both Karoline and Ed were slightly embarrassed, but Karoline and I both agreed it was well worth it. When she went to the doctor to get her cast changed to a shorter one, she told the doctor to cut right through the signature so she wouldn’t foolishly keep it on her mantle till she was thirty. The doctor couldn’t believe that The Incredible Hulk had signed Karoline’s cast and he took the remnants to show all the nurses.
Friends in the City
Karoline has been a wonderful friend to me. Our friend at work said we are like “a little married couple” and we joke about that all the time. We are sharing a bed, and every night before we go to bed we talk about our day or boys or God. We fight every now and then, we bring each other presents, and we share almost everything. I couldn’t ask for a better friend and roommate – which is good because Karoline and I will be living together, with our friend Christin, for the next year!
The past few weeks in the city have been full of strolls through Midtown, visiting with friends from SMU, lazy days in the park, Broadway and Off-Broadway shows (Talk Radio, Company, Horizon) Lincoln Center performances (The New York Philharmonic with Deborah Voight, American Ballet Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet), the OBIES (the Off-Broadway Awards), adventures in Harlem, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and strange encounters that can only happen in New York.
I love this city more than I thought I would. Mostly, because I never realized how beautiful the parks can be! And I never thought New York could feel like a home. But it does. A home that moves and shakes and yells and laughs and brings new people to one’s doorstep daily.
I am learning a lot about what I am going to need when I graduate. I can see how a little business training goes a long way when looking for work here. I know that every person I meet could be someone who changes my life someday. I know that I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life here, but that I could definitely spend a part of my life here. I am becoming even more sure of the belief that life is about relationships more than it is about careers or locations or experiences. Relationships remind us that we are never done. And the really good relationships remind us why we are here.