Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The One with the Big Move

January 11, 2012


Is this real life? Have I finally gone crazy? Am I seriously moving to the city? Yep! I’ve lost it. Moving to the city with no money, no job, and no place to stay.

I have made arrangements for the next few weeks to couch surf with some friends. I will officially be in the city as of Saturday, January 14. My plan at the moment is to get to the city, find a day job, determine how much rent I can afford, and find a place! My goal really isn’t to go up and there and land a Broadway show. While of course that would be nice, my goal is just to make a living in the city.

Here’s the deal: I’m at a crossroad. I don’t have another theatre job on the horizon so its time to find a day job. I can’t move back to Memphis since there aren’t really many theatre jobs that I can do. I don’t want to move back to Dallas since I would just go back to my waiting job at the country club job and I can wait tables just as well in the city as I can in Dallas. So ready or not, here I go. Taking that big step. I am finally leaving the south and my sweet tea behind and trading it in for the big city.

A very close friend shared a wonderful quote with me the other day that I loved. George Bernard Shaw said “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” I’m ready to ask that question. “Why not?”

“Oh the places you’ll go…”

The One With “The One With…”

Dec 29 to Jan 2

Finally it was time to head to Chicago!!!! For the past few weeks, my friends and I had been planning this reunion of friends in Chicago for New Years and the time had finally come! Lynden and I started our trip at 1am on the 29! We drove through the night to meet up with Emily, Alixe, and Sean in St. Louis. With the help of Red Bull and our Chicago belting mix, we made it into St. Louis all hyped up and ready to go Chicago! With a change of cars and adding a few people to our mix, we were on the way to CHICAGO for NEW YEARS!!! In Chicago we met up with Helen and Daniel at one of Emily’s favorite bars that she had found while working there over the past summer. After lunch we spent a little time shopping and then were off to Helen’s for dinner and to meet up with Natalie! Dinner was wonderful! Helen’s mom is a wonderful cook and an amazing host! After dinner and drinks, Lynden and I headed into the city by train for a good night at the clubs…

New Years Eve we spent in the city. With Helen as our host I knew we were going to get the inside scoop on the city! With sights like the Chicago Bean and seeing the view from the top of the John Hancock building, we were doing Chicago the right way!

Since we were trying to save as much money as possible, we all stayed in one hotel room. There were two double beds, one fold out couch, and my air mattress that I had brought from home. I figured this would be a good test for my mattress since it was more than likely going to be my bed in NYC for several weeks! Lol. Getting ready was actually a lot of fun. So many friends in such a small space calls for only one thing: Lots of alcohol! The club we went to that night was called Excalibur and was only a few blocks from hotel. And so the night began…

We decided that our Chicago trip was like a Vegas Trip: What happened in Chicago stays in Chicago. I will only share a couple of stories that I feel like I can share in good humor with no harm meant to anyone. More than likely they won’t be that funny except to a select few…

* “Hey, remember the time that Natalie fell asleep before New Years?” lol

* “Hey, remember the time that Katie threw up in McDonalds?” BAHAHA! Good times! J

The only other part that I will share is after some drama went down, drinks were finished, McDonald’s trip was completed, Natalie was sleeping, and Katie was asleep on the floor in the bathroom, Alixe walked into the room and told us that we had to name this trip. We had to start it with “The One with…” like all of the titles from Friends. You see, we have decided that our group of friends (like I’m sure half of the rest of the world has as well) will be like the TV show. We’ve given everyone their character type and have even started naming some of our episodes. This one would of course be a season finale with a cliffhanger. Good times! J It would also be in two parts: “The One With the RedBull” and “The One with the Domestic Abuse”.

The next morning we pack up our bags, said our goodbyes, and those in our van headed back St. Louis. That night we had some amazing St. Louis pizza and did a power hour to season one of Modern Family. We have also decided that we need more power hours in our lives but it is a bit difficult since we all live all over the place now. We now will be doing power hours with each other over SKYPE! J This is what I love about my friends. That it really doesn’t take that much to enjoy each other. We don’t have to do something big, we don’t have to go do something special, we just enjoy being with each other. While yes we fight sometimes, you fight with family. And that’s exactly what we are: family.

Lynden and I headed back to Memphis and that concluded our crazy Chicago trip!

After this trip and this blog, I’ve decided that all my blogs this year will start with “The One With…” My life hopefully will be a bit like Friends…lol

From Angsty Teen to Dr. Seuss!

Nov 11 to Dec 28

Seussical the Musical was a huge change of pace! From dead sons and people walking out of a show due to the gays kissing to Dr. Seuss and children, it was a completely different world I was now living in. It was fun to play an over the top character where I could finally put my extremely large eyebrows to good use with all the different facial expressions. Lol.

It was nice to come back to Tulsa towards the end of the school semester. I was able to spend some time with the Pikes as well as the theatre kids! I was able to do my Christmas tradition with Sean and Alixe of decorating the Christmas tree and sleeping beneath it (And of course we missed the bestie!). Overall, it was very nice to come back to Tulsa. Best of all, I got to meet some amazing new people! Jenny Guy and Jessica Lauren-Howell, two alumni from Tulsa who graduated before I got to TU, we just of few of the amazing new people I got to spend time with. Jessica, who I spend a little time with in Rocky, and I had an amazing time and spent our days searching for the best Margarita in Tulsa. We decided after several weeks of testing, El Tequila won! We celebrated this discovery by going back on night with some friends and each having a pitcher of the amazing drink! SO GOOD! SO DRUNK! Haha! We spent days painting, watching Lord of the Rings, and just had an overall good time in Tulsa.

With the show running so close to Christmas, it was sort of sad to not be at home with the family doing all the normal Christmas traditions. I realized though that this was probably a new way of life for me. With me planning to move to NYC soon, each Christmas would be different based on work or money. I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time at home for the holidays as I had in the past years. Now that my breaks weren’t scheduled around school breaks, I had to work around work. At least I had work!

December 24, 2011 12:01 AM: First day since graduation without a theatre job… Officially Unemployed. Lol.

On Christmas Eve I woke up early to drive home. Over the next few days I spent relaxing time with family. With all the time spent away from home this year, it was nice to not have anything planned and just enjoy the time at home. Plus, with a 10 month old crawling all over the floor at Christmas, there was never a dull moment! As I said earlier, while this wasn’t a traditional Christmas, it was still a great one!

Rocky is just a bit Rocky...

Oct 24 to Oct 29

Less than 24 hours after our final show of Spring Awakening, I had to head to Tulsa for my next show. Leaving Dallas was tough. Leaving Erica behind was extremely difficult. Dallas was a wonderful city that I loved living in for the past 6 months. It was safe. It was fun. I had made so many great friends and once again I had to leave a place behind a move on. I hope it gets easier with time…

My next job was a fundraiser for Tulsa Project Theatre. They were doing select songs and dance numbers from Rocky Horror Picture Show and I was playing Riff Raff. (Which is funny for a whole lot of reasons. Lol) It was nice to finally be a part of the Rocky Horror tradition in Tulsa! With Chad playing Frank, you knew the show would be amazing! I was also able to finally perform with amazing people like Claire Kifer Morris, Rebecca Ungerman, and Jessica Lauren-Howell! It was also nice be sharing the stage again with one of my best friends, Sean! J

While I enjoyed the actual performance of the fundraiser, the rehearsals were rough including the director being fired from the production. It was ugly, it was putting us all on edge, but, in the end, the show went off well.

By the time the show’s end came, I was ready to head to Memphis for a few weeks to relax.

“Whether in the summer, fall, or winter of our lives, we always remember our Spring Awakening…”

Aug 18 to Oct 23:

On the way back to Dallas I decided to swing back through Tulsa. Most of my friends had already made it back to school for Greek stuff and I figured I could drink with them as they were getting ready to start back. And drink we did! It was nice to be back with the guys again. Dustin and Tommy were starting back for their final semester while Conner and Pool were in Tulsa starting their real jobs. I didn’t really know when I would get to see everyone next so I tried to spend as much possible time chilling as I could. After a few fun days in Tulsa, it was time to go back to work in Dallas.

I first started back at the country club. I figured two weeks to get back into the groove with them would be nice. I wanted to have my schedule down by the time it came to start up with rehearsals. I also wanted to start working out a little to get prepped for the nudity scene in the show…we still weren’t sure if we were going to have to do it or not (that was she said…you are welcome for that). Erica called me when I got back in town and we started talking about life and my plan to workout. She told me she was starting a new program and that I should join her. Little did I know that for the next two months, I would be going over to Erica’s house every morning to workout with her. It was actually fun to do it together (that was she said…wow, again. I’m on a roll!!).

A few days before the first rehearsal we had a photo call: Erica (playing Wendla), Adam (playing Mortiz) and I (playing Melchior). The three of us had a “magical” moment in callbacks that we later found out is what got us cast in the roles. As we were singing through “Those You’ve Known”, we all three synced together and just found it. It was this incredible experience and we all three knew the exact moment it happened. This was the first time since callbacks that we had all been together. As Erica and I started with the first photo, the awkwardness setting in. She was on her back and I was leaning over her with our faces about 4 inches away from each other…and I couldn’t stop laughing. While our relationship had started with making out as Natalie and Henry, we had grown past that and very much into Erica and Jonathan. Now as Wendla and Melchior, I was having trouble finding the romantic/physical part of this already blurry relationship. Lol. Was this how it was going to be? Was I going to laugh every time we got close to kissing? If so, I was going to be in a lot of trouble come rehearsal time. Obviously…I got over that. J

A few weeks before rehearsals started, I received an email from the director about WaterTower giving me my equity card with this show. Holy shit! “What?! My what card? Equity? You have got to be kidding me! But I’m only 4 months out of college! This has to be way too soon! And me? Why not someone else in the show? It was too soon. I was too young. It wasn’t suppose to happen like this. I wasn’t supposed to even think about that card for at least another year…or two! Now? What was I going to do?” (I know this is a lot of rambling but this is literally how my brain felt for about two months!) I talked to a lot of people about this decision and in the end I decided to take it. I can remember the moment I made up my mind. Erica and I were in the car coming back from a show that we had seen in Arlington, and we were talking about the card. I was telling her my pros and cons and finally she looked at me and told me to take it.

She said if I really needed to, I could drop it and pick it back up later, but that for now, it was the right move. When I got to the first rehearsal a few days later my heart was pounding. I was so nervous about this. The stage manager handed me the equity contract and my mind would not stop running all over the place! “Really?! Now?! Are you sure? But what about this…or that…or” …and I signed it. Jonathan Walker Gilland. No going back now. I was officially now an equity actor. I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing…I’m still trying to figure that out. Lol.

Less than a week into rehearsals the summer became fall…meaning all of the Texas allergies started up. Being the only person in the cast not from Dallas, I took to them really badly. And of course my voice was one of the first things to go. I took several days on vocal rest and work through the allergies. Looking back, I’m glad it happened to me when it did. It made me learn to deal with them throughout the run and to not get behind on my allergy medicine so I could be in the best health I could be every day!

This show was so much fun to do. I mean, who doesn’t want to sing “Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked” on the stage? I sure as hell want to! This role was definitely a dream role of mine. To play a character that challenges the beliefs of his society and asks people to think with an open mind is truly amazing. It is eye opening to see how a society can turn on someone because he is different, because he actually uses his knowledge of life to challenge society beliefs instead of just believing them because he was told so, and because he doesn’t sit quietly in the back pew while ignorance is being spread around him. This role taught me to be me no matter what anyone else says. It taught me to be strong in who I am and believe in what I’m doing. I am to stand strong so that others may see my strength and be strengthened through me. It told me it was time to rock the boat.

I was so surprised to see so many friends from Tulsa come to this show! I mean, I sort of figured some of my friends would travel down to see it but I was truly surprised how many of my friends actually made it down! And my bestie Natalie even made it all the way down from Omaha! She was able to see Next to Normal due to a week off from her gig with the theatre tour but was so excited that she was able to come see this show as well!

I am truly honored and humbled to be able to play Melchior in this incredible cast of Spring Awaking. Erica was wonderful to work with again and I can’t image anyone else playing my Wendla. Adam is a wonderfully talented guy who I loved getting to know during the show. Kayla is such a beauty and so talented and I’m glad that I was able to really get to know her before I left Dallas. Of course Simone, Clay, Momma Lulu, Josh, Matt, and so many others were so great and talented in this show as well. I’m glad that my “spring awakening” happened with so many wonderful friends. I’m glad that I left Dallas with two wonderful shows under my belt and with having meet and enjoyed so many talented people.

Take me back to Tulsa...

July 18 to Aug 18

The next project took me back to Tulsa… (Sung: Take me back to Tulsa, I’m to young to marry…” Anyone? No? Ok…) I did Broadway Your Way with Tulsa Project Theatre, the same theatre I did Rent with. I’m not going to lie, I was extremely nervous about coming back to Tulsa especially with the way things were left. But I didn’t leave things bad with TPT or did I?

While some of the times back were a bit rocky, I think it was all part of moving past what had happened a few months ago and moving forward in order to make good theatre. It was nice to be able to see Kyle and Jenna again (seniors from when I was a freshman at TU) as well as perform with some new performers like Claire, Liz, and Christian. Overall, the show was a fun experience and made my feelings for Tulsa be a bit less bitter.

Over the following weeks, I went home to Memphis and finally got to go on vacation. We took a family trip down to Disney World and Harry Potter World! While I was a little depressed after the final Harry Potter came out, going to Harry Potter World definitely made my spirits jump way back up! It was nice to finally go on a vacation that wasn’t just sitting on some beach…I get bored. Lol.

After vacation it was time to go back to Dallas! But I needed to take a pit stop along the way…

Something Truly Next to Normal

May 10 to July 17

On my way to Texas, I let Tulsa go. I released the drama and frustration and looked into the future. For the first few days in Dallas, I was staying with Alixe Ward and her family. Alixe is one of my best friends from Tulsa and I was looking forward to spending some time with her. Her family took me in with open arms and welcomed me into their home. I even have a key to their house (Sean doesn’t even have one! LOL!). I got into town, dropped off some of my stuff, and headed down to Uptown Players for my first rehearsal for Next to Normal.

As I pulled into the Kalitia Humphrey’s theatre, I was very nervous. I wanted this to be a great experience. After Rent, I needed this to be a positive time in my life, remind me of my love for theatre, and restore my faith in theatre people. I also wanted this show to be really good. I loved this show on Broadway and I love Aaron Tveit so I wanted to make sure that the first regional theatre production in the country wasn’t a piece of crap. Maybe I was asking too much from my first show out of school. As I walked into the theatre, I met the cast, the producers, the director, and the music director. From that moment on life was magical…literally magical. Everyone and everything worked so well together. And the cast was incredible onstage and off. I was nervous about moving to a strange town and starting work with a group of people that that didn’t know. Patty, not only extremely talented, is also the most humble person you will ever meet. She has a new born son and a wonderful partner and they are just the cutest couple you’ll ever meet. Gary…is literally Henry….give or take a few years! J He is talented and such an amazing role model for young guys in theatre. Anthony is amazing. I mean the nicest, most genuine person you will ever meet. I can’t imagine a better Gabe! And I mean that. Anthony would have given Aaron a run for his money. JBraggs is great too. While I didn’t really get to know him that well during the rehearsal process, we shared a dressing room and “bro chilled” then. Lol. I also met a wonderful guy named Seth. He was the understudy for Dan and the Dr so during the understudy rehearsal, he was my Dan and I was his Gabe. He is such a cool guy and I’m glad I was able to spend a little time with him during this process.

The only person left that I haven’t mentioned is Erica Harte, the girl that played my Natalie. Walking into the first rehearsal, I remember seeing her from callbacks. We were the last two standing at callbacks. We both sort of hand this grin on our faces that we were both trying to control…but we really couldn’t help but let it shine through! As we went through our first scene together, we came upon the makeout scene. Now in the past, I have waited until dress rehearsals to actually start kissing. This usually allows for you to become a little more comfortable with the person and make any possible awkwardness go away. As we were nearing the kiss, I was casually still going through the last of my lines, looking at Erica trying to “really feel it”, and the next thing I know we are sucking face! She kissed me! First time through! What the heck was she doing…but it worked. As we came up for air I think I might have been a little red…I was not expecting that at all! But I also didn’t mind. She later told me that she likes to get the kissing out of the way so that by the time the real thing happens, you haven’t built up any tension. She was right. From that time forward our relationship was just truthful on and off the stage. Over the summer our relationship blossomed…not into anything physical, but into an amazing friendship. Onstage we were hot and heavy in the physical world and offstage we mentally connected. I think a lot of people assumed that since I didn’t really have a lot of friends in town and left a lot of people back at college, that Erica and I just sort of filled in where others had left us. But this was different. This was, is, something I’ve never truly had before in a friend. Someone who understood everything about me with absolutely no judgment. I could share anything with her and she could do the same with me. Not to mention the fact that she is truly and amazing person with a wonderful heart. I am so grateful to Michael Serrecchia for casting me, not only for the chance to be in this cast but also to be able to meet such a wonderful woman.

As the show began to come to a close, I was not ready to leave Dallas….or Erica for that matter. Erica had told me out another theatre in town that was auditioning for Spring Awakening. I told her that I was way too old to actually play Melchior (and she said the same thing about Wendla) but that I would at least go and audition to see if I could do Hanschen. The funny thing is, we both got cast as Melchior and Wendla! I didn’t have to say goodbye to Dallas yet!

I did have to say goodbye to Next to Normal though and Uptown Players. What was this? Why did this show affect me so much? How did these people mean so much to me in such a small amount of time? It’s because of the amount of respect that everyone had for each other. On one of the last nights while I was in Erica and Patty’s dressing room (a place that I found myself on a usual basis before, during, and after the shows), Erica and I were talking about Spring Awakening and how we hoped that, like Next to Normal, it would be a positive experience and that with such a young cast, we could leave negativity and problems at the door. Patty, being the amazing woman she is, looked at us and told us to only surround ourselves with people who loved us and wanted us to succeed. She wanted us to surround ourselves with encouraging people and to leave those with negative and demeaning attitudes behind. Looking back, that was some of the best advice I had gotten all year. With this being the start of my career in theatre, it was time to let go of the past, let go of the negativity, and move forward with people who loved and supported me.

I left Next to Normal with a challenge: to find another production that contained this amount of love and talent. Challenge Accepted! J

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The End of TU

April 17 to May 9th

Trouble at TU! I don’t want to drag up anything from the past (I have dealt with the issue and moved passed it quite successfully) but I just want to take a moment to talk about something that made my last few weeks of Tulsa a living hell. TU Theatre Department is crazy. The faculty are crazy and manipulative and liars. They blame their problems on everyone else from other teachers, students, and even other departments. They never ever think that they could be the problem. (A legit theatre actually fires you yet it is still not you…hmmm.) I don’t feel that way about all of the faculty members but several of them yes. I should always trust my gut. When you don’t trust someone as far as you can throw them, then you shouldn’t trust them to take care of things in a responsible way.

Kyle Dougan, a TU Theatre Senior when I was a freshman, actually said it best: He stood the entire group of freshman up and placed them in a line. He told us to look to our left and then to our right. He told us to take care of each other and to respect each other. He told us that the people next to us was how we were not only going to make it through the department but how we were going to make it after we graduated.

A hint to TU Theatre students in the future: Trust who your gut tells you to. Trust yourself. Fight when it tells you to fight. Stand up for yourself and don’t let people walk all over you. Soak up the good and throw away the bad. Don’t get wrapped up in the drama and when they try to pull you down, band together as students and rise above it.

The last few weeks of school was filled with a lot of goodbyes, a lot of parties, and a lot of alcohol! From the last TU Theatre Banquet to the last Pike Beer Olympics, I was able to say my goodbyes to everyone that I needed to while I also enjoyed the last few traditions of school. Senior T-Shirt Night, Senior Video, Theatre Last Wills, Pike Wills, Last Pike Chapter, Senior Night at M Dill’s, NYC Showcase Trip, and Graduation.

I can’t believe that college is over. It seems like just yesterday my parents where bringing me to school for Freshman Orientation. That just yesterday Lynden and I where sitting in my empty dorm room the first night on campus, watching High School Musical 2. That just yesterday was our first class and M Dill was walking us through the steps of how to be a freshman. That just yesterday we rushed and became Greek. These people became my friends. These people became my family. Supporting me know matter what.

But this is just the beginning. It is the end of one amazing chapter and the start of a new one. “Oh the places you’ll go!”