THINGS DON’T ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED

Picture this: the little girl who sat behind the audition table with her mom doodling on the audition notes, grows up to be EMPLOYED behind the audition table… ideally not doodling on the audition notes but in fact taking actual notes. Cute right?

It’s adorable for the plot of a film but it hasn’t turned out to be the long-term trajectory of my life.

After the revival of Cabaret announced it’s closing, I knew I had to start looking for what was going to come next. I had previously interviewed at a Broadway casting office and had been offered an internship, so I decided it was time to go for it. In May of 2015, I started my 3 month, 5 day-a-week, 8 hour-a-day internship. It was SO COOL. Very shortly after starting at the office I felt like I had possibly found my “passion”. I got to work with and learn from the most talented and hard working casting directors in the industry. Not only that but I got to be in the room while some of the most talented and hard working actors in the industry auditioned for us.

I lived in constant fear of what would happen post-internship. What if I couldn’t find another job in casting and I didn’t get to do this anymore? I desperately wanted a job at the office to open up. And then it did. A week before my internship ended, a job became available…and a more qualified person got it. I’m not going to say I was devastated because that’s a little dramatic (who me?) but I was disappointed. Jobs in casting, particularly casting for theater, are difficult to come by. One became available and I didn’t get it. There was no hope for me.

The weekend after my internship ended, I went on a two-week vacation to Europe. When we landed in Italy I had a text from my boss at the casting office asking me to call her. Let me tell you, I was shakin’ in my proverbial boots (except they were flip flops because it was summer and I was in Rome). I was convinced I had done something wrong in my last few days at the office and she was calling to tell me how disappointed she was.

Of course, I was in Rome with no data plan and no way to call the US without incurring a hefty AT&T bill. So Roman and I hurried to our AirBnB, dropped off our luggage and searched for the closest phone store that would sell me a sim card which would allow calls the U.S. We got on the train and headed for the store. In true Italian fashion, the sales associates moved at a glacial pace. They very kindly helped out their customers, taking the time to chat and joke…didn’t they know I had a very important call to make?

Once we had the sim card, I made the call to the office. I was met with the familiar greeting “casting” and asked for the boss. Naturally, she wasn’t available so I was given the infamous gloss-over phrase “I don’t have her at the moment”, meaning I’d have to call back later.

Roman and I walked the streets of Rome, visiting the Vatican just before sunset and stopping for Cacio e Pepe and a bottle of wine on a tiny cobblestone side street. When we got back to our apartment I tried the office once more before bed. I was shocked when my boss answered and told me another assistant was going to be leaving. If I wanted it, the job was mine. I was in Rome on the first of a twelve-day vacation and had just been offered my dream job. What?

I lived on a constant high for a few months after that. I was so excited to go to work every day and assist on these incredible projects with such a wonderful group of people.

I guess this is the part where you expect me to say that the s-h-i-t hit the fan. You think I’m going to tell you that everyone was horribly mean and I cried myself to sleep every night. The thing is, that’s not what happened at all. Everyone stayed as wonderfully kind and patient and hard-working, the projects were still fascinating, and I was still employed at one of the top Broadway Casting offices in the city (maybe even the world).

So why did I leave? (“So what happens now?” “Why did I do it? What did it get me?”) My feelings had been maddeningly inexplicable for a few months. I can only describe it as feeling a pit in my stomach. It was a combination of stress and the realization that this possibly wasn’t the job for me. I feel silly saying this, but casting is stressful. I have a friend who’s an ER nurse, a friend who’s one of the top back surgeons in the country, and my cousin is a Naval officer. But yes, casting Broadway musicals is stressful. It’s the kind of stress that I didn’t see ever going away and I couldn’t imagine that I’d grow accustomed to it.

I was initially disappointed in myself. I had an incredible job in an aspect of the industry that was very difficult to break into. And yet I couldn’t seem to figure out why I wasn’t happy.

Here’s the thing though, the gift of that incredible experience is not lost on me. I am a big believer in following your gut instincts and my gut was telling me I wasn’t made for casting. Still, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to give it a try. It may not have been right for me in the long term, but I learned and experienced so much. In my time in casting, I assisted on four Broadway shows, two of which I got to do with my mom, worked on countless off-Broadway/regional plays and musicals and learned from the best casting directors in the industry. It was an incredible journey, and I am forever grateful for it.

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TRAITS I INHERITED FROM MY MOTHER

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all inevitably inherit various traits from our parents. Sometimes these traits are good, sometimes they are bad, sometimes they are embarrassing and we really wish we could push them back into our DNA helix things and save them for the next generation.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become increasingly aware of just how similar my mom and I are. Though there are far too many common traits to list, here are a few that I’ve noticed most recently:

We get a bit obsessive. Who me? I’m not obsessed with Wooden Swedish Clogs. Yes, I did purchase my third pair in the span of two weeks but they are a necessity for my life.

There’s no one I could have gotten this obsessive quality from but my mom. Have you seen the Birkenstock picture?

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This isn’t even all of her Birkenstocks.

She becomes obsessed with things. This isn’t necessarily a problem, except that the obsession doesn’t generally last very long (the Birkenstocks seem to be an exception to the rule). My mother will decide that she is going to change her ‘look’ and only wear jeans and oversized button down shirts. Naturally, she will then buy ten over priced button down shirts and ten pairs of jeans. A week later she will decide this was a silly idea and go back to her bedouin clothes, which she will almost certainly need more of now that she’s a committed bedouin.

The obsessive quality is not necessarily a negative trait I suppose, we just approach life with gusto!

We need personal space. I almost never had a successful sleepover as a kid. I would beg my mom to let me stay over at a friend’s house and she would trepidatiously allow me to, asking “are you SURE you will stay for the full night this time?” I always assured her I would and then around bed time, she would get a call from my friend’s parents saying that I needed to be picked up because I wanted to go home. I’ve never particularly enjoyed sleepovers and I’ve found this isn’t necessarily a widespread feeling. Two years ago a group of friends and I went away for the weekend. I was shocked when two of the girls requested to stay not only in the same room but in the same bed. Luckily, this meant I got a single room to myself.

My mom is the same way if not exponentially worse. It is rare/unheard of that she will stay over at someone’s house. She will never go on a group vacation (or any vacation at all really) and she probably won’t stay at your country house unless you have a private wing or a guest house she can have all to herself. And she’s not even an only child!

We don’t particularly enjoy using connections. We won’t ask for tickets to your show or to meet your famous friend. We won’t ask you to pull some strings to get us into the hippest joint in town. We certainly will never stop a celebrity and ask for a picture. We will never really be big networkers. We (mostly) take what we get and try not to ask for much more. Can’t the rest of the world be that way too? It’s just uncomfortable, capiche?

Geography and history don’t come easy. My mom once asked if we would have to go through Ohio to get to Maine. When playing twenty questions with my boyfriend, I told him the noun I had in mind (Washington D.C.) was in fact located in the mid-West. We aren’t unintelligent people, our strengths just seem to lie in other areas. History isn’t one of those areas either, see below.

 

 

THE ‘CAREER’ VS. ‘JOB’ CONUNDRUM

“Gemini traits: Expressive and quick-witted, Gemini represents two different sides of and you will never be sure with whom you will face. Gemini can be sociable, communicative and ready for fun, while on the other hand it can be very serious, thoughtful, restless and even indecisive.”

I am not a big believer in Astrological Signs or horoscopes but I am truly the epitome of a Gemini. One day I will have a very strong opinion leading me to believe one thing, and the next I will have the opposite opinion. This doesn’t generally apply to very important things, but more so the little things in life or things that really only affect me.

As a kid I constantly struggled with what my “look” was. I wanted to represent myself accurately and in a consistent way by identifying with a certain style, but I could never figure out what that style was. Was I a hippy at heart? When I decided I was, I’d buy moccasins, wear long flowing skirts, and braid my hair. When I got tired of that, I decided that was wrong all along and I was actually preppy. The preppy thing didn’t work well for me because I’ve never been able to look perfectly put together for very long. My hair is usually a mess and my mom makes fun of me because I spill food/coffee on most of my clothes.

I have always had this conundrum about my work life as well. A part of me feels that I should strive to be a successful career woman, perhaps a big Broadway producer or Production Stage Manager. On the other hand, so far I haven’t found something that I’m so passionate about that I’d be willing to make it my life’s focus. Then I think, perhaps I should get a job that supports the kind of life I want to live. Should I manage a yoga studio? Work at a small bookstore in Maine? Make jewelry in a hole in the wall jewelry store in Brooklyn?

Are you bored yet or do you identify with these feelings?

When you grew up with a mom who knew what she wanted to do when she was 5 and proceeded to do it quite successfully, it’s hard to not know what your passion is. She didn’t have to sacrifice her life for work because she LOVED her work. So what do you do when you can’t find the thing that you love. What percentage of the time do people who are passionate about their jobs, love their jobs. Am I being a big baby and this is actually how everyone feels? Why should I settle for something I only enjoy 50% of the time?

Seriously though, can you give me some answers?

‘UNCLE’ MIKE

 

The alternate title for this blog post was “Mom’s homosexual ex- husband”. If that sounds like a subject that would interest you, please read on.

My mom’s first love was Mike. According to her, they were married for ten years (I never quite know if she embellishes the truth but I think this one is factual). For nine of those 10 years, both my mother and Mike knew that Mike liked men.

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My mom describes it like this: they were madly in love and were best friends. Mike loved Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland just as much as she did. In fact, as a wedding gift to my mother, he decorated their entire bedroom with Barbra Streisand posters.


After a year of marriage, Mike realized he was gay and came out to my mother. They were still very much in love and couldn’t find the reason nor the strength to separate. My mother eventually decided she needed to find love with someone who could love her and only her. And so ended the decade-long ‘Will and Grace’ style love affair. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Two people challenging the norms of sexual orientation in order to be with the one they love. How very radical of mama Blodgette!

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As a kid, Uncle Mike was always a part of my life. He lived in the south and was working as a very successful Opera director. He was in a relationship with a wonderful man named Gary and the two of them came to visit now and then. I believe Mike’s mother was convinced I was his child, an error which neither my mother nor Mike ever had the heart to correct. In 2011 when my grandfather passed away, Uncle Mike was one of four men to carry his coffin down the church aisle.

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All this to say, Uncle Mike has always been a member of my family. I never quite knew if he felt as organically attached to me as I felt to him until recently.


This year on my 27th birthday, he composed an essay about the day I was born and its effect on him. Its message is truly beautiful. I certainly can not do it justice, but the gist of it is that there are ripple effects in life. The ripples of a child being born impact not only the immediate family but also those you never knew to consider family. This “family” is sometimes people gathered for a dress rehearsal of “Don Giovanni” in another state. Sometimes it’s people who spoke to your mother once. Sometimes it’s people who worked with your father once. Sometimes it’s even people who met your mother’s ex-husband at a summer theater. These people’s days can be changed by good news. There is a constellation of people all around the globe who know you by however many degrees of separation. This net of people cares for you, if only because you are similarly human. You are living in a parallel world, possibly having met someone that has or will have crossed both of your paths. And just the fact of your existence can create a ripple in these people’s lives.

Namaste and please see below.

 

 

ON THE OCCASION OF EMMA’S BIRTHDAY, 16 June, 2016

Dear Emma,

Twenty-seven years ago last week on your actual birthday, June 16th , I was called out of a DON GIOVANNI dress rehearsal at the Cleveland Institute of Music to take a telephone call that would announce that you, Baby Emma, had stepped across the threshold from the nether to the human, arriving healthy and beautiful into the World.

After that call, excited, no, elated, I raced back into the theater, where it should have been my intention to put the information of the jubilant phone call aside so that I could return my full attention to the progress of this final DON GIOVANNI run-through without orchestra. Indeed, to allow the rehearsal to continue uninterrupted was my conscious intention, and for the first several seconds back in the hall, I stuck with it. But the news I had just received was so enormously happy that, like the peppy, busy, effervescent bubbles we have all seen work on countless sinks full of greasy dishes in myriad soap commercials, my excitement, that is, my ELATION quickly bubbled away at any focus I had managed to hold onto. Further, it sent swirling and whirling down the drain my conviction that the only time the word ‘stop’ could be applied to a dress rehearsal was on the rare occasion during which NOT to use it would almost certainly result in disfigurement or death.

Thus ecstatic over the news of your arrival, and having lost not only my resolve to focus on the rehearsal but also my commitment not to stop it, I was ripe to experience a startling moment of blind impetuosity, which lead, several seconds later, to the recognition of the ‘S Word’ as it flew from my mouth. Understand that to shout the ‘S Word’ in a conventional staging rehearsal is not something I have difficulty over. But, as was drummed from Day #1 into my understanding of the methods and techniques of staging a show, run-throughs and dress rehearsals are sacred events whose secrets are revealed in full via the continuity that can only come when they are allowed to proceed uninterrupted.

In other words (and if I have not yet completely made my point): to stop a dress rehearsal is a BFD.

It never occurred to me that, should the time ever come in which I had to curtail a dress rehearsal that it would an easy thing to do. But when, on your birthdate, I found myself doing exactly that, I was shocked that it happened with an effortlessness that had, no doubt, for centuries, inspired comparisons to everything from falling from atop a log, to the baking of a pie, to the recitation of the first three letters of the English alphabet. Unthinking, I had executed the unthinkable action, and it was an endeavor of such simplicity, that I entirely failed to be surprised by the result, which was, of course, that it worked: rehearsal stopped.

DON GIOVANNI is a magnificent work of art, and within the somewhat limited scope of the resources available to us at Lyric Opera Cleveland on that June afternoon, we (performers, Donald Sherrill, Connie Dykstra, Jody Peterson, Hillary Nicholson, John Vergilii, Dale Ganz and Richard Lewis; designers, Rusty Smith and Michael Baumgarten; conductor, Steve Larsen; chorus master, Marti Bein; a really good bunch of Apprentice Artists and myself) were doing our best to honor that magnificence. No doubt, the passing years have, to some extent, artificially magnified the degree to which true brilliance was achieved during the course of the production, but I think it is entirely possible that we were succeeding, at least to the extent that made stopping this dress rehearsal especially questionable. Under the circumstances, however, and as the seconds following my use of the ‘S Word’ piled up, it grew ever-clearer to me that I had made the right decision for some very important reasons.

In the first place, stopping the rehearsal was important because as soon as the news of your birth had seeped into the common knowledge (which, knowing me, would probably have happened before the next break), there would be no way to stay focused on the show. At least if I made an announcement, the event could be openly if briefly celebrated, discussed and digested, following which, we stood a much better chance of getting some work done.

Secondly, there was no better way to set up the GIOVANNI people (my intended audience) to receive a certain devastatingly clever, ha-ha funny, special, silly, thought-it- up-myself announcement that, given the occasion, I was dying to deliver. In other words, by stopping the rehearsal, I had created the perfect set up for a very silly announcement I had wanted to make since the day I found out that your Mother was pregnant. Here’s how it worked: I run out of rehearsal, take the phone call, ooh and aah appropriately, hang up, run back into rehearsal, call it to a screeching halt, muster up as much self-satisfied legitimacy as possible, then take my moment and intone to the entire company of Lyric Opera Cleveland’s DON GIOVANNI that, based on information from the phone call I had just received, I was proud to announce that:

 You had been born

 You and Kristen were doing well, and

 I, at last, was a Fairy Godfather.

The third excellent reason for stopping the rehearsal was, in actuality, the only legitimate, serious one, and it revolved around the concepts of family and shared energy, and it celebrated the belief that anything is possible because everything in the Universe is not just connected to everything else, but is dependent for its survival upon that connection. I don’t know when this rather profound thought occurred to me, but I do know that sometime between the time I walked out of Kulas Hall to receive that phone call and the moment I invoked the ‘S Word, it occurred to me that probably every performing and design artist, technician and administrative staffer involved in my rehearsal that day; that is, everyone currently expending gobs of creative energy on Lyric Opera Cleveland’s DON GIOVANNI knew and loved your Mother; probably knew Peter as well. In addition, the vast majority of that group was surely aware not only of the fact of my graft- like existence upon your family tree, but also of a great number if not all of the details of exactly how, when, where and why I had gotten there.

So the main reason that I had to stop that rehearsal was, clearly, because even though I might have been the person most primed to receive the phone call that announced your arrival; and the one closest in relationship terms to the key personnel, it stood to reason that if I was, by extension, a part of the Blodgette-Atherton family, the same rights and privileges should extend, logically, to everyone currently in the room with me. I mean . . . it was a no-brainer. We were all beneficiaries not only of the news of Emma as blessed event, but also of the blessed event itself. It occurred to me that you, Baby Emma, had pockets of family not just in however many Blodgettes and Athertons were, at that moment crowded around your tiny self in Manhattan, but also in whomever was holding down the fort in Fairview Park, and among my family in Charlotte and elsewhere, and wherever else those in the know were tuned in to the pulse of your imminent arrival. Pondering the steady rise of the sheer number of connections that day brought me back to myself, and I realized all over again, that there was a whole stage-full of DON GIOVANNI participants, and, by further extension, most of the entire Lyric Opera Cleveland family from whom heartfelt offers of “Happy Birthday, Baby Girl” and “Congratulations, Kristen” were bursting to issue forth.

So, rehearsal definitely stopped, my ‘hilarious’ Fairy Godfather thing said (and greatly appreciated), the group excitement and an interlude of well-wishing and breathless questions began:

 How was Kristen?

 Boy or girl? What did they name the baby?

 Does the baby have red hair?

 Did she emerge wearing a PHANTOM OF THE OPERA SHOW show jacket?

 Did she emerge wearing tap shoes and a straw boater?

 Did she emerge singing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’?

 Did she emerge wearing tap shoes and a straw boater, and singing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’?

There was much congratulatory hand shaking, many hugs, some misty eyes. Every little conversational group generated outbursts of laughter inspired in one cluster by the retelling of some of the great Kristen stories of the past:

 Remember Schoenberg’s ‘Gorilla Eater’?

 Remember the three-day/three ounce Ratatouille?

 Does this SOUND like the Family Owl??

 Remember ‘Allegro agitato, allegro agitato?’

 Remember her sharing the keyboard with a very famous Broadway composer who, suffering a panic attack smack in the middle of a gala, public tribute to himself, deserted her onstage to finish it solo?

. . . and, in another cluster, speculations, now that Kristen would have a baby in tow, of the great Kristen stories that were yet to come:

 Will Kristen take the baby to auditions?

 Will she consult with the baby when she takes her to auditions?

 Will Kristen have the baby in the pit with her?

 Will NY State child labor laws apply if the baby’s only activity in the pit is to sleep? What if she sings? Plays the piano? Conducts? And what if she isn’t in the pit at all because she prefers Field Hockey, poor Kristen!

The interlude, happy, full of good wishes, of questions, and speculation and story telling was brief. There was work to be done, and everyone knew it. And so, as informative as the break had been, and as energetic and animated, it didn’t have the effect upon the resumed rehearsal that another, more typical unscheduled interruption might. I remember, as we returned to GIOVANNI mode, that the work energy had been strongly maintained, the group focus was sharp, and rehearsal resumed as if there had been no interruption in the first place. The whole rehearsal seemed, in fact, to be several clicks more advanced toward opening night readiness than it had been an hour earlier.

Then, several days later, when the Lyric Opera Cleveland DON GIOVANNI opened to enthusiastic reviews and great audience response, I remember thinking back to the phone call that interrupted dress rehearsal, of the joyous news shared, of the elevated levels of focus and energy that it triggered, and I also remembered the unshakable sense that the growth experienced that day was disproportionately high and had a far greater significance than one would imagine possible given the fact that the group population had increased in number by only one, tiny baby.

Given the identity of that baby, it could be argued, of course, that I might be just a tiny bit predisposed to read more cosmic significance into your arrival than might otherwise be noted under the scrutiny of a less biased evaluator. But it is not in the nature of a Fairy Godfather to be unbiased. It is, in fact, part of my job description to notice, in the case of certain, special people, certain special qualities. The GIOVANNI production was to be, in the course of things, one of Lyric Opera Cleveland’s proudest achievements, but to point that out in connection with the interrupting phone call would be to reduce your place in the story to merely that of, say, a favorable omen, and I think it is so much more than that.

From the day of the Emma phone call, let’s fast-forward twenty-seven years. Rusty Smith’s remarkable color set rendering for the Lyric Opera Cleveland DON GIOVANNI hangs on the wall above me to the left, and, at my right, on the desk, is a framed copy of the logo I derived from one of your baby pictures, years ago when I needed a presence behind the name of the baker/cater company I founded in Atlanta and called . . . well, you know, EMMA.

So, what does all of this mean, these thoughts and memories, these connected images, repeated themes and discernable patterns? And, really . . . these entities, are they really connected. Are there repeated patterns to be found among all that is random? Are images discernable amid incoherent streams of thought? Are they, these entities, in actuality, simply a collection of the great unconnected, pieces of a giant, disparate collage, globs and bits of the cosmic random onto which our brains, desperate to find a shred of logic here, a relationship there, or a clue (any clue) that will help project a big (bigger, biggest) picture in which, somehow, it all means . . . something.

Well, I certainly don’t know about all of that. I mean, not in the deepest, most cosmic of meanings. Life, I know, presents events and ideas and feelings, all of which we weigh in, categorize and assess in degrees ranging from those of most insignificance to heaviest profundity. Those things we deem most profound are those to which we attach the greatest significance. They get our attention and our energy, and, as a result, they have the greatest influence on our lives, or so it would seem. I mean . . . they exert the most gravity.

We are told not to sweat the small stuff, and, further, that it is all small stuff. But, on the other hand, is it not the small stuff, the wrong number, the missed train, the detail overlooked, the clue barely glimpsed, the almost perceived, the whispered, the misty, the random flash upon which we are most likely to obsess. Are these not the things in life that most populate our dreams, our hidden compulsions, our strange and inexplicable actions? So, I say, no, don’t sweat the small stuff, but don’t ignore it either. Acknowledge it as much as possible, and celebrate it when appropriate. Flout the common wisdom. Refuse to see yourself as one of many. Embrace your significance, understanding that your smallest actions are capable of generating reactions that reverberate unto the profound. We are all cause and effect. Just because we do not seem to have the capacity to track the affects of our energy doesn’t release of from the responsibility of acknowledging its power.

Our amazing, seemingly effortless capacity to generate connections, to form families, to exert influence should be one of our greatest qualities. Our embarrassing tendency to discount our own, individual worth, downplay the significance of our singularity, deflect attention away from our strengths reduces us to a population of unwitting saboteurs of the human condition. Yours, I think, is the first generation who can begin to save us the seemingly endless trend that focuses us more and more upon our selves and results in the Catch-22 of polarization we see all around us. You, by understanding the positive effect that the individual can have upon the greater good can start to make a change, to reverse our spiral into the relentlessly selfish before we all become, in sum total, our own Facebook page incarnate.

But finally (finally), if there is anything I think that you (and, while we’re at it, I) might benefit from having taken away from this philosophical ramble on the occasion of a birthdate remembered, it would be on the important, actually vital subject of family. I know that for you, at age 27, having grown up bombarded from all sides by the enormous amount of love and support that came to you from your immediate family, ever to wonder about or question the presence of family in your life must seem a ludicrous, highly hypothetical situation. And so should it seem that way. That, in a way, is my point. But, the notion of family, as I’m sure you must realize, can possibly extend way beyond attributes like genealogy and DNA. Family is also shared connections and history, the ability of one side to bring out the best in another. It is learning from and teaching to. It is about knowing that somewhere, somehow, you will always be a part of a bigger something whose every fiber resonates with you. It is the drawing out of inspiration and the ability to motivate the better parts of ourselves—all attributes of that day, just over 27 years ago when I got called out of a DON GIOVANNI rehearsal because I had received a phone call from which I was about to receive the most exciting news.

Happy Birthday, Emma, and much love from your Fairy Godfather.

 

 

MY TWO DADS

I would say I have two “dads”, though not in the conventional unconventional way. My first “dad”, Peter, is my biological father. He makes up half of my genes (though my mother secretly believes I am somehow only genetically tied to her). My second “dad” is my step-father, Larry. Though I’m not blood related to him, he’s helped raise me since I was 8 years young. I think they are both fascinating individuals although the two of them couldn’t be more opposite. Here’s a bit about both of them, in chronological order.

My father was born in Kentucky…I think. Actually, it’s a bit of a blur to me as whenever he tells me all the places he lived as a kid, I just hear a mass of mid-western/southern states. As a kid, I remember thinking he was very tall with a very low voice. Of course now his characteristics don’t seem quite as extreme to me. He went to school to study voice and now has a PhD in vocal studies. He and my mother met at Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts in Virginia. She was a vocal coach and he was performing.  He went on to perform in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, in LA and in Toronto. He eventually decided to pursue Opera more exclusively and became a professor at Chapman University, where he now acts as the Director of the Opera department. Every summer he goes to either Rome or Vienna to direct various operas.

My father is an incredibly elegant man. For as long as I can remember he has enjoyed having nice things and keeping them nice. He always had perfectly pressed shirts and perfectly shined shoes. His hair is almost always in place and if it’s not, he usually has a comb handy. His house is always tidy and his cars (and motorcycle) are in impeccable condition.

My father lives by the work hard/play hard mentality. He works long hours and often brings his work home with him, but he also really likes to have fun. Like me (or I guess like him) he loves margaritas. In fact, he likes to eat and drink most everything, a quality we certainly share. He is a hilarious person and always tries to ensure that people are laughing and having a good time when in his presence. Though I don’t get to see him very often, we always have fun when we’re together.

My step-father, Larry, was born on a tiny island in Maine. We like to say he was raised by wolves, which he confirms for us when he butters his toast on the counter with no plate underneath. He went to the University of Maine and eventually became the tri-state director of publishing at Scholastic. After he and my mother met (online!) he moved into the city and became the Director of Publishing at the Museum of Modern Art.

When my mom and Larry first met, I would ask him constantly if he was going to marry my mom. I told him he had to make sure I was there when he asked her. One night when my mom and I were in our Columbus Circle apartment, the phone rang. It was Larry and he said he was calling for me. He said, “can your mom hear me? Don’t say anything but, how would you feel if I asked her to marry me?” I did my best to hide my excitement and handed the phone to my mom. He asked her right then over the phone, the two of us standing in the kitchen. When my mom hung up, we stood there shrieking with excitement. We couldn’t believe how lucky we’d been to be adding such a wonderful person to our family.

Larry embodies the eccentric artist stereo type to a tee. He’s been known to paint his toenails purple from time to time and was a “dead head” in his youth. He is a loud and proud liberal and often expresses his opinions through his art work. He is a fanatical runner and was extremely patient when trying to teach me the joys of running as a kid.  He is a lover of animals and takes the responsibility of caring for his family, dogs, and homes very seriously.


Some might think that having two father figures can be difficult. Of course there are aspects of it that are, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  

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MAMA’S DAY

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas, grandmas, and godmothers out there! On this day of celebrating the women who have dedicated their lives to us, I thought I’d write a bit about my mama and what I’ve learned from her.

For a few of my most formative years, my mom and I were on our own, together. It was a difficult time in some ways, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. While I played hooky from school to go on business trips with her (or sometimes due to lack of sleep from watching too many reruns of Nick at Night in her bed) our bond formed and strengthened.

My mom has taught me so many things, not only through her words but also in the way she lives her life, leading by example. Here are the top three things she’s taught me:

One can be a successful professional and a wonderful mother at the same time. I learned the value of ambition, determination, and hard work from a very young age. My mother knew what she wanted to do when she was five years old and has made her dream come true, I think more successfully than she could have ever imagined. She worked her way up from being a rehearsal pianist in dinner theaters to being the Musical Supervisor of some of the biggest shows on Broadway and coaching some of the biggest names in the world.

Being a successful professional and a single mother simultaneously wasn’t easy. At times, it meant that she was gone a lot and I spent many nights with my (wonderful) babysitter Indra. This got to me a bit when I was a kid, to the point where I suggested she quit her job and work at the McDonalds down the street. My campaign for this career change wasn’t succesful, thank goodness. Despite all of this, watching my mother build her career was an invaluable lesson and one that I wouldn’t wish to have learned any other way. She was able to be the most wonderful mother in the world while also becoming one of the most successful people I’ve ever met.

You get to choose to make life beautiful, every day. When I was growing up, every morning before school my mom would wake me up with music (usually James Taylor), candles lit, and the table set for breakfast. Despite the fact that she had usually been up quite late working and could have chosen to sleep in, she always wanted to make our mornings together special. When she’d make my lunch, she packed it in a paper bag with different stickers on the bag and inside there was usually some kind of positive message she had written.

She emphasized making daily tasks feel special. When making tea or coffee in the morning she always had me pick which mug I was in the mood for that day. If she made me breakfast or a snack she would arrange it on the plate in such a way so it looked like a beautiful little treat we were indulging in. Whenever we walked down the street she would point out New York-centric sights, or beautiful flowers, or intoxicating smells.

She taught me that you get to choose to see life beautifully every day. The gift of that is, when you choose it, you don’t have to be somewhere special or to be having a particularly great day. You become accustomed to seeing and creating the beautiful things everywhere you go.

Forgiveness and love are the most precious gifts you have to give. My mother is the most forgiving person I’ve ever met. There have been situations where she has been betrayed on the deepest level and she has been able to respond with love and kindness. I have watched her react to people who have taken advantage of her or treated her less than favorably, and she always chooses to diffuse their power with love and kindness. She “turns the other cheek” in the most beautiful way, never disrespecting herself but displaying to others that her loving spirit will not falter. She has taught me that this is one of the most invaluable things you can offer another person and the world.

My mom is truly one of the most special women I’ve ever known. She is not only my mother but my best friend and mentor. I am so grateful to have her in my life on this rainy Sunday.

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INKED IN NYC: Part 2

In case you missed it, I wrote all about my thoughts on tattoos and the background of my first two in this post. For your own sanity and to avoid boring my readers (and by readers I mean my mom, my boyfriend, and my grandma), I decided to break up the post into two sections. I know you’ve all been waiting on pins and needles to find out about my other two tattoos, so here you go:

3) When I was little, whenever I had to do something I was nervous about, my grandma, Mimi, and my grandpa, Papa, would tell me they were each on my shoulders helping me. Imagining them there encouraging me when I was feeling uneasy about something always helped me to feel a bit more courageous and confident. Papa passed away in 2007. In his final days, my mom sat with him in his hospital room and asked him tons of questions about life and his philosophy on it. Thinking he might have some kind of profound statement about religion as he neared the end of his life, she asked him to tell her his beliefs. He said, “heaven is at 21215 Eaton Road and anyone who wants to can join us there”. 21215 Eaton Road is the address of the house my mother grew up in and where my grandparents lived for over 60 years.

Two years after my grandpa died, I wanted to create some type of image or symbol that would represent him and my childhood with my grandparents. I came up with a multitude of crazy ideas including pencil drawings of quartered egg sandwiches which reminded me of Mimi, and garbage bags full of shucked corn on the cob which reminded me of Papa. I decided that I wanted to include their address in my drawing and started writing it over and over (as I did with tattoo # 1) in different scripts. My good friend, Pauline, suggested that I get a drawing of their house with the address underneath. She drew me an example of what she was envisioning and there it was, my third tattoo! I got it on the upper right side of my back so my grandparents would forever be where they always promised they’d be, on my shoulder.

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A week after getting the tattoo, I traveled to Ohio to visit my family for Christmas. I took a close up picture of it, framed it and left it for my grandma under the Christmas tree. When she opened it, she looked at me quizzically, wondering why I’d given her a framed drawing of a house. I started to strip for her, as you do on Christmas day with your family, to reveal the tattoo on my shoulder. Mimi started crying and laughing and said, “I never thought I’d like a tattoo on my grandchild so much”.

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In the interest of full disclosure, contrary to the picture, my grandparents’ house does not have a red front door. In fact, it looks nothing like that drawing. It’s the thought that counts though, right?

4) The Worry Tree- When I was little, my mom often told me bedtime stories. She created many fictional tales which contained thinly veiled moral lessons, this one was about a magical garden. Prior to entering the garden, you were required to pin all of your worries to the “worry tree” because worries were not allowed inside the garden. There was a mouse named “Mousy” who lived in the garden. He lived in a tree and he only ate orange foods such as oranges, orange marshmallow peanuts, carrots, etc. I’m not sure what the motive was behind Mousy’s involvement in the story besides being a cute rodent with very specific dietary needs.

Two years ago I decided I wanted a tattoo which represented my relationship with my mom and a memory we shared. We went to a coffee shop around the corner from our apartment and starting drawing images from the stories she used to tell. She combined the worry tree with the tree Mousy lived in and it was a perfect representation of one of my favorite bedtime stories.

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About a week later, on my way to a guitar lesson in an area of Brooklyn that I don’t remember the name of, I walked by a new tattoo parlor. Since I was quite late for my lesson I kept on walking, but on my way back to the subway I noticed boxes and boxes of pizza inside the tattoo parlor. Naturally I went in. I presented them with my tree drawing (which was at that point serving as a bookmark), and they connected me with one of their tattoo artists. While he drew up a version of the tattoo, I ate free pizza and pondered the idea of a full tattoo sleeve ’cause go big or go home, right?

Jon Boy hard at work.
Jon Boy hard at work.

Eventually, we decided on a size and location for the worry tree and the tattoo artist started scratching it on. We got to talking and it turned out we went to the same church in Manhattan. In the hour that it took to draw the tree and the mouse on my leg, “Jon Boy” and I talked about Christianity, Jesus, interpretations of the bible and our personal experiences of Faith. He said he felt he was meant to be a tattoo artist to spread a message of love in an industry that was often lacking it. Since tattooing me, Jon Boy’s career has blown up and he is now tattooing celebs like Hayley Baldwin and Kendall Jenner. You’re welcome, Jon Boy. (Jk, this obviously has nothing to do with me and everything to do with how talented and wonderful Jon Boy is.)

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So there you go. Now you know why you might see a tiny mouse peeking out from the hem of my shorts or a little house on my right shoulder. What about you? What do you have? What do you want? What do you seriously regret? Let me know!

 

“HOT CHILD IN THE CITY…”

Hi again! I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for the next post so here it goes! A brief history of this twenty-something’s early life in NYC.

I was born in New York Hospital on the Upper East side of Manhattan.

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It’s funny that I entered the world on the East Side as my mom couldn’t be less of an east sider. I’ll touch on what that means later. Let me back up a bit further.

My mom was born in Cleveland, Ohio. At the age of five she knew she wanted to work on Broadway. She watched the “Roadway” trucks pass by her quaint mid-western house (is Ohio in the Midwest? You’ll learn I’m terrible at geography…a  byproduct of living in NYC?) anyway… As she saw these trucks pass by she pretended they said “Broadway” and that they were headed to The Great White Way.

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When she was 25 she moved to New York with $500 in her pocket. She told herself she had one month to book a show. When she accomplished that, she told herself she had one month to book a Broadway show. She’s been here ever since. I’ll probably have to dedicate an entire entry to her, as she’s the coolest person I’ve ever met. But until then, back to me, me, me.

On the day I was born, my mom had a doctor’s appointment before a mid-day rehearsal for The Phantom of the Opera. When the doctor told her she was going to have to have me that day, she said “but I have a ‘Masquerade’ rehearsal.” The doctor didn’t seem to care that Broadway was calling, and neither did I. So out I came in June of 1989. I’m told my dad came to the hospital with pink peonies in hand. No wonder I love them so!

I grew up at Columbus Circle, two blocks from Central Park and a half-mile from Times Square. I lived on the 10th floor of a 15 story postwar apartment building, with a man- made garden where you weren’t allowed to play on the grass. I went to public school from 1st through 7th grade on the Upper West Side (shout out to my PS 87 and Delta crews) before transferring to an all girls Catholic school on the Upper East Side.

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When I was five my dad moved to Toronto to be in yet another company of The Phantom of the Opera. Over time this led to a not so pretty divorce. When my dad left, my mom and I only grew closer. I slept in her bed most nights (Gray Gardens? Eek!) and often played “hooky” from school to go to auditions/rehearsals with her or accompany her on work related trips to Europe. This didn’t make my teachers happy and they threatened to hold me back a few times. My mom always managed to talk them out of it, arguing that traveling in Europe was just as educational if not more so than sitting in a room learning my times tables. I often question this decision when I’m calculating how much to tip, and also that whole geography thing.

Though my dad had and has a big presence in my life, I had a whole troop of theatre crew (primarily gay men) that acted as my father figures until my mother met her wonderful husband Larry on the interwebs. He has been a part of the crew since 1998 and we are so incredibly grateful that he came along and somehow managed to fit in with the two of us crazy people.

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In addition to these amazing men, I had a babysitter named Indra. She babysat me for 10 years and became like a second mother to me. When I wasn’t able to go on said Europe trips, she stayed with me in midtown or took me to her apartment in the Bronx. When I was a bit older she took me to meet her family in Guyana. I came back covered in bug bites but it was a life changing experience and I’ve loved gnips ever since.

People often joke that New Yorkers only order take-out or eat at restaurants. That’s not a joke folks, that’s real life. As a kid I had a binder full of menus and when my mom asked what I wanted for dinner, we would get the binder. For breakfast we went across the street to The Flame diner and sat at the counter. I always got one of two things: fruit loops or “eggies in a bowl” (poached eggs).

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When my mom did cook it was usually rice, beans and pickles (a family fav), or tomato soup with cheddar cheese and pretzels. If my mom was away, Indra cooked. She would make roti and butter for breakfast and lamb curry for dinner (funny because I’m now a mostly vegetarian).

Anyway, I think that’s enough about me for now. I promise, next time will be about the subject at hand, NYC!

 

FIRST BLOG POST EVER

Hi! My name’s Emma.   ↓ (That’s me)

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I was born and raised in New York City. I’ve lived here (basically) all my life. I get various reactions when people hear that I grew up in the heart of Manhattan, so it seems like something that would be interesting to write about.

This blog won’t actually be entirely about me. I’ll have to give you some background on my life as that certainly informs my experience of this great city, but the primary subject of this blog will be NYC.

Let me tell you a little bit about what this blog WILL contain:

A truthful account of my experiences living in New York City, including things I love about it, hate about it, and things I suggest others should try while they’re in it.

Let me tell you what this blog won’t contain:
  • A perfectly unbiased view of NYC and all it has to offer
  • A perfectly well-rounded view of NYC and all it has to offer

All that to say, I’m not an expert on the topic of the Big Apple. Often times tourists know more about the history of New York than I do. But I have experienced this city in a way many have not. I grew up with Central Park as my literal backyard, a diner as my mom’s go-to breakfast, lunch and dinner spot, and the Broadway theater community as my “village that raised me”. So, if that interests you, keep reading!

I’ll have to start with a (hopefully) brief history of the New Yorker in question. Stay tuned!