This last thursday I had to go to my new school for a discussion about my major with the professors. This was not one-on-one. This was all the people in the Theatre Arts Department going for BA’s and BFA’s. Up until walking into the building I was fine with this. I walked in, saw we were meeting in the theatre, headed over to the theatre (which was just down the hall) and planted myself in the 5th row, in the middle. This way I was sitting almost eye level to the teachers who would be sitting on the stage, this way I was in the front, but not, this way I was beneath the lights in order to take notes. Then, everyone else started coming in.
The mindless chatter enveloped me. People recognizing one another from auditions, remembering what monologue they used, complimenting each other, hugging each other, and exchanging numbers, comparing schedules. I sat quietly, waiting for the teachers/professors to take the stage. Finally, they did.
One by one the teachers introduced themselves and what they taught. Some I guessed correctly, that was a fun game. He’s the tech teacher, the one who teaches building sets and hanging lights, she teaches acting. One woman reminded me of Patricia Troxel beginning her sentence with “so!” and a big inviting grin. Ellen was her name I think, she ended her introduction with “and I teach viewpoints.” I immediately wanted in. I wanted to be chosen and welcomed to the room. Echoes of Stephanie Courtney’s voice played back in the tapes in my head “find a place on the grid” “if you want to change the relationship, change the space” I hoped I would get the opportunity to be in the class, as it was only offered every other year.
Then the leader of the pack, the department head, David, told us about “us.” What “our” average SAT’s were, “our” average and “our” average GPA’s. Well, I couldn’t relate, I never took those tests. He caught my attention when he mentioned the transfers GPA’s , the average and percentage. I felt like I received a small pat on the back for being part of the minimal percentage that transferred with a 3.5 or higher GPA, I also felt honored when he said they accepted only 28 transfers. He told us what states we’re from, 25 states total with 14 countries represented. He told us because of our GPA’s he expects the same drive and grade percentages from us in college. Which moved him into the “You’re in college now” speech. He again, told the transfers that he was mostly speaking to the freshmen, the 99 of them who were fresh out of high school and starting a four year journey to a degree in theatre. When he finished a woman came in, another teacher, and she introduced herself. After she said her name I guessed Voice & Speech. I was write. I could just…tell, I suppose.
Then he opened the floor for questions and I had to be careful not to roll my eyes. I’m not trying to be mean, but if he said it clearly, twice – and you missed it, look in the policy book just like he said. This was up there with my first day at PCPA when a classmate said “do i have to look like my headshot” and the teacher replied, you should. And the classmate persisted, well…it’s obvious that its me, but I have short hair and now I have long hair, I have earrings in my picture etc, and the teacher only repeated himself “you should look like your headshot.” Finally it was over. The transfers needed to head to the Black Box theatre for the Acting Placement Audition. Because I’ve had acting, they automatically placed me in Acting II, however the audition is for the staff to decide if that is the best place for me. I chose Tyler from Some Girls by Neil LeBute and if felt good. The voice and speech teacher asked me if I did the whole thing or if I cut it, and I told her I cut it, and she said she liked the cut – I felt like I was in like flynn.
An hour busride home, something I should get used to, I told Antoan about it and we watched a movie, “It’s Complicated” and had chinese food and I went to bed. Orientation was not over. Friday, was all day…
Check-in for Transfers began at 10am on friday morning september 3rd. I arrived by 10:15am, got my “goodie bag” and put my new MMC Marymount Manhattan College hat on backwards. I was in my zorries (standard for me as you know) grey pants and a grey Castaways shirt. I was comfy, and everyone else was, dressed how they’d prefer I suppose. Some were dressed to impress, I could only imagine how much make up some were wearing, boys were sagging their pants just like they did in high school in as my eyes swept across the room I still felt, old. The oldest there. I was flashing back to the days of PCPA with other classmates fresh out of high school, and wondering if I made the right choice, if the casting director had made the right choice. I sat down and read through some of the information we’d be going over today and realized I would be there until 5:30pm, if not later. I headed outside and sat down in the mild humidity and again, the chatter surrounded me.
I wasn’t necessarily trying to be the outcast, or unsocial, my friends would label me as a social butterfly, but those are my friends, these are strangers. And I don’t just introduce myself to strangers and try to get to know them. I know part of this orientation is designed to meet my “peers” (their word), to meet new friends and perhaps find a place where I “fit in” but that’s just not me, and I honored that. Anyone who wanted to introduce themselves to me, I shook their hand and had a mini conversation. There were only a few, but I wasn’t stand off-ish, but it was obvious I wasn’t going to begin my art of social fluttering anytime soon.
Finally it was 11:30am. They fed us breakfast. I had eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes and my coffee from home. We went to an admissions/academic seminar. About transcripts, registering, how to get lockers, basic information. Next was a seminar entitled “the power of words.” This was the only true seminar I appreciated on that day. The day continued with snacks and seminars or “workshops” as they were called, regarding campus security, binge drinking, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and sexual assault. I had to remind myself this is not only for the schools safety, to encourage their new students to be careful in this new place, but good for the 18 year olds who have been with mommy and daddy, and will now be “on their own.” UCSB was represented with a group of three ladies sporting their perfect hair and make up questioning the statistics of student binge drinking. Their argument was that the statistics were wrong, students must have been lying, because UCSB is a “party college, you go to college there, because its the party college.” I’m not sure what they were trying to prove, but they made their statements and we stumbled through the rest of the seminar. School Clubs were represented and we all were encouraged to participate. The two that stood out for me? Radio talk, and the school newspaper. I like writing, I have an opinion, so why not. I’m not much of a DJ, and I don’t know songs, but I’d bust out tunes from the 80’s and 90’s and represent with the best of ’em, but the “talk show” might be fun. Like a Mark & Brian deal, but in that case, I’d have to find a partner in crime. Who could it be?
The evening came to a close when the line formed for school ID’s, I had got mine the day before, smart, and headed for the dinner table where I enjoyed cornbread, macaroni and cheese and some cut of beef that could be classified in the same area as Tri-tip. I missed my dadda and his BBQ’s and enjoyed every bite.
I grabbed my dinner and took my evaluation form to a chair at the end of a table. I glanced around the room noticing, that *I* was being noticed as getting food before my ID, or were they noticing I was alone..again? Or were they noticing I was at the table where eventually some of the faculty sat. I don’t know. I know that I chose that seat because it was in the middle of the room, by the trash bin, and the door, a helpful bit for my exit strategy. I filled out the evaluation form, ate my dinner, turned in my evaluation form, finished my dinner, threw the plate away an left without looking back.
Big group functions where the energy doesn’t feel welcoming just doesn’t give me a reason to stay and be social. The energy wasn’t horrible, it was – young. It felt the way it did when I used to visit Ms. Sims at the highschool a few years after I’d graduated. Like we were just obviously in different places. I reminded myself not to shut myself off or away from them, and that I knew I would get to know some of them in class, and that THAT would be the true test. Being vulnerable, learning what they are learning at the same time, knowing I don’t need to be better than them, just better than me. I left the building, saying goodbye to security and see you next week.
I need to remind myself over and over to stay opened. Open to change, to people, possibilities, all of it. My experiences already make me different, my age makes me different, my goals, my background, all of it, and that doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone in that building. But it reminds me that just like at school before, I’ll be watching.