Wednesday, March 13, 2013

He That Shall Live This Day

Tonight was a show-stopper.

Background: I am applying to eight graduate schools for International Relations. Prior to today I had already been accepted to George Washington University and American University's masters programs. The other six all said they would email their decisions sometime in March.

I am also a Resident Artist at The Shakespeare Forum. This means I go to a Tuesday night donation-based workshop of about 60-80 people to help facilitate monologues and feedback for actors.

Forum has a little thing we call a "Bard-Off," where someone can challenge someone else to do a speech they are too scared to do, don't like, or for whatever reason, wouldn't normally do. If the person accepts, they get to assign the challenger a corresponding speech. I challenged my friend, Meryl, to one a long time ago, making her do a Cleopatra piece she always wanted to do, but dreaded. In turn, I took on Henry V's Crispin Day speech.

So. Today. Today was the day we finally agreed on performing. I'd been running the lines on my own and with my girlfriend for days beforehand. I was feeling good about it as I got on the subway tonight.

To distract myself, I opened my email, just as we no longer had cell service. At the top of my inbox was a message from Johns Hopkins SAIS, one of the top international relations schools in the world. I opened it. It said my admissions decision was ready and viewable online.

I couldn't of course get online from the New York subway. That was a long train ride.

By the end of it, I had decided I wasn't going to check until after forum. So I turned off my phone. I was physically shaking for a good hour, watching everyone perform. I don't know if it was knowing about the hovering admissions decision or about my getting up in front of a packed house to give arguably the biggest pre-battle speech in the English language.

There was the break. Some announcements. Then the third to last monologue, the second to last, and then the last one. Then came time for the Bard-Off. The crowd started chanting "Bard-OFF! Bard-OFF! Bard-OFF!"

Meryl pulled out a gold circlet, took off her jacket, strode onstage, and knocked that piece out. She was great. Applause and cheers, assorted looks from the audience in my direction clearly saying "good luck topping that" and Meryl walked off. I shook her hand, and stepped forward as the chants began again.

I stood for a moment in front, and then silenced the chant with a wave-to-fist of a choir director. Laughter. Then came the lines.

This speech is given by King Henry to his battered, exhausted men as they are surrounded by thousands upon thousands of French troops, fresh and in full armor, knowing soon they are going to be attacked.
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
I paused. People started cheering. I quieted them again and started fresh:
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Henry goes on to lead those battered, outnumbered troops to victory. It's a great speech, and it got a big reaction. That felt good.

Twenty minutes later, I was at the bar with everyone. I made sure I had a whiskey in my hand. While I was playing Henry, the University of Washington had also sent me an email decision. I got out my phone, logged in to the sites and read the messages.

I'd been admitted to both programs.

It's been a great night.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Love/Hate/Heart NY

If there's one thing New Yorkers love doing more than bragging about New York, It's complaining about New York. It's late, I feel like indulging. I may update this later as things occur to me. Gives me a place to put all these things.

The case against New York: 

I pay about as much rent as my brother pays for his monthly mortgage payment. He lives in a two-story house outside of Chicago. I live in an essentially unheated walk-up one-bedroom apartment, maybe 400 sq ft, no appliances, no onsite anything, in a not-very-nice area of town.

Buying groceries costs more here than dining out does in other cities. My girlfriend paid $5 for a dozen eggs last week. A store two blocks from my apartment advertises milk prices the same way most places advertise gasoline, with exchangeable numbers. To add gastronomic insult to financial injury, produce in normal grocery stores is rarely any good.

Despite making well under the national average  for annual income, I have to pay so much in taxes every year that I have to send checks five times a year to not only the federal and state governments, but also the city government.

I miss nature. When I say "I miss nature," to people here, they tell me to go to Central Park. At which point I explain the phrase "man-made" to them, and their eyes glaze over.

Central and Prospect Parks aside, parks are so sad that what amount to traffic islands are considered city parks. I'm not kidding. They occasionally have a shrub and a bench near the parks dept sign.

Marked city bike paths often include cobblestones, and sometimes include stairs.

The weather is really unpleasant six months out of the year.

Because everyone thinks the city has everything, nobody ever leaves. Anyone from New York who meets someone who lives elsewhere thinks that they must be, on some level, joking.

Other cities have parking strips, planter boxes, and other nice things on the side of the sidewalk. In New York, because there are no alleyways (and therefore no dumpsters), all garbage is piled out onto the sidewalk. And it stinks-- while the rest of the country moved on to separate not just recyclables but also food waste, New York still hasn't quite figured out the recycling part. They're trying. Sorta.

The case for New York:

I'll almost never want or need to drive a car as long as I'm in the city. The subway is so good that we come to any given station without looking at a train schedule ever, and whine if a train doesn't show up within five minutes.

I spent last weekend in an on-site reading of Checkov's Three Sisters, after which I saw Eddie Izzard from the third row in a small club in the lower east side, and the next day I did a film shoot with a dramatic improv crew. Wednesday I got an email offering me tickets to see two prominent TV actors perform in a production of Much Ado About Nothing. I went to work, finished, and saw the show that night.

Every Tuesday I spend my evenings with 60-80 amazingly talented actors performing Shakespeare in basement, and then go en-masse to a bar afterwards where the manager likes to give me free drinks while I'm at the free-play pool table. Thursdays I have a couchsurfing meetup I can go to where I can and do meet about sixty people from literally all over the world.

You never have to meet or talk to a boring person ever again. Almost everyone you meet is from somewhere cool and is doing something cool, and has awesome stories.

I get paid enough per hour to help rich kids with their homework for about ten to fifteen hours a week (not counting prep and transport, which makes it closer to 30 but still) that I can pay rent referenced above and have some left over.

If it exists in any city and can be done in a city, I just need to use my phone to find out how I can get to the place it can be done in less than an hour. Doesn't matter what it is. Similarly, anything that tours anywhere comes here. If it doesn't, it's probably not interesting enough for us to want to see it anyway.

All of your friends and family from out of town love the idea of visiting you. Some even love visiting you.


So in other words, NY is kind of a horrible, expensive place to live, full of awesome people doing awesome things.

I guess I'll take it for now.