Take it Back Now, Y’all
The spring quarter of my sophomore year was just as much of a recovery from winter quarter as it was a monster of challenges all on its own. Spring time was filled with wrapping up the mess from winter, having a surprise of my lifetime, a load of rich and demanding class work, and thriving in what Santa Clara University may claim to be the largest scaled production ever attempted. For now, lets get academic.
A Heavy Plate. Or Two.
This quarter was comprised of an epically overloaded schedule for no good reason. I recently officially declared a minor in Urban Education, so one of the classes I took was Adolescent Psychology. Adolescent Psychology is pretty self explanatory and focused most on adolescent physical and cognitive development, education, substances, and parenting. My professor was the most entertaining scholar I have met and this was my first course that introduced me to collaborative academic writing which was actually quite challenging. What I enjoyed most was the “textbooks” interestingly enough, as well as gaining insight on the adolescent journey I have just taken through middle and high school. It was pretty fascinating and affirming to understand what happens within the families with adolescents and recognize for the first time a concrete cause for various things that happened to me in my middle and high school years.
My second class was the one and only … Spanish III. Surprisingly, Spanish III was much easier than Spanish I and II. The class was focused on learning the cultures of various Central and South American countries and putting together all the grammar learned in past courses. I had my same professor who had a baby in the middle of the quarter so the class was pretty relaxed and laid back. I have a lot of respect for my Spanish Professor. I would have never thrived or let alone survived this three part course without him. You may be moving on to a new job, but all of at Santa Clara University who were lucky enough to have you are exceptionally thankful for learning from you. I consider this a close to my foreign language chapter, at least for now.
Modern III was my third class, and I think it was one of the most affirming and rewarding dance class I have ever taken. Learning The Wave and gaining an eclectic and strong training in modern and contemporary dance was a journey of doubt and empowerment. I was challenged every single day, my strength and balance vastly improved, and my capacity and self assurance in mastering choreography grew. I have fallen in love with contemporary and modern dance as a language and its ability to transcend the mind and body. Despite it being an 8am class, I don’t ever regret going. Every time I walked out of the studio, I did so taller, lighter, and stronger. I dance for me. And it feels amazing.
My fourth course I took was a course I have been waiting to take since my first day at SCU; Dialects. It was a workshopping course full of play and discovery. Every moment of the class was packed with curiosity and humility, yet blanketed with grace and permission to fail. We cycled through studying Brooklyn, British, Irish, and a few other dialects and focused on their cultural and environmental history and placement in the mouth. This class reminded me the importance of consistent vocal training and floor work. I highly value everything I have learned and taken with me from this course, and the skills I have gained I will never forget or let go of.
Lastly, I had another round of Critical Perspectives which got a bit old quite quickly. It was nice to already know the ropes of the class, and part B went much smoother than part A. The topics were a bit more muddled and interwoven with one another, but were what I though to be much more relevant and accessible to theatrical discourse we are seeing today. We pulled through in this class, and out professor did not make it easy, but the improvement in my academic writing this year is due to this class, and I am thankful!
May I add, that as well as having private vocal lessons as always, I also continued to teach at Light It Up School of Ministry Infused Arts. I was ultimately blessed to watch the students grow, and truly understand how much of an influence I have on my students and their families. I was taken out to share meals more than once with my students’ families simply because of how much I have impacted their lives. All of this, completely stemming from giving back and teaching my passion. It would be an understatement to
This quarter was focused on not letting myself lose my my love for musical theatre because of what happened in the winter. I gained a stronger sense of self as an artist and hit a hard lesson from a professor that told me it’s okay to not get everything done. I remember the conversation we had as we ran into each other walking through the SCU rose gardens when she said, “I think you’re a finisher. You feel satisfied when you finished something, when you have a finished product.” And I thought, “Wow, you’re right. I’ve never thought about looking at my work ethic and creative process in that lens before.” Before we parted to our separate ways, she left me with, “Think about how you would feel about simply not finishing something. Letting it go. How would you feel? It’s okay sometimes to leave your ends untied.” This quick and spontaneous exchange refocused me as I gave myself permission to reprioritize. It felt good. It kept me from going insane. It reminded me of my strength. It put my life back on the track I thought I lost. Thank you.
Never Goodbye, Only See You Later
The creative and performance team of This Property is Condemned came together for one final gathering to commence our special and unique time of collaboration. From the simple things of the last car rides full of spontaneous laughter as if we’ve experienced life together for decades, to reminiscing by ritualistically moving the living room coffee table aside to set the stage, we began to say our goodbyes. Conversing over an array of food and drinks on a simply tray surrounded by plain but loved folding chairs, we chatted into the wee hours of the night about mindless audience members, our most favorite moments of theatre we created together, and future endeavors we were to all take part of soon. Although we are parting ways for the summer and fall, it won’t be long until we come together again. Hoping at least, for a collaboration producing Song of Solomon in as many venues as we can think of. Until next time friends, until next time.
As the quarter began, my birthday was fast approaching. A while back my grandma surprised me by getting me tickets to see my all time favorite vocalist, Mark Masri live in Central Oregon for my birthday. A few weeks before I turned the big 20, I was flown back to Oregon to see what I knew was going to be my most favorite event of the year. Oh, little did I know what was to come.
I am welcomed home and am told by my grandma and I’s dear friend Jackie that there were a few extra surprises waiting for me this weekend. Jackie told me when I arrived that my first of many surprises was that I wasn’t only seeing Mark Masri, I was going to be able to meet him. So, Saturday evening I went to the theatre and found Jackie who led me backstage. I walk into the wings and see Mark Masri standing at the grande piano looking at his laptop. Jackie leads me towards him, and to my surprise without a prompt he says, “Happy birthday, Skylar! How are you?” Well, my friends, I just about lost it right then and there. He already knew it was my birthday. He already knew I was coming. How? Who told him? I responded with an awe struck smile and said, “I’m doing GREAT.” Jackie asked me if I wanted to stay and watch Mark’s tech run through, and I quite obviously took the opportunity. Jackie took me into the audience and as we sat down, she smiled with a little smirk and said, “You have one more surprise. And you must say yes to it.” I remembering not having any idea what that meant, but the biggest surprise I could think of was Mark Masri singing happy birthday to me in front of the live audience at the concert. Oh boy did I underestimate the possibilities.
I am beyond thankful Jackie prepared me for what was to come next, because what came next changed my life. Beginning to run through Gift of a Mother’s Love, Mark Masri stopped himself and said, “Skylar, I remember you saying at the time that you did a dance to my song. Would you do it for my show? Tomorrow?” Shocked, I said, “Really?” Reassuring me that this was in fact reality, Mark said, “Yes, really. Why don’t we practice right now?’ Seconds later I found myself taking off my boots, pulling my hair up, rolling up my sleeves getting ready to improvise a 3+ minute long dance in front of the artist I look up to most. Tears falling down my eyes, sweat forming on my brow, I danced. “See you at 10:00am tomorrow? That’s when the band loads in.” And that was it. I was in the show.
I came home that night to my grandpa in the living room as always. I walk in dumbfounded and numb and say, “I can’t go to the show tomorrow. You have to give my ticket to someone else.” To my grandpa’s surprise he questions me with concern as my grandma walks in to overhear, to which I say, “Mark Masri put me in his show. I’m dancing for him.” Both of their jaws dropped. It was as if we won the lottery. It was a moment of pure joy none of us will ever forget. I went digging through my closet and managed to find the dress I used in high school to perform this dance, tried it on, and it fit perfectly. With costumes taken care of, I went on the search again for a very specific notebook I knew I wrote my choreography in when I originally did the piece three years ago. I found it. The choreography was awful. I suppose that shows I’ve grown as an artist, thank you university. Using the original as inspiration, I took to my grandma’s garage and re-choreographed the entire thing. And then I committed it to memory. 3am peaked its head and I was finally able to hit the bed.
The day of both shows roll around. I’m nervous guys. I get up early, eat as many eggs as I could handle, and drive over to the grocery store for makeup and athletic tape. I gather my things, get my Dutch Bros. Coffee (a requirement) and head to the theatre. It’s 9:50am. Always arrive early. I wander around the backstage halls searching for familiar faces. “Good morning, Skylar, how are you?” Asks Mark. “I’m … amazing. Thank you.” I’m lead to my dressing room. My own dressing room. My own floor to ceiling mirror, private bathroom, walk in closet, the works. My own seat in the makeup hall, my own water, my own program, my own towel. I was suddenly treated as an equal. I was an artists. And I was doing my thing. And I was respected. The black box was filled to the brim with fruit, veggie, and meat platters, and all the coffee, tea, and sweets you could imagine. As I was trained to do, I warmed up and stayed limber. I did my hair and makeup in my own space. I taped my feet. I caked the tape in foundation so it appeared as if I was barefoot. I sprayed my hair one more time for good measure. Then, I did a show. With Mark Masri. For an overflowing house. A dream I didn’t know I had, had come true.
And then we had dinner together. All of us together, sitting at the same table, eating the same food, charming stories. This is when I found out that Mark had wanted this to happen weeks before he even arrived to Oregon. The fact that someone like Mark would think of me, on his own, in the hopes I would share the stage with him? I still can’t comprehend it. Perhaps I underestimate myself. Regardless, show two was rolling around. I still couldn’t fathom what I was doing until I saw Mark leave for the stage, when I said, “Mark? Thank you. You have truly no idea how much this means to me.” With a water bottle in hand, on his way to the wings, he said, “No, thank you, Skylar. It is an honor to work with you.” He swept off. Yet right when I thought I was alone, he popped back around the corner to say, “Let’s do this again.” To my shock and amazement, I proudly said, “Well, you know where to find me.” And the show began.
This weekend changed my life. I still don’t have any words I can put together to give this story justice. But if anything, I learned what happens when you say yes. You discover how much faith you have. You are reminded how much you are loved. And you remember why you do what you do. To Mark Masri, thank you. You know where to find me.
The Pink Tsunami
I suppose you could call Santa Clara University’s production of the musical Legally Blonde just as overwhelming, but in such a different way. I auditioned for this show for two reasons. One: I heard the musical director for this show was from Hamilton. Two: I wanted to rekindle my love for musical theatre instead of defining it by my hell of a class from winter quarter. I don’t particularly like Legally Blonde as a musical or as a story, but regarding the reasons I was auditioning it didn’t matter what the show was, I was auditioning for it nonetheless. I knew I was never right for the show. I know this isn’t my type of musical. I felt awful at auditions and I felt humiliated at callbacks. I truly didn’t think I was going to get cast. Lo and behold, the list comes out and I get cast as Whitney, Courtney, and Chutney. Three characters I know nothing about. Granted, I know nothing about most of these characters. All I know is that I am the only ensemble member with an understudy, so I suppose I must have something substantial. I accept my roles gratefully as I’m humble to even be a part of the team. I try to ignore the comments from others which was on overwhelming amount of, “why weren’t you cast as a Delta Nu?” Beats me, I don’t know, ask the director. All I was happy about was that I made it into the number Whipped into Shape. Until I wasn’t.
There is one thing and one thing only that I hate about ensemble work. The entire rehearsal process feels like a six to eight week ruthless final callback. You’re constantly competing to be the best at a dance number in the hopes that you don’t get cut when tech week comes around. You never get to breathe. I don’t like it. I don’t think people thrive in that setting. Despite dreading going to every single dance rehearsal, I went. Despite holding in my anger over people who can’t read sheet music, I held my part. And despite not being a Delta Nu, I used what I was given and became much more.
I got stronger. I get more flexible. I gained exceptional control. I became a master at mapping and scoring scripts. I sharpened my sight reading. I discovered a new quality and power to my voice. I felt like a creator for the first time. I felt confident in my process for the first time. Legally Blonde requires confidence, and that’s what it gave me. Also, I finally understood why. I was cast in the track I was in. There was not a single moment I was not moving on or off stage. The only reasons I was not in a scene, not in a musical number, not in a dance, was because I was quick changing or dragging my set piece off stage. Partway through this show I thought I was being cut from everything. I was confused, upset, and didn’t understand why things were happening the way they were and I truly wanted to quit. The saving grace was music rehearsals that put me in my element and comfort zone as if I were back in choir. 2/3rds of the way through the rehearsal process, something interesting happened. I started to see how everything was falling into place, and I began to realize the worth there was to my track. The choreographer of the show came up to me as I was warming up one night and asked out of the blue, “Was dance your first love?” And although I hesitated, I said, “Yes, actually. I started with hula.” But what was amazing to me was her response when she said, “I can tell.” From that moment, I knew that I could trust and believe the push and pull I was feeling inside. From that moment forward, I knew I was capable, and that capability came from within. From that moment forward, I knew my worth, I knew what it required of me, and in an eye opening way, I finally realized I was qualified for the job.
Soon enough it’s tech week. Choreography is changing due to the reality of the set, harmonies are shifting due to imbalances, and blocking is being reworked because of the new elements of costumes, hair, and two dogs. At this point, I was loving every second of my time. Because I chose to actively work on myself, I rekindled my love of musical theatre. No one did it for me. No one inspired me. I did it by myself, for myself, and I gave myself permission to embrace it and be proud. The icing on the cake was seeing the production photos for the first time. My kicks were just as high as the others. My splits had one of the strongest extensions. I looked at these photos and thought, wow. I’m a dancer. I’m a singer. And I’m an actor. And it was this show that I truly believed it for the first time. Legally Blonde was the biggest storm that hit SCU theatre. But man did I thrive as a storm chaser.
Wow, I just LOVE your birthday story and all those great surprises!!!
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