Monday, April 30, 2007

grad school - part three

Hey check this out! I’m on BoCo’s alumni webpage! And yes, of course all the guys I’m sitting with are gay. Does anyone register the utter fatigue in my profile? Man, it was a good fatigue, though.

I remember when American Idol’s first season came out, and what a strong reaction everyone had to Simon, with all his rude comments to young singers, pouring their hearts out every week on primetime. Well shoot, people, bring one a’them cameras into Fran’s class, or a coaching with Cathy. You’ll hear things that could spark a nation-wide fallout stretching over generations of time, reek devastating divides which span the millennia, wage raging disputes to rent a social fabric in twain, like Islam vs. Christianity, Shiites vs. Sunnis, Creamy vs. Chunky. Seriously, they’d have to broadcast it on Cinemax.

During any one of my songs, I may have had a teacher stop and mimic my voice mockingly back at me, drop her pencil and smack her head with her hands, say things like, “Mary, do you have any idea how awful that was?” “Who taught you to sing?” “Well, I don’t think you could have chosen a more pathetic direction than that one.” “You do understand this is a music degree, right?” “All you need to learn, Mary, is what the notes are, and when to sing them. That’s all.” “I have no idea why I should care about you right now.” “That was painful, utterly painful.” “Who sat in on your audition for the school? I need a name.” And so on…

Along with 256 showtunes, a piece of paper, and a severely compromised view myself as an artist, I also came out of BoCo with a single chest hair, just for taking it every day like I did.

I remember Shaina passing out right after a 45-minute rough run of her thesis project. I remember verbally lashing into Scott for ten minutes in front of 20 people because I thought he was bashing the Catholic church - - only he wasn’t. Wee for me. I remember Holly ripping up the linoleum in her apartment’s kitchen because it was “too dirty,” and we all thought she’d finally gone completely nuts. I remember her roommate, sweet little Peter, breathing into a bag as he asked me what to say to property management about it.

Please keep in mind that it really wasn’t all that bad, it’s just fun to write about it like this. I actually loved my two years. All these things are true, they did happen, but man it was a blast. This could also mean I’m some kind of sadist.

Next installment, the final thesis project.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

i'm on the hunt, i'm after you...

So I happen to be on the listserve for this environmental group, the NRDC (National Resource Defense Council). They send me alerts about when certain environmental legislation is up before Congress and when to flood my congressman’s office with my outrage over the current administration’s gross negligence protecting polar bears, ignoring the energy problem, global warming, etc. So make no mistake, this organization is a pretty sober lot.

Today the NRDC sent me another very serious email about another very serious natural resource problem.

Subject Line: “Mary, Hear the Wolf’s Cry for Help”
I really need to grow up, it seems, because I totally burst out laughing. Does this, or does this not, sound like some kind of code phrase? Can you hear Duran Duran playing? So is the wolf like some brutish misunderstood man I’m supposed to nurture back into society with my feminine energy? And will they write a romance novel about us?

These are my thoughts. None of which, I’m sure, the NRDC would be happy about.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007


So, I really do have great bosses. They're occasionally high maintenance, but what else could high-powered female attorneys be? Easy going? (Snort.)

I guess I've been a little pensive lately. One of the perks of female bosses is they're usually tuned into the sort of thing. More importantly, they have personal understanding of just how much rapture comes from a delivery man standing in your doorway, holding beautiful flowers in one hand, a slip of paper in the other, as he tentatively looks up and says: Mary?

The flowers came from a small floral shop near Chinatown. The envelope read: M. Websper. The card read: "your the best". Love it.

Here they are:

I guess I really needed them, because I totally started to cry. Then again, maybe that's just cuz it's April 25th. You know...the womens stuff we don't mention. Except on unrestricted public forums such as weblogs.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

grad school - part two

The thing that probably stands out the most from my experience at the Conservatory, BoCo, as we called it, is the number of songs I had to learn. In fact, a more precise name for my masters degree would be Masters in Multitudinal Song Learning. That’s got a truer ring to it.

Every semester I had the following classes, among others: Repertoire, Musical Theater, Private Voice, Script and Score Analysis. These four required courses combined meant I was learning at least four songs a week. Think about that. 4 songs x 16 weeks per semester x 4 semesters = 256 songs. Now ask me how much money I make today because I know 256 showtunes.

And it wasn’t enough just to learn these songs. Oh no. You had to perform them in front of very mean people, people who never cared how many other songs you had to learn for other teachers that week. Forget about any pats on the back for actually remembering all the words. If you didn’t stir the soul of every man, woman, and child within Suffolk County, if the earth did not move, if Fran did not fall out of her chair and do that wistful, glistening stare thing which maybe happened ONCE in all my two years of singing my freaking guts out for her every freaking week of my freaking life, you might as well just punch yourself in the face and call it good, because you’re never making it to Broadway, baby.

One time, it was probably closer to the end of a semester, Danielle and I were sitting at her kitchen table in her apartment on Symphony Road. We had our music binders open, lyric cramming. No one spoke, there was just a lot of hand-patting in rhythm, head bobbing in timed beats, brows furrowing over long phrases on a page, and mouths mouthing words with no sound. At length we sat up for a break, and I remember a conversation that went something like this:

Me: Are you done?
D: With this one. For now. I still have to find a song for Rep.
Me: Hmmm.
D: Mar?
Me: Yeah?
D: Are there any more songs? In the world?
Me: Excellent question.

I distinctly remember how my classmates and I adapted to the endless and expansive demands of grad school. In the beginning, as assignments and projects were handed out right and left, we’d react with large eyes and animated responses of disputation. (No way can we do all this?! Are they out of their minds?!) Two-thirds into the first year, this softened to more of a numbed-out incredulity. (I have two songs, a scene, a monologue, a recital, and two papers all happening this Wednesday. Are my lips gently sliding off my face right now? Cuz it feels like they are.) By the month before graduation, you could have smacked any one of us over the head with a concrete slab and we’d probably stare blankly back at you waiting for you to say something.

A typical day would start with vocal coachings as early as 8:00 a.m., followed by a full day of acting classes, piano classes, theory tutorings, voice lessons, the four classes mentioned earlier, a dance class in the late afternoon, a quick dinner break, and then rehearsals for all the crap you were working on until you passed out around midnight. Mornings occasionally began with me screaming: IT’S JUST SHOW TUNES, PEOPLE! THAT’S ALL IT IS! SHOWTUNES!!!

To be continued…


Friday, April 20, 2007

grad school - part one

Five years ago this evening, I performed a self-written one-hour thesis to earn my master’s degree in musical theater from The Boston Conservatory. Danielle and I did it together, actually; we co-wrote it. Danielle was good enough to remind me that it was five years ago today. Five years.

My very first day of graduate academia all began, right out of the gate, with none other than a music theory test. They gave us this exam to assess where we were in our knowledge and training of music (for those interested, it included things like written and aural melodic dictation, rhythmic dictation, transposing key signatures, identifying relative minor, etc.) For most of my fellow classmates (there were 9 of us in total), this test could technically have been called a walk. Most of them received their bachelors’ in vocal performance, which is a music degree. Which means they took music classes. Where they teach this stuff. But I was a theater undergrad, coming to a music school with a music savvy equivalent to a third-year piano student. When it came to reading and understanding music, I knew precious little, and faked the rest. In fact, I probably owe it to my theater degree for how well I faked it; it got me to places I never dreamed I’d be, like in that classroom for example. Sitting there that day, I was cursing my acting skills, mentally shredding that theater degree into tiny pieces. It felt worthless to me then. Sitting there, on my first day of graduate school, in one of the most competitive programs for musical theater in the country, I nearly choked on my nausea. Every question mocked me. Is this how I’m going to feel every day for the next two years? Dismally under-trained and humiliated? What am I doing here? I don’t know ANY-thing. I just entered a graduate music program, and I know nothing about music! Naturally, I was the first to “finish” the test.

Now for many of you who read my blog, you may be a little surprised at what I did next. Back in September of 2000 I was not practicing my LDS faith, nor had I been for some time. In September of 2000, as soon as I got out of that classroom after turning in my blank exam paper, I went into the back alley and proceeded to smoke about three cigarettes in a row. I was a total chimney. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Danielle, one of my nine classmates whom I’d just met briefly earlier that day. Danielle was smoking one herself. We got to talking. She had a theater background too. She smokes, she’s in theater, and she totally tanked that stupid exam, same as me. It was destiny. We were inseparable for the next two years.

The similarities between Danielle and I pretty much stop there, I think. She’s from Queens, I’m from California. She’s a 5’2” Italian alto, and I’m a blonde soprano with an Irish chin. She could belt to the balcony better than Merman, whereas I had trouble not sounding like a Julie Andrews wannabe. Our looks and voices could not have been more polar. And yet, from that first day we bonded like twin sisters. I think it was only four or five days later when I recall the two of us sitting in my dorm room crying our eyes out because, you know, grad school is freaking freaky.

To be continued…


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

more than sweaters

Last night, I was on the phone with a really good friend, the kind that never lets a desire for decency override the truth. “Mary,” she says, “I got on your blog this week.” Yeah, I said. “Well…it just hasn’t been the same lately. I feel like your heart isn’t behind it. I’m not reading you in your posts. Is this fair to say?” Yeah, I said. Then we talked a little about why.

I never wanted to have one of those blogs where all you write about is what you did that day, or what sweaters you wear and why. I used to put way more of myself into my posts. Waaaay more. Too much, in fact. Now I put too little, I’m aware of that. Not that this warrants a cover story, but it is interesting to think about why I stopped putting my heart into the blog. Boredom? Fear? Allergies?

Talking beyond just my blog posts now, I know who I want to be - honest and real, but honestly, really, good. I want to feel free to gripe and be petty because I have a real talent for that and I need to share it. But I think I’m going to write more about what really interests me, even if I get zero comments and I have to feel all naked about it. Come on, you know it’s true. Whenever I try and stray just a little from the hairy lesbian couple on the bus formula, nobody sends me any love. (It’s cool, though.) I need to write about what I really think about, what I really do and feel, otherwise where is the point in writing at all? This is what I think my friend was trying to tell me. Just because there will be endless space for all the pointless, mentally vacant, blogposts ever conceived by man doesn’t mean I have no obligation to try and make your visit to my blog a worthwhile stop.

I feel a renewed sense of direction and purpose. And the summer months are coming. Which means lots of downtime at work. May it yield sweet, succulent, bloggy fruit is my dearest hope.


Friday, April 13, 2007


THOUGHT PUT IN TOTALLY LAST MINUTE: Friday the 13th and I completely walked under a ladder today. I'll probably do it again at lunch. I mean, what am Edge-Liver or something?! Come ooon!! Aye aye aye! Whoaaahhhh?!


Does some paint smell like B.O.? Or do just painters painting with paint that smells like paint smell like B.O.? Yeah, I think it’s that. He’s painting the office across from mine. Pungent. Nice guy, though.


Should I wear this fetching pink sweater to a fundraiser event I’m going to tonight?

Too fetching? Too feminine? Too…pink? Just level with me.


I know I can’t rock it like Cameron, but do you think I should get this haircut on Saturday?


Is it all right with everyone that I don’t really care what happens to Imus? I mean like, I just don’t care?


This is a conversation I just overheard between pungent painter man and the catering guy who’s setting up a lunch in our conference room:

Painter: What are those purple things?
Caterer: Um…those are potatoes.
Painter: Oh, all right then.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

roommate dialogue: installment one

S: The couch really hasn't seen much action these days.

M: Yeah, the couch may be wondering if we're still heterosexual.

S: The couch is deeply concerned.

J: I know. The couch called my Mom, then my Mom called me.


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