April 2 - June 18: Leah started her first day as a Scenic Paint and Props Assistant through the FAIR Experience at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.
April 20: Commencement - Leah has graduated from the University of Redlands with a B.A. in Theatre Arts (concentrating on Scenic Design), including Departmental Honors.
April 15: Senior Capstone Presentation at the University of Redlands. Leah, along with her fellow Theatre Major Senior Class, presented their culminating projects as Graduating Senior Theatre Majors.
April 4 - 7: Recently closed Edward Albee’s The American Dream at the University of Redlands, where Leah serves as the Lighting Designer . (Directed by Brianne Lopez, Scenic Design by Sarah Perez, Costume Design by Cambria Chichi)
March 14 - 17: Recently closed the run of Diana Son’s Stop Kiss at the University of Redlands, where Leah displayed her work as a Scenic Designer. (Directed by Dr. Victoria Lewis, Costume Design by Holly Poe Durbin, Lighting Design by Trevor Norton, Sound Design by Nate Rennick)
Oregon Shakespeare Festival FAIR Blog
As a 2013 FAIR participant, I am required and encouraged to blog about my experience here at OSF - here is where you can find all of my blogs and updates. Hope you enjoy!
4/2/13 - Blog 1
After 12 hours of a combination of flight delays, gate changes, and the time actually spent flying, all I wanted was a bed––or rather, a release from my tight grip on patience amidst the struggles of a stressful day. I was filled to the brim with a fury and wide range of emotions. I was excited and elated with the realization that OSF was here. I had, after all, spent a good amount of my time during my last semester in college not really believing that OSF would happen. I kept feeling as though this opportunity would just get pulled out from under me and I would be left with an awkward and bitter feeling of nostalgia—that feeling of not being able to have what you never knew you wanted. For a while, OSF was something that was just too good to be true—I would not believe it until it actually happened.
Now, it’s only been 24 hours since I’ve nestled into this little town, but I can easily say that I am madly and recklessly in love with Ashland.
It’s a whole new world for a Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley girl like me. It’s a remarkable shift from the busyness of LA. It feels like Ashland has its own set of watercolors that it paints on itself everyday—it’s got its own sounds and even the feeling of the air in your lungs is all its own. It isn’t boastful and pretentious—Ashland is effortlessly beautiful.
My first day here and I already feel like I’m part of this web of purpose that is all of OSF. This giant creative machine that’s driven by collaboration and fueled by art. This little, but unbelievably immense family of people who are not afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves nor welcome in new faces to the table. The people I’ve met here––in just this one day––have reaffirmed my belief in paying kindness forward and having faith in other people;
in never forgetting how blessed you are to being doing what you love;
in remembering why I chose theatre;
in realizing that no matter how stressfully hair-pulling a situation presents itself—you can never imagine doing anything else.
4/18/13 - Blog 2
I’m currently in the middle of my third week here in Ashland, and as cliché as it sounds, I really have learned so much in such a short amount of time. To be honest, I learn something new everyday from the people that surround me. In the paint shop, there’s Gabriel (my supervisor, mentor, big boss man), Thayne (lead scenic artist), Sandy (scenic artist), Amanda (scenic artist), and Erin (scenic paint intern). I am surrounded by wonderful people who have been nothing but welcoming and kind––always willing to teach and never criticizing me for my level of newness. They are an undeniably wild and eclectic bunch in their own way, making each day a joy to come to work. I wake up everyday excited to learn something new about the art and process of bringing concept to reality. I wake up everyday with the hunger to better myself. I wake up everyday looking forward to being covered in paint and hearing stories of people’s lives. I am blessed to be part of a team of talented people who move about the world, supporting the life of the arts; and I could not be more thankful that I get the opportunity to work with people who help me grow.
Not only have I learned new skills to add to my arsenal of artistry, but I’ve also learned new things about myself. Living on my own has been has been more enjoyable than I would’ve ever imagined. For a while, I was so worried that I would be faced with a life of total solitude and loneliness, but everyday I go home is just a nice reminder that being lonely is not the same as being alone––that sometimes it’s okay to take a break from the rest of the world and do your own thing. It’s never a bad thing to be able to contently enjoy the silence of the world around you.
Needless to say, I am happy here; and it goes to show that what they say is true––choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
4/24/13 - Blog 3
Here is the Elizabethan stage––around here, we call it “the Lizzy.” This season this will be the home of three productions: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Heart of Robin Hood, and Cymbeline. It’ll be the same set for all three shows, with scenic elements altered and added to help differentiate each production. Bill Rauch explained that the common theme to these shows is the forest, and so Scenic Designer Michael Ganio has designed a set inspired by images of the forest and nature. The set is a beautiful mix of organic-looking structures and theatrical influence.
Basically, the shop has been building, painting, and setting up the stage to help encompass the world of these three productions. It has been a blessing to be part of the process of making this world into reality. Erin and I have basically been texturing and treating wood to look like…wood. We use 3 different colors of Jaxsan for a base coat and 4 colors to help add layers to the wood and to bring out the depth of the grain. The first pass through this process, Erin and I stumbled a bit, going slowly and cautiously so as to not make any careless mistakes, but since then, the process has become second nature to the both of us.
It’s fascinating to watch things “happen.” I think people who don’t understand or know what happens behind the scenes don’t entirely realize what it takes to make a production come to life. Sometimes, we all forget that everything that is presented on a stage doesn’t just “happen.” It doesn’t just appear and fill in the empty theatre and there certainly isn’t a fairy godmother who can wave her wand, and “Poof! There’s a set!” There is a constant stream of commitment and effort involved in creating a world––the best I can do to help give back for everything I have learned here is to continuously show up. A lot of people know that I am notorious for my fierce loyalty to a show, and here at OSF, I am no different. I signed up to be part of a group of people that work together to help tell stories––so if using a paintbrush and gallons of paint is one way to indirectly echo my storytelling voice into this entire web, then I would gladly, gladly do so.
4/31/13 - Blog 4
This blog isn’t directly about OSF, but what I gave up to be here. I gave up the last couple of weeks of my college career; I gave up proper good-byes; I gave up watching the last show I would ever be part of at the University; I gave up a slew of “lasts.” It’s been an interesting transition into the “real world,” from my bubble in Redlands to my bubble in Ashland. Fortunately, the things I gave up felt so distant because I was busy building something new here––I was busy balancing the cries of good-bye from back home with the promise of discovery here. In many ways, being here has helped me move forward passed the pit of emptiness and nostalgia you feel after graduating––basically, I’m too happy here to be sad. But, more often than not, I get that familiar knot in my stomach and this dry feeling in my throat when I think about what I left behind and what on earth I am coming back to when I return to California in June. Nothing will ever be the same. I won’t wake up to the white walls of my dorm room, or be able to walk through the labyrinth at 2 in the morning when I have too much on my mind. There will be no more hanging out at the Theatre Building for absolutely no reason and there will be no more midnight trips to 7-11. Everything I had known for the last 4 years was falling behind me and I was all the way over here in Ashland not really knowing how to feel about it.
Though, I do know that I feel so grateful that somehow in this entire web, I was able to come back to do my last senior presentation and then again to walk across the stage for graduation. I was lucky enough to spend my last couple of hours as an undergrad student with the people who have made me a better person these past 4 years.
This is how I decorated my cap. Simple, but meaningful. My dad passed away 3 and a half years ago and hummingbirds have always reminded me of him. They nearly always uncannily show up at important times––like a reminder that wherever I am, I am never alone. So, when I first entered the paint shop and saw that there was a hummingbird spray painted on the wall, I knew that there was something worth everything I was leaving behind.
5/7/13 - Blog 5
On Monday night, I spoke 2 pieces at Hip Hop Poetry Night Open Mic. I remember sitting in my seat trying my hardest to give other performers my complete and undivided attention, but all I could really do was sit in silent terror and wait for my name to be called.
And then it happened, I heard Claudia say my name and I popped out from my seat to spread my heart out on stage in front of a crowd of strangers. I read a piece call “Across the Pond (“Kik”)” which is about the last boy I was completely and obsessively infatuated with; a boy who told me all of his secrets and yet I still felt like I knew nothing about him. My second piece was “A Tribute to the Man Who Love Me the Most.” This piece is about my father. If the universe allowed me to only write one poem in my entire life, I would gladly choose this one.
One of the most so sobering experiences is reading words you have written, out loud, and without shame. For some reason, I find it more comforting to introduce the world to the skeletons in my closet than to keep them buried. I’ve found that the only way I can write guiltlessly is to write what I know, and if what I know isn’t always beautiful or good, then so be it. I used to worry about what people would think about my writing or if I’ve crafted sentences well enough to be worth something, but I’ve learned that the only thing you need to worry about writing is your honesty and your willingness to stitch your heart to your sleeve.
“Across the Pond (“Kik”)
like old subways cars
forgotten underneath the surface of the earth.
I think about how many strangers have passed you
too frightened of the mysteries you hold,
too weary to peel your layers,
too timid to pull off your masks.
How many heart you’ve broken,
or how many hearts have broken you.
What stories your hands could tell
if I ever got the chance to hold them.
If you smell like cigarettes and sin,
like I’ve always imagined.
You’ve got a filthy mouth,
but the soul of a poet.
Boastful and bold,
distant and ice cold,
with thoughts kept and untold,
you’re the furthest thing from Prince Charming,
You can hide it all you want,
but you’ve still got a heart of gold.
In all honesty,
My mind still buzzes
from your dirty words,
from the thrills I get
that rumble from the pit of my stomach
down to the tips of my toes.
Just look into my eyes
and it shows
that my demons don’t mind playing
as long as yours are around too.
As long as your lips still look like
they’d feel perfectly pressed up against mine.
As long as you understand that your poison
is just too good to pass up.
how many lives you’ve lived
before you’ve settled for this one.
whose arms you call home late at night
when the only thing wrapped around you are your sheets.
whose body you cling to,
when you need the taste of a woman.
You roam the streets of the last place
I left my heart.
While I bask in the sun of the place
where you might find yours.
there’s half of me
that hates the miles between us,
and the other half
that’s thankful that
you’re too far away to hurt me.
I know so much,
yet know nothing at all.
So, I’m sitting here and still wondering
If I’m either the keeper of all your deepest secrets
or the fool of all your greatest lies.
“A Tribute to the Man Who Loved Me the Most”
I like to pretend that it’s just you and me in the room,
So it doesn’t feel too awkward talking to thin air.
Like I could see you and you could see me,
And you were listening intently as if you were there.
And all the problems I’ve had to tackle and face,
All drop down to second place
When I think about how much I miss you.
There’s a bitter taste in my mouth and a heaviness in my heart
That I try so hard to pacify
But the more I ask for complete salvation,
The more difficult it is to satisfy.
I lift up a breath of thanks when someone mentions your name,
And often wonder if your heaven and my earth are almost the same.
Or if you miss home, just as much as home misses you.
Cause this place is quite empty and doesn’t function how it used to.
This house reeks of your memory,
This burning sensation of what is you and what is not quite you,
And yet I am still thankful that my life
Has become a menagerie of everything you’ve ever taught me.
Like, be tough and never back down
When your problems are too large to tame,
Or when you are lost in a crowded place,
Always know your name.
Find my way out of the rubble
Through questions I’d be unearthing,
To learn how to put on my own band aids,
But to always tell you if I was hurting.
That your hands tell stories just as much as your voice,
And generosity is more an obligation, than a personal choice.
What you are is the only one,
It is a beauty of rare blends.
And when your time and talents are beckoned to,
Go out and share them.
You taught me that music is infinite.
That music has names like
Elton John, and the Beatles,
John Denver, and the Eagles,
Cat Stevens and the Bee Gees,
Sinatra And Stevie
Dan Fogelberg, and Michael Jackson
Simon and Garfunkel, and Eric Clapton.
Your guitar is timeless.
And it has this particular sound to it,
Like you left the vibrations of your voice with it to keep me warm,
Like you still play it everyday.
You taught me respect.
That as much as I deserve it, paying it forward makes more sense,
Commanding it and taking it, leaves your hands holding less.
Always practice proper manners,
Say please, and thank you, and excuse me, when walking into the world,
And hold doors open for other people, even if you are a girl.
If you pursue something, be good at it; you don’t have to be the best,
Do the job, not the title; work hard, but get some rest.
And when you want answers, you seek them, like all your other endeavors,
And always be patient, but know not to wait forever.
If the time ever comes that I find someone to pledge my heart to,
End the single first chapter of my life and begin to write part two,
I know that I could never find anyone who,
Would love me nearly as much as you do.
And it’s painful to think that you can’t give me away on my wedding day,
But I find it humbling to know that you’ve given me way too much
To ever wish for more from you.
You’re the reason why I believe in love,
Not necessarily romance or soulmates,
But love that makes the sight of Death a pathetic stunt
And the scythe of Death dull and blunt.
You’ve made me believe that there is love
That time and space will yield to.
And when the loneliness tries to catch you,
This love will hold and shield you.
Thank you for loving me.
This is a tribute to the man who loved me the most,
And I hate to brag and boast,
But I wish you all could’ve met my father.
5/15/13 - Blog 6
This past weekend, my mom and cousin came up for Mothers’ Day. I was ecstatic to show them the life I was living here in Ashland; a life and career that revolved around art, passion, and collaboration. My mom has always, ALWAYS been supportive of me, but throughout my entire time learning and pursuing theatre, as supportive as she has always been, she has never really understood it. The hard work accomplished on this career path has always become mistaken for hobby. It is unbelievably tiring and exhausting to have to defend something you wholeheartedly love and to try to make someone understand that years of education, effort, artistry, skill building, etc. isn’t just so I can prance around and do something just for the hell of it. I never really invited my family to my shows in college because I knew that there was a high probability that they wouldn’t enjoy it, and I also did not want to pressure them into going to something they weren’t fully invested in. For me, I felt like I should have been able to stand on my own two feet and just be grateful for the silent support from far away – sometimes I just felt too selfish to ask for more. But, in retrospect, I feel like I may have robbed myself of many things by not sharing more with her and with other people. Over the course of the past 3 years, I have been part of (in some respect or another - whether it be scenic design, lighting design, props, assisting, operating, directing playwriting, producing, or performing) approximately 23 productions and I have only had 6 of those productions attended by family and friends from home. I definitely don’t blame them at all – I just never bothered to push them to go, and thankfully for the ones I did push them to go to, they attended and supported me without question. Maybe I should have just broken the seal of disinterest early on, but the thought of sharing something that I am so indefinitely passionate about with other people to possibly be counteracted with disinterest and apathy, scared me to the core. But, I am fiercely thankful that my family and friends have never, ever discouraged my pursuit in this field.
I’m happy that after two days of still “not getting it,” there was a break through when I walked into the Welcome Center and introduced myself to the volunteers at the front desk. I told them that I was working in the Scenic Paint Shop and their immediate response was showering me with gratitude and appreciation for the time and effort that I put into the life of a production.
I was remarkably humbled by this experience. Strangers who barely knew my name were thanking me for basically doing what I love – and that for me, makes up for the hundreds of people who don’t understand. I looked at my mom and noticed that she was looking at everything differently – everything was seen with new eyes and an appreciation and understanding that theatre is not just sport for me. It’s a career, it’s a life, it’s an unwavering passion, it’s a deliberate choice, it’s a leap of faith, it’s everything I never knew I needed in my life. I looked at her and all she mouthed was, “I get it now.”