Monday, April 30, 2007

Weekend Recap

Such an incredible weekend! I hardly know where to begin. It had been eight years since I had been back to campus and seen some of these people. You know how when you are used to seeing people and things every day you kind of take them for granted and you don’t realize how much you’ll miss them until you’re gone? That really all came flooding back to me recently. Two of my friends from college got married in the past year. They each sent me their wedding photos and looking through them I was reminded of all the people I missed. I had wanted to go back for a visit anyway, but I think seeing those photos pushed that decision along.

(Photo is me in front of the Valparaiso University Center for the Arts, or VUCA- the building I spent the majority of my time when I was in college.)

So, Friday morning Chris and I set out bright and early. We landed in Chicago around 10:30 or so, picked up the rental car and headed off for Valparaiso University. I was getting giddy as we got closer and closer and I saw signs for Valparaiso. Lots of growth in town! I guess that happens over 8 years. And it’s good too, because previously we would have to drive about 20 minutes to get to many stores, and now there are plenty in town.

(Photo is of the chapel- when I went to school I believe it was the largest chapel on a college campus. It is modeled after Coventry Cathedral in England.)

We arrived on campus about 1:00 or so and found parking surprisingly quickly. There’s a whole lot of construction going on, so I imagine many people don’t go the way that I went since the road dead-ends.

Our first stop was the VUCA. Or more specifically, the costume shop. As we were going down the stairs I wanted to run/jump down them like I used to, but Chris wouldn’t let me. Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s not safe to run or jump down stairs. We got to the costume shop and had to wait about a couple of minutes for Ann, my old professor, to arrive, but in the meantime I showed Chris a couple of the costumes. Very few changes to that space in the last 8 years- just minor little things. I even found a sculpture that I had made in my ceramics class. I had forgotten all about it, but when I saw it I recognized it as mine. Weird.

After chatting with Ann for a while I showed Chris around the rest of the building- prop room, trap room, green room, dressing rooms, scene shop, and the stage. We also ran into Alan, the set professor while going on this tour, which was good because he let us into the studio theatre which had been locked.

One thing that struck me was that all of the faculty remembered my name. I still keep in touch with Ann, but she’s the only one. Did she tell other people that I was coming or is it common for faculty to remember the names of their students 8 years later? Maybe this is just a benefit of having gone to a small school- there is that close connection.

After showing Chris most of the VUCA we went and did a mini tour around campus. Unfortunately Friday was a cold and dreary day. It was misting a bit and wasn’t the most pleasant out. We went to the Union to grab some food and did a little more walking. A new library opened up a year or two ago, so we went and checked that out. It’s so much nicer than the old library (which has now been torn down and they are building a new union on that site).

By this point we were feeling pretty tired, so we went and checked into the hotel and rested for a little bit. In the evening we headed back to campus to see Noises Off. They did a phenomenal job! And while there I saw even more people to say hi to. Before the show we chatted with Ann’s husband Aran and then during intermission I sought out JSP, who had been the head of the theatre department during my time on campus. I also saw a couple of other people who I purposely avoided. My junior year I spent a semester in England, and the Lehmanns were the advisors of that program. No one really liked Mrs. Lehmann, so I didn’t feel the need to make small talk with them.

After the show we were feeling very hungry- hadn’t eaten since about 2:00ish, so we headed off to Steak ‘n Shake. Mmmm…. Love their burgers and shakes! They’re a publicly traded company, so I may just need to buy some of their stock. After dinner we went back to the hotel and crashed. We were exhausted!

Saturday morning came and the sun was shining! A gorgeous day. We started off by heading back to campus to get a few more pictures. We also went back to the union and grabbed some breakfast. While we were eating we wondered what people thought of us. Did we look like students or have we gotten too old?

After campus we headed off to Mt. Baldy, part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (where this beach picture was taken). The other parts of the Dunes that I have been to are all pretty flat, but Mt. Baldy’s peak is 126 above the lakeshore. There’s a path that goes up a slope of it (rerouted recently due to erosion) and then we walked down towards the lake. Then it was time to head off to Chicago!

Getting to Chicago was pretty uneventful. We hit a little bit of traffic, but it wasn’t too bad. And it allowed Chris time to get the camera and take pictures of the post office as we drove through it. Yup- you read that right. The post office was built allowing an EIGHT LANE ROAD to go under it! And the scary thing is that the PO was built before the road. Unfortunately the building is now antiquated and has been empty for 10 years.

As we were circling the block to park at the hotel we saw this mailbox. Isn’t it awesome?! After checking in he had to go and take a picture. (And now that I went to the PO today and saw that Star Was stamps are being released on May 25th this makes more sense- very cute promotion!)

After taking pictures of the mailbox we headed to the park across from the hotel. We wanted to check out the Buckingham Fountain but unfortunately it doesn’t work until May 1st. Damn- a week early! Instead we continued walking through the park- just sort of walking towards things that caught our eye. This meandering brought us to Millennium Park and the Bean.

Millennium Park, not surprisingly, was built for the new millennium. I had picked up a guide book that suggested walking through it and taking a self portrait at the Bean. However, it gave no further information of what “the Bean” was. Well, when I saw it I immediately understood. As you can see, we did, in fact, take a self-portrait (or 5).

Next on the agenda was Navy Pier. Unfortunately by this point we were getting rather tired as we had been doing lots of walking all day and it was a warm day. So we didn’t check out Navy Pier as much as we might otherwise have done, but we did ride the Ferris Wheel and I took some skyline pictures. We did a little more walking around, but then we decided it was time to head back to the hotel. We decided to take a cab. Too much walking for us! After a brief stop at the hotel to wash off a layer of sweat we jumped in the car and headed up to Evanston.

A number of people who I went to college with founded the Piccolo Theatre. My friend Zac had directed Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (based on characters from Hamlet), and my friends Debbie, David, and Denita were in the cast. I had told Debbie and Zac that I was coming, but I’m not sure if that had spread the word along or not.

So we park the car and are trying to find the theatre. I saw the street number on the side of the building, so we start walking down the street. There’s a group of people outside. I comment that I knew the guy standing up scratching his face. Chris says, “yeah, but does he know you?” As soon as he said that David waved to me. “Yup, he knows me.” Hugs ensued, but then the cast had to go get warmed up and into costumes. I asked for a dinner recommendation and then Chris and I took off.

David had suggested a place down the street called Lucky Platter. It was a cute place full of fun sculptures like this guy, and the lights were made from colanders. After dinner it was time to head back to the theatre.

Such a cute place! It’s in a renovated train depot. The stage took up most of the space, but there was a ring of maybe 50 seats around the outside- a very intimate space. Unfortunately, because of this intimacy, it was very evident when people left at intermission. Everyone did a great job with the show, and even Chris was impressed with what they did with the set. (There was a platform in the middle that turned around and also wobbled like a teeter-totter.) At one point there were lights on from underneath the platform and Chris leaned over in his seat to try to get a better look at the under-workings. And the cutest thing about the show… as Debbie was leaving after the bows she winked at me. Very fun, especially since she had been so good about not breaking character to acknowledge me during the show. It gave me warm fuzzies.

So after the show we headed towards the entrance and there was Zac waiting for me. Yay- hugs all around. Debbie came out shortly after and I sang one of my songs to her (“We love you Debbie, oh yes we do” a la Bye Bye Birdie). She had to say hi to her parents who had also come to the show, but then came back in shortly after. And shortly we had a mini Valpo reunion in the theatre lobby- with representation from multiple classes, 1999-2002.) David and Denita had other plans, so Zac, Debbie, Chris and I headed off for some drinks and conversation.

It was so great to be able to catch up with them. Unfortunately, and I’m kicking myself for this, I didn’t get any pictures of them. Bad me. Anyway, I am just so proud of them. They are living their theatre dreams. Especially Zac. He quit his job so that he can devote himself to theatre. I also learned something about Chris’ perception of me. I was talking about what I was up to, and Chris mentioned that I’m happy at my current job, but that for a few years before that I wasn’t happy. Hmmm…. He couldn’t have mentioned this to me before?

Sunday morning (after not enough sleep) we checked out and then booked ourselves onto an Architectural Boat tour of the city. Again, perfect weather for being outside! Here’s just one photo of the 50+ that I took on the boat. After the tour we headed back towards the hotel/car, ate some lunch, and then headed off to the airport. We got there very early, but there really hadn’t been much time to do anything else in the city.

One other interesting thing I learned about myself as a result of this trip. While we were away I got a call from a friend of my dad’s asking me if I wanted to design costumes for a show he’s doing this fall. I was talking to my dad about it this afternoon. I realized this weekend that my passion for the theatre is gone. When did it die? Is it actually dead or just hidden for a bit? One factor is that it takes me a bit to warm up to people. Because of this I’m reluctant to try to get involved at another theatre. However, I’m sure that if I were in Chicago I would be working with my friends. Don’t doubt it for a second.

Hopefully it won’t be another eight years before I go “home”.


Tracy said...

Great recap!

Maybe it isn't that your passion for theatre has died but that your comfort zone has changed. I am also prone to my comfort zone and people that I am most comfortable with, which makes it hard for me to extend myself into other groups. Especially if I have what I consider/considered the ideal situation. It can be hard to match, and I want the same or better experience and/or results.

I think it may be our way of protecting ourselves and maybe our memories, who knows! But you will only know if you try!

Maybe allowing your passion to start with the costume and not with the actually theatre, may be the beginning!

Christine said...

I agree! Awesome recap! You had a great time and such a great way to relive a great part of your life! Yay Chris! I think you should try and do the costume thing and if you don't like it maybe then you will know if it's gone. I would think once you have a passion you always do but on what level you participate in it might be different. I think you should definitely do it. Thank you for the recap. Glad you are home safe and sound.

Robin said...

OMG>...I am so homesick after reading this. We moved to SC 4 years ago and I miss Chicago and Milwaukee. We are from the Kenosha, WI area and spent our weekends traveling with our then 4 teenagers to chicago by train. We loved just walking the streets, sitting at the cafes watching as people went by, taste of chicago, buckingham fountain, lake michigan...all of the excitement and things happening all of the time.
Thank you for the update....Hubby is going back in June..wish I could go with...but this is a trip for him to spend some quality time with his mom...
I encourage you to go for the gusto! take the costume design thing....embrace it and own it! Your passion is still there, I can feel it in your just needs to be rekindled....

The Hallman Tribe said...

wonderful!!!! you sound like you and DH had an amazing time! glad you got to go home and visit!!!

Vanessa B. said...

Sounds like a great trip! I felt very much the same when I went to my high school reunion - only it had been 20 years instead of 8! Really made me miss those connections. I agree about your theater misgivings. Maybe you can give the costumes a shot and see if that gets the old passion burning again. You don't know if you don't try. What have you got to lose?

You've totally inspired me to issue you a challenge - if you choose to accept! (: I used to be very involved in theater in high school and have always missed it. I drive by the little theater in town here almost every day and every day I think I should go in and check out getting involved. It comes down to that whole comfort zone thing and I just don't do it. So, how about it? Want to take the plunge together? No pressure, just a thought. Regardless, I hope you give it a shot! Thanks for the update!

~Mel said...

Love the recap!!! I actually felt as though I was with you walking (or running) down those stairs even though I've never been to Chicago or Valapriso.

Glad you had a great time and I truly know what you mean when you say you felt as though you went 'home'. To me, that's going and spending some quality time in Boston, I understand completely!

Christine said...

hmmm, you should blog more.