Theatre and The Beauty Of Impermanence

By Meg Zulch

I've always been very staunch about my distaste for theatre. With the exception of the film adaptation of Rent, which is arguably one of my favorite movies of all time, I spent most of my life trying to steer clear of drama club kids and theatre productions.

Among other things, plays were less than desirable for me because of (and I'm aware this is childish) boredom. My total attention deficit has limited my visual entertainment to TV shows, with movies being too long to sit through without finding myself  feeling a certain measure of mental exhaustion by the the midway point. And plays were an entirely different story. Whenever I found myself having to sit through one, usually a Broadway play my school or parents had dragged me too, I had to resist the urge of checking the time on my phone or bolting out of the theatre. And even though my mind would often go entirely numb through most of these performances, I would still silently praise myself the entire time, convincing myself that I was becoming "cultured." Clearly, based on my use of the phrases "sit through" and "dragged," I was clearly not absorbing any culture as long as I wasn't a willing participant.

I used to have a million reasons why I don't like plays that didn't really make much sense. Like, for example, uncomfortable seating and unfamiliar faces on stage. Now, I chalk it up to the painfully stubborn way in which I decide I hate things without using much logic to back it up. The same way I used to "hate" cauliflower and Carly Rae Jepsen. I'd say I hated these things, but really they were just a couple of items on my long list of things I decided was worth dismissing before having given them a chance. Like theatre, I never gave either of these things the time of day long enough to make an argument either way. Until recently...

After I transferred to a college dedicated to the arts, I began making a lot of actor friends. And then I started dating one. Skylar, a theatre and production major, was a tall devastatingly beautiful goofball and I fell completely in love with them pretty quickly. Their quirky yet smart manner of dressing and their exaggerated clumsy tendencies reminded me of a young Dick Van Dyke. And so did their acting.

 

After running through lines with them once, in my attempt to help them prepare for the play they were in, I became obsessed with watching them rehearse. Seeing Skylar take on a new voice and set of physical quirks as their eyes danced with passion and excitement was magical. It filled me with such excitement and respect for what they do, and filled me with a greater understanding of the world of theatre.

Besides Skylar's exceptional acting talent, what drew me in the most about their craft was its ability to transport them away from the darker parts of their brain. Or perhaps even help them express their darkness in a space and in a way they feel safe to do so: on stage and through character.

On the play's opening night, I got to see everything they'd been talking about, everything they'd been preparing for, come alive right before my eyes. And in that moment I felt I finally understood. I found myself being fully immersed in every scene without ever having to check my phone or resisting the urge to stretch my restless legs. I surrendered myself to the beauty of theatre, and to characters and themes that get you invested the way TV or movies do, and I didn't regret one second.

What struck me the most about theatre is the fact that stage productions are such huge and meticulously tailored works of masterpiece that will disappear forever after the few days that the show is open. This is what still gets to me to this day, the impermanence of Skylar's work. As a writer, my work always lives for those to see, whether it's on a website or saved in my Google Docs. But my partner's work is so different. They spend weeks of their time laboring over something that their audience can only experience for a short while. They are essentially creating a moment in time for the enjoyment of others, until the show closes days later. And in my opinion, it takes a certain kind of hero to take part in such a noble and selfless act. With Skylar being a lovely and selfless human being and all, their taste for theatre is certainly not out of character.

After seeing them in a stage production for the first time, it no longer felt right, or even possible, to snobbishly write off an entire art form the way I had formerly done.  An art that was incredibly magical and enjoyable, as well as the labor and passion of my life partner. I understood, and from there I could never go back. In fact, I've been to Broadway three times since we started seeing each other, and finally got to enjoy it each time. Observing Skylar's art, and art through their eyes, caused me to see all of the beauty I was missing out on and transport me to yet another world that I was safe to lose myself in. A world as scary as our own in all of its beauty and impermanence.

 

Hide Weird Brain

By Allie Shyer

I do not know what makes my brain work differently from other people’s brains. They took me to a lot of doctors as a kid to try to figure it out. They determined that I was slower at arranging blocks by size or pattern than other people, and this was somehow an indication of something about me.

Nobody ever told me what, really. I was put in special classrooms for kids who weren’t like the other kids. I just wanted to be good and normal, but the tests said I was not that. Having a learning disability means that people will tell you what you can and cannot do, what you do and do not know, do not listen to them. It is true that lines curve downwards when I try to draw them straight, and columns of numbers jumble themselves in front of my eyes, this does not make me unintelligent. It means that my outlook will always be unique. I spent my entire time within the education system trying to prove to people that I was smart. Because there were tests that said I was different, I had to prove to them that I was worth keeping around. I knew what happened to the kids who were sent to schools for people with LD. They never ended up getting the opportunities or the education that I strived for.

I learned to pass at an early age. This meant acquiring skills and coping mechanisms that I used to hide my learning disability. One if these mechanisms is being able to read and anticipate the desires of others because I am often unable to perform tasks effectively. Instead I read social cues that will allow me to understand to root of motivation behind the task. If I can mimic the attitude that a teacher or boss desires, sometimes it is unimportant if I cannot actually perform the duty that is assigned to me.

The problem with accommodation in a society that has limited models of success is that although we claim not to discriminate, within the current educational model things that set you apart will set you behind. I am lucky that I had the ability to hide my difference to get through a system that was angled against me. Today I embrace the mystery of my own brain. I like to draw and see the wavy lines and collapsed distances. It helps me to think creatively and poetically, to see the middle distance and associative quality of mundane things, to embrace incorrectness and disorder both inside and outside of myself.

There Are No Lines

By Annie Zidek

I grew up in a strikingly conservative family. Consequently, we never talked about sex; it was taboo for my Reagan-loving parents, so there was a mutual understanding that “sex is bad.” Attending a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school also had its sexual pitfalls: the extent of sex-ed in school came from religion teachers who carved abstinence into our horny thighs. And no one ever spoke of sexuality.

Then at the meek age of 15, there was the illustrious `~*internet*~`. Smashed into the center of it all, I suffered in my poor attempt to untangle the webs of sexuality. Now at 18, with gossamer all over, I accept the fact that I’m sexually fluid. But in the clusterfuck that is sexuality, people can’t help but wonder what sexual fluidity is.

Before we even talk about what sexual fluidity is, let’s talk about gender. Look at how our society has manipulated us into believing in these binaries: growing up we are pushed to create these ideas of “femininity” and “masculinity” through our experiences. Young girls are taught to hide their livelihoods: their blood and their milk and their hair. They’re told to dress in the color of their flushed cheeks and speak with timid tongues. On the other hand, boys are steel, strong and cold. Leaky eyes and dents in their skin call for demolition, the ultimate demise. Society created these—essential—categories to put people in to make life simpler when in reality these constructs are incredibly complicated. Simply, people can be gender fluid and fall anywhere between the social constructs of “female” and “male.” They are the color black. Neither pink nor blue. Neither boy nor girl. Black bleeds into black; there are no lines.

Since people view gender in this non-binary way, they are open to all sorts of people sexually thus identifying as sexually fluid. Many young people, like Lily Depp, Kristen Stewart, and Cara Delevingne, have brought this idea to the forefront, openly rejecting sexual binaries. In fact, in an interview with Nylon magazine, Stewart—the queen of chill and authenticity—references the parameters of her sexuality and says “I am an actress, man. I live in the fucking ambiguity of this life and I love it.” She refuses to conform to any standard of sexuality, placing her in this grey area.

With these prominent women “coming out” as sexually fluid, one may think others will choose to identify as sexually fluid simply because celebrities are doing it. This is not a fad. This is very real. People genuinely feel they fall somewhere in between on the Kinsey scale—the scale of sexuality. In a survey conducted by YouGov, one in every three young American says they are not 100% heterosexual and not 100% homosexual. Since this generation is more progressive than their parents, they embrace the unknown, accepting the fact that they don’t conform to the sexual binaries society created.

The whole point of sexual fluidity is sexual algorithms don’t come into play: these people, myself included, leave their sexuality open to anyone. We aren’t stuck in a sexual limbo. We know what we’re doing, and we embrace our blurry sexual parameters.

Art by Olivia Rogers

Art by Olivia Rogers

Dear Pope Francis

The Creation of Adam  by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." -Albert Camus

By Kat Freydl

Dear Pope Francis, 

Let me start by saying this: I would not be a good protagonist. I am not beautiful or particularly brave. I’m weak and dependent and I lack a hook. I don’t have a good voice for reading poetry, which is especially unfortunate because my heart reaches for it. When I speak, my voice often shakes. I suppose that’s the beauty of the written word. Either you are reading this or you are not, and either way my voice isn’t shaking for you.

 I’m part of Generation Y. Sometimes I am proud of this, and other times I want to hide my face in a pillow. We are known for our indifference and our self-centeredness, and I would like to say this: if we do not care about us, who will? Certainly not the generation that calls us lazy but whose only obstacle was deciding which bank to put their life savings in. The generation chanting that Mike Brown deserved his demise. Don’t think I’m brave for being topical. There will always be a controversy to write an essay about.

(If I sound melodramatic, know that it is because I am angry. Teenagers always are. I think it’s because this is the age in which we starting realizing that nothing is fair and everything is permitted. Mazel tov.)

In 1982, Your Holiness, a student could work 9 hours per week, full time during school breaks, receiving minimum wage, and pay their college tuition in full with $3,500 to spare. Today, if a student worked for the same amount of time, they would come up $11,000 short. In addition to this, college admissions are more competitive than they’ve ever been; a 4.0 is no longer impressive. We must be book smart and altruistic and well-rounded and globally-minded. If taking a string of selfies makes a teenager feel better about their inevitable debt and crippling inadequacy in the eyes of college admissions boards, then so be it, I say. Please correct me if I say this in error.

I am not here to lament the comparative ease of being part of generations past compared to my own. Being a human comes with a set of struggles that aren’t bound by time. You will experience loss and disappointment and heartbreak. You will cry—oh, will you cry. This transcends generational barriers.  My point here is that sometimes I’m a little in love with my generation. We are impossible and dissatisfied and full of rage, but we make art. Boys kissing boys is more of a crime than shooting black teenagers in the streets, but we make art. We remind each other not to forget these things that are happening. On social media platforms that started as blogging websites, teenagers are posting pictures and links and information that you have to work for to scrounge from news networks. From my peers I’ve learned that there are more than two genders, that I am not lesser because I am a woman, that I am not lesser for who and what I love. Let me riddle you this:

 I’m sure you know all about oracle bones. In ancient China, they would carve Chinese characters into tortoiseshells or animal bones—questions—and heat them until they cracked, then interpret these cracks as the answers. I’m no oracle. I don’t know everything. I don’t know a fourth of everything. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve told you plenty of times in this essay all of the reasons why I’m not here, so let me tell you why I am: on Thursday afternoons, I used to go to philosophy club, a circle of teenagers on the floor talking about the universe, asking questions not deemed important enough to be in our school curricula. On Mondays, I went to GSA, and we’d talk with fire in our eyes about how great it was to be alive in a time on the cusp of revolution. To be part of the demographic that will make that revolution happen.

Know this: we are listening, Pope Francis. We are courageous. We are going forward. We are making noise.

 I think I’d like to be an anthropologist.

Most Sincerely Yours,

Katelyn J. Freydl

“You’re going to get where you’re going."

Photo by Mikey Jakubowski

Photo by Mikey Jakubowski

by Mikey Jakubowski

I’m sitting in the library on my laptop emailing a multitude of professors and deans, coffee dripping on me with every mouthful. I’ve been on the verge of tears all day, forcing myself to stay as busy as humanly possible; any minute I spend on breathing takes time away from figuring out my life, every detail, goal and step, all from my little corner of the university. As my mother continues to remind me, I am trying to answer question number 10 before I even answer question number 1.

If I know the answer to 10, I’ll know the answer to 1, right?

Earlier I got out of class, rushed to the quad, and called my mom, the most accessible number on my phone. I couldn’t handle it anymore: Yesterday I was dead set on switching to a completely different major, and today I am doubting my choices, sure again that my original major is what’s best for me. Follow your gut, I tell myself lately, but my gut is all over the place, and I only have so much energy to hold it still. There is no major at my university that allows for the various array of passions I have: Music, photography, film, modern languages, massage therapy, entrepreneurship, journalism, creative writing, botany… The list goes on. But I try to make it happen anyway. I try to do it all, and I try to throw graduating a year early into the mix. Without even meaning to, I convince myself that my college career defines my life.

I am woken from my weird personal-problems-computer-coffee fixation: There is a person walking towards me. They are red in the face and they something to me like, “Hi, I’m sorry, you probably will think this is creepy, but I was in the quad earlier and I heard you on the phone…”

Oh no. I’ve ruined my cover. Someone other than my mother has discovered my secret self-deprecating issues (“secret” heh).

“…and I thought I’d just share that my friend was a theater major, almost finished her degree, and now studies Spanish at a new school, and she loves it. She was an intern translator over the summer and fell in love, decided she wanted to change her theater major to a minor and her Spanish minor to a major.”

I am immediately humbled and, yet again, on the verge of tears. The simple act of reaching out to me to make me feel better completely trumps my embarrassment of being overheard in the quad. I am speechless while they talk but finally find the right words: “Thank you.” After we introduce ourselves and I explain my dilemma a little more, she tells me she is the same kind of person, the kind of person whose passions outweigh the possibilities, the kind of person who is all over the place, who is ambidextrous and always switching which hand they use to write.

She explains that she has transferred multiple times and switched her major even more, but she is here and she is studying what she loves and then she’ll graduate and she’ll do what she loves, undeterred by the amount of times she has made and remade up her mind.

“My sister lives in New York and works in a museum. I don’t get to see her much, but she gave me some of the best advice I’ve been given, that people don’t care what you studied in college. They care that you have a degree, that you have experience, that you have passion and ideas to contribute. Don’t worry if you’re doing the right thing, studying the right thing; study what you want. You’re going to get where you’re going.”

My parents have said it a thousand times before (“Trust the process,” my mom always says to me), and I’ve trusted them, but there’s something special in hearing it from someone you’ve never talked to before, someone you may never talk to again. This stranger had heard me in the quad and felt the need to share a little piece of love, of clarity, birthed from the same confusion and struggling she had gone through. There’s something to be said about the issues we all try to handle, and it’s that we’re all having them. It’s that, like my parents and this stranger have tried to tell me, there’s no use in stressing over the parts of your life you have not yet lived.

Accept the anonymity of your future. Welcome it, envelop it. You will be quick to find that the wonder of it all, the sheer amount of lives you could live, will always outweigh the fear.

The University of Uncertainty

Taken by Annie Zidek

Taken by Annie Zidek

By Joseph Longo

I picked the wrong college and it is only the first week of classes.

But here is the thing: I knew this all along, and I have accepted it. Back in January when most of my friends eagerly anticipated receiving their acceptance letters, I no longer admired my pick of  colleges and universities.

While thoroughly enjoying my time as a teenager filled with endless friends and memories, when it came time to pick schools I knew wanted change. Instead of a school dominated by suburban, Christian students, diversity was my goal. Out came small schools of only a few thousand and in came grandiose universities. No more days going to the same eight classes with the same rotating thirty faces, but instead big lecture halls full of unrecognizable persons. I had it all figured out.

Yet the funny thing about change is it can squeeze into the most solidified and secure of plans. From September to December of 2014 was self-proclaimed “coming of age” period where I realized exactly who “Joe Longo” wanted to be. I altered my clothing choices, frequented Chicago’s various neighborhoods, and embraced my truer self. But I could not alter my choice in universities. Much to my dismay, that decision was permanent.

While my peers made Instagram posts excitingly announcing their college of choice and proudly wore their universities on College Tee Shirt Day, I sheepishly announced on social media and wore a muted long sleeve. Wallowing in my negativity, I refused to embrace my choice in disbelief the path I was to embark on in just a few months.

Yet as senior year and my time in my hometown community came to an end, the dread of heading off to college failed to cease. Much to my parents dismay, little excitement preceded this new venture. We endlessly reviewed my options. I could stay home and attend the local community college for a year, but there would be no change in environment. Or I could go off to the prestigious university which had accepted me and make the best of the situation--the most logical answer. But I didn’t like that idea either. Stubbornness and perfection have always encompassed me.

It was not until my dorm room was decorated and inhabited with my personal belongings, that I accepted this campus would be my new home. It was not until spending much of the first week walking alone trying to find not only my classes but also a sense of self in this community, did I realize who I was. I had spent the majority of my summer refusing to acknowledge the many blessings this new chapter in my life would consist of. In my negative mindset, I forgot how fortunate I was to go away to college, to attend such a renown university, and to pursue a degree in a field I loved.

While still unsure I will find enjoyment and success at my current university, I can not know without embracing my new surrounding. After all, my choices will affect my journey. Going in negatively will surely have an unfavorable outcome. That’s the beauty of accepting uncertainty: I will not know what will come until I go alone.

Taken by Annie Zidek

Taken by Annie Zidek