Week 1 with NYSAF

July 2nd

The Metro North to Poughkeepsie on the Hudson line
The Metro North to Poughkeepsie on the Hudson line

Took the Metro North on the Hudson line which proved to be a beautiful commute.  Brittany, one of the company management interns, picked me up at the station.  After checking in at the office and getting a welcome packet, Brittany gave me a tour of the campus and I got to see the Abigail set, which looks amazing.  There are trees on stage!

My dorm room in the Cushing House at Vassar
My dorm room in the Cushing House at Vassar

Got settled into my dorm room at the Cushing House, which sits on the utmost northern edge of Vassar and also snuggles up with a cemetery, which I can see outside my window!  I can hear my superstitious mother sighing as I write this.  Funny enough, I never had the dorm room experience during my own college days and felt like I missed out on something that is so purely collegiate and possibly formative.  So now I get my wish.  Luckily I’m in one of the houses that actually has air conditioning.   Apparently the third floor of the house is haunted and some of the cleaning staff won’t go up there.

Around 6:30pm, I met up with Becca (Asst Producer), Emma (Barnard playwriting fellow) and Victoria (Producing intern).  We all went to the Beech Tree for dinner. I’m told this is the unofficial NYSAF hang out.   

After dinner, we headed to one of the TA’s (Terrace Apartments) where the interns were doing a reading of a play written by one of the production assistants.  It was really kind of funny and eye opening to see everyone reading the script off their macbooks, which was also responsible for raising the heat index of the already non-air conditioned apartment. The sight of all these macbook owners pleases me since I actually own stock in Apple.  It was great hearing new work and getting to know the interns.  My rule of thumb for surviving residencies and theater conferences in general is to get to know the interns. They will be of enormous help.

July 3rd

Met with Johanna (Artistic Director) and Becca today to discuss what I want to do during my residency.  I told them I wanted to finish my play The Commencement of William Tan and possibly do another pass at The Man From Saigon. We also discussed sitting in on some rehearsals.  My friend and fellow playwright Stephen Belber is rehearsing his play The Power of Duff at NYSAF, so I’ll definitely check out some of those rehearsals.  After the meeting I went for a run around Vassar campus in an attempt to orient myself. According to my runkeeper app,  the campus is approximately 3 miles in diameter.  

Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar
Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar

After my inaugural run, I checked out what everyone refers to as Hogwarts (the library) and oh my God it totally looks like Hogwarts inside and out.  There are tons of nooks to settle into.  I opted for the periodicals section on the second floor because it has tons of space including reading tables and lounges. Now if it would only serve butter beer, then I would be in hog heaven.  Or should I say Hogwarts heaven?  (rimshot.  drops mic).

July 4th 

So everything on campus shut down today, which makes my decision to go on a grocery run the night before seem downright clairvoyant.  

FDR Hudson Bridge - Poughkeepsie, NY
FDR Hudson Bridge – Poughkeepsie, NY

I kicked off the holiday with a morning run through Poughkeepsie.  I ran from the campus all the way down to the Hudson and across the FDR Hudson bridge.  The round trip was 7 miles!  Take that young Bruce Jenner!  I also got some awesome photos of the bridge.  I got back in time to jump in the shower and then off to the Apprentice Program’s site specific show, where the apprentices wrote, acted, and directed short pieces all round the campus.  The show kicked off under the big tree in front of the Hogwarts (the library).  I never noticed how big that tree was, but it’s fucking enormous.

Gigantic tree in front of the Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar
Gigantic tree in front of the Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar

After the show I decided to sit outside and write.  I found a bench under some shade and read a magazine (my pre warmup writing ritual) and then I decided it was too hot to do any actual writing.  So I went back to my dorm room where it’s air conditioned (thank God).  I wrote a bit in the dorm room.  Then it was time to head over to the TA’s bbq organized by the interns.

It was a really nice bbq.  We had the usual burgers and hot dogs, as well as fruit and of course beer.   Also got to chat a bit with my friend and fellow playwright Stephen Belber, who is workshopping his play The Power of Duff.  Also really cool was the fact that Chloe Sevigny and Jon Hamm were there.  I probably won’t ever get used to this kind of stuff happening.

July 5th

Today I spent most of my time writing at Hogwarts.  Ran into Becca at the Retreat and we chatted a little bit about casting.  She gave me her copy of the apprentice audition forms, and what’s really nifty about it is that there’s little thumbnails of the apprentice’s headshots, which makes jotting down notes so much easier.  Also happy to find out I can bring up a director for my informal reading of WILLIAM TAN.

For dinner, I ventured into town to a place called Tokyo Express.  It’s a charming little sushi restaurant.  Their Titanic roll was yummy and appropriately named.

July 6th

After a late night of writing, I woke up a little groggy.  Went for a run, just around the campus.  My legs are still sore from the 7 mile run I did on the 4th.  Today I planned on heading straight to the library to write but had to head back to my dorm room to take a conference call at work.

Tonight, I checked out ABIGAIL starring Chloe Sevigny. Emma and I were relegated to sitting up by the light booth, which doesn’t sound too bad until you have to climb up a dark three story spiral staircase lit only by the light of your phone.  I really enjoyed the play.  It’s a fascinating look at the life of Abigail Williams, arguably the central character in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.  This play focuses on what happened to her after the Salem Witch trials, in which she was responsible for the hanging of several of her friends.  It’s a great and original idea and I felt it was really well executed.  After the show, Emma and I walked back to the dorms, and it was nice and convenient to know I could go see a night of theater and then just walk 2 minutes and I’d be back in my room.  Ah, college.  Read Week 2 and Week 3