Archives For travel

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A former student of mine, now a good friend, gave me a call not long ago and we tossed around dates for me to come visit him out in Seattle. Nothing was gelling properly, and I have yet to make firm plans to get out there, but I know I will before long. But the conversation got me thinking about travel and other far-flung people I know, and so a plan was hatched to take a last-minute road trip out east.

Facebook can be a very interesting way to plan a trip. Last March I kicked around ideas for spring break road trip on a post and I was amazed at the number of people who suggested that I come see them in places like Colorado, California, or Massachusetts. So for this trip all I had to do was put up an Instagram picture I took of the northeast U.S. and within 24 hours I had a trip planned, based on the comments and suggestions people left.

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First stop was Asbury Park, New Jersey. Hometown of Bruce Springsteen and yearly vacation haunt for one of my old Limelight directors and his wife. After spending the morning having a run in the Manasquan Reservoir, I met them on the boardwalk and they showed me the sights. Asbury Park seems like its on the verge of something, and there are only a handful of reminders left that this was Bruce’s “city of ruins” for a while. The downtown is clean and trendy, the boardwalk is expanding, and people will always, always want to spend their summers on the beach.

Up next was Providence, Rhode Island and a Brown graduate I once taught, a long time ago. Same class as the earlier student. Hadn’t seen her in at least five years, and it was probably longer than that since we had a proper conversation with each other. So of course we talked about Harry Potter all night and our opinion of the new story. I got the grand tour of Brown, and we bounced around from place to place, eating and drinking, and enjoying each other’s company more and more as the night went on. A former student, now a good friend.

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On to Boston. I had originally planned to spend 2-3 nights here, but wound up trimming up this leg to just one night, once the meetings and work responsibilities started piling up. Saw a former work buddy of mine for the first time in sixteen years. I last saw him back in 2000 when I was helping my friend Randy move back from Baltimore. We chatted over beers and local cider and caught up properly, and I left that night happy that I still had this man as a friend.

And then it was time to head west and for home. While I drove through upstate New York I started sketching plans in my head for a longer visit next summer, maybe, hopefully. Hope to stick around in the states for my summer wanderings. And of course I still need to get to Seattle.

I stopped for the night in Eire, Pennsylvania, on recommendation from a parent of former students of mine, and yes, now a friend. I ate blackened swordfish and roasted potatoes and walked along the lakefront and watched the sun set, aware for the first time in a long, long while that I actually felt happy.

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For me, the greatness of Britain isn’t defined by family ancestry, its political history or imperial might, as fascinating and checkered as that topic can be. Rather, it is Britain’s cultural contributions that continue to entertain and inspire me. The Beatles and Belle & Sebastian, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and of course, Mr. William Shakespeare.

It is 2016, and that means that William Shakespeare has been dead for exactly 400 years.

It is my second night in England, and I am watching a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. A Play for the Nation.

I listen to the lines of the play roll out from the actors’ mouths. I recognize Peter Hamilton Dyer’s voice even before I see his face. “Full of vexation come I, with complaint against my child, my daughter Hermia.” I am pulled back suddenly to the Globe, in London, and it is 2002 and Dyer stands at the edge of the stage, as the Fool, Feste, verbally sparring with Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night. It is a warm summer’s night and I am on my first solo trip to Britain.

“How now, spirit? Whither wander you?”

Puck enters. The words continue to ring out, familiar and comforting, this most familiar of plays.

We are backstage in a bombed-out theatre, apparently sometime in the 40s, during the war. The fairies resemble child evacuees, sweater vests and brown leather shoes. Titania and Oberon otherworldly and exotic, India and Africa, reminders of Britain’s colonial empire.

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The Mechanicals scatter. The Lovers battle.

Nick Bottom dreams.

It is 2003 and I am directing my first show by Shakespeare. Titania and Oberon spar over a child. The Mechanicals rehearse. The Lovers wed.

Bottom dreams.

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It is 2012 and I am again in the wood, with the fairies and the lovers and the actors. “It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream.” It is 2014 and I am back at the Globe, saying hello to one of my British heroes, Mark Rylance. It is 2011 and I am directing Feste and Olivia and I am saying goodbye to the only family I created.

It is 2016 and I am in London at the British Library, walking through ten acts of Shakespeare. Vivian Leigh stands imperious and commanding as Titania. Peter Brook strips everything away but the truth and tells his Midsummer in a white box. In the next room I stare at Rylance’s original costume for Olivia.

It is 2016 and I am again at the Globe, watching another performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this play for the nation, England or Britain, a no-longer united kingdom that today has voted to leave the European Union and bring about its eventual destruction.

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Shakespeare has been dead for 400 years, and yet his life and his work lives and breathes everywhere I look. His words transport me through my own life, across stages and classrooms and cast parties. He reminds me over and over again about the importance of art and dreams and stories, and the responsibility I have, with my own small talents, to keep telling those stories to new audiences. He reminds me to give dreams to people.

“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.”

Bottom wakes.

It is 2016. I am behind the wheel of a brand-new BMW 3 Series. I am driving on the left. I am terrified and I am exhilarated all at once.

I am heading north.

 

We begin in an airport bar, as stories like these usually do. I am sipping a beer and writing in a notebook, watching hot, tired, and cranky people pass me by. I can’t tell who’s starting their trip or ending it. Airports generally bring about the worst sort of resignation in people

And as all stories about me and my wanderings go, we must begin with exposition and a soliloquy and establish internal struggles.

I have a job. I teach mostly math, and a bit of reading, to gifted kids. I am now known as a somewhat-expert in the field of gifted education. Endorsed and whatnot. A while ago I told myself it was time to start specializing in things, pick a lane and go. Gifted was one, drama another, history is in there somewhere as well. The gifted thing is fine, but these days there is little room for drama and history in gifted education. The era of STEM.

And so I teach Math. And I find ways to be creative. My fourth graders wrote a play, and it was wonderful. The kind of thing worth getting out of bed for in the morning.

It is time to board my plane.

I stare out the window at a darkening sky and I fly east, as a continent rolls away and a great ocean stretches endlessly before me. I sit in silence. I read, a little. Try to sleep, and fail to do so. The plane is dark as the people around me sleep and dream or pretend to sleep and dream.

I am thinking about a conversation I had with a former student the other night. A former student, a former member of my theatre company. No – I am the former member. We are recreating a scene from a play I wrote 13 years ago. She is giving me counsel. She, like so many others, is wondering where I’ve been. I have barely left my house in three weeks.

I have not been myself lately. Or, more to the point, I have been too much of myself lately.

I am on a train. I am in England. Green, lovely England.

I have been awake for over 24 hours. But I’ve done this many, many times, and I can function well on autopilot. Grab my bag, find an ATM, top up the local SIM-card-with-unlimited-data-in-Ireland-and-the-UK.

It is sunny in Stratford-upon-Avon as my bag rolls along the cobbled high street and I pass the home where William Shakespeare was born. I arrive at my hotel only to find out Google Maps has directed me to one of TWO hotels in Stratford with the name Premier Inn, and so, sweating and becoming more and more exhausted by the moment, I walk another ten minutes and finally arrive.

There is time for a shower and a meal in the hotel restaurant before I collapse in a wide bed with white sheets and soft, plush pillows.

It is nine pm, and I sleep deeply, and I dream.

Tomorrow a woman named Jo Cox will be murdered on the street while visiting her local constituents as an MP of the British government. It will be the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom as we know it.

Must Be Nice

February 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Let’s just come straight to the point: I’m a teacher, and I get my summers off. And not everyone is as lucky as I am to have that much time off.

This is not going to be a screed about how we teachers “deserve” that time off from all the extra hours we supposedly put in, nor will it be an itemized comparison of salaries, job benefits, or a whine about how we’ve become corporate America’s favorite whipping boy. I’m not interested in that argument right now, because it’s not an easy one to win on either side. We get our summers off. Must be nice. ‘Nuff said.

In my fifteen years of teaching, I’ve taken a total of one summer completely off from working: 2012, when I packed up everything and moved to Dublin for six months to study theatre at UCD. Every other summer was spent working very, very hard for my theatre company I started. That usually wrapped up in late July/early August, and then I’d take my summer cash and travel overseas for a couple of weeks before returning to start another school year.

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Directing “All These Will Be Worthless”, Limelight Summer 2010. Photo by Amy Weiland.

Last summer I worked for Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development, a program for gifted youth offering classes in everything from advanced math and science courses to the playwriting course I taught. The program gears more towards the STEM realm of study, and so they’re not offering my theatre course this year. There is a possibility of me teaching a documentary film class, but I haven’t heard from them in over a month about this, so at this point I’m ready to start thinking of other plans.

And those plans involve heading back to Dublin for a while. Things haven’t really been the same for me ever since I headed back, and I’m finding it harder and harder to get excited about The Future over here. Some in my profession are getting excited (or are at least preparing for) all of the Big Changes that are coming, but I am afraid that I am not one of them. Certainly not from a desire to keep doing everything as I was fifteen years ago; I’m not one of those teachers who fear change or progress. I guess I’m one of those educators that looks at it this way: we’re just swapping out one set of rules and instructions for another, and we teachers love our rules and instructions. I’ve always been one who takes a casual glance at the instructions, then works from my instincts the rest of the time. This works for some, but in a profession that tends to be populated by rule followers, it means I’m also one that exists on the margins of things, as my habits can be frustrating to some.

I had my turn when I was the guy on all the committees, the one deemed worthy and important by the Ruling Gods, the last time we had our Big Changes come through. We made new rules and new instructions and those lasted a few years until the Old Gods went away and New Gods arrived. And now we’re dancing to a very familiar tune and it’s a song I never liked much the first time I heard it. I’m dreading all of the “here’s how you do it now” memorandums that are coming.

But anyway. For now I am presented with a summer free from youth theatre, free from responsibilities, free from committees and summer school and recertification demands. I will make sure that I am ready for the Big Changes that are coming for next school year, but I am more interested in following my instincts and a desire to chase that side of me that craves wandering and creating. This is a rare gift to have, this time to myself, and I am aware of how lucky that makes me, in a time where so many are struggling.

I’ve carved out a deeply-important second life over in Dublin, and so I’ll return there to catch up with old friends, explore old places and new ones, and always, always to search for some sort of guidance or inspiration for whatever I’m going to do with the rest of my life.

You know, like always, with me.

Wise Sam

October 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

Now that I’m feeling back to almost-normal, I’m beginning to socialize again. Caught up with some friends tonight, and saw their new baby, but I’ll save that story for tomorrow. Tonight, I’ll tell a quick story about my lunch with Sam.

Sam was a member of my theatre company, and was my leading lady for my last few shows. She was a great Olivia* in Twelfth Night for my final show with Limelight, and stuck with me through the difficult production of All These Will Be Worthless. And she’s recently returned from a semester study abroad in France.

Marty and Co. out for a night on the town.

Marty and Co. out for a night on the town. (Sam’s on the left with the awesome stink-face.)

Had I been living in Dublin last spring I could have shown her around when she came through for a visit, or I could have bopped over to France to see what life in Angers was like. (Side note: for as cultured as I think I am, European-travel-wise, I really don’t know my French pronunciations.) That’s one of my bigger regrets of not being able to live over there the full year: I never got to have any visitors. Plenty of people I know were in Europe last spring, and I know others had vague plans to come over and see me. Le sigh.

I hadn’t seen Sam for almost two years, and back then she was a high school kid, so there wasn’t much conversing beyond casual chit-chat in-between rehearsals and performances. But she’s a seasoned European traveler now, and deep into her studies at school, so we had a long, long conversation about our travels, the experience of living in another country, the cultural differences, and the truths and falsehoods in this New York Times article.

Whenever people ask me about my time abroad, they’re usually happy with a couple of sentences and then they’re ready to move on. And I get it. While everyone else was busy working and raising a family, I was off having adventures and learning theatre from some fairly legendary people. But they were transformative experiences, and sometimes I’m just dying to talk about them, in detail, and what they all meant. And Sam’s the same way, so it was comforting to be able to open up and really talk about it with someone. We could look each other in the eyes, after telling a story, and we understood. And the one thought that kept forcing its way to the front of our conversation was always, “When are we going back?”**

*I was lucky enough to have two wonderful actresses named Sam play Olivia in Twelfth Night; I’ll talk about the other one another day.

**I will admit, there are many days where I feel like this guy…

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Thundercrack

October 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Woke early and enjoyed a third morning of being able to read and drink coffee at my leisure. Graded papers until around noon, then decided to take a long drive. Followed Rt. 71 westward, the cool autumn air whipping around the inside of my car as I listened to Dylan’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack and the first album by The Head and the Heart. Same albums I played over and over again during my various winter trips across the eastern half of the United States.

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Sun shone through the cornfields, glowing in the afternoon light. Pictures never do it justice, the way the fields look this time of year, contrasting against the blue sky and the deep green grass lining the roads. This is the Midwest at its loveliest, and I wish it could just stay this way forever. Not looking forward to the long six months of brown and grey and dead everything.


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Drove through Newark and Norway and a surprisingly vibrant-looking Ottawa. Used to drive this route all the time twenty years ago, back and forth from school to home and back again. I gas up and I hear a group of farmers chatting. Gas smell on my hands is pleasant, makes me think of the short time I did farm work myself.

Jump back in the car, now a time machine, continuing all the way to Starved Rock, last refuge of the real Fighting Illini, according to legend and a somewhat sketchy oral history. Obscure Springsteen tracks pour out of my stereo as I wind through a canopy of orange and yellow and russet. Take a short walk in the state park along the Illinois River, careful not to aggravate the various ailments plaguing me. Only thing I’m good for these days are sitting with a nose in my book, or driving in my car.

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Traffic is slow in spots as cars queue up behind a combine or a grain truck lumbering their way to the side roads. For some reason I spot no less than three abandoned cars along Rt. 71. For a moment I wonder if I’m heading towards some apocalyptic disaster, and the cars are the only remainders of those who tried to flee.

Then “Thundercrack” comes on and I forget all about the apocalypse.

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Institutionalized

March 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

Okay, enough with the the wanderer-is-lost repetitive business. Let’s look at this thing from another point of view. Because when all you have is time to think, it’s very easy to see things from many different perspectives. Why, sometimes I’ll have six different opinions on something before breakfast. (Apologies to Lewis Carroll for that one.)

Recently, I had to make a decision about what I’m doing next year, and deliver it in writing to my employers by March 1st. To say that I was conflicted about that decision is an understatement. I even had two letters written up, in case I changed my mind at the last minute. Which is typical of me. Sometimes I have a tough time deciding on something.

We’re not going to get into which letter was turned in, and what I’m doing come fall, because that’s a long ways off, and a lot could change between now and then. And while living in this strange ghostly limbo life has its downsides, it’s also kind of awesome. Let’s unpack that a bit, shall we?

1. I have a lot of time to myself.

I like to write, I like to read, I like to create websites. I also like to get lost in my head when I’m going through some big decision-making, and right now my lifestyle has a lot of room for all of that. Subbing in a high school room? While the kids are taking a test or watching Patton, I get to debate with myself different options for my future. Maybe write a bit. And read practically all of the Internet. I haven’t worked for the past two days, so I got to overhaul BrianFauth.com and finally create a theatre portfolio/personal website I’m pretty pleased with. And I got caught up on The Walking Dead.

2. I get to drop everything and go wherever I want.

When my buddy Drew suggested I go to the presidential Inauguration with him, it only took a few minutes before I said, “why not?” Free place to stay in South Carolina? Hey, why not drive down there and hang out in the south for a few weeks. Explore some historical sites and cities and listen to a lot of podcasts while crossing the Appalachian mountains. Not a bad life. Granted, I still have to pay for gas, food, and the occasional hotel room, so I’m a bit broke at the moment. And not getting a call to work for the past two days is putting a bit of a damper on possible future road trips.

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The Shenandoah Valley

3. This is all part of a Grand Plan even I can’t really explain. But I’ll try.

Let’s not forget the simple fact that I got to live in Europe for six whole months. My time in Dublin and at UCD was fantastic; we all know that. But it was the living over there that really taught me something; I only get so much from sitting in a classroom. Thomas Jefferson, when he founded the University of Virginia, didn’t want to issue degrees; he wanted it to be a place where you could go until you felt you had learned enough, and then you could move on with your life. Del Close, the famous Second City teacher, once said to Jon Favreau (the director of Iron Man and Elf), “Why would you go to school to learn about theatre?” He thought it more important to learn about philosophy and life and finding The Truth.

(I needed a certain number of classes to get a theatre endorsement, so there was a practical element to taking classes over there, but it was really about living a different life and spending time with some dear friends, while I could. Get a little bit closer to The Truth.)

I want to become a better theatre director, but I also want to become a better teacher as well. For the past few years, I’ve started to get honors and awards, and the phrase The Best Teacher I Ever Had starts getting thrown around a lot. And all of that is great, believe me. But the more you do the same job, in the same room, with the same lessons and jokes and stories, it’s very easy to become an institution. Mr. Fauth and Viking Day and the impressions and the Simpsons jokes.

I’m not really interested in being Institutionalized (in any sense of the word!) I wanted to kind of blow up everything and start over. Give away everything in my classroom, sell half of my possessions, start over somewhere else. Learn how to do it all over again. And subbing? That strips you back to the essentials real quick. No one knows who you are when you walk into that room, and you’ve got 41 minutes, or 48, or maybe a day to win them over. You aren’t The Famous Mr. Fauth. You’re just Some Guy, and if you can get a room full of bored high school kids to listen to you, then you can do just about anything.

So wherever I go and whatever I do come fall, even if it’s right back in the same 5th grade classroom, hopefully I’ve reset myself enough that I can bring something new into the room, and keep myself fresh and energized for the next round of this thing called life.

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To the Elephant! My personal motto for living life.

The Sea-Bell

March 17, 2013 — 5 Comments

Today I drove around for a couple of hours, to nowhere in particular. I do this a lot lately.

Trying to stay in one place for a bit, save some money for the next round of wandering. But I tend to get in my car a lot and just drive, mostly the back country roads, so I can listen to the radio and get lost in my thoughts for a while. I’ve driven these roads countless times over the years, so I’m always searching for a new, unexplored route.

I bounce from classroom to classroom during the week, a different teacher every day. Some days I sit in the corner of a high school class while they watch 40-year old films to learn about World War II. Some days I entertain eight-year olds and they think I am a god.

Often I see former students and former Limelighters, and it is always a happy reunion. Still smiling about the bear hug I got from an eighth grader I had a few years ago; he stopped by my room every passing period of the day, just to keep saying hi.

On one of my drives I swung by my house, where another man now lives, where my neighbors are complaining of branches that are creeping across the divide into their patio. I forgot to bring any branch cutters, and so the small tree continues to grow and trespass onto another property.

Sometimes I stop driving and I walk inside a school and I sit in the back and watch my former company of actors and directors move on without me. During the intervals new ideas flood into my head and I scribble them down in a small black notebook. I have lots of ideas these days.

I continue work on a new play I started last fall, back in the writing course I took at UCD. I dust off an old one and I strip it back to only what’s necessary. I outline, I write dialogue, I collect pictures and think about color palettes and light plots and scene design.

And I think about teaching, the real job, and I wonder what I’m going to do with myself.

The old life is right there, if I want it. I can move back into my old house, my old classroom is waiting for me, and all my old friends are here. Everything could go right back to the way it was.

One of my best friends mentioned something about “getting it out of your system” when I moved to Ireland. My grandmother said the same thing. A lot of people say things like “Well, now you can say you’ve done it, and you’ve got no regrets.” Like it’s a box I wanted to just tick off on the Brian Fauth Bucket List.

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Once upon a time, I could have settled down and loved a woman and raised a family, and maybe that would have been a good life.

Once upon a time, I got on a plane and I flew across the ocean and I saw great cities and I met lovely people and I climbed green hills and I watched a continent pass by my train window.

Once upon a time, I thought I could go back to doing what I did before, and what I did better than anyone else, and I thought that would be enough. But that was a long time ago.

I’m like one of those guys in the old stories, the ones who forget the instructions and accept the gifts of the Fair Folk. There’s always a price to be paid when visiting the Twilight Realm; when you return home, nothing is ever the same again. You drift through life as a shadow, and try as you might, you can never find your way back again.

And so I drive and I drive and I drive, through the end of a bleak and cold winter, and I watch the snow melt along the roadside, and I stare out into the horizon, searching for a new route to take me home.

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In Dublin

August 15, 2012 — 7 Comments

Friends, family, students, actors, and random people stumbling across this thing: Welcome, I says!

So…I’m living in Dublin now. Most of you knew that already, but for those that had no idea I had left my job teaching fifth grade (or the other one running a theatre company), um…yeah. Big changes, right?

I’ll spend some time detailing exactly how I came to the decision to pack up one life and start another in future posts. For now, the short answer is this: I’m taking a year’s leave from teaching and will be attending University College Dublin to get a Master of Arts in Directing for Theatre. I’m hoping to do more theatre education in my career, and I felt it was time to add some tools to the toolkit. And, you know, actually study theatre for once instead of just making it up as I go.

I’ll be writing about four main subjects on this site: teaching and theatre, travel and tech. In whatever order I want, when I want.

My students wanted a way to keep in touch with me and follow my travels, so that was the beginning of this site. Some of them will be reading this, some may even comment, so we’re keeping things nice and clean on here. No angst-ridden tales of sorrow, no political rants, no swearing. And that goes for the comments as well, so keep it nice and positive, people.

Students: remember your internet safety lessons: don’t put your full name OR your email address in the comments if you happen to leave one. “Liz H” or “Mike A” will suffice. I’ll know who you are.

The site is pretty bare-bones right now, so sit tight while I tinker and add some cool stuff. You can subscribe to it via email or RSS, depending on how tech-savvy you are. I don’t know how often I’ll be updating, but I promise I’ll do my best to be fairly regular about it.

For now, feel free to say hello in the comments, and stay tuned for the next post.

Knowing the Ropes

August 15, 2012 — 12 Comments

The first time Limelight tackled Shakespeare was in 2001. I ran a one-week workshop where we took The Tempest and cut it down into a faster, easier show for young actors to perform. I then turned it over to another director while I busied myself with getting The Hobbit ready for its debut.

The kids that were a part of that show always liked to laugh about how in the opening scene, during the “shipwreck,” they had to pretend to be working the ropes for the sails, shouting and pulling and grabbing at nothing. It was always told as part of the, “look how silly and low-budget our early shows were” conversations that would pop up from time to time.

Last Saturday I caught an open-air production of The Tempest in the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. And during their version of the opening scene, they didn’t bother using actual “ropes” either. Just some guys yelling and a few simple set pieces to suggest a ship’s prow and the waves crashing over them.

It was very reassuring to see, actually. I’m over here to dig deeper into my theatrical knowledge, which has been an exciting and terrifying experience so far. I like knowing that even in a well-publicized production in Dublin, Ireland, they still have guys grasping at nothing. It reminds me that I might actually be able to do this thing.