If you had asked me in March how long I thought we’d be in quarantine, I would’ve said until June. (I wasn’t even really taking it seriously yet in March to be honest.) In June, on my birthday, while I was sitting on my floor, watching Disney movies, drinking Bourbon from the bottle, smoking my vape pen (sorry mom), and eating ramen, I had a moment of “This is never really going to end is it?”
Like everyone else, quarantine has been a total mind fuck. There have been really, really good times and really, really low times. I’ve mentioned I’ve been dealing with great loss, trying to figure my job situation out, and trying to figure out how to be on my own when I have never, ever, ever really been on my own.
But lately, I’ve been thinking: what makes me happy? What am I holding on to? What makes me roll my eyes in a fun way? What’s something I’d be sharing over drinks while I smoke a cigarette and dramatically roll my eyes about?
Yes, I miss human contact. We all do. But to be honest, there are a lot of humans I’d have to see if we weren’t in quarantine that I’d rather not and that’s been kind of a blessing in disguise. Being able to say “Oh darn. Covid, you know?” is great!
So, today, I want to focus on joy, on what makes me happy.
HAVE YOU HEARD FOLKLORE? BECAUSE YOU SHOULD. HAVE YOU SEEN BLACK IS KING? YOU SHOULD! It’s like all my favorite artists got together and were like “Rachel needs this.” And I am so, so thankful. Like, all I really need now is for Rihanna to drop the album and I will forgive 2020 for being a sh*tshow.
#2 I love this city
I’ve always been outdoorsy-lite. Like I enjoy casually walking through the woods but if you make me climb a mountain I will complain the entire time. I love swimming but if I have to constantly out-swim waves that could literally break my back if I got caught in one…….I’ll just stay on the shore. I love that Madison also seems to be choose your own adventure about the outdoors. Like sure if you wanted you could do the more intensive activities but you can also rent a kayak for $10/hour and just kind of float without ever leaving the city. There are two boat rental places within walking distance of me. I can walk every morning and end up at the lake. I can walk around downtown to bars/restaurants (when they’re open again, this will once again be a major selling point). Madison feels like a city full of people who sorta like the outdoors but need to make it to happy hour so they won’t get too crazy.
And that’s a vibe I can get into.
Saved the best for last. Day job aside, I have not talked enough about how much my career changed post-COVID, in a good way. I was devastated by losing FIVE WORLD PREMIERES this year. Do you have any idea how SEXY it would’ve been to have FIVE WORLD PREMIERES?
My immediate impulse is think what it would’ve done for my career. But I think all of that energy, that “what would’ve happened” happened anyway. I got a literal life-saving opportunity right in the middle of March from Florida Studio Theatre and we’re still working together. I’ve had so many readings that I’ve had to start turning some of them down.
(On that note, I’m not sure why but I HATE when ADs call me “up and coming” or they say they “discovered” me. Um, no. Just because you, specifically hadn’t heard of me that doesn’t mean you “discovered” me. There are five people who I will let say the”discovered” and that was all pre-2018 so check yourself. Especially when they say up and coming Black playwright. Like, again, just because the current state of things has challenged you to find more BIPOC writers, that doesn’t mean you discovered us. Stop trying to Columbus our stories and our narratives.)
Each day feels like I’m solidifying stronger connections and growing my network and it’s truly been incredible.
OH! AND DID I MENTION I STARTED A WHOLE ASS THEATRE COMPANY???? Starting RLTC has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. But it’s also been one of the most rewarding.
What is the point of moving my career forward if I don’t bring others up with me? I started to feel really limited by PWIs and I wanted to find a way to show my plays before they are watered down by white ADs BUT I ALSO wanted to give people opportunities to play more complex roles. I also wanted to change the institution of theatre itself and how staff are paid, how people are hired, and who we focus on. What good is it to make it on my own? I want to bring my community up with me.
And RLTC gives me a chance to bring others up with me. Who knows how long we’ll survive. Who knows if we get funding. But I have to do this. And it’s been so amazing to hire and pay BIPOC artists who are queer and who are women.
It’s been so healing and so powerful to be in the room full of artists who I respect watching us make this sort of impossible thing happen.
I’ve said that I’m drawn to plays that asks where is the joy. Plays that refuse trauma-informed storytelling and instead leans into our power, our strength, our joy.
And yes, the pandemic may be crushing but it’ll never take my power. Don’t let it take yours.