A month ago Jonas, the great blizzard of 2016 that pummeled the east coast with several feet of snow, kept me home for a day. As previously chronicled here, I picked up a guitar for the first time then, thanks to a little help from my roommate. Four weeks later, I've continued playing every day, and progressed from strumming each required chord once as I clumsily move my fingers through the progressions, to playing something resembling a proper strumming pattern, moving through many chord changes with ease. In the last week or so, I've started tackling barre chords, which finally opens up... well, all of music. (I spent the first couple weeks proudly posting videos of my progress to facebook, admitting that I was skipping an occasional chord and singing a cappella over it.) Funny how "Space Oddity" is a lot more satisfying to play when you aren't skipping four chords all the time.
As I mentioned in that post about learning Hebrew and guitar, a Ravenclaw heart beats strong in me, its eagle wings fluttering at the opportunity to learn new things. I'm absolutely a studious nerd at heart. As a straight-A student through high school, who graduated with honors from NYU, one of the things I've found hardest about transitioning to adult life (still, almost four years out of school) is the lack of benchmarks for progress. No one returns your paid bill to you with an A on it. I don't work at any of the kinds of jobs that give year-end reviews; I have only my own assessments to determine how well I'm doing at being a grown-up. I love learning and I love feeling accomplished, both less-obviously available outside of the structure of school or a traditional career.
All this is a lead up to say - I have loved learning guitar (and Hebrew), not just because it's exhilarating to be able to play for myself the music I so deeply love, but it's thrilling to film my progress and realize, "wow, I couldn't play that chord a week ago," or, "the progression between those chords has gotten a lot smoother than last time." It's something I can see and hear, concretely. I couldn't do this before, and now I can. It is often pointed out that theatrical disciplines seem to be the one area where people thing "okay, I've gone to school, I learned it all, that's it." Musicians practice daily, athletes train constantly, dancers are in class forever. So why do actors, directors, designers seem to think they can be "done"?
When I went to Berlin last fall, I visited Brecht's Berliner Ensemble, to see a production of The Good Person of Szechuan. At the ticket window, the woman asked me if I was a student. I said "no, not anymore. But I went to theatre school, so kind of always?" She told me that was what she thought (why else would an English-speaker come see a three hour play in German?) and she gave me the student price anyway. Though my formal schooling is over, I see myself as a perpetual student, in life and of life. I realized while I was in Israel that I couldn't remember the last time I traveled somewhere and didn't spend 90% of the trip learning and researching as much as possible rather than just relaxing like (I think) "normal people" do. Even the summer trip I'm planning with my best friend includes several days in Berlin specifically so I can do more on-location research for my ever-lengthening play, rather than explore a new city (though there will be plenty of that, too).
I haven't taken an acting class since I graduated from Tisch, though I have taken every stage combat class I could get my hands on. Physical acting tends to help me, a very intellectual person, get out of my head and into my body so that I don't overthink so much, so in some ways, stage combat classes have been the best acting training I could have as an adult. And guitar has been a satisfying new outlet for my creative leanings and my desire for new skills. It's a little dangerous, in that some nights I come home from work, forget to eat dinner, and play guitar for three hours, but it's exciting to have that renewed passion for learning something new. I think that's a healthy thing everybody should do. at any age. Stay tuned for a new song video, soon to come!