Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Signed Sealed Delivered

Before I dive into it, reader, I want you to know how it happened. I want you to know how my dearest wish did come true--just in its own time.

I had several opportunities to get Jason Mraz's autograph this year. Had the stars aligned right I guarantee it would have happened, and it was going to happen, just not the way I expected.

It started in January 2012. Jason Mraz posted an Instagram contest, where you were to talk a picture of what I Won't Give Up meant to you and hash-tag it #IWon'tGiveUp. He would pick 25 winners who would then be featured in an art gallery in New York with their photos printed on canvas and signed by Jason Mraz who would also attend the gallery. I entered the contest with the help of Emily and Erin, Emily because Instagram was not available for Android phones at the time, and Erin because I needed someone to be Cinderella.

I should have realized our Earth-friendly friend wouldn't be won by the commercialism of glass slippers.

In March, I was in my theatre management class when I got an email saying the album was finally available for preorder, and that the first 150 people to order a physical album would be signed by Jason. I ran to order the album less than half an hour after the email had been sent. I was sure I was one of the first 150. I wouldn't find out until the album came, and by the time the album came it wouldn't matter.

I'd know by then I'd be meeting him.

I got an email April 7th, the album set for release April 17th, saying that because I had preordered the album, I was part of a pre-presale for the tour tickets, and as part of this they were doing VIP packages. The money would go to the Jason Mraz Foundation. I read the email, about getting to meet him, front row seats, a gift basket.

I had to go.

The next day I intended to order the tickets on my laptop sitting in my English class, because I figured no one would notice. But as the bus pulled into campus I started to panic. I decided to ditch English and sit in a secluded place and do my thing stress-free. It was lucky I went with my nervous stomach, because my laptop wouldn't go to the VIP page at fifteen minutes to ten, when the tickets were to go on sale.

I walked as fast as I could to the computer lab in the Student Union building and luckily there was a computer free. (Someone was most definitely monitoring me from the clouds, I'll tell you that right now.) I got all the pages loaded and watched the little clock at the corner of the screen turn to ten.

I hit refresh and filled out the information at light speed, horrified I'd mistype a number in my credit card number or something simple like that and miss my chance completely. I received my confirmation email and went back to the VIP page.

There were no more tickets left.

I'd made it.

Now that you're caught up, reader, we can plow ahead.

I walked up to the secluded box office and greeted the girl. “I have one of these.” I said, passing her the printed VIP page. She looked at it, confused, and started to pose a question to her coworkers when a girl farther back in the booth said “Is it the VIP thing? What’s your last name.” I told her and she handed me the envelope.

I remember thinking it wasn’t all that miraculous looking for what it contained.

I handed her the form for my mother’s ticket, and walked on wind back to the car.

It was happening.

When I got my first Jason Mraz album Live at the Eagle’s Ballroom, I was too afraid to listen to all of it. I was embarrassed by what people would think, because I really didn’t know much about his music other than the fact that I really liked The Remedy. So I didn’t listen to much of it. It wasn’t until after Mr. A-Z showed me how much I truly did love his music that I was able to get over my stigma and listen to the live album.

We parked our car on the road, behind all these glamorous girls in their late twenties who were breaking out the champagne for their tailgating. I felt inferior in my “I wore this shirt when I met Jason Mraz” tee shirt. It’s something I’ve suffered from, a sense of Mraz-related inferiority. I sometimes joke that I’m such a big Jason Mraz fan because I felt threatened that Ellen was more into him than me, so I began studying harder and remembering all the little things so no one could question my fandom. But then I get in places like this and think “Surely these people like him more than me. I’m not a good enough fan to be here.”

“Erica.” I angrily reminded myself, sitting the passenger seat of the rental car with my stomach in a knot. “If there is anyone you are worthy of saying you’ve met on a tee shirt, it is undoubtedly Jason Mraz.”
I seem to forget that just because I’m the biggest fan in my general area, it doesn’t mean I’m the only fan like that in the world—which I would soon come to have as fact. And when I encounter more of them it frightens me. But tonight would permanently change that.

We got halfway to the steps leading to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and doubled back for our deli sandwiches; with half an hour till house I figured we’d have plenty of time to eat on the steps, but of course I was hardly hungry and only ate for the sake of having something in me to avoid passing out.

People kept looking at my shirt, pointing it out to their friends. It all seemed rather non-verbal. I acted like I didn’t notice. My mother asked if I wanted to move up closer just as a guy with a meet-and-greet wristband walked past to get more to the front. We would only have fifteen minutes after the opening of house to gather for the meet-and-greet. We moved farther up the steps.

It was near the front of the line that a middle-aged woman spotted my shirt, without my knowing, and blurted rather loudly “You’ve MET him?!?”

Accosted I stammered, “I’m going to.” She then went on to say that she would die and that she was so jealous and how-did-you-get-to-meet-him-I-would-have-paid-that-much-I’m-nervous-for-you, and the venue employees began to move aside the barricades.

“I have bad news,” one worker said, walking down the stairs to be more in the center of those of us waiting. “If you have tickets for rows 1-12 you need to go back to the box office. There’s been a mistake.”

Part of the perk to getting the VIP meet-and-greet was the second row tickets (they save first row for ADA access) and a gift bag. The calmness that had been settled serenely about me from the moment I passed my VIP form through the box office window shattered. “Mom.”

“No.” Mom said. “There’s no time.” (the box office is completely separate from the amphitheatre and would take at least ten minutes or more to get there, get the tickets, park, and walk up those brutal stairs).

“Mom I can’t…” I was literally a fragment of a second from crying, until the man to my left, the one with the meet-and-greet wristband said “He said if you just came from the box office you’re fine.”

“Are you sure?” Mom asked.

“Yeah. We’re meeting him too.”

Suddenly the clammy hands of death weren't gripping my neck and my tear ducts, there were no demons from hell clawing at my legs through the red ground below. The man’s misspeak about the tickets had passed and we were filing forward into the amphitheatre.

I found the place we were meeting, and I believe I was the third person there. A woman in a green shirt came over and stood by me. “Is that your mom sitting on the second row? Seat 54?”

“Yes...” I responded.

“She’s watching our blanket for us. She told us to watch out for the girl in the blue shoes.”

I laughed. “Yeah that’s my mom.”

The woman and I talked a little bit. Her name was Jen and her husband, who arrived shortly, was Aaron. 
They were from Northern Denver, if memory serves.

“I’m from Bountiful, Utah. It’s kinda by Salt Lake.”

“Like the northern part or southern side?” Jen asked.

“Of Salt Lake or Bountiful?”

“Salt Lake.”

Jen nodded. It was at this moment I noticed three brilliant things: 1)Earthman; 2) Philly—she’s the one that runs RKOP, an internet forum that started up when Jason was just a coffee shop regular, and has now become the name of his fan-marketing; and 3) Elmo Lovano and Christina Perri’s bassist walking less than a foot in front of me. (Elmo plays the drums for Christina. You learn these kinds of things when you follow your favorite musician’s band and opening act on Instagram.) I didn’t have time to take a picture as they passed, but I happened to catch them as they walked on the level below us.

That's Philly. I was too shy to talk to her.
Earthman has peanuts for earings, a rainbow beard, flair, some type of stuffed creature on his shoulder, and a tendency to trip straight on his face while carrying a tub full of beer cans through the audience.

Elmo Lovano and...blonde bombshell, as Christina called her.
A woman who wore stage-hand type apparel introduced herself as Rachel and came around to check our names off a list.

Jen asked me why I came out to Red Rocks, and I explained that I had resigned myself to only seeing him when he came to Utah for album tours, and that when they released the tour dates and Utah wasn’t on it, I had decided to go see him in Colorado. And then I heard about the meet-and-greets and HAD to go see him in Colorado.

Time went by, I watched the new arrivals and talked with Jen about how I forgot her name and how she’s been having heart palpations all day, and Rachel and some dude came over and reigned us in to give us the low-down.

“Jason will only sign one item. Whether that’s a shirt, a CD, just one item. I will get really mad if you try to go for two, and then you’ll ruin it for everybody. Give Rachel your camera when you come up. She’ll take two pictures per group. And that’s not two pictures per camera and iPhone. If you came in a couple, you are getting pictures taken as a couple. No singles unless you came by yourself.”

“Lucky.” Jen said to me out of the corner of her mouth.

“I’ll take some action shots, so you won’t just have posed pictures. I like to have fun.” Rachel said. They had a pretty solid good cop/bad cop thing.

They took those of us that donated to the Jason Mraz Foundation (which I thought was the only way to get a meet-and-greet, but evidently that was the only way to get a meet-and-greet with a gift bag) and took us through the barn door to give us our gift bags. Among other things was Jason’s Polaroid book A Thousand Things, which he published around 2008, which I have owned since 2008. The man said it was “highly suggested” Jason sign the Polaroid book because he would stamp it with a hand-carved stamp from Korea.
I will not go into details about the turmoil that next took place. I had to decide if I wanted him to sign the CD I had planned on him signing since the beginning of time, or a book that he would stamp with a one-of-a-kind stamp.

“Will Jason have a marker?” A boy in a plaid shirt asked a few people behind me. He, aside from me and another girl near the back of the line, was probably one of youngest ones there.

“Yes! Good question!” Rachel said. “He’ll have one.”

Suddenly I was worried. “I have a question.” I leaned in more toward Rachel. “Can I…give him something?”

“Sure.” She said, slightly bemused. “If you have something for him, you can give him something.”

I felt everybody watching me and slowly turned to the front.

I began to talk to Jen and Aaron about how I didn’t know what to do, and mid sentence I spotted him.
The gay couple at the front of the line was walking to him. I hadn’t even seen him show up. He was just suddenly there. I first saw him in profile, his head turned to the right looking at the couple. In the second it took me to register him before I pulled out my camera, all I could compute besides his existence was that he was wearing a green cardigan.
Here it is. The first picture I took of that green sweater. And the man abiding in it.

I watched him sign the books for the two men, and realized he had more space to write on the book, and he was using it.

“I’m going to have him sign the book.” I said. Jen and Aaron turned. “Thanks for…standing their while I made my decision.”

“Well, you have to make your own choices.” Jen joked, walking away to Jason.

“I have to be an adult,” I muttered as they approached him.

I noticed they had placed their bags on the ground, and as I now had two bulging totes instead of one, I promptly followed suit.

“That’s really clever.” The abrasive guy who told us Jason would only sign one item, said to Rachel.


“Her shirt.” He was being really quiet about it, but I knew he was talking about me. I turned my eyes from Jen and Aaron’s conversation with Jason and showed the guy, Philly, and another girl part of the tour crew my shirt.

“That’s awesome.” Philly said.

The other girl held up her camera and I posed as she took a picture. “He’ll really like that.”

“What?!” This girl behind me declared. “I want to see!”

So I turned and showed them my shirt. Fifteen people watching me again.

“Are you going to have him sign it?” Her boyfriend asked.

“Well I was until he could only sign one thing.” He nodded and as I faced front Jen and Aaron were walking out.

It was my turn.

I handed Rachel my camera and told her the picture would turn up on screen if it took.

“Awesome. Thanks.” She said with a smile.

There are moments you dream about when the clouds are crossing the sky, or sleep is gently pulling your consciousness under. There a moments you perform in your head in so many ways in so many places, moments you wish on stars and eyelashes for, moments that cross from consciousness into your dreamscape and happen as if reality there. These moments are unlikely to ever come, and when they do, in spite of all the preparation and imagining, they never go the way you thought. You never say the right things or you say too much or too little. And in moments like this, where the majority of the moment depends on the response and attitude of the one facing you, you have no capability of matching it to what you’ve consistently imagined; because it’s in his hands.

He was shorter than I expected. I hadn’t gone in expecting a giant, I knew he wasn’t overly tall, but in every moment I had tried to pair myself next to him I’d suddenly become very short, constantly looking up to him. But there, walking toward him, I hardly had to tip my head. He was just a little guy.

I drew attention to my shirt as he approached me with his arms slightly extended.

If he was going to act like he was going for a hug, we were going for a hug. My left arm, holding my book and sticker, when under his right arm against his back, my right over his left.

I really don’t remember what it felt like.

Just that…he was there.

As we pulled apart he said in his smooth, mellow, may have done a joint voice. “You wore that shirt when you met me. [pause] I wore this sweater when I met you.” He touched the opening of his cardigan with his right hand.

“Thank you.” I said with a nervous chuckle.

We were posing for a photo. I cursed myself for having my items in my left hand, causing the dream of just once putting my arm around him to dissolve. Rachel took a picture.

“Rachel, did you get the shirt? Get the shirt.” The abrasive guy prodded.
Rachel readjusted the camera, Jason squeezed my right shoulder closer with his right hand.

It was over. I subconsciously took a step back, looking down at my book. “So I follow you on Instagram…and I brought you this sticker from Salt Lake.” I held it out to him and he took it, glancing at it for a moment, waving it a little.

“Thank you.” He said smoothly. I really don’t remember how, but I told him my name.

“With a ‘C’?” He asked.

“Yes.” I said.

“Did you drive here?”

“No, we flew.”

“Plane.” He nodded.

“We intended to drive but…you know.” All of my cognitive word processing seemed to have slipped away.
He had my book in his hand, he was opening it. “Erica with a ‘C’?”

“Yes.” I responded, watching his pen block out my name. I could sense Rachel was taking a picture and hesitated before looking up at his face.

“Thank you for taking the journey.” He said so very calmly.

“Thank…you for taking the journey.” I meant it as a breakthrough—as more than “Thanks for going on tour lol.” I meant it as “Thank you for quitting college for the second time. Thank you for driving alone to California to follow the dream you wished on stars for. Thank you for caring about the fans. Thank you for being so down-to-earth even if you’re a little high. Thank you for giving me a deeper love of words and an outstanding appreciation of music. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for doing this tour.”
But I didn’t say that. I parroted back what he said. Word for word. But perhaps he understood, perhaps he somehow felt what was buried behind my bright-red blushing chest.

“It really is a journey. I love the journey.” He paused and gave his name little sunbeams. He took the stamp from the abrasive guy and stamped the LOVE blocks near my name.

“Have a great time.” His eyes were on mine and I couldn’t…

I really wanted to hug him again.

I hugged my book instead.

“You have…have a great show.”

He nodded and I basically turned tail and ran, the abrasive guy calling me back for my camera, which I had not forgotten, I was just going to grab my bags first.

I forgot until I’d left through the barn door with one last look at him to check that I actually had the pictures on my camera.

I did.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When I Grow Up

Being a nineteen-year-old female in America, the small-talk question I am most commonly asked after "Where are you going to school" is "What are you studying?" Luckily enough I have an answer: "I'm doing a double major in English Education and Theatre Education." Usually I slur my words together -something anyone would fall victim to after rattling off the same phrase more than one hundred times- and usually have to repeat myself. That, or people don't want to believe they heard someone level-headed saying they're going  into theatre. But they did.

And I am.

I have found, after enduring such conversations on nearly a daily basis, that those who have dabbled in the arts smile knowingly and remark that it sounds "fun" or "exciting." Those, especially the elders, who have nothing but the patron-perspective try to translate it for their industrial minds: "You must have had a really inspiring teacher." They respond this way every time, and in return I deliver yet another practiced statement. "Actually, no."

After their confusion and timid topic change, I am left to ponder over the anomaly of why teaching theatre has to stem from the actions of those who taught me. In a way they aren't wrong; I designed to be a theatre teacher because I was severely disappointed in what my many theatre teachers "taught" me. From age eleven until entering college at the closing of my eighteenth year I enrolled in acting classes -community and otherwise- hoping and praying to expand my knowledge and skill with regards to the trade. The farthest we ever breached were improv games and audition etiquette. Then we would put on a show.

I appreciated it for the sole reason that I was given another show to put on my resume at the close of each school year, but no one ever pointed out the difference between reciting lines on stage and portraying a character. It never mattered if a message was passed to the audience, so long as we remembered our positioning on stage. I had to propel myself through a tangled forest, learning from trial and error which berries would give me substance behind the proscenium, and which leaves would leave me itchy and flighty. I came to college with the overwhelming knowledge that I was -and am- under prepared for the theatrical world. And as a child raised in a family of homebodies and panicked public speakers, who enrolled for every class she could find, the fault falls to my educators.

Michael J. Fox was a high school dropout. He was good enough as a junior in high school to begin to forge a career in the performing arts. And he forged the career, he sustained the career, and in spite of crippling medical conditions still dabbles in the career. Talent? Yes. But he didn't get there by himself.

That is why theatre education was such an obvious choice; I've always known I'd end up a teacher -I'm not motivated enough to strive for anything else- it was merely a matter of what I would end up teaching. I want to equip students with confidence and technique. I want to prepare them for a life in this field; I want them to be good enough they could go without a degree and stand a chance. I decided to teach theatre so that I could give aspiring actors the information I eagerly yearned for and was constantly denied. I want to do for someone what I always wished had been done for me. I want to do the job no one is doing, even if their title says otherwise. I want to be the change I wish to see in the world.