I need to echo something that my colleagues have already expressed in various ways: It’s been an insane ride! And also: I have learned so much! I haven’t had a full day off for two months! I have been challenged in so many different ways! I have been vastly inspired by my wonderful colleagues Will, Lian, and Jamila, and by my powerhouse mentors Stephanie and Shana! And, maybe, this week I can finally find some time for reflection, something that is rare on the Hangar-rollercoaster.
I look at the calendar, and realize that we’ve been here just under two months. In that time, I have directed a musical for young audiences (PINKALICIOUS), a workshop and staged reading of a brand-new play by Andrea Ciannavei (The Winstons), a fully produced experimental reworking of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, entitled THIS SAME PROGENY OF EVILS, a three day workshop exploring scenes from Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, I have produced two of my colleagues’ shows, I am in the midst of teaching a Shakespeare Acting class, I’ve mentored a directing project by one of the apprentice directors, taught orientation classes, and, during this whole time, I have also been one of the four artistic directors of the Lab Academy, overseeing and leading the learning process of the 23 company members.
Less than two months. Is this even possible?
During our first week here at the Hangar, we were told that we would soon come to experience and appreciate the phenomenon of “Hangar Time” – the fact that at the Hangar you can do a day’s work in an hour, and a day can feel like a week. I think we were all incredulous in the beginning, but were soon readily seizing upon the idea – if only for comfort at first. When you start rehearsals for a musical on Monday, and have your first full run-through scheduled on Thursday, it can feel like a welcome delusion to have your colleague pat you on the back and say: don’t worry, you’ve got four weeks! Soon, we felt the real-ness of the time warp – when my roommate Will and I didn’t see each other for a day because our schedules were mutually exclusive, we would casually say, I feel like I haven’t seen you for a month, and it would ring true. And now I look back and I think that I can’t possibly have done all of these things in less than two months, it’s simply not possible, well … unless you take into account the phenomenon called “Hangar Time.”
Two things about Hangar Time: Because the one thing there truly is no time for is reflection, it is hard to reward yourself, in the moment, for how much you are accomplishing – now, in hindsight, it seems pretty incredible to me, and I feel very proud of the work I was able to do in this impossibly short time. While I was in it, I always felt slightly behind on the next thing coming up, or I was thinking about what was left undone because time ran out – but now I can sit back and value the work that was there, that came to fruition. The other thing: The most difficult task in the Hangar-timezone is the struggle to remain completely present. It’s like surfing – not that I’ve ever done it – but you just have to ride the wave that rushes forward and stay abreast, staying in the present moment, neither looking back in fear nor second-guessing yourself for a moment, because that could throw you off the board. It’s accepting the speed at which the wave goes, and trusting that it will carry you. Trusting that you can do this. With work days that often last twelve to thirteen hours with hardly a break, one of the biggest obstacles to this is fatigue. Another difficulty is the fact that projects end so quickly, and before you know it, you are in the next rehearsal room, leading a process with a completely new cast, new team, new material, new questions – how do you devote yourself to that completely, as completely as the previous one?
These are artist questions, life questions – they are just magnified times ten at the Hangar.
There is, however, a secret weapon, and I urge all future Drama League Directors to take note of it: the Ithaca gorges. It is hard to say why we went “gorging” on a regular basis so late in our time here, but now I understand (and still have just under two weeks to avail myself of plentifully) the secret elixir that balances the insanity of the Hangar Rollercoaster. When you stand under the mini-waterfall at Buttermilk Falls, letting the soft wet pound on your back, or when you dive screaming at the top of your lungs into a mysterious greenish crater from 7 feet above, or swim all the way up to where a gigantic waterfall breaks into the deep below, you are not worried anymore that Hangar Time might actually age you by ten years at the end of the summer … because the magical Ithaca waters rejuvenate you at the same rate….