Less than two weeks remain of the Castleton Festival, and it is a very interesting time in the process. After five weeks of living on this surreal farm of llamas, zebras, zonkeys, sows, and singers, it has become home. I never thought I would call a town that is thirty minutes from civilization-- and by “civilization,” I mean Starbucks and Target-- home. However, when thinking about returning to the urban jungle that is New York City, where I am surrounded by neighbors and noise, it feels unfamiliar and slightly overwhelming. I am going to miss my lunchtime salad bar and the entitlement it gives me to gorge on my three vices: cake, cookies, and caffeine. I’m going to be astounded when people communicate with me via text message instead of a Facebook post or a wild goose chase to find me in person. I will miss warming up first thing in the morning, just in case someone needs a high D on command or a new opera chorus is being thrown at the CATS. And most of all, it will be hard to let go of the new family that has been created in this petri dish we call Castleton. A family that eats, sleeps, sings, breathes, and binges together, creating a loving bond and the kind of rivalry/dysfunction that can only be achieved with true intimacy. We are at the point of the festival of “I love you, but I don’t have to like you right now” moments and hook-ups that seem almost incestuous. Trying to respect who called dibs on whom and who’s mad at whom and who we’re not liking because our ‘bro’ doesn’t like whom is getting so complicated, we need some sort of social roadmap. Plus, there’s a kind of final dash mentality that sends those who have been more reserved throughout the festival into hormonal hyper drive. I thought this was something that only happened to younger people, since it reminded me so much of college, but it turns out, this can happen to anyone who has been cooped up in one place too long without outside stimulation like internet or television to provide an escape from reality.
In my final fortnight, I try to reflect on the process to see if I can avoid having any regrets when I leave. They are my least favorite souvenirs. One looming doubt I have about the way I’ve conducted myself during the festival is the amount of interaction I’ve had with my peers outside of the dressing room and rehearsal hall. I have always considered myself a good colleague, trying to abide by the same standards that I have observed in those who have more experience than me. But perhaps part of being a good colleague involves a certain amount of commitment to one another when offstage, which is where I’m concerned I may be lacking. I have not partied as much as my peers, who have an amazing ability to function on very little sleep and levels of very high decibels. My allergic reaction to alcohol doesn’t help, since it seems to be a prerequisite to a good party. However, sitting up on my high horse about being healthy and well rested for morning rehearsals means I’m separating myself from the people with whom I should be bonding. I already feel uneasy when looking at Facebook pictures of my peers at parties and wonder, if they party, but aren’t capable of remembering it, is it the same as never being there at all? In this sweltering heat, I do not want to be remembered as the one cold part of Castleton. After all, Virginia is for lovers!
This penultimate week is also an important time because we’ve reached the point where “So what happens now?” enters the picture. To finish my Evita reference, I do find myself getting lost in “Where am I going to…” and luckily, my pianist and dear friend has found a way to lovingly tell me, “Don’t ask anymore.” Physically, I know I’m going back to California for a short stay, where I will cuddle with my German shepherd (with whom I sing many duets) and study/perform with Second City Improv of Hollywood. After that, a return to NY, and then the questions arise. I have a strong desire to change the way I’m living my day to day life, more coachings, more practicing, more yoga, etc., and not a clue as to how that could be financially or physically possible. I’ve started pondering going back to school someday, somewhere, and wondering if it should be for singing or something else entirely. I haven’t thought such thoughts in a very long time and they are scary, but perhaps necessary. I am facing the terrifying questions of “Am I making enough progress?” “Am I on the right track?” “Am I wasting my time?” ”Am I too old?” “Will I end up one of those scary spinsters with too many cats and embroidered pillows saying OPERA IS PURRRRFECT?” This is when I need a slap in the face and a “Don’t ask anymore.” This is when I decide to just live out each moment of these next two weeks and cross that terrifying bridge when I come to it.
So a few more operas, a few more concerts, a few more coachings, and a few more cookies remain. I officially give myself permission to go big or go home in every endeavor, because the latter is bound to happen in the blink of an eye anyway. I can focus all of my energy on my resonance and my relationships, and refuse to worry about my life plan until I’m so far away from Castleton that I start to get cell phone service again. I’m going to lick the icing off of my fingers and count my rhythms, not calories. And by golly, I will embrace all things Southern: overly friendly locals, catcalls from tractors, and a Monday-Saturday love affair with Chick-Fil-A. This coloratura will go out on a high note!