Keep On Dreaming:
A One-Woman Show
Check out my program below for exclusive, embarrassing old pictures of me! The joy of writing about yourself is you feel a responsibility to be as authentic as possible...and despite how hideous the picture I reference in 'The Vegan Song' is, I just had to include it.
In July 2017, I approached one of my mentors and the head of IWU's music theatre program, Scott Susong, and pitched the idea for my independent study to him: a one-woman show about my life and stories, with original songs written and composed by myself. I knew Scott only had time to commit to two senior projects, so I knew it had to be a good idea to have a chance!
At this meeting, he asked if any songs were complete already. I said yes, one--'Perfect Girl,' one of my favorite songs from the show, and one of the most difficult and personal songs I've written. He said, "Tell me the lyrics." When I protested, he pointed out that if I couldn't tell him the lyrics now, how could I sing it to an audience of people? So in the middle of the Bloomington Panera Bread, I told him the lyrics to 'Perfect Girl'--and thankfully, he said yes to doing my show, and the process began!
Some songs came very easily. 'Perfect Girl' was already written, and I had the ideas for several other songs. 'Jurassic Park,' a comedic story song about anxiety surrounding watching the movie Jurassic Park with friends I didn't know as well, was a fairly easy process, as was 'Keep On Dreaming' and 'I Know These Trees.' Some songs took entire days, or even weeks to write. 'Ripon,' the song about my hometown, was written while I was actually in Ripon, sitting in a coffee shop, trying to figure out my complicated feelings--something I reference numerous times in the song. Others were just songs that I knew I wanted to write but didn't want to process my feelings about them--for example, the song I wrote about my insecurities about finding relationships, which is called 'Maybe.' Sometimes my brain just decided to dig its heels in and wait till the last second to finish something. (That was 'The Vegan Song.' Scott had to badger me for weeks and weeks to write it, and when I finally sat down at the bubble tea place I worked at to do it, it was done in less than two hours!)
Writing the text was a whole other beast. I vividly remember sitting myself down on a particular Saturday and writing stream-of-consciousness style about my experiences with perfectionism and eating disorders, tearing up as I sat in a local coffee shop and hoped no one would notice (haha). When you're telling your own stories and experiences, everything feels like a crucial detail, so it can be hard to kill your babies! I'm grateful to Scott for that--he's good at being ruthless with what to cut and what to keep. I was also really concerned about the fine line between talking about sensitive topics to bring light to them, and talking about them in such explicit detail that it's triggering and harmful to people. That was something I really focused on--I wanted to tell my stories to help and encourage others, not to compare small details or to trigger anyone. I feel like I accomplished that pretty well in the end!
When it came time to actually perform, I was terrified. The whole show is nine songs, but it's short--about fifty minutes total. I realized as soon as we began teching that I had nothing to hide behind--it was just me! Thankfully, the performances went so well. I am so grateful to everyone involved and everyone who came to see it--people laughed where I didn't expect laughter, cried where I didn't expect tears, and many told me after the show "You inspired me. Thank you for sharing your story." That was everything that I hoped to achieve. Here's hoping I have a chance to perform it in the future again!