I spent the weekend in Atlanta helping run some cattle-call-type auditions for the Southeastern Theatre Conference. It was great fun and the rest of the staff was fantastic. The fall auditions are much less crazy than their springtime counterparts, so we were able to work at a fairly relaxed pace. We even got lunch breaks both days, which is often just not possible with 900 auditionees.
One of the highlights of this weekend for me was being able to spend some time with my mentor from college, the woman who informed the 20-year-old me that I was meant to be a stage manager, and who then spent the next two years teaching me how to become one. Our relationship is so different now. I met Cherrie when I was a 17 year old high school junior. I already had my eye on Louisiana Tech as THE PLACE for my college career and she was the director of theatre there. (still is) To say she intimidated me at first is quite the understatement. The first time I met her, she was wearing her Phantom of the Opera show jacket, which donned the monogram "Cherrie: Production Coordinator." She was EXACTLY who I wanted to become: a strong woman who had southern roots, who had worked her way to the top of her game, spent some time in the bright lights of Broadway, then returned to academia. I told her in my scholarship interview that I wanted her job.
Cherrie and I had our ups and downs throughout my college years, mostly because we are both stubborn and because at 22, I was terrified of life, which I'm sure made me uber-annoying to be around a lot of the time. Now, however, I've been where she's been. I did the New York thing. I worked at the top of my game. I have a career as a stage manager. (Turns out she was right--it's EXACTLY what I was meant to be.) Cherrie and I? Are friends on a whole different level now.
We went to dinner on Saturday night, which was an adventure in and of itself. At BlogHer this year, people kept telling me what a great sense of direction I have. No, dears. I lived in NYC for several years and it's a numeric grid--that's the only reason I could find my way. My sense of direction leaves MUCH to be desired. Let's just say, that's something Cherrie and I have in common. She declared that we were going to The Vortex, a well-known Atlanta eatery with fantastic burgers. It was 13 miles from our hotel. I asked, "And are you going to be navigating?" She said yes, and off we went. Before we'd even hit the interstate, Cherrie had stopped navigating, dropping the directions on the FLOOR, and launching into a story. I managed to scoop up the directions and get us to our destination (more or less).
Over dinner, we talked about mutual friends, family, and life in general. We shared stage management stories and talked about or time in NYC and how it was both very different and very much the same. We toasted a friend who has recently passed away. We discussed things that only people who have been in our shoes understand. I don't have anybody else who truly, 100% understands me in the ways she did. It was so nice to have someone to talk to about things like the energy and discipline it takes to do our job in a big city and the heartbreak that comes when you know it's time to leave. We talked about the joy our students bring and how we want to squeal and cry and hug people when they have a "light bulb" moment. (The moment in class when a light bulb practically appears over a student's head because FINALLY they get it!) I needed someone to talk to about these things and I could tell Cherrie did, too. She treated me as an equal. For the first time in our relationship, I wasn't going to her just for advice or guidance. We were two women, cut from the same cloth, relating to each other on a wonderfully deep level. I felt very grown-up and completely comfortable, which surprised and delighted me. She told me I articulated some things she hadn't been able to figure out how to say for years and I knew that when she nodded her head at something I said, it was because she really and truly knew what I meant. We filled a very specific need in each others' lives at that moment, and I hope this newfound facet of our relationship is one we'll be able to nuture for years to come.
It's something I wouldn't trade for the world.