This Side of the Moon

Sarah Moon. 

We met at The Indy Convergence, stayed in a hostel together for two weeks and shared puppetry, music, and Flashdance (she was in the original cast). She’s amazing (of course!) and the following post is about her life and how she’s just left a secure job to go for her dreams. I hope it inspires you!

Dear 1979 Blog-followers,

I was born in 1978 in Minot, North Dakota. Sometimes I wonder if my early exposure to a place of temperature extremes made an imprint on my personality. When I’m happy, I’m very happy, when I’m sad…. My earliest memory of going to the movies is E.T. which came out in 1982: It made me sad. But more than that, it made me perceive things, so vividly. I remember the sensations of watching the film.

Growing up in the 80s, we were exposed to more types of imagination-prodding media than ever before.

Growing up in the 80s, we were exposed to more types of imagination-prodding media than ever before. MTV music videos tempted us with the adult world. Video games seized our brains. Kid-friendly TV network Nickelodeon brought us green slime. How many images was I exposed to as a child? Where do they live in my brain? What did they teach me?

I moved to L.A. after graduation to experiment in “the industry” and experienced disillusionment, depression and a skin condition 

I fell in love with acting in high school. I played a chorus role in Evita my freshman year and found, at 14, an outlet for my imagination. Inside of that play, life was bigger and deeper. My emotions were not out of place; they were finally in proportion. And I was enthralled by the leads – both of whom went on to perform on Broadway. Many of us were powerfully marked by that experience and went on to study theatre, as did I. I moved to L.A. after graduation to experiment in “the industry” and experienced disillusionment, depression and a skin condition called erythema nodosum: raised, painful bumps on my legs that had so many different causes that despite a biopsy, tuberculosis test, chest x-ray, and stool sample, my doctor never isolated the trigger. But my coworker at Sundance gave me a vial of black, oriental pills that looked like gunshot. I took them and the bumps eventually went away.

I went away too. 

I went away too. The high-stakes, commercial culture of L.A. disagreed with me and my solution was to go somewhere else for a master’s degree. I started an MFA playwriting program at Brandeis University in a city, well, near a city I’d romanticized for all the ways it was different from the west. I loved my playwriting teacher; he was electric and spindly, witty, needling and puckish. I channeled my cauldron of emotions into pieces that were highly personal.

 

 I didn’t think there could be any better feeling in the world than writing a play and seeing it produced.

Then I picked up a few pages of farce I’d written in college in response to the Ionesco play Bald Soprano and created a full-length play with feminist themes called Losing the Game. It got produced at Brandeis in 2004. I hadn’t felt such a thrill since Evita. Here was my inner world on stage, realized through living actors, lights, sounds, set design, and costumes. I didn’t think there could be any better feeling in the world than writing a play and seeing it produced.

But I knew I needed a way to support myself in New York City in between writing plays. So I began teaching first-year college composition. I enjoyed teaching and I learned a lot about writing in the process. A couple years into it, I got involved in writing tutoring and became a tutorial coordinator, at first for writing tutors and then, on a larger scale, for three tutoring centers on the Cape Cod Community College campus.

I needed stability and I wanted the opportunity of a management position to show people what I could do.

When I took the job, I realized that the “making money” part of my work had led me into an area that was not my desired destination. But I also knew I needed stability and I wanted the opportunity of a management position to show people what I could do. I was successful, helping complete our application to the International Peer Tutor Training Certification program, formalizing our relationship with our learning disabilities center, better managing our appointments and getting a grant to support a communication skills workshop for our tutors.

I could have stayed in that job for, literally, the rest of my life. 

I also took over as advisor of Students for Sustainability and helped the students plan an Earth Week event that brought the whole campus community together. I could have stayed in that job for, literally, the rest of my life. I could have made it my own, developed a great staff and gotten very comfortable. But it wasn’t what I really wanted to do or where I really wanted to be. So I decided to change it all.

When I told her about my hopes to look for new positions in the arts non-profit field near Hartford, CT, my colleague at Massasoit Community College, also a writer, suggested I check out the New Haven Arts site for job postings.

I decided to take the plunge.

There I saw a listing for apprenticeships at Hartford Stage.  They provided a living space just a block from the theatre offices and a weekly stipend. I thought this might make for a perfect transition, allowing me to get experience on my resume in the non-profit arts field and then apply for a full-time job; it also made the physical move inexpensive and simple. I decided to take the plunge and apply, firing off an application letter to the education, artistic and marketing departments two months after the deadline. I got a call from the new Director of Marketing a couple days later and, after a phone interview, was offered the position. I also secured a teaching position at University of Hartford that would allow me to, at least, break even in my expenses. I told my boss I’d be leaving at the end of the summer and helped find a replacement for my position.

Sometimes, I feel a little self-conscious.

Fast forward to the present. I decided to take the plunge  As expected, I am the eldest by at least ten years. Sometimes, I feel a little self-conscious. Do they think I’m weird and old? Wonder why I’m doing this?

 “Start here, and take your life anywhere.”

I don’t know if I would have had the courage to be the old person, the student again, if I hadn’t worked at a community college with many adult learners. I taught a 65-year-old in my freshman composition class and booked tutoring appointments in algebra for 40-year-olds. Cape Cod Community College’s motto is “Start here, and take your life anywhere.” At a certain point, I started feeling like that motto applied to me too. CCCC was an incredible training ground in workplace relationships and momentum-building. There, I realized the change I’m capable of making, even amidst challenging workplace dynamics. I gained confidence, enough confidence to put myself in a subordinate position again in order to gain experience in a new field.

 

The magic and adrenaline of being in production is all around me and it acts as an omnipresent carrot.

Last week, when I sat in on the first read-through of the new musical Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder starring Jefferson Mays, I couldn’t help but smile. Just a month ago, I’d been sitting in a community college tutoring center, helping others pursue their dreams. Now, here I was, pursuing mine. I’d like to start my own nonprofit arts organization one day.

http://www.hoveyelectric.com

Working in a theatre is inspiring me as a playwright too. The magic and adrenaline of being in production is all around me and it acts as an omnipresent carrot.

As a child of the 80s, my head was filled with fantastic images from a young age. 

I don’t know what my next step will be after the apprenticeship, but I know, in the long run, I would like to lead my own nonprofit arts organization, committed to values of sustainability, education and community engagement. I feel very grateful to be able to play the apprentice in a major regional theatre, to get an inside view of arts management, marketing and production. It’s definitely worth the discomfort of feeling “different” sometimes. As a child of the 80s, my head was filled with fantastic images from a young age. I developed as an adult in part through theatre, spurred by the comingling of fantasy and emotion.  Now I hope to unite the values I’ve acquired through work with the power of art and story, images and words, to unleash new dreams.

 

 Go for it, Sarah.

http://www.facebook.com/project1979

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Comments
2 Responses to “This Side of the Moon”
  1. thank you for this story!

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