The Introspective Intern: Tagging Along with NEA Fellows

By Emily Tugwell

Computer virus. NEA fellows. Musical Theatre. TRANIMALS.

Well, a few of those things make sense together.

On Tuesday, I came in with the hope of getting some work done, which is usually the goal of most work days (Shocking, I know). But my computer had other plans for me. It had one of those wonderful things known as a computer virus (I blame Brian). And while it was interesting to watch a tech guy remotely control my computer, it got old after five minutes.

Thankfully, a group of NEA fellows were in the building for the day and I got to tag along. Brian gave me the assignment of sitting in on their musical theatre lecture. I have to say, upon hearing the words “musical theatre” a sense of dread bubbled up within me… A memory of me being forced to sing “We Beseech Thee” in front of the entire class in middle school. Shiver. And more memories as a techie in high school (sound to be precise)…the seemingly countless times that my ears were assaulted by “Grease Lightning” and a slew of other awful musical numbers (I hate Grease with a passion. No apologies.) Oh god. Musical theatre… But this lecture swept those thoughts out of my mind.

The speaker was a graduate professor from NYU (Representin’!) who broke down the traditional structure of a musical. He discussed “opening numbers,” the importance of an “I Want” song, and “11 o’clock numbers.” There were references to many musicals: ones that I knew, ones that I had heard of, and quite a few that I never knew existed. And the professor played a dozen or so songs, most of which I really enjoyed. The lecture actually made me realize that I in fact enjoy listening to musicals, just not when I’m the one forced to sing or have to hear a bunch of talentless teenagers mutilate a wonderful number with their cracking adolescent voices.

The professor also said one thing that really struck me as true in regards to theatre in general. When explaining the importance of an opening number, he warned “once the curtain goes up, the audience is in trouble” because they really have no idea what to expect from the show. And this is so true. But I think this is part of what makes going to see theatre so exciting and at the same time, possibly frustrating. You don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into, and I love that feeling.

Anyways, after the lecture, there was a discussion and panel called “Trans LA,” moderated by Terence McFarland. The entire discussion was centered on the LGBTQ lifestyle and art in Los Angeles. It was great, to say the very least. One of the panelists, Heather Cassils, really struck me as interesting because she was not only an artist, but also a personal trainer. Quite a few of her clients are transgender because they feel comfortable around her. And quite a few young transgender adults are referred to her when they don’t want to take hormones since she can help them manipulate their bodies physically, which is amazing.

There was also a section of the discussion about being a “tranimal,” which is basically a mixture of drag and art. To me, it seems to be a way in which to transcend gender and create a genderless look, which also turns out looking partly animalistic. It was completely over the top, and I thought it was fantastic. A few of the fellows even had “tranimal” makeovers, and I kind of wish I did it too. I’m all for looking bright, colorful, and ridiculous. And I mean this in the nicest possible way, if you can’t tell. It’s always great to see people that act, dress, etc. however they want and don’t care about what others think. I admire it and I aspire to it.

All in all, it was just another day at Boston Court…and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.


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