Category Archives: Do It Yourself

Never Have I Ever (Until Now): The Prologue

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Five years ago, this last week, I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now) – The Prologue

Find your passion and run with it. Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy–anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.

An Intro

“You really need to quit something,” My supervisor tells me as she walks by my office door. “You’re taking on too much.”

My supervisor is right–I’m taking on a lot.

It’s January of 2012. I’m an associate television producer for the City of New York who has recently, in her free time, started writing and performing stand up comedy, perfecting her drawing skills, training for her second half-marathon, and doing photography with a digital SLR. And now I am signing myself up for an acting workshop.

My day planner is filling up faster than a doctor’s office during flu season.

My mom would tell you that I was just as active as a kid as I am when my supervisor tells me that I need to quit something. When I was younger, I played field hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, and softball. I’d attempted the clarinet, I’d tip-toed through a ballet class, I’d sailed in a lake, I’d canoed across a pond, and I kayaked down a river. My parents would rush me from one athletic practice to another; from one gym and on to the next. I was relentless. I never stopped.

But then I grew up, and my willingness to try new things suddenly came to a halt. For several years, I was in a funk. I had fallen into depression and I had forgotten how to live life fully and completely. I would say that I wanted to try something and then I’d never try it. I’d fear failure or judgment from my peers. And instead, I’d mope on my couch about how I’d never be good at anything. I’d lost my sense of wonder. I had lost my yearning for learning new things. I had lost my smile, my laughter, my sense of joy. I had concerned myself so much with destinations that I had forgotten that what really mattered was the journey.

With the new activities, the stand up comedy, the drawing, the photography, and the acting, I felt that I was finally opening myself up to a life that I had been letting slip to the way side. And now, suddenly, I felt as though the progress I was making with the activities was being threatened as my supervisor told me that I needed to quit something.

I didn’t want to quit anything. I didn’t want to limit my life to going to work, coming home, cooking (or getting take out) and going to sleep. I didn’t want to experience living solely from the couch in my artist loft.

So instead of heeding my supervisor’s advice, in February of 2012, I set out on a yearlong quest in the hope of navigating my way to a life that extended beyond my 9-5 job and beyond the sadness I had sulked in for years. I decided that in opposition to quitting anything, I instead wanted to try one new activity or hobby each week for an entire year.

I started to brainstorm names for the quest and came up with “The Hobby Hoarder.” I used my lunch to draw logos on blank pieces of paper and to write lists of hobbies or activities that I could try that I had never tried before. I hadn’t even started the project and I was beaming with excitement.

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to brainstorm on the year, and began telling people what I was going to do. As I sat down to coffee with a friend, she said, “So you are going to live like you are dying.”

My eyes brightened. “No. I’m going to live like I am living!”

The truth is that I don’t believe we should live as if we are dying. Instead, I think we should live each day as though it’s one of our firsts: full of excitement and ambition, full of curiosity, full of fear, full of imagination, and full of wonder, full of an openness toward whatever comes our way—that’s right—we should live each day like it’s our first.

For so long, I had forgotten what firsts felt like. When we are young, our firsts are celebrated with smiles and applause and sometimes balloons. First step. First word. First hit in tee-ball. First A+. But somewhere between the time we share our first kiss and the time we hit our twenties, we lose our thirst for the sensation we feel when we experience something for the first time. Firsts can make us realize what we are passionate about: Maybe you’ve never taken a dance class before but when you do you figure out that you’re meant to be the next Beyonce. Maybe you’ve never swung from a trapeze before, but that first time you do, you realize you’re meant to be in the circus. Or maybe you’ve never piloted a plane before, but then you do and you discover that you were always meant to fly.

Firsts can make life worth living. But when we hit a certain age, it’s almost as if we forget to let ourselves experience those firsts. We get caught in “Busy traps” (NyTimes) and “life takes over.” But that’s not true. Life doesn’t take over: Work takes over—financial restraints take over. Think about the last time someone asked you to do something and you said you couldn’t. What was your excuse? If you’re without children was it work? Was it money? Life clearly does not take over. If anything, life takes a backseat ride.

Too many times, we get so caught up in our daily routines and our jobs that the only thing we concern ourselves with when we get home is kicking back.

But that’s not how life’s supposed to be—not at all. Life is supposed to be enjoyable. Life is supposed to be full of challenges—and then exceeding our expectations of those challenges. Life is supposed to be full of fear and overcoming that fear. It is supposed to be about saying I’d love to do that and then actually doing it. Surprisingly life is supposed to be about living.

I hope that before you continue reading this book, you’ll step away. You’ll grab a pen and a paper—and you’ll start writing down everything you want to try this year—that you’ll make your own quest—to live.

And if you haven’t stepped away yet, and have disobeyed my only wish, then welcome! Strap on your seat belts, make sure your seats are in their upright position, understand that the only emergency exit is to live your own life—and that it’s now time to take flight. Literally.

All Aboard.

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Hobbies While on the Mend

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Recently, I unexpectedly had surgery on my toe, which left me unable to physically run, dance, bike etc. Having to hobby without my foot seemed daunting at first, but then I turned to more calm, relaxing activities—activities that I didn’t need my foot for. Are you nursing an injury? Below, find seven hobbies to try while you’re on the mend!

1. Knitting – If you’ve injured a part of your lower body, cross-stitch a new pair of socks for when you’re back on your feet!

knitting

2. Painting/Drawing/Calligraphy –If your strong hand has been left unharmed, express yourself! All this requires is a canvas, piece of paper, or object that you can physically use paints, crayons, markers, pencils, etc  to create your vision on! And if your strong hand is injured—you could always try painting with your toes! What are you waiting for?

painting

3. Ceramics/Pottery –Instead of moping and complaining about the cast that’s been molded to your foot or leg, use your hands to mold together your own original piece, pot, or bowl!

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4.  Chess or other Brain Games – While you’re off your feet, stay on your toes by challenging your mind. Take on a friend in a game of chess, keep yourself occupied with a rubrix cube, or hit the Sudoku books! Even better, create your own crossword puzzle and then get your friends to test it out!

5. Ventriloquism and Puppeteering – Ever dreamed of creating the next big Muppet? While your one foot’s elevated in a boot, make use of your unworn socks and make your own puppet—or dummie! Then bring the inanimate object to life, by giving it a voice of it’s own.

5. Musical Instruments — While your arms are out of commission, stomp out a beat with a foot drum!

6. Meditation – While your body takes time to heal, find time to re-connect with your mind and soul.

7. Skip-It! – If your arm is tied up in a sling, hit the pavement with this 90’s gem. “Skip-it; Skip-it; skipping and screaming and a bop-di-bop.”

10 Activities to Try This Fall

Halloween is just around the corner. The morning air is crisp. The leaves are changing. Football season is in full force. And pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks (and every other coffee shop). This all can only mean one thing: Fall is officially here. Maybe you’re sad that summer has slowly reached an end, that the shorts are back in the drawers, the swimming pools are closed, and eating outdoors is suddenly uncomfortable, but don’t fret! Here’s 10 activities to get you through the fall when a pumpkin spice latte just isn’t enough!

1. Apple Picking
The only thing more appropriate to indulge in during the fall than any pumpkin based food is apples! Head to the closest orchard and pick yourself enough apples to make pies (or cider!) ’til next season!

2. Pumpkin Carving
Set aside a few hours and carve out the perfect pumpkin to light up your doorstep for Halloween and  Day of the Dead!

Carving Photo by Nick Taylor

3. Ghost Tours
Take a shot at meeting Casper the Friendly Ghost and seek out opportunities in your town to go on a local ghost tour!

4. Photography
Capture the fall foliage as it turns from green to orange to red to yellow.

fall foilage

5. Hiking
Now that the weather is cooling off, hit the trails at the closest mountain range for a combination of exercise and stunning fall views.
OR keep it calm and check out a local nature hike. Hire a guide and learn about the different kinds of plants, trees and wildlife in the area!

6. Leaf Pressing
When you’re done with your hike, collect a few fallen leaves and bring them home to preserve! Here are three ways to press that beautiful, colorful fall foliage!

Leaf Pressing Photo by Karen

7. Knitting
Don’t wait until it’s too cold to make that scarf you’ll need for winter! Grab some yarn and sharpen those needles to make your most fashionable piece yet!

Knitting
Photo by The Chanel

8. Football – Real and Fantasy
When it’s not Sunday or Monday night, hit the field and go deep for a touchdown! Or if you’re looking for a little less contact, keep up with the latest NFL stats and get in on your brother’s  supervisor’s brother’s Fantasy Football League. 😉

9. Costume Making
Halloween is just over a month away. Don’t wait until the week before to buy whatever’s left in the store! Get crafty and see what you can make on your own!

10. Harvest Bowling
I had to leave you on a fun creative note. I just learned about this one myself. Lindsay Hutton shares this fall inspired craft over at Family Education. She writes: “Everybody loves bowling! Put a seasonal twist on this family-favorite pastime by using gourds for pins and a small pumpkin as a ball.” My opinion? BRILLIANT. Who wants to start a Harvest Bowling league?!

Harvest Bowling

 

 

 

What are YOUR favorite fall activities? 

I’ve got 99 hobbies…

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AND PAINT YOUR OWN POTTERY IS ONE!

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Elissa is standing on the steps to the 2 train, in Park Slope. I try to hurry her but she is busy sending pictures of the tiny clay dragon she’s just painted to resemble the dragon from Game of Thrones. She reprimands me for rushing her, and giggles, “Isn’t THIS what hobby hoarding is all about? Getting excited about what you are about to do and excited about what you’ve accomplished?”

“Touche,” I laugh back. “You’re right.”

——————-

I met Elissa a little under a year ago when I worked on a new television series for Investigation Discovery. After a few weeks there, Elissa had taken me under her wing. We tagged team stories for our new show, compiled research packets and booked interview guests. Around one month in, Elissa started to check out The Hobby Hoarder project. Then one day she told me she wanted to do a hobby–but a creative one, an artsy one, and so I promised her we could.

Four months later, it was my last day on the show–and we hadn’t yet hobbied! Upset with myself for not scheduling a hobby together before I left on my road trip, I promised her that when I got back–we could do that creative hobby she wanted to do.

A month ago, we met up for a television premiere of an episode of the series we worked on (Deadly Devotion), and I told her that I was coming up on hobby 100, but that we still needed to do our hobby! So we began brainstorming hobbies. Then she had an epiphany–she wanted our hobby to be the 99th hobby — and then joked that I should call the blog post “I’ve got 99 hobbies…”

I laughed. And then promised I would call the post, “I’ve got 99 hobbies.”

The following day, I Googled creative hobbies around the city, and found “Paint Your Own Pottery.” I sent Elissa links and dates we could do it. Finally, we were ready to do the hobby together that we planned so long ago.

 I crossed my fingers that nothing would interfere with our paint your own pottery outing, and except for a small hiccup in having to change the day to one day earlier–nothing interfered at all. Phew.

So just over a week ago, Elissa and I headed to the Painted Pot in Park Slope, Brooklyn for our adventure. Upon arriving at the store, we were immediately floored with all the options of what we could paint.

“Lanterns and kettles, and plates, OH MY,” I exclaimed in my head.

There were also mugs and cups and vases as well as bowls and platters. But that wasn’t it–there were piggy banks–and dragons and elephants–and wizards! The choices of what to paint were endless.

We were in a pottery paradise.

As I searched for the perfect piece of pottery to paint, I imagined directing a spoof of the film “Night at the Museum” called “Night at the Painted Pot,” where all the clay creatures come to life. (A girl can dream).

As Elissa looked through her options, I could see her getting more and more excited. “Should I do this one? Or this one?” And then she saw it–the dragon. “oooh, I could paint this little guy to look like the Game of Thrones Dragon” and before I knew it, she was making her pottery purchase and picking out all the colors she would need.

Then it was my turn. Stuck between a simple plate and a little animal friend–I splurged. I bought the plate and a little tiny elephant, picked out my colors, and quickly got to work. We only had an hour and a half of painting time before the store closed.

As we painted away, I watched Elissa carefully make sure to touch up all the white spots. I could tell that she  was really interested in what she was doing–and like my friends when we went skydiving this past week–it ignited even more excitement in me.

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Before we knew it, an hour and a half had passed–and we were doing the final touch ups on our pottery. Elissa’s dragon was a brilliant green and dark reddish/purple–while my elephant was a mix of baby and sky blue. I’ll be honest–my elephant could stand to see a better paint job–but Elissa’s dragon came out–preeeeetty stellar if I do say so.

The woman came by and told us to just leave our pottery on the table–that she would put it in the kiln over the next week and we could pick  it up after 7 days. Before leaving, I spontaneously started an impromptu photo shoot with our new clay friends.

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As I got a shot of the dragon, Elissa joked, “Yes–that’s the right angle,” first speaking to me–and then to her dragon, “Work the camera.”

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Sad to part with our animals (and my plate), we bid the tiny little lawn gnomes farewell and made our way for the door. Distracted, I began sending Elissa all the shots I had just taken of our statue pottery pieces.

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As the photos began to pop up on her iPhone, our walk slowed to a crawl. “They are so cute…They are the best…” Then she began sending the photos to friends to share what she had done–and how excited she was about what she had done.

And that’s when I tried to rush her–before fairly being reprimanded.

Some people have said that it seems like the project is about being a daredevil. But the truth is–the project is about trying ANYTHING and everything. LIFE is about having an open mind to anything you have the opportunity to try and a willingness to learn. It’s about understanding that even what seems like the most basic of activities/events/hobbies can offer some of the biggest life lessons. This year I’ve learned that, whether you are jumping out of an airplane, piloting an airplane, playing chess in the park with a stranger, building a birdhouse with your mom, or getting crafty with a friend, there will always be a takeaway. And there will ALWAYS be something to get excited about–whether it’s before, during, or after.

Paint your own pottery may not be skydiving–or hang gliding–or something that seems “adrenaline related,” but I can tell you that going to paint your own pottery–and trying it with someone else who also never had tried paint your own pottery before–was extremely eye opening.  

I had forgotten to take in the moment–to really appreciate what had just happened. Because hobbies have become somewhat of a habit (a healthy habit) for me, it’s easy for me to go from “hobby hoarder” mode back to “okay, get home, organize for tomorrow, and sleep” mode. But my outing with Elissa was a good reminder to embrace each and every minute leading up to WHATEVER we are doing, during whatever we are doing, and even the moments after we’ve completed what we are doing. Too often we rush to move on to the next thing–to get things done for whatever we’ve got going on for the next day–and to plan out our next event– but that’s not fair to the present moment–and it’s not fair to ourselves.

Here’s to trying new things–and continuing to get excited about them.  AND here’s to trying new things with good people–and watching them get excited too.

Tomorrow may be hobby 100, but I’m going to breathe in hobby 99 a little longer, because:

“I’ve got 99 hobbies and paint your own pottery is one.” 

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Painted Pot
Park Slope, Brooklyn
$8 Studio Time + Cost of the object

Haiku Mania

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Credit: Sarah Steenland

After taking part in the Guerilla Haiku Movement, I put out a challenge to HH readers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers and the universe to write and share haiku! And while I mentioned I’d pick and post the top 5, it was just too hard. Check out all these awesome haiku I received! And if you feel inspired (and you will)– share your own!

Splish Splash Splush Whoosh Wash
Raining water this way comes
Drip Drop Pitter Pat
-Connor Tenant

Whenever I’m sad, 
I think of avocados. 
Joy comes back to me.
-Rachel Kerry

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 12.16.35 AM
-Nina Cowley

Rises over fields
Light washes my eyes and skin
Sun warms and welcomes
-Julia Ember Ricciardi

Mother of two girls
Early mornings, up at night
Smiles make it worthwhile
-Jessica Ruhle

Morning coffee mouth
sends the sun into orbit,
sugar-paints the moon.
-Laura Fisher

A cat a day keeps
hearts renewing themselves and
all hair ties missing.
-Laura Fisher

Muay Thai early morn
Punch and kick and sweat it out
Become sexy hot
-Julia Menn

Orwells prying eye-
(now) big brother left unchecked
little brother sees
-John Hayden Brady

I Swim bike and run
70 miles is my threesome
I race for boston!
-Grant Ryan

“Es o si que es”
It is what it is, mom says 
“Es o si que es”
-Kimberly Manley 

To travel is to
exchange Home for another
not of your making.
-R.G.M

I munch at the leaves
From the sweet boughs (the) gums provide
What is that below!

SarahSteenland.jpg-largeCHAINSAW?!
-Haiku and Photo Credit: Sarah Steenland

Everything is green–
even the rain in the trees.
It’s June, the best month
-Carolyn SegalGood is good to share
Spreading sunshine brings more sun
Let’s do it today
-Shannon Murray Martinforgot

Haiku rules
asked google for the answer
thank you internet
-Molly McGaughey

Smiling is more fun
than frowning about the mud
so play in the rain
-Molly McGaughey

I like this a lot
to write is to worry not
keyboards sing to me
-Molly McGaughey90 Days of Joy
Spreading happiness to all
Changing lives for good
-Rebecca Kopec

Fear, don’t hold me back
You are a weighted falsehood.
Look what I can do.
-Melissa Caminecci

Do I want too much?
Inside, dim fluorescent lights 
The sun’s warmth beckons
-Melissa Caminecci

Lying on the couch
Looking forward to summer
I drift off to sleep
-Alana

You are my hero
I’m jealous of your awesome
So glad I met you
Emelie Samuelson

Go to spin class now
You’ll be happy that you did
Ice cream for dinner
-Kimberley Cameron

Fear and doubt are myths
Cling fast to inspiration
Faith writes its own song
-Carrie-Rachel Dean

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48 Hour Film Project: NYC

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I am staring at the clock. It’s 3:23 AM. Traffic is moving in a very specific rhythm outside. I watch as lights cast shadows through my friend’s living room, and I restlessly try to catch some shut eye. I close my eyes, but like a kid waiting for her birthday, I can’t fall asleep. I’m too anxious. I’m too excited for what’s ahead. We are only eight hours into the 48 Hour Film Project (NYC), a competition that asks groups of filmmakers to create a 4-7 minute short film in under 48 hours. Filmmaking. THIS is the HOBBY and CAREER I moved to New York City for. And while I’ve done much of my own filmmaking and video work–I’ve never ever taken part in a film competition. This is what we call: Awesome. As I open my eyes again and stare at the ceiling, I can feel my excitement only growing with each echo of each car that passes under the bridge outside. We’ve finished our our script, we’ve plotted our shot list, and in three hours we are going to wake up to shoot a movie. And all I am thinking in my head is “Hell. Freaking. Yah.”

***************************

It can be very lonely in New York City–especially when you first move here.

 I moved to New York City in January of 2010, and I can remember, very vividly, two months into my move, walking out of my internship, calling my best friend on the phone, and crying to her for an hour about how lonely I was–how I didn’t know if I could make it here–how I wanted desperately to be able to make friends who were creative, who were ready to collaborate, who were passionate, who were looking to make things happen–BIG things–earth shaking things-friends who were ready to take on the world as if it were Mount Everest and fight hard earned battles to make it to the top.

What I’ve learned from that loneliness is a lesson in persistence, and in patience, and in passion.

I realized that I couldn’t make these friends that I was seemingly struggling to find if I didn’t put myself out there, if I didn’t take an initiative to start and to create myself. This city is comprised of 8 million people–I can’t break down the stats for you on where they are all from–or how they all got here, but I can safely say that many of these people are searching for a light in a tunnel that leads to success–a light in a tunnel that may perhaps lead to a Broadway Stage, or a credit on a feature film; a light in a tunnel that may lead to a sold out concert at SummerStage or a part in Shakespeare in the Park; a light in a tunnel that leads to a metaphorical pot of gold symbolizing that all dreams did indeed come true.

I knew that within those eight million people, amidst all of the skyscrapers, all of the Broadway shows, and all of the chaos of the city that these people were out there. I just had to be very clear that I too was one of these dreamers.

And then it happened.

I made a good friend through my internship, who could see my passion and my drive as I shared my latest projects and or films with her. She could also see my willingness to put myself out there and to openly express my interest in “making it” in order, not to be famous, but rather to make an impact on another person’s life.  And so she introduced me to many of her friends in the Big Apple.

She, herself, was a young makeup artist who was working on TV shows and movies. And her friends? Young cooks, young  chefs, young musicians, young actors, young filmmakers, young producers, young directors, young writers, younger performers, young singers. Most of them worked shifts at Ruby Tuesdays to pay the bills. But what stood out more than anything to me, was that like me–they were all dreamers. And they still are.

Since that first year of living in New York City, I have maintained many of the friendships I have made with these friends. And I am proud of that. I have seen each of them do amazing work. I’ve seen dreams transition to realities–and I’ve seen passion and persistence and patience, all the things I needed in order to make these friends, play out in extremely rewarding ways.

Our conversations extend from general “How are yous?” to endless banter, debates and smiles over all things creative.

“You liked that movie? But it didn’t have this, this or this….” and “But his acting in this was far superior to his acting in…” “I just think he should have never made that film.”

I always wondered when I’d get the chance to sit down and work with some of the people I connected with when I first moved here.

That answer was this weekend, for the 48 Hour Film Project, in which a team of 14 of us, organized by my good friend Kim, took on the aforementioned challenge to create a 4-7 minute film in just 48 hours.

On that team were  6 individuals from that initial group of friends that I forged friendships with founded on a common love of film, television, and theatre. On that team were also 7 individuals that I had never had the pleasure to meet before–but who I can’t imagine not surrounding myself with again.

Each team must enter with a team name, and when the festival kicks off each team must select at random a genre. After the genre is chosen, EVERY team must then make sure that they include three specific details within their film: a specific character, a prop, and a line (Genres differ but specific details remain consistent for all teams). All of this is noted here.

Our Team: Ruby Squared Productions
Our Genre: Dark Comedy
Character: Cat or Cam Dean–an ad executive
Prop: Trophy
Line: When do you expect her?

In less than 48 hours, we scripted, we crafted, we envisioned, we executed, we edited, we composed, we exported, and we delivered a 6:30 minute dark comic film; a 6:30 minute film that gave us all a little reminder why we came to New York, why that patience and persistence in pursuing our passions mattered and what we are truly capable of when we take on a challenge and attack it together, and lastly a little reminder what happens when the talking stops and the making of films starts: Magic.

In his book, Here is New York, E.B White writes: “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something…Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.”

Here’s to the settlers that I had the brilliant opportunity to work with this past weekend:
Alex Zingaro, Brandon Jacobs, Brandon Opel, Brandon Pro, Chris Grady, Kimberly DiPersia, MaryLynn Suchan, Matt Van Vorst, Megan Magee, Nate Smith, Robert DeSanti, Sean Gallagher, and Shannon Kendall.

And here’s to being patient, persistent, and passionate.

Here are some stills of the production process:

IMG_1779Photo Credit Megan Magee

IMG_1796Photo Credit Megan Magee

IMG_1792Photo Credit Megan Magee

sound Photo Credit MaryLynn Suchan

PreproPhoto Credit MaryLynn Suchan


RoofPhoto Credit MaryLynn Suchan

AND basically how we all felt after:

mattPhoto Credit Shannon Kendall

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