Infiltrating the Holidays

Infiltrating the Holidays

My sweet, normal Chicago family.

While in grad school, it’s difficult not to let ensemble devised theatre and my thesis take over my entire life. For the winter holidays, though, I’m escaping Chicago for my family and (slightly warmer) weather in South Carolina. That doesn’t mean that the work won’t follow me.

When I’m in the living room wrapping Christmas presents, I know that it will peek its head around the kitchen corner whispering, “Only one semester left…tick…tock…” but I have to give myself some allowances! So these are my do’s and don’ts to keep my grad theatre life from totally taking over the holidays.


  • Let my thesis affect my gift choices for my family. My topic of departure is the archetype of the Wild Woman, so everyone gets a feminist book! (Ranging from Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World to Women Who Run With the Wolves)
  • Cut up videos of rehearsals and give each clip to a different family member, saying I made it just for them. “It’s an interpretive movement piece just for you! It’s abstract and reeeeeeeally really deep.” They’ll figure it out in a few years…
  • Wear jewelry! I don’t have to be prepared to do a handstand or leap into someone’s arms at any given moment!
  • Let my group organizing skills into the kitchen. When it comes to group family cooking, I am now the MASTER DELEGATOR. Everyone gets a task to focus on but is allowed to help with other tasks. That way, there is no hierarchy in the kitchen and everything gets done.
  • Pack jeans. And sweaters. And not-tennis-shoes shoes. Grandma is coming for Christmas Eve dinner, and even though black sweatpants are fancy enough for Friday presentations, they are not suitable for the table. They are better than gray sweatpants, though…
  • Rest! And now that I don’t have any assignments, I can get to all that thesis reading I’ve been wanting to do all semester! Wait…
  • But really. Rest. Reflect. Let the last semester go. But I’ll still always have a notebook and pen by my bedside in case that BRILLIANT idea pulls me out of slumber.
  • Create something else! I can get back to crochet for a while. If whatever I create ends up in my thesis, it was total COINCIDENCE.


  • Don’t go up to family members/friends/delivery people/strangers to share my two sentence description of my thesis with them. Sure, it took me three months to condense it, but not everyone needs to hear it. Reign it in, reign it in.
  • When my 7-year-old niece and her friends show me their dance routine to “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, I can’t give them more feedback than the length of their dance.
    “Where was your point of focus on the line ‘I got that sunshine in my pocket…’?”
    “What’s your relationship to the rest of the girls?”
    “How can your quality of movement change in the bridge so that we the audience notice a shift in tone?”
    (They started painting their faces with lipgloss halfway through question 2.)
  • Don’t allow myself to be triggered into Pavlovian musical responses. Since a Prince playlist is my cohort’s warm-up music, I immediately start doing jumping jacks any time I hear “Raspberry Beret”. And my mom loves contemporary light rock. Stop it, Brittany. You’re embarrassing her.
  • In place of a board game, I will not propose creating an original adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters using only Dixie Chicks song lyrics.
  • When my sister goes to throw the gift boxes away, I will not have a panic attack…but in those cardboard boxes, I see a sword, a staircase, a white rose given to you by a long-lost lover, a restaurant menu, and a skyscraper for hand puppets just waiting to be created! There is magic in everything! Maybe I’ll move this one to the “Do’s”…
  • When I see my nephew’s church Christmas play, I will not scoff at all the props and set pieces. I will resist the urge to say “Why build a manger when two people holding each other’s shoulders in flat back will do? Why have a northern star when you can embody it!?”
  • And finally…don’t miss my cohort members too much. Sure, these 10 people have become my family, but distance makes the heart grow fonder. *cries*

Cohort Family Selfie!

Happy Holidays, everyone!