“I love the stories that you tell.” – Sheena LaShay to Chelsea
I fell in love with you because of the stories that you tell. You are my kindred spirit. I knew you were my kindred spirit as a playwright but now, I know there are so many other ways we are connected too. Still, it starts with your stories. It starts with Collaboraction’s 9th annual SKETCHBOOK. In January of 2009, I was hired by Collaboraction Theater‘s to stage manager their 9th annual festival. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
One month after being hired and 100+ emails in, I first came across your name in my Sketchbook Informational Festival Packet from the Festival Director. I read your play’s description and I thought, “Who is this woman and what is this play and why am I intrigued?”
Let me stop first, to give context for people reading who may not know about theater or Collaboraction because I am a stage manager among other theater roles…it’s fancy talk for a Project Manager in the corporate world but even more insane. And Chelsea is a playwright in the theater world. And her husband, who I love too is a Sound Designer. In fact, we all met during this Festival.
Theater is theater. But SKETCHBOOK, let me share with you how it was described when I was hired. “During its extraordinary eight years, Collaboraction’s annual SKETCHBOOK has received more than 5,000 short plays submissions and has presented 138 world premiere short plays for more than 30,000 audience members. This year, SKETCHBOOK expands its scope and scale, making the versatile Building Stage, 412 N. Carpenter St., its new creative home, from April 16 – May 10, 2009. Set in an open space with no fixed seats, this year the audience will move about freely as 14 world premiere short works, all seven minutes or less, are presented in an interactive evening of New American Fables. Intertwined with the world premieres will be DJs spinning music, group participatory art projects and multi- media interludes.
For the 9th annual SKETCHBOOK, Collaboraction pushes the limits of the innovative festival, presenting not just playwright-generated work, but also devised pieces. Collaboraction put out a nationwide call for plays, and for the first time asked for concepts and proposals as well, whether written, visual or sonic, all motivated by the question, what is The New American Fable? From thousands of submissions from artists across the globe, Collaboraction selected 14 new works – seven playwright-generated submissions and seven devised-work submissions – highlighting an exciting array of unique interpretations of the New American Fable theme to make for an unforgettable SKETCHBOOK 2009. Under the supervision of Associate Artistic Director Seth Bockley, the cast of each devised piece will collaborate with the director and creator to organically develop the concept into a new, finalized work to be unveiled at the festival.”
And then there was your play. When I read the script and saw it during the spacing and tech rehearsals, I knew I needed to learn more about you. Your words resonated with me. They resonated with me because at my core, I am a writer and well, I am a theater artist too and well because your writing is amazing and you know how to touch souls or get people to think.
“Your writing is raw and real and you resonate with it.” – Sheena LaShay to Chelsea
By the end of 2009, I was on my way out of Chicago and headed to New York. However, I stayed in contact with you via email and Facebook which led me to your blog. That’s when I fell in love with the totality of all of who you are. Not only were you an amazing writer…and Chelsea, you know I’m picky about what I like and what I feel is quality and I just won’t promote anybody…friends and family included if I think what they create is shit. But you…I know for a fact that theater students will read about you in their theater books. I know that you are a living legend. So I knew that…but after moving to New York and reading your blog, I knew you were an amazing women with so much to offer.
Actually, it was reading about your love affair and engagement and wedding planning process to Miles, that endeared me to you. I learned that you are OCD and love lists and are super duper organized just like me. I learned that you’re an amazing blogger. I learned way more than I ever wanted to know about wedding planning. I may or may not get married. And if I do, I don’t want a wedding. But if it were that important to him, I’d do it. And if we had to have that wedding, I’d know what to do because of your blog….including the best way to mail the invitations from the secrets you learned at the USPS office.
Speaking of Miles, when I asked him what was the highlight of his artistic career, he wrote, “I suppose the highlight of my career shows itself a little everyday when I realize that I have, through the guise of Theater, met and am working with the most amazing people I could ever hope to. They provide me with a safe place to experiment (where failure can not exist), they support me emotionally when I need it, and they offer challenges as well as solutions to great problems. The highlight of my artistic career has been discovering my family. And it’s how I met my rad wife, Chelsea.”
“You guys are like a power couple in theater,. – Sheena LaShay to Chelsea
During the next phase of our friendship, you had relocated to Virgina and I was in New York. This is probably circa 2011-2012. Whenever you would come to New York, because I was soooo your fan girl, you’d hit me up to join you for dinner or brunch or popsicles and ice cream. Sometimes it would just be the two of us or sometimes it would be with a group of your friends. It was always at a new location. Something different. Something unique. Something swanky. Something euro chic. I loved every meal with you and every conversation. Ahhh, yes, you’re a foodie too and I love that about you. You visited New York so much that I considered you a part time New Yorker and in 2012, I featured you in a series of videos on my youtube channel. We found a park with a bunch of loud ass birds and poor audio equipment…we should have had Miles help us….as we recorded some of our conversations.
“You can not sustain a relationship on anything except honest and trust.” – Chelsea sharing her thoughts on love.
We filmed two other videos. 3 Tips for Writers and our thoughts on Abundance, Jealousy and Money. During 2012, I also featured you in my Shiva’s Muse blog series. I just can’t get enough of you Chelsea! I loved you soooo much that in 2013, I sent you one of my exclusive invites to my C.R.E.A.T.E. retreat.
Its a yearly gathering of phenomenal women that I want to spend a long weekend with. We cook together. We create together. We hold space for one another. One thing that I ask of everyone there is that they share/present/teach something to the group. I think we all have something to offer and sometimes its something we wouldn’t even expect. Most people might have assumed your workshop would be on writing or theater. Nope! You taught us Cajun Cooking, complete with a print out of the recipe, a history of Cajun living on the back and a Cajun music playlist while you cooked! I fucking loved it and will need you too cook again sometimes.
During that retreat, you learned about one of my many quirks. I like what I like and sometimes what I like are two things that are sort of opposite of one another. SO what I wanted a hot melty marshmellow and a popsicle at the same time.
A few days after that retreat while reflecting on each woman I got to spend time with, I wrote you the following….
“You are a firecracker and a pistol whipper. ….disarming and charming,” – Sheena LaShay to Chelsea
The following year in February of 2014, you and I were at it again. You reached out to me asking if you could interview me for your podcast and blog, “Making Conversations.” It was probably one of the most grown up, sophisticated, yet artistic conversations I ever had. To this day, its one of my favorite conversations. Thank you for including me in that series. We spoke of advocacy, money, and the balance between being an artist and a businesswoman. I loved it!
” You are actually one of the people I most admire for using your art for advocacy. It seems to be a real drive in what you do, and I respect that so much about you.” Chelsea to Sheena
The next time you blew my mind was during one of our many meals when you told me how you sort of haphazardly applied to a playwriting fellowship program at Julliard. It wasn’t haphazard in that it was always a dream of yours. But during this particular year, it wasn’t originally a part of the plan but you just went for it. And you were a little nervous. You were selective in who you shared that story with because you didn’t even know yet if you had got in. BUT in June of 2014, you wrote the following post on your blog, ” Igot into Julliard.” And what’s crazy is you and Miles had just bought a house in Virgina. You were setting up your life there. He had an awesome job. You were doing your Chelsea thing. You were probably about to start a blog DIY series of designing your house. And then you moved to NYC, first without him, to do the program. And shortly, you all sold the house and he came here too. I love that your love for each other honors the art and dreams of one another. And a new house recently purchased or new role at the local theater won’t hold either of you down.
Just recently you graduated and I am so proud of you. I am so fucking proud of you. You already are a successful playwright in my book. Back in 2009, I was stage managing your work and your work has been produced all over the world. But this was another thing you wanted to do. And you were courageous and brave and you put yourself out there and made it happen.
Your life and philosophy speaks to and inspires the artist and writer in me. You inspire the lover in me. You inspire the blogger in me. You inspire the business woman in me. You inspired the list-loving, spreadsheet, organizing geek in me. You inspire the foodie in me. You inspire Me. All of who you are as a human being, as a woman, as a creative artist, as a wife, as a friend inspires and elevates and teaches me. I admire you so much and it truly is an honor to call you my friend. I adore you Chelsea. (ugh why am I tearing up as I write this. sigh.) I just love you and I hope that everyday the manifestation of our friendship honors you. I just want to support you in every single endeavor, even if its in trying a new recipe.
Sometime later in 2014, you and I went to a folk concert somewhere in Manhatten. I don’t remember the band or the location. I just know if you ask me to go somewhere, I will join you on that adventure. I love our date nights. Me being me…I was simultaneously photographing the band with one phone and filming the band with another. Here’s a quote from that night.
Sheena: Sometimes you don’t notice until someone points IT out. Here and there I come down hard on myself for my photography. I know I need to work on lighting…the most. I know I need to get even more comfortable directing. I know I need to just take a billion more photos. But its not until a friend sees the “production” that goes into taking a photo on my smartphone that I realize, I’m also not a beginner. That I do know stuff. That I need to give myself credit. Chelsea saw me adding the olloclip lens to my iPhone and taking both wide angle and fish eye photos. Then she saw me taking photos on my HTC phone which lets me adjust exposure, ISO, aperture, white balance and more. Like….these days I don’t even “just click the button.” Before I even snap the shot, I get all my settings in place, then I compose the shot for whatever story I’m trying to tell…then I wait and anticipate the moment…then I take the picture. Then I edit it on one of many apps on my phone. I was also taking video, testing out the Hyperlapse app and more. All that….just in being an audience member at an Americana Folk mini concert. I am a photographer. I can’t even help it. I don’t even know what its like to just “take a picture.” I don’t even know what that means anymore! Thank you Chelsea for actually reminding me of something I love and forget to give credit to.
Chelsea: Just another of the ways you’re impressive because you don’t apologize for being proficient.
Chelsea, I want to close with this quote that I wrote to you in August of 2015 because it pretty much sums it all up for me.
“Chelsea your mind is a wonderland. I want to be Alice and fall into it and stay there for awhile.” – Sheena LaShay to Chelsea
In many ways you have let me fall into you. While I stay Facebook connected to most artists, actors and production teams that I work with in theater, you are one of the rare ones who became essential to my life. You have pushed me further into my wildness and my magic. It is truly TRULY a ridiculous and perfect honor to call you my friend. I am so grateful for every moment that I get to share with you and I’m so over the moon proud of you and your success!
“Theatre prepares us for life because good theatre is a penetration into life, not an escape from it. ” – Chelsea
“True love makes you the most yourself you have ever been. ” – Chelsea
There have been times I haven’t stood up for my own art, and I regret them. I learned at some point that there would be no one to protect my work if I didn’t impose those limits myself. I used to think that the mark of a good collaborator was ultimate flexibility, which resulted in several really awful plays that had my name on them. Now I know you must have sacred things.” – Chelsea
YOU SHOULD READ
11 Things I Know About True Love – Chelsea wrote it on her wedding day. I love this.
Chelsea Days – This is Chelsea’s blog and its awesome
Chelsea Marcantel – This is Chelsea’s adulting website because… PLAYWRIGHT EXTRAORDINAIRE
#32LoveLetters is a 32 day blog post challenge leading up to my 32nd birthday, I am writing letters to the people in my life who contributed to me becoming fully myself as a Wild Magical Woman. If someone were to write a biography about me…which they will, it’s imperative that chapters are focused on these 32 people. They have had a profound, lasting and influential effect on my life. I can not tell my own story without telling you of theirs.