Month Five

I don't know that I will ever attempt to make Nuts-n-Bolts on my own.

Every year around Christmas for as long as I have a memory, and still longer, my mom has made a huge batch of Nuts-n-Bolts. To some, it would appear to be "Chex Mix," but it's so much more than that. Namely, a few sticks of butter more. And some Worcestershire sauce.

But it's not that it's all that hard to make. My brothers have managed several successful batches over the last few years as jobs have begun forcing them to spend holidays away from home. It's that making it in my own kitchen, in another place away from Memphis, Tennessee, would be admitting something. It'd be admitting I won't get to have the real thing. Admitting that whatever comes out of that oven will have to suffice this year.

Right now, The Vagina Monologues is my Nuts-n-Bolts. It's a staple in my life, a big important thing that up until now was quite firmly attached with a big, important place -- Murray. But now, as February 27 nears and my first British V-Day experience with it, I am already starting to pull the pans out of the oven and see what I've got. I haven't botched the batch, that much is certain; the production promises to be incredible, as are the people I've met and adventures I've had thus far.

But the taste is bittersweet, because just as the taste of my own homemade Nuts-n-Bolts would make me ache for home, this is a taste that at every moment reminds me of Murray, the community of Vagina Monologues actresses there and everything else about my alma mater that I love.

As of February 4, I've been on this island for five months. And despite my lack of a month-in-review post for Month Four, I spent the month of January feeling, for the most part, ridiculously well-adjusted. My Christmas break ended, I came back and went to class on the day my plane landed. I got to work on my first performance exam, which was (thankfully) completed with flying colors on February 5. I started on my first major essay. I showed my best friend around my city with the agility of a born-and-bred local.

Then came these Monologues. We have been rehearsing since the beginning of January, but it's been during the last two weeks that things have really picked up. We've been selling cupcakes, selling tickets, having three hour rehearsals, talking logistics, getting organized, getting ready for the big night. As I sit through each rehearsal and listen to these monologues -- almost every one I know by heart, even ones I've never performed myself -- I am consistently in awe of the fact that I am the only woman in the cast who has ever performed in a VM production. Only a few had even seen the show before I brought in my DVD of Eve Ensler's performance. I'm in awe because they seem to get it so well, they seem to have cliqued with these characters, they seem so in tune with the women we represent and for that I am immensely grateful to whatever Vagina God brought them all to that audition.

Still, though, I am the voice of experience in the group and the girls consistently turn to me for guidance on every issue from inflection or pronunciation to ticket sales and sets. I absolutely love being so involved -- creating this show with such a different group of women has already taught me so much, and we're two weeks out from opening night. But it's also brought back so many memories, prompted me to tell so many stories, of Murray, of our first experience with VM, of our sold-out shows, of all the women who acted along side me, of so many other milestones in my life that happened around this show.

In 2006, on opening night, I received an e-mail from Andrew Rhodes informing me that I'd be spending a summer in New York as an intern with the American Society of Magazine Editors. Two nights later my best friend drove through snow and ice to come see me perform. In 2007, I introduced my then-boyfriend to my mom -- who saw me in the Monologues for the first time that night -- and the next day I told her I thought that he was The One.

So after a solid month of feeling so well-adjusted and so at home, here I am in the middle of Vagina season, thinking about my former castmates back in Kentucky and wishing I could be a part of their show, too. Wishing I could see it, share it with them.

But also? So glad I get to share it with these girls, here. Now.

I have already gained so much from my time as a Londoner, and in the next few months I will gain exponentially more as I finish two essays, my dissertation, perform solo on the piano for my final exam and qualify for a master of arts in contemporary music. But this month, with these women and through this production, I will leave a piece of myself here. Because so much of who I am is wrapped up in this play; I've shared so much of that in the past few weeks and I can't wait to share it on stage with hundreds more people who need to hear it.

Month five has been no less than mentally and emotionally intense; in addition to The Monologues, the day that would have been mine and The (un)One's one-year anniversary came in like a lion and out like, well, a lion. As previously mentioned, I lived through my first performance exam and as of 10 p.m. this evening have purchased all the sheet music for my final. I had a pretty unsettling cellulitis scare that led to a stressful run-in with the NHS. Stefanie came and went and I got to share this with her, even if for just a week. And of course, this month my mom also reserved her ticket to London to help me celebrate my 23rd year.

But all intensities aside, it's also been a pretty fabulous 30 days. Or 60, if you're still angrily counting my lack of a Month Four post. I'm getting things done, I'm getting involved, I'm making connections, I'm singing, I'm writing, I'm researching, I'm living. And I love it.

HRH e. cawein
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