Looking back on 2015

Normally a post like this would be reserved for looking back at all the rest of the posts over the course of the year, and we’d all reminisce about our favorites or some such. But seeing as how this blog only started less than a month ago, such a post would be a tad premature.

That said, I’ve been alive for the past year, and there’s no saying that I can’t look back and reminisce about all that’s happened, blog or not!

Summarizing 12 months into a piece that is meant to be read in a matter of minutes can be a difficult task, though it’s a job made much easier by the fact that we often live in blocks of time that can be separated like chapters in a book. It all flows one into the next, and even overlaps sometimes, but there’s no arguing that we experience things in episodes, like the time of courtship in a relationship, to the time when you’re exclusive with one another, to when you’re engaged, to when you’re married, to when you’re expecting your first born, to the time when your child is a baby and you’re anticipating the toddler months.

Speaking of which, one of the more notable things that happened this past year was that I met a wonderful girl, whom I am now dating. Without going too deeply into what is our private business, we met earlier this year, doing most of our early correspondence on Facebook, and later met for our first date near the end of summer. After navigating a few complications (which is, once again, our private business), we’ve been enjoying a wonderful relationship with one another. I certainly look forward to seeing what more my life with Chelsey will yield!

Beyond my relationship status, 2015 has been an interesting year for me professionally (and publically, in general). Hell, I think I could write a perfectly interesting piece just on the month of January. Besides it being the month of my birth (and it happened to be the year I turned 33, to which I remarked, and was requoted, “I’m the same age as Jesus!”), I also attended the first portion of the Blandin Community Leadership Program, an extensive workshop on community building and leadership that introduced me to many interesting and active people. This first part was a week-long retreat, and not to diminish the value of the actual workshop time, but I think the most valuable part of the week was when all the people involved got together after hours to drink and play Cards Against Humanity.

Drinking with Blandin buddies
Drinking with Blandin buddies

And almost immediately after the first Blandin week, the Grand Rapids Players production of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” opened, in which I played the coveted role of Igor (pronounced Eye-gor). I’ve been involved with theater for many years now, and it’s safe to say that this production was a personal highlight for me as an actor. And it must’ve shown, because I still get people remarking how much they enjoyed my interpretation of Dr. Frankenstein’s behumped assistant. As a matter of fact, this entire year has been an exciting one for me as an actor. Though “Young Frankenstein” was particularly noteworthy, I also played the lead role of the Commodore in “Ziibi,” an original musical fairytale that I co-created with John Schroeder, my partner with the Uncommon Loons theatre company. What I was most proud of with “Ziibi” wasn’t necessarily my performance as the Commodore, though. It’s actually pretty difficult to say of what element I’m the most proud, but as far as anything I personally did for the show, I’d have to say it was the writing of it.

Igor sitting on Dr. Frankenstein's lap.
Igor sitting on Dr. Frankenstein’s lap.
The Commodore singing the Music of the Night
The Commodore singing the Music of the Night

The characters of Igor and the Commodore had quite a bit in common, when I look back on them. But they were both worlds away from the character of Tom in “The Glass Menagerie,” the Tennessee Williams’ classic which I both directed and performed in this past fall. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to both directing and acting in this play, but I also didn’t have an awful lot of choice, given how auditions went. And looking back, the poor audition turn out was somewhat reflective of the poor audience turn out when the play finally opened. As disappointing as it was to see so few people in the seats throughout the run, we were very proud of the fact that we managed to speak with most of the people who saw it, and they all loved it. We all heard a lot of great reviews on the show after the run, both from the miscellaneous person on the street as well as on 91.7 KAXE, the local public radio station. Whereas Igor is still my favorite character that I’ve played, Tom allowed me to stretch my acting muscles in an entirely different way.

Even though I haven’t yet accomplished this goal, it was earlier this year that I found out that I was the co-recipient of an Arrowhead Regional Arts Council grant for a play that I’m planning on co-creating with Sam Miltich, a good friend and phenomenal jazz guitarist. We had talked about collaborating on a project for quite awhile, and we finally decided on something (especially if you live in northern Minnesota, keep your eyes pealed for news of this production come fall of 2016).

While looking back at the different shows, I almost forgot how nutty my summer was! Speaking of periods of time that could fill up a blog post (or a book, if I felt so inclined), I found myself collaborating with a small group of people late last year who hoped to see a revival at the Showboat Landing in Grand Rapids, MN. The venue was known for a riverboat variety show that had been done annually for 60 years, and the show had become a joke in recent years amongst most anyone in the area who had actually gone to see it. At one time, the Mississippi Melodie Showboat was a state-wide attraction, bringing people together from miles around to have an experience on the banks of the Mississippi River. That time was over, and there were too many people who couldn’t bring themselves to see the truth of the matter. So the five of us set out to bring some more interesting and diverse life to the old stage. “Ziibi” was the big goal of the year, but we needed to do more than that if we wanted people to actually turn the landing around in a single summer. So we all spent the summer hosting different events at the Showboat Landing, such as ballroom dancing, independent movie screenings, and Wine on the Mississippi, which was a personal favorite for people, what with the wine and live music. Sadly, despite a successful summer, the efforts didn’t save the venue. The property, which is owned by the city, will soon be owned by the UPM paper company, effectively closing the doors to Showboat after 60 years.

One of the most significant things that I’ve done this year, as far as my professional life is concerned, is quitting my job at the newspaper where I worked for the past five years. Back in 2010, I more or less just fell into this job. They needed to fill a position, and I had done some freelance work for them in the past. So they offered me the job. And over the years, I can safely say that I owe a lot of my recent personal growth and development to my time working at the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, but there comes a time when one stops growing, and they only succeed at remaining stagnant. This is how I felt for much of the last two years or so at the paper. So leaving the job was an exciting step to take, and taking on substitute teaching has been an extremely fulfilling alternative so far. Provided it stays this way, I’m more than likely going to get my teaching degree so that I can teach fulltime.

The newspaper bids Nathan farewell
The newspaper bids Nathan farewell!

And one of the last things of interest that I did in 2015 was start this blog. I created a blog a few years ago that didn’t really go anywhere, in no small part because I didn’t really feel like I had any direction for it. Having lived and learned prior, and without the newspaper to keep me focused on writing deadlines, I look forward to what this blog will bring for me in the next year.

I hope you, dear reader, feel the same.

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