When Shawn Kemp and I met in December for dinner in New York, she told me of her list of things do before turning 30.  Now, I am a list maker to be sure, but this is not something I had given much thought.  We are both 29, and a birthday of some significance (or at least with a zero at the end) rapidly approaches.  Shawn has a goal of becoming a modern day Renaissance women, hopefully by the 5th of November.  Her list includes: 1. Be able to describe wine.  2. Speak some Latin.  3. Run a half-marathon.  4. DJ at a club.  5. Learn how to sew.  She had all of this written down in a little notebook that she carried with her.  The only thing I could think of at the time is that I wanted to go skydiving.  I am afraid of heights, and it seems like a good way to defy mortality on the eve of turning 30.  Shawn and I are planning to go skydiving next time she is in the states.

We make lists of all the things we’d like to do before we’re 30

I’ve been making many other lists over the last few months, and slowly beginning to check items off.  I have now edited half of the projections that will accompany the songs.  We have edits for nine of the ten interviews, though we’re still adjusting a few of those.  Gretchen and Freddy got back from Italy yesterday, and we’ll shoot our final interview with them this week.  I also, at long last, have a tentative set list that I think will work.  Deciding an order for the songs has been like making the most complicated mixed CD ever, finding the right ebb and flow, taking into consideration the tone of the interviews, juxtaposing tempos and styles.  I played through them all in order yesterday, and I may have figured it out.

The last time Shawn was here in New York we had a blizzard.  The streets were filled with snow and Air France had lost her luggage.  After dinner and wine, I left to do a reading with The Actor’s Company Theater (TACT).  I had been working with them on this beautiful (and obscure) English play from the 1950s called Waters of the Moon.  Set in a run down English manor that has been converted into a hotel in the years just following WWII, the play takes place during a snowstorm that strands a wealthy family at the somewhat unfortunate little inn.  Very Chekhovian in style, the action of the play characterizes the class divide in England.  I played John Daly (a character much like Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night), a young man with consumption who falls in love with the daughter of the wealthy family.  Near the end of the play his sister has the line, “I begin to think the only sin in life is to be unhappy.”  I reference that line in the lyrics to Shawn’s portrait, and it reminds me that to a certain extent, happiness is a choice we make.

(Shawn Kemp as a DJ at Professorennacht, Photo ©2010 Eike Freese)

Now I have a list of things to do that includes more than skydiving.  I suppose I just hadn’t considered 30 to be the deadline.  Working on this project, however, I do see the benefits of giving yourself a timeline and holding yourself to it.  If I wasn’t performing this project as part of Studio Tisch, Mike and I certainly would not be hurtling along at our current speed.  Shawn, by giving herself a deadline, has started doing the things on her list.  She’s learned a bit of Latin and more about wine, and she was a DJ a few weeks ago at Professorennacht – competition among the professors at Tuebingen University, where she teaches in Germany.  As I think more about the things I want to do as I get older, they include: skydiving, seeing something I’ve written be produced (working on that right now), running a marathon, and traveling to Egypt to see the pyramids.  I’ve considered getting a tattoo, but have wisely told myself I have to like an idea for at least two years before doing so.  That has not happened yet.  Regardless, when I sit down at the piano on July 15th I’ll have a least one thing to check off my list.

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