Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WHY I go to TWU.

There are MANY MANY reasons I go to TWU and not another school like UBC or UVIC (my other two previous choices). I have listed a few of them below in no particular order, and there are more if you'd like to ask about certain things. I will take examples from the past 24 hours to draw from so you know that I am not stretching too far and that everything I say really is true.

Last night I attended Sunday Night Alive like usual and a thought struck me. We are so blessed to not just live in a country where we can worship our God openly, but also that we go to a school that encouragers students to do so. They pay people to make sure that every couple Sundays we have a night service that we can go to just to worship. On top of the five weekly chapels.

Today at dinner a few of my friends were talking about how much money they owe and who they owe it to. Everyone knows that TWU is an above average cost institution, but they do give away quite a significant amount of scholarships. But even though I know we are an expensive school, I would never give my experience here up for anything. I mean what school can I go to besides TWU that gives a high quality education (ranked A+ in quality of education more times in a row than any other university), and encourages the students to live godly lives?

Today I had a talk with one of my professors for over an hour. OVER an hour, and when I went into the office I had no agenda other than catch up with them. We talked about ways that I thought our class could be improved, she asked my opinion on a few things, and then we talked about musical theatre and how theatre artists (including myself) can be kind of snobby towards it. We also talked about UK citizenship, getting pregnant, proper ways to critique, and a few other things. I love that I can have random conversations with my professors and that they are open to hearing my opinions on their class.

Today I had a three hour class with only twelve other students. We got to work in small groups and have a group discussion on the subject material for the class. I have the privilege of being in my second year and being able to sit in my class and have a detailed conversation about the material we are interacting with and not just hear and do the work. We talked in detail and then when we were nearing the end we discussed what this meant to us as Christians, and not just people. What can we take out of it and apply to our own life, or what understanding did we gain that will help us later on.

Today I had my first ever Dress Rehearsal fo a show I am in. The Theatre program here at the School of the Arts, Media, + Culture is incredible and beyond description. Being in a show directed (and written) by Aaron Caleb has been an incredible experience I wouldn't trade for anything. I have learned countless things about how to work as an actor independent of a director and with a director. The best thing about working with Aaron is that his process is very collaborative, he expects you to work and bring options for everything rather than him just blocking it for you. He makes you think and engage not just what you as a character thinks is the right choice but what you as an actor want to bring to the scene. I am SO please to be a part of "The Bacchae" there is no other show on earth that I'd rather have my stage debut with than this one.

Friends. I have amazing friends. Yesterday and today I have had some great talks with people. I have some very caring friends who know me quite well. I like that I have opened myself up here, enough that I can't hide very easily from my friends. Today my friends actually pointed out to me that I wasn't being myself even when I thought I was. Turns out I was frustrated. And then later another friend of mine noticed I wasn't my happy smily self and checked in on me. I feel like the friendships I have from TWU are stronger emotionally than any other friendship I've had, and they are definitely stronger spiritually. And they buy me things like coffee when I really need it. Which is SOOO good.\\

While alone these things seem fake or too "fluffy," they really are true, and they are just the toppings. These are just things I have experienced in the past day or two. I will post later about the deeper reasons that I love TWU and continue to go here, but all of these previous listed things are very important to me.

Til next time,

Friday, March 18, 2011

What it is like being a Theatre Major

This is the "Inevitable Theatre Post".

**This is in no way a complaint, I chose and continue to choose to be a theatre major. And I appreciate the challenge it gives us.**

I held off on this post because I was trying to keep this blog applicable to most by posting about my life as a university student. Because I work for admissions, the point of this blog is to give an idea of what life is like as a university student and while no one is an "average" university student I feel like my experience as a theatre major is even further outside the norm. However, for anyone considering majoring in the arts I figured that this post could be extremely helpful to know what arts at a post-secondary level looks like.

Being a part of the School of the Arts, Media + Culture is a crazy experience. In both a good and bad way. There are sacrifices you have to make in university, and there are sacrifices you have to make for art, and there are large sacrifices you have to make for university art.

Everyone in the arts knows that a lot of time and dedication are needed to attain the results you want. Right now I am registered as a fulltime student and am acting in a show that opens next week. That means that in any time that I am not doing something, I should be. There always needs to be time for socializing and rest, for your physical health, and prayer and worship, for your spiritual health. But after those things are taken care of I need to be either working on school work, working, or rehearsing (since our first show is in 4 days!).

This week has been Tech Week, and tomorrow is Tech Day. As of yesterday we are officially done rehearsing but need to still be fixing things (such as dance and movement pieces). Tech Week means that all week our rehearsals have been dedicated to making sure the technical aspects of our show get the attention they need and deserve. So it means that we stand around waiting for a light to be focused or a level to be set.

For those of you who are not theatre students or who are prospective theatre students, the average rehearsal schedule for a show is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday nights from 6-10pm and Saturday from 9am-5pm. EVERY week until the show opens. Which overall means 20 hours a week. Some shows have an added four hour rehearsal on Fridays or Mondays which brings the total to 24 hours a week. That is an entire day out of your week. 1/7th of your week. Now comes the kicker, on top of that you are expected to rehearse between rehearsals to make sure you get everything down and to bring in new options. That on its own is not terrible, do not get me wrong, I LOVE rehearsal, I LOVE being in a show and it is entirely worth all the work that we have to do.

What makes our rehearsal schedule crazy is when you are taking a bunch of classes/jobs that don't particularly work around a theatre schedule. Last semester I was assistant stage managing a show that was rehearsing 24 hours a week (plus as a stage manager you must be there a half hour before and after each rehearsal), I was in two lab sciences, an acting class that requires hours of rehearsing outside of it, a Religious Studies class that was important to me, holding a part time job in admissions, was an SOS leader, was in weekly counselling, and was trying to be an active member in the TWU community.

Needless to say, I was burnt out pretty quickly. And that was only 13 semester hours (plus two labs). I passed all my courses and maintained the GPA I need for my scholarship. If you want to know what it is like being a member of the School of the Arts, Media + Culture, that is it right there.

What I haven't mentioned is the amazing program that we get to work in. I can safely say that the programs here are unique. First of all, TWU in general is an incredible school, and SAMC is no exception. The professors care way more than one would expect and they mean what they say, they are there to create whole artists. I have cried in all of my theatre professor's offices for very personal reasons. They have helped me realize the parts of me that I have hidden and that need(ed) work. They are continually pushing me to be a better person, a better role model, a better Christian, and a better theatre artist.

In class I have seen nearly every person in my year cry. We are always on a journey being pushed further and further. If you are looking at pursuing a post-secondary degree in theatre I would STRONGLY encourage you to check out TWU's SAMC Theatre program. The same goes for every program in SAMC (art, music, and communications), and in the rest of the university.

Till next time,

P.S. Check out SAMC Theatre's production of "The Bacchae" the show that I am in that opens next week!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Stages of Life

All my life I have felt like I am alone, there has always been this feeling of knowing that no one else really knows what is best for me - so I had to try my hardest to get what I needed done. I felt like the people in my life were not really permanently there for me, so I started to keep this thinking for everyone. Everyone in my life for the past ten years has been given a "Disposable" label from me. I knew not to get too close because they might not stay.

Now I'm in university where everyone is in this state, where you know that the friends you make probably won't be around in a couple years - even your really good ones. Now for the first time ever I have started not handing out the "Disposable" stickers because I'm in a place where I don't feel I have to, and at the same time people are leaving.

Which made me think, everyone around me for once has the exact same problem. They might not know it, or be aware of it, or maybe even really care, but they have it. Everyone at university is at a "life shift" where everything in their life is changing. The people you meet, the jobs you take, everything is temporary.

I've been at university long enough now that everyone outside of it that was in my life has moved on to bigger and better things. And like I mentioned, the people in my life now aren't permanent (for the most part).

So last night as I lay in bed at a time I should've been asleep, I thought about what that means for me and my life (short and long term).

Short term:
This summer most of the people I know and love will either graduate and move away, drop out and leave, or go home for the summer. Which means that I get the pleasure of staying here in Langley (where is still to be determined) with very few people around. There are a couple of people whose presence is more important to me than most, most of whom are going away.
My girlfriend is talking of going home for the summer to see her family, which I completely support. One of my best friends, if not my best, will be staying for a little while to do a show in Vancouver and then go home. My friend who is more like a sister is talking about going all kinds of places from Kansas City to Australia. And a bunch of other people in my life will be moving away, mostly going home. While I'm happy that they have a place to go, I still can't help but feel unsettled about the coming summer.

Long term:
Most of the people in my life are not permanent and I might not ever see them again after graduation, but I will have friends all over the globe.  Without having true "roots" anywhere, I am free to go wherever I feel called.

Right now it feels (and looks) like the short term negatives outweigh the long term, very vague positives. This might be just another whiny post from a college student wishing life could be easier. But here I am wishing life could be easier and complaining about it in a blog post.

Till next time,

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring or Reading Break, which is it?

As "Reading Break" comes to a close and everything returns to normal on campus, all the students are looking back on their reading breaks wondering what they did with their time. You don't really have a choice because if you run into someone you didn't see over the break you have to ask them (it is the social norm). Then you play a game of one upping, one person will probably talk about their trip to California or Hawaii and the other will talk about how they became more aquainted with the stacks in the library basement as they prepared for their term papers. They'll tell each other that the other person was better off "I wish I had studied and written papers" the first will say, and then the other will respond with "No! I'm so jealous you got to lay on the beach in Hawaii for a week, I'd much rather see the sun than write that history paper!"

I've had multiple versions of these conversations today, with variances on the places where people went or where they studied, and it has got me thinking. What do we do with our free time on reading break, is it beneficial or could we use our time better. And is there a balance when it seems like people seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Personally, I know I could have done more this break. It was more of a Spring Break (plus cold and snow) than a Reading Break. I did very little Reading and a lot more Breaking. Being a theatre student and in a production, I had rehearsal on Saturday all day (9-5), and then immediately following rehearsal I booked it downtown Vancouver and watched an amazing (required) 3 act play. I got home at nearly midnight and so it didn't really feel like a break yet at all. So come Sunday, I was ready for a break. So me and three others skipped church, caught a ferry and headed for the island. There we stayed  at a professor's house for a couple nights and had an amazing time. It was incredible to see my professor interact with her family and be able to see her incredible Christian character at work in her family. It has caused me to deeply respect her even more than before. While we were there we got to take a backstage tour of the Chemainus Theatre, including their rehearsal space and shop space. From there we went to my hometown (or as close as I have to a hometown) Galiano Island. We rented a cottage there for a couple of nights and really got to relax and bond. I grew way closer to the people I went with and loved spending time with them.

We got back on Thursday morning. You would think I would take a hint and get to work. I didn't. I thought it was a great time to take 24 hours straight to write as much of a play as possible. 24 hours later, I had written one act of a play and was content. Then it hit. I have 2 critiques to write, 2 CHITS (similar to critiques), 12 journals entries, a sound design project, a scene to rehearse, and a sonnet to have ready for Wed, and I haven't done much of anything. So I spent a while doing work, went to bed, and then Saturday flew by, and Sunday I went to church and helped two friends move. So it was Sunday night when I realized I should have done more homework during READING break. Whoops.

Now, the rest I got, I NEEDED. I have no doubt about that, but perhaps I didn't need to waste so much other time. Perhaps I could have found a happy medium. And that's how my second reading break ended. Wait, I forgot to say I satyed up till 2:30 in the morning working, got up at 9, finished working, and then my reading break ended.

And on our break we listened to the sermon online. We didn't miss the sermon, we just chose to hear it at a more convenient time. But we did listen to it! Promise.

So what do you think? Should Reading Break be a break from reading and a time for rest or a time for reading where we can not stress about going to class? I'm still undecided. I know I personally needed the break, but now I'm wishing I hadn't left so much to the last minute.

Til next time,

Friday, February 18, 2011

University's Worst Transgression: Procrastination

This week procrastination has really caught up to me, and if you're in university (or even high school) I'm sure you've been in the same boat. While I tried this week to get things done ahead of time, I still ended up with a horribly busy Tuesday night with more work than I could possibly accomplish while getting sleep. So I made the decision to do a Denny's night. Everyone at TWU knows that a Denny's night means you're going to be up late and need a lot of coffee.
Well I went to Denny's, did my paper work, and then started working on my monologue for my voice and movement class the next day. Turns out I am really bad at memorizing Shakespeare at four in the morning. Plus when I only getting four hours of sleep I am incapable of remembering it.
So Wednesday afternoon I was standing doing some breathing exercises when I all of a sudden felt sick to my stomach. It wasn't just a quesy feeling, it was an "I'm gagging because I'm so close to puking" moment. This feeling of almost puking lasted a good hour until a friend of mine pointed out that I had low blood sugar. I then realized I had forgotten to eat since 11 pm and the only thing I had that morning was a Red Bull. At the same time, it was my turn to share. I realized I couldn't remember any lines past the first two and said "I'm not prepared to present anything".
Here are the lessons from my story:
  1. Don't leave half of a twelve hour project until the night before
  2. Remember to leave time for yourself to sleep (especially if you need to remember facts the next day, such as an exam or scene)
  3. Remember to eat! Especially when you're tired and your body needs nutrition even more.
  4. Don't ever rely on Red Bull.
I recovered just fine and went to my Technical Theatre class following Voice and Movement (with food), and by the time I got to rehearsal I was just jimdandy.

Denny's runs are inevitable for me, I am by nature a procrastinator and I love working at Denny's. But because I know this about myself, I will try to leave less homework until the last minute, especially memorization.

Until next time,

Monday, February 14, 2011


This past week has been so crazy for me I don't even know how to describe it. I had two sick days which put me quite a bit behind schedule and then on top of that I have already been slacking more on my homework than I should've been. I normally will be blogging at least twice a week from work but because I was sick I didn't end up going in.
The worst thing about being sick in University is knowing that for every class you miss by being sick, you are taking an automatic hit to your grade. You will rarely be able to learn everything from that class that you weren't in. You just automatically miss out. Yes, professors are understanding and they want to help you come back from it, but there is only so much that they can do.
It is now 1:07 in the morning and I am now nearly finished a project that is due on Wednesday. Because I have a midterm on Thursday that I need to study for so I need to get everything else out of the way first.

On top of my sickness and coming back from all the homework that suffered, I have also been going through some extremely high highs. The past couple weeks I have been struggling with my relationship with God and I didn't even know why. I just sort of stopped working on it without realizing. When I realized it I got mad, but started working on it again. I have come back from most of it and have been talking with God more but I miss where I was a few weeks ago before I unintentionally let my relationship slip. Like I said I am recovering from it, and today in church I had a good conversation with God.

In other news my entire world has been shifting. This semester I have noticed that the major people in my life has changed significantly. I have grown extremely close to a few people who I wasn't as close with last semester and I have grown apart from a couple people as well. On top of this I just found out last week that the house I live in during the summers and christmas break is up for sale. And when my foster family buys a new house there won't necessarily be room for me. I do not blame them at all for their decision, however, it is timed extremely poorly for me personally. I am going away to London for three weeks (I know, poor me) and they are planning on moving either the day before I leave or a few days after I come back. This means that when I come back from London I am officially an adult. I will have no safety net for me to fall back into. I need to have my own place. I am lucky enough to have a job lined up for the day after I get back from London (God is so good!) but I still need to find a place to live. There are a few options I haven't entirely explored that I'd like to still, but I still don't know everything. It seems like God has prepared my life for huge changes over the next few months that I don't even understand yet. It seems like everything that I have been holding onto is slipping away and everything I didn't expect is happening. I'm sure that God's plan is bigger and better than I can understand from my perspective, but for now it's kind of scary.

In other news, rehearsal for The Bacchae (which opens Mar 23rd) is going amazing! I can't express how happy rehearsal has made me. It has not only been extremely fun, but challenging as well. I've figured out over the past few weeks that I can't imagine my life without theatre in it. The show is coming together so well that all I want to do when I'm offstage is watch the show. I will post more about the show later when it's not so late.

Till next time,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Second Year - Second Semester, thus far

This semester has already become one of the craziest semesters I've had so far at TWU. My homework load is increased, I am in an upcoming production that requires around 20 hours of rehearsal a week, I'm involved in a discipleship group, and I have a lot going on within my personal relationships.

The only thing that makes this semester different than the others, is the fact that all my classes are from my major. I love every class I'm in, even though a couple of them really annoy me at times. I'm learning sooo much it's incredible. There are days where I wake up and run from class to class to class, grab a meal and run to rehearsal without a break. This is the furthest I have ever made it into a semester without pulling an all nighter. Everyone knows that all nighters are a university must at one point or another, but last semester alone I can remember probably around 10 times, however, I'm sure there were more. I know the Denny's staff by name and have favourite booths and servers, and by the end of the semester had gotten to know their schedule. Also, I have skipped only one class by choice for a personal reason (and the prof excused me for it).

I guess the thing that makes a huge difference on your work load is whether or not you truly like the classes you are in. Last semester I was in classes that I wanted to truly like, but I didn't and it made my life really difficult. Something I have learned at TWU is that life is too short to try to be someone else, don't be who you think society wants you to be, don't be who you think your parents want you to be, be you. Be who God made you and love it.

I came into Trinity Western as a Pre-Med student who was convinced they were an introverted science nerd. Turns out I'm not an introvert, I'm not sciency by nature (but I can still do sciences), and I'm not really a nerd (except for my love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that's a whole other topic). I now describe myself as an extroverted theatre fanatic. I was so determined to be the guy who overcame a terrible life and got a job in one of the most respected and revered job fields, that I forgot to look at who I was. There's no doubt in my mind that if I set my mind to it I could have pursued medicine, but it's not what I'm supposed to do. Just like a lot of science students could pursue Theatre if they wanted, but if they aren't truly passionate about it they'll fall flat on their face like I did in the sciences.

While I wasn't going to touch on my ability in the sciences, my pride will not allow me to leave it be. I'll just say that for everything that I completed I got a good mark. However, because I wasn't enthusiastic for the courses there were a couple things I didn't do to the best of my ability. I'll leave it at that.

Theatre is what I love, if it's not what I end up doing then I'm certain God has other plans for me. Six years ago I didn't even think I could go to university, now I'm at an amazing Christian university studying what I love. Obviously God's plans are bigger than we can imagine.

If I can encourage you in any way today, I would say do what you love. Because if you don't love what you're doing, you obviously aren't going to want to do it

Till next time,

P.S. NEW GENERATIONS opens tomorrow night at TWU's SAMC Theatre.
You can buy tickets here!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Introduction: God will use incredible circumstances to do amazing things

**I want to add that I did try to keep it short and that most posts will not be this long**

I have been sitting here trying to figure out what to say in my first blog post. I have always wanted to have a blog, because it sounds so cool.The closest I had was a blog I used for my bucket list last summer, which was a very fun experiment that died out. This blog, however, will be different for a couple of reasons. First, this is now a part of my job description (but not anywhere near the whole of it) and frankly, I enjoy my paycheck. Secondly, because today I was told that my life is meant to make a difference, and I hope that this blog can be a part of that.

I suppose I should start off my blog by letting you people all know who I am, where I came from, and why I am where I am. Well, this is a long story and it's a tough story. I'll start off by saying that I love my life, I love who God has made me, and I love where I am. What that means is that along the way life was bumpy, but I don't need or want pity. What I want you to take from this brief version of my life story is the knowledge that God will use incredible circumstances to do amazing things.

Life started off fairly normal, I lived with my mother and sister and lived a fairly normal life. But one day in Grade 2 after school I sat outside the front of my school waiting for my mother but she didn't come. My sister and I sat out there for what seemed like hours but was more realistically a single hour. A car pulled up and that's when i met my first foster parents. They let me know that I was going to be staying with them for a while because my mom needed some help with her drug problem. That night I ate spaghetti under their piano, wishing I was somewhere else.

The next couple years I lived there and visited my mother in supervised visits, and got to visit my dad for a couple weekends a month. After that my sister and I moved in with my Dad on Galiano Island (population about 1000). The next few years I lived on Galiano with my Dad for the most part but because he was a fisherman, he often left town for weeks at a time and I had to stay with other people (often relatives). To say I was a misbehaved child is an understatement, I truly wish that I had not been so mean to the people who were trying to help me, but a troubled child is just that - troubled. Eventually I burned the bridges with everyone around me, I had no one who was willing to take my for a couple of months while my father did his annual summer fishing trip. So I went back into (temporary) foster care since I was still in the care of the government while living with my father.

The foster home I went to was great, and I had an amazing summer. Things were really good, and then I moved back to Galiano with my Dad and I realized how different life there was. My Dad was working construction and would leave before I got up for school and come back after dark. By this time my sister had moved out and so I would be alone for hours at a time. At this time my father was also drinking more than he had been for a while and so when he was home he was not always sober.  My father was trying, but life was not what I wanted it to be and I had a way out.

I requested to be sent back to my foster home that I had spent the summer at. That went through and I ended up moving in with them.

Another couple years later after experiencing high school, and wanting to change, I moved back to my father's. We were both at different places in our life and this time it was a great situation. Home life was good, not great, but still good. We shared a one bedroom basement suite, I got the bedroom and my father would sleep on the couch in the living room.

So while family life was finally pretty good and I enjoyed going home, school became unbearable. There were a few people who were set on making my life (and I don't ever use this phrase easily) a living hell. I won't go into details at all, as I have been trying not to for this whole post, but I cannot remember a day that I woke up wanting to go to school. By grade ten, things had stepped up and I would get emails from classmates telling me they hated everything about me, and wanted to kill me. This was a time where I seriously struggled with depression and suicide. But something kept stopping me, and I will get back to this later.

I changed schools and things were good, maybe even great, for a while. Life zoomed by and before I knew it I had new friends, a new attitude, and new problems. I had gotten into a group of friends that encouraged partying a lot. I started becoming a person I didn't even like, I hurt people who I loved, and at the end of the day wasn't happy. I still love everyone who was in my life then, but I knew that something was missing, that something was off.

This is when I had my first true encounter with Christ. For all of my life I called myself a Christian, but I meant I believed in a God. I didn't mean I had a personal relationship with God. My former foster parents invited me to church one day - the first time I had attended a service in nearly 10 years. There I had a true, amazing encounter with God that changed my life. This is where my story actually gets crazy.

To skip telling you all the details I'll tell you where I was: I had just quit my job, I had nowhere to live and go to school, no friends, and very few family members who would talk to me. A week later I was living in a huge house, going to a Christian high school for grade twelve, was accepted into my former foster family (my now current family), was quickly gaining friends, and had a personal relationship with my saviour. If that isn't amazing, I don't know what is.

A year later I found myself at a private Christian University (Trinity Western University) with tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships and bursaries. While I have been here I have had the chance to learn who I really am, grow in my relationship with Christ, and study what I truly love (theatre). This year I have also had the priviledge of being a student leader, a student employee in admissions, and now a discipleship group leader.

I know that God was there with me through all of my struggles. He was there under the piano with me, He was there when I was alone on Galiano, He was there stopping me when I struggled with suicide, He was there when I thought I lost everything, He was there in that church telling me where I belonged, He is here with me now, and He was there all the seconds in between.

I have found my home here at Trinity Western University. I have my friends (who are like a family), I have my church close by, I have my supportive and encouraging professors, and I have my job. Trinity is that place I want to go back to after a long day. When I think "Man, I want to curl up in bed and watch a movie!" I picture myself here.

Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of who I am, and why TWU means so much to me.

Romans 5:3b-5 "[W]e know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (NIV)

Until next time,
-Thomas Nelson