Better Late Than Never…

On December 18, 2009 I announced Introspect Dance Company. A company I was founding whose goals were to inspire original art created, directed, designed and performed by young people under the age of 25 with the goal of creating social change within our community. Over the next seven years we evolved into Introspect Arts, would perform 8 main stage productions, work with over 300 students from across the state or WI, and foster the creation of dozens of original plays, musicals, choreography pieces and visual art galleries.

Two years and 10 days ago today, we announced Introspect would close.  On that day, I said I was at a loss of words but would be sure to give my closing thoughts when I had time to process.

Two years ago today, I went to our studio early in the morning, sat on the back porch in the crisp morning air with a steaming cup of my favorite Kona coffee from the Kwik Trip across the street, staring out at the view that I had come to love more than any other view in the world, determined to process.  Determined to write my closing thoughts. Determined to make sense of what was happening. Determined to sort out who owned what part in our closing. Determined to make peace. Determined to move on.

Instead I cried.

And for the first time in a long time. I had cried out of frustration and stress over the years, but never from emotion.

And since we’re being honest, I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. A rush of emotion flew out of me like I had never experienced before or since. I was thankful no one was there to see it. Over the past seven years I had evolved into a person I didn’t recognize. Someone I never wanted to become. I’m glad no one was there to see this, because when humans see other humans break down they tend to try and comfort the person and say nice things.  That was the exact opposite of what I needed, mostly because I feared (and still do) that those nice things were not coming from a genuine place. I needed to sit in the yuck. To sit and realize everything that had happened to get me to this point.


I look at the picture my parents took the day we closed and I don’t even recognize the girl sitting on the back porch of our studio.

She’s angry.
She is jaded.
She is burnt out.
She is lost.

For years, I worked tirelessly to create a space for young people to explore their world and who they were. I preached relentlessly about advocating for yourself, taking care of your vessel, evolving into a person that you were proud of first and society was proud of second. The most important thing to me (well, other than people doing the dishes/cleaning up the kitchen so we didn’t have ants- just kidding… kind of), was that our studio was a place of love and laughter, that would often be a safe space to challenge our thoughts and ideas, but ultimately would be a respite from the drudge of the outside world and its “rules”.

From day one, everything I did was to ensure this would happen. Everything was about the young people involved. I know many people who will roll their eyes when I say this but I never viewed Introspect as mine or Nate’s, the company was not about my ego at all (trust me, if it was I would have done a lot of things different). Instead I was there to facilitate an opportunity for young people to feel accepted and to grow, something I had not fully had when I was young.  Honestly, it was never about the performances. In my mind, the true impact Introspect made was through the discussions and community we created in the rehearsal room. Our shows were pretty good, some were better than others. But the real impact I was focused on was with the students involved, not so much the audience experience.

I always put myself on the front lines to protect Introspect’s community and artistic work.  I purposefully did not involve adults in the company out of fear they wouldn’t understand and would somehow “wreck” the sacred space we had created. I took hit after hit, trying to shielded those involved as much as I could from the nay-sayers, from the degrading comments and debilitating negativity I received from so many people, including those I had at one point trusted. I was set on always “being the adult” never to openly speak out when people said or did things I did not agree with- which I openly admit I did not always succeed at. But at some point all this all this internal processing shifted my focus away from the work and instead was consumed by proving these people, who had said and done such hurtful things over the years, wrong. I fought to keep the company alive. I trusted no one and in the process became the passive aggressive, out of touch  “adult” that I had feared would infiltrate the company to begin with. I had literally become my worst nightmare.

The moment I handed the key back to Dave Junion on October 25, 2015, I started my own “Introspect” journey. All the things I had urged other to do for the past seven years I had forgotten to apply to myself. As soon as the keys left my hand I had this enormous sense of hopelessness. I had no idea who I was, everything was poured into this company. I had no clue how to take care of myself. I had no idea how to advocate for myself. Over the years I became obsessed with conforming to what society wanted me to be. I had no voice, no creative expression. I was just this mess of a person my 19 year old self would have been horrified to meet.

It’s been a tough, ugly road navigating out of all this. I’ve spent a lot of time in gross feelings I never want to feel again, and saying and doing things I can’t believe I did. But I finally feel like I can process everything. It may be two years later than I hoped but here it goes:

Introspect was the greatest thing I may ever do in my life. At the same time, I allowed Introspect to become something incredibly toxic to me, and I fear others as well. I forced myself to become someone I’m not proud of.  It was an incredible adventure that I can now look back on most days and be thankful for every high and low.  There are a lot of apologies I wish I would have given, and ones I wish I would have received, but I’m thankful that most relationships have been mended.  Introspect has helped me understand how important self-care truly is, and that without it I cannot create art. I don’t know what the universe has in store for me, but I know I’m not done using art as tool to teach empathy and to challenge society. I may not be at the point I feel totally healed and ready to create again, but I’m starting to come around. I can listen to and enjoy music again, and am working on sorting out my own thoughts and experimenting with writing. I finally am starting to figure out who I am without the identity of Introspect, and to be honest I think she’s way more cool and way less up tight (with crazy colored hair). I now understand how important it is to not always suppress emotions/thought to maintain the status quo, and I’m starting to learn to use my voice again (ie. this blog). The core of what Introspect was is what I am most passionate about and feels like what I’m meant to be doing with my life; I’m just not sure how that will manifest itself quite yet. There are still probably more days that I doubt myself than not, but the days where I feel deep despair are starting to dissipate and I’m trying to learn to have empathy for myself. I’m not sure what’s to come next, but I know it’s going to be great. And whatever it ends up being, I plan to lead with joy and compassion, rather than fear and anger.

I’m not sure I’ll ever do something I love as much as Introspect. I cannot put into words how proud I am of the work we were able to create and the impact we made. I have more memories than I can count that make me burst out into laughter when I think about them. And if we’re being honest, most of the negative memories have almost completely faded. I am so thankful for the friends I made, for the incredible people involved along the way and for the opportunity to now marvel at the amazing things our alumni are doing with their lives. There are days I still turn to Nate and cannot believe that he, and so many of other incredible people, was so supportive of the crazy ramblings of a scatterbrained 19 year old, but I am eternally thankful to everyone who believed and supported Introspect.  I am so proud of the ferocity the young people in the company had to use theatre as a platform for change.

Most importantly though, on days where I look around and think the world is doomed, I think back to the incredible compassion and love shown to one another in the rehearsal room during trying times and difficult conversations, and I realize that with this generation in charge, Better Days are yet to come.




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I am Ron Weasley

I’ve always been a nerd.

But, I’m not sure what the first official sign was… it may have been the fact I’d barely sleep Friday nights so I could make sure I woke my dad up in time (meaning about 4am) so we could watch Pirates of the Dark Water. OR it could have been that I loved Star Wars so much that when I was three my Dad made his own “kid friendly” version for me on Beta. OR that when I was a teenager one of the only reason’s I’d do my homework was so I wouldn’t be grounded from the TV so I could keep up with the super late night re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on network TV Friday’s and Saturday’s with my Dad. (side note: it seems like my Dad is a key player in all this)

Bottom line: I’ve always been a nerd.

And not even just within “nerd culture”, but with everything. I used to beg my Mom and Dad to let me go to the library and find the oldest, most obscure movie musicals and then attempt to learn the music and dances.  I used to come up with the most intricate and elaborate stories and ideas, make my sister and friends act them out and obsess over the little details of everything. I loved make believe but when logic wasn’t present or couldn’t be traced I got –errr get- angry (seriously though why would I marry that imaginary Prince? We just met, I don’t know what he likes for dinner, or what his future hopes and dreams are or if he’ll be ok with me going to college instead of having babies!!). Sometimes it’s a wonder I had friends at all (thanks friends!) because I would get caught up in the weirdest of  details or ideas or thoughts.

So, not only was a nerd, I was weird. For a long time I tried to hide it. I tried to be “cool” and miserably failed. I would try to talk about “cool/normal things” or be into the “cool things” but eventually I’d just ended up going into long lectures at bars (possibly to a total stranger who just bought me a drink) raging over the ludicrous character journey of Anakin and Padmé and how our culture’s obsession with unattainable romance has officially wrecked the greatest franchise ever(!!!). Or ruin everything by giving an in-depth song analysis of “Bottoms Up” -or any other pop song the DJ played.

… yeah, the cool thing didn’t really work…

I didn’t really ever feel like I fit in anywhere. I studied theatre but have an insane fear of auditioning, and would much rather have done all the book work than gotten out on a stage in front of people. My husband and most of our friends work in tech, so they’re pretty cool and we’re into a lot of the same things, but for totally different reasons: I fall asleep during battle sequences and live for cut scenes… they’re the opposite. As a teacher I couldn’t go along with the standards because they drove me crazy since I felt like they just made me skipped over all the details and intricacies. I love my friends but whenever “relationship” or “love” stuff comes up I just about break out into hives or I start to try and make sense of it all by rationalizing it (turns out trying to rationalize The Notebook is not a good way to bond).

It felt like wherever I went I was like Ron Weasley in the Muggle world: kind of able to blend in but sure to quickly do something outrageous to show my true colors (and then end up crying and/or having someone yell at me).

I wanted my theatre friends to see how brilliant Life is strange was, and wanted my nerd friends to see how incredibly interesting Spring Awakening was. I have yet to have such luck.

And then two things happened within basically 24 hours of each other.

I went to a directing internship interview and within 5 minutes had the person interviewing say to me: “you really like figuring out the puzzle pieces of plays, don’t you? (I nodded) Then you don’t really want to be a director, you want to be a dramaturg”. I protested! I was sure I knew what I wanted in life! He simply asked me to just think about it and if I didn’t want a dramaturgy internship to let him know.

I spent the next day hemming and hawing over it while re-watching the end of Game of Thrones season 3 (for maybe the 10th time) in preparation for Season 4 beginning the next day. And then all of a sudden it all hit me- OH MY GOSH!! ALL GAME OF THRONES IS IS A GIANT EXERCISE IN EXPERT DRAMATURGY, NO WONDER I’M OBSESSED.  And the next thought I had was, OMG lots of people I know actually watch this show, but don’t really watch it- well, ok they watch it but they don’t search for the pieces of the puzzle like GRRM intended- maybe I should write a blog. I love this stuff, and the times I talk to people that love it like I do, I don’t feel like Ron about to do something stupid, I feel like Ron the moment he met Harry and instantly felt at home (and I usually have to hold myself back from saying “will you be my best friend?!”).

Obviously, GOT Season 4 happened a while ago… it’s just taken me this long to actually finally work up the courage to do it.

So just as much as Ron needs Hermoine to help him figure out how to fit in the Muggle world, Hermione needs Ron just as much to stop and take in the awe of what’s around them. And while this analogy isn’t perfect- I really should have used Newt Scamander and Jacob Kowalski- it’s what I hope to do with this blog. I hope to open up the magic and intrigue hidden within our everyday lives. I hope to demystify “nerd culture”- mostly because I think we should stop silo-ing everything all the time. I don’t believe that TV and Movies are just here for entertainments sake. They’re here to teach us, to challenge us, and to inspire us.  I think we can learn more about humans and society, where we are and where we’re going if we look at fantasy/sci-fi/other pop culture . Game of Thrones is about way more than boobs and blood and battles (if you think that’s all, you haven’t been paying attention). The Marvel Universe is- or at least was- about way more than spaceships and superpowers and supped up gadgets. If anything, I hope to find ways to even the playing field so everyone- “nerd” or the coolest of the cool- feels welcome. So that everyone can see the fascinating hidden opportunities pop culture has to teach us more about ourselves and our world.

If anything, hopefully this blog can be a Muggle’s guide the Nerd World.

Until next time,



P.S. woah, that guy at the internship interview was right… that dramaturgy internship was one of the best things I’ve done for my career- thanks Intiman and Andrew!