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  • Writer's pictureRachael Chau

This Love (Rachael's version)

Welcome back to ye olde blog! I've been thinking for the past few months about how to exercise my creativity via writing–because oh do I love words and thoughts and exploring and making them cohesive and wrapping language around the intangible–and I came to the conclusion that this blog was due for a revival! No hard plans around how often I'll be posting, but let's aim for biweekly, shall we?


To launch my grand return, we're starting with a very timely topic: Love.


If you've known me at all in the past couple of years, you'll know that I've had the great honor & joy to be part of a musical called Show Me Eternity since fall 2021. At the time, it was many of the team's first show back from COVID, so not only did the material itself carry immense beauty & weight (hello bewitching folk pop score!!), but the context & timing of it all did as well.


SME is about Emily Dickinson, her poetry, and her often glossed over love story with her brother's wife Sue Gilbert. The show centers around the two lovers, the brother Austin, his paramour Mabel Loomis Todd, and a quintet made up of forces that fuel Emily, her world, and her work: Pain, Nature, Death, Love, and Hope. Can you guess which one I am?

From our first production in December 2021! Top left: Anne Miele as Hope, myself as Love, Chokwe as Nature, bottom left Mia Angelique as Emily and Katrien Van Riel as Sue. Photo by Jody Christopherson

When we began, the show felt like a gorgeous little secret. The house was intimate, we had no mics, the set was very bare bones. In short, the music, poetry, and characters were king. I treasure that exciting time immensely. Back then not only was I learning the music and the story and the shape of it for the first time; I was young in the ways of love and dating and all that comes with that.


Fast forward to SME 2 at 54 Below in November 2022–oh what a night! This time we had some cuts and some new tunes and challenges, and the music & lyrics really got to be centerstage in this concert rendition of the show. The summer before, I had had my heart broken which in retrospect I should've known would happen from the start. It was horrendous; that full-bodied turmoil and torment of being wronged and having your innocence truly taken away. I'd never experienced anything like it, and I hoped I never

The iconic step-and-repeat in 54 Below's green room! Left to right: Chokwe as Nature, Milo Longenecker as Pain, Aliza Ciara as Death, Anne Miele as Hope, and myself as Love

would again. But by the time rehearsals and our one night only performance rolled around, I was in a new relationship (my first "real" one), and everything in life was exciting; I had just put in my two weeks at my restaurant job, was soon heading off to New Orleans to record a cast album for another musical with friends, and would soon find out that the video game I'd been recording for since the start of the year would potentially be my Big Break in the voiceover world. If 2021 Love was naive and gentle, 2022 Love was more experienced and more passionate–ready to dive into the world. (Wearing a maroon jumpsuit with my crown instead of the red and white and bustle-inclusive costume may have contributed to the vibe shift too.)


And now, here we are again. SME Year 3!!! We've got several additions to the creative team (now we have to sing AND move our bodies?!), some cast changes for the very first time, and oh yes, my Love has changed pretty drastically. That relationship I was in came to an end that was long overdue and all the more painful for the delay, and a new and miraculous love of sorts came into my life shortly after when I did not expect or anticipate it. I pursued it with open arms and a grateful heart. And wow did that one ache when it ended. Not quite in the way of the first heartbreak that started the toppling of the dominos, but maybe in a worse way because I had learned so much and grown so much and thought I was seeing this situation with unclouded vision. People are full of surprises, especially when they conceal truths. It's sad, and not at all how I want to show up in the world. If there's one thing I can thank that person for, it's for removing themself in their current state from my life. Goodness knows I was too in the dark to do so myself.


A dramatic dressing room moment

The other night, I was standing backstage right during our show, listening to a monologue Anne as Sue gives about losing Emily–her someone. How where once you had your person, now you feel their absence, your loss. And I reflected on that most recent heartbreak. There is so much betrayal wrapped up in that situation, but underneath it there is loss. Because at one time, there was something like love between us, at least so I thought and so they made me believe. And I felt such sorrow in that moment. But quickly after that feeling seeped through my body, I felt my spine and my limbs and the gentle flow of the gorgeous costume I get to wear for this iteration of the show. I felt the elegance of this Love; her uprightness and pride. And in a bittersweet fashion, I was reminded that I'm still here, and I literally am Love. I am alive, which is no small thing, and I am hopeful, and even though I've been bruised and taken for granted and disrespected, I know at the end of the day that I still exude love for myself and those who are in my life (and even those who aren't), and that is something I can always be proud of.


The world & its people are hurting in innumerable ways. As we navigate those complexities, I firmly believe we are responsible for and can control how we relate to others in our own little lives. When we meet each other with defensiveness and combative energy, we must stop and ask ourselves what exactly are we trying to protect? When we are open and willing to have conversations, when we prioritize honesty and taking accountability and learning from past wrongs, then we are creating opportunity to genuinely love ourselves and others. It's easy and very understandable to get caught up in the drama of our lives, and sometimes it even seems fun for a bit. But I've found that the best things don't come from chaos; they come from the reaching and the trying and trying again.


The top of the show–the start of a great love story. Photo by Jody Christopherson

This odyssey has shown me that perhaps spring is not my time to start any sort of romantic attachment, and summers seem to be when they reveal their sting. And yet, the end of this summer proved me wrong, as the universe often does. A new person, and new challenges to rise up to. I can't help but compare it to SME and all that it's teaching me about loving and making mistakes and finding our way apart and back together as we grow. Just as Emily held onto her love of her poetry when Sue distanced herself, and Sue continued to stoke a flame for Emily after her passing, I have strength and resiliency at my disposal. "For Love is Immortality, Nay it is Deity–" And even when I feel my love has withered or I'm not sure if I can convince my heart to love as fully as it has once again, I trust that it will. I will.


And so, as I prepare for our closing show of SME in 2023 tonight, I'll leave you with a poem by our dear Emily, that is my favorite song in the show this time round:


I have a Bird in spring Which for myself doth sing – The spring decoys. And as the summer nears – And as the Rose appears, Robin is gone.


Yet do I not repine Knowing that Bird of mine Though flown – Learneth beyond the sea Melody new for me And will return.


Fast is a safer hand Held in a truer Land Are mine – And though they now depart, Tell I my doubting heart They're thine.


In a serener Bright, In a more golden light I see Each little doubt and fear, Each little discord here Removed.


Then will I not repine, Knowing that Bird of mine Though flown Shall in a distant tree Bright melody for me Return.

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