As I make my transition from a Pennsylvania to a Virginia residence, I can’t help but relate to the little-black-dog-toting heroine Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz as she clicks her heels together and says, “There’s no place like home.” The funny thing is, if I were actually wearing those magical ruby pumps, I’m not sure where they would take me.
When Milton Hershey broke ground on his chocolate factory in 1903, he probably had no idea that his name would eventually adorn an entire town (plus countless confection wrappers around the world). Hershey, PA, is my hometown: where I know the back roads, where I went to school, and where the bank tellers recognize me. In his 1915 poem “The Death of the Hired Man,” Robert Frost remarks that “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” As cynical as it sounds, the sentiment rings true for me. In both times of joy and stress, I relish the soft, safe, and established environment of my parents’ house. I look back fondly on the time I spent in my first apartment nearby.
The first time I visited Staunton, as part of the Penn State Harrisburg Honors Program’s annual trip, I felt an strange familiarity with the town. It was like an old acquaintance with whom I delighted in reconnecting. From the shops on Beverley Street to the local farmers’ market, I spent hours exploring the town with my friends. Each of the local eateries gave me a different flavor of Staunton. I quickly found, though, that my favorite part of the trip took place within the walls of the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse. As soon as the actors took up their instruments for that first pre-show, I was enthralled. I had never been much for theatre, but this was a truly engrossing experience. Sarah Fallon’s Dido in Dido, Queen of Carthage left me heartbroken and awed, while Ben Curns’s Richard in Richard III had me knowingly deceived and secretly seduced. Even though I had studied the plays, I had never seen them like this before. I knew that I wanted to be as much a part of this exhilarating experience as possible. After graduating in May with a degree in Secondary Education/English, I searched high and low for job opportunities that would allow me to pursue this passion. The situation looked bleak, but then entered the lovely folks at Mary Baldwin College to save the day. Thanks to Sarah Enloe’s referral, the coordinators of the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted reached out to me when they needed to hire an RA for their residence hall. For the past two weeks, I’ve been settling into my new apartment. In both my job and my internship, I get to teach and learn. The support I have received from my new colleagues is almost overwhelming, and I have yet to find a dour face among them. This whole process has been a delightful whirlwind.
Here at the ASC, I feel honored to have been given the title of Conference Intern, meaning that I will be working to make this year’s Blackfriars Conference (from October 23-27) a smashing success. Just two weeks into the job, I can feel the anticipation building. Having never worked with anything like this before, I’m learning worlds of new information every day, from the guidelines of stage combat to the definitions of the words plenary and colloquy. I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity, and I am looking forward to what has already become a meaningful and rewarding experience.
So here I am, clicking my heels together. Every time I do, I find another piece of Staunton that feels like home.
- Rikki C