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NARPs and NERPs

NARP.

Non-Athletic Regular Person.

This phrase is a wild acronym that made its way to my high school sometime around my senior year. It was basically used to categorize artists, and was often an insult jokingly tossed my way, even by friends.
After a while, it got frustrating. I am not regular. I am far from it. What about lacrosse makes you special?! Huh?!?!?!
My theatre teacher said what he has always said, “They are jealous. We do what they are scared to do.”

Now I’m in art school.

Now, us NARPs know we’re special.
Not everyone spends 12+ hours every day examining the intimate inner workings of human beings & relationships & the world at large.
I feel it in my bones as I walk down Comm Ave every day. I look at the Normal Students….the NERPs (….Non Emotional Real People….? Go with me) walking down the street together and truly, sincerely wonder:
Do they have know depth in relationships like I do?
Are they giving? Really, really giving?
Are they listening? Really, really listening?

When was the last time they wept from joy?
When was the last time they wept at all?

Last night, after an unbelievable Quarter 2 rehearsal, I stepped into the night and, rather than heading to Allston, I made my way over the BU Bridge into NERP Territory. I was headed to the final half of a practice for Fusion – my hip hop dance crew made up of NERPs.

My body and mind were buzzing – I had just spent 3.5 hours devising and improvising with 9 other brilliant actors and an equally brilliant and engaged technical team. I had just been sitting in a circle full of people reflecting on our work openly and articulately. We talked about generosity, creation, trust, risk, ensemble – words that form so easily in our NARP mouths, they nearly invoke eye-rolling.

I made it to the GSU basement, and stepped into Fusion practice bursting with energy and excitement to switch gears. Fusion people are NERPs, but they are like family, and a little escape from all things School Of Theatre .
I swung open the door, literally chucked up the deuces, put my stuff down, and got ready to dance.

After a few seconds, I eventually turned and took in the room of 33 NERPs. Engineering majors, Marketing majors, Business majors, Biochem majors, Pre-Med, Pre-Dental, Law students, Grad students – you name it, Fusion’s got it –

and they were all weeping.
scratch that.
sobbing.

SOBBING, DUDE.

And the Good Kind Of Sobbing.
Like, #myCFA #Linklater #RollDown #Release Sobbing.

This year Fusion’s set (or 7 minute competitive dance comprised of a mashup of 5-7 different songs) has a clear emotional arc. Its title has evolved in conversation to “the Vulnerability Set”. It moves through a journey of self doubt and discovery, beginning with a hard-hitting, frustrated, krump-heavy dance, and ultimately resolving in a place of peaceful, raw self-acceptance.

It’s awesome.

However.

In recent rehearsals, I have found myself frustrated with our team’s story-telling of the piece. Movement felt arbitrary, choreographers had grand ideas of feeling and tone, but lacked all inner depth. I once literally uttered to a choreographer the terrible, appropriately-satirized phrase,”what’s my motivation here?

The reaction was fascinating. Though not disheartening.

It felt a lot like speaking a different language – everyone in the room understood a semblance of what I meant, but hadn’t the faintest clue how to respond. I accepted the momentary defeat and moved on.

And then last night happened.

In the hour of dance practice that I had missed, as I was down the street rolling around the ground with NARPs, something changed within the members of Fusion. In their NERP hearts, something shifted.

In a revelatory and revolutionary act, they ACTUALLY asked themselves the question that every theatre artist asks 10 times a day: “what if this was me?”

And, with more abandon than I could ever achieve, they dropped it in. And sobbed.

I sat there feeling rather tertiary. Rather excessive. In no way have I been moved to such lengths by this piece – I love it, I know it to be beautiful, I understand its structure and weight, sure.

This moment was not for me.

This moment was for the NERPs.
This moment was for the brilliant artists living inside of engineers.
This moment was for Gianna, holding herself together after failing a coding final.
This moment was for Jenny and Eddy, holding themselves together while dealing with being exes and co-Executive Board members of the team.
This moment was for Cathy, who is far, far away from her family in China for the first time.
This moment was for Ale, who recently pulled me aside and red-face whispered, “Does School Of Theatre offer classes for nonmajors?
This moment was for people who get 8 hours per week to drop everything, and express themselves through dance.

As a NARP, I am expected to express myself at every waking hour of every day of the week. So, moments like this appear at just the right time. Small gifts from the universe.

There I was, at 11pm. moving my body along with an artistic routine – I’ll make some art here, and I’ll make some art over there, and then I will be very tired and I will wake up tomorrow and do it all again. 
What a gift to be stopped in my tracks.
What a gift to be reminded.
There are NERPs with brilliant artists and vibrant feeling inside of them, and just a few hours a week to let it all explode outward before they return to the basement of Mugar Library.
What I get to do every second of every day is not to be taken for granted.

How lucky I am, to be a NARP.

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