A new normal – Jasmina Manville

This is repetition, a new normal, and I love it. Each revolution persuades me, certain as a clock, that I am at home here.  At the airport, constantly checking my back pocket for my passport is second nature. In the yellow taxi from JFK into the city, my eyes swivel from window to window, obsessed by the skyline unfurling around each corner just as every film, song and picture book told me it would. Each car horn and siren accustoms my ears to the city’s unending noise.

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This is repetition, a new normal, and I love it. My first Broadway show is Groundhog Day, Tim Minchin’s musical about an egotistical weatherman trapped forever in a loop of one day in a small US town’s celebration of a clairvoyant rodent. Having seen the musical in its London previews, repeated it is both familiar and unknown. Toy car chases and pseudo-scientists make each day tortuous only to the trapped weatherman, never the audience. As every theatre student knows, cheap, last minute theatre tickets require constant monitoring of the various deals, discount codes and websites that make commercial theatre somewhere near affordable to us. In the end, the Saturday matinee before it closes is the cheapest. The Saturday matinee Broadway audiences are far louder and more involved than Tuesday evening crowd at the National Theatre I’ve become used to. Cheering at the closing kiss of the will-they-won’t-they romantic leads, I find myself caught up the group emotion I keep tripping over here. The free Playbills collected from under seats, however, are a distinct improvement on the West End.

This is repetition, a new normal, and I love it. Wandering the ten floors of library stacks in Butler, I realise – yet again – I should be looking in the mezzanine of Milstein. At the security desk of my building, the familiar buzz of my ID card grants me access to the quaint brownstone which, five rounds of marble staircase later, I call home. I realise that the College Walk and statue of Alexander Hamilton have become part of my everyday. Bagels are my main food group now. I sit on the high wall on the steps of Lowe Library and watch Columbia University – its students, its local dog walkers and its visiting world leaders’ body guards.

This is repetition, a new normal, and I love it. I drag a new monologue to auditions all over campus. The Jailer’s Daughter considers her conflicting love for her disinterested Prince and adoring father. I am cast in a play called Heart’s Desire by Caryl Churchill. Brian and Alice wait for their daughter to return but their waiting eternally restarts: they break each other, they are disrupted by a 10 foot tall bird, they lay the table – but their daughter never arrives. Back in the rehearsal room, we run a scene of maybe 300 words over and over – finding every flaw, every jibe and every absurdity. They are so horribly real. In the play, we’ll repeat sections and versions of this scene dozens of times, in rehearsals we run into the hundreds.

This is repetition, a new normal, and I love it. The wonderful of the new soon becomes everyday but that does not make it less. It’s just a new start, a new reality, a new normal.

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