What’s In My Stage Combat Bag?

What's In My Stage Combat Bag?

As I do more and more stage combat work, I’ve found that it’s super useful to have a bag or kit with my stage combat supplies in it, so I can grab it and get to rehearsals! As an independent artist with a lot of commitments on my plate (directing, teaching, writing and blogging, stage combat, just to name a few!), I don’t have time to be searching around for my supplies. This way I have everything I need, all in one handy place.

This is definitely not all my stage combat items (can’t fit swords in this bag, LOL!) but it has the basics that I use the most often. Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

The bag itself is a Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty-One Gifts (I promise that this post is not sponsored – yes I have a lot of Thirty-One products but I purchased them all myself because they’re functional AND pretty!). There are lots of pockets on the outside that I can toss my keys, phone, snacks or water bottle into, and not have to dig through the bag to find them quickly. I got the crossed arrows embroidered on the bag so I know it’s my stage combat bag, but it doesn’t scream to the world “I AM CARRYING A WHOLE BUNCH OF WEAPONS IN HERE.” I can also repurpose the bag later, should I need it for something else. If you look closely, you’ll see I have a Mjölnir (aka Thor’s hammer) keychain on the zipper.

In the bag itself are the following items:

  • A first aid kit (more details below)
  • A camouflage print Zipper Pouch for training knives
  • A dotted print Zipper Pouch for prop guns (bullet holes, get it?)
  • Two bandanas (for tying up hair, as a makeshift holster, to wipe up sweat, cleaning rags, or to use as a sling)
  • Extra socks (for sweaty feet)
  • Two sets of thick shoelaces in black and brown (I have used these to tie weapons to belts, as an emergency corset tie, to hold a pad on a wound, and as a shoelace. Go figure.)
  • An iPod (for filming/photographing choreography and for music for warm-ups)
  • A box of business cards
  • Two sets of bracers (leather wristbands) in black and brown, made for me by my mom’s friend, as well as some stage combat patches that will get sewn on my bag soon
  • Two scripts – Juvie (the last show I choreographed) and A Permanent Image (a show I’m working on in the fall)
  • A large notebook (for writing notes/choreography)

Let’s get into more details about the pouches in the bag. Here’s a closer look at what’s in my first aid pouch (from Weezi in London):

First Aid Pouch

  • Safety pins (easily accessed on the zipper)
  • A safe CPR kit
  • Lots of bandages
  • A battery operated book light (for someone who has been through multiple power outages during shows, I always like to have an extra little light source available)
  • Feminine supplies and wipes
  • BioFreeze (for sore muscles)
  • Facial tissues
  • Tweezers
  • Pens (two blue, one red)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Halls throat lozenges
  • Moleskin pads

This is a simple, homemade first aid kit, so clearly it doesn’t have EVERYTHING, but in a pinch, it’s useful! (And so far [knock on wood] I haven’t had to use it.)

Let’s take a peek into my gun pouch.

I have an assortment of prop guns, varying from nice metal replicas to crappy plastic dollar store cheapos. They all fit in the dotted pouch nicely. Since I work with youth a lot, I keep the orange tips visible on the guns, unless the director requests something more realistic looking. In that case, I have a little kit at home with different paints and markers that I can use to touch up the guns. (That might be another post for the future!) You can get in a lot of trouble for possessing weapons in public (even if they are fake) so that’s another reason why I keep the orange tips visible for as long as possible.

Here’s the contents of my knife pouch:

Knife Pouch

I currently have six Cold Steel trainers, which every actor I’ve ever worked with absolutely loves. I got these ones from Reliks. Before I got the trainers, I used cheap rubber daggers from McCulloch’s, which are still decent for the price ($4 each – you get what you pay for, so I reinforce them with Gorilla Tape), and I use them a lot with my younger or more inexperienced actors. However, the Cold Steel ones are everyone’s favourite, and they frequently got fought over so I’ve been slowly building up my collection.

I also currently have an oversized prop razor from The Conchologist in there. I haven’t used it since but it’s good to have and I’m sure I’ll get some use out of it in the future – maybe I’ll get to work on a production of Sweeney Todd or something.

Even with all those items in the bag, I still have space for a pair of sneakers and a change of clothes, as well as a water bottle and deodorant. I can also easily remove a pouch if I don’t need those specific weapons at the moment.

I have a few more items to add to my bag. I want to get a tensor bandage for the first aid kit, some small scissors, some hair ties, and a folder with printouts from Shrew’d Business (they are SO useful). I’m also going to have some resumes on hand, just in case.

While this isn’t every piece of stage combat equipment I have (believe me, my collection is growing quickly!), these are my most-used items, and I’ve found it so handy to have this kit available to grab and go. It makes me feel much more professional too. 😉

Do you have a stage combat bag? What do you keep in yours?
Do you have suggestions for what I should add to mine?
Share your tips with me on FacebookTwitter, or in the comments below!

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2016: The Year in Review

2016: The Year in Review

It’s that time again… time to look back over the previous year and reflect on everything that has happened. 2016 has been a year of ups and downs, successes and challenges. I think we can all agree that it’s time to move ahead and focus on the good things to come. But for a short while, I’m looking back over the things that happened throughout the year. Thanks for sticking with me!

If you’re curious, check out my reviews of 20152014 and 2013.


January started with archery tag, recording a podcast, visiting Toronto and seeing Kinky Boots, and going to the Brickenden Awards.

February saw the start of Tarzan rehearsals (which basically consumed my life until May), celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Original Kids Theatre Company in the midst of a snowstorm, visiting the London RV show and dreaming of buying a trailer, enjoying my cousin Jacalyn’s baby shower, and celebrating my stepdad’s 60th birthday.

March was a busy month! I saw The Great All-American Musical Disaster at Lucas Secondary School, and then was off to New York City with the Original Kids (my third time with OKTC but my fifth time to the city). I saw nine shows (including Something Rotten twice!), met Christian Borle, Adam Pascal, and Tavi Gevinson, hung out backstage at the Slipper Room with the lovely Veronica Varlow, experienced the madness of Sleep No More, took a longsword class taught by my pal Jared Kirby, and overall had an amazing time. Ceris and I recorded another podcast, and created an Instagram challenge for April. I celebrated my 33rd birthday by winning tickets to see Metric in concert and enjoyed the show with my friend Kate. Shawn and I also squeezed in an impromptu roadtrip to Toronto.

2016: The Year in Review

In April, Brock and I taught a swordfighting combination to two grade six classes, I recorded a course for the Drama Teacher Academy, created violence for Musical Theatre Productions’ Heathers the Musical, started a five-week yoga course, and saw a Blue Jays game.

In May I got to host the 2016 OKTC Playfest Awards Ceremony, and my mom and I made enough mac & cheese to feed an army (the secret ingredient was cauliflower). The rest of the month was consumed by Tarzan, which sold out the entire run before it even opened. I also got a mole on my shoulder removed, which turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma. For the record, I am absolutely fine, the doctor got it all out, and my scar is healing really well. But PLEASE avoid tanning beds and always wear sunscreen! I will keep bugging everyone about that!!! I finished out the month celebrating at the OKTC Grad Gala, which is always a bit of a tearjerker.

2016: The Year in Review

June started out with me appearing on Xandra‘s Heroine Training webinar, which was a lot of fun! I also appeared in a one-night-only performance of Campus Martius with a bunch of fun theatre friends in the London Fringe Festival, and went to the Oxford Renaissance Festival with my friend Cole. Shawn and his cousin Justin also built me a garden in the backyard.

My mom, my aunt, and I flew out to Sault Ste. Marie over the Canada Day weekend in July to visit my cousin Jennifer, which was a lot of fun. We went shopping across the border, played Cards Against Humanity, and ate tons of delicious food! My friend Lizz introduced me to the fun of geocaching (we also had a lovely outdoor adventure with Nicole), and Shawn and I went to see a WWE house show at Budweiser Gardens.

2016: The Year in Review

August started out with a visit to Rib-fest (and the largest cherry lemonade I’ve ever experienced), and consisted of gardening, reading, and a visit to my in-laws’ trailer.

September also began with a visit to the in-laws’ trailer. I started teaching OKTC’s T.A.G. (The Actor Grows) classes again, as well as started rehearsals as fight director for OKTC’s production of She Kills Monsters. I appeared on Theatrefolk’s podcast, chatting about theatre etiquette. I went to the London Psychic Expo, which was very enlightening! I also went with my mom to see Macbeth at the Stratford Festival.

In October, I received my first introduction to Thirty-One Gifts with a party at Kendryth’s, and received first-aid training with the rest of the OKTC staff. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Shawn and I travelled with Justin and Amanda to Pittsburgh for the first time. They went to see the Pittsburgh Steelers and I saw The Toxic Avenger. We also visited the Andy Warhol Museum, went up the Monongahela Incline and gorged ourselves with amazing Mexican food. At the end of the month, Shawn and I saw I Mother Earth and Our Lady Peace in concert, and had fun at Justin’s Halloween party. I also started loom knitting! (I’m obsessed.)

2016: The Year in Review

In November, Shawn and I travelled to Toronto to see Pentatonix in concert (SO GOOD). Shawn also got to meet Wendel Clark (his favourite Toronto Maple Leaf player of all time). Both She Kills Monsters and the T.A.G. showcases had fabulous performances as well.

And it all comes back around to December. I started out the month hosting my own Thirty-One Gifts party (and my mom and I cooked our brains out). OKTC announced their Spring 2017 season lineup, including my two upcoming productions: Peter and the Starcatcher and Disney’s High School Musical 2 Jr.

2016: The Year in Review

It’s been a really busy year. You may have noticed that my blogging here has become fairly sporadic and for that, I apologize. I have been blogging for the past year for the Theatrefolk blog, which I am thrilled to continue to do in 2017. One of my 2017 goals is to get back to posting here more regularly, but it will be at a reduced rate. I have been working hard on balancing my time, and I think it has been working.

I am looking forward to a fresh start in 2017. I hope you’ll join me!


Favourite Posts of 2016

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She Kills Monsters in the London Free Press!

Hello everyone! Original Kids Theatre Company’s She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers’ Edition is featured in the London Free Press today! I choreographed all the fights and have been working on this show since September. It’s been very busy but these young actors are doing an amazing job.

She Kills Monsters in the London Free Press!

Check out the full article here: http://www.lfpress.com/2016/11/17/on-the-boards-monsters-helps-slay-stereotypes

If you want to check out the show, there are 5 shows left. Click here to buy tickets!

Photo Credit: Mike Hensen for the London Free Press

10 Things I’ve Done as a Fight Captain

10 Things I've Done as a Fight Captain

Everyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love stage combat. My first foray into stage combat was during an eighth-grade production of The Taming of the Shrew, where my character Bianca was tied up and horsewhipped by her older sister. My appetite for violence was re-ignited in 2010 when I was cast in a production of The Three Musketeers, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In 2011 I joined the crew of Treasure Island and got the opportunity to be Fight Captain for that production. If you want to become a Fight Director someday, being Fight Captain for a production is a step in the right direction! Read on for a description of what a Fight Captain’s role is, as well as some of the things I’ve done as a Fight Captain. All the examples listed below are actual tasks I’ve completed in past productions!

1. During rehearsals, acting as the Fight Director’s right-hand-man-or-woman.

The Fight Captain assists the Fight Director and Assistant Fight Director (if there is one), and is in charge of combat once the show opens. Sometimes the AFD is also the Fight Captain. He or she runs fight calls before the show, maintains the weapons, and acts as liaison if there are any issues that need to be addressed with the FD. They act as a leader for the rest of the actor-combatants, displaying proper rehearsal etiquette and making themselves useful as much as possible. Which leads to our second point…

2. Getting the FD what they need (pencil, paper, weapons, video recording device, coffee…).

As the FD’s right-hand-man-or-woman, the Fight Captain needs to be ready for whatever needs doing, to maximize the time available with the FD. There never seems to be enough time to get stage combat done and choreographed as we’d like, so using the time efficiently is of the utmost importance. Try to anticipate your FD’s needs and have items ready that they need: pencil and paper or a camera to notate and record choreography, weapons in good condition and ready to hand out to actors, water or coffee for when they’re pulling their hair out trying to fix choreography…

3. Helping to review the Fight Director’s choreography.

Fight Captains do not alter or teach choreography, but they can and should help other actor-combatants review their moves, under supervision.

4. Cleaning and care of the deck.

Yup, Fight Captains deal with the dirty work. Before and after rehearsal and before every performance, the rehearsal area and/or stage must be cleared of debris, and then raked/swept/mopped as required. The Fight Captain may assign these duties to someone else (with the FD’s approval) but it is the responsibility of the Fight Captain to ensure these duties are completed.

10 Things I've Done as a Fight Captain

5. Maintaining weapons and other combat equipment.

All stage combat equipment must be kept locked up when not in performance. For each performance, the Fight Captain will unlock the storage, check all items for damage, set up and/or distribute items where they need to be and to who needs them. This could also involve creating blood packs, loading blanks or caps into guns, checking and pre-setting special effects items, or replacing consumable or one-time-use effects (such as blood-filled pies or spaghetti squashes to be hacked with a tomahawk).

When I was the Fight Captain for Treasure Island, we had a great system for weapon tracking. We had a long table for the weapons and covered it in butcher paper. All the weapons were placed on the paper and I traced the outline of each weapon onto the paper. Then, each outline was labelled with what the weapon was (“brass handled cutlass” for example) and who used the weapon. Actors would take their weapon off the table as it was needed, and returned the weapon when they were done with them. It was easy to see what weapons were accounted for, and who we needed to track down if their sword was missing!

After the show, the Fight Captain collects and counts all weapons, checks them again for damage or maintenance (no splinters, rust, dirt, etc), wipes down all bladed weapons, returns everything to storage, and locks up.

6. Completing safety checks.

As well as presetting combat equipment, Fight Captains need to ensure that all safety equipment is set and in order. This is EXTREMELY important. My worst experience as a Fight Captain occurred when I forgot to set a crash mat into the proper position for a stunt, and the actor rolled off a four-foot platform directly onto the wooden deck. Stage combat of any kind involves risk to some extent, but when doing bigger stunts, it’s absolutely imperative that everything is safe. Make sure crash mats are in place, there are no tripping hazards, rigging is in working order, and so on. Equipment is replaceable… people aren’t.

7. Leading warm-ups.

It’s important that actors be warmed up and limber before doing any kind of strenuous activity onstage, including combat. Some actors like to warm up on their own, but I think warming up as a group helps to improve morale and create a team atmosphere, particularly when you’re working together so closely and have to take care of each other. Learn a simple warm-up routine that targets each part of the body and get the cast together to get ready as a group.

8. Running fight call.

Before every performance, all fights and violence must be run twice — once at a slow, “tai chi” speed to get the moves back into your body, then at performance speed. The Fight Captain ensures that all the fights are rehearsed correctly and safely, and maintains order during that time. If there are any issues that arise, the Fight Captain addresses them during fight call.

9. Doing backstage effects.

When not actually performing, the Fight Captain is generally the first person who will be assigned to take care of effects such as third-person knaps, magical appearing knife effects, broken bone sound effects with water bottles, blood squirts, and so on. (I have done all those in performances before!) Stage combat definitely encompasses more than just flashy sword moves onstage!

10. Listening and learning.

As Fight Captain, you have been given a great opportunity to learn from the experience. You are not there to brag about the combat experience you already have, or to say “that’s not how so-and-so does it.” You are there to assist the FD and make their life easier. Listen, listen, and listen some more, and learn everything you can. Be the solution, not the problem.

10 Things I've Done as a Fight Captain

Have you been a Fight Captain before? What were your tasks?
Is this something you might like to learn about more or try someday?

Share your experiences on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

Extra Credit: 10 Things I’ve Done as an Assistant Fight Director
Photo Credit: Ceris Thomas (top and bottom), Kerry Hishon (middle)

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2015: The Year in Review!

2015: The Year in Review!

2015 was an insane year. Looking back on it, I can’t believe how much I squashed into it. It’s been wonderful to look back on it though, and recall all the awesomeness that happened this year! So read on to find out my highlights of 2015 — theatrically, professionally, and personally!

If you’re curious, check out my reviews of 2014 and 2013.

2015: The Year in Review!

January

I started off January with a wonderful new acquisition: my dad bought me a car! I used that car to meet up with my friends Lizz and Nicole in person for the first time. This was the first time I had ever met online friends “in real life” and I’m so glad that I’ve met these lovely ladies! (We’ll be getting together again on January 3 to celebrate our one-year “friend-iversary”!) I started rehearsals for Nancy Drew: Girl Detective. I finally got my play, Inspector Noble and the Figure in Black, edited and available to purchase! I got to substitute teach a musical theatre class at Dance Extreme, which was a super-fun experience.

One of the highlights of the month was winning a scholarship to join the Badass Babes Blog Club + Ecourse! I’ve admired Sarah Morgan for a long time and it has been an awesome opportunity to learn from her and the lovely ladies who are part of the club!

I attended the Brickenden Awards with my theatre peeps — didn’t win, but it was fun to dress up! I saw The Eyes of Heaven at the Palace Theatre, and wrapped up the month attending Art Fidler’s retirement party at OKTC, which was a gala to behold!

2015: The Year in Review!

February

February began with shadowing Brock while he taught stage combat for Lucas S.S.’s production of Macbeth (and taught some high school guys how to exit properly in a kilt!). I performed some scripts for the London Playwright’s Lab, and recorded TLTDay’s Podcast #17 with Ceris. Shawn and I celebrated our friend Andrew’s birthday at a “Halloween in February” party, which was lots of fun (even though Shawn dressed up in a couples’ costume with his friend Kody instead of me!).

I got the chance to choreograph violence for Disney’s Beauty & the Beast Jr. for the LYTE program, which was a lot of fun. Speaking of lots of fun, I took Shawn to see The Pretty Reckless and Nickelback in concert, and they played my favourite Foo Fighters song, Everlong, as an encore!

2015: The Year in Review!

March

To challenge ourselves, Ceris and I created the #Top10Challenge Instagram project! It was a lot of fun, and it was so great to see people’s interpretation of our prompts. I think we should bring this back in 2016!

March is my birthday month, and Shawn and I spent my 32nd birthday weekend roadtripping to Toronto (what better excuse to go on a roadtrip?), where we saw The Heart of Robin Hood (SO GOOD) and went to Medieval Times yet again. I will never get sick of going to Medieval Times! I love travelling so much!

2015: The Year in Review!

April

The birthday celebrations weren’t over though! In April, I had a triple-belated-birthday party with my Nan and stepbrother Derrick. Hooray for parties! I saw Jesus Christ Superstar at the McManus Theatre. I choreographed violence again, this time for Jane Eyre: The Musical for OKTC.

Nancy Drew: Girl Detective performed as part of OKTC’s annual PlayFest, and I operated the sound board for the first time in my life! It was terrifying, but I survived, and now I can add “sound operator” to my resume! Nancy Drew won a whole bunch of awards at the PlayFest Awards, including the Post-Curtain Award and Most Creative Use of a Blackbox Space!

Less than a week after Nancy Drew closed, we started rehearsals for The Big Bad Musical! (It never stops, right?) I also filmed a promotional video for Dixie Outlet Mall, where I got to chase a $20 bill down the street!

2015: The Year in Review!

May

In May, Shawn and I officially became homeowners! Much of May was spent learning about home ownership, being domestic, and seeing movies. I also had an adventure in Stratford with Nicole and Lizz where we shopped, pulled tarot cards, and saw the most adorable group of baby ducks at the Avon River!

2015: The Year in Review!

June

June brought lots of adventures! Shawn and I went to a stag & doe party for our friends Aaron and Amanda, where Shawn won his weight in booze and a Shop-Vac. June in London is the start of summer festival season, and I enjoyed the London Fringe Festival, the Dundas Street Festival, and Nuit Blanche! I also travelled to Toronto to see a Blue Jays game with Shawn, Kendryth and Andrew.

Guess what — more stage combat! I choreographed violence for American Idiot for OKTC Alumni (and drank a teeny-tiny Starbucks). I also started my interview column, Theatre Talk, on the blog!

I was really excited to attend the Oxford Renaissance Festival with Lizz and Nicole, and we had an absolute blast, despite the fact that it poured rain all day! I also attended Shawn’s cousin’s bridal shower with the Clark women, where I won more prizes (woohoo!), and then spent some much-needed relaxation time at Shawn’s parents’ trailer.

2015: The Year in Review!

July

One of my goals this year was to make more blogging connections, and in July I had a coaching call with the awesome Stephanie Shar. She’s super nice and motivated, and gave me tons of great advice! #bosslady (She also interviewed me on The Loudmouth Lifestyle!)

I had a fun time at the Home County Festival with my friends Kihanna and Mel, and ate an enormous burrito and cherry lemonade (and didn’t get sick!). Kihanna and I got beautiful necklaces with the moon phases of the dates we were born — a super cool souvenir of a great day!

On top of all that, The Big Bad Musical opened! (Also, this happened and I died a little. Of happiness, of course.)

2015: The Year in Review!

August

More adventures in August! Shawn and I went to another Blue Jays game, as well as two weddings in one weekend! Both brides were named Amanda. One wedding had a photobooth. (#weddinggoals — that’s my one regret from my own wedding, not having a photobooth.)

I saw Norm Foster’s Outlaw at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia with Brock, and then went to my friend Joe’s birthday party! Lizz, Nicole and I took to the road again for a fun day trip to Port Stanley to read tarot cards and start my Wreck This Journal. I also started rehearsals for The Conchologist, where I played one of my most challenging roles to date, “Monkey Sir the Orangutan.”

2015: The Year in Review!

September

September marked the beginning of OKTC’s 25th anniversary year celebration with The Great Kick-Off, where I met my 60 new The Actor Grows (T.A.G.) students. I started teaching T.A.G. classes later that month, which was a bit nerve-wracking at the beginning, since I hadn’t ran the program since 2012, but it quickly became old hat again. I also enjoyed sunshine and local artists at the #MyDundas street festival.

On the blog front, I had an awesome Skype chat with Lindsay, Craig and Ally from Theatrefolk! Theatrefolk is one of THE biggest theatre blogs going, and I was thrilled to get to chat with them — more to come about that very soon!

Apparently I wasn’t satisfied with just teaching and acting, so I added a third big project to my fall — I helped out at auditions and started rehearsals for The Trials of Robin Hood, where I was assistant fight director, and met my new minion, Dustin, who took over my previous role of fight captain.

2015: The Year in Review!

October

It’s official — I opened my Gumroad online store! I celebrated my grandparents‘ 60th wedding anniversary with my family, and enjoyed my one weekend off all fall (!!!) at my grandparents’ trailer.

After Thanksgiving, we performed The Conchologist at the ARTS Project, where I got my own rope swing! I voted in the federal election, and my mom decorated our house for Halloween.

2015: The Year in Review!

November

I’m an author! I published my ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Theatre Etiquette. Stage combat work in November included choreographing violence for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and teaching sword safety for The Tempest, both at OKTC, as well as choreographing a GIANT mêlée for TORH with what seemed like over half the cast. I also taught an improv workshop for United Way London & Middlesex. More blogging outreach came in the form of a phone chat with Jennifer from Theaterish.com!

I participated in the London Santa Claus Parade with the cast and crew of TORH (where we met a llama), and tried archery for the first time and quickly became obsessed. My mom and I made two kinds of muffins, two kinds of soup, and baked mac & cheese.

My second major accomplishment of November was participating in, and winning NaNoWriMo. I went slightly crazy in the process, and I’m not sure if I’ll do it again, but I’m so glad I did it this year.

2015: The Year in Review!

December

More stage combat? Of course! I advised on violence for Sweeney Todd: School Edition at OKTC. I also hosted the four T.A.G. showcases at OKTC (and received some lovely gifts). We announced the OKTC Spring 2016 season, and I announced my twelfth directing project at OKTC, Disney’s Tarzan.

The Trials of Robin Hood opened to much excitement! The cast and crew played archery tag for the first time and I quickly became obsessed. We had a mini 3M reunion. I also became a lady of the realm (for a second time… the first was back in 2014). What a great experience, with a great group of people.

2015: The Year in Review!

In 2015, I wrote 111 posts and I got over 110,000 hits on the site! I published a play and an ebook. I directed two shows, acted in a show and a commercial, did stage combat work for a whole bunch of shows and taught 60 new students! I made tons of new friends and made tons of new memories.

2015, you were an amazing year. 2016, I can’t wait to start fresh with you!


 

Photo Credit: Big Bad Musical photo – Kihanna Becke; all other photos – Kerry Hishon

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