christmas letter 2013

Merry Christmas friends and family, far and near!

I’ve made it home for the holidays! And while, alas, the rumors ARE true, and I WILL be home later this winter, I’m actually headed back to the Windy City for a few weeks longer following the holiday festivities. 

Let’s not get ahead ourselves, though. We can talk about the home hiatus another time. First up, a look back at some of the top 20 moments of 2013–in pictures. And certainly in no particular order.

(20) ACTF

ACTF 2013After we learned that we had advanced to the final round of the Irene-Ryan Acting Competition at the American College Theater Festival (ACTF), we panicked a little. When Jay Mast (who was selected to compete because of his performance in GC’s “Twelfth Night”) had asked me to be his competition scene partner for the annual event, I hoped we might do well, but I certainly didn’t anticipate the top 16 of over-200-some duos. After making it past the preliminary round and semi-finals, we panicked (see above), scrambled, and crammed in as much practice as we could before finals the next day. Hey, and we won the award of “Best Musical Theater Scene”!

(19) GC Theater  (Almost, Maine by John Cariani, Cock by Mike Bartlett, and The Diviners by Jim Leonard Jr.)

I squeezed every last drop of theater out of my final semester at Goshen College. Granted, among my circle of friends, I was just sub-par — but it was a crazy semester for me, nonetheless. Amidst a difficult time in my life, the theater was my home and community. Putting together my senior show, John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” in particular, was this fabulous journey of watching all my dearest friends (and family) pour their time and talent into a process and script I was passionate about     (…and needed to graduate).

The full, enthusiastic crowd that came out for the recital made the entire ordeal complete–and truly unforgettable.


(18) I am so B.A.!

Where did the past four years go? In April, I graduated from Goshen College with a degree in theater (acting) and a minor in writing.

College Graduation

(17) One last May Term-Play Term


May Term is this unique time on the Goshen College campus where the clock suddenly hits near-summer-speed and everything drastically slows down. Suddenly there’s time (and yet somehow, never time enough!) for socializing, for sand volleyball, ice cream, late nights under the stars, and afternoon naps in the sun.

Knowing it was my last term as a student at Goshen College made May term extra full and extra meaningful. (The same could be said of spring semester.) I took one class in the morning (yay astronomy!) and spent the rest of my day with amazing people like the group above (Mike Holland, Alicia, me, Jaime Stack, Thomas Applegate, Will Kanagy).

(16) Every moment like this one:


(15) My 2 weeks of summer at home

That included seeing high school friends and an afternoon of exploring four-wheel trails with Dad around and about the Missouri River.


(14) Camping in Brown County


There were a couple of friends expeditions that could’ve made the top 20 this year (including a trip to Schmeckfest, a May Term BBQ, and a summer reunion). However, we’ll condense with just this one.Lewis, Jay, Maryn (Munley), and I spent an extended weekend camping in Brown County. Highlights of our trip included consuming large quantities of delicious food, star gazing (Lewis and I took astronomy together), hiking, and my car being accidentally smashed into a tree (the perpetrator shall remain unnamed).

Also, because my dear mother was confused, the picture about is a literal Friendship Circle. Note the sign.

(13) Red Barn Summer Theatre


As my blog will attest, I had the opportunity to work as a full-time actress this summer! I spent the summer in central Indiana working at Red Barn Summer Theatre. Our cast and crew put together 4 shows–totaling 40-ish performances. As soon as show #1 was open to the public, we began rehearsing show #2, meaning that for most of the summer we were rehearsing one show during the day and performing another at night.

(12) The simple joys

The summer was busy–because one show bled into the next, there was never really a rest period or break. That being said, acting was it. That was my summer. My schedule was planned for me. Housing was part of my pay, the bills covered. All I needed to worry about was work: learning my lines, remembering my blocking, staying hydrated, being ready to perform. This sort of simplicity made room for bike rides, journaling, ice cream, and cooking adventures. As a cast, we quickly became close friends!


(11) And the opportunity to play my favorite role (ever).

 Natalie in “Next to Normal.” Yum.


(10) The big move to Chicago

When the Goodman Theatre called and offered me the fall casting internship, the ongoing struggle to decipher my ‘next step’ suddenly became perfectly clear. I was headed to Chicago! On August 18, we struck the set for “Next to Normal.” Less than 24-hours later, I was in downtown Chicago, beginning my internship.

Thankfully, I didn’t make this transition alone. Many of my friends from the summer also migrated to Chicago–including my summer roommate, Aubrey Neumann. Together we found an apartment and started exploring Chicago together (as much as schedules would allow…).


(9) Goodman Theatre Casting Internship

What exactly do you do in a casting internship, you ask? This was precisely my question going in. I had no idea what I was about to be doing — and for the first few weeks — what I was doing. I faced a major learning curve. Thankfully, I had (and continue to have) some amazing mentors (Erica and Adam). Essentially, a casting internship is a lot of admin work. It’s serving as the go-between for the casting department and the actors and agents. It’s creating audition schedules, sending out and confirming appointments, providing audition material — and then being the best, most friendly person you can possibly be on audition day (no one does well when they don’t feel comfortable.)

My internship is full time, downtown in the loop, at Chicago’s largest not-for-profit theatre. That’s theatre with an ‘Re.’  It’ll be wrapping up mid-January — but I’ve already started on some freelance casting work, and hope to continue in the field.

Vanessa in front of Goodman

(8) Making new connections in a new place

My internship certainly provided me an easy opportunity to meet other young professionals in my field — and through those new connections, new friendships (including below, Sophie Blumberg, Liza Massingberd, Kelly Reed (a Bethel College, KS, grad), Isaac Gomez and Aubrey).


(7) Goshen Visits

Despite a very full schedule, I had the chance to take three trips to Goshen this fall. Returning to Goshenland after graduation and a summer away was a rather pleasant experience, even surprisingly so: I felt affirmed that no, I’m not supposed to be in school any more–and that’s ok!–and simultaneously I was able to catch up with my beautiful sisters and many of my college friends I dearly miss every second we’re apart (such as below, Maryn, Lewis, Phil and Marlys Weaver-Stoesz). I also took in a fun night of celebrating the upcoming weddings of good friends Erin Helmuth and Alita Yoder alongside a number of other ladies, all reunited for the first time since school!


(6) Seeing the Sodak Harvest

I went home because Mom was sick. It wasn’t the best pretense for a visit. And frankly, dropping my responsibilities in Chicago was stressful. In the end, though, I left feeling so grateful that I was able to come home. In addition to spending time with Mom and Dad, I was able to ride the combine with my grandpa and take in the beauty of harvest time on the farm. I left feeling truly rejuvenated.

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(5) …having friendly faces to return to in the city!

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Jay and I!

(4) My 23rd bday

IMG_3253 IMG_3254

(3) Thanksgiving with ALL the siblings back together

 Josh and Lynelle came up from Bloomington and Alicia and Christina from Goshen.

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(2)  The wonderful season of Christmas, and the wonderful celebration ahead. Our entire family reunited!


(1) Smiles inspite of tears, forgiveness, new beginnings, times of change, acceptance, and the beautiful people that love you always (no matter what). Adventures, simple joys, and realizations.


Merry Christmas 2013 and Happy New Year from me to you!

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