In the midst of the second weekend of shows for “Ordinary Days” at Hope College, it is important to take a step back and think about its significance to our daily lives. I had the privilege of speaking with three lovely cast members: Madison Meeron (’21), Sam Joachim (’22) and Emi Herman (’22). Through these conversations, I learned valuable insight into the minds of their characters, their own personal struggles as college students and why “Ordinary Days” is so important in this day and age.
Deb’s perspective: Madison Meeron and Emi Herman
Deb is in her twenties and is pursuing her graduate’s degree. She tends to have a pessimistic outlook on life, but also wants to accomplish a lot before she dies. At the beginning of the musical, she finds that she has lost the notes for her thesis somewhere on the subway. This causes her to fall into a deep spiral of stress, but then she gets an email from Warren, who happened to find her book.
They meet up, she gets her notes back, and they get a cup of coffee. In the song “Big Picture” they discuss their opinions and goals for life, which are very different. Herman claims that Deb “thinks that life is supposed to be grand all the time.” Deb has many goals for her life: she wants an amazing apartment, she wants to write books and she wants to be a professor. She wants to be the best.
When things don’t go her way towards the end of the musical, she has a breakdown in the song “Calm.” Herman says, “She doesn’t have the happiest outlook on life, but I think it comes from being confused on where she’s supposed to be in life. Nothing’s really worked out the way she’s wanted it to, so she just goes on new paths and they end up not working out the way she wants. So, all of her anger comes from a place of being let down by life.” Things have not worked out for her in the past, and when her professor says that her thesis is all wrong, this is the last straw for her. She realizes that something in her life must change.
Towards the end of “Calm,” she gets this “bizarre-o revelation” that maybe getting what she wants doesn’t actually matter and that life will work itself out. Meeron says, “Throughout the musical, she discovers that there’s more to life than just planning and trying to reach for all of these high and mighty things that you want. It can be very helpful to appreciate the little ordinary things in life.”
Warren’s perspective: Sam Joachim
Warren, a twenty-something struggling artist, is the character whobrings Deb back down to earth by questioning this “Big Picture” of hers. Unlike Deb, Warren is “a person who admires the map that life is. Warren realizes that there isn’t a point A to point Z; there’s a point A, to point B, to point C… He recognizes that with everybody in the world, that they all have their paths and their gifts, and I think that’s really his major perspective on life,” as Joachim puts it. Warren’s perspective on life juxtaposes Deb’s theory, and it challenges Deb to think differently about her life and her values throughout the musical.
Herman compliments this by saying, “This show kind of embodies finding the beauty in everyday things. You can find your own fairytale. Especially Warren’s character. Like, I really am in awe of him, just being able to be okay with just kind of living.” Sometimes we get so caught up in the future, that we forget to focus on the present and enjoy the small moments in life, moments that Warren accentuates in “Ordinary Days.”
Are you a Deb or a Warren?
As college students, we tend to be more like Deb. This is true for Herman, Meeron and Joachim as well, but they all had different reasons why.
Herman claims that she is a Deb because of how much she looks at the future and worries about it. She says, “I have seen myself grow so much since my freshman year… If I didn’t look at the future back then, I don’t think I would’ve become the person I am today, because coming into college, I knew I wanted to become a better person for a lack of a better word, and I think I’m definitely on that journey compared to where I was my freshman year. So I think that it’s a good thing to look at the future, especially in this setting where it’s encouraged to think introspectively about yourself.”
She claims here that it is okay to be a Deb sometimes because it is important to look at your future, especially as a college student. But she also thinks that she needs Warrens in her life to compliment her Deb.
Similar to this, Meeron thinks that it is important to have a balance between the two: “I struggle with a lot of the same things that Deb struggles with. I’m a major go-getter and I always want to have my ducks in a row, and then when something goes wrong, I have a tendency to panic when it’s not necessary, and that’s something that Deb struggles with. I would say though that there needs to be a balance; I don’t think you should be a Deb or a Warren.” It is important to have high expectations for your future, but it is also important to not worry if something doesn’t go according to plan, because things will work out in the end.
Joachim is a little different. He claims that as he has gotten older and matured, that he has become more of a Warren than a Deb. He says, “I think I started off with Deb’s perspective of, ‘here’s where I am, here’s where I want to be’, and thinking of it as a linear path. As I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve started to realize that saying ‘here’s where I am now, this is where I want to be’, isn’t quite realistic because life is not just a plain; it’s hilly. There are times when you go up a hill and you reach the top and it’s great, and it’s a small hill, but there are other times where it’s a literal mountain to climb and it’s not necessarily easy. But, it gets you to point C, which then says, ‘here’s where I get to go next,’ and that’s exciting.”
I think that Joachim hits on a really great point here: this idea that life doesn’t always work out the way that we want it to and that is okay, because it opens new doors for the future.
As college students, we stress all of the time about the future, especially in this setting where we are encouraged to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives by 18 years old. This is true for these three individuals who are all doing something in theatre, communications, English or something along those lines. There is this stigma that those types of professions do not make a lot of money, but is that really the point? No. The point is to be happy and find purpose in your life through the ordinary, little things that make you, you.
Why is this production so important?
I then asked Joachim, Meeron and Herman why they thought that Hope chose this production. They all thought that it was because of how small the cast is (four people!). But they also had some inspiring insight into how COVID factors apply, as well as just the relatability of the characters.
Meeron had some really great things to say in regards to COVID-19. “[Ordinary Days] is very important right now. I think right now people are so focused on ‘When are things gonna be back to normal? What’s the future gonna look like? The future’s gonna be so different’… And I think that ‘Ordinary Days’ has a beautiful message about like, it’s not always about where you’re going next: it’s about how you get there and the people you meet along the way, the little things that you can find joy in life.”
I remember when the first lockdown happened over a year ago. I was so bored in the house all the time that my only source of entertainment outside of virtual school and Netflix was taking walks. Taking these walks really allowed me to value the colors and warmth around me as spring was starting to awaken. I would smell the pine trees, the cement after the rain, and I would look into the sky, up at the fluffy clouds, and that brought me so much peace. The little things that make the world beautiful matter, and with the world moving so fast, like it does for these four characters in New York City, people tend to forget that.
On top of the COVID connections, the characters are all super relatable. All of the characters are trying to make their way through life just as we are. They all have struggles, all have their quirks, and all have beautiful stories. Meeron hopes that everyone who watches the show will “see elements of themselves within the characters.” I know that after being an assistant stage manager for this show for a few months, I have thought deeply about how I can relate to this musical. In our interview, Herman said to me, “Everything is precious and I think this show really shows that and that is so important to remember right now. Don’t take anything for granted. Every moment has its beauty.” This show has allowed me to think deeply about humanity and realize that I should be present and not take things for granted. I hope that “Ordinary Days” allows you to do the same too.