Despite only being a part of the staff for one semester, being on Élan has shown me how much work goes into the events I took for granted in the past. For instance, at Douglas Anderson’s Coffeehouse event, I have been both on the stage and in the audience, but never behind the scenes. When the first discussion of Coffeehouse took place months before its fruition, I was forced into a completely new role as a key organizer for the event.
The onlooker, upon hearing that the event took such a tremendous effort over a long period of time to create, might think that Coffeehouse’s final night would be disappointing after so much hard work. I had the same fear. As artists, we are radically afraid of things getting “stale;” we hate tedium because, ideally, our work is never tedious but always spontaneous and exciting.
The work for Coffeehouse was not always spontaneous or necessarily exciting in the moment. Instead, Coffeehouse demanded a different type of thinking; we needed problem-solving and logistical mindsets, careful calculation and foresight. It slowly developed a different type of thrill: as point A, the first discussion of what Coffeehouse should be this year, receded, point B approached. In the end, the pleasure wasn’t entirely in the final performance—of which I was a part of—but also in the entire plan’s realization, coming together like a well-kneaded dough.
Coffeehouse was my first taste of community planning in Élan. Indeed, I had never really been a part of planning events ever. It felt like I had a real impact on my community because I did important things for Coffeehouse; my absence would have changed the final product. It was not necessarily glorious work but it put a sliver of my own identity into 2018’s Coffeehouse.
Of course, that may be a narcissistic way of looking at an event that was planned by many people, but I think being a writer and performer is a little selfish by itself. I also performed in Coffeehouse with my fellow Élan member, Shelby Woods. The event changed me as an artist because this performance was my most ambitious yet, and I was performing alongside some incredibly skilled artists (because I was both a performer and a staff member, I worked with the rest of the cast more than perhaps most of my peers). The pressure was on to make this Coffeehouse the best I could realistically produce.
I pushed myself, that much is true. The performance rapidly closed in on us, but the décor was planned, the lineup established, the backdrop painted, the performers rehearsed. The final night may not have been as exciting as my first time on that stage last year; I had performed once before and it had singlehandedly changed my perspective on sharing my work. But with this wide-eyed glamour stripped away, I was ready for next year’s Coffeehouse, which—if everything comes up roses and perfume—will be better than ever before.
– Noland Blain, Junior Managing Editor