Married to the Stage: ‘Some Great News!’ by Natalie McCabe

Well, the wait is over. Or perhaps this is only the beginning. I received my first acceptance into a PhD program last week.

Here is the story: I was rushing into a meeting for the show I am dramaturging at Catholic University (Spooky Action at a Distance by Matthew Buckley Smith) when I received an email from the Graduate Secretary of one of the programs to which I’d applied, with a letter in PDF format attached. I was already scheduled to be late for the meeting due to a class I am TA-ing but didn’t want to be later than I had already confirmed. Still, my excitement was high, so I forwarded the email to Johnny, asking him to open the PDF and let me know the news via a text.

At first, I wasn’t sure whether or not the news was good.  Johnny replied to me with a text asking if I could take a call, which I couldn’t.  He then sent a text back saying, “Congrats, you got in! Way to go, baby!” I squealed in the middle of the (serious) production meeting, smiled broadly, and mouthed the words “Good news!” to the playwright. He raised his eyebrows and whispered, “Acceptance?” I nodded. He deemed it appropriate to interrupt his production meeting by announcing to everyone else that I’d been accepted into a PhD program. Yup, the news is that exciting.

Natalie and Johnny.  Photo courtesy of Serendipity Studios.
Natalie and Johnny. Photo courtesy of Serendipity Studios.

Still, I applied to several schools, so this is just the beginning. There will probably be rejections – and, hopefully, more acceptances – to follow. There is a good chance that I won’t have a final decision until mid-April. Here is what Johnny and I have to consider:

  • Money. This may sound superficial, but a solid financial offer is important and will factor heavily into my decision-making. Johnny and I are committed to emerging from our years of higher education without debt. This is difficult in any field, but we feel that it is rather important in theatre. Put bluntly, there is less job security in our field than in others; debt only adds to the problems. (It’s not as if I will be graduating with a law or medical degree). Due to my assistantship and Johnny’s steady acting income, I will graduate with my MA without loans. Johnny already accomplished that with his MFA Acting assistantship at Penn State by living frugally and making sound personal decisions. And, eventually, you know, we would like offspring, who are notoriously expensive in this country but still preferable to student loans.
  • Place. Johnny and I are a team, obviously; we are married. Thus, he will be moving to a new place with me. Is it an area in which he can live and find good, fulfilling work? That is another factor. Additionally, transportation in the new place will have to be considered. At present, we have no car. This has worked well and saved us money in the DC area, since we are fortunate enough to have solid public transportation nearby. Will we need a car in our new town? That adds to the cost. Speaking of which, the area’s cost of living, along with any financial offer, will have to be considered. There is a reason why I did not apply to any schools in New York City. A possible assistantship may be the only guaranteed income we have when moving to a new place, so we need to be able to cover basic bills. Consequently, we prefer more reasonable living costs than one finds in, say, DC.
  • Program. Obviously, the quality of the program will matter, as well. Do my interests match those of any of the schools’ professors? Which program has a better job placement rate upon graduation? After all, we want to end this journey where we began, in higher education- just on the teaching end of things this time.

Still, this week ends happily. One acceptance is all I need, in theory, and I have it!  I will begin pursuing my PhD this fall, in one place or another. Recently, Johnny gave me a beautiful Swarovski crystal necklace hung on an Italian silver chain with a grain of rice in a cylinder that reads, “Johnny loves Natalie 2013.” True for now and always as further down the road we go, living what can be quite a nomadic life, married to the stage.

The grain of rice in the cylinder reads, “Johnny loves Natalie 2013.” Photo by Natalie McCabe.
The grain of rice in the cylinder reads, “Johnny loves Natalie 2013.” Photo by Natalie McCabe.


Read other articles in ‘Married to the Stage.’


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