Forever in Training (Or, “My Big Fat Crazy Mixed-Up Schedule”)

Walt Disney World is the place where dreams come true.

And mine certainly have.

In my last post, I noted that my schedule had gotten messed up as a result of a delayed background check. That was two weeks ago, and I’m still not back on track. However, I have an awesome coordinator of training who has done her absolute best to give me hours. And as a result, I’ve had some really fun filler training days, known in the GR world as “selfie-stick training.” Yes, logging selfie-sticks is a part of my training, but I’ve also done multiple property tours and I know what every store in the Magic Kingdom sells (you want Seven Dwarfs merch?  100 Acre Goods, back by Pooh, has it. You want obscure Bambi characters? Try the Briar Patch by Splash). 

I’ve gotten to do so many fun things over the past week and a half, most of which I won’t post about in an effort to preserve the magic. However, what I haven’t really gotten to do much of is actually train in City Hall. While many of my friends in other parks are already on their assessment day, and many of my MK friends are on Day 3 of City Hall, I have another selfie-stick day ahead of me, followed by three days of Disney University classes, and THEN on Saturday, July 2, I will begin my City Hall training. My assessment is on July 6, and if all goes according to plan (hah) I’ll have my first shift on my own on July 7. 

All that said, I will say that I do love training. I have amazing trainers; I’m part of an incredible, genuine team of GR cast members; and I’m working in my dream location. When I tried on my plaid ofr the first time, I stepped out of the fitting room with tears in my eyes. Every time I put on that plaid vest, I get just a little bit emotional. This role is so special and so important to me, and the fact that I get to live this, every day until January 7 (and hopefully longer!!!), is beyond what I could have ever wished for. I get to help turn around a bad day. I get to make magic for our guests. It’s an absolute pleasure going to work every day. What more could I want?

So wish me luck as I spend the next week training and preparing myself to step out into the Hall on my own. I’m happy, I’m excited, and I’m ready to start.:-)

Orlando, I love you (Or “My First Week”)

It’s been a bit of a week.

Yesterday marked my first full week living in the Orlando area. If all had gone according to plan, I would have had my first day of training yesterday and would currently be sitting in training and not sitting in my apartment. But, as I think weve all learned this week, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

After an awesome few days of settling in and spending time with new and old friends, I was gearing up for my first offical day of work at Disney World, Traditions. Traditions is Disney’s company orientation, and one of my fondest memories from my first program.

However, I received a phone call from Casting on Friday night telling me that there was a delay with my background check. They requested that I not attend Traditions or my first day of training, and that I wait to hear further information. Because of the weekend, there was no movement; however I was able to speak with an area leader who assured me that this would all get straightened out. 

And in the midst of allof this, two tragedies happened not far from where I am now living.

On Friday night, singer Christina Grimmie was shot and killed while signing autographs after a concert. While I was not an active fan of her music, the senseless, horrific shooting, which took place in Orlando, broke my heart. From what I know, she was a beautiful human, inside and out, taken far too soon. Waking up to that news shook me, but I decided to go to Epcot to take my mind off of it (Casting had provided a two day park hopper pass to anyone whose background checks got delayed, as a courtesy). I also wanted to get out of the apartment and not think about the fact that I wasn’t at Traditions. My friends were amazing and worked so hard to keep me positive, and we had a fantastic day.

I got home late Saturday night with every intention of sleeping in on Sunday morning. However, Disney had other plans and I received a call at 8 AM from Deployment asking why I wasn’t at work. I explained the situation with Casting and they said they’d have a leader call me (which is why I got to speak to my leader yesterday).  As I tried to fall back asleep, I took a quick scroll through Twitter. I saw a tweet saying something about the shooter having an assault rifle; my sleepy brain thought “The guy who shot Christina Grimmie had an assault rifle? That’s insane!” I fell back asleep with no knowledge of what actually happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.

I woke up a couple of hours later to a bunch of texts and messages asking if I was okay. I quickly jumped on Twitter and got an idea of what was going on — a man had shot up a night club. After I assured my family and friends that I was okay, home safe in my apartment, more details began to emerge. I read through countless tweets, Facebook posts, and news stories detailing the horrific events of what happened in Pulse. I checked in on Facebook to put my loved ones’ minds at ease. Everything became a blur of sadness, anger, and horror. I didn’t think it could get any more senseless. And then it. did. The guns were purchased legally. The victims were attempting to enjoy an awesome night celebrating their heritage and pride. 50 lives were cut short. Many others are suffering from injuries. The shooter is dead. But so are 50 people who did not deserve to die. I’m crying just typing this out.

Even though I haven’t started working yet, I am proud to be a part of the Disney family. I went to Magic Kingdom yesterday for the sole purpose of hugging a friend who was supposed to be at Pulse Saturday night (he ended up staying late in the parks instead). I saw the cast and guests being kind to one another. I witnessed pure joy during the Frontierland Hoedown. I’m so proud of the strength and togetherness of where I’ll be working. 

And last night, I came home and watched the Tony’s with close friends. We laughed, cried, and sang together. We listened to James Corden’s dedication to Orlando and felt the pride and strength of our new home. We listened to Lin Manuel Miranda’s sonnet in pure silence, understanding the magnitude of what happened in our city. And at the end, we all hugged. All day today, we’ve wished each other “be safe” in all of our travels and adventures. I have a feeling we’ll do that for a while.

As I sit here waiting for a call from Casting telling me when I can work, I keep reminding myself that I’m here, I’m breathing, I will start working soon, and everything will be okay. I’m focusing my “day off” energy on remembering the victims, especially those who were a part of the Disney family. My thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of those who were taken too soon.

I want to say something profound about gun control, but I just don’t have the words. I’m sad. I’m angry. And something needs to change, soon, America. We can’t keep seeing tragedies like this. We just can’t.

(I realize how selfish this post is. How many times I’ve said “I.” But I needed to get my thoughts out.)

Orlando, I love you.

Graduation Day

I’m not really one for ceremonies.

However, sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t really want to do. So tonight, I’ll cross the stage at Sprague Field at Montclair State University and officially earn my masters degree.

I’ve been cleaning out my bedrooms at my parents’ houses in preparation for moving to Florida next week. Having been settled in each of these respective bedrooms since childhood, I’ve amassed an embarrassing amount of “stuff.” However, going through this “stuff” has afforded me a trip down memory lane.

I recently found my graduation cap from high school. Both the cap and the gown were white, and I remember the hunt for the perfect white dress to wear under my white robe. I have no idea where that dress is now — I donated it when I gained the “freshman 15” (okay, more like 45) and realized I could no longer fit into my high school clothes. 

I also remember the ceremony. It felt so huge, so important. I would be leaving Whippany to live elsewhere for the first time in my life. Central Pennsylvania felt so far away, but after a few breakdowns over the summer after graduation, I faced my fears and made my way to college. At the time, my major was education, and I was proud to start my journey toward becoming a teacher (a journey that I abandoned a year and a half later).

I also recently found my regalia from my undergraduate graduation. College graduation. Another huge event on an unseasonably warm December day in 2012. By the point I reached graduation, I was jaded. I was done. I couldn’t get out of Lock Haven fast enough. The ceremony flew by, as everyone said it would, and two days later I left Lock Haven for good. Though Lock Haven, and LHU, were my home for four and a half years (by senior year I was living there all year ’round), my last semester was so draining that I couldn’t wait to leave. After four and a half years, and two changes to my major, I graduated with my BA in English.

Yes, my life is an Avenue Q song.

What do you do with a BA in English?

What is my life going to be?

Four years of college and plenty of knowledge

have earned me this useless degree.


So, what DO you do with a BA in English?

Apply to grad school, apparently.

During my last semester of college, I realized that all along I should have been a communications major. So I started applying for communication graduate programs… and for Disney Internships.

Yep, my first attempt at a Disney Internship came right after I graduated from Lock Haven. 

I don’t talk about it much, because obviously it didn’t lead to good news at the time, but it’s okay. Everything happens for a reason.

So anyway, I applied for grad school. I got accepted into Montclair State University’s Public & Organizational Relations program and, in September of 2013, I started my master’s degree.

And here I am today, two and a half years, one Disney College Program, and a lot of stress later, graduating at 7 pm tonight with my masters. Another ceremony. Another big event. Another recognition. 

And a week from now, I’ll start my journey to Florida to begin my dream internship in guest relations at Walt Disney World. 

And yes, this post is a retrospective about my graduations. But I want to leave you all with one of my favorite Walt Disney quotes:

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”


Congratulations to all of my fellow 2016 graduates. 

Now I have to go figure out what the heck to do with my hair for the ceremony tonight…

The waiting game is over!

Hello, my name is Caitlin and I will once again be a Disney cast member!

I received the call on Wednesday. I’m going to be working in Magic Kingdom Guest Relations!

A couple of months ago, I wrote in this space about breaking out of my comfort zone and applying for guest relations. As time went by after my phone interview, I felt more and more confident about my abilities for handling a guest relations role. When my dashboard changed to “interview stage” a few weeks ago, my heart soared — I had made it through a rejection wave and onto the next step! But GR doesn’t have a second interview, so I had no idea what it actually meant to be in “interview stage.” 

Turns out it was a good thing, though, and on Tuesday night, my dashboard changed to “post-interview.” I knew from being in the Facebook groups that the people who ended up in “post-interview” for GR were receiving offers, so on Wednesday morning, I waited anxiously for my phone to ring.

Around 10:30 AM, I was sitting at my desk at work when I received the call. After going through some background information and housing information, the recruiter, Marcie, offered me a role — guest relations at Magic Kingdom. I was in absolute shock. Not only did I get the role of a lifetime, I got placed in the park I wanted! (She did mention that it’s possible the location can change before I arrive depending on staffing needs, but for now, it’s MK.)

Interestingly enough, I still haven’t heard back from the Disney College Program. Today is the last day to hear back, though, so I’m sure I’ll hear something soon. Either way, though, I’m going to Florida — there’s no way I could turn down that internship offer!

So I’ll leave right after Memorial Day to start my drive to Florida. I have a lot to do in the next month and a half, but I am very much looking forward to this new adventure. I know guest relations will have its challenges, but I’m ready to face them head on. 

I’m going to work in the most magical place on earth, and I couldn’t be happier.:-)

  

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Finally in “The Room Where It Happens” (Or, “I saw Hamilton!”)

  
Sometime in the fall of 2015, I read on twitter that Lin-Manuel Miranda would be releasing the soundtrack for his newest musical, “Hamilton,” a rap/hip-hop musical about one of America’s lesser recognized Founding Fathers. While history never quite interested me as much as I wanted it to, I knew Miranda’s music from “In the Heights,” and figured that this history musical may not be so bad. 

I decided to give it a try, mostly thanks to the fact that it was free on Amazon Prime Music.

Upon first listen, on a cold and dreary drive to Montclair, I realized that I had grossly underestimated this musical.

Though it took a few straight listens to understand everything that was going on (the words move SO FAST and at first I had a hard time keeping up), I ended up hooked. I made it my mission to learn every word to every song. I listened to “Satisfied” over and over again until I could spit Angelica’s rap flawlessly — an impressive feat for a nerdy white girl. I’ve listened to the soundtrack so many times, and yet I still find myself crying during “One Last Time” and the finale.

In October, I started bugging my mom about tickets. “We need to see this show. And we need to get tickets NOW.” My mom kept brushing me off until I finally got her to listen to the soundtrack — but it was too late. Tickets were already sold out through June. But by some miracle, my mom was browsing the resale tickets and ended up finding us some, er, more reasonably priced seats. Sure, they were all the way up in the top of the house. And sure, they were for April 9th, which felt like forever away. But I got a call one late October morning — “We’re going to see Hamilton!”

Fast forward to last week. News started circulating on social media that Jonathan Groff, who played King George III (flawlessly, I might add) would be leaving the show. I frantically read throught articles until I found an end date: April 9th. I couldn’t believe it. Jon Groff, or Groffsauce as he is affectionately known on social media, has been one of my favorite actors since I saw him in the OBC of “Spring Awakening” in 2006. By some kind of fate, the tickets we had bought to “Hamilton” months earlier ended up being for the same night as Jon Groff’s final performance.

I’ll spare you all the story of trying to get through midtown traffic and trying to park last night, but finally we made it to dinner with enough time to eat and get to the theater. Even standing outside in line, I could feel the energy — not just from the audience, but from the theater itself. There’s a certain buzz around the Richard Rogers theater that I’ve never felt at any other Broadway theater. Once we got inside, the ushers efficiently got everyone into their seats (shoutout to the amazing usher in the upper mezz, house left, who got the entire mezzanine to shut up so she could tell everyone where the restrooms are). 

  
(For anyone who does not know the show, or does not want spoilers, now may be the time to stop reading. You’ve been warned. I’m gonna talk about the show now.)

It was easy to tell that much of the audience knew it was Groff’s last show. When the pre-show announcement, narrated by King George III, started, it was met with thunderous applause. 

From the opening notes, the audience was very clearly ecstatic. Each of the main characters received applause and cheers as they walked onstage. For the most part, we got the original cast. However, Andrew Chapelle was in for Okieriete Onaodowan, who plays Hercules Mulligan / James Madison. I also didn’t notice until I looked at the Playbill that there was a swing in for Charles Lee, usually played by Jon Rua. As it usually goes with understudies and swings, the replacements made no notable difference in the show — they were wonderful in their roles. (And I was looking at the understudy list — Chapelle understudies pretty much all of the main male characters, so good for him!) The entire show is perfectly cast, of course. But one of the most important casting decisions is the Schuyler sisters, and I think the casting directors nailed in. Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica), Phillipa Soo (Eliza), and Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy) have a relationship that translates so well on stage. The three of them together were one of my favorite parts of the show.

But more on the cast later.

If you’ve listened to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, you’ve probably notice the drastic emotional difference beween Act 1 and Act 2. Seeing the show, that difference is even more pronounced. Act 1 is fun, action packed, high energy, and ultimately, happy. The ambition of the revolutionaries, choreography of the war scenes, and intertwined Schuyler sisters plot lines make you think that nothing is impossible. Act 2, however, is darker, both in lighting and context. It carries more heavy elements. And it’s poignant.

Of course, there are exceptions. There’s a moment in Act 1 that’s not on the soundtrack — when Hamilton finds out that his best friend, John Laurens, died in a shoot-out that happened after the war. The scene, which comes right after “Dear Theodosia,” is a sad and dark moment in an otherwise light and fun act. Hamilton asks Eliza to read him the letter from Laurens’ father, and then tells her he needs to get back to work, which leads into “Non-Stop.” The scene shows a moment of sad vulnerability that we don’t get otherwise from Act 1 Hamilton.

In Act 2, we see much of Jefferson’s comic relief (“Can we get back to politics?!”). I only saw one little problem with this — the comedic elements and energy in “The Reynolds Pamphlet” seemened to lessen the powerful opening moments of “Burn,” Eliza’s poignant and haunting solo. Phillipa Soo, who plays Eliza, managed to rein the audience back in, though, and you could hear a pin drop by the time she got to the second verse. She also commanded the audience during the finale; I for one was in tears through her entire performance.

Briefly, I want to write a bit about my personal favorite moment of the show. Ever since I first listened to the soundtrack, I’ve felt a connection to “Helpless” and “Satisfied,” and specifically the different perspectives. The way these numbers are choreographed, especially the rewind, makes the numbers even stronger. The whole show was well done, but those two numbers stood out to me (and not just because they’ve been my favorite from the start).

One thing I noticed is that Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the role of Alexander Hamilton so well that I found myself having to work my brain to separate the actor and the character. I’ve always felt negatively toward the actions of Act 2 Hamilton, but watching the physical changes as he becomes more and more important changed the whole dynamic. I found myself wishing for Hamilton to fail. Whenever he tried to speak to Eliza during “It’s Quiet Uptown,” I got angry (I’m pretty sure I audibly scoffed when he said “I know I don’t deserve you, Eliza”). This, of course, is a testament to Miranda’s writing. I went from loving Hamilton to hating him, despite knowing the story as well as I do. The story felt fresh and new to me, despite the fact that I’ve listened to the soundtrack hundreds of times.

And, of course, we have to talk about Jonathan Groff. The man had the audience going crazy from the moment he set foot on stage. He didn’t move around much during his numbers, but he didn’t need to; his delivery brought the house down. I’m not sure which of his moments were out of the ordinary because it was his last night, but there was a moment between “I Know Him” and the beginning of “The Adams Administration” where he got Leslie Odom Jr (Burr) to crack up — he ended up sitting off to the side of the stage and the cast seemed surprised (and yet not at all surprised) that he was there. He also got a little dance solo during “The Reynolds Pamphlet” That left everyone in fits — and contributed to that energy that muddled the first few moments of “Burn.”

  
It was Groff’s last performance, so obviously the cast woould honor him. However, after curtain call, the Schuyler sisters led a quick rap about BCEFA (Broadway Cares, look it up, it’s awesome), and moved into the cast singing something along the lines of “We’ve loved sharing our time with you” as everyone turned to Groff. Emotions ran high as Lin brought out a king’s robe…

  
Groff got a huge round of applause, tons of cheers, and a hug from his BFF…

  
Although Groff’s successor is likely incredibly talented and will succeed well, there’s just something about Groff and the way he performs King George III that’s so uniquely his own. I’m sure it’s sad for this cast to lose him.

I’m losing steam as I write this post because the show is so great that it’s hard to remember eevery single moment I wanted to write about. Overall, the show was just as amazing as I anticipated. It surpassed every single expectation I had, and I now have visuals in my head for whenever I listen to the soundtrack. This show has made history in so many ways, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so for quite some time. 

And for everyone who has asked, yes, it is absolutely worth the hype it’s getting.

Keeping My Head Up

My superstitious self is hoping that writing this blog post will push things along — because really, how fun would it be to write an entire blog post about not hearing back from Disney, and then hear back from Disney?

Anyway.

For those of you keeping track at home, here’s my timeline:

01/12/16 – applied for the Disney College Program

01/22/16 – Disney College Program phone interview

02/12/16 – applied for a Disney Professional Internship in Guest Relations

02/22/16 – Disney Professional Internship phone interview

02/26/16 – still waiting

Yes, I am still “In Progress.” Which I suppose is much better than being NLIC, or “No Longer In Consideration.” Bright side, right?

I think there are three main issues surrounding why I’m a little discouraged (and a lot impatient) about not hearing anything yet:

  1. For my first program, I was accepted four days after my interview. Not much waiting time.
  2. Most of my friends who applied this season have already heard back (and I am SO HAPPY for them, oh my gosh).
  3. Everyone keeps asking me if I’ve heard yet. And while I know that everyone means well, it’s disappointing to both me and those asking every time I have to say “no.” Also, trust me, when I know, the world will know. I won’t leave anyone out. Regardless of what the decision is.

But, to be fair, Disney has until April 15th to let me know, and as recruiters keep saying, most decisions will be made in March. It’s not quite March yet, so I’m trying not to get discouraged. I hope good news is on the way. 

I have no bad thoughts toward Disney. I knew going into this that nothing is guaranteed — regardless of how good my record card and company history are. I want to think that I would be a great cast member and an asset to the company, but ultimately the decision rests in Disney Recruiting’s very capable hands. And I trust whatever decision is made, no matter how long it takes.

But I’ve still got my fingers crossed, and I’m hoping that Disney can find a place for me.

  

Guest Relations Professional Internship Phone Interview

So I just finished my Guest Relations Professional Internship interview. I hadn’t prepared too much because I’ve done the PI phone screen a few times before, and I was fairly confident that I could handle it.

By some stroke of luck (or fate), my interviewer was the same recruiter who interviewed me for the College Program exactly a month ago today! She told me that she remembered my interview and that we would just go a little more in-depth with some of the questions she’d asked me in my CP interview.

First, we started by going over my resume. Then she asked me why I applied for this particular internship. I told her that one of my favorite parts of being a Disney cast member on my first college program was learning problem solving skills from the Downtown Disney Guest Relations cast members who worked in the Westside/DisneyQuest office with me, and also being able to problem solve a wide variety of guest situations. 

Then she asked me what my favorite part of my job as a WDW CM was (the problem solving), and what the most challenging part was (when I couldn’t fix a situation). She then asked me about a difficult guest situation, and since I’d already told her the story about the guest who lost her car (which she remembered!), I told her a different story about a guest whose ticket entitlements disappeared.

After she asked me a couple of other questions and clarified the differences between CP housing and PI housing, she wished me the best and that was that. It was a very quick interview, overall, I assume because I had the same interviewer. It was great to talk with her again, and she told me that I should hear something soon about the College Program at least (thank goodness). She also told me that she’d felt confident in my abilities the last time she interviewed me. I’m still trying not to get my hopes up, since I haven’t heard anything yet, but hopefully I’ll have some (good) news here soon.

And now I’m back to playing the waiting game again… congratulations to all the hopefuls who have been accepted so far, and my fingers are crossed that I’ll hear something, either about the College Program or this Professional Internship, soon!