Who is Ms. Carlson?

Andy Sterba '22

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Andy:

Okay, so my first question is, what are you looking forward to most about St. Stephen's?

 

Ms. Carlson:

It’s something that I'm already starting to experience, which is that great sense of community. Certainly among the faculty, I'm getting the sense that people want to be here. And everybody is so willing to help. I love the fact that we've got this gigantic, I don't know if you've seen it, because students aren't allowed in. But there's this big office, it's not quite the length of the cafeteria, but maybe like two-thirds of it or something. And everybody, but science, I think, have their desks in there. So you can just stand up and say, I need help, and somebody will come and help you with whatever, whether it's a logistical thing, or it's a Do we have a meeting today? Or what do you do about this? So there's already a great sense of community among the faculty. And I'm teaching mostly ninth-graders, so I haven't had a chance to see the established community of upper grades. But I'm sure there is one and I'm looking forward to getting to know that community of students more.

 

A: 

Why did you decide to come?

 

Ms. C: 

Okay, so we spent eight years at the American School in Switzerland. So we ended up deciding to come back. And it was in the middle of a pandemic that, all of a sudden, decided to come back before the pandemic hit. So, we had a home base in Bethesda for many years. And so I knew about St. Stephen's and St. Agnes I. I taught at a school up there in Potomac far before we went to Europe, and so I was looking for something in the area, looking for something that had a community feel that had a sense of ethics and integrity. That would allow me to teach a variety of things to my strengths. And, this job popped up. And so I just wrote right away. And I was in the middle of doing theater up in Massachusetts, over the summer, and I was getting calls at the rehearsal hall and, walking out on the front porch well, while we were on a break, to talk to miss Adams and Mr. Mallett and so forth, and it just seemed like a good fit.

 

A: 

So you're an English teacher and stage manager?

 

Ms. C:

Yeah. So, in college, I did a double major in English and drama. And a minor in education. in graduate school. I kind of rolled them all together at Emerson College and got my Master’s in performing arts. Theater. They just call it performing arts. They were a little broader, but really, it was theater. Yeah. So I've worked professionally in theater as a stage manager. I've also run theater programs at every school I've been at. So I'm usually the theater teacher. Sometimes the school depends on teaching English and theater, sometimes just theater. Here, I'm teaching English, but the theatre program, which is already established, very kindly invited me by, they're like, come play with us.

 

A:

I mean, they probably saw your background and how, you know, you're how good you are at it. So they're like, Oh, you could probably use her skills.

 

Ms. C:

Yeah. So. So I've jumped into that program, which is great. And I used to work in a professional theater in DC. Before I went into full-time classroom teaching, I was full-time at the Kennedy Center and Arena Stage. So I know DC theater, but I've always kind of, I've loved being able to do both things. Because I'm also a bit of an OCD. One could say, so I'm like, ‘get that punctuation, right. Get your subject-verb agreement right’. So I love being able to teach those things and say, This is my pet peeve, go out and make the world better by not doing it. And I love talking about literature as well. So it is great to be able to do both. Yeah. And I've always been my whole life. My whole life. I bounced back and forth. I started directing when I was in sixth grade. You know, I started directing the neighborhood kids in the show.

 

A: 

Yeah. So like, is that when you got interested in stage management, like what made you realize that this is what I want to do like, this is my passion?

 

Ms. C: 

Yeah, I didn't even know what a stage manager was until my senior year of college. And then I was the assistant director for the musical that year, which was Chicago. And so after my AD duties were kind of done once we moved to the stage and moved into technical rehearsals and performances, I didn't have anything to do. And the stage-manager needed me out in the house. So I became an assistant stage manager. And my boyfriend, actually at the time, was stage managing. And so I kind of learned a little bit about that world. And then when I went to Emerson, when I went for my grad school, I approached the professor during the fall play, like I learned who's doing the fall, play great, went and talked to him immediately and said, I would love to be your system director, he already had one. But he said, he's sort of my AD and my stage manager, you could be the assistant stage manager, and maybe do some directorial things as well. So I started stage managing more, I got asked to do a trip to Europe, we were doing an e Theatre Festival in Italy. And I was asked to stage-manage the production. And I found I liked it. I liked the organization of the stage, you know, needing to be organized, I'd like to be an important person. You know, like somebody whose presence mattered, to make the success of the thing happen. And I loved having both the big picture and the fine details, the stage manager has to see both of those things. And it was great professional development because, with every script you work on, you see the director working with the actors, and you learn more about text analysis. And how do you take that thing on a page and put it on the stage? So I just, I just kind of kept doing it. I went professional while I was still in graduate school, I got my equity card. And then when we moved down here to Maryland, from Massachusetts, I just started sending out my resume and started getting hired. And that's when I started working for Arena, and the Folger, and the Kennedy Center and so forth. And then I decided to move from there after a few years into full-time classroom teaching. So I got a job at Holy Child. Yes, our rivals. And I was teaching English and theater up there, and then I would do professional theater, like events and in the summer, and that's kind of how the rest of my life has gone.

 

A:

What do you like to do in your spare time?

 

Ms. C:

Like, what spare time?

 

A:

If you have free time, what would you do?

 

Ms. C:

There are a couple of things. I'll give you three. I'd love to read. So just, you know, like the perfect day is when I get to sleep late. That's something I like to do in my spare time, too. I can sleep like a teenager, I can sleep until noon if I'm allowed. So sleep late, get up curl up with my book, and a cup of coffee or tea, and just curl up and read or go outside under a tree and read. So that's what I used to do in high school. I'd get on my bike with my book. So that's one thing, too, is being out in nature. So I love to go out into the woods or hiking, you know. And then third hanging out with my husband watching. binge-watching television shows.

 

A:

What TV shows?

 

Ms. C:

We're in the middle of Arrested Development. We're very late to that game. So we're in season two of Arrested Development when my son's in college this year, which is why I didn't include him on that. But it had been he was part of the binge-watching to Buffy the Vampire Slayer once the pandemic hit with Buffy. And we did all seven seasons of Buffy and introduced them to it. Because David and I knew it already. And then let's see what else we have binge-watched, Modern Family of course, and then we're watching a new show but we can't binge it because it's coming one episode a week like old-fashioned TV.

 

A:

Is it on Disney?

 

Ms. C 

Well, I don't know. It's called Only Murders in the Building. Yeah. And it's sort of a murder mystery comedy. Only murderers in the building with Steve Martin and Martin Short and Selena Gomez. So we're liking that show. It's got something like 12 episodes. You know, one of those limited-run things. Yeah, but we just have to wait every week.

 

A:

So Disney plus does that too.

 

Ms. C:

Do they do old-fashioned tv?

 

A:

Yeah like with the Mandalorian.

 

Ms. C:

Mandalorian we were all like oh my God. Yeah, we had to wait. Yeah, right. 

 

A:

There’s one more, Loki. 

 

Ms. C:

Loki, yes, we watch it. Last year and once a week, so I wasn't considering that binge-watching but CGT, Mandalorian, Loki. Star Trek Discovery. Doctor Who. So yeah, there we'd like sci-fi fantasy in our family.

 

A:

Star Trek over Star Wars?

 

Ms. C:

No no no, I would say Star Wars over Star Trek.

 

A:

Okay, that's a good opinion.

 

Ms. C:

Okay, is that the correct answer?

 

A:

I can't say if it's the correct one. Yeah, that's a very good opinion. Yeah. And then, as the last question, like, why did you end up working in Switzerland?

 

Ms. C:

So I was working at M.R. Willard school in upstate New York. We were only there for three years. So this was my third year. And it's a great school. It's a great school. But they were starting to cut back on the theater program a little bit and I was being asked to do other things, which I was good at, like running the entire assembly program, and all that. And that was good. But it felt like it was taking away from the theater. They've rectified that situation since so they are back to normal - lots of theater. But this was just for a couple of years. But anyway, I'm up there and one of my colleagues, at the end of our second year together, he and his wife, who was also working at the school, left the school after 13 years and went to Europe to teach at the school. They had been wanting to go to Europe for a long time, his brother lived in Europe, etc. So you can say a colleague went over, then in that third year, right in the middle of tech week for a show, I got this email saying, Hey, we're looking for a theater director. And my head isn't finding anybody he likes. He's in Boston right now. So just, you know, if you want to come, not to take you away, but so I shot out my resume and started having interviews. And within two weeks, I was offered a job. So it was a big step going to Europe, but it was something my husband and I, you know, had talked about. We had gone to Europe on a vacation, gone to Italy, but we had no idea how to go about it whatsoever. So this just kind of landed in my lap. And our kid was about to turn nine. Yeah, so we thought, you know, if not now when? You know, what a great opportunity to let him live in Europe and go to an international school. And meet people from all over the world and become bilingual. And, that's what happened, you know, so he can speak Italian fluently and you got to travel all over the place. So that's why Switzerland that it just seemed like too good an adventure to pass up.

 

A:

Yeah. So do you like Switzerland? Like is Switzerland your favorite place now?

 

Ms. C:

No, it's not my favorite place. But I do. I do like it a lot. It's very expensive. But we lived [close to Italy] We could go to Italy. So we would never eat out in Switzerland, but we’d go to Italy for dinner. So I love it as a jumping-off point for the rest of Europe. You could jump on a plane and you know, get somewhere in an hour or an hour and a half and be in person for countries centralized. So it's beautiful, really beautiful. You can hike everywhere. Yeah, and so the mountains, sky, and forest were really beautiful. And our campus was beautiful, as well. So I did love living there for those reasons.

 

A:

Okay, well, then, where would you want to live? What is your dream place to live?

 

Ms. C:

Well, I like being cold better than I like being warm. And I like the ocean. So I've always thought of Maine and Scotland. Even though I've never been. Well, I've probably been to Maine, but it was so minor. I don't remember. I mean, how could I have not gone to Maine, and yet it's true. So I always think of Maine and Scotland as these ideal places.

 

A:

What about the lobster in Maine?

 

Ms. C:

But I'm vegetarian, so I don't eat it. But my mom would visit me and she would eat all the lobsters for me. She's a lobster person. And my husband is a lobster guy.

 

A: 

Yeah, you can get lobster there for so cheap. Versus like, here, you get. It's like $40 for the tail. And up there. You can get an even bigger lobster. Yeah, the entire thing for like, $10. Right. And it's like that because it's straight off the boat. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Right. And I shoot off the boat. My dad used to work up in Maine, when he was a teenager, you know, in between college and high school and stuff. You'd go up there and his friend taught him how to like open lobster and stuff. So he would eat like two lobsters a day. And it's cheaper than anything.

 

Ms. C:

Exactly. Cheaper than going to Cava, practically.

 

A: 

Yeah. And that was insane. Yeah. And they were so good there.

 

Ms. C: 

Wow. Well, do you get to go up sometimes? 

 

A:

I haven't been able to go up. But so I'm visiting colleges right now. Yeah. So I mean, I don't have any colleges up in Maine. But I’ve got one that's about an hour away from the Canadian border. Because I'm seeing Clarkson. And since they're so close, I'm like, can we just like, detour a little? An extra day or two wouldn't hurt anyone? You're already like, eight hours? Or nine hours up there? Whatever. 

 

Ms. C: 

That's great. That's great. If I were to live in a city, even though I LOVE LOVE, LOVE Boston, because it's more open, I would go with New York City. The greatest city in the world.

 

A: 

Yep. So I've never been. But that's where my dream job is. Yes. Dream job is working on Wall Street. In New York City. So is there anything else that you'd want to share with The Voice like a fun fact maybe?

 

Ms. C:

Something fun? Well, you could say my son is at Davidson. So anybody out there who's looking at Davidson College in North Carolina, I can hook them up. Anything else? I'm dying to have animals again. I'm going to have a dog. I'm in a co-op right now, but they don't have a no-dog rule. Which is stupid and detrimental to their ultimate success as a property. But but but I would. I'm looking to get a dog.

 

A: 

Yeah, at my mom's house I have two that are mine. And then I’m fostering three puppies.

 

Ms. C: 

Oh my gosh, that's crazy.

 

A:

They’re the cutest little puppies ever. Oh my god, so fluffy. So cute. I love dogs.

 

Ms. C: 

Maybe I will get a little puppy from you. I think they're being fostered.

 

A:

Yeah, I think two of them are looking for Yeah, they're already on track to be adopted. Okay, there's one left. So, you might, but going quickly. So you know…

 

Ms. C:

Okay. Yeah, yeah, I'm dying. When we lived in our house in Bethesda, we had two or three dogs  at all times, either two or three dogs. Big dogs like big dogs. Yeah. And a couple of cats. I like them both.

 

A:

You had me at dogs.

 

Ms. C:

Like, I don't know, I feel like I should be a Gemini. And I'm not a Gemini. But I like both dogs and cats. They have different functions. We had a cat, who would like to go on walks with us around the neighborhood as if she were a dog. She would just trot around the neighborhood with us. She would scare off other dogs.

 

A:

Cats just feel like, you know, they're there for attention for themselves. They don't care about you. They don't care.

 

Ms. C:

I know sometimes. Sometimes I'm like that. But then you get that extra bit of gratification. Like you were a super special human. If they come and sit on you, then you're like, I'm superior.

 

A: 

Yeah, like, I mean, the dog is going to stay with you no matter what. But as the cat comes up to you, then you know you did something.

 

Ms. C:

I know. I mean, I would probably, if I had to choose, I would go dog. but I do like them both in my life. But I grew up with both. My family always had one to two dogs, and a couple of cats. So yeah, they fulfilled different functions for me.

 

A:

Yeah. You know, I didn't have the same experience. The very first cat I saw. I go to pet it. It was like my friend's cat. I go to pet it, and it bites my hand. Yeah, yeah. No, like, no hissing. I got started. Yes, purring. No, it starts hurrying and everything and then just goes, like bites.

 

Ms. C:

One of my mother's cats is like that. You'll just be stroking then she'll suddenly just turn on you and bite you.

 

A: 

I'm like, I don't want that. Yeah, I can just have a dog for hours and love it. Yeah.

 

Ms. C:

I understand.