In the right place, at the right time

There have been several incredibly serendipitous events that have occurred since I moved to DC: (the list gets wilder as it goes on)

1. One of my fellow MFA classmates here in DC, Fawn, is the long-term partner of Noah, someone I grew up with on the small and unique Vashon Island. Fawn and I knew of each other, thanks to Facebook, but had never met. When I saw her name on the email list back in the spring I was thrilled! Now we would meet and better yet, work together! When we did meet, she told me Noah had shown her a recording of our high school's production of Chicago in which both he and I were cast. He showed her that recording almost 10 years ago! Below: Noah played Billy Flynn and I played Velma Kelly in Vashon High's 2007 production of Chicago.

2. Another MFA classmate is an incredible woman who I had the pleasure of working with in 2015 at the Voice Intensive in Toronto. Alana is a Canadian artist and someone whom I've been acquainted with for several years. Her husband Jonathan was our fight director on the Citadel Theatre's production of The Penelopiad back in 2013. Now they're both living in DC and Alana and I get to continue working and playing together - something I felt so privileged to do back in 2015. Yes!

Jonathan showing castmates fight choreo while I watch on as fight captain.

3. A week before I moved to DC I was in the Seattle area visiting family and I found myself on the DC Craigslist looking at used bikes. I stumbled upon a sweet vintage Schwinn that was the perfect size for me (small!). I emailed the post with my interest and got a quick reply back. They asked if I could swing by in the next few hours to look at the bike. I couldn't come by as I wasn't moving until the end of the week, so they said to check in after I got to DC and while pretty unlikely, maybe the bike would still be available. 

A few hours later I received a Facebook message from a Canadian gal I went to UBC with. Julia and I were in the same dorm in first year - same floor and only a few doors down. We had many mutual friends and I saw her around here and there for for the next few years. We hadn't connected in at least four years. This is what she wrote "I just got an email from you about my bike on craigslist! You're coming to DC?!" I WAS LOOKING AT JULIA'S BIKE. What was this Canadian doing in DC and how could she be selling a bike the same week I was looking for a bike as I, an American, was moving from Canada to DC?! We talked further and she invited me for wine. I told her I didn't get in until Thursday. "I leave on Wednesday!" she said. She was moving back to Montreal but had been working for the summer and living with her boyfriend in DC. A few days after arriving I headed over to her boyfriend's place, picked up the little beauty and mailed a check to Montreal. 

My new travel companion with the best backstory

4. Last and certainly NOT LEAST: my Labour day weekend trip to Black Pond, a secret hike-in lake in Virgina. One of my roommates invited me on a day trip to this nearby lake - only a 30 min drive away from our house in DC. It was being organized by two different people: our next door neighbour, Shannon and another guy, Adrian. When we showed up on Sunday, September 4th, there were about 12 of us. Everyone knew somebody but most of us didn't know everyone else. Kind of the perfect scenario for an adventure. On our hike in I chatted to a couple people about the basics: where we were from, what brought us to DC, what we did here, etc. 

The lake was incredible. The temperature was perfect and apparently it was one of the cleanest lakes in the area. Adrian's friend (who was not on the trip) is a hydrologist and saw this lake from a satellite photograph that measured various water...things. It really was a perfect lake.

We had only been swimming for a few minutes when one of the folks I had met briefly, Matt, swam over and asked if I had representation in Canada. I said I didn't and had really only been doing theatre work while I lived there. He said I looked very familiar and had overheard me discussing my theatre background. He then told me he was the Resident Dramaturge at Factory Theatre in Toronto. "WHAT!?" Yes. I kid, you not. He was an American who had grown up with Adrian (one of the organizers) in Detroit. They were best friends. Adrian has been his best man at his wedding in Toronto awhile back. Small world, right? 

IT GETS CRAZIER...

Swimming in Black Pond - a secret lake, and one of three ponds named Black Pond in Virginia

A few hours later I'm telling Adrian about my wild bike story. He asks "How did she know it was you emailing about the bike?" I told him that I used my personal email account so the message was sent from clairehesselgrave@gmail.com. Just then, Matt turns around from where he's sitting below and ask "What is your last name?" I told him "Hesselgrave." He looked very surprised. "Are you related to an Anglican priest in Toronto?" I told him "YES. Sherman Hesselgrave. He's my dad." Completely beside myself. He then told me "I had dim sum with your dad two weeks ago and you may very well be coming to our house for American Thanksgiving if you're going to be in Toronto." I am visiting my dad for the Thanksgiving break. MIND BLOWN.

SECONDS LATER IT GETS EVEN MORE CRAZY. In the wave of awe, I immediately start talking with a girl named Mika about where we're from. She tells me she's from California and I mention that I'm from and island in the Seattle area. "What island...?" She asks with serious curiosity. "Vashon Island," I tell her. "Vashon? Vashon!? My great grandparents moved to Vashon island as berry farmers. They were Japanese. My grandmother was born there and grew up on the island until they were forced to leave." 

At this point I felt completely overwhelmed by this compounding serendipity. Mika was there because she works with Shannon. Shannon is our neighbour. I was there because I live with Sarah and Sarah knows Shannon, neighbours and all. Matt was there because he is best friends with Adrian and normally comes down earlier on in the summer but thought he'd squeeze a visit in during the Labour day weekend. OH BLACK POND YOU MYSTERIOUS AXIS OF COINCIDENCE!

Japanese migrant strawberry pickers on Vashon Island, Washington, February 14, 1915.