30 June 2008
Seriously, though, friend me. I have no friends.
Later in the day, I went up to Pasadena to see LOOPED at the Pasadena Playhouse. A number of my friends and colleagues are working on it, and it was delightful. Valerie Harper stars as Talulah Bankhead, and she is incredible. If you're in the area, go see it!
27 June 2008
Here are a handful of photos from our trip from Minneapolis to CA. You'll note that there are a lot of shots of landscape. When the car is driving at 80 miles per hour and you're in a hurry to get home, there's not much time to stop and pose. There are a handful more at our Picasa site, and I'm going to take some of the better ones and reformat them into my header image...
26 June 2008
We drove the strip and then tried to find a movie theatre. We failed to find a theatre, but we did end up killing some time in a mall. At about 6pm, we hit the road. It was 106 in the shade in Las Vegas, and it did not cool down in the desert for another hour or so.
By the time we reached the LA area, the temperature had cooled to 66, and Sarah and I were both bleary-eyed. We mustered our energy (helped by caffeine and sugar, natch) and made it home, where we unloaded the car and have started the unpacking process.
After a long trek across the western half of the country, we are finally back. Sarah is completely here now, and we have enough time to get a good night's sleep before our condo appointments tomorrow!
Photos to follow...
We woke this morning outside of Denver, and though we planned to hit the
road at 9, our hosts convinced us to wait until 10 to miss rush hour. After
a quick jaunt across Denver, we hit the mountains. Today was the first time
that I had seen the Rockies in summertime, and it was breathtaking. One of
the folks we talked to at a pit stop says that most people move to Colorado
for the snow but stay for the summer. It was truly amazing.
The mountains eventually gave way to the desert, and temperatures climbed
from 59 to 99 in a few short hours. The a/c in the Jeep is sporadic, so
Sarah and I were both getting sticky and gross. Colorado gave way to Utah,
and the desert became a small mountain range, which in turn gave way to some
slightly fertile desert by the time we got to Cedar City.
We chose Cedar City because it is the home of the Utah Shakespeare Festival,
where a colleague of mine is directing this summer. He and his wife invited
us to stay with them and watch a show tonight, and though our plans had us
arriving in Cedar City at 6.30, we ended up arriving just after 8pm (thanks
to a major back-up at Silverthorne Pass, from which we never recovered). We
missed the first few minutes of the show, but saw most of it and then
caravaned with Robert and Lorna up the mountain to their home. They live in
a beautiful house with great stars and such a view! We're very grateful for
their hospitality (and, of course, Sarah's parents in KC and Sarah's friend
Dan in Denver).
I had two unusual thoughts today during the drive. The first was a
recurring thought about ON THE ROAD and how prominently Denver features into
the book. The second was missing singing with Denise during road trips.
Sarah and I put Moxy Fruvous on the ipod, and I missed my old singing
It's after midnight here in Cedar City. I'm not sure when I'll be able to
24 June 2008
Lunch and dinner today were both at Arby's. Sarah's a picky eater, so many of the fast food options (McDonald's Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell) were off-limits. I wasn't interested in a sit-down meal, so Arby's was the only compromise. I hope there's something else to eat tomorrow.
We're in Denver now, staying overnight with a friend of Sarah's. We played ROCK BAND for a while, and now Sarah and her friend are playing their video game. I'm working and blogging instead.
Tomorrow we will drive to Cedar City, UT. We'll hit the Rockies. Woohoo!
23 June 2008
with some friends (and their new lovely daughter) of Sarah's from college,
and saw a bunch more of her friends. We also got to catch up with a friend
of mine from New Haven.
This morning, we drove first to Rochester MN to visit Sarah's grandfather at
the Mayo Clinic. He went in late last week with some major problems, but
when we saw him today, he seemed to be doing a lot better. Sarah's uncle
Steve kept our visit a secret from her grandpa, so when he saw us, it was
quite a surprise. We had a great visit with him, and then began our trek
down to KC.
Once in KC, we had just enough time to change some clothes before we had to
go to dinner with Sarah's mom, brother, and soon-to-be-sister-in-law. They
are still auditioning rehearsal dinner sites, which means that there are
plenty more good restaurants to try.
Tomorrow we drive to Denver, across the vast expanse of nothing that is
Kansas. More then, from Oz.
22 June 2008
Well, after over two years of blogging with MySpace, I think it’s time for me to graduate to a big-kid blog hosting site. I’ve been checking out a couple, but on the recommendation of some friends, it seems that Blogspot will allow me to do the things that I want to do (post via email, easy image manipulation) with the most flexibility to add features in the future.
I’ll probably keep this site quiet for a few days as I explore how it works, but soon enough, I’ll have a fancy-pants new place on which to riff.
18 June 2008
I'm back in the states now, having just landed from Rome. I bought some food at duty-free, so when I was filling out my customs form, I indicated that I was bringing food into the country. Of course, that then started a whole host of special attention. I got scanned at customs and again as I passed into the domestic terminals. I've got about 45 minutes before my plane to Minneapolis boards, so I'm grabbing some dinner. I've already talked to Sarah and have texted with Denise. Whee!
All told, I've had a tremendous time this week. I went into this project with some big questions. Can we assemble a show with three days of rehearsal? Can we do it with the vast majority of our performers being foreign to us? Can we teach those performers clown technique sufficiently enough that the play can be performed in nose? Can I create a design that quickly? Can I perform it by myself? Can I still maintain significant levels of improvisation and spontaneity when performing the design? Did the preparation and programming I did in CA pay off in the end? All of the answers to these questions are, more or less, 'yes.' We used this project to conduct some very interesting theatrical experiments, and we're already talking about the next stage of these experiments.
In addition, I had a great time hanging with the UCI folk and meeting the international folk. The bulk of our clown troupe came from Trinity College of Dublin, and we were blessed to have such a strong group of well-trained and cohesive folk to work with. The fact that they had spent so much time training together meant that they already worked well as a team, and they were able to use that to help keep the entire troupe working as one organism. And, as you might imagine, they are a tremendously friendly and wonderful bunch of people and they know how to spend time at the bar (it's their fault that I only got two hours of sleep last night). So, cheers to them, our Italian, Hungarian, and American clowns, the staff & crew at the Festival & the Academie, and everyone else who put in the long hours to create such an incredible experience!
First, here are some shots from the morning of 17 June, our performance day, just so you can get some perspective of what our show sort of looked like in the morning and afternoon:
Here's Giusi, whose role was sort of amorphous but who basically served as a festival production manager. She's holding Michael's Bill doll, who is, appropriately, in nose:
Rehearsing the don't-push-the-button sequence from the show:
Notes after the run:
Where my set-up was, relative to the stage:
Here's Jaymi, writing cues during our lunch break. I'm still not sure how she did it in sunlight:
Shortly after I blogged yesterday, the rain started coming down. We had taken many precautions with the equipment (canopy, rain shields, plastic paint coverings), so I wasn't worried about the equipment getting damaged. I was, however, worried about the show. If it was raining, we certainly could not perform outside.
I spent the afternoon at the antifeatro, babysitting my gear from both the elements and thieves (you never know). Cambria, Benny, and I amused ourselves by playing Scopa. At 5.30, one of the festival directors came over to talk about whether we should cancel or not. Eli wasn't around, so we decided to reconvene at 7pm to discuss our 9pm show. The director came back a few minutes later with an alternate plan: the weather report said that the rain would let up by 8pm, so we would reconvene at 8.00 to figure out whether we could do the show in the antifeatro. If we chose to abandon the antifeatro, we would have access to the academie to perform. They had a small rehearsal hall that we could use. We'd have to restage a bit and perform without Jaymi's lighting design, but we would at least be able to perform.
Over the next hour, we watched the rain come down. We thought that we'd see breaks in the clouds, only to have the rain redouble its efforts at squashing our show. The group from Berlin that was scheduled to perform at 11pm had already cancelled their show, as they could not rehearse due to rain. Since we didn't have to finish in time to let the Berliners start, we decided that we could also delay the curtain to let the rain let up.
By 8.15, the rain was more intense and the sky was getting dark. Jaymi and I talked to Eli, who was helping the clowns get into whiteface, and we decided to move the show to the academie. Michael, Jaymi, and I immediately started breaking down our equipment, and a teacher at the academie started shuttling our 20-ish clowns to the academie from the antifeatro (a 7-minute drive or a 30-minute walk). Contrary to popular belief, you can not fit 20 clowns in one car, no matter how small.
When we got to the academie, the staff and students were already prepping our room for us. It was very live, so I asked students to bring in racks of costumes to absorb sound. They set up chairs, cleaned the floor, and tidied up a storage closet for a greenroom. Jaymi and Fiona taped down speaker cable:
I set up my gear. Michael and Holly were prepping softgoods and costume pieces. The last-minute rain-out and change of venue created a tremendous energy in the room. Here's our company moments before the house opens:
We opened the 'house' at about 9.40pm. It filled up in about 5 minutes, which was great considering that so many people had driven from Arezzo to the academie to see the show. Jaymi, instead of creating a beautiful and nuanced design, was in charge of the light switches. Eli filmed. I did what I do.
And it was incredible. From the very beginning of the show, when Benny and I forgot our interplay and improvised his awkward strip tease, to the birth of the clowns, to their death, resurrection, exodus, and landing on earth, the show was moving. It was funny, sad, weird, and immensely enjoyable. I was blown away by the experience of it, and everyone afterwards had great things to say.
Here's Fiona & Cambria after the show. Look at that excitement!
After the show, we packed up and zipped back to Arezzo. We had dinner at Mr. Bloom's, a local bar, which was packed with our people and Italians celebrating the soccer win. Here are two shots from the bar:
Dinner turned into some drinking and celebrating, and the short and the long is that Jaymi and I ended up getting about two hours sleep. We got home at 3.45am and got up at 5.45am. We caught the 7.14 express to Rome, had some breakfast, wandered town for a while, and then I caught the train to the airport. I'm sitting in the airport now as I write, waiting for my flight to JFK. From there, I'll get a flight to Minneapolis to see Sarah and friends!
17 June 2008
Michael came by with the car at 9.20 this morning to load up the gear that Jaymi and I needed to bring to the antifeatro. When we got here, it took a while to set up. I needed an extra table and some covering at the FOH position. When I finally got set up, we had a spacing rehearsal, followed by a lunch break. The house techs here are all agog over the JazzMutant Lemur that I brought. On lunch, I stayed with the gear and did some more work.
This afternoon, we had a run-through. It went well, and after a few notes, Eli released the cast to get some rest in anticipation of tonight's show. All of my gear is set up in the space, where security is lax, so I'm staying around to make sure nothing walks away. Some of the other Californians are going to relieve me in a bit, so that I can do a little packing and maybe grab some dinner. It's 4pm now, and the show isn't until 9pm.
Oh, and the wind has blown clouds through. Now, the covering that was protecting my gear from the sun this morning is protecting my gear from the possible rain now. Michael has hung plastic sheets around my area of the canopy in case the rain comes. So far, so good. Knocking on wood.
Today is our long day. It's 9 now. We have rehearsal from 10-5, and then a performance at 9. Wheee!
16 June 2008
This morning came a little too early again (must stop trying to keep pace with 19-year old Irish students), but again, we were back in the hall for our last day of rehearsal with them. We added to the show some more and it's becoming quite interesting. We've got 30 minutes of useful material, which is saying something, considering that most of our clowns have never clowned before and we've only had about 11 hours of rehearsal with them.
Here are some photos from today's rehearsal.
We ran through the show a few times and then broke our rehearsal space down for the last time. After rehearsal, Eli, Jaymi, Holly, Michael, and I went for a late lunch. The restaurants were all closed (the Italian siesta), but we found one that would serve us. While we were eating, some of the Irish students joined us. Here's Holly's lovely Arugala & Gorgonzola pizza:
Now we're back at the B&B and taking a little downtime before the first of three shows tonight. I had to fix a couple of notes, but now I'm about to go out and record the bells in town. Then, off to the show, then dinner, then another show, then lighting focus! Will post more tonight, if I'm awake.
The 11pm piece was also good, but in a different way. This was the group from Ireland, who did an ensemble piece about a Irish myth. The performances were good, but I got a little tired of the story after a while. Alas.
After the second show, we went with the Irish folk back to the bar. It's 3.15am, and we're just now getting to bed. Fortunately, I both had a nap today and don't have to be at the rehearsal hall at 8.15 tomorrow morning. Phew.
15 June 2008
The 7.15 alarm came too early this morning. Jaymi and I struggled to get ready after our night of revelry with the Irish. We were at the rehearsal hall by 8.15, ready to get set up for rehearsal. Rehearsal started at 9am, with a few more instances of the clown training that we did yesterday:
At 9.45, the Californians convened for a quick re-assessment of our casting. At 10am, the clowns came, and we divided them into specialty clowns, who would have a small role in the show but would also handle preshow work, elder clowns, who would be featured in the show, and those clowns that we could not fit into the show. We quickly got to work staging the show.
Here's our company:
The staging turned out surprisingly well. We explained the rough structure to the clowns, and then we went through the piece, element by element. Most of them were quick to pick up the idea, and they were both interesting to watch and responsive to my work. We had a great time, and by the end of rehearsal, we were able to do a rough run of the whole show. I was particularly surprised to see that many of the clowns that we elected to not use in the show stayed to watch our rehearsal.
After rehearsal, we grabbed lunch (pizza with sausage, artichoke, mushroom, and ham on different quarters) and then adjourned to a bar/gelateria called GREEDY BAR for a glass of limoncello and gelato (I had the pine nut). Mmmm. Here's Benny at lunch, talking with Lucy, an American student at the Academie and one of our company members:
As I write this, I'm taking a siesta before meeting the Californians for dinner at 7.30. We have shows to see at 9 and 11pm. Then, probably a drink or two before bed.
Last night, I finally slept well. I woke once, but immediately feel back asleep. When my alarm finally did go off (after almost eight glorious hours), I was in the middle of dreaming that I was on the phone with my sister. When my alarm went off, I said 'Denise, I have to go now. My alarm is going off, and it's time for me to get up.' We said a quick goodbye and I woke up. Thanks, Denise, for being so understanding.
Between when Jaymi and I walked up the hill last evening and when we got back last night, the other two rooms in the B&B had been filled. This morning, I ran into one English speaker (Irish? British?) in the bathroom and three eastern Europeans (Hungarians?) in the kitchen nook. All very pleasant, but we didn't talk much. The Hungarians and I don't share a language, and the English-speaking woman was scrambling to get out the door to an appointment.
Michael picked Jaymi and I up at 9.30am to take us to the rehearsal space. The hall was packed with artists - Holly, Michael, Jaymi, Cambria, Benny, Eli, me, and about 35 would-be clowns. Eli did an amazing job getting the actors to discover their inner clowns, and I played a big part in helping that happen. We worked with about 25 clowns in this fashion: Cambrian would call their name, and Benny would give them a pep talk while he helped them into nose. When they first emerged for the audience, Eli would give them some initial direction while I did a quick read of who they were. In about 45 or 60 seconds, I usually had a good enough idea to start throwing sound at them. 90% of the time, I was pretty dead on with the music or sound I used. Sometimes I'd use music pulled from CDs, sometimes I'd use my mic and voice, and sometimes I'd use the step sequencer that I built. We had an amazing afternoon, and I'm impressed at what Eli was able to pull out of them. Here are some shots of that the session:
An Irish clown:
An Italian clown:
Another Irish Clown:
Two more Italian clowns:
One of our favorite clowns of the day:
After rehearsal, we scoped out the ampifeatro, which is a 1st century amphitheater in town. We'll be performing there next week. The space was smaller than I expected, but the sound gear is better. Phew. Here are the 1st century walls:
And Here is the stage:
Then, we went to lunch, where we more or less cast the show, had some good food, and played Scopa!
After lunch, Eli led Cambria, Benny, Jaymi and I through town...
...and the valley...
...and past an ancient Roman aquaduct...
...to the Academie, where he and Holly are staying. The Academie is an arts school loosely associated with the Festival. It's a 20 minute walk from downtown (here's the Arezzo church as seen from the Academie:
), and it's deep in the heart of Tuscany. Eli napped while the four of us hung out, and then we all caught a ride back with a Festival staffer.
Back in town, Jaymi and I chilled at the B&B with a bottle of wine while waiting for a meet up with Holly & Michael. Michael and Holly thought the meet-up time was different than we did, so we ended up not meeting with them. Instead, we met up with Cambria, Benny, and Eli at the ampifeatro. Along with the Californians, we meet up with the Irish folk, and we all went for dinner at a great Italian (natch) place. I had the tagliolini con tartufo nero, which was basically pasta with black mushrooms. Mmmmm.
Jaymi and I were invited to hang with the Irish students after dinner, so we decided to prove that we weren't stodgy by obliging them. Here's Irish student Fiona at the bar:
We stayed for a beer, but when the Irish students got up to leave the bar, we joined them. All in all, it was a great day, but now there's less than five hours before I have to be up tomorrow morning. Oops.
13 June 2008
So, this morning I was up at 4.30am. I couldn't sleep, so by 6.30, I decided to forgo trying and just greet the day. I was up on the sunny & delightful rooftop deck by 7.30, working on some UCI stuff. At 8.30, Eli & Jaymi met me. We ate a great breakfast, and then checked out of our hotel and taxied to the train station, where we met up with Benny & Cambria. After buying our ticket, we discovered that our train was a running late, so we killed time by learning the rules of Scopa and talking to Eli's camera. Here's Benny & Jaymi examining the departures board for an updated departure time:
Once we got on our train, we snagged the only completely empty couchette car. With all of our bags and everything, we just squeezed all in. I'm not sure if we were technically supposed to have a couchette car, but since the conductor never came by, there was no one to tell us no. On the train, Eli decided that his clown needed to come out, and that mean that his teeth needed to go in:
The beautiful sunny day in Rome gave way to clouds as we moved into Tuscany, and by the time we finally got to Arezzo (just two hours by train), this is what greeted us:
Lots and lots of rain. Coming down in buckets. With big cracks of thunder and lighting. Cold rain. The kind that gets you wet. We met up with Holly & Michael at the train station, along with some other folks from the festival. An attempt to wait out the rain resulted in 45 minutes spent standing in front of the train station arguing about when the rain would let up. 'Never' was apparently the correct answer.
We finally got going to our respective housing units. Eli, Holly, & Michael got an apartment, but they were all supposed to sleep in the same room. They have since moved. Cambria & Benny are sharing a hotel room (with separate beds, natch). Jaymi & I seem to have gotten the sweetest deal. We're in two rooms of a four-room B&B. The rooms are fine, but we do have to share bathrooms. Our kitchen has a balcony, and our balcony has this view:
Jaymi & I grabbed lunch (a slice of pizza, small sandwich, and four glasses of wine ran us 9 euros – these ain't Rome prices) and then unpacked. She set up some of the glowing orbs she brought while I made sure that the gear I brought had survived the trip (it had, fortunately).
At 6.30, we were supposed to meet the rest of the participants up at the top of the town hill for a dinner. We got there early, so we wandered around. Here is the church where part of LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL was filmed:
And here's me in front of a lovely Tuscan valley.
Even in the rain, it's pretty stunning.
We found the rest of our clan before dinner, and they all posed for a quick snap:
That would be Jaymi, Holly, Cambria, Eli's head emerging from Michael's shoulder, Michael, & Benny. Dinner was incredible. Fresh meats, cheeses, salumi, zucchini eggplant, peppers, roasted fennel, wine, juice, tomatoes. Delicious. There were probably 125 of us all dining in a little piazza, and from one of the windows facing the piazza, a woman in a red sweater was staring at us. From a distance, the contrast of her sweater to the yellow wall was beautiful enough to merit a photograph, but if you look closely at her, she doesn't seem to be enjoying herself.
After dinner, we waited while the organizers tried to set up a video projector. I snapped this photo just as the sun was finally setting. Love those colors.
While we were waiting, outside in the main piazza, some people were re-enacting the blessing of lances in the church in anticipation of a jousting match. There were large drums and horns in the church, and it sounded amazing. Very reverberant. I didn't take any photos because my hands were busy making an audio recording of part of the sermon.
When the video projector was finally set up, we watched some short films that each group had made about their project. They were all pretty lame. Unfortunately, we weren't able to sneak out without drawing attention to ourselves, so we had to endure the whole event. It's now 12.20, and I'm hoping that I can get some significant sleep tonight. I won't be able to post this right away (no internet) but hopefully soon…