Monday, May 29, 2006

a tale of two Davids

These two fine looking gentlemen are both named David Pence. The one on the left is David who is in SUPERVISION and the one on the right came all the way from Maine to see the show in Glasgow! I consider this a heroic act of support if ever there was one and if a David Pence, Jr team hat existed, I'm sure the guy on the right would have a hard time choosing between it and his beloved Red Sox cap.

It was a total pleasure having both David Pences in place for the run in Scotland and we all spent many an hour after the shows talking to David Sr about the junior and all things Pence. If we could all have such fine fathers, the world would be a much better place.

We are now all dispersed once again to the various corners of our lives, as we are in a week of in-between engagements. Claire, Rizwan, Jeff and I have all gone ahead to Spain and are now finding our way around the fabulous city of Madrid where everyone should live at least once in their lives. This is our collective opinion after less than 24 hours in the city. It is incredibly friendly and there is an absolutely fantastic street culture, which includes going to cafes and sitting around and drinking beers and talking, sitting in the many plazas and talking, wandering the streets and talking. It is muy fantastico. And everyone I have encountered is so sweet to me as I butcher their beautiful language right before their very eyes. I speak only enough Spanish to navigate the laundromat on my block in NY (though recent demographic shifts have changed the working language of doing the laundry on my street to Bulgarian) yet everyone I have had contact with has cheerfully tried to understand me. Que rico!

Our boys Jamie and Neal headed to Amsterdam, to look at this year's fine tulip crop no doubt and will meet up with us here on Saturday. The rest of the company returned to the US to their very busy lives and will rendezvous with us all on Saturday as well to make our way to Salamanca, the final leg of this European tour for the show.

Our last night in Glasgow was swell and we had a lovely show. We said our farewells to Steven, the fabulous artistic director of Tramway and Stewart, our genius set and costume designer and to Kate, our friend and assistant director. We hope we get to come back again soon and spend more time in yet another great city. Because the weather was not good for golf and I still did not have my vegetarian haggis! Though I did load up on the shortbread and I am grateful that my granny pants for the show feature an elastic waist. Once again, the genius of Stewart is apparent.

More later from Salamanca.

Love and cafe con leche,

Thursday, May 25, 2006

makeup house arrest

I am onstage in the theatre. I am alone. It is a sort of Rose's Turn moment, where the deranged actor is left in the empty house and imagines that the loud and large crowd is loving the flawless act that is going on in her head. Actually, it is not that exciting and I am here by reason of my character, confined to the non-public spaces of the theatre by the house arrest of my makeup. See, I put it all on for the dress rehearsal and now I've got it on and I can't go anywhere without feeling extremely conspicuous. My face is covered with latex and layers of color and I look like a weirdo in the harsh light of day. Inside the theatre, the darkness and the forgiving lights make me able to not be a freak. And so I stay here until after the show when I can return to my civilian garb after a nice hot shower.

Had a dress rehearsal, as I mentioned and it seemed to go quite well. Everyone is off now eating the various things there are to eat in this neighborhood where the Tramway is located, called East Pollockshield. Go out the front door of the Tramway and there is a little South Asian strip nearby, featuring curry shops, Indian sweets and the ubiquitous doner kebab. Go out the back door, and you can treat yourself to KFC. I saw a Subway downtown and will get the combo and report on the Scottish version of my favorite sandwich indulgence. On my break on the Continent, I went to Amsterdam for a few days and had an elaborate conversation with a Yank friend who lives there and had the theory that Subway will not take hold in Holland because the Dutch do not like to mix things on their sandwiches. They are a bread and cheese only kind of culture. And indeed, there was not one Subway that I saw there.

If anyone knows a good joke about a bagpipe, please submit it to me in the comment department. I am also trying to find jokes that other cultures tell about Americans, but so far, no luck here on that one. The kind of joke that starts something like: "an American walks into a bar..." You get the picture. I guess our current status on the world stage is just not that funny these days. Even a mean-spirited joke would do, but perhaps our genteel hosts here in Scotland do not want to offend us with crass anti-Americanism. I say, bring it on. A joke tells you a lot about true feelings and if there are no jokes that means there is no affection either. Sigh.

Tanya has joined me in the empty theatre and is going to have a little pre-show lie-down. She is feeling a little under the weather this evening and she is not the only one. Jeff and Joe both have colds and Dan seems to be having a bit of a resurgence of the cold that he thought he was beating a couple of days ago. We all deal with our conditions and just keep on going. There's no people like show people, as Mama Rose would say.

And in case anyone was wondering, I did not yet have sticky toffee pudding but I did have some most excellent shortbread cookies from the grocery store and they were organic. It's all about the butter, my friends. Dee-lish!

peace and single malt love,

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Glasgow, Scotland

May 24, 2006

After a two week jaunt on the Continent, having Continental breakfasts and driving around in our rented Lincoln Continental (just kidding), Claire and I regrouped in the Chatelet station of the metro in Paris and made our way to Aeroport Charles De Gaulle. The metro, technically it was really the RER or commuter railroad, was fine despite the many irritating stairs that we were forced to lug our luggage through in the Chatelet station. But once we got to the airport, our journey began in earnest. I don't know what it is about that particular airport but I feel it has been purposely designed to confound all logic and common sense. It is huge of course and the signs are confusing and this clogs the common areas with loads of befuddled travelers trying to figure out where they should go. And let's just say that the post September 11 world of additional security measures, plus the advent of take away coffee in France has not made things any better. I was soundly lectured at the metal detector by the security fellow who said I should not bring cafe creme through security in the future because I could be hiding something in the murkiness that is French coffee. O, la la.

We arrived finally in Scotland and came to the hotel and settled ourselves. Claire and I then took a walk around the main shopping district or "“high street" as they say in these parts. Claire took me on a special tour of the Quality Hotel, which is where TBA stayed the last time they were in Glasgow. It is an enormous, byzantine establishment that is wrapped around the outside layer of the train station and is in the process of being renovated. It is also quite haunted, according to some of The Builders that stayed there last time. Yes, ghosts were encountered by company members. Claire and I climbed to the tippy top floor which is sort of derelict and though it was broad daylight, it certainly was a good setting for a haunted scene, if ever there was one.

I met up with the tech fellows yesterday morning at breakfast, where they could be found fortifying themselves for the first day in the theatre by eating eggs and doing sudoku. They wandered off to the Tramway, the venue where we are performing, and I stayed behind reading the paper and shortly Marianne and Tanya appeared, jet-lagged yet radiant, fresh off the plane from New York. We had a little breakfast together and then I dispensed them off to naps and I headed to the high street to poke around.

It took barely 24 hours, but I heard my first bagpipe version of Scotland the Brave on Buchanan Street and it was a lady piper. They are all about the piping here in Glasgow and there is a school of piping and a museum of piping. I look forward to more encounters with the piping as the week unfolds.

Had a lovely dinner last night with our old friend Kate Stannard, who you might recall from one of the earliest posts of this blog, way back in August. She lives here and is fully Scottish and is just a pip. She's working hard at lots of projects, including a new piece called Slope, which will also be at the Tramway in July and is designed and directed by our very own other Scot, Mister Stewart Lang. It was lovely to see Kate, who is flourishing and she took us to a great vegetarian restaurant called Grassroots Cafe, which she accurately described as "“dead nice".

Today we load in and continue the life cycle of the show once again. Please tell all your friends in Glasgow to come see the show. Even folks from Edinburgh might want to make the trip west. C'’mon, it's not that far. We'll take ya out for a wee dram after the show.…

More later,

Saturday, May 20, 2006

another closing

May 6, 2006
It's our last night in the '‘Pool, as James says and we will be sad to say goodbye. Everyone has been really lovely and have showed us a good Scouser time. I forgot to mention the swell reception after the first show on Thursday. The theatre has a fabulous bar down in the basement. It's all been recently refurbrished in a comfy, armchair style and we got a nice buffet and drinks do after the show. Which was lovely because of course we are always hungry after the performance and usually end up with doner kebab in the great cities of the world. A kebab is the late-night unifying factor of western life, as far as I can tell. Slightly different in each place but essentially the same: grilled meat on bread, stick optional. But on Thursday, there were to be no middle of the night cases of indigestion for us, as we were treated to a nice array of little things to eat with your hands and drinks and conversation with the audience and folks from the cultural council.

I should mention here the amazing producer of the show, and the head honcho (honcha?) of Liverpool '’08, which is the entity that is busy highlighting all the cultural phenomenon here so that when the rest of the world shows up to see it in 2008, they will know where to look. The person that runs the show is the indomitable Robyn Archer, imported very wisely by the Liverpool people from her former gig running the arts council of Tasmania, among other things. Robyn, for those of you who have not had the pleasure, is a force of nature and one of the most jovial I have encountered. She truly loves the arts, is a great champion of expression of such and also happens to be a mean cabaret singer. Liverpool was one of the venues that commissioned this show and without its support, and that of Robyn, the Builders would not have been building. I think I speak for the entire company when I say we have been delighted to be here and show this cool city the piece it helped to create.

See you in the highlands next.


dipping into the pool

May 5, 2006
The show has opened and it goes nicely in the theatre. The good folk of Liverpool are an attentive audience, quiet and then very appreciative at the end. I forgot to mention that we welcome our man David Pence back to the show, after his short leave of absence during the Southern Pacific leg of the tour. He is a "“family man", as the traveler character in the show says and has "sufficient binding ties" to keep him from joining us on all legs of the tour. I think I explained all this before in Perth but Perth was such a culture shock in so many ways that the fact of Harry stepping in for David may not have been entirely clear.

Plus, I am bad at posting the blogs on these days. But I'’m trying to get better.

In addition to doing the show here, Marianne and a bunch of the Builders like Kyle and James and Dan came a week early to do a workshop involving local artists and introducing them to the world of our work. This TBA team of artistic first responders have been on the scene here, figuring out what's what and that has made it a lot more interesting for us. We got here, and there was already a built-in bunch of folks to talk to and tell us where to go out and get the good fish and chips. They've been coming around to rehearsals for the last couple of days and that has been nice. I did not yet have fish and chips but it is reported to be really good. I have not had scouse either, which is the local food specialty, a beef stew sort of deal that has a wide reputation. It is such a memorable stew in fact that locals, people that hail from Liverpool are referred to as "“Scousers" and they have Scouse accents. I love that the nickname for somebody who lives here is a food! Imagine what the world would be like if everyone could be identified by the food specialty for their region. I guess for people from Hamburg and Frankfurt, this holds (though I have had neither a hamburger or a frankfurter in either place) but what if New Yorkers were called "Slicers"” for our devotion to pizza by the slice? Boston is Beantown, but I think that is somewhat archaic, as I have never even encountered Boston baked beans there. Besides, "“Beaners" is not so appealing somehow. Not that Scouser is so lyrical. It sort of sounds like a method for cleaning the inside of an oil tanker or something.

Please send in your suggestions for what locals should be called according to the food specialty of that place. I think it is an excellent way to name where we all come from.

Besides the scouse, the Liverpoolers like the sauce too. It is a drinker's paradise here and bingeing seems highly encouraged and a source of local pride. The boozing combined with the local love of football, make lively weeknd nights in town. Our hotel is located right near the theatre in the city center which by night, is populated by roving groups of drunk people, cheerfully singing at the tops of their lungs. Kyle encountered two groups of young men the other night, both wailing songs about girls with their trousers down at the tops of their lungs, walking towards each other in a military tattoo style. She said they sounded like "“Welsh miners"” as their basso profundo man-voices bounced off the shuttered shopfronts of the retail district. She emerged from this encounter in awe of the powerful combination of ale and a lower register.

More later,


May3, 2006 Liverpool, England

Reporting live from the cultural capital of Europe for the year 2008, I'd like to welcome you all to Liverpool. A few facts about our position. Liverpool is very old. Or very Olde, as some shops, or shoppes indicate on their signage. For instance, on the way back to our hotel tonight, Kim, Dan, David, Tanya and myself stopped into a pub that dates from 1726. OK, so understand this everybody, that bar was there getting people hammered before America was even invented! George Washington was just a gleam of a gleam in his grandparents'’ eyes and right down the street from where I now sit, folks were letting the merrie olde tymes roll. So, things here are old. There is even Roman stuff nearby.

Yes, the Beatles are one of this city'’s most famous exports, more popular than Jesus Christ to quote the Beatles themselves. That one got them in trouble. But that was back when rock and roll as a concept was considered the words of the devil. Now, Rock and roll has its own legitimate and quite profitable devil market. Oh, how times have changed. It is all Beatles, all the time here. You can indulge in many a Beatles tour (yes, one is called the Magical Mystery Tour), lots of Beatles merch to buy everywhere and plenty of talk about when Paul will come back next. Upon our arrival our cab driver Mick took us on the quickie tour and Tanya and Rizwan and I got to see John Lennon's house, Strawberry Field and Penny Lane. I will try and put a picture of us that we took in inevitable tourist fashion.

And there is also the Royal Court Theatre which is where we are hanging our hats for this week. It is an enormous hall in the center of town and it is apparently haunted by a guy called Lez who was once a stagehand and can be spotted on the fourth floor most reliably. I have been too busy to go find him as yet but be sure I will make the trip and report on any activities of the supernatural sort.

The Royal Court has been in various stages of disuse lately and Robyn Archer, our producer, has put her marvelous staff to the task of reviving the old lady. She is a beaut, with two balconies and a lovely proscenium arch and the tech people and staff we are working with are doing an absolutely heroic job of making the theatre a proud venue once again. It is very exciting, actually. I am charmed by the auditorium, ghosts and other more terrestrial tenants included. It is really a gem and Robyn and her goodly folks are doing a great piece of work to get the place functional and up speed once again. It is a great service to Liverpool.

The company is all present now and we spent the day doing a tech rehearsal in the space and dealing with the usual idiosyncrasies of putting the show into a new space. I would also like to extend a warm TBA welcome to the newest member of Team SV, Miranda, our new lighting lady. We finally wore dear Alan down to a nub and don't fret about his hospitalization (just kidding). Truly, Alan is off to have a normal life and we are all envious of his bold decision to join civilization by not enduring jet lag and late night dinners scavenged from mini-bars in the hotel rooms of the world. Good on ya, Alan. And welcome Miranda.

Please send all your friends in Liverpool, Manchester, Merseyside or anywhere abouts the northwest of England to see the show. And please remind them to wait and say hi afterwards if they have the stamina for a bunch of freaks from New York with very good intentions.

Yours Bloggedly,

Did I mention Wellington…

Feb 28, 2006

We converged yesterday in Wellington New Zealand, after various individual and group adventures here in the Southern Hemisphere. More on these stories as the week unfolds, but in short there were a couple of expeditions to the Margaret River for the full-on vacation experience, trips to Sydney for big city life and the visitation of relatives, hiking in the Kiwi wilderness (here it is referred to as "“tramping" and they are really big on it) and other varieties of adventure by our adventuresome crew.

We are performing at a place called the "“Event Centre"”, which is right smack on the waterfront and is enormous. We qualify as an event, though it seems that the usual tenants are the local basketball team. It is a huge building that is mostly constructed of corrugated tin (as is a lot of stuff in this part of the world) and there are authentic locker rooms for the sports teams that we are using as our dressing rooms. Though there are people who would pay good money to have their way with a tiled room full of shower stalls, we are sticking to the smaller rooms next to them for our changing areas. Still it is fun to be in a sporty kind of place and OK, I admit it, it's a little sexy too. I imagine myself to be the 5'4"” star center of a basketball team of little people athletes, and that and a diet coke and I am good to go for an afternoon of tech.

Wellington is a very very windy place as it is located at the Cook Straights and is sort of in a giant wind tunnel. The wind makes the local news all the time we are told, with stories about old people, children and the otherwise skinny being blown into something and injured. Things must be cancelled on account of these gusts and we are lucky to be performing indoors. But there are also several wind sculptures in town which move with the breezes and they are delightful. It teaches you to be humble about your hairdo and we are all gaining respect for the solid awnings that the buildings have downtown. Because it also rains you see and umbrellas are just another cruel joke from the British.

Excellent coffee abounds and though I have been caffeine-free for many years, I am succumbing to the siren song of speedy addiction. I know it is not so good for me, but I LOVE coffee and am enjoying the fun of this readily available and delicious drug. I too give in to the pressures of the road. All those songs about being alone and in another hotel room a thousand miles from you are true and sometimes I need a friend and I have chosen coffee. I will get the monkey off my back when I return home no doubt but for the time being I am really enjoying the wild ride of caffeine. It makes me talk to strangers even more than I usually do and yes, I whistle a happy caffeinated tune in my drug-induced cheer, but now I see the reason why the whole world is addicted to this stuff. It is so darn fun! And in New Zealand it is so darn good. These Kiwis do not know how to make a bad cup of joe.

That'’s all from the moral failings department for now. Though chemically dependent, know Dear Reader that I am happily so and though I may very well need a program of recovery to regain my former dull life, I am fully enjoying the fun ride of caffeine in its many forms.

More tomorrow, fellow travelers.

Zippity do da,

Wild, drunken dancing

Well it had to happen sooner or later, the craziness in us was unleashed last night at the festival tent. For those of you not familiar with the practice of the festival tent, in places where there are big perfprmance festivals, there is often a big tent that is where the after-show partying takes place. The tent organized here at the Wellington Festival is a copy of an ancient one from somewhere in Germany and is called the Spiegel, I believe. It is a tent like you have never seen, with a raised wooden floor composed of lovely inlaid hardwoods and a bar and stained glass parts on the roof. Frankly, I was pressed to figure out what exactly did qualify it for tent status, as it appeared to be a solid octagonal building to me. Maybe that is what tent means in German? Let'’s just say it'’s not the kind of thing you would take with you backpacking, unless you were going with about two hundred gay men from the 1970Â's. In a word, it is fabulous.

So last night after the first show, we all ended up at the Spiegel tent, partying the breezy Wellington night away. There was a certain amount of wine and spirits involved, making all who imbibed just a little closer to the god of fabulousness and lots of crazy dancing happened. We managed to be the last to go home and by that time in the evening, we had taken over control of the music in a bloodless coup of the DJ booth and we were all dancing to music off of Rizwan'’s i-Pod. It was a night to remember, and ironically a night that I imagine is forgotten for some. But high spirits were in abundance, no matter where they came from. We had a good time! There is perhaps photographic evidence to back this up so I will try and find some backup.

Oh yeah, and the show went very, very well. We had a full house in the giant Event Centre and it was an event! I could get used to stadium seating and I see why the movie theatres are all going in that direction.

One more thing about food

Sorry to go on about food but this one ties into history. Well, sort of.
I have noticed on my travels about the city of Perth that there are two phrases that I see repeated over and over again and both of them speak to a certain cultural sadness here in Australia. They are the often-seen words “convict labor” and the sadder still “food court”.

Most Australians get pissed off when outsiders remind them of their former colony’s penal outpost status. But I have to say, there are a lot of places that have little plaques on them that tell all about the convict labor that was used to build them. I say to you Australians, be not ashamed of this past. The buildings the convicts built seem to be a lot nicer than the newer stuff that the multinational construction conglomerates have put up so I say take pride. And the construction people might want to think about returning to the convict pool for a source of labor. They seem to have done a mighty fine job, way back when.

And I don’t know what it is about food courts, but this country is crazy for them. Not that the US is not and I would be willing to bet that we exported this scourge over here. But it would seem that every little shopping arcade and big building in downtown Perth is blessed with a food court. It makes it easy to locate the Subway sandwiches, I must admit.

It is our last show tonight and then we scatter for parts apart. We have one week of break before we reconvene in Wellington, New Zealand. A whole new town and a whole new country and whole new money but it still has the same Queen on it. She gets around, Liz.

Our time here in Perth has been swell and we are sad to leave the warm beaches and beauty of the temperate Indian Ocean. Everyone at the Festival has been great to us and they really run a fine operation here.

I leave for Sydney to see friends, along with Tanya who has a busy schedule of family weddings and events and even a debutante ball to attend! Others are going straight on to Wellington or elsewhere in NZ. A large group is heading south here in Western Australia to the Margaret River, which is supposedly gorgeous and there are lots of good things to eat there.

I must admit I still want to see a koala bear and I am a purist so I want to see it in the wild and not at a zoo. Are there koalas in Sydney? Are they urban-type marsupials, like our own North American possums, who can be found ransacking the trash cans of major cities? It is a stupid thing to want, a tourist thing I know, but what can I say? Though I snobbily would prefer to think of myself as a traveler, indeed I am also at times just another American tourist, looking for the food court to eat her Subway combo.

Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie! Oi! Oi! Oi!

So, we keep asking what is the native food around here, what is the thing that we absolutely have to eat before we leave Australia. I have to admit, I have not got a very satisfactory answer. Yes, you can eat kangaroo, though to the indigenous folks, it is a totem animal so you might not want to eat it unless you would care to be menaced by kangaroos in your dreams. There is abundant and incredible seafood. These giant prawns and langostinos that are a big item in the US, we are told. Tanya has decided that the really Australian food is pies and has taken a liking to this chain operation called Jesters Serious About Pies, which produce good pies with unfortunately cute names that I will not go into. I’m sure they have a pie web site if you are really interested.

For some reason, I have been having a Subway sandwich kick and let me take a few moments of your busy day avoiding your boss to tell you about Subway, Down Under Version. First of all, the usual Subway Combo (sandwich, fountain soda and chips or cookie) only comes with the cookie in Australia! This is Subway sinning, as far as I am concerned because the cookies are the least palatable of all of Subway’s offerings, are loaded with transfat and will knock you right off your lose-1000-pounds-by-eating-Subway diet. And no salty crunchy goodness of chips is wrong, just plain wrong. Otherwise, it is pretty much a Subway experience.
But let me say something about Super Vision, since that might be why you are here. The show last night was Super Weird because guess what happened? The computers in the video department were just not having it for whatever reason (stayed out too late at The Verandah, the festival club) and they just plain quit in the middle of the show! It was very exciting in an utterly nerve-frying kind of way. There we were, all onstage in our Sunday best and everything ground to a halt. Joe bravely assumed control of a microphone and explained to the audience that no adjustment to their set was needed and that they should just chat with their neighbor for a moment. Team Video of Hal and Jeff booted up something or other and switched over to it and we were back on track as fast as was humanly possible and we were off again.

But it was very curious to have the whole thing stop. It did allow me to get through the crossword puzzle I was working on, as my “character”. But it’s strange to think about the show suddenly ceasing to be a show. We forced everyone into our reality and then we kicked them out again (or the computers did) and then we invited them back in again. Lucky for us, they came along without complaint and seemed to enjoy themselves.

Many of us went out for dinner together at an Indian joint over in the little neighborhood called Northbridge, which apparently was really bad once and then got cool and groovy but is now on its way back down. Being an outsider, it all looked just ducky to me. A nice commercial strip with a zippy blend of foreign food restaurants, gay clubs, strip joints and Olde English style pubs. And lots of drunk people! But hey, it was Saturday night.

digeridoos and kangaroos

(cool picture of guy playing the digeridoo goes here)

A bit of history
This morning we were treated to a performance by the Yirra Yaakin Noongar Theatre company. To explain a bit, the Noongar are one of the many aboriginal nations that live in this part of Australia and are recognized as the custodians of the land. Yirra Yaakin means “stand tall” in the Noongar language and the Builders, along with members from La Compagnie de Hanneton from France and Teatr Piesri Kozla from Poland were given a special performance of traditional dance and stories and digeridoo in a park. The performers were all men and young boys and their portrayals of different animals were incredible. As was explained to us, “you need to know how an animal acts so you can know how to catch him”. Emus, kangaroos, birds all came to life in human form. It was truly a treat to get to meet these artists and see a bit of their work. Thanks to all the people at Yirra Yaakin who made it possible for us to have such a warm welcome.

After the show, we wandered off to find some kangaroos, which live on the little island where we were, protected by a big fence that they can’t jump over. And we found some! Australians are understandably not impressed by seeing kangaroos, as they are everywhere, but for us it was as exciting as getting a free sample of something that you really like and want. What strange looking creatures, with their big deer/mule heads and the tiny front feet that hang down their bellies and their big old jumpers on the bottom. And yes, they do jump like crazy when you get too close. These were more tame and used to people than most and we watched as a random bicycle guy stopped and went up to a little joey and petted him. Adorable! But probably not advisable treatment of the kangaroos. They are not all Winny the Pooh, Kanga and Roo, but are in fact wild animals the can rear up on their big tails and kick your lights out.

Show tonight was good, even with some technical strangeness that happened. We have been experiencg all sorts of equipment malfunctions, a lot of it due to the trip getting here which is not so kind to sensitive electronic equipment. So for any of you out there fixing to come to Australia from North America with a lot of high-end electronics, be forewarned that you must not put anything in the hold of the airplane that you want to function again once it comes out. Carry-on, is the simple answer.