Tuesday, August 23, 2005
the incredible vigour of Scottish grass, without the crutch of irrigation.
quote from Daniel Kitson's "stories for the Wobbly Hearted":
"the loneliest photo is the arms-length holiday self-portrait"
fantastically clean windows -- I don't understand how they can be SO CLEAN.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Took this shot near our flat. It's in a lovely area, near to pubs and groceries and a number of other things, I'm told. We're all catching the last shows we can fit into our schedules before we strike the show tomorrow night and then store it and fly home.
So: yesterday was physical drama day according to my schedule, so I shuffled my way through the casual daily blockade of the streets they call pedestrian traffic (which isn't so bad unless you're trying to get somewhere, or you get boxed in the shoulder by a university student in headphones playing "I'm all alone on the sidewalk") and came to Aurora Nova. Beautiful venue. Saw "All Wear Bowlers" -- clever slapstick and slight-of-hand which extended to bouncing in and out of video -- and "Shi-zen - 7 bowls", with a Brazilian group doing Butoh/dance (yeah, put that in a sandwich).
The 7 bowls blew me away -- intense and humourous and gorgeous. The bowlers was very funny and clever, but didn't really hit me in the heart. Fun though.
Then today: "Switch Triptych" by the Riot Group form San Francisco -- interesting, very well performed, but it had some design issues, lights set and sound, that were very distractiong. I think it will mature into something very cool. Tonight: the higly recommended "Stories for the Wobbly-hearted." Then run.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
I told myself that I will never do this again. That I will give up this work. I said this as I slapped my face with the spare hand that wasn't stopping the show and putting on the emergency lights. I said this to the tune of the alarm ringing just before the penultimate moment of the show. “We. Are. Sunk. And I will never take a gig like this again in my life.” ring ring ring ring.
But I'm over that now.
Yes, we had another f*@#$ing fire alarm. Using half the fog that we had last week, it went off again. People tell me it's because we are having “a hotter, more humid” week, and therefore the fog behaves differently , and rises easily (it's very environmentally sensitive – like the Arctic). I have noticed that I'm sweating more in the theatre lately, but dammit I can't quite feel the subtle gradations of Scottish heat and humidity so well as the natives.
When the alarm went off again, I thought we were done for.
But we weren't. And that was yesterday. Today the stress of maybe triggering the alarm was a bit intense at first, then our minimalist aesthetic took over and things mellowed out fairly well.
There are still a few scraps of paper floating across the Meadows (the park we cross to get to the Trav), and a few spots where the grass yellowed from being covered for 5 days, but otherwise there's really no sign that the area was awash in people last weekend for “Fringe Sunday”. The weekend was a high water point for drowning in flyers. The trash bins along the Royal Mile were overflowing, and the Meadows were buried under the nuclear fallout of cast-away paper.
It's a heartbreaking sight: there is a little personal post-apocalyptic winter setting in for some people here. The first great mass of reviews are out and some shows are finding success and others are languishing. Most of the pocket change for beer is gone, yet we drink as much, or more, than last week. With two-thirds of the Fringe done already, these fields of waste paper are a partial physical count of the aspirations and dreams of whole groups of unknown people. Each flyer represents so much hope and work and artistry. Each one in the bin seems to say 'bollocks.'
And they'll all want to come back and do it again. Do it right next time.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
events in the dark
Aug. 13, evening
We have an open window to the back alley – that's our best ventilation for night shows. Underfoot, we are hearing a constant low level stream of awful heart-wrench rock on rotation at Jimmy Chung's on the floor below. And just as I'm going to bring in the house – thunderous fireworks.
Adam, our awesome FOH dude tonight, does the right thing and begs the Jimmy Chung's party-givers to bring the volume down from eleven. They do – Aparently Saturday night is 'hen night' and they tend to crank it a bit. Wow. Asking works. Sometimes.
I often wonder, when I'm back at home, or in the middle of heavy sidewalk traffic, or even running the show: what is it that I think about, as I'm standing in the dark waiting for a counter to time out and tell me to pull on a rope extremely slowly and smoothly with no noise whatsoever? The answer is, I have discovered, not much. The primitive cortex takes over, and time passes unnoticed, much as if I was in a queue to renew my passport or order a questionable burger with fries.
Aug. 14, afternoon
did the focus check, topped up our fog fluid with the “heavy” stuff that sinks, and brought the people in to see the show. 10 minutes in, the new fog stuff has risen straight to the ceiling and it sets off the fire alarm. Stop the show. FOH people are wrangling audience, and I wander around behind the irate firemen. They don't like our “artificial smoke”, but we tell them the show has been going for two weeks already without a hitch. “Well, seeing as it's gone a fortnight... alright. But if this happens again, we can't let you use this stuff.”
We cancel the 3pm show while I run to the Traverse to find a different kind of fog fluid. Find some, test it – better, though it still goes up. I'll have to 'dose' the fog out in smaller bits through the show until we can be sure things are settling down again. Really don't want to piss off the firemen again.
Okay, we're back. We've improved ventilation, switched fog juices, and have gone to a low-volume method of delivering the fog. And bonus: it continues to look fantastic.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
When the days are starting to feel regular
Mellow day. Steve left yesterday. The show is where it should be – no more emergency checks 3 hours before the first day of an 8 show day. It feels as if the last day has been one great exhalation – the show is running well at last. I'm starting to think running BREATH[e] is setting some meditative state into me as a default. Not in a calm, everything is fine kind of way: but in a nothing will disturb me kind of way. Like if Bush decided to napalm the Fringe for whatever reason, and I walked out of the show into a firestorm, I'd be okay to zen my way through (side note: I'm not trying to imply any kind of theatrical criticism here).
The 2-week default home setting:
Odd what travel does to the mind – clears out a lot of cobwebs, yet blurs your sense of purpose, your goals that were shaped in that other place, the one you were in before now – yes, home, that's it, home. Is there a mid-range kind of memory, a memory that keeps you grounded in a place, that has a limit of two weeks before it starts to reset itself? There must be. Two weeks is a kind of minimum time for a vacation in which to actually shake off the mental baggage of the world behind you. But when you're away and it's work, there's a different kind of shift that happens: this work becomes the horizon of your experience of a place, and this place your new 'home'.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
good days and bad days
Yesterday started out well enough until I walked into a chunk of steel with my face. I got up first thing and made arrepa huevo for everyone – something I learned from a Colombian woman named Maria: it's a thick corn patty with a fried egg in the middle. The comida Colombiana rocked the house. Then Steve and I sauntered into the theatre while saying silly things on the way. Then we got aggravated at how all our alternative plans to improve the show were falling through (bad computers, bad connections, etc). Then I kissed aluminum, hard. The day went down from there, though mostly in terms of frustration, not physical pain. In a surprise burst of antisocial behaviour I went home earlier than planned – my face hurt and I needed to flee the smoking masses at the Trav, and I'm a little nervous about the stack of things I have to work on for next month.
But we all have bad days. Today I get into seeing shows in earnest.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Thoughts while running a show
We've been in Fortress Europe a week and I've yet to see any bona fide police aside from traffic cops. That's civilized. I had thought, given the recent disturbances around the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, and in the aftermath of the London bombings, that there would be a few squads of helmeted men with semiautomatics and dogs patrolling the streets during the festival. Perhaps I've yet to see them. I've seen plenty of cameras. I wonder about them though: I wonder if there is some sociological law of diminishing returns when it comes to security cameras: I mean, once they are everywhere, will people get used to them and stop caring about being caught on camera? Will their deterrence effect be diminished? I get pretty jaded about them back home. I suppose it's different in the UK, though.
Still reeling from the beauty of the buildings – Scottish Deco-Gothic is a new favorite.
Aug 9 shows:
7:53pm – we've just had another “Happy Birthday” come up through the floor from Jimmy Chung's Chinese. Maybe someone asked them to keep it to the times between our shows. That would be nice. It seemed quite short this time: as opposite to the operetta it seems like when it happens during the show.
8:45pm – we are getting some crazy radio static in the speakers right now... pulled the levels down a bit, and will keep the mains out until the first breath, but it's sad and annoying. Someone came up to me and mentioned it, I replied with thanks and some lame excuse about our rental speaker situation. Then a young woman asked about the process of creating the piece, and said wonderful things about it. Speaker problems? What are you on about?
We also have ventilation issues: we're trying to air out the space between shows, and doing alright by it, but when I fan the door to the alley, I get a big waft of pee smell.
9:01pm – just started the first long fade of the show and we get a birthday downstairs. Under the wire, boys.
9:42pm – still trying to troubleshoot this speaker issue. I can fade in the mains just before their first burst of sound, and fade them out at the end – the static is there during the show but you'd have to be a technician or a sound engineer to really be bothered by it. It's different every hour – now it sounds like robot chipmunks sending signals into space to request instructions from their Mothership. An hour ago it was more a 50's radio war drama, you know the kind, at the moment the recon unit loses contact with the field headquarters just as they are being ambushed.
Monday, August 08, 2005
I've met a few people from Edinburgh who have developed (in a kind of Darwinian survival reflex) innovative methods of living with the Fringe. There are usually several companies performing one or another classic play every year – in 2005 Dario Fo's “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” is offered by 3 companies, as is the ubiquitous “Twelfth Night” -- and it is a kind of masochistic pastime among several people that I've met to try to pick the worst production of a great play and see it. It is a kind of negative lesson: how much of a brilliant text will shine through a dreadful performance – what is there about brilliant scripts that cannot be foiled by flawed staging and amateurish posturing. The test case this year might be Macbeth, of which there are seven productions this summer: it is a small festival unto itself.
Slept in quite late today -- we were out all night at the Trav drinking with the folks from “My Pyramids”, and went to a late night pub around the corner to listen to awful jokes that were funnier than they should have been. At some point in the drinking I was told that there is a standing “challenge” at the Traverse bar: to climb across the room without touching the floor, from one side to the stairs about a hundred feet opposite.
As I was told this, I looked up and began to form my climbing strategies – after a couple of clarifying questions, I realized I was thinking to much: “I'm not sure we could accept anything fancy, like grabbing on to the pipes with yuir feet”. I then understood better what was on the table here: a straightforward physical test in the great Scots tradition, akin to throwing a big stone as far as one can, or swatting at a small ball with a stick to see how far it will go. These ancient challenges are at the root of modern international contests. This was the drunken game that could become an Olympic sport.
I couldn't resist – I got up onto the side bench, grabbed the pipes overhead, and started swinging like a gibbon towards the opposite side. I got there – but at the very end was so taxed that I didn't trust my hands to make the last swing and grab. So I held my place and started swinging my legs like a pendulum, then ' leapt' the final gap towards the steps. Mistake – my left foot touched the floor as my right made the step. I was out by a whisker, and did not complete the challenge. Well there's always tomorrow.
a subsonic cry of longing below the range of human hearing that can be felt up to 5000 nautical miles away
a window that never becomes dirty so long as the occupants of the house are honest
Saturday, August 06, 2005
10pm in Edinburgh
Writing a bit of this during the third run of our first night at the Fringe. Since the show is 35 minutes long, we run it six to nine times a day -- and it's cheap, too! (5 pounds). Downstairs from us is "jimmy chung's" Chinese food -- a chain, it seems -- and twice already today I've heard their canned versionn of "happy birthday" come booming up through the floorboards during quiet moments of our show. not an auspicious start to our relationship with jimmy. And it's a cheasy player-piano kind of version, ugh.
In other moments of the show, when a huge ambient hum fills the space, I have moments when I think I can hear people talking -- like you get sometimes when you walk past a busy construction site along the street. This time I thought it was a woman in the audience (I can't see them from the operating position) saying, in High Scots, "Oh is this what they mean by 'sexy'?"
It feels great -- really simple and good -- to be running this show again. People usually come out kind-of stoned looking, like they've had a masterful meditation 'done' to them -- which is basically what happens during BREATH[e]. I always want to catch them leaving. Sometimes they sit, 27 of them, together in silence for a full minute or more, after the show is over. And then we get through the day and head off to the Grassmarket to find a pint in a cozy pub. A big fat pint.
The only thing I miss here is having my baby with me.
Well now I'm at Steve's computer,and he's sitting here telling me that our British co-producer, Richard Jordan, is submitting us for a Guiness World record for most performances at the Edinburgh Fringe.
hunh. last show of the night just let out to applause -- don't always get that. JP ran that one -- he threatens to sex the show up with a cameo of his naked bum in one of the quieter moments. He'll take requests to preview the experience if there's any takers, I'm sure.
Friday, August 05, 2005
2 years of stickers
It's lunch on our second day of load-in – we're in the rehearsal room of the Lyceum, produced with the Traverse as part of their offering for this year's fringe. Things are a little wacky – we have discovered “egg & pin” truss, which is not what we are used to – in fact, everything is several inches (ahem. Several centimetres) out from our regular setup in just about every dimension. All the little discrepancies add up to a foot here and there, and for me and the rigging, a lot of rejigging to get pieces to line up, or even attach to the truss.
We stumbled into a lovely little pub – the “White Stag” -- where apparently Robbie Burns had penned “Ae Fond Kiss”, and in which several people were abducted and killed, to be sold to a doctor for dissection (all in the name of science). Their haggis was fantastic. We toasted Paul Bettis, a veteran of Toronto independent theatre who just passed away. Then we stumbled to the Spiegeltent but were too tired to stay long. I'm finding it hard to get to sleep here – but that's probably low-level excitement and having many things yet to do.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Trained it to Glasgow for curry at "Mother India" last night -- fak-ing brilliant! Too much time travelling tho. This morning we went all the way back again to retrieve our set from a friend's garage in Kilmarnock. It went incredibly smoothly, knock wood. The truck driver told us stories of touring Eddie Izzard.
Edinburgh's beginning to fill more and more with our peers. Not much time for observations today.
A device for transforming thought into light (thanks Steve)
Monday, August 01, 2005
landed in Edinburgh, 4:30 am local time. Lost a night, basically. It feels like spring -- fresh cool air, and the city is in bloom and not yet teeming with fringe wildlife. The weather all make us think of JP, our fifth crew/cast member who is flying in tomorrow with Volcano Theatre (see link at side to JP's blog). The jet lag has us feeling like drunk teenagers -- I can't complete sentences. Smelled a bit of lilac and said 'mmm. Be the smelling good thing', as if I was auditioning to be the voice of Homer Simpson.
Everyone's chuffed to be here. Good vibes among the peeps.