Monday, May 23, 2016

Ready set read

Okaaaaay it’s roundup time.  Thanks to the incredible generosity of one of my employers I have a more functional laptop for the weekend and am making as much use of it as possible.

Let’s start with the weekend of May 7th.

My oldest cousin landed at JFK at 7.30ish, and I was waiting to meet her from that time.  She emerged in the arrivals lounge about 8.15 and we made our way via AirTrain and subway to my house where she was staying a couple of nights.  We ordered Greek takeaway when we got in and made some plans for the week.  Em had her own agenda pretty packed and I was looking to join her for certain things after work.  I had a pretty packed work week which was unfortunate.  Fortunately Em was a great New York visitor, really independent and happy to make plans and then allow them to change as she went along depending on tiredness, location, mealtimes etc - all of which meant she was in the best way possible better off flying solo and not having to worry about other people.

I had to go to Valorie’s wedding shower on Sunday so I dropped Em off at Grand Army Plaza and she spent a happy few hours in Prospect Park spotting turtles and chipmunks.  

The wedding shower was good fun, the Maid of Honour Carly had made and procured a variety of tasty brunch foods and of course, requisite at every girly brunch occasion, mimosas.  Some cliches are worth clinging to.  We played some less genteel games and gave gifts - I got Val a book called ‘All Night Party’ which is a history of the Bohemian women of NYC in the 20s and 30s - poets, DaDaists, singers, dancers and hostesses.  She seemed very pleased with this and I hope she enjoys it cos it kind of blew my mind and she’s of a similar mindset when it comes to cool historical ladies, particularly artistic ones.

I had to leave the shower early to rejoin Em and we went to eat Mexican food before retiring to my place - we crashed on the sofa for a while and Em eventually retired at around 9pm - understandable since she’d landed the night before having had about 4 hours sleep before she got on the plane, journeying to and from airports and then spending most of a very sunny and hot Sunday walking around.  So she was fairly knackered and happy to crash in her hotel room/my bedroom.  I took the sofa while she was in my place - not because the idea of sharing a room with my cousin with whom I’ve shared a room many times before is so awful but because I am TERRIBLE to share a room with lately.  I wake up at all hours, I fling my limbs around and I also had to be up fairly early every day that week so I was setting 8 alarms every day.  So I was more than happy to banish myself to our very comfy sofa.  

Monday we left together to go to Manhattan, Em headed for Museum Mile and Central Park and whatever else she felt like and me headed for work, audition, work.  We met later at 96th St and headed to the West Village to meet Lauren who was working at Tea and Sympathy.  We joined our friend Isabel who was already set up at a table and Lauren kindly brought us pots of tea, free of charge and we had a lovely time gossiping and laughing.  
Em and I then went to tick off an essential food item - a quintessential New York slice of pizza.  For this we wandered down 7th Ave to Bleecker St and each got a mushroom slice.  Not yet done with our evening, we journeyed back to Brooklyn to go to Butter and Scotch my favourite pudding and cocktails establishment.  We got cocktails and pie and cookies respectively - Em was as enamoured with the place as I am and by the time we left we were very happy but also full to bursting, so we walked the four blocks home and retired to a good night’s sleep.

Tuesday I had to get up early to go to a dance studio, and I was back by 10.30.  Em’s plans for the day involved some downtown pursuits and I had to run some dull but necessary errands before babysitting.  Tuesday was also the day Em went to stay in the Hostelling International hostel on 103rd and Amsterdam - conveniently close to where I work and a good location from which to begin all her daily travels.  We met there after I finished work, and we changed into semi fancy clothes to attend the photography show of Kristina - she is my friend, my roommate’s girlfriend and a talented commercial photographer just graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology.  So we had a nice time marvelling at her work and perusing the rest of the exhibition, before going to eat some vegan burgers and heading to our beds - we were both pulling down long and jam-packed days.

Wednesday was Broadway day - we went to Times Square first thing to line up for rush tickets for An American In Paris.  Well, Em made it there first thing.  Iiii did not…partly it’s my fault, partly it’s the 3 train at 7am - but I can complain about the MTA any day so I’ll skip it for now.  
Anyway on the advice of friends who do ‘rush’ shows all the time (rush is both a verb and an adjective in this case) Em was there at 8am.  And there was no line.  Of course.  The whole point of the exercise is that theaters release a certain number of $30 or $40 tickets the morning of, starting at 10am, and to stand the best chance of securing one or a pair, you get there early to beat the line.  
So we did do the right thing by anticipating a line and going early because probably if we’d shown up at 10m when the box office opened, Sod’s law would have dictated that there were 50 people in line and only 20 tickets.  
I had to ditch Em there to get the tickets while I went down to Chelsea for work, and we agreed to meet later at the hostel.  Post tap class and babysit I met her there, got changed and we went for a quick mojito on Amsterdam Ave before going to the theatre, picking up our Playbills and taking our seats.  
The show is a thing of beauty.  It’s not the best show I’ve ever seen - as a fan of the film I don’t think it would ever quite live up to my idea of ‘An American in Paris’ and while the lead was certainly charismatic he’s no Gene Kelly.  BUT the two leads dancing together was like watching angels on a cloud - they really are the cream of the ballet world.  Just about everyone in the cast was in fact hired from the ballet world and it is a choreography HEAVY show - the songs definitely take a back seat to the dancing.  The performance of the actor playing Oscar Levant’s role was amazing - he kept the whole thing on the ground.  And while the English girl playing Leslie Caron’s role was not the strongest singer, her acting performance made me like that character for the first time because I always thought of Leslie Caron in the movie ‘what a terrible person she is!’ because I found her fundamentally unlikeable.  But Leanne something was extremely likable and again, can’t emphasise enough how truly sublime a ballerina she is.  She has a lot of heart.
Thursday was for me Em’s last day because Friday was the wedding and I couldn’t feasibly combine the two things.  So after a normal day for me, work class work, and a busy one for Em - Natural History Museum, Central Park and some other things - we met up to go to Peacefood Cafe for delicious vegan meals.  Then we wandered around the Upper West Side and stopped for a glass of wine in a French wine bar.  I made sure to take her past Lincoln Centre, at it’s best when its all lit up at night.  Both of us anticipating really long Fridays, we said our goodbyes and she headed uptown while I headed down to Brooklyn.
I wasn’t able to join her for her daytime excursions but I know Em managed to pack in a lot, including the 9/11 memorial, Top of the Rock, art museums, parks, food explorations and a good amount of general wandering which any sensible person knows is one of the best things you can do here, and for free.  I’m sure she needed a holiday to recover from her holiday when she got back but I’m glad she enjoyed as much of the city as she could while here.

Next up: The Wedding
What a daaaay…I had so much fun.  I got up early ish to eat breakfast and be organised - I’d decided to go all out and spend $17 on a coupon for a blow dry at a hairdressers not far from home.  Of course this proved fruitless in the end because it was a windy and drizzly day and getting from the salon to home pretty much laid it flat again…but I chose not to let this bother me.  Lauren came over around 2, naturally, since the wedding was supposed to kick off at 3 and we were due at Alison’s at 1.30 for champagne and snacks.  This is how we roll.  Lauren had got her hair put up that morning and was looking generally fabulous yet somehow we still ended up scrambling at the last minute to be ready.  Every damn time.  We splurged on an Uber taxi to Ali’s and were met by a spiffy looking Ben, Ali, Spencer and Jon.  We all piled into a taxi to go to the Green Building.  The ceremony was supposed to be held in the park but they’d send an email round earlier that day saying they would hold it at said Green Building, the reception venue, because in all likelihood it was going to rain.  Right as we were getting into the taxi at quarter to three the heavens did indeed open and we were v. grateful that they’d sensibly made the call before noon that day.

The Green Building is a beautiful barn-like space in the Gowanus neighbourhood of downtown Brooklyn.  On arrival we enjoyed greeting faces we see all the time like Natalia, Roger and TJ all of Fundamental Theatre Project (TJ also performing the ceremony).  Then some faces we don’t see often any more like former teachers Jim Elliot, Cate Smit and Jason Chaet, David Caldwell the awesome pianist and musical director, a couple of FTP board members and some old friends of FTP/fellow AMDA grads.  THEN some faces we never see but are always happy to, like Sam’s sister Hayley who has been in Australia for a couple of years and made the epic journey to NY just a few days earlier to be at the wedding.  Last saw her last March when Sam and I performed at 54 Below.  Also Sam’s best mate Jamie who has been over a few times from *Woking* but I last saw him in Edinburgh last summer as he was doing tech for Sam and Val’s play.  I met lots of people’s other halves who I’ve heard so much about but never met - I can now officially say that most of the blokes I know here are punching above their weight, I want to be best friends with all their wives.  Especially the one who sensibly named her daughter Tessa.

The ceremony was quite short and sweet - TJ did a lovely intro and it was nice to have someone who knows the couple personally to take that role.  TJ is also a seasoned improv performer and comedian so it was more fun than your average marriage officiant, and he really knows how to project!
They wrote their own vows (which we couldn’t hear) and chose to adopt the Viking (?) marriage tradition of sharing a drink from the same cup before exchanging rings.  
We then had a couple of hours of cocktails and mingling - well, I started dancing because they had a 3-piece swing band who would later become a 6 piece and I was enjoying them a great deal.  
Around 6 we sat down to dinner (Downie and I sat together, of course - and shared out our food so we could try everything) and enjoyed some frickin delicious eats - a broccolini salad and scallops for starters, then a round of serve yourself dishes including this amazing polenta-y thing with asparagus and parmesan that I want to learn how to make.  
After we were stuffed full there was a round of speeches - for me, Jamie as Best Man won the day by presenting instead of a traditional speech roasting the groom, a dramatic reading of a screenplay.  Jamie is a filmmaker and he had come up with this whole screenplay of a short film that was essentially a great ruse to tell embarrassing childhood stories about Sam (they’ve been friends a looong time) all the way up until Sam and Val got together.  It was very touching and also hilarious, delivery and all.  So much more fun than just another speech. Hayley also made a short and sweet speech, admitting that public speaking was not her thing which made it all the more heartfelt and enjoyable.  And I learned that the bride had a brother when he got up to make a speech which was also very touching and heartfelt.

After all this touching heartfeltness the band struck up a series of standards and we hit the floor - Lauren and I both got expertly twirled around by Scott and Ed, an awesome couple she often dogsits for who are both unexpectedly fantastic dance partners.  I spent lots of time on the dance floor and eventually got around to snagging the groom for a big hug and a low-level swing dance.  The bride did just what a bride ought and got shitfaced - a very safe and manageable kind of shitfaced though, the happy kind.  I didn’t catch up with her til later when she dragged me in to dance with all the girls.
I had such a nice time spending time with dear friends like Lauren and Naty and Maite and Ben and Ali, we rarely get to be all together and certainly not dressed up.  Not to mention the rest of the FTP crew and friends, including former FTP associate director Greg who flew in from LA.  Also had a fantastic time meeting Rhys, the other groomsman and third musketeer of Sam and Jamie - it wouldn’t be an English wedding if someone didn’t put his tie around his head and slide on his knees on the floor and Rhys was happy to fill that role.  He and the Maid of Honour also sang for the first dance which was another really nice personal touch.

We left the venue at 1 - well, we were supposed to be out by 1 by I think it was more like 1.30.  The official last men standing - myself, Lauren, Natalia, Jon and Greg found a nearby bar and sat down, dressed to the nines, for beers.  Best way to end the day.  I eventually made it to bed around 8am - Lauren was already in my bed because she had to work the next day so she’d taken my keys and gone home before me.  

I slept till about 1 then got up to come up with a costume for Saturday night’s festivities - Ben’s Birthday party, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/90s theme pizza party in a loft office space with a roof deck.  

Which requires it’s own separate post because this one is now REALLY LONG and that’s without pictures! Phew.  Yeah it was kind of a mental weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

News in brief

Well I keep trying to blog about my epic week last week but technology never cooperates does are the key bullet points though:

- Cousin fun times
- Photography show
- American In Paris
- Shopping
- Wedding
- After party
- Ninja Turtles
- Brief smack of violence
- Birthday
- Other birthday
- So much good food
- Out of town guest appearance
and back to reality.

Intrigued? You SHOULD be! It was quite a week and I'm so very lucky to be able to do all that I do and have this much fun and spend time with top quality folks.

I want to do a proper post with pictures when facilities allow but meanwhile a catch up of what's happening in the real world:
- I'm going to be in a dance studio with my friend Rosi on Friday morning and I can't wait, she and I have a good level of dance communication and it's a while since we worked on anything together.
- The mighty Carlos is in town next week on a break from a national tour, and that means we're all getting roped in to do things like swing dance and Shakespeare in the Park.  Ok by me.
- Rehearsal schedules are coming out for two dance pieces, a two-nighter for the 2016 Choreographer's Canvas and a one-nighter for New York Theater Barn, both in July.
- We are planning auditions, venues, donations, artist bios and all manner of things for FTP's Mass Rhetoric New Works Festival featuring five brand new plays plus five shorts.

Massive congratulations are obviously due to the newlyweds Sam and Valorie - no wedding pictures have been sighted yet but I'm keeping an eye out - it was a really lovely wonderful celebration and the bride got suitably pissed.  Good for her.

Longer letter later - I've done this to myself by allowing a backlog to pile up but you see my keyboard is playing up!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Feeling groovy


We got up at 6.45, left the house at 7.30 and were at the start line by 7.50.  
I completed the run in 56 minutes and 12 seconds - a new personal best - and came 74th out of 238 in the women 20-29 group.  I'm so proud of myself.  Lauren also outdid herself.  It drizzled lightly all the way around - ideal running weather.  
We felt preeeetttty good afterwards.  Note my St George's flag tank top.





Lauren and I walked to Catfish, a cajun bar and restaurant a few blocks away.  Our legs protested somewhat.  We met Ali and Ben, two of the greatest people on this earth, and took an outside table.  While we were waiting for shrimp and grits, catfish po' boy sandwiches, French toast and pulled pork, we sipped Bloody Marys and enjoyed the company of this very sweet and cuddly cat who is a common sighting in the back courtyard of Catfish.  I pronounce her Birthday Cat.  Or, Fish.

 We are ourselves into a soporific state and Ali asked me her 'Birthday questions' - she writes down my answers and is going to give them to me on my next birthday.  
Afterwards Lauren and I went home again to crash for a while.


I sat on my front steps with a mimosa and some Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Jacob arrived and he brought me giant bubble sticks and a kite!!!
He joined me on the steps and a man came down the street with a bouquet of flowers, stopped at my house and said he was looking for Tessa - what a WONDERFUL surprise.  Maite arrived soon after looking characteristically fabulous and also bearing flowers.  We had a lovely afternoon party on the steps before going upstairs for some cake.  Maite had to leave for the opening night of In The Heights in which she is performing in Brooklyn.


I didn't take any pictures in the evening it seems.  Which is fine because I was having such a great time.  David bought a ton of top quality Bloody Mary supplies.  I made a bunch of snacky foody things.  Deeply boppers were worn, flower necklaces, star-shaped sunglasses (space beach disco was my theme) .I was joined by Lauren Jacob David and Dan, plus Anel, Kirsten, Joe, Sean, Sam and Val (briefly), Ben, and Brandon.  100% fun, smart, interesting people who are all worth spending time with.  I got complete playlist control - the ultimate birthday gift - and sang duets with Jacob from the Buffy musical episode Once More With Feeling.  I laughed so hard at so many things - this is also a very comedically gifted crowd of people.  I also talked on the phone briefly to my friend Carlos who had a Birthday 3 days ago and was celebrating with his tour friends in Delaware.

I managed to keep the clean up under control so had minimal work to do at the end/the next day.  I ended up going to bed around 4am - so almost a full 24 hours - Birthdays give me crazy stamina.

Now I'm sitting in the sunny window chair having enjoyed cinnamon buns and a coffee, and I'm looking forward to day of total relaxation culminating in a Game of Thrones viewing party.  

I'm deeply grateful for all my good fortune and excellent associates, also for gifts of flowers, cake, bubbles and kite, a voucher for a chocolate fondue at a nice restaurant, heartfelt cards,  English chocolate treats, drinks and brunch.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The real magicians

Watching Prince perform Purple Rain live in Syracuse in 1985 gave me a chance to think a little more about what David Bowie and Prince both meant to me because that is there true greatness - they meant a lot to many but for each it is different.

For me it's because they, along with a very very few other musicians, represent really a kind of magic.  They are known for each having a certain strong affinity for fantasy, whimsy.  They created personas that were different characters.  The costumes and makeup.  They could be easily placed into a fantasy sci-fi tale.

Magic is important to me.  Not magic tricks, not Wiccan religious beliefs, not actually expecting a Hogwarts letter any day now.  Just a general feeling, instilled in me since early childhood through literature and spending a lot of time in trees or barns talking to my imaginary pixie friends, that all things in life that are wonderful are magic.  It's not a belief system or a naive kind of optimism, it's just the way I choose to interpret things, while also understanding their rational causes.  For the sake of joy, and the sake of making the most of life.

So in my brain, Prince and David Bowie were kind of just...real life versions of the people I read about or made up as a kid.  They could do things that others couldn't.  They looked like some kind of elven creatures.  They wore things that sparkled and swirled, and were bathed in glowing coloured lights.  If five year old me had ever seen either one live she would have been convinced they had magic powers.
It comes down I suppose to imagination.  Two artists whose sheer force of imagination can't be comprehended, so vast that it poured eternally out and was transformed into music and performance.

In my imagination they are magical guardians of the realms of fantasy and in a way I feel like they maybe felt a bit like that.  I hope so anyway.

Improv and improve

Here is a video of me faffing about in the studio. This is the first thing I did when I arrived there on Tuesday at noon - pre-warm up, pre-anything. This is a good example of how I like to work often - it's essentially stream of consciousness with movement, so you see a lot of recurring patterns and where my brain wants to go. Once in a while the vague notions you can see repeated manage to coalesce in my brain which translates into a fully realised movement. It's fun to watch back and go 'oh I can use that'. Track is Open Your Eyes by School Of Seven Bells. Here is another one from later that afternoon with a bit more purpose and intent. Track is Inpouring by Holy Other. I've been playing around with this for a couple of weeks.

Only want to see you laughing

It has been a tumultuous week, in mostly the best way.

First though let me address the loss of another hero of art and bona fide genius.
Prince is my guilty pleasure who gives me no guilt.  And anyone can say what they like about his persona but not a being alive could deny his virtuosity.
I know everyone's saying it but how can it be David Bowie and Prince in one year?
It's like the Guardian Angels of undefinable weird are being culled.

Not to mention the terrible sadness that so soon after Ronnie Corbett, we also lost Victoria Wood.  All these wonderful warm elements of my youth in particular, walking the earth no more.

While I'm in the philosophical sad zone, I'll go through my grievances.  Rest assured that they are in the grand scheme of things minor and by no means an indication of my general well-being.  But this week I

- Went to an open call for the national tour of 42nd Street (my dear friend Carlos is currently on that tour).  I got cut.  I made it through the first cut though, which is an improvement on last time.  I wish I could say that means I've improved so much as a tapper - I mean I have, but that has nothing to do with why I got kept or cut either time.  It's something that I'll never know beyond my control.

- Lost a jacket...stupid, didn't need to happen.  I'm more frustrated about why I lost it - I was so frazzled on Wednesday that everything got a bit much as I rushed to get to dance class by 1pm, having had nothing to eat and no coffee or tea that day, not enough sleep, not enough time...somewhere in the melee, a jacket got lost.  

- My laptop has suffered some kind of damage and is having problems.  I'm not going to freak out about it - I can manage for now between work laptop and phone.'s a pain, and I wish it hadn't happened this week as other things go wrong.

- I have had not a moment to run.  The week leading up to my 10k and not a moment, until the day before the real thing.  Oyy.

- Had to change birthday plans because so many people aren't available...inevitable but still sad.

- Missed out on seeing one of my favourite musicians, Lissie, on Tuesday - had to work.  Missed out on studio space on Monday - was at 42nd Street from 8.30-2...and got cut anyway so I could have just not gone and been in a dance studio...(terrible way to think so I'm just saying it not really feeling that way)

- Hip pain during ballet class.  Don't want it don't need it, makes me frustrated because it's another reminder of the things I can not and will never be able to do physically.  

- Was generally too tired all week and couldn't quite get on top of everything...when you try to do a lot of things, something ends up falling by the wayside.  For me this week it was eating square meals.  When you don't have time to eat you do NOT feel good.

Ok that's out of the way.  Downers I know but I needed to get them off my chest and now I can relate all the wonderful things since last weekend:

- Last Sat, Lauren and I hit Prospect Park to run 10k and so she could scope the route.  It was a beautiful day, we made decent time and had a really nice time chatting and running.

- Last Sun, I met Maite in the morning at a great pie place called Four and Twenty Blackbirds (geddit?) to enjoy a delicious slice of pie, coffee and catching up.

- Last Sun I also went to a Bernie Sanders rally.  Yeah yeah.  Nobody comment.  I can't vote here anyway but it doesn't mean I can't take an interest and if there's a rally literally down the road why wouldn't I check it out? Also Grizzly Bear (band) played a set at the rally.  I caught the sun a bit.

- Later that day I met friends Ben and Brandon for drinks and food at this place called Catfish, New Orleans-y style menu and drinks.  This meeting was all the sweeter for it's serendipity...I had in fact met someone else at a different bar earlier on.  That someone is a toxic individual who I don't really like to talk about but they happened to say 'come by this bar' and since I was free I thought why not - when I got there I remembered why not, so I got out again as soon as I could and as I was walking home Ben texted me to say 'meeting Brandon at Catfish, join us'.  Catfish happens to be on my way home.  So I thought 'thank you Universe for throwing these excellent people in my path to remind me I don't need to be wasting time with toxic individuals'.  Pretty cool nuh.

- The weather has been beautiful.  The end.

- Charles texted me while I was at the 42nd Street call saying he needed my address so he could send me something.  I don't know what or why but it's a very Charles thing to do that so I can't wait to find out.

- I also ran into wonderful Nico who I haven't seen for ages, also while I was at Pearl Studios for 42nd Street.  More Universe throwing excellent people in my path.

- After I was cut from the audition (which went really well and I'm super proud of everything I did and how I presented myself) I texted Carlos to tell him I would not be travelling the US with him next year.  He sent me some great words of encouragement and comfort, so I may not have booked the job but bloody hell have I got good friends. 

- Came up with a hairstyle that all but disguises my green hair for audition purposes.  Ha!

- Discovered my new favourite ice cream flavour from Blue Marble Ice Cream, it is blueberry.

- Had a brilliant dance session on Tuesday in the lovely Mark Morris Dance Centre.  

- Hung out with Downie on Wednesday, I visit her at work sometimes when I have random gaps in my day that are too small to do anything with.  The chef at Tea and Sympathy made me soup and Downie made me a cuppa.  Sometimes that all you need in a rough week.

Phew! If you took those two lists and kind of alternated between the two, that's sort of a bit how my week felt but first make yourself really tired, take a ballet class and don't have breakfast.

Here's a really amazing thing that happened today: Yael (boss, Yahli Ari and Itamar's mum) made me a Birthday cake! It is a raspberry crumble cake and I had to have it today because they will be celebrating Passover and there is a rule about getting rid of all flour-type things in the house.  So she made it for me and I brought it home when I left today.  How many other people's boss made them a cake today? Lucky me.

I came home to David hanging out and he helped me re-plan Saturday.  I have tomorrow pretty much off so I can clean up everything that I've been scattering behind me as I tore through the week, make some sensible food, get some party snacks in, run and in the evening Lauren and I will be going to bed very early in preparation for our sweeping victory on Sat morning.

My new favourite dance space 

How I made myself look by 8.30am on a Monday morning 

How it feels to make yourself look like this at 8.30am on a Monday morning

I give myself a hard time as a dancer all the time because I don't have endless legs, amazing feet, hip rotation, total flexibility, turnout, blah blah...but I've got some damn muscles and that is enough!