Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

Easter Sunday, which means my Eastery-est clothes 


For an Eastery stroll of the neighbourhood (I got coffee and ice cream)

Followed by making and enjoying some not especially Eastery but really delicious and springy summery FUD - 

This is mixed greens, fresh basil leaves, white kidney beans, strawberries and feta with balsamic, olive oil and honey dressing

This is one of the two one-pot pastas I made, here is spinach, artichoke and mushroom spaghetti made with quinoa pasta (cos the normal kind makes me REALLY sleepy) and it's all dairy free though you wouldn't know it to look at it or taste it.  This one-pot malarkey basically gives you self-saucing pasta and its v. creamy.

This is quinoa, roasted beetroot, pear, feta and walnuts drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil

I also made cucumber, avocado and feta salad which is those three things plus lemon juice and fresh dill I LOOOVE DILL 

And I made veggie sausage, kale and mushroom fusilli with cherry tomatoes.

Not a bad weekend's food prep, and a much needed, mercifully quiet day after a busy week and ahead of another one.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Freedom in discipline

I've had a series of excellent conversations with the wise and wonderful in my life about how our lives as creative people are supposed to function - in the pragmatic sense and also in the more whimsical sense that in order to live the life of a creative person, well, you've gotta be creating.

I was advised to:

Put myself in the places where the people I want to work with/for are.  It seems obvious but it isn't always possible, it's not like I can call most of them up and ask to meet for coffee and a chat.  I CAN take their classes and go see their shows.  I met a choreographer with whom I want to work a couple of weeks ago and boldly introduced myself, and she did offer to meet me for coffee.  So, put myself in the right places using the right methods, as opposed to what you'd do if it was someone with whom you have a personal relationship already.

To do it - it was something like 'half the battle is doing it'.  This was coming from someone who does and has been making their own work for a looong time so they know that at first it can be terrifying to put yourself out there but ultimately it begins with a less polished, more fragile entity that your friends support because they're good friends and feel obliged to and gradually turns into something else as your experience and professionalism grows.
I've never been great at putting myself out there and saying 'I made this you wanna see?' because...well why would they? What makes me think I have anything to offer that people might remotely be interested in?
But that's why you start with friends because you can guilt them into supporting your endeavours...also you just have to ignore the voice that says 'why is this worth seeing?' because that's thing that stops you from DOING...and if you're not doing well then you're not doing.
Again, so simple but so complicated when you turn it over too much in your mind.

Take pride in all the things I do, creatively or otherwise.
I'm actually ok at this one.

And I wasn't exactly told this one but I sort of drew it from all the other advice - ask people.  I don't really like to ask people creative favours because I've done plenty of things for no pay and all my friends have and do as well, and we want to be united in refusing to do that but we also want to be able to help out a friend...so it's a little precarious.  But I've lived for a year with a talented musician and a talented filmmaker so it's about time I got braver and said hey guys wanna make some stuff?

I did just that - I asked David if he'd help me make a dance reel to which he immediately said yes without missing a beat.  And I told Dan I wanted to make more music and he should get ready to make something soon.  I also asked a couple of dancer friends to help me make a reel/be in it with me.  And asked someone to teach me about screenplays.  I have an EP's worth of songs, a Donald Trump rap, several beginnings of choreographies and a screenplay draft.  With which I must do something.

And it's all written down now so I'm fully accountable.

The title of this blog post is about how, to get to the good stuff in artistic pursuits, you so often have to go through a lot of junk.  Which ties in to the 'just do it' philosophy.  This is a pretty well known idea: if you want to write, you need to sit down and write, every day, even if what you end up with at the end of some days is pages of junk.  Same with choreography, music, all of it.  I don't like to associate discipline with creativity because the word sounds stifling and restrictive but in fact (and I've known this always) it's the only way to make those neural pathways really strong and start the synapses firing on a higher level.
A metaphor I discussed with Dan was being prepared for an epic natural event.  If there's a huge lightning storm coming, better make sure your lightning rods are all in place.  The discipline part is climbing onto rooftops of buildings and securing lightning rods and making sure conductors are in the right place and insulated and safe.  The lightning storm is when a flash of inspiration hits you and you want to get it down on paper or into your body or recorded immediately.  If your lightning rods are not ready that lightning storm will blaze around you and for a while sure the skies will be illuminated but when it's over it will just be gone.  If the rods are there and prepared, you can capture and channel that lightning and gain some degree of control over the wild, impulsive thing.
(It's not a perfect metaphor because what am I, a lightning expert? No! But I think you get the point)

So taking classes, writing every day, recording every melody/joke/lyric/plot on my phone, scribbling random phrases in notebooks as I go about my day, listening to tons of music, watching quality work and repeating choreography I came up with on the subway until it's firmly locked in - these are lightning rods going into place.

And the same goes for the blog, of course - precious holder of my blithering.




Thursday, March 10, 2016

Swagger

I saw a magnificent dance piece called Swagger tonight.  It was site-specific, performed in the upstairs bar of a Queens microbrewery, and it blew me away.  It was set during the Troubles, something that became apparent not immediately but as the piece went on, and contained themes of brotherhood, love, loss and choices.  The choreography was stunning and told every facet of the story, the live musicians were perfectly in sync with the dancers, the acting was incredibly moving and the interweaving of all three was seamless.  I loved it.  I went to the choreographer afterwards and told her I was going to hang around her all the time.  Networking!

Then I came home to this:



That's David and Dan playing Street Fighter.  They tagged me in to play too.  On Tuesday it was one year since I moved in with these guys.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, it was the best decision I could've made.  I love living here, I love these guys and I'm so happy to call them roommates and friends.  Happy One Year Brooklynversary to me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fundamentals

An account, entirely from my perspective...
The night was a triumph.  It began at ten minutes to six o clock, on the morning of March 6th 2016 with my awakening, showering, dressing for half a day of manual work, double checking my packing for the day and jumping in an Uber car to Red Hook.
Arriving at 8.15 I went up to Sam and Val's place to start hauling crates of beer downstairs to another, bigger, Uber.  We also had to get in there an 8 foot fairly heavy tube containing the rolled up step and repeat (step and repeat: a portable background in front of which people get their picture taken at events, see below) and various other bits and pieces.  As Sam and I were buckling up to drive to west 95th st, our managing director/angel Ali was in a separate car with a separate load of stuff.
So when we'd all made it to our venue, Symphony Space, we got to unload all the loads of stuff, take it all downstairs, stash it all somewhere and begin the tasks for the day.  

Tasks like putting auction prize fliers in frames, highlighting scripts, obtaining a receptacle for raffle tickets, liaising with the awesome team at the venue and greeting our arriving company members plus a couple of helpers.  At 12.30 we gathered in the theatre for a cue-to-cue run through so our musicians Ellie and Maks and stage manager Cris could get everything sorted.
After that was over I became a tornado of activity, doing the kind of things I do best in event situations.  I'm not so good with the administrating, the finances, the communications, the PR but the on the ground, on the day stuff is where I feel comfortable.  Doing shit.
I was also on introduction duty with Sam and reading stage directions for part one of the day.  This meant I had to do a very fast turnaround from stomping around in boots and a slobby jumper to being polished, emphasis on ISH, and Sam and I completely freestyled our intro.  In fact I was holding a notebook, just in case nerves struck (they didn't) which I promptly dropped as I walked onto the stage. 


Smooth.



The reading itself was stunning.  I've seen the play staged-read before, and read it many times since, and enjoyed it every single time but this was very special because a) we had 140 people watching our friend Ben's work for the first time ever, b) we had Ben seeing this play in the most realised form its ever taken, c) the actors outdid themselves, particularly in my opinion Ali who has played the role before but this time took it to new heights of heart rending realness, d) we had live musicians providing underscoring and also allowing us to have songs interspersed throughout, each chosen to represent a little of a characters' inner life or unspoken words.  









It's really a beautiful play and I know Natalia, myself, Ben and probably others got teary in several places.  We meet a group of science lab employees.  Henry is the absent minded but inspired leader of the project...his wife Ruth who is never seen is very ill in hospital...Marie is the group's de facto caretaker in unrequited love with him...Martin is a close friend of Henry and even closer friend of Ruth's, frustrated at Henry's inability to detach from his obsessive working to visit Ruth while messing with his workmates' heads out of sheer boredom...Waldy is the practical and gruff janitor who harbours a secret desire to be in on the brainiac stuff going on in the lab...Selma is a prodigious mathematical genius, clever enough to create the formula for perpetual motion but hopeless enough to crash a van, be duped into believing her formula has already been created and spend her time feeling awkward and laughed at.
They are searching for a whale, orbiting through space.  How does Henry know there's a whale up there?
Well, he put it up there.

After the reading and after we'd thanked our guest actors Patrick Breen and Julia Murney, we had an hour odd to do a high speed turnover to the evening gala event which meant removing four rows of chairs, adding more tables, setting up a lot of food, the bar, the step and repeat, more ice, a silent auction, welcoming the evening's guest actor Aidan Quinn and generally sprinting all around the building still in my afternoon dress but now back to boots once more.  Eventually I was able to go backstage to change for the evening and try and look a bit more groomed and finally join the reception/stuff some long overdue food into my mouth before taking our seats for the evening's reading of The Public Eye, a short comedy by Sir Peter Shaffer who was also in attendance.  Sam, Valorie and Mr Quinn starred and they were excellent - except I'm not terribly ashamed to say that by this time I'd been going hard for 11 hours and was flagging, plus being a bit nervous to speak on stage again because the evening crowd was different from the afternoon crowd - not as many friendly and familiar faces, money people, friends of Sir Peter.
Oh yeah and ALEC BALDWIN.
So I did take a tiny nap in my seat during The Public Eye.


The whole company then took to the stage.  Sam read a great passage from a Shaffer play about theatre, tres apropos.  Ali made a heartfelt speech about why we honoured Ben with the Peter Shaffer Award for Excellence in Playwriting.  And I introduced the whole company and gave some background on us and our future plans.  This time I did use my notebook a little - and I felt myself stumble over a couple of words.  I like to think people forgave me that since I admitted that I was planning on using notes and I put a lot of thought into the words themselves.  


I got it all out and we made our exit.  I made my exit in the direction of the wine.  We spent a couple more hours with people mingling and milling, eating and drinking, taking loooads of pictures and eventually in my 4.5 inch heels I started the cleanup which was rapidly picked up by almost all and sundry - almost every company member plus 4 or 5 other fabulous volunteers who came specifically to lend a pair of hands for whatever we needed, the true heroes of the piece.  So I did everything that happened at 9am in reverse - tables packed up, tableclothes folded, ice emptied, cool boxes returned, wine beer and soft drink leftovers carried upstairs, keyboard taken upstairs, step and repeat carried upstairs, box of miscellany carried upstairs, everything loaded into the back of a car.  Also we gave the Symphony Space staff lots of beer and food, they really deserved it.  

The man of the hour Mr Holbrook

Spencer and Ben

These guys are relatively new friends and they are fantastic
My dear pal Naty and our stage manager/fellow AMDA 2013 grad Cristina


Fearless leaders Sam and Ali

Teehee

Our first ever whole company picture

FTP ladies







Lauren chatting to Jim our awesome AMDA acting teacher

I think we've known each other too long


The full FTP company with Alec Baldwin and Sir Peter Shaffer
L-R back row: Roger, Alec, Alec's wife, Spencer, me, Ali, Ben, TJ, Val, Jon
L-R front: Downie, Naty, Carly, Sir Peter Shaffer, Sam, Maite

Nice to share the day with these lovely ladies who I've been friends with now for so long.  Enjoying our status as the international component of Fundamental Theater Project.

Finally myself, Lauren, Charisse a helper friend, Ben, Ali, another helper friend Lauren, Jon, Naty and Roger - the stragglers - went around the corner to a bar for more beers, hanging out and basking in the glow of a successful day.
I went to bed at 4am after a long subway ride home with several bags and got up this morning at 1pm which is fair because it was literally a 22 hour day.

And did I mention the time I spent carrying tables and buckets of ice up and down stairs in 4.5 inch heels
Also I started the day lugging 10 crates of beer down two flights of stairs at 8.30am

My forearms are pretty sore today.  But
The night really was a triumph.




Saturday, March 5, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

With thanks to the effervescent and sacred-voiced Moorea Masa who I had the pleasure to meet in Portland, Oregon