La Vie Boheme

I had so much stuff to do today, and I did precisely none of it. I did not review my lines. I did not clean my room. I did not go to the grocery store. I didn't catch up on my emails. I didn't even knit the sleeves of the baby sweater I'm working on. I mean, I didn't watch the latest Battlestar. You know it's bad when I consider watching an episode of TV that I like to be a chore.

But I did manage to spend the entire day in my pajamas, and if you are feeling overworked, overstressed, sick of the stuff you do and the people you see every day, and are looking for some way to tell the world to go fuck itself, I have a whole list of suggestions of things you can do with your time! Consider it a public service announcement. After all, then I can say I did accomplish something today.

1. Play Sirtet. Yes, it is Tetris spelled backwards. Just like Tetris, it will take control of your life if you let it. It will make you think in tetrads, and it's great for when you're sick of Tetris but want to play a game instead of dealing with your life. Plus the sound effects are hilarious.

2. Do some meaningless research on Wikipedia. Did you know that there was a cartoon in the 80s starring Strawberry Shortcake, a cute little redhead in a white pinafore who lived in Strawberryland? Maybe you did. But did you know she had a sidekick called Raspberry Tart? Isn't that awesome? Her nemesis was the Purple Pie Man, which also sounds vaguely dirty. And apparently her friend Plum Puddin' started out as a boy, disappeared for a few episodes, and reappeared as a girl. Strawberry did not appear to notice.

3. Watch an old movie. Speaking of the 80s, I take pleasure in informing you that the entirety of the 1983 epic movie WarGames is available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube. I don't know how you can not love Matthew Broderick (looking about 15) and Ally Sheedy (looking about 25) as high school seniors who break into the government missile defense system because they want to play Global Thermonuclear War. There are so many awesome things in that movie, but as a teaser I'll just note that Matthew Broderick hotwires his way out of his defense department lockup using scissors and an 8-track.

4. Take a nap. This sounds boring even to me, but I have to say, I took a nap last night (3 hours), got a good night's sleep (9 hours) and had another nap this afternoon (4 hours) and I finally feel like I'm approaching some kind of clear-headedness. This is the most alert and cognizant I've felt in days.

5. Read a book. I'm in the middle of John Barrowman's autobiography, Anything Goes, right now, and it's so delightfully showbiz-y. (John Barrowman is a big West End musical star, but I know him from Doctor Who and Torchwood, where he plays Captain Jack, and the bit musical parts he had in De-Lovely and The Producers.) His book is a lot of fun, and one of the few things I can bear to read at the moment (stress has killed the book-loving part of my brain). But this book is the opposite of stress - Barrowman is a crackup. He's flamingly gay, he's apparently a total prankster on set, and he's got tons and tons of great stories. Oh, he sounds a little arrogant, and I'm not sure if I'd be friends with him forever or anything, but I love his acting, I love his singing, and I can now say I love his writing (apparently his sister helped him out with the book, and I must say I approve of her as well). And every once in awhile, maybe once every three or four chapters, he writes about something so true, for better or for worse, in the world of arts and theater, that it makes me put down the book and just smile for a few minutes. Right, I think, this is the world that I belong to.

6. Update your blog. Whee!



Dude, you guys. I can't walk.

Oh, don't freak. I'm not in a wheel chair. But I am bruised, sore, and blistered, and taking weight onto my right leg, or lying down on my right side, hurts like a bitch.

It is this way. We have re-choreographed a bit of blocking for the show. Specifically, the part where I keel over and faint. Before, I had someone catching me. Now I fall down on my own.

This means, of course, that I had to learn to stage fall. The definition of stage fall is supposed to be how to fall and not hurt yourself. I beg to differ.

Ever done a knee bend? Do one now. I'll wait. You just plant your feet solid on the floor, and bend your knees, dropping into a crouch, and then come back up again, without using your hands. No big deal, right? You might hear some strange popping noises from your knees, but eh, it's not bad.

Great. Now do a one-legged knee bend. That's right, the same thing, except you have to do it with all your weight on one leg. Got it? Fantastic. Now do two dozen of those, and every time you make it to your knees, slap the side of your ribcage and the side of your ass as hard as you possibly can. Sounds like fun, no?

This was yesterday, that I learned to do this. So the right half of me feels like it's been skiing all day, and I mean the aches and pains I got when I was first learning how, plus the big bruise on my ass and the smaller bruise on my ribcage. My left side is all "... huh?" And my cute new shoes that I just got that are adorable have not been broken in yet, and I found out today when I wore them for the first time that they pinch my littlest toes. On both feet, but especially on my right.

Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. (My director's reaction: "Good, okay. Practice, but don't practice too much.")


Stress Test

... is what this rehearsal process is turning out to be. And my reaction? Avoidance. As usual. I just want to stay home and drink cocoa and knit and maybe read. And watch TV. And not deal with rehearsals.

I know it's good for me to be this uncomfortable, and I'm learning and growing and blee blee blee, but being uncomfortable is still just... uncomfortable. Which is the kind of thing you always forget, isn't it? I'm always like, oh, Of COURSE I Would Suffer For My ART, yadda yadda, but I only ever say that when I forget about the actual "suffering" part. I Would Be Mildly Inconvenienced For My Art, more like, or I Would Do Things That Other People Might Consider Boring Or Annoying, But Which In Fact I Enjoy For My Art. Doesn't have quite the same ring though.

In other news: annoying things about Britain, part 26: Tesco's just changed its hours, and now is only open until 5pm on Sundays. DUDE, Tesco. That is sucktastic. First of all, Sunday is my only day off, so it's not like I can just stop in tomorrow. Secondly, I celebrate my days off by sleeping until mid-afternoon. It took me until five to find my damn jeans in the first place. When am I supposed to do my shopping if you're not open until 9? Thirdly, SAINSBURY'S manages to be open until 9, and so does the local co-op, and so yes, I can take my business elsewhere, sure, but Sainsburys stuff generally costs double what the same stuff at Tesco would cost, and I don't have very much money. Also, the Sainsbury's that is open late on Sundays has a much less impressive selection, AND I don't know where stuff is so it takes longer, AND they do not have individual green bell peppers, which is annoying. They have peppers, but they sell them in packs of three, one green, one yellow, one red, as if the green peppers might be planning a hostile takeover and they don't want the red peppers to end up picking cotton and riding on the back of the bus. Dude, Sainsbury's. They are PEPPERS. I only need one color. Also, your prices are atrocious. I do, however, support the fact that you sell elderflower cordial, now that the campus store has quit stocking it, in a shocking act of failure.

Also, I totally can't believe Obama is actually getting inaugurated! Yahoo! Especially since this last round of press conferences for W has made me hate him more than I thought possible. For serious. I thought I was used to the whole thing, but seeing his smirk now infuriates me and I have to go lie down and knit for like an hour.

Not that that isn't all I do anyway.



My professors toss that word around all the time. I'm pretty sure it means something, but your guess is about as good as mine about what that something might be. Maybe it's the section of the library above where they put the Theatricality books. (Ignore that joke if you don't know Aristotle trivia. What am I talking about? No one knows Aristotle trivia. I am so sleepy, you guys.)

I am actually still sleepy because I'm still trying to get back on normal time after being on Winter Break Time (go to sleep whenever you want and wake up whenever you want). And 'cause I stayed up till... um... well ... very late, to get my papers done and turned in. But! They are done, and turned in! See, I can prove it. That's one of them right there. The next time you have trouble sleeping, there it is, ready for your perusal. Guaranteed to cure any insomnia you might have. You're welcome. You know I've got your back.

Anyway. I chose that title (the metatheatricality title, not the title of the paper; the paper doesn't have a title) because it has been an intensely theatrical day. Theatrical days are difficult when you're on about four hours' sleep. (Not my fault, not entirely. Couldn't get to sleep to save my life, and the stupid smoke alarm went off at half past midnight. I hate my building sometimes.) What I was saying was, first I had rehearsal all day and then I saw a show.

Those two things alone would not really necessarily lead me to say I had a metatheatrical day. But the fevered pitch they maintained would do. It was the most rehearsalish of rehearsals, and the most showy of shows.

We're working on Much Ado About Nothing at the moment, and today was our first blocking/walkthrough of Act IV, scene i. For those unfamiliar, this is the scene where a young woman shows up to her wedding (to the guy she loves) only to get rejected by him, slandered by his best friend, disowned by her father, and talked into playing dead by her priest. So, kinda runs the gamut of emotions there. Who plays this young lady? Me. So I spent a solid chunk of the afternoon going from grinning and excited to curled up on the floor, half conscious and sobbing. Several times. And you know, it was really difficult.

It's interesting to me, because this is the first time I've acted in ages and ages -- two or three years -- and the last couple of parts I played didn't really require a deep emotional commitment. Or anyway, it was amateur enough that I could get away with just walking around charismatically, and not delving into emotional depths. And one of the reasons I stopped acting was that I didn't feel comfortable delving into those depths -- I mean, no one is really comfortable doing that, I don't think, although I've known some actors who were kind of scarily good at it. But I managed to forget just how uncomfortable it was, until today, when I really "let myself go there," (that being the technical term). It really shook me, possibly because I'm tired, and possibly because it's been so long, but also partly because "there," was a really scary place to be. It's off-putting, when you sort of know there's a scary place there, but you haven't been there in ages and aren't really sure you can find your way back there ever, and then suddenly you're right in the middle of it. And you know that you're in a process where the goal is to make it even scarier and more upsetting to be there. And that's your purpose, that's what you're doing.

I'm not sure if that makes any sense, but maybe the actors will know what I mean.

So that took me forever to deal with, and then after rehearsal (and dinner & pints at the pub; I do live in England) we went to a panto.

I'm pretty sure I'm physically unable to describe a British panto to American citizens. My theory is that with all the rain and tea and scones and whatnot, sometime between the Black Plague and getting sunstroke in India, the entirety of Britain went slowly and quietly insane. They stayed polite and dried-up about it -- they are British -- but nevertheless they are all secretly stark raving bonkers. They act all normal and then suddenly pull some sort of entertainment out of their collective asses that is basically the conceptual love child of a five-year-old and an evil genius. Case in point: Doctor Who.

Not to say these things aren't good and lovable and all that. But they are also completely insane and incomprehensible, and there's no good pretending otherwise. Our latest demonstration of this is the Panto.

A Panto (short for pantomime) is a stage play. Of sorts. I hesitate to say anything even that definite about it. Some of its elements include (in no particular order): a fairytale plotline, audience participation, live musical numbers, dirty jokes, men in drag (as queens and fairies, no less), stand-up comedy, small children, racy costumes, glitter, silly dialogue, elaborate sets, sparkles, zombies, pussycats, absurd make-up, sexy dance moves, drunk actors who forget their lines onstage and are prompted by their costars, and singing rat puppets. All of these elements (I'm not making any of this up, you guys, and all of it is pluralized for a reason) are held together with the largest serving of camp I have ever seen in my life. Think of the campiest thing that you have ever seen or imagined, double it, and add seven. It's campier than The Princess Bride, campier than Buffy, campier than Pushing Daisies. Campier than Bollywood, you guys. Campy like a redwood forest in the Sierra Nevadas.

The production I saw was The Sleeping Beauty, and did incorporate all of the elements I mentioned above. I will describe one scene, and you will just have to use your imaginations to fill in the rest -- bear in mind that the show was an hour and a half. Carabosse, the evil fairy (played by a man) has stolen into the castle by hiding in the orchestra pit (not kidding) along with her evil cat, Spindleshanks (played by a lithe young woman, in a costume that does not belong in the same room as children, even if the room is a theater). They have smuggled in a spinning wheel and plan to make the Princess Aurora prick her finger on it in a matter of moments. Everytime Carabosse enters, the audience boo and hiss. As loudly as possible. Also, every time she speaks. Manly Carabosse and sexy Spindleshanks cavort around the stage a bit, collecting these boos and hisses, and finally ask the audience if they should leave the stage. The audience boos and hisses more. Carabosse and Spindleshanks respond by launching into a live musical cover of "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" by the Clash.

Dude, could I make this up?

Other song and dance numbers included "Someday My Prince Will Come," "Any Dream Will Do," "We Go Together," and of course, "Mamma Mia." The audience is encouraged to sing along.

Those of you who were shaking your heads about my declaration of British insanity a couple paragraphs up? I rest my case. Facts, people. Cold, hard, facts. Educational experiences of the day.


Perfected Techniques of Procrastination

That's the title of a demonstrative speech I gave in the sixth grade. I was a natural talent then, and I have turned it into a science now. When are my two essays, research work, lines, and choreography work due? That would be.... just under twelve hours from now. How many of those five things are done? Two. Go me!

Well, everything else is pretty near done... or, you know, not totally far away from being done... Okay, two things are very close to being done, and the other one I'm going to work on right now, as soon as I update my blog, and maybe knit a round, and read some online comics, and maybe talk to a friend...

Eh, yeah, I know. I know. It's disgraceful. I know. But it will be done, and it will be done on time, and then I will start rehearsals with a relatively clear conscience. Yes. This will happen.

In other weekly news, my sleep cycle has continued disastrous, (well, it would be awesome if I were planning to go to California, say, tomorrow. Since I'm not, but instead planning to reintegrate myself into English society tomorrow, it's a little more worrisome.) For the last four days I've tried to get up at a reasonable hour, but my sleeping brain is a stubborn bastard and knows I set my alarm not because I need to get up but because I think I ought to get up. My sleeping brain has no patience for that kind of nonsense. I hear the alarms, I vaguley remember thoughts along the lines of "make the bad noise STOP", I remember turning off the alarms, and then my memory fades out. Not because I stumbled out of my room to get a cup of tea, no, but because I stumbled back into bed and curled back up under the covers. Then I wake up AT SUNSET, and it's the most depressing thing in the world, and I stay in bed for another hour being miserable that I slept the whole damn day away.

That is something else, however, that will stop tomorrow. Because TOMORROW, I am going to get up, and be awesome, and turn this stuff in, and go to rehearsal all afternoon and evening.

Plus, don't even get me started on the drama of trying to get my laundry done.

I got around to lots of things, though, while I was busy NOT getting around to my paper. No, I did! I watched two movies that I own but had never seen before the other day. One was The French Lieutenant's Woman, with the amazingness that is Meryl Streep and the sexiness that is Jeremy Irons. I have to say, however, that having heard that it's the most romantic movie ever made, I was expecting it to be more... romantic. Meryl Streep IS amazing,but if it had been any other actress in that role, I would have hated her and might have stopped watching altogether. I might have stuck around for Jeremy Irons, who is gorgeous, and was very sexy back before I was born, seventies hair and all. But the love story.... kind of eh. They look at each other longingly a lot, and sometimes kiss passionately in exotic locales. But dude, you can do that with practically anybody. I look at my fridge longingly a lot (though I have yet to kiss it passionately in any locale, exotic or otherwise). Conversation? Mutual interests, besides showing the whites of your eyes? Compatible personalities? Huh, what? Disappointing.

The other movie was a documentary entitled Shakespeare Behind Bars. I love it passionately. In fact, I loved it so much that I'm a little hesitant to recommend it, knowing that if someone had recommended it to me at any point before I watched it myself, I would have put it aside forever. I don't know if it's just a quirk of me or if it's common to everybody, but as soon as someone tells me a movie is "really good" because it will "make [me] think," or it's "really deep" or any nonsense like that, I write it off. I still haven't seen The Hobart Shakespeareans, mostly for that reason, even though I know it's good and I know I'll like it. The same thing almost happened with Slings and Arrows, although I got over that. Some part of me is always like, "movies and TV are for entertainment, not thinking! Screw you!" and I never see it.

I would hate for anyone to write off Shakespeare Behind Bars for that reason, so I won't say that it's deep (it is), that it will make you think (it will) or that you really should see it before you die (you should). I'll just say, I loved it. It's a documentary about a program at a high-security Kentucky prison where the inmates spend nine months of the year working on a Shakespeare play. They cast themselves, they have a volunteer (from outside) as a director, and they just go embrace the text and knock themselves out. And it's absolutely amazing. The doc is about the year they did The Tempest, but you don't have to know the play, they explain the plot and themes and all. Not surprisingly, they really go for the theme of forgiveness (a prominent one in that show), and explore it through all the characters. The actor playing Antonio gets put in solitary confinement, and they have to recast. The actors in general go all the way -- the guy playing Miranda is a thirty-something man, and he absolutely relates to it and draws it right into his life. And they all tell you what their sentences are, and why they're in prison, and then they do Shakespeare, and it's mesmerizing. Even if you don't like Shakespeare. Even if you don't like documentaries. Especially if you don't like prison inmates. It just blew me away.

So that is what I have to say about it, and if it doesn't put you off, may I suggest renting it as soon as possible. Shakespeare Behind Bars. Crazy good.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have lines to learn.


That's Entertainment...

"It might be a fight like you seen on the screen / a swain getting slain for the love of a queen / some great Shakespearean scene / where a ghost and a prince meet, and everyone ends in mincemeat..."

Dude, you guys, I saw Hamlet last week! The RSC Hamlet. With Patrick Stewart. I KNOW!

Seriously, it was incredibly exciting. I was in the very back row, so my view wasn't spectacular or anything, but it didn't matter. Either they had the best mic-ing system I've ever heard, or the acoustics were fantastic, because I could hear everything brilliantly. Both the design and the acting were top-notch, and while I wish I could have seen Tennant's Hamlet, his understudy did just fine and has nothing to be ashamed of. The best actors by far, however, were Stewart as Claudius and Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius. (Both of them were also very nice and gave me autographs, and Davies especially was a total sweetheart about the whole thing. I'm going to buy his book now.)

The design also just blew me away. The stage and back wall were reflective, which was used to great effect, making the lights bounce and managing to look both like a symbol of wealth and like something is terribly wrong. Which, you know, fits the play well. The costumes were gorgeous, and the sets hovered just on the edge of being too high budget to make an impact, but didn't cross over it. In fact the whole production was like that; if things had been just a little more done, it would have been too overdone to be interesting, but everything stayed just the right side of the line. I can honestly say it was the first time I've read or seen Hamlet and actually enjoyed it, except for perhaps season one of Slings & Arrows. The only piece that I didn't like was Ophelia, whose sanity was unimpressive and whose madness even more so. But I've never liked her, and anyway you can't have everything.

In other news, they have just cast the new Doctor Who, and I am pleased to announce that he is both young and gorgeous. Listen, I'm going to have a mad crush on whoever plays the Doctor, because I totally love the Doctor in all his forms except Colin Baker. So it's nice when they throw me a bone by casting someone who is not far from my own age and empirically good looking... it makes my obsession easier to explain to my friends.

Finally, to round this out: everyone should go to the library and get a copy of Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, because it rocks. It'll take you maybe an hour to read and it will improve your outlook on life dramatically. This PSA brought to you free of charge.