Monday, December 29, 2008

Polish Christmas and a Trip to Vienna

Ok so there is a fish in the bathtub. It's true and pretty funny!
On Tuesday, December 23 Remi's father, Remi and I went to the fish farm to collect Christmas dinner. There was a holding reservoir with easy targets for the guys with the nets and there was a pond. We actually fished in the pond and scored a lovely trout. From the reservoir the fish guy netted us six more fish. Carp and trout were the pesci of choice. Most of them flopped around as they waited to face their fate in a room where a lady with a big knife did the deed. One carp was left intact and chilled in a bag until we got it to Remi's Grandmother's house where he was put into the bathtub to live out his remaining few days. Grandma stays with Remi's parents most of the time so nobody's grooming and hygiene routine will be disrupted by the fish's residence in her tub. Normally the fish would have been axed and eaten by now but we have had plenty with out his sacrifice so he's still swimming around in there. I have to say as a vegetarian I was/am a bit squeamish about the process. But I respect their traditions and their dietary choices just as I expect people to respect mine. So we shall see when the fish will be called to the table. Perhaps for New Year's dinner...

The family gathered on Christmas Eve for dinner and the exchanging of presents. Presents and the big dinner happen the day before Christmas in Poland. The meal starts with a chorus style grace and then everyone takes a wafer. The wafers are very thin, similar to a Communion wafer. Then every one goes around and wishes each other well in the new year and shares their wafers. Then to the food. A procession of soups start the meal. Beet soup with mushroom dumplings, fruit soup made of dried fruits and served with rice, then mushroom soup served with bread stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms. Of course the famous fish makes an appearance and a couple of salads one with fish and one that is a kind of potato salad with carrots and corn involved. Very tasty!
After dinner the exchanging of presents commences. Santa Claus doesn't come on Christmas Eve in Poland. Santa comes earlier on in December on St Nicolas Day, December 6th. Sometimes he comes secretly in the night but more often he comes to the children in person. Presents are not left under the tree, they are handed out to the deserving children. Warnings to the naughty kids do not come in the form of a lump of coal but rather all children get a birch branch attached to a bag of candy and a warning that if they are not good next year it will be just the birch branch and no other treats and parents may take to using the birch branch to enforce a little discipline! So Polish kids: be good!

Family and friends are very important in Poland. People visit with each other during the 24th, 25th and Boxing Day the 26th of December. I can't tell you how many people I have met. All kinds of relations and loved ones have visited and called and we have gone knocking on a few doors ourselves. I need a directory with photos please!!

Christmas day was pretty low key. Visits with family and friends continue. We went to mass in the evening. First we stopped by the church graveyard. Here we weaved our way through closely plotted graves. The graves have a raised platform made of stone as well as a headstone. These platforms play host to a sea of stunning lanterns. Nearly every grave had one or two lanterns of colored glass glowing in the winter night. It was an amazing sight. We stopped by Remi's Grandfather's grave and lit a Christmas tree shaped lantern made of green glass and left it there for him. Then off we went into the little church. The chapel is beautiful with scenes from the Bible painted on the ceiling and an ornate altar at the head. Remi and I stood at the back and listen to the Roman Catholic mass given in Polish. Then back home to rest up for more visitors!
That pretty much wraps Christmas.

I got to see a few sights in Remi's home town of Kudowa Zdroj and nearby Czermna. He took me to see their famous moving nativity scene. This mind blowing piece of art is up all year round and was hand carved and installed in the artist's home where his decedents still live. This nativity is a wall to wall display of a town and its people. Some figures are doing their chores and some are making their way to Bethlehem (and back in time) to pay their respects to Baby Jesus in the manger. Shepherds are moving sheep, a friar is pulling a bell, a girl is getting water and Jesus is rocking in his cradle. This same craftsman also hand made a pipe organ which is also on display. After this we stopped by the Chapel of Skulls. Construction on the chapel started in 1776 and finished in 1804. It contains more than 30 thousand human bones and skulls that belonged to victims of local wars and plague epidemics. These skulls hang from the ceiling and line the walls of this chapel and there are more under the floor. I have never seen anything like it.Wow!

Yesterday we went to Vienna. We drove down to the Czech Republic/Austrian border on Saturday and stayed at a hostel on the Czech (much cheaper) side. The hostel was awesome. The man running it could have been a poster boy for the Czech tourist board. He had a shaggy beard and wore a vest and hat and welcomed us with shots of I don't know what, some kind of alcohol. We went out to dinner and I had a typical Czech meal of fried cheese and tartar sauce. It was really good! Sunday morning we went in to Austria and on to Vienna. Vienna was gorgeous. The architecture is brilliant and although it has been around a while something about it is fresh and crisp. Perhaps it is the colors. Most buildings are light; white or pastels. And the detail on many of the buildings is phenomenal. We started at St Stephen's Cathedral where mass was in progress but we were able to go in and stand at the back. We saw the Ankerhur Clock do its procession of figurines at noon. We stopped by Hofburg or The Imperial Palace, visited Mozart's monument in Burggarten, swung by the museums, the parliament building, city hall, Votive Church, Schonburnn and finished at the Prater. It was one full day! After all that we got in the car and drove the five hours it took to get back to Remi's house in Poland. I will have photos to post as soon as I get back to Glasgow.

That's more than enough for now. I'll fill you in with more adventures next week.
Happy New Year everybody!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wrapping William and Planes to Poland

Well, this past week was a whirlwind of activity as we closed up shop and headed into the Holidays. Monday and Tuesday were again spent with the amazing Liam Brennan. He continued to coach us through Shakespeare monologues and scenes. Brennan has a wealth of experience playing these classics. Amongst a slew of other credits, he has done Macbeth six times and thrice played Mac-ers himself! That's a lot of blood!! For me, with my very limited Shakespeare experience, I found these sessions with Brennan invaluable and a fantastic preparation for our month at the Globe in January.

End of the term papers were turned in, one on one meetings with faculty members were held and I even managed to get to a Christmas concert. And then came Saturday...

Saturday. D-Day. Departure Day. Actually, our flight to Milan didn't leave until the wee hours of Sunday morning but our journey started Saturday night. My classmate Remi has graciously invited me to his home in Poland for the Holidays. And naturally, to get to Poland from Scotland one has to go through Italy. Really, it was just the cheapest route and hey, a day in Milan, that's cool! So the last train to the airport left Glasgow's city center at 11:30pm. We could have called a cab at 3am to take us but why spend the money when we could make it an all night party at the airport? So we went to the ballet. Sleeping Beauty. It was lovely and we had time to kill so why not catch a ballet? Then off we went. The airport we flew from was a smaller airport and when we got there nothing was open. All the cafes and shops were closed. But we were not the only ones crashing for the night. Many a Holiday traveler had the same idea. We tried to sleep a little but it wasn't easy and it was freezing in there! But no worries, morning came and we were soon boarding the plane to Italy. The flight was a few hours and we slept most of the way. I did wake up in time to see the majestic Alps looking just like they do on the water bottles. They were a gorgeous view out of the plane window as we descended into Northern Italy. Arrival was a snap and we had a whole day to kill as our flight to Prague didn't leave until later in the evening. So off we went to see the sights of Milan. It was a beautiful day! The sun was shining and Milan was stunning. One of the major attractions of Milan is the Milan Cathedral or in Italian: Duomo di Milano. I have photos but won't be able to post them until I get back to Glasgow. After a day using the only Italian I know "Grazie" we headed back to the airport and were off to Prague in the Czech Republic. This is where Remi's father was to collect us and we would drive the two hours to Poland and Remi's home just over the border. Prague was the only time we ran into a little snag on our trip. It seems my luggage may have decided to stay in Italy. No bag. Bummer. The airline is on the case and hopefully they will get it to me soon. Otherwise it may be a very stinky Christmas. Remi's family is very sweet and so hospitable! They don't speak English and I don't speak Polish so Remi is having to translate but it's going well. And I was very thankful just to be able to sleep in a bed! It is Polish tradition to keep a fish in your bathtub so that it is fresh for Christmas dinner. The fish will be coming tomorrow (Tuesday). I'll let you know...

So that's the scoop my friends. I don't know how often I will be able to blog but I hope to get another one posted next week. We shall see. In the meantime, I hope you are all having a wonderful Holiday season!
Peace, love and light,

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Land the Sun Forgot and Bringing on the Bard

Where is the switch? Hello? Is there a light in here?
No actually, this is Scotland they don’t have light during the winter months.
Well, they do but it is fleeting. These days the sun rises at about 8:45am and sets at 3:45pm. That is one short day folks! About 7 hours. And those 7 hours are when we are inside, in class, at work, etc. I gotta tell you for a girl who grew up in the southern part of the US this is a tough adjustment. I am really missing Mister Sunshine. The good news is the Winter Solstice is fast approaching. Sunday December 21st to be exact. Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. And after that, more and more light will be coming our way. The flip side of this is the Summer Solstice which this past summer was July 20th. On July 20th Glasgow’s day lasted 16 hours and 43 minutes with the sun not setting until 9:45pm. Wow! That is a long day! But I don’t mind a long day of light.

We are winding up for the semester but there are skills to be honed. On Wednesday we met with the fabulous Liam Brennan. He is a graduate of the RSAMD and has had a successful career as an actor with lots of Shakespeare credits. We started to work with him on Shakespeare monologues and will be continuing under his tutelage this week. I attempted a little Twelfth Night for him. It definitely benefited from his guidance. Big improvement! Well, that’s why I am here. To improve. I’ve had very little Shakespeare experience which was one of the major draws of this course. I get to work on my classics and at The Globe no less!

The Globe administrators were up on Wednesday as well. Liam has performed on The Globe stage many a time. He told us about his experiences and the lovely people running our program spoke to us about what we can expect in January. We will be working a lot on The Globe’s main stage. For those of you who don’t know let me explain: The current Globe is a modern day replica of what scholars think Shakespeare’s Globe would have looked like. The Globe is the theatre where Shakespeare did most of his work. In Elizabethan times theatres were outdoors and open air. They didn’t have electric lighting so they needed the sun in order for their day time dramas to be seen. So what does this mean for me? Well, it means I will be layered up with thermal underwear during my classes. That’s right. Outside acting classes on The Globe stage in January! Burrrr! But it’s totally going to be worth it. It is The GLOBE!! I’m so excited!

A week from today I’m off to Poland for the Holidays. I don’t know what kind of internet access I will have but I will do my best to keep you updated!

Enjoy the Holidays my friends! And in lieu of the light and warmth from the sun we all need to illuminate the season with rays of love from our hearts!
Take care!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Masters of Mucho Merriment

I can’t tell you how much FUN was had this past week. That’s right FUN in capitals. There were times I looked around at my class and said “I’m sorry, are we in the process of earning a Master’s Degree? Because I sure don’t feel like I’m in the rigors of academia right now.” And oh how I love it! Even though I have been battling a vicious cold all week there has been nothing but good times in the classroom; good times mixed with a little mucus, but still good times.

The first two days of the week were spent with our playwrights. I have been assigned to David Harrower’s group. Monday we talked about his concept for the play he is going to write. We discussed characters and story structure and comedy. Then we did a little improvisation on the concepts. Tuesday we started out by watching videos that illustrated the story structures we discussed and we looked at some comedy clips. In the afternoon; more improv. It was very collaborative and artistically fulfilling as we tossed ideas around and tried them. And then Tuesday after class it got even better. We all, including Mr. Harrower, went out for drinks. We were at the pub for hours but it didn’t feel that way. The group opened up to each other; we talked about our favorite movies and plays and how some of these changed our lives, how they made us want to become artists, how they inspired us. We laughed, we cried, we bonded and it was beautiful. Truly beautiful. Don’t laugh! Because it was. Beautiful people, beautiful.

Wednesday we started a three day workshop with Ben Harrison from Grid Iron. Grid Iron is a theatre company here in Scotland known for its site specific work. One of their major credits to date was a show called Roam which was the first and only play set in an airport. The security clearances alone were a major feat. Roam was ten years in the making. Mr. Harrison talked about his company, Grid Iron, and the many other site specific theatres all over Europe. It was fascinating to hear about how and where some productions were staged. The creativity and inventiveness of these companies is something awe inspiring. I am eager to see them in action.

There were also games and exercises to be played. This is where the capital FUN came in full force. Many focused on awareness and group dynamic. The best was played Thursday afternoon when one person had to leave the room and the group set them a task to perform. When the person re-entered they had to guess what they were to do and the only way they knew if they were on the right track was by applause. We would clap if they were moving toward the goal. It was absolutely hysterical. We did nothing but laugh the whole afternoon.

This past was a fantastic week with loads of laughter! This week coming we do have to get a little more serious I’m afraid. We have papers to write. That does sound like school work, doesn’t it? Yes, summary essays on the term’s objectives are due. We also have one on one meetings with the faculty to assess our progress. Later in the week we get an introduction to what we can expect next term at The Globe in London. And we finish the week working with our playwrights again.

So until next week: stay warm my friends!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chekhov, Canines and Cranberry Sauce

Friday was a marathon day of scene study presentations. We began our showing at 9:30 am. First up were a series of scenes from Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The class was divided into 4 acting groups each presenting their own selections from the play. We saw some scenes a few times which was interesting because it gave us a look at different interpretations. There was also a Q&A section where we discussed our rehearsals and process. There was a lot of pressure in the morning session as most of us felt we struggled the most with the Chekhov scenes. His work is very detailed and layered. He is the father of subtext and thus you are often not playing what you are saying in the scenes. And Chekhov has a million things to consider; many characters, heightened language, period dress and lots of drinking. Good times! I felt good about my work. It’s a work in progress of course, there are many more miles I could go with the scene but for three weeks and only two rehearsals with an instructor it was in a presentable place.

In the afternoon we delivered our contemporary scenes. The whole afternoon was generally more fun. We were in more of a comfort zone with the contemporary scenes. My group presented Mancub by Douglas Maxwell. This was a lot of fun for me as I got to play a dog named Ken. There was barking and howling, sniffing and rolling on my back. A little different from the calm and collected, corset bound character I had played in the morning’s session. Our presentation was very well received which naturally makes me glow with pride. People said it looked like we were having fun and we were. I mean, a dog! How is that not fun?

It was a long but exciting day. And fantastic to see our classmates in action. This group is bursting with talent and I am very proud to be amongst them and quite honored to have the opportunity to work with them.

Saturday we had Thanksgiving. Yummy!! One of our classmates, Mitchell (an American) agreed to host the event at his flat. Mitchell and another American, Marc did all the cooking and it was GOOD! We all pitched in money for the groceries and they did the rest. An amazing day with all the traditional dishes. Except pie. Which was a bummer but they don’t seem to have shortening over here so Marc couldn’t make his crust. They offered a cheesecake instead. Many of our non-American classmates joined us and celebrated their first Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the occasion and Friday’s presentation.

All and all it was a fabulous week. This week we start work with the playwrights who are writing a new script just for us. Yea! I will be working with the acclaimed David Harrower. I’m very excited. Also on the schedule this week; a three day seminar on site specific theatre. What’s that you ask? It’s theatre performed on site. For example if a play takes place in a park then it is performed in a park; if in a restaurant then it is performed in a restaurant, etc, etc, etc.

I’ll let you know how it goes! In the meantime, good luck with your holiday shopping. (Mine’s done! Ha!) Check in next week!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Star Highlights

This week was a most exciting week for the RSAMD. We had two very important visitors. Lord Richard Attenborough was on the scene as was James McAvoy.

If you don’t know who Richard Attenborough is then go to IMDB and Wikipedia right this second. He is HUGE people HUGE. He is a legend of stage and screen. You may have seen him in Guns at Batasi, The Sand Pebble, Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison, the Jurassic Park films, the remake of Miracle on 34th Street or Elizabeth to name a very few. Behind the camera he has both produced and directed. His directorial debut was the musical Oh! What a Lovely War. Also to his credit, Gandhi for which he won the Oscar in 1982, the film version of A Chorus Line, Cry Freedom and Chaplin amongst others. The school sponsored an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” type filmed interview but our version of James Lipton was easy going. There was time for a little Q & A. There was a man who actually pitched Attenborough a film project during the Q & A. It was very inappropriate but amusing. Not the time or place mister. No. But Attenborough was most gracious about it. Listening to Attenborough was amazing. His stories and experiences are unmatchable. He talked about the industry and the craft of acting but he also gave us many personal stories. He talked openly about the death of his daughter and grand-daughter. He talked about how his hearing was severely damaged during World War II. He talked about his adopted sisters who came to England on the Kindertransport and lost their parents to a concentration camp. He talked about his friendship with Nelson Mandela. It was an inspirational afternoon. We were in the presence of greatness but we felt like we were listening to grandpa tells us some stories of days gone by. Later that evening there was a graduation and honors ceremony and the RSAMD presented Lord Attenborough with an Honorary Doctorate of Drama. Well deserved and well done!

The younger generation of stars was also represented on Thursday. Film star James McAvoy was on hand to receive a fellowship from the Academy. McAvoy graduated from the RSAMD in 2000 after successfully completing the three year undergraduate acting course. He has gone on to star in such films as Atonement, The Last King of Scotland and Wanted. He was a regular on British Television before Hollywood came knocking. McAvoy was instrumental in campaigning for funding when the RSAMD faced budget cuts earlier this year. This week he spent some time with the students as well. McAvoy guest lectured in the 2nd year actors’ film and television class and he also had an informal Q & A with all of us in the drama school. He talked about his experience at the RSAMD and how his life and career evolved after graduation. He gave us anecdotes from some of the various situations he’s encountered while navigating film sets and the industry as a whole. He was delightful; very grounded and real. I didn’t feel I was in the presence of a “celebrity”. I felt a working actor was telling us what it can be like out there; what he’s seen and experienced. It was a lovely morning with James McAvoy.

All and all I’d have to say Thursday was a good day. I mean, WOW! The rest of the week went well too. But Thursday was kinda the highlight. Don’t you think?

No star filled encounters are expected in the coming week. But we do present our scenes to the faculty on Friday! Showtime kids!! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Be safe my friends!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Animals and Psychosis

This was a very busy week followed by an even busier weekend. We filled the whole week with rehearsals, classes and seminars in Lecoq’s movement training and Alexander Technique.

What is Lecoq you ask? Well, it’s French for put a mask on your face and move! Jacques Lecoq developed a method of movement and physical theatre that is greatly respected and celebrated. Lecoq’s widow; Fay and son; François of The Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris were teaching at RSAMD this past week. The technique is very physical and uses mime, clown and mask work. I had heard of Lecoq’s work but really knew nothing about it until this past week.

Also this week was a master class in Alexander Technique given by Don Weed. F. Matthias Alexander was an Australian born actor that set out to find efficient ways of accomplishing movement and vocal tasks. The idea is to use only the energy needed to accomplish the task and no more. A lot of the focus is on body and breath awareness, finding the tension held and allowing it to be released thus resulting in greater focus and ease in performance. Good stuff!

Saturday some of my classmates and I went to a show. It was a performance piece (not a traditional play with a linear story). The piece was called: 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane. It was an interesting work and quite a technical achievement. When it was time for the audience to be seated we were led in groups of five, single file, holding on to each other’s shoulders. An usher headed our train and another brought up the rear. The ushers wore night vision goggles and we were taken in to complete blackness. Chairs were several feet apart and so we felt very isolated from our companions. We sat alone, in complete pitch with sound effects of street noises coming from the speakers (wherever they were) until the show began. The show was done in the round and incorporated lots of sound and lighting effects. The script was a poem and different voices read different segments via voice over. There was one performer on stage. The set was the frame of a house which made it look very much like a cage (in the round, so all four sides were built). The subject was mental illness. The performer illustrated various stages and effects of mental illness. He spoke very little as the voice overs were doing most of the narration. He gave a very physical performance. The end? Well, let’s just say he didn’t live happily ever after. It was very intense and not for the faint of heart. I have to say I have never been to a performance that was so engaging of the audiences’ senses. I can’t really say I liked it. Let’s be real here, it wasn’t the “feel good show of the year” but it did make a strong impression and was an experience I had never had in a theatre before.

Scene work continued this past week at school. The class is divided into groups of four and each group is working on Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov and scenes from a contemporary Scottish play. The wonderful thing about the contemporary scenes is that we have all had the opportunity to meet with the playwright of our piece and ask questions and receive guidance. This is a remarkable opportunity! How often does an actor get to consult the playwright while working on scenes?! My group is doing Mancub by Douglas Maxwell. It’s about an adolescent boy, Paul, struggling with the transition into manhood. It’s based on an American novel called The Flight of the Cassowary by John Levert. Paul finds he is relating to animals more than people, believes that he can converse with animals and also believes he sometimes turns into animals. So my scene partners and I decided that in order to really grasp this scene we needed to take a field trip, to the zoo!!

Sunday: Zoo Day! The zoo is in Edinburgh which is just an hour bus ride from Glasgow. First thing this morning we are off and running. The four of us had a blast today (and got a lot of exercise!) Lions and tigers and leopards! Oh my! Sorry, we didn’t see any bears today. We did see a lot of monkeys. The Spider Monkeys just recently had babies so they were all cute and cuddly and clinging to their moms. The Rhinos were having some kind of cage match that was very exciting. The camels were chewing and so were the zebras. The penguins marched up a path right past all of us silly human spectators. And the line at the café was ridiculously long. It was a fantastic time! Photos below!

Are Lucy and I at the zoo's gift shop or are we working on Lecoq technique?!

Stay safe my friends! More next week!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Flower Power through The Poppy Appeal

Tuesday November 11, 2008 is Armistice Day and marks the 90th Anniversary of the end of World War I. On November 11, 1918 the Allied forces and Germany signed a treaty to cease hostilities on the Western Front. This was the beginning of the end and peace was soon restored to Europe (for a little while anyway). Remembrance and reflection of the Great War and its individual stories has been a dominate feature in the British media and on the streets. News anchors and pedestrians alike wear a red poppy flower with pride. It’s The Poppy Appeal campaign and this fashion trend is sweeping across all generations and genders here in the UK. The Royal British Legion is responsible for this burst of color among the grey clouds and downpour of wintery sleet that hit Glasgow this weekend. They take up the causes of the veterans of Her Majesty's Armed Forces. According to their website:”The Royal British Legion provides financial, social and emotional support to millions who have served and are currently serving in the Armed Forces, and their dependants.” The campaign is simple: make a donation and receive a poppy to wear. We have a collection bank at the Royal Scottish Academy but I made my donation with a group of servicewomen collecting in the shopping district this past weekend. I have the utmost respect for those serving in our military and those serving with our allies, like the United Kingdom. In a time where the word “honor” is often used as a punch line it fills me with hope to see so many people wearing poppies. Our soldiers past and present have made extraordinary sacrifices and I for one am humbled and eternally grateful for the lifestyle I am at liberty to live because of their sacrifices. So I’ll wear my poppy with pride this week. And I encourage you all to give pause for a moment on Tuesday, Veteran’s Day in the US, and remember those that have served and those that still serve. Consider their sacrifices and those of their families. Go Poppy Power!

Tune in next week for adventures with Chekhov's Three Sisters. And find out if my professors are okay with me choosing to play a dog. From goddess to backyard barker; oh how the mighty have fallen!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

From Goddess to Insect: Halloween 2008

Halloween: A time of year where young women decide it is okay to look like a porn star in public. This custom seems to travel across the Atlantic. As for me, I prefer not to freeze to death.

I started my All Hollows’ Eve at the wall of Troy. My fabulous class gathered in the morn and rehearsed our ensemble piece. We ran it a few times, worked some trouble spots and returned from lunch ready for battle. Before our 2:15 showing to the rest of the school the cast did warm up exercises, team building games and had a general love fest that ended in a kind of spontaneous football huddle and a great big roar. It was truly an awesome feeling. The group has really gelled and there is a potent energy that runs through us with which we are all in tune.

The audience came in and took their seats. We preformed in a large open studio so there was no “off stage”. We were all just sitting and waiting. Our director made a few comments and then we started to sing a cappella a Tibetan song that ended with some really nice harmonies. Apparently we impressed the musical theatre students with our ability to create chords for cadence. We moved in to position and began. We all played various characters and some times traded off roles and some times two actors were playing the same character at the same time in a scene. I played a wall or the wall, I should say, the wall of Troy. Some people played waves of the ocean; that sort of thing. My featured part was the goddess Athena. I had a wonderful scene with another New York actress, Barbara who played Hera. We plotted the death of Troy. It was fun. The show was a success. People seemed to like our work. Our professors are pleased and so are we. This past week really kicked it up a few levels. There was some concern last week but the rehearsal process intensified and I believe we are all satisfied with the experience. So that’s it. Tory has fallen and we move on.

This week is research week and we have no formal classes. Part of the curriculum entails every student to complete a research project by the end of the year. The subject can cover anything that interests us regarding acting, theatre or The Biz. We have several one on one meetings scheduled this week to discuss projects and the program. I’m going to explore script development and the actor’s contribution to the final text. This will involve me writing a script and work-shopping it with the group and analyzing the process we will have with the playwrights this spring. I’ll let you know how it goes…

After we decimated Troy, it was time to party. One of our classmates was throwing a Halloween party at his flat and costumes were required. I don’t think too many of us had the time, money or energy to put into our costumes. It was a very intense week prepping for our presentation. I myself usually put a lot of effort into my Halloween costumes but not this year people. I went cheap and easy. And I don’t mean porn star. I went as a ladybug. It requires two pipe cleaners and some big dots made out of felt.Voila! Insta-bug! We had a great Halloween! Photo record below:

Tune in next time for more Melanie-mayhem! Have fun kids!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

International Men of Mystery and Greek Tragedy

Well, it stands to reason that as a single woman I might be curious about the courting habits of the native inhabitants of this strange and exotic land. So Friday night I got dolled up, grabbed my classmates and ventured into the wilds of a Glaswegian night on the town. Our safari took us to a pub known as a fantastic venue for spirited Irish bands. Here my fellow singles and I were able to survey the natives in their natural environment. The locale played host to a nice variety of ages and types. And we were excited about the potential of a whimsical and romantic night. The band took the stage, the coats came off, the drinks were bought and the flirting began. We danced with each other and laughed as we made eye contact with alluring Scotsmen from across the room. The team reconvened at intervals and discreetly pointed out prospects to each other. Opinions were shared. Eye contact continued. Smiles were exchanged. Then a turn away. A moment of focus was paid to the band after all, the drummer was very cute. Back to the floor. More glances, more smiles. We said to ourselves, “Any second now one of them will come over and buy one of us a drink or at least say ‘hi’.” The hours passed, the drinks were drained, the money was disappearing, our enthusiasm waning. Some of our party gave up and called it a night. And then the band announced their last song. And then the bartender rang the bell for the last call. But wait! The men! They haven’t approached us yet! We started to realize the potential was fading into the chill of the Scottish night air. The band finished. The coats came on and those of us who remained were turned out onto the cold, hard sidewalk of the mean city’s streets. But we were not broken. Oh no! Glasgow should know; Americans are not so easily defeated! We will be back! But not on Saturday. Not for me anyway. I do have other things to do after all. But some did go out on Saturday night and this time they took a secret weapon. They took a Glaswegian woman. They took a native friend and classmate; one familiar with the ways of the men bearing tartans. A great secret was revealed and passed on to me this very morning: Glaswegian men are often shy of women. They can be hesitant to approach them and if they do manage it, they are nervous to stay. A theory twice proved by friends who were finally approached by men and then quickly abandoned mid conversation for no apparent reason. Strange. And yet not. I can’t say that it so different in the States. Ah well. Maybe one day a man will be brave enough to say “hi”.

In the meantime, we are half way through our ensemble project based on the Iliad. I think it is safe to say most of us want more out of this project than we have so far. We have faith in our abilities as a group and want to incorporate more of our talents. We’d like to see more range in the vocals and movement. We’d like to utilize the rhythm of the text. We’d like to use some traditional Greek theatre techniques like the use of the Chorus. We want to explore more and get creative. There is some concern. But we do have another week of rehearsal. We present on Friday. We are hopeful and excited about the opportunity to show ‘em what we got! Monday’s rehearsal will tell us more.
Stay tuned my friends!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dress Code

This weekend was the first weekend I saw men in kilts. I was staring. I’ll admit it. I’ve seen them before of course, but it has always been in some sort of ceremonial context or a costume for a performance or international festival. But there they were walking the streets this weekend. Friday evening to be precise. A kilt topped with a shirt and tie. Just as if it was part of a suit, except there were hairy naked legs and then socks and shoes. It struck me as odd. It struck me as rather chilly actually. And it wasn’t just one man or a group of men. There were random sightings all over the city Friday night. I’m still trying to decide if I like the look. Not that the Scots care what I think. There are plenty of kilt shops around the city. Not tourist type shops, although there are those, but legitimate kilt shops like a gentlemen’s suit shop; a tailor. And some are very formal. Fancy stuff. But still, seeing them on the mannequins is different than seeing them walk down the street with a nicely dressed lady in tow. But this is nothing compared to what the young ladies wear…

Young teenage girls; 13, 14 maybe 15. Gaggles of them hit the town on the weekends, often Sunday evenings. Many of the local nightclubs have an underage night, usually Sunday. The adults make way, the taps take a night off and the latest remixes of top 20 bubble gum pop pump in rhythm from the DJ booth. And the girls arrive in their very own signature fashion. Neon tutus with matching leg warmers. I kid you not my friends! Neon yellow, neon pink, neon orange, neon green, neon blue TUTUS! And of course, matching leg warmers. Neon is very, very big among the younger set here in Glasgow and the girls don it in the form of stiff tulle. I have passed some shops that sell the fashion rage but so far I have resisted.

Big Thanks to Cindy Derby for the undercover photos!

That’s the report for now. I’m enjoying my new city and working hard in my new program. This coming week we begin our ensemble work based on Homer’s Iliad. So I’m off to study my Greeks. I’ll let you know how the Trojan Horse scheme turns out if you don’t already know. Be well my friends!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


No it’s not a catalogue number. That’s the program of which I am so gleefully a part. Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama - Master of Arts Classical and Contemporary Text. The program is structured in cycles.

First up, we are two weeks in voice and movement classes and text workshops. Our movement teacher, Mark, studied at Jacques Lecoq School in Paris so naturally we are getting some Lecoq training. Our last class focused on the human walk. Did you know there are seven major points in a step? As you emphasize certain points you start to develop a character. Good stuff. I had heard of Lecoq but this is my first venture into his technique.

Our voice teachers, and by voice I mean speaking voice, come from the Roy Hart/Nadine George approach. Relaxation is a big part of class. I so love relaxation! Recent exercises include supporting a deep, rich (sometimes scary) sound using all the resonators and speaking some really gory Greek text. Truly gruesome. And then we went for supper.

This past week our mornings consisted of text workshops. Really they were introductions to the playwrights we will be working with this year. We met with David Harrower, Douglas Maxwell and Linda McLean. These are three celebrated Scottish playwrights who are going to be working with us to develop three new plays. That’s write! They are scripting just for us! How cool! We are going to be developing new works with three truly amazing talents!

So what else is on the agenda you ask? Well, we have another week in this cycle and then the following week we move on to ensemble work. We are going to create an ensemble piece using Christopher Logue’s War Music derived from Homer’s Iliad. Then we move right into scene work from Chekhov’s Three Sisters and selected scenes from previously published works of the authors mentioned above. All the while we are working on individual research projects. So that will take us up to the Holidays and when we come back, it’s down to London to study Shakespeare at The Globe for a month. I know. It is so very cool. Jealous?

So that’s the plan my friends. In the meantime, I’m adjusting. There is much to read and research. I have not spent a lot of time out on the town but from what I can tell the choices for R&R in the evenings are pretty much this pub, that pub or the pub over there. So, I think I’m good in my room reading all these scripts. I did come for the studying after all.

But do not fear there will be plenty of adventures for your amusement! Ok, I’m off to War…Music. Wish me happy reading. Seriously, wish me happy reading because all the Scottish plays I have read so far have been really dark and depressing. Maybe it’s the weather.

More to come…

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Glasgow: First Impressions

Hello my faithful readers! Sorry to leave you all in limbo for so long. It took me ages to get connected to the internet in my new home.

I have arrived in Scotland. This is day eleven. The flight was uneventful (thankfully). Customs was a snap (thank goodness). My living quarters are on the fourth floor of a student complex; no elevator (good exercise, especially on move in day with three 70lb suitcases. Feel the burn!). Here is a quick comparison to my life in New York.

Weather: wetter
Walking: the same
Subway: cuter, smaller, not 24 hours
Prices: double (taking into account the exchange rate)
Food: not as accessible especially for my picky tastes and restricted budget (lots of fried food)
Pigeons: the same
Buildings: shorter, older, quite beautiful
Shopping: considering the amount of stores it’s actually kind of challenging. They close earlier and they don’t have the variety I am accustomed to finding. Lots and lots of clothes shops where I live. House wares seem to be harder to find.
Accent: Well they ain’t from Brooklyn are they! Some people are fine but sometimes when listening to people with really thick accents it sounds like another language; I really have to concentrate.

Naturally, there is an adjustment for me. Some level of culture shock. There are quite a few Americans in my program (including three New Yorkers) so it helps to have others going through the same things. But Glasgow is a lovely place with friendly people and so far it’s been easy to get around. And of course things with simplify and relax as I settle into my new life. I am very excited about the coming year and delighted and honored to be here and have these opportunities.

Classes are just starting this week. Last week was a series of orientation sessions. I’ll report more on the program next time. I will say we have 20 fabulous people who all seem ready and willing to work as an ensemble and maximize the benefits available to us. I am very much looking forward to working with these talented and dedicated individuals.

More to come…

Stay tuned!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Blog Is Born

Well, here it is my first blog entry. How very exciting.
I created this blog in an effort to share my upcoming adventure with interested parties. And to document my growth and experiences.
In eleven days I depart for grad school in Glasgow, Scotland. I will be studying acting at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD). Upon completion of the year long course I will be awarded a MA in Classical and Contemporary Text. There will be actors and directors in our program and we will be tracked accordingly as needed.
For those of you reading this who don't know; I have been living in NYC for the past eight and a half years. I have been training and working the day jobs, doing what I can to get experience and learn about The Biz, acting, myself, all that stuff. It's been a wild ride. I was there for 9/11, the Blackout of '03, the Transit Strike of '05; to name a few. And now it is time for a new chapter to begin.
I had a little boot camp this summer up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was very blessed to be a part of an acting intensive given by the Moscow Art Theatre School (MATS) aptly named Stanislavsky Summer School. It was an amazing experience that I highly recommend to anyone who has the chance to go.
Thankfully that gave us (by "us" I mean me) a taste of full time training again. Prior to the intensive I was working in a cubical in Corporate America doing what I had to do to pay the rent. In my off hours I took tons of classes all over NYC to keep up with my training and did an audition here and there. Along with MATS, you might see reference to The P.I.T. (The Peoples Improv Theater), HB Studio, AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy), Williamstown Theatre Festival, Converse (Converse College). These are all places I've trained; some full time, some class by class. And you may see reference to the Hayes, as in the Helen Hayes a Broadway Theatre currently hosting Xanadu (great show, go see it). I worked as an usher at the Hayes for the entire eight and a half years I lived in NYC.
So that's that. That's what this blog is gonna be about.
Right now I'm at my parents' home in South Carolina where I have shipped all my belongings from NYC. I am staring, overwhelmed at tons of boxes trying to figure out how to pack for the next year (or more) of my life. The program is a full calendar year but I don't know when I'll be back stateside. We shall have to see what happens...
So I'll keep you posted.
Tootles kids...