Friday, December 11, 2009

‘Dead in Scotland’ on YouTube!

Finally! The audio version of my play (and thesis project) ‘Dead in Scotland’ can now be heard (in four parts) on YouTube! Have a listen!

Take care!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Graduation: The End

Sorry for the delay in the blog posting. I admit I have been stalling. I was hoping to hear back from the music rights agency PRS regarding the ‘Dead in Scotland’ recording. I can’t post a link to it until I clear the rights for the intro and exit music we want to use. But alas, I have heard nothing. Thus, I cannot post it on this blog entry as I had hoped. Ah well. I will do so if/when I get the necessary permissions.

On to my report on Graduation. Most of the class was in attendance, one even came back from America where she had returned to resume her life on the showbiz scene in NYC. A few were absent from the ceremony and were missed. Most of those missing are off on acting gigs so no complaints there! Yea work!

We reported at two o’clock for a rehearsal then grabbed a bite to eat before changing into our nice clothes and robing up. Travelling to and from the Academy was a challenge as there was what appeared to be a hurricane outside. The wind and rain made a good hair day difficult to accomplish. Our robes were purple and the hoods were teal green for the drama school students. The music school scholars wore red hoods. The Student Union provided a professional photographer to take portrait style photos before the ceremony. Then we lined up in the hall outside the Academy Concert Hall. When the bagpipes began calling, in we marched looking like we were exploding with knowledge in our academic regalia. We had a seat. Next we were taught the Academy’s anthem, in Latin no less, and attempted to sing it while the faculty and honored guests processed in to take their seats. The handing out of the degrees was first on the agenda and our course was first up. After the bestowing of the degrees we had a speech from our principal. Then they handed out the fellowships to four distinguished guests and gave speeches about them. Then we had another speech from our Chairman. Are you getting the picture? Lots of speeches but no actual commencement speaker there to motivate the graduates. Oh well. Sprinkled in amongst the speakers were a few entertainments. We had a little Felix Mendelssohn played on the organ and actor Jack Lowden performed a speech from ‘A Servant of Twa Maisters’ in Scots (that’s a language) and I actually understood most of it! Then toward the end, some of the second year acting students gave us a little from ‘A Christmas Carol’. After, it was on to the Academy’s Cafe for a reception. We were there for a while talking with faculty, parents, guests, each other and taking lots of photos. Then, it was time to PARTY. One of our classmates, Lucy Goldie, has the most marvelous parents who offered up their home for the celebrations. This was the best part of the day. The Goldies are fabulous hosts and had lots of yummy food. Tony played the guitar and sang, sometimes we all joined in. Barbara and I did a little encore of ‘Dead in Scotland’, just a wee bit but I was shocked at how much we remembered. It was a lovely evening. And then it was home. That’s it. The end.

It has been a helluva year my friends. There have been ups and downs. There have been joys and heartbreak, failures and triumphs, disappointments and unexpected surprises. It has indeed been an adventure, artistic and excellent. I have grown. I have changed. I have learned not only about theatre, acting, writing and the business of show, but about myself. Most of what I learned this year has been about me. I have indeed graduated to a new level of understanding of me. I am ready. I am ready to close this chapter of my life and blaze forward into my next adventure. My future.

Thank you so much for following me on this journey. Writing this blog has been a fantastic way for me to chronicle my experiences these past months and to share them with whoever might be interested. I hope my blog has proved entertaining and interesting for all of my readers. For those of you considering (or currently on) the MA CCT course at the RSAMD, I hope it has helped you to decided if the course is for you and help you get the most out of your training and educational endeavors. If I ever do hear back about the music rights I will post a link to the audio version of ‘Dead in Scotland’. It was one of my successes this past year and I do hope I can make it available to you. Other than that possibility, I’m going to sign off on this blog and let it remain a tribute to this past year’s Excellent Artistic Adventure.

Thank you and Good Night!

Mark, Me and Joyce. Mark and Joyce are two of the faculty members who were involved in our course.

Me and Barbara


My Degree

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Guy Named Fawkes

Last Thursday was Guy Fawkes Day here in the UK. It is their version of the Fourth of July. The daylight hours did not show too much evidence of the national holiday but when the sun went down the sky lit up! Fireworks burst into the air from every corner of my neighborhood. This went on for hours and hours, well in to the night. My bedroom window overlooks the grassy quad between the backs of residential buildings and there were pods of sparkling parties going on for ages in there. And as I watched the display coming from my immediate neighbors in the ‘backyard’, there were dozens more fireworks bursting in the night sky that had been launched from the front side of the nearby buildings. The noise was incredible as it echoed off the stone Victorian structures that comprise my surrounding area. It sounded like we were under attack!

So who is Guy Fawkes and what is the UK celebrating, my American friends might ask. Well… As you may know from history classes in school or maybe the television series ‘The Tudors’, King Henry VIII of England broke with the Catholic Church during his reign in order to get rid of his first wife and marry his girlfriend. Seems the Pope was not going to grant an annulment and never would sanction a divorce, being Catholic and all. During the Reformation as it is called, Henry established the Protestant Church of England and declared himself the head honcho. This started a Catholic versus Protestant conflict that still has ramifications to this very day. After Henry died his Protestant son Edward took the throne but he was sick and didn’t last long. Next was his first daughter by his first marriage, the Catholic Mary I. Naturally, this thrilled the Catholics and upset the Protestants. Then, after Mary died, Henry’s second daughter from his second marriage the Protestant Elizabeth I came to the throne. She ruled for a really long time but since she never had any kids when she died they had to find somebody from the royal bloodlines to take the job. The task fell to the Protestant James VI of Scotland who became James I of England. He was already King in Scotland and now he was to be King in England as well. This is where Guy Fawkes and his crew come in. They were Catholic and were against having a Protestant King and country so; they hatched a plan called the Gunpowder Plot. On November 5, 1605 they were going to blow up Parliament and King James using twenty barrels of gunpowder. But here’s the rub; on November 4th Guy Fawkes got busted. In custody he was tortured and forced to give the names of his accomplices. Guy and his co-conspirators were executed on February 1, 1606. Now every year on the 5th of November the UK celebrates the spoiling of the Gunpowder Plot and the downfall of Guy Fawkes and his team. This holiday is especially big in Scotland because James I was after all a Scot, indeed the King of Scotland! So in celebration of Parliament and James not being torched, they try to set the neighborhood ablaze instead. Good times! Seriously though, the fireworks were lovely, for the first three hours at least.

Next Thursday is graduation. Finally! The official ceremony that brings this crazy adventure to a formal close. I’m looking to wrap up my blog after graduation but don’t worry, I’ll give a full report on the ceremony and festivities before I do!

Take care my friends!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Capitol Trip!

Last Thursday I traveled down to London for what became one of the best weekends of my life. My dear friend Hayley Anne invited me to stay at her’s for the Halloween weekend. I know Hayley Anne from a couple summers back when we both participated in the Moscow Art Theatre’s Stanislavski Summer School actor training program in Cambridge Massachusetts. She made her way to London last autumn to embark on a Master’s program for directors at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Hayley Anne lives in Notting Hill, made famous by the Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts film of the same name. It is official, I adore Notting Hill. It is the most fantastic neighborhood! There are fabulous cafes and restaurants and Portobello Road’s famous market. The houses are bright and colorful and it just feels good to be there. If I get to move to London, I’m going to try and make Notting Hill my home. However, starving artists types like me may find it challenging to find affordable accommodations in this little slice of heaven but I’d be quite happy with a broom closet! We shall see!

Friday Hayley Anne threw a Halloween party and I was able to catch up with our good friend Emma. Emma is from the London area and also attended the program in Cambridge, MA, two summers back. After a late but joyful night of crazy costumes, meeting new people and catching up with old friends we called it a night at about sunrise. Emma crashed with me in Hayley Anne’s living room.

Saturday Emma went with me to Camden Town to visit the delectable veggie restaurant I discovered on my last trip to London. It took a bit longer than we had anticipated because we got on a bus heading in the wrong direction. Oh well, we had a nice tour of London and did manage to get there eventually. Thank goodness for good company on the journey! Camden Town was insane; you could barely walk on the sidewalks. I felt like I was in Times Square again. This was due to it being Saturday and Halloween, I’m sure. We ate veggie food and then headed back. Emma and I parted ways on the underground as she headed off to friend’s party and I was to meet up with Hayley Anne to head to another celebration of our own.

Back at Hayley Anne central we ate Thai food and carved pumpkins. I hadn’t carved pumpkins in ages! I went with a traditional goofy Jack-O-Lantern face and Hayley Anne got fancy by carving a silhouette of a cat. Then back into costume for party: round two. Upon arrival at the host flat it was wall-to-wall people. I couldn’t believe how many people were crammed into the three bedroom apartment. We had to flatten out and wedge ourselves between people in order to migrate into the living room, which did provide a bit more space. It was another night that met the dawn and we finally got home and into bed just as the sun was coming up.

Needless to say, we slept fairly late on Sunday. I came to life before Hayley Anne and decided to go for a coffee at one of the groovy little cafes I saw around the corner. I was not unique in my Sunday morning coffee plans. There were many people in search of recovery aides from the night before but I managed to grab a seat on a comfy sofa near the window. I spent some time doodling script ideas in my notebook and engaged in a conversation about film with the local lad sitting next to me. Then Hayley Anne called me and off I went to meet her for afternoon tea. Afternoon tea, ha! I love the UK! We went to the Orangery restaurant at Kensington Palace in Kensington Gardens, just a short walk from Hayley Anne’s flat.

After tea, Hayley Anne had to head home and get ready for a wedding she was attending Sunday evening and I was off to meet my cousin, Lance and his wife Katie for dinner. Lance and I had not seen each other in about two decades, literally. We both just happened to be in London at the same time and available to have dinner on Sunday night. What are the chances?! It was a fantastic reunion! Lance is a professional opera singer and we talked shop and compared our ends of the showbiz industry and I got to know Katie and her passions as well. We had a delightful time and vowed to make our next meeting sooner than twenty years!

Monday I woke up in Hayley Anne’s living room to someone yelling, “Action!” When I stumbled to the window there was a mess of people on the street right outside the building. They were shooting a commercial for Rimmel cosmetics. Three models in short khaki trench coats kept walking down the side walk saying, “Get the London look.” It was kind of cool to have such a fantastic view of the filming but it gives you an idea of how repetitive the process can be. After about the seventeenth take I decided to give up and hop in the shower. Hayley Anne and I went out for lunch and then to a movie and then, that was it. I had to go get on a train and head back to Glasgow. Ah well, I couldn’t sleep in her living room forever now could I? So there you have it; a play-by-play of my wonderful weekend and perhaps more exciting than poetry about sheep. Photos below!
Take care!

Colorful Portobello Road in Notting Hill

Alice’s Antiques, one of the many places to purchase antiques on Portobello Road

Vendor stalls set up to sell antiques and other goods on Portobello Road

The street sign

A section of the Portobello Road Market is dedicated to food. Here is fruit and veg and cheese.

Pumpkins for sale!

Vintage clothing anyone?

I found Tacos in Notting Hill! Yummy! It’s been so long!!

Notting Hill’s travel bookshop featured in the film: Notting Hill

Hayley Anne and Emma at the Hayley Anne’s Halloween Party

Pumpkin carving complete! Masterpieces!


Me again; on the tube to Halloween party number two with a look at my full costume; The Chakra spectrum

Me and Lance and Katie. Family reunion!

“Get the London look.” Commercial shoot out of Hayley Anne’s window

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Life Goes On

This past Saturday was a trip to Edinburgh for a day of theatre. I went with a few of the folks from the new class of MA CCTs. At the Lyceum we saw the matinee performance of ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’ based on the story by James Hogg, adapted and directed by Mark Thomson. My class met Mark Thomson during our slew of sessions with professionals back in July, so it was good to see his work. In the evening we went around the corner to the Traverse Theatre and saw ‘The Dark Things’ by Ursula Rani Sarma. All of us found ‘The Dark Things’ to be very effective. It was an emotionally charged piece about survivor guilt. Both shows were heavy dramas but the mood was balanced by the delightful company of the day. Thanks guys!

Tomorrow I head down to London for a long weekend with friends. I am so excited! I love, love, love London! My good friend Hayley Anne has invited me for a visit and a Halloween party. It is sure to be a good time! I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

I recently received photos from our productions this past year. These are all professional photographs most of them taken by the RSAMD’s resident photographer Ken Dundas. Enjoy! -m

The Globe (London)-The RSAMD MA CCT class of 2009 gathers on stage for discussion with director Trevor Rawlins.

The Globe- The Winter’s Tale- A very pregnant Hermione and friend, Polixenes engage in innocent conversation.

The Globe- The Winter’s Tale – Hermione and Polixenes continue their discussion whilst jealous King Leontes looks on.

King Lear- Kent and Oswald come to blows.

Julius Caesar- Caesar takes the hand of his wife, Calpurnia at the Feast of Lupercal.

Julius Caesar- Calpurnia warns her husband to stay away from the Capitol.

Julius Caesar- Caesar relents to Calpurnia’s pleas.

Julius Caesar- Caesar and Calpurnia are interrupted by news of the Senators.

Julius Caesar- Calpurnia needs a drink.

Julius Caesar- A Messenger delivers a message to the Senate from Mark Antony.

Julius Caesar- Cinna the Poet tries to explain to the angry mob that she is not Cinna the Conspirator who helped kill Caesar.

Julius Caesar- Cinna the Poet faces an inevitable demise.

Julius Caesar- Messala comforts a distraught Titinius over the dead body of Cassius.

Julius Caesar- Titinius, inconsolable, kills herself.

Julius Caesar- A Reporter takes note of Rome’s new ruler, Octavius.

David Harrower’s Ashes Blood- Mother eats her lunch and meddles in her Son’s affairs.

David Harrower’s Ashes Blood- Mother endures while Father talks at her.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Please Report to the Alpha Deck for Orientation on Your Future

Oh my, Wednesday and I’m just now getting to the blog! Well, trust me when I say you haven’t missed anything. It’s odd being in this situation with nothing really going on. After a year of non-stop activity and expectations it feels very strange to have nothing pending. Oh, we need to find a job and write plays and workout and all that good stuff but it is very different from adhering to a schedule and requirements created by others. I feel like I was on a fast moving cruise ship with tons of activities arranged by a cruise director and now I’m just kind of floating in a dinghy by myself watching the ocean roll by.

The last few weeks have been very self reflective. I have been contemplating my life choices and assessing the options for action. It has been a very introspective time with a mixture of emotions; some positive, some negative. I can’t say I’ve come to any firm conclusions about any of it. There is a fog surrounding my future at present. I’m not sure what’s ahead but the thing about fog is; you know eventually it will lift and there is something on the other side that will become clear.

So in the meantime I will continue to think up metaphors to express my condition and float through the fog on my dinghy.
Take care!

Monday, October 12, 2009

All’s Well on the Northern Front

I have absolutely nothing to report. The peace between Scotland and England is holding strong. The days are getting shorter and the temperature is dropping. My cold seems to have dissipated. I am still looking for work and I plod on with my writing projects. All and all, very boring reading for you.

In lieu of having anything interesting to say, I’ll attempt some poetry for your amusement. Ahem:

Sunny the Scottish Sheep
By Melanie Ann Wiliford

There once was a sheep who was Scots.
He lived in a land that never got hot.
His silly old mum named him Sunny
And everyone thought it was funny.
He was always quite sad that all the herd laughed,
Any time that he ever walked past.
Until the day came he was grazing on grass
And caught him a glimpse of a bonny sheep lass.
Now she was just thrilled by the sound of his name
And duly declared he could chase off the rain.
And ever there after the sun always shined
And that is because Sunny’s heart is entwined.

Thank You, good night!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Afterlife

I am a tad delayed in getting up the blog post so I hope nobody was setting their watch by it. It seems it is time to welcome my first cold of the fall; or autumn as they say in this part of the world. The weather has turned from chilly to cold and I’m trying to assess what outerwear option best suits. I predicted I’d get sick after the course. It is to be expected with the pressure and drive dissipating and the body crashing. However, life goes on and I am hoping this indisposition will not detain me for long. I have stuff to do!

Last week I met the new class of MA CCTs. They are delightful and full of anticipation and excitement for the upcoming year. The faculty asked the class of ’09 to come in and talk to the class of ’10. We talked about our backgrounds, what we did for research projects, etcetera, etcetera. We had a session in a studio with all of us in a circle and the class of ’09 yapping away and then we had more casual conversation in the Academy’s café and at a pub later in the evening. I hope we were helpful. Their program will be amended to some extent because the faculty will implement some improvements after seeing the results of the inaugural year with our class. Indeed I’m sure the program will continue to evolve as they figure out the best way to arrange things so everyone gets the benefit. It will be a work in progress for the first few years of the course.

Many from my class are forging ahead with our lives. Most everyone is considering the various employment options we need to consider. A handful of us are working on writing projects and we are supporting each other by doing play reading sessions and meeting to bounce ideas around. We even had some from the new class come to a reading of a first draft by one of my classmates. It seems we are establishing our community to some extent. It is nice to enjoy this luxury now because it will inevitably be harder to maintain as people establish their lives and careers and are consumed by those responsibilities.

Graduation is a month plus away. The last of our America bound classmates departs for the colonies tomorrow. She’ll be back in November for the big day. It looks like we will only be missing one for the ceremony. Last year Richard Attenborough and James McAvoy were in attendance. I don’t think we’ll be so fortunate this year but who needs celebrities when you have trailblazers like us in the house. Woo who, MA CCT class of ’09!

Take care all!
See ya next week!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Someone, I won’t say who, sent an email asking why I didn’t get my blog posting up sooner. Well, I’ll tell you; I was very busy Sunday doing absolutely NOTHING! That’s right m’ dears, I am finished with all the course requirements for my Masters of Arts in Classical and Contemporary Text at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Hooray!!!!!

Last week was dedicated to writing the five final papers for the course that were due on Friday the 25th of September; the last day of the term. I was glued to the computer all week. It was worth it though because I was pleased with the final products. I hope the committee is pleased as well! Our assignments will be reviewed by a committee of academics who will hopefully approve the work and grant us the credits we need to obtain the degree. Graduation isn’t until November so they have allotted time for these reviews to take place. The papers were summative statements regarding the final modules and the course as a whole and we also turned in our research projects.

What a week! What a year!! I have, of course, been in reflection for the past week but I know the full impact of this experience will take time to comprehend. There were many challenges and many benefits. One would expect a combination of goods and bads when embarking on a journey such as this. I have grown as a person and as an artist. I have been introduced to a plethora of exceptional people, companies and subjects and learned new techniques that I can add to my actor’s toolkit. I have lived and studied abroad learning firsthand about Scottish culture, British culture and European culture. It has indeed been an eventful year.

As for the future; mine is wide open. I’m going to stay in the UK for a while and take advantage of the post-study visa offered to the Americans upon approval of our degree. Until I secure this new visa I will be residing under my student visa. Therefore, there will be a short delay before I can start to seek out work as a performer. I cannot be employed as such on my student visa and can only work a limited number of hours. When the committee has finished their review and if the results are positive, I can then apply for the two year post-study work visa. So in the meantime, I will be looking for part time employment and will continue to work on some writing projects I am keen to develop.

Next week some of our class will be meeting some of the new class. I have met some incoming students already at various events and through emails. Thursday the faculty has arranged a meet and greet for whoever is available. I plan on attending. If we can be ambassadors to those who follow us, the inaugural year, then I am happy to offer my assistance. I’ll try not to scare them too much!

Until next week…
Take care!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Preparations and Celebrations

Today is a day for celebrating! Last night was the last performance of our final shows for the MA CCT course at the RSAMD. I came back from Edinburgh at around 10:30pm and arrived to find my new neighborhood erupting with activity. Turns out moonrise last night brought Eid ul-Fitr or Eid for short. Eid celebrates the end of Ramadan for Muslims. Ramadan is a month of fasting and reflection where Islamic practitioners refrain from eating during daylight hours and Eid is the festival that marks the end of that period of devotion. It is a bit like Lent on the Christian calendar. As many in my local community are of South Asian decent, Islam is one of the major religions practiced in the area. The celebrations continue today and when I went to the grocery store I saw the streets are filled with people blowing party horns, children playing and silly string decorates parked cars and some people too! Everyone is dressed in their best clothes and the women and girls glitter in gorgeous salwar kameezes (a style of garment traditional in South Asia) rich in color and they are bejeweled in sparkling ornamentation from head to toe. Stunning!

The shows went well. On Thursday night I finally saw the other two offerings my classmates have been working on all this time. I thoroughly enjoyed their work and am intrigued with the stories. I can’t wait to see how these scripts develop and find out what happens! One in particular called ‘The Fever Dream: Southside’ by Douglas Maxwell is set on the Southside of Glasgow where I am making my new home. It was engaging to hear references to places to which I have recently been introduced and am looking forward to getting to know better. The future for these plays is bright and it was an honor to be a part of their beginnings.

I thought I would delve into what it was like for us before the shows each night. The shows started at 7:30pm or in the case of the Tron in Glasgow, 7:45. Fridays we were the second show to go on, around 8:45 or 9pm and Saturdays we were the first. The cast was allowed into the performances space for a warm up between 6 and 6:20 depending on the night. Each of us would have some time to do whatever we needed to do for ourselves. My standard practice is to start with some light yoga and other stretches. After I feel physically warmed up I move into a vocal warm up. This involves breathing exercises working the breathing mechanisms and focusing on breath control. Then I make some noise. I loosen up my lips and other facial muscles. I do some tongue twisters. I speak a little Shakespeare while focusing on the placement of the voice and breath support and I do the most annoying thing in the world, called “the siren”. This is what it says it is. I run up and down the scale of my voice by making and holding a siren sound at its height. I try to only do this twice because it is so loud and obnoxious. That is pretty much my individual pre-show warm up. It may vary a bit from show to show depending on what is required of me. After we all finished our own routine we came together and ran through a group warm up. This kind of thing varies from show to show, cast to cast. Sometimes there is no group warm up in a production but, with ‘Ashes Blood’ we had a standard practice. First was the number game. We would huddle together and try to count to 21 and then back down. The trick with this game is to not have people speak the same number at the same time. It is about group awareness. It’s about feeling the vibe of the group and learning to listen to each other even before anything is expressed vocally. Next we’d shake and stretch all the parts of our bodies to work out any kinks and get the things moving. Then we played a couple of games for energy and focus. In both Zip Zap and Red Ball, Blue Ball the players have to pay attention to each other and be ready to receive the zip or zap or the ball and then pass it on. After this preparation we usually retired to the dressing rooms to apply make-up and get into costumes and do a line run. The line run was a speed run. In a speed run we say the lines of the show and pick up our cues as fast and as accurate as possible. This warms up the text, gets us focused and energizes the piece. Then, show time! So there’s a little backstage tour for you from the actor’s perspective. Each production brings a different pre-show situation but most of the time there is an opportunity for some kind of warm up and it is most helpful for getting the mind and body ready for the performance.

This week we are all in solitarily mode as we work on our papers. I have about 11,000 words to write over the course of five papers and it’s all due on Friday at noon. The papers include summaries of the work on these shows, our staged reading at the Fringe, our viewing of shows at the Fringe, our discussions with the various professionals, our research projects and a summary of the whole year. It is a lot but it will be good reflection. However, with the deadline looming nigh, I’m going to sign off now and get busy!

When next I write, this whole thing will be over! Can you believe it?!?!
See you next week!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lovin’ London

Well, I’m back in Glasgow after a fabulous trip to London. We went to present our shows to the good people of Southern England. The shows went well enough I think. My first night on was Friday and the cast felt particularly pleased with our delivery. Both nights I had friends from the Moscow Art Theatre School in the audience which made it all the more exciting for me. In the summer of 2008 I spent six weeks in Cambridge, Massachusetts just outside of Boston participating in an amazing actor training program taught by master teachers from the Moscow Art Theatre School and there I met Hayley Anne, Emma and Germaine, all of whom came to support me this past weekend. Hayley Anne is on a Masters course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Emma is a native of the London area and Germaine just arrived to a post-graduate course at the London Academy of Music and Drama. Thanks for coming guys!! Love ya!!

Performing was only a fraction of the way I spent my time in London. Wednesday I went to Camden Town. Camden is a very unique area of London. It kind of reminds me of the East Village in New York. Camden is famous for Camden Market; an outdoor market where vendors sell their goods from stalls. Camden also has loads of other markets and areas filled with vendor stalls and booths as well as a large assortment of shops and food stands. If you are looking for funky gifts, imports from around the world, handmade jewelry, goth or hippie clothing, you have a good chance of finding it in Camden. I found the most amazing natural food/vegetarian restaurant right alongside the canal in Camden. The place is called the inSpiral Lounge. The food delighted my taste buds and the staff was the friendliest, most helpful bunch I have ever met. Go, eat and enjoy the guilt free yumminess!!

Thursday I went to the Royal Academy of Arts to view the J.W. Waterhouse exhibit. I have always been drawn to Waterhouse’s work but knew very little about him until my visit to the gallery. Waterhouse was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter who lived between 1849 and 1917 and was admitted to the Royal Academy of Art in 1871. He is known for taking his subjects from myths, legends and literature. Some of his favorites were female characters from Greek mythology, Arthurian legends and Shakespeare’s plays.

After my dose of art I needed my retail release and headed to Harrods. I love Harrods. There is nothing on Earth like the Food Halls in Harrods. I was able to pick up nearly a lifetime supply of my beloved rose tea and those amazing dates I mentioned last week. Oh yeah. Delicious.

Thursday night I was not needed on stage so I went to see some other people work. I went to the West End Musical ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’. Oh what fun! I adore the movie and had high hopes that the stage version would be just as entertaining. I was not disappointed. It paid homage to the film whilst creating a blissful experience of its own merit. The costumes, the set and the over the top characters made for a fabulous spectacle. The only thing serious about this piece of theatre was the seriously big budget they must have to put on the glitz and glam of that magnitude every night. If you are looking for something profound go somewhere else but if you are looking for ridiculous merriment in glorious Technicolor check out the party on stage at the Palace Theatre in the form of ‘Priscilla’. I loved every second of it!!

Friday I went to Covent Garden and Chinatown. Covent Garden has yet another market should you want to spend more money. I ran across a quartet of string players cranking out some classics with a whole lot of personality and an ice sculpture of the London skyline on display and melting in the afternoon sun. Then I meandered over to Chinatown for lunch. A red bean bun and veggie Lo Mein made for a tasty yet inexpensive meal. Then Back to Covent Garden to meet up with the aforementioned Emma. On the way I popped in to St. Paul’s Church. St. Paul’s Church is known as the Actors’ Church and inside are memorials to Charlie Chaplin, Vivien Leigh and many more notable performers and artists. Emma arrived and we sipped Starbucks and played catch up until I had to head back to the hotel to prep for my show. She collected Hayley Anne and all of us had a lovely visit after my performance. Good Friday.

Saturday I relaxed at our hotel in Hampstead until our show. Afterwards I caught up with Germaine. Then Sunday I boarded a train back to Glasgow. Overall it was a wonderful week. There were a few moments of stress surrounding the show but all and all, a fantastic trip. Now into the final stretch of the course! Many of my classmates seem a bit concerned about all the writing we have to finish. It is a lot and we are doing the shows right now which could lead to anxiety for people. I feel pretty comfortable with what needs to be finished but then, I enjoy writing. The shows are there (they'd better be, we’ve done four already!) so, I don’t think we need to be worried about them. I am looking forward to completing the final requirements and treading a new path into the future. We’re nearly there guys! Nearly there!

This week we play Edinburgh and that’s it. I will only be working with the group three more times. One tech rehearsal and two shows! Wow! The rest of the time I’m on my own to write the papers. Two weeks left in this our fourth and final term! I am so excited!

Below you can check out some photos I took in London and I’ll report next week on our Edinburgh run.
Take care!!

The famous Camden Market

Plenty to purchase in Camden Town.

Hungry? Veggie-licious inSpiral Lounge! Check out their website:

Waterfront shopping along the canal in Camden.

J.W. Waterhouse at the Royal Academy of Arts

Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre

London iced at Covent Garden

Gateway to Chinatown

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sold Out Shows and Leaving for London

Monday. Yes, I know. Last night was the first in my new digs and I don’t have my internet set up just yet. So today we are coming to you live from the RSAMD computer lab!!

Thursday our final shows opened here in Glasgow. Because the three shows are on a rotation I had the night off. Therefore, I attempted to go and see my classmates present their work but alas, to no avail. SOLD OUT!! I missed the shows yes, but this is GOOD!! Very good that people want to see them! I’ll have a few more chances, but that being said, I should make a reservation just in case our luck continues! Friday and Saturday were also sold out so, those of you wanting to see the shows in London or Edinburgh may want to act accordingly.

Friday was opening night of my show, ‘Ashes Blood’ by David Harrower. We were pleased with our performance as were the director, playwright and attending faculty. The audience seemed to enjoy themselves as well. Saturday was the end of the Glasgow run and now we are off to London.

London. Most of us are taking the train tomorrow afternoon. We have the same schedule at the Hampstead Theatre as we did here in Glasgow at the Tron. I’ll be on Friday and Saturday nights and some time on Wednesday we will have a technical rehearsal to set the lights et al. in the new space. I’m in debate about how to spend the rest of my time in London. There are always shows to see and I think I may have to go back to Harrods to restock on rose tea and the most amazing dates I’ve ever had. Then, on Sunday, back to Glasgow and a short rest before the the final curtain comes down in Edinburgh the following weekend.

And that’s all folks! We are nearly at the end. Post Edinburgh there will of course be a mad rush to finish the five writing assignments due before the end of term but then, afterwards we will be turned out into the big bad world. Well, I’ve been there before but this time I will be in Scotland. I will be finding my feet and establishing my life here in this country. I am still learning how things work here and the cultural differences. I am American and sometimes painfully aware of it but, it’s exciting and challenging. I reflect how long it took me to settle into the New York way of life when I first moved there. It will take time. More than a year, most definitely but, what a glorious opportunity with all there is to experience.

Okay, next week it may be Monday before I post again as I will be traveling on Sunday but, I’ll let you know how it goes in London.
Take care my friends!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Moving Madness and Production Propaganda

Today was moving day. Did I mention I’m on a fourth floor walk up? Whew! It was a workout! I brought all my stuff down from the top floor but thankfully I had help from there on out! My classmate and fellow Liberty dwelling American, Phillip met me at the bottom of the MC Escher drawing I had to climb down and helped me get my possessions into Tony’s van. Tony is another classmate who volunteered his time, physical effort and van to move Phillip and me to Glasgow’s Southside. We dropped Phillip’s belongings off at his new digs first. Phillip is moving in with yet another classmate, Mitchell. After stop number one, we moved the van around the corner to my new place and all three strapping young lads helped me move into the third floor of my new building. So Mitchell, Phillip and Tony, THANK YOU!!!! The next round is on me my friends!

It is surprising the amount of stuff one can squeeze into one’s living quarters. I haven’t purchased too much since my arrival but I definitely brought more than needed over from the States. As the boys indulged me while I hung up a few things in my new wardrobe, I heard, “Melanie, I’ve never seen you wear that.” over and over again. It’s true. I brought a few things I have yet to wear. But you never know…

I’m back at good ‘ol Liberty House tonight and for the rest of the week. I left a few easily transportable essentials behind and will be residing here for the upcoming week. I’ve got another two weeks before they chuck me out of my dorm room and the location is much more convenient to the Academy and to the Tron Theatre, where we will be performing this weekend. I just wanted to get most of my stuff moved over before I get wrapped up in production week.

Show time! That’s right dear readers; our final shebang is upon us. This week we perform here in Glasgow at the Tron, then to London and then Edinburgh. Below are the dates and details. These are being billed as “platform productions”, meaning they are works in progress. The writers are still developing these scripts and we will only be presenting an hour’s worth of material. The productions are minimal; not a lot of bells and whistles. It’s just us on stage with a few bits of set, props and so forth. There are three shows with two shows being presented per night on a rotation. I’m in ‘Ashes Blood’ by David Harrower and you can catch that one on Friday and Saturday nights. If you are in Glasgow, London or Edinburgh, come check us out!

That’s all for now. I need to go to bed and recover from all those stairs!

See you next week!
Take care!

GLASGOW - Tron Theatre
Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 7:45pm
Friday, September 4, 2009 at 7:45pm
Saturday, September 5, 2009 at 7:45pm
Price: £6 (£4)

Tron Theatre
63 Trongate
Phone: 01415524267

LONDON - Hampstead Theatre
Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 7:30pm
Friday, September 11, 2009 at 7:30pm
Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 7:30pm
Price: £6 (£4) (we think?!?!)

Hampstead Theatre
98 Avenue Road
Phone: 02077229301

EDINBURGH - Traverse Theatre
Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 7:30pm
Friday, September 18, 2009 at 7:30pm
Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 7:30pm
Price: £6 (£4)

Traverse Theatre
10 Cambridge Street
Phone: 01312281404

One Academy Productions presents:

A collaboration between the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland.
Actors and directors from the Academy’s MA in Classical and Contemporary Text present three specially commissioned works in progress by three of Scotland’s most distinguished contemporary playwrights:

Fever Dream: Southside by Douglas Maxwell
With Queens Park closed for a murder enquiry and the temperature soaring in the surrounding area, it sometimes feels as if everyone on the Southside of Glasgow has gone insane as the world starts to swirl around them blurring religion, race, time and reality.

Reminded of Beauty by Linda McLean
Things take an unexpected turn for three families living in the heart of the city.

Ashes Blood by David Harrower
A family-run coach firm has fallen on difficult times – amidst this, the handover from one generation to the next is underway.

Performance Schedule:
Thursday: Fever Dream: Southside & Reminded of Beauty
Friday: Reminded of Beauty & Ashes Blood
Saturday: Ashes Blood & Fever Dream: Southside

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Flat Found and the Vocal Variation

I am pleased to announce; I have found a place to live! What a relief! I can now stop scouring the internet for ads and running around town looking at places. Ah, to have my free time back for stuff like research projects and summative statement term papers. Thank you!

The flat is on Glasgow’s Southside and is home to a lovely couple and their two cats. She’s an artist and a business woman, he’s a musician and songwriter and the cats, well, they must be creative if they live in that environment. It’s a good size place on the top floor in a Victorian tenement building. In my search I have seen a few flats in these kinds of buildings. The top floor flats are often two levels and this is no exception. The couple’s quarters are upstairs and my room is down. There’s an eat-in- kitchen, dining room and living room and a bathroom up as well as down. I have a feeling it is going to be a wonderful home for me. Oh and here is the craziest thing: the mister is the cousin of my classmate Eric; the new dad and our Julius Caesar! Small world, eh? We had no idea we had this connection as I just found this place on a website called Gumtree. But we were standing in the kitchen and I saw on the wall Eric’s name under an arty photograph of trees. Eric was a professional photographer before he came to the RSAMD but I thought, "Surely it is not the same Eric." However, when I mentioned it and we got to talking, lo and behold, it is the very man! So, as you can see, it is simply cosmic fate that I’m moving into this place.

Earlier this week the ‘Dead in Scotland’ crew hit the recording studio. It was a fantastic experience. I think I have found a new love in the form of voice acting. Producing this recording was the crux of Barbara’s research project. Neither one of us had ever done any voice acting or recording of any kind and Lauren had never directed for the medium. So we three were total novices in the studio. Thank goodness for Bob Whitney the engineer at the RSAMD studio. He was an absolute delight and made us all feel at ease. We couldn’t have asked for a more professional, more expert source than Bob to guide us through and make us sound fabulous. Thanks Bob!

The recording itself was finished in one day. We were very pleased at our timing. We had the whole play recorded by lunch and after the break all we needed to do was some clean up. Our production and rehearsal history with the piece aided in our efficiency. Over all we are quite happy with the recording. Of course there are parts, as an actor, you think, “Oh I wish I would have delivered that a bit differently.” However, this was our first time doing anything like this and that was the point, to learn. It is amazing how things read differently when you take out the visual but, we adapted very well to the new performance medium. So much of what happened on stage came from Barbara and me having eye contact with each other. We didn’t have that in the recording studio. We had to keep our heads forward and speak into the microphone. This meant our communication with each other, our ‘actions’ all had to happen with the voice. That’s why Lauren was there in the booth listening. She was essential for keeping our intentions true and clear. There wasn’t a feeling of pressure on the process. It was relaxed and enjoyable. If we flubbed a line we just paused and did it again. The sound effects were fun too. Bob laid down wooden boards for us to tread on in our nosiest shoes. We had tea cups and spoons to lightly clank, papers to rustle and so forth. Some effects Bob added in post (afterwards).

In the near future I will be posting the play for your listening enjoyment. We are working on some music for the top and tail. We can’t just use whatever we like because of copyright infringement issues but my friend James in New York has volunteered to write some original tunes that I can use free of royalty charges. Thanks James!! As soon as we get that sorted out I’ll make it available if you want to have a listen.

Onward ho! The upcoming week is Fringe free and we are all about our shows. We have eleven days until opening night. My show is in a good place but it is time to really focus and bring this baby up to the standard we want to present to the world. And we will.

See ya next week!
Take care!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Search for Shelter and Fringe Favorites

Amongst running off to the Fringe and rehearsals for our productions in September and the cooing over baby pictures, there is the matter of needing a place to lay my head at night. The flat the five Americans saw a couple of weeks back didn’t work out for a myriad of reasons. And I am the last man standing; the last one out of our displaced fraction that still needs to secure shelter. Okay, yes, it hasn’t been fun. But I have seen a bit of the city and a smattering of possible living conditions. It has been interesting. There’s the silver lining. And the good news is, I have two more weeks to figure it out. Appointments for viewings are scheduled and emails are out on other leads so, it will happen. I’ve moved a million times in the last decade of my life and this is just another one to add to the list. I’ve lived with people, without people, in basements, top floor walk ups and places that resembled caves more than apartments. NYC has trained me well for the expense and insanity of urban living. So ya know what? It’s all good.

In other news: The Fringe has kept me busy this past week. I’m gonna take this opportunity to plug some productions. Below are the details taken from the Fringe website for a handful of offerings that I’ve seen and so should you. Save one; I have not actually seen ‘Crush’ yet but I am hatching a plan to get over there. The reviews were good but of more significance; it was written by our new friend Paul Charlton. You may recall Paul’s name as he was one of the slew of professionals that came and chatted with our class at the start of term.

Okay. They are:

‘Midsummer’ This show was just amazing. The script, design, directing and acting were all top shelf. Truly one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. The bad news is; I think it may be sold out. If you can trade a kidney for a ticket on the black-market, do. It’s worth it!

Midsummer (A Play With Songs)
It's Midsummer's weekend in Edinburgh and the screwed-up lives of thirtysomethings Bob and Helena are about to collide. A 'warm-hearted, beautifully sculpted musical romantic comedy' - ****(Scotsman). By David Greig and Gordon McIntyre.

warning: Latecomers will not be admitted
Adult themes
venue: Traverse Theatre
group: Traverse Theatre Company
category: Theatre
related link:
duration: 105 mins

‘Beachy Head’ Molly, a friend of a friend, recommended this show and I’m so glad we took her advice! The subject matter was intense but very well handled. Kudos to the playwright! The ingenious design alone is worth the price of admission. It just goes to show, that we don’t have to be limited by budget, space and portability issues if we just think outside the box and get creative. And the performances were strong and well delivered. Go see it!

Beachy Head
World premiere
Fusing text, animation and physical performance, this follow-up to Analogue's 2007 Fringe First-winning hit 'Mile End' - 'Neuron-firing, emotionally hot-wired theatre' (Metro) - explores the ripple effects of one man's decision to take his life.

venue: Pleasance Dome
group: Analogue/The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich/Escalator East to Edinburgh
category: Theatre
related link:
duration: 80 mins

‘Crush’ The one I haven’t seen yet but I hear good things! Paul Charlton wrote it and we want to support it! Go and save me a seat!

World premiere
Fringe First Award winner Paul Charlton's moving new play explores the nature of modern obsession set against the backdrop of a fractured but loving relationship. 'An absolute joy' - **** (Scotsman on 'Love, Sex and Cider').

venue: Underbelly
group: Iron Shoes in Association With the Tristan Bates Theatre
category: Theatre
duration: 60 mins

‘G3 - The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek’ Paul can be seen onstage in this one along with another new friend from the professional chat sessions, Graeme Rooney. This show is a fine display of sketch comedy. Lots of laughs and ridiculousness. Check it out! Lots of fun!

G3 - The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek
World premiere
Hysterical sketch comedy. Great characters, surrealism, silliness, 80's power ballads and 90's icons. With individual comedy credits from 'Little Britain' to 'Run Fatboy Run' not to mention a Fringe First - guaranteed hilarity!

venue: Just the Tonic @ The Caves
group: G3 - The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek
category: Comedy
related link:
duration: 60 mins

Jake Yapp: ‘Hallo, Music Lovers!’ and ’Free at Four’ Jake flyered me. That’s Fringe speak for: I was walking down the street and Jake stopped me, handed me a flyer for his show and told me I needed to come. Well, he sold me and I went and had a fantastic time. Jake plays an assortment of instruments, sings original parody songs of the modern music scene and even does some mime. The two shows listed below have different content but are equally funny so you should go see both to get the full Jake Yapp experience. Besides, one is free. What’s stopping you? Go now!

Jake Yapp Presents Hallo, Music Lovers!
World premiere
Fans of Lily Allen, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Jay Z, stay away from this cheerful desecration of musical 'greats'. Exclusive, new material. 2008 reviews: 'rare gem' (ThreeWeeks); 'Inventively funny' (Scotsman); 'Diamond-edged wit' (

warning: Not suitable for under 16s
venue: Just the Tonic @ The Caves
group: Jake Yapp
category: Comedy
related link:
duration: 50 mins

Jake Yapp's Free at Four
World premiere
Sony Comedy Award nominee Jake Yapp's cash-conscious show for discerning freeloaders. Songs, sketches, stand-up, and all free. May contain bum notes. 2008 review: 'Intelligent wit and a dry and dirty sense of humour' (ThreeWeeks).

warning: Not suitable for under 16s
Some saucy language
venue: Madogs
group: Jake Yapp/PBH's Free Fringe
category: Comedy
related link:
duration: 50 mins
This event is free and not ticketed.
Admission is on a first come first served basis and is subject to availability.

Visit: for more on the Fringe.

More on Melanie madness next week!
Take care!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Frolicking at the Fringe

This past week and in the coming days it is all about the Fringe. And I don’t mean the tassel trim on the edge of your curtains. I’m talking about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. It was first established in 1947 and is called the Fringe because it happened on the outskirts of the Edinburgh International Festival. It was meant to be an alternative or an addition to the International Festival; an opportunity for more artists to present their works outside of the International Festival but tapping into the same prospective audiences. It has grown into such a phenomenon that many people hear about the Fringe before they learn anything about the International Festival. Performers come from all corners of the globe to present their goods at the Fringe. Audiences from around the world also flock to the city of Edinburgh to enjoy these offerings. The festival lasts through most of the month of August and during this time the city is absolutely mobbed with visitors partaking in the Fringe. If you ever want to come make sure you book your accommodation early! It is impossible to find an Edinburgh hotel with any vacancies in this time of year.

As part of our course we have been given tickets to see a smattering of shows and forums during the festival. As there are over 2,000 shows available for viewing at the Fringe there is obviously a variety of styles and varying levels of quality. So far we have seen everything from excellent to can-I-have-those-two- hours-of-my-life-back-please. It is to be expected, with so many you are going to get the good, the bad and the ugly. And one person’s nap time is another person’s inspiration. That’s life upon the wicked stage.

Tomorrow we present our own contribution. A reading of a new play called “Smoke” by a new writer called Little Fierce. Yes. There you have it. It is very… avant-garde. I can’t really explain it. It is not a traditional script. It is very, different. I play a cat among other parts. We shall see. I have a 9:30am call tomorrow for this project so I’ll leave you now but not without a few photos.


Fringe website:

The first “show” we saw was at The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. It was an audio recording of a play we listened to as we walked around the gardens on a specific route mapped out for us. It was a lovely day for a stroll around the gardens. The play was “Susurrus” by David Leddy.

This is a cat that was wandering about the Botanic Garden. I studied him in the name of character development for my part in the reading “Smoke”.

Our reading will be here at the Mock Turtle on Monday morning.

Rehearsal at the Mock Turtle for the reading: Matt looks clueless, Tony and Eric discuss what’s about to happen.

The Royal Mile slammed with people here for the festival.

Street performers on the Royal Mile.

More street performers.