Monday, April 27, 2009

Karin Came A-Callin’

I’m posting on Monday this week for a very good reason. I had a visitor all weekend. My dear friend Karin came to visit. She spent the first leg of her trip in London and then hopped a plane up to Scotland for a few days. It was a whirlwind weekend covering Edinburgh and Glasgow. I took tons of photos, so instead of boring you with words I’ll share with you our beautiful and busy weekend. Enjoy!

Saturday: Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens and the Scott Monument named after Sir Walter Scott’s novel Waverly. This dark spire covers a statue of the writer. Admission can be purchased and a spiral staircase leads visitors to the peak observation deck 200 feet up.

St. Giles’ Cathedral is the High Kirk (Church) of Edinburgh. This breathtaking structure has welcomed worshippers since 854 AD. The building has been through a lot over the years and the architecture seen today is primarily 15th century.

Salisbury Crags sits in the backyard of the Queen’s Holyrood Palace. And yes, it is open to the public and yes, we went up there. It was a workout but totally worth it!

The view from atop Salisbury Crags.

Holyrood Palace former home of Mary Queen of Scots. Edinburgh seat of the current Queen Elizabeth.

The ruins of Holyrood Abbey adjacent to the Palace.

Me at the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the most faithful dog that ever lived (see last week’s blog for details).

The famous Edinburgh Castle.

Sunday: Glasgow

The Glasgow Cathedral. A tomb in the lower part of the cathedral is dated 603; just to give you an idea of the history found here.

The Glasgow Necropolis is located behind the cathedral and is an old and spectacular graveyard on a hill overlooking parts of the city.

I snapped a photo of Karin as we took a stroll through the necropolis.

On our way from the east side to the west side we stopped in City Centre to watch one of my favorite street performance groups ‘Clanadonia’. It doesn’t get much more Scottish than this!

In Glasgow’s West End we took a walk through tranquil Kelvingrove Park.

The Botanic Gardens were blossoming this past weekend.

The Botanic Gardens’ greenhouses were every bit as lovely as the outdoor grounds.

Karin is on her way back to New York as I write this. I hope she enjoyed the weekend as much as I did. Many of the sights were ones I had yet to see myself!

This week at school we continue to rehearse King Lear and Julius Caesar and we have term papers due on Friday! Arggh! I better get busy since this past weekend was all about frolicking and fun and I didn’t get a thing done on my assignments! Off to work!

Take care!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Trip to Edinburgh; Boldly Going Where Plenty Have Gone Before.

Yesterday I went to Edinburgh to see a play at the King’s Theatre. Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital and second largest city. Trains run between Glasgow and Edinburgh frequently throughout the day and it’s very easy to get there. The train takes less than an hour and is a lovely trip through the Scottish countryside. Along the way are rolling green hills, ruins of what were once grand buildings, picturesque villages and lots of sheep. After witnessing this live action postcard, the train delivers passengers right to the center of the city. Edinburgh is absolutely breathtaking. I’m kicking myself for not taking my camera but I’ll be back, armed and ready for visual documentation. Edinburgh is a mix of the ancient and the modern “Old Town” is an absolute must for any visitor. It is in this section of town where one finds the famous Edinburgh Castle. All of “Old Town” sits higher than the rest of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle is found on the highest point overlooking the rest of this amazing city. Walking through “Old Town” made me feel like I was in a movie. Cobble stone streets host clusters of stone structures from centuries past and an assortment of glorious cathedrals and churches reach for the heavens.

I stopped to pay homage at the resting place of Greyfriars Bobby. Greyfriars Bobby is the name given to one of the most faithful pups that ever existed. Bobby was a Skye Terrier whose master, John Gray died and was buried in the graveyard of Greyfriars Church in 1858. Bobby sat at his master’s grave everyday thereafter. He stayed by John Gray’s grave, only leaving for food, until his own death in 1872, fourteen years later. Fourteen years! The community folk took turns feeding and caring for Bobby and upon his on death he was buried in the front yard of the church. He could not be buried next to his master because there were regulations regarding animals and people being buried in the same area of land but, they got him as close as they could. A stone marks Bobby’s grave and the pub outside the church gates is aptly called Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar. In front of the pub there monument dedicated to Bobby and atop the stone column is a statue of this darling dog. Visiting this legendary spot was an emotional moment for me as I am a fierce lover of pooches great and small.

Before the puppy love however, there was a show. I saw ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Beckett. Beckett can be challenging to follow. His work is not really what one would call straight forward. I can’t really tell you what the play is about. It is all up to interpretation. There are about a million and one explanations of the meaning of the play. Have a Google and you’ll get the idea. What happens is this: two guys who don’t seem to have the greatest life show up everyday by the same tree and wait for someone called Godot. While they wait two others, a master and his servant, come and chat with them for a bit. That’s all I can tell you. The rest is all about the figuring out of it. And frankly, I’m still working on that. But I took a train to go see this show for two reasons: Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. When these two men are starring together on stage you get your train ticket and go. They were phenomenal, of course. Two of the greatest actors of our time, most definitely. And they were joined by Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup. Simon Callow is always a treat. I was not familiar with Ronald Pickup until yesterday but he was an actor not at all out of his element with these heavy-hitters. It was wonderful to see them all in action.

Monday I saw a much smaller production. Back at my favorite lunchtime theatre pub Oran Mor, I saw ‘The Deep’ by Jon Atli Jonasson, translated by Graeme Maley. This was a one man show about a young fisherman who is the only survivor of a shipwreck. It is a true story based on the playwright’s own experience and it starred the fabulous Liam Brennan. Liam, you may recall, led some Shakespeare workshops with our class right before Christmas break. He did a fantastic job in ‘The Deep’! One person shows are always a challenge because there is no cover. The actor is on stage alone and totally responsible for whatever happens. But no worries, because Liam is an absolute pro and was a delight to watch!

In other news, we dove into King Lear and Julius Caesar this past week and are off to a great start. I am enjoying our directors and their ideas for the pieces. In the coming week we continue on with rehearsals and have a voice workshop with Nadine George, the founder of the vocal technique they teach at the RSAMD.

Tune in next week to see how we got on!
Take care!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Preparing for Post-Break Productions and a Glimpse of Glasgow

My time at Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland has come to an end. I thoroughly enjoyed working with PSS; a fabulous organization run by fabulous people. I finished there on Thursday. This weekend I’ve been trying to wrap up as much homework and preparation as I can before going into the three show mania that awaits me after the break; King Lear, Julius Caesar and my research project show. All three will be in rehearsal at the same time so it is important that prior to Tuesday I get as much of the ground work laid as I can. I am also trying to complete any other assignments; such as my summative statements for the Hedda Gabler work and the PSS placement. They aren’t due for a few more weeks but when will I have time later?! It’s gonna get crazy but I am very excited!

Today I wanted to show you a bit of Glasgow. What you see below is just my stomping ground; just a small fraction of a big city. These are the places and sites I see pretty much everyday. Enjoy!

Gallery of Modern Art

One of the ‘gates’ to Merchant City

Boy Band: street performers are everywhere on the high streets

Sometimes you need to look up to appreciate the amazing architecture in Glasgow

Busy shopping day on the high street called Buchanan Street in Glasgows City Centre

The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama

Cineworld: The multiplex cinema where I like to unwind

Glasgow’s seat of government, City Chambers

Tune in next week to see how Shakespeare started! Take care!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

New Plays, Old Plays

This week I saw two new works and dove into some that have been around awhile.

First up was a lunchtime entree at Oran Mor. Oran Mor is a very groovy pub here in Glasgow that hosts a lunchtime theatre program called; A Play, a Pie and a Pint. Now when I say ‘pub’, let me be clear that this is not your standard watering hole. Oran Mor means ‘great melody of life' and is housed in a beautiful building that originally served as a church. It is a gorgeous and unique structure that accommodates theatre goers, diners, weekend partiers and even wedding guests. The upper floor is available for bookings and many a wedding and various other events have taken place in the one time sanctuary with colorful stain glass windows, stone arches and a celestial ceiling mural by Alasdair Gray. On the ground floor is the Whisky Bar that stocks over 250 malts. Thirsty? Downstairs is where you can catch a show or go to a rave. The times I have been there it has been converted into a performance space. But it’s my understanding that some nights there is a band jammin’ away and a dance floor full of people boogying their cares away.

A Play, a Pie and a Pint is just what it says. You pay for a ticket and get a play, a pie (savory meal pie, like a quiche, not peach pie a la mode) and a pint (of beer). You find a seat, have your lunch and then relax and enjoy a piece of theatre for an hour or so. Good deal! Monday premiered David Harrower’s latest work ‘Lucky Box’. Mr. Harrower, as you may recall, is the playwright working with me and five other of my fellow classmates to devise a new play for performance in August/September. ‘Lucky Box’ was a cast of two; a middle aged man and a teenage boy. The man had a few questions for the boy. I don’t want to say too much more as the play had many twists and turns and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone wanting to see it. But I will say, it wasn’t a comedy! It was a dark story but interesting to watch with lots of surprises!

Thursday evening I went to see a play at the Citizens Theatre. The Citz is a lovely traditional theatre space. We saw a new work called ‘Be Near Me’ adapted for the stage by Ian McDiarmid based on the novel of the same name by Andrew O’Hagan. The novel is very famous and much loved here in Scotland. And the atmosphere in the talk back Q & A after the show suggested that people felt the stage play did the book justice. The story revolves around Father David Damian who is assigned to a new parish in the small Aryshire town of Dalgarnock. It is a troubled region with high unemployment and domestic difficulties. Father David finds himself transfixed on the lives of two delinquent teenagers as they explore a debaucherous life that he has never experienced. Father David was portrayed by the play’s adaptor Ian McDiarmid who fans may recall from the Star Wars films. He played Darth Vader’s evil mentor; The Emperor. No trace of the evil Emperor in 'Be Near Me'. Just an outstanding delivery of Father David by a most accomplished actor. Indeed, the entire cast served the show very well. And I might add, that many of them are RSAMD grads! ‘Be Near Me’ is a co-production of the National Theatre of Scotland and the Donmar Warehouse. It will move on after its run here in Glasgow and continue to tour the UK. If you get a chance, I recommend going to see it! Good stuff!

The rest of the weekend has been filled with our old friend William Shakespeare. I have been reading Julius Caesar and King Lear and hashing out my five character lists. These too are deep, dark pieces of theatre. I love it but man, I need to see a comedy! If I get some more work done on these and other assignments, I may treat myself to a movie tomorrow. Something light and fluffy, please!!

In the meantime, on we plow! Enjoy the spring holidays everyone!!
Take care,

For more on the Citizens Theatre visit:

For more on ‘Be Near Me’ visit:

For more on Oran Mor visit: