Everything Old is New Again

I’ve been house-sitting for about 6 years, and for most of that time those belongings that don’t fit in my car as I move between houses have been stored in a unit in Aspley. Whenever I need something I go rummaging in the bags and boxes, and when I decide there are books, or clothes or whatever that I won’t be needing for a while, I stuff them back into the storage unit.

As a result, it has become pretty messy, and while I wait for my thesis to come back from my son the proof reader I have nothing better to do (apart from developing a new clown act) than clear out a few bags and boxes, sort through them and generally tidy up.  So far I’ve managed to reduce the number of bags from around 20 to 6, and the filing boxes from 5 to 3.  And I still haven’t thrown out all my thesis research files…

So! It’s been quite fun, if hot and sweaty work. I’ve rediscovered old friends, like all the universal adaptors that I had to buy every time I travelled abroad because I couldn’t find the ones from the last trip. I found the loan documents for the car, and discovered I’ve still 3 years to go… Sad face. :-(

The Great Court, University of Queensland

But I also found my Valedictorian Speech from when I graduated from UQ back in 2005. I quite enjoyed reading it again, so I thought I’d share.

“Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, members of Senate and academic staff, distinguished guests, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen.  Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity to address you.

“How to begin?  A moment of uncertainty.  Where do we go from here?  More uncertainty.  Did we do as well as we could have?  Did we do the right degree?  Should we come back for more?  Should I stop asking questions now?

“There is no straight answer to any of these questions, any more than there is to the question we have all been asked during the past years of study: “What are you going to do with your degree?” Did you ever hear such a daft question?

“Let’s cut to the chase here, and agree for the moment that by ‘degree’, we’re not referring to the piece of paper or the letters after the name. We’re really referring to the process of learning, arguing, realising, procrastinating, sleeping through and breaking through which we have all shared in some measure over the past few years.

“When I left school, well before most of my fellow students were a glint in their grand-parents’ eyes, it was one of my ambitions to become a university student, largely because I was enraptured with the Doctor in the House movies, and the thought of encountering students like the hesitant but heroic Simon Sparrow, aka Dirk Bogarde (and if you never saw him in his young days, just think Johnny Depp times 10).

“I had no thought of actually graduating; I just thought it would be grand to be a student.  That it took me 40 years to take the plunge is merely an indication that I am, in many ways, a slow learner.  Not that the time was wasted – I firmly believe that there are times in our lives when it is right and appropriate for certain actions, when we are ready to make the most of the experience we are being offered.  And my time to gain an arts degree happens to coincide with yours.

“What does it mean to hold the piece of paper, to have the right to put the letters after our names?  It does not guarantee us jobs.  Whereas years ago employers reserved the right to induct new employees into their work systems, nowadays they generally expect to engage people who already know how their filing system works, how to manipulate the software package they just had personalised to their own requirements, or how to create proposals or designs which resonate with their own corporate style.

“Even the most practical double degree doesn’t guarantee that you can walk into a school, an office or an orchestra and competently ‘fly solo’ without having to learn skills you did not acquire as part of your degree.

“So, what do we say when our friends and relatives ask us what we intend to do with an arts degree?  For the past five years, I have been answering that question by saying “well I don’t expect it to get me a job at my age. But I do expect to use it in everything I do.”  At first it was a bit of a cliché.  I didn’t really know how I was going to use it.  But within six months it was so true I could hardly contain my excitement.

“I found myself putting into practice immediately whatever I was learning about.  Every philosophy lecture revealed some new aspect of the human condition which I would eagerly pass on to the (albeit stunned) acting students, every history lecture took me to places which connected in both tangible and intangible ways with my work, my understanding of myself, the societies I grew up in, travelled, lived and worked in.  I was able to consciously, if uncertainly, integrate my studies into my personal process of development.

“Whether conscious or not, that is exactly what we have all been doing for the past three, four or however long it took years:  integrating new found understandings into ourselves, developing our sense of ourselves as articulate human beings with ideas and opinions of our own, and with respect for the opinion of others – well, most others:  because to quote Salman Rushdie, arts degrees “are all about Preparation.  They prepare us for a lifetime of preparation”*.

“What they are not about is certainty.  Certainty is the end of preparation. Certainty stands still, does not move or grow, it is satisfying only until challenged by someone else’s certainty.  Certainty is the end of adventure, the end of discovery, the end of life as we know it, Jim.  Because the only certainty in life is death.

“Our hard won arts degrees have prepared us for a life of uncertainty: and hopefully these sometimes painful, sometimes joyful years have prepared us to be comfortable with uncertainty, which is what David Mamet proposes good acting involves. Of course, the only difference between acting which embraces uncertainty, and life is – well, there’s a doctorate in that…

“Uncertainty has been the one constant ever since we walked into our first tutorial, and asked the first question – which was usually “will I get a good mark if I say that?” only to be greeted by either a blank stare, or “how should I know?” from the tutor.

“Questions, leading to answers which are more questions.  An abundance of uncertainty.  We may have hated it, tolerated it, accepted it temporarily or embraced it wholeheartedly.  I do so hope you have embraced it, that you recognise what a gift it is, to be able to deal with uncertainty, to accept it and to seek it out.

“This degree represents all the hard work we did in order to be granted it.  Even the brightest student knows that consistently good results don’t happen without hard work.  Michaelangelo once said – apparently – that “if you knew how much hard work went into it, you wouldn’t call it ‘genius’”.

“However, no amount of hard work guarantees success.  There are no guarantees.  If there were, life would be very tedious.  Instead, we’ve been given, at this institutions and at universities all over the world which still teach the humanities, under conditions of diminishing funding and rising costs, we’ve been given the opportunity to learn about life, about each other, about the ways in which human beings express their humanity, the wonderful and terrible things we are capable of doing to each other; we’ve learnt to challenge our own, and other people’s assumptions, and we’ve learnt to ask questions.

“This enables us to go out into the world with some sense of what is possible.  Not what is certain, not what should be, not what is safe and comfortable. With the support of our community, our families, our lecturers and tutors, and each other, we have earned the right to be creatively uncertain.  We can enjoy full, satisfying and productive lives in whatever profession or occupation we choose to undertake, as long as we continue to challenge certainty wherever we find it.

“Congratulations, fellow students.  It’s been a bumpy ride, and worth every bruise.  Have a fantastic, peaceful, healthy and uncertain life.

“Thank you.”

* Salman Rushdie, graduation address to Bard College, May 25th, 1996.

 

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and then something happened…

“Before expression, there is nothing but a vague fever, and only the work itself, completed and understood, will prove that there was something rather than nothing to be found there” (69). Thus Merleau-Ponly describes the current state of my thesis, “nothing but a vague fever”, a fever which burns intensely somewhere behind my frontal lobes, its very vagueness adding fuel to the flames

That was how I felt about my thesis, roughly 4 years ago. Fortunately, the fever burnt out round about the time I presented my practice-as-research project as a fully realised production, towards the end of 2010, and by the middle of 2011 I found I was able to sit still for hours, days, weeks at a time and write, edit, re-write, cut, write and read and write again until I had completed a full draft for submission.

Did I mention I was doing this part-time?  Just in case you think I’m either slow or lazy (which is not to say I’m not), since

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officially a University of Queensland PhD Thesis is supposed to be completed within 3 years. I started mine in 2006. Why? Good question. Next question please…

This is what I looked like back in those days. By 2010, when The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will) finally made it to full Equity Showcase production, at the Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio, UQ St Lucia Campus, I had gone completely grey, and had acquired two grandchildren.

Writing the actual thesis had been a stop/start affair over the years while I attended to my teaching practice, presented my ideas at various conferences in the UK and the USA, spent time with the kids (who now live in Seattle) and getting June Bloom up and running. I saved money on rent by house-sitting, and stopped going to the hairdresser to help with production costs. I am happy to say enough money was raised to ensure that everybody received a decent payout at the end of the day.  I really don’t believe in doing profit share unless there is a profit to share. But I digress.

The thesis was approved by my advisers (who used to be known as supervisors) and submitted for examination at the end of May, 2012. In keeping with the rest of my experience of the whole PhD Candidature thing, it was supposed to be back within 3 months, but it took 9. I finally received 3 reports in March 2013. One examiner said pass it with minor revisions, one said pass it with major revisions, and the adjudicator said pass it with major revisions that are really not all that major. Are you still following?

My initial reaction was – no big deal. Make it better. Good idea.  Then I thought about it. Then I stopped thinking about it. Then I got busy with some rather exciting teaching and acting work. Then I thought about it some more. I went through it like a dose of salts, handed it back to my chief adviser, who said “WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING???”

By the time I recovered from the realisation that I had completely misinterpreted the problem, something had happened. I had aged.

Ageing is not something anyone actually expects, or believes will ever happen to them. We all know we will get older, but up to a certain point we don’t actually believe that it will affect us particularly. As long as we’ve got reasonable health, what is the problem with getting older?

I remember being 45, working with a wonderful mime artist named Pat Keysell, who was then 52.  “Flloyd”, she said to me one day, as we walked from my flat in Govanhill in Glasgow to the rehearsal venue at the Tramway, “don’t you find you slow down as you get older?”  I was shocked to realise I was constantly charging ahead of her down the road, and having to wait for her to catch up. She was so agile in performance, a beautiful physical artist who transformed into a deer, or an owl so completely with a simple flick of her ankle, or toss of her head, I simply couldn’t understand why she walked so (relatively) slowly.

FFL-10

latest mugshot, taken in March 2013 by the extremely talented and kind Barb Lowing

Ten years later, I still didn’t get it. But twenty years on, boy do I know what she meant. And not only do the joints object to movement if I allow them to stay still for any length of time, the brain cells also take ages to fire up after a rest, and frequently misfire with awkward, frustrating results. So editing and revising the thesis is a slow, painfully tedious process with only occasional hints of the fever that burned with such delicious intensity not so many years ago.

It will be done, eventually. Actually, sooner than that. It has to be finished by March next year. Thank goodness. Right now, I’m back in Seattle with my son and his  family, enjoying the late summer/early Fall, catching up with friends and learning lines for a beautiful play to be presented as a workshop production in Brisbane next month. I will get this tiger off my back, but in the meantime I shall let William Blake have the last word:

TIGER, tiger, burning bright  
In the forests of the night,  
What immortal hand or eye  
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies          
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?  
On what wings dare he aspire?  
What the hand dare seize the fire?  
And what shoulder and what art  
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?  
And when thy heart began to beat,  
What dread hand and what dread feet?  
What the hammer? what the chain?  
In what furnace was thy brain?  
What the anvil? What dread grasp  
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?  
When the stars threw down their spears,  
And water’d heaven with their tears,  
Did He smile His work to see?  
Did He who made the lamb make thee?  
Tiger, tiger, burning bright  
In the forests of the night,  
What immortal hand or eye  
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

 

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Sunday morning in Red Hill

Red Hill, Brisbane.10 am Sunday 10th June 2012

How very strange, sitting on the back deck with 3 layers of warm tops, good socks and loose comfy trousers, with nothing better to do but drink coffee and talk to you.

Yes, it is winter in Brisbane, which anyone living in Scotland would find a very acceptable format for summer.  It’s cloudy today, and quite breezy, which is probably why the birds are later than usual.  In summer, the maggies sing around 8 am, followed by the crows, but here they are in full voice at 10 am. I’m certainly not complaining.

Of course, I have other things to do. I don’t think, though, that they are more urgent than sitting here with the birds and Perch the cat, enjoying the cool air round my fingers and an excellent coffee.

Perch catching some rays on the deck.

I will start learning my script for Nanaimo later on today, pay for my upcoming week of training with Ira, and post a blog on Being in Voice about the workshop I’m proposing next month.  Nothing too demanding – my to do list.  Hopefully, the workshop will be Extremely Demanding.  I’m pretty excited about the possibility of working with people who crave Extremely Demanding.

You may have guessed – if you don’t know already – that I have now formally handed down (submitted) my thesis.  Done.  Like a dinner.  I have informal acknowledgement that the submissions office has received it, but I’m still awaiting formal acknowledgement that everything is in order. The actual submission process turned out to be incredibly complicated, fraught with error potential, and took about 10 days to get everything sorted.  hmmmm.

So anyway, here I am, virtually post thesis, at least for a few months till the examiners send it back with whatever objections, revisions, suggestions they may have.  So I am enjoying the remarkable sensation of hiatus, and allowing lots and lots of ideas to potter around in my head for what mischief I can get up to next. My supervisor likes some of my ideas for writing projects, so that’s encouraging.

I’ve listed my itinerary below, so you can skip it if you’ve already heard it. In brief, as I’ve said before, I’ll be away from 26 July to 8 September. If there’s any chance we could meet up someone along the route, please let me know! Maybe by the time I get back, I’ll have figured out what I’m going to be when I grow up.  I’ve applied for a couple of jobs.  One thing is sure, it includes a trip to UK and France in 2013. And to anywhere else that gets me outta Brisbane. Out of Brisbane. Hmmm. Maybe that’s the title of a film.

OK my friends, tha-tha-that’s all folks – for now.

 

 

Here’s the plan to date:

I’m house-sitting in Red Hill with Perch the Cat till 13 July.

Next week, more clown training with Ira, who has just returned from Europe and 3 months touring (performing) with Slava’s Snow Show. I’m very exciting about working with him again.

2-6 July – ADSA conference, here in Brisbane. I’m leading a voice workshop

14 – 26 July – house-sitting in Toowoomba for Willie and Elvira.  I shared a dungeon basement flat in Sauchiehall St, Glasgow with Willie 17 years ago!

14 and 15 July – workshop “Shakespeare’s Archetypes” IF I get 6 participants.  I still need to find a venue, has to be special because I want to work from 9.30 am to 9 pm, total immersion, food included. Details HERE.

26 July – fly off to Seattle to see my beautiful Iain, Jessie, Owen, Natalie and Annie the Dog.

2 August – to Washington DC to take part in panel presentation on Presence at ATHE conference.

5-9 August, VASTA conference, also Washington DC. I’m presenting a short paper on training teachers to care for young children’s voices – i.e. encourage them to play with sound for longer, and safely.

10 August, get together with Adele and Lauren in Moorestown, then back to Seattle.

16 – 23 August – to Nanaimo Fringetastic Festival with Across The Pond, to perform “Man Catches Fish.

23 August – back to Seattle

6 September – back to Brissie.

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Travel Preparations

Less than three months to go, and the excitement is building.  Yes, I’m off to Seattle on 26th July, thence to Washington (DC), New York and then back to Seattle, arriving back in Brisbane on 8th September.

Oh, did I mention the Nanaimo Fringetastic Theatre Festival? Because I’m joining up with the Seattle-based but internationally oriented troupe Across the Pond to perform the new work Man Catches Fish in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

There will be a couple of conferences to attend in Washington, DC. I’m co-presenting on a panel on Presence at ATHE, and who knows what I will get up to at the VASTA conference…

But before any of that can happen, there is still the dreaded thesis to hand down. Any day now, folks!

I saw two shows this week. Wild Honey, Michael Frayn’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Platinov, was performed by the second year acting students at QUT. This was the first English language performance of Chekhov I have ever seen that actually had people behaving like Russians. I loved it.  Then last night I saw An End to Dreaming, with Emma Dean and Jake Diefenbach. It’s a kind of song cycle, two fabulously talented singer/musicians, billed as “dark” “mysterious” cabaret, but I found it dirge-like.  Ah well, you cannot win them all, as they say in the classics.

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Downhill All The Way

I see it’s nearly a year since my last post. Maybe I should make a habit of this, annual postings!

SO, where am I? In Brisbane. Still house-sitting, thanks to some lovely house-owners who are kind enough to let their animals keep me company while they travel.  What am I? Still a student, part time PhD candidate, and still a freelance voice and acting coach. A little bit less of the former, a little bit more of the latter.

I’ll explain. I have now completed a full draft of my thesis. It is sitting with my two very busy supervisors, waiting for them to read it and return it to me with their comments, and suggestions for refinements. Hopefully refinements. Hopefully they won’t want major rewrites. I’m now pulling together all of the ancillary material I can muster to put into the appendices, such as feedback from colleagues and audiences who attended the various work-in-progress presentations of the performance project, The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will). Then there are all the diary type notes I made along the way, since the project became officially part of my PhD.  I’ve been pretty slack in that area, but as I’ve been trawling through every external hard drive I’ve saved files onto over the past 4 years I’ve managed to find 23 pages worth of ramblings, some of it quite revealing.

So if any of you have any final thoughts in response to your encounter with June Bloom, and would like them included in the final document, now is the time to send them in to me.  Final submission – when I have to hand it down – no later than the end of June.

My teaching practice is bubbling along quite nicely.  I must be doing something right with the website, because I am now getting one or two calls a week from potential students who find me just by searching on the net.  I’m working more with non-actors at the moment, people from different walks of life who want to develop their voices and presentation skills. What fun!

When I arrived back in Oz last year, after a fabulous trip to  Phoenix, Haworth NJ, New York and Seattle, I vowed not to leave the country until the thesis was completed. Well, one way or another, it will be completed by the end of June, so I’m setting off again late July, back to Seattle to see Iain, Jessie, Owen, Natalie and Annie.  There will be a dash across country to the east coast for a conference or two and hopefully catch up with the NJ mob, then back again for more Seattle family fun.

Back in Brisbane in early September, I guess I’ll have to decide what I want to be when I grow up.  I seem to have discovered yet another string to my bow – composer! having tinkered, on and off, as long as I can remember, with song writing. There have been occasional forays into arranging, and then of course there was the Music Major as part of my BA. I keep forgetting about that.  Anyway…

To explain the photo up at the top.  I’m wearing one of the costumes for the Performers For Peace group, for which I have been commissioned to compose original music for their latest street theatre performance.  It’s been an absolute blast, tagging along as the group (from the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Brisbane chapter) debated and discussed, improvised and devised – under the most excellent facilitation of Anna Yen – the words that they wanted to sing.  I then went into seclusion to set it all to music. It’s just 5 minutes long, but we’ve managed to turn out a miniature agit-prop epic. Opening night is at the end of April, at the WILPF Annual Awards cocktail party.

Of course, I am not without ideas for stuff to get stuck into when September arrives. I’m pretty excited about a range of possibilities for getting more and more people of all ages, from very small children to senior, involved in voice work and play. Shakespeare will also feature in future plans, be prepared to be surprised on a street corner or in a car park near you.

Oh, and there’s a trip to Paris to run a voice workshop, that’s in early planning stages. It would be awfully nice to get a whole tour happening around that, early in 2013. Think about it! It could happen in your part of the world too. I’ve been riding high for some time now, and I’m heading down into the valleys to continue the journey.

OK, enough already. Until next time…

 

 

 

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Explorations and Views

The pedometer is such a boon – when it works. There were a couple of days last week when I couldn’t understand how I could have walked so little, when I’d been quite active. Then I realised the pedometer doesn’t tick over if it’s wrapped tightly in my waistband. So, now that’s been sorted, I am happy to report that my first two days of the Walk In Her Shoes Challenge – to walk 10,000 steps a day for a week – have resulted in 11,430 (yesterday) and 10,320 (today – so far). Yesterday I walked through the housing estates behind us, some newly built, more in the process of being built. Most of them are little boxes with high windows and a view of nothing, backing onto glorious bushland.

Today I walked down Beams Road to check out how far it is to the nearest shops. Twenty minutes, or 3,200 steps!

Five days to go.

Here we have two grandmas, enjoying a trip to Central Park Zoo in April this year with our grand-daughter, Natalie. Adele, my co-grandma and dear friend insisted on buying this pic for me, and I just love it to bits.

I’m now staying in a nice little bungalow in Carseldine – Fitzgibbon really – with Wokkie the Chihuahua, and Mao-Mao the cat. We rock along together quite happily.

I’ve also acquired a desk of my own at Long Pocket, where the School of English, Media Studies and Art History has been relocated while renovations are under way in St Lucia. It’s so exciting to have somewhere to go to, just to work on my thesis. I have bookshelves, so I’ve managed to get some books out of storage. I also have a view of trees, and it’s so lovely to walk out into the peace and quiet.
So, there will be more walking, and there will also be movement on the thesis writing project, I promise you. And I promise me.

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Quietly Stepping Out for CARE

22 May 11 14:00 PM

This morning I returned to the walkway along the Brisbane River for the first time since I’ve been back in the country. I was delighted to find it practically deserted, hardly another person at all as I walked from Auchenflower towards the city, and only a few manic speeding cyclists on the walk back.

Quite Walking by the Brisbane River

Isn’t it interesting, how cyclists who complain bitterly about being hounded off the roads by speeding, thoughtless motorists will team up to speed along the walkways with absolutely no thought for the pedestrians they are supposed to be sharing the space with. Ok, enough whinging. It was a beautiful walk, cool and a little bit drizzly, calm and quiet. I am very lucky to be able to walk just for my health and pleasure, unlike millions of women who walk to survive.

Also, I discovered that if I place the pedometer too tightly on my waistband, it only counts every second or third step, so I’ve actually been walking more than I thought I had! Today, I’m up to 9,692, and it’s only 2 pm. My fundraising total is creeping up slowly, thanks to very kind and generous friends. I hope you will join them, if you haven’t already – here’s the link: www.everydayhero.com.au/Flloyd_Kennedy.  If you have, thank you so much!

with love Flloyd

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Walk In Her Shoes – a challenge

Back in Brisbane Tuesday morning, after 3 weeks in Seattle. The weather is similar, although apparently it had been raining heavily in Brisbane before I arrived, it’s been crisp and sunny since I got here, cooling down towards winter. In Seattle, it was mostly rain in the morning and clean and clear and bright in the afternoons and evenings, heading through spring towards summer.

I’ve signed up for the Walk In Her Shoes Challenge, set up by CARE Australia to raise funds to help women and girls living in poverty to fulfil their potential. The idea is that such women walk many thousands of steps each day just to fetch water or run errands in order to survive, missing out on opportunities to attend school, or earn an income in a way that allows them to spend more time with their families and communities. So I’ve agreed to walk 10,000 steps a day for a week (30th May to 5th June). You can sponsor me from my Everyday Hero website, just a few dollars makes a tremendous difference.

My goal is to raise $500.  I have my pedometer attached to my trousers, and I’ve begun the process of preparation for the main event.  On Thursday I drove up to Bribie Island to visit my mother, took her out to lunch to celebrate her 97th birthday, then headed for the beach to begin my training.

I had a wonderful visit with Iain, Jessie, Owen, Natalie and Annie in Seattle, and I miss them terribly already. As well, I managed to catch up with the delightful Gin Hammond and her partner Jeff, although I didn’t get to meet baby Max in person, I got the full iPhone experience

It was the start of the Baseball season, and I had the joy of watching Owen join his first T-Ball team. The first game was hysterical, I overheard someone remarking that the coaches must train for this job by herding cats. I missed the second game, being struck down with strep throat. The third game was a revelation. The kids were still wild and woolly, but relatively much more disciplined than they had been on the first day, remembering to run to first base as soon as they hit the ball into the field, and only run further when the next batter hit the ball likewise.  Owen is totally ace as a fielder, remembering to get the ball to first base no matter what – even if it means running all the way there and handing it over himself. Batting skills are improving by the minute.

Here’s the movie, from Opening Ceremony to game 3.

Enjoy.

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Trials and Tribulations of Updating Forever

Sorry to be away for a while, lots going on, and nothing, at the same time.

First, where was I?  Isn’t it an interesting phenomenon, that the more tired one gets, the fewer brain cells are available to retain a single thought.  Or is that that one requires more brain cells to create and retain a single thought?

Never mind. The point is, WordPress decided to offer its latest update, to 3.1.1, and as soon as I installed it, I couldn’t login again.  I’ve managed to get back with the help of the good folk at IXWebhosting. I’m back to 3.1, and very reluctant to upgrade again, until IXWebhosting and WordPress find a way to talk to each other kindly.

Enough with the whinging. We made it back across the continent from Newark to Seattle last Monday.  The kids and I had a couple of days worth of adventuring together, with trips on the No 55 bus to Downtown Seattle, and the monorail and hence to the Seattle Centre, and the Experience Music Project.

I’ve put this video up on YouTube, but private. I’m not happy about putting the kids on view for all and sundry to see. So you can watch it here. I’m pretty confident this blog doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic outside of friends and family.

You’ll see Owen and Iain playing baseball at the Grodstein’s house in Haworth, New Jersey, while Natalie provides the musical entertainment. There was a short trip to Moorestown, New Jersey, to play with cousin Natey, then back to Haworth where Iain is demonstrating his skills as an aircraft engineer, as he and Owen test out his invention. Over in Seattle, Owen and Natalie explored some of the instruments on the 3rd floor at Experience Music Project , at the Seattle Center, a wonderful place for kids and music lovers of all age.

 

 

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Post Fringe Ponderings

The final performance (for now) of The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will) took place at 7 pm on Sunday night, 3rd April, at the Phoenix Fringe Festival. The house was just over half full, but it seemed more, it’s such a tiny venue Space 55. It only seats around 36-40, and a few empty seats here and there don’t seem to matter.

The big guns were in. David Barker, Professor of Acting at ASU, and two guys from the Fringe Festival.  Angela (our director for the Phoenix production) brought her mother, and Zack, the MFA student who had been at the VASTA conference in 2009, the one who suggested that the production would be a real treat for students if presented to them as a lecture, had come along all primed to come up when invited to do a short passage from a Shakespeare monologue. Sadly, when the moment came, I completely forgot to invite him up! Sorry, Zack!

One thing that has been relatively consistent throughout all the performances, both in Brisbane and in Phoenix, has been audience engagement.  For the most part people laugh, smile, or listen intently. The Phoenix audiences were larger than in Brisbane – I don’t think we ever had more than 12 people in the audience in Brisbane, whereas we had 15 to 25 in Phoenix, and in a smaller space so they would have felt less exposed.  The Phoenix audiences were also much more prepared to look me in the eye, and to respond. I could look at just about anyone, and they would look back, whereas in Brisbane many people (especially non-actors) either avoided eye contact or refused to maintain it.

The difference at the final performance was that David Barker, who arrived about 10 minutes late and sat in the front row, just looked at me impassively throughout the whole performance.  He never smiled (that I noticed), nor did he ever give any indication that he was interested in the discussion, or the ideas expressed.  This only became truly relevant to me when I met him the following day at the Phoenix Film Festival schools workshop.  He came up to me and thanked me for working with Lauren (one of his students), asked me how she was to work with, and whether I had written the script. That was it.  In my book, that is code for “I didn’t like it much, and your performance did not appeal to me either”. He probably only came because of Lauren, which is fair enough, and was only interested to check that I hadn’t been taking advantage of her, or teaching her bad habits.

So there you have it.  All the people who stopped me on the way out after each of the three performances to thank us effusively, to congratulate both Lauren and me on our performances, to admire the production and the ideas expressed just evaporate into the “foul and pestilent congregation of vapours” that hovers, uninvited, close by, while the one mean-spirited response (or lack of) lights up like a ‘brave o’er-hanging firmament fretted with golden fire”.

What IS that?  You’d think I’d be able to control it better, after all these years.  I claim to be non-competitive yet I am unable to accept being anything less than the best there is. I know I’m not, by a long chalk, but I keep on hoping that somehow, some day, I will suddenly emerge as this great actor!  Of course, I work at it. I don’t expect to get any better at it without actually putting in the hard yards, doing the training, exploring, experimenting, engaging with the craft, developing my skill set.  The problem seems to be an old one. I get above myself. I don’t realise I’m doing it until I find myself being cut down to size.

From New Album 14/03/11 2:21 PM That’s Angela Giron, me and Lauren Dykes, the Phoenix division of Thunder’s Mouth Theatre.

So what does that mean – to get above myself? How is that even possible?

I think I am playing the good old Aussie game of hunting down the Tall Poppy. The rules are that nobody must stand out, or appear to be higher, smarter, richer, prettier, or anything-at-all-er more than anybody else. If they are, they must be cut down.  I refuse to play this game against other people, but boy am I terrified of being perceived as being a Tall Poppy myself!  Hence my real claim to fame, my actual expertise that qualifies me as a genuine Tall Poppy, is in the area of self-sabotage.  I’m the Best!

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