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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On the Road

I arrived in Phoenix a week ago. The first few days were passed, as I suspected they would be, in a haze of exhausted relief.  My kind hosts took me with them to share in a family reunion on the first day, which involved lots of laughter, wine, beautiful food and a great sunset.

Scottsdale, Arizona

I am staying with friends in Gilbert, one of the outer cities that rings Phoenix. Public transport hasn’t made its way here yet. In fact, today I drove to where Google told me I would find a Light Rail Transit stop with Park and Ride facilities, only to discover that the rail hasn’t been extended this far yet.  The car park was there, and a bus stop, but quite a wait for anything else.

I have been placed in a little self-contained cottage in the back yard of the main house. It’s delightfully comfortable, and private.  A car has been placed at my disposal, and today I finally stopped wimping out and drove myself several miles to Mesa, the next city along the way to catch the light rail (what I would call a tram, but a very modern, fancy one) into downtown Phoenix. I got hopelessly lost, in spite of having Google maps printed out, AND my TomTom with local maps, but what the heck, I got there in the end.

Still haven’t seen what I would call downtown Phoenix. I appreciate it’s a lot like Houston, with its centre  a complex of businesses and offices. What I did find were 3 or 4 blocks with charming little cafes and art galleries scattered among car parks, waste ground, and blocks of apartments.  This is apparently the arty end of town, and where most of the Phoenix Fringe will happen.

Speaking of which, rehearsals are going well. My new company is shaping up beautifully, and I reckon this revised show will be a bit of a cracker – not better or worse than the last version, but different.

We had a look at our Fringe venue this afternoon, and it’s adorable. I’ll say more about that at a later date.

Tomorrow I’m running a free all-day intensive workshop on Archetypes. Looking forward to it immensely.

Catch ya later 🙂

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Christchurch gets personal

tiny Swarovski crystals on Sterling Silver wire hoops

Those earthquake images were horrifying, the voices of the people affected so familiar, and yet it is still quite shocking to hear that people I know are among those affected.

Last September, I was part of the Shakespeare’s Globe Centre New Zealand National Schools Production Week, one of three theatre directors who lead workshops and directed the participants in condensed versions of Shakespeare’s plays.  We each worked with 15 students, aged between 15 and 18, from all over New Zealand, and we each had Christchurch kids in our groups.

double strand bracelet, glass, plastic and silver

I have now heard that although most were lucky enough to escape the worst of the destruction, two families have lost loved ones, as well as their homes, and all their possessions.  The kids are being supported generously by their friends, families, schools and communities, who have made sure the funds are available for them to continue to participate in the trip to London, to train at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  However, they could do with support to replace their possessions.

antiqued copper chain, with foil glass and bone beads

I’m heading overseas myself in a week, but in the meantime, I’m offering some of my hand-made jewellery for sale to the highest bidder. I’ve created a Facebook site, where the items are visible in an album.  Click on a photo to see the minimum price, and place your bid in the comments space.  The last bid to be placed by noon (Brisbane time) on Wednesday 9th March will be the winner.

I’ll send payment details to all the winners on Wednesday afternoon, and post the items out in gift boxes as soon as payment is confirmed.

Be assured, every cent you provide will go to the SGCNZ for distribution to the young people concerned.  I will bear the cost of postage and any bank charges involved.

Please bid generously.  Enjoy the fun of the auction, and catch yourself a pretty little bargain, or a gift for someone you know who enjoys wearing pretty thing.

More information here

 

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I’m into my third day of reinstalling, downloading and uploading three of my websites, with all the attendant frustration that involves.  Fortunately, this one seems to be working again, after many messages and advice flowing from my service provider. The friendly peeps at IXWebhosting deserve a big pat on the back for their patience, and the speed with which they respond to my pleas for assistance. This is in sharp contrast to WordPress.Org who do not have a help department, and whose Forums are so chock-a-block with complaints about the new 3.1 upgrade that it is hard to get a word in edgewise. Ok, enough whinging. Just wanted to let you know I’m back. Oh, and if you have subscribed to this blog lately, and not received a response from me, that is because WordPress has not passed on the information.  I’m checking it out now. Take care – it’s dangerous out there – and in here.

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Massive Attack of Playfulness

When was the last time you played, like a child, a real game of pretend?  I have fond memories of playing in the back yard of the block of flats in Townsville we lived in when I was 7, my cousin Lloyd and I, re-enacting in great detail whatever movie we had just seen at the Saturday morning showings. If it was a Hopalong Cassidy film, he would be Hopalong, riding manfully around on a broom handle, while I would be Gabby Hayes, supporting and subverting his exploits in equal measure.  Our dialogue would be remembered snatches from the movie, liberally interspersed with “You must do this” and “You must do that” as we each unconsciously, and unselfconsciously directed each other.

Yesterday I was fortunate to see one of the shows at the Brisbane Powerhouse, in the WTF 2011 festival. (World Theatre Festival in case you were wondering…)  The show was “Apollo 13: Mission Control”, courtesy of New Zealand company Hackman, and for an over-age kid like me, it was heaven on earth. Actually it was out of this world, since I’m now on a roll with the cliches.

The auditorium of the Powerhouse Theatre was arranged as a replica of Mission Control, with rows of consoles complete with working switches, screens and lots of flashing lights. The audience was divided into two groups, Console and Media Gallery. Console actually got to sit at the consoles, flip the switches, play with the phones, solve some of the very real technical problems that arose and interact with the performers. We in the Media Gallery got to observe not just the action/re-enactment of the Apollo 13 crisis, but also to observe the audience/players below us.

This is a fabulous theatrical concept, and it is fabulously effectively executed by the members of Hackman. The script is sharp, beautifully paced with the dramatic events unfolding along with the improvised interactions with the audience.  I enjoyed the antics of the Mission Control members as they struggled with their personal and professional interactions, the joy and fear of the astronauts (two actors, one audience volunteer) visible on a couple of giant screens, and was totally fascinated by the audience/players and the degree to which they were prepared to engage with the game of pretend. Some immersed themselves completely, some took the micky at any opportunity, others managed the transition between playing the game and being moved by the enormity of the drama itself. It made no difference what age they were, from worldly seven year olds to star-struck parents.

A friend tells me that children nowadays are unimpressed when video of the moon landing is shown to them in school. What a shame. Of course, in 1969 the landing was filmed in black and white, it does look clunky by today’s standards. But I defy anyone to watch the lift-off of a space rocket filmed in close-up as it explodes out of its scaffold and rises majestically up in front of your face on a giant screen, and not feel your heart ascend to the heavens along with it.

I loved the whole experience, and take my hat off to the imagination and ingenuity of the Hackman team, and to Powerhouse and WTF 2011 for bringing it to Brisbane.

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Biding my time

Sitting in my old (as in ex) apartment, now empty – I moved out last August, and went back to house-sitting – waiting for a student who is now 37 minutes late. I guess I’m not actually waiting any longer, just sitting.

I was supposed to have 2 students this morning. One sent me a message to cancel with 1 hour’s notice, the other just hasn’t bothered at all. Such is the life of the freelance coach.  Fortunately the first one has paid in advance, and has therefore forfeited his fee for today’s session. The other was a newbie, and they often don’t bother turning up, or letting me know that they have changed their minds. That’s why I get people to pay in advance once they do start with me. It’s the only way.

I’ve been staying with my friend Kris for the past couple of weeks. She hasn’t sold the house yet, but she has bought into her new place, and the big move happened on Friday.  It was relatively stress-free. Mini-movers did a great job, and we had the bonus of a gorgeous big hunk of a gay singing removalist as well.

It wasn’t quite pain free. My back is not up to much these days, lifting the odd box – no matter how carefully – results in a couple of sleepless nights. But it’s all better now.

So, I’ll just sit here for a little while longer, sharing my adventures with you, before I head off for an audition for a short film, followed by a show at the Powerhouse. Hope I get a park…

I think it’s going to rain. Actually, I do believe it is raining already. Lot of it about.

So, what’s new? Well, the thesis still isn’t happening for me. Meeting up with Joanne (my supervisor) this week, so I’m pretty sure something will happen between now and then. In between my online rehearsals with the Phoenix crew, and moving out of Kris’s place and into another very kind friend’s place for another couple of weeks, and preparing for the big trip next month.

I’m pretty darned excited, I can tell you. Next time, I’ll give you my itinerary.

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of flood and fire

The dreadful floods that have inundated large swathes of eastern Australia lately, including much of my present hometown of Brisbane, have not troubled or inconvenienced me personally at a physical level. I am staying in one of the outer suburbs, not too close to the river and not particularly low lying, so the massive amounts of rain left the garden water-logged by last Monday, but not flooded.

The local streets have coped well – this is a fairly new housing estate – with storm water drains flowing freely throughout the worst of the downpour. As I took this picture I realised there was a drain blocked with leaves in the middle. I cleared it, and the water drained away very quickly.

I did get down to the River several hours before it really took over.  This photo was taken at the Kodak Beach, at Southbank, 9.30 am on Wednesday. By the time I got to the bus station it was closed, with water lapping the edge of the Queensland Performing Arts Complex nearby and buses being re-routed via the Captain Cook Bridge.  A friend dropped me to a bus stop in Ipswich Road, and 2 1/2 hours later I was safely home (a trip that normally takes around 30 minutes).  There was a lot of traffic winding its way around those streets that were not flooded. The river rose another 3 metres after this.

I have managed to stay pretty cool and calm, not a problem when I am not directly affected. Now that the water is receding, and the clean-up has begun, I feel the need to offer to help.  I have enough sense to realise that I am no longer fit and able enough to manage the heavy work that is required in the first, second and third instances. So I have offered to bake treats for anyone who wants them, and I’m selling my jewellery online with all proceeds to the Qld Flood Relief Appeal. You can either acquire something pretty in return for your donation – at www.handmadebyflloyd.com –  or at my Etsy Store, or bid in the auction at Handmade Kids Flood Appeal Auction (the latter is for Australian residents only). Or of course you can donate direct to http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html.

I have listened and watched the news broadcasts, and been inspired by the patience and hard working support of our State Premier, Anna Bligh, by courage and generousity of local residents who mucked in together, helped clear each other’s houses, took in strangers and generally behaved with great kindness and patience, and appalled by the politicking of the opposition leader, who announced at the height of the tragedy that he would be “keeping a close watch on the government” rather than offering his, and his party’s support. Not a good look, Tony!

And I have been reminded, most reluctantly, of what it feels like to have your family’s lives at great risk, to lose all of your possessions, and to be inundated – not with water – but with the very generous donations of total strangers.  It was a house fire, on Tiree (Inner Hebrides, Scotland) in 1975.  I don’t think about it often, after all we all survived, we moved on. (ok, we lost the dog. That still hurts). At the time of the fire, I was so busy getting on with the business of getting everyone out, squirting a pathetic little fire extinguisher at the flames, and then watching the local fire brigade managing to douse the fire, but only after it had gone through the roof. I remember being overwhelmed by all the gifts of clothing and toys the islanders brought in huge bags, and I also remember feeling deeply resentful – something I have never confessed before.  I resented their smiling, caring faces, and I resented having to wear, and to dress my children in their loving gifts.  I still have a problem with second hand clothes, although I will occasionally indulge myself with some small item from St Vinnies, or the Salvo Shops. And boy, will I ever donate to them, every time I move and have a clean-out.

So I guess what I want to say at this moment is that I feel very deeply for those affected by this natural disaster.  I want to help you, in any way I can. That means I will bake for you, I will make and sell jewellery for you, I will come and entertain you when you are ready to be entertained.

I will also refuse to watch those disgusting television reporters who try to make people cry, with the camera people zooming in to catch the tears. Yuk! Do they have no humanity? They certainly don’t understand plain decent courtesy.

The Big Wet has a way to go. And then it will be back to the Big Dry. Because that is the way it works over here. Nature, eh?

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Old habits, new thoughts

Idolising attractive performers didn’t begin with Bieber, or the Beatles or even Frank Sinatra, it was alive and well when Franz Liszt was touring Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. He kept a jar with trimmings of his hair to hand out to his adoring fans, to forestall them trying to tear it out of his head! I’m sure he wasn’t the first, either.

A recent discussion on girls wanting to be in the group, prepared to compromise their integrity etc reminded me of the conversation I was having with my counsellor a couple of months ago.

At the age of 66, in the writing up stage of my Doctorate, and having been subject to bouts of depression on and off for at least 62 years I decided to try counselling, in an effort to avoid going back onto medication.

At the first session I recalled always considering myself outside, or on the periphery of the groups that took shape at the boarding school in North Queensland I attended from the age of 9 to 15 in the late 50s.  I had no idea what was required of me to gain access to these groups. The girls were not unkind to me, and though I wanted to join them, I spent large chunks of time not giving them a thought. I got on with the things I enjoyed doing: reading and day-dreaming.

Was I so unusual?  I believed I was totally different to everybody else, a weirdo who didn’t ‘get’ the group thing.  In later years I realised that lots of my thoughts, reactions, beliefs etc are not so unusual, that in many ways I’m really pretty average!  But what about this one?

If we are to believe the current movies, tv shows and books that deal with teenage girls, life is a constant round of being bitchy, or being bitched about, of being ‘in’ or wanting to be ‘in’.  Surely there are girls around who, like me, find and have always found the whole thing a bit silly.

Maybe that’s why I don’t have a large cohort of friends. Peer pressure to do things I thought were pretty dumb never seemed to work on me. I could find dumb things to do all on my own.

Of course, there is the very powerful possibility that all my apparent disinterest in being accepted is just a cover up for a deep-seated fear of rejection. I’m pretty sure my counsellor will spot that one a mile off.  I freely admit, I loathe competition, although I love to collaborate. When I apply for a job, a grant, a loan, or even ask a friend to accompany me to a show, I learned early on to school myself to believe my attempt would fail, so that I could avoid disappointment.  The up side of this approach is that I often get delicious surprises.

So, back to that thesis. It won’t be accepted, of course…

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Old Year Resolutions

This morning, I decided that the rest of my life starts now (as if it hadn’t already) but what I really meant was that I would walk the dog straight away, and not put it off until tomorrow.

The dog in question is not accustomed to regular walks, he’s a little Jack Russell cross (probably with a spaniel), and he’s been unwell for quite some time, so not really desperate to do much cross country walking.  Now, though, he’s got a new Vet, new medication, and is well into his second childhood, so walks are very much on his agenda.

Of course, he is not allowed on the couch… but when he does get up there, he is So Cute!

Charlie chillin' out

This is one of the reasons I love house-sitting. I get to spend time with some gorgeous animals, I get to walk, and take cute photos.

Another resolution I have decided to get under way before the end of the year is to crack into writing and hence finishing the writing of my dissertation. So I just had to buy an Airport Express base station, so that I could print it out wirelessly, because you have to print out stuff to proof read it properly, and let’s face it, some day I will have something worth proof reading. It only took four hours to get it set up…

And look at that! I’ve just written 232 words – oh, you mean writing them for my blog doesn’t count? Bother.

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A Strange Quietus

I’m home, I’ve unpacked, and I’m trying to figure out how I feel, IF I feel, what I feel and why. I remember this feeling – I have felt it before, once. It was a similar occasion, many years ago, when I had given a performance after some years of ‘resting’. It is a kind of contentment, a gratitude to those who helped to make it possible for me to do my job, as a performer, combined with a sense of satisfaction that I have been allowed to do that thing I was born to do.

Tonight was the opening night of my play, The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will). I wrote it, I’ve produced it, and I act in it. There have been many extraordinary talented individuals along the way who have helped me to shape it, produce it, and bring it to performance. It is the kind of theatre I like to experience as an audience member, and tonight there was an audience who enjoyed the experience we gave them. Wow. Just that – wow.

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