Sunday, August 17, 2008

recap '08

I'm home now, and ready to shut this site down for another year. It was an amazing month, and with the exception of my missing wallet (which I was notified yesterday was found!), everything went smoothly. Unfortunately, coming home has been more difficult than usual. As I sat on the plane from Newark I started getting chills, which broke into sweats, which became a monster flu. Yesterday, pushing myself a bit too hard while working on the lawn, I threw my back out. And then last night I received word that my younger sister and her husband had been in a small plane crash, and had been burned pretty badly. They are alive, but could certainly use your prayers to ease a difficult recovery. They have four small children. It's been an adjustment, certainly. But all of this makes me even more grateful for my wonderful, caring wife, who soldiers on with energy, enthusiasm, and wit. I have missed her so much and it's good to be back home.

A couple of details about the trip, more for me to remember than anyone else:

The Group:

Alex Ungerman, Jaclyn Hales, Emily Dabczynski, Anne Mangum, Kevin O'Keefe, Scott and Alta Stringham, Daniel and Liz Whiting, Joe Spear, Jacob Squire, Jana Grass, Anna Mortimer, and Kelsey Howell.

I read:

Will & Me: How Shakespeare Took Over My Life by Dominic Dromgoole

I listened to:

The Mysterious Production of Eggs by Andrew Bird
Armchair Apocrypha by Andrew Bird
Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends by Coldplay
Leaves in the River by Sea Wolf
Pride & Prejudice by Dario Marianelli
Atonement by Dario Marianelli and Jean-Yves Thibaudet

People I met:

The Irish/Spanish couple I sat with on the plane over, Charlie Chaplin in a tutu, Murch and John, the old woman who sat by me at Pygmalion, the grouchy lady at the Jarndyce Book Shop, Nigel from Southwark Cathedral, Gary Reimer, Bruce Young, my friends in the standing-only line at the Donmar, the bossy lady at St. Martin's-in-the-Field, the Brazillians, Sam Andrus, Naomi Miles and Emma, Richard III, Emma Rice, David and Gillian, the "always behind my back" guy, the bellhops at the Ajiel (he and she), the nice metro ladies in Paris, the Hegstrom-Pratts, Christian Emmerson, Dreen and Paul, Jason the coach driver, Eric and Sara Davis, the tour guide at Hall's Croft who was obsessed with Mormons, the bobbies in Victoria Park, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Will Young, Kate and Matt Ngai, Kekoa and Carolyn, Christina and Nick, An American Named Eric, Shirley from "Best of the Fest," the man who got mad at me at the Tattoo, the lady from New Jersey who was smuggling Scottish Bread and was trying to cure Alzheimers.

Quotes to remember:

"MaMA! No que pasa NADA?"
"Flat 17.....wha-WHAAAAA!"
"Tangerine, Tangerine pants."
"Tragic. Tragic, really. Cast himself in all the parts. Tragic."
Any line from James Blunt's All the Lost Souls
"You old rat! You Jesuit!"
"I'm having so much FUN (fake laugh)"
"Three things I love: FUN, LOVE, and KISSING."
"No Student."
"Heyyyyyy (raising the roof)"
"I love Captain Wet-Wet."
"Who killen 'em in the UK? Everybody gonna say UK..."
"That's where Queen Elizabeth was born."
"That's Madame's house from The Aristocats."

My favorite shows:

The Chalk Garden
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Brief Encounter

Pretty darn good:

The 39 Steps
Twelfth Night
Pericles Redux
The Two Widows
King Lear
Macbeth: Who is that Bloody Man?
Revenger's Tragedy
Some Trace of Her


A Slight Ache
On the Waterfront
Timon of Athens

Avoid at all costs:

Taming of the Shrew

DVD's I watched:

Deadwood: Season One
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Little Britain: Season One

TV I watched, via the internet:

So You Think You Can Dance
Project Runway
The Closer

I think this completes my account. This was a wonderful trip. Until next summer, Cheerio!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

edinburgh, last day

Our last day. Not just in Scotland, but on this little adventure. Mixed feelings. I’m so excited to see Lisa and my kids, excited to sleep in my own bed, excited to have a decent shower. But I’ll miss old, interesting cities without strip malls and with good public transportation. Next summer, though.

Our second performance of Snuffbox went well. We had a slightly larger crowd, and many of them came from the fliers we had passed out. One woman came to both shows, and claims to be writing us a glowing review on the “Best of the Fest” website. Now I wish we were doing more performances. The show went smoothly and Alex’s moustache did not fall off. Afterwards we took production photos and did little dances while we struck the set. (If you don’t know what it means to “strike,” talk to Corky St. Clair or Ron Albertson for details.)

The rest of the day was free. Free to enjoy Scotland. Free to be…with one million other tourists. The streets were packed, but there was a lot of energy. Some Scientologists invited me in to their church for a “free personality test” but I told them I didn’t have one.

Alex, Jacob, and I hustled to the Pleasance Venues to get tickets for Steven Berkoff’s much acclaimed stage version of On the Waterfront. If you haven’t seen that movie, it’s the role that defined Marlon Brando. If you see this play, it’s basically the same thing, with an English guy trying to do a great Brando impression. Steven Berkoff is known for his heightened physical theatre, and I can see why. We loved the staging, but disliked the acting. Meaning – the pictures were incredible, the movement was fantastic, the lighting and set ideas were really creative and inspired. But the lead actress was so worried with her American accent that she shouted all of her lines like Lucy Ricardo. The Preacher wasn’t much better; lots of yelling. I think the story is really great, I guess I would prefer to see Americans pull it off. It’s a very American piece. Go to it, Steppenwolf!

>Afterwards we met up with Joe and we did some last minute shopping in the New Town. The New Town is so named because it was built in the late 1700’s, as opposed to the Old Town, which was built like 1,000 years ago. We stopped at that infamous money-sucker, H&M, and some purchases were made. Do you enjoy my passive tense? Walking was done, Haggis was had, purchases were made. We wandered through Princes Park, around the Castle walls, and over into the Grassmarket. Then we hiked back up to the Royal Mile, making the obligatory, but thankfully brief, stop at the Tartan Woolen Mills. I bought my kids a giant sack of candy.

Tonight, to cap the trip off, we went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. If I were less lazy, I would look up why they call it a Tattoo. But basically it’s a giant Stadium of Fire, except no Vegas acts or 1,000 pre-teen girls doing synchronized dances with frizzy hair (holla, Starz!) We were very excited about this, and our extra ticket went to Carolyn Stone, who came along. First you line up with scores of people, and then they march you up the Royal Mile, where you eventually sit in a three-sided stadium at the entrance of the castle. Enjoy these candid shots of a few of us marching up the Mile:

The view is stunning. The castle is covered with burning torches, and lit with all sorts of colors throughout the night. There are marching bands, marching bands, and more marching bands, with the occasional Singapore Dragon and some skiers on wheels holding red flares. Incidentally, one of those skiers crashed pretty hard. But he was a good sport about it, it looked like. Also, some very rhythmic marching girls did a neat trick where they filed into a line walking backwards, but two of them collided. So it kept things exciting! At one point a guy played a big romantic number on the classical guitar and it was a little Yanni, and I laughed a little, a little, and this man in front of me got mad and told me he was enjoying it and to “stop snickerin.” Oh, angry Scots. Good times. Anyway, I don’t know what his deal was. He recorded THE ENTIRE TATTOO on his camera. So I guess he’s going to go home and watch a bunch of marching bands over and over? Despite this, I loved the Tattoo. It was a beautiful night, and a perfect way to cap our trip.

Hostel was entered, packing was done, and sleep was attempted.

garden of edinburgh

The power of prayer manifested itself in particular strength today as the first performance of Flies in the Snuffbox went brilliantly. Last night we had a doozy of a rehearsal, in which we had to keep moving rehearsal locations and eventually settled in an alleyway, fully costumed. Such is the nature of the Fringe, I guess, but I wasn’t really confident about the show as I prepared for a fitful night’s sleep. Begging Lisa and the kids to pray for us was my best recourse, and apparently it worked. We had a very smooth load-in, in which Rocket gave us an extra hour to rehearse (finally) in the space. Bless ‘em. And then the show went well, with an enthusiastic audience – including an American Named Eric, who you’ll recall sat by us on the plane. It wasn’t a large crowd, but the average number of audience for a Fringe show is two. So we were thrilled with what we got. (Three.) (Just kidding.) I was very proud of the actors – I know how exhausted they were. But that’s what the Fringe festival is: you rehearse on the fly in cramped little hotel rooms and alleys, you shame yourself passing out fliers in costume, and then you load your show in and out of a brand new space in under two hours. It’s grueling and it’s thrilling. I want to do this every year.

Following the show I had a great lunch with Kekoa and Carolyn. Kekoa has this thing for the Edinburgh City CafĂ©, and I understand the thing, because the halibut and chips were tasty-riffic. Again we discussed Cougars past and present, and Kekoa told us a few Fringe horror stories. Carolyn and I did impressions of people we know. Don’t worry, not you. I think. I never know who reads this. Then we went to a fantastic performance of Pericles Redux, which was 7 actors doing Shakespeare's Pericles as a movement piece. It was incredibly athletic and lyrical. And I thought it was very funny and touching in places. I’m directing Pericles right now for Young Company, so there’s a 99% chance that I’ll steal all the good bits.

I seriously considered leaving this next bit out, but I’ll man up to it. The cast of Snuffbox donned costumes again and returned to “our” spot on the Royal Mile. Because Jaclyn had two costumes, I wore the old lady one. And a wig. And I didn’t shave. So I joined in the group, and mostly cackled like a hag and talked in an ever-changing accent. At several points I chased bystanders around and tried to pinch their bums. This was well received. I am probably in 1500 Asian photographs dressed like an old crone. Ah, well. All in the name of art. And commerce. We were bound to get a good audience. It rained on us, but we had a lot of fun.

The rain didn’t let up all night, but luckily we spent the evening warm and mostly dry at the opera. We were very highbrow. Everyone dressed up and we acted like going to the opera was something we do all the time. We saw The Two Widows, which is a new Czechoslovakian opera performed in “English” by the Scottish Opera Company. The median age of the opera audience was probably 75, and we seemed to be the only audience members who laughed at the jokes. This was a comic opera, so that was encouraged. There were some ridiculous dances, people with deer heads, and an audience member who blew their nose like a goose during a pause in the second act overture. It was fun.

We capped the night at Frankenstein’s, which has become kind of a Edinburgh tradition. It’s sort of a ridiculous place, but it’s a nice little gathering spot if you like Frankenstein gobos, techno music, and mozzarella cheese sticks, (which they ran out of. )

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

back to 'burgh

Up at 6:15, and out the door by 6:50, headed to Edinburgh. It’s a little tricky getting thirteen people to Scotland, but if you are prepared ye shall not fail. And as an Eagle Scout…well, you get the idea.

Everyone was a bit groggy with all their luggage, but we headed off, bumping our luggage wheels along the cobblestones until we got to South Kensington. There we took our last tube to Victoria (which is a great title for a movie: Colin Firth, Keira Knightley and Tori Spelling star in….The Last Tube to Victoria) and then caught a bus to Stanstead airport. I fell asleep on this bus, which isn’t that interesting to report but I’m trying to help you relive every delightful moment of this travel day.

Once at Stanstead we waited in this giant line with a lot of angry British people. We killed time by pretending that Jaclyn was famous. We kept bugging her for autographs and pictures, and I kept saying I loved her in 27 Dresses and Grey’s Anatomy, which made her "angry" because that’s Katherine Heigl. Assisting her whole mysterious celebrity persona was her sunglasses and her outfit, which was the old lady outfit she wears in Flies in the Snuffbox, the show we’re performing in Scotland. There was no room in her luggage, so she wore it on the plane. Which was hilarious, especially at security when they kept peeling off more ragged skirts to frisk her.

The flight was fine. Joe and I sat next to an American named Eric, who was great company for the entire 60-minute flight. (This is another great movie title: Josh Hartnett in a spellbinding performance as…An American Named Eric.) He had been traveling Europe, but wanted to spend a few days at the festival. He promised to come see our show. Also, the three of us unwittingly stole some Ginger Ale.

Taxi to the Edinburgh Smart City Hostel, which is very nice and just off of the Royal Mile. I’ll definitely re-book for next year. Hostels are very hit and miss, and most of them are sort of trapped in the 90’s. But I like this one. It’s very modern, though built inside a 200 year old structure.

Because I like to gender segregate as much as possible, I sent the girls with a list of props for Snuffbox, and the boys went with me to Argos to pick up some set pieces. We bought a table and four chairs and carried them to the Rocket Venues, where we’re performing. When we showed up at the venue I ran into my old friend Carolyn Stone, which was a complete surprise. We have many funny memories and old jokes, all of which came up within the first ten minutes of talking. Also there was Kekoa Kaluhiokalani, who books the Rocket Venues and who I knew from BYU as well. He has been instrumental in getting us here, and he’s really great. The venue, incidentally, is amazing. We’re lucky to perform there.

On Kekoa’s recommendation, the boys and I had a curry and an encounter with an angry homeless man who claimed we kicked his dog. In reality, we just swatted it. But that was because it was trying to eat our curry. I’m just sayin.’

We flooded the Royal Mile tonight in costume, and everybody was great sports. We found a perfect spot by the old church and the actors accosted people on the street with fliers and performed little improvised Chekhovian shorts. Though the Royal Mile is full of actors doing this during the festival, some people were still genuinely surprised to see the students in costume, and many were delighted and several took pictures. Mostly old people, but we’ll take who we can get.

recognitions, eye-gougings, explosions, goodbyes

I spent half of Sacrament meeting trying to figure out how I knew the middle-aged man sitting in the row in front of me. I enjoyed the talks, etc, etc, but it was driving me crazy. Finally it hit me. I jog with him in the morning up at East Lawn Cemetery. Not with him, but at the same time as him. And he always says hello. It was weird to see him in church clothes and in London. Also, I had a great chat with Kate formerly Kinsel and currently Ngai and met her husband Matt. In exciting related news, Kate was called and sustained to some new calling, but I don't know what the calling was because I was too busy trying to figure out how I knew the middle-aged man sitting in the row in front of me. Anyway, Kate and Matt are great. I'm happy that they are thriving in London. Not thriving, however, is the Hyde Park Ward Choir, but I musn't judge on the Sabbath. Also of note, the final speaker of the meeting, though from New Zealand, looked exactly like me.

That whole paragraph was PROOF to all you Judgy McJudy's out there who think I don't go to church abroad. Several people can confirm my attendance, including Matt Holland, who doesn't know who I am, and a middle-aged man who jogs with me at the cemetery.

We attended King Lear at the Globe today. I really enjoyed it. I didn't enjoy the standing. I can handle the standing for the comedies, because they go by quickly. But Lear is 3 hours and 15 minutes, and you don't really have anything to lean on. But if you focus on the play your feet don't hurt as much. Lots of great performances in this one, including David Calder as Lear, and Trystan Gravelle as Edgar. He was in Love's Labour's Lost last year and was terrific in that as well. I also liked Sallie Bretton as Goneril, and Daniel Hawksford as Edmond, though he looked unnervingly like Ben Smith. I wanted to call Hailey and report on it. Is Ben Smith the victim of a Parent Trap? The best part of the show, of course, was when they plucked Gloucester's eyes out. I've never seen this show onstage as a full length production, so this was a first to me. When they pinned him down and pulled these eyeballs out it was incredibly violent and disturbing. But also kind of funny. They were sort of like giant radishes, all rooty. Good work, Globe!

Afterwards we poked for treasures along the Thames while the tide was low, and then Alex coerced us all into seeing an architectural exhibit called Psycho Buildings at the Hayward Gallery. It was super awesome. Also, really bizarre. And again, very Nuni. But that was part of the charm. Mostly the theme was crazy architecture, and unfortunate things happening to houses. Here are some examples:

Show Room, by Los Carpinteros. It's an exploding house! Lots of IKEA being exploded. I loved this room, even though it made me wonder about my house in Provo exploding. (I hope not!)

Life Tunnel, by Atelier Bow-Wow. You can see Alta ascending the life tunnel and having an awesome time feeling weird and from the future.

Observatory, Air-port-city, by Tomas Saraceno. It's this giant inflatable bubble you can go inside. When I was in there with the Whitings it was raining really hard outside, which caused a really interesting visual effect inside the bubble. Lots of rain rivulets, though we were completely dry.

Place (Village), by Rachel Whiteread. My favorite room. Calming.

Staircase - V, by Do Ho Suh. I wouldn't want to walk up those stairs! Well, kind of I would, I guess.

Some really nice people we met in the exhibit.

This being our last night in London, and things getting rainier and rainier, we stopped at the graffiti wall along the river and left our marks. Alex's was a little more classy than mine. Then we all hustled home to pack. Although I'm so excited to see my family soon, it was also a little sad to say goodbye to my home away from home. I celebrated by breaking a giant plate in the kitchen while washing it. It was a big accident. I thought about leaving the remains on the floor, however, and calling it Psycho Flat. Would this have been funny? Yes? No?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

saturday, in the park

Today, our last Saturday in the city, was sadly a little drizzly. But that wouldn’t stop us from going to Portobello Road! We can handle the drizzle as long as we can find a lot of cheap junk to buy, along with a nutella crepe. And while waiting for our tube to Notting Hill, we saw Ciaran Hinds waiting for the same tube. Here is Ciaran Hinds:

No one in our group knew who he was, but I did. He’s in There Will Be Blood, Munich, The Phantom of the Opera, Persuasion, Road to Perdition, and played Caesar in the HBO Rome series.

I didn’t buy anything at Portobello Road today, but it’s still fun to walk around. It’s really long, and packed with anything you can think of. It truly is the street where the riches of ages are stowed, as the song from Bedknobs and Broomsticks claims. I always like to look in the window at Alice’s. While there we saw Will Young! Here is Will Young:

No one in our geroup knew who he was, but I did. He was the Pop Idol winner in 2002. Pop Idol is the British version of American idol.

Also on Portobello Road we saw this middle-aged woman sobbing, and her 25-ish daughter was yelling “Mama! No que pasa NADA? No que pasa NADA, Mama?” It was a real drama. Seriously. Doesn’t that mom care about ANYTHING? It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable people are with crying and screaming in public, which is only exacerbated by the thousands of people packed onto Portobello, 80% of whom stopped to witness the drama.

The drama only continued at the matinee of Wicked. I’ve been accused many times of hating Wicked, and it’s not true. I greatly dislike it, but I don’t hate it. It’s just a really dumb show, but I know that’s blasphemy among theatre geeks and 14 year old girls. Anyway, I only stayed for the first half, and then Alex and I left for the Of Montreal concert. Yes, today was the day!

If you don’t know Of Montreal they defy description. Musical geniuses, and their shows are incredibly theatrical and bizarre. We were packed into a field under a sea of umbrellas, as the drizzle continued. I won’t go into all of the details of the show, but I will say that the following things happened:

A girl dressed in a silver latex outfit, Salieri mask, and a long black cape ran around the stage and hissed at the audience.

A man in a pink shirt wearing a giant tiger head would pounce on the band members during songs and pretend to eat them.

Another guy wearing the silver latex outfit was turned upside down by the tiger.

A man sat onstage the whole time reading a newspaper and occasionally looking at the audience.

Kevin Barnes, who had bare legs with paint all over them, smashed his guitar and threw pieces of it to the audience.

It was really enjoyable. Unfortunately Alex wasn’t able to get in. The thing was sold out (and you were probably thinking “Who would want to go see that?” Well, every pretentious artsy alt-rocker in London, plus some drunk girls on a hen-night would, as a matter of fact.) But Alex waited for the set to end, since he had come all the way to Victoria Park, and we walked to the tube stop. So that was very nice of him. He’s been a fantastic help to me this entire trip and I value our friendship. I also valued the crepes we had at the Crepery tonight. Yes, that’s two crepes for me today. But since it was still raining out we went savoury rather than sweet, because that’s what you do during inclement weather. Two crepes divulged in a wood, and I took the savoury one. And that has made all the difference.

One last thing. We stopped to ask some cops at the concert which was the nearest tube stop to get us home. They were very friendly, and one of them has a sister living in Utah! That was crazy. I could tell they were very anxious to talk to anyone who wasn’t drunk, stoned, or wearing a lip ring. Good thing I took my lip ring out, y’all!