Sunday, May 02, 2010


If I had a nickel for every time I had to go to Austria for a conference, I would probably just have one nickel. So I was really excited to go! This conference was held at Retzhoff Castle in Leibniz, Austria, which is just south of Graz (home of Arnold Schwarzenegger.) It was sponsored by IUGTE, which is a fancy acronym for the International University Global Theatre Experience. I went as a presenter at the conference, and travelled with my good friend and colleague Isaac Walters. It was a really fantastic experience: I made some great friends, had some cool experiences, and learned a lot. I also fell in love with Austria. I thought I would post pictures of our four days there, and tell you a little bit about what happened:

Here we are doing our early morning stretches with our teacher, a mysterious Russian named Ostrenko. Ostrenko is in the very front, and he is probably telling us something in Russian right now. His interpreter, Inga, was very good in her translations, though sometimes Ostrenko would say something and then Inga would say "HE SAY: run around like fish." And we would question that.

The weather was really beautiful for April. Austria looks just like it does in The Sound of Music. Castle Retzhoff looked just like the Von Trapp's house. But nobody blew any whistles and there weren't any Nazis (that I saw, anyway.)
This was a breathing class taught by Doris Hintsteiner. She touched us a lot. We had to breathe from our pelvis, though Doris didn't really touch us there. I'm in the back wearing the blue T and breathing from my pelvis.
The participants at the conference were from all over the place: Holland, Japan, Portugal, Italy, England, Russia, Australia...It was amazing how quickly we bonded as a group. Wonderful people.

This was a session of Suzuki taught by Antje Diedrich. Suzuki is very Japanese. You hold positions for a long time, and you stamp a lot and make a lot of physical efforts. It's actually exhausting, but I like the focus on physical control.
We held this pose for a long time.
Something here was particularly fascinating. I think I'm going to cry.
And then everything became chaotic and terrifying and I basically murdered somebody.

Here we are at our closing night party. Ostrenko is looking particularly dapper, as is his way. I think he managed three outfit changes per day. It really kept us on our toes. The food at this party was awesome.
Later on in the evening the spirits flowed freely and I found myself at the piano while people sang loudly. "Creep" has never been so heartfelt, nor have the lyrics been more mangled. Pictured are Christina, Giorgia, Juliette, and Ricardo.
Juliette is one of the best harmonium players in the world. I'm not exaggerating. There is empirical data somewhere to prove this.
This is Ricardo, who became my instant friend. Ricardo teaches jazz guitar in Lisbon. He knows every jazz standard you can think of, and he can rattle off the chords while I play. It's amazing. His brain is a computer for jazz standards. He's a fantastic guy.
The next day a group of us set out to explore Graz. It was May Day, and a really perfect occasion to see this town. Graz looks like a storybook village - red slate roofs and a bell tower, with touches of modernity here and there. Modernity like, for instance, a giant art museum shaped like a spiky blob:
In the middle of the Mur River is a bird's nest, which is also a restaurant! Oh, Europeans! What will you think of next?
We didn't eat at this restaurant, but Ricardo and I took a nap on the big funky couches.

Now that we had rested we ascended the Schlossberg, a hill with a bell tower and a crumbling fortress on top. It was quite a hike, but not as bad as, say, hiking the Y. I had no complaints. I thought it was beautiful.
Behold! The red roofs of Graz!

Here is the bell tower, where we memorably played my favorite game: "get in other people's pictures." Also I tried, for my first and last time, asparagus ice cream.
I have to admit that I was sad to say goodbye to a handful of new friends that I made here. I do this all the time. I´m a social guy and I bond quickly with people. But I'm so glad I came. I had no idea it would be this great of an experience. It was so much more than just a conference.

Everyone was teasing me about buying some lederhosen and wearing them on the plane home. I didn't do it, but I wish I had. They looked really comfortable! Also, I think Lisa would find them sexy.

photos by Isaac Walters, Inga Ryaznoff, and Olga Balomenu.