Tuesday, August 10, 2010

auld reekie

Edinburgh is called "Auld Reekie" because it has a peculiar smell. People attribute it to soot and smoke from a century ago, and I can't confirm or deny that. But there's no mistaking the smell of Edinburgh. I always think it's pea soup. Every time I come here I immediately smell pea soup. Some of my students say it's pork and beans, and someone else said burnt popcorn. There is a reek. It's not unpleasant, but it's there.

This morning was a little hectic as it was the first performance of Rappaccini's Daughter. While the students set up camp in their new theatre space I maneuvered the backstreets of Edinburgh, making fliers and buying mandolin strings for the performance. It was, needless to say, raining, which made the streets slick and the sidewalks clogged with umbrellas. But I got it done. On my way to the venue I passed this on the wall:

It was great advice.

The first performance of the show, I am very pleased to say, went extremely well. While the space was even tighter than they had anticipated, the students adapted beautifully to their confines and delivered a performance that was clear, energetic, and full of passion. I was really proud of them. This piece was adapted by a student, directed by a student, and performed by a group of students. My involvement was incredibly limited. So to see what they have accomplished is inspiring to me; I sat in the audience and felt so grateful to associate with these young artists. There are incredible amounts of potential on that stage, and I look forward to seeing where these students eventually end up.

After the performance they had literally two minutes to vacate the theatre so the next performance could move in. So it goes at the Edinburgh Fringe. But they did it; tumbling out of the theatre in white make-up and carrying bags and trunks as quickly as they could. I left with James and Colleen Arrington for pizza up the street. We had a nice long visit, and James caught me up on all of the happenings in the UVU Theatre Department while I've been away. I'm amazed how many changes can happen in my career, my family, and my church in just a month. And the odd thing is that things probably change like this all the time, I just don't always get the chance to back away and marvel at it like I do when I'm here.

After lunch I went to a show called Naked Splendour, which received the rare and blessed 5 Star review from the official Fringe Newspaper. I can see why - it's very entertaining. It's a one man show in a little space. This guy was a professional artist's model, which is very interesting because he's huge. Very, very big. He talks about what it feels like to be a model: holding endless poses, being dissected and talked about by artists, meeting strange and quirky people. It was fascinating and funny, and occasionally touching. And the best part is that they gave you pads of paper and you could draw whatever you wanted while he spoke. I thought that Lisa, who can actually draw, would have loved it. I love watching people draw. I'm terrible at it.

Tonight I needed to have dinner and I walked around Edinburgh, looking for what sounded right. And do you know what sounded right? Yep, McDonalds! People are always annoyed by how much I eat at McDonalds over here, and I always feel a little guilty about it. They somehow want me to always be eating in cafes or hidden little European eateries. But after a month of eating in cafes I just need something fast, hot, and cheap. I don't want to sit for an hour, I don't want to worry about how to split the bill, I don't want to wait 30 minutes for my food. So I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE. While I scarfed my Big Mac I reflected on all the places, besides Edinburgh, I have eaten McDonalds this year:

1. High Street Kensington, London (TWICE)
2. The Louvre, Paris
3. Versailles, Paris
4. Convention, Paris
5. Hampstead Heath, London
6. Trafalgar Square, London (BUT THAT WAS ONLY A McFLURRY)

Tonight I switched things up and did the Edinburgh Film Festival. It's fun to see movies in Europe because the screens are so tiny! Actually, that's not that fun. But it's fun to see movies whenever I can. Tonight was a presentation of short films from all around the world. I liked most of them. Sometimes they were trying to be super arty, and man, that gets old fast. I like the shorts when they tell simple stories and have a clear point of view. I also like originality. I have a high tolerance for quirk and a low tolerance for redundancy or cliche. Regardless of what I thought, it was exciting to see what young filmmakers are doing all around the Globe.

Afterwards I went back to McDonalds for one more meal! Just kidding that's gross.