Friday, August 09, 2013

goodbye 2013!

Today was our last day for 2013, which meant we were all business. Well, kind of. I went to the final performance of Marty's Crossing and Lisa went shopping for our kids. She came back with lots of multi-colored trousers for teens and a few cute kindergarten outfits for you-know-who. We added to this pile one large bag of British candy, which set us back 20 pounds (money, not weight, but close there, too.)

We had lunch at a Pizza Joint I like to call the "Pizza Express." It was there that Lisa ate her Quatro Formaggio pizza, died, and went to heaven. I captured the whole thing in these four fascinating pictures:

Since we're done for the year, I thought a lot about everything I've seen and decided to award my 2013 London Tony's. Maybe these should be called the Tophers? I'll think that one over until next year. But here's what I would award:

Best New Play: The Night Alive, Donmar Warehouse

Best New Musical: Once, Phoenix Theatre

Best Book of a New Musical: Edna Walsh, Once

Best Original Score: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, Once

Best Revival of a Play: Private Lives, Gielgud Theatre

Best Revival of a Musical: Merrily We Roll Along, Harold Pinter Theatre

Best Perfomance by an Actor (Play): Toby Stephens, Private Lives

Best Performance by an Actress (Play): Kim Cattrall, Sweet Bird of Youth

Best Performance by an Actor (Musical): Declan Bennett, Once

Best Performance by an Actress (Musical): Jenna Russell, Merrily We Roll Along

Featured Actor (Play): Brendan O'Hea, Henry VI, pt 1-3

Featured Actress (Play): Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan

Featured Actor (Musical): Damian Humbley, Merrily We Roll Along

Featured Actress (Musical): Josephina Gabrielle, Merrily We Roll Along

Best Direction of a Play: Michael Fentiman, Titus Andronicus

Best Direction of a Musical: Maria Friedman, Merrily We Roll Along

Best Choreography: Maxine Doyle, The Drowned Man

Best Scenic Design: Mark Thompson, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Best Costume Design: Colin Richmond, Titus Andronicus

Best Lighting Design: Mike Gunning, The Drowned Man

It was a fantastic year. We only saw one play that we uniformly disliked (All's Well that Ends Well) but we liked or loved everything else. That's a huge relief. Sometimes these shows can be so hit and miss. We had a lot of hits!

We met, for the last time, as a group for one finaldinner. At first the group suggested we go to a little hole-in-the-wall pizza place called "Pizza Express," but sadly it was too full and couldn't accommodate our large group. Although Lisa was willing to have that Quattro Formaggio again, and was even happy to do it, I was relieved. Instead we ate at an Italian joint up on the Royal Mile. It was fun to be all together one last time.

Then it was time for the Tattoo! There was nothing particularly different about the Tattoo this year, but I seemed to enjoy it more than usual. I think it was having Lisa with me and experiencing it through her eyes, and it might have been sitting by Ames, who oohd and aahd everytime another marching band came out, or it may have been the fumes of whisky in the air (from the drunk lady sitting next to Emily.) But it was a fun night. I laughed hard. There were presentations from New Zealand (who played Oppa Gangnam Style on brass instruments) Mongolia (where a lithe little girl did a backbend on a platform balancing from her teeth) and Mexico (here's to you, Josh Valdez!) There was also the customary tots-on-motorcycles show, but this year there was an added firework explosion when it looked like the cycles were going to collide. Finally, an appearance by Little Sebastian! You can imagine how everyone freaked out over Little Sebastian ("I heard him neigh!") And the evening ended with some beautiful fireworks. Always the exciting conclusion of our trip. Devin and Aubrey were ecstatic afterwards, drunk on the tattoo. Well, at least until Devin was accosted by a large panda bear down on Prince's Street.

This has been a wonderful year. I have loved this group of students and I have so much enjoyed getting to know them, getting to laugh with them, and getting to be with them. Thank you Ames Bell, Emily Bell, David Beach, Tatijanna Lourerio, Whitney Kennedy, Nate Brogan, Josh Valdez, Jason Barker, Aubrey Bench, and Devin Neff. I'll never forget this summer. And thanks to Lisa, who came to spend a week with me when I needed her most. Until 2014!

Thursday, August 08, 2013


First off, I wanted to thank Josh Bingham for the shout-out today on our Part Time Authors blog. You should read it. It was very kind, and super funny. Thanks, Josh. I'm always kind of writing with you in mind anyway. Thanks for hanging on since '06! FNL for the win!

We got up a little earlier today than usual (and I won't even tell you what time "usual" is except that you can no longer get a Egg McMuffin by then) so we could see The Trojan Women, performed by some friends at Dixie State. Joe and Suzy Fox were there, as Joe is technical directing the show. It was fun to see their work. The show was in a really neat, moody space three flights down in a basement. It smelled a little moist and dank and it was perfect for this kind of show. Joe filled the caverns and arches with beautiful lighting and haze. It was really striking, and so fun to see the show with some familiar faces in it.

After Martyr's Crossing Lisa and I had lunch with Joe and Suzy at the Red Squirrel Diner. Joe chastised us for having hamburgers in Scotland, but we couldn't resist. These are enormous hamburgers. And a giant plate of creamy mac and cheese (all this for you, Josh!) It was fun catching up with friends and eating good food. Meanwhile, there was a giant deluge of rain outside, though, oddly this was the first real rainstorm we've had all week. It's not like Edinburgh to be this dry. It only lasted a few moments before the clouds lifted, and we said goodbye to our friends and went on our way.

I wanted to take Lisa to North Berwick, a charming seaside town about 30 minutes away. The train leaves once per hour, and Lisa and I ran for it but got to the platform just as it was leaving. So we wandered through Topshop and H&M for a bit while we waited for the next one. At H&M all the mannequins were dressed like sexy librarians. Just my style!

We caught the next train just fine, and shared a car with a little family next to us. They had a daughter, about 6, named Margaret and a son, about 3, named Owen. Margaret was playing "snaps" with Owen, but she kept changing the rules so that Owen would lose. Her mom would call her out on it, and Margaret would just shrug and say "well that's just how you play snaps, isn't it?" She was a little Scottish tyrant but so, so cute. And since we have a Margaret and an Owen in our family, it was fun to hear those names.

North Berwick was so nice. It was so quiet out there. No sound but waves and seagulls. I collected some sea glass on the beach and we had fun people watching and talking about our kids and our lives. Such a nice conversation with someone I love. We wandered along the coast and then into town. We stopped at an old church built in 1100 AD and I took some pictures of the moss inside it. We found a beautiful park full of flowers and birds. There was an aviary, but there were also birds all over the trees in the park. They made hoots and coos from just about every limb and it was a fun sound to listen to. The quieter we were, the louder they were.

We finally decided it was time for dinner, so we found Bella Italia on the High Street. They asked if we had a reservation and I said no, and then they said to come in. So I'm guessing it wasn't that busy. It was sure delicious, though! I had a huge plate of lasagna (the kind YOU make, Josh!) and Lisa had a Caprese Salad. The room eventually filled with Scottish golfers, and I'm pretty sure we were the only tourists in the building. That's a nice feeling, sometimes.

We took the train back to Edinburgh at 7:20, feeling calm and rested. It was a beautiful afternoon. The fields outside the window were gold with patches of purple thistle and Russian sage. I love that stuff.

Josh and I capped the evening by seeing Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang back at the festival. I had no prior knowledge of the show, besides the fact that it's about two monks who come back to life and tell stories of the end of their monastery in the 1500's. It was actually really hysterical. The two actors played several roles, including a swishy lady named "Miss Alice" that Josh and I are still laughing about. I realized it was the last show, beyond the final performance of Martyr's Crossing, that I would see on this trip. I've seen so much and my batteries are recharged. Excited to go home now and do my own work again!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

birds eye view

We woke up to much clearer skies and a little bit of sun; it promised to be a clear day, and it was. A few rain drops here and there, but nothing worth noting beyond that. I'll take it!

While Martyr's Crossing was having it's second run, Lisa and I had lunch next door to the venue at a place called FYUL. FYUL is some kind of acronym, but I've already forgotten it. Food you'll utterly love? Anyway, it was delicious. I had chicken curry. But more importantly, FYUL is owned by two stage designers, so the d├ęcor was pretty awesome. I especially loved the door wall and the chair covered with tweed suit coats. Every corner of the restaurant was filled with something interesting, unexpected, and/or bizarre. I like places like that.

After the show we met back up with the cast and made plans for the day. Everyone had different items on their agenda, which is great. Exactly what I hoped they would want to do in Edinburgh.  Aubrey, Devon and Josh joined Lisa and Me for a hike to the top of Arthur's seat. It was so much fun. We had a great talk on the way up, and it was so beautiful with the purple thistles in bloom everywhere. It's not a difficult hike - I'd compare it to hiking the Y - and it's so rewarding. The scenery along the trail is amazing, and the view from the top is spectacular.

We sat on the craggy rocks at the crest for a while, looking out over Edinburgh and the North Sea. For miles we could see quilted countryside and rumbling clouds rolling in. Then we moved over to a grassy knoll and laid down for a bit. It was so quiet up there. The students entertained Lisa and me with funny stories, and Josh chased a crow.

After the hike we were all pretty hungry, so we walked back down off the Seat, up through the Royal Mile, and into New Town where we had  a pub dinner at Milne's Bar on Rose Street. Lisa and I both had the Roast Special - a super traditional English meal with Roast, potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding. Josh had fish and chips, and I don't remember what the girls had. I just remember that we ate and ate and still nobody finished their plates.

Lisa and I went to see The Heat, which was hysterical. Is there anyone funnier than Melissa McCarthy? I know it's odd that we keep going to movies, but that's our thing. We both know how crazy things will get when we're back home on Monday, so we're going to take advantage of this time to do what we like, when we like, and how we like. I love it, and I'm incredibly grateful for it.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

from both sides now

Breakfast: one cheese roll, one chocolate donut, both from Greggs. Delicious!

Now that's finished, I'll get on with the day. The light streaming in through the cracks of our hotel room curtains would indicate that it was a sunny day today, but light can be deceiving. Once we hit the pavement it was a little gray. One of those days where you aren't sure if you need a jacket or not. Lisa and I both had one on standby, and we both used them.

The first performance of Martyr's Crossing was a success, with a little audience and a smooth performance. I loved watching the students and knowing how hard they had worked to get the show here. I wish I could beat the drum louder and get everyone in town to come see it, but I'm also competing with 2700 other shows. Literally, 2700. If you have friends in Edinburgh, tell them to come see it. They'll like it. It's funny and sad and there's a (SPOILER) big Joan of Arc burning scene. My former student Adam Slee was there with one of his students. I'm so proud of Adam - he's been a fantastic alumni of our department and such a huge support to us. It was so great to see him at the show and visit with him afterwards.

The cast was starving so we took advantage of the tasty but frugal 3 pound meal deal at Sainsbury's. Lisa and I exceeded our 3 pound limit, but just barely. And only because we always live on the edge like that. We all enjoyed our sandwiches on Grassmarket street and I heard Josh say "I really, really love Chris Clark" to Lisa, but he actually said "I really, really love croissants." Oh well, anyway. I love you, too, Josh. I get confused with croissants all the time.

We had a wonderful visit to Edinburgh Castle. The view from the top is spectacular, and I love the tour guides, even if they are Dutch and not Scottish, as ours was today. At one point Nate claimed to have a "BS in Edinburgh Castle" and gave us all a fascinating and completely bogus tour of his own.

Lisa and I stopped for a few minutes at St. Margaret's Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh and the site where my cousins Jeff and Nanette got engaged. (I think? I told Lisa it was.) We also had a special place for it in our heart because of another Margaret back in Utah who likes chicken strips, makes funny faces, and meows her primary talks.

We stopped for a few minutes at the Tartan Weaving Mill and Exhibition, but it's a little noisy and busy in there so we went to Primark, where things are never noisy and/or busy. Actually, we went to H&M first, which used to be so cheap in my mind and now, thanks to Primark, anything over 5 pounds feels like an extravagance. Clothes lasting longer than three months? What's the point? But, oddly enough, I did find that the third floor of H&M affords the most magical view of Edinburgh castle:

Lisa and I went to see Blancanieves, which I had been reading about and worried I might not ever get to see. It's a black and white film, with no speaking, like The Artist. But it was just made this year, so it's visually beautiful and stylistically stunning. It's a version of Snow White told as if Snow White were a Spanish bullfighter. It's funny and clever, and so touching. My kids will love it. If you get a chance to see it, you ought to. It's so sweet and it will stay with you for a while.

We finished our day at Nando's Chicken Factory, despite the death of a rooster being a major plot point of Blancanieves. It was delicious. At one point we thought we heard a major car crash outside, but it was the sound of fighter jets flying overhead for the Tattoo. It was nice in Nando's, and not as crazy as London. All that pebble ice and free refills and peri peri chicken! Is this heaven?

Outside Lisa wanted to take a duo-selfie, which we did.

And then we got photobombed by this clown.

Monday, August 05, 2013

here we are, edinburgh town

We headed to the tube station this morning in mass, bumping down Gloucester Road with all of our luggage. It’s sad to say goodbye to London, but the awkwardness of luggage and bags makes for a nice distraction. We were on the tube in no time, headed for Heathrow Terminal 1. It’s a long tube ride, and we basically filled the entire car with our stuff. But that’s how we roll. We came, we saw, we flew to Scotland.

The flight was pretty uneventful, despite the painted lady on the side of the plane. I was expecting the flight to be sexier, or more patriotic. They did give us little candy hearts, though. And I read two Entertainment Weeklies. I’m all caught up now on the news that matters.

We landed in Scotland in typical Scottish weather. It’s gray and it’s cloudy and it’s always changing. I’m used to it now. You forget that it’s August. Our taxi driver was a bit gruff but he got us there. I was a little terrified to talk to him. But then, after leaving my credit card in the car, he turned around and hand delivered it back to me on a street corner – just as I was realizing that it was gone. So he had a heart of gold, after all.

We met at the Gryphon Studios with my good friend and producer Kekoa, who gave the students an orientation and then led them to their theatre space so they could tech the show they’re performing for the festival. This year we’re doing Melissa Leilani Larson’s play Martyr’s Crossing, a beautiful cutting of a powerful play about Joan of Arc. Ames and Emily Bell directed it, and it’s great. Really nice to watch, and very moving. I’m excited for people to see it this week.

Lisa and I took a little stroll along the Grass Market, stopping at thrift stores and getting lost at Armstrong’s Vintage Emporium. I’m not sure I know of any city that does thrift shopping like Edinburgh. I almost never buy anything, because I get a little grossed out about wearing someone else’s clothes. I know, I’m a jerk about that. But come on, imagine what people did in those clothes!

Lisa and I had dinner at this delicious little hole in the wall called Wagamama’s (maybe you’ve heard of it? Try the ginger udon chicken.) Lisa told me a funny story about the restroom there. While she was in there she heard a mother trying to coax her 6 year old daughter out of a stall. “Go on without me,” the girl called. “I’m not going to leave you in there,” her mother replied. “I’ll phone you when I’m finished,” the girl said. “You don’t have a cell phone,” said her mother.

Today was Ames Bell’s birthday, and our special birthday boy wanted to celebrate by taking a tour of Mary King’s Close, a series of houses, rooms, and streets hidden below Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Our tour guide was Keith, and he was very entertaining. He liked to shut the lights off down there and throw rats at us. It was super fun! You can just imagine. We learned about life in the 1600’s, and mostly heard about the plague. This plague, you guys. It killed just about everybody. Today the only plague we have is tattoos on everybody. There were some scary stories down there, but the scariest part of the tour was at the beginning, when an elderly man crashed the gift shop and began singing songs about Jesus to some terrified teenage girl. He was shown out. Ah, Scotland!

We all walked home after that, and it was a beautiful night. In no time we were all checked into our rooms, and the sounds of the booming military tattoo echoed over the streets.