Tuesday, August 9, 2011


It's 95 degrees here, and I have come down with a cold. Really?

I saw Punchdrunk's Sleep No More last night, and it was an experience. I wondered what the Queen of All Versions of Macbeth (you know who you are) would think about it. I don't think any of you will have a chance to see it, but if you do, I'll try not to say too much. This show takes place at a "hotel," the McKittrick, down in the Chelsea district. It's the Macbeth story as played out in a film noir (1920sish) style. All the audience members wear masks, and you can follow any actor you want (or can catch) during the three hours or so of the performance. I was able to follow Macbeth for a while, and I saw some things. I followed Lady Macduff and was a little sorry that I did. I even tried to follow the doctor. If you go with someone else and get separated (which you will), that person will see something different than you will. You can also touch any of the objects and read any letters, etc., that you happen to find. You can't touch the actors, but they can touch you. I experienced so many of the scenes very intimately, so it's if I were in a film noir movie or something. Very Stanley Kubrick. I wore tennis shoes, thank goodness, because I had to RUN. And push people out of the way, which I didn't hesitate to do. The actors do not speak, except maybe a word here and there, so it's almost like a dumb show. But it's definitely Macbeth. I got blood on my pants. One other audience member was wiped out by one of the murder scenes. I felt so thrilled and compelled by the whole thing. Sometimes I saw the same scene more than once. And then all the audience ends up in a speakeasy afterwards. Also, I didn't necessarily see the show in order, either. I just felt that anything could happen. So exciting. I think I am doing a poor job of explaining this, so I will try to explain it better in person (to those of you who actually see/know me), but it really moved me. I almost don't want to sit in an audience ever again., If I had 80 bucks to go back, I would. Those actors are among the bravest I have ever seen. They included so much incredible physical detail in the their work. So fascinating.

We performed our second scene (The Taming of the Shrew) and are getting our last one today. We talked about language in Romeo and Juliet yesterday morning. I thought I knew that play pretty well, but I'm discovering loads of things I didn't know before.

I'm frustrated because I can't change my password from here, thus I will not be receiving many important emails that I need. Oh well.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I've noticed that sweat is the great equalizer in NYC in the summer. Everyone coming into the theatre is just as sweaty and icky as you are, even if they are better dressed.

Lots has happened since last update. I have been in class for six hours a day. The morning mostly consists of lectures, but I've learned quite a bit about Shakespeare that I didn't know. For those of you who know me, it won't surprise you that the one thing that really stuck in my head is that the plural of "phallus" is "phalloi." What can I say? I'm a twelve-year-old boy disguised as a middle-aged woman. In the afternoons, we do scenework and have already performed from Henry V. I got to be Henry for a while, which would never happen in real life.

The high point of the week, and of the trip, I think, was Friday. All of the scholars were shown some of the rare book collection of the Columbia library, which is considerable. All of the books we viewed were printed in Shakespeare's time or a little after his lifetime, including a copy of the first folio. The first folio. The. First. Folio. And I touched it! And turned the pages! And.....I just couldn't believe it. And surrounded by all those old books, I realized how so much of my past lives in the pages of books, and how much of our historical past lives there. And how my future probably does not. And our future. But I hope I'm wrong.

Me with the first folio

The first folio

The first folio. When I turned the page, it opened to The Tempest

On Friday night, I saw The Neo-Futurists 60 minute show, "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," which was in this dumpy little theatre in the East Village. I had always wanted to see it but was a bit disappointed. Beforehand we went to The Strand (18 miles of books! Oh my!) and had Ukrainian cuisine at Veselka, including the most delicious borscht ever.

Yesterday, my feet were very swollen, which made a lot of walking difficult and painful, but I tried to keep going. I intended to see a matinee, but lunch took too long, so we ended up in Times Square and went to the Drama Bookshop, which is all plays and theatre-related books, Very cool. We met Julie's friend in Bryant Park and proceded to Park Slope in Brooklyn, where we had some Austrian food (schnitzel and spaetzle) before going to Lear.

Confession: we were a few minutes late to Lear, and I was mortified. We had to wait. And I was waaaaay up in the balcony and had to take the scary elevator because the stairs were too noisy. But I saw most of it. I just missed the first scene. The Royal Shakespeare Company is pretty amazing, and all of the actors I saw in Winter's Tale were also in Lear, so to see them do completely different roles was a neat opportunity.

Slept in today, and I'm currently trying to decide what to do. I am sort of free today, and it's already into the afternoon. I can go anywhere I want. What to do? Maybe the Metropolitan. Weirdly enough, I don't feel like packing in the shows today. Plus I'm running out of money. Which happens pretty quickly here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Exit Pursued By a Bear

Okay, long post. Lots to catch up on.

On Sunday, I finally made it to The Cloisters, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art but located WAY uptown, and I took the hottest, sweatiest, dumbest way I possibly could. I almost gave up several times, but I'm glad I didn't, because it's a fabulous museum. The Cloisters houses medival art, including sculpture and tapestries and has beautiful gardens. The famous Unicorn tapestries reside there, which depict the hunting and slaying of a unicorn in five tapestries. They are well worth the trip. No pictures, because it's very dark in the tapestry room. This is a picture of a 13th century chapter house, where the monks would go for morning prayers. The stones are so fragile that they have "do not touch" signs on them.
Speaking of touching, someone actually touched one of the tapestries and set off the alarm. One of many examples of bad tourist behavior I've witnessed. On Sunday night, we had an opening reception at Sutton Place, which is in midtown, on the rooftop. We could see the entire city from there (pictures at bottom of post).

We've had class the past two days, and in the morning we study source materials and the plays themselves, and in the afternoon, we do acting exercises and scenework. It's been a blast so far, and I've learned a lot of things I didn't know. Last night I went to Chinatown/Little Italy and got lost with my new friend Julie and then walked through questionable areas at night, although most of Manhattan is pretty gentrified by now.
Tonight I saw my first show presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company, A Winter's Tale. The RSC has been to North America before, but this is the first time they've done a residency, and they could never recreate their thrust Stratford theatre, until now. The plays are in the Park Avenue Armory, and it was soooooo cool. A Winter's Tale was very imaginatively staged, and I forgot what a crazy little play it is. Kinda The Tempest Meets Othello. With some other weird stuff thrown in there.
My feet are swollen to twice their normal size, and I don't know why. I feel like I'm walking on stay-puff marshmallows. I'm hoping they will be normal soon, and that this isn't something serious.
To round off a great day, someone vomited on the subway on the way home. Now I feel like a true New Yorker.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Yesterday was a pretty incredible day. I started off by going for a really long walk in Riverside Park, which is just a couple of blocks from my dorm. For those of you who are interested and know the area, I'm at Columbia Teacher's College on W. 121st. I really like the area. How strange is it that I could not make myself get off my zaftig ass all summer and work out, and the first thing I did here was take a long walk? Of course, the walk looked like this:
So maybe that explains it. This is my street:
After walk and breakfast, I met up with one of the other participants who is also a theatre teacher, and we had brunch with a friend of hers. One of the things I was nervous about when I was coming here was spending two weeks with total strangers, but that's been one of the best things so far. Julie and I spent the whole day together and went to two shows, Jerusalem and War Horse. And if I didn't see another show while I was here, I would be perfectly happy, because it doesn't get any better than those two shows.

I think most of the time, when I see an actor, I mostly have at least a little glimmer or insight into what processes the actor used to invoke his performance. But Mark Rylance (Jerusalem) was a complete mystery to me. I don't know what he did to do what did. He was indescribably incredible, and I can't believe that he does that character 8 times a week. Julie and I had the same reaction: we were speechless. This is why I like plays better than musicals. I've yet to see a musical (though I do like them) that has an fraction of the power to move me like that play did.

And it was difficult to believe that theatrical experience could be improved upon, but I think War Horse is the best show I've ever seen. Ever. EVER. The best possible combination of spectacle, technology, story-telling, and creative thinking exists so coherently in that production. It was stunning. Beautiful. And I don't often use this word to describe live theatre, but it had incredible imagery. The projections were amazing. Everything. If you don't know about this show, look it up, because it's too complicated for me to try to explain. And then plan a trip to come see it, because you HAVE to see it. So moving. I cried several times, a couple of times because of sheer astonishment.  A play that actually depicts war in a horrifying  and realistic way, in spite of (or perhaps because of) its stylization.  I am so incoherently stunned by trying to describe it that I almost put an apostrophe in the above "its." That's how good it is. It was my T-shirt show.

Oh! I took a picture of dinner because I didn't mind being nerdy in front of Julie. Open smoked salmon sandwich with dill and avocado:
So good. It was a good day. Today: The Cloisters! Finally! And the opening night reception party.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Not In.....

Well. You get the idea.

A few notes about travel:

1.Does everyone feel that indescribable joy when the middle seat is empty on the airplane? The very long flight was much more tolerable because of that.
2.Piercing screams of infants/children are always startling and unpleasant.
3. Mostly everyone on the Denver flight was wearing a sweater or a hoodie. Obvously their weather experiences are different from Wichitans'.
4. Electronic devices just make travel more pleasant, as do podcasts of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.
5. Friends who will drive you to the airport at 5:30 in the morning are invaluable. You know who you are.
6. If you do not tightly turn the cap on your shampoo, it might spill all in your suitcase all over EVERYTHING, necessitating a visit to the laundry room in the first hour of your stay. Not that this happened or anything.

Anyway, I'm here. Shared a cab with two of the other teachers. The Columbia College dorm room is quite nice and bigger and cleaner than some of the hotels I've been in. And here's my view:

So not bad at all. And here's the room:

A bit on the austere side, but the bathroom is quite roomy, and I can sit on the toilet without turning sideways. This is all I ask out of life.

I didn't take a picture of it (I was with people), but dinner was: garlic bread topped with goat cheese, salad with hearts of palm, mango, and goat-cheese stuffed figs,  linguini with lobster tail and shrimp, and pistachio gelato. Also had a lovely pinot that I need to try to find in Wichita. However, due to the expense, I will not be eating anything else.

A can of chicken soup is $3.29 in NYC.

Oh! And there was teacher swag! Pencil bag and jump drive!

I've been up since 3:45am. Gonna read a little Henry V and go to bed.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer Sloth

Woke up this morning in tremendous pain. I guess getting older means I can injure myself even when I am asleep. Owwwwww. Lower back.

I am being a big baby about it, I admit it. It really hurts. The saving grace is that only the cat hears me whine. Wait. Is that a positive thing? I kept wishing I had a significant other to go buy me ibuprofen, because it hurts so much to drive, but I finally did it myself. Naturally, because it's spring, I had to scoop up the dead baby duckling on my steps. WHY do these keep showing up? If a friendly cat is the cause, please stop. I have a squeamish stomach and do not deal well with dead baby animals, maggots, and the like.

I am automatically opposed to any movie that is billed as a "feel-good" film. I just automatically feel I won't like it. Is it because I am stubborn, and when I see the phrase "feel-good comedy," I just decide I won't "feel good?" No, movie. No. There will be no "feeling good" because of your crappy little existence. No. Does this make me a pessimist? Does this just mean I have a bad attitude?

Riverfest is inconvenient. I don't want to go anywhere because of it. Not that I can, due to the parasites of pain in my lower back.

I haven't talked to anyone all day. Thus the incoherent blogging.

I am drinking soy milk, and I enjoy it.

I found a downtown loft for 850. One bedroom and 950 square feet, which is bigger than my current two bedroom. I am tempted. Wouldn't hurt to look. On the other hand, I am not such a social person, so why do I want to move downtown? Do I think that will MAKE me social? I think that I am under the very mistaken impression that it will make me cooler. Which it won't. Still. Tempted.

What a boring little entry. Summer is.....lonely. I like it, but.....yeah.

I just typed...

...a whole entry and Blogger erased it. I am NOT doing it again. Irritated.