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.