Thursday, November 24, 2011

New, And a Bit Alarming


As we know, I am in the bustling metropolis of Sudbury. Sandra Shamas, one of my inspirations as a funny girl from the Land of the Timber Wolf, Home of the Beaver, has this to say of Sudbury:

'Sudbury! Where the men are men! And the women....are MEN!'

This is of course untrue, I have met some beautiful and sweet women in Sudbury. But it is very funny. Actually, when I first came up here last year, Sandra Shamas was in my ear the whole time. I just love.

ANYWAY. Because I'm in Sudbury, it means I can't have 'traditional' rehearsals for Modern Love (Jan 5 -15 at Next Stage Festival, get your tickets here, NOW, no pressure, except serious and real pressure, please come and see my show). But you all know what I say to Tradition!

I say, 'WHO MUST KNOW THE WAY TO MAKE A PROPER HOME, A QUIET HOME, A KOSHER HOME?' and then I say all the other words to that song, because I know them all and it is the best.

BUT. I digress. What do we do when we can't rehearse our Next Stage show in traditional ways? We thumb our nose at all traditions not involving Tevye, and we have Skype rehearsals!

Director Eric Double!

Skype rehearsals are great because I don't have to leave my room. I actually don't even have to leave my bed. They are not great because you frequently cut out and they aren't rehearsals, they are just chats, and check ins. But is amazing, eh? New, and a bit alarming (that's the title of the post!).

Things are moving along for Modern Love, on both the creative and the production sides. It's soon. That's scary. There's still so so so much more to do. I'm excited but it seems a bit too much at times. I'm lucky that there is a really great team working on the show. I wish I wasn't so far away from them. It's hard to feel like stuff is still moving forward when I'm not there to be doing it with everyone else. But this is how it goes.

Doing Beauty and the Beast is going very well, the sets and costumes are gorgeous because the crew at STC is the best. THE BEST. But it's making me hunger for more stuff, because it's the first thing I've done in a while, and because I have a supporting part in this one, and don't get to do any of the big production stuff, like interact with the set or sword fight, or anything like that. I'm hungry. For Shakespeare, for some reason. And just for more work. Hopefully I can channel this into the shit ton of work I have for Modern Love.

And of course, like all of our rehearsals, it ended with a prayer to Our Lord and Saviour that our play be blessed.

Hey, girl!

And, just because he is one of my biggest theatrical inspirations, today is the 20th anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death. So:

Monday, November 21, 2011

That Girl is Strange, No Question

So I only really have two parts in this play, but they are so different and varied that I thought I should explain them to you. Both of you.

In this version of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty has a mean sister and a dumb sister. Being both mean and dumb, it is of course difficult to guess which one I am. But I'm the dumb one! Her name is Rougi and she hasn't a clue.

Those things in my mouth are pins, not obscenities or bile. While in real life I spew both obscenities and bile at a constant rate, Rougi spews neither because she is good, and fictional. The best line about Rougi is that 'her heart is large, and she will grow into it'. I love that. She is just a little piece of pie. At the beginning, the whole family is poor, so Rougi has to sew up her sister's dresses. Hence the pins. I picture her as very rosy-cheeked, which is good, because it is what I am.

And then, after their father meets the Beast, they are rich! Rougi is still dumb but now she has A FANTASTIC HAT.

Which of course means that I am happy because we all know I am only interested in theatre for gay men and fancy hats. The hat is really terrific, too, my horrible picture does it no justice. She also has a dress, that I drew sparkly diamonds on. I'm sure there are other repercussions for Rougi and her family as a result of their new found wealth, but I have mostly been interested in the hat.

And really that's it, but then, in the Beast's castle, I also am a faceless ghoul. So that looks like this:

But underneath my mysterious cloak, I'm pretty sure I look like this:

That's blood coming out of my mouth and green stuff out of my nose. Those are horns on my head....look, I don't want to explain the whole damn drawing, ok?

So those are the parts I play. I agree, it is time for another multi-character show, the past several I've only been playing like one part, what is up with that?? Luckily Modern Love looms on the horizon and will provide enough characters to make me even more nuts for a small period of time.

And as has become the custom, with a twist:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Little Town, It's a Quiet Village....

Enjoy the natural beauty of Sudbury.



We are rehearsing and we are rehearsing. We are already doing mostly runs, and things are happening very quickly. It's good. There's a lot of stuff that will change with our set (our pretty amazing looking set) and costumes and there's sword fights and music and stuff like that. So there's lots to do still, but it feels like the show has come together in the blink of an eye. It's wonderful and exhausting to work this way, to have three weeks dedicated to a show, instead of a few evenings a week for months. The ability to focus is such a privilege (this also happens when you get paid). It feels intense, like zero to 60, but we all know that I have a sick love of pressure anyway. I'm tired, but it's a good tired. And I still have lots left in the tank.

I have a very small and silly part, which means I am doing my regular thing of making faces and being loud. Which is mostly what I like to do. I've been doing so much ensemble work lately and that's such a good way to learn, and especially with Modern Love coming up, it's nice to have others around and be a part of a team rather than worrying about carrying the show (which I will start doing for Modern Love soon, natch). I'm worrying a lot that people don't like me and that I'm doing a bad job, which is pretty much par for the course with me, as we have discovered on this delightful journey of insecurity I call my blog, but I think I'm at the point where even if I feel that way, I can still keep pushing. I think I am at this point. I don't feel like it shuts me down. This would be pretty great, because I'll probably always feel bad about myself, but if I can always work, then I have ways to try and feel good about myself.

I miss being at home and having my people near me, and I miss being comfortable. I love the crew here so much but I still don't feel at home in Sudbury itself. I forget where the grocery store is, I don't know how to do things....that's tiring. It's a huge challenge in travelling to work, which I want to do so much more of, but definitely takes its toll. Sigh. I feel so grateful to be here but there is always an adjustment period.

The cold is coming and I want to hide.

Oh, should we watch more Disney Beauty and the Beast clips as I have been doing every night since I got here YES I THINK SO.

For who could ever learn to love.....a beast???

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tale as Old as Time

I'm up in the Great Canadian North, the Paris of the Tundra, Sudbury, at a wonderful wonderful place called Sudbury Theatre Centre, where I'm doing 'Beauty and the Beast' (I'm not playing either).

That means I'm walking around singing this:

And we can all look forward to five weeks of me singing that. AND ONLY THAT.

So exciting to be working again. It's been a while since I have done a show so I'm just remembering how exciting it is to read and ask questions and do the work. Fuck I love the work. It's just the best. Can you believe I get paid for this on occasion? Remarkable. First table reads, and a crew which is like a big new group of friends, and getting to dress up and prance around? Yes please. Love it. There's so much more to say but really it just comes down to the fact that I am very lucky whenever anyone lets me be on a stage.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Every Movie's a Circus

This is what happened today.

I'm really too tired to explain, but trust me, the sugar glass was a smashing success.

I just.....there are no words.

What a team.

Photo credits: the lovely Julia Nish-Lapidus and the exquisite Laura Ellis.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

If You Seek Perfection in Sugar Confection...

Because my blog is nothing if not edifying, allow me to tell you the story of the day that I made sugar glass. This is, of course, another entry in my long series of 'Ridiculous Experiments I have Done in the Name of Theatre'. The only longer series I have is 'Half Drunk Bottles of Liquor I Bring to My Friends' Houses in Order to Appear Like a Good, Generous Houseguest, but That Really Make Me Seem More Like a Hobo'. That series is possibly unending, although I don't know if anything ever will top the half-full Dasani bottle of mysterious purple ooze that I christened 'A Flaming Moe', and forced on my friend Morgan one time.


I learned it, like all things, from the Internet. God bless the Internet! It taught me how to love again.

You too can learn:

You start with simple household ingredients:

Except, like everything, simple household ingredients aren't usually in your household. I found the Cream of Tartar pretty easily, but white corn syrup had to be sourced from Bulk Barn, purveyors of all my favourite things. Oh, God Bless Bulk Barn. Anyway. You can also apparently find white corn syrup in Korean grocery stores. Anyway, that hurdle accomplished, you will feel proud of yourself until the next thing goes wrong.

Now, you may be thinking that these ingredients look suspiciously like baking, which is something that I love to do, the results of which I frequently force on my friends. You are also likely thinking, 'Jessica, you love nothing more than when your passions for baking and theatre converge and you are given the chance to make some sort of dramatic delicacy!' This is true, and could be well documented in a series of photos, but it will not be because I am tired. HOWEVER. As I will quickly learn, this really has more to do with science than it does baking.

NOW DON'T GET ME WRONG, I LOVE SCIENCE. But I'm not very good at it. Things I am good at include burning the house down, ignoring instructions, and improperly measuring ingredients, but I don't see how those have anything to do with my failure at the scientific arts (Fact: They are not arts, and scientists don't like it when you call them that. They also don't like when you always try to do a creative spin on science presentations, such as puppeteering a dolphin and singing a song you made up to 'Under the Sea', called 'How Dolphins Speak'. I learned these when I had to take science, up til grade 13. I was enthusiastic, but a less than stellar practitioner).

You also prepare a mold. When you are preparing a mold, you should also prepare to ruin your mother's baking sheet.

So, you pour all these things in a pot and it looks like this:

Then you slowly heat it and it will look like this:

It is at this stage that you are legally entitled to tap your fingers together and murmur, 'Yes, yes, my pretty. Bubble away....soon'.

It is also at this stage that, no matter how badly you want to, you should no longer put your tongue in the mixture. However, if the French are storming your castle, you are at the right stage to pour it as they climb up your flying buttresses. Make sure to feather them too!

And when it looks like this:

You pour it into your mold.

Where you quickly turn it into a work of art.

Look how pretty!

I guess somewhere along this process, you can take an offramp and end up somewhere in Candyland, which is a hell of a lot more fun than Scienceville, and I'm guessing you get things like these:

Which are beautiful, but we all know actually taste pretty terrible, and are all probably stuck together, in the shape of an old lady's candy dish, where they have been languishing since the Diefenbaker administration.

I'm actually totally surprised and pleased that it worked as well as it did. But it tasted terrible. Ugh.

And tomorrow I will do something very exciting with it! Seriously! Or else it will be a dismal failure and I will regret writing this!

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Name the Stars and Know Their Dark Returning

Photo credits: Kyle Purcell

Time is doing this weird little trick on me right now. I will feel very in control and that there is time for everything and that I'm doing ok and then out of nowhere I will be overwhelmed with total and absolute panic about how there's no way it will all be done and how I have been wasting every moment up 'til now.

I guess this is also how I feel about my work and my career and everything: ok and positive, I slowly build these good feelings, and then quickly, spiralling into terror.

It's all good. Right?

Kind of weird to be working on a project on this timeline. I'm going back to Sudbury in a few days so I won't be able to rehearse Modern Love. We're going to have a pretty intense period of rehearsal in the two weeks before it goes up (which is standard), but it's also the holidays, so things need to be juggled around, you know, the Lord. It means that we had to get started early, which was great, but now I'm kind of charged up about the show, and things have been percolating for a while and I'm thinking about it and wanting to work on it....and I'm gone.

Gone in a blur.

It's weird to feel like I'm leaving a project that is so important to me right when it's prime time to work on it. And I'm not leaving it. There is so much tech that can be worked on without me, there is a ton of promo stuff that needs to start and I can help with that from wherever, and we've been rehearsing with the goal of giving me a frame work that I can refine and practice on my own. A lot of stuff is drilling, just going over specific movements again and again, and I can do that wherever.

But....we'll make it work. What I'm finding is that we are making it up as we go along, because we just have to cope. All of that sounds as if we don't have answers and we don't know what we're doing, but I kind of feel like we don't, and that's the way it is. It's not a bad thing. Everything is an experiment.

I was complaining to someone the other day and, LIKE A JERK, I said, 'Why can't everything just be easy?' And my friend looked at me as if I was the biggest asshole ever and said, 'Why should things be easy? And if they were, wouldn't you find ways to make them difficult anyway?'


So we cope because things are never easy and they're never going to be easy and that's it. I'm going to Sudbury at a totally inopportune time, and that's just the way it is. And we don't know how to solve problems, but we will. Maybe it isn't possible to put together a show when your only actor has to be away for a chunk of time but WE'LL FIND OUT. Maybe it isn't possible to write a good play in which a major character is a computer screen that types out his lines, but WE'LL FIND OUT.

It's all just a big question, and maybe that's the attitude I should have as an artist, maybe it will encourage me to take bigger risks and make better art and take criticism as another exploration rather than something to shut me down. If all of this not knowing and wondering can make me open up, shut up like a telescope, as Alice says, and not fall to pieces, well....that would be something.

Monday, November 7, 2011

We Have So Much in Common, It's a Phenomenon

Have you been here?

The Fringe Creation Lab. It's the best. I spent the weekend there, mostly workshopping a little something with these guys, watching a friend work on a new piece and giving some feedback, a bit of Modern Loving there tomorrow, and today a Next Stage meeting with all the other companies.

I love this place! Every time I go there are friends! One time I was rehearsing and next door were these guys, another time it was these guys. You get to rehearse for ridiculously low rates, and when you get bored of your play, you can go and rehearse the play next door! And then you walk down the streets and run into other artists going there for whatever reason!

It's a pretty incredible blessing for all the emerging companies that don't have a home and can't afford a ton of expensive rehearsal space. It makes the idea of playing around possible. It's cheap enough that you can go and workshop a piece in the very beginning stages of development, you can do a little showcase for friends and get feedback. Plus the rooms are beautiful and the staff is great so it is fun just to be there.

At our meeting today, the Next Stage staff talked to us about how much they want the various companies to band together, to help each other with resources and promotion, and people immediately started offering suggestions, started making connections and reaching out. It's a pretty amazing way to look at things: that instead of a group of companies that are all fighting for an audience, we are all parts of one festival and we can be stronger as one force.


Because I am a mean and petty person, and I guess because I don't have a company, or even an agent, and I am fighting for myself, I feel so competitive a lot of the time. I want to be able to be happy for others' success stories, but I worry they come at the expense of my own career. It's a ridiculous and really unhelpful way to think. I think there's a way to keep the competitive edge, but to feel that I'm not fighting against other artists, we are fighting to get more people to go to all of our shows, fighting the government to keep funding us, fighting to get new exciting work everywhere. It's much more fun to think of things that way, but it's very hard as well. I'm working on making this switch. Constantly. Oy.

This weekend made me feel like I was a part of something, which, truthfully, is really why I do theatre to begin with.