Ahem. To all of men out there who agree with this point of view and argue it’s your free-speech right to say so…this geek girl exercises her free speech to give the following examples of men who disagree with you:
I found my second wind after the train ride from London last night, and went out walking — and discovered that, unlike in London, it’s very HARD to get lost in Edinburgh. Without my backpack, the walk from Bruntsfield to Princes Street takes no time at all, and I ran across several places I want to take a closer look at (Princes Street Gardens, St Andrews cemetary, the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Traverse, ahhhhhh!). On my way back, I found a true “chippy”, got some fish cakes and chips with brown sauce — whatever it is, it’s GOOD — ate it (wolfed it, rather) in the Meadows, just over from Bruntsfield Links (it’s not a golf course…exactly.) When I got back to the hostel, an appallingly boring Euro 2004 soccer game was on between the Czech Republic and Denmark (when it finally got going, the Czechs won 3-0).
This morning I had an apple, bread, and excellent cheese, then marched out to take in the Royal Mile. I got sidetracked to Nelson’s Monument overlooking the city and the Firth (amazing) before picking my way down the hill and ending up in a beautiful graveyard, whose lower gate was locked. Bummer. Went back up, out, and onto a truly astonishing path that zigzagged all the way down the hill (overhung with lilacs I’ve never seen the like of before, plus holly and other leaves), before coming out on Calton Road, right before Holyrood Palace and Canongate. It’s indescribable, how…real it is.
I ducked into several closes (not nearly all of them, mostly on the north side of the street). One, which was actually the second courtyard in, and just down from Castlehill, was maybe 8′ X 8′, had no doors leading to it (apart from the arched entryway I came through), and the buildings (medieval) enclosing it were six storeys high. My skin was prickling in there.
On the way up the Mile, I decided I needed lunch. Nothing really jumped out at me until I reached a pub called Tass, on High Street (now closed, it seems. Sigh). On Mondays, all their entrees, including Haggis, neeps and tatties, were £5. Well. If I was gonna try it, now looked like a good time. The staff inside seemed disinterested — maybe they’d already dealt with too many tourists that day. But after I’d chowed down on that entire plate full of haggis, mashed potatoes and turnips, AND a pint of Stella, in less than 15 minutes, the one server gasped.
“You liked it!”
Partly, I was hungry, yes, but it was also really good! I was astounded at how tasty it in fact was.
After going past the Bedlam Theatre (hee hee!) and going down a part of Candlemaker Row I probably shouldn’t have (I walked by a church transformed into a street clinic, and right into Trainspotting), I quite by accident found myself on the far side of the Meadows, that is, the far side of Bruntsfield, which isn’t that far to my hostel at all. Is this truly an easily navigable city, or am I just taking to it really well?
I was absurdly pleased when, this week, my director of Take a Bite redux, Amy DeFelice, e-mailed me some salient facts she’d unearthed in her research for her Fringe show this year, about Aphra Behn. Theatre/English Lit geekery! Amy directed the staged reading of my one-woman show that I’ve been intermittently trying to rewrite since…it’s about a woman who may have known Katherine Parr (the evidence is scant, but there). One of the comments from the audience that night, was, point-blank, he hated period pieces. Period. I was amazed by that; HATES anything non-contemporary? Really? WHY?
Everyone who’s read this script of mine has been very impressed with how in-the-time it is. I worked hard to make sure I knew what life for these people was like. There was the suggestion that, maybe, that’s its problem — I’ve done all the research, and now I have to FORGET I know all that, and just concentrate on the story. I think there’s more to it than that, however. Another problem I keep running into is HOW to show how serious heresy was. I tell people about the story, and they’re intrigued, but there’s also the sense of: how quaint. Religion doesn’t matter nearly as much now, at least in this part of the world, as it did in England, circa 1547. This play has an absolutely astounding female lead character, and the issues it shows are still, unfortunately, very present. But without being able to show what the conflict really was for this woman…it will never mean anything to an audience NOW.
Maybe that’s the problem with period pieces. Robert McKee said in Story, pg 83: “What is past must be present”; but the way most period pieces do that is by playing up the sex and violence, which a modern audience easily gets, and de-emphasizing the “period”.
This is one of the many reasons I’m fascinated by A Field in England, a brand new film that’s just been released — on EVERYTHING — in the UK. I’m not a fan of out-and-out horror movies, so I haven’t seen any of Ben Wheatley’s previous films. This one sounds absolutely bonkers. And I can’t find any details about when it might be released here (that’s for another post/rant); I’m going just by what I’ve read. Here’s the thing that’s interesting to me: it takes place during the English Civil War, and yet there seems to be little direct history involved. Four deserters from a battle happening just offscreen find themselves trapped — the whole film apparently takes place in one open field, outdoors — by a genuine alchemist. The kind of man who was hell-bent on turning lead into gold and living forever…things people in that time honestly believed were possible. This self-possessed, manipulative, authoritative man believes it, and because the easily swayed, battle-weary people around him believe it, he’s able to force them, by will, into digging up this field for him looking for treasure. That’s all that “happens”…but judging by the reviews, what really happens is the audience gets uncomfortably close to these characters whose honest-to-God beliefs make them go completely mad. It sounds like the filmmakers have successfully set the time and place, and then just let the ground-state of what these people believe run its course.
Somehow, that’s what I have to do with my script: put the audience in this woman’s time, and place, and then just let the story pull them further in with her.
My sister is coming to Edmonton for her bridal shower today…she really needs a break, since she works for a TV newcast in Calgary, and so has been working for 48 hours straight. I don’t think I can put it better than the photos can.
I do think everyone could use a laugh out of the situation:
To verify, the big cats have been relocated to higher ground in the zoo, NOT the courthouse. That contingency plan has not been needed. #yyc
I’m addicted to tea. I knew this, but it became very apparent the last couple of weeks when, with my neck and shoulders having solidified into one mass, and my massage therapist despairing of me, I decided to cut out caffeine entirely and drink water. Lots of water. Water’s good! I don’t need tea.
I am drinking an organic, herbal, honeybush concoction as I type this. I need to work tomorrow, and for that, I need sleep. Yet I’m craving the black, leaf, Yorkshire Gold imported from England sitting in my cupboard…mwhaaa. The honeybush herbal tea is a necessary substitute in order for me to write. Drinking hot tea while I write is a habit. But I can write without tea (honeybush herbal notwithstanding). After all…I also write on the bus, on my lunch break, while waiting at the doctor’s office, on the silly notebook on my iPhone if I have no paper. I can, and do, write anywhere, anytime.
Today I ran into my fellow thespian (God, I love that word), Murray Cullen. He was on his way to a rehearsal for his upcoming Fringe show, the first he’s written. This surprised me, and I didn’t know why at first; did I assume everyone I know in theatre has written something? And then he said: “Writing’s hard!” And I answered: “I’ve been doing it so long I don’t think about it anymore.”
Well. I’m thinking about it now.
I think I assume everybody has written at least one piece because, to me, writing’s like breathing…and everybody breathes. As I’ve also been pondering lately, it’s not the writing that I’m finding hard, it’s everything surrounding the writing. But writing itself…? Perhaps re-writing is harder…no, that’s not true either.
Again, this is something I knew. A big part of why I’ve never given up writing, when I quit karate, the idea of teaching, and drawing, is because it’s THE thing I’m good at. I never find it a slog. That doesn’t make writing easy. But I’ve never, ever, found it hard.
So. It seems we are all, consistently, every day, being spied upon. By posting this, I’m exposing my nefarious interest in writing, theatre, and all things artsy. By reading this, you are exposing your interest in said topics. But…we all knew this. NO social media platform is supplying us with tools to use the internet out of charity — every piece of information about you (“Tried honeybush tea today. Didn’t like it”) is valuable to someone out there (cue the web-ad for $12 rooibos instead!).
I’m on the communications committee of Alberta Playwrights Network. One of the goals is to get the word out more, better, and further, about what we do, and what our members — playwrights — do. I use every means I can to promote myself, and particularly my work. I’m on this very blogging site, and Twitter, FB, Pinterest, and I once had a MySpace (that one is now defunct — a bit sad). A co-worker found me on linkedin, and was a bit surprised to find my whole online profile was about performing arts; he had no idea. Now, he does.
There are so, so many advantages to using these internet means to get the word out about what I’m doing. It’s free. It’s easy. It’s instant. When you’re independently producing your own shows, and barely have a budget to put the show on, free publicity is vital. And it’s not just publicity — when a show catches fire, word of mouth genuinely works…and these days, it works not just by one person telling their friend they liked your play…they tweet about it to everyone they know. This can only be good…
Except when it’s not. Besides the fact that, deep down, we KNOW these services aren’t free (everyone wants something from you, and they will get it), social media can allow you to inflate your own ego. I had a couple of truly fascinating Twitter weeks — almost everything I said was being replied to, retweeted, “favourited”. (The highlight was me simply asking if Joss Whedon’s new version of Much Ado About Nothing was being released in Canada…and @Whedonesque instantly replied with a date. Gloriousness.) I didn’t realize how much…bigger, this was making me feel, until this past week I got yet another, real-life rejection letter, and crashed, hard. How many millions of people tweet? I am, really, in the larger world nobody. I was reminded: nobody.
My Twitter colleague and fellow playwright Gwydion Suilebhan blogged recently in part about how new technologies supplant previous ones: radio by movies, then TV, now very quickly, the digital. And overall the digital has been very good for us, I truly think so. What we need to keep remembering — what I forgot for a bit — is that it’s a TOOL. Always, we must control it, and use it to keep real life purring.
After getting on the plane, finally realizing what I was doing, and popping one of Ron and Linda’s presents — Gravol — I tried and failed to sleep. Shortly before we landed I started talking to a just-married couple who’d been to Heathrow before, but never Gatwick. I stuck to them. At immigration, the fellow looked at my Ancestry visa and asked me which grandparent was born in the UK. That’s all. We found our bags (mislabelled as being from Calgary?!) then our way out — and there was Jenn. She helped Allison, Dennis, and I find our way onto the train into the city — and the man who sold me my ticket was the 1st of several people today to call me “luv”. We were also offered a beverage — including alcohol — at 11 am, before getting out at Victoria Station.
There Allison & Dennis decided to see if the Holiday Inn right across from us had their hotel reservation, and Jenn and I proceeded into the part underground/part enclosed/ pigeon- filled shopping mall that doubles as a Tube stop. Not for the first time, I felt like I was in Diagon Alley. Jenn was confused for just a moment — I was plain bewildered — before I put my Travelcard — the right way! — through a stile and we were on the Tube to Earl’s Court. We weren’t even across the street when a guy shoved his card in my face, offering us a double room for what we’d pay for a dorm in a hostel. (I forgot to mention the teenager dressed as a cardboard robot, holding a bucket and wearing a sign saying “Feed the Android! Help the Aged.”)
We were totally lost when a lady offered directions — how nice! Found the hostel, found my room in the labyrinthine hostel, dumped off my stuff, then Jenn took me grocery shopping. I confess, I got a bit annoyed — all her advice was great but…I want to find out the culinary culture shock for myself — that’s part of the point. Example: Lightly Pressed Cloudy Apple Juice. Never, NEVER in North America would you find a more honest food label. I was a bit weirded out that this literally cloudy stuff was the only kind of apple juice in the entire shop, then looked at the ingredients. Apples. ONLY. Oh…this is what the JUICE of APPLE should look like.
Bought food, dropped if off, back on the Tube to go to Canada House. (They actually do say, over the loudspeakers, MIND THE GAP, btw.) Jenn and I get out at Leicester Square — where the tkts booth is!! — grabbed an excellent mozzarella & veggie sandwich from a shop on a side street, then went to Trafalgar Square. National Gallery, Canada House, and Nelson’s Monument. It was — literally — too big to absorb. After being rained on intermittently, we went into Canada House so I could send an e-mail confirming my arrival, and there we saw Dennis & Allison again! They asked me to come by their hotel Wed. evening — 2112 — to perhaps do something. I was starting to feel run-down — Jenn insisted I MUST stay awake until my regular bedtime hour here, to reset my clock. So I asked if we could walk down to the river — the Thames. On the way we passed the gate to Buckingham’s gardens, the Horse Guards’ stables — two were at attention, on horseback. I stroked the nose of one horse — I think that’s what convinced me I am actually here. We continued on past Whitehall, then came to a street closed off by what looked like bike racks, and surrounded by bobbies. I said to Jenn “Is that Downing Street?” She said yes, and asked “Is it always like that?” She observed that Tony Blair wasn’t the most popular guy in Britain right now. She then elaborated on what wouldn’t happen if England won the quarter-final in Euro 2004 tonight — and what would happen if they did.
I was speechless, because by this time we’d reached the riverbank and I had the London Eye, Parliament and Westminster Abbey in front of me. Jenn had to get to Liverpool Station to get back to Glasgow. I figured she was right — I should buy my train ticket to Edinburgh sooner rather than later — I looked at my hostel booking from March, and now realized it was for the week of July 27, not June! Before that could sink in, the Tube announcer said the line would be disrupted because of a person under the train at a station ahead. I quietly said to Jenn “How often does that happen?” We reached Liverpool Station eventually, and were accosted by a guy dressed as lemon-yellow terrycloth dog, also carrying a bucket saying “Help the Aged”. Jenn gave him 50p. I was — I kid you not — a little scared. Two in one day?? Then I remembered: I’m in London.
Jenn left me to get on her train, and I almost got back to Earl’s Court on my own — then got off one stop too early, got hopelessly lost trying to find my way back to the hostel, then a very nice elderly gentleman took pity on me, looking helplessly at my Let’s Go and (useless!) London A to Z books, before telling me I was only a block away from Bolton Garden. He didn’t tell me it bends. But I did get back here, ate my microwavable salmon, and am now trying to decide if I should go have a pint somewhere and watch the football match.