Not too much to tell, since I'm personally not very involved with the festival this week- this blog's just a personal travel diary at this point until we hit the road again on Monday. Went to see Caberet with Alan Cumming last night in its final week, which I really enjoyed. As Emcee Cumming is actually charming rather than stage-charming, effortless and fluid. I'm not exactly into musicals but it's a great show. Explored more of Central Park in the drizzle, saw Strawberry Fields and
So after that cafe au lait donut lived up to expectations, I got through that Break Up on Saturday! There was quite a lot more laughter and absurdity in this one than the others. It's always an alarming moment when you first dare to look at the clock in the show- this time I did it at three and a half hours, at which point two and half more felt quite daunting. This break up ended after revelations of infidelity and secrets involving baby clothes. I think we all cracked up a bit more than usual because we are all so tired. Hope you enjoyed what you saw of it, if you saw it.
Sunday meant cleaning out the air bnb where we've been staying the previous ten days. It was a nice place, but not only did the gas not work but the shower drain also completely failed, which was not fully fun. Took our luggage to the gallery and I explored the East Village a bit with Karah. We got brunch at a busy place which seated us because we were crazy enough to sit outside. Its been clear and fine here but the air is still very chilly. It was funny because the people who were waiting outside were still waiting outside while we ate, only they had no food. We walked all the way over to the East River and saw the joggers on the waterfront and ate a piece of fudge that looked like steak but was actually mint. Went back north and saw the madness which is Styuvesent Town, a gigantic brick development which stretches forever and is also insanely expensive to live in apparently.Then back down first avenue to the gallery.
Joel led the final Future Guidance session and did a great job. We've packed that show away for now, and he is focussing on his role in Wants and Needs, while I have a bit more time. The others are busy heading home or doing other things.
Karah and I are staying three nights with some friends of hers in Queens, in a big old brick apartment building, on an improbably comfortable air mattress. On Monday we did a giant walking mission down the west side of Manhattan. We started with the High Line, which is a whole section of abandoned elevated train track turned into a park. You get great views down the streets and there's places to rest, and art and performances. Nothing really green growing yet, but there were big crews getting ready for spring, when it will be amazing.
From there we zig zagged through the West Village and then Soho- lovely old buildings and European style streets. Looked over the Hudson toward Jersey, but its very cold by the river. Headed on down to the financial district, where we came across the memorial to the thousands of black slaves who's burial ground the discovered back in the 1990s, beyond the palisade of the old city. Couldn't help comparing the size of the memorial to the WTC one, and appreciating to some extent why people are angry about the invisibility of black history. I read it framed interestingly somewhere- I've thought of Britain and the USA as being to some extent built on slavery- but you could also think of it like this: slaves built America. So a memorial would not only acknowledge the wrong but also the contribution (?). Out of my depth a bit here, but there are a lot of memorial down that end of town and you can't help but be a bit of a critic and compare one to the next. The firefighters one near the WTC memorial is weirdly and kind of disturbingly literal- a wall of bronze relief showing the entire scene of 9/11, buildings and explosions and all. Its a very different approach to the simplicity and restraint of the main memorial. They've also got the original ruined globe from the plaza down in battery park, with its scars still visible.
Then back up to Hell's Kitchen where we found a South American place where I had my first empanada and also plaintain chips with guacamole. Then back to Queens by 10pm. Lots of walking makes for good sleeping.
Notes from For Your Future Guidance seminar participants to their past selves.
More Wisdom of the Eggplant
Yesterday it snowed pretty much all day, so there's a fair amount of it still on the ground. Time to get out those tramping boots I brought, and for Joel to buy some glue to glue the heel back on his boot, which fell off last week. Did I mention I have special smartphone-gloves? Thanks family for all the warm things.
We have done two performances of Future Guidance, and today we are doing our six hour Break Up. Audiences in Future Guidance have been really warm and generous and I hope to post some of their notes here soon. Joel and I are alternating performance roles on this tour, which keeps us on our toes, and it's a challenge to step from being a director/stage manager to being a performer and back again. We have this cool pre-show checklist which is page long, so before each show I get to pretend to be a pirate. Did I type pirate? I meant pilot.
Went walking before the first Future Guidance up to the East Village past the Flatiron building, which I love, on up to the Empire State, which is very boring close up. Super pleased to be spending so much time around the Village since its less tourist and commercial focused than further north.
After the second show last night we walked back to the subway in the snow, and stopped off at a German style bar and watched some college basketball- March Madness. Duke won, which is Bad For Kentucky. Karah told me there's a big rivalry between Duke and Kentucky because ages ago someone from Duke did something really awesome and its never been forgiven, which I find really funny. Boo Duke.
We've had a good time meeting again and talking though this next break up, setting some new goals and talking about all the feedback we've had so far. It's going to be very different again, though I don't know in what way.
I'm going to trudge down to the donut place and get a special Break Up Day donut. Maybe that cafe au lait one that's been eyeing me up this past week.
Rehearsal, lines runs, and a bit of looking around. Yesterday after our run through I made my way downtown to Wall Street, and saw Trinity Church and the graveyard there. I went down to the WTC memorial and found it surprisingly moving, its a beautiful and bleak design. Windy day so rainbows in the mist coming out of the footprint- you can kind of see it in the photo. There's a sign saying you can't busk or protest there.
A bit of snow this morning, but not nearly enough to settle, then bright and blue. Nag is up and running in the gallery, and Sleep Wake is nearly ready in the Ellen Stewart with So So Gangsta also going up in the first floor theatre. Spent some time rehearsing our welcome for the opening tomorrow night which is a nice way of the wider company coming together and being unified. We did all the planning in Wellington but its only in NYC that the whole team has gotten in a room and we've gotten the sense of the scale of the whole thing.
Today I listened to my first RadioLab podcast on the subway, which is a sure sign I feel fairly at ease there. I'm finding my way around OK and have felt pretty welcome or at least been ignored everywhere I've been, which is nice. Quite of lot of dancing around people when I instinctively go left on the sidewalk.
I've talked about the tipping thing so I'm going to have to cover the toilet thing. Basically New York toilets are full of water- you flush it all down from the bowl, not the cistern, capish? A lot of USA toilet culture is making a lot more sense, for example, if I were a dog, I would totally drink out of that, it looks lovely (kiwi dogs would get a sore neck). Also the myth about the clockwise/anticlockwise whirlpool depending on what hemisphere you are in. Gangsters ducking heads in loos- much safer with a higher water level.
Missed a day on this diary because things are kicking into gear, with the busiest week of the festival under way. Yesterday I spent about six hours out on the street with the gang outside La MaMa with Marcus and his Nag installation. We were out to promote the festival and give out flyers, and so we did. Nag is very eye catching, a self powering art studio which people can't help being curious about. Basically I got to chat with friendly New Yorkers for hours, which is sweet thing to do when you're new here. It also seemed like good practice for For Your Future Guidance, which is interactive so I can't be scared of the locals. It seemed like most people can understand me, so that's good. Having Nag there was a gift because it self-selected one in every, say, 20 passers-by and gave us only the ones who wanted to talk. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed "hustling", mainly I think because I found it easy to be curious about the people in the area, and people seemed curious about us. Binge's shows are free, so that helps too... I thought about what a friend in Wellington told me recently- you can get the most when you don't ask for anything and just have a chat. I have found people to here to be very friendly on the whole, but maybe that's just cause I'm young and pretty and blonde.
Today we packed in For Your Future Guidance and did some technical rehearsal. We're being well looked after by Sara who runs the space and is who is also an experimental theatre artist and musician. Ran through my script to try and get my head back in the show- it seems like a long time since I last did it, even though it was probably only 10 days. Trying to weed out the language problems- they'll be eggplants not aubergines, and apartments not flats.
Nag in the gallery is looking great by the way. He's powering his own lights, so you'll only be able to read the great love poems on the walls when someone's pedaling. I also saw the big old set for Sleep Wake being winched together in the Ellen Stewart theatre, which is a pretty amazing space and which feels surprisingly large for an old street building. It's got this weird silver pattern on the walls, and a coloured arch. I love the roughness and the lived-in feeling of the theatres here, like the bare brick walls in the First Floor Theatre. Places designed to be used and which aren't too generic feeling.
I have a conspiracy theory about all the people who ask for money or sing or rap or yell on the subway. They are secretly under the employ of the establishment and by corporations to remind New Yorkers of how close they are to ruin and that if they slow down or step out of line, they will be in that position. It keeps everyone sharp and the labour is dirt cheap.
Still astonished by the sheer amount of opulant and giant buildings and the amount of potholes in the road. You sure wouldn't want to be getting around in a wheelchair in this city. Saw a fire engine with "we support our troops" on the windshield, and a cop car with a bumper sticker with a $10,000 reward for cop killers.
First time travelling with a smart phone and I'm enjoying exploring the limits of their powers. Google maps builds the city in 3D for you on the spot. K gave me a phone tour of a few blocks from Kentucky and googled buildings for me, which is fun. Phones find you restaurants and plan your journeys and tell you the weather. You kind of assume they can do anything.The danger is you don't even look up to figure out where you are since you just look at your phone map as soon as you get out of the subway. I wanted a sewing kit today and nearly googled "sewing kit east village" but ended up being directed to a K Mart by the guy at the CVS.
I can confirm that the Freedom Tower is real, if you are like me and can't tell the difference between real pictures of buildings and architectural renderings of buildings or figure out when one turns into the other. It's there, it looks pretty tall.
Up early tomorrow to rehearse our opening celebrations for Thursday. Need to buy some giant eggplants.
So I'm still getting my head around the tipping thing. Obviously you should do it because its what people live on, but there's something very foreign to me about awarding someone else money based to some degree part on how nice they've been to you. In New Zealand money is a more personal, sort of invisible thing which we like to ignore as much as we can. At the donut place on the corner I confused the server with my weirdo accent- she gave me a coffee donut and coffee rather than a donut and coffee- and we had an apologizing competition, in which I'm ashamed to say she kicked my ass. She was very very sorry and she made a mistake (I talk like a drunk toddler though a pillow, so that's my argument). I dropped my tip into the jar and I left with the impression that the apology is definitely part of the rules of winning the service thing- the customer is right, whether they want to be or not! Dammit, I'm a New Zealander, I want to be lowly and passive and wrong. I guess my background is that I'm more at ease with genuine disinterestedness than competitive cheerfulness. Or am I reading too much into this? Maybe the tipping thing makes it easier to be in the service industry since since you have to act cheerful to get a living and that makes you cheerful and friendly, like an muscle memory thing? Anyway, good donut. Lousy coffee but I was warned. By everyone.
Joel and I met up with Fiona in midtown and walked from central station down to the UN and around back up to the library. I don't know if I'm the first to say this, but this is an impossibly big place. At the library we saw an 1450 edition of the Gutenburg bible, just sort of chilling in the corner of an upstairs room, like no big deal. Joel tried to make a gross snowman with the gross snow but just got gross stuff on his hands.
Today we're heading into the theater to do a publicity stunt thing with Nag on the street, and then next week its action stations gearing up for the shows.
Exciting news- we now have a jug (the gas oven doesn't work here). So its cups of tea and ramen noodles for all, come on over.
Spent the morning doing publicity work for the shows and exploring the immediate neighborhood, which still had a bit of snow on the curbs even though the sky was clear. There's a ginormous tall housing development just down in the other direction from the subway, built of brick, which is hard for me to get my head around having spent so much time in Christchurch. Went shopping at the local supermarket, which sells eggplants/aubergines of tremendous size. We don't think they'd taste very nice, but they will certainly make good learning aids for Future Guidance.
First stop in town was Times Square. Joel pointed out that it is basically just a place people go to look at ads, which is quite weird when you think about it. The bigger the ads, the more people come, so the bigger the ads... more fun at night probably. Walking around in NY is kind of like reading Hamlet, you come across quotes you recognize all the time but you didn't know where they fitted in the text. Times Square, Central Park, 30 Rock- that end of town is less New York than New York Land, where you get to see all the sets from your favourite productions, jammed improbably close together like a studio lot.
Central Park still has quite a lot of snow and there's no leaves on the trees. Joel saw his first squirrel. It had a nut and it buried it, but he saw where, so if we get hungry later in our visit we can go back and get it.
After checking out 5th avenue and the Lego store in 30 Rock, I went to central station and got a subway at rush hour, which was a pretty fun experience. Grand Central is extraordinary and feels like a church, somehow quiet even when its full of people. Mum and Dad told me before I left to imagine them on their trip there in 1977, when they were quite a bit younger than I am now. New York was rougher then, and they are still a bit sore about being slightly conned by a camera salesman on their first day. They also still remember their first sight of a person with a gun outside of NZ, and I had a similar experience seeing the soldier leaning by the steps as I went in. There was a big circle of people at the centre of the main hall, and two cameras filming a man and a woman. Turns out it was a marriage proposal- no pressure or anything. Whoops and cheers at all the big moments.
I certainly feel very anonymous, much less self conscious, in a city this big. I'm always overhearing conversations which sound like scripts (probably the accents), like the woman on the subway from Central down to the East Village, talking about how now her partner is in prison she's "single but not single, like always alone but not single" or the guys next to me at Katz' Diner talking about how Donald Sutherland is hard to work with. No-one seems to care who's listening, so I can see how being a writer here would be easy, you'd just need to ride the subway or walk around a couple of hours and pick the the best idea you hear.
Spent the evening back in the East Village, which is a really cool area. I have a lifelong and chronic inability to have ID when I need it, and no faith in my ability to lie to/charm an american bouncer, so I headed home after the first bar. Writing this on Saturday am, jet lag seems to be no big thing for me this time round, which I am very thankful for.
Landed in New York last night and Joel and I have spent the day exploring the theater and looking around the East Village after meeting up with Fi at our digs. Our apartment in Brooklyn is great and came with three bars of chocolate and a stove with no gas, so it's microwave meals for us! In the mean time we've been eating bagels and chili dogs and drinking giant "medium" coffees. Great to see the whole team over here and to meet our hosts at La MaMa. Tonight is the opening of the first show of the festival, On the conditions and possibilities of Hillary Clinton taking me as her young lover, so I'm looking forward to that!
Notes from our Future Guidance participants to their past selves, 5 March 2015.
Next performances: La MaMa Galleria, March 19,20 & 22 at 6pm.
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