On the way to Chicago we stopped off in Cleveland, which was full of Indians baseball fans- first game of season. I've been surprised by the sheer amount of native american iconography you see around the place, like the labels on sports teams and the big statues outside bars. We traveled on to Chicago via a night in Ann Arbor and at a party by Lake Michigan where there was a big fire and a nice dog and a good time. The weather warming up and starting to feel like Spring. Also saw parts of Detroit, which looks down at heel to say the least.
Chicago is big and sprawling, and you get around on those cool elevated trains that give Richard Kimble away in The Fugitive. Underneath they're all grimy and rusty looking but I'm sure they're fine. At one point we caught the red line right at sunset, which meant that we were kind of gliding over the rooftops in the evening light with the sun on the horizon, past the baseball stadium which had a game on. Nice way to get around. We visited the Museum of Science and Industry, which has an entire German submarine in it, which is highlight #178 of this trip. Also a super giant train set of Chicago. And a tornado.
Our theater was in a fairly remote building which used to be some kind of industry, and is now an art space. Joel did this last show, and we all had a great dance at the end. As the visitor at the end, I got to enter out of an industrial freight elevator, which was pretty fun. Retired the eggplant necklace which has been with us for the whole tour and was starting to look pretty bad. And that's it- nine shows in six cities. Met lots of people and had a really good time. Want to thanks Mouce and Karah for all their help with the tour, as well as all our wonderful billets and guides.
After that Karah and I took the Greyhound down to Kentucky, which was among the more eyeopening things we've done. Lots and lots of sad and desperate seeming people on long, long journeys (someone who'd come from California). Not everyone like this, but not a few. Guy behind us who'd been to Iraq and had a service dog, then of course at the next stop a woman who was mortally afraid of dogs comes on. She's loud and not very appreciative of the lives this dog has apparently saved, and has to sit at the front and get off when the dog needs to get off, and the dog handler gets taken out and quizzed again at the next stop (despite the sign that says service dogs are welcome) and gets on the bus again in a bad mood, and the scared woman is still scared of the dog, and later the handler says its simpler over there, cause if your neighbour gives you trouble, you can just shoot them. We also talked to a nice guy from Alabama who'd been up to see his grandkids. No one likes taking the greyhound, but its way cheaper than flying. There's all the paperwork and procedure of flying (minus the metal detectors) minus the glamour. You feel like you're being processed and transferred. When you get on the bus and are waiting to leave, they lock you in to stop freeriders, which makes you feel like a prisoner en route to a new facility. In Louisville, an hour and a half from our destination, a front tire goes down on the bus, which means a two hour delay, during which time four people borrow our phone for personal calls to family members they hate who are angry at being messed around ("my own sister won't take me in tonight, said she'd drive me to Lexington. I'm sorry if my husband being murdered affected her") Someone else yelling at their deaf father to TELL THEM TO TURN THE CAR AROUND WE'RE LEAVING NOW. The driver has come from her other day job looks tired. The whole greyhound setup seems to me at that time to be a showcase for the most unappealing aspects of America.
Anyway, now I'm in Kentucky, its green and nice. Home in a week. This is the last post on this wee tour blog. I've got a bunch of photos which I'll post soon. See you all soon!
We did our second performance in Philly at the Rotunda on Wednesday night. The space is some kind of old Christian Science centre apparently, with a big domed area which might fall down and a safer bit in the back where we performed. I'm constantly thankful for the quick set up time on this show- we can have it ready in an hour, so we don't have to spend hours in dark room fiddling with lights. Audiences for our two Philly shows were very sort of gentle and cerebral. I led that seminar, there's a great write up of it by locals Tara and Clay on their blog. I've also written a short thing for the High Concept Laboratories blog here about the tour in general. After taking advice from several quarters, I decided I didn't need to eat a Philadelphia Cheese Steak. They sound gross and they use can-cheese. Had some great cajun food instead.
Then the next morning we said goodbye to our hosts and went on the road again, singing the bits of "on the road again" that we think we remember, as well as the goddamn fresh prince theme. That goddamn song. That's what you get for coming to West Philadelphia I guess.
Toll free option on google maps took us through Amish country, where we saw no Amish people but some Amish children we think, in a yard. We weren't sure how many points they were worth, but Theo saw them and that means he wins the game. No squirrels. Long drive, lots of fog. Obligatory cinematic reference is The Deer Hunter, which is set in Pennsylvania- it looks like that. More time spent discussing the rules of the car games than playing car games, guess we are suckers for the meta-level in all things, or just pedantic people. On arrival in Pittsburgh we went to a noodle place where the mildest option caused me considerable pain. Nothing makes me crankier than delicious food which hurts me. I'm OK now though, thanks.
Pittsburgh has welcomed us with lots of rain, and last night - right before the show- the biggest thunder and most fierce storm I think I've ever experienced. The first big thunderclap right above me actually made me kind of fall over. It cleared up in time for the show, which was well attended, and which I led again. Quite a different vibe this time and a much more assertive and energetic crowd. Someone brought cookies and then two people said they claimed responsibility, which was odd. Our contacts here, Savannah and Eleanor (from NZ) have been great at spreading the word and hosting us.
We haven't seen too much of this city, partly because of the rain and partly for lack of time. There's an Andy Warhol Museum, which we haven't been too, and there's an art gallery in an old mattress factory, which we haven't been too. It's still too early for green on the trees, so the place looks quite gray and cold. There's a big river with lots of bridges and the leftovers from lots of industrial buildings. Karah and I have enjoyed driving around over all the confusing bridges and roads, and they have a great baseball stadium by the river.
Today it's off West again, towards Chicago, with a few stops along the way.
After the Providence performance, Karah and I drove up to Boston and pawked the cawr in a big tower for a lot of money, which we considered our admission ticket to the city. We then explored on foot. I've read about Boston a bit and my main visual reference is that average Ben Affleck film The Town, which makes Boston look great and made me want to go there. I keep going to cities or neighborhoods and being like "wow this feels so European", by which I mean the streets are wider or narrower than I am used to, the buildings are stone, or there are cobbles. That said, Boston felt very European, especially in the old town, which is very narrow and cobbly and Italian. Cars give way to people on foot and its a bit confusing but good. It's the scene of the the great Molasses Tragedy (look it up). We walked the Freedom Trail and saw the site of the Boston Massacre and the church where Paul Revere rang the bell and also Paul's house, which dates from like 1670.
Then the next day we all headed down to South Kingstown, (scene of the Great Swamp Battle/Massacre, look it up) where we were exceptionally well hosted by Ryan and the people at the Contemporary Theatre. Joel led the seminar there, and the crown was large and really energetic. It was cool to visit a smaller town since we've been spending all our time in major centres.
From there is was a seven hour trip down past New York again and to Philadelphia, which is where I'm writing this. None of us knew anything about this places, but guess what- it's great. The streets are vibrant, the houses and buildings are amazing, and the whole vibe is really positive. Joel did last night's show here, and it was a good sized crowd who wrote very smart events on the timeline. Really enjoying our time here.
Hope to add more to this post soon.
So we're actually in America now, rather than New York. Our rental car is a white Chevvy SUV, with plenty of space for the five us, our bags, our set and props, and a guitar. Getting out of Manhattan was an adventure, mainly because Siri kept changing her mind about where to send us, but it did mean that I have now been to all five boroughs on this trip (and slept in three of them). We drove through part of the Bronx, where there are almost no road markings and plenty of signs for military recruitment. Drove for a while under the elevated train, with shops on either side- again, a cinematic experience from the america of the movies (I'm thinking French Connection especially).
All in all it took us maybe four hours to get to Providence. The trees are all still bare but the countryside is pretty beautiful- as Joel pointed out, large deciduous forests are a bit of a novelty for us. It's strange being in residential areas where the green is all gone and there are no lawns, it feels very stark and foreign.
When we arrived we were shown around the AS220 cultural centre, which is an amazing collection of spaces for artists and creative people through several buildings in the downtown area. We had to do some printing of flyers and programs, so were were sent to a guy called Jacques who fired up the offset printer and did them the old fashioned way. He says the offset printing is coming back, now that people are reacting against digital images and printing. You end up with a work of art rather just a copy. When the machine runs it rattles and clunks and smells like high school art class.
Providence is a beautiful little city with a lot of historic buildings and a canal in the middle. It's one of the oldest cities in the country, and used to be a big manufacturing centre before it fell apart after the war, then from the 70's onwards its come back. Like Wellington, it calls itself the creative capital. Continuing our tour of the ivy league, we checked out the campus at Brown, which is, again, swankier than Vic.
We ended up only doing one performance here, last night, which was well attended and included a whole class of English students who's professor Joel met on the street. I led the performance, and it was nice to have a mix of people in the audience. The space was a black box, which has its benefits and drawbacks I think- its harder to establish the classroom feel at the start under theatrical lights, but easier to build the mood in the final sequence. Really energetic and friendly audience.
Currently we're staying in a beautiful place which we found through air BnB. It's three bedrooms and obviously belongs to an artist- there's a record player and woodburner in our room, and a giant spider in another, and masks and cool stuff all over the place. After two nights in budget motel rooms, and hotels before that, it's a huge relief to be somewhere less sterile and way bigger for the same price! Also nice to cook our own meals, as nice as the service is and as interesting as the conversations we overhear are.
Today some of us are off up the coast to check out Boston, then tomorrow its down to South Kingstown to do an extra performance. Then on down to Philly.
I’m typing this from the foyer of La MaMa Theatre, amongst all the mountains of set and props ready to go back into the shipping crate and back to New Zealand. Every single item needs to be checked off a four page list to get out of the country or we get pinged. Karah and Joel are off to pick up our rental car and then it’s off north to Rhode Island and the first stop of our mini tour of Future Guidance.
I didn’t mention the explosion did I? On the day Wants and Needs opened, almost a whole block of buildings on second avenue, just around the corner and up a few blocks, exploded and collapsed due to some kind of gas issue. Two people are still missing. The block is still cordoned off, I walked past it on my way up to the falafel place. It’s just a big hole where there used to be buildings. Something may be happening now because there were several news anchors there. Everyone here is pretty shaken up still.
Last night Karah and I went out to Brooklyn to see An Octoroon. It’s a reimagining of a play called The Octoroon, written in the 1860s, and which is never performed today for very obvious reasons, the main one being the fact that it’s an outrageously racist melodrama. The play uses text from the original and a lot of commentary and other material around it to create a really outrageous and horrifically funny performance- white actors playing black characters, black actors playing native americans, and so on and so forth. I was in the front row, which makes you very very nervous about whether your phone is on or off. It felt very, very close, and I got fake blood in my hair, a fair amount of spit on my clothes, and a cotton ball at my feet. It wasn’t participatory exactly (though I didn’t think they handled it too well when a (black) woman called out a bid in the mock slave auction scene), but you certainly felt exposed in the audience. A big white backdrop threw a lot of light back at the audience. A good one to be close to. I liked the way the performers just tore this text to shreds and stitched it back together into something really beautiful and scary.
Checked out St John the Divine/Unfinished up in Harlem. It’s the biggest cathedral in North America, and sure feels like it. Different ends are in different styles because they changed their approach and architect part way through. We also explored Columbia’s campus, which is opulent beyond anything I’ve seen. Spent a half day in the Met as well, where I saw a billion things.
Now its off on the road. This is going to be something else again.
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