Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This one's for Zuzu*.

Saw this on the way to my puppetry class.

Anyone looking to rent an angel?

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Flashband

Here's the video I edited this evening of all those beat experiments my research group did. We'll be showing it as part of our conference presentation. Never mind me--the real star of this is my friend Lisa, who is pretty much a genius.

If you're lucky, someday I'll explain what this is all about.

Accidental Art

As mentioned about a month ago, I'll be a participating artist in the Accidental Festival, a joint venture between the Roundhouse and CSSD. The piece I'm involved in is called Accidental Art, and will be generated in a twelve hour rehearsal the day before we perform it (similar in vein to the 24 hour play format that's become so popular over the past few years). So I literally can't tell you anything about what it will be about because: I don't know yet.

If you'll be in London on the 23rd, go here for tickets.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wisdom from someone who knows more than I do.

I grabbed this quote to use for my paper, but ended up passing it off to a friend instead. Still, I liked it an awful lot, so I'm posting it here.

"One can say that a true artist is always ready to make any number of sacrifices in order to reach a moment of creativity. The mediocre artist prefers not to take risks, which is why he in conventional. Everything that is conventional, everything that is mediocre, is linked to this fear. The conventional actor puts a seal on his work, and sealing is a defensive act. To protect oneself, one 'builds' and one 'seals'. To open oneself, one must knock down the walls."

-Peter Brook, There Are No Secrets: Thoughts on Acting and Theatre

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pictures for Sad Children

I clearly suck at staying off the Internet. Clearly, I suck at this.

Also: I hate Power Point.

The descent into madness is a road laid with paper.

I am under self-imposed house arrest and Internet quarantine (so difficult!) to finish my school work this weekend. I have a paper due Monday, and the research presentation is next Wednesday, and as well as just being behind generally, I have to cobble together a power point, provided meaningful feedback to my group members' work, and finish editing a video I don't have all of the footage for and in a program I'm pretty sure is corrupted somehow (despite all the help I received at the Apple Store on Regent Street from a certain Genius, it's still not working properly). To keep from despairing completely, I did give myself the morning off and watched all of the videos here to occupy my time, as I'd already seen the Ricky Gervais video podcast touching on it previous (which is hilarious). I'm going out to the farmer's market briefly to buy supplies for this encampment, but could any kind soul please check in with me on Monday at least? Just to make sure I'm still alive...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mankind is No Island

My friend Mauro shared with me this video today. It's a short film (another favorite cinematic genre), an award winner, and was made for a total budget of $57, using camera phones as the only means of shooting. Pretty much a brilliant and affective piece of art, and if I don't someday have that song on my iPod, I may be a lesser woman for it.

Mauro thought of me after seeing it, having remembered my fascination with the homeless. The word "fascination" doesn't sit right with me, but I struggle with an appropriate adjective to really capture how I feel about this section of society. Being "fascinated by the homeless" leaves one with the mental image of a person walking down the street, coming across a someone begging, pointing at them and yelling, "OOOOooooohhhh! A homeless person! Look! Look! How fascinating!"

That's not it.

When I lived in New York, I saw my fair share of homeless people. Anyone who's visited that city can tell you, it's pretty much part of the experience of the place. There they were, every day: on the train platform headed to work, in the subway car I sat in, in the station that I changed at, at the corner before I got to my building. I once had to step over a man passed out on the ground to get where I was going, and to this day I still wonder if maybe he was dead. All of these bodies, littering the streets: in New York, you sometimes stop thinking you are surrounded by people, and start only seeing bodies. (And when you start seeing the bodies as sheep, then maybe you need to quit your job as an MTA employee.)

I used to journal every day on the subway, mostly during my near-hour commute each way, to and from work. Several of my entries mention, touch-on, or solely occupy themselves with the homeless person I happened the encounter during that ride. Sometimes I sketched them, taking pains to note how their spines were shaped in a seat, or how their facial features were laid out. Sometimes what struck me were their voices. I watched one man over a period of about three months totally alter. He had a voice like a sideshow barker, and his clothing went from a wrinkled-but-tailored suit, to sweats. He would ask for food or money, and would end several of these calls for assistance with, "even a penny!" One day near Christmas in 2006, I remember seeing him on the train I was riding, when someone offered him a candy bar. He yelled (barked) at the person for giving him a "piece of crap," complaining how he needed a piece of fruit or something healthy. It was our fault he didn't have a proper diet. He still took the candy bar.

What struck me most of the time, and what I have most frequently recorded, is dialogue. Things you'd never imagine could come out of a human's mouth--certainly not out of your mouth--you hear from the homeless and desperate. Once a woman (high or coming down, or something) came onto the train I was riding and was near tears begging for help, for money, and she just kept repeating, "It's all my fault. I know it's all my fault." It felt like she was pleading with us while she confessed this, but we couldn't save her, not in the way she really needed to be saved anyway.

I am deathly afraid of becoming homeless someday. It's one of my top anxieties about life, alongside being completely alone and pissing away my potential. And both of those fears somehow correspond to the fear of homelessness in my mind: piss away your potential and fail at life, and you'll become homeless; a large part of being homeless is being completely isolated and alone, sometimes even from yourself. And I think the number one reason people turn away when they see someone on the street, or turn up their iPod, or pretends to be asleep, or is thankful that their sunglasses are dark enough that their eyes don't show through them when someone comes by with a paper cup on the subway, is because the homeless serve as a reminder to us that yes: this does happen; and yes: it could happen to you.

There are less homeless people to be found in London. I won't make the claim that there are less homeless, but there are less to be found--you don't see them nearly as frequently as you do in New York. London comes off, by and large, as a "cleaner" city, even if at times you can't find a trash bin if your life depended on it. Consequently, none of my journals since October mention any homeless people at all. Yet still the fear remains: I was walking to the tube from school the other day and passed a girl seated on the sidewalk, coat over her legs, holding a paper cup. She was had my color hair, my hair length, and looked about my age. And it shook me. I always figured I'd get around to making some piece of art about all of it someday--that I'd write a play about a homeless man, or that I'd play a homeless woman, that I would somehow examine that way of life that terrifies me. It hasn't happened yet.

I'm not an activist. I'm just an artist. While some people identify themselves as both, or feel it's part of their responsibility by identifying with the latter to fulfil some promise of the former, I have never really felt morally obligated to make people feel one way or the other about anything. To me it was just always more important to try to present something as honest as possible, and to just get people to feel, period, which can sometimes be a hard enough job in it of itself. As a society, we tend to dull ourselves a little bit (or more than a little bit) just to get by. I don't want to make up some one's mind about something, but I would like them to think. This film affected me that way. I don't believe I'll go out and help out a soup kitchen, but I may. In the meanwhile, I'm thinking again. That has to count for something.

And a Happy Bardday to you!

Not only is today St. George's Day, the celebration of the patron saint of England who is accredited with killing the last dragon (though why one would celebrate the man who is guilty of killing the last dragon is beyond me), it is also the day that people commemorate Shakespeare's birthday.

We don't actually know when Shakespeare was born, just when he was baptised and when he died (the latter also taking place on this date in 1616), but the 23rd is a good estimation, given the date of the recorded baptism, of the date that he may have been born on. So crank your hurdy gurdy, sponsor a bear baiting, and dance a jig in the street with a pint of ale in your hand whilst reciting a sonnet! Huzzah for Shakespeare!

(NOTE: I was kidding about the bear baiting. That stuff's pretty awful. The Elizabethans were hardcore.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just a reminder of the kind of mind you're dealing with...

From my journal today. It struck me as humorous for some reason, so I post it here for you. Enjoy.

Had strange dreams [last night]. Can't remember all of them. In one I went to go see Tommy Sparks, but his show ended up being weird--more like a piece of musical theatre than anything else. And he had a woman singing/dancing/performing with him, who seemed like a lesbian to me. It was being done in a space similar to the Hoxton, but they were performing on the floor. And I was with some people, and we were sitting at a table, and suddenly Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walked in. The paparazzi swarmed them, and they smiled these plastic smiles (they looked REALLY fake--artificial--honestly) and Angelina walked off. And for some reason Brad Pitt came and sat with us. I was in shock, and hoped one of the boys I was with would offer to buy him a drink. He turned to me and asked me, "What's your poison?" I said vodka gimlet--which is not true, that's Heidi's drink, not mine. And he said, "Well," and gestured to the bar, like, it's all yours sweetie, whatever you want. I walked to the bar* and tried to order a drink, but the bartenders wouldn't listen to me--they just stared at my chest (I was wearing something low cut). When I put my hand over my clevege, they looked right into my face like nothing had happened. I removed my hand, their eyes returned, put my hand back, they looked me in the face again. I yelled at them, "Brad Pitt wants to buy me a drink, so make me a Glenlivet!"<--which was of course, not the drink I had originally told Brad Pitt about.

Very strange, I know.

I dreamt some other stuff, too, but I can't remember any more now.

*In retrospect, Brad Pitt was not much of a gentleman, since he sent me to get my own drink, and into such a pack of wolves.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The 4-1-1 on the last couple of weeks.

Yes, yes: the prodigal son has returned. This is going to be a quickie entry, that will hopefully cover a lot of ground very fast. Here we go:

I went back to the hat exhibit with Lisa, and bought some embroidery patterns by a whimsical Austin-based company. My antics with Herman have sparked the crafting bug in me, and I intend to get through a set of napkins and place mats and set them aside for my next friend that I hear is moving into an apartment. This sounds like something my mother would do, and to come to this place of pre-domesticity (buying/preparing gifts in advance of a recipient) causes me to wonder about myself. In the meanwhile: I LOVE embroidering.

I finished The Wire, and while it did not alight my heart the way BSG did for so many years, that was some DAMN GOOD television. I have also started in on Brotherhood, an attempt by Showtime to blend the themes of both The Sopranos and The Wire, and have begun to wonder: are there any good American male TV actors out there? The brothers concerned on Brotherhood are playing men who grew up in a working class Irish family in Providence, R.I., but the roles have been filled by an Englishman and an Australian. The Wire's lead was British, as was one of it's key supporting players for three seasons. And this phenomenon is present in a crap load of other shows out there. Seriously, what is the deal? What do these actors have that American actors do not? Are they cheaper? Are they better trained? Or do they just happen to be right for the part? I ponder this.

I signed up for a puppetry class at the Little Angel Theatre. I am excited and also scared, but mostly excited.

Spent a Saturday evening at the BFI, at a self-imposed double feature of French New Wave (my favorite genre of foreign cinema). Saw Et Dieu...crea la femme, and Bob le Flambeur, the first foreign film at saw the art house cinema I used to frequent in Pennsylvania which, like The Maltese Falcon, is a movie I will always go out of my way to see on the big screen. Have decided I need to dress like Brigitte Bardot. But perhaps *with* a bra.

On Easter, my parents came into town, and we covered a LOT of ground. A short list of what we did:
  • Visited the Tower of London
  • Strolled outside in Whitehall
  • Saw War Horse (which was great)
  • Visited Windsor Castle
  • Visited Stonehenge (less impressive than you'd think)
  • Visited the Roman Baths...in Bath
  • As a family, picked out a flask for my father
  • Bought me my first pair of Converse (which I'm still getting used too--a pair of shoes has never made me feel so young in my entire life)
  • Got coffee at Jason's stall Wednesday morning, before their flight
It was a nice visit that was just long enough, I think, and I enjoyed seeing them after so many months.

I helped another RMO group with their research. They were looking at the different work involved in film acting and stage acting. They wrote a script, and the first day we worked they filmed our dialogue, and then the second day they had us perform in front of an audience. The screen acting was H-A-R-D: I haven't been thrown like that in a long time, and I felt just awful about it. I had no idea what I was doing with my body in terms of continuity, and felt like I had no time to prepare, couldn't set any choices about movement that would affect editing, etc. It was crazy, and I was way off my game. And it made me hungry to do it right. After this overload with American TV via iTunes, all I keep thinking about is how badly I've wanted to do television work for so long, but always wrote it off: I'm too fat/not pretty enough for film. Those have always been the chief reasons/excuses to not bother about it. But for the first time in a long time, I did something wrong and wanted to get it right. I don't expect a career change anytime soon, but certainly I have a broader focus that I did before, and there's always a benefit in that.

Have decided to try to build a puppet of a coot, my favorite waterfowl I continually encounter during my jogs through Regent's Park. They have the strangest feet, and make a noise akin to a bicycle horn. Yes, yes: these birds are for me!

We performed again at The Great Orchidaceous Travesty, and now are gearing up for our major research presentation that's scheduled about a week from now.

Work continues on The One Thing May Lead to Another in discussion over a blog we built. Once RMO presentations are done, we'll probably jump into this, head first. But for now, we are strictly in development, throwing around ideas and suggestions for exercises. We don't have a director on this piece, and I admit that this makes me nervous. But so far everyone has been focused and enthusiastic about what we could create, and that's been good.

Also: lots of introspection going on. But let's save that for another entry, shall we?

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Returning to New York is back on the table as a seriously viable option. I may be ice fishing come winter 2010, but NYC is definitely back in the running as a choice of home post-third term in the UK.

A greater update on all of my activities soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Love B.C.

The quality is bad, but here is the result of the Barbican workshop. If anyone knows how to adjust this, I would appreciate the help.

Herman is so cute.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

And how are you feeling today?

Is the possibility of change ever so huge and daunting that you find yourself clinging to things so hard--things that may not even exist anymore--and that by putting all of your energy into holding on, you find it difficult to get through your day-to-day because you're otherwise completely spent?

Yeah. That's where I am right now. Somewhere in the middle of my own grasping fist.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easter Holidays: Week 2

Another pretty full week, though this one mostly of fun and friends. Which was a nice change. I did put in two days of transcription for the school, taking the whole ten hours I was scheduled to work to type up and format a 56 minute long round table discussion that had been held at Central in January about developing new work. Considering it's usually an average of 3-4 hours to type an hour's worth of material, my average is pretty pathetic. That being said, it's really hard work to do because people don't speak the way they write. How do you punctuate modern speech so full of waffling? And you sit for HOURS at a time. My friend Abby has her own business providing transcription services, and bless her little heart: I don't know how she does it. The topic was interesting, it's true, but the action was tedious and boring. Which is probably another reason why it was so hard to get through. Also: theatre people are long winded and they talk Really Fast, which I am certain added to the sheer amount of text to type out. But I'll stop defending myself now and move on...

Max, Amy and I headed over to SHUNT for a quiet session of D&D, the first session I've caught this year since the weekend-long event in January. Even though attendence was low, the old Open Space Technology motto of "Whoever comes are the right people," still rang true, and I attended a conversation about the ups and downs of being devoted to a 400 year old play, as well as hosting a conversation concerning where one could find affordable rehearsal space in this city. Both were delightful. One of the most notable parts of the evening was meeting an alumnis of the course I'm on. While this is just generally good and interesting all on its own, I was initially drawn to her by the jumper she was wearing, a creation of her own design and knit-loving hands. It was genius, and you can find it and her blog here. I want one, but I don't know if I could wait 14 months for it. Or learn how to knit that well in that time, either.

I headed out to Bethnal Green with the majority of my RMO group and one stand in (Elizabeth Gibbs for Ronan), to attend and perform at The Great Orchidaceous Travesty! I expressed a bit ago the sentiment of being nervous about what would happen at the event, but all went well and I look forward to returning on the 16th to repeat the performance. My group-mates and I wore hats:

There's Lisa and I, attired as such. You can see I really went for the beatneck look, influenced by the French poets/mimes of the 50's and 60's. Maria went for something a little more European:

Oh, the Greeks.

The other acts on that evening were so spectacularly avant-garde and artsy (save an adorable and hilarious guitarist named Tom McDonnell who played a set akin to the wares of Flight of the Conchords, and who may draw me back to the Great OT this Thursday, just to hear his set again), that no one really noticed us when were were doing ours. We got a couple backwards glances from people seated nearby, but for the most part we were left alone, and that was perfect. The nature of our act is not to "perform" for an audience, but to simply express what we feel in a space, and so we just did that without worrying about being entertaining. So it worked out devinely.

"O I am out of breath from doing this monolgue again..."

I spent nearly the entire weekend at the Barbican, starting with Friday, when I caught Romeo Castellucci's Inferno there. It was the first in his trilogy of work running through the 9th, taking it's inspiration from Dante's Divine Comedy works. It was aesthetically asserting, hyper-theatrical in its staging and effect, and was a really pretty piece of theatre in its use of scale and spectacle. If you asked me what it was about, however, my answer would be vague and non-commital. It was very European, in that it was high in aesthtic quality, but didn't necessarily strive for...a point. But that's alright, because it was *real* pretty, and I got to see a fellow classmate of mine onstage as one of the chorus of volunteers they recruited for the show. And the opening sequence to the piece can't be beat: a man walked on stage, said, "I am Romeo Castellucci," and was then fitted with a suit while 8-10 German shephards were led onto stage, and then chained in place along the apron. Castellucci waited while the dogs began to bark, becoming louder and more frenzied. Suddenly, a dog runs on from stage right, and grabs Castellucci's inner thigh with his jaw. Another follows and grabs his arm, then another which gets his shoulders. The dogs (aided by Castellucci) are able to rotate him in place on stage, and then are called off. Oh yes: My name is Romeo Castellucci, and I am about to have myself mauled by dogs for the sake of performance. Pretty crazy, but also a little more than awesome. Now that's a risk, people!


"I've got a new way to walk--Walk! Walk!"

Day 2 of the weekend at the Barbican was really more of a walk-by. Thanks to Time Out London, I had a few walks I had wanted to try over parts of the city I hadn't seen yet. I chose a wander around the financial district, and was joined by Max, Amy, and Caitlin. Now, since it was a Saturday, and we were in the financial district, there was literally nothing open, which was very disappointing and made me wish I'd picked a different walk. We diverged at one point to stop for food near the already closing Borough Market, and ended up at The George, to drinks of stale, awful beer, a long line with cutters, and two packets of crisps. It was a horrible place and I will never return to it again. You know a place is bad when all of your complaints are ones your mother would make: "It's so dank in here and smells like mildew! I waited in line for fifteen minutes, and kept getting cut by people who just shoved their way up to the bar! It was like, 'Hello? Haven't you seen me standing here for the past ten minutes? Make them wait!'"

(Seriously, my mom sounds just like that sometimes. And that was the whole monologue running in my head while we were there. Another reason to never go back: I will, without a doubt, turn into my mother.)

We got back on the vaguely established trail (thank you for nothing, Time Out London) set down in the magazine. Max got caught behind some bars:

And we also found this really racist street:

When the walk came to an uneventful close, we tubed ourselves out to Paddington and ate well-deserved Indian food. It was a full day, and we were exhausted by the time we sat down to dinner. The sights along the walk may have been uninspiring, but it was still nice to be outside on such a pleasant day, meandering with friends.

But screw The George: that place is awful.

"Everything I know about eyebrows I learned from Gromit."

Today was my favorite day at the Barbican out of the whole weekend. I went to a two hour workshop on plasticine animation (claymation, for the majority of the US citizens reading this) for adults. It wasn't terribly in-depth, and I'm glad I knew a little something about the form thanks to this book, and this video I watched this morning. But it was still so fun. Being a stop-motion animator still ranks up there as one of the jobs I'd love to have if I wasn't an actor, and occasionally trades off for the top slot on that list, traditionally held by "Being a Muppeteer."

(But only on occasion. The Jim Henson Company can have my soul if it wants it.)

So today I got to pretend that I worked for Aardman, built my own figure, and animated it using Mac software (God bless you, Macintosh), a video camera (I need one of those), and a partner (a fine architect student from Spain named Isabel). Together, Isabel and I crafted a dinosaur romance. The pictures below chronicle the phases of my own dinosaur, Herman.

First, I made the basic form for the body using polystyrene (Styrofoam) for the body, aluminum wires for the legs, arms, and neck, and one of those faux, practice golf balls for the head.
(NOTE: the holes became problematic later, and I would use more polystyrene instead if I had my way.)

Next, I started to cover the polystyrene with plasticine (clay). You build a model and cover it with clay, rather than making the model clay all the way through for a couple reasons. Firstly, the clay gets heavy if you use that much, making the model cumbersome to move. It also retains the figure's shape better, and eases the fluidity of motion. It also helps in terms of continuity: with a skeletal structure in place, an arm won't suddenly become shorter if you bend it and then bend it back.
In this picture you can see I've also hot glued the aluminum wire into place--the holes had gotten too large, and the legs were moving too much or slipping out, so I had to secure them.

Here's a shot of me continuing to cover the rest of the skeletal frame with clay.

Finish the head, a few other detail touches, and voila! Herman!

Here he is with his lady love just in the background.

Oh, but they are quite the pair!

Just an overview of our workspace, with some of the animation pieces we used.

We filmed last in the workshop, and consequently were rushed, and I'm not totally 100% pleased with our finished product. But for the amount of time we actually had to work on it, it's really not bad. The short should be up on the Barbican website sometime this week (the others looked really great, too, I must say, as many of the attendees looked to be art/former art students) and we're supposed to be getting our individual clips e-mailed to us. I'll post it if it comes in. This workshop was so much fun, and makes me want to become an animator again. Oh, if only there was enough time and money to stay in school forever...

To complete the plasticine themed day, Caitlin and I caught "Dark Dreams in Plasticine," a series of plasticine animated shorts from a bunch of different artists, all of them subversive or scary or simply disturbing. The most eerie films were by a man named Robert Morgan, who makes me want to drink myself to sleep, simply because I don't know how I'll be able to get to bed without one this evening. Very Brothers Quay. Also represented were the bolexbrothers and Suzie Templeton, people I hadn't heard of before but enjoyed. There was also a short featuring Sir Ian MacKellen voicing crow. Very strange indeed. Not your typical idea of a grand day out, but great exposure to using this art form to show a less cuddly side of the world. I quite liked it.

That's all there is to report for this week. Though in other news, I think I'm swearing off men for awhile. At least ridiculous ones. But it's alright: I have Herman to comfort me.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Keep on running/Keep on running/There's no place like home/There's no place like home"

Okay, decision has been made: I'm gonna try and stick it out.

But there WILL be a visit to the states sometime in the fall. Because otherwise I think I'll just burst.

Thanks for all the friendly input on this one, guys. Please visit if you can. It gets lonesome in all the fog coming in from the Thames.