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.


cokaly said...

i realize i've said this before, but it amazes me how resourceful you are with your time. when i get home these days, all i ever do is watch tv it seems. i've been trying to change that, of course, with all the new music i'm trying to learn, but i just think it's so fun to hear about all of these different things you get to experience on such a regular basis.

good for you, and good for you for deciding to stick it out a bit longer in the uk. i'm sure it'll all work out in the end, though it potentially seems like a daunting task at this point.

Lea Maria said...


I like that I got this message the day I had to DRAG myself out of bed and started my day off debating whether to watch more of "Brotherhood" and "The Wire" while embroidering, or if I should try and get some homework done. Being industrious is great and all, but make no mistake: I would much rather watch television any day, and I miss American TV more than most anything else. Even more than bagels (and that says A LOT).

So keep on loafing, and think of me.

cokaly said...