06 January 2011

"Happy Cannibal Crab - Will Die"

I've taken to keeping a notebook and pen next to my bed - especially in these days of bizarre sleeping schedules, my dreams have become more exaggerated [or, at least, I remember more of them]. (It should be noted that, were it not for the confines of the "normal" living hours imposed by "normal" society, I suspect I would naturally sleep from 5 or 6AM through to 1 or 2PM, with my most productive hours being the 11PM-1AM time slot. Unfortunately, just being awake, alert, and inspired to work doesn't do much when the rest of the world insists on quiet and sleep. Buzzkills.)

It's always a bit of a laugh to wake the next morning and find scrawled, cryptic messages in a foreign hand next to your bed - rather like waking up in an archeological excavation and attempting to decipher ancient ruins without the aid of my own Rosetta Stone. Fortunately, if I squint my eyes, tilt the head sideways, and imagine the hand gestures that would've been made in the dark, half-asleep, I can generally pull out enough words to spark the memory of the dream, which tangles back through the dusty cobwebs of the night's brain. 

The words I picked out this morning became my blog post, which sounds like either a bizarre Japanese horror film or the latest Indie band. I was enjoying the summer sun and salt air of Hood Canal, lounging on the bulkhead and fully feeling the cold stones beneath my legs and hearing the surf roll in. The neighbors were on their porch, and they laughed when they saw their new pet come wandering up from the beach. This was no ordinary crab, this crab was massive - about the size of two large dinner plates or a flattened chihuahua. He wasn't scary, though - he was a happy crab (contradiction in terms, notwithstanding), almost leaping and bouncing around like a small child high on concentrated sugar as he raced his way up to the bottom of the stairs to the neighbor's porch. There, they tossed him a few dining options - first a fillet of fish, which he raced to, grabbed up in his massive pinchers, nibbled at, then spat out with a distinctive "pbthh". He didn't even dignify the morning pancakes and sausage with a glance, instead jumping up and down and flailing his pinchers in the universal whine of a spoiled child.

The neighbors, shrugging their shoulders at me with a laugh (as if to say, "This is all he'll touch!"), threw him down a half-empty shell of a crab eaten the night before. The mammoth crab leaped in glee (with an audible and only half anthropomorphic shout of "wahoo!"), raced over, and began scooping the meat out of the shell and shovelling it down his gullet as fast as his arms could shovel (a technique familar to many anthropologists as the "Prather Popcorn Maneuver"). Fearing his beloved treat could be taken from him by all these watchful eyes (or suspicious that the laughter coming from the porch was directed at him), he scowled, held the prized meat closer to his breast, and scuttled back down to the crashing waves to enjoy his meal in peace.

Watching all this occur, I knew in that full certainty that you can have in dreams (without being told directly) that the neighbors were feeding the crab in order to fatten him up for the pot. Even in my dream, I could feel the irony of begging for a forbidden/cannibalistic treat, only to receive it at the cost that you, one day, will in turn be fed to someone else. I decided it was a rather macabre version of an Aesop Fable, only to remember that most Aesop Fables were pretty dang macabre in themselves - they needed no help from me. 

To finish the dream, as I sat on my dreamstate bulkhead considering the bizarre "lesson" my mind had just invented for me, I suddenly found my mouth and cheeks full (in a chipmunk fashion) with greasy, slimy, uncooked chunks of fish fillet, straight off the bone, and still salty from the sound. I would dry heave a huge pile of this fetid stink out of my mouth, only to have more and more appear. By the time I was finally just spitting out plain old spit, I had woken up.

If I was to continue with my philosophical bent, could I see this as a warning? A suggestion that I take in more of the world's fool's gold than I realize? Was this a pat on the back that I refused the option for personal gain at the expense of others? Or, should I choose to view it in more practical terms: namely, my mind was telling me that I was about to wake up, and that I really should've brushed my teeth before going to bed. 


03 January 2011

New Year, New Post

Last post: March 10, 2009.


Well, I can't say it wasn't my fault - life does have a way of becoming similar, day in and day out, when you're working the same job, but that doesn't mean that I didn't see funny people on the underground, or participate in kooky stunts at work, or occasionally get outside to see the weather continue to do its thing in such an awe-inspiring fashion if we'd bother to take more than three seconds to consider what we're looking at. Still, the fact remains that I let almost 10 months go by without a post, all the while mentally complaining that friends and family never updated theirs, or gearing up for Nanowrimo when I didn't have the dedication to sit down and write a blog post every week or so. So, one of my resolutions for the New Year is to make this blog a happening place to check in - to remember small moments in life, to take my camera out more often, to keep anyone out there listening more in tune with the rhythm and melodies of my life as it happens. (You know, alongside finding a new job, potentially a new flat, new friends, and a few new directions to find and pursue)

The difficulty, of course, is the ultimate sitting down and writing down. I have trouble finally drifting off at night because my mind starts busily talking on a non-stop natter just as soon as I set my head down on the pillow. I could have been brain-deadedly watching a movie or cleaning the flat, letting my mind clear into a state of zen-like nothingness as the evening winds down, but once the alarm is set and the light turned off, my brain turns into a bounding child, dumping his clothes all over the floor I'd just nicely cleaned up, turning on the music and the TV, asking me questions then, before I can answer them, moving on to talking about a friend from school I've never met, then clattering all the pots and pans to the floor while asking where that one can of chocolate frosting went to - you know, that one - no, not that one! The one that hardens when it hits the cold ice cream, I think we had a it a few years back; Susie really likes that stuff, but Jordan's allergic - kind of like George, only he's allergic to beestings. I don't remember ever being stung by a bee, so I don't know whether I'm allergic or not; I remember Scott getting stung by wasps one year at Camp Casey - maybe the same Fourth of July when it raining so hard that they kept ducking out at any break in the weather to light off fireworks - unless that the was summer when we finally had to go to a hotel, because it started thundering and lighting...ing - what is the past tense for a thunder and lightning for a verb?

You begin to wish up a way of inventing earplugs for the mind - let it go on formatting and refrag-ing itself, sorting things into their own little places, but let the rest of the mind -the older, exhausted mother who's been nagging at me all day to take my coat, check that the phone is charged, carry that basket correctly- get the sleep it needs. However, as soon as I finally drop off, I suspect this child-like brain must keep going, as I've always been a heavy dreamer. I can generally catch hold of the last dream I had before waking if I'm quick enough - it leisurely floats around my head like a butterfly made of dust, disintegrating slowly as it shimmers through the dust it leaves behind. Try to grab it too violently and it crumbles in your hand - sneak up on it, however, and net it and you might just be able to sneak a peak into those last few images before you returned to the dullness of reality. On nights where I haven't slept well, or nights where the dreams link from one to the next, I can follow the dreams backwards, as though pulling the winding film cartridge from out of my ear. I tend to shift back and forth from being in the dream (first person) and then standing back and directing the action, crafting the story as it happens and only stepping back into the flowing river of the story when so inclined (or when a new one fades into the old)

I rarely have nightmares - and even those are generally only in times of my life where I feel like I'm not in control, and are generally situations that reflect this state of mind: no monsters or creepy crawlies, just a car that drives too fast or only backwards, or the inability to wake myself up. The more common "bad" dream for me is when my mind decides to create a really sad story - and I'm almost never "in" these stories, just watching from the vantage point of the first balcony or the director's chair. I fill myself with the pathos and emotional manipulation and have, on many occasions, woken up sobbing from the beauty of the storyline which, in the light of day, always sounds like something Anne Shirley would've written, or one of those terrible Romance Novelists who frame the covers with a woman in a dress blown in the wind looking out over the sea or a large field of wheat, attempting to convey the impression that she carries the weight of true sorrow in her bosom, whilst instead she just looks like the eternal complainer/martyr that you always get stuck talking to, and spend the whole conversation trying to find a way out of. "Yes, the crops burnt down and ol' Rusty was taken up to heaven, but... [a "sad" smile with a single tear in the corner of her eye as she fumbles with her handkerchief] I'll get by... somehow..." "Yeah, really sorry to hear that," you half-heartedly mutter while glancing to her right. "Oh, look, the crab dip is getting kind of low... I should go refill that...."

10 March 2010

This ain't some corny old ballet...

I had a bit of a laugh last night - back in Seattle, a show that had been playing every night for five weeks would be very nearly ready to close. Here, five weeks has only gotten us to Opening Night - and what an Opening Night it was!!!

I woke up yesterday morning with the telltale signs that Celia had oh-so-graciously given her cold to me (grumble): headache, bodyache, snuffly nose, and a throat so sore I could hardly bear to swallow. "Tough luck, body!" I told it, "Tonight is opening, and there's no WAY I'm letting myself be sick!" I gulped down two dayquill, and began packing up my bag with heels, make-up, jewelry, and the super gorgeous gown I found at John Lewis just for the occasion. (Which is still hanging on the back of my wardrobe, smiling at me this lovely morning (afternoon), despite the sad little marks of candy floss on the skirt - more on that later)

It was a 7PM show, so we were called to the theatre at 6:15. I arrived at 5:45, to find the theatre an absolute SWARM of activity - at least four runners were running around the theatre, dropping off flowers, chocolates, balloons, gift boxes, bags, etc to all the various dressing rooms, and ours was literally STUFFED to the brim - both sinks in our room were filled with bouquets, potted plants were all over the floor, mirrors and wall space were covered in cards, Niamh's agent had sent over a magnum of champagne, packed in it's own metal carrying case the size of video equipment carrying cases! The costumes had all been laundered, ironed, steamed, starched, and were looking lovely and brand new - I had only to bring my presets to their required locations (dodging the runners and the cast bouncing around like five year olds at 4AM on Christmas morning), and receive my bag of swag from Wardrobe (cards from the Lord [as he's referred to, which always makes me laugh and feel like crossing myself], a gorgeous fleece jacket with the logo and opening night information embroidered on, fancy soaps, chocolates, truffles...); there were boxes of chocolates and thank you cards everywhere, and a general air of pure excitement. 
The show was scheduled to go up at 7PM, but those dang celebrities just kept milling about the auditorium, I guess! (hee) Sitting downstairs in the substage corridor, we began to take bets on how many times they would be forced to play the "Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats. Tonight's performance of "Love Never Dies" will begin shortly" (final count was 6 - I was off by only one!). The show ran pretty smoothly - Ramin and Sierra kept playing Chicken with the orchestra, trying to see which one would run out of breath to hold the final note of their signature songs longer (with the audience bursting into applause LONG before either gave up!), all the quick changes went lightning fast (as they'd been rehearsed to within an inch of their lives, and the actors were all absolutely pepped up with adrenaline), the audience ADORED it (giving us even more time for changes, as the applause just wouldn't stop at times!), and our only "hitch" (that I encountered) was the Adelphi's resident ghost making his presence known by stealing a leather glove right out from under fellow dresser Beannie's nose (while helping the Horseman with his change [let's just say his costume is fantastically amazing, requires a ton of straps and harnesses, and makes him seem a bit "aHEAD" of the crowd], she set both his gloves on the changing room table, got him into the harness, then went in for the gloves to find only one still there. We went over that room on hands and feet with torches (flashlights), and it has seriously completely disappeared. I kept expecting to hear that evil little snicker from the first Phantom show... 

(We've encountered this guy before: we were warned upon moving in that he has a tendency to move costume pieces around and such, and we've already lost a specific prosthetic glove from that same quick change room. Up in my dressing room, we also had a wine glass fly across the room and shatter on the floor - amusingly enough, just as Janet had mentioned getting a bottle for after the show that night)

Although I have a pretty busy first act (I probably have about 6 minutes of just standing around, waiting for the next change time -in total- in the whole of the first act!), I do have a bit more free time in the second (by which, of course, I mean about 5 minutes between getting everyone ready for The Concert and The Nightmare, and then about 10 minutes after my last change and the end of the curtain call) I quickly redid my make-up, threw my hair into a little 1950's "bump", and had zipped up the back of the dress just as Adam came in, ready to pull the wigs off my ladies, who arrived moments later. Their first reaction: "Oh my! Are we in the presence of royalty?!" ;) I call it my Audrey Hepburn/Grace Kelly dress, though I actually had five different people in the course of the night say that I looked "royal" (having typed that, I realize of course that Grace WAS royalty, but you get what I mean...)

I hung all the final costumes back up in heels and dress, met Janet's family and Annette's partner, then headed down to Wardrobe and headed out the door with them, where we found a whole line of traditional British red double-decker buses waiting to whisk us to the venue! We clamboured up to the top floor, then watched and giggled as the bus took us across London Bridge (looking across the Thames as the lights of the city reflected on the river, and the lights of Tower Bridge made everything look like a picture postcard); we then started down the road past the London Dungeon, the Southbank, then- wait, what?- we were going back across Tower Bridge... Hmm... we never did really find out why we'd taken the scenic route, but we soon arrived at Old Billingsgate Market; long ago, the Fish Market of London (in its handy location right on the river), now, a glorious building of old architecture and a glorious venue for high-end events. Approaching the front door, you peer across the Thames at Tower Bridge and this lovely city, then approach the building itself, with sweeping spotlights (some of them spelling out "Love Never Dies" right on the facade), period-costumed stiltwalkers, plaster elephants, and several people requiring your magic ticket to enter... 
Upon walking inside, you checked your coat and bag at the side, then wandered into an amalgam of Coney Island and Blackpool Pier (they'd obviously gone for Coney Island, but I still got a giggle at vendors with "Candy Floss" (cotton candy) and signs advertising various attractions for 2/4d. You could get your photo taken with your head in the holes, showing you at the beach; you could test your strength at the old fashioned "hit the mallet and see how high you can get it to shoot up" game (obviously, the technical title that), play a whole slew of carnival games that *weren't* rigged in the carnie's favour (throw the hoops over the bowling pins, knock a coconut off a bar, catch a plastic ducky with a ring in its mouth using a fishing pole), a man was wandering around in period costume who would cut out your sillouhette while you waited, there was a palmist who would read your fortune, a dance floor with a really good DJ, a whole area of comfortable beach chairs laid out, and another with large pillows spread around the floor, three bars (on the lower level alone!) with free-flowing champagne, white and red wine, cocktails and spirits (and countless waiters wandering around with bottles to top you up while you weren't looking!!), and the food! 

The first thing we noticed when we wandered in was the candy floss booth - massive puffs of bright pink cotton candy, fresh and just as sticky as you'd remember; the booth also had candy apples, all wrapped up in plastic to keep your fingers tidy. Next to that was the ice cream station - set up on old fashioned bicycle carts, with several flavours of ice cream, old fashioned sugar cones, and a whole station of flake bars, sprinkles, and every topping imaginable. Over there was the popcorn booth, with both sweet (toffee) and salt popcorn in old fashioned boxes. Over there a soft pretzel cart, fresh baked and piping hot. Over there bratwurst hot dogs in baskets, with old wooden barrels next to them, filled with ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, anything you might need to cure a sugar headache with some good old fashioned fat. And, once you've gotten rid of the sugar headache, how about the four chocolate fountains, surrounded by rotating platforms with bowls of strawberries, pineapple, marshmallows, mini doughnuts... (And yes, the candy floss operator told me to come back at the end of the evening for a bag, so I could take some home!)

I managed to hook a duck on the first time (which won me a lollipop!), and got two rings over the pins - couldn't knock the coconut off, though. I had my sillouhette cut out, met the families and friends of my actors and fellow crew (I got quite a laugh from being on 3 1/2" heels - suddenly, the guys seemed so short... [hee] - as we were leaving the dressing room at the beginning of the evening, I remarked on the fact that I was suddenly looking Adam straight in the eyes - he narrowed his and jokingly responded, "Hmm... I'm not sure I like you like this..." hee) I saw Michael Ball, spied Graham Norton across the room, and sneaked a shot of Gerard Butler, as I was entirely too nervous to go up and say hello (though, apparently, he was extremely friendly and was letting people get photos all evening - he tried his hand at the Strong Man game, though, and couldn't make it past 40 - eep!). Apparently, Michael Caine did make it to the after-party, but I sadly never saw him. The Lord Lloyd Webber was whisked away pretty early on for "VIP guests" / press, and a lot of British celebrities were there who I now only recognize after looking up why they're famous (didn't quite know who they were at the time - whoops!). 

After a dazzling sugar high, we had a rockout session to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" on the dance floor (hey, we're a costume shop full of Gleeks - we can't *not* get out there for that), then danced/talked/hung out until they actually signalled the end of the evening with the Countdown theme! (ha!) We'd been talking ever since receiving our tickets about the mysterious last ticket on the roll: "Redeem this ticket for a free gift" On our way out the door, we handed in this ticket to receive a large, mysterious black box. I picked up my coat and bag, staggered out into the night air (seriously, it's really, REALLY dangerous to have waiters topping up your champagne glass every few minutes), and found my way to the taxi rank, where I may have inadvertently jumped the queue (there wasn't really a line, and most people were just standing around awkwardly), told him "West Norwood", and found myself right at my front door just a few minutes later (huzzah for a night NOT taking the train!) - I had been sober enough to give him directions to my place and give a tip, as well as not break my neck on the stairs, yet I did have a bit of a difficulty getting the key right side up into the lock ;) and was entirely happily to fall into bed once I'd cleaned the mascara off my eyes and noticed with sadness that I'd gotten some candy floss on the skirt of my dress. (Good thing I also work at a dry cleaning shop, eh?)

I opened up the gift box, and found it to be a gorgeous black velvet jewellery box; the top drawer contained a chocolate bar wrapped in the show's logo, the bottom drawer contained a wrapped box, which contained a velvet bag containing a gold keyring, shaped like a theatre ticket, inscribed with the opening night date and logo for Love Never Dies. (Quite timely, as my keyring just broke the other day!) I pulled up the photos off my camera and realized, with a bit of a start, that I'd left it on "flash restricted" all night, instead of for only one picture! (eep!) To be fair, my old camera died a few weeks ago (RIP - I think I got it back in 2005 or so; it's been with me for quite a few adventures, but it was big, bulky, went through batteries almost instantly, and a few weeks back the lens cover broke, refusing to close when off and falls down on its own when on [so only half of the photo isn't of the lens cover] ), so I'm still getting used to this new one; to its credit, though, the pictures came out quite well, considering I wouldn't allow it to use any kind of flash, it was odd lighting, smoke machines were in various corners, and I probably wasn't holding the camera completely steady. 

In any case, I had a lovely sleep (the clock was nearing 3AM when I turned out the light) and woke in the early afternoon; my cold has mostly dissipated (my nose is neither full nor dripping, but I am aware of my sinuses, my throat is pretty much fine, my head is clear, and my body is just tired from the usual running of the stairs), but I still ventured to the kitchen simply to grab a handful of snacky foods (oranges, Rice Krispies, crisps, a sandwich) before returning to bed and going online to catch up with The Office. It's nearing 4PM, so I should start to think about getting up soon - we have another show tonight (they can't all be openings, sadly) ;) so I'll have to head out to the rail station around 6. 

In any case, I'll leave you with this: Love Never Dies: Opening Night (yeah!!)

(EDIT: I don't know why, but my internet connection is running stupidly slow, and it's taking absolutely forever to upload photos - I'll insert them as soon as I can, but you'll have to make due with the text for now!)

10 February 2010

10 on 10 (in #10!)

I *finally* remembered to bring my camera with me on the 10th of the month, so I present my first contribution to "10 on 10" (see the original blog here!)

From Rebekah's forward:
take a photo once an hour for ten consecutive hours on the tenth of each month. 
document a snapshot of your life and find beauty amoung the ordinary things of your day.
leave a comment to be added to the list of contributors..happy photographing!

I had to cheat a bit on mine - most of my time spent getting up and getting in to town is within the same hour, and I had to do the backstage shots during the dinner break, as I don't think I can have my camera backstage. (At least not at this point, where I have to be ready for just about anything at this point) Still, a quick snapshot of a day in the life of a West End dresser. :)

Catch-Up Time!!!

Well, well, well... *ahem* between the not-so-subtle suggestions of my mums and the insistence of my friend Katy, I had my evening post-tech sustenance, then decided to see how long it had been since I last posted in here... eep. Seems I need to do a bit of dusting to take down the cobwebs. So, let's recap the past ... two and a half months!

Visa Issues

When I last left off, my Visa was winding its way to the Home Office for its third attempt at application, with the knowledge that it had to be back in my hot little hands before I could fly home for Christmas, and had to be approved before January 31st (or I would be kicked out of the country). As it turned out, although I could've applied for a second passport from the American Embassy, it would be just that - a passport, without my Student Visa included, meaning I probably wouldn't be allowed back into the country if I left without my usual passport returned to me. I had, by this point, already bought plane tickets for a completely arbitrary date (by which, of course, I mean the cheapest possible date around the time I wanted to fly), so I simply had to sit on my hands and hope and pray that it arrived back in time for me to fly out at noon, on Thursday the 17th. (It should be noted that I could change my airline tickets, but only up to 48 hours before the flight, and I would lose nearly all the cash I'd already spent on them) 

On *Friday* the 11th, I received a phone message while I was at work, "This is the Home Office, could you please call me back regarding your visa application - this is rather urgent". Irritatingly enough, I didn't receive the message until after the office had shut for the day and -of course- the government isn't open on the weekends. I spent Saturday and Sunday chewing my fingernails to the nub, then spent Monday frantically calling and calling to no avail. (I was later informed that the cleaning staff, over the weekend, had somehow unplugged this guy's phone!) Fortunately, around 3:30PM, he realized the problem on his end and gave me a ring back. Turns out that, if I could get him proof of a wire transfer between my father and myself, he could approve the visa! (Calloo callay!!) However, to get it to me in time for my flight (it would have to arrive on Wednesday at the latest, since I'd have to leave my flat on Thursday morning far earlier than the mail would arrive), I HAD to get him the proof before the end of the business day, so that he could put it in the mail "Next Day Delivery" early enough the following morning. As his office closed at 4:30PM, the next hour was an absolute madcap rush of phone calls and 7AM car chases on the Seattle end, as dad and mom rushed the needed receipt to dad's work in order to fax it to Sheffield. Bless his heart, the Home Office guy kept the office open 'til 5PM in order to get the fax, approve the Visa, and get everything printed, enveloped, and into the bag for the morning post. 

I can't imagine how I survived Tuesday, and Wednesday I spent pacing the floor - waiting for the mailman. Unfortunately, the envelope was sent requiring a signature, and the mailmen here are absolute ninjas. (By which, of course, I mean they're too lazy to actually bother to push my doorbell, preferring to simply write a ticket "Sorry, you were out" and race off when no one is looking) Fortunately, I got the aforementioned card early enough in the day that I could race over to the mail holding facility and claim the envelope. Huzzah! I screeched to a cloudy sky - Calloo callay!!

However, this isn't where the story ends - I received it back as soon as I ever would've been able to get it back, so I thought, "Thank goodness I didn't book those airline tickets for even a DAY sooner!" but, I also thought, "Well, but if I'd bought them for a day *later*, I wouldn't have had such a heart attack". Wrong again. I flew out of Heathrow at 12 noon on the 17th - by 6PM, the entirety of London was under pelting snow clouds, the runways were iced over, and nearly all flights were cancelled. (And remained that way through the following week). 


Thank goodness for the Christmas holidays - it may have been a headache (not to mention a death-defying car ride for mums), but it was such a needed and completely welcome break to recharge the batteries, see the family again (especially my super RIDICULOUSLY adorable brand-new nephew Will!!), not be racing about like a madwoman, and mostly just be around people that I've known for more than just a few weeks! It's amazing how much of a salve to the soul it is simply to have someone recognize an inside joke, or swap stories with that you both remember, or join in on old traditions that you've done since childhood. I'm all for seeing the world and experiencing new culture, but every now and again you need to "go home again" and watch "Muppet Christmas Carol" or get hugs from the nieces or laugh about that year when we decorated the tree to the Ren & Stimpy soundtrack. 

New Years / January

I "had" to return to London before New Years, as I was supposed to work a Lola job on New Years Eve. Irritatingly enough, it was cancelled - to be fair, however, I would've been hardly more than a walking spectre at the event, as jet lag hit me HARD this time around. It took me a good solid week to start being able to stay even partly awake while the sun was out, or to at least be able to close my eyes and lie still at 3AM. Par example, I slept until 10:45 on New Years Eve, even though I'd told myself that I would get up and go do something fun for New Years. Instead, I made myself some dinner and watched the fireworks go off on the Thames on good ol' BBC1. They were very lovely and, after they'd finished, I told myself to turn the computer off and go back to bed, then get up when the sun rose. However, as I was wandering my way "out" of BBC iPlayer, I noticed that they'd put up the Torchwood "Children of Earth" miniseries, which I'd always intended to watch. Although I knew perfectly well that I'd regret it, I wasn't sleepy at all anymore and promised myself I'd only watch one episode. By 6:30AM, my eyes hurt, the sun was streaming in through the window, and I had to shut down the screen and go to bed. Whoops. 

January 4th, I started at "Blossom & Browne" in Holland Park - a premiere launderers and dry cleaners. I know when you hear "dry cleaners" you don't exactly picture "posh", but I should make the point that this is the largest chain of dry cleaners in London, and hold the patronage (and royal crest bearing that information!) of HRH The Duke of Wales (aka Charlie), HRH The Duke of Edinburgh (Philly), and HRM The Queen (Lizzie herself!). A good portion of the customers who come in are Lords and Ladies, and I was here when a woman came in to pick up one of the Princess' napkins. 

It's a very sweet little shop in the heart of residential Kensington - I'm in the shop with Liz, the sweet older lady who runs the till and deals with the day-to-day running of the shop. I, meanwhile, am set up in the front window, puttering away on my industrial sewing machine or with my knees up to hold my hand-sewing closer to my face. I have sewn buttons back on, relined coats, both taken in and let out suits, taken up hems, etc - I love watching their eyes light up in absolute delight when I tell them that I can darn holes. One very sweet Frenchman (Fred) has brought in just countless jackets and jumpers (sweaters) that have holes the size of silver dollars (though he's a favourite of mine, because he prefaces everything with "just do what you can - I understand it won't look brand new"). 

I had a woman bring in two large bags worth of linens that were holy to high heaven; this included a very nice linen double sheet, with a 4-5" rectangular hole almost dead center to one side. When I warned her that I couldn't darn such a hole (I could only patch it - and, as it's just about the spot that your toe will always catch, the patch wouldn't last very long anyway), she asked if I could just cut that part out and turn the double sheet into a single sheet! I had a good laugh over that and enjoyed doing it, but I had to wonder if I'd managed to time travel back to 1940's Britain, and whether I should start up a Victory Garden in the back and hang up a picture of Rosie the Riveter to inspire me. 

Job Hunting

I enjoy my work at Blossom and Browne - the customers are sweet, it keeps my sewing skills up to scratch, and it's nice to be able to sew at a nice, leisurely pace. (The customers get it back when it's done, rather than the work needing to be done for tech this afternoon so it needs to be done now!!) However, the goal was always to get back into theatre (that's why I'm here in London, after all!) I'd been sending out CV's, but knew that I needed someone to let me jam my foot in the door somewhere - I have a strong CV of Seattle theatre, but -thanks to the time zone differences- it's pretty much impossible for a company here to contact anyone back there. 

In any case, I gave Phil Murphy, wardrobe head at Les Miserables (where I did a week's worth of Work Study last January), a ring to see what was shaking with him. As it so happened, one of his Wardrobe Assistants (Kieron, who I'd met when I was there) was leaving, and would I come in to interview for the position?


As it happened, I didn't end up getting the position and was rather bummed about that for a few days. However, my heart was in for a bit of a rollercoaster few days, as I went from being bummed about this turn of events, to getting a phone call from Sandy Smith-Wilson, Wardrobe Head in charge of Andrew Lloyd Webber's brand new show, "Love Never Dies" (the long-awaited sequel to "The Phantom of the Opera") Two more dresser positions had become available for the show, and Kieron (who had left "Les Mis" to become the Wardrobe Deputy for LND) had recommended me for the position! I had a 15-minute interview, after which I was told immediately that I'd received the job, and we'd be starting tech on February 4th.


I had just enough time to talk to Blossom and Browne and get a few weeks holiday sorted out, as I wouldn't be able to continue work there while tech was going on (that said, once the show gets up and running, I'll only be working evenings, and will be able to continue putting in a few hours in the alterations and repairs corner at Holland Park - keep the old sewing skills sharp and be able to put away some cash towards savings every month [as well as save up for something fun and/or crazy!] ), I was able to go in for my interview for my National Insurance number (so I can start putting the taxes deducted from my paycheck towards my own pension fund!), and -come last Thursday- I was officially employed by the Adelphi Theatre (right on The Strand, one block down from Covent Garden, in the heart of the West End) and the Really Useful Company. 


"Love Never Dies"

So, yeah... The sequel to The Phantom of the Opera...

I should point out, right up front, that I have to be really, really, REALLY careful about what information I write about the show - we've all been sworn to secrecy about pretty much every detail, from plot twists to the AMAZING spectacles that the show employs. Suffice to say, Andrew Lloyd Webber has quite literally pulled every trick out of the bag, and every day I've been in the theatre, I've been amazed and awed by something new.

The Adelphi Theatre is right on The Strand, just a two-minute walk down the street from Charing Cross Underground (and Train) Station (which, super happily, is on the Northern line, which takes me all the way down South to Balham, from where it's only a 5 minute train journey back to my place - easy peasy, as they say), next door to the Vaudeville Theatre (currently playing Noel Coward's "Private Lives" with Kim Catrall (bleh) and Matthew MacFadyen (yummy!), and kitty corner to the Savoy, currently playing "Legally Blonde: the Musical" (hells yeah!).

The theatre is a tribute to Art Deco style, as well as -in true London style- a curse to all cast and crew legs and feet. This is due to the fact that the theatre was built "up" rather than "out" - you enter the theatre on the ground level (stage door level), and have your choice - you can go up to the dressing rooms and various crew rooms (the wardrobe room is on floor 3 [the fourth floor up from the ground], while my dressing room is on the 4th floor [5th by US phrasing] ) Yep, five flights of stairs to get to my actors and their costumes. But, obviously, the show isn't happening in the dressing rooms - oh no, for that you have to go back down to the ground floor, then down a FURTHER floor to get to the stage level. However, from here you can only access Stage Right. Because the sets are so monstrously huge, there was no room to allow a cross-over space in the back [for the crew to cross the stage without being seen on the stage] SO, you go down ANOTHER flight of stairs to the "Substage" area (where we have multiple quick-change areas set up, as well as the "catch" area for the elevators and trap doors to the stage - you climb the stairs on the other end to access Stage Left, but have to come back down and through the Substage if you want to get back out again. One of these mornings I'll stop and buy a pedometer. Then again, I'm not sure I really want to know...

There are 10 dressers on the show, each assigned to a specific dressing room (or, more to the point, assigned to take care of the actors who are in said room) - I'm the dresser for the actress playing the character of Fleck (a lead - one of the Phantom's henchmen, so to speak), as well as three ensemble women, who are also the first understudies for Christine and Madame Giry. All four girls have been absolutely adorably sweet (Celia gave me a massive hug when I introduced myself, Niamh [pronounced "Neeve"] laughed and said we were in for a really fun year), even despite the fact that I'm the one who has to lace them into their corsets after dinner. ;) I've already learned absolutely HEEPS of London theatre gossip which I wish I could tell, but the Dresser's Code strictly forbids passing on gossip heard in the dressing room. One day, one day I shall write my memoirs, but not until I'm fantastically rich and living in seclusion on a desert island somewhere, eating bon-bons all day. Until then, the secrets told in Dressing Room 10 must remain in Dressing Room 10.

The other dressers (and the Wardrobe Assistants / Wig Persons / Wardrobe Head / Costume Supervisor / etc etc etc!) are all an absolute hoot - we spent our first day called in forced to sit through a Health and Safety lecture on not lifting heavy things and, basically, told us that everything we were doing was wrong. Whoops, but -really- what can you do? It's become something of a running gag amongst the costumers now - "are you keeping your back straight?!" One of the H&S guy's questions was, "Do you eat healthy?", to which we all chortled pretty much simultaneously. I've been bringing a dinner from home and have tried to keep fruit and good, hearty sandwiches involved, but I have also stocked up on microwave meals and diet coke. Especially for tech, what else can you do?

The basic premise of the show is that the Phantom escaped Paris at the end of "Phantom" with the help of Madame Giry and Meg. They escaped to New York and set up shop amongst the carnival atmosphere of Coney Island, where the Phantom has become rich and powerful. In disguise, he summons Christine (who has married Raoul and has son Gustave) to sing for a concert on Coney Island... and... you know... stuff happens. ;) Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (who I have yet to see wandering the halls, though I know it will happen and I know I will make an absolute idiot of myself when it does!) wrote the music (which is absolutely glorious and extremely addicting in the ear-worm sense - I always come home humming the last song teched), directed by Jack O'Brian (it's SOO bizarre to hear an American accent come over the God mike while hanging out backstage with a Northerner and Scots(wo)man), with costumes designed by 5-time Tony Award winning designer Bob Crowley(!!!) Actually, the whole of the Creative Team is absolutely mind-blowingly amazing, but the costume designs are absolutely, positively the most sumptuous, glorious, exquisite creations I've ever had the very great privilege to work with. They are incredibly gorgeous up close and look even more amazing on stage, though it pains me to realize the amazing amount of detail work that people won't even see, just from the distance of the audience. Truly, TRULY stunningly gorgeous.

So, since I can't really tell too many stories (or, at least, it's late and I don't trust myself not to squee out all the incredible things in the show), I will direct your attention to better places to find out about "Love Never Dies":

The LND Blog - with written updates from the cast and crew, as well as video clips where they've brought a camera along to rehearsals. A really fun way to see (and read about) the fun people I'm working with, and watch THEM stumble around trying not to give too much away.

Ramin (the Phantom) singing one of the show's songs "'Til I Hear You Sing Once More" - at first listen, I couldn't help but thinking, "Well, it's no 'Music of the Night' ", but the song has absolutely grown on me, and I catch myself humming it on the tube. Plus, the man has a voice like buddah.

Sierra (Christine) singing "Love Never Dies" - Eagle-eyed listeners will remember this song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday celebration TV special, though it had different lyrics back then. To be fair, I do rather prefer the old lyrics, but that may just be familiarity. Give me time, and I bet this one will grow on me. (And yes, that girl's voice IS that amazing!)

(Late addition: Just remembered a funny story from today that I *can* tell: I was sitting up in Dressing Room 9 with Jess [one of the other dressers] and a few of the girls in the cast. We were discussing the original Phantom vs. the film version of the musical, and I made the point that I found it distracting in the film when the actors spoke some of the musical lines as dialogue - being very familiar with the score of the show, it was distracting to hear the musical lines spoken with a different cadence and without the musicality behind them. In reference to the fact that I knew the musical well, I said, "I grew up with Andrew Lloyd Webber" - this turn of phrase confused one of the other girls, who looked at me with very wide, wide eyes and blurted out incredulously, "Literally?!" It took me a moment, then I laughed, "No, I mean I grew up with his music - I've never met him personally." We all had a good laugh.

25 November 2009

LOLA Events Staffing Company

<-------- Not me...

Obviously, the dream had always been to arrive in London and instantly get picked up by one of the major West End theatres who just happened to need a dresser right this instant. Unfortunately, I forgot to keep in the forefront of my mind the fact that I so easily got into Seattle theatre because a) SPU was a really easy foothold into Taproot, which was an easy foothold into everywhere else AND b) not a whole lot of people move to Seattle just to work in theatre.

London, on the other hand...

My CVs are going out, I did a week's work study at Les Miserables which give me a good London reference, and I am confident that I'll break in eventually. The wonderful world of theatre is that of a small city - once you're in, you know everyone's business and everyone knows yours, and you can pretty easily move from job to job since everyone knows who's working and who isn't. Sadly, however, it can be a bit tricky to get that foot jammed into that door. I'm working on it but, in the meantime, the bills do have to get paid.

Happily, I've managed to get hired on at LOLA Events Staffing Company - a high-end company that provides hosts/hostesses, promotions people, bar mangers, waitresses, models, etc to posh parties, fund-raisers, art gallery openings, million dollar weddings and bar mitzvahs, etc. Thus far, I worked an awards show at the Imperial College's Science Museum, a fundraiser in a GORGEOUS set-up tent/marquee behind the Royal Chelsea Hospital (well, it was a hospital back in the 1600's - it's now a simply glorious massive old building/museum), and a wedding at the West Heath Centre - this cool old posh boarding school that Lady Diana went to as a girl - it still has its original doors and windows, creepy iron spiral staircases, and - I'm sure - plenty of ghosts hanging out in the corners. Tomorrow, I'm working all day at Whitehall Palace's Banqueting Hall - I'm not sure what the event is, but Christmas does seem to be the "dinner party" season, and I'm getting adept at carrying upwards of 5-6 plates with their uneaten food and silverware, all balanced on my left hand's wrist. (I've also learned how to use a waiter's friend - those things are super nifty!)

This has turned out to be a rather fun way of learning how to get around London (I'm quickly memorizing tube lines, stations, and how long it takes to get anywhere), seeing these *gorgeous* old buildings and locales, and having a good laugh at how hilarious rich, drunk, middle-aged Brits are. ;) I have yet to have had to deal with a snarky or angry person at an event, all my co-workers have been friendly and delightful to work with, and the events are planned and organized down to the last second - it's nice to just show up and be told what to do every now and again. ;) (Plus, as my mom points out, I'm hardly the first person in the history of the theatre to work waitressing/hosting while waiting for the next show)

Amusingly enough, after working only two shifts (I was working at the third when the email came in), I was promoted (!) - I got an email saying that I'd shown leadership skills and had impressed the people I'd worked with, so they were bumping me up to "Ambassador" status, which means I get an extra £1/hour and get preferential booking (you log in to their website, where they have listed all the gigs they have for the next month, and you apply for any that you'd be available to work/would like to work - they put together their group, and either approve or decline you for that shift - I have a note next to my name, now, to definitely use me if it's an option), all in exchange for me agreeing to continue to show up on time and help out at the level I've been doing. (woot!)

Unfortunately, they have been very upfront with warning that there's plenty of work for the taking in December, but they run pretty dry on gigs from January-mid February. Closer to March, they start getting more events, but they warn not to depend on this for full-time work, even if full-time work is available in certain months.

In the meantime, I've been contacted by an upscale dry cleaning/alterations shop in Kensington (Blossom & Browne) - they were looking for an alterations person, and would I be able to come in to interview for the post? I did, met the woman in charge of that particular shop (who was fantastically sweet) and a few of the regular customers (who were also terribly sweet), and have been engaging in a bit of back and forth for the past few weeks, as the owners of the chain want to hire me, but I've been trying to get this Visa sorted. In any case, I let Charlotte know that - apparently - I *am* able to work full-time under the Student Visa; we scheduled an appointment for Monday, where I'll bring all my paperwork in, chat with the owners, and - unless something major comes up between now and then [aka Andrew Lloyd Webber decides he MUST have me], I'll start work with them at the start of January. It's only 24 hours per week, but it would be steady work, it would keep my sewing skills sharp, it would get me out of the house, and it's something to be relying on whilst I try to find a West End theatre to take me in.