Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Walking down Oxford Street, I piped up –

Do you know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life?

[one of the best displays of spontaneous laughter I’ve heard in a while]

No, really. Things aren’t as linear as they used to be. You can get married and have a career at twenty, and then become a starving artist and a hippie at thirty or forty. Nothing is necessarily consistent.

Is this about me, or are you asking in general? [pause] I think I’d like to keep doing what I’m doing, while also pursuing an artistic outlet.

Same here! Which is why I’m so freaked about what happened today. It was such a little thing, but I can’t stop worrying about it. I feel as though I’ve ruined any chance I had with these people. It feels silly always worrying about little things.

I sort of envy that. I have a tendency to worry about the ‘big things’.

Like, world hunger?

No, bigger than that.

[skeptical look]

I was reading an article about the multiverse, the idea that there are an infinite number of possible worlds, all occurring simultaneously. And this is a proper scientific theory. I remember sitting at my desk and not really doing any work, just thinking about this for half an hour.

Well, that can be comforting. No matter what choice you make, other possible choices you could have made are happening elsewhere. So it doesn’t really matter what you do.

Comforting? Maybe. Also pretty overwhelming. And potentially frightening.

[and then suddenly the pavement grew scales like a giant dragon’s tail and began to hiss with steam through the cracks in the cement turning soft and forest green, lifting us up and whipping us between buildings like a table tennis ball almost consistently in flight; the impact cracked our backs, relieved all tension, and lifted us higher until suddenly gravity wasn’t a concern; wrapped tight with snakeskin, punctured with lamp post spikes, we floated over the city of pulsating stained glass shafts and inhaled the spiced texture of dusk]

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For several years now I have wanted to be a theatre director. And when I arrived in London, eager to make a new start, I decided it was finally time to do something about it.

I do have some experience in directing: I directed and self-produced a relatively large-scale piece for the Ottawa Fringe Festival in 2006; I have directed scenes and short plays in French and English for high school and university classes; and I’ve done a bit of theatre coaching for auditions. But, really, my directing CV is middling compared with some people my age (and younger). I suppose my only real excuse is that I got caught up in arts promotion, which I also love, and allowed myself to be somewhat typecast in the role, thereby inherently preventing myself from pursuing without hesitation my other real passion.

One of my first friends in London told me not to make excuses. She said: tell people you’re a director, full stop. Tell them you’ve come to London to be a director. And then they will take you seriously.

So I did. I put the word ‘Director’ on my business cards. I created a personal website showcasing my theatre credentials. I attended directing workshops and lectures. I even managed to get myself an interview for an Assistant Director position with a rather prominent London theatre — and it was a disaster. Because I was nervous. But I learned a lot from the experience.

And then I met Andy McQuade, Artistic Director of Second Skin Theatre, and now I’m working as Assistant Director on his production of La Chunga by Mario Vargas Llosa. It opens on Tuesday at the Phoenix Artist Club (West End, yo!), and the playwright – a Nobel Prize Laureate – will be there. I’m beyond excited. It’s a beautiful play set in 1950s Peru, perfectly cast, and I think this production is going to be phenomenal. I am very proud to be involved with this show.

So if you’re in London, see you there! xo

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La Chunga

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daily yoga and exercise, practice french and spanish, improve posture, seek out and create directing opportunities, become an exemplary employee, read more novels and poetry books, engage in healthy relationships with good people, distance myself from not-so-good people, wake up early, see lots of theatre, make my own videos, learn to play Mozart arias on the flute, smile, write blog entries and short stories and poems and love letters more frequently, play the tourist in my own city, join more theatre websites, play show tunes and upbeat music in the morning, always wear a helmet while riding my bicycle, volunteer with children in schools, visit other cities in Europe, cook healthy and more diverse meals for myself, trust myself

earlier today I wrote a list of positive things that happened this year

there were 30 things on that list, and it didn’t take me very long to think of them, and that’s saying something!

I may come away with better memories than I expected

photo by pkohler

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Regent's Park

I went in search of a theatre and found a park instead.

There’s nothing original about finding solace in nature. In fact, I’d always been annoyed at Canadian poets for doing so: yes, yes, trees and rivers are beautiful, but why should I have to read about them endlessly for my Canadian literature classes? Archibald Lampman, I may have visited your grave in the Beechwood cemetery, but we were never close: I remember complaining about the subtle mosaic you supposedly suggested in your sonnet; I remember losing points on my midterm because I didn’t recognize your obscure references.

And yet I thought of you while wandering through the Walthamstow marshes. I thought of you in Regent’s Park and Hyde Park and St. James’, amid the tourists and the dog walkers and the photographers and the families of four. Maybe you could have guided me down their paths and pointed out the string of metaphors that I somehow missed while reading your poetry. My response to nature is so naive, so common, so inhale deeply and exhale soundly, so look up at the clouds and find shapes between the blinking flecks of sun.

I always seem to find myself in a park when I have somewhere else to be. Keep checking my watch, making sure I have enough time to find the tube, catch the tube elsewhere, in time for work or a meeting. And this could be easily avoided: I spend my mornings moving slowly, staring at computer screens, perhaps enacting a lazy yoga routine, setting aside moments for a quick breakfast, reading a few pages of that novel I intend to finish. And I tell myself often, today I will go out early, because I always feel better when I go out, and I will give myself lots of time. Because I never feel like there’s enough time.

I think about time the way some people think about money. Obsessively. I used to be the most punctual person I know. But since the ever-increasing popularity of mobile phones (text: be there in 5 mins) and my relative proximity to places of interest (quick bike ride to the university means no need to worry about bus schedules), being exactly on time seems to have become a secondary consideration. Which doesn’t mean I don’t feel horribly guilty every time I’m a few minutes late, or have to rearrange plans, or cancel them altogether. But this isn’t even about that.

The problem, I think, is having unassigned time. While I was writing my thesis, I would wake up in the morning recognizing that I had twelve hours ahead of me to ‘get work done’. For some, that may be an inspiring realization; for me, it was daunting. Sometimes I organize my day thusly: 1 hour read, 1 hour write, 2 hours read, 2 hours write, 1 hour lunch, 1 hour read, 1 hour write… until the end of time. During high school and my undergrad, the time specifications were a little more, well, specific. I could divide up my time into subjects, into projects, into articles that needed to be annotated for the next morning. There were deadlines, and I found those very helpful.

(On a related note, I’ve heard of high schools implementing ‘due dates’ and ‘dead dates’, the former is the date at which the assignment should be handed in, and the latter is the point at which you can start losing marks for handing in your assignment at a later date. Thank you, education system, for confusing your pupils and helping them to develop terrible habits.)

Now, if I waste several hours watching sitcom episodes on the internet, no one will know but me. If I’m not spending every spare moment educating myself, reading, writing, exercising, practicing the flute, learning to cook, composing thank you cards, bettering the world in small but meaningful ways, who will take note except me? I need a reason for rising, I wrote once. I feel like I’m going off topic again. What was it I wanted to say?

Everyone has different ways of relaxing. My father listens to classical music and reads books; sometimes he paints. My mother quilts and works on puzzles with 1000 pieces; devours novels in bed. Some of my friends play video games or watch television. Others take naps. Still others go for a jog, go swimming, meditate, write a poem, smoke a cigarette (or what have you), pluck strings on a guitar methodically. Some do nothing at all (whatever that means).

Sometimes I go for walks in parks. I daydream about locking eyes with someone, smiling, starting an awkward conversation, falling in love. I imagine walking with someone else, not alone. I think about what else I could be doing, wondering if I should check my phone, go back home and check for messages. I compose status updates in my head that I will replicate when I return to a computer: Enjoyed walking in the park today. Rested in the branches of a beautiful tree. So peaceful. While content-wise this is an accurate account of my afternoon, my tranquil satisfied tone is a tad misleading. And yet, I will say this: that even though my scattered thoughts have a tendency to run awry like confused adolescents, thereby unable to prevent my mind from buzzing without respite, once in a while a cobblestone pathway that leads through a bushel of trees to a hidden brook arrests my breath for a single significant moment. And that, in itself, is enough.

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Just a quick list of performances I’ve caught in London so far. Especially looking forward to attending The Globe Theatre’s Spring festival that will feature every single play attributed to William Shakespeare, each produced in a different country and performed in a different language.

The Golden Dragon by Roland Schimmelpfennig | dir. Ramin Gray | ATC Theatre | The Arcola Theatre | Monday, September 19th

Saved by Edward Bond | dir. Sean Holmes | Lyric Theatre | Wednesday, October 12th

The Veil by Conor McPherson, dir. | The National Theatre | Friday, October 28th

The Playboy of the Western World by J. M. Synge | dir. John Crowley | The Old Vic | Wednesday, November 9th

Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca| adpt. Anthony Weigh | dir. Natalie Abrahami | The Gate Theatre | Wednesday, November 16th

Poe: Macabre Resurrections | dir. Andy McQuade & company | Second Skin Theatre | St. Mary’s Church | Friday, November 18th

Piaf by Pam Gems | All Star Productions | Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre | Wednesday, November 23rd

Reasons to be Pretty by Neil Labute | dir. Michael Attenborough | Almeida Theatre | Saturday, November 26th

Hamlet by William Shakespeare | adpt. (German) Marius von Mayenburg | dir. Thomas Ostermeier | The Barbican | Sunday, December 4th

Stewart Lee (comedian) | Leicester Square | Wednesday, December 7th

Juno and the Paycock | The National Theatre | Friday, December 16th

La Chunga | Second Skin Theatre | Phoenix Artist Club | Jan-Feb 2012

Travelling Light | The National Theatre | Saturday, January 28th

Comedy of Errors | The National Theatre | Saturday, February 4th

The Kreutzer Sonata | The Gate Theatre | Saturday, February 11th

Daniel Sloss (comedian) | Soho Theatre | Friday, February 17th

La Casa de Bernarda Alba | Almeida Theatre | Wednesday, February 22nd

She Stoops to Conquer | National Theatre | Saturday, February 25th

Bingo (with Patrick Stewart) | The Young Vic | Wednesday, February 29th

The Barber of Seville | English Touring Opera | Hackney Empire | Saturday, March 10th

The Bomb – Part 2 | Tricycle Theatre | Sunday, March 11th

Being Shakespeare (with Simon Callow) | Trafalgar Studios | Wednesday, March 14th

After Miss Julie | Patrick Marber | dir. Natalie Abrahami | Young Vic | Friday, March 16th

Can We Talk About This | DV8 dir. Lloyd Newson | National Theatre | Saturday, March 17th

The Duchess of Malfi | The Old Vic | Wednesday, March 21st

Moon on a Rainbow Shawl | National Theatre | Friday, March 23rd

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Apologies for the serious lack of updates. There are occasional sidesteps to recovery, which occasionally include a crippling fear of failure whenever I sit down to write a blog entry. And believe me, I’ve had enough fodder for several. But there’s a time and place for everything, and sometimes it’s best to keep personal thoughts confined to diary entries found in private word documents, stored in hidden folders generously titled ‘Poetry’ and similar.

I’ve been thinking a lot about community, and how easy it is to feel like you can’t go back once you’ve left, or feel you’ve been forced to leave. And talking about this is incredibly difficult without naming names or pointing fingers or taking advantage of a public medium to expose hypocrisy, even if it is accurate and true.

I think I just needed to write this to get myself back on track. You’ll hear more about London and related awesomeness as soon as I can find joy in writing again.

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My love letter from London

A couple of weeks ago, journalist Mike Levin asked me to write an article about the London theatre scene and how it compares with Ottawa’s local arts scene. It is now published on his wonderful website/blog UnFolding. Enjoy!

So what brings you to London? asked the Managing Director.

I love theatre, I replied. And I’ve been consistently impressed with the theatre here.

You’ll realize a lot of it’s shit when you’ve been here long enough, he countered.

I was feeling discouraged. I had been in London for two months and already I had been formally turned down for two jobs in theatre: one for which I was overqualified and one for which I was perhaps under-qualified. Maybe it’s because I sound hopelessly naïve in my interviews.

London is a tough egg to crack. It’s large. It’s intimidating. And, as reputed, it is royally classist.

Accordingly to one actress freshly out of theatre school, it matters a great deal where you were trained. It matters who your agent is, which directors you’ve worked with and in what venues you’ve produced your shows. Some arts bars are acceptable; others aren’t. And you’d better not think of putting the unacceptable ones on your CV.

Continue reading…

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I’ve never been altogether concerned with finances, and I realize that is a total luxury. Thanks to a decent-sized scholarship and a handy parental connection at the University of Ottawa, I didn’t have to worry about tuition fees. I also saved money by living at home for the first three years of university. I haven’t developed a smoking habit, I rarely drink, and I’m generally frugal by nature. But I’ve never had to think twice about going out with friends, or going to the theatre, or buying a pretty dress – at least not for financial reasons.

Upon arriving in London, I had to handle a few initial expenses: namely paying my first month’s rent, paying a deposit, buying a cell phone, and purchasing a few basic living essentials, like soap. So there goes £1000 in the first week. Since I wasn’t yet earning money in London, I transferred funds from my savings account back in Ottawa: I can only take out £200 at a time, and I’m charged $5 or so for every withdrawal on top of the exchange rate. Which makes me grind my teeth indignantly.

Yesterday I did some calculations regarding my spending this past month, and I was shocked to realize that I had spent almost £350 in one month, not including rent. Yikes.

I estimated the following expenses for October:

  • £80 Groceries
  • £75 Travel: tube, overground, bus
  • £75 Theatre tickets / poetry shows
  • £120 Other: going out, books, household stuff, clothing

Okay, so clearly I would save a lot of money if I stayed home all the time. But I’m in London, for heaven’s sake. It would be stupid to live here and not attend the theatre. And to be fair, I bought tickets in advance for two shows in November and December, so that section includes expenses beyond the month of October. Also, a round-trip to central London costs just over £5, and I estimate that I went into town 15 days in the last month, hence £75. I am very careful about spending a reasonable amount on groceries, and I usually buy from the market stands and discount stores. And as for the final category… yes, I like to go for lunch with my friends, and yes, I did buy cleaning supplies one weekend, as well as some socks and stockings. Shocking.

So now I’m trying to figure out how to budget my earnings. Since I’m only working part-time at the moment, I imagine I won’t have much more than £300 spending money (i.e. not spent on rent) each month. And if that’s the case, I will have to cut down a bit, which will be difficult, since I had intended to see more theatre and attend more poetry shows and acquaint myself even more with London next month. Plus I wanted to visit Paris, travel around Europe… Ah, who needs groceries anyway!

And yes, I could very easily dig into my savings and give myself more spending money, but I don’t want to do that. I am determined to live within my means, within the confines of my earnings. I’ve met so many people who spend money they simply don’t have; they owe money to friends and institutions, but they still can’t help buying a new jacket or going to Toronto for the weekend. And I never want to be like that.

So what now? Should I live frivolously or responsibly. Should I use up all my savings, or just wait for my next paycheque. Or stay on the lookout for a second job. You know, I hear the adult film industry pays really well…

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This afternoon I spent close to five hours chatting with two young women, both of whom I’d met at the Natascha McElhone talk just last week. I found them passionate, articulate, open-minded, opinionated, fascinating, intelligent, well-rounded, knowledgeable individuals with wonderful stories that they were kind enough to share with me. It is so gratifying to meet emotionally-receptive women. And I think it is often difficult for twenty-somethings (and thirty-somethings, and so on) to make new friends, particularly when you are shy, or career-oriented, or already married, or just not crossing paths with like-minded people. But we had found each other: and that felt incredibly special. As we parted ways, I felt rejuventated and my mind was brimming with ideas about female friendships and endless possibilities regarding theatrical experimentation and different ways in which we, as powerful women, could change the world.

I arrived at the tube station, and there was a recorded announcement playing over the loudspeaker: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, due to a person under a train, there is no service in either direction between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow Central stations on the Victoria Line. Your tickets will be valid on replacement bus services.’

And breathe.

Who knows what happened. This person may have jumped. They may have been pushed, or prodded, or harassed. It may have been an accident. This person may still be alive, just barely. I may read about it in the news, or it may not be mentioned at all; certainly not great press for the underground. Due to a person under a train. What a chilling description. Someone may have died, and it was announced by a recorded, possibly manufactured voice over the intercom. Due to a person under a train. And not to make this all about me, but ‘between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow Central’ is my station, Blackhorse Road; it happened at my station.

So what to do? I took the tube as far as I could go. Then I walked up the stairs to find a replacement bus. There is no replacement bus, I was told. But the announcement said… That was ten minutes ago, the attendant told me. Now the tube is running again. So that’s it: ten minutes ago, there was a person under a train, and now I can take that same route home as though nothing had ever happened. Someone may have died, and it inconvenienced me for no more than ten minutes. Do you ever stop and wonder, why is my life so darn agreeable?

In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa’s party is disrupted temporarily by the news that a young man killed himself by tossing himself out of a window earlier that evening. Throughout the novel, Clarissa has been contemplating suicide herself, considering that perhaps her life has been a bit of a waste, throwing parties and playing the socialite and perhaps even marrying the wrong person. She wanders off into another room, thinking about this man she’s never met, who threw his life away on a moment’s decision, and she imagines that for herself, briefly, fleetingly — and then she decides to return to the party; a subtle shift in perspective.

As I walked home from the station, my thoughts returned to my glorious afternoon, and I breathed deeply through one of those rewarding headaches typically produced in moments of repose following hard-earned achievement or intense emotional delight. Having just left the party, I’m still carrying the after-glow. In this moment, I am unapologetically happy and very grateful to be alive.

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