Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Sky is Green and the Grass is Blue

We finished our first week of rehearsal and we have about two thirds of the play up and on its feet. Bill gave us a piece of advice to chew on that I greatly appreciated, "Nothing you do in this play is going to be as brilliant as these words. So don't act like they are getting in the way of your performance." And he is very right and we needed the reminder - I needed the reminder. Its not that you think you don't need the language, its just that you get very involved in the emotional track of your character and their background and blah blah blah and then you forget that everything you really need is right there in the moment in the specific words you are speaking. I guess I get caught up in thinking, 'This language is hard for people to understand so I am going to overcome it so that the story will be clear.' When really Shakespeare chose those specific words for a reason and they tell the story very well on their own.

Anyway, last week was really fun - I had a lot of free time. I went to Bikram, rode my bike, we went to Norris Springs - and it was amazing. Norris is a hot spring about an hour outside of Bozeman where they have live blue grass music and sell local food (meats and produce). So you sit in a wooden pool of hot water coming right up from the ground, listen to great music, and eat good food. Only 5 bucks to get in and the food and booze is very reasonably priced. Suck on that, Chicago bars!

We also had plans to go hiking, but we all stayed out too late on Sat night and then woke up sick with various forms of the common cold on Sunday. It also dropped from 82 to 55 degrees F over night and that didn't do a lot to help anyone feel better. It officially feels like fall, which I guess it officially is the Autumn Equinox - the leaves are coming down, the air is crisp and it just smells great outside. But I hear it is supposed to be in the 70s here tomorrow. I gotta get my horseback riding in before it gets too cold. And I want to float down the river too...

This week is going to be busier than last. We have gone back to 8 hour rehearsal days with an hour for lunch and Wed, Thurs, and Fri are going to be dedicated to Workshop workshops where we learn how to teach the high schoolers neat things. I am mildly nervous about this part, but I have been reassured that it is sometimes the best part of the tour. And then a week from this Friday, we have our first performance. Yikes.

But it will be fine! No worries! Me worry? Not me. I think my throbbing headache has finally abated for the day. I went to the gym (we get free memberships!) and spent a significant amount of time in the steam room and sauna and that really seemed to help.

I'm gonna hop off to bed now and will try to get back to write later this week.

Love from Montana to all!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Practice, practice, practice

So, we are approaching our fourth day of rehearsal and it is a blast! I have to say, I was having difficulty acclimating myself to the new people and surroundings but rehearsal was the great equalizer and reminded me why I am here and helped me focus myself. I think I was in this weird place of feeling like I was on vacation, but knowing that I was here to work.

I am having such a good time in rehearsal - everyone is hard working, fun, and good at what they were hired to do. Everything I heard about working with Bill is true - he is amazing about giving us time to work and he treats each character like they are the main character of the play - basically, the fact that he is an actor is very apparent in his direction and I LOVE that. I think some people are a little apprehensive that we only have three weeks of rehearsal, but compared to the last couple shows I've done, that feels like luxury! And we have a fantastic production team - the model of the set is great and our costumes...Oh my god, our costumes are so pretty. Especially mine. The period is Italian Regency (Napoleonic) and for those of you to whom that means nothing (like me at first) think Jane Austen. So I have a beautiful long-sleeved dusty pink dress with a gold sleeveless top layer. And it goes with my hair splendidly if I do say so myself.

Plus I am living life on easy street because I don't have a lot of scenes, any big monologues, and I am not in any fights. So I have rehearsed for only about 3 hours each day. I am sure I will be doing stuff backstage during the actual production - when we tour, we run our own sound, lights, move sets, etc. But right now i am really digging the free time. It is something I never get in Chicago - it's always 'What auditions are coming up? What agencies are casting? Why don't I have any monologues that don't suck?"

Oh, and I solved the Bikram problem. One of my castmates mentioned that he had borrowed a bike from the generous artistic director and so I inquired as to doing the same. I was fortunate, and got a bike, put air in the tire and purchased a lock and helmet. It is stuck in a low gear and probably needs a tune-up, but it is totally rideable and I am ever so grateful to be able to get around. So yesterday I rode the 2.5 miles to the Bikram studio and signed up for a month. I had a really terrible class. The altitude ( I am assuming thats what it was) really made it difficult to breathe and I had to sit out for about half of the postures. Also, the stench in the room was pretty unbearable - I am used to our spotless, and sometimes carpetless, Chicago studios, so this was quite a shock. And then the bike ride back was pretty close to pure hell.

So I wasn't surprised when I couldn't get out of bed this morning. At least I know I did something right in class - it really felt like I just stayed horizontal and panted for an hour and a half. I was too much of a pansy to go back today...I actually was tempted to not go back at all, but my lovely Bikram mentor (Ian Daniel McLaren) wrote me an email addressing all my issues that convinced me to go back - the main thing he said was that if I could adapt to class at 4900 ft, I would rock when I get back to Chicago.

I have been pretty useless today...and ravenously hungry. I just stuffed my face with thai curry out of a box and hummus. And I think Laura and I are going to go to the ice cream store down the street which has come highly recommended. We really felt like we should get out and explore a little while it is still light, and what better way to do that than get ice cream? And while we are on that subject, I am proud to announce that I am officially in a healthy Body Mass Index range! 6 lbs from my goal weight and then the challenge will be staying there.

Okay, catch ya later. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Wow...I am starting a blog. And I am in Montana. If I look out my bedroom window right now, I can see mountains. And clouds. We arrived at the University last night and those of us that drove from Chicago were the first ones here. Three other people are coming from home as they just got done with the Summer tour (six months on tour - they are crazy cool!) and then two other people are driving in from Chicago and should get here today. So I am sitting in my lovely graduate apartment living room, drinking coffee and trying to recall all the awesome things that happened on the trip up here.

We were on the road at about 10:30 on Thursday morning. We stopped and had a late lunch on the banks of the Mississippi and ended up staying the night in Blue Earth, Minnesota - home of the Jolly Green Giant! The statue was very cool. We explored the town, looking for dinner and it was at this point that I realized what a city girl I am.

Now, I have always considered myself fairly used to rural - I grew up visiting a rather remote rustic cabin in Maine every summer and going to our family farm out in rural Indiana. But....I was rather shocked when we went into a Jubas (grocery store) in Blue Earth and there were no prepackaged salads. What? That's right, no prepackaged salads. We ended up just snacking for dinner and watching Project Runway in our hotel room.

Minnesota was beautiful - but South Dakota was my favorite state of the trip. First off, I finally feel like I am in on the joke about ridiculous billboards. It really makes the drive so entertaining to see billboards about "10 ft Prairie Dog" and "Prehistoric Indian Village." We also stopped and had breakfast at Wall Drug in Wall, SD which boasted "Free Ice Water" and "5 Cent Coffee" and I can say that they weren't lying. When we first got into SD we stopped at this remote location that had young bison (most of us had never seen a real bison) and inside the connecting store they also had bison jerky. By this point, everyone on the trip knew of my love for jerky. Tyler actually went out to look at the bison while gnawing on his jerky, which I pointed out was a little messed up...The adjoining store was definitely for tourists - but it was from another era. There were old newspaper articles about cowboys and Indians and clippings with pictures of scalped settlers all set against a background of bison pelts postcards and t-shirts with '25 reasons a handgun is better than a Woman." There were also ancient mannequins in little booths that moved and played music when you put a quarter in. We indulged in one called 'Big Sam' and a large black gorilla played the piano while singing. It was fun, if not a bit terrifying.

Besides the jerky, we had bison burgers for lunch. They were Delicious. Maybe better than hamburgers....and a lot leaner. And the rhubarb pie was also stunning. I had another crowning city-girl moment when the waitress asked me what dressing I would like on my salad and I answered, 'Balsamic vinaigrette." She kind of looked at me - trying to ascertain whether I was stupid or just clueless - and said, "We have some oil and vinegar at the salad bar." And that was great. So whenever we stop at a gas station, someone in the caravan will say, "I was gonna see whether they have balsamic vinaigrette here." Haha.

We stayed in the Badlands on the second night in these amazing little cabins that have been around since the 20s. It was breathtaking - I absolutely felt like I was on another planet, if not in another country. I wish I could post some pictures, but I forgot the hookup for my camera and computer - so I will have to wait. We explored some of the landscape and watched the sunset from up on some of the peaks. We spent the evening watching one of my fellow actors do magic - he is amazing - and snacking for dinner. We all turned in very early and got up at 6am so that we could see the sunrise as we drove through the Badlands. It was very foggy, but so dynamic. I kept thinking about dinosaurs as we drove through - it looked so prehistoric. Definitely someplace I plan to come back.

We spent a hot second in Wyoming on the third day and then we were in Montana and the landscape changed dramatically - it is Gorgeous! The driving got real exciting (apparently MT didn't have a speed limit until recently and now it is 75mph) and I am pretty sure that I want to read a book about Lewis and Clark after seeing some of their landmarks. Bill suggested, 'Undaunted Courage.' We arrived in Bozeman around 5pm Mountain time and unpacked, played on the swings, went to the grocery store, realized we were all too fried to grocery shop, and then got dinner at the nearby pizzeria. It was there that I discovered a new beer I really like - Moosedrool. The name alone is admiration-worthy.

I had planned to go to the Bikram studio today, but it is 2.5 miles away (too far to walk, especially after class) and there are only two classes - 9am and 4pm. So it looks like I will be practicing in my room without heat, which sucks, but I can deal. Other than that I plan to work on my lines, do some research, meet the rest of the company and maybe some more exploring. We are gathering for a party tonight but the day is ours.