aight. first order of business is apologies for the lack of updates. i realized this weekend it was two months since i'd been back, and therefore, two months since i had updated. more than. oi.
reason being? don't actually know. being catapulted back into my own life. being back around friends and family and swept up in the xmas cyclone. catching up with the scads of people i've not seen for over seven months, some more. trying to prepare two productions for the coming year. training to become an esl teacher. god knows, i've just been so relieved to speak english all over that i don't need to puke out mothertongue via blog as mental catharsis.
here is a short overview of what has changed so far.
i've been home for two months, and i can't decide if that's way shorter or way longer than it feels like. most days, i barely remember that i was in germany for most of last year. amazing how fast one slips back into the routine—here i know where to get the best groceries (oh how kensington market was missed), what the fastest bike routes are; every alley and side street is a story and and intersection of historical vectors. the landmarks are there, the air smells how i remember it, the TTC is more infuriating than ever.
on the other hand, there's the "catching up." years ago, i was a social animal. there wasn't a night of the week when i wasn't meeting some friend for some reason or other, i managed to juggle a social circle of almost fifty with admirable dexterity. as years wore on (well, ok, i'm not really that old, i'm really talking about all of seven years here) i lost the energy and motivation to keep all those balls in the air. i have a rather small, close, and tight circle now, and like it that way. but when one has just returned from as long a bout away as i, all the friends, distant and near, demand time. i have seen a lot of people since coming home, most only the requisite once for a drink and to catch up. interesting how those social constellations change though. coming back has allowed me to reconnect with a few people i haven't been in regular contact with for years, and it's refreshing to find that we're suddenly in the same city again, and have interests that synch up. and those are the people with whom one can hit the ground running, and never have been gone.
but then there's the feeling that the world orbited the sun three times in my absence. in eight months, a lot can happen, and not just to your hairstyle. people i was once close with are living totally different lives now, their lives (obviously, but somehow surprisingly) went on full speed in my absence. there are plans to move, or some have moved. some are married, some have lost parents, some are suddenly gay, and some have experienced tremendous successes that i wish i could have shared. it's when i notice these things i feel like i spent 4 years on mars rather than seven months in germany.
so, for as long as i can really remember; since before i was old enough to legally do it; i've been serving tables. there was actually a time when i was younger when i longed for a chance to do it. i lied about my age to get my first gig at a vegetarian cafe in my hometown. i can't even remember the appeal now; maybe it was just an unconscious premonition that theatre was to be my vocation and i hadn't heard of a theatre artist who wasn't a server or a bartender. maybe i just thought at that flair bartending in that tom cruise film was hot. this is before i understood what scientology was.
i'm not a bad server either; you may not get service with a smile but i'll bust my balls to get it to you fast and exactly how you ordered it. the german efficiency that's innate in me. my favourite job i've ever had was serving at the hot box cafe in kensington market (yes, laugh all ye who doubt, but i met some of the most important people in my life through that experience, aside from the obvious benefits of working at a den of iniquity).
i even ended up serving in stuttgart on my few days off. the cafe where i ended up spending most of my time writing on this very blog (being the only place with internet in my hood) needed extra hands. i was happy to help, although drink names in german are REALLY different.
but i'm just really fXXXing done with it. sitting in germany knowing this life of paid theatre work was coming to a close, i was seized with bouts of nausea every time i thought on pulling out the old black apron and trying to be courteous again. catherine got this teaching gig at an esl school back in the spring and the hours sounded great—9-2 monday to friday. and decent money too. so for the past month, i've been getting certified as an esl teacher. friday i finished the course and was hired on the spot; today was my first day teaching. it's surprisingly like directing. lesson plan as a rehearsal plan; how to keep 12 people productively busy for 5 hours a day; directing improvisations; focusing intensely on language—and being the klugsheißer (cleversh*tter) i am, it comes somewhat naturally. and having just had to learn a new language, it's given me a whole new perspective and interest in linguistics, communication, and especially how language is acquired.
i think i've already established in great detail the vast gulf (abyss?) between canadian and german theatre cultures. even as i left germany, opportunities were presenting themselves to me. opportunities to be paid for theatre. not so in canada. one has to seek out established artists willing to act as mentors, and then get down on one's knees and beg the government for the "professional development" support necessary to make them happen.
i'm rather lucky to have the support of pia (from the UCDP) who knows everyone who's anyone, dead or alive (she has a great grandfather who was tight with napoleon even). she has connected me with daniel brooks, probably the most successful UCDP grad in recent history, and i will be assisting him on his upcoming collaboration with john mighton. really exciting, for two reasons: i) their collaborations have yielded some of the best theatre in toronto in the last decade; and ii) daniel's work is NOTHING like mine, especially when he works with mighton. i think it'll be a good learning experience.
for the last year and a half, i have been independently pursuing an apprenticeship with peter hinton, artistic director at the NAC. i was first exposed to his work as a teenager in stratford, and his production of the duchess of malfi there in 2006 had a huge influence on my first red light district show, titus andronicus!. i was supposed to be in ottawa this fall but for various reasons chose stuttgart instead. i reconnected with him a few weeks back to see if such an opportunity might be available next season, and it seems like it is. so that involves writing a grant for the metcalf foundation to try and make it happen.
tied into this grant is another opportunity i've had come up with the magnetic north theatre festival—which is happening this year in my good ole hometown of kitchener waterloo. it looks as though we'll try to wrap work with NAC and mag/north into one grant and i might spend 8 months in ottawa next year. not the city of my dreams, but hey, nor was stuttgart. and it would be some canadian cred on my CV.
so, i've got two on the go right now. (héloïse and abelard is on hold at the moment).
the WITCH of edmonton:
i am in the process of jumping through flaming bureaucratic holes to get approval to do a site-specific horror show in high park this august. i'm really curious about whether it's possible to achieve real fear in a theatrical sense. also, high park is one of my favourite things about toronto, and i would be fulfilling a long-time fantasy by doing a show there. i really miss eliza-jacobean theatre (shakespeare's where i started), and haven't done one since titus. and this one in particular is fascinating, as an exploration of community, ostracism, and exclusion, as well as the main plot's fascinating narrative of self-appropriation. i want to do another huge cast show, and have a ton of actors i know would be perfect for a show like this. this kind of all-encompassing "immersive" theatre is what i've been making in various forms for years, and this would be a fascinating next step. and i've never done open air. it's in planning stages still, but it WILL happen.
so there's been lots of talk about this one here already, but it's really happening.
i have finished all my casting, and begun rehearsals. i have pretty much the cast i was gunning for—half people i have worked with before, and half new faces.
we've also gotten a small grant from canstage, which is great, and staged readings have been programmed into two festivals; the UCDP festival in late march, and the canstage festival of ideas and creation in may.
i have a wicked production team in place—strange for me somehow. by now i guess red light district has done enough work to be known and respected by current students at the UCDP, and we've had volunteers jumping at opportunities. this is the biggest crew i've ever worked with, and i'm trying (REALLY TRYING) to force myself to delegate work. at this point, in order to be successful, i have to, but it's tough to relinquish absolutist power and control over all departments. and i have a big enough team and people i've worked with long enough o know how it works. it's an experiment.
we built the opening sequence this weekend, based on an idea johanna and i conceived back in october, and i was astounded at how well it worked. we breezed through it. and wow have i ever missed directing. i was more high strung than all the actors together in that rehearsal. but it's definitely theatrical. and it gives us something to work from.
since the concept hinges on an incorporation of circus elements, i've also started doing aerial acrobatics classes at the centre of gravity studios here in toronto. i leave feeling as though my arms are swollen to the point of falling off, but it's wicked fun, and great to be working in my body again. i haven't isolated movement from text since i graduated, and this is right up my alley. i'm not much of a yoga person; i like to be training towards and end, and i like developing skills / virtuosity. also, i'm very much of the opinion that a director can't ask anything of actors he won't try himself. so if i can do a backflip, they can stiltwalk. and i've got leverage therefore.
i've been madly writing more and more grant apps and trying to raise funds for it. this is a production on a scale that i've never before operated on, and it needs this funding to be successful. knock wood for me, y'all.
alright, i will continue to post with more updates on my projects and all else that comes up.