Monday, May 23, 2016

Ready set read

Okaaaaay it’s roundup time.  Thanks to the incredible generosity of one of my employers I have a more functional laptop for the weekend and am making as much use of it as possible.

Let’s start with the weekend of May 7th.

My oldest cousin landed at JFK at 7.30ish, and I was waiting to meet her from that time.  She emerged in the arrivals lounge about 8.15 and we made our way via AirTrain and subway to my house where she was staying a couple of nights.  We ordered Greek takeaway when we got in and made some plans for the week.  Em had her own agenda pretty packed and I was looking to join her for certain things after work.  I had a pretty packed work week which was unfortunate.  Fortunately Em was a great New York visitor, really independent and happy to make plans and then allow them to change as she went along depending on tiredness, location, mealtimes etc - all of which meant she was in the best way possible better off flying solo and not having to worry about other people.

I had to go to Valorie’s wedding shower on Sunday so I dropped Em off at Grand Army Plaza and she spent a happy few hours in Prospect Park spotting turtles and chipmunks.  

The wedding shower was good fun, the Maid of Honour Carly had made and procured a variety of tasty brunch foods and of course, requisite at every girly brunch occasion, mimosas.  Some cliches are worth clinging to.  We played some less genteel games and gave gifts - I got Val a book called ‘All Night Party’ which is a history of the Bohemian women of NYC in the 20s and 30s - poets, DaDaists, singers, dancers and hostesses.  She seemed very pleased with this and I hope she enjoys it cos it kind of blew my mind and she’s of a similar mindset when it comes to cool historical ladies, particularly artistic ones.

I had to leave the shower early to rejoin Em and we went to eat Mexican food before retiring to my place - we crashed on the sofa for a while and Em eventually retired at around 9pm - understandable since she’d landed the night before having had about 4 hours sleep before she got on the plane, journeying to and from airports and then spending most of a very sunny and hot Sunday walking around.  So she was fairly knackered and happy to crash in her hotel room/my bedroom.  I took the sofa while she was in my place - not because the idea of sharing a room with my cousin with whom I’ve shared a room many times before is so awful but because I am TERRIBLE to share a room with lately.  I wake up at all hours, I fling my limbs around and I also had to be up fairly early every day that week so I was setting 8 alarms every day.  So I was more than happy to banish myself to our very comfy sofa.  

Monday we left together to go to Manhattan, Em headed for Museum Mile and Central Park and whatever else she felt like and me headed for work, audition, work.  We met later at 96th St and headed to the West Village to meet Lauren who was working at Tea and Sympathy.  We joined our friend Isabel who was already set up at a table and Lauren kindly brought us pots of tea, free of charge and we had a lovely time gossiping and laughing.  
Em and I then went to tick off an essential food item - a quintessential New York slice of pizza.  For this we wandered down 7th Ave to Bleecker St and each got a mushroom slice.  Not yet done with our evening, we journeyed back to Brooklyn to go to Butter and Scotch my favourite pudding and cocktails establishment.  We got cocktails and pie and cookies respectively - Em was as enamoured with the place as I am and by the time we left we were very happy but also full to bursting, so we walked the four blocks home and retired to a good night’s sleep.

Tuesday I had to get up early to go to a dance studio, and I was back by 10.30.  Em’s plans for the day involved some downtown pursuits and I had to run some dull but necessary errands before babysitting.  Tuesday was also the day Em went to stay in the Hostelling International hostel on 103rd and Amsterdam - conveniently close to where I work and a good location from which to begin all her daily travels.  We met there after I finished work, and we changed into semi fancy clothes to attend the photography show of Kristina - she is my friend, my roommate’s girlfriend and a talented commercial photographer just graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology.  So we had a nice time marvelling at her work and perusing the rest of the exhibition, before going to eat some vegan burgers and heading to our beds - we were both pulling down long and jam-packed days.

Wednesday was Broadway day - we went to Times Square first thing to line up for rush tickets for An American In Paris.  Well, Em made it there first thing.  Iiii did not…partly it’s my fault, partly it’s the 3 train at 7am - but I can complain about the MTA any day so I’ll skip it for now.  
Anyway on the advice of friends who do ‘rush’ shows all the time (rush is both a verb and an adjective in this case) Em was there at 8am.  And there was no line.  Of course.  The whole point of the exercise is that theaters release a certain number of $30 or $40 tickets the morning of, starting at 10am, and to stand the best chance of securing one or a pair, you get there early to beat the line.  
So we did do the right thing by anticipating a line and going early because probably if we’d shown up at 10m when the box office opened, Sod’s law would have dictated that there were 50 people in line and only 20 tickets.  
I had to ditch Em there to get the tickets while I went down to Chelsea for work, and we agreed to meet later at the hostel.  Post tap class and babysit I met her there, got changed and we went for a quick mojito on Amsterdam Ave before going to the theatre, picking up our Playbills and taking our seats.  
The show is a thing of beauty.  It’s not the best show I’ve ever seen - as a fan of the film I don’t think it would ever quite live up to my idea of ‘An American in Paris’ and while the lead was certainly charismatic he’s no Gene Kelly.  BUT the two leads dancing together was like watching angels on a cloud - they really are the cream of the ballet world.  Just about everyone in the cast was in fact hired from the ballet world and it is a choreography HEAVY show - the songs definitely take a back seat to the dancing.  The performance of the actor playing Oscar Levant’s role was amazing - he kept the whole thing on the ground.  And while the English girl playing Leslie Caron’s role was not the strongest singer, her acting performance made me like that character for the first time because I always thought of Leslie Caron in the movie ‘what a terrible person she is!’ because I found her fundamentally unlikeable.  But Leanne something was extremely likable and again, can’t emphasise enough how truly sublime a ballerina she is.  She has a lot of heart.
Thursday was for me Em’s last day because Friday was the wedding and I couldn’t feasibly combine the two things.  So after a normal day for me, work class work, and a busy one for Em - Natural History Museum, Central Park and some other things - we met up to go to Peacefood Cafe for delicious vegan meals.  Then we wandered around the Upper West Side and stopped for a glass of wine in a French wine bar.  I made sure to take her past Lincoln Centre, at it’s best when its all lit up at night.  Both of us anticipating really long Fridays, we said our goodbyes and she headed uptown while I headed down to Brooklyn.
I wasn’t able to join her for her daytime excursions but I know Em managed to pack in a lot, including the 9/11 memorial, Top of the Rock, art museums, parks, food explorations and a good amount of general wandering which any sensible person knows is one of the best things you can do here, and for free.  I’m sure she needed a holiday to recover from her holiday when she got back but I’m glad she enjoyed as much of the city as she could while here.

Next up: The Wedding
What a daaaay…I had so much fun.  I got up early ish to eat breakfast and be organised - I’d decided to go all out and spend $17 on a coupon for a blow dry at a hairdressers not far from home.  Of course this proved fruitless in the end because it was a windy and drizzly day and getting from the salon to home pretty much laid it flat again…but I chose not to let this bother me.  Lauren came over around 2, naturally, since the wedding was supposed to kick off at 3 and we were due at Alison’s at 1.30 for champagne and snacks.  This is how we roll.  Lauren had got her hair put up that morning and was looking generally fabulous yet somehow we still ended up scrambling at the last minute to be ready.  Every damn time.  We splurged on an Uber taxi to Ali’s and were met by a spiffy looking Ben, Ali, Spencer and Jon.  We all piled into a taxi to go to the Green Building.  The ceremony was supposed to be held in the park but they’d send an email round earlier that day saying they would hold it at said Green Building, the reception venue, because in all likelihood it was going to rain.  Right as we were getting into the taxi at quarter to three the heavens did indeed open and we were v. grateful that they’d sensibly made the call before noon that day.

The Green Building is a beautiful barn-like space in the Gowanus neighbourhood of downtown Brooklyn.  On arrival we enjoyed greeting faces we see all the time like Natalia, Roger and TJ all of Fundamental Theatre Project (TJ also performing the ceremony).  Then some faces we don’t see often any more like former teachers Jim Elliot, Cate Smit and Jason Chaet, David Caldwell the awesome pianist and musical director, a couple of FTP board members and some old friends of FTP/fellow AMDA grads.  THEN some faces we never see but are always happy to, like Sam’s sister Hayley who has been in Australia for a couple of years and made the epic journey to NY just a few days earlier to be at the wedding.  Last saw her last March when Sam and I performed at 54 Below.  Also Sam’s best mate Jamie who has been over a few times from *Woking* but I last saw him in Edinburgh last summer as he was doing tech for Sam and Val’s play.  I met lots of people’s other halves who I’ve heard so much about but never met - I can now officially say that most of the blokes I know here are punching above their weight, I want to be best friends with all their wives.  Especially the one who sensibly named her daughter Tessa.

The ceremony was quite short and sweet - TJ did a lovely intro and it was nice to have someone who knows the couple personally to take that role.  TJ is also a seasoned improv performer and comedian so it was more fun than your average marriage officiant, and he really knows how to project!
They wrote their own vows (which we couldn’t hear) and chose to adopt the Viking (?) marriage tradition of sharing a drink from the same cup before exchanging rings.  
We then had a couple of hours of cocktails and mingling - well, I started dancing because they had a 3-piece swing band who would later become a 6 piece and I was enjoying them a great deal.  
Around 6 we sat down to dinner (Downie and I sat together, of course - and shared out our food so we could try everything) and enjoyed some frickin delicious eats - a broccolini salad and scallops for starters, then a round of serve yourself dishes including this amazing polenta-y thing with asparagus and parmesan that I want to learn how to make.  
After we were stuffed full there was a round of speeches - for me, Jamie as Best Man won the day by presenting instead of a traditional speech roasting the groom, a dramatic reading of a screenplay.  Jamie is a filmmaker and he had come up with this whole screenplay of a short film that was essentially a great ruse to tell embarrassing childhood stories about Sam (they’ve been friends a looong time) all the way up until Sam and Val got together.  It was very touching and also hilarious, delivery and all.  So much more fun than just another speech. Hayley also made a short and sweet speech, admitting that public speaking was not her thing which made it all the more heartfelt and enjoyable.  And I learned that the bride had a brother when he got up to make a speech which was also very touching and heartfelt.

After all this touching heartfeltness the band struck up a series of standards and we hit the floor - Lauren and I both got expertly twirled around by Scott and Ed, an awesome couple she often dogsits for who are both unexpectedly fantastic dance partners.  I spent lots of time on the dance floor and eventually got around to snagging the groom for a big hug and a low-level swing dance.  The bride did just what a bride ought and got shitfaced - a very safe and manageable kind of shitfaced though, the happy kind.  I didn’t catch up with her til later when she dragged me in to dance with all the girls.
I had such a nice time spending time with dear friends like Lauren and Naty and Maite and Ben and Ali, we rarely get to be all together and certainly not dressed up.  Not to mention the rest of the FTP crew and friends, including former FTP associate director Greg who flew in from LA.  Also had a fantastic time meeting Rhys, the other groomsman and third musketeer of Sam and Jamie - it wouldn’t be an English wedding if someone didn’t put his tie around his head and slide on his knees on the floor and Rhys was happy to fill that role.  He and the Maid of Honour also sang for the first dance which was another really nice personal touch.

We left the venue at 1 - well, we were supposed to be out by 1 by I think it was more like 1.30.  The official last men standing - myself, Lauren, Natalia, Jon and Greg found a nearby bar and sat down, dressed to the nines, for beers.  Best way to end the day.  I eventually made it to bed around 8am - Lauren was already in my bed because she had to work the next day so she’d taken my keys and gone home before me.  

I slept till about 1 then got up to come up with a costume for Saturday night’s festivities - Ben’s Birthday party, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/90s theme pizza party in a loft office space with a roof deck.  

Which requires it’s own separate post because this one is now REALLY LONG and that’s without pictures! Phew.  Yeah it was kind of a mental weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

News in brief

Well I keep trying to blog about my epic week last week but technology never cooperates does are the key bullet points though:

- Cousin fun times
- Photography show
- American In Paris
- Shopping
- Wedding
- After party
- Ninja Turtles
- Brief smack of violence
- Birthday
- Other birthday
- So much good food
- Out of town guest appearance
and back to reality.

Intrigued? You SHOULD be! It was quite a week and I'm so very lucky to be able to do all that I do and have this much fun and spend time with top quality folks.

I want to do a proper post with pictures when facilities allow but meanwhile a catch up of what's happening in the real world:
- I'm going to be in a dance studio with my friend Rosi on Friday morning and I can't wait, she and I have a good level of dance communication and it's a while since we worked on anything together.
- The mighty Carlos is in town next week on a break from a national tour, and that means we're all getting roped in to do things like swing dance and Shakespeare in the Park.  Ok by me.
- Rehearsal schedules are coming out for two dance pieces, a two-nighter for the 2016 Choreographer's Canvas and a one-nighter for New York Theater Barn, both in July.
- We are planning auditions, venues, donations, artist bios and all manner of things for FTP's Mass Rhetoric New Works Festival featuring five brand new plays plus five shorts.

Massive congratulations are obviously due to the newlyweds Sam and Valorie - no wedding pictures have been sighted yet but I'm keeping an eye out - it was a really lovely wonderful celebration and the bride got suitably pissed.  Good for her.

Longer letter later - I've done this to myself by allowing a backlog to pile up but you see my keyboard is playing up!