Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Spring break

Everyone is home now, enjoying some well deserved rest, or cracking on with the organisation of our upcoming tours.
The next time we meet again will be in Hangö, Finland. So next week, it's time to travel. Again.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Game over

When we arrived at the theatre, we found this in the dressing room... (thanks, Adam)

After a re-match on Mr. Catch with the ushers of the New Victory, we played our last show.
This is everyone just before the show.

Last One

This is it. Our last day in New York. We will play one more show this afternoon and then we all go home for some rest. Not too long though, because on June 3 we're back at work, rehearsing for further touring with different shows.

If you want to come and see us, in June we'll be in Hango (Finland), Recklinghausen (Germany), Linz (Austria) and Hradec Kralove (Czech Republic).

Saturday, 24 May 2008

The sailors are in town

I forgot to say that it's Fleet Week in NY this week. It means the city is full of young men and women in very white uniforms. It's quite a surreal sight and in some ways feels like going back in time. Many of the comedy clubs or bars have signs up saying servicemen can come in for free.

I can't stop myself feeling tempted to accidentally spill something on those pristine white shirts and trousers. And shoes (they look the weirdest).

They arrived in their ships on Wednesday, and stay around for memorial day, which officially is on Friday, but will be celebrated on Monday. They will leave with their ships on Wednesday.

Show 200

Yesterday morning we played show number 200. So after the second show of the day (show 201) we all went for dinner to celebrate. Considering everything's big in America, we had the most enormous steak (16oz.).
Afterwards we had to go for another drink to try and start digesting it.

There are only two more shows left now. The Mobergs and Aude are leaving tomorrow, the rest of us on Monday.

More sign language - if you're interested

Look at how the French sign for 'dead' is different from the American sign.

Look how Robin really goes for it when he translates Dave's singing.

One of the kids had picked up the envelope and put it in his pocket. But nothing escapes Tomas.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Moving my passport 3

This is the last installment of the passport story. I have my passport back now, even though the last bit was quite stressful. I went back to the Zambian embassy to find out that my passport was ready, but inside a safe in a locked office, and the only person with the key was stuck in traffic. So I waited for an hour, getting more and more annoyed because I had to get to the theatre.
The woman finally arrived, so I grabbed my passport off her and ran to the theatre.

I'm all done now with the passport business, just in time. I love it when a plan comes together.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Some sign language

There will be more later, when I have time to convert some of the other videos.

Belgian waffles in NY

I found this place last night so I had to try out the Belgian waffle. It passed the test. It really did taste like the ones on the Grand Place in Brussels. 14th St if you want to give them a try...

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Licence to dance

I learnt something about NY. If you run a bar, and you want people to be able to dance, you need a licence.
Anna and I just went to a piano bar/open mic thing where the waiters were musical theatre actors combining their waiting job with taking turns at singing, and basically anyone could make a request to sing, and there was a sign up that said 'please no dancing'.
I laughed at it when I first spotted it, but an hour or so later a couple started dancing and the barman (who just finished his lot of songs) told them to stop. So we asked him what the deal was, and he explained they didn't have a licence for dancing.

NY is a strange city.

Monday, 19 May 2008

More people on stage

Today we had our first signed show. Candy and Robin joined the rest on stage to translate the show into sign language. They did a fantastic job, and I learnt a lot. I knew that sign language is different in different languages (not that that's ever made sense to me), but now I've seen proof of it. Robin would translate Aude into French sign language and then Candy would translate that into American sign language. The gesture for dead is definitely different.
I forgot my camera so I don't have any images, but if Robin and Candy agree, I will make some short video clips when they're with us next time (on Wednesday).

We never had a signed show. We were meant to have one a year ago in Edinburgh, but the signer ended up in the other space and signed Sgaramusch's show instead. It's great to have two signers, though, as I can assume it gets quite difficult if lots of people talk and interrupt each other.
But as Candy and Robin each 'played' different parts, it seemed quite clear to follow. They also changed positions according to what was happening on stage. So when Robin was translating Aude, and she was on the left of Tomas, Robin would be on the left of Candy.

All very interesting. And hopefully I'll be able to post some video on Wednesday.

Saturday in the big city

We had two shows yesterday and because it was the NY Food Festival, in between we could just walk down to 9th avenue and have an enormous choice of food stalls to choose lunch from.

After the second show, the Pagan brothers, Tomas, Anna and I decided to try out some burlesque. A variety of sources had pointed us towards the Slipper Room, so that's where we went. We didn't arrive there till midnight, and it looked like it had only just started.

There are some pictures of what we saw there, but considering children might be following this blog, I won't post them.
It may be enough to say that Tomas expressed disappointment after the first half and said that if burlesque didn't seduce or shock him, it was rubbish. After the second half we all agreed it definitely wasn't rubbish.

I have never seen anything quite as vulgar, and I'd have to think hard to remember when I last laughed so hard my stomach ached.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Vocal warm-up

Because the Duke theatre has very strong air conditioning, playing there is quite hard on the voices. So the guys are now doing longer vocal warm-ups, and they look like this:

Friday, 16 May 2008

The NY subway

I saw these guys today. The video is not of very good quality because I took it with my phone. They were very good, though.

Moving my passport 2

On rainy days, I move my passport around in NY. Today I moved it from the Tanzanian Embassy to the Zambian one.
When I picked up my passport from Tanzania the woman at reception looked at my passport and said: 'ah, vous êtes belge...' She made it sound like a bad thing, but then she smiled and asked me if I was from the French-speaking or Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. And then she started talking Dutch to me. She said she lived in Brussels for a while and she said she really liked Belgium and she was sure I'd really like Tanzania. So that was very nice.
They put this in my passport:

I walked 10 blocks uptown to the Zambian embassy. As opposed to Kenya and Tanzania, Zambia is not in a tower block. It was in a two-floor small building (that almost looked like a normal house). The woman there was not so friendly. She told me off for not filling out an address in Zambia, and when I said I'd be travelling around, she said 'Well, if I wanted to go to Belgium, I'd have to name a place where I'm going. Belgium is a big country, you can't just say Belgium, you have to name a place, otherwise I wouldn't get a visa.'
I thought about pointing out that Belgium is a tiny country, but the look on her face made me think twice and instead I wrote down Livingstone.
She didn't cheer up after that.
I'll get my passport back on Wednesday and then this game is over. Which is good, because there wouldn't really be enough time left to squeeze in another visa.

The East Village

Yesterday we did two educational performances, and the second group was very different from the first. Afterwards I found out that when we play at 4.30pm, the kids choose to go to the theatre, as it is an extracurricular activity. The house was as full as for the show in the morning, and even though the kids (well, teenagers, really) were not as rowdy as in the morning show, they were really with it.
During the post show discussion we got asked a question that left everyone speechless for a minute: 'where did Noam go when he died?'. Kjell was the one with the courage to answer and talked about the many deaths and casualties after the siege of Leningrad and how there wasn't really enough time or space to deal with them properly.

In the evening we went to the East Village and wandered around and had a few drinks.

We were meant to go and see IJK, the show that's opening this weekend in the main house of the New Victory, but their set got stuck in customs so they couldn't do the dress we were meant to watch. I'm very glad we didn't cargo our set. Then again we can actually transport this set as extra luggage, and I think the French company has a lot more set than we do.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Partying and Sightseeing

We just had our weekend, which was on Monday and Tuesday (ps: at our side of the world it is still Wednesday night, not Thursday morning). On Monday night there was a gala event at the New Victory and we were all invited. It was great. First there were drinks, mini hamburgers and lots of very nice small food, and then we all went inside the theatre. It's a lovely theatre (oh, I should probably mention it's not the one we're playing in) - old and beautiful. They were showing highlights of a variety of Broadway musicals, so we've now all seen a bit of everything. Well, not everything, not even nearly everything, but still.

Here's Alex and David getting ready for the show.

After the New Victory gala we jumped in a taxi and went to the next fundraiser: this one was hosted by a company called The Civilians (they're from NY and were in Edinburgh when we were there). There we saw a show of cabaret songs about communists and evangelists. It was very different.

Afterwards we wandered around the East Village and tried out some bars. Most bars are interesting, if not good.

On Tuesday Anna, David and I went off to Brooklyn in order to cross the bridge. I like Brooklyn a lot. So far I think it's my favourite place in NY.
This is the bridge. It's big.

We walked across the bridge and further downtown, via Ground Zero and Wall Street, into Battery Park. It was a very hot day so we sat on a bench by the water for a while (and got sunburnt). Then we took the ferry to Staten Island and on Staten Island there is a train that goes to Great Kills. Maybe next time I'll go there and check it out.
We took the ferry back straight away, because we couldn't quite work out what to do on Staten Island (other than taking a train to Great Kills, and none of us knew where that is), so we returned to Manhattan.

Today we had a school show in the morning and then had some food with Alex, who had to go back to the UK (though he didn't want to). Food in Chinatown, coffee in Little Italy, and then some of us went to Coney Island. It's the place with the very old roller coaster (you have seen it in films, they use it quite a lot as a backdrop). It's a strange place, which is called little Russia on the beach. There are definitely a lot of Russians there.

Even Starbucks translated their coffee menu into Cyrillic.

Tomorrow is theatre day. We're playing two school shows and then we're invited to go and see the tech dress of IJK, the show that will open soon in the main house of the New Victory.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Vado - any information might help

This may have nothing to do with NIE, but at this stage I really don't care. This morning I opened my computer to find 4 alarming emails all asking me if I'd heard from Vado since May 6. He hasn't been seen since then.
So I'm worried. If anyone knows anything, please call Missing Persons on 020 8649 3560 (ref: Merlin–08MIS 010619).

read the article

Moving my passport

I've discovered a new hobby. It's called 'move your passport from one embassy to the next until you need it to fly back home'. Obviously I'm doing it because I need several visa's for my holiday in July (holiday, not touring). I have to do it here because this is the only time I'm in one place for long enough to let them have my passport for a few days. So last Thursday I went to Kenya. The consulate was in one of several buildings at the East Side of Manhattan in a place called United Nations Plaza. It took me a while to figure out which building I needed to be in, and when I finally found it, I nearly didn't make it back out.
Not because of the Kenyans, they were very nice to me. It was because of the building. The receptionist told me to take the lift up to the 4th floor and go to room 4014. That was easy. Got out of the lift and followed the signs that had room numbers on them - like in a hotel. Went in, gave them the paperwork, photo's and money and walked back out. And I couldn't for the life of me remember where I'd come from. All the corridors where light grey, all with the same dark grey doors. So I walked for a while, turning corners, going back, trying different directions. I didn't meet anyone, so I couldn't ask where the lifts were. Also most of the doors had no signs on them, so I felt it could be wrong to just knock on any door to ask for directions.
I made it in the end, got out safe and sound.

Today I went back there to pick up my passport. This time I paid attention and found the elevators easily. This is my visa.

Then I moved on to Tanzania and happened to be in the lift together with the consul. I didn't know it at the time, but he opened the door for me into the consulate and welcomed me in. There was a big picture of him behind the receptionist with a plaque underneath saying he was the consul.
The Tanzania building was a lot easier. And it had one of those cool lifts that skips the first 12 floors.
On Friday my passport will be ready and then I'll take it to Zambia.

Top of the Rock

Yesterday we had a great Sunday afternoon show. The whole audience seemed in great spirits.
Afterwards the Mobergs, David and me decided to go up the Rockefeller building. The people from the theatre had told us it is better to go up there, because from there you can see the Empire State Building, whereas if you climb the Empire State Building, you can't see it from the top...

Here's Sasha checking out if he really wants to go all the way up

If you look closely you can see Brooklyn Bridge

Central Park

The Mobergs on top of the world...
I don't think it's lonely at the top, it looks more like a lot of fun.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

The shows

In the meanwhile we've played 6 shows (one for the New Victory staff and one open dress rehearsal, one for a school group and 3 for families). It is great to see how the New Victory has a big following and fill the seats every time.
The school performance was great: New York kids are clearly louder than European ones - in a good way. They arrive very well-prepared (thanks to the New Vic's extensive education programme) and are very serious about going to the theatre (we've been told). After the shows we had a short Q&A and people (adults and kids alike) really think about what they've just seen, which is great and very interesting for us.

The theatre has an enormous amount of staff members and we're gradually getting to know them and they're getting to know us very fast. It's come to the point that the ushers come and watch us when we play warm-up games. And they applaud whoever wins.

The name game

You might remember I told you about the woman at the American embassy who tried to pronounce our names. I was called Elkie and she wouldn't even try Kjell's name.
Well at the New Victory I'm still Elkie and they admitted that prior to our arrival they'd had many discussions about Kjell's name. Everyone who'd been in touch with us via email kept asking each other if they'd figured it out yet. And whenever Kjell phoned them he seemed to manage to not say his name.
So when we arrived we all introduced ourselves and revealed the mystery to the New Victory. Apparently they'd been convinced it was K-Jell.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Biscuits or Cookies?

Today we did a run through and a dress. During the run through a photographer from the NY Times came to take pictures and a lot of the staff of the New Victory came to see the show. One of the reasons they wanted us to do a run was to see how our English translates to a NY audience.
We didn't have to change much. But we had to change biscuits into cookies, as apparently biscuits over here are some sort of scone. And we had to replace 'Wehrmacht' with 'army', as over here the German name of the WWI army is not so well-known. We might have to change 'flat' into 'appartment'.
You say tomato, I say tomato...
But let's NOT call the whole thing off.

What I found quite strange today is, that being in a theatre all day doesn't feel any different, because a theatre is a theatre pretty much wherever you are (I might come back on that during our China tour, but that remains to be seen). But then when you step outside into the real world and have big billboards all around with flashing adverts, and you feel the humid heat as opposed to the humid cold, you suddenly realise where you are. This is not London, or any other European capital. This is New York. And it is different.

Alex pointed out that in New York everything is about food. I think he's right. There is food everywhere. Any kind of food. All available as takeaway.
And there is Starbucks everywhere. Literally everywhere.
My walk into work is five blocks south and I walk past three Starbuckses on that 5 minute walk. Surely there is no need for that?
Then again walking east this morning I ended up in one of the business districts of New York and found businessmen queuing for a pavement coffee cart while there was a Starbucks across the road - that didn't have a queue.
So I think there's still hope.

Right now we're all still overwhelmed/acclimatising/catching up on sleep, so any more detailed NY discoveries will take some more time.

Tomorrow we do an educational performance and opening night. And then we've officially started.
On or off Broadway - who knows. Geographically we're definitely on, according to the Village Voice we're off. Whatever it may be, it feels very special.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Alex's journey to NY - in photo's

Alex gave his house keys to Richard so he could use them while Alex is in NY.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


I'm in NY. And so are the Mobergs and Anna. We were all on different flights yesterday and all came into town pretty much at the same time. Today Tomas, David, Aude, Alex and Cat are on their way.

This was my journey: I started of at 6 am with a taxi from Brixton to Stansted (I was carrying a heavy accordion - that's the excuse for the taxi).
This is the back of my driver's head:

Got to Stansted far too early, but the weather was great so I sat outside with two coffees and then I checked in.

When you go to the States, you can't just go. You have to answer questions to everyone who crosses your path. Checking in was fairly easy, the only thing that required a bit more work was to convince them that the accordion does fit in the overhead compartment. They believed me in the end.

This was my silver plane:

There was almost no one on this plane, so I built a sofa out of two seats and a bed out of another three seats and had a very comfortable flight. They had some problems with the films, though, so instead they showed 8 hours of American sitcoms. I didn't care so much: I had a good book, my iPod and slept for hours.

I found this on the toilet:

Here we were flying over Greenland:

Once I got to NY, I went straight to the flat I'm staying at (well, about 2,5 hours straight - the theatre had recommended the supershuttle as I had more luggage than I could carry, but it wasn't that super and a woman got carsick as we drove into Manhattan, so it took a lot of patience). The flat is fantastic, I put my stuff down and went out to the theatre, where I was met by a lot of people whose name I've already forgotten. But I think they'll forgive me if I make an effort to remember them today.
I'm going back this morning to start focusing the lights and setting up our stuff, and tonight we're all meeting up there. Tomorrow we'll have a run and our first show.

I think it will take a while before I fully realise I'm in NY. For three weeks.

Monday, 5 May 2008

New York Info

In case you live in NY or are visiting NY while we are there, and you'd like to come and see our shows, all details can be found on the New Victory website.

Vado's Work

We like Vado. This is the kind of stuff he does. He is making an installation at BAC during their Burst Festival, so go and say hello to him.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Anarchy at Airport

posted by David Pagan

It's Over

Everything is packed up in the van ready to go to... Belgium? Germany? Anywhere on the continent that's on the way East will do. But it will probably end up at my family's house in Ghent (Belgium) for a while. We'll go and get it some time in June.

I'm glad to report that our monster meeting went well and we cracked some hard nuts. The result is that I will pretty much fly from South-Africa (which is a holiday, not a tour) to the UK to pick up a van and drive it to Denmark. Before that we'll have three vans circulating in Europe, with different sets in them. In June everything we own (set-wise) will be in transit.

When we arrived at BAC after our meeting yesterday, we found a present. Vado, our Brazilian friend, had left us 6 CDs full of photographs he made of our show, and then some of his own work as a little extra. I'll ask him if I can post some of those as well.

Below are some of his photographs. (There are close to a thousand pictures, so I'll post a few in a few posts, but I won't post them all).

This is how our space looks before the show starts:

This is the state of the space at the end of the show:

This is snow falling in slow-motion.

In the meanwhile the last arrangements are being made with the people in NY, and we'll all travel on Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm hoping for some journey reports of the entire cast.


Saturday, 3 May 2008

Police Magnum

Yesterday I finally managed to track down our delivery that had been lost in the maze of BAC. It's a police magnum, and the plan was that David would use that in the show. Alex wanted louder shots. So I found the gun, had a look at it and then Kjell couldn't wait to try it out.
It's definitely louder. In fact, it's so much louder that we can't actually use it in a space as small as the studio. We'd get complaints. Kjell shot it three times and after half an hour the smoke and smell of buskruit (you might have to look that up, I can't think of the English word for it now) was still hanging in the space.
Then after the show Alex wanted to try it out but I didn't let him because there were still audience members having a drink. So he'll try it today before the show. So if you happen to be around BAC just before 8pm, don't call the police, it's just us trying out our new toy.

This afternoon we have a monster meeting about logistics. Where and how will things be transported around Europe between now and the end of the autumn. Which car is going where and who will take it there. We have three cars, each with their specific purpose (one carries 10 people but not so much luggage, on only has two seats but a lot of luggage space, and one's in between). And we have 6 shows on the road (one of which is still in the making but already has set), which will all have to be somewhere in Europe at some stage between now and December. We have storage space in Asker, Prague, Berlin and Cambridge.

So over the last few days you would have heard me and Kjell have conversations like: if the trilogy needs to be in Ireland in October, it should go along with the rest of the Helsinki stuff and then on to Germany or maybe Czech Republic in June, so that at least it's on the mainland.

After the monster meeting we will be playing our last show at BAC. And Vado will bring in the pictures he took. I will post some tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Chaos for beginners

Last night things went a little bit wrong. Half an hour before the show we realised that our last Polish beer had gone missing. So I ran down to Asda and got some more. About 10 minutes into the show Iva broke her vodka bottle and left the stage covered in glass and water. Which Alex cleaned up while we carried on with the show. Another 5 minutes later Iva tried to get some sweets out of the little bag she has taped to her lamp, couldn't quite reach them and everything started falling out, leaving her make up powder (I'm sure there's a name for this but I don't have any make-up vocabulary, even in Dutch) all over the floor.
15 minutes later David got tangled up in the string for the key and ended up having to snap it, making the key fall down before its cue. Again, Alex solved that problem and pulled it back up.
Seeing David's funny walk while he was trying to work out what was stuck to his legs made me laugh. I guess real actors keep a straight face. But I'm not a real actor. Or: I'm not really an actor. Or: I'm a production manager who ended up on a stage by accident. So I laughed a little bit. But I'm at the back in a darkish corner, so I think nobody saw me laugh.

Anyway, I think yesterday was our clumsy day. Despite all of that, it was a good show.
And afterwards we had a Q&A with the audience, and someone suggested we make a show with a Bollywood actor who would randomly break into song and dance...

Three more nights. It still feels like this is week two, not week three. I hope NY doesn't fly by as fast as London has.