Thursday, May 20, 2010

Those Care Free Days of Yonder...

I'm sitting here, staring at a fairly blank screen, my Starbucks extra hot, skinny, cinnamon dolce latte just to the left of my screen . It is 9:18 p.m. at night. I can hear the clink of coins being counted & know that in less than an hour, they will close up for the night.
And I am worrying.
I do a lot of that recently; it seems to happen whenever I dredge up my roots & start moving in another direction. Or the same direction. It really doesn't matter.
Andrew leaves shortly to start his job in Port Hope. I couldn't be happier to know that he is working away at a musical this summer, and in such a pretty part of the country as well.
Because of this job he has had to leave the one he had in the office.
Which makes me worry.
I worry about whether or not he will be able to find another job.
I worry about health insurance.
I worry about finding a great place to rent.

Today I did some catering. It's not the hardest job in the world and today I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly everything went. But I look at the ladies working in the office, I glance down at their high-heeled shoes that all end in points. I see their well-coiffed hair & nails. I notice their pretty blouses & matching skirts.
And then I worry.
I worry that I might not have picked the right profession.
I worry that I will end up looking back & thinking that I had wasted my life.
I worry that I may never be able to properly provide for my family & that I will forever be walking in the shadow of what I could have been, rather than what I am.

And I know that all of this doesn't matter. I know that it will all work out & that Andrew & I will be able to find future employment and that I will be loved no matter what.

How dark are the eyes of jealousy & despair. How absolute the act of giving in.

And there it is: that wonderful quote of Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never, never give up."
And I have to smile.

Because although I may dream about getting an office job & buying a simple house & being able to decorate it, I know that if I could not express myself through the arts I would be giving up.

And that is one thing I am not very good at.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Art of it all

There is truly an art to everything I do. There has to be. Otherwise, why am I doing it?

Scrap that.

There is an element of grace with every task that I complete.

Strike that from the record.

Okay - Although I may be trudging along & my legs covered with bruises, I am heading somewhere. I am constantly striving to move forward, working with determination towards an end. And gosh darn it - if all that I am accomplishing is butting my head continually up against a hard brick well - well damn it! I'm doing it with great effort!

I'd like to say that every day right now presents itself with opportunity to work towards perfection. That each day I have a set of goals made out and that I hope to complete or gain them. In reality I am living each day thinking of only of this: at the end of the day I get to go to bed.

Great goal right?

Not really. Yes, it is challenging never having time to be perfectly alone. To always have someone else in the house who may come knocking at your door as you are in the middle of a really good part of a book. Or to constantly be asked the same damn question repeatedly as you try to finish your job applications. And to know that at the end of the day when I snuggle up next to my husband that we not in our own place. That one sucks a lot.

I guess I could say I accomplished this today: I wrote up a really good report about my shift last night. I helped my dad arrange a bedroom for my Gram into a little apartment for her, trying to make it as cozy as possible. This entailed bringing in furniture from the garage & the basement, dusting and cleaning it, setting it upstairs, making sure it all had pads underneath it to stop scratching the wood floor, moving all of her little figurines and generally just a lot of lifting. I also applied for a few more jobs, and entered this blog.
Not great I know, but it's something.

So here's to you. For all of the little successes and wins that you gained today. I raise a glass to you. (No, I don't have a beer in hand right now, but it won't be too long from now.)
Here's to cleaning the toilet, to hanging up clothes, to watching that movie you keep on saying you will watch.

Take a moment and take glory in it.
Because Damn it - we deserve it!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Bring Andrew & Brianne back to Toronto Initiative!

Think of it as a call to arms - a battle cry- a really great statement...okay maybe it is a bit of a whimper, but come on, you want us back in Toronto too, don't you?

Yes, we haven't been blogging for months, perhaps because we have practically nothing to blog about. Nothing truly exciting or mesmerizing. I mean really, has Ottawa always been this dead artistically?
Yes, Ottawa has some beautiful foliage, it has maple sugar bushes, the Byward Market, the longest skating rink and Winterlude, not to mention Beaver Tails. Ah, Beaver Tails...

...sorry I will just wipe the drool from my lips.

Yes, well. Where was I?

Right! Reasons to not be in Ottawa. Here's the thing, there are more companies auditioning in Toronto, there are more Artistic Directors to rub elbows with, directors to schmooze, more places to perfect your art and in short more liberals.
I don't mean liberals in a political sense (that I have NO CLUE about)I mean in an artistic way - Art has fewer boundaries in Toronto as only in the big cities do people feel completely free to express themselves. Yes, even the crazy lady who sits outside of KFC can be included in this...

But here's the thing - everytime we get closer & closer to heading back to Toronto something comes up & stands in our way. Admittedly it's us. We keep on accepting the projects, we keep on wanting to work with those around us.
Like Eddie May. Wow, I cannot express enough love and gratitude to Eddie May Murder Mysteries. I truly think that if we hadn't been a part of this company for the past 5 months that we would have gone crazy. (maybe even postal crazy.) Being able to perform so regularly and to have so much fun creating these characters has been an outright blast.

And then there are the people in the company. I couldn't ask for more friendly, funny and endearing people to be around. (except of course for you Tanya!) I could go on & on about you guys, but I won't. Mainly because I haven't your permission to write about each & everyone of you...and I respect you all enough to at least ASK. (It is the worst thing in the world to come across someone talking about you on the internet and you have no knowledge of this.)

And last of all there is the Ottawa Fringe. Sure, it's not the Edinburgh fringe, but it's still a great showcase for new theatre and up and coming artists of all backgrounds. I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity I have to be a part of "Prisoner's Dilemma." It's short. It's witty. It makes you think. I personally think this show is going to rock the fringe, and I hope to see all of our followers (Yes, all two of you.) there in the front row. The Ottawa fringe is in June, in case you don't know.)

So perhaps after the fringe is over we will finally have our opportunity to move back. Because let's face it folks: we need our own place.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Wheel is turning…but the hamster is dead OR Open your eyes and brain wash them out!

Umm, yes. I am not going to explain the title – just be assured that it makes sense as a whole for this entry.
Last week Andrew & I were leading a 3-day workshop for The Lion King. We had 13 kids and the object was to get a full 15 minute version of the show prepared for the final day to be put on in front of their families. Pretty much the Christmas plays that you always had to watch your kids in at school except shorter and with less rehearsal. It was a joy and a nightmare. Casting took place on the first day and the kids were either in one of two groups: the loud ones who wanted to audition for everything to ensure that they got a good role OR the quiet ones who didn’t want to read for anything. That was fairly easy enough to cast. Loud ones in main roles – quiet ones in chorus. After that the days were consumed with staging, teaching them the choreography and making sure they got their lines memorised. (They could take the scripts home each night.) However, one little boy in particular could never remember when he was supposed to be on stage, when he was supposed to speak or what his dance moves were. He is my hamster. For the first 2 days we had the kids rehearse without costumes, but we did make sure that everyone left the stage when they were supposed to if they had a costume changes for the next scene. This worked well most of the time. However, on the third day my little hamster decided that right after a big dance number and just before the next big scene with everyone on stage (These three scenes occurred back to back, with everyone staying on stage.) that he was the only one that needed to leave the stage to change. Of course he was late for his next line, but it was only during the rehearsal. During the main performance he got along well enough as I either whispered his cues from back stage or pushed him back on when he thought it was time to leave the scene. (And yes, I hated myself a little for shoving a child back on stage)
The great groaner happened afterwards. After the show I was chatting to all the parents, signing the kids out, congratulating them on a job well done when my little hamster’s parents came to have a chat with me. They were apparently both in ‘show business’ (I didn’t ask them in what capacity) and had put their son in this workshop to see if he had the acting bug. That’s right boys and girls, these parents were turning to me to find out if I thought their son was talented, if I thought he should take lessons and perhaps become the next cute little boy to star next to Johnny Depp or something.
I thought of the past three days with Hamster; how he hadn’t put up his hand to audition for anything, how he couldn’t remember the very, very simple dance moves. (When the lyrics go “look left, look right” – do exactly that), how lost he looked on stage, his inability to remember his one line at the beginning of scene 7 (Mummy, I’m tired!), and how Andrew, our other helper and myself had discussed how slightly slower than the rest of the kids Hamster was. I then said the only thing I really could say to a set of parents looking to me to see their son’s talent.
“Hamster has done really well, he was a little shy at first but really blossomed after the first day. He’s been a joy to have and I think he had a great deal of fun. I hope to see him again in one of our workshops.”
Lies, lies, lies…
As Andrew and I walked home and talked it over, we stopped on the steps in front of our door, keys in hand. Andrew turned to me. “At least you didn’t say ‘the wheel is turning…but the hamster is dead.”

I had to laugh.

On to politics. I am not the most political person in the world, nor do I have a great deal of research to support my views. I base a lot of what I think and feel on experience. But there is something in the news that is starting to really p*** me off. It’s the Americans vs. the NHS (National Health System of Great Britain.
I believe the President Obama wants to change the health care of the USA by making it more like that of Canada and Great Britain. To have more of the idea that everyone should be covered and that is should be easy access to all to see a doctor. And yet, there is this huge outcry from the American public. Or at least the American public that I read about in the papers and see on tv. They seem to think that to be more like the NHS system would be an abomination to humanity. They say that the NHS doesn’t care about older people and that very few people get actual care.
Hmmm…Pot. Kettle. Black.
For one, the NHS is not like that. Andrew & I are both Canadian citizens living in London and have been able to see our GP quiet easily. If I want to call for a general check-up I just call the office or walk in and book an appointment. If it is something a bit more urgent I can tell the receptionists and they will schedule us in that day.
With Andrew’s recent lung infection he has been able to see our GP anytime he wanted. X-rays have been scheduled, and redone and redone, and not a penny came out of our pockets as they were covered. Yes, the doctor still hasn’t been able to 100% cure him – but it is a lot better than when it started.
And yet I know that if my insurance did not cover me well enough – I wouldn’t have the same care in the USA.
I blame the corporations. Somehow they have been able to get their money sunk deep enough into the pockets of congress and such and should the USA ever go into public health care it is the corporations (I wager) that have the most to loose.

What upsets me is that the people in the town halls and schools who have rallied against the proposed changes yell and scream about how bad the systems in Canada and the UK are, but I doubt they have ever visited either country. Why can’t these people do their research? Maybe read up on both systems, call some friends, chat on facebook or – heaven forbid – find out from a professional what their thoughts are on the subject.

Ignorance is something that has always bothered me. But the fact that we are becoming more and more susceptible to the messages flashed at us on the tv, that we are being told what to think and are repeating that message to other people, that we are no longer questioning the medium as well as the mesaage…just plain scares me.
1984 anyone?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mummy, We're Homesick!!!

There’s a line in a poem that says ‘Home is a place where if you have to be there, they have to take you in.’ Andrew and I are hoping this is relatively true.

Yes, after a year and half in a foreign country we have begun to have our fill of bangers and mash. (Sausage & Potatoes to you Canucks.) It all started when job shortages began to be felt as apposed to heard about. Slowly we realised we were in for a hard deal. And lady luck is one mean casino matron. Yes, we have had luck finding some theatre jobs but in the past few months they auditions have been rarer, the castings more specific (Princess Jasmine must be able to sing, dance and act, have a clean UK drivers license that is at least 5 years old, play the saxophone, tuba and flute and speak with a Yorkshire accent and preferably lives no more than 25 miles from Manchester.) Yes – they are THAT specific.

Then began the battles of who could come up with what they miss most about Canada. Here’s the shortlist:

1. Tim Hortons (Yes, it goes without saying that Family should come first, but come on people! Do you know how lucky you are to have a choice of TIMBITS?!)

2. Canadian banks. I understand if you all may think that Canadian banks are filled with crooks – but that’s just because you haven’t met the British. There is no such thing as customer service, their system is archaic and the lines are a bare minimum of 25 minutes. And no, it doesn’t matter how few people there are in front of you – the line up is still 25 minutes.

3. Alexander Keiths. British ales are world renowned but they taste they warm stagnant pond water.

4. Driving on the RIGHT side of the road. (as in correct)

5. Swiss Chalet. I know some of you will groan when you read this one, but it is true. You just can’t beat that sauce.

6. Breakfasts that do not involve beans, mushroom and tomato. And streaky bacon. It’s not really streaky bacon, it’s just streaky fat. I miss bacon. Real bacon. Yumm, bacon.

7. Smart Set. Indeed, any store that does not sell psychedelic coloured clothing in sizes that are far too large for me. Over here I am a size six. But clothing over here doesn’t start at size six. It starts at size eight. And the petite section sucks. So if you want clothes that fit you might as well gain weight. Oh, and shops that you know aren’t involved with slave labour. Primark over here is able to sell most of their shoes for under 20 pounds, but no one seems to question why.

8.An actual bed. I mean one that involves a top sheet as well as a fitted one. And a box spring that is not helped up by the past decades worth of phone books. Please don’t ask why, just have pity.

9. People who clean up after their dogs. It seems over here in residential areas perfectly normal to leave dogs droppings on the side walk for all pedestrians. We know there is a penalty for it, but we have never seen anyone caught. And this stuff is everywhere. In the tourist areas you are fine. Forget the middle class residential.

10. A better appreciation for health. First of all, the smoking ban here is in its infancy and people are still grumbling about it, concerned that their rights are being taken away and that pubs will close as a result. Second, booze is way too cheap and easily available at all hours, so binging is rife. Finally, the doctors here have not been able to truly cure my cough that I’ve had since May, and I’ve lost my patience with them.

11. Canada’s Wonderland. We miss good rollercoasters and funnel cake.

12. Roads that go North-South and East-West. Here they seem to think, “Well, our horses have trod these paths for generations, let’s just pave those,” so the entire country is on the garden-path system and you can’t drive anywhere without a SatNav.

13. Being able to blow your nose without it coming out just a little bit BLACK.

14. Being able to say “pants” in polite company and not have people giggle. (Pants are underwear here.)

15. The Canadian school system. If I have to hear anything more on GCSE’s, A-levels, and that fact that they only have exams in year one and three in university, I may shoot myself in the foot.

16. Wendy’s Caesar Salad. Uncle Curtis had is right.

17. Bill’s shelving. (Please, please Dad – when we one day move into a house – we want your shelving!!!)

18. Colleen’s laugh, Linda’s giggle, David’s sense of humour, Glens deep voice, Charlene’s stories, Marc’s hair (aaawww, too soon?), Judy’s lipstick stained smile, Sandra’s hugs, Where’s Bob? Elaine’s goofiness and Curtis’s beer cans. (I almost didn’t write beer before cans – how funny would that have looked? Curtis’s cans!) We want to see Alayna and Nick’s house, go shopping with Emily & Amanda (imagine how fine we would look after that trip to the mall!) Hear what Scott and Andrew have been learning on the guitar, glare at Rachael for being so damn tall, talk to Nathan after, like, forever! And see what Ben has recently won from the city and hear his thoughts on how that affects the world today. And yes, Stephen, I will always listen to your financial advice (although I will not move my RRSP’s until I have seen some sort of increase!)

19, Bill’s rye, Barb’s cooking, (I have been hankering for a cabbage roll since 2009 rolled in. Haha – I made a pun!) Kathryn’s boundless ambition and energy, Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary’s dry wit, Uncle Richard’s dancing, Aunt Dawn’s Zen state of mind, Raiden’s cheerfulness, Reiko’s lovely singing, the Willicks’ spirit and the Knights’ Polish good times.

20. Brittany. And by that I mean Buster. (Hey Buster, how are you, do you miss your Auntie and Uncle? I bet you do. You know Buster, anytime you want to come over and stay you are more than welcome to.)

This list will most likely be added to as time goes on. At the moment Andrew and I are considering coming home for Thanksgiving. If we do, we also expect to at least get some bread or potato stuffing. And if we don’t get any we will turn Amanda on you. And she hasn’t had stuffing in a Loooonnng time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Very Special Dog Named Scout

It is a sad day for myself and Andrew and John and Maryse of Vintage Video. I recieved an email from them saying that Scout had said her goodbye to us on August 4th, in a park in Waterloo. I hope it was a lovely day and one that she was enjoying.

Scout and I met in 2001 and for five years our lives were interlinked. If John and Maryse were her parents I hope she considered me her aunt, although she never treated me with the respect of one. My duties were to walk her and take her out for a play whenever she wanted it, as quite truthfully, she ruled the roost. Many people would come into the store especially to see Scout and occasion would even have gifts for her.

She always had a wonderful sense of childlike play to her. She would instantly understand if you asked her to go for a walk and would wag her tail without a care of what it was bashing through to make her way to the drawer where her leash was. In my final year in Toronto she was given a brand new red collar, something that she practically strutted around the store to show off.

She rarely misbehaved and new it was her job to woof at any squirrels or cats coming into the back lot. She always greeted me with a smile (yes, she could smile) and a big wag. If she was especially excited she would lift her paw to me.

Scout was introduced to Andrew as the person who would bring me food. Thus. she was the person who brought Scout food, as nothing (except for spice or chocolate) was served around Scout without a small sampling going to her. Many a pie plate was licked clean by her.

Her favourite toys that were always on her couch were Mr. Rooster, Mr. Kong and Mr, Gorilla. She always played with them gently and they were always placed beside her should she ever want them. She sucked at playing fetch, but was excellent at teaching me how. I would throw the ball or stick and she would run to it, turning to me when she found it as if to say "Get over here and pick it up, I want to do that again!" Which I always did. Her favourite were snowballs, she would catch those for hours, constantly trying to catch them in her snout.

The couch at the bottom of the stairs was always hers. I would make it up when she was coming, with her bowl filled with water in the morning. I could only sit on the couch when she wasn`t there as she had made it very clear that the only human she would willingly share the couch with was John. My place was made clear - on the stairs...behind the couch.

She was a great friend to have. Whenever we walked together I would talk to her about what was going on in my life, my hopes, my fears and my dreams. She never complained, although I am sure sometimes she wanted to tell me to just chill.

There is a picture of Scout, on her back rolling in the sand on a beach that John & Maryse would always put up at the CNE booth during our time there. I will always remember her as such. There is a picture of her on my bureau, something that I found myself looking at more and more recently.
I was looking forward to meeting up with her again when I went back to Toronto, to have her recognize me and jump for joy when I said the magic words `Go fetch your leash`. So perhaps someday that will happen again, and we can again meet up for a nice long walk. It will be late afternoon in autumn, and the leaves will be all red, orange and gold. Verging on winter and the promise of snowballs. And she will know the way we always walk and which turns to take and when we reach our destination she will wait for me to take off her leash and I shall watch her run free in the park.

Farewell my sweet little friend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Meeting Icons

Last night I got my Christmas present. Belated, but totally worth it. My lovely wife got us tickets to see a performance of Waiting for Godot, starring two legendary British actors -- Patrick Stewart (aka Jean-Luc Picard) and my personal acting hero, Sir Ian McKellan (Gandalf, Magneto, ad infinitum). After the show we got to meet the whole cast and get their autographs. An grand night, an amazing gift from the love of my life.

Waiting for Godot is one of those shows that people "just don't get." It's an absurdist masterwork by Samuel Beckett in which practically nothing actually happens. Yet it's considered a deeply layered classic that is known to scare actors at the daunting prospect of having to interpret and perform it -- including, by their own admission, last night's powerhouse cast. For me, I don't worry about whether I "get" the show or not. I just listen and watch and allow my mind to muse and wander on whatever theme I think is being portrayed, and allow myself to fully enjoy the nuanced choices of the actors. The show was, in my opinion, terrific, as the performances were fascinating to watch and wonder at.

I always find it interesting to watch Patrick Stewart in roles which break away from the austerity and authority of Picard and Professor Xavier. As Vladimir, he gets to act silly from time to time, scrunching his face and making funny voices while cavorting like a loon. Vladimir is in a kind of purgatory throughout the whole play -- forever waiting for an unseen character who never arrives, constantly holding out hope of his arrival, and the only character who gets the inkling that his circumstances are infinitely repeating.

This was one of the few times I've heard Ian McKellan use a Northern English accent, which is actually more accurate to his birth and upbringing than the standard RP we usually hear from him. Here again, authority is stripped away and he plays Estragon as a bit of a doddering clown, wonderfully cantankerous and sympathetic. Brianne pointed out that, while Vladimir thinks externally, Estragon is very insular and self-oriented. He thinks not a whit what they're waiting for; he cares infinitely more that his feet hurt, he never gets to sleep, and that he really wants a carrot to eat.

The cast is rounded out by two other great British actors, Simon Callow and Robert Pickup. Callow -- not Cowell -- you'll probably recognize from Shakespeare in Love as the Master of Revels who shuts theatre down. He plays the verbose and pompous Pozzo with wonderful panache and vigor, and then in turn makes him utterly pitable when he is blinded in the second act. Pickup plays Lucky, one of the most bedraggled and put-upon characters in literature, a mercilessly abused servant to Pozzo who is completely silent save for a completely disjointed and some might say utterly meaningless monologue of about a page and a half duration in the first act. You may remember Pickup as the voice of Aslan in the classic BBC version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

As were waiting by the stage door, a member of the management came out to inform the small and rather subdued group of autograph seekers that Stewart and McKellan don't mind their pictures taken but will not take the time to pose with everyone, and they will only sign things pertaining to Godot. Perfectly reasonable, I thought; simple guidelines to keep them from being mobbed with wizard hats and Starfleet uniforms. The first to leave was the young boy who plays a bit part in the show as a messenger, followed by Pickup.Following him came Sir Ian. I'd been prepping what I was to say to him for some time, wanting to make sure I said something meaningful rather than just babbling that I was a huge fan or worse, playing it way too cool and aloof and not saying much of anything.As he leant in to sign my program, I told him that when I was ten my dad showed me a recording of Acting Shakespeare, a one-man show he had done in the 70's, stating that he was my first acting teacher. As I hoped, he seemed very pleasantly surprised by this obscure reference to his early work. Brianne chimed in to say that Sir Ian was one of the main reasons I became an actor, which is quite true. I said he was a true hero to me. He grasped my shoulder and said "That's wonderful. Thank you." In that brief moment, I felt like he was impressed with me. I was rather lost for words after that, and B began to get misty.

(In all truth, my very first acting teacher and inspiration to be an actor is my father, a fact I shall always remember, honour, and appreciate.)Stewart was next, and he seemed in a bit more of a hurry to get through the line of people. He was perfectly polite, and made a joke with another person in line, but I didn't even get to make eye contact with him, though that was partly because I finishing up my moment with Sir Ian when Stewart signed my program. Also, he had a private car waiting for him with a few other people in the back, so I can understand his haste.Finally, out came Simon Callow, and he was a very warm and welcoming fellow. He was glad to pose for pictures. Callow is acquainted with Brianne's old boss John from Vintage Video, having visited the store several times in the past. John still has a photo of him with Callow wearing a very retro purple velour suit. B told Callow this, much to his delight, and asked us to give John and Maryse his "very warmest regards."A grand night out at the theatre, one of those "remember forever" nights. B said she has no idea how to top this gift, to which I replied "How do you think I feel?"