Thursday, August 28, 2008


"I don't wanna be like G & D," I told Jon the other day, "They have too much stuff." Their crime? Accumulating video games and action figures like they're going out of style, buying video gear for G's business as a kids' film teacher, and of course, the giant flat-screen tv that J covets. Part of me loves to see them buying stuff together, a funky gay professional couple and a great match for each other, cementing their lives together. It's the stuff itself that I fear, even though I love spending the odd evening on G's couch playing Rockband; the accumulation of things that will fill up a tiny apartment so quickly. "But you like stuff too," Jon counters, knowing me all too well, "You just like buying different stuff than G & D, that's all."

Busted. Because of course, it's so true. The gorgeous new boots that sit in my closet. The new haircut- although one could argue that my head takes up less room now than it did before. The new clothes I bought a few weeks back. And a week or so ago. And last weekend. Ok, I like my material possessions as much as the next person. The big-screen tv that J wants so fiercely? I protest at every turn because I don't want to admit that I love slouching on the couch with a season of "Dexter" to watch. "I want to watch less and do more," I can be heard whining whenever J teases me that he's going to buy a giant tv. But although I'm a hypocrite through and through, I think I have a point. And to this end, I'll be "purging" our apartment of unwanted items in the next week or so. After all, when you live in a place that's less than 800 square feet, you'd better do some tidying occasionally.

Show update: we did it last night, because the rains were kind enough to (mostly) hold off until we finished. New lesson learned: a tiny bit of rain on the train tracks means that the miniature train cannot move once it's stopped. Its wheels will spin in place, actors will have to push it, and I will have to stand in front of the audience for what seems like an hour (but was only about 6 minutes) singing a song to cover until the other half of the audience and actors arrives from the Lithuania site. Today it rains again. So we'll see about tonight...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rites of Passage

When I turned thirty, I was close to the Rockies, in a skiing resort called Panorama. The Streels were on tour, and part of that tour was playing at the Music in the Mountains festival. It was one of those places, like most ski resorts, which make you feel healthier just by being there- fresh mountain air, people jogging in the mornings, expensive outdoor wear for sale... Jon & I revisited the town where we hooked up, and I got a pair of running shoes for my birthday.

That night, the night I became 30, we opened for Doug and the Slugs, a Canadian band that was popular back in the '80s with hits like "Makin' It Work" and "Tomcat Prowl". I was kind of excited to be in the small crowd as night fell... What followed was like Exhibit A of Rock Stars Who Fall Off The Wagon and Drink Themselves Into Bitter Bloated Parodies of Their Former Selves, Mocking the Audience Between Every Song And Making Everyone Feel Uncomfortable. I tell you, it was too, too sad. When I heard of his death a mere 2 months later, I was completely unsurprised. But for that one night, it was a brush with sorta-fame, and I proceeded to get very inebriated and sneak into a hot tub at about 1 in the morning, head spinning with the booze and the heat.

Which I only bring up because I've had some good birthdays in my 30's: Panorama, Whistler (last summer-getting drunk on Bailey's and nearly stumbling straight into a giant bear) and, memorably, the summer before that with Whistler Theatre Project)...
In 3 days I'll be 34, but what will this year bring me in terms of work, joys, griefs, love...? I've just signed up for piano lessons, rented a proper keyboard, about to register for Spanish lessons... Stage One of what I've been jokingly calling the Alison Finishing School. By the time I'm 35, will I be a better musician? A healthier person? Making more money? Smoking or non? Unless it's pouring, I know I'll be celebrating my birthday by... doing a show!

By the way, I've told J that I would very much like an iPod Shuffle for by birthday; that and an iTunes gift card. Because nothing will make me want to go running all the time than a tiny MP3 player that clips to my clothing, and a whole whack of new tunes to hear on it. Let's hope he comes though...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Can we not get a break- please?

Yesterday, the weather was perfect. A little hot, sure, because there seemed to be almost no wind, but that was such a nice change after the wet and cold of a few days ago.

So we got to Stanley Park, all ready to do our show, three days in and so feeling a bit more confident about how things should go, weather in a holding pattern of slightly overcast but still hot as anything, every prop, puppet and instrument set in its place, waiting...

And then Blue Rodeo began their concert at Malkin Bowl, only a few acres away from us, and we were plunged into sonic hell. Ever tried to do a show about the Holocaust and mental illness while through the trees a Canadian country-rock band with a giant sound system is belting out hits like "'Til I am Myself Again" and "5 Days in May"? It quickly became clear that it would be impossible to perform our South Africa show, because the set was far too close to the concert and watching the intimate and painful disintegration of one man's mind would be pretty hard when Jim Cuddy and co. were wailing away in the background. But the Lithuania play, which mostly takes place (BTW, I just tried to type the word "place" too fast and it became the word "polka"- is that random or what?) anyway, the Lithuania play takes place in the woods a bit further away from the Concert Zone, so it was still a go.

Now the concept of these shows is that they start as one, then about 20 minutes in the audience is split into 2 groups- the ones who leave with Lazarus to emigrate to South Africa, and the ones who stay in the Lithuanian shtetl with the rest of his family. Then at the end, the two shows reunite as one in the South Africa location. So last night, the actors and musician (me) who do the South Africa show just got to ride the miniature train and watch the Lithuania play, while strains of Blue Rodeo wafted through the trees in a thoroughly distracting manner. (Jonas: ""You have defiled my house, my life..." Frozen tableau of the errant wife, the furious husband and the gun-wielding lover, as a gorgeous but totally inappropriate guitar solo floats by.)

Anyway, one could just chalk that night up to experience and a great anecdote and carry on- except that the Blue Rodeo boys are back at Malkin Bowl tonight. AND it's pissing down rain.
No show tonight? Half a show? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The weirdest tech day ever,

Wow, what a day/night...
Tech day: where performers are allowed to be called for up to 10 hours out of a 12-hour period.
Cue-to-cue with float planes, roosters, trains and tourists making cacophony.
First play finished- goes quite well; second one still to do:
7:30pm: Rain begins.
8pm: Rain continues.
8:30pm: Rain gets really serious; musicians are released for the night.
9pm: Everyone is released, 2 hours early, because the !#$@%$% rain will. not. stop.
9-9:30pm: tons of props, puppets and instruments have to be loaded onto a wagon and pulled (by me among others) back to the lock-up.
So tired; cannot even form intelligent sentences.

But seriously folks: if you live in the Vancouver area, c'mon down to Stanley Park and see Letters From Lithuania. We'll be the actors either shivering in the rain or sweltering in the heat, swatting mosquitoes all night long. It's been a long, hard process, but the end result may be something quite magical... if it ever stops raining.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Take back the movie theatre

So the J-man and I were watching a movie at the good ol' Van East cinema tonight: Tropic Thunder. (stupid and gory and very, very funny, by the way.) And this guy was talking to his friends. Very, very loudly. Like, not even pretending to whisper. And I'd taken enough crap from people this week. I mean, this play I'm doing is Gong Show Centrale, to use a phrase of my buddy Amelia's. So I take a deep breath, point my face in Talky's direction and say, very loudly "Could you please shut up? Thanks."
Thereby scoring one for all the timid folks like me who usually say nothing to idiots but would really like to.
And they actually did shut up. For the rest of the movie.
So there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

So this is what 6am looks like...

There's a soft light coming in through the windows, a light I seldom see, since I am more prone to rising at 10am than 6am. But last night was so hot, and I was in such a bait, that I tossed and turned until 5:30 and then gave up. It was either lie there and punch my pillow in frustration at the way things are being done in this show I'm working on, or admit that sleep wouldn't return, get up, and have a pleasant stroll to the bank while it was still cool enough to move. So I did, and it was a great idea; a chore completed (I had to deposit a cheque), and a green tea and muffin eaten at the local coffee shop (who knew they opened so early?).

How are things? Don't even ask. Uh, so we know you have a bass player in this show. And you arranged a lot of your music for his bass, among other things. But, um, his bass isn't going to fit on this stupid fuckass miniature train that the band is playing on. So, um, can you change everything after page 33? I don't even have the energy to write about it at the moment. It's just after 7am now and I can try to go back to sleep or I can get a shitload of work done before I have to go to rehearsal. I'll be very dozy and grumpy today, but then, I probably would be anyway, given the way things are going.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

rehearsal life.

The world shrinks to a tiny bubble when you're in rehearsals.

World events, friends, family, all take a backseat to the microcosm of what goes on 8 hours a day, six days a week in a room that's almost always too something: too hot, too cold, too small...

Faced with a particularly challenging play I've tucked myself away from the world until the time when I'll be spat out (hopefully not too chewed up!) at the end of this gong-show process. I had a strangely nice 2 days in Kelowna- not the deathbed vigil I'd feared, but a 2-day whirl of beaches, sun, step-nieces and nephews; bonding with step-family and seeing my stepmom enjoying life while she still can. Then, feeling slightly guilty for missing a rehearsal day, I stepped onto a plane and 40 minutes later was back in Vancouver and sucked back into the hermetically sealed bubble that is rehearsal life.

Today, covered with a stinky mist of sweat and dust I threw in some laundry and raced to Trout Lake with only an hour or so left before sundown. Bliss! Can't believe I haven't swum there since I was dating someone else light years ago and I went in the water and came out with every hair on my body covered in green algae. Ok, well maybe I can believe it. But this time the water was soft, cool, and inviting, and pleasantly low-algae. I paddled around in my Crocs and bathing suit, watching the sun setting over this small-ish park only blocks away from me, surrounded by the urgency and urban-ness of East Van, and couldn't believe my luck. The stress of the had day slipped away altogether by the time I headed home, soggy and content.

Friday, August 1, 2008

dreams & reality

Last night I had a dream that my rehearsal today would go well... and it did. I love it when dreams like that come true. Today I found my place, at least for the time being, and watched the music fitting in to different scenes in the play and listened to 10 or more voices singing music that I arranged and it was balm to my tired ears.

We rehearse for 2 more days this week and Sunday night (technically Monday morning) I'll climb aboard a Greyhound bus (with some trepidation, after this week's gruesome decapitation incident) and head to Kelowna to spend two quick days with my Dad and my stepmom and her family and... I don't know, exactly. Say goodbye, I guess. Celebrate what's left of my stepmom's life while she's still fit to enjoy company. Get to be Auntie Alison to her grandkids and plant the seeds of a relationship that I promised my stepmom I would continue after she goes. Try and give my dad some support. And then fly back to Vancouver Tuesday night and go back to work.

Yesterday I looked over at my mom, who's stage managing this play, and she looked old to me, for almost the first time ever. Lines around her mouth I'd never noticed. And I thought this is only the beginning of learning how to say goodbye to people I love. Almost 34 years old and I've had it so, so easy.