Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When It Rains

When it rains in Los Angeles,
we are all cats.
The slightest sprinkle
and we hiss.  Water which
would not merit an
umbrella keeps us indoors,
yowling at the liquid
which must be acid
falling from the sky.
We drive 5mph.  It
is a good day today
to be a duck.
Hiss.

-my old poetry found in a forgotten notebook

Release Day of Der Holzfäller


Do you have a German speaker in your life you think would enjoy The Woodcutter? Well, today is your lucky day! Announcing the release of the new German translation of The Woodcutter by AmazonCrossing... *drumroll*... Der Holzfäller!

I'm so proud, I might just bust my dirndl!  (FUN FACT!  I was on the 5th place Texas State Champion German folk dance team in high school and when Der Holzfäller hits 5k sales, I'll dig out some old pictures for you.  My Aquanet bangs are a wonder. Don't feel bad for me. I've actually used my polka skills far more times than calculus.)

Since so many of the fairytales featured in The Woodcutter were first recorded by the Brothers Grimm, it seems rather lovely to return this new fairytale back to its roots.  Here's to you, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

London - 8/15/14

And so the morning dawned on my final day at RADA.  I looked around my little dorm room and realized it would be the last morning I would be there.  Tomorrow, I had to be packed and out by 10AM.  As my flatmate and I walked down the street to the school, our conversation was about the past four weeks - how it went so fast, yet went so slow; how glad we were it was over and how we didn't know what life would be like without it.  She was such a sweetheart.  Prior to school, she had spent two weeks hiking the U.K. with her dad.  The next morning, she was hopping a 7AM plane for Ireland.  She decided the night before.  She would spend a week kissing Blarney stones and sipping pints with the locals before heading back to NYC where she was working to be an actress, keeping herself afloat training in yoga and body work.  We bonded many a late evening in our little suite's kitchen over scansion and cheese.  Every morning, we would make the hike to school together.  Her with her little bag, me with my massive rolling purse stuffed with a Complete Works of Shakespeare, trainers, deodorant, and rehearsal skirt.   Eight hours a day, five days a week, plus rehearsals.  We talked about the people brave enough to stay on for another week at RADA mounting a full Shakespeare play (off book, mind you) in five days.  I wanted a nap just thinking about it.


Over the four weeks, our group worked on an hour long cutting of Richard III.  That play will forever hold a very special place in my heart.  I am more than happy to give you a complete dissertation on the Anne/Richard scene anytime you want.  Or anytime you  don't want.  I'll break out this debate whether you are in or out.

That morning, we presented our piece to another one of the groups group, who kindly presented their Midsummer Night's Dream.  There was a competition between the TAs to see who could make the best show program.

I think ours should have won.

We had our final lunch in the lunchroom on the top floor from the friendly staff who fed our hordes day in and day out always with a smile and a kind word.  Fridays meant fish and chips, but this time there was also chocolate cake.  We spent a little time debriefing on the whole experience with our group leader, who was an absolutely fabulous actress I've admired on some BBC shows.  On the first day, I had spotted her on the stage of instructors and thought to myself, "Boy, I hope I get to work with her!"

We all then went over to the main building and every one of the seven groups performed a dance piece centered around the elements and celestial heavens.  The steps were taken from historical record and the choreography passed along by this absolute darling named Darren Royston who has written a brilliant book if you are interested in such things.  Ours involved nymphs and scarves and was, I think, the best.  I know other people may have thought theirs was the best, but you should have seen us.  We nymphed the heck out of that dance.  

And then it was over.  Just like that.  Over.  Four weeks and done.

We wandered over to the local pub and the conversation was sort of this shell-shocked, "Wait.  When do you leave?  What are you doing next?  How are you doing?  Can you believe it is over?"  Some of our group left, our goodbyes and farewell hugs made while standing in the street.  The promises to stay in touch were fierce.

The rest of us continued on, for we had a reservation for a final supper.  One of the gals knew of this great little Asian fusion place with one of the best views in town.


And so we ate and we drank and we laughed until our faces hurt.  And no matter what I learned or didn't learn about Shakespeare, this was why this summer was important.  These people.  These friendships.  They endure.  We've already gone on to meet up in other places, some in Edinburgh, some in Los Angeles.  I'm headed out to NYC and London again and the #1 Must-Do Action Item on my list is to hug as many of these wonderful souls around their necks as soon as I possibly can.

But isn't that what theater is about?  I mean, sure, it's about the challenge of the role and bringing a playwright's words to life.  But really?  It is about the people you work with and the divine experience of connecting with other human beings on a level the rest of the world doesn't understand.  You get to know people's hearts, you are trusted with their most vulnerable selves... I don't know if there is a word in the human language which encompasses the magnitude of that feeling.  Perhaps it is just "love".

And so the evening wore on into the wee hours.  We caught the last train from the station.  One by one, we each peeled off as our stops came.  Some went on to celebrate more.  Some went on to madly pack.  Some went home.

I found myself at 2AM in the laundry room finishing one final load with my stinky lavender scented detergent from one of the local grocery stores.  I left the remaining soap pods for the next poor schmoe.  Now, I sort of wish I still had them, just to remember the smell.  It has already faded from my memory.

I finished packing my dorm room into my two suitcases.  I dropped off my unwanted rehearsal shoes and clothes in a donation bin out back.  I ate the last of my groceries.  I closed up my little window which barely opened ten-inches.  I left my fan.  I decided to keep my cheap mug I bought for £4 my first day.  And it was done.


Before I came, I was sure my next step would be grad school.  By the time I left, I realized my dreams had shifted.  My first day, I came down with laryngitis.  I joked that I came to London to find my voice, and ended up losing it.  But the wonderful thing about losing something that you get to find it again.

And as I turned in my key to the front desk and pushed my suitcases out the door, I realized it was time to begin...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

London - August 14, 2014

It was the eve of my final day at RADA.  Four weeks had flown by.  Kind of like that slump you get into living in a city (you know, where it takes leaving NYC to actually get yourself out to the Statue of Liberty) I found myself thinking I had not seized as much of the days as I should have.  

There is also this weird vacuum during the summertime.  All of the shows are geared towards the tourist.  If you are making plans to visit and seeing a mind-blowing production is on your agenda, go in September.  Go in January.  In the summertime, you're stuck with big commercial musicals and visual spectaculars (*as I paint with wide, generalizations).

But you can find some treasures, such as the fare at the National Theatre.

 

Some of the RADA gals, and a producer I sat next to at Streetcar Named Desire, had recommended Medea (which you can see a broadcast of via National Theatre Live.  They are so brilliant to do this.  I wish that Broadway would incorporate this sort of thinking into their productions.) starring Helen McCrory.  The show was sold out but a few last minute seats were released the day before, and I grabbed one.  It was bloody.  It was heart-wrenching.  Helen McCrory acted her guts out.  It was everything you want Medea to be.  The all-female Greek chorus was made of modern dancers dressed in pink 1950s dresses that got muddy and torn as the play went on.  They used an arm twitch, a foot pulse to accent the rhythms and horror of the words.  A live band scored the action the entire time.  The set was a perfect little mid-century modern house built atop a haunted forest.  Beneath the pretense of everyday life, the darkness grew.


It was 90-minutes without an intermission and moved like a freight train.

I was struck with how gutsy this play was and how it was completely sold out.  The National Theatre is a non-profit theater which produces edgy, challenging works.  Every seat was filled. Score one for art!  I love it when audiences prove they are hungry for huge ideas and will support theater that makes them view the world differently.

The other thing that the National does is they make it affordable.


A recent study showed that per capita in the U.K. more people attend theatre than sporting events.  You can feel what a difference that makes.  It's important.

Anyways, the closest underground station was undergoing renovations, which meant I had a lovely evening stroll along the South Bank.  I ran across this cool skate park tucked next door to all sorts of schwank restaurants.


I strolled across the Thames to my tube station.


And got a view of one of my favorite buildings in the city.


Just a quiet stroll in the quiet night, my head full of thoughts knowing that tomorrow would be my last day at RADA and the start of a brand new adventure.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Heroes - Urban Fantasy Boxed Set for 99-cents!


Love Maggie for Hire?  Well, she is featured in a great urban fantasy boxed set!  Get ten books by ten different authors for only 99-cents!  Wahoo!


"Ten amazing books for only 99 cents? Impossible for urban fantasy fans to pass up!" 


An impressive collection of 10 Urban Fantasy novels about witches and wizards, mages, ghost hunters, angels, demons, mutants, fairies, and more!


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The 10 tales contained within this bundle stretch the limits of imagination while blurring genre boundaries. What they all have in common is originality, and some of the most compelling voices in publishing today.

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Alone (Girl in the Box #1) by Robert J. Crane
(220 pages - Urban Fantasy)
A young woman held prisoner in her own house for a decade finds herself on the run and discovering mysterious powers she never knew she had.


About Last Night by T. Paulin
(130 pages - Paranormal Mystery)
A geeky delivery driver with ADD becomes a ghost detective and solves his first haunting. Comedic with touches of horror. First in series, no cliffhanger. Published June 2014, first time in an anthology.


Sterling (Mageri Series Book 1) by Dannika Dark
(376 pages - Urban Fantasy Romance)
A young woman must let go of her past in order to accept her future as an immortal Mage.


Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper (Book 1) by J. L. Bryan
(296 pages - Paranormal Mystery)
Ellie specializes in removing restless ghosts from haunted houses, but her new case turns out to be darker and more dangerous than she ever expected. First in series, no cliffhanger. Originally released September 2014, first time in an anthology.


Accession (Sarath Web) by Terah Edun
(256 pages - Young Adult Fantasy)
Sixteen year old Katherine Thompson leads a boring life—until her sister is killed in a horrifying accident and she’s forced to take on the responsibility of heir to the coven throne.


Code Breakers: Alpha by Colin F. Barnes
(260 pages - Sci-Fi / Cyberpunk)
In a post-apocalyptic world, humanity comes under threat from a deadly Artificial Intelligence. Gerry Cardle, coder extraordinaire, is the only one who can save mankind, even if it means sacrificing everything he has ever loved.


Maggie for Hire (Maggie MacKay: Magical Tracker) by Kate Danley
(288 pages - Urban Fantasy)
When monsters appear in Los Angeles, Maggie MacKay is on the job. Her latest gig? To stop the vampires from turning Tinseltown into an all-you-can-kill buffet.


Flaming Dove by Daniel Arenson
(352 pages - Dark, Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy)
Outcast from Hell. Banished from Heaven. Lost on Earth. Laira’s mother was an angel, her father a demon. As Heaven and Hell battle around her, Laira’s own war rages between her two halves.


Crystal Magic (Clearwater Witches) by Madeline Freeman
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Magic can be as dangerous as fire, as Kristyl Barnette is about to learn. When a curse threatens someone she loves, witches could help her, but is dealing in magic worth the consequences?

Feyland: The First Adventure by Anthea Sharp
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High-tech gaming and ancient magic collide when a young woman hacks into a computer game that opens a gateway to the treacherous Realm of Faerie.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

London - 8/11/14 - Part II

Oh jeez... where did I last leave you?  Ah yes!  I was in York, standing next to a mill pond, behind a debtors prison.  The bees were buzzing, the flowers were blooming, and a man dressed in WWI regalia was shouting at young children to keep marching in step.

As one finds ones' self.

I returned back to the Castle Museum and wandered through their 1960s street.  Beatles mania!  Doctor Who!  Men on the moon!  The introduction of polyester!


There was even a little space capsule at the end for kids to climb into, and I had a great time watching a brother and sister duo battle it out for who was going to be the one to land the it on the moon.

But then I turned the corner and BAM!  I was in the bowels of ye olde building and got to see what the actual jail cells looked like which held their prisoners.


I'm afraid most of it was too dim to get anything worth looking at, but they had projections in each of the cells with actors reading from the diaries and letters of the people who were kept there.  It was fascinating.  The next O'Hare House Mystery spends some time in a prison and I found myself, again, glad that I decided to take this adventure.  Yay surprise research that you didn't see coming!

The rest of the my time at the Castle Museum was spent in the gift shop and their tea counter where I sat down with a diet Coke and a slice of carrot cake.  The calories cancel one another out, don't you know?  

I stepped out and, much to my delight, discovered that bus tour I had been wandering around trying to find was right across the square!  I hopped aboard and soon was off, getting whisked around the city for a highly educational tour!


Ugh.  I wish that my camera had a notation device for after taking a picture.  Would some app designer get on that?  I beeeeliiiiieeeve this is a picture of one of the only two surviving barbicans in all of Great Britain.  It might also just be a guard tower.  I think its a guard tower.  But, the important part is that York does actually have one of the only two surviving barbicans and I saw it. Even if I can't identify it in any of my pictures.

Some memorial garden.

A picture close to the place where they buried all the cholera victims with the city wall in the background.

The underpass into the old city

...um... a guard tower where you can now go eat sandwiches...?  Or the barbican...?

Okay!  Wait!  Wait!  Here's something cool!  There are all of these iron cats all over town.  You know how how you can tell a Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry building at 100 paces?  Well, back in the 1700s, this was the architect's special touch.  You buy a building from him, you get an iron cat.  A more modern designer has continued the tradition.

A nice view of the cathedral and waves of guilt for not getting back to it.  I could have climbed around on the roof!  But I didn't.

...um... some statue guys on the wall...?  Perhaps on the barbican...?


As you can see, it was highly educational and I absorbed so much.  What did I actually retain?  Well, there were these little overhangs in the top of the walled tower rooms, and that's where the soldiers would sit their little bottoms down and poop into the river.  I learned where all of the haunted pubs were.  I learned that the pretty little park I had passed by earlier was where they buried all of the cholera victims when they ran out of space.  History comes alive!

I was getting a little bit hungry, so I decided to hop off to grab a bite at one of the 600-year old haunted pubs, but then got the biggest cases of the heebie-jeebies about 1/2  a block away, I had to turn around.

So, I started wandering again and stumbled upon the Merchant Adventurers Hall.


This was the guild which raised money for merchant... adventurers... um... Okay, so back in the 1300s, people were establishing new trade routes and discovering new lands and these folks got them their money.  They represented the tradesmen and tradeswomen.

I'm pretty sure that my eyes are set crooked in my head because I swear these pictures were level when I took them.  That said, the floor was a little wonky.  Why? you ask.  Because this half-timbered building was built over 700-years ago.  How cool is that?!  Those beams were green oak timbers, held in place without a single nail.     



The hall is available for weddings and bar mitzvahs, but is also still used by the merchant adventurers today.  Yep.  They still exists.  Still around.






Ooo!  Okay.  This was cool.  On the top shelf there is a silver cup with some balls on the handle.  When you were doing business, you'd take a sip and pass around the cup to seal the deal.  Now, each of those balls is actually a peg inside the cup which is part of a measuring system.  You only drank your allotted dram, but if you wanted to put someone in their place, you'd drink their portion, too.  A.k.a. "Take them down a peg."  TADA!  HISTORY! 

Then behold the basement!  This'll be of no interest to anyone who hasn't spent the past year swimming through Shakespeare's history plays, but they had a whole display which went through the entire history of the War of the Roses.  This was where I figured out that York meant the Yorkists.  The hall was built on the Percy family land.  Just... If you are trying to figure out the really, really complicated history of this particular time period, this is a GREAT place to go.  They spell it out for you in a complex but easy(ish.  Nothing about succession during that time period is easy to understand) way.  Completely worth the £8 they were charging for admission.



All of those banners represented the different tradespersons the guild represented.  Also, those little glass windows on the floor were interesting.  The hall had flooded several times, so they elevated the floor, but you can look down to the original floor through those windows.  The fireplaces at the end were for the kitchens.  Just rather cool.

So, I wandered outside to continue on my merry way, and boy, the gardens of the hall next to the river were just a lovely sight.

(the hall is that half-timbered building on the left.  The brick part was the chapel in the basement.)


Ah!  Here's something I learned from the tour!  In England, there is a law which states that you are legally entitled to sunlight.  This has meant recently that as the skyscrapers have gone up in London, people have sued and won the right to their sunlight and city planning has been affected to ensure the place doesn't become a cavern of shadows.  What a lovely law, right?

But then you learn why that law is in place.

Back in the day, your landlord would charge you for sunlight.  And if you didn't pay your fee?  He would brick in your window.


Yep.

So, the day was getting long and I realized I should probably think about catching my train back to London if I wanted to get home before midnight.  Also, things were starting to close up, but there was one last place I was anxious to get to.

Now, I had no idea prior to the bus ride that this museum even existed (see!  That's why you take those goofy buses!)  But at RADA, we were working on a selection from Richard III, and on said little bus tour, I learned that there was a whole Richard III museum somewhere in town.  So, I headed back around the outer edges of town with a terrible map that had  no relevance to where things actually were.  I walked up roads and down others trying to find this museum.  


I had fifteen minutes before it closed.  I gave up.  I walked back into the city.  And then discovered the reason I hadn't found it was that the museum was up inside of this guard's tower.


There it was!  Up on the middle floor of that gate (which might have been the barbican)!  So I climbed up the steps and prepared myself for the Richard III experience!


We had some discussion in class about what was written in the play vs. what actually happened to these historical figures.  For example, how did Queen Anne die?  Well, here you go!


And what of him making the moves on his niece?  Down there at the bottom of the placard.




And then they also went into the recent discover of his body in a parking lot.  There is a fantastic documentary about it on Netflix or Amazon (I can't remember where I saw it...) if you want to know more about how they traced the mitochondrial DNA to verify it was him.


And, yes, he did have back problems.


But what of the two princes who disappeared, which paved the way for Richard to take the throne? Well, there was a little dancing around the topic.  Some say that he had them killed.  Some say that it was a Tudor plot to make him look bad and they had the boys killed.  Some say they weren't killed at all, just... taken away... I suppose we will never know.


By this point, the poor lady at the counter was closing up shop.  I found a stack of sexy Richard portrait postcards to bring back to my classmates.  The very nice shopkeeper saw my stack and remarked, "Oo!  You must be a Richard fan!"  Now, I know just enough to know that this is a highly charged statement.  Did I think he was the murderer portrayed by Shakespeare?  Did I believe he was a good monarch who fell prey to the bad press of the reigning conqueror?  I don't know.  So, I walked the line and just replied, "I am studying him."

As I stepped down from the tower, I realized that I didn't have to go back down to the streets to get to the train station.  I could walk along the city wall for a different viewpoint of York.








I wuz here!

I got back to the train station and having learned my lesson about reserved seating, I popped into the ticket office to see about upgrading.  Unfortunately, the reserved seating was sold out in coach, but there was a lovely seat in first class if I wanted it.  And so I did.

Armed with a diet Coke and my Richard III script, I settled in for my two hour ride (express train!) as porters brought me ham sandwiches and tea cakes.


The countryside whizzed by as I reflected on everything I had seen.


Yes, as a matter of fact, it was love...


The rain looked almost like diamonds as I arrived home and the sun set on my day.


And all of this is to say, dear friends, it is important from time to time to play hooky.


____________________________

To get a sense of York and all of the things I saw (and didn't see!), check out this FANTASTIC video: