Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Madness of Props

One of the fun parts about doing a period play is finding juuuust the right props, sets, and costumes.  Fortunately, Los Angeles is a trove of hidden treasures.
We found this 1910 violin case for our gangster, purchased from a man who collects, restores, and sells antique violins.  These cases don't offer much in the way of protection compared to modern day cases, so he frequently sells them.  It is all wood and called a "coffin case."
Turns out the last person to purchase such a case from him was going as a gangster for Halloween.
Kevin found a 1923 Dictaphone someone had been storing in their garage for years.  It's hard to find old Dictaphones with the hose and horn still intact.
Other props we'll be pulling from the store room include an old manual typewriter, a vintage briefcase owned by the playwright's grandfather, and a classic adding machine (purchased for use in GTC's previous production of The Adding Machine.)
All these vintage finds add authenticity to a play and help the audience believe in the world.  Plus, it is sort of lovely to think about all of these old workhorses who were destined for a scrap pile now being given a new lease on life and a glamorous career in entertainment.  That's certainly music to our ears.

Want more behind the scenes stories?  Check out www.buildingmadness.com!

Building Madness - First Read-Thru

The madness begins at GTC!  The first read-thru for Building Madness with (from left to right) Matt Jayson, Alex Wright, Kate Danley, Kevin Cochran, Colin Simon, and Sean Faye.

Building Madness - Full Cast Announcement

The Grove Theater Center is proud to announce the Los Angeles cast for the January-February 2016 production of Building Madness directed by Kevin Cochran.


Gwen Gladwell – Alexandra Ruth Wright
Max Marshall – Colin Simon
Paul Fielding – Sean Faye
Ruby Deleoni – Sarah Lilly
Trixie Taylor – Kate Danley
Vito Deleoni – Matt Jayson

Stay tuned to www.buildingmadness.com or subscribe to the GTC Email Club for more details!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Building Madness

If you'd like some behind-the-scenes stories of the development of this show, head over to www.buildingmadness.com!  

ALSO in the news, the playscript will be available for purchase both at the box office and online starting January 2016.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


At 4PM October 12th, I was busy packing for my trip to London the next day when a pick of paper was slipped through the door of my apartment.  It was notice from my complex that they were raising my rent several hundred dollars a month (no such thing as rent control where I live.)  I had ten days to let them know if I was leaving, thirty days to get out.  If I went month-to-month, the rent increase would be almost $700 dollars.

And so I sat there in my living room, my suitcases half packed for my eleven day trip across the globe and went, "Well... crap.  What's a girl to do?"

You know sometimes how everything works out for a reason, though?

Two weeks earlier I was scheduled to be in London for almost a month. There was a week long radio playwriting workshop that I was planning on going to.  But then I found out about this workshop in New York on how to produce plays in the international market (specifically in London.)  You see, I have this play I wrote called Building Madness.  I wrote it last year and in the span of about twelve months managed to get readings or pull together readings in New York, Bath (UK), and Seattle.

There was a feeling I had in my gut about The Woodcutter back when it went through its five years of rejections that I would fail my life's purpose if I let that book sit on my hard drive.  It was physically painful to think those characters would die in a drawer and no one would ever know them.  And sure enough, fast forward and The Woodcutter hit #6 on the Amazon bestseller list, won some awards, and landed a publishing contract with 47North.  I feel the same way about Building Madness.
So I cut my trip in half, canceled the radio workshop, bought a ticket with a layover in NYC, begged my old friend Katie Thompson to let me crash with her, and signed up for the international producing class.  But two days later got a note from a theater in Cambridge wanting to do a reading of one of my short plays.  Because I shortened my trip, I couldn't be there, and one of their requirements was the playwright had to attend, so my play was pulled.  Crap on toast.

But you see, if things had gone according to the original schedule, I would have been in the UK when I should have been moving.

I had been toying with a three month sabbatical in NYC to just... see...  As a friend so astutely put it, "You've accomplished all this in a vacuum.  It's just you, doing all this.  Imagine what would happen if you were in a place where you were surrounded by other people looking for what you do."  I met two producers the last time I was in the city who said flat out, "You have to be here."  I realized it was a lot like the kids I run into who are interested in being movie stars but don't want to move to Hollywood.  I was now that kid.

So, the rent increase was just the little nudge that maybe I should think about what I wanted to do when I grow up.  But it was an hour before the rental office closed, I had a pet to drop off with my family, and a plane to catch in the morning.

I got on said plane, my mind a swirl.  That was Tuesday.

I arrived on Wednesday.

And Thursday, I got a call from this guy I know named Kevin Cochran.  He is a director/producer of a play I did years ago called Blake...da Musical!, which went on to win the Ovation award (Los Angeles' version of the Tonys.)  I have since worked with him on several other shows (The Adding Machine and three-person Christmas Carol) and he is one of my favorite directors in the whole, wide world.  I had wanted him to read Building Madness... but was too embarrassed to ask because I didn't want to force my script upon him (getting asked to read people's stuff is sometimes the worst.)  And he had wondered why I hadn't asked him.  But somehow, that gap was bridged and he was calling that Thursday to say that he absolutely loved the script and wanted to do a full production in Los Angeles to work out any kinks before taking on the world (let's just say investment opportunities are available for anyone interested in becoming a West End or Off-Broadway producer.  Seriously.  Send me an email if you're interested.)

So Thursday, I had a direct next step.  I dropped a note to a couple friends to see if anyone knew anyone with a sublet, and by Sunday, it turned out someone did.  So then the question was whether to keep my current apartment and this other place or to cut ties and set sail (moving can sometimes be about as expensive as a couple months rent...)  I let my complex know that I was moving due to the hike.  We went back and forth with a conversation the rest of the week that went, "Oh!  We love you!  Let's see if we can cut that hike for you" to "And we have great news!  We can take $20 off the monthly rent!"  So, I decided it was time to pack things in.  If I was going to be paying that much more a month, I wanted an apartment with air conditioning (we had 50 days about 80 degrees in my neck of the woods this past summer.  I was DONE with the heat.)

All that happened in a week.  By the following Friday, I was in New York, I walk into the international producing workshop (where suddenly I was needing information for a scenario which was not hypothetical) and there was one of the producers who met with me a few months ago in NYC, a gal named Meredith Lynsey Schade.  She is this absolute darling who took the time to sit down with me and spell out the realities of the world and the challenges ahead and I'm so grateful for her.  She produced a play on Broadway called Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (hold on to this title.  It comes up later.)

I get back home, find movers and packers, and get my apartment packed and cleared out in two weeks.  I have a little two week break with my family and we go on grand adventures - to the Gum Wall in Seattle before it gets steam cleaned, to the Boehm's Chocolate Shop, to the Jet City Comic Show where I'm speaking and signing (my parents' first comic con!) and a seafood dinner at a hillside restaurant in Tacoma overlooking the lights of the city.

Meanwhile, I mentioned to one of my dear friends, an actress named Beth Lane who spent a summer with me lying on a wooden stage beneath 100-year-old oak trees learning Shakespeare at the Theatricum Botanicum, that I was going to be back in the city for about three months.  Well, she's in the new UCLA MFA program and said, "WHAT?!  Come out and be in my directing scene!  Do you know a play called Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike?"  (I told you it would come up again...)

Meanwhile, one of my short plays was picked up by the Rising Sun Performance Company for their A Very Holiday Under Rehearsed in Brooklyn.

It's been six weeks since that rent increase notice.  Yesterday, I packed up my groaning car and started the drive down to Los Angeles where I will be for the next three months.  Let the adventure ensue...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The True Meaning of Christmas - Willits Community Theatre

Are you going to be in Northern California next week?  I'm so proud to announce my short play The True Meaning of Christmas is being performed at the Willits Community Theatre as part of their Second Stages Scripted series!  Check them out!  Support live theatre!  Cheaper and more fun than a movie!

The True Meaning of Christmas
a play by Kate Danley
Directed by Liz Dellett
December 4-6, 10-12, 2015
37 W Van Lane
Willits, CA 95490

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Building Madness Auditions

Do you live in Los Angeles?  Auditions are now being scheduled for my play Building Madness via Breakdown Services/Actors Access!  Check it out here:


-OR if that link doesn't work-


Sunday, November 15, 2015


Rising Sun Performance Company presents their fun and untraditional reading series 

Sunday, December 6 at 8PM 

South Oxford Space 
A Project of A.R.T./New York
138 S Oxford St
Brooklyn, New York 11217

Featuring SIX New Plays 

Christmas Morning 
by Miranda Russell
Directed by Brian Gillespie

Two Turtle Doves 
by Hal Corley
Directed by Sara Thigpen

The Red Suitcase
by Alex Dremann
Directed by Shay Gines

The True Meaning of Christmas
by Kate Danley
Directed by Rachel Kerry 

No History
by Susan Goodell
Directed by Geo Jones

The Locker Combo
by John Patrick Bray
Directed by Jak Prince

With Musical Direction by RJ Verchaud

The Reading series is intended to create new artistic relationships with Guest Directors, Playwrights and Actors as well as provide a fun and engaging night for our audiences.

The Series will of course also feature the critically acclaimed ensemble of Rising Sun. The plays will be 10-15 minutes long, and each reading will have a short break in between to allow for conversation, libations and connection between the artists and audience.

An End of the Year Holiday Party, Performance and farewell to our 14th season.

Join us for the festivities!

$400 Amazon Shopping Spree

Several authors and I are participating in a special "Prepare Thyselves for the Holidaze" promotion with the Kindle Book Review.  The Dark of Twilight is only 99-cents (and they are having sales on all of the books listed.)  And then, there is a Rafflecopter (no purchase necessary) where you can enter to win a $400 Amazon Shopping Spree.  PLUS!  Amazon does this thing called the Smile Program where a percentage of all purchases goes to charity.  All books purchased through this promotion will benefit the Make-a-Wish foundation.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Meet Me at Jet City

If anyone is going to Jet City Comic Show today (October 31), I'll be there, too!  We should hang and stuff! Here's where I'll be:


3:00pm – 4:00pm: The Monster Mythos: Where in the [Other] World do They Come From?
Room 405

Panelist: Kate Danley, J Linclon Fenn, Camille Griep, Roberta Trahan, and Michael & Linda Pearce

Join the fun as six SFF authors discuss the creepy creatures, dark demons, and supernatural spectres in their fiction, and the mythologies, legends and lore that inspired them.


4:00pm - 5:00pm:  47North Book Signing
Booth 106

Swing by the 47North booth to say hello and grab a free signed copy of The Woodcutter

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Light of Dawn - Now Available

The thrilling conclusion to the Twilight Shifters trilogy is now available!  Grab your copy of Light of Dawn now!

Trapped in the swamp as Lord Arnkell mounts his war, Aein, Finn, and Lars are about to discover 
the secret behind the shift and what lies beyond the border. Will it mean their salvation or doom? 

Haven't read the Twilight Shifters trilogy yet?  Well, my friends, it is your lucky day!  For a limited time, grab The Dark of Twilight for free!

Aein longed to be a member of Lord Arnkell's army since she was a child working in the stronghold's kitchen.  When that day finally comes and she is sent to patrol the border's swamp with fellow arrior, Lars, it seems like her dream has come true.  But something follows her home.  When Lord Arnkell's
wedding is interrupted by a werewolf attack, the dream shifts into a nightmare… and Aein is the only one awake.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Ghost & Ms. MacKay - Now Available!

Now Available in the Nightshade Anthology 

for 99-cents!

This anthology is a collection of seventeen original short stories from some of today's best selling urban fantasy authors. Join us for seventeen thrilling tales of witches, magic, fae, demons, ghosts, vampires, and all things that go bump in the night.

With all new, never before released short stories by:


Why, the NEW Maggie Holiday Special

The Ghost & Ms. MacKay

It's Halloween and Maggie's mother is throwing a haunted house… as in, she's invited all the ghosts of the neighborhood over for a party. Unfortunately, one of the ghosts is not in high spirits. In fact, he is wanted by the Other Side's finest. It is up to Maggie and Killian to find out what caused this soul's unrest and return him to his happy haunting ground.

NOTE: This is a Halloween themed short story that stands alone. It takes place after Maggie Get Your Gun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cover Reveal - The Light of Dawn

Oh fair readers... So much going on!  So much news to report!  But for today, may I present the cover for the final book in the Twilight Shifters trilogy - The Light of Dawn!

Trapped in the swamp as Lord Arnkell mounts his war, Aein, Finn, and Lars are about to discover the secret behind the shift and what lies beyond the border.  Will it mean their salvation or doom?  Find out in the thrilling conclusion!

Coming at you this October!

Haven't read the Twilight Shifters books?  Check 'em out!  Book One - The Dark of Twilight is currently on sale!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Meet me at Sasquan!

Are you headed off to World Con in Spokane this year?  Tear yourself away from George RR Martin for just a moment and come hang out with me and other 47North authors!  Free food!  Free signed books!  Dragon parking available!  Swing by!

When:  Saturday August 22   03:30 PM to 05:30 PM (120 minutes)
Where:  Grand Hotel - Cedar Ballroom

47North and Amazon Publishing invite you to join them for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and book giveaways. Come meet the event’s honored guests, including authors Kevin J. Anderson, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, Kate Danley, Camille Griep, J.D. Horn, Marko Kloos, Scott James Magner, PJ Manney, Neve Maslakovic, Jodi McIsaac, Cooper Moo, Melissa F. Olson, Roberta Trahan, and Jeff Wheeler.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Demons & Djinn Boxed Set


Immerse yourself in thirteen enthralling fantasy worlds by NYT and USA Today bestselling authors. Demons, djinn, and bad boys of other worlds ignite this set of action-packed urban fantasy and steamy paranormal romance. Thirteen heart-stopping stories with fierce and feisty heroines, diabolic intrigue, romance, adventure, danger, and mystery … Passionate heroes, magic and mayhem abound. Ignite your imagination and your heart, download this collection before it's gone!

Only 99-cents!

Chosen ~ Christine Pope
When a fatal fever nearly wipes out the entire world's population, the survivors of what became known as "the Dying" believe the worst is in the past. Little do they know….

Three Wishes ~ Debra Dunbar
A malevolent djinn, a cyber-crime, an angel with a mission, and a demon who just wants to have fun. Be careful what you wish for.

Marked by Temptation ~ Deanna Chase
When sex witch Mati Ballintine meets the sexy Vaughn Paxton, their hot one-night stand changes his life forever and threatens hers.

Jinn's Wish ~ Marie Hall
Paz and Jinni only wanted one thing in life. To find their soulmate. Too bad they found each other on a doomed flight across the Atlantic. Trapped in magically induced coma, there’s only one way for them to return to the land of the living, and that's to trust in a love that defies all logic and reason before the final grain of sand drops and they lose each other forever.

Sacrifice Me: the Complete First Season ~ Sarra Cannon
On her twenty-first birthday, Franki Smith receives a dozen black roses and an invitation to a mysterious nightclub. The dark gift leads Franki to the doorway of a strange and glamorous new world, where forbidden romance and dangerous truths await.

I Bring the Fire Part One (A Loki Story) ~ C. Gockel
Amy Lewis is being pursued by a very bad wolf. Can Loki, God of Mischief and Chaos, save her…or even save himself?

Secrets ~ Liz Shulte
While Olivia Martin observed life through her camera, a world of demons, angels, jinn, and guardians watched her, waited for her to change everything.

A Spirited Manor ~ Kate Danley
A séance unleashes something sinister in this gothic penny dreadful. Will widow Clara O’Hare and dashing medium Wesley Lowenherz be able to stop it?

Xoe ~ Sara C. Roethe
Fighting to save her best friend from a psychotic werewolf, Xoe has to make peace with her unique heritage...and resist an alluring vampire.

The Noru ~ Lola StVil
A half demon/half angel with a dark past abandons the angel world. When the only girl he has ever loved is hunted by a relentless, powerful new evil, he is forced to return.

Stronger Than Magic ~ Melinda Van
LoneTarian Xannon fights demons like the rest of us. This time, the demon just happens to be real.

Beyond the Veil ~ Pippa DaCosta
Muse must decide whether to trust a Prince of Hell, or the assassin sent to kill her. Little do they know, she’s more dangerous than both.

Death’s Hand ~ SM Reine
Elise Kavanagh doesn't want to hunt demons anymore. But when the daughter of a coven member has been possessed, Elise is the only one who can help…and there may be more to this possession than just one witch's life.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dramatists Guild

It has been an absolute pleasure to attend the Dramatists Guild national conference. If you are a playwright, you absolutely MUST join this amazing organization.  Free legal advice for members, free access to contracts, submission opportunities... It has been a mind and eye opening experience.  They are leading the conversation in gender parity in our professional theaters that has changed my world and I will be posting shortly about what they had to say.

But in the meantime!  I had the pleasure today of presenting a panel with Roger Bean (creator of The Marvelous Wonderettes) on self-publishing and licensing.  Several of the people who attended the panel asked for a list of the sites and people I recommended, so if you are one of those people, welcome to my blog!  And here is a link to that post that gives you all the information you could ever want or need.

Another Anniversary Come and Gone
(it is a post about publishing!  I promise!)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rest in peace, Maravene...

I lost a very important woman in my life today.  A woman named Maravene.

I met Maravene when I decided to transfer from a terrible college to a wonderful school called Towson.  She was the head of the theater department at the time.  I came for a tour of the school and Maravene's secretary took my picture.  I thought that was odd until I arrived that first day.  Would you know that Maravene had memorized the faces of every single student in her department and greeted us each by name?

She taught a class called conservatory.  It was five days a week, three hours a day and worth eight credits.  To fail this class would mean to fail the semester.  She informed us that if we were not five minutes early, we were ten minutes late and that if we were late even once, we would fail.  The only excuse was death or hospitalization (and not like a trip to the ER for the flu.  Like, you had to be in coma.)  The only time she allowed this rule to slide was when a student was pulled over by the police and she brought the cop to class with her and forced him to explain to Maravene that he was the reason she was late.  Maravene said if Cal Ripkin could make it to 100 games, we could surely manage to get to class on time for a semester.  And you know what?  We all did.

I didn't know how important this class was, how intimidated I should be.  Instead, it seemed like the one thing my heart had been aching for.  We met in a blackbox theater.  She ran every scene like an audition and afterwards gave us professional level feedback.  But my first scene was not stellar.  It was Mary Queen of Scots and my partner and I were stiff and faux formal.  Now, most teachers would just tell you that you had a bad scene, but not Maravene.

She invited us back to the theater that night, and when I arrived, she had created a jail cell lit only by candlelight.  She brought us shawls and skirts and had us do the scene between Mary and Queen Elizabeth not as queens, but as two people, one who had been thrown in prison and one who knew she had to kill the other despite not wanting to.

I had never had a teacher willingly give up her entire night just to make sure that I "got" a lesson.

Her class was filled with hour long improvisations.  They were couched as merely a way to understand characters whose shoes we needed to fill.  But instead, they ended up being experiences that changed my world view.  We were to improvise a soup kitchen with all of us playing homeless people.  To prepared, she first had us serve in a real soup kitchen, and it was at that moment that the homeless ceased to be these criminal destitutes, but human beings worthy of respect and compassion.  They were just people.  She then asked us not to eat for twenty-four hours before the improv to understand what it meant to be hungry when you only get one meal a day.  Some even chose to sleep out on the street that night.  And the next day, we shuffled in to our soup kitchen where we were fed the most delicious soup I have ever tasted.  I was Maravene's teaching assistant the following year and you know what?  That soup?  Her strict instructions were to buy the cheapest, most generic vegetable soup I could find on the shelf.

Maravene was about empathy.  She was about learning to view the world through someone else's eyes.  We did improvs about being in a nursing home and the terror of a fire drill when you are unable to move.  We regressed to kindergarten and remembered what it was like to play, but also the cruelty of being young.  I chewed on my hair in kindergarten class and she sharply reprimanded me, and though I was a grown woman, I found myself crying at my desk that a teacher would yell at me for chewing my hair.  Remember what it was like to care so much about school?  Later on the playground, when everyone else was playing ball, I picked the daisies and she came over and gave me a peppermint lifesaver and all was healed.  Because sometimes just a small kindness is all that it takes.  My nemesis as an actor was being able to cry on stage, but we played inmates in a madhouse and I learned that emotions are like swimming.  You just have to dive beneath the surface and they are all there.  Nothing has been repressed to the point of disappearing.  She taught us more esoteric things, too, about how thoughts and energy can be transferred from one person to another, and that's why you have to believe.

I went on to become her teacher's assistant.  And then to become her personal assistant, bringing in fruit salad for whenever she had important guests and remembering to water her plants, which she always killed.

Her life changed when a dear friend of hers, the dean of the college, was killed in a car accident and she was promoted into his place.  She told me one night that she never believed she would do well as an administrator instead of a teacher, but began to see that she could actually make change and break through the bureaucracy to help people.  And so she did, becoming the vice president of Towson, the president of Wilkes, the president of Mansfield, and then finally was brought home to be the president of Towson.  I was honored to be there for her commencement.  She put me up in the best hotel room in town and left a box of chocolates for me.

She used to invite me over to her apartment for breakfast and cook me a full meal of eggs and bacon.  Her favorite color was purple.  She hated smoking and that was the only thing that would make someone lose esteem in her eyes.  She introduced me to my first psychic and taught me to look at the world and all its wonders.  She brought me back an amber necklace from Russia and offered to pay for a trip to Normandy to see the white cliffs which moved her and her husband on their last grand adventure before dementia stole him from her.  She taught me not to settle for men who did not want me to be my best person.  She cheered me on whenever I made a bold move.  She gave me the best bit of advice I ever received.  I was leaving New York and called her in tears and panic late one night, and she said to me, "It's okay.  If it doesn't work out, you can always move back."

I sent her flowers every Mother's Day and she always sent me a check for my birthday.  This was the first year she forgot, and it was because she was dying.  She was diagnosed with cancer in November and given weeks to live.  She didn't want people to know.  She didn't want to be a bother.  She wouldn't let me come and see her.  Every time I booked a ticket, she would block the visit and tell me to come later.  I think she wanted me to remember her as she was, alive and vibrant and strong.  And that is how I shall remember her.

She lives in me.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Moon has Risen!

Presenting book two in my epic fantasy series, MOON RISE!

Just because the battle was won does not mean the war is over. Aein, Lars, and Finn are sent back to the swamps to protect the one object which may save their pack. But in the recent turmoil, the border has been left unguarded and nightmarish creatures are slipping through. There is a reason why two people must always be there to hold the boundary, a lesson which Aein, Lars, and Finn are about to learn.

Book Two in the Twilight Shifters series.

If you read and enjoy Moon Rise, please consider leaving a review on your favorite retailer site!  It means more than you can imagine!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rocking Self-Publishing

I was so honored to be invited onto the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast.  For those of you new to the indie publishing community, this podcast is one of the best-of-the-best and an amazing resource chock full o' tips from some of the biggest authors in the industry.  If you'd like to hear about my bizarre journey to becoming a full-time writer and pick up some helpful hints along the way, click through for a listen!  Plus, Simon's voice is dreamy.

(Simon Whistler also has some fantastic books on indie publishing for free or next to free if you're so inclined)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Happy (Official) Release Day to Melissa Olson!

Help me welcome fellow 47North author Melissa Olson to my blog!  She's got a brand new book and it looks like it is going to be a humdinger!

Thank you so much to Kate Danley for being part of this multi-webpage blog blast. If you’ve already heard of me and my books, you can click on through to go straight to the contest entry. Otherwise, please let me introduce myself.

My name is Melissa F.Olson, and I mostly write urban fantasy novels, which are stories about the intersection of two worlds: the real one that we live in and a world that involves something supernatural: fairies, vampires, werewolves, mutant killer hedgehogs, or all of the above. My new novel Boundary Crossed is about a young woman, Lex, trying to protect her baby niece from bad guys who have discovered that the baby has serious value on the supernatural black market. Lex is determined to keep her safe, but unfortunately she dies at the end of the first chapter.

No, seriously. She dies. But then she gets better, because it turns out that there’s more to Lex than she ever knew. She needs to figure out why she’s still alive and what the bad guys want with her niece, and she’s going to need a lot of help to do it.

The book has been available all month as a Kindle First deal on Amazon, but it comes out in paperback and audiobook for the first time today. To celebrate this release, I’m giving away signed books, a $20 Amazon gift card, and some killer swag. (That’s a metaphor; the swag will not hurt you.) To enter, just click on this link.  Enter up to four times for the four prizes. Thanks for reading!

Melissa Olson was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduation, and a brief stint bouncing around the Hollywood studio system, Melissa landed in Madison, WI, where she eventually acquired a master's degree from UW-Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs, not at all in that order. She loves Madison, but still dreams of the food in LA. Literally. There are dreams. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dog at www.MelissaFOlson.com.

Friday, April 24, 2015

London - March 11, 2015

I really and truly had not meant to go back to London this spring.  But the thing is, I was sitting on Expedia on Black Friday 2014 and they had this deal come up.  It was a vacation to London... three weeks for the price of one... and suddenly... how could you not?  

I bought the insurance, though, telling myself I would cancel.  

But then suddenly all of my favorite actors were doing shows during the time I was scheduled to be there:  Emma Thompson, Rufus SewellTamsin Greig, Stephen ManganMaxine PeakeOliver ChrisJuliette BinocheJames McAvoy, Mark Strong, Ralph Fiennes...  There has been this golden age of theater going on in the UK and sometimes you just have to show up for history.  So... I started buy theatre tickets.  And then I found out that I play that *I* had written was going to get a space at the Dramatists Guild in NYC as part of their Friday Night Footlights program a few days after I was schedule to come back.  And then suddenly the same play was going to get a reading in London.  And I thought, "Well, heck.  Let's do this."  So I did.

I started off with a trip from the west coast to the east coast and got myself a lovely little hotel room in Jamaica (NYC) next to the sewage plant to crash until my flight the next day.  I told myself it was a "writing sabbatical."  Nothing like being forced to work when your really can't leave your room.  But the next day dawned and made my way to the airport for my transatlantic flight. 

My dad has this theory that one direction of your flight is always just going to suck. I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be this one. I got upgraded to business class. 

(they even had a menu!)

I got to go into the fancy lounge where they served free cookies. I had a lie-down bed for my flight and attendants who brought me almond encrusted chicken and Black Forest cake. For the first time in my life, I got to Heathrow not looking like death-on-an-international-picnic. 

Aaaand then my shuttle was two hours late. 

And while I was waiting, I realized I left my phone in that schwanky business class lounge next to the complimentary chocolate covered pretzels in NYC. 

And suddenly you're in a foreign country with no phone and you kind of go, "Do I spend a couple hundred dollars to get another one for a couple weeks?"  And then you go... "No."

This trip turned into a 21st Century version of a spiritual retreat.  Twenty-one days without tweets or emails or burying my nose into a screen instead of looking around.  The only people I could talk to were actual people who were actually in the room with me.  I hear humanity used to live like this all the time.  And I gotta say, it was good.

I got to the hotel eventually after being picked up by this wacky shuttle driver who made the Night Bus in Harry Potter seem like Driving Miss Daisy and, oh... the hotel was so lovely.   I was right in Trafalgar Square steps from the Thames.  The lobby was caramel colored marble columns and three-story drapes.  London turned its face, suddenly realizing I had arrived, and smiled upon me like it always has to welcome me back. The polished and primped gal at the reception desk saw how long I was going to be there and said, "We can't put you in this room!" and on the spot upgraded me to digs on the top floor with a microwave and refrigerator, and a view of Saint Paul's and Big Ben out my window.  I was going to be living for three weeks on a rooftop in London!  Oh!  What a sight! 

I had a few minutes to wait while the room was getting ready, and stumbled across a John Singer Sargent exhibition, which was phenomenal. I've always loved his work and I've never seen so many of his paintings in one place. 

I returned to my hotel room and it was just a charming.  They thought of all these little luxuries.  Like, putting the temperature control next to the bed so you only have to roll over to adjust the heat.  And empty bottles and a chilled water station in the hall so you weren't constantly buying Dasani to carry around.  And a whole closet filled with toiletries and an invitation to help yourself.  Do you know how lovely it is to know you don't have to beg for an extra packet of coffee? 

I caught a little nap and then I ran over to the Donmar Warehouse for this sweet little acting workshop they were teaching in conjunction with Closer (which was sold out and I, literally as I sat in Jamaica the night before, was able to get a return ticket for the the following night.  Another way London is so fantastic - if life happens, you can return your theater tickets.  If they sell them, you get your money back.  No harm, no foul.  And what THAT means is that people actually return their tickets, so there is an actual chance of seeing a sold out show instead of theaters sitting empty because someone couldn't get a babysitter.) 

ANYWAYS!  I was expecting a more informational workshop on how they run rehearsals and Donmar projects. Instead, they gave us all scripts and told us just to play around. What?!  Play around?  In the Donmar's actual rehearsal hall?!

This was hallowed ground, my friends!  Tom Hiddleston tread these boards putting together Coriolanus.  Not to mention Rufus Sewell and Oliver Chris and Nancy Carroll in Closer (FYI - tickets to every single performance of Closer sold out seven hours after they were released.  Seriously, people.  I was trying to buy tickets.  Seven hours!  When does that ever happen in America except for a rock concert?!)  Donmar is the actor's version of Sun Studios.  Or at least my version of Sun Studios.  And the workshop was a hoot and I actually made people cry with my performance.  Do you know how long it has been since I have said words that made people cry?!  It had been three years.  I just looked at my acting resume.  Three years.  Ye gods it felt good...  Like a soul massage.  By the time the evening was done, I already made friends, as one always does in London.  Because London is magic.  

I couldn't go back to my hotel room.  Not on a night as gorgeous as that night in a city where a single gal can wander around all by herself at 10 o'clock at night and it is safe.  It is filled with smiling people and happy hearts.  So I just wandered around getting lost. Because wandering around a city alone surrounded by a sea of strangers is my favorite.  My favorite ever.