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Thursday, July 12, 2007

“He’s not dead. He’s resting!”*

No really, I’m fine, just lazy. I have let this blog thing of mine slip too far for too long. I miss it, truly I do.

I think part of the reason I’ve let it go for the length of time that I have is that it’s been a sort of natural pause for me. A time to catch my second wind, as it were, since I’ve now been here in New Zealand for just over a calendar year.

Granted, it’s been no Labor of Hercules to keep a casual blog on which I post about 1-3 times per week. But (believe it or not) I do strive to have something meaningful and positive and creative to post each time I do write, so I do expend a little bit of the old brainpower every time I craft one of these babies.

And, well, there’s a sort of inertia setting in after my first full year of diving head-first into New Zealand and all that it has to offer. I’ve accomplished some major milestones I’d set up for myself and I think there’s a natural lull that will occur anytime you reach goals you have set for yourself. Not that I’m resting on my laurels, mind you, but these things won’t mean as much if I, (a) don’t take the time to sit back and savor them and (b) keep achieving goals at a breakneck pace just for the sake of achieving goals.

Or maybe I’m just trying to deftly explain away my lassitude with all of this rationalization.

So, the arbitrary passing of an Earth year in marking my arrival to New Zealand aside, there was also another culmination of sorts recently: Ginger Crunch's performance of "Adventures in the Dark Forest", Ginger Crunch being the Mixed Abilities Drama Group with which I’ve been involved for most of 2007.

We had our one and only show on a Monday night just over a fortnight ago (two weeks ago to you Yanks, heh), and I think it was a smashing success. I really do, and I’m not just being hyperbolic. I really am quite chuffed that we pulled it off at all! Not that I doubted us, no, but I am more excited from the following standpoint: If you had told me back in January that my small class of ten people would be able to meet once a week for 15 sessions at only 90 minutes a pop and be able to stage a full-on drama with singing, dancing, costumes, props and LINES and stage directions, by crikey, I’d have said you were mad.

But we did it! Nobody will be winning any Drama Desk or Tony Awards for this one-off performance, but it really was quite a thrill to make it all happen. It was even better that my friends Sarah and Claire came to watch, as it's always far more rewarding to put on a show with friends and family in the audience. One of the many other things I missed most about the theater was that collaborative spirit that goes into making a production, to steal a line John Lithgow used in 3rd Rock From the Sun. There were some real bonds formed there and I really do hope to at least be seeing these people from my class again in the future, if not in another production then at least socially.

Even if I don’t, there is going to be a DVD of the whole affair that night because Kate our director thought so much as to organize a film crew!

The performance was based upon William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the basic plot is that the Fairy King and Queen and their whole cadre of fairy underlings are having a spat over a particular servant they both claim as their own. Their conflict bleeds over into the mortal world, dramatically changing the lives of some ordinary laborers as well as a foursome of lovers caught up in a hopeless love triangle. There are some pretty choice roles in the actual Shakespearean play, the two most coveted being those of Bottom, the chief laborer, and Puck, the Fairy King’s right-hand… fairy.

I played one of the lovers, a man named Demetrius. Before the faerie magic transformed him, Demetrius was a vain man consumed with desire for Hermia. She did not return his love, however, as her heart belonged to Lysander, who then by default became Demetrius’ nemesis.

Say those last two words three times fast.

Lysander was played by Duncan, whom I affectionately call “Dunk” (clever, no?) and he was one of the Mixed Abilities kids in our class. The fourth lover, Helena, was played expertly by a Canadian girl named Briony, and in the story she loves Demetrius who obviously loves another and thus scorns her to no end. Dana, a Dutch girl in our class, played Hermia in her first experience acting and it was great to see her learn so much so fast.

Dana not only rounded out our (multi-national) cast of lovers, she and I also shared script duty. One of our jobs was to ‘dumb down’ the Shakespearean rhetoric of only the lovers and make their dialect more modern. This would hopefully serve to enhance the illusion we were creating since then only the fairy types spoke in the flowery language of the Bard, while us lovers and the laborers (called the “Mechanicals” in the play) sounded more familiar and hence more like the audience. So Dana and I spent a fun night in the Jimmy Café writing up a script and then editing and re-editing and re-re-editing it to the tune of a couple of coffees. We had fun playing out all the parts at our table as a crowd of people waiting to see that evening's performance in the Westpac Theater milled around us. It was cool to have an impromptu performance with an informal audience. I think the coffees made us a bit... spastic!

Dunk played his role as Lysander with zeal and focus and I had a great time working with him, as well as the others. Together we learned a very rudimentary form of stage fighting (i.e., we made most of it up as we went along) and he would regularly give me a good thrashing at every rehearsal.

Duncan’s mom, Max, and his sister, Zoe, were a huge part of the production as well, coming in towards the end to organize the costumes, set design, and props. We really were spoiled by them and without their touch the whole thing still would have been fun but it would have lacked so much without their artistic talents. The DVD version of the performance should bear this out.

Kate, our director, was equal parts inspiring and demanding and creative. She kept us so entertained and enlivened and involved that we didn’t really realize until towards the end just how hard she was pushing us. It was not until we started to see and experience concrete evidence that we really had a show here that we began to fully appreciate Kate’s talents as a director – and producer, really. She was always open to suggestions and seemed to know exactly how to get the best out of each and every one of us. I really hope to work with her again one day.

I cannot fail to also mention James, our co-director and the musician of the group. Kate press-ganged James into service for last year’s version of Ginger Crunch, as James was serendipitously noodling on the piano in the theater when the Mixed Abilities Drama class showed up. They liked the way he sounded, he liked the idea of their group, and so he was then recruited and given a battlefield promotion as the troupe’s Lead Musician. So not only did we have visual augmentation with a set and props and costumes, but we also had a soundtrack! The creativity level of theater is really at its maximum when you incorporate music, in whatever way shape or form, and I’m so thankful we had James along there with us. I learned a lot from him and he’s a really cool guy.

As of now Kate’s off in London at the Globe Theatre itself doing a Shakespeare workshop. Soon after her return we are to have a DVD viewing party! If I can figure out how to do it I will make some screen captures from the performance disc but until now there are the two pictures below that I have of me and my co-star Dunk. In one of them you can also see Luke as Sprite, one of the fairies. He, too, did a great job and I believe it was also his first acting experience. In that shot he is casting a spell on Duncan and I to stop us fighting over the women.

It’s a good thing he stopped us, too, because that Dunk sure can scrap!


“Yeah, he’s tired and shagged out after a prolonged squawk.”

"Well why have you nailed his feet to the perch then?"

"Look, if I hadn't nailed him there, he'd have bent those bars apart wif his beak and.... Voom!"

“Voom?! Mate, this parrot wouldn’t ‘Voom’ if you put 4 million volts through it!”

- Thanks to Monty Python for giving us the comedy classic that is The Dead Parrot Sketch.


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I’m glad you posted, Brooksie! With I click my way over here I was prepared to leave a comment saying “Where are you?”

10:46 AM  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

OK, Brooksie, you’ve rested enough! Get back to bloggin’!

3:58 PM  

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