Tuesday, February 28, 2006

But a love can be misplaced

I felt really stupid in class today. We had a guest speaker who hit us with all of these pieces of theatre criticism, in class, and so, being exposed to them for the first time, I felt like I had nothing to contribute. Luckily, he gave us a huge stack of things to read, so now I can catch up, but I really did feel stupid sitting there. I cast back over my education and though, "where would I have missed this?" Obviously, I have been exposed to a wide variety of theory, but just not the things we were handed today. So, through no fault of anybody's, I feel really dumb. Getting through high school, where I was told I was inferior because I couldn't do algebra (but who cares?! really?! when you get right down to it?!) I have overcompensated by going out and getting myself ridiculously overeducated. I'll be the first to admit it. And I'm going to be even MORE educated, because I'm determined to first plow through this stack of essays and then read the books they're from. It'll be my Lent thingy--
I shall give up ignorance. (but not my love of the dramatic) :)

It was sunny and snowing today, and I slept until noon because I was having sweet dreams. The door to the main building is too narrow: Why do they have two doors and only let us use one so there is a constant traffic jam? And why does that annoy me so much? Why am I so unsettled today? I'm glad that we had a music rehearsal tonight so I could sit there and read instead of transferring angst to the actors. After rehearsal I went and visited the Lisas who were very nice and let me vent my spleen at them for a bit and then we watched a TV show, Little Britain. It's a comedy series with a bunch of short sketches lampooning British people, and it's pretty funny. My favourite line was, "but you said you don't like dark chocolate, you said it was too bitter and lacked the oral ecstasy of its milky counterpart." Why can't I write like that? So I'm calm, cool and collected now. Checking email at midnight after a hot shower, yay. Tomorrow, more museum therapy, this time the Tate Modern. Apparently John thinks my project resembles expressionist paintings, so I'm going to go look at some tomorrow and hope it inspires me.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Michael Cerveris is a Sexy, Sexy Man

This, my fellow academics, is a plea for help. I have an essay due for my musical theatre class on April 24. Since I'm going to Greece, however, I want to get it finished by the 11th of March. But, the problem is, I don't have a topic. I know that I want to write about Sondheim's Assassins, maybe something to do with the inherent "American-ness" of the piece, i.e, is there something so American about this play that to perform it overseas would prove futile because foreign audiences can't relate to it? Or are there larger themes--and if so, what are they, and if they are there, are they echoed in any other foreign shows?

At least, that's kind of what I want to write about. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas, I'd sure appreciate a boost. The Donmar Theatre premiered it in 1992 to fairly good reviews, and there's another one opening in March (which I am going to, come hell or high horses) but, reverently, the Donmar is small enough, popular enough and "fringe-y" enough that it can pretty much damn the torpedoes and pretty much do whatever the hell it wants. Although it might be interesting to compare the reviews here vs. the reviews in New York. "Michael Cerveris is a Sexy, Sexy Man" is not, however, an acceptable essay title.

In other news, Hedwig rehearsals are continuing apace. We've added Yitzhak to the mix now, and having a new performer in the room completely changes the dynamic. My final project slogs onward despite the Muse's attempts to lure me back to bed. Not sure if what I have is high art or just mush. And my stomach keeps growling, even though I fed it lovely roasted eggplant--a receipe I learned from my Greek partner Nico. Laura's the cook, but this one's so easy I thought I'd share:

Slice one eggplant, put in roasting pan. Add zucchini, onions, peppers to taste. Drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil. Cover with tin of diced tomatoes (Sainsburys has flavoured ones: tonight I used the garlic and olive oil) Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 200 degrees Celsius (about 390 Fahrenheit, I think) Add cheese five minutes before you're done and let melt--feta is good, but Red Leicester is also good. Add oregano. Lots of oregano. Handfuls of it. Greeks love oregano. Serve warm with bread and butter or over rice. Try not to think about how good a brat with all the trimmings, baked beans, cheese curds, Point beer and Mackinac island fudge ice-cream would taste right now. Resolve to continue vegetarian lifestyle. Remain strong as roommate maliciously waves bacon cheeseburger under your nose. Console yourself with (slightly hard) home-cookies. :)

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I am writing this to you all from my room! That's right, we got the internet hooked up--AT LAST! Lest you think that Goldsmiths took pity on us, no, it was the concerted efforts of my hallmates and I to get a line run to my room, to buy a router, to set up our wireless cards and connect to the provider. Yet, somehow, we managed to do this in a quarter of the time it's taken the school to install lines to our (still empty) "computer room." So, huzzah!

Yesterday I went out and did "research" for my final project, which consisted of me going to a museum and then to a show--not a stretch you might say, but I spent a great deal of time observing people around me. I went to the Museum of London which is a huge building for all the odds and ends (and people) they've pulled out of the soil over the years. Here I observed several children not fully appreciating the scope of the Great Fire of 1666, which led me to conclude that perhaps THEY should be locked in a burning thatch house and THEN...no, no, no, we won't get violent. They had a diorama and some preteens thought it would be funny to jump in and scream "BOGEY!" while we're all watching London burn in the dark. Mamas, don't let your children grow up to be a££holes...The funniest thing I saw was an unexpected piece of china which declared "Wilkes and Liberty!" and got my hackles up for a minute until I realised it was commorating John Wilkes, the English patriot who went to jail for breaking a law banning freedom of speech and was denied a seat in the Houses of Parliament, even though he was elected with something like a 90 percent majority.* Oh, and he was also a namesake for a certain 19th century assassin, but that's a footnote.

Then I went to see "The Woman in White." I had seen posters advertising it was closing, so I thought I better...I didn't realise it was THE LAST performance until I got there and the lights went down. I was sitting so high in the theatre that I didn't realise the older sister and the woman in white were two different people until they appeared onstage together during the second act. (the angel Gabriel actually tapped me on the shoulder once or twice and told me I was blocking his view--THAT's how high I was.) I was so annoyed by the scenery that I enjoyed the show less than I would have. The set was a semi-circle of screens that revolved and were projected onto...having such realistic sets and costumes and computer generated backdrops in a Victorian show was really incongruous. The show itself I thought was fine--the biggest problem was--IT WAS TOO BIG!! What's the matter, Mr. Lloyd-Webber, to ashamed to do something in a black box? Which is where this show rightly belongs. You could do it with eight people and an orchestra of six. (I figured it out: if anyone wants to mount a production, send me an email.)

Right. I have some naughty photos to download in the privacy of my own room. Ta!

*Good Lord, is that one sentence? God bless the comma.

Friday, February 24, 2006

the hell?!

Naturally, even though I have My Yahoo set up to give me all the headlines, where do I head first? "Dear Abby" and the Broadway section. Yahoo tells me today that the shows opening on Broadway soon (i.e. eligible for the Tonys) are:

1. A musical based on Disney's Tarzan--and starring some guy from "American Idol"
2. A musical based on Anne Rice's Lestat, apparently in trouble
3. A musical based on Johnny Cash's songs--but not an autobiography!
4. A musical based on the movie the Wedding Singer (although "totally different")
5. Pajama Game--a revival with Harry Connick Jr.
6. Threepenny Opera--another revival
7. Hot Feet, a musical using Earth, Wind and Fire's music and based on "The Red Shoes."

and finally, the only new show...

8. "Man in Chair"

Which is the only show that sounds remotely interesting!!! I mean, COME ON!!!! Speaking as someone who has recently seen several new musicals (granted, all of them in need of major re-writes) and who is a HUGE FAN of the musical theatre genre I am MORE THAN A LITTLE UPSET at the fact that Broadway can't be bothered to come up with anything more interesting than back catalogues and recycled movies! Now, I loved "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" as much as anyone, and yes, I paid to go see "We Will Rock You" but this is just ridiculous. I also read in the Guardian recently that people were lining up for three hours to get tickets to "Spamalot" which is opening here--IN OCTOBER. Geez. Most shows are based on some source material (Phantom, anyone?) but come on--the Wedding Singer?!

I don't know what it's going to take to build a new show that is musically interesting, dramatically challenging and yet commercial. Apparently an act of God or something. Maybe I'm just spoiled--maybe there are brilliant little musicals appearing in American I haven't heard about. I doubt any of my loyal readers have heard of "The Ballad of Elizabeth Sulkymouth" which was fabulous. And, speaking of commercial theatre, Andrew Lloyd-Webber's "Woman in White" is closing soon so I'm going to try and go see it tomorrow. (he hasn't responded to my letter yet, which gives me hope that he took it to heart and is really working on not sucking.)

There is a sense that musical theatre is "popular culture" which is true. But because it falls under that genre it needs to appeal to non-theatre people. Also--musicals are usually more expensive and so need to bring in more punters, which means non-theatre people. But why do people write musicals for non-theatre people? What's wrong with writing something for those of us who ARE theatre people and who DO love musicals? Is it possible to do something that is dramatically astounding because it simply IS and is also a musical? I think of the Tonys: the musicals get to perform a song or something from the show, the more "serious" shows--straight plays--get a nod or maybe a montage of lines from an actual production. Too dignified--or would that simply not appeal to middle-class America who is paying for the commercials? Perhaps we should just say to hell with the categories and have "BEST SHOW PERIOD." It brings to mind when Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" was nominated for Best Picture--it didn't win, and then the Academy felt a need to create an animation category. Who cares what the genre is? I just want to go see good shows. damnit.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What do you do when your project is done?

Practise make-up for Hedwig, of course! Our costume designer was looking a little frazzled, so I offered to take on the task of designing and doing Hedwig's makeup. Hopefully it will look better on Angus, since he's blond and his eyebrows won't show up as much. But I had a lot of fun, regardless. Note: If you are ever in London and need make-up, the Charles Fox store in Covent Garden is a HAVEN of COSMETICS.

It's been really rainy and chilly here lately, so I have been spending a lot of time en suite. (that means in my room) I finished my dramaturgy portfolio and handed it in this morning, and I've been revising "The Glass Eye" and, in my free time, doing laundry and CLIMBING THE WALLS. I watched TV for about ten minutes this morning, and it informed me that Iraq was on the verge of civil war, so now I am also having angst about that. (it's a testament to how truly multi-faceted my life is that I was talking about Hedwig and the Angry Inch and now I'm on to Iraq...)

Sometimes I feel very disconnected from what is going on in the rest of the world--which is odd since I'm here in the newspaper capital of the universe. It's hard to remember sometimes that America is AT WAR, even if it hasn't been formally declared. I feel like I should be planting a victory garden...or donating my pot (I only have one)...but then the President says the best thing to do is to buy stuff and get the economy going...to which I reply, "But Mr. President, I want to buy a Japanese car because it gets 30 miles to the gallon..." and then I feel guilty because I am taking jobs away from the American people by not polluting the earth. This being a liberal, it's a problem.

"I'm going to go to the library and sober up!" --me, Tuesday night

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I'm a little po'ed that the internet connexion here makes my computer crash evey three minutes, so I still have to type on the library computers.

Also, why are there no American plays after 1985 on the shelf, but I can get a copy of "The Iron Chest" which was published in 1796? It took me three weeks to get a copy back home...and now when I have a hankering for Kushner, nada.

Oh, and it's raining and I twisted my ankle. stupid sunday afternoons.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Longest Post Ever

[18 February 2005: the following is from a notebook I carried around with me all day yesterday when I was in Portsmouth. I thought I’d type it up so you could read it—it’s EXTREMELY long, but I thought you might find it interesting. I suggest reading it throughout the day, so you can get a sense of me walking around, then sitting to write, then moving around again. Anything in brackets is something I added today to explain, but other than that it’s verbatim—symbols, spelling errors and all. Each paragraph is a new page. Portsmouth is a small town on the southern coast of England, with a deep harbor. There has been some kind of dockyards there since the 1400s, and the Navy still has a presence there. I visited the historic dockyards, where the HMS Victory, the HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose are docked, along with a ton of museums, souvenir shops and family attractions.]


Well, it took me like 7 hours to get a train, but now I’m happily speeding towards Portsmouth. LOVE trains. Was thinking how Napoleon [I just finished one of his biographies] spent all this time & energy bringing the message of “La Republique” to the masses—and now we see him as a madman. Of course, at one point he became Emperor, so people had to follow his lead, but his early years are faintly reminiscent of G. W. Bush. Spending money + lives. The difference, of course, is Democracy (viva la republique!) and instead of handing Bush unlimited power, we’re going to kick him out of office in three years. (not. soon. enuff.) So. –oh, & public sentiment, of course, is AGAINST our beloved emperor [emperor with an ironic strike-through] president. We don’t see it as our duty to bring democracy to Iraq. I wonder if that’s just laziness. Could

Be another symptom of the lethargy of politics—a stronger symptom of the thing which makes people not vote. If people are flooded with new ideas & new freedoms, they are surely more galvanised to act. Witness the French c. 1789. Witness the Iraqi people c. 2005. I’m not saying Bush is Bonaparte ‡ Napoleon. [I distinguished Bonaparte the general from Napoleon the emperor, as did the author of the biography] I’m just thinking how he would be if he were an historical figure. Would he be in power? Or would he be overtaken by the kind of men who put him in power? Back then it sounded like there was let politicizing, more coups—well, you know what I mean. Speaking of George—[censored] pain in my right side again. Had some toast & peanut butter & coffee for brekkies, but hungry again. Not enough sleep last night. When I got

up (scribble) it was cloudy & I thought “figures” but now it’s sunny [it was sunny all week] …ah sun. We just went into a brick tunnel—covered with ivy. Oh, look, pretty countryside. Ah. Anyway. Napoleon. What kind of man would he be today? Somehow I doubt he has the temperament to be a politician—he was a soldier 1st, wasn’t he? Probably more akin to a clan-chief in Iraq…one of the mullahs, perhaps who incites such fear, loyalty + violence. Wellington [British general who defeated him at Waterloo] said that Napoleon on the field was worth 40,000 men. Could you imagine? Imagine a modern leader who would A) lead and B) be so inspiring it could double or treble a force? *sigh* But then of course we’re talking about pitched battles w/humans & not planes + tanks, are we? So maybe all this speculation is stupid. After all, history has moved on, hasn’t it?

And how. There are similarities though. Just as there are similarities between Bonaparte + Bush, so too Napoleon + Saddam Hussein. Let’s stick HIM on a small island somewhere. Ha. Napoleon didn’t recognize the authority of the English to banish him either. And Saddam may have a point. Who has the authority to try the heads of state? Apparently—other heads of state w/more firepower. We need a “council of Kings” or something—a tribunal of retired presidents and (scribbled over misspelled word) ministers perhaps, Jimmy Carter & Nelson Mandela. Where do I fit into history? I have no desire for

power. [fame and glory: yes, power: no] If I were a woman 200 years ago—I suspect somehow I would not be easily married off & what else is there for women to do? Write & travel, apparently. J How different would things be if I had married by now. Wow. That’s what I should do: find me a politician & if he ever got out of hand I would remind him of L’Empereur & Bush II.
9:50 AM
Well, I’m here! I know—already?! Train much faster that expected. Portsmouth is not what I expected either—it’s more, ah, dunno really, industrial? [looking back this makes sense—this IS where they build ships, after all] The tours don’t even start until 10AM… if I’d’ve known that, I would have slept another hour. Ah, well. But there is a very strong sense of SHIP HISTORY! here—a conscious effort. There’s a stone chain path in the flagstones to lead you to it all…right now I’m sitting on a bench (which has a

“wavy” pattern…) looking @ the HMS Warrior—Britain’s 1st metal ship, according to the sign. It’s a proper ship, I think, not retro-fitted like the Merrimack or the Monitor…or were those steam powered? Gah, can’t remember. I think it’s funny that when I was younger my parents dragged me to all these historic sites & I had v. little appreciation for the scope of them until now (Ford’s Theatre, anyone?) –and now here I am inflicting history on myself. J I can see the Victory’s masts from here & feel the familiar sensation of geekery coming on…the HMS Warrior has a figurehead. I wonder when they stopped doing that..
[having bought my ticket and walked about two blocks to where the Victory is] First impressions—It’s really small! (as with all celebrities) I mean—damn—It looks like a toy. People fought in this thing? Well, it’s clean, of course, &

brightly/freshly painted. There are ropes EVERYWHERE. To support the masts…in case they were shot off? Dis-masted. [yes, and also to take the weight of the wind under sail, as well as allow access to the sails: dismasted is one of my new favourite words] It’s hard to picture a battle. Smoke, I know that much, and it would be louder, louder than I can imagine it. Screams, cannons, guns, all on top of normal ship noises: canvas, ropes, wood creaking…I think she’s dry-docked. That’s deeply disappointing. Right. Well. Let’s go see where Nelson got shot.
I was going to eat at the Ship Anson down the road—but when I walked in the door & was greeted by a couple dogs (to which I bent over & offered my hand—they were puntables [very small, shi tzuhs, I think]) some yob @ the counter beered out “Watch yer fingers!” [Like I had never petted a strange dog before. Jerk.] At which point I thought: Yeah. No. Ignoring me is better than letting your

customers shout @ me. Well, anyway. Now I’m @…the Emma Hamilton. [Emma Hamilton was Nelson’s mistress for the last seven-eight years of his life.] Mmm…hot beef sandwich--£4.50 & a pint o’ Scrumpy Jack. Wanted fish & chips, but £7.00? Nu. But, okay. The Victory was WICKED cool—once I got onboard, it really hit home how (okay, there are pictures of Nelson + Emma on every available wall. Altho “Eye of the Tiger is playing. Woot.) crowded & close the quarters were. Me, at 5’7”-5’8” could clear the beams on the (hang on, lemme get this right) [they gave us a map of the ship with the names of the decks on it, I consult it here] orlop, lower & middle gun deck, & the hold I was stooping. [the decks are, from bottom to top: hold, orlop, lower gun deck, middle gun deck, upper gun deck, which is out in the open, and the poop deck, which covers the back quarter of the ship—admiral’s quarters] So you gotta figure the men were smaller than me. Except apparently, for Admiral Hardy who was 6’4”. [and only a captain in 1805, my bad, he became an admiral later] SO COOL! aw, so much history! I love it! (O, hey “99 Luftballons—haven’t heard this one in awhile)

Mm. Good sandwich. Then, below decks they had a spot—on the orlop deck, had to check—where Nelson fell. [I mean died, my bad—he was shot above decks] It was kind of eerie. The orlop, my brochure advises [advises is crossed out] informs me, is below the waterline & therefore safe from enemy fire, so it’s where the surgeon had his operating room during battle. (note: on display: 1 bottle of anasthetic, 7 saws.) You could see how Nelson was brought down here & put aside so the surgeon could work & keep an eye on him. The painting on display was not entirely accurate—the ceilings were much higher than they were in real life & I don’t think Hardy was there when he died. [The painting they showed was the winning entry in a contest to portray the death of Nelson. Next to it was the beam he was lying against when he died with a gold laurel wreath and “HERE NELSON DIED” on it. Next to it was a water barrel, which was how Nelson’s body came home—preserved in brandy. Not sure if that was THE barrel or not. They weren’t shy about the great Nelson here: this spot is marked as “the shrine.”] Anyway. Everytime the landlady says “My Love,” I think of Mrs. Lovett [from Sweeney Todd] --& she does it

roughly once per sentence. The ketchup packets say “Sachets of Excellence,” which is funny.
The kids running around the Docklands are driving me crazy—but I guess I shouldn’t begrudge them (see. earlier. entry.) Maybe when they come to the U.S they can geek out about Washington, or Lincoln. I don’t mind. I’ll share.
Maybe if I get a dog I could name it “Orlop.” Haha.
After the Victory I saw a sign for the Mary Rose Museum &, being naturally curious, I went in. A nice lady handed me a recorded museum guide & I went into see the Mary Rose…which it turns out was Henry VIII’s flagship that sank in 1584—no, 34? I’ll check…1545. Okay. So now I’m standing on a

balcony overlooking the rotting-being restored-remnant of the starboard side of this ship. My jaw absolutely DROPPED. I mean—this ship is 500 years old! And then when I went through the museum & looked at all the artifacts I only became more impressed. [The Mary Rose was heading out to engage the enemy (France, naturally) with all her gunports open when she heeled over too far in the wind. Water poured in and she sank quickly—as the king watched. 500 people died. The ship came to rest on its starboard side, which filled with mud and thus she was preserved.] Wow! All the things they recovered—clothes & weapons & plaes. Pins & needles & dice the size of my little fingernail. The kids were legion—this museum was aimed @ them—and there were costumed guides walking around. They had a “try-on-Tudor-clothes” exhibit & I was DYING to try on Henry VIII’s getup, but I figured walking around the Victory w/my left hand in my pocket was enough. Strumpy Jack…affecting focus…but, yeah, the Dockyards

are WELL brilliant—I’m going back now. Well, a ticket + brochure was £19, so you betcherfur I’m going to get my money’s worth. Now I’m off to see the WWII cruisers—oh, and the H.M.S Warrior, I suppose. J [turns out the “WWII” cruisers were actually Navy property—on their base and definitely off limits to tourists. They might even have been commissioned ships. So I took a couple pictures and left it at that.] And then, of course, the Trafalgar Museum.
Right. Better get going.
I leave a drink of beer in my glass-for friends who are not here. Miss you all.
Compared to Victory, Warrior is huge & clean & spacious—I can walk upright w/out fear of hitting my head. [HMS Warrior was built in 1860—a hundred years after Victory—as a deterrent to Napoleon III. It worked—Warrior never fired a shot. Ten years later she was outdated and turned into a training school, then an oil “hulk”—a storage container that could not move under its own power. In 1968 somebody realized they had the last remaining Victorian ship storing oil and it was bought and restored. Warrior has a steam-powered propeller, but it was not fuel efficient, and so she used sails when not needing to move in a hurry.] The guns are enormous—breech loading. It’s all very tidy—this ship was restored in 1979, not refit like Victory. Think I prefer V. [V. for Victory—at this point I’m literally walking around taking notes] The gun ports have numbered buckets for fire—order & empire instead of V’s “GR” [George Rex—King George III] leather buckets.

Pewter tin? plates instead of wooden trenchers, but there’s still a bucket for tobacco juice…the implements are still the same: ramrod et al. [It struck me how things looked the same, only the materials and level of quality had changed—tables hung by metal strips now, instead of ropes, oil lanterns instead of candles] It’s very industrial & clean—all stations are identical. This is hip is an odd combination of steam & sail. Poor sail.
Something else you didn’t see on Victory…a room w/iron bathtubs & washing machines w/mangles. Everywhere, cannonballs as big as bowling balls, painted red. [compared to Victory’s softball sized ones, or Mary Rose’s cannonballs which were stones chipped into shape] Little girl asked her mom why they’re red. Mom: “Good ? I dunno. Maybe these’ve got more powder in them…” Cannonballs don’t have powder, but, a certain size? [to be identified more easily] Then again, it might just look nice. Stupid Victorians.
Found a kindred spirit on board the Warrior: apparently the cannonballs are painted red so they don’t rust. [Murray, a volunteer guide who’s worked on the Warrior for 13 years and who keeps interrupting his stories to encourage small children to try out a hammock, also informs me that Prince Edward, Queen Victoria’s son, sent Warrior as an escort to pick up his bride, Princess Alexandria, from her home in Norway. (I think it was Norway…) The Princess was so impressed with the ship she sent a letter to the captain telling him so, and he had a special engraving put on the ship’s wheel: “The Princess is Much Impressed.” I spent a good twenty minutes talking to Murray, who finally had to go excuse himself and extricate a small child from a hammock.]

[riding home on the train] I can’t believe it’s 6’o’clock. I spent all afternoon wandering in + out of the Royal Navy Museum and the shops…they had an exhibit with a waxwork of Nelson & SO MUCH NELSONIANA…[mostly collected, I learned, by an American and donated in the 80’s] I mean, it was just too much. The NMM [National Maritime Museum—I recognized some of the artifacts which had been borrowed from the Docklands] exhibit was at least somewhat balanced, but this was WAY overkill. I kept thinking…”he’s just a man.” [Nelson’s last words were: “Thank God I have done my duty.” Duty. He did what he was told…well, no wonder the nation’s so grateful] Yeah. I was excited to see the Victory et al. But really. It was too much. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of my travels & reading, it’s that you can’t live in the Glorious Past—as much as the present sucks… You gotta do it. Although, clothes from back then were more fun. Anyway. I hope I’m “Nelsoned-out” because I’m exhausted. As the museums were closing & people were hitting the shops there were SO MANY

kids… then I went to Gunwharf Quay—an outlet mall. [with a hugely inappropriate name, I thought, haha] Nelson DIED so I could go shopping!!!!!!! J But as I was walking around, I started getting this headache…ugh. I really want some ‘feine. [caffeine] Been a long time since that morning cup of coffee. Stupid. Kids. I moved carriages because the other one had a pack of pre-teens in. But now there’s some under-10s…could be worse, I suppose. I could be their parents. J I didn’t but [buy] anything at the museum except 4 postcards and a little pewter statue of Shakespeare. [Going to start a collection.] Why he’s in a museum about Tudors, I’ll never know…I alfo bought a bag @ the outlet mall—it’s bigger & the strap is longer, ‘cos I don’t like the one I’ve been using. Need more room for my writing. So…day’s expenditures…£19 entry fee, £7.50 lunch, £1 postcards £Shakespeare

£1.60 card. Hm. Seems I spent more. [yeah, I forgot train fare--£20] Would have spent more on a model or something useless with the Victory on it, but I couldn’t find anything random enough. I think it’s interesting that this country can caricature Shakespeare out of all proportion, but the only souvenirs you can buy of Nelson are appropriately dignified & expensive chyna. Bad headache. No Coke. At least I’m not hungry. Wow, what a good day. So exhausted. I’m going to sleep good tonight.

[Thus ends the day’s doings. I forgot to write about seeing the Victory’s foretop sail from the battle of Trafalgar, which was in a long low black room. You could see the cannonball holes and the rent from where the spar broke. (Or was it the boom? I’ve learned more nautical lingo in the past day than in my entire life.) Again, it really brought home how violent these battles were—cannons, damn. They also had a video playing of a re-enactment battle which pretty much visualized for me my earlier musings: crowded quarters, smoke bringing visibility down to nil, noise, fire. The Victory is still a commissioned warship, with a Navy captain and a crew—as opposed to Warrior which is a tourist attraction. (Although, since the Warrior is in the water, she does have a captain and skeleton crew) The Navy also had a building called Action Stations, where kids could see what it was like to “feel the excitement and danger of today’s Navy!” I tried not to be cynical—after all, I was there to geek out about Britain’s greatest naval triumph—but “get ‘em while they’re young!” did float through my head once or twice. And for all my moaning about kids, I thought it was great they had all that stuff for families to do. Although, if I bring my kids—I’m DEFINITELY going to know why they paint the cannonballs so I can give the right answer without having to look stupid.)

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Oh My WHAHHHH!!! I know you have all been patiently waiting for my review of my Sweeney Todd CD, but I thought I'd wait until I saw the show, which is still touring around England. So I went tonight with Lisa and Alison. OMG!! WOW!! It was incredible! If you would have told me: okay, so we're going to have people pouring blood into buckets to symbolise death, and in the second act instead of a real barber's chair we're going to have a small child's coffin, oh, and the Judge and the Beadle are going to go out for a pint and a trumpet duet and by the way, do you mind if Toby treats his violin like a teddy bear? It was incredible. I mean, really. I know it sounds weird--instead of having Anthony and Joanna running crazily across the stage frantically trying to "escape" from the guards of the lunatic asylum, they sit down and have a cello duet. (KT! YOU can play Joanna!) For example: at the end of the show, you need a body for Sweeney to cry and have angst over, but once he recognises her, she's just a prop. So why not have her get up and play the clarinet? Some of the singing was a little off-key--the guy playing Sweeney was a TV personality from the 80s, but the show was so CREEPY so WELL PLAYED. There was a point where Antony was playing piano, and then he had to jump up and run into a scene and Toby was right there to jump onto the piano and keep it going. The sheer blocking of the props and instruments was incredible. The only set piece was a black wooden coffin on a pair of saw horses that got moved around and adjusted so it became a table, Sweeney's parlor... I know it sounds really weird and odd, but the effect was overwhelming creepiness and horror at this world--what the whole intention of the show was, right?

So the CD is of course a record of the show, but it doesn't do it justice--the live show REALLY shows the advantage of having people playing their own instruments. Practically the whole reason why I bought the CD was Michael Cerveris, of course, and he does not disappoint--he's got that smoky baritone that I first fell in love with on "Assassins." And of course you can understand all the words--during the show Sweeney's breakdown meant we lost a few important lyrics. So: Definitely buy the album, but GO SEE THE SHOW BECAUSE I CAN'T DESCRIBE HOW COOL IT WAS.

Riding home after the show I was leafing through the program and we were all chatting loudly about our favourite parts. (which caused a few raised eyebrows: "Remember when he sliced up Mrs. Lovett? Damn!") I was reading about the real Sweeney Todd and I piped up: "Wow, 1801! That's when Nelson was around!" thereby neatly colliding the things I'm currently interested in, and Alison, without missing a beat said: "Maybe that's what happened to his arm!" At which point I collasped in laughter. Could you imagine? Scene: Nelson patting his face with his left hand: "Wow, that was a really good shave! I'm going to have to remember this guy...hey, wait a second. What the hell--?!" hahahahaha.

So that's Sweeney, signed and delivered. Can't promise I won't write any more about it, but maybe not for a while. Tomorrow I'm going down to Portsmouth...to visit Nelson's ship. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Once on my Computer

The exciting thing about this post is that I am writing it from my own computer. Today I went down to Tottenham Court Road (you know, where Cats took place) and bought a wireless USB thingy. So now I can surf wherever there's a wireless signal. Right now I'm hanging out in Lisa's room, shamelessly pirating a signal that's been floating around.

I haven't been doing much this week except catching up on sleep and working on Hedwig rehearsals. I've been working this week with Angus, who is playing Hedwig and who, thank God, takes direction incredibly well, which makes my job a lot easier. He's also a stand up comedian, so he's comfortable with crowds and hecklers.

I have been reading a lot, making sure to keep busy learning new things. I have a portfolio due on the 23rd, and I emailed a rough first draft of my final project to my prof. So with no direct pressure to write I've been finding other ways to keep busy. Last night, for example, the Lisas and I went out for dinner. I'm going to sue the restaurant though--they didn't give us a candle because we were three beautiful intelligent women instead of some snoggy couple. Blech. I went to see a show tonight--a new musical called "The Ballad of Elizabeht Sulkymouth" which was very good. The music was incredible, even if the story was a little weird. I'm also reading a biography of Napoleon, then next up is a history of India and then a biography of George Washington (the only Founding Father I don't want to string up by his ankles.)

And the big exciting news is that I booked tickets to Athens, as in Greece, for the end of April. Lisa and I are going to visit Lisa, who will be visiting home while we're there. I'm so excited to see all the ancient Greek theatres, read Plato on the beach and eating lots of Greek food. Mmm.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Things were very historical

Does anyone remember Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie? No? Just me then. Well, I found a video of "The War or 1812" and I thought I'd post it since I'd forgotten how funny this song is. Eminently appropriate too, since I'm dressed as Napoleon today. Whoohoo.

  • The War of 1812
  • Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Pounds of Rain

    "Well, it changes every day, you see." --HP ...hang on...went to type in the "number" symbol and it's not on this keyboard. It's the £ sign... #...oh. Apparently in Britain you have to type alt-3 to get "#." The funny thing is, they have the $ sign on the number four key. Weird. Anyway. What was I talking about? Oh, right. Honestly, you spend one measly little hour on the internet, and the next thing you know you're looking at random photoshops like this one:

    I spent all day yesterday in my room working on my dramaturgy portfolio. I have to hand in a 7,000 word portfolio on the 23rd, a first draft of my final project (or "dissertation" as I like to call it, to give me some "street cred" amongst my fellow masters degree "homies") on the 16th, and apparently someone wants to do one of my plays now, so I need to look at "The Glass Eye" again. This week is reading week, which means no classes, so I can sit in my room and write all day. And climb the walls when I get bored. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to write, but when I write I need to have a little caffeine or something, and I can't have music or else I get distracted and sing along, so it's me...in a very quiet room...typing (or, more often than not, not)...with my heart speeding along because I've drank four cups of coffee...overwatering my plants and eating for something to do and wishing the stupid temperature would warm up so I could open my window and air out my room. I am having Hedwig rehearsals all week in the afternoon, so that'll give me something to do, and I've got a list of plays I want to go see. Including, haha, I know you all were wondering when I'd mention it, "Sweeney Todd" which is still touring over here. I also, just to really drive myself crazy, bought one of those "Tippoo's Tiger" paper models the last time I went to the V&A (they were on sale for #5, wait, £5) so if it keeps raining maybe I'll try putting that together. And you'll find me in a pool of coffee and paper shreddings in a week from now babbling on about Englishmen in India.

    Friday, February 10, 2006


    Today was just like Christmas! I woke up and did some grocery shopping, and when I got home I had two packages waiting for me! yayyy!!! One was a box from my parents--all the bits and pieces that wouldn't fit in my luggage from Christmas, lovingly wrapped in a protective layer of chocolate chip cookies. yayyy!!! And the other one was Sweeney Todd with Michael Cerveris!!! yayyy!!! Unfortunately, he was not wrapped in a protective layer of chocolate chip cookies, but it is still a very good recording. I'm about halfway through it, so, full review to follow. yayyy!!!

    "You know, I've always said what separatets a good eulogy from a great eulogy is the rhyme scheme. Anybody can eulogize A-B-A-B," but it's a speical kind of Sondheimian gift to go A-A-A-A."
    -Jon Stewart on the Daily Show talking about the Rev. Lowry speaking at Coretta Scott King's funeral.

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    The cinnamon was actually BASIL!

    If I am late for my afternoon class it will be because of this silly flash cartoon which you should all watch because it is very funny.


    the end

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Nelson is Our King*

    *sung to the tune of "Weasley is Our King."

    On a lark I went to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and applied for a job as a gallery assistant--you know, the people in the uniforms who make sure you don't get up to nothing. I applied at the NMM for a couple reasons: it's close to school, it's all historical and stuff, and they have Nelson's pants.

    The "recruiting night" was held in the Queen's House. So I go in and they hand me an application and tell me to fill it out in this little room off to the side. It's maybe twelve feet by ten feet, full of people like me who are filling out applications, and, because this is an English musuem, there are original oil paintings on the walls. Which I am getting used to by now. But as I'm looking around the room I realise: Nelson in full dress uniform. Nelson dying. A 1880s woman showing her son the portrait of Nelson in full dress uniform. Nelson dying again. A HUGE Turner showing the battle of Trafalgar. A smaller picture showing the battle of Trafalgar. Nelson dying. All originals, all crammed into this little anteroom. I start to snicker under my breath, because while I may be preoccupied with Nelson, I am clearly out of my league here. I also saw a shop advertising "Nelsonania" which made me laugh out loud. I mean, I've heard of Lincolniana, but then again, Lincoln FREED THE SLAVES. Nelson just...died. In an appropriately beautiful Greek manner, apparently, but still.

    Anyway. We'll see if the job pans out or not. Last night I went to see a play called "Ashes to Ashes" which was a non-uplifting piece about the Holocaust. AFterward there was a talk-back and the playwright/director said he wanted to make the audience uncomfortable for an hour, to give us a taste of what Jewish prisoners felt like who had to deal with that day in day out. Things like screaming at the prisoners, and the audience, shining bright lights on us, making them dance with their pants around their ankles and beat up one another. He succeeded in his goal--I felt really uncomfortable--but I felt there was no higher message in the play. I think they were also trying to show how people held onto their humanity and dignity, but it was completely overshadowed by the sheer violence. Ah, fringe. I just feel if you're going to alienate your audience, then you're not going to be able to get your themes across.

    Right, I'm off to rehersal for "Hedwig." Have a good night everyone.

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Escalating riots

    I don't know if anybody has been watching the news lately, but the Muslim community in Europe is up in arms about a series of caricatures that have been published in newspapers. They have been protesting--violently--across much of Europe, burning Danish embassies in Damascus and Beirut. Now it turns out some protestors have been killeds. More information here:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4684652.stm

    It's shocking because we take our freedom of speech for granted. The cartoons, which I have not seen because the British haven't published them, show the Prophet Muhammed, who is forbidden to be represented by Islamic law. One of the cartoons apparently shows him wearing a bomb in his turban, so you can imagine...These were published a few months ago, and now are being re-run. The BBC came under some fire for showing one on a television report, saying they had to show what was causing all the fuss. And other papers are defending the right to free speech, while saying that they are not publishing them out of sensitivity. Someone made a good point a few days ago: We are fighting for free speech here, and this community is censoring itself, which spirals into the larger argument that the Islamic community (by which I mean the more extreme forms of it) are still clinging to old ideals that include all the worst signs of extremism. By closing ranks and chanting "Death to the newspapers" they are merely confirming Westerner's worst fears. Well, I'd be pissed off too if someone showed my good buddy JC with a bomb coming out of his robe, but I can see where they're coming from. If you give an inch, where does it end? Demand respect for your community, but...don't burn down embassies.

    "They want to know whether Muslims are extremists or not. Death to them and their newspapers." --Mawli Abdul Qahar Abu Israra, a protester talking to the BBC.

    Sunday, February 05, 2006


    That's the noise I make whenever I see exciting historical things, but I am now having to apply it in a completely new context BECAUSE, last night I went to see a show with my friend Arndis and her husband whose name I can't pronounce and something Very Exciting Happened, which I will now render for you as a script:

    (scene: Nicki, Arndis & Arndis' husband are sitting sipping pre-show drinks.)
    Arndis: Isn't that Ian McKellan?
    Nicki: (turning to look) Oh my God. (her heart rate shoots up to seven thousand) that IS Ian McKellan. (beat) I must go talk to him.
    Arndis. Yeah, right.
    Nicki: No, really! Oh my God. Oh my God. Are you going to back me up?
    Arndis: No.
    (Nicki stands up and shakily makes her way over to where Ian McKellan is standing with his boyfriend)
    Nicki: Excuse me, Mr. McKellan?
    Ian McKellan: (smiling politely) Yes?
    Nicki: (trying desperately not to sound like some a££holey fangirl) I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your performance in "Aladdin"--
    Ian McKellan: --Ah, thank you--
    Nicki: --and I can't wait to see you on the stage again.
    Ian McKellan: (being super-polite) Ah, thank you very much.
    (Nicki runs away, her legs barely able to hold her up and collapses next to Arndis where she takes a huge sip of beer)
    Nicki: Oh my God.

    AHHH!!!!!!!!!! I actually saw/talked to/touched Ian McKellan! Ahhhhh!!!! He was so nice too, you could tell that he was used to people harassing him, and I was determined not to ask him for his autograph or anything like that, but, damn! He looks, I can safely report, exactly like himself, only older. And when he smiled at me, his eyes did that twinkly Gandalf thing we all love so very much. I am so happy! Wheee! The only thing I regret was that I was wearing my horrible jeans and my "Republicans for Voldemort" T-shirt which, alas, was covered up by my manky old scarf. Arndis pointed out that even had I been dressed nicely, I wouldn't have gotten very far, to which I retorted, "I don't want to sleep with him, I want to impress him!" Since, someday in the future when we're working together I want to be able to say, "remember when I made a moron out of myself at the Barbican?" and he would say, "ah, yes, you had that fabulous skirt on." Still happy! And--the show was really top notch as well...I'll have to review it later though because I am too busy floating on air. :)

    Friday, February 03, 2006

    It Pays to Geek

    I just got an email from the curator at the National Maritime Museum who reported: "Apparently, Nelson said to his fellow officer's, 'put my amputated arm into the hammock of the man who died along side me.'" Whether or not that actually happened...we don't know. I suspect it probably went overboard with all the other limbs: I just read a book about a ship's surgeon preparing a barrel to recieve all the severed and amputated limbs that resulted from battle. Kind of makes you realise how much damage a cannonball can do. Ah, well, thank God that's one mystery solved.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Exciting historical documents

    It snowed today...a thin desperate snow that struggled downward and then promptly melted from exhaustion as soon as it hit the pavement, but it's the first snow I've seen all year. Better get the sled out of storage.

    Yesterday I went to the National Maritime Museum again. They had a little talk (very little, it was me, another man and the curator) about some letters written by Lady Frances Nelson to her husband and another man, as well as a draft of a letter from Nelson to Frances-five letters en toto. They are all over two hundred years old and it was absolutely incredible to see something that someone as famous (or infamous) that Nelson actually held. Especially since they covered the period where Nelson and Frances' marriage was falling apart--Frances kept asking what she had done wrong, and Nelson's letter was an attempt to tell her to leave him alone. And THEN, bwaaaaah, the curator actually let me hold the exciting historical document and read it. (or attempt to read it, anyway--at this point Nelson had lost his right arm, and his handwriting was kind of horrible) But it was very, very cool. very cool. very. I tried not to geek out too much, but I think the curator was amused when I asked her if anyone knew what had happened to Nelson's arm. (she said she'd try to find out for me.)