Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Blackpool Magic Convention

I just got back last night from Blackpool, a place I had never been, to go to a magic convention - no, I'm not a magician.  I actually had to explain about not being a magician much less than I thought I would.  I am also happy to report that, though no one offered me a job, every magician I spoke to about targeting stage management for magic thought it was good idea. 

Never take a bus ride longer than four hours.  I am not sure the science behind it but I have taken plenty 3-4 hour bus rides and never had a problem but my legs ached all weekend from six and half hours.  Now I know why so few people who got on in London stayed on to Blackpool, smart people paid the extra for a train.  It was an over night bus and I didn't even get as much sleep as I figured, the driver wasn't the smoothest shifter in the world.

I will now go ahead and recommend Cavendish Hotel, Blackpool.  Admittedly, I chose it because it was inexpensive and the name reminded me of Cavendish Sanitarium from the Marx Bros. film Horse Feathers.  But they were so nice, they greeted me at the door by name and let me check in early since I had to go straight to the convention and the breakfast that comes with the price is made to your order.  By that I mean they asked me when I arrived what I wanted for breakfast and so I has sausage, egg, toast and tea each morning (I could have changed each day but I liked it).  So Cavendish Hotel in Blackpool - don't go if your expecting luxury, but do if you want some place sweet with friendly people.

Golly, it must be ten years since I'd been to a magic convention.  I really had no idea how long it had been but David Ginn (magician) said that the last ACE conference was about ten years ago (ACE=Association of Christian Entertainers).  If you don't know how magic works and you don't want to be a magician I do not recommend you try to find out how it's done.  You're bound to be disappointed and it could very well ruin the experience for you. Now I already knew about magic, Mom's a magician and I used to be a clown and I've been to seven or eight magic conferences in my day, so I just got to see different ways of doing things.  I went to see what magicians are doing these days so I know what props and tricks are in vogue at the minute so as better to support it in a stage management role and also to meet magicians.  Magicians that could either hire me or give me some insight into support I hadn't thought of or introduce me to magicians who might hire me or just pass the time of day with them.  It was a great weekend.  I saw some magicians I recognized (not just David Ginn) although I didn't see John van der Put who I guess was there Sunday.

The first night the gala show had magicians from Korea and they were spectacular.  One of them produced cards to even impress other magicians.  You know when magicians produce a fan of cards from nowhere?  Well he did it in such a way as to show he wasn't using the normal technique, it's hard to explain, but one by one he made moves to take away the different ways those cards are generally produced.  There was also some very different acts, things I hadn't seen before.  One guy did this act where he changed t-shirts, not just what he was wearing but he'd take a blank shirt and suddenly add an object, or take one away or change it's colour completely.  And while I saw several performances where they interacted with a screen I didn't see one as amazing as the first act that night where he used a couple screens and his clothes as projection surfaces and unlike the other acts he actually did quite a bit of magic as well.

All in all, the lectures were cool and informative (mostly) and the performances incredible.  I would definitely go again.  One word of warning to those going to Blackpool - all but one of the cappuccinos I had were atrocious, so be wary.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Intimacy of Reading

I've never realized before what an intimate thing a book recommendation was.  You are inviting another person to inhabit a world you once lived in, and deeper still you are giving it your stamp of approval - saying you enjoyed your time there.  Reading, unlike visual arts, is harder to distance yourself from.  The author's words enter your head, whether you like what is being said or not you are allowing it access to a place only you know.  Words flash across your mind,  images are conjured - words and images that are not your own.  Perhaps your brain puts its stamp on the images, but the content is the author's, you are seeing (if they're any good) what they want you to see.

I love books.  I have to always be reading something and my mind functions better or worse depending on how the author's thought process coexists with my own.  The words I sprinkle into my vocabulary in cycles is based upon the books I'm reading at the moment.

When someone recommends a book to me, and I actually read it, I invariably think about that person while I read it.  I see the personality, I try to imagine them reading it.  When I react (good or bad) - I ponder how that person reacted when they first read it.  I also like to talk to the person afterwards and talk about the characters or what part they most enjoyed.  It can be an amazing bonding experience, or it can be quite awkward depending on how you take the book.

For the first time I read a book recommended by someone I don't know, heck, it's the first time I've read a book on any recommendation not given by one of my very closest friends.  A strange feeling.  Journeying into the head-space once occupied by someone who is basically a stranger.  I think it was that bizarre feeling that made me so entranced by the book.  I did enjoy the book, and there being no natural stopping places lead me to stay up all night (until 7:30am) to finish it, but in the end I think it was my fascination with that kind of closeness shared, one-sidedly, with a stranger.  I don't imagine I'll ever get to talk to this person about the book, that makes me a little sad, missing that part of the experience.  But hey, you never know I might just get to have that conversation one day.

No, I'm afraid I am not going to say which book it was that I read, or who recommended it or even why I took their word for it and read it - that's not really the point.  The point is the experience, reading really is a powerful thing.

Friday, 30 December 2011

I guess I'll do one of those, "My Year In Review" things

I'm going to go back ever so slightly here though, take it back to around Christmas last year until now rather than almost new year.  Around Christmas last year I was packing my life up and trying to tie up any loose ends in my life in California.  Have you ever tried that?  I mean, have you ever thought about what you'd have to do to leave your country for an unknown length of time?  It's a bit overwhelming, I packed up my life and moved to the UK within two months of finding out I was going.  In retrospect I wish I had had more time to see my friends individually and I probably should have seen my grandparents.

Christmas last year was strange and oddly calm.  Rather than looking forward to presents I just hoped no one would get me anything I would have to leave behind.  I must say I was truly touched by the presents I got from two of my friends specifically.  They showed me that there were people who truly knew me and would sincerely miss me when I was gone.  Those three presents are in the room with me now here in London and they remind me I am loved (Tardis biscuit tin, The Big Book of Muppet Crafts and a tea mug that my friend has a match to so we can drink tea together).  I spent much of Christmas trying not to cry actually, from being scared or from how much I was going to miss everyone.  I knew that the minute I cried my parents would lose it, this was hard enough on them as it is.  It was great to see the friends I did see in December.  Our last Dnd session stands out to me, times I won't soon forget.  Then I saw Rockapella again, I got to tell them why I won't be seeing them as often.  They were so happy for me but I couldn't help but be sad when I left (and now as I type) the things we take for granted because they're so available.  Now I might be able to see them if I can get over to Germany when they're there, but I won't see them every year, maybe not even every other year.  They've been a part of my life for over half of my life and they are very dear to me, they always make me happy no matter what's going on.  I love them, and I don't mean as a band, I love them as people - as Scott said, they've watched me grow up.  They've given me so much, they don't have to, all they have to do is be cordial and sign my ticket or whatever but they care and have been so good to me, made me feel so special. 

Then I had the most awesome going away party!  I don't think I've ever held a party that was so well attended.  And of course only the coolest people were invited (if you weren't invited it was clearly an oversight).  Normally I don't go in for large parties, I value my friends and want to be able to pay real attention to them and not have to flit about being hostess - so when each person came in I sort of cornered them in the kitchen to be sure to get some one on one time.  Even people who were only able stop by for a minute, it made me feel so amazingly loved and so thankful for all my blessings.  It was also gratifying to see that Americans could take to apple pie served the British way, hot custard makes everything better (except maybe fish fingers).

Then I moved 6000 miles away.

I moved to an island I'd never stepped foot on into a house full of people I didn't know.  I'd mentioned before that every mile closer to Cardiff I felt that much closer to my doom.  It's funny what fear can do to you, how something that's merely a mental exercise can put you in knots.  I moved to Cardiff and everything was fine, I liked the people I lived with, I like my classmates, I liked my school, my instructors, Cardiff itself and these wonderful things they call seasons.  For seven months I was mostly too busy to be homesick (I did have a couple mild bouts) immersed in a world of theatre and meeting lots and lots of new people which of course helped a bit with my shyness.  I worked on some shows, went to sometimes hilarious lectures (thanks Andy) and got to work with some amazing people whom I cherish.

And just seven months after I moved in I moved out.  Suddenly I was living for a month in Edinburgh, once again in a place I'd never been only this time living with people I knew.  The Fringe is an amazing beast and I really want to work it this coming year.  It was the most difficult placement I've had, I felt alienated from the crew, it was an emotionally difficult time but a brilliant time as well. To be part of something like that, to experience a city overrun with theatre, where what I do isn't a novelty... I think that's part of it.  When I lived in Cardiff I was a novelty, not many Americans in Wales it seems.  Everyone I met, be it at a bar or college, wanted to know all about California and why on earth I'd leave LA county to come to Wales.  Seven months of the same five questions.  Even when I visited Claremont I was a novelty, "For a Limited Time Only - Liz Carr," only in Claremont at least they knew me, I repeated myself a great deal but I didn't have to explain who I was.  At the Fringe what I did was normal and where I'm from was hardly out of the ordinary.

Home to visit, three weeks with those I hold most dear.  My dear friends, I stand amazed at how blessed I have been.

Moved to another city I didn't know, but at least I'd been here.  Moved in once again with people I didn't know but I did know they were Christians so that helped.  This is the first time I've gotten to choose where to live.  London has so many accents I'd say that a lot of people hear I have an accent but don't really attach it to America, several times I've said something and compared it to my country and people ask where's that.  I less British accents than any other really - maybe that's because I live in that kind of neighborhood.  I've been trying to meet new people and have now joined two knitting groups.  The second one is with a group of ladies from Steph's church and they're fantastic.  They keep apologizing for being beginners but what I want are people I can talk to, it makes no difference to me how long they've knitted.

Christmas.  There are moment where I hate a large section of Christmas songs; I'll Be Home for Christmas, Merry Christmas Darling, Home for the Holidays and the like.  There's a Rockapella CD I couldn't listen to because they are all like that, torture.  I decorated my room and all but Christmas on your own just isn't awesome in any way.  And the season starts so early and goes on and on.  But I had the blessing of being invited to north Wales to stay with Sian's family for Christmas!  Took the train into Chester and they picked me up and took me straight to my first panto!

My first pantomime.  I'd been looking forward to it since January, seeing this cultural experience.  The only things I knew were either from hints from British friends or allusions to it on Monty Python.  What I wasn't prepared for was how talented the cast was.  It seems it's not enough for you to be a talented actor and singer, you also had to  be able to do a prat fall, play a musical instrument or three.  I swear all but three can play a saxophone it seems.  It was Sleeping Beauty (my favourite Disney princess) and we called the Dame "Taffy" (if you don't know what a Dame is you should look it up) and the kids in the audience shouted things at the stage and waved sticks with blinking lights inside (a bit like a colour changing light saber with no handle).  It was lovely, I look forward to seeing another next Christmas. 

The Woottons were just as lovely to me this time as the last time I visited.  Once again I slept in a big lovely bed in a room with a great view of the hills.  They do their Christmas stuff on Christmas eve and we went to Sian's Aunt's house and everyone made me feel at home.  We exchanged presents and had dinner and Guinness and it was divine.  Then Christmas day we had roast dinner and crackers (not the food) and then I had a fantastic nap.  Boxing day saw me building lego with Sian's nephews and the family likes me so much they've already invited me to two further family functions.  It's nice to be appreciated.

Now I'm home, I have a cold, but I look back on all my blessings and I couldn't even count them.  It would take ages and even then I'm sure I'd miss some - to have so many blessing I could forget one, I am truly grateful.  How great is our God, sing with me...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


The placement at the Almeida was phenomenal.  I had so much fun running all over London, and going through pages and pages of research on things that are perfectly normal back in California.  Laura, Annique and Helen were all perfectly lovely and I look forward to visiting them on a matinee day.  The rest of the cast and crew were also great and I am so glad I was blessed enough to meet them.  On press night the lovely stage management team got me flowers and a poster signed by the cast.  It's funny, I got BIllie Piper's autograph and I didn't even have to ask for it - she still doesn't know I'm a Who fan.  She is also incredibly sweet, just so personable it would have been hard to feel nervous talking to her.  And after press night I found another example of chivalry in the form of a gentleman noticing I was looking for something and he walked me to the bus stop, sweet guy.

Now I'm unemployed and BORED!  Bored and broke, not the best combo, so I can go to any of the amazing free museums as long as I don't mind the walk.  So first I did the closest, The Imperial War Museum, which I wanted to see anyway.  Now however the museums I haven't seen are a two and a half hour walk away.  Don't get me wrong I've already done it once to see the Natural History Museum, but it's hard to convince myself to make it a regular thing.  I need to go out though, not knowing many people in London I end up home a great deal of the time and I need out.  My knitting has greatly benefited by this inactivity.  So far I finished a blanket I started a year ago, started and finished a Christmas Wreath, started my first pair of socks and made great progress in my K9 bag.

I haven't done nothing during this time though.  I found a church which makes me very happy.  It's great to be able to go somewhere and worship God each week, and I've met a couple people there as well.  Oh, and I went and saw Piff the Magic Dragon in Cardiff!  It was a cold, blustery day in Cardiff, raining on and off but it was great to see the place all done up for Christmas.  I also took the opportunity to rearrange some of the stuff in my storage unit.  Soon there shouldn't be anything in there anymore.  Piff was opening for The Pajama Men whom I had never heard of.  Needless to say he was great, I was apparently the only person in the audience who had seen him before and he carried that off in his slightly grumpy, understated way.  It was super weird though, I was sitting in a row entirely by myself - every other row was full.  It was quite strange.  Mr. Piffles was as majestic as ever, despite missing his entry cue, and read minds and cuddled with the audience participants to perfection.  The Pajama Men, how do I describe them?  When they first started I thought to myself, "What have I gotten myself into?"  They do these sketches that at first seem to be unrelated, from hospital scenes to aliens to time travel to cowboys, but then you begin to see how they fit and by the end you find yourself actually caring - don't ask me how they do it.  It was a bit dirtier in patches than I generally go for, but I must admit I enjoyed the show in all it's ridiculousness.  And I'm a bit partial to time travel anyway as most of you know.  Afterwards I gathered my courage and told Piff (cunningly disguised in roughly human form) how much I enjoyed his show and that I had seen him previously at the fringe.  I'm pretty sure it all came out in a rush, but hey, I was nervous.  Then he let me give Mr. Piffles a scratch, softest chihuahua I've ever met (and obviously the cutest - sorry Diamond!).   I think I did rather well considering my shyness, I feel pretty good about it.

I am going to north Wales for Christmas to stay with Sian again and I am super grateful as I'm finding Christmas time a bit hard being so far away from the people I love.  That means you guys and I wish I could be with you now.  I know that it's an amazing blessing to have this opportunity to be here and experience London and I know I'll find work, but knowing that this is where I need to be doesn't make me miss you guys any less. Think I'll watch Muppet Christmas Carol now.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Do I live in London?

I have a sneaking suspicion I do, South London actually.  I must admit it all seemed a bit like a holiday at first, living in a youth hostel, eating junk and reading and reading and reading.  Now I feel I live here, I have my own room and an oyster card and groceries and all those things that are part of just living.  I go into work each morning, I know where to stand on the platform to get the less crowded cars, I know not to speak to guys who ask me "You alright darling?" on the street and I am becoming quite familiar with the tube system as I have propped all over London.  You get a weird familiarity though, propping - I can tell you where the major sports shops are, also second hand bookstores and which ones have the best selection of classics, I can even tell you about the areas with the most flooring shops and if they sell vinyl tiles.  In the midst of my research I also looked up places more useful to me and plan to explore the markets and antique stores and charity shops (thrift stores).  London is no longer a holiday destination consisting of museums and more souvenir shops than is probable, it's a real place where you get necessities and go to work and all those everyday little occurrences.  I may even like London, they have Mexican food for one thing, it's so different from Cardiff but has its own character that I look forward to being friends with.

All that being said, I still need community, I need some eccentric people who like the Muppets, conversation and good food.  I'll find 'em, just need the patience.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Work and Housing

I don't live in a youth hostel!  I moved into a house on Sunday and it is certainly a relief.  I am living with a lovely lady named Steph who works at a church and a lady called Jennifer who works at a school.  They're both Christians which is nice since I don't work in an industry known for it's large Christian population and I miss the community.  I was very much reminded how much I miss that kind of community when I was in California for my visit and went to CCV again - gosh I love CCV.  I had dinner with my new housemates last night and it was lovely.  Getting my stuff from Cardiff to London is proving to be a bit of an ordeal, I'm taking the bus in (4 hours) and then getting a bit from my storage unit and then back on the bus the same day (another 4 hours).  So this is an all day event and will be encompassing several of my days but I have more time than I have money so this is the way it's gotta be.

I am now on my second week at the Almeida theatre, I am typing this out on my lunch break in the production office, and I am having a great quantity of fun.  The Stage Management team is all nice, Laura (CSM) and Anique (ASM) are way cool to work with and Helen (DSM) is funny although I see her less since she is in the rehearsal room.  I do get some of the little jobs, I wash a lot of mugs and fetch water and fruit and stuff, but I also help with the propping and get to go out to pick up the props and stuff  Now I know a bit more about London as well, so it's all a learning experience.  The show is set in the US so I look through endless pages of pictures of stuff that is everyday normal for me but is strange and foreign here.  How many pictures of bunches of keys do I have? 

life is strange and wonderful...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

In Which London is Entirely Too Warm

I landed in London today, I had an amazing three weeks in California with some of the coolest cats ever. It was wonderful, I didn't have to make plans or sort things out, people just invited me places and then picked me up to take me to them.  It was magical.  Special thanks to Emily Versace who planned many of the events and even hosted a few - thanks Emily.  But then I could do a special thanks section that includes everyone who I saw in these last three weeks, everyone has been so great and I miss you guys already.  I hope when I visit next that it will be September again so that we can have International Talk Like a Pirate Day festivities and have a bonfire sing-a-long again and oh everything we did - we could just do those things again?  Although next year maybe we could do an afternoon tea?

So I had Tito's Tacos as my last Mexican food for a bit, it was a bit beyond delicious, and now I contemplate having a pizza downstairs in my youth hostel.  I must admit it feels a bit strange at the minute, I mean, I'm used to moving to the UK without a set address, but I'm not used to it be so ridiculously hot!  I left the desert, what gives?  I mean - it was in the eighties today! London, I'm afraid this is Fall and you're not holding up your end of the bargain, in this country we have seasons sir - get with the program.

So I mentioned I don't have a place to live yet, not to worry - the Lord has me covered.  I am in talks with a lovely lady who works at a church and I will be meeting her this weekend to see if this is the right place for me.  If not I will need to work on some other leads I have, which is far more than I had when I left for Cardiff the first time.  My placement starts Monday - so VERY excited!  For those who don't know, I am going to the Almeida, a lovely theatre with a great reputation and we'll be working on an American play so I can be all kinds of use to them.  Can't wait to get started.

Well, I should probably go find some food, stay up a few more hours then pass out from extreme tiredness.

I love you guys!!!