First, some observations about probably one of the strangest places I've ever visited: 1. Exclaiming about the heat in the desert in June never gets old. 2. The food in Vegas hotels and casinos is not as bad or as good as I expected. In fact, we had good meals at The Venetian (fine pizza and pasta and DRINKS at Canaletto), Treasure Island (good, solid brunch at Coffee Shop), and the champagne brunch at The Bellagio. Bad meals included the Cafe (undercooked sausage), Diablo's Cantina (too expensive, uninspired Mexican food), and Brew Pub (romaine lettuce, egg, and cheese as a "house salad") at the Monte Carlo. 3. Dancing in clubs in Vegas is actually shifting from left to right as people walk by, leaving the dance floor or trying to find a space to move. 4. The fountain show at The Bellagio is the best free show in town. 5. One gets tired of walking the strip quickly. 6. The pool at the Monte Carlo is hilarious and fun but the water tastes like ass. 7. Drinking Prosecco while walking around a mall is probably the most indulgent thing I've ever done and was the highlight of the weekend. 8. The karaoke club at the Imperial Palace is where you will hear some of the absolute worst karaoke of your entire life, but it's also totally worth hearing.
Some choice quotes from the weekend; I'll leave it to you to judge who said what, and keep in mind, we stayed remarkably sober this weekend: "No picking your nose in Vegas!" "No stabbing the suede in Vegas!" "I'm going to be revisiting that beef all weekend!" "Remember when Mark was going to be my pianist?" "Now he's hers!" "I like to nuzzle with my pubis." "There's like salt and sugar on my rim." "It's like a chocolate covered pretzel." "We can set up boundaries first. But I'll say yes to anything." "How much is the orange juice?" "$5.25." "Are you cocking me?" "More squishin' for the pushin'." "Can I throw you up and pick you?" "There's no room to have a vibe. There's only room for ass-cock contact." "There's going to be a lot of cock in my blog." "I love [Pecorino]. It's like my baby."
One and half weeks in, and we're still on track. We've staged and discussed the entire first act (there are three). Yesterday, K and I split up for a majority of the rehearsal, which was a relief for me, having felt for a few days that dividing and conquering would be the best strategy for getting some of this work up and running.
We're starting every rehearsal with a warm-up and a set of exercises/games. Yesterday, we played a game S and I invented while bored once, in which we all sing a song, one word at a time (S and I mastered "Hit Me Baby One More Time"). The cast and I started with "Twinkle, twinkle, little star." First person sings "Twinkle," next sings "twinkle," next sings "little," etc. It's about keeping the rhythm of the song more than anything and is surprisingly challenging. The kids did well though. Then we explained the idea of playing the opposite, and assigned short phrases to each kid, then gave them an apparently opposite situation to play: saying "I love you" at the end of a long argument with your boyfriend, for instance. These kids love these intention games, which is exciting and gratifying and entertaining.
I worked with Alice and Rabbit on the end of the first act, while K tackled a group song that happens in Act III. Then I specified some blocking in the Mad Tea Party scene. It's pretty complicated, and I found myself trying to do math and then justifying the amount of chairs we'd chosen to put in the scene. I'm not convinced it worked, but it's OK for now.
I hope we'll continue to split up some of the labor, and Monday we're going to work individually with some of the younger kids.
In the meantime, I've registered for my fall semester classes. I'm taking Drama as Education I, which is a core for getting my teaching license, Principles in Acting, with a focus on Augusto Boal, and Performance Theatre and Community, which is a core for my Theatre and Community focus. There are 35 incoming 1st year grad students: 28 women and 7 men.
A couple weeks ago I ate for about 3 1/2 hours straight. It was the middle of tech week on My Fair Lady and I couldn't get full. I ate a bagel with cream cheese, a bowl of cereal with soy milk, 7 or 8 pieces of salami straight out of the bag, handfuls of nuts, and a can of tuna between the hours of 12 and 3:30. It was a kind of nagging hunger that made me uncomfortable and honestly like I was going a little crazy.
That weekend, we went shopping at a place besides Trader Joe's, to buy good produce and snacks and deli meats and bread that I hadn't completely saturated my palate with. I also decided to restart taking vitamins, to supplement whatever might have been missing in my diet.
We've begun to do some scene work, and it's going more smoothly than I expected. After a bit of a miscommunication hiccup late last week, K and I had a good, productive conversation about sharing the labor and getting in touch at least once a day. It's necessary if we're really co-directing this thing, and K is incredibly overworked at her job, so finding a routine for the two of us is imperative and will keep me sane.
Friday afternoon, we spent the time at rehearsal breaking the scenes down into simple objectives, which, with a group of 15 kids and a huge range of experience, not to mention vocabulary skills, was challenging. My goal was to shed light on the idea that in a scene there are things that you want that other people in the scene keep you from getting and so you must use different tactics to try to get what it is you're seeking. It's a basic acting lesson, but I'm finding that my brain doesn't really run on simple mode and that it's generally difficult for me to break something down into little nuggets of clarity for the younger kids. K is very good at that, but sometimes breaks things down too simply. I want to be sure that the younger kids are not being patronized too: I don't want them to just play "angry." It's a fine balance between clarifying something and dumbing it down. The kids I can use my everyday vocabulary with, my catchphrases with, are the ones I'm gravitating toward. Luckily, our principals are very strong and seem to speak my language.
Yesterday, we started from the beginning of the act and got some good, more specific work done. The biggest challenge is keeping the other kids occupied when I'm working with just a few on a scene. At this point, we've had them watch one rehearsal (which was fine until about 1/2 hour until the end of class) and work together in small groups and then present the scenes they'd worked on. Tomorrow, we're going to hope that they're satisfied with a long warm up, some projection exercises, and then working on their lines, until we get through the end of the act. Then, perhaps they'll be OK with watching while we finetune and run it.