australia

Fluff

No, son, we're not getting it back....

One of my favorite theatrical experiences during our trip to Adelaide was actually the first show we saw. In picking what shows we wanted to see, I was nervous to see anything for too young an audience. The baby stuff and real little kid stuff isn’t my scene really. I was looking most forward to the “older kid” stuff. Like, I really didn’t need to see The Green Sheep to be artistically fulfilled. Ernie, on the other hand, go for it.

This favorite of mine was Christine Johnston’s Fluff, whose “Age-o-Meter” billed it for the 3-8 year old crowd. Well let me tell you this 33 year old was just as excited. Okay, maybe not just as. Well, differently excited. While the kids were experiencing things for the first time, I was sort of revisiting that fantastical element of childhood imagination–a part of me I’ve admittedly not quite outgrown. A fact I’m more than happy about. Kinda helps with the whole writerly thing, and while watching it, I was like I could’ve (almost) written something like this. Well, with the subject matter. The treatment was definitely Christine and company’s.

The piece features a pair of women who travel the world in search of lost toys. They bring them back to their…lair? to give them names and put them peacefully to bed. There is also a guy who awaits their return. He’s in charge of the A/V elements of the piece and contributes to the physical comedy. Christine’s character picks up each toy and asks it, “Are you alright?” and then we watch a film of the toy’s life–how it was made/aquired, the child who owned it, and how it was lost. Brilliant. She named each toy and gave it a vocal sound, often very onomatopoeia-esque. Christine’s vocal ability with the sounds was incredible. A microphone was hooked up to the guy’s computer & keyboard, and Christine would allow the kids–and adults–in the audience to make their own version of the sounds, which would be played back. Cool! (We were too far back, but I’m okay with not having the microphone shoved in my face. If it’s not Rocky Horror, I’m not so much about audience participation personally.)

I’ve always been fascinated by the secret lives of toys–and any other “inanimate” objects really. I know they have them.

The set reminded me of a more child friendly window display at Hollywood Mirror in Chicago. I wanted an apartment like it. Or at least a sort or cracked out nursery.

I couldn’t find a solid production photo to accompany this post, though click “Fluff” above to check out the assitej program site. I’ve included a photo of my own taken last year that I though of immediately when I saw the play. I could see Christine and her young companion walk upon the St. Joseph River here in South Bend, Indiana (yes, very Jesus-like I imagine them at times), rescue this toy riding truck, and showing us how some child accidentally dropped it into the river from one of houses up stream.

“Are you alright?”

Its name would maybe be Tonka–and she’d pronounce each syllable quite deliberately with her mouth embracing each sound. She’d repeat “ton-ka ton-ka ton-ka” as if the click of its motor or wheels or peddles. Perhaps she’d let one of the other toys go for a joy ride in her new friend.

Yep, that’s what she’d do.

Many Burners on my Stove

{This is not me. It’s this guy.}

You are all on my mind, and I love you all. At the moment, you’re also competing with the various projects that are bouncing around my head. Since it’s late and I’m too brain dead to actually write them, I’ll write about them. It’s still writing. Right?

Fictional: The Fall 2007 semester seems like a zillion years ago, doesn’t it? After the past semester’s Creative Nonfiction class, I’ve been a little like, “I don’t feel like dealing with myself right now; I want to make some shit up.” I just finished re-reading Peter Selgin’s wonderful fiction writing book, By Cunning & Craft (though some of it could help with CNF as well). I re-underlined, remembered, and re-remembered some important stuff. I made smiley faces brighter (or darker, I guess, since I used my pencil). I’ve made new notes and I feel like Peter and I are new BFF’s. Thanks much to Kelcey for assigning it!

Mine and Ernie’s student, Samantha, recently went through her books and gave me her copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird. I first heard of this while reading the Selgin. I know, I’m a little behind, right, especially as one web site said that reading it was this whole huge rite of passage for fiction writers! This theatre guy needs a little catching up on things literary it seems. But hey, it all goes into the same creative pot. Oh, and Kelcey also made available the optional Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite , a response of sorts to Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, which I also need to read. Both of them, that is. Yoy, maybe I shouldn’t be admitting all my literary greenery in such a public forum, but I’m going to celebrate my writerly journey where ever and whenever I am, so there.

So, like, projects! I have two brand new short stories I want to give some love to. They are in various stages of early development (to put it kindly). One, The Other Corner (working title, natch) is a little more steeped in autobiography, and I’ve written about this relationship–with a neighbor growing up–before, but wanted to free myself from even the most liberal truthiness approach to Creative Nonfiction. It seems like these days, writers need to ask themselves whether a particular close to life idea should be explored by way of fiction or creative non. At least I do. There is that spectrum, and I feel like with this story, it would be too far from CNF for comfort.

The other (embryonic) story is my grabbing onto an image I’ve that’s haunted me for several years. Right now, the story’s called The Mail Slot, but I’m sure that will change. I have more questions than answers right now. This one is in First Person and the other is 3rd Person Serial, so it’ll be cool working with both approaches.

Now that I’ve announced these babies to the world, I better produce! :-)

Of course, I want to work with my piece, The Smile of Light, a short story I wrote for Kelcey’s class last fall. It’s actually a partial adaptation of a play of mine, A Thousand Without a Word, my “problem child” play which I don’t think I even list on the Plays page. I re-read it again recently, and, well, oof. There is so much there with these characters and the story, but it all needs some work. The short story rather reads like a first chapter, since it’s almost a “prequel” to the play. I would definitely be interested in turning it into a novel of sorts. Or I could expand it far enough where it’s still a short story. I guess I can do what I want!

I know there’s debate out there about Can playwrights be fiction writers and vice versa? I’ll just leave it at (because it’s late) that I think having both of those brains can be helpful.

Another play-into-novel adaptation I’ve begun to explore is of The Eulogy Stalker. A play that’s near and dear to my heart, but still. Work! I recently re-read this one as well, and well, I’ve grown. It would also be interesting to see what I could do with it as a play, now that I’ve had some distance from it. We’ll see….

I want do want to get the short stories down, though, because I find myself having trouble with the short stuff sometimes. I’m always thinkin’ big! I really only have one complete “10 Minute” play. Others are so good at them, and I always wanted to be in it for the long haul.

Revisiting Rip: In addition to feeding kangaroos, there was much creative inspiration to be caught while in Adelaide. I’ve never thought of myself as a Theatre for Young Audiences artist per se–even after my collaboration with Ernie on a Goldilocks & The Three Bears script, many enough moons ago. After seeing some of the “older kid” stuff, particularly Angela Betzien’s absolutely AMAZING Hoods (which I’m feeling the need to devote more time to in the nearish future), I thought about what I do have in my personal canon and decided that with perhaps a few adjustments, my 2003 script, MisteRip, could score some TYA cred. I sat in our garden the other day and re-read it (it’d been a while). It’s not half bad. I cringed less than I feared (less than with the others!) It still needs work and input. Character and plot points need some love. For the shorter TYA format it would have to be trimmed. But something that could work….

I of course have my solo show, Battles with Boys, to work on (but that would, you know, involve dealing with myself) I have other fictional material to work with, including other course work, my NaNoWriMo 2006 monster, The Vacuum Inspector, that needs some serious picking apart. Oh, and my less than half-attempt at NaNo 2007 which never really took off because of that grad school thing. I’ve actually spent more brain cells on that idea than my “Mail Slot” piece, so I’m just going to slide these two fictional NaNo inspired goals right up next to my aforementioned short stories. They make a cozy bunch.

THEN. There’s continued Australia round up (a part of which I accomplished in this post–Yay!) both pictorial and wordly. I have various family oriented writerly projects floating around in there. Etc. There are new family members to meet and visit with too!

So that’s what I’m working on. Lists are good. I like seeing all this stuff all in one place. But tomorrow (well, probably not tomorrow, so much,) I will continue my adventures beyond the list.

Here’s to getting all our stuff done! Cheers, friends. :-)

Australian Culturual Exchange: Cross Walk & Car Ride

Slightly tweaked jottings from May 10, 2008:

The green lights are funny here. Rather, the walk signs—which are green men walking and not white. When the light changes, it makes a laser blast sound—pshew! and then rapidly clicks like it’s saying, “You better cross now or else I’ll explode.” Like that board game–I think it’s some sort of Concentration–where you have to get all the differently shaped pieces in their slots before the board pops and explodes the pieces everywhere. Funny! Is it maybe for the hearing impaired? I know it grabbed back my attention one point when I wasn’t looking.*

Riding in the front seat of the cab from the Adelaide airport was a little trippy. We had to put one of the suitcases in the back next to Ern, so I sat up front. As down here they drive on the left side of the road, I was next to the driver in the left side of the car. Where I’d be sitting to drive. I was sitting there, feeling like I should be driving, but not—and not being able to. It was a little like riding in the front car of the Red Line train in Chicago and facing the front, head on into the tracks—after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, still drugged and tripping out. Cool.

*I wanted to use Ernie’s iPod recorder to capture the sound but never got around to it. Thought maybe I’d find it online somewhere, but so far no good. They were in all three cities we visited. And someone help me out with the name of the board game. :-P

Austalian Cultural Exchange: Showers, Hotels, & Telly

Walking into the bathrooms in our Australian hotels gave me pause when I took a look at our shower “doors.” Following European tradition, they all had these half doors of sorts. Stationary glass walls at the shower head end of the tub.

How queer.

Talk about impractical to this particular American. Ernie celebrated this Euro-trendiness, but, like with the coffee, I had to adjust.

Naturally, my uncivilized shower taking threw enough water on the bathroom floor to cure South Australia’s current drought. Drains were well placed on the floors and the provided floor mat was wrung out daily. Our Sydney hotel’s shower had a 6 inch hinged extension of sorts. I used that to my advantage, though by then I’d gotten a little better at keeping the water in the tub.

My coffee maker and full length shower curtain: two things I appreciate even more now that I’ve been away. :-)

Our hotels were lovely in general. In Melbourne and Adelaide, we stayed at Oaks hotels. In Sydney, we stayed at The Vibe. The pool in Melbourne was like bathwater. Glorious. We didn’t get a chance to hit the pool in Adelaide, unfortunately, though there were a few times I could’ve used the hot tub. Unfortunately, the Vibe’s pool was outside. We attempted it once, but it really was too cold by the time we were in pool mode. Valiant effort, though.

Our Adelaide room was actually a 1 bedroom apartment, which was necessary for such a long stay. We had room to host a small gathering one night (using the kitchen to heat up nibbles), laundry (with the weird washer-dryer in one that I didn’t quite get, but managed to wash some necessary items). We also had a balcony whose sliding doors we kept open as much as we could since it would get real stuffy in there despite the A/C. We had an ocean view off to our right. The Sydney place felt a little cramped after such spacious digs.

Slim pickins on the TV station choices. Definitely not fully cable ready! Still, it was fun watching the local morning shows, even if the weather report was in Celsius, and I forgot my conversion formula in 5th grade. We did catch clips from the big rugby match between New South Wales and Victoria. That’s Ernie’s new favorite sport! He likes the drama. I also don’t think hit hurts that the guys look better without all those bulky pads in the way. It’s much more exciting than soccer!

We also caught this trashy British soap called Mistresses. It’s no Footballers’ Wives fo’ sho’!

One night in Sydney, we caught some of the Eurovision semi-finals. Some of it was great, and some was just plain scary. Ernie especially liked the guy from Denmark and the girl from Macedonia. Afterwards, they showed ABBA: The Movie. Totally 70’s cheesetastic! Makes me even more excited for Mamma Mia!”

Alright, enough for now. This was a little longer than I’d planned. That’s okay, though. Gotta get it all out! :-)

Australian Cultural Exchange: Money

What we thought was wrong. We were thinking, Oh, the Australian dollar is like what the Canadian dollar used to be, especially for those of us living across the border, you know before the American dollar went to the toilet. Much to our dismay, the fates of both the Canadian and Australian dollars are the same: they have reached near equality to the American dollar. Of course, I’m pretty sure that has little to do with the achievements of those two countries’ dollars and more to do with the aforementioned fate of the American dollar. We’ve sunk to their level. Even when we were registering for the conference a few months ago, it seemed like there was some semblance of a discount in the exchange. Whenever we exchanged cash, there was between 95-99 Aussie cents to the American dollar. So for all intents and purposes: the same. Especially when all but the Melbourne airport exchange charged a small obnoxious fee.

Stuff’s expensive in Australia, yo! If the exchange would’ve been more in our favor, things would’ve balanced out, but thanks to our president (and I blame him ’cause it’s easy), there was no balancing out nothin’.

Things we noticed that are particularly expensive: Food/Going out to eat or getting coffee; books; CD’s; movie tickets.

Food is probably what we spent most day to day money on, I’d guess. Even McDonald’s was a little like Whoa! But we sure weren’t going to eat at McDonald’s every damn day (though like I said, yay for their coffee.) I’ll get into what we ate later, cos you know that’s important. But things were often more expensive than they are here across the board. When an omelet is around $10 or more, you know things are a little scewed.

The average price of a CD is about $25. Their sale stickers often say “Only $19.95!” What? Not on sale. We hit up both chain and indie stores. Some cool used places too where things were cheaper, but still. Books were ridiculous. We found some really cool bookstores, but I wasn’t about to pay $40 for paperbacks that looked interesting enough, but not enough for a spur of the moment purchase. Ernie found Australian plays, including one that we saw at the congress, so that was worth the cash. I jotted down some titles that are probably available here, or at least Amazon.uk where even after the import, I could still probably get them cheaper.

We went to see a movie in Sydney. Tickets were $16. Hellawhat?! We saw the new Indiana Jones (which was fun, and fun seeing it with Cate Blanchett’s people). Maybe cos it was the day after the opening at the theatre where Miss Blanchett attended the premier, or the particular time, or what. Don’t know. But ‘spensive! For $16, I want to ride in the jeep with Harrison Ford myself!

So, that’s money. We took some change with us out of Australia’s economy. Hope it doesn’t miss it too much. We tried not to, but being the caffeine addicts we are, the only coffee place we found in our neck of the Sydney airport didn’t take plastic, and we’d spent all our Aussie cash. I tried to exchange $10, but with a bloody $3 fee, we wouldn’t have enough. So I exchanged a $20, bought our coffee and some gum, and just said to hell with out. Their change is funny. The $2 coins are the smallest coin, except for their nickel. Their dollar coins are a little bigger. Their 20 cent coins are bigger than our quarters. Their 50 cent pieces could really do some damage. They got rid of pennies about 20 years ago, and round up or down at the register. And I guess they tried introducing a $5 coin, but the people rebelled. Just like the US gov’t trying to shove dollar coins down our throats every once in a decade, the Australian people have their limits.

Okay, I go for real now. Peace be with you and all that jazz.

Australian Cultural Exchange: Coffee

Diagon Alley

We began our navigation through a new coffee culture when we had brekkie at the Café Issus found in a way cute alley that totally reminded us of something out of Harry Potter. Melbourne is full of them. Diagon Alley makes total sense now.

Upon looking at the menu, we saw queer coffee choices such as “flat white” and “long black.” What? Maybe some of you are familiar with these terms, but me = not so much. So, when down under, learn what’s up and all. Still took a few tries, though.

“Regular Coffee” = “Espresso.” Again, not so much. At least to this American who enjoys his espresso and his lattes very much so, but after awhile really just wanted a regular g-damn coffee, please!

At Issus, I ordered a macchiato, which I think I confused with an Americano (which I thought still had a bit of milk, but I guess not). Anyway, very good. I adjusted and got over it.

The next morning at Rush Café, the sweet waitress must have totally profiled me and brought be extra hot water and milk. So I guess I created some sort of “white short black.” Or something.

The only place we found “regular” drip/filter coffee was McDonalds. Seriously. Still had to order it “white” but we figured that out. This was in Adelaide, where sometimes all we had time for before hitting the first shows or going on our excursions was a Mickey D’s brekkie (where they also have 24 hour McCafe’s). Very good regular coffee, btw! Yay! Still, a “large” wasn’t large enough. Ernie was like “Are we just caffeine addicted Americans?” The sizes tended to be smaller, especially to non-chain and sit in cafés. You can still get a grande at Starbucks. Which we did and didn’t feel too guilty about (though I didn’t really want to rely on Starbucks the whole time).

By then we’d made our default non “regular” coffee order a flat white, which we grew to love at the Gloria Jean’s in Adelaide. We have a GJ in the South Bend mall and were a little creeped out—but they’re all over Australia. I think they are an Aussie company who happen to be in Indiana—and on the toll road between here and Chicago. The GJ’s in Australia are much shinier. A flat white is a version of sorts of a latte, but smoother, I think. Not as strong maybe? Still was espresso, but also satisfied my “regular” coffee cravings.

By the time we got back home, it was refreshing to order a large pot of refillable coffee at Le Peep (since we didn’t have ANY groceries in the house) and then the next morning at home, the sound and smell of our coffee pot brewing made me think fondly of our glorious adventure, but also made me appreciate my home turf. Our fabulous Sydney friend, Amelia, said she couldn’t get a decent espresso when she was in New York, and totally doesn’t get filter coffee—not strong enough for her. I don’t think I could live in such an espresso dominated coffee culture.

Though again, I guess I’d adjust and get over it. :-P

Australia: The 50 Cent Version (no, not the rapper)

Colorful Alley
An alley in Melbourne.

There is much to write about and think about in all that is our adventures down under. Not to mention the photos!

I present to you this sort of summary, a list of thing that will hopefully benefit us all. I can share with you as much as I can in a short amount of time while also organizing my brain some. I jotted things down in one of my paper journals, but that got shot slightly to hell early on.

I plan to expand upon various things here in later posts (and elsewhere I’m sure). I

In Australia, We…

Fed kangaroos, held koalas, and were attacked by emus. Little penguins walked passed us on the beach from the ocean to their burrows. We saw platypuses and wombats and dingoes (oh my!). Sharks and stingrays swam over our heads.

Walked. ALL over Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney. Through hidden alleys filled with street art, cafes, and shops. To landmarks and beaches and through neighborhoods and gardens. Urban, suburban, rural and natural. Our feet and calves are still recovering.

Went to gaol.

Tried to not think about the non-existent exchange rate.

Had to adjust to a new coffee culture, looking the correct way before crossing the street, and European influenced Australian showers.

Ate a lot of Asian and fresh sea food.

Drank wine in South Australian vineyards.

Realized that Asian tourists really are that intense. Stereotypes come from somewhere, yo. The cameras may have gotten smaller, but still. Intense. :-)

Saw a ton of theatre for young audiences in Adelaide (though Ernie was even more hard core than I was!). Saw some grown up theatre in Sydney (as well as an American movie). Will definitely write about all that.

Made new friends in Australia, Quebec, Argentina, and the States (etc.) Hi guys! :-) Went to parties hosted by the Danes & Swedes, Brits, Austrians, and the collective Asian delegates. Went dancing and drinking.

Were creatively inspired.

Got some reading done (though Ernie can go through books like Kleenex when we travel).

Had time with friends and with each other.

I feel like that covers it. I think. Like I said, more details to come. And the photos are under construction. Working on the Melbourne set. More to come!

G’day from Down Unduh!

Okay, so I’ve been a little MIA for a spell.  WELL, Ernie and I have been down under in Australia this past week for the 16th World Congress for Theatre for Young Audiences.  I wanted to post a photo of us with a kangaroo, but I was having technical difficulties.  Damn!  Will try again later.  Promise.

We’ve seen much theatre, attended various functions, and have had time with nature.  I held a koala today.  Coolness!  MUCH more later with pix and writerly/theatre stuff to share.

See ya then!