Friday, December 31, 2010

Smell you later, 2010



  2010 was probably the most tumultuous year I've ever seen. Talk about a crazy swing from the down to the up. This year had everything:

I saw my ex-wife lose her new husband and father of her baby to the war.
Bittersweetly saw an ex find the happiness she'd been seeking so long. Bitter for friendships lost, sweet because I'm incredibly happy for her.
Nailed THE most important audition ever.
Sold everything, completely uprooted my life and did a 180 with it.
Came within a hair's width of being arrested.
Started accumulating a shit-ton of student loan debt.
Completed a full year of daily picture blogging.
Got to prove my worst enemy entirely wrong- right to his face.
Said goodbye to friends, met a whole new group of amazing ones.
Survived "Snowmageddon" in D.C.
Saw the Queen, sang for her cousin.
Visited my hometown for the first time in three years.
Took my first stab at Shakespeare.

  There is a myriad of other triumphs and tragedies that aren't easily summed up. This year has just been jam packed all the way through. Looks like the coming year will be just as full. Right now, I'm an unemployed, homeless actor. Once I come back to the states and go through my showcases, I'll see where I end up. Could be New York, could be Los Angeles. Could be Chicago. Dunno. Might find work immediately, might not. I have no earthly clue how things are going to turn out, but that's always how life is. My life has never once been boring, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. Bring it, 2011.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Home


  After three attempts, I finally made it home to merry olde England. Unfortunately, the length of my stay in Albuquerque disrupted several other travel plans. Originally, I was going to fly down to Cape Town, South Africa at the end of my trip the U.S. and do some volunteer work at an orphanage for Christmas. I missed that trip due to my own misscheduling, though, and not due to weather. The winter storms DID disrupt my plans to travel to other European destinations, though, including Germany, the south of France, and Poland. I'll still have my birthday Paris trip in about three weeks, though, so I'm not complaining. It's just nice to be home.

Casual Santa

  On my transatlantic flight, I noticed a very special passenger and snapped this photo. I knew if he was on the plane that we'd be perfectly safe. It was an interesting Christmas spent entirely at 37,000 feet. I went to sleep on Christmas eve and woke up Christmas morning, all while soaring through the skies. I woke up just as the sun was rising, and I was treated to a spectacular light show of gold and red on the clouds. Shortly after, I spotted land- the snow covered mountains of southern Ireland. It was really breathtaking, and I wish I had something better than a shitty cellphone picture of it:

Coast of Ireland

  A short time later, we crossed the Irish Sea and hit the coast of England.

The Queen's Coast

  I breezed through customs in record time, but then waited on my luggage for almost 45 minutes. Something about that seemed backwards. Just once in my life, I want to be that guy that's the first person to get his luggage.
  The next hurtle to overcome was transportation home since the Tube and all buses were shut down for the holiday. After having two or three gypsy cabs approach me, I finally found a legitimate one, but he didn't take credit cards. Finally, I was saved by a crazy Yugoslavian cabbie who drove his cab mostly on two wheels. We had a great conversation about movies and music though, and he even sang a little bit of Rolling Stones for me in his thick accent. It was almost worth the $100 I had to pay for the short ride.

  Funny enough, I had no food in the house except for half a jar of peanut butter, some cheese, and a Coke. With all the stores closed, that was all I had to eat for the entire day. NOT so funny was when I discovered today that the stores were closed for a second day. I found an open pharmacy, where I was able to buy a couple of crappy gas station sandwiches and a couple of drinks. Tomorrow, hopefully, I'll fare better. Not exactly a feast fit for the return of a king.

Classic Albuquerque sunset

  The sunset shot above is from a set of pictures from the Albuquerque trip I put up on my Flickr page, if you'd care to take a look. Happy Holidays everybody!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Vacation!


Mom's Christmas Tree

  After a very long day of flying in from London, I finally made it to Albuquerque last Monday, and hit the ground running! As of this writing, I'm still there. I was supposed to be back home yesterday, but Heathrow is so badly snowed in that all the flights were cancelled. Now, I'll be returning to the kingdom on Christmas day. It's kind of a slow evening tonight, so I thought I'd catch up on a bit o' the bloggin.

Mulling things over

  My second night here, Mom and I tore her kitchen a new one with a super bake-fest. I started things off by mixing up a big pot of mulled wine, which she had never tasted. Naturally, it was delicious. Meanwhile, Mom's little white puppy contented herself by wrapping up in a blanket on the sofa.

Riley Burrito

  And so the baking began. Sugar cookies. Chocolate chip pecan cookies. White chocolate macadamia nut cherry cookies. Gingerbread men. Cranberry bread. I went into decorator mode, making a bunch of different colors of royal icing, and frosted things up.



  After the cookies were finished, I made a couple dozen red velvet cupcakes and got extra fancy with the Christmasy decoration, taking what I learned from my supercake baking experience.



Perfect for winter weddings

Cupcake overkill

A hot slice of this and a cup of coffee=breakfast

  The next night, the fam got together for dinner, and we had the traditional feast: turkey, mash, yams, bread, cranberry, beans, vegetables, etc. It was delicious and I had to loosen my belt.




  The eating has continued in earnest since then, and I think I might just have to jog back to England to burn off all this excess weight. I've eaten a lot of Mexican food (it's been years since I've had anything even close to authentic; nice try Spokane, DC. Not you, London). I've had pizza from my old fave, Dion's, and I've enjoyed a bounty of hot green chile. I'll miss all this when I'm back in the land of ox-tail soup.

Strike in progress

  One morning, I met my Mom at the bowling alley where she's on a league so she could intro me to her friends. After I met them, I grabbed a lane and played three games. My scores? Not bad for a guy who hasn't bowled in three years.

Surrogate Jeep

  I also went hiking/rock climbing. To make it more exciting for myself, I waited until a big winter storm moved in and obscured the mountain with snow and rain and fog. It was kinda surreal driving a Jeep exactly like mine only red. Especially since I don't even own my Jeep anymore.
  Making matters more interesting was my doctor, who I saw shortly after arriving. I'd had some foot pain for the last few months and ignored it, but it really started causing issues with my dancing/movement/combat at school. I was diagnosed with torn tendons in my left foot, and he was none too happy that I had just "worked through it." I was told to tape my foot and take it easy for a few weeks. Hiking and rock climbing are easy, right?

Foreboding and awesome

Rugged beauty

  The climb was wet and freezing (as you might expect), but fantastic. I had my camera along and snapped a few shots. Since the conditions were bad for electronics, I tried to protect my gear as best I could. Yes, you read the word "tried" in there. That should clue you as to where this story goes. I'll cut to the chase and just say that there was a short in the main board, and Canon now has my camera. I expect a rather expensive repair bill. Adding insult to injury, I dropped my SF knife while I was at the top of a fairly high cliff. Not a good day for equipment, apparently. By the time I hiked back down to the Jeep, I was soaking wet and paritally frozen. Good times!

Rockin' out

  Not willing to leave my knife cold and alone on the side of the mountain, I headed back up the next day. After a fairly short search, I found it underneath some snow at the base of the rocks. Score!

Cliffhanging on day two

  I only really had one butt-puckering moment up there when I took a bit of a reach on the rocks and got myself stuck. On one side was a solid cliff face, on the other side was a sheer drop. After a couple of deep breaths, I was able to unstick myself from my predicament and back up a bit. Where's the fun, though, without a little risk?

Shooting so fast, he's a blur

  One night I went to Retros sports bar, where my Mom and some of her buddies like to hang. She brought a big platter of my cupcakes and announced to the bar that they were free of charge. I had a lot of drunkies complimenting me on my baking and decoration skills. Sort of a strange scenario for a young man in a sports bar.

Thanks anti-redeye, for giving me satan eyes

Rancho Lamberto

  I got a chance to drive out to Dad's house as well, where my Stepmom had cooked up a tasty pot of posole. Delish. Did a little walking around in the woods, took a few pictures, saw Dad's new project- a waverunner he's rebuilding the engine on.


  It's always nice to revisit the place where you grew up. The familiarity of the trees, the dirt, and of course, those deep, deep blue New Mexico skies is always welcome.

Shootin' some stick

  Got to hang with my old friend Bryan one night, too. We shot a few games of pool, had a couple of drinks, then headed out to O'Neill's pub for some dinner and more drink. The food was great (here I go fooding again), but the best part was catching up for those few hours. It also helped that we were pretty evenly matched at pool. I came away with my dignity somewhat intact.
  Like I said, this trip is still going on. I've seen a couple more friends since then, had some more tasty meals. Got 1 and 1/2 days left here til I try again to fly back across the pond. Maybe I can squeeze in between snowstorms. I don't know how England is doing without me!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Done and Done.


Carols by candlelight

  As I stated in yesterday's blog, it was the last day of term, and all of LAMDA performed at St. Phillips Church for a fairly good-sized audience that included royalty. The concert was done by candlelight and was pretty stunning.

The view from our section

  It was the first time we had actually all performed as a school, and it was the first time each group got to hear the other groups perform their own pieces. I was blown away by how beautiful it was. Hopefully the princess enjoyed it, too.
  Earlier in the day, we had rehearsed at the church and then we had a couple of hours off, so we went back to school and did this:

 
video

  Rory brought his guitar and we sort of had a little jam session, and I took a stab at the above Bill Withers classic. The beginning was a bit rough, but we hit a nice groove in the middle. We need to work on our timing, and I had some pitch issues, but it was really fun sitting around, all us fellas, and just singing. Good times. More, please!

  To skip time on you again, gentle reader, AFTER the carol concert was over, there was a party thrown a few blocks away at a nightclub called "Archangel." The group sort of split up at this point, and some of us went on to do other things. I checked out the club, but then decided to grab a bite with Liza. Laurine and Audra showed up a little while later, but then the group divided again. Audra and I went off to have our own adventure in Hyde Park where a fantasic winter carnival was set up.


Audra at the gates


Some sort of go-round that appeared merry


Pirates and Christmas? Sweet!


Hugemongous ferris wheel


  The only bad part was that by the time we got there, they weren't selling tickets to any of the rides anymore. We're going to remedy that tonight, though, by going back. There's a whole open market in the front part of the park, selling all kinds of sinful food and completely useless wares, and then there are all the rides and an ice-skating rink. We'll be participating in all of the above. Tomorrow, I fly back to the states to spend some time with friends and family. Gonna make my last night here a big 'un!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Avalanche!


Warming up for rehearsal

  Crazy, crazy days, but that's expected for the end of the term. Today is actually the very last day, and we're closing things out with a big Christmas Carol concert at St. Phillips Church, where we will have actual British royalty in attendance. Pretty decent way to celebrate going into Christmas.
  It's also a time of gigantic relief. One by one, we've finished projects and performances, and the maelstrom of work has died off to a trickle. Everybody's exhausted and more than ready for this break.
  The duet dance project I mentioned a couple of blogs back went very well, and we got a lot of good feedback on how free and expressive it was. Everybody seemed to like our variety of sensuality and craziness. We managed to pull off the routine without any hiccups, and I think we had some pretty impressive moves in there.

Richard III (photo credit: Zoe Schellenberg)

  Biggest of all, of course, was "Margaret of Anjou," which was a full-length play that combined all of Shakespeare's "Henry" plays as well as the "Richards." We'd been rehearsing this for weeks, and pretty much hammered the hell out of it right up until performance time.
  The night before we ran it for an audience, Pranay, Nick and myself blew off a little (lot) of steam playing foursquare in one of the rooms for a couple of hours. It later devolved into a contest to see who could kick the ball into somebody's face from across the room. We found out that yes, it can be done, and I found out what it feels like when somebody makes your face into a soccer goal.
  The performance itself went very well, and once again, we got great feedback. It was a fantastic play, and I enjoyed working on it, but I'm also very glad to be done with it.
  The night after, we had a staged reading of "The Duchess of Malfi," which is a Jacobean play. Here, we only performed some scenes, not the entire play. I thought this went really well, too, and we had a good time with it.
  THEN, yesterday, we had tutorials all day. This is basically each student getting a one-on-one with each instructor. You get notes on what you did well, your progress, what you need to work on, and your goals for the next term. I'm absolutely happy with how it went. I got a lot of really nice compliments from the instructors as well as a good deal of on-the-nose constructive criticism that's really going to help me dial it up a notch. It's great when you and the instructors agree on your areas of improvement and achievement. Makes you feel like you're really on the right track.
  After we all finished yesterday, we met up at Laurine's place and had a Christmas party. Most of us are going our separate ways for the holidays, so we won't see each other for a while. The party was awesome, and I'll have pics and more about it in the next blog. For now, I gotta break out the shirt and tie, warm up the voice, and get ready to belt out these carols.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Backtrack


  Fifteen minutes ago, I was walking home from school in a very "collar-up" kind of English night. Snow was swirling in the air around me, and spikey ice crystals glittered on the sidewalk.
  Three hours ago, I was fighting with a rapier in one hand and a daggar in the other, soaked in sweat. My victory award was a cupcake with strawberry cream cheese frosting. It was well worth my time on the battlefield.
  Seven hours ago, I was singing "Where I Want to be" from the musical "Chess." It went well, and the teacher told me it was a very good piece for me and I should keep it in the audition repertoire. I'll take that compliment, especially since it was the first time I had ever sung it.
  Thirteen hours ago, I was staring into space in a wide-eyed schizophrenic panic as Richard III, wondering aloud to the audience if I should be afraid of myself exacting revenge upon myself for villainous deeds committed by myself.
  Two days ago, I was throwing my dance partner up in the air and over my shoulder for three hours as we rehearsed for our performance, which takes place tomorrow.
  Three days ago, I was at this Thanksgiving dinner with some of my fellow actors:
The group, minus Nick and Vince



  Four days ago, I was at a cocktail party, in character, as a 70-year-old man named Gus Hughes for three hours as part of a final performance for Improv class. I had to invent 70 years of character history, in every possible miniscule detail. I'm a little sad now that this person doesn't exist outside a random photo I took of an unknown man at the bus stop that was the inspiration for it all.
  Thanks, life, for always being interesting and challenging.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Feignsgiving!


Family Memories: The year cousin Reginald was eaten by the turkey and we just had bread


  Wait, didn't you already have Thanksgiving? Yes, observant reader, I did (see "Happy Fakesgiving" post, August). That meal was delicious, but wasn't shared with anybody. Feignsgiving, on the other hand, will consist of my entire class getting together and having the traditional meal. We can all definitely use a breather.
  For the past couple of weeks, we've been going like Hell in all directions at once. All term we've had a huge variety of projects going on, but never to the level they're at right now.
  My schedule a lot of days doesn't get me free of class until 9:00. Then I typically stay up til the wee hours of the morning rehearsing or studying lines or music. I sleep a small bit, get up early, and study again until I have to go to class. Sometimes I study or rehearse during the 45 minute lunch break. Meals are typically wolfed down as quickly as possible- because of a lack of time, or because of having to do very physical work and not wanting to hurl. Sometimes I skip eating altogether to avoid food coma in a performance.
  I don't think I've ever had to memorize so many lines in such a short amount of time, and that's been taking up most of my study time. I really, really like playing Richard III, though. Incredible speeches.
  This last week I sang a whole song in character for the first time. It wasn't anything glamorous- I was a cockney garbageman. It went pretty well, and it was a fun number. Singing tends to still be a little tense for me sometimes, but I have gotten a lot of compliments on my voice; from teachers, and especially from my peers.
Speaking of singing, we have a Christmas concert coming up in a couple of weeks where the whole of LAMDA will be singing. The school will perform a piece togther, and then each class will sing a carol of their own. We've been rehearsing them for the last few weeks, and I think it sounds amazing. I'm anxious to hear the whole school together. Hopefully I'll be able to get some audio from that and share. Being one of very few tenors here, maybe you'll even be able to hear me. I learned last week that we will have actual royalty in attendance at this event!
  Then, it will be time for Christmas break. I'll be flying back to the states to see family and friends for a week. Can't wait. Meantime, I better get ready for this Thanksgiving gig. There's definitely a lot to be thankful for- a wonderful year of changes, adventures, and an incredible amount of support from friends and family. Thank you all for having my back. I fully intend to make you proud.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Three World Heritage Sites...



  ...in one day!

  I hopped on a bus this morning at Victoria Coach Station and headed out on an all day excursion to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. It was a long and absolutely amazing day.
  Windsor Castle, as one would expect, was indescribable. The royal family has lived there for 900 years. I can barely wrap my head around that. I got a few good pictures of the exterior, but to my extreme dismay, NO pictures were allowed in the interior. It's a shame, because it was beautiful in there. Endless, huge rooms, beyond elaborate. Suits of armor. Frescoes. Collections of swords and old musketts. Staterooms and dining halls. The luxuriousness of it all was something you would have to see to believe.
  In the lower end of the castle grounds was St. George's Chapel, where Henry VIII (among many other monarchs and Royal notables) is buried. I love these old churches, and England is littered with them. Towering spires, stained glass, ornate woodwork. The sense of history, glory and devotion you get within their walls never fails to inspire. Again, no pictures. Windsor Castle, on the whole, while a feast for the eyes, was just about a bust on the photography front.
  Here are a couple of shots I found online; first of one of the staterooms, and then a couple of the inside of St. George's. I'll be running some of my own pics, of course, on The Shot (link on the right) over the next few days.





  My second stop, though, Stonehenge, was much more forgiving. You know, I've seen a lot of famous monuments and buildings in my travels, and somehow, for some strange reason, this one really didn't resonate with me like I thought it would. I mean, it was impressive, and it was a site I had wanted to see since I was a kid. I just didn't get that leap in my heart that I sometimes get when I see something in person. I can say definitively that seeing the Statue of Liberty, the White House, the Moai of Easter Island, and the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro were far more affecting.
  By no means, though, did that detract from the experience. I took many pictures from all lengths and angles and marveled at the age of what I was looking at. People put those bluestones up around 2400 BC. How many people had since trod the ground I was standing on? And to what purpose? Incredible to imagine.
  I have a custom of taking a stone from the ground of famous places I visit (especially mountains I climb), but there were no stones to be had on the grassy plains of Salisbury. I tried to fit one of the 50-ton slabs into my jacket pocket, but I was stopped by an overreactionary guide. I settled for a clump of dirt instead.
  Then it was time to visit the city of Bath. I want to say that I fell in love with this place, but I'll feel like a broken record. I'm always falling in love with everything around here. This country is a feast for the heart.
  Bath has a population of about 86,000, and all the buildings in it are cut from the same golden Bath Stone. This gives the town an amazing "glow" as the sun bounces off the facades.
  Our coach came into Bath from high atop an opposing hill, giving us the most beautiful view of the entire city, which builds from the valley floor and then up into the hills on both sides. It was impossible to take pictures, and I was dying for them to pull over somehow, so I could run to the edge of the road and snap a few shots. Suffice it to say, my shutter/trigger finger was frustrated a LOT during the day.
  We drove through a good portion of the city before stopping at the Bath museum, where the Great Roman Bath was located. Passing many incredible views, I felt like a hyperactive puppy trying to jump out of his seat. I got my chance once we stopped. We only had an hour and a half (all of our stops were too short) and so I pressed ahead of the queue and made my way through the exhibits at a pretty quick pace.
  The Great Roman Bath itself was impressive, and the system of pipes and irrigation was a serious piece of engineering. As soon as I had taken it all in, I fled my tour group and walked into the city in a random direction.
  I could only cover so much ground in the roughly forty-five minutes I had, but I saw some great sites. Winding streets banked with those wonderful golden stone buildings, more giant churches, enormous stone bridges over cascading rivers, charming old-world houses, and a hidden park full of fall colors.
  I made it back to the coach with about five minutes to spare, and as we climbed up the hills out of the city, a blood-fire sunset burned up the skies behind us. Again, there was no way to capture it from the bus, but it was beautiful seeing the entire valley coated in those colors as all the lights of the city twinkled on like stars.
  Not only were these three sites amazing, but I have to say just how stunning the English countryside is, too. Vast green, rolling hills, roads bordered with thick-trunked oak trees, rivers and creeks gently sweeping, quaint villages. Absolutely incredible views. I'd love to live there someday, or at least have a second home or something.

  Ah, dreams.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flying High



  The picture above is from a couple of weeks ago during rehearsal for my dance. It's what we in the blog business call a "grabber." It's so that when people accidentally trip across my page, they say, "Tall guy doing cartwheels? What's THAT about?" And thus my audience is grown.
  So, now to the present. I've moved on from flipping myself end over end to letting other people do it. We've done a bunch of trust work lately, which has included climbing several feet off the ground and then freefalling backwards into a catch group. This week, the group picked each person up off the ground and flipped them head over heels. It was easy with the smaller people, and I'll admit there was a fair amount of hesitation from them when it was my turn. Nobody wanted to shoulder up 185 pounds and try to not drop me on my teeth. In the end, I was successfully flipped, and somebody, somewhere, got a handful of my men's department in the process. Awkward.
  We also started Stage Combat this week, which I knew I'd love. As soon as the instructor asked for volunteers to come up and fight him (rapier and daggar), my hand shot up. I love swordplay, and we got to do a lot more that first night than I expected. Awesome.
  There's been a ton of reading this week too (pretty much my entire weekend). We're doing "The Duchess of Malfi" in our Jacobean class, and "Margaret of Anjou" (combining Henry VI and Richard III) in our Histories class. Malfi is so dense that it takes about seven minutes or so per page to read/translate, but it's a fantastic play. Also, I'm convinced that our Histories instructor is a certified madman, but he might also be one of the most brilliant directors I've worked with.
Lastly, far be it from me to complain about ANYTHING over here. I love it, and I don't ever want to come back to the US. However, I do get tired of people over here not knowing how to navigate their space. You go to New York, or Los Angeles, or DC and people know how to move in a crowd (we're talking non-tourists here, Times Square doesn't count). Over here, people just do not understand how to get out of the way. I've gotten so tired of it that now I just pretend I'm on the phone when I get in a crowd, and I have a really loud conversation: "Yeah! Can you hear me? Yeah, *COUGH* the doctor says he's pretty sure it's Swine Flu. *COUGH* He's not sure, he thinks *COUGH COUGH* it's a new strain or something." I find that people part for me like the Red Sea.
  Also, all clothing in the UK is made for little people. It is extremely difficult to find anything over here that fits. XL is not big enough, and stores typically don't carry 2XL. Ridiculous. I'm not THAT big. I feel like the village monster.
  But you know, it's worth it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weekend Fun!


  I can't really call this post "Halloween Fun." Sunday was, in fact, Halloween, and there was celebrating, but there wasn't much Halloweeny about it. But let's start with Saturday. Yeah, let's do that.
  Saturday morning, I began with a Bloody Mary at a pub near Notting Hill Gate, then jammed my way into the Portabello Road Market with some friends. When I say 'jammed,' I really mean it:


  That afternoon, I met up with Alicia, from class, and we had RP coffee time. This has become a new weekly thing for us. Basically, we just meet up in Hammersmith and go to Starbucks for tea or coffee. Exciting, right? The rule is, from the time we meet until the time we leave, we have to speak in our RP accents (standard British dialect). If you interact with anybody- as in ordering your chai latte- it must be done in RP as well. There's more to this than just a couple of Americans acting like jackasses. Well, a little more. One of our classes, phonetics, is based around learning RP, so this is good, solid practice. It's also hilarious.
  So, Sunday. Halloween. What a bust it is here in the UK. They don't NEARLY get into it as much as Americans. There are hardly decorations in stores, and costumes are very hard to come by. I sadly had to attend our Halloween party with no costume at all. I couldn't even find any makeup to improvise some sort of zombie getup. Lame.
  The big theme of the night was "the chavs." A chav is sort of London's answer to the Jersey Shore look from the US. Lots of sports gear, greasy hair, gold chains, low class. Erika came as a pregnant chav and had Meaghan as her thin mustached baby-daddy. Alicia was another chav, but had a lot of Amy Winehouse thrown in for good measure. We had a Clark Kent, a Supergirl, and a biker chick.


That looks like triplets!



Super



Chav-o-rama


Yummy Mummy



Erika gives birth to a 185 pound 75 inch baby boy



Mother and child doing fine


  The best part about the evening was the food and drink. We had a lot of both, and all of us were stuffed to the gills by the end. I cooked a couple of giant calzones that I made in the shape of mummies, and we had a spicy thai dish, some pasta salad, amazing bruschetta and a tiramisu that was the best any of us had ever tasted.
  All in all, not a bad way to use up a weekend!