Friday, September 17, 2010

I haven't got a flat yet but I've got a ticket to a play.

Well thankfully the title of this blog post is no longer true - I found a flat Thursday. Whew.

But it was a joke I was telling people right until I landed a flat. "Hey I haven't found a flat yet, but I'm seeing a play!" Priorities.

My dearest Matt McCray, AD of my beloved Son of Semele Ensemble (SOSE) told me about this absolutely amazing play he and his father had seen in London back in June. Trusting him I decided to buy a ticket for my first Friday in London. Granted, this was before I even knew if my visa would be approved and mailed in time for my flight. (Thankfully I got my visa last Friday. My plane left Monday. Everything seems to be falling into place at the last minute - kinda like in theatre. Speaking of which...)

So the play is called Money by the ensemble company Shunt. Based on the novel L’Argent by Émile Zola, Money takes the audience (literally) into a three-story tall financial machine. The set is quite the beast. The instant I stepped into the warehouse and saw the monstrosity in the center, I knew I was going to be in for quite the treat.

Sipping on my Magner's cider and sitting alone, I took my solitude as an opportunity to observe those around me, the machine and it's inhabitants. Everything was in a harmonious balance as the cacophonous sounds blared, a guard of the machine handed out balloons, and audience members shuffled in. If one isn't instantly amazed by this elaborate setting and atmosphere, they sure will be once inside the machine. Pure theatrical magic and stunning ingenuity. I've never before seen anything like it.

What seems entirely fragmented becomes painfully clear and socially relevant as the money machine builds up speed and then plummets. Leaving the audience in silence. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time. Funny, absurd, relevant, biting and creative - all things that in my opinion make up great theatre.

After the show I awkwardly stood around scrounging up the courage to introduce myself to any member of the company in hopes to find out more about the production and the company. Finally I did. I first spoke with Nigel who plays the creator of the machine, the "man on the future." He told me that they had been working on the piece for quite some time and that everyone in the company contributed to it's creation. I told him I was envious of their space and the unbelievable set. "How did you get your funding for all this?" I ask. Well, Shunt originally was in the Shunt arches underneath London Bridge. The space has been converted into a lounge/bar area and basically they were able to fund this project by all the alcohol sold. (Are you paying attention my LA theatre peeps?)

Then I spoke with Gemma who plays the man's girlfriend and helps to bring the machine into fruition. She told me that Shunt has been around for about 13 years and has grown over time. Money has been playing for a year now and she can't believe it's been running for that long. They've recently extended it again for two more weeks. I ask her when they began devising this piece. "It was before the financial crisis, it's been that long," she tells me. How serendipitous! She agrees saying that their last project was about Guy Fawkes who is infamous in Britain for his failed attempt at blowing up parliament in 1605. Back then you could rent a room in the basement of the building, which is where the attempt happened. It was one of those securities things that no one really thought about. After they had opened the show, 9/11 happened, back when no one thought terrorists would hijack a plane and crash it into a tower.

Louise, the dramaturg on Money laughs at the coincidences of their past two plays with major global events. "Maybe we should make our next show a happy one."

After awhile I asked Louise and Gemma if they needed volunteers. And like all struggling theatre companies - they jumped on my inquiry. Haha, glad to see there's the same spirit here as there is in the LA theatre community. I haven't even been here a week and already I'm whoring myself out for theatre.

Considering this is my first show of my year in London, I sure have started off with a bang!

Here's a link to a cool promo video:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Home Is Where the Heart Is

My departure is fast approaching. I leave for London in five days and am busy seeing as many friends as possible, tying up any loose ends and, uh, trying to find a place to live in London (eeek). I've spent the past five years building a life here in the city of angels and now I'm leaving it all behind.

People here tend not to live up to the name of the city. But there are indeed angels here. My personal angels are those I call my friends, colleagues, mentors and inspirations. In other words, the people who put up with me.

Anyone who knows me, knows I hate goodbyes. I get all awkward (I mean, more so than usual that is) and shut down emotionally. If I don't shut down, then I'll start crying, like full on ugly cry. No one wants to see that. I get emotional because my friendships mean everything to me; and yet, I consider myself a loner. But most would consider me a social butterfly. Which is also true. But how many times have you seen a bunch of butterflies socializing? Normally I see just one butterfly at a time fluttering about. I may flutter from place to place, but generally I flutter alone. Before this butterfly metaphor gets out of hand, I'll get to the point. Those who I've let in past the tough facade - those who get to see the gooey mess inside; the vulnerable, insecure, overly-sensitive, hurt, angry, sad side of me, and still call me friend are indeed my angels.

My friends are my family - and they've helped me make Los Angeles my home. Which is hard to do in this urban sprawl. A city where most migrate here for selfish reasons. I'm guilty of that. I came here for college and was hoping to break out into the film industry. But life happens in the most unexpected ways. I fell in love with the theatre community. YES, we have theatre in LA! No matter how spread out we are, those of us in the community are willing to help out one another and to support each others work.

I've had the pleasure of meeting so many inspiring artists who simply love to tell stories and do whatever it takes to make it happen. That's all I've ever wanted to do - tell stories that resonate; that have an impact; that inspire, challenge and encourage.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels this way - and that there are people in this city who are of like mind. And now I'm crossing the pond to my favorite city, London. Where I'll bring with me the determination, dedication and passion of the Los Angeles theatre community to a city enriched with theatrical history. A city where theatre draws in the masses rather than begs desperately for attention... and respect.

As I study and conduct research for my Masters in Theatre and Performance, I hope to find theatre artists of a like mind. Those who face challenges with creativity and sheer bravado. I often joke about LA theatre saying we make magic happen with duct tape, superglue and pure imagination.

I'm also going to have to find new friends. My group of what I would call my bestest friends didn't just happen over night. It took years to develop - earning trust, telling secrets, inside jokes, etc., etc. But as I always say, home is where the heart is. And my heart is somehow able to be in multiple places at once: with my friends and family, in the theatre, in the arts, places that resonate with me, and even with the lone butterfly that contently flutters around.

Although I am sad to leave my home and the people in it - I am so excited for the next chapter of my life. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the only constant in life is that everything changes. It's funny, I'm slightly resisting the change I've put on myself. After all, it was ME who decided to go to London for grad school. No one made me do it. I thought of it all on my own. And yet there is a part of me that is grasping on to the way things are, well... were.

To my friends who make me laugh, console me when I cry, and put up with my mood-swings: I love you. Don't ever forget that. And to my friends I have yet to meet: prepare yourself!