Archives For September 2012


September 30, 2012 — Leave a comment

A bus.

Let’s head into town today, yeah? We’ve spent the last two days cooped up in the apartment and we need to get some air and be amongst people.

I live inside that.

I live about five miles out of Dublin city centre, and if I want to get anywhere, I usually take the bus. Luckily I live near a major highway, so buses run about every ten minutes and I can get into town within a half hour.

Typical suburban street.

When the weather’s nice the walk can be quite pleasant. I live in a fairly “posh” suburb, from what they tell me, so it’s safe and tree-lined and quiet.

If I want to take a shortcut to the bus stop I DO have to walk through this, though:

Creepy viaduct.

It’s not as bad as it looks. You’re through it in like, ten seconds.

Anyway, on Saturday I went into town to see another play (surprise!) There is a famous Dublin writer named James Joyce*, and recently his novels came out of copyright, so that means anyone can adapt them for plays or films and no one has to pay any royalties. Dublin is about to be hit by a huge wave of Joyce-based works, and the Corn Exchange’s adaptation of Dubliners is one of the first.

I met up with some friends at the Gaity Theatre, but I had to sit by myself because we had all bought our tickets separately. I was up “in the Gods”, as they say, which is a nice way of saying I was up in the cheap seats. (I’m going to a LOT of shows and have to budget accordingly.)

Top of the Gaity, Ma!

The show was very good, although being so far up meant that I wasn’t as engaged with the stories as I would have liked. (Dubliners is a series of short stories.) It didn’t help that I hadn’t read the book beforehand; I bought a copy last month, but I just couldn’t find the time to get to it, what with all the homework and all. So instead I tried to focus on the staging, the technical side of things, and Corn Exchange’s use of Commedia dell’Arte.

Afterwards we all gathered in Neary’s to dissect the show and have a bit of fun. (Oh, and we also saw this guy outside the theatre. McNulty!) After a few rounds we grabbed some pizza to fill our very-empty bellies. The rest of the party said their good-nights, but my friend Donal and I stayed out for more discussion and general catching-up. Donal and his wife are new parents, and so a night out for some fun is a rare occurrence in their lives. I, of course, was happy to stay out as long as possible, although I did go past the pumpkin hour.

What’s that, you ask? Well, those buses that get me here and there stop running around 11:00 or so, and you’re stuck with taxis after that. (There is some sort of Night Bus that runs, but I don’t know the routes or where to pick it up. And it’s not as cool as this, anyways.) By the time Donal and I wrapped up our night, the streets were filled with them; apparently there is a glut of taxis in Dublin at the moment.

A taxi home costs around 20 Euro, but since I’m spending so little money on transportation, the occasional cab isn’t going to kill me. (Except when I consider that I can buy a train ticket to the other side of Ireland for the same price. Student rates rule!)

And that was Saturday. A great day overall, and one of those I’m Really Loving Living Here kind of days. Gotta enjoy those while they last…


*I thought I should remind my readers that I’m writing this primarily for my students to read, lest people think I’m talking down to my audience. Most fifth graders haven’t heard of James Joyce, but if they watched closely during Hugo, they would have spotted him hanging around the train station.


September 28, 2012 — 3 Comments

I thought I’d cheat a bit, since the last two days have been spent doing work around the house, working on class assignments, and pondering concepts for an imaginary production of The Merchant of Venice.

But let’s talk breakfast first!

On the weekends, I allow myself to indulge in the spectacular breakfast food that can be found here and in the U.K. (Okay, so Thursday/Friday isn’t really the weekend, but this week I got a head start on the pork-centered goodness.)

When you travel to places like Britain and Ireland, it is pretty much impossible to avoid ordering what is referred to as “The Full Irish.” (Or a Full English Breakfast, or whatever it might be called in Wales or Scotland.) A typical full breakfast will include the following:

  • One egg.
  • Two sausages.
  • Two rashers, a.ka. bacon, a.ka. The Most Delicious Bacon I’ve Ever Eaten.
  • White pudding.
  • Black pudding. (An acquired taste.)
  • Fried tomato.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Baked Beans (only in Britain.)
  • Potato wedge (not all the time; it seems to pop up rather randomly.)
  • Toast.

While horrible for your heart and arteries, it’s great if you’re traveling on a budget, since a hearty breakfast like this will get you through most of the day, and it’s often included with a hotel stay (and of course a Bed & Breakfast.)

I limit my hearty breakfasts to eggs, toast, and either sausages or rashers, never both. Today it was sausages, because I stopped by the Superquinn grocery store on Wednesday and theirs are the best. (Superquinn is a bit pricy, like shopping at Dominick’s back home, and so I tend to get my food at either Tescos or Lidl.) And it was delicious. But since I’ve spent the last two days mostly puttering around the house working on assignments, I haven’t gotten much exercise. This is not good for the waistline.

Okay, enough about breakfast food. What else have I done with my time these past two days?

First I re-read a play called The Weir, for Monday’s writing class. I first picked this play up ten years ago and fell in love with it, and I’m glad to see that time has not diminished my feelings for it. Five people sitting around a pub in rural Ireland, telling ghost stories. Always wanted to direct it, but it being Irish, it has a lot of swearing and drinking in it, and I didn’t think Limelight would have been the right venue for it. Maybe someday…

I’ve also spent some time gathering information for that pretend-Merchant of Venice. Costumes and soundtrack ideas. Been listening to a lot of post-classical stuff, very minimalist. Just piano, some occasional strings. Watched a documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi (which is excellent) and that pushed me in the right direction, sound-wise. My Merchant is a very lonely version, and it emphasizes the more tragical elements of the play. So lots of Philip Glass and Max Richter.

Mug Shot! (One of the student-gifted mugs that came with me.)

Where the magic happens.

Other than that, it’s been laundry and haircut and going over my budget. (We won’t get into that now. But man…this is an expensive project I’ve got going on.) It’s almost 8 pm on Friday, the oven’s warming up, and I’m about ready to put away the schoolwork for a day or so. Heading into town to see Dubliners with some friends, and from what I hear, it’s supposed to be great.

A drying rack helps with the laundry. And the budget.


September 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

Wednesday is like an easy Friday for me. Sort of.

It’s the last day of classes for me, so there’s the relief of knowing I don’t have to prepare for anything the next day. At the same time, it’s still the middle of the week, and I certainly don’t get to enjoy 4-day weekends over here. What usually happens is that I get some groceries after class winds up (we go until almost six on Wednesdays), relax a bit, but if I’m feeling focused, I try to get a bit of work done in the evening as well.

Today’s class, Research and Analysis in Drama and Performance, was a particularly “academic” session. We spent almost four hours discussing Michel Foucault’s ideas about discipline in schools and in the military, and philosophical concepts like phenomenology, i.e. understanding an object as just a pure object, not our concepts and ideas we project onto that object. All that existential philosophy I studied back in my undergraduate years really helped with today’s discussion, lemme tell you.

I also shared a story about lockdown drills and how they work in elementary schools. The mostly-Irish class was pretty astonished at what has become quite a regular feature at American schools: kids smashed into dark corners trying to “hide” from imaginary armed intruders. We take something scary and unimaginable and turn it into sometime practiced and “routine.” (This relates back to Foucault’s ideas about discipline, and I’ll just leave it at that, lest I bore you too much.)

What does this have to do with theatre, you might ask? Well, I ask myself that sometimes as well, but it has to do with how we perceive bodies and objects in space and time, and how arranging actors and props and set pieces on a stage can be seen and understood many different ways.

From my 2010 production of All These Will Be Worthless. Photo by the awesome Amy Weiland.

Still with me? Don’t worry: no more classes this week, so the rest of the week’s posts won’t get so intellectual.

Around 9 or 10 I usually put away the schoolwork and watch TV. (I don’t read for fun these days since I’m spending so much time reading the heavy stuff I mentioned earlier.) I’ve worked my way through most of Breaking Bad, and I’ve been revisiting some of the U.S. version of The Office, remembering when it was really, really good. I also try to absorb some of Irish pop culture as well, and that has mostly been through a series called Father Ted, which is very, very funny, and has aged well since it first aired in the mid-1990s.

There’s also a great BBC documentary series about Vikings that’s been running for the past few weeks. And if you think I’m going to skip Viking Day just because I’m not in a classroom, kids, well, think again! Stay tuned…

Tomorrow: laundry day!


September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

Like Monday, I woke around 8 am and made coffee in a cheap coffee maker I bought at Tescos for 12 Euro. It doesn’t keep the coffee very hot, so I drink it quickly in my mug before it gets cold. The rain continued to come down steadily; I don’t think it had stopped since Monday.

Tuesdays are devoted to Text Analysis and Performance. Currently we’re working with Frank McGuinness on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Identifying who drives the story, is it a comedy or a tragedy, how would we stage it, etc. It’s just myself and one other woman in the class (who also does youth theatre), so we get a lot of one-on-one instruction, and it’s pretty great. Frank suffers no fools, so you have to be on your game in that class.

After class finished at noon my classmate and I headed into town to see a show called The Boys of Foley Street. (By the way, heading “into town” means heading into the Dublin city centre. Back in the states I suppose we say “going downtown” instead.) The show was a site-specific show; that means that everything took place in an “actual” location. There were only four people in the audience per performance, and you went from alley to car to dingy apartment and experienced a rather uncomfortable story about inner-city poverty, drugs, and violence. (And that’s all we need to say about that, former students. Stay in school and make good choices, right?!)

After the show we grabbed a bus down to the main University College Dublin campus at Belfield to hold auditions for our fall semester director projects. I have to be evaluated on two projects: one where the professors watch me rehearse a couple of scenes, and another where they view a finished project. I’ve been assigned two “classic” pieces, and I’m not exactly happy about the choices, but ahh well, “Theirs not to reason why” and all that…

We had a nice turnout and moved through about twenty people rather quickly, doing some improv exercises and cold reads from Chekhov. I would have liked to have had more time with the actors, maybe run a callback session, but I was just working with what I was given. It’s all been pretty confusing and hazy, and half the time I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing with a particular project or assignment.

And that’s probably the strangest thing about being a full-time student: the realization that I’m not in charge of the content or the process anymore. As a teacher and a director, I always ran the show, but now I’m back to just doing what’s assigned to me.

And to be honest? I kind of hate it.

The washing machine is IN the kitchen!


September 24, 2012 — 1 Comment

I thought I would take this week to write a chronicle of a typical week for me here in Dublin, now that classes have started properly. So let’s start with everyone’s least favorite day…Monday…

Woke around 8:30 and made some coffee. This is the earliest I have to get up all week. I know, rough, isn’t it? Of course I stay up until well past 2 am every night, so it’s all relative. Cleaned up the place a bit, took a shower, and put on the “loose” clothes. The morning class is The Body in Performance, which is a movement class, so we’re supposed to wear something loose and comfortable. For me it’s a t-shirt and track pants.

It’s raining pretty heavily outside, so I make sure to remember my umbrella, and I walk to class. I only live 15 minutes from the campus, so getting there and back again is pretty painless, although on a cold, rainy morning like this all I want to do is go back to bed.

Class runs from 10 am until almost 1, and we spend most of it doing different exercises all relating to how actors use their bodies and their theatrical space. I’m a director, not a performer, so this stuff is a bit foreign to me, but I figure it has to have a point. We also have a ton of readings that go with the course, and that all gets a bit cluttered in my head, but again…it all should have a point…right?

Today we worked on tableaus (just click the link to find out what I’m talking about), and then I had to work on a bit where I write my name with a part of the body. I chose my wrist, and did it rather comedically, and I got a laugh out of everyone. The good kind of laugh. I hope.

Grabbed some lunch with another member of the group and then we headed to the second class of the day: Writing for the Stage.

Now, technically, this class wasn’t open to me, since I’m part of the Directing group, but I asked if I could audit it. That means I sit in and do all the work but don’t officially get credit for it. It’s a lot more work, but since I’ve written a few plays myself, I thought this class would be of great benefit to me.

Today I read an opening scene to a play I’ve been working on. Kitchen-family-type-thing. Wrote it just as an exercise, but who knows, maybe it’ll go somewhere.

We also spent a lot of time discussing The Hero’s Journey, which is something I have a deep background in, as I teach it in my classroom, and even wrote a play structured around Campbell’s myth cycle (while commenting on and critiquing it at the same time.) I found it odd that we didn’t delve into the most significant aspect of Campbell’s outline: the atonement with the father. To me at least, almost ALL stories are about dealing with your parents. But that could just be me.

The book-strewn living room! The couch serves as my filing cabinet.

After that I headed home and got fairly soaked. Warmed up in my bed a bit, watched an episode of The Simpsons, then back to work. Collected images and ideas for tomorrow’s class, which I’ll of course talk about tomorrow. Answered emails from prospective actors auditioning for some of my directorial projects/assignments, ate some fish, and now I’m writing this.

It’s now almost 10 pm on a Monday night, and it’s time for me to stop working for the day. Eyes are heavy, but it’ll be interesting to see how soon I fall asleep. I’m a natural night-owl, and I’ve had some stuff on my mind, so cross your fingers for me that I get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be even longer of a day…

(Oh, and I’m aware that the formatting on this blog has been messed up. Not sure what’s going on, but hopefully I’ll get it sorted before too long.)

Catching Up

September 14, 2012 — Leave a comment

So, I haven’t been a “real” student since Bill Clinton was president.

If you’re one of my students reading this, that means its been a while. I did my undergraduate and first masters in the ’90s, but aside from a few classes here and there (that weren’t anything to write home about), I have spent the last 15 years calling the shots in a classroom or on a stage.

Now I’m back to having assignments given to me, and it’s a strange experience. The toughest part has been catching up on all of the “classic” works of theatre I had never gotten around to reading before. I’ve spoken of “the stack” in previous posts, and just when I think I’ve got it done, they assign more plays for me to read. Because my directorial career has strictly been in youth theatre, I never read much Chekhov or Ibsen or Brecht. Shakespeare was my exclusive go-to guy for the Big Stuff.

So now I’m brushing up, and being exposed to newer playwrights I had never come across before. I’m embarrassed to say that I never read any Frank McGuinness before, but he’s really something, and he’ll be teaching me how to analyze The Merchant of Venice for the next few weeks. I’m also participating in a Writing for Theatre course that’ll be co-taught by Conor McPherson. I read his play “The Weir”a long time ago, and that was the beginning of my interest in contemporary Irish theatre. Little did I know that I’d be learning how to write from him ten years later. (Technically the class isn’t open to the MA in Directing students, but they’re letting me participate in a not-for-credit capacity.)

So I’m pretty lucky, and I’m regretting not taking the literary side of theatre more seriously, since it’s been a month of heavy reading and contemplating. Reading plays is hard, man. When you think about it, it’s only half the story, in a sense. For me, it isn’t complete until actors get up on stage and perform it, and even then, you’re only watching one version of it. Another director, another production, another interpretation of the work. And I guess that’s what’s great about theatre, as opposed to film, where everything is fixed and permanent.

So…sorry for the lack of updates. I have plenty of stories to tell, but I just wrapped up the first week of classes, and I’ve been pretty focused on that. Hoping to get my homework done in a timely manner, though, so I can get back to writing the “forty tales” or so on here. (Hmm, 40 posts is a nice goal to set for myself…)

More soon…I’m going to see an opera about Ikea this weekend!


The Tall Ships

September 2, 2012 — 3 Comments

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Pretty busy with my readings, so I’ll just give you a slide show of photos from last weekend’s tall ships event in Dublin. More to come soon, I promise!