Archive for December, 2008

My Christmas Eve (Well, December 24th, at any rate)

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

We spent the day in Cozumel, Mexico. It’s lovely. This particular day started with Megan, Ashley and I doing a little exploring, while the other boys of the cast went directly to the beach/bar.

We ventured slightly off the beaten track, the highlight of which was a walk through the local cemetery. I was a little hesitant (respect, not fear), but it’s fascinating to see how different cultures treat their dead, and given our itinerary, it was nice to see something not designed for tourists. I don’t know if this is true of all Mexican cemeteries, but it was amazingly vibrant, lots of mausoleums in bright pastels. Of course, there were also a fair number of handmade crosses written on with marker. Not to be morose or maudlin, hopefully to be slightly poetical, there was something kind of comforting about the mausoleums and the idea that the families were together. Not that I particularly believe in an afterlife, but hey, it’s the holidays.

Moving from the sacred to the profane, towards the end of our walk, we stumbled upon a girl who looked to be about five discovering self-gratification on the sidewalk. Normally, the kind of bizarre moment I wouldn’t choose to share, but the funniness of Ashley and I trying to continue our conversation after that makes it a memory worth preserving. As we pressed on, Ashley would look back every thirty seconds or so (I, out of a combination of propriety and decency, did not), I would ask “Still going?”, she’d say “Yep,” and we’d pick up where we left off. For the record, she was still discovering when we got out of eyeshot.

Then we were at the No Name Bar, which is a bar/beach that is a popular hangout for crews from all the ships in port (it also has the wireless, which I didn’t use, but that’s a big draw.) Alan, one of our JARs (i.e. dancers), came over and said I was stealing his look by wearing a bandana, I countered that I was at the bar first and had also been wearing bandanas for years, and we quickly through down in an impromptu Bandana-Off, which is basically an in-your-face dance contest. It was interrupted by a waitress coming to take our orders, so it never properly got resolved, but I’m fairly certain I was winning. At any rate, we both kept our bandanas on, and all was well.

I took advantage of the beach time to polish off the last few pages of Please Kill Me. As predicted, somewhat of a deterioration into a series of one drug death after another, and it would have helped to have known more of the players going in, but still, an interesting read. Up next, going classic with The Great Gatsby!

Besides that, there was some more great snorkeling. There’s some sort of wreck sunk right off their pier, and there were all kinds of great big fish swimming in and out of it. Nature!

And though I don’t have them yet, Joe (the ship’s comic) and Luke (one of our techs) were shutterbugging like no one’s business, so hopefully, I will be able to track down some fun pictures of our fun day at the beach. (There were of course other incidents worth telling, but I’ll wait for the pictures to tell those stories.) Of course, this not being the real world, most won’t be posted online, but with my datakey, I should be able to store the best of them, and then someday, COLLAGE! Well, probably not, but still, I’ll have them.

Christmas Eve proper was spent with the cast at Le Bistro, the onboard French restaurant. The food was good (mussels and scallops and escargot to open, duck for the main course, and crepes suzette for desert), as was the company, though we were all clearly worn out from the day. Then we all made the briefest of cameos at the White Party (it’s a party where everyone wears white, get it?), and retired.

And that was my bizarre Christmas Eve. We’ve got improv shows scheduled for tonight (no Sandy Koufaxes here!), and then Boxing Day mayhem in Miami.

God bless us, everyone.

Courting, the little play that could

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

So I was googling myself the other day…(I admit I do this more than I should, but this time, I had a reason! I wanted to see if this blog would show up; alas, it does, so you’ll be getting a slightly more politic version of my life, but it’s not that different, really.) Among the things I stumbled upon was this review of Brave New Play Rites, with a specific mention of my play, Courting. For those who might be interested:

University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 77, Number 1, Winter 2008

Letters in Canada 2006: Drama, by Nancy Copeland

Pg. 94

The second anthology, Brave New Play Rites, edited by Bryan Wade,

collects twenty-five short plays to celebrate the twenty-year history of

the annual festival of work written by students of UBC’s Creative

Writing Program. The selected playwrights range from novices to

authors who have gone on to establish themselves as writers, among

them Aaron Bushkowsky, Kevin Chong, and Corrina Hodgson.

The anthology not only samples the history of the festival, it is a

compendium of experiments with the twenty-minute play. The monologues,

of which there are four, are predictably the most successful:

a great deal can be revealed about a character within this format.

However, writing effective multi-character comedies and dramas

within the constraints of the form is more challenging: the situations

can seem contrived and the plotting forced, and as Wade notes in his

introduction, drama is ‘more problematic’ than comedy within ‘a twenty

minute timeframe.’ Yet two plays set in restaurants show the potential for

both comedy and drama within this format. Dan Hershfield’s Courting

(2004) amusingly conflates dating and legal proceedings as a pair of

waiters and a chef take on the roles of lawyers and judge to adjudicate

the relationship between a couple on a dinner date. In Tim Kennaley’s

Reunion (2002), on the other hand, a disturbing sense of uncertainty

and menace develops as an apparent stranger is gradually coerced

into accepting the identity foisted upon him by two friends. Again it

is predictable that plays like these, which are unified in time as well

as place, are more likely to succeed, but Hodgson’s Recess (2002),

which shows the relationships that develop among three troubled

students at a private girls’ school in twelve brief, economical scenes

set over the course of the academic year, demonstrates how rich the form

can be in the hands of a skilful playwright.

Alas, I think the best sentence for publicity purposes isn’t in readily quotable form, but still, always nice to be singled out from an anthology.

Also, a production coming up in Sudbury, at Playfest, running January 22nd to 25th. Go for the big nickel, stay for Courting!

Hopefully, I’ll write something else that’s good at some point, because as of now, in terms of accomplishments, Courting is kicking the crap out of everything else I’ve written. (They teach it in colleges, they do!) That said, I’m pretty proud of it, so Godspeed, little play!

Thanks for indulging my pride, everyone!

It’s Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I think the rule should be if you’re wearing shorts, you shouldn’t hear Christmas music. I realize that would deny much of the world their most festive and important religious holiday, but bah, humbug!

So in terms of my TV watching, I finished the first season of NYPD Blue. Pretty strong right out of the gate, and you gotta love Sipowicz! (Short sleeves and a tie…classic!) It sort of just ended, no comprehensive season arc, which I suppose fits in with their mandate but feels odd for DVD watching.

I’m currently making my way through Buffy, Season 6. The consensus is that it’s the worst season of the show, which I can’t really argue with, and in fact, the reason I’m watching it now is I held off on buying it until I knew I was going to be on the ship and reasoned I would have hours to fill. That said, there was one episode where, even though I knew how it ended, I was hoping that somehow, it would end differently this time. Which is cool. And there’s an episode with an alternate reality (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but anyone who wants to know can ask) that is really compelling and bold. So goodness there.

In reading news, I’m nearing the end of Please Kill Me. A pretty good read, though I could stand to know more about the music, and of course, I’ve never quite been able to come to grips with the punk movement’s casual use of swastikas, so that’s caused the occasional empathy interruption. But I guess maybe that’s the point.

This week’s excitement on the ship was a GI scare. (Gastrointestinal, not a soldier.) So for most of the week, we couldn’t touch the tongs at the buffet and had to be served. It was a smidge frustrating, both in terms of class consciousness (this is how kings would eat!) and smaller heaps of food (how can I ask for a third scoop of ravioli without looking like a glutton?) But hey, any change in routine is cause for celebration. Plus, it was during this time that I stumbled upon the papadam station, which may be the death of me, but since that’s the way I want to go, no complaints here.

This cruise was my most rock star so far. Lots of people coming up to me in the hallways, taking pictures, etc. Very bizarre. I had a very fun moment in an elevator packed with seniors. I walk in, and one of them goes “Oh my, it’s Dan from Second City.” (Sidenote: that’s what’s really odd to me. I expected to be occasionally recognized, but I’m constantly surprised by how many people remember my name.) So there’s a small buzz, and then one of them says “Do you know where we’re going now?” I make the logical guess and say “Our show?” She replies “No, chocolate buffet. But then we’ll stop by.” Alright, so we’re a very particular kind of rock star. I’m thinking Lawrence Welk.

The shows went fine. I played this game Love Letters for the first time, which went pretty well. I haven’t seen in it in Toronto or Vancouver, as far as I can remember. I’ll have to introduce it, it’s pretty fun, and it’s a rare treat to find a new game at this point.

I realize as I write this that I haven’t been talking much about off-ship activities, but mostly, they’ve been of the not-too-fun-to-describe-though-reasonably-fun-to-live variety of mostly hanging out at the beach and swimming. But excursions are on the horizon, so those should be compelling. Read on, you readers!

Alright, so this is my favorite moment of the week that was: I’m having drinks with a dancer from France (a Francer, if you will…it’s a relevant detail), and we’re talking about the pros and cons of possibly extending our contracts. So that’s the topic, we’re going back and forth, there’s a pause in the conversation, and suddenly, she says “I miss cocaine.” I nod, with an awestruck expression on my face, and say “Alright.” Five seconds pass, and I realize what she actually said was “I miss cooking.”


A bientot, tout le monde!

The aforementioned poster

Monday, December 15th, 2008
Dave Pearce and I, making magic

Dave Pearce and I, making magic

Here it is.  Let’s see if the wireless at sea can handle it.  Because the world must know that this show happened!  (And thanks to Marcel for the great pic!)

I do miss the Harold, I do.

Keep it warm, guys and gals.  Keep it warm.

(by which I mean like the way you’d keep a meal warm, as in I’m coming back, so keep the show warm for me.  That wasn’t a dig about the weather here versus the weather there.  Though I can see how you’d go there.)

One more week ’til Hannukah, shoppers!

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Okay, apologies all. Not that I imagine you all sitting at your desks with bated breath, but still, I intend to write more frequently than I have been. (But hey, who noticed the pictures of me which now appear on the blog? Pretty sexy, no?) Anyhoo, the reason there’s been so much time between posts is I was doing some real writing.

I was mad-dash slapping together a play to submit to the Toronto Fringe’s New Play Contest. I imagine it’s quite the long shot, and I’m kicking myself for a typo I noticed sadly an hour or so too late, but I feel good for having done it, and fingers crossed. The cast here was kind enough to indulge me in a reading, and while it’s not where it has to be (definitely to mount, probably for the contest), it seems to have some potential. I’ll keep you posted.

Things of note that have happened since last I posted:

  • Our producer, Nate DuFort, left us: It was sad. But, good producer that he is, he left us confident in where we were and what we were doing, so Godspeed to him, hope terra firma is treating him well.
  • I experienced the very surreal goodbye song that the crew sings to the crowd at the end of the last Stardust theatre show: Just because a group of people happens to be from many different nations doesn’t mean singing “We are The World” won’t be horribly ironic. (That’s just one verse, mind you. There are more. I fully intend to commit them to memory, and share them with you in print, and upon my return, in constant spontaneous outbursts.)
  • I saw Cirque Bijou: That’s the Cirque-de-Soleilesque show onboard. The spoken word parts are deliciously campy. (We think there’s an improv game in the pattern we’ve discovered. It’s essentially a mad-lib that follows the pattern: mythical creature, precious stone, phrase that ends rhyming with “oo” / action sentence, “at Cirque Bijou.”, e.g. “The dwarf with the ruby, his words ring true. / He pays the fee at Cirque Bijou.”) And the impressive parts are, well, impressive. It will bear repeat watching. (Especially as I make friends with some of the JARs, the dance company. It’s gotten to the point where a few of them even come over to engage me! For someone who hasn’t made friends in a decade with anyone who I haven’t performed with or who isn’t dating a friend, this is an exciting development!)
  • I’ve done a bunch of shows: They’re going fine, thanks for asking. No train wrecks, and our last show was our best show, so that’s something. (I hate trying to describe improv, because it’s never the same, but Ashley and I did a Sounds Like A Song, where I was the carpenter and she was the carpenter’s long-suffering girlfriend. She sang a song about her biological clock, and then I sang a song about how I only wanted to have a child made of wood. Both songs had innuendo. It worked.) And the crowds certainly seem to be enjoying themselves, and we’re discovering things, so good on us.
  • I’ve been to Miami twice: The first time, I discovered the Miami Library, which was having a big book sale. I bought eight books for two dollars. I can’t help myself. (I also checked to see if they had Brave New Play Rites to lend, which is another thing I can’t help but do. For the record, they didn’t, but the New York Public Library does have it, so there.) Then I called home. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, the politics junkie in me was very bitter at missing all the excitement. That Stephen Harper still has a job and Sam Mitchell doesn’t makes me sad.
  • I finished American Gods. Fairly impressive tying together of loose threads at the end, but still, not recommended. That said, I think at some point, I’ll want to check out some more Neil Gaiman. I have started reading Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. (One of my eight new books.) The idea is to switch back and forth between fiction and nonfiction for awhile. Plus, given the demands of my current vocation, I’m feeling that my non-corporate side will need some private nurturing. So far, I’m liking it, though I can see myself around page 200 yelling “Alright, we get it already! You used to get stoned and act all crazy! Can’t you talk about anything else?!?”
  • I moved: I’m in a big crew solo room now. It’s nice, but moving’s a pain, and I imagine it’ll be that much more of a pain moving back to the small room. Ah well, nature of the beast. On the plus side, I don’t have to wear pants nearly as often!
  • I snorkeled in Tortola: It was pretty awesome. Between my not having contact lenses as a child and never really having had much opportunity to be in natural water that isn’t toxic, I’ve never really gotten the whole snorkeling thing. But I will definitely be doing it again. Oh, yes. The fish haven’t seen the last of me, and I certainly haven’t seen the last of them.
  • I wrote this blog entry: Oooh! Meta!

Oh, and I think I might be on a new Bad Dog Harold poster, so that’s a warm fuzzy.

Cheers, don’t be strangers!

Eyes Green, Hair Bald!

Friday, December 5th, 2008

My title refers to something I forgot to mention this in my last post. It’s possible I repressed it, though my conscious mind seems to find it funny. Not much of a story, really. I sat down for my ID picture, waited a few seconds, the personnel lady asked me if my eyes were green or blue, I said they straddle the line but I usually go green. She nodded, and then handed me a card that said, yes, Eyes: Green, Hair: Bald. I mildly protested, but knowing that bald-and-in-denial is worse than regular bald, I acquiesced. But if this bad boy demagnetizes, I’m having it changed. Hell, there’s a guy on board who shaves his head, and his card had a hair colour!

I still maintain I’m balding, not bald. But daily rides in mirrored elevators do have me glowering with some frequency at my scalp’s flesh island, and the fact that I’m sunburnt at the top of my forehead where I went light on the sunscreen because of ostensible hair coverage also has me reevaluating.

So, not much more to report on excursions. I’m definitely pacing myself. My logic is why burn all the cool places to see in the first few weeks when I’m here for a few months? Plus, I’m racing to meet a deadline to enter a play into the Fringe New Play Contest. (Whether I make it or not is still up in the air, but I figure worst-case scenario, the attempt will make me productive. And there’s a month after that deadline to decide if I just want to submit on my own, so it’s energy well spent.)

There has been fun, though, lest you were concerned. Mostly of the improvisers hanging out with each other and nerding out variety. For instance, there was the invention and first round ever of “Toast Your Vacation,” most of the credit of which goes to director Matt Craig (though variations will developed with the cast.) In essence, it involves bouncing a crumpled-up napkin off the ceiling and trying to get it to land in a triangular upright menu on the bar table. It’s exactly twice as fun as it sounds.

There was also the night in the karaoke room, where we did a series of duets with entirely invented and usually wildly inappropriate lyrics. For the most part, the lyrics didn’t even match up in terms of timing with the originals, the exception being the chorus of “Constant Craving,” which of course became “Constant Raping.” Again, twice as funny as it sounds. My personal highlight of the game was probably a duet with Matt Craig where I was a baby abandoned in a dumpster (which he quickly changed into a baby born into a dumpster, with the lid slamming shut cutting the umbilical cord), he was the father, and the bulk of the song was the ways in which I was violated by products in the dumpster, mostly breakfast cereals.

In terms of less than perfect experiences, we went to Teppanyaki (the ship equivalent of Benihana). I don’t know if it’s a class consciousness thing, but I’m always extremely uncomfortable in situations where servers or chefs are forced to perform for me. The way I see it, they’re already performing a service for me, they shouldn’t have to pretend to be thrilled about it. (Feel free to observe me next time we’re in a restaurant and waiters have to sing “Happy Birthday.” Welcome to Cringe City, population: me!) Plus, noisy! (I realize there may be some projecting or cognitive dissonance at play here, but that’s a rant for a later night.)

One thing about the Teppanyaki experience that does bear sharing: at one point, sensing that we were a young, hip and ribald crowd, the chef created a fried egg manpart (complete with egg-shell testes) and a fried rice lady’s hoohah, and once that had been established, pushed the manpart into the hoohah, viciously chopping the egg as it entered. Misogynistic, perhaps. Horrifying, hells yeah!

Oh, and I did some laundry and discovered the crew ping-pong table. Small things, but they helped with the transition from “I’m in a hotel” to “I live in a hotel.”

Today was a big day in two ways. This morning, our director, Matt Craig, left us. He will definitely be missed. It’s interesting to see how even in the few hours he’s been gone how the group dynamic has changed. This is because he is one of the most naturally entertaining people I’ve ever met, and so many of our group encounters consisted of us just sitting back and listening to him tell stories, riff, etc. Nature abhors a vacuum, though, so I’m sure we’ll recover. But he’ll be missed.

We also had our first improv shows tonight. I’m aware that I should be writing more about that (and possibly less about egg-penises), but it’s late and I’m tired, and this is the part I’m writing in real time, and I’m not entirely sober. But they were fun, and as with the sketch show, you could feel the learning curve happening, and by the end of the second show, we seemed to really be discovering each other as an ensemble. So good times ahead, I’m sure, and hey, it’s not like I’m going to be running out of opportunities to talk about shows.

And for those who want to track my personal entertainment, I have finished Part One of American Gods, and am four episodes into the first season of NYPD Blue (you can really taste the Milch!)

Go to bed, you nutcases!

Oh wait, you probably are.

I’m going to bed.

Life’s a-float!

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Alright, everything that’s happened since last I wrote seems like a lot. The flight was uneventful, except for the fact I had to bail on a Sudoku; I choose to believe it was due to lack of sleep, but it still haunts me. And there was a guy at the Chicago airport food court who kept calling me “Boss Man”, which has stuck with me in a weird way.

Then on the boat. Which is huge. And confusing. But I’m figuring it out, slowly but surely. Complicating matters is my inability to keep time. My brand new and purchased specifically for the trip wristwatch has stopped working entirely, and my alarm clock for some reason is running ridiculously fast. Consequently, I’ve had my cellphone on the entire time. My only hope is that you don’t get charged for the roaming, but only for the using. Otherwise, I should more or less break even for this whole cruise.

Most of the first few days on board were somewhat harrowing, as we scrambled to get show-ready. Not too harrowing, mind you: I had faith in my producer, my director, my cast, and myself, but I still had some nerves, I’ll admit.

And, as usually turns out to be the case, the shows went fine. (Turns out the two shows a week tend to be an early and a late show, so it’s one night a week. Show biz!) The laughs were solid, I managed not to fall over during the office-chair ballet, and the other performers on board who saw it all had nice things to say, so a sigh of relief is heaved. (Also, a sad little quirk I’ve picked up over the years is that I tend to be more at ease with other performers once I’ve actually performed with them, so that’s nice.) I was also relieved that our Sounds Like A Songs (or Sing It, as Yankees apparently call it) went over well; I seem to be the weakest singer among those who are in it, but I choose to believe it’s endearing, and hey, it is, so there!

And then the next day, the cast hung out on the British Virgin Islands. The name is misleading, or possibly I just don’t know what a British virgin would look like…I’d assume a younger Mary Poppins…nevertheless, fun was had.

We did our hanging out at Nanny Cay beach. I personally spent the bulk of the time floating in the lovely water, and getting a mild sunburn through my suntan lotion. Not that I’m expecting sympathy, just putting it out there. It also made me a little homesick, as playing in the water has historically been a camping or cottage thing for me, and thus early childhood and more recent memories of fun with family came to me. Not crippling, but worth noting.  (Read it as “sweet.”  In fact, say “Awww!” and call your grandmother, or closest living equivalent…)

Along those lines, yesterday being December 1st, I was able to X a day off a Dunkin’ Donuts calendar I got in Chicago with the purchase of an English muffin with scrambled egg. Not that I’m actually counting the days, but it seems like the thing (or at least a thing) to do. If nothing else, the experience of Xing out a day made me empathize with Conrad Black, and I never would have imagined that happening!

Coming up next: Our first improv shows and the departure of our director, Matt Craig. Comedy and tragedy, folks, comedy and tragedy. (Our producer, Nate DuFort, will also be leaving us, and that’s also tragic. Well, as opposed to comic. It’s only in parentheses because he leaves later, so I should be able to get in another post before that happens.)

p.s. If there are things you want me to cover that I’m not, ask! This blog is called “Scattered Flurries” for a reason, people!

p.p.s. Miss me yet?

p.p.p.s ‘Cause I miss you.