Archive for the ‘Day off’ Category

Things are back to normal.

October 2, 2007

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Things are back to normal. Pippa has recovered from her bug. Corrine’s sniffles (the culprit behind the toilet paper) have subsided, and we went on to do a really solid show for a full house, with a standing ovation. It is so gratifying to see the response of people to this show. Such a lot of hard work, and it comes to this fruition.

Friends of Corrine took some of the girls up to Meech Lake for a picnic in the glorious autumn weather that we continue to enjoy. Penny and Pauline were thrilled, because they got to go swimming in a lake! I’m sure the locals must think them mad, dunking themselves in the October waters, but it is an event for them. And Penny came back talking about buying real estate. I can certainly understand that. It is idyllic scenery, and this time of year is particularly calming. It is something in the air.

It is appropriate as our project ebbs, that the summer also begins to fade. The wind blows. The leaves fall. And change is in the air. It brings a certain melancholy and introspection. And interesting that at the end of our run… comes Thanksgiving. Funny how things work out.


Sold out on a Tuesday night!

September 25, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sold out on a Tuesday night! Pretty great.

Kate Hennig as Eurycleia in The Penelopiad, Photo Ellie Kurttz

I am not one to read reviews, but apparently the Canadian Press has been very generous. If that means that people will come and buy tickets, then more power to the press! (Wow! That is a controversial statement in my business.)

Of course sometimes it means exactly the opposite, and we unfortunately have to take the bad with the good. That’s why I don’t read reviews: for the most part, I believe them. They are the opinion of someone who frequents the theatre. Often, these people are educated and experienced in it. And sometimes, as an actor… (not this time, I’ll stress) you know you are in a bad show, and when that critic you respect or believe, trashes your work, it’s really hard to get up on that stage with integrity and continue to perform. For me, as an actor, I must dedicate myself to my job with my heart, my body, and my soul every single time I set foot on that stage. And I cannot have someone else’s opinion, good or bad, jeopardising that dedication.

(Okay. That was a bit of a diversion. I’m apparently given to writing a little sermon in each entry these days. Or a tale. I hope they’re entertaining. It only means that the show is going well, and that there is not much else to write about.)

I think we were all grateful for the day off today, before the show tonight. It meant catching up on some well deserved rest, and it allowed for a little alone time. There have been so many social events, and friends and family visiting, that it’s tough to get time to oneself.

I just want to laud the crew once again. This group of men and women at the NAC are fantastic. So supportive, and truly interested in helping us to create the best show possible for the folks filling the auditorium. And Ziggy, the stage carpenter, was good enough to invite everyone over for a barbeque at his home last night, for which he provided most of the meat available in the Ottawa valley! along with great Canadian hospitality. So, thanks Ziggy, and all the crew for your invaluable contributions to the success of the Penelopiad here in Ottawa.

Tea and Croquet for the Maids

September 24, 2007

Monday, September 24th, 2007

No rest for the wicked. Penny and I were up early, and heading off to the CBC studios in downtown Ottawa to have a radio interview with Jian Ghomeshi for his arts programme, Q. He broadcasts out of Toronto, so we were in a studio, and he was in another studio miles away, but we had a good time and ended up yacking about the play for half an hour. It was good fun, actually.

Then whisked back to the Theatre by Laura Denker, our publicist here, for a 12:30 school matinee. There were the prerequisite boys sitting in the front row on the stage left side that were more interested in looking up our skirts than listening to the play, but generally, I think this is a great show for teenagers. It is so empowering for the young women in the audience, and that is what we held on to. So regardless of the sniggering in the love scenes, and the nervous responses to the rape, I think they took a lot away with them. One can hope, anyway. I know if it had been me when I was fifteen, I would have been thrilled, and talking about it for days to come.

So, I have to tell you a bit of a story. Just before I left the High Commissioners yesterday, some of the girls (who had wanted to go swimming in a lake, and had brought their bathing suits to that end) had been invited by Anthony and Claire to use their swimming pool. So they were taking a dip and having a great time. Well, after I left, apparently, they continued. Margaret, and the Cary’s and all the rest headed off to the NAC for Margaret’s interview with Laurie Brown. But Pauline, Derbhle, Pam, Kelly, Jade, and Jenny stayed to splash about in the pool. (I must stress that they were invited to stay!) I guess they had a fabulous time, and kept thinking that they should be out and on the road by the time the Cary’s returned from the Speaker’s Series. So they were dressed and heading out on the lawn, when Derbhle picked up a croquet mallet and popped one of the balls through the… I don’t know what they’re called… the little arch-y things. It was just at that point that the Cary’s car came pulling through the gates.

Now Anthony Cary is a huge croquet player, which is why he had set up the course in the first place, and seeing Derbhle striking out on his croquet pitch (I’m making all this terminology up now), leapt from the car (writer’s embellishment) and picked up a mallet. “Do stay and play a game,” he solicited, and so they did. Tea and biscuits were brought forth by Claire (or perhaps by the staff) and the Maids enjoyed the rest of the afternoon playing croquet with the High Commissioner. I’m sure it was more fun for the Cary’s than hanging with… well the Trade Attaché from Bulgaria, for instance (no disrespect intended).

Canada, in a nutshell

September 23, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Our day off, but we’re up and at ‘em, and off to the British High Commission at Earnscliffe, to a brunch hosted by Anthony and Claire Cary, the High Commissioner and his wife. It’s fantastic. What an amazing location, right on the Ottawa River, with gorgeous views from their reception rooms and the dining room. And since we’re still having summer in Ontario! we pile our plates high and go out into the garden to eat.


It was a much larger group than went to the Canadian High Commission in London. This time almost the whole cast was there along with creative team members, and folks from the English Theatre, and some of the Penelope Circle, and Margaret Atwood, who sat down on the blankets with a group and had great chats over brunch. 

For those of you who have never been to a High Commission… la, la, la… I highly recommend them. Great furnishings, good food, generous hospitality, clean bathrooms. All good. 

After the do, I took Penny out to the MacKenzie-King estate in the Gatineau hills just outside Hull. It was such a glorious day, and the trees are now creating a stunning display of colour. We had a grand walk in the woods with my family (and quite a number of very happy Outaouai-ans). While we were sitting and having an ice-cream after our walk, we were approached by a young woman who said, “Were you in the Penelopiad yesterday?” Sure enough. There was a group of young women who were all PhD students in Canadian History from universities around Ontario, and they had scheduled their Ottawa research to coincide with the run of the Penelopiad! How fantastic! It was a bit of a giggle, but wonderful to run into fans in the Gatineau woods! That’s Canada, in a nutshell.

Mackenzie-King Estate

Home to my family in the evening, but frankly I was too bagged to enjoy them. We had a great take-away Chinese meal, and they allowed me to sneak off and have a long soak in the tub with a glass of wine. An early night, and prayers for a good night’s sleep. 

Rest and Recovery

August 6, 2007

Sunday and Monday, August 5 &6, 2007

Rest! Yippee! I spent Sunday doing nothing. My mother very indelicately phoned at a few minutes past ten. I had really wanted to sleep in longer. But c’est la vie. The day began with a relaxing breakfast in my bay window, in glorious sunlight, watching the tourists gather for their many river activities, writing. It is one of my favourite ways to spend time. I caught up on the blog, and emails, drank lots of tea, and gazed out the window for some time.

I went out into the garden in the afternoon, spread a blanket out, and worked on understudy lines. That was the big Sunday activity for all the “P Girls” in the house. Jenny is doing amazingly well. She will have long rehearsal days all week, along with the others who have the larger loads: Kelly, Corrine and Lisa. The rest of us will be called sporadically to fill in our bits and pieces. Then Friday we will have a run through in tech and costume. So it will be a pretty jam packed week for some.

That makes the rest even more important. So no guilt for lying under the apple tree and watching the clouds go by. Or for lying on my bed watching telly in the evening. Good.

Monday was another gentle day, as our assistant director Rae was still in London working on another project. So the understudy call was for music only. I took myself off to the massage therapist where I had a very intense massage which included some painful work on my groin pull.

Then I had an Artists’ Forum meeting. I volunteered at the start to represent our company on this committee but was unable to attend an earlier meeting because of rehearsals. So that was fun. I love sitting on these committees: trying to make life and art better for the artists in a company. A great thing to do. And a better place to bitch about things than in the pub after a few pints! Not that there was bitching at all. It was very civilised, and I felt my outside opinion was valued. The discussion centred mostly on the artists’ needs in the renovations of the main theatre, and the legacy of The Complete Works year that has just passed. The collaboration with the NAC and The Penelopiad is a direct extension of the excitement generated by that year of international productions. It was fun to be a fly on the wall and to hear a bit of the inside workings of this great company.

Then I sat in the garden and read for a while, had a little lie down, and went in for warm-up and a show. It was a great audience. Penny is really hitting her stride now. She knows more and more how the dialogue with the audience works, and she creates a wonderfully comfortable relationship with them right from the start. They were a really fun group, and so ready to follow along with her story. Three cheers for Penny Downie. What a great woman.

I had a very careful show, what with a bandaged toe and a sore groin. Running is especially irritating, and I run everywhere. It’s really tough to have an injury because you feel incapable of giving one hundred percent. There is always a part of your brain that is protecting the weakened area. And though this is imperceptible to an audience, it makes the show harder for the actor. There is a small part of you that cannot be “in the moment” and that is a bloody nuisance.  I made it through, though, and then came right home to ice.

(Not very pleasant sticking an ice-pack on that part of your anatomy!) On top of physical injuries, there is a nasty cold going through the company. Poor Derbhle was really sick last night. Miserable. Must remember to wash hands, and do the voodoo. But once a germ like that is in the group it is pretty difficult to avoid it what with touching all sorts of props and holding hands and so on. So it will likely spread through the group over the next week or so.

Wow. A bit of a miserable way to wrap up. So let me say this: the audience is really enjoying the show. That is so much fun. It is just great to hear peoples little vocal responses to certain text or images. And we know that we are offering them a good night’s entertainment.

An Important Week Ahead

July 29, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Slept. Had a sequestered morning. The sun shining in through my bay window. The life of the river has returned to normal, but for the ferry which seems to have been injured in the flood. The birds are happy and busy. The dogs are merrily walking their people. The green is green.

By my calculating eye, the river was up more than two meters last weekend. And a week later there is little sign of it. Except that the actors who were evacuated from the cottages across from the theatre have moved to their third hotel in a week. This includes the lovely Veronica, who we bumped into moving her third load of items from the upstairs of her cottage. Definitely NOT the thing one wants to be doing on the only day away from our gruelling schedule. I would have had a breakdown.

Went over to the Courtyard Cafe and tried to rectify some email issues. Pam was there busily sending and receiving news and support. I have been completely cut off by my server, and don’t know how to deal with it from here. So I’ve opened a web account to tide me over, it’s just very frustrating to be out of contact with home when one is so emotionally vulnerable. I simply do not have the wherewithal to deal with petty communication problems. Blah.

To shed a bit of light, my godson Harry Thomas arrived from Canada for a couple of days at the Ferryhouse. And because it was a glorious day we wandered around town for 2 1/2 hours. We wandered past all the pertinent sights, and popped in a couple of shops, and meandered through the Sunday market, where he bought a fabulous ring. We walked over to Old Town, past Hall’s Croft, and through the graveyard at Holy Trinity, and then sat by the river for a while. We went for a grand meal with Jenny and Jade, and by the end of that my head was bobbing.

I had a long chat on the phone with my dear friend David who I miss so much. And by 9:30 I had to go to bed. Harry stayed up to do some writing in the garden, and I crashed.

We are all working at our edge. And we have an important week ahead. A bit of sleep will certainly been an aid.

A day away from Ithaca

July 22, 2007


Bradgate Park 

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My friend Kev from Leicester came and got me and was aghast at the great Lake Stratford. The roads had opened. The sun was shining. And the country was beginning to breath again. One of Kev and Hilary’s neighbours had been stranded outside Evesham and abandoned her car, spent a good part of the night in a Pub which kept open, and then was offered lodging by a woman whose road home had opened up. People gathering around a disaster. It’s a human phenomenon, I think.

Had a great day in Leicester. It’s just a relief to get away from the tiny, intense world that we are currently inhabiting. Kev and Hils took me to Bradgate Park in the countryside of Leicestershire. It’s an old estate that was bequeathed to the people of Leicestershire for their enjoyment. And really, it’s just a great place to go for a walk. To get into the country air and commune with the deer that are resident in the park, and the odd peacock or two, and the absolutely ancient trees and babbling brooks that dot the landscape. Brilliant.

A chance to get away from Sparta and Ithaca and storytelling for a day. To just be a human being, hanging out with friends, sharing a good meal, great conversation, laughter, fresh air and sunshine. That is a perfect day off.

They’re calling for rain tomorrow.

Buckingham Palace and Grosvenor Square

July 15, 2007

The view from my window

The view from my window.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I didn’t write yesterday because we basically had the day off, and I basically did nothing, and that was basically enjoyable. And the weather wasn’t too bad either! We had a short music call in the morning. Then Corrine and I did a little planning of the holiday we are hoping to take to Norway in our two week break between Stratford and Newcastle. The plans are very exciting, and we are hoping to book early this week. We walked and talked for a bit; time for a little de-briefing after the stumble-through yesterday. That Koslo is one great woman, may I say that publicly?

I had a quiet lunch in our garden, while a troupe of young actors were doing their vocal warm-up and preparing for the show that they put on in an outdoor space somewhere near our house. Listening to their voices was oddly comforting. I did a little writing work in the afternoon, and then joined my Canadian house-mates in the garden for a little free-spirited expression. Kelly was playing the guitar, Jenny was working on understudy lines, and I was dancing: just letting my body play a bit to Kelly’s music. Very ’60s Bohemian. Fun.

I popped into the Henry IV tech rehearsal for a little while in the evening. That was interesting. Nice to be in the big Courtyard Theatre with no one in it but working actors and the plethora of people who are making a huge piece of theatre. There must have been twenty people in the room of various technical disciplines. And interesting to see how it all comes together in another country, and of course, in this iconic theatre company. Also to have a brief glimpse of Michael Boyd at work.

 The Old Ferry House

The Old Ferry House (where they picked us up.)

Today, Sunday, was quite an exciting day. A coach (not the horse drawn variety, but instead simply the English word for a bus) met us at the stage door and whisked us off for a luncheon at the Canadian High Commission in London. We had on our outfits and our lipstick, and we simply arrived at the door of 3 Grosvenor Square and rang the bell! Kind of fun. 

And then we met Jim and Donna, the High Commissioner and his wife. Wow! What fantastic people. So easy going, and easy to talk to. And for the girl who lives in St. Catharines, and for the rest of my compatriots, this is just not something we do everyday. Things like protocol come into play. They were delightful, and made conversation extremely easy, as did the Cultural Attache and his associates. These people know how to entertain. And they seemed genuinely excited and interested in the project on which we are embarking. Very gracious.

Okay. Now the menu. Yum. Pimms and ginger, wine, and juices were served first. Then we had a magnificent buffet of warm smoked salmon, goat cheese tart, potato salad, walnut bread, rocket salad, grilled eggplant and courgette on couscous, and tomato and feta salad. And for dessert, Pavlova! Tea, coffee, and chocolate. So kudos to the chef, and to the wonderful hospitality of our hosts at the High Commission. These are the perks, I’ll tell you.

We had about an hour and a half before the coach was coming to pick us up, so since Jenny and Corrine had never been to London before, I suggested a rapid walk through Hyde Park, across Hyde Park Corner, down the Mall (well I’m not sure if it’s the Mall on that side, but it turns into The Mall on the other side) to Buckingham Palace . I mean, you have to see the Queen if you’re going to London!! So we did it. The rain cleared for just the right amount of time, and the sun was even struggling to show itself, although this only proved to make us muggy and hot. But we got there. We had five minutes to take some snapshots, and then we high-tailed it back. Crazy, but fun. Five minutes at the Palace: the visit of the true tourist, but better than missing it altogether. And better than an hour on Oxford Street, at least in my books.

The coach picked us up shortly after 5pm, and we were back in Stratford by 7:30. Quite a little field trip, really.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

July 8, 2007

Sunday, July 8, 2007

More Sunshine!!! And a day off to enjoy it. But first things first, a morning of rest and recuperation at home. For me that meant a big pot of tea, and reading the program from the night before. Yum. 

Then a little tourism! Veronica and Jenny and I went on our way to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Slottery, which is about a 20 minute walk from Stratford. First we stopped into Hall’s Croft which was the residence of Dr. John Hall, the husband of Shakespeare’s eldest  daughter Suzanne. We had a fascinating tour guide named Andrew, who sat with us for quite a time telling us about the world of medicine in the early 17th century. Fascinating. A reminder of some of the lectures of Suzie Turnbull that I was party to at The Ark last year. The house is one of the Shakespeare Trust houses, and as members of the RSC Company we are allowed free entrance! Perks!

The garden is absolutely gorgeous, and we are welcome to use it at anytime. So I hope to take advantage of it once the show is up and running, because it is just around the corner from where we are staying. 

Then we went off to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. A lovely walk along a footpath through the suburbs of Stratford. Again we were given free entry, and the opportunity to see this beautiful thatched house, and yet another enthusiastic and amazingly informed guide. These people really create a rich experience of these remarkably preserved heritage sights. We learned about trenchers, and bed bugs, “sleeping tight”. And of course, about the famous “stop gap” !

I must share one piece of information: in the parlour of the Cottage is a table called a “board table”. It consists of a trestle frame and a loose board that is placed atop this frame. One side of the board is polished and the other is not. This “board table” is the root of many sayings: board games, chairman of the board, etc. And among the other amazing facts about this table that I didn’t know, is that when roving bands of players would come into a village or town, the people would bring their “boards” out from their houses and erect a stage out of them, upon which the players would perform. And this is where the theatrical expression “treading the boards” comes from. Cool, eh?

After the Cottage, I got Jenny and Veronica lost in the tree maze, but they were found again. And then we headed off for tea and scones and clotted cream at the little cafe across the road. A perfect English summer’s day. The clouds were chasing us all the way home, but we made it safely into our houses before the skies opened. 

And now it is a cool, still evening as I look out over the Avon River with not a soul in sight except a few swans and ducks making their gentle wakes in the water. 

It’s a bit like a pilgrimage. This whole experience. 


July 7, 2007

Saturday July 7, 2007

Sunshine!!! Sunshine!!! Sunshine!!! Finally we can catch up on the vitamin D we’ve been desperate for! And it was a short call today: a two hour music call with Mike. We’re at the point now where we’re trying to sing and dance at the same time, as we put the musical numbers into the show. And as always happens in a musical at this stage, the words and the music go out the window as the brain tries to cope with its multi-tasking. So the music call last evening and this morning’s call were dedicated to getting the words, music, and steps going at the same time without sacrificing one for the other. Slow work, but good work. 

Then… out into the Sunshine!!! Well, some of us, at any rate. I know Lisa and Jenny spent five hours in the afternoon just sitting in the various parks beside the river and soaking it up. Not the river. But the… you guessed it. 

Always one to buck a trend, I spent 6 hours in the theatre. 

First, I went to see the matinee of Macbett. Fantastic. Some delicious performances, and really fine, insightful, visually stunning direction and design. I heard one particularly loud American woman at the interval say: “William Shakespeare meets Samuel Beckett in the house of Groucho Marx”. I don’t think she was far off the mark. And what astounds me about theatre of the absurd is how the responsibility is shifted into the eyes, ears, and minds of the audience. It’s up to us to put it together, and to create our own composite from what we see, hear, and think. The play has no morality.  It does not aim to teach us anything. If we learn, or if we create meaning, it is from our individual experience in the theatre. What a gift.

Then (drool, drool,) I went to see the first preview of Richard II at the Courtyard. It is part of a two year RSC project to produce all the History plays of Shakespeare and run them in repertory. They are all directed by Michael Boyd, with the exception of Henry IV Part II which is directed by Richard Twyman. The culmination of the project will be next March when the eight plays will run as a serial, first in the order that Shakespeare wrote them (the order in which they would have been seen by the Elizabethan audience,) and then in chronological order. I suppose that can only be really exciting to a theatre nerd like me, but oh boy, do I find it exciting. 

Okay. Back to the play. 

Having seen the previously mentioned Henry VI/Richard III cycle in 2001 (see my entry of Monday, July 2,) I was prepared for the the stunning design, the visceral musical score, and the rare unity of the ensemble. I was not disappointed. And just as I had been converted to the texts of the Henry VIs, so I buckled under the sheer force of the language of Richard II. Muscular, luscious, chewy. Like consuming sex and good food simultaneously. (I don’t get out much, I guess.) Should I just say I liked it? Noooooo. So now I feel a bit like a groupie of some of these actors: Richard Cordery (holy crap can this guy act), Keith Bartlett (great as Northumberland, and I hope I can see him play Talbot again!), Maureen Beattie (her Duchess of York was formidable), and the rest of the wonderful cast.  But, wow, Jonathan Slinger, who was daring, beautiful, effeminate, and savage as Richard II. So didn’t I have to go up to him in the pub and tell him how great he was. And wasn’t he sweet and asked me how The Penelopiad was going, and how I was enjoying it, and this whole interchange was somehow surreal. And delicious. 

It can’t get much better than this.