The Journey Ends

It’s the morning after the last performance of Big River.  I’m in that post performance daze where it seems hard to believe that 6 months of work is over.

There were many new experiences and challenges working on this project, but the stand out thing was the people I worked with.  I was incredibly impressed by the director, stage manager, and the production team.  It made such a difference working with people who had a strong vision for the show and were competent in facilitating that.  I loved how the cast worked together.  We had a story to tell and everyone helped each other tell it.  There was a lot of love and support and a real feeling that we wanted each other to succeed and perform to the best of our ability.  It was also a joy working with the incredibly talented musicians.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed working with costume and wardrobe.  My sewing skills are basic, but I did manage to make my own costumes and some other pieces.  I discovered that ironing costumes in the theatre before the rest of the cast arrived really helped with the anxiety I feel before performing.  Actually, all the costume work did.  Having cast members come to me because they had lost their hat or their apron gave me something to think about other than the fact that I was going to have to perform in front of an audience.  I don’t do well if I have to sit still.

Acting with an American accent was a challenge.  I have no idea if I was any good at it, but I tried.  One of my friends who came to see the show appeared stunned by my performance saying that they had no idea who that woman was on the stage, but she wasn’t me.  I’m going to take that as a compliment as I’m not an old, American, shrewish spinster.

The Opening Number

Photo of “Do Ya Wanna Go to Heaven”, by Teruaku Ito

It was the first time I was involved in dramaturgy as I wrote a short piece on the historical context of the play for the program.  I didn’t know what the word “dramaturgy” meant when I was first asked to do this, but I was happy to try and I did enjoy researching the history of the 1840s in America.

So for now I will find a place to keep all the lovely notes and mementos I received and I’ll take a break from theatre.  It may be the end of my journey down the river, but it’s much too soon to know which parts of my own journey are only beginning.

. . .

Big River

I have been busy rehearsing as part of the ensemble cast of Big River.  The musical opens on the 19th May, so not long to wait now.  The city is getting warmer and I am finding it hard dancing in layers of clothing in hot rooms.  It will be hot on stage, so I will just have to get used to it.  I am so glad that during the performance each dance only happens once, unlike rehearsal where the point is to keep doing them until they are right.

It’s been fascinating doing theatre work again as technology has changed so many things.  Now rehearsals are organised with web-based project management tools.  Nearly every cast member is carrying a device capable of recording the rehearsal.  Choreography steps are videoed so you can review them at home.  There are apps to help you run lines.  And microphones are everywhere.  I’m not completely thrilled about the microphones, as it changes vocal technique, but I love most of the other changes.  Now if we just had air conditioners that didn’t dry out the throat…


. . .

Black Stripe Theater – SEVEN

I went to see the documentary play SEVEN last night, which was put on by Black Stripe Theater as part of International Women’s Month.  It’s an upsetting play to watch as it deals with rape, domestic violence, enforced prostitution, poverty, and human rights violations.  I won’t say that I enjoyed the play, but it was not supposed to be entertainment, and art can certainly make us feel uncomfortable.

I had not read about the seven woman before going to see the play so I was surprised that one of the seven was a portrayal of Inez McCormack, a human rights and trade union activist from Northern Ireland.  It was strange listening to a voice from my own culture and trying to work out how it fits with stories from woman from Afghanistan, Russia, Guatemala, Cambodia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.  I found myself feeling something like imposter syndrome for my home country as we do have a tendency to downplay what happened and the impact it had.

One of the aspects of the show that I really liked is that it depicted all seven woman together, in a way that they could not have been in real life.  It was beautiful in that it clearly showed that woman are the same all over the world.  That we all love, we all feel pain, and that we are more alike than we are different.  That there is hope for change.

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April 15th, 2016
. . .

Hospital Visit

Another morning spent at the thyroid hospital.  I always knew that the hospital was efficient but today they had posted expected waiting times in the various waiting rooms.  They aim to take blood from 50 people every 10 minutes. It always takes a little longer to take my blood, than the ideal time, as it makes me feel faint.  This seems to amuse the phlebotomists who don’t seem to understand that I can’t relax even if instructed to do so over and over.

Today I also had an ultrasound and it seems they aim to do 50 of these in an hour.  That is rather ambitious though, and they are failing to meet their targets.  The notices, inside the treatment area, suggest that they are averaging 37 an hour.  The other great thing about the hospital is that the provide the results quickly.  Today’s results were mostly good.  My thyroid gland has gotten smaller, I have no nodules, and most of my hormone levels are good.  The one that isn’t is more than the likely the reason why I’m having problems with insomnia and anxiety, but changing my medication would make things worse, so I’ll just have to find other ways to deal with that.  And hopefully it will be months before I have to have another blood test.

. . .

Traditional Food

My Japanese friends have strange ideas about the food eaten in Northern Ireland.  It was St. Patrick’s Day last week and I was asked what I was cooking.  I made Irish Stew, or at least I made what I call Irish Stew.  I tried to find a picture to show my friends but most of what I found on the internet was American food or something that looked much too pretty or deconstructed for me to call it a stew.  The stew I learnt to make in Belfast looks rather yucky in comparison.  It also saddened my friends to discover that we don’t make green desserts.  That things like mint brownies aren’t even slightly Irish, and the thought of dying food green disgusts me.

I did find a recipe that is similar to the stew I make in the Belfast Telegraph.  I can’t buy the same cuts of meat in Japan, but I also don’t want to spend hours waiting on meat to soften, so I substitute traditional meat with steak.

Irish Stew

Traditional Irish Stew


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March 23rd, 2016
. . .

Flu Season

I got flu.  It’s not very interesting.  I have spent days at home feeling horrible.  My body temperature moved from my normal 36.3 to 39.1 C (97.3 to 102.4 F). My pulse and blood pressure increased.  And I spent much too long in that state where you are too ill to do anything but not ill enough to just sleep the whole time.  I’m starting to get better, so maybe now I will be able to do something with my days, even if I tire quickly.

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February 15th, 2016
. . .

February Face

January has sped past.  I have managed to keep up with my personal goals, apart from the exercise ones.  I will need to try harder to sort out classes or soon it will be March and I will not be any fitter.

Most of my spare time is taken up with work on Big River.  I still can’t speak my lines with a Kentucky accent.  (An example of the Kentucky accent can be heard here on the International Dialects of English Archive.) I can say some of the words, but the majority of them elude me.  There are some words in my native accent that most English speakers would find hard to reproduce.  The Northern Irish version of “How, now, brown, cow” would make Henry Higgins despair.  But what I hadn’t realised was that my natural way of saying “how” would make it incredibly hard to change the word.  I can change the vowel sound but changing the position of the “h” in my mouth to start the word differently is tormenting me, and probably all those who have to listen to me try.  I’m a little horrified that I’m understudy for a character who has a Deep Southern accent, but I think I’ll tackle one accent at a time.

I have an audition at the weekend for a musical theatre class. I hate that audition songs have to be so short and I’m really struggling to cut the piece down to 1 minute so that it still makes sense.  I’m also breaking the unofficial audition song rules by singing Andrew Lloyd Webber.  “Unexpected Song” is not one of the more popular ones, so I imagine it will be fine.  I just can’t bear singing another ugly song, so I picked something with a tune that could be hummed by most people instead of the difficult Sondheim stuff I have been singing lately.

As usual winter is taking a toll on my health, but I’m trying to set realistic goals for each day.

“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”

-  William Shakespeare,  Much Ado About Nothing

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February 2nd, 2016
. . .

Southern Accent

I’ve just finished watching “Gone with the Wind”.  I’m sure I’ve seen it before but I was still surprised that it’s even longer than the extended version of “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”.   I’m not sure what I make of the movie but I was watching if for the accents.  I need to change my accent for a musical I’m taking part in.  I don’t know how to do that.  I know that my voice changes, depending on who I am talking to and what I’m doing, so it’s not like I can’t change it at all.  I can also change it when I’m singing, but I find it hard to do deliberately when I’m talking.  I also feel incredibly silly, which is something I’m going to need to get over.

I need to use a Southern accent, and unfortunately not a Southern Irish one.  The musical takes place in 1840 somewhere in Missouri.  Since there aren’t recordings I’m watching period movies set in the South.  The accents sound fake so I’m also listening to modern Southern accents, as even that would be much better than my own.

I also need to change the register that I speak in.  My usual speaking voice is not light and feminine.  At the minute I sound more like Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards” than I sound like Scarlett O’Hara.  I’m trying to find something slightly higher than my usual voice that doesn’t make me feel like Mickey Mouse.  It’s going to be a challenge!

Next up – “Driving Miss Daisy”.

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January 15th, 2016
. . .

Winter Trip

We spent three days at Niseko Village. I love Hokkaido in the winter. It doesn’t remind me of home, though lots of people in Japan think that Northern Ireland should be a snowy wonderland in winter. It looks like the sort of winter you see on old Christmas cards – more like Narnian winter than reality. If it wasn’t so cold it would be perfect.

We had wanted to try using a snowmobile for a while and this time we managed to hire one.  I didn’t have to drive, M did that, I just had to hold on.  That mostly worked but towards the end of the drive we managed to get stuck in a snowdrift and we both fell off the machine.  We were out with an instructor who was able to come to our rescue.  It’s certainly safer to fall off than a motorbike as the snow was very soft and deep. We also weren’t going very fast at the time as we were driving up the mountain.  It took a lot of effort to get back up as snow is surprisingly heavy when you end up buried in it.  It would also have been easier if we hadn’t been laughing so much.  It was a lot of fun and I would certainly try it again.  Maybe next time I’ll be braver and will try driving.

Niseko Village

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January 14th, 2016
. . .

Looking Back at 2015

I have a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days.  I’m not strict with it.  It doesn’t have 101 things and once the 1001 days run out I reset the dates, carry forward the unfinished goals, and add new ones.  I like the name even if I’m not great with the concept.  It does show me that I achieved some of my personal goals in 2015.

I always have plans to write more though I fail at regular blog posts. I did take part in NaNoWriMo and managed to write 50,000 words of fiction in under 30 days.  This year I attempted to write something in third person, which felt quite different than the 1st person prose I have written in the past.

I read more than 100 books. I’m not sure what made me choose that number last year as it wasn’t a challenge as I’m fairly sure that I do that every year.  I did add more non-fiction books to my list and also read a few classics that I had been meaning to read for years. I picked “The Great Gatsby” as my 100th book.  I worry that classic books won’t be anywhere near as good as they are hyped to be but it is worth reading.

I saw Elton John in concert.  He was wonderful.   He played for 2 and half hours and I was surprised by how good he is live.

I learnt to crochet.  This something I have wanted to do for years.  I had tried before but got confused.  This time I asked a friend to help and I was really surprised to find out that unlike knitting it didn’t matter that I was left handed.  I have managed to make hats, scarfs, gloves, and a shawl since I started in August.

I wanted to learn new songs in both English and Japanese.  I wasn’t so good at the Japanese part but I did meet my goals in relation to English songs.  I also took part in a stage production with Body n Voice studios.  It was the first time I had performed in a musical since my early 20s, so it was a bit scary.  It turned out to be a lot of work so thankfully it was also a lot of fun.

Singing about Pies in Sweeney Todd

Singing about Pies in Sweeney Todd

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January 5th, 2016
. . .