Thursday, March 26, 2009

Calling A Spade A Spade

One of the refreshing and at the same time shocking aspects of Latin American culture and Spanish is the use of adjectives as nouns to describe a person. More accurately, to call a person. This is only shocking to those, like me, who have been raised in a hypersensitive "politically correct" culture where certain words are better and more polite than others.

It is not uncommon to hear someone referred to here as "el gordo" (the fat guy) or "la negra" (the black girl). I imagine people in the northern half of the Americas clumsily tripping over themselves trying to point out "the big-boned gentleman" or "the woman of African ancestry," respectively. If they were to identify someone as "fat" they may get slapped or, at the very least, a disapproving look.

I've been called "gringo" and "mono" as proper nouns enough times that I really should capitalize them. My maid, I'm sure, thinks my name is "joven" (young) and once one of my students referred to me as "el rosadito" (the little pink guy).

With all the blunt name-calling, I've learned to not be offended by being called what I am. However, I was taken aback the other day in the grocery store when the checkout girl, who was all of 20 years old herself, called to get my attention (I was momentarily looking at something else - most likely a shiny object). "Chico!" she yelled. I looked up to find her looking at me. Chico? Really? "Joven," sure. "Muchacho," okay. But "chico"?

I always joke that I look the same age as my students. Maybe 15 years old is a little too generous. Is five better? I guess I'm just be thankful she didn't say "niño."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

All Shook Up: Part IV

Opening Night: Thursday, March 5th

Not many bodies in the seats. The rumor that "opening night is never good" must have gotten around. As an incentive to fill seats, Mori gave one ticket to each member of the production to give to anyone they wanted. There goes at least 80 more chairs. Still a little baren, but hopefully that "word of mouth rumor" has legs too.

The sound guys were horrible tonight; they brought a couple assistants who had never been to any of our rehearsals! Not only do they not know the show or the kids, but its in English and the last time I checked, none of them spoke any! C'mon! After some horrible mic drops, they must have decided they would get yelled at less if they just kept the mics on even during the dialog. It kind of helped.
At least the musicians, actors, and chorus were amazing. The lead actress, who plays Natalie, messed up some verses in two different songs but it wasn't super obvious. Nerves on opening night happen and she's a pro. The backstage and lighting guys are also getting the hang of things and the few mistakes they did make won't be made again.

Second Time's the Charm: Friday, March 6th

I wasn't horribly nervous last night. I left that up to the kids. I was shaking with anxiety tonight. The sound guys didn't show up until 10 minutes to curtains-up. And when they did show, they jsut kid of sauntered in and gave me and Juli a "Hola, Q'hubo? (What's up?)" Really? You're going to stroll in here over 50 minutes late and give me a frat-boy head nod when this is your paid job??? It's a good thing I was busy playing usher or I'd have given that guy a good ole "Q'hubo" to the crotch. Not cool.

Despite the sound guys not really doing a proper sound check, the show went well. The energy was high and the actors tried out some things with more confidence that they tested the night before. New jokes are coming out and jokes that aren't getting many laughs are being quietly breezed past. The crowd was bigger and a lot more engaged than last night but that could have to do with size too.

"Natalie" killed it tonight. Everything was working and it was great! Well, we have two options for a hat in one scene. It ends up on Natalie's head in the end and she prefers the non-itchy one. That one was not available tonight so Natalie was itchy.

"Mucho Mierda!": Saturday, March 7th

That's what they say here instead of "Break A Leg." It means "lots of shit" which doesn't make much sense but neither does wishing someone fracture their walking appendage...

Sound and lights we all on their game today! Technically this was the best! Josh thought the acting was a little stale and laid into the cast during intermission. They fixed the problem and really killed the second act. (The first act wasn't bad, though, by any means; it's just been more energetic in the past.)

The crowd was the biggest we've had but the least responsive; it took them awhile to warm up to the show. I know that this can happen anywhere, but the risk is bigger when your audience may or not be bilingual. This may have saved us some embarrassment when "Natalie" came out to sing "Blue Suede Shoes" and wasn't wearing them. Oops. In her defense, her character has the most and quickest costume changes of any of the cast.

We asked the student who is making the DVD of the show to come back and tape one more part tonight. Even with the mics on for the whole show the previous two nights, one song, "That's All Right, Mama," kept wreaking havoc on the character of Lorraine. She has an amazing voice but the audience could never hear it since her mic always cut out right before or during that song. After two botched runs of that scene, we got a decent take for the video.

On a personal note, I need a night off of being the male choral section; my voice is shot and I'm getting a sinus infection of some sort. I hit an awful last note on "Can't Help Falling In Love With You" a the Act break. I had "with" in the bag and then "you" hit and I swung that mic away from my face faster than lights out. Aaack!! Never fear, I fixed the bum note and slowly allowed the mic to come closer again. There will be lots of tea, orange juice, and a trip to the La Rebaja drug store on the corner in the next four days...

Back in the Saddle: Thursday, March 12th

Best crowd yet!!! It didn't hurt that around 50% were students and faculty but they were really responsive which got the actors going. There was definitely a new-fond comfort level with the script from the actors tonight as there was much more improvisation going on than in previous performances. It all went well, but that doesn't mean I don't get more nervous backstage listening to them go off-script for fun.

The lead actor was not in school yesterday - a badly timed case of the flu. Fortunately, it was the 24-hour variety. I can't explain how happy I was when I saw him eating in the cafeteria this morning before school. He was definitely back in top form too as he had to help some of his fellow thespians out of some botched or skipped lines not once, not twice, but three times during the show. It was impressive to say the least. I hope they all know how lucky they are to have him there to seamlessly recover from potentially enormous errors!

The head mic worn by the character of Lorraine still drops her every night during "That's All Right, Mama" and they sound guys try telling her its "because her voice is so strong." As they say in the show - that's bunk. It doesn't cut out on any other of her songs! Unfortunately, she might be forced to move to a hand-mic tomorrow.

I think this was my favorite overall night, thus far. Eliminate the need to ad-lib because someone else botched a line or a cue and we're in business for the best show EVER. Tomorrow perhaps...?

Building Momentum: Friday, March 13th

Friday the 13th. Almost too ironically our trumpet player literally broke his leg about an hour before the show. Some of the kids were killing time playing microfutbol behind the auditorium and he ran into the fence. "Jailhouse Rock" suffered a little, as did his two dance partners who were suddenly without. Also, "Sheriff Earl" has a blister on his foot that he adds nice new character trait - a slight limping gait - to his walk. He's a good sport about it though!

Other than that, the show as fantastic! It was the largest crowd by far and tomorrow is sure to be at capacity which is exciting. The audience was also really engaged and laughed a lot which was energizing for the cast, to say the least. No one forgot or botched any lines.

The worst snafu that occurred was when the actor that plays "Jim" forgot to put hi leather jacket into the trunk that was already on stage for scene in with the trunk is opened and the jacket is taken out. I told him there was no getting it in there now and to do the scene with it. After he went on stage though I realized that the other character involved in the scene did not know the jacket wasn't in there so as they came closer to my side of the stage to open the trunk, I tossed the jacket so that it landed perfectly on the other character's arm. The crowd laughed and a potential awkward moment was semi-averted. In related news, if anyone needs a partner for horseshoes, I might be of service!

Tomorrow night is closing night...tear. I'm going to miss this!

Beautiful Things: Saturday, March 14th

Everything going right. People so in sync with what is supposed to be going on that when something does go wrong, it is covered so seamlessly one would think it was rehearsed. The handing of mic by a stagehand to an onstage actor when her head mic failed. The voluntary search for a missing costume piece from a chorus member who most likely has no idea where to look. Everything going right. Even when it's not.

Enthusiastic crowds. A full house. Trying that one line you always wanted to say but know that "It's Now or Never" so you do it. Flowers at the end of the show. Hugs. Beautiful things.

I was so dehydrated at the end of the show - I had no water for the entire second act and it was so humid backstage I was glowing - I literally had no moisture in me to produce a tear. I've never felt like my body wanted to cry, but I was just out of liquid. I think one squeaked out during the second to last scene when all the characters are on stage together as the show climaxes. If there was one, it was tiny and evaporated quickly.

Earlier this year at a staff training we were asked to think about a group or team that we have worked with or for that was really great. I put down either the UWEC Swimming & Diving team from my junior year, the Washington Junior High science department 2005-2007, or possibly my American Experience group from high school in 11th grade. I have a new team now. Working with Mori, Juli, Josh, and Pato (as well as the entire cast and crew) has been rewarding beyond words; it all clicked. I'm tearing up typing this. Beautiful things.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

All Shook Up: Part III

Today is opening night. Part of me is really excited. This night has been months in the making. Everyone involved - actors, musicians, dancers, choir members, backstage crew, directors - is ready. There are the regular nerves but I don't think anyone is panicking. (Something new and different for a dramatic production!)

The other part of me doesn't want opening night to happen. The sooner opening night happens, the sooner the whole experience is over. This has been such an enjoyable group of people to work with that I'm going to be kind of sad when it's over. I will definitely enjoy each and every performance and all the little surprises that come with, but the final show will be very bittersweet.

In related news, the preview performance last Sunday went well. (Well, the sound guy messed up the microphones and missed a few sound effect cues, essentially wrecking the whole audio aspect of the first act, but everyone on stage was a pro!) In one particularly terrible series of events, the lead character's head mic cut out and then, when he was handed a traditional hand-held mic, it too wasn't turned on all the way. Plus, acting and performing choreography with a hand mic is slightly more difficult. Finally, the guitar strap holding the instrument across his back snapped and the guitar dropped to the floor. I was having a heart-attack for the guy from up in the lighting booth, as were the other directors, but he just kept moving like it was part of the gig. The second act was amazing.

I also have to commend the actors for somehow pulling off the incredible feat of not being distracted by or committing homicide during the show. Some of the audience members at the preview performance brought very young children with them and allowed them to congregate immediately in front of the stage. It seemed that the only time an adult would appear to grab their young charge was when the kid actually reached the top step. So, unless they were literally sitting on the stage, it was okay that they were attempting to engage the actors in a screaming contest.

I was attempting to keep my frustration to myself, but when the students in the lightning booth with me started to express their rage, I had confirmation that mine was justified. Juli went and moved some kids out of the aisle before a scene involving a character that enters through the audience. I threw small bits of paper down on Josh in the back row to have him move the kids off and out of the way of the steps as half the dancers would be spontaneously sprinting off the stage in that direction at the end of the next number. Being that the auditorium is dark past the stage, the conditions were ripe for accidentally trampled children.

Here's hoping tonight there will be perfect sound, good lighting, perfect notes, remembered cues, no wardrobe malfunctions, and an absence of small children. Oh, and a show that goes on forever and ever!

(To Be Continued...once more)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lost & Found

Occasionally I wonder, as I type these entries, if anyone actually reads them. If they don't it's no big deal - I like writing little vignettes about my life here for my own recollections and record keeping as well as a means to keep family and friends informed and to serve as entertainment from time to time.

Yesterday at our second technical rehearsal and subsequent preview performance for the musical (to be discussed later), a couple of the seniors notified me that they had stumbled upon my blog after Googling information about the Copa de la Amistad. I was surprised that the blog ranked so high on Google's list to warrant being found in the first place. I also freaked out in my head hoping that, in my naïvety of the first few months in Colombia, I hadn't written anything that wasn't entirely factually accurate. Or worse...offensive!

After a mental inventory, and half an hour re-reading past blogs late at night, I'm okay with the idea that random people stumble upon my musings. After all, I kind of have to be since I'm not technologically savvy enough to put a filter on this thing!