Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On The Set With Cora Bissett

If asked to summarize Cora Bisset’s Roadkill, I’d pick something along the lines of provocative, shattering, and tragic. However, after reading Roadkill prior to our master class with Cora Bissett, it was very comforting to walk into our rehearsal room and see a brightly colored and fashionable woman that would bring to life to our empty rehearsal room with her ideas, sense of humor, passion, and her overall uplifting personality. It was an honor to have had a wonderful and engaging master class with the highly acclaimed musician, actress, writer, and director.

​During this master class Cora Bissett showed us short clips of Roadkill, discussing her choices and reasons for her directorial vision for the production. With the large television screen reflecting actress Ojelade’s cry for help as the cover photo for the play, Ms. Bissett calmly discussed difficult and thought provocative topics with us including her own personal story that influenced her to write Roadkill. Also she shared how people initially reacted after seeing the intimate apartment staged play and finally, she shared her upcoming project which speaks against female genital mutilation.

​After the master class, the Company and I attended a poetry reading by the legendary Liz Lochhead at The Tron Theatre in Glasgow. Even there, the room suddenly brightened as Cora Bissett entered to enjoy and support her fellow theatre artist.

-Karolina Keach

Monday, August 18, 2014

Long Live the Fringe

We are in the midst of our last performances of Forget Fire, and it is impossible not to feel nostalgic. This show has been rewarding in so many ways, and truly has pushed our creativity boundaries, enlightening us all to think of theatre in a new way. I think that before coming to Scotland, I put theatre in a box. You get a script, get a part, rehearse, perform and then on to the next. But alas! It is so much more... Theatre is meant to share something with the audience, a feeling, a message, a metaphor. It can break past conventions and explore topics and issues from every angle. I honestly think my experience at the Fringe these last two weeks have been some of the most inspiring days of my life. My typical days these weeks have been: wakeup, perform, see show, see show, eat, see show, see show. I cannot convey how much I’ve learned as an actor from seeing all of these wonderful performances. Theatre is alive and thriving and breaking through boundaries here at the Fringe, and that is something so rare to experience this day in age. Actors are everywhere bustling through the city selling their show and coming to ours, it feels like a family. This is a place where Actors can come together and share their work while learning so much from everyone else at the same time. It’s incredible! I am so excited to journey back to Malibu with my fresh mindset on how alive and tangible theatre is. Long live the Fringe! 

Natalie Hovee

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Military Tattoo

As an American, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my expectations were a bit off. I definitely pictured strong men and women in the armed forces of the Scottish military, covered in glamorous body art, battling to the death. And something about bagpipes.

Well…..I was right about the bagpipes!

I watched as bits of history marched in front of the Edinburgh Castle. I saw India, Singapore, New Zealand….so many cultures and countries showcase their culture. These cultures come together for three weeks out of the year to display their pride and skills to the people from around the world. Highland Dancing, a steel drum marching band, spears, snipers…..I was awestruck by the talent, music, and quite honestly, the organization. As a tech who works backstage a lot, how they managed to organize several marching bands, group numbers, bagpipes, a choir, platforms, stilts, and ponies….I want to be on that crew!

As these tourists and members of the United Kingdom came together, I felt the unity in Scotland. As our trip comes to a close, this is one of the things I am going to miss the most about Scotland. Despite the referendum, their differences, and their struggles, the Scots welcome everyone into their culture and immerse you into it. They aren’t afraid to tell you the truth, and they are proud to be who they are. This is what the Tattoo displayed: Unity in a time where Scotland could choose to be bitter. Pride in a country that displays great strength.
No battling to the death. No displays of glamorous body art. Just culture…..including some of my pop culture music. I guess it wouldn’t be complete without something from the Americans!

-Maddy Fortney

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Living the Dream

I climbed New Arthur’s Seat the other day. As I sat on a rock overlooking the city and writing in my journal I couldn’t help but feel a joyful serenity within me. How wonderfully blessed I am to be sitting here in Scotland.

As a young child never would I have dreamed that I would someday venture to Scotland and study theatre for two months. Never would I have dreamed that I would devise a piece with a company from my universityand then perform it at the international FestivalFringe.
Yet this dream I never dreamed still came true. And now here I am in the middle of our run sitting atop a hill in Edinburgh. Only three performances left. Knowing the end is so near I am sitting and pondering what I will do with what I have seen in the last two months. From devising, to the master classes, to the theatre I have seen how do I take this home with me? As we say in our show, “We can’t go back”. We must move forward with our lives and keep a little piece of Scotland forever in our hearts. Soon it will be time to take our new knowledge and experience and use it to motivate and inspire our work in the future. We must forge ahead and as Cathy likes to say in her pep talk before the show, “Keep the energy up!”

- Chelsey Maus

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Enlightenment in Exhaustion

Everyday is the same, yet everyday is different; nothing is new, yet so many things have changed; you’ve reached the point where routine becomes so much more than everyday rituals. The life of an artist, as we’ve begun to clearly understand here in the theatre-filled city of Edinburgh, entails exploration and discovery…day in and day out.

Imagine waking up every morning, getting dressed, making breakfast (or finding a place to grab a quick bite), and performing the same show, in the same city, in the same venue, at the same time over the span of eleven days; after which you find yourself walking around the city everyday trying to see as much of the more than 3,000 shows as you possibly can before passing out on your bed from exhaustion at around 1am. So far, that’s been pretty “routine” here in Edinburgh. At first, I thought the idea of it all completely unrealistic. Why would I want to see more shows after performing the exact same piece of theatre every single day? After dealing with all the mental and physical “wear and tear” of the intense schedule in Glasgow (which for me as well as some other individuals usually meant 9am – 9pm school/rehearsal days), why would I want to exhaust myself further? It only took a few days here in Edinburgh to understand that exhaustion can lead to freedom and enlightenment.

It’s lying in bed following a warm shower after a long and intense workout at the gym; it’s the feeling after you’ve walked out the door of a rigorous and grueling course you spent hours and days studying and working hard at; it’s watching a child grow and reflecting on all the things you contributed to their upbringing, now to be proud of the person they’ve become; that’s the feeling. Learning and growing from each and every moment invested in an activity, no matter how difficult it became, has brought you to the point of deep reflection about the world and yourself. All of the tension and effort you’ve put in is now being rewarded with more than a mere accomplishment. It’s rewarded you with enlightenment.

Being in theatre, living in place full of theatre, and indulging in a breadth of different theatrical cultures daily has been nothing short of enlightening. In only five days, we’ve seen shows culturally and stylistically different; taking us from Brazilian song and dance, to the Scottish Referendum, to American rock music, to the arts of Asia, all the way to Greek Mythology, and more. Some have had fun with puppets, or been “awakened” by an experience with Dracula, and some have even had the pleasure of watching Shakespeare’s classics done as: a rock musical, as a fusion with Elvis Presley, and with one of the cast members completely and deliberately “impaired” (all on separate occasions). The vast expanse of possibilities has taught me to not watch a “show” when I see a piece of theatre onstage, but to see the world and a different part of it instead. Honestly, I don’t know how cheesy or unrealistic that sounds, but that’s how I legitimately feel at this point. Each and every time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a show, I’ve learned something about another country; been introduced to things I’ve never even heard of, and seen things I never thought even possible in theatre, or in life for that matter. I’ve been exposed to people being moved to the point of tears (either because of deep sympathy or extreme laughter) due to a particular piece on many occasions. It’s gotten to the point where this California raised, Asian–American boy has become interested in travelling the world not just to say I did it or to make a great story to tell the kids, but to learn something totally new and unexpected. That’s what theatre did for me, and that’s what theatre does for so many others in this world. 

It’s also been an inspiration to write. In all honesty, I haven’t seen a single show that I’ve particularly disliked which, believe it or not, could be seen as quite an easy thing with some of the bold and random show ideas here at the FRINGE. That just gives me confidence in writing a piece of my own; writing not only to share knowledge, but to gain it by exploring things I never thought to explore before.

As my thoughts come to a close, I’d just like to encourage anyone who hasn’t seen a show in awhile to do it. Just take the time. It doesn’t matter where or when. Just do it. It can even be a children’s theatre piece. You’d be surprised what you’d find. Look at a child and watch the fun he/she has exploring something new and taking pride in the things they’ve learned, whether it be about pirates and kids who never get old, or a romance between a bookworm and a transformed prince; lessons on love, family, and growing up. Take the time to see the smile on their face at curtain call; a smile that’s present because they’ve learned that hard work is rewarded and fruitful; a smile that exists because they’ve learned the joys of putting a smile on someone else’s face.

OR, just watch something more age appropriate for you and learn something. To each their own…


God bless
- Mathew San Jose

Friday, August 8, 2014

Scratch Performances for Creative Scotland

Theatre can happen anywhere, anytime, and in any form. Today during the final presentations for the Contemporary Scottish Theatre class, I found this to be incredibly true. I had the pleasure of seeing three scratch performances of devised pieces that were in no doubt a testament to how many talented people we have in our company for Forget Fire. From a feminist manifesto, to a trashy experience, to a questioning of grass, I got to see how creative and collective experimentation could lead to greatness. Each individual scratch performance had the through line of activism, which was surprisingly not an enforced theme. I find that incredibly interesting. Nowadays we live in a world where you see a lot of people starting to voice their opinions and speak out against what people think isn’t right. To see that reflected in a theatre setting with young artists is phenomenal. It got me thinking about how powerful theatre is. You can take an idea, nurture it, devise the heck out of it, and get a product that can be profound, funny, poignant, experimental, shocking, artistic, and just plain important to see.

Aside from the great performance work the groups did, they put an immense amount of time into a project that mirrors the process of actually putting up a devised piece. They filled out funding applications, got producers, wrote letters, and did it all while having rehearsal for our show (something I commend them greatly for being able to do). It just reminds me no matter how much you have going on, there is always time to step back and reflect on what you’ve done. Watching my fellow company members put up their “babies” they’ve been working on reminded me about how Forget Fire’s opening show is coming up soon and I can finally say our baby has come a long way!

-Jalon Matthews

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Not A Review - with @PeterArnottGlas, @CoraBissett, @Scuffette, @janisjoplinshow, @MarkFFisher + more

The company asked me to contribute a blog post sometime in the week that we opened. I spend so much of my time as producer writing about the show and explaining the exchange that it seems nearly impossible to contribute anything new to the discussion, so it was difficult to start.  However, with this blog we have encouraged students to pick a little nugget of material from their subject matter and expand on their personal interaction with that very specific aspect or event within the larger experience, so I figure I ought to do the same.

This summer was my second time co-teaching with Mark Fisher, who uses the craft of reviewing to trace a thread through contemporary Scottish theatre history.  We focus a lot on 'reviewing a piece on its own terms', using three questions originally posited in antiquity but brought together and made known by Goethe: What were they trying to do? How well did they do it? And was it worth doing in the first place?  I love watching students engage with these questions.  It forces them to examine our subject matter beyond their own personal tastes and theatrical interests.  In many cases it allows them to expand the reach of their interests as well.

Cathy Thomas-Grant, John Kielty, and Peter Arnott
accept a 2012 Scotsman Fringe First Award
for Why Do You Stand There In The Rain?
In that spirit I want to look at Janis Joplin: Full Tilt, created by Peter Arnott and Cora Bissett, two of my long time friends, mentors, and collaborators from my time in Glasgow.  I first met Peter when he was writing for me as an actor on the MA Classical and Contemporary Text course at the (then) RSAMD.  He went on to write Why Do You Stand There In The Rain?, Pepperdine Scotland's first commission, for which we won a 2012 Scotsman Fringe First Award and were shortlisted for a number of other honours.  I met Cora not long after Peter.  She was developing a piece about sex trafficking on a shoestring budget and was just gathering her first few funders.  At the time she was still figuring out exactly how she wanted to tell the story of Roadkill, so just as a favour and on the understanding that she had no budget for this, a few of us from the MA course went along and volunteered for a day of filming various conceptual bits for the play.  Some of these clips went on to become the harrowing wall-and-ceiling projections in the Olivier Award winning theatrical masterpiece.

Since then I have worked with each of them on a number of other projects of varying sizes in Glasgow and Chicago and have seen an awful lot of their work.  As a great admirer and student of their theatrical practices, I was thrilled to hear last year that Cora had plucked her own little nugget of The 27 Club (by John Kielty, another Pepperdine Scotland collaborator) and was working with Peter and powerhouse performer Angie Darcy to create a Janis Joplin biopic for A Play, A Pie, and A Pint.  On Saturday night I finally had the pleasure of seeing the piece - now in its expanded Edinburgh Festival Fringe form - and bringing the entire Pepperdine Scotland company along too.

Angela Darcy in Janis Joplin: Full Tilt
As I see it, Peter, Cora, and Angie set out to give us a window into the troubled life of the famous singer - and to do it in Janis' signature full-on rock star way.  Leave it to Peter's penchant for beautiful, politically poignant, and perfectly pitched text to accomplish the former end.  Cora gives us the latter goal, brilliantly done in her now-signature multi-arts rock-gig performance-spectacle style, drawing on all the many strengths of her hugely talented multidisciplined ensemble of performers and co-creators.  My mentor duo's piece soars, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats with equal parts agit-prop Scottish Theatre tradition and harrowing personal tragedy.  It's thrillingly reflective of both artists' main strengths and favourite working styles.

One of my main goals with this exchange is to do away with the notion that educational theatre, or theatre by students in training, is always a kind of amateur approximation of what they will 'really' do when they graduate.  Something we always ask in the commissioning and creation process for Pepperdine Scotland is: what is the story that these students and this playwright can tell better than anyone else on the planet?  We try to treat the students as young professionals: their range of abilities and the refinement of their craft may not be fully developed yet, but there are things that they are more qualified to do onstage than the seasoned veterans whose names audiences recognise.  Similarly, I think Janis Joplin is a beautiful example of what can happen when a particular group of artists with hugely varied talents and careers succeed in telling the story they are most qualified to share with the world.

So you know how well I think the Janis team accomplished their own ends.  Was it worth doing in the first place?  Well Cathy, my boss and the Pepperdine Scotland Director, grew up on the music of Janis and her contemporaries.  I watched her jamming along to the music, revisiting her youth with great nostalgia throughout the show, and I watched her get a bit weepy as Janis left us.  In fact, many of her contemporaries in the audience did.  It didn't affect me and my generation in quite the same way - I only know one or two Janis Joplin songs - but it was thrilling to spend an hour experiencing a moment in history that was previously foreign to me.  And for those younger than me - our students' generation - at least one of them thought we were actually going to see Janis Joplin, so they had even less context for the piece than me.  But they all seemed thrilled.  They bobbed their heads along to the music, I think some of them were shocked by Janis' death, and they all left with a slightly new understanding of what is possible in theatre and how different art forms might share territory with one another.  Beyond that, I think across the generations the whole audience left with new thoughts and questions about whether 'then' and 'now' are really that different, and about what lessons we have yet to learn from Janis and her contemporaries.

If I was reviewing this piece, Peter, Cora, Angie, and Janis would surely get five stars.  But I'm not reviewing it.  That's not what I do.  And that's not what this blog is about. 
Not this year anyway. 
Though if you want some recommendations you ought to speak to Matt Davis, our hugely capable production manager and a 3rd time student on the exchange.  I think he's seen more theatre in the past four days than any Fringe goer I've ever met.  Maybe he'll blog a list of recommendations here soon.

Next task for me is to learn how to take my own oft-repeated advice and be concise.  Apologies for the long post.  Hopefully you enjoyed it anyway.

- Alex Fthenakis

Janis Joplin: Full Tilt
On at Assembly Checkpoint, 20.50
Through 24 August

Also at the Tron Theatre

Monday, July 28, 2014

On The Set With Cora Bissett

Cora discussing Roadkill with the Company
If asked to summarize Cora Bisset’s Roadkill, I’d pick something along the lines of provocative, shattering, and tragic. However, after reading Roadkill prior to our master class with Cora Bissett, it was very comforting to walk into our rehearsal room and see a brightly colored and fashionable woman that would bring to life to our empty rehearsal room with her ideas, sense of humor, passion, and her overall uplifting personality. It was an honor to have had a wonderful and engaging master class with the highly acclaimed musician, actress, writer, and director.

During this master class Cora Bissett showed us short clips of Roadkill, discussing her choices and reasons for her directorial vision for the production. With the large television screen reflecting protagonist Mary's cry for help as the cover photo for the play, Ms. Bissett calmly discussed difficult and thought provoking topics with us including her own personal story that influenced her to write Roadkill. Also she shared how people initially reacted after seeing the intimate apartment staged play and finally, she shared her upcoming project which speaks against female genital mutilation.

After the master class, the Company and I attended a poetry reading by the legendary Liz Lochhead at The Tron Theatre in Glasgow. Even there, the room suddenly brightened as Cora Bissett entered to enjoy and support her fellow artists.

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Open Table

What is theatre exactly? How do we define it? Should we define it? Is it sacred? Or should it be free for anyone to claim as their category? These are the questions I have been consistently confronted with while traveling here. From cheesy musicals, to carnival performances, to poetry readings, to puppet shows, to concerts with political excerpts, this past month has exposed me to a variety theatre-ish-like-things, and have made me rethink the definition of this art form and what that means for my future as a theatre artist.

Embracing the spirit of these new forms of theatre, the Religion class performed a piece composed entirely from verses of the book of John, arranged by their professor Dr. Donald Smith, where they sat with the audience around a long table imitating the communal atmosphere that the disciples and Jesus shared. Here, is a small poem-ish-like-thing which I think is appropriate for describing the experience I had as an observer of yet another theatre-ish-like-thing.
  • Leaving expectations at the door
  • Warm hands, warm faces, warm souls 
  • “Good Morning! Welcome!”
  • A hug, a pat on the back, a grin
  • “Come, sit with us.”
  • A table spread
  • Sit down
  • Someone speaks
  • More speak
  • All speak
  • What they are saying is familiar
  • A Bible mashup if you wish
  • A disco surprise
  • Water to wine
  • Drink! 
  • Loafs of bread 
  • Eat! 
  • Jesus crucified, Jesus survived
  • Rejoice!
  • A floating flute melody weaves 
  • All of us still 
  • Sitting together

-Sarah Lindsley

Thursday, July 24, 2014

David Harrower: Secret Revealed

Daunting. Unfathomable. Overwhelming. Unattainable.

As our season of master classes draws to a close, these adjectives lingered in the back of my mind, the part one is not allowed to speak of due to the pessimistic thoughts living there. But in fact, after meeting so many spectacular and brilliant individuals I find myself feeling increasingly like a grain of sand on a very, very vast beach. The success of each professional who has so graciously come in to mentor our Pepperdine troupe has dazzled us and stoked our creative embers. However, some part of their capability leaves me a little frightened at how far along they are and how far I have yet to go; which is precisely why David Harrower's honest and personal acknowledgement of the moments of self-doubt that all artists face was a breath of fresh air.

Mr. Harrower first shared how he has come to be the successful theatre and TV writer he is. Unencumbered, he also shared some of his more challenging and 'uninspiring' career moments, both past and present. Oddly this was more inspiring and refreshing than I could have imagined. It was as if my soul let out a deep sigh knowing it was not alone.

In fact, he approached us students as equals in the creative process of devising. He allowed us to develop improved scenes based on one of his unfinished/unpublished plays. Each group brought material to the table that Mr. Harrower watched, commented on, and drew his own ideas from. It was inspiring to be able to collaborate with such a brilliant and knowledgeable individual.

Today's master class was a mile marker for me in terms of how I deal with the voices that try to discourage me as an artist. The ones that will awaken you in the middle of the night and whisper that you are not enough--not good enough, not trained enough, not smart enough, not attractive enough, not talented enough. Those thoughts are isolating, and steal the artist's creativity, but David Harrower had the courage to be real, and break the segregating power they have. I feel my artist's soul refreshed and ready to create, now--ironically--unafraid of my own fear.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lynda Radley: The Communal Act of Sharing

The Company, staging Dorm with Lynda (right)
Lynda Radley, playwright of Futureproof, a play about what intrigues people to watch fantastic “transformation stories” and what the life of those being transformed is really like. Furutreproof was a definite favorite of our Contemporary Scottish Theatre class, which was read and studied the play.

Lynda’s philosophy was that the best way to work with something is on its feet; and that we did. In our short amount of time, Pepperdine Scotland’s actors and designers came together to work on various scenes not only from Futureproof, but also from her as-yet-unproduced play, Dorm, as well as The Art of Swimming, and I’ve Got Girl. Whirling from one extract to the next, we were all able to explore and work with space and what that means to our characters and to our audiences. Each piece so was different from the next, that as actors and designers it kept us on our toes for transforming one piece to the next. Lynda has a beautiful and diverse writing style that I really enjoyed working with and opened my eyes to different styles of writing beyond basic dialogue, including use of stage directions and contrasting monologues.

Tasia and Karolina take on the roles of Lillie and Millie
Futureproof has characters from a traveling freak show, all with various physical abnormalities from conjoined twins, an extra-large man, and a woman with no arms and a beard. We worked with Lynda on what embodying that physical trait means to our character and how we approach it. Being conjoined by neck ties and one pair of pants to Karolina (even just for an hour) was a difficulty in itself! Dorm explores shared sleeping spaces of strangers, like an airport lobby, a sleeper train, or a hotel. In a short amount of time we took on the challenge of creating these different spaces all within the same room and flowing from one scene to the next while taking the audience on a journey through the rooms. Working with and creating these different spaces changed how I work as an actor and made me realize the importance of your surroundings.

Lynda talked about plays being “the communal act of sharing something” and that is definitely what we got to do in this master class.

Hakuna Matata,

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Citizens' Theatre

Image courtesy The List.co.uk
Today, our company had the pleasure of exploring Glasgow’s “Citizens Theatre,” and from the moment we arrived, it was obvious that this theatre was ripe with history.

Built in 1876, the theater was due for some remodeling. During our tour we got to see the reconstruction of a seating section - this renovation will be careful not to destroy any of the intricate details of the house, including the many red and gold figures and reliefs that personify various styles of theatrical art.

Our tour took us behind, above, and even below the stage as we explored the various crafting areas (rehearsal spaces, wardrobe rooms, and prop storage areas) as well as the old machinery in the bowels of the theatre. Altogether, this theatre is the perfect monument to the eternal and colorful vitality of theatre.

A conversation with Artistic Director, Dominic Hill, revealed that the truly impressive component of this theatre is not its mechanics, but its dedication to the public. The Citizens Theatre was once called the Royal Princess Theatre, and proudly displays an old window heralding that chapter in its history in the Dress Circle Lounge above the foyer, paying tribute to the old elegance of the venue.
In 1940, the Citizens Theatre Company was forged to provide affordable theatre to all social classes. Today, the Citizens Theatre upholds their foundational tradition of providing free previews and programs to its audiences and offering the best theatre experience for the lowest price, in addition to amazing work with minority groups and the regular citizens of Scotland.

The Citizens Theatre was a fantastic stop on our trek through Scotland as it gave each of us a reminder of the spirit of theatre. The stage is not a pedestal for actors and designers; it is not a screen for audiences to merely watch and be entertained. Rather, it is a place to gather communities to unite in shared laughter, grief, silence, and applause. That is the pride and the power of the Citizens Theatre.

-Caleb Wright

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An Out of Body Experience

You know those moments in life where it feels as if you’ve floated up out of your body, watching yourself? Or how about a time when something hits you so hard that for a second, it almost takes your breath away? Today was one of those days.

At eleven o’clock this morning, I had the pleasure of attending a master class with playwright Peter Arnott and actress Janette Foggo. Long time collaborators, they tag-teamed to create a dynamic experience for our company. We focused primarily on the relationships between a performer, the audience, and the text itself. As a stunning example, Janette Foggo presented a forty-five minute, one-woman show written by Peter Arnott. In this piece originally intended for pubs, Janette depicts the internal struggles of a woman with little left to hold onto. By the time she was done, many a mouth stood agape. Once we all regained our mental faculties, we were then able to workshop scenes from “The Breathing House.”
Ultimately, much of what we discussed hinged around this statement: “truth is always the most powerful choice on stage.” Simple. And yet, how often do we forget this as artists? As our company continues to create the world of “Forget Fire,” it is my desire that we always keep this truth at the forefront. Every audience member brings a unique perspective to the show. How are we to anticipate what lies within each person’s universe? It is not our responsibility to push answers on anyone, but rather be genuine in our questioning and straightforward in our pursuit of truth.
So, onward Pepp Scotland! Be changed by what you learned today.

-Madison Erceg

Monday, July 14, 2014

Progress of the Show & Rehearsal

Royal Conservatory of Scotland
Two weeks into devising here in Glasgow finds us, the cast and creative team of Forget Fire, deep in the midst of the creative process. Rehearsals, which are held from 2:00pm until 9:00pm, are packed full of exploration and plot exposition. Now that the early drafts of the script have been created we are all diving into more focused work on the script; building the show piece by piece.

      Working in the room with director Cathy Thomas-Grant and playwright J.C. Marshall, the cast and designers have begun to give the show the much anticipated structure that will become Forget Fire; a process that has, from the onset, been one of collaboration and investigation. 

J.C. Marshall working with the Company
With actors working directly with the director and playwright, the rehearsal room is one of creativity and energy; a safe environment where failure and success go hand in hand. Designers have the unique ability to be in the room as the creation of the show takes place and are able to offer their visual, auditory, and aesthetic eyes as requested to the formation of the show. The set and props are in the rehearsal space and the possibilities are endless. Thus far the show is on its way to becoming that which it has be waiting to be…Forget Fire.

- Paul Dufresne

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mark Fisher, English Class, and Modern Drama (@MarkFFisher)

Mark teaches a session for Modern Drama: Scottish Theatre.
We have been very busy in our Modern Scottish Drama class! Not only are we tackling a number of Scottish plays and analyzing the text and style, we have been fortunate enough to have a number of sessions with Mark Fisher, a professional freelance journalist and Theatre Critic here in Scotland. Two weeks in we have already had three classes with Mark and what an amazing experience it has been!

Mark is incredibly knowledgeable about the world of Scottish theatre, and has shed so much light on how to look at a piece of theatre subjectively. During our first session with him, he taught us how to approach writing a review.

He presented three questions to address when reviewing a production:
What was it trying to do? Did it accomplish that? Was it worth doing in the first place?

I personally struggled with the first assignment, a review of Ophelia at A Play, a Pie, and a Pint, because I wasn’t sure how opinionated I was allowed to be or how much background information I was expected to give. Mark was kind enough to read each of our reviews and grade them for us, giving us thorough feedback and talking us through our strengths and weaknesses. Our second assignment showed great improvement and we have had such a wonderful time engaging in stimulating conversation about the shows we have both seen and read.

Today Mark talked us through a timeline of theatre in Scotland. It was fascinating to listen to him shed light on the origin of the texts we are currently studying in addition to giving us the history of a number of theatre companies that have been mentioned, some many times, on our three week journey. We are very much looking forward to having one more class with the kind and brilliant Mark Fisher next Monday!

-Alexis Fitting

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Master Class with Nicola McCartney - Rachel's House - @nicolamccartney

 Today, Nicola McCartney visited our company to speak with us about her life as a playwright. After briefly telling us her story Nicola introduced us to her most recent play, a verbatim piece called Rachel’s House. It powerfully displays the stories of eight women who are residents of Rachel's House, a recovery program for ex-convicts. Nicola mentioned that she doesn’t usually like verbatim pieces but that this was the only way she could think to do this story justice. 

She also noted her mandate that whenever Rachel's House is performed, the actors must hold the script. Why? To remind the audience throughout the performance that the performers speak the words of real people. I thought that was truly fascinating and a perfect way of keeping the audience engaged but still aware that what they are seeing is all a true story. 

And Nicola didn't just talk about the piece, she also gave us extracts to workshop and perform for the group. I was particularly surprised by this portion of the day because despite my regular role in the room as Stage Manager, I was actually asked to read one of the characters.  I immediately became emotional when reading over the lines. These women were all so honest and open with the audience, which is not something I am used to. Society has trained us to keep to ourselves, or only share with a select few people. These women - these abused, sad, resilient women - were completely open, letting Nicola jot down the deepest parts of their stories. The fact that she just listened to these women’s stories without judgement, but with a genuine desire to listen and to retell their struggles and triumphs is amazingly powerful.

The women of Rachel's House may be damaged but they are strong. I feel inspired by them and their stories - I am blessed to have been able to hear even small portions of them. I feel honored to have met the woman who wrote them all down. And I feel blessed and driven to simply practice the power of listening.

I greatly enjoyed Nicola’s master class and I know that the entire company is very appreciative of her kind words of encouragement and advice.

Thank you!

~ Chandler Payne

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Edinburgh, the Royal Mile, and Scottish Parliment

This week the entire group and I have officially become a family under a blanket of intense classes and

rehearsals involving music, philosophical questions, poetry, movement, and 21st century discussions. We listen to each other, inspire one another, and encourage each of our artistic capabilities. Professor Cathy Thomas-Grant (our director), Alex Fthenakis (our producer), JC Marshall (our dramaturg/playwright), and our group of 18 theatre students have created a warm, and engaging atmosphere during our 6 hour rehearsal days. However, it was be great to take a day off and explore the culture and architecture around us. Edinburgh, here we come!

Today was our first field trip to the wonderful city of Auld Reekie (also known as Edinburgh to the rest of the world). Our group of 22 boarded the 45-minute express train from Glasgow, excited to visit the city where we will perform in only a matter of weeks! During this day field trip, we explored the innovative Traverse Theatre, a theatre known across the world for its support of new and innovative writing and production.  A critic from The Observer wrote that the Traverse Theatre is “one of the most important theatres in Britain”. With that in mind, it was truly an honor to walk through the backstage area with our own personal guide, Sunniva Ramsay. As I looked around the group while we walked though the hallways, which were adorned with inspirational quotes written by 14-17 year old aspiring playwrights as part of an emerging artists project, I couldn’t help but think that someone could follow the steps of great artists like Nicola McCartney by submitting new, risk taking pieces of theatre.

After the tour, we met with our Religion teacher, Donald Smith, who accompanied the group as we walked through the medieval cobblestone streets of the Old Town in Edinburgh, along the Royal Mile (a long street in the middle of the town which is exactly one mile long), which is naturally a tourist hub delightfully surrounded by pubs, contemporary stores, delicious fudge boutiques, many street performers (including an absolutely terrifying Yoda), a medieval castle, and Reformation era buildings. However, during the Fringe festival, the Royal Mile will not only serve as a location for tourists but it will also be packed with brilliant performers and unique artists who will bring their contemporary art and ideas to this Medieval town.

The Company in the Main Hall of the Scottish Parliment

As we reached the end of the Royal Mile, I saw a large, postmodern building, which clearly did not blend in with the rest of the High Street. The building before me was our next destination, the Scottish Parliament. Built on the architectural concept that the Scottish Parliament should reflect the relationship between the Scottish people and nature, the building consists of leaf shaped motifs and large windows to view the beautiful mountain in the distance. Again, we had another tour guide who walked us through the political building, discussed the Scottish Referendum and most importantly, briefly mentioned that Queen Elizabeth has a palace directly on the other side of the street. Once our tour had ended, we gathered outside the sycamore and oak walls of the Parliament as we discussed return train tickets and sites to see for the next few hours. Suddenly, we see a crowd of people who had gathered to the streets and it was at that very moment when Ms. Grant yelled,” THE QUEEN, THE QUEEN, THE QUEEN IS COMING!!!” Just another magical day in Scotland!

Karolina Keach

Monday, July 7, 2014

Touring the Necropolis with Donald Smith

Today I went to the beautiful Glasgow and Necropolis and Cathedral. In just one mini field trip I felt connected to a small part of Scottish culture. Donald greeted us with the surprise of none other than another wee walk. Feeling my feet already ache in pain from the memory of Eddie’s adventure I was a little hesitant but I sucked it up and followed him in the Necropolis. It literally had beauty that was deathly.

Walking up the small hill and reading the names that enclosed memories and a lifetime in one tombstone was very powerful. It was in no way a normal graveyard. It carried the stories of many influential people in Scottish history. Once we got past a stinging nettle scare and a couple steep, rocky hills, we reached the top. There we were met by a breathtaking view of Glasgow. Each horizon had a slew of places to see form historic architecture and buildings to the greenest grass only Glenelg can match. That sounds mushy and a little too good to be true, but it was an amazing experience for me. Next, Donald took us on a tour of the Cathedral. The tour took us through a typical traditional medieval Scottish day in the life starting from entering the doors of the massive house of God to the market they would go to after the day was out. There were so many rooms with beautiful ceilings, structuring, and stained glass. His temple, God’s sanctuary was so important that it was built with his beauty in mind, and that is plain profound.

The Theatre and Religion class itself has proven to be quite interesting. Its not the same old religion class were you sit and you listen to countless details you’re bound to regurgitate. Donald has created an atmosphere of creation, collaboration, storytelling, and finding the spiritual in the world of theatre. It strangely (but most likely purposefully) parallels with what we do in rehearsal. I find myself thinking about the things we learn in class and bringing with my in rehearsal and it forms my ideas. I appreciate that and look forward to doing it more as we get closing to making Forget Fire even more tangible.

Jalon Matthews

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Master Class with Sarah Rose Graber: Movement Master (@srgraber)

Mathew and Sarah Rose Graber at the Royal Conservatory
Recently I have gotten in touch with nature; becoming a bird and flocking with others; uniting almost upon instinct in order to serve the greater good. It was an experience like no other… all in the name of theatre. That was the day I learned what “flocking” really means.

What a blessing it was to have Sarah Rose Graber come in and work with us on devising using techniques based in movement. Among the exercises we participated in were “thumbs”, “line up”, “flocking”, and “chair duets”.

A couple of things we learned were that often a leader is, and needs to be, a follower. The reiteration of this fact hit me deeply. Often times, especially in theatre, collaboration is key. In order to increase productivity, promote innovation, and spark creativity, we need to make way for each other’s ideas; which is something made apparent early in our devising process. Another thing is that on occasion, others will see something in your idea that’s different, and although it really holds no similarity, it can move your work in an intriguing direction you’ve never expected, which is truly a beautiful thing to behold.

Movement based devising was nothing short of a blast. It’s much different from creating and developing scenes off of ideas, which has been the bulk of our devising process thus far. “Chair duets”, for example, called for us to choose very pedestrian moves (either random or in reaction to our partner) and perform them for the class; after which the class would decide what type of scene/relationship they saw and we would then proceed to perform the “scene” to the different interpretations and see an organic form of development.

Also, and what was perhaps everyone’s favorite, was the “flocking” exercise. For those who don’t know, the exercise is almost parallel to “follow the leader” in a way that changed the leader every time someone new was at the front of the group. That was interesting because it displayed the relationship between productivity and success; a positive relationship that ensues from relinquishing everyone’s desire to be the “leader”. It was wonderful to see everyone willingly lead and follow when called upon to do so; and being called to follow isn’t an idea that’s normally emphasized in life.

The class was simply a joy to be a part of. The fact that we got the opportunity to partake in a new way of doing something none of us are really experienced in made it something really special. Hopefully the lessons we learned will continue to stick with us during the next month and a half as we go forth in collaborating to create something we hope is truly inspiring.

Thank you Sarah! Until next time…

God Bless Everyone!!!
-Mathew San Jose

Friday, July 4, 2014

WWOOF in the Highlands- Organic Farming Volunteers

In the highlands, we received tip top highland hospitality from none other than the amazing Donna Stiven. Every afternoon and evening, the company would gather together to eat at her and Eddie's beautiful warm home and I can safely say that none of us had a single meal short of incredible. I had a wonderful time helping Donna, Margaret, and Donna's WWOOFer, Louis, in the kitchen several times and it was really interesting to learn more about the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

According to Donna, “Wwoofing" is all about learning and teaching sustainability
and skills pertaining to organic growing. Mostly, she says, she learns from her WWOOFers. She began hiring WWOOFers when Eddie was working in the South of England for 2 years and everything in her backyard "went to crap." (Her words, not mine!) Her dear friend Amy at the company's new favorite Glenelg coffee shop, The Wagon, has had WWOOFers for a long time and Donna figured she would give it a shot! She told me that all of her WWOOFers have been young people who have a degree of sorts and a passion for traveling (you can be a WWOOFer anywhere in the world) and that they all have been very pleasant and kind people. WWOOFers are so hungry to get picked up by a host family that Donna says she receives three applications every day. Those are mostly folks from Europe (especially Spain, France, and Italy), but she has received one from as far as America. WWOOFing is particularly appealing in areas where the poor economy is affecting young people who say they have nothing back home for them as far as careers go.
The Wagon, another organic farm in Glenbeg

As a WWOOF host, Donna provides Louis food and housing as well as all the supplies he needs. The WWOOF Organization states that the WWOOFers are allowed to work up to 7 hours a day, 6 days a week but Donna says that's too much and has Louis working a flexible schedule of 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, weather dependent.

The company at The Wagon
I asked Louis what his favorite thing about WWOOFing was and he said that he loves being immersed in the culture of each place he visits as well as learning about farming. He has WWOOFed all over Spain and this is his second summer in Scotland, but first time with Donna. He's a 32 year old biology graduate from Valencia and studied organic farming in graduate school where he obtained connections to WWOOFing and has been doing it for three summers now! Next he is headed to Bonar Bridge and later this summer he will be in Iceland. It's incredibly exciting for Louis to be headed to Iceland because due to their strict laws regarding importing goods and energy, everyone only eats seasonally.

I feel like I really learned a lot from Donna about WWOOFing as well as hospitality and I certainly learned a lot about Scottish cooking! Everyone in the kitchen was always all smiles and kindness and I'm so glad I got to sit down with Louis and Donna and talk about their relationship with the WWOOF Organization!
-Arielle Fodor

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ceilidh: Do Not Sound It Out

Constance and Jalon, Balent
Sitting in a muggy, midge infested tent in the garden of Eddie and Donna's beautiful and peaceful home, we took a company vote to elect the "fir-an-tighe" [Gaelic: Man of the House] [English: Master of Ceremonies] of our Pepperdine hosted Ceilidh. To pause a moment from the narrative and explain, the word is pronounced like the female name "Kaylee" and is much a like a talent show but has a greater depth of tradition and is steeped in cultural richness. Everyone comes--typically with drink in one hand and a fiddle in the other--to share their folk stories or music or dance or any other talent they possess with the community. So, let me hit play and return you to the stuffy tent in the garden.

Hands were raised, persuasive arguments expressed, and yours truly became the co-host of the procession alongside the hysterical Jalon Mathews. As Friday night approached, Jalon and I gleaned what we could from Eddie as to what exactly was required of us: kilts, or bag pipes, or log tossing? Luckily, none of the latter was requested, just an ability to make people laugh between the mind-boggling talent of the individuals in the room and to figure out how to arrange the running order so as to make it flow seamlessly. Friday night came, and I was quite nervous. Why you might ask? Putting on a traditional Scottish event without really knowing what it was, how to pronounce-much less spell-the event title, and doing it all as Americans without a concept of what highland spirit and tradition truly encompassed is not the most calming of thoughts. But, we were going to at least take a swing at it. And swing we did.

Company member Caleb Wright performs at the Ceilidh
We gave the Glenelg community our very best, which included: patriotic music and tales, songs that held relevant meaning to our experiences there, steamy serenades and romantic dance numbers, passionate poetry, uncensored jokes, colorful paintings, heartfelt professions of love, brilliant humor, and we can't forget "boy sheep." Moments of laughter and tears (throughout the span of even a single performance) were readily had. I continue to be blown away by the magnitude of talents that each company member hides beneath a thin layer of "average Joe" skin.

 In return the incredibly generous and warm village of that twinned Glen shared their stories, music, traditions, and very own hearts with our humbled, young company. (That includes you Cathy!)

Glenelg Locals join in our ceilidh

We were made to feel like insiders on an intimate secret, trusted with a rare glimpse into the ravishing beauty known as the Highlands of Scotland and the natives who guard its sacred history. There, one is made to believe in magic, in wishing on shooting stars, and the joy of catching faeries in the moonlight.

Wander on my friends, for there is much beauty to be explored and flabbergasted at in this world.

With God's big grace I am yours truly,

-Constance "Consty" Egli

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Whisky Kisses and Haunted Hotels: Pitlochry and Dunkeld

View from the Royal Dunkeld
After spending a week in Glenelg, a rural part of Scotland, we have made our way to a slightly (but only just) more urban part of Scotland: Pitlochry. While we only stayed for a day, it was quite an eventful one at that. We spent our day seeing two shows at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre: Whisky Kisses, a musical, and Perfect Days, a play. This was my first time seeing live Scottish Theatre and I had no idea what to expect. Perfect Days was a drama about a woman who has decided that, at the age of 39, she wants to have a child, but there is one problem…she doesn’t know who to have a child with. Full of twists and turns comparable to that of a daytime soap opera, this show was surely entertaining to say the least. Whisky Kisses was next, a musical comedy about a Scottish distillery that is closing its doors and auctioning of their last bottle of their most prized whisky, the “Glenigma”. Two bidders battle it out for the whisky, in the mean while finding love and friendship along the way. Whisky Kisses was packed full of memorable moments and laughter. It is something that I am positive I, and the rest of the Company will never forget.

The company "On the road again!"
That evening we went back to The Royal Dunkeld Hotel. The hotel was enchanting. It reminded me of a Scottish “Disney’s Haunted Mansion”, full of plaid carpet, eerie black and white photos from many years past, and a creepy toy doll that roamed the halls. I swear I heard a yelling in the middle of the night, but I brushed it off as someone outside just being loud. The next morning company members Natalie and Karolina tell me that a staff member from the hotel told them that the hotel is haunted and known to have weird happenings in Room 306…exactly two rooms away from where I was sleeping that night! Were some ghosts roaming the halls that night? We will never know, but it definitely added to the vibe of The Royal Dunkeld Hotel!

While we only got one day in Pitlochry, it was definitely a memorable one full of entertainment, laughter, whisky kisses, and a little spook. Now, off to more rehearsals and the start or classes!
- Tasia Jungbauer

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Master Class with Dolina MacLennan - The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil

Dolina MacLennan
On Thursday of our magical week in Glenelg, we had the pleasure of being absolutely blown away by our new friends and inspirations, Dolina MacLennan, and Catherine Robins. Dolina is an original cast member of The Cheviot, The Stag, And The Black, Black Oil - a groundbreaking ceilidh style play after which Pepperdine Scotland and Peter Arnott previously modeled their Fringe First Award winning piece, Why Do You Stand There In The Rain.

Cheviot was put on by 7:84 Theatre Company. The numbers in their company's name stand for the fact that, at the time, 7% of Scotland's population owned 84% of the country's wealth, similar to the recent outcry against the "top 1%" in America. Dolina explained the situation to us by saying that there are hundreds of thousands of acres in Scotland owned by one person.

The play was written about the effects of the Highland Clearances - the situation in the Scottish Highlands where people were forced off of their land and away from their homes to make way for sheep. Scottish International, a popular magazine in Scotland, knew John McGrath and when he was writing Cheviot, he asked if they knew any Gaelic singers. It turned out that they did, and that's where Dolina made her entrance into the process! She was in her 30's, and came from a little village that had about 25 houses. She had built herself quite a reputation during the late 1950's as a folk singer as well as a Gaelic speaker in Edinburgh, where there was a sort of "folk song revival," as Dolina called it. When John McGrath asked Dolina to join the company, she told us she replied "What company?!" But she joined on anyway, and her adventure began. The 7:84 company had no stage management team - They did everything for themselves as a company. Even the research was divvied up among them. The show was blocked out into 8 parts, and each person was asked to research one or more topics that they were knowledgable in. Then they brought it all back three days later and wrote their play.
It was to premiere at the Scottish International Weekend Conference which was entitled "What Kind of Scotland" that year. The only problem was they had not written the play at this point, and they were told to read the play to an assembled crowd that very same evening. By some miracle though, it was finished. When it was read to the crowd, Dolina remembers that there was nothing but stunned silence, followed by applause for fourteen minutes straight. Despite this immediate success, they decided that they were never finished writing and growing because, Dolina says, "it never belonged to us."

Something that was shocking to me was that the people in the play were actual names of the folks involved in the original Highland Clearances and some people were downright offended that they were not mentioned! There was an incident, however, where a woman stood up during a performance and put a curse on one of the actors playing someone who had done horrible things to the people of their Highlands. Despite this, Cheviot had quite a following. People who couldn't get into the sold out performances would follow the company to their next location, and once, people stuck their heads into every window all the way around the hall so they could watch the legendary play that touched so many people's hearts. Even those who could not understand Dolina's Gaelic songs said they understood what they meant.

The Company, at the Glenelg Village Hall with Dolina and Christine
Although we had the incredible opportunity of meeting a woman who was so connected to her own people's history, this was not the case country-wide. Children were not taught about the Highland Clearances in school, and it is rare to hear of them being taught about to this day. Dolina said the children learn more about the industrial revolution of middle England than their own history. What's more, speaking non-English languages was often forbidden - and not just with Gaelic in the Highlands. Dolina spoke of visiting a community in Wales where if children spoke Welsh they were given a knotted rope round their neck, and the person wearing it last during the day got a beating. This turned into the entire school day being consumed by children trying to pawn it off on their friends so they were not the ones beat come the end of school.

Dolina had a few words of wisdom for our company as well. 7:84 always kept Cheviot rough, which Dolina said was essential. For example, once in the news at 1 PM, the company heard a news story about the "Lord of the Oil" and immediately began creating a piece about it for their show where the US oil companies and Westminster government were shown puppeteering the "Lord of the Oil" and singing a silly song. This was in the play that night. Something else that was really stressed to us was the idea of creating a community with your audience. 7:84 did this right away by contacting every village with a town hall through the 'elder' of the village, and that made everyone feel like the company was doing this show special for them. Over everything, communication with their audience was key, and she suggested it would probably be the same for our piece. Something that really stuck out to me was when Dolina said "Turn the audience into your community." She said that if you are to ignore your audience when you're trying to get a message across, it suggests arrogance. We were told that standing ovations are near impossible to get in Scotland, so what 7:84 would do was pick out an audience member who "looked alright" and tell them to stand at the end of the performance. Dolina said that the entire audience would then follow suit, and this was hugely impactful.

Although the play was incredible and the impact was widespread and important, Dolina still was tired, just like we all are. She told us the biggest struggle was just keeping going. If The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black Black Oil can do what they did with less than what we've been given, our company can surely keep going as well, despite the jet lag and the midgies! Catherine's words of wisdom to us captured this idea perfectly. She said, "If nothing else, you should see now that it's all possible."

- Arielle

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Wee Walk in Glenelg

Glenelg, Scotland
We had the pleasure this past week of staying in the highlands and beautiful Glenelg. We met some of the nicest, most hospitable people. We went on some breathtaking “wee walks” with Eddie, our host. We also began rehearsals for our show and hosted a Ceilidh (pronounced like my name).

The highlight of the week, for me at least, was the “wee walks” Eddie took us on and all of the Scottish legends and stories that accompanied them. But understand this: when Eddie says a “walk” what he really means is a hike. And when Eddie says “wee,” its just not true. He told us our last walk was 1 mile in and 1 mile back out. We checked that. It was 5 five miles total instead of 2. But I really can’t complain because even if he’d told us it was 10 miles both ways the incredible views would have been worth it! We got to see ruins of Scottish military forts and castles while hearing stories of myths or facts of things that took place there. My favorite story was probably one of the first ones that Eddie told us. It took about two days to get all the way through and he started it not long after we got off the plane. It’s too long for me to recap here but it was the story of CĂșchulainn. Just walking along the path is breathtaking before you add in all of the awesome ruins though. There are sheep and cows everywhere, which is awesome!

On the first hike we stopped at a little wagon and coffee cart that was really neat and I know was a favorite place of a few. One of the things that makes the highlands so beautiful are the green mountains. They are literally everywhere, and on one side of the road that we had to walk everyday to get to Eddie and Donna’s house for meals, mountain starts pretty much immediately where the road ends. We hiked to the top of this mountain. And when I say the top I am not exaggerating. We hiked through overgrown plants on unseeable uneven surfaces all the way to the top. The views, again, were stunning! When we started heading back down Eddie showed us a stream that flows out of a well that as legend has it is the fountain of youth. A lot of people were excited about that and drank from it...I was a little too put off by all of the sheep around and then Eddie’s dog Bess, jumping into the river to actually drink from it. But it was really neat! My favorite day by far though was Friday, our last day in the highlands. We went to the beach, but in order to reach the beach the way Eddie took us in we had to walk a rope bridge across a river. But this wasn’t the normal rope bridge one would usually think of. It was literally a thick piece of rope strung from a tree on one side of the river to a tree on the other side, and then another rope above it that you could hang on to. I am happy to report that we all successfully made it across! Then we walked down stream to a waterfall.
Waterfall near Sandaig, West of Glenelg
This is definitely my single favorite part of the week. Caleb and Matt San Jose decided to climb to the top of the waterfall, so naturally I decided I should join and climb up an actual waterfall when I had the chance. I am so glad that I did! The waterfall was beautiful from the bottom but it was incredible being on top! There was another, much smaller waterfall up there that couldn’t be seen from the bottom. I can’t describe it nearly well enough and pictures will not do this place justice. The beach was amazing as well! With sailboats out in the harbor, Paul searching for clams, Ramine building a bonfire, Matt San Jose swimming in the freezing water, and the rest of us exploring before all coming together to eat a picnic lunch around the fire, it felt like something out of a movie or a novel more than real life.

Eddie told us, just kind of in passing, on the first or second day we were there that we were going to host a Ceilidh on Friday night. We all got pretty nervous because he was inviting people before we even knew we were doing it and none of us even knew what it was. It is a Scottish tradition of getting together and visiting and “performing” for each other. There is a host or hostess that acts kind of like an MC, but it is a very relaxed and informal event. Some people bring their instruments and just play a quick song, others will tell a story or a few jokes. It's really just a time for people to get together and visit and share their talents. Once we kind of got a handle on it everyone started getting into small groups and making preparations for what they were going to do. I was actually very nervous about it because up until literally 24 hours before I had no clue what I would do. Chandler had the idea to rewrite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star into a song about midgies. Midgies are, if you aren’t familiar with Scottish pests, these horrible tiny bugs that are actually everywhere and are not deterred by much of anything. They are the Scottish equivalent to mosquitoes, basically. The difference is they are much much smaller and they swarm and make it impossible to get away from unless you constantly move and swat. We all looked like idiots running in circles and waving our arms around all week, so needless to say everyone has a pretty passionate dislike for midgies, even the locals. Anyway, Chandler and I sang our song about midgies and everyone else performed their things, which were all pretty incredible. The night went really well! My favorite part, and I don’t think too many people would argue with me, was when one of the locals got up with his guitar and started playing a song, then another local with a guitar started playing with him, then Eddie joined the first guy with singing the song and pretty soon everyone there was singing too. It sounds so simple and not very impressive, but it was actually incredibly moving to be a part of.

I know I have said “this was my favorite part” about a million times now, but the people in Glenelg are most definitely the best thing there. Eddie is absolutely wonderful. He is so full of knowledge and stories and I am so grateful that he took the time to share some of them with us. He is also incredibly funny and fun and he introduced us to quite a few Scottish things and traditions that I enjoyed learning about. His incredible wife Donna cooked all of our meals for us while we were there and transformed her living room into a dining room that she was able to fit over 20 people in twice a day. If you know me very well you know that food is a big issue for me. Donna took all of my restrictions into consideration and made separate dishes for me and anyone else who couldn’t eat something she made for the group. Margaret and Louis were her two incredible helpers that prepared and served the meals with them. We would not have survived this past week without them! We met some of the nicest people in Glenelg too. David, a retired Church of Scotland minister there, was hilarious. He was always up for a good chat or to have us over to his house. We met many other locals at the pub who would sit and talk with us for hours or pull us up onto the dance floor and teach us how to do Scottish dances (which are super fun, by the way.) I really don’t know if you can find nicer or more hospitable people than the people of Glenelg.

I have probably gone on too long about how wonderful this last week was. I just can’t help but get excited when I think back on all of the incredible things that we did. I feel incredibly blessed to have done and seen everything we did. Not a day went by there where I didn’t feel like I had conquered the world, and I can’t think of a better group of people, both the company and locals of Glenelg, that I would have rather conquered with.

Thank you for supporting us and praying for us and keeping up with us on our blog!
-Kailee Rogers

Friday, June 20, 2014

Here We Come Scotland!

As tech week comes to an end, everything we could possibly think of has been packed up into 4 trunks, 3 company bags, and a duffel bag. The set, costumes, lights, sound, and everything in between has been neatly packed and weights have been checked and rechecked to make sure we don’t go over the limit.

Shipping ready to go out!
The week was spent organizing, choosing what we needed and what could be bought when we arrive in Edinburgh. Then everything was labeled, packed, and shut tight in a bag or a trunk. Now it’s up to the shippers to make sure it gets to Scotland when and where we need it. All week we struggled through not knowing “should we take this or can should we buy it there?” Usually the answer was, pack some of it, if we need more we can buy it.

The trunks are the most complicated part of this trip. We must catalog every single item inside them and describe what they are made of, how much they weigh, and what their value would be if damaged or lost. As we made this list and checked it not twice but probably five times, I marveled at the ease we did so due to the convenience and accessibility of technology. All week, Matt Davis has been teaching me how to use formulas on Excel which made sorting things easier and I couldn’t even imagine trying to do all we did with pen and paper. There is no way we would have been as efficient and accurate as we were.

This being my first time out of the country, I felt like I needed to be reliant on technology to stay in contact with my family back home. But as I look around at this amazing group of people I am traveling with, I realize that I don’t have to be constantly be in contact with people that aren't with me. I need to look up from my phone and realize that I will be in a country that is much older than I can even imagine and that there are so many new experiences out there; I only have to break free of the grip of technology and experience the world around me.

So here we come Scotland! A group of dedicated students who are looking up from their phones and computers and experiencing the wonderful world around us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

-Chandler Payne