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

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tech Week: The Insider Scoop

Four days, 9-5 we have been building the set, creating the costumes and attempting to bring to life the story of our play "Forget Fire". It amazes me how stylized and detailed the designing is, especially without a script, plot or characters to go off of.

Sarah has created versatile costumes in many shades of grey, blue and brown. The style is almost "grunge" like with many distressed pieces. I spent some time distressing shirts and dresses and helped to make them look worn.

Paul has created an ingenious set design with tripods holding up ropes and umbrellas stuck in between them. This set is to fit into 2 boxes and will be set up in a mere 5 minutes before our show. The colors are grey, dark blue and rustic brown, they are splashed against the umbrellas. This concept symbolizes the connectivity that technology allows. Every human feels connected to each other through their own devices.

Personally, I believe this is a superficial connection. As humans we seek love, acceptance and affirmation. And where in past generations we would seek to fill our "lonely void" by physically interacting, now it feels as if we can spend time with people everywhere just by sitting on our room and looking at Facebook or Instagram. What this new technology called "social media" has really done is made humans less social and less likely to actually seek out face to face interaction. I think that this is very scary and daunting and yet even I can't seem to give up my precious Facebook or Instagram for fear of getting "disconnected". It's a love-hate relationship that everyone seems to have and can recognize. Many people despise the internet for taking away their time and sociability and yet they love the feelings of getting "likes" or posting a new picture. It's almost as if it's an abusive relationship, where technology has it's control over us.

My biggest question is "what's next"? If we are already so advanced 25 years out with technology, how much more control will it gain over our lives. I already see 8 year olds texting on iPhones, and 3 year olds playing on IPads. When I drive through neighborhoods I rarely see little kids playing outside or playing with each other. They are most likely inside with video games or the television... My childhood was filled with neighborhood friends and building forts and climbing trees, I truly fear for the generations below me. Only time will truly tell how much technology has impacted the human and hopefully it's not too late to seek solutions.

I do hope that this love/hate and abusive relationship can be showcased in our play, because I think it is an idea that most everyone can relate to.

Just my thoughts,
-Natalie Hovee

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tech Week Begins - Fear of the Unknown

Tech week. The beginning of the beginning of a magical adventure that is to unfold in Scotland. I was not required to participate in tech week as I am one of the actors in the company, however I chose to participate in hopes that it would be a week for me to focus and prep for the journey that would begin the following week.
At work in the Costume Shop
I had been unable to attend the devising workshop over spring break due to another study abroad program. I assumed working on the set and costumes would increase my understanding of the show we would be devising. With my sewing skills I was placed in the costume shop to help prep costumes for the week. The more I learned about the costumes the more I realized how little we have decided. The possibilities of the direction we could take this play is limitless. The designers are forced to create their vision and yet at the same time keep it flexible as we have absolutely no idea what will take place on that stage.

Sarah, the costume designer, had various ways to wear the costumes and there is even the possibility that she could switch costumes between characters as we journey on this devising path. This idea that there are very few limits we have put on this play is a bit frightening and yet exciting. For me this will be a wonderful learning opportunity. I like limits. I like knowing what I am doing. Being creative in an environment of limitless possibilities is challenging for me. In an environment like this trial and error is a beautiful thing.

Already this week I am seeing how being open to trying something and then trying something else until you find the right thing is the only option in an environment like this. While in the costume shop with Sarah I was helping her put together one of the costumes. She would try different pieces together until it all just worked but she wasn't afraid to use pieces in an unconventional way. This idea of freeing ourselves from conventional limits is what we all are going to have to constantly strive for on this trip. We will figure it all out eventually but for now we will all have to be open-minded. This could be a struggle for some – it definitely will be for me. The only thing that can hold us back from devising a memorable piece will be a fear of the unknown. 

 - Chelsey Maus

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Truth and Lies

During our devising sessions a few months ago, we were exposed to a variety of images, articles, discussions and debates over the roles and repercussions of technology in the world. Then, we were asked to respond.

Each actor and designer was given the task of creating some sort of art that reflected a visited theme during one of the sessions or that contributed a new idea to the collective. For this activity, I chose to write a piano piece that I felt captured a theme of collapse that we had approached in our sessions. Throughout that process, I was exhilarated by the idea of drawing music out of dialectical concept. Once the school year ended, I began my summer job at a cherry packing shed in Stockton, California, excited to continue devising music for Forget Fire. But that creative drive was quickly silenced.

My position at the factory required me to work with a slew of various technologies: various computer programs, sorting machines, conveyor belts, inventory computers, sales orders. And despite this garden of technological inspiration, I found that none of the elements of the factory inspired me to create for our technologically themed show. My frustration accumulated throughout the summer without any fruitful compositions coming out of my month and a half at the job. Now, I realize that I had been trying to seek inspiration in all the wrong places. The truth became clear: technology cannot inspire creativity.

Of course, technology can be creatively inspired as evidenced by every snappy new smart phone, but try as they might, they cannot inspire their users to engage creatively. It is a product and a tool of creation, but not a muse. So why then can a beautiful painting, another created product, stir our emotions to create in the same the artist has created? The only reason I have discovered is this—the painting reflects real life. Even more, it highlights that aspect of reality that the artist found beautiful and emphasizes it to invite you to experience its beauty as well. The painting is (in a very rudimentary way) no more than a tool in the hands of the artist, but it is one that the artist uses to emphasize the life behind the painting. Technology is also a tool, but not an instrument of appreciative emphasis.

“Oh no,” I breathed at my realization. “Our show is doomed!” How could we possibly construct a dynamic story around something as lifeless and superficial as technology? But perhaps technology can be a tool of emphasis. When used correctly, it does emphasize life. We, the users, are the life behind the technology. The electronic world is living and dynamic in that it can illuminate the lives of individuals or whole collections of people, woven together in a wireless network.

Devising Week
Truly, our inspiration for Forget Fire is human life. We begin by observing the truth and lies coded into the world of technology. Through technology, we receive an imperfect idea of person—a delusion—that I can choose to “friend” and engage with only on a superficial plane. But technology also asks us, “Do you dare to engage with this person on a real level? Will you push past the superficial to something inspirational?” And that is where the music is.

Sadly, I do not have any compositions recorded for the show to leave with you, but I do have this. It is called Starlight, and it is inspired by a very real and inspirational friend named Chandler. I’m so excited to be going on this trip with her and the rest of our incredible collective, and I can’t wait for everyone to see the form Forget Fire will take as it continues to be drawn out of our creative endeavors. God bless!

-Caleb Wright

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Empty Suitcase

Preparing for the trip...As I avoid the oh so empty suitcase that stares at me from across the room, its all-knowing glare seems to be calling my bluff. It's funny how often people toss around the word "adventure." You know, like "let's go on an adventure!" in reference to an unplanned hike or trip downtown. I'm certainly guilty of it. As I make my shopping lists and tally my to-do's, I can't help but realize the true implications behind the word. The greatest implication being a forward motion into the unknown. A new country and a new culture, yes.

The greatest unknown, however, lies in the simple fact that I know the whole experience will change me in ways I cannot predict. Living and breathing in theatre, art, and acting in a place so far removed from my own limited world. Within the lonely suitcase lies the opportunity not to bring new life to an old character, but to take part in creating the very story that gives reason to her existence. An adventure. I don't think there's a better word for it.

Of course the weight of that realization causes one to further procrastinate and wander harmlessly onto the Internet. And then there it is. The highland snapshot that brought tears to my eyes when I first found out that this future awaited me. And now I smile, and take a deep breath, and prepare to greet this beautiful view for the first time in one week.

"Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures."

-Madi Erceg

Monday, June 9, 2014

Designer's Desk: Costumes

Coming into this project I knew that costuming the Edinburgh show would prove to be challenging, pushing my ability to be creative and to problem solve. However, the challenges I thought I would face were more along the lines of “What if I have a super small budget?” or “What if the show requires a million costume changes and I have to pack all of the pieces in one tiny trunk?” It never even crossed my mind that I would be asked to design a show that didn't exist yet. I was, and am, excited to devise our own play because then it will be something that is completely our own, but this brought up a whole new area of challenges for me. “If there is no script, how do I know how many characters there are? What kind of characters are they? What time period are we in; past, present, future? Where is the play set? Are we even on Earth? Are the characters even human?”

So there I was, trying to design a show that could potentially go in any direction the company sees possible, trying to stay flexible with the designs while at the same time providing the show with something more than just jeans and black t-shirts. What I got first was the title, Forget Fire, and the general theme of a wall, one of the first technological advancements. The wall provided some sort of physical inspiration and direction, unfortunately my brain was stuck on very literal interpretation of a wall, and God help me if I dressed all 12 cast members in brick and mortar suits. When I asked the company manager how I should go about beginning this particular design process, he told to think of it this way: instead of molding my design to a script, the script will be molded to my idea. Apparently, devising meant no limitations to what I could create, cool, awesome; but within this freedom laid the problem. As Georges Braque (whom, if you don't know, please look up his art, and yes, it looks a lot like Picasso) once said, “It is the limitation of means that determines style, gives rise to new forms, and makes creativity possible.” Which basically means, to create, you need something to solve and be creative about. All of this limitless power was overwhelming, there was nothing to push my ideas into one direction or the other. So, I began finding and setting my own limits that I could further create from. Well, I knew that as a company we were interested in the topic of technology and its relation to the human race. The relationship we were exploring between the two was not particularly hostile or completely beneficial, but rather one that was more symbiotic. For me, this translated to architectural man-made structure dominating the top half of the outfits that then disintegrated into flowing organic forms towards the bottom working together to make one cohesive look that was slightly dissonant at the same time. This also inspired the color palette of creamy peaches and soft lilacs, representing humanity, and contrasting steely grays, blues, and blacks that invoke technology.

Okay, cool, so I had something, an inspiration that was broad enough to encompass all of the topics our company was interested in while at the same time making it specific enough for me to start working from. However, I needed another limit, another something to bounce off from; I knew the company discussed the idea of our problem with loneliness. That this problem of feeling isolated in a world of connection isn’t something that happened because of technology, but rather is a resident problem that has lasted throughout the ages, so the idea of possibly going back and forth between time seemed like a legitimate direction, and writing the play in the genre of Magical Realism was an area of excitement for all involved. Because of this, I began incorporating silhouettes from different time periods so that we could have the possibility to suggest a different time if we needed to, but also making the costumes feel outside of time (magical, if you wish) and yet relatable to today’s
contemporary audience.

Though the original concept of ‘wall’ sort of stumped me at the beginning, I began looking at it from a different perspective and found the inspiration I needed from the layers needed to create a wall and how that could symbolize our constant need to put layers on to define ourselves, hide, or proclaim who we are. And, yes, while I have quite literally layered pieces, I also hope to achieve this look through creative uses of rope, yarn, chains, zippers, and lace. This use of layers also provides the option to take pieces off, put more on, and by that providing flexibility in the looks of the characters which is essential when you don't know what future scenes will demand.

In the midst of designing the show, an idea kept bobbing around in my head that seemed somewhat unrelated to my costume pieces, but it interested me nonetheless. The idea of a piece of fabric that could travel throughout the story that physically represented connection; and, if we skipped around in time it could transcend the periods connecting the characters from one story to the next. The moment I presented this to Cathy Thomas-Grant, the director, she immediately took to the idea and encouraged me to explore this concept more fully which I am in the process of now. So far, I have chosen a silk jersey that has a yummy, buttery, slinky-ness to it with some stretch so that the piece of fabric has a life of its own regardless of the tasks that will be asked of it in the future. If it has to flutter around stage and look pretty, it can do that. If it needs to be wrapped around someone and become a make-shift skirt, it can do that as well. I am also exploring different dying techniques to add some organic texture to the fabric, providing some visual interest which I am extremely excited about. Hopefully this crazed idea pays off and the dying techniques I’m trying look somewhat cool, fingers and toes crossed.

All in all, I am super stoked to be working on this show and am interested in seeing how it will further boost my problem solving skills, sewing skills, and nunchuks skills. Though I have faced many unexpected difficulties already, I have a feeling that these won’t be the last. Bring it on.

-Sarah Lindsley

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Designer's Desk: Sound

The countdown continues: Less than three weeks until this journey begins.

This is probably the biggest designing challenge I might ever encounter. The themes have been discussed previously by other designers: Human connection, technology, how we connect the past to now…but what does it SOUND like?

Right now, my process consists of 2 parts.

The first is to ask questions: What does humanity sound like? What does technology sound like? More importantly, what is considered human vs. technological? What happens if I reverse these roles? What happens if I don’t?

Technology sounds like a text message or a phone ringtone. Technology sounds like a computer or the futuristic sounds of a Dr. Who episode. However, is technology the sound of a hammer pounding a nail into a piece of wood? Is technology the sound of flint against steel, or the friction of two sticks as they create fire? What if Humanity is turning into technology?

Humanity sounds like the voice of a mother comforting her child. Humanity sounds organic…like a piano playing a romantic tune. I think of Humanity as a softer sound, but is this really the case? Humans argue and shout; they stomp and use harsh tones. There is happiness in addition to anger…warm vs. cool. Maybe Humanity is about emotion…if that’s the case, what does emotion sound like?

The second part of my process is simply to listen. I am acutely aware of every sound…the sound of my fingers on the keyboard, the sound of the TV playing in the background, the birds outside, the sounds of other cars as I drive, the sound and tone of people’s voices, the sound of a ratchet spinning…all of these could be in the show. All of them might not be. We’ll see as the process continues.

I’ve got some sounds already picked out that I’d like to work in, and soon, Forget Fire will be in motion! I’m so excited!

-Madison Fortney