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Friday, 12 September 2008

USA day 8: New York

Got up at 7, showered, dressed, watched the weather, went down to breakfast. Ike is now a 2 and gathering power. It's still quite far out in the gulf, but they're evacuating Huston and all the surrounding areas. Took the shuttle to the Federal Circle, airtrain back to Jamaica. Why they don't just pick people up from and drop them off at Jamaica is beyond me - it would make much more sense than having to pay $15 to get a cab from the hotel to take you there, and would make SO much more sense than this:

ANYWAY. So I went to Manhattan and paid a visit to the Stella Adler Conservatoire and picked up some leaflets. They didn't have any info about this year's summer school, but they've stuck me on the mailing list so when they know, I'll know. Looks like the intensive is also for all abilities, so I probably won't have to audition to get in- which is perfect, if I'm doing this just as a taster, but I'll have a phone interview. *shudders at the thought of phones* It's in a pretty cool part of town too - W27th & Broadway. It's in the 'flower district', so it's not packed to the rafters with tourists, like Times Square, but it is still very much buzzing. From there, I headed uptown and made a pit stop at the Empire State. 40 bucks got me my ticket up there and a 'skyride' which is a 15 (ish) minute virtual helicopter ride over and around New York.

It was pretty cool although half the time I didn't have a clue what was going on. One minute we were cuising over central park, then there's a ble flash and we're off the radar being boosted backwards into outer space, then we're back, then we're going through some sort of wormhole and come out the other end the size of a giant bug wreaking havoc in a toystore. All of this while seated on an hydraulic platform (oh yes, and there was a virtual rollercoaster section too) it was fun. Bizarre, but fun.

Then on up to the top floor of the empire state. 86 floors, ladies and gentlemen. It took a good few minutes to ride the elevator up there. (Elevator!? god, I'm starting to sound like an American.)

I wouldn't say the view was spectacular, because I don't really get "turned on", as Nick would say, by cityscapes. The Scottish Highlands are spectacular, Glen Tanar and the Grey Mare's Tail are spectacular - a sunset over Canterbury Cathedral from the roof of my student flat was spectacular. A bunch of buildings reaching up to the sky is not spectacular, but is still pretty damn cool. Felt a little disappointed that it wasn't like it was in 'On The Town', coz it was all enclosed by a metal screen thing like at the top of that monument to the fire of London one of my exes made me climb up. You could see stuff, but it felt kind of like being in a bird cage.

Bought a cool little charm for my keyring - oh, and when I was walking up from the Stella Adler, I bought one of those I♥NY T-shirts from a market stall for $3 (I had to get a kids one - the grown ups ones were just far too big - the small just looked like a dress on me! hahah I'm SUCH a tourist. *hangs head in shame*) and exactly the same tshirt in the shop at the top of the Empire state, for a kid, would have set me back $16. Hmmmm... which to chose... $3 or $16? bought a hoodie like my Uni one, only saying NEW YORK, rather than University of Kent. I really don't have enough hoodies - Before I came here I only really had my uni one, and when that was in the wash, I was buggered - forced to wear jumpers, which i hate.

Anyway. so that was the Empire State. (oh yes, and it's going through some sort of revamp inside coz it was pretty much stripped bare whereas the rest of it was all gray and brown marble. V 1930s deco. I actually don't think they've changed it in there style wise - apart from kitting it out with the tourist stuff since the 30s)

There's 86 floors, right? so you've got the lobby on the ground floor, and floor 2 the shop and the skyride, then the very top you have the bit where you go on the roof.... so what's on the other 84 floors? offices? if yes, what for? maybe apartments? disgustingly expensive ones... well I hope whoever is in them has a head for heights and I feel sorry for the poor sod who has to clean the windows.

As I said: onward.

After the Empire State I had a Judy in The Clock moment... kind of.
Went to Madame Tussauds - met a guy in the queue called Jurien? Jurian? Urien/an? Yurien/an? HOWEVER you spell it - from Holland, a voice actor, and completley off his rocker and fun to be around - found myself going round the whole of Tussauds with him.

Everyone in New York seems to be an actor - but I don't really get how they can say that when they're working and doing anything BUT acting... to me, you're not an actor if you're 'resting' - you're a 'trained actor doing a real job' - you're only really an actor, in my humble opinion, if you get off your arse and get yourself work in a theatre/tv/film... whatever, but as long as you ARE acting. Yeah yeah, I know the acting industry is tough, but really - the number of people you see working in places like Starbucks, and they're like 'yeah, I'm an actor?' no you're not - you're a coffee boy. Shut up.

Anyway - went round Tussauds. Judy Garland didn't really look anything like Judy Garland, and one of her eyelashes was coming off. She didn't look particularly small either - I think they must have gone with the MGM fictional measurement of 5ft1. Her hair and nose were totally wrong. I don't think the people who did her did their research very well - the only thing they got right was her shoes.

There was also a 4D cinema playing some David Attenburgh doco about the sea. Had to wear these silly glasses which really didn't do all that much. Got squirted with air and water and poked in the back by 'snakes in the water', oh yeah, and it was snowing when we came in - like real, melty snow - not just soapflakes. Also had bubbles so that was nice - but the image was hardly 4D - it was barely even 3D, and it was blurry. luckily, it didn't last long. Gave the chamber of horrors a miss. the NY tussauds is a LOT smaller than I remember the London being... Perhaps why it was $35 to get in and London is £35 to get in. I'm the same height as Jodie Foster, an inch taller than some Jockey chap (lester Piggott?) I come up to some Lakers player's elbow, and Emma Bunton is a carnie - her hands are half the size of my friend, Nicole's, and we say SHE has doll hands! she's an absolute midget! (Emma, not Nicole) - I can't believe that model is accurate Had all the other Spice Girls there too... apart from Geri. I wonder what the reason for that was....

After that, went for a wander round new york with Jurien (that's how I've decided his name is spelled) - says he's mainly a voice actor and done some work on space chimps, which is pretty cool. Anyway, so he was fun to hang out with for the day - turns out he was going to see Equus tonight too, so we bid adieu outside the Carnegie Hall, where Judy Garland played her most famous and critically acclaimed concert :D on 55th street. To be honest - I dunno why, but it wasn't quite what I'd expected - I dunno if I was expecting something visually equivalent to the Royal Albert Hall or something (not round, but big, flashy and ornate), but it was a very unassuming building - kind of like the London Coliseum - if Jurien hadn't pointed it out to me, I'd have walked straight past it. The main difference was above the poster things... i don't know what the technical term is for them - the little showcases for them, had 'Carnegie Hall' written on them. I don't know what was playing there - some opera I think, so there were only 2 small posters - not 6ft high neons like there would have been when Judy was there. Funny to think that tiny little thing I had just seen immortalised in wax was standing on the stage in that place, with it's quiet, unassuming exterior, giving it her all in the performance of her lifetime, one which would go down in history as being one of the greatest broadway concerts of all time, and one which people would still be paying for recordings of well over 30 years later. It's kind of humbling in a way - that two, maybe three normal things could come together to become extraordinary- even legendary: the Holy Grail of Garland Fans (ruby slippers aside).

Jurien had to get changed for the show, so he went off, and I had to feed my face because I was starving. Went to some Italian self-service place which was really nice- had my first ever Stromboli, which is basically an apple strudel made out of pizza - so cheese and pepperoni wrapped up in a pizza base. it was delicious! also had my first proper New York cheesecake, which was also too good for it's own good, but at 560 calories a slice, I think once was enough. 560 a SLICE!

Basically that meal tasted like heaven, because it was a heart attack on a plate- especially after having had lunch at the golden arches.

I think I probably did enough walking to have at least the cheesecake relatively guilt free - i'd spent the day walking back and forth between w26th and w57th - 30ish blocks should count for something, right?

So. Oh yes, before any of that, I went to the Broadhurst to pick up my ticket and popped into the office across the street to pick up an application form for a job. I need to go to the embassy when I get home and see if I can get myself some form of student visa so I can work when I'm out there. I think this is something I really have to do. New York is SO unlike London! I love new york about as much as I hate London, and anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that that is quite a lot.

So. Yes. La Theatre. or 'Teatro' as I think the Italians call it.




Got there so early - about..well... er.... well over an hour anyway - I was so warn out from walking around all day, and was so stuffed full of cheesecake and stromboli I physically couldn't persuade my legs to go any further - I practically needed a crane to get me off the chair in that resteraunt! - so I just stood outside and waited.

I've practically been brought up in a theatre - one of my earliest memories is of crawling across a stage, and being lifted up to press the red and green buttons to make the curtain go up and down - I'm 22 now, and the magic still hasn't worn off. I just love standing by a stage door, watching people coming and going - nothing quite beats the buzz you get backstage just before a show - it's fantastic - so much positive energy!

So I positioned myself by the stage door and got into my little 'zone', when I noticed a rugged sort of man with fantastic eyebrows emerge from the stage door and stand there with a coffee.

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So me being me, and stupid, thought he was just a random member of the crew, and went up for a chat, thinking I could get some useful advice out of him about how much experience I'd need to have to be able to work in a theatre in the states - so i said I'm thinking of going into the theatre, is there any advice he can give me?
"don't" he says.
"why not?" i says.
chatted for a bit and he asked me if I was looking forward to the show
I said yes, and i've seen it once already
he said 'really?' what did I think of it?
so I said that Richard Griffiths mumbled so much I could barely hear a word he said - Kate Mulgrew was the only person I'd had absolutely no trouble hearing throughout, and that Daniel Radcliffe was good too, but I still really don't like him very much.
"you can't say that to me!" he says, gasping in mock horror
"why not?" i asked "you're not his agent or something are you?"
"i'm in it"

open mouth, insert foot.

"i'm really sorry", I said, "but who were you in it?"
he said he was the stable owner (his name, the actor's name, is Graeme Malcolm), and looked a little put out that I hadn't recognised him, considering I'd already seen it but as soon as I'd (hurriedly) explained that i'd been sitting in the stage seats and couldn't see a thing apart from the tops of people's heads, and could hardly hear anything either, he didn't mind at all LOL

He asked me whereabouts in England I'm from (he too was English, but his accent was a little strange - I got the impression he's been living in America for quite a long time) so I asked him if he knew surrey, and he said 'yes, i know that area very well''
"you know Epsom? well, i'm from near there"
"yes, I know Epsom - I grew up in Cheam" he says.
"Are you serious? I'm from North Cheam! I only say Epsom, because nobody has ever heard of Cheam, and they know Epsom coz of the Derby"

There was a long pause while he stared at me, astonished, eyes wide and mouth open...

"fuck me."

I had to really hold back the laughter when he said that - that's possibly the best reaction i've ever had! I've never seen anyone look so surprised to find out something like that before in my life. I mean, sure, I was surprised too - but from his reaction, you'd think I'd said I came from Pluto or something LMAO

so we went off on one for about an hour comparing notes on my home town, and his old stomping ground, which school he went to, which one did I go to? why did I go to that one and not the one nearer Cheam?- on the then and now, and the ins and outs of working as an actor in the states, and the complaints about Richard Griffiths mumblings, and how the Director had given them all a good bollocking about it- especially Griffiths - and told them to speak up.

A couple of people came up and asked for his autograph, and gave me a very peculiar look - kind of awed, and nodded respectfully at me - like I was having a chinwag with Lawrence Olivier or something or being Cary Grant's close personal friend or something - to be honest, I had absolutely no clue who he was until he'd told me! I can't remember my exact words, but I made some remark along the lines of does it feel weird when people come up to him and talk to him like that- kind of venerating - like the way people talk to priests?

And he said that it was actually really refreshing talking to me, compared to how people usually tend to be, because it was great to actually have an interesting conversation with someone, and clearly I'm not shy about talking to people I don't know, which is really good and will take me far - and said maybe he should stand outside the stage door with a coffee more often, because he doesn't usually do that, because he just gets the 'usual' people. I told him maybe he should - you never know who you're going to meet. I said that if I came here, and spent the week in my little shell, not talking to anyone, I would never have met any of the wonderful people that I've met this week, and I wouldn't have had such an amazing time. He asked me if I was on my own, or if I had any friends over here - I said I'm on my own - I do have some friends who live in the states, but they're over in Chicago and California, and I was just doing the East Coast this trip. He asked how old I am, I said 22. He looked at me thoughtfully and said that I was very brave to do that, especially on my own.

People keep telling me that - I don't know why! I told him this too - I said I really don't get why people say it's brave - courage has very little to do with it - it's selfishness more than anything - I wanted to do something, and I wasn't prepared to hang around waiting for other people to maybe or maybe not come with me, and get off their arses and do something. So if you wanna do something, just do it - life is far too short to be hanging around on ' maybe one day' s.

From the look on his face, I think that little speech earned me quite a lot of respect O.O

Chatted a bit more, and he asked me where I'm sitting tonight - I told him at the front. Where? I pulled out my ticket - orchestra right, A6.
where's that? he said lol
'you're the actor, you should know!' i said
'no, i mean where in relation to me?' he said
'well i don't know - where are you? it's 1 row away from the stage, stage left, if that's any help?'
he said he didn't normally take his bow that side, but he'd keep an eye out for me. He had to go in now to sign in, and go into wardrobe and makeup, but it was really great talking to me, and good luck with everything in the future, and gave my hand a good, firm shake. I said likewise, it was great finally meeting a real actor, rather than someone who just says he's an actor, and actually works in starbucks lol - he laughed, i said 'break a leg' 'thank you' and he went in.

so that was that.

The play itself absolutely blew my mind - I can't believe how much I missed out on by sitting in those crappy stage seats, I really can't! the staging was incredibly simple, but so effective - it was brilliant that they managed to do so much with four little blocks, rather than having an elaborate set to detract attention away from the plot and from the actors. The girl still annoys me, my new Broadway star friend was, of course, brilliant, Griffiths, I could actually just about hear this time, but there were still big patches where he'd just mumble still. I think he thinks he's still working on Pie in the Sky and has a microphone attached to him so he doesn't need to project. PRRRRRROJECT, DARLING, SOME OF US CAN'T HEAR YOU! Mulgrew, again was wonderfully crystal clear all the way through. Harry Potter was ok - I still think he is good, but he tends to feel the need to shout his way through things. If Yvonne Wells (a wonderful voice coach I knew, who sadly passed away a couple of months ago) had got her hands on him, she'd have had an absolute field day with him. There is a difference between projecting and shouting.

There was a funny part at the end of act 1, where a horse is standing centre stage, two stirrups come down from the fly tower, which are to be attached to the horses' sides, so Daniel could jump on and go for his 'haha' which i think translates roughly to riding a horse bareback til he ges so carried away he cums. Well.. that's what was implied anyway. But he had some issues getting the stirrups attached - fumbled for about 5 mins - i really felt like laughing, because this horse who up until now had all the body language of a proud and noble beast, had suddenly sprouted arms and was trying to help LOL they eventually managed to get it to work, and they did the scene, the lights went down, everyone applauded, the houselights came up... and the horse was still standing there struggling to get out and 3 people came on try try and untangle him LOL poor guy!

second act passed uneventfully (shame, I love it when things go wrong - it's a great test for an actor to see how he'll cope - I remember seeing a performance of Figaro where Figaro and his Girl sat down on a bench, and the whole thing went crashing to the floor!)

I couldn't bear to watch the scene where the horses got their eyes gouged out - from behind, it was bad enough, but from the front, when they stepped towards the stable door, the way they were lit, it looked like their eyes were glowing, which is the first thing that freaked me out - then 'that' music, and the screaming horses.. it was a bit too much for me. I'm a sensitive soul, alright? so I stared grimly at the foot of the person next to me for that bit.

End of play: the actors came out for their bow- i honestly didn't expect Graeme to remember me, much less where I was sitting, but sure enough, he sought me out, i gave him a grin and lifted my hands up to clap higher, he gave me a nod, and went down for the second bow.

Was absolutely on cloud nine all the way home - I think the people on the subway must have thought I was a little special, coz I was just sat there smiling away dreamily to myself for over an hour LOL I was WELL chuffed! nobody else got a nod from any of the actors apart from me!

I know I'm goin to sound totally big headed, but I felt kinda proud - I know when i see things like that in theatres, I wonder who the person who is, who is being nodded at by the member of the cast.. I wonder how many people were wondering who he was nodding at!

I did keep an eye out fo Jurien during the interval (which apparently was 15 mins long, but that was NEVER 15 mins - it was 7 mins at an absolute maximum!), but it was such a crush - absolutely packed out theatre, I didn't see him, and I scarpered as soon as I could get out of the theatre, because it was late, I didn't know how late the subways ran, and I didn't want to be stranded in Manhattan all night - as fun as that would have been, so I didn't find him after that either. Who knows, maybe he'll read this and drop me a line to say hi *hint* - hope I find him again though some day, he was a good laugh to hang around with :)

so that was my final day in New York, tomorrow, an absolutely funpacked day of waiting at the airport for 10 hours (no point going back into manhattan, coz by the time i get there, it'll be time to turn around and come back.

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