ENDURE blog
Sunday
Aug072011

In Which I Say 'Absofrigginlutely' On The Radio

Endure(AIR).mp3 Listen on Posterous

I had the distinct pleasure of being interviewed by the CBC's Chris dela Torre on Daybreak Alberta last weekend. I think the segment aired again today, but I was already out running with the good folks from the Running Room Eau Claire. 

We did a delicious, chilled-out 12km (8-ish mile) run along the Bow River in the perfect summer sun. It seriously took the edge off tech-week jitters. I chatted with a lovely lady named Janice, who has completed three Ironman tris and shamelessly referred to herself as an 'all or nothing girl' and therefore I LOVE HER.

In other news, we are in need of a crew member this week. Like REALLY in need. Duties include wearing a cool ENDURE t-shirt, drawing with sidewalk chalk, riding a bike and walking along the mighty Bow River with audience members. Tough gig, huh? 

We need someone for a dress rehearsal Monday and/or Tuesday evening, our premiere Wednesday evening and two Cochrane shifts Friday and Saturday morning. Please email me at melanie at runwomanshow.com asap! Thanks a mill.
Tuesday
Aug022011

On Coming Home (Or...Where No One Will Here You Scream)

I landed in Calgary on July 19th, two weeks ago now, and am only just today stepping off one of the speediest, curve-balliest emotional roller coasters of my life. I have a feeling that I'm only off for a quick pee break before getting back on for another go-round. (I can already hear the carny yelling.)

I won't go into the gories, but here is how I felt for the first week: I AM ALL ALONE IN A COLD, DRY, PINE-SCENTED WILDERNESS OF ISOLATION AND DESPAIR WHERE NO ONE WILL HEAR ME SCREAM.

And here is how I felt for the second week: I AM ALL ALONE IN A COLD, DRY, PINE-SCENTED WILDERNESS OF ISOLATION AND DESPAIR WHERE NO ONE WILL HEAR ME SCREAM.

Great to be back.

After being stewarded through the world premiere of ENDURE in New York by a team of no less than four people and sometimes closer to ten, in Canada I felt drop-kicked into an icy wasteland where I had no such support. Although my NYC team was "only an email away," I found out quite quickly that an email is very far away indeed. 

The one-two-three-four punch of big festivals, long weekends, small population and general summertime lethargy here i Calgary means I've spent the last fortnight feeling like I'm screaming into the wind trying to find and recruit a local production team, find new locations for the show, re-install the show, get print quotes and sell tickets while performance dates and times swoon drunkenly in front of me: vague, watery and foul-of-breath.

In other words, I went from being Just Performer to Producer, Director, Marketing Manager, Tour Manager, Stage Manager, PR Manager, Property Master, Costume Re-Designer (it's f*cking cold here!) AND Performer in a town that doesn't seem to give a damn about any of it.

Now, this is not to minimize the efforts of my NYC friends. They are doing everything they can and more, including talking and texting me off the ledge on a daily or hourly basis. My friends here are doing that, too. But no one can run the race for you and the fact remained I had to find and hire my crew, get my marketing and PR shit together and make sure this show was even possible.

Because, dear readers, that had not yet been determined. Sure, I could "theoretically" install ENDURE in a new and foreign park, but would it work in reality? ENDURE is 26 site-specific scenes created and choreographed to the exact specifications and dimensions of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY.

Where else could I find four evenly spaced benches right where I need them for the cocktail party scene? Or a stone bridge at right angles to a curving path perfect for the training montage scene? Or a wire fence with two large stones then one log then another stone and one more log all in a tidy row?

WHERE, I ASK YOU?

Nowhere.

And so, I've been re-choreographing like a madwoman and re-imagining scenes that once took place in a space 'this big' for a new space that happens to be twice 'this big' or half 'this big' or, mostly, it doesn't resemble that space at all but I have to get to that bridge by the end of this scene, so it's happening here and that is that. And it wasn't just one new park. It was two. Two parks in two cities. (Well, originally three, but I dropped Canmore like a hot rock because I discovered I cannot, in fact, be in three places at once. Two appears to be my personal limit.)

So I've spent two weeks wandering and muttering to myself. Wading through marshes, scrambling up hills, dancing down the path like a crazy person. 

And at some point during this manic and panicked process, something magical has happened.

Not only did I find a crew of wunderkinds to help me make this happen, not only have my dearest friends from the last decade or so of my life decided to make my premiere into an episode of 'Melanie Jones – This Is Your Life,' but this show has developed further, become more specific, more adaptable, more flexible and ultimately, a stronger piece of work. It has turned into a show that doesn't NEED four evenly spaced benches, thank you. A show that can stand on its own two feet.

And frankly, so can I.

Now. Five days into my time in Calgary when I was weeping and drooling and wailing about why do I always have to make things so HARD on myself and why couldn't I just do one show in Calgary and BE DONE WITH IT already and I am setting myself up to FAIL! AGAIN! I couldn't have known this.

But today, I believe that the show and I have benefitted so massively from this experience that I wouldn't change a thing.

(These are bold words coming from a woman who spent an hour crying this morning before rehearsal and was overheard howling the words 'I'm a looooooooooser' into her loving partner's ear around midnight last night.)

But, it's true. Because you don't know what you (or your weird experimental one-person show about marathoning) is capable of until you fling them both headlong into the pine-scented deep end.

And so, there's really only one thing left to say about my homecoming to Canada and that is: FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND GOOD IN THE WORLD, BUY YOUR BLOODY TICKETS

*curtsies*
Sunday
Jul172011

Making People Cry: My New Career Path

There is much to say and so much more to do! I emerged from my weird brain haze to discover a mountain of work awaiting me for this Canadian tour business. There was also the matter of doing two shows in one day with my tired, battered body who is so desperate for a break and some massage therapy, it's crazy. 

Here's what else happened: people love our show. The impact the work has on people is something I've never experienced and I feel like putting this on my resume under Special Skills: 'I make people cry.' People are sending me messages about how inspired they are. They are running every day. They are quoting my lines back to me. Lines that have become battle cries for getting through a day. It's incredible.

And I've realized a couple of things. One is that it is very worth it to give everything you have to your creative work. I am so very happy that I laboured so hard to make my work honest. I am convinced that's how you make good work. It's not believing you got it right on the first or second try, or that you'll ever arrive at a static place called 'right.' It's being willing to labour for honesty every single day. There's a line in my show directly attributable to my friend Lisa Stirling: "it's not how fast you are, it's how much you're willing to suffer." This is not reinforcing the struggling, tortured artist line here. This is about letting go of the outside stuff, the goal-achievement stuff and going deep. Really deep, past all that bullshit to where the truth is. It is very, very difficult and so worth it.

The other thing I realized is that my willingness to be vulnerable, reeeaaaallllyyyy vulnerable, in front of people is extremely important work. At yesterday's first performance, I got caught up in trying to be perfect again. Trying to "perform well" for the audience. As soon as the show finished, I burst into tears and I spent the afternoon before my evening show feeling shaky and scared. Because it cannot ever be about the ego. It doesn't work. Performing perfectly and getting it right DOES NOT WORK. The only thing that works is to get very present, crack open your chest and reveal yourself utterly. That works. Because your willingness to do that makes it okay for the rest of us to do that, too.  

And here is what happens when you are willing to work like a dog, believe in your own weird idea that maybe makes sense to only you, believe in that idea for two years even though it makes you go broke and crazy, give everything you have in the making of it and reveal yourself totally in the performing of it: you get an email from a woman who has managed $250-million productions and who is your friend and who supports your work completely. You get an email from her that contains a budget. The budget is for an extended run of your show, six shows a week, in which you get paid an actual salary. A small table from a spreadsheet that tells a beautiful story about how your weird idea and your unshakable belief paid you back in more ways than you can imagine.

And then you look around and see that you're surrounded by a group of people. Some are crying. Some are smiling. Some are wearing their limited-edition ENDURE crew t-shirts. You see these people gathered around you and you understand. That's already happened.
Monday
Jul112011

Thoughts On The Opening Of ENDURE

I need to write a post about the opening of ENDURE. About those final moments before this project was officially born. About the big day. About how I felt and how the audience reacted. I need to write that post and tell you those things. 

I'm just not sure that I can.

I've been in a bit of a fog since Saturday morning. The fog changes tone between feelings of nervousness, present-moment awareness and wondering what just happened. There are images, little flashes of memory where I see myself jogging repeatedly to the bathroom in the park Saturday morning. Where I got so still right before the show started that the squirrels and birds started to gather around me, thinking I was part of the landscape. Where I had moments of connection with certain audience members that I will never forget. Moments of intimacy that you don't expect and can't possibly predict when you create theatre, let alone attend it.

I remember people staring at me after the show. Trying to process the experience? Wondering, after having my voice in their head and seeing me unravel in front of them for the past hour, who I was in real life? Hoping I would reveal the secrets of the universe? I don't know.

I remember being tired. Not knowing whether I did a good job. Being unable to really say much or articulate myself. Feeling like I left every ounce of myself out there in the playing space of Prospect Park. Like I'd become so vulnerable and seen that there was nothing left to say about the experience other than, 'Here I am. Do with that what you will.'

I remember Donna bursting into tears when we met up in the restroom. Her saying, 'You did it, Mel. You trusted your work. It was beautiful. Beautiful.' I remember Mark hugging me, holding back tears, saying 'Yes' when I asked if he was proud. I remember John McEneny, the Artistic Director of Piper Theatre rushing up saying, 'Who ARE you? I can't believe I know you.' He said this wasn't a workshop presentation, but a fully developed piece of art and I remember thinking, 'Of course...I gave my whole life to it.'

Then Julie (an amazing master's runner) wrote this review. Then she asked me to be on this podcast. Then we added a third show. Then my brilliant friend-turned-business-manager Jessica submitted a proposal to a gallery in London UK, the first of a series of international proposals. Then my brilliant coach Cathy offered to host another show, maybe two, in Alberta. And my contact from Kelowna/Penticton got back in touch (meaning my dream of performing it during Ironman week is coming closer).

Then one of the moderators from the podcast wanted to organize a show up in the runner-famous Van Cordlandt Park. And another moderator from Brooklyn said he'd never heard about it and he knows hundreds of runners who would be interested. Then I realized that my idea, the idea to make theatre specifically for runners, is going to work. And that I have more work to do to invite the physicality of an audience who wants to move. 

Then I felt the need, the deep DNA-level need, to go home. Back to Canada where I'm from, where my mom is, to fill up again and get ready. 

Because I've known for a long, long while that I just needed to open this show. That a whole lot, more than I can imagine, was waiting on the other side of opening and that my job was to have the faith and the balls to make the show without any real assurance that it would work. I knew that all the dark, lonely days would be paid back and that my commitment to this idea mattered. That it was worth risking a lot for.

And I also knew that my job didn't end at the premiere. That this is just the beginning. 

So, New York? Brooklyn? I will give you one more week and two more shows. I will give you everything I've got and everything I have in reserve. And then I'm going home to where it all started. To the Bow River pathway where I fell in love with the even rhythm of breath and the sound of feet on pavement.

(But I'll be back in September when you can have a hundred and fifty-six shows anywhere you want 'em.)

Tuesday
Jul052011

Woman Against Nature (Or...If You Can't Take The Heat, You're Pretty Much Screwed)

ENDURE is complete. The music is finalized. The performance is set. The first show is sold out and the second is halfway there. I am fitter than I've been in years, four sleeps away from the New York world premiere of a show I've been dreaming about for three years. There's just one problem: I can't handle the heat.

Twice now, I've gone for a gentle four-miler only to come home and puke my guts out. Our showing last Saturday (performed at our scheduled showtime of 11 am) left me so dehydrated I could barely finish. I was delirious and disoriented, mumbling about things that made no sense.

It's July in New York and my show is scheduled for the hottest part of the day in the hottest part of the year. I happen to be blessed with the same weird genetic abnormality as my mother: we don't sweat. Oh sure, if it's 100% humidity and a hundred degrees, moisture will appear on my skin. But as a natural method of cooling my body during exertion? Not happening.

Yesterday, after barfing my face off for the second time in a week, I got scared. Like, really scared. I was supposed to run the show in the heat every day this week, plus double runs today and Thursday and my four mile commute. All I could think was: I will be dead before I open this show.

I realized a couple of things. One, I'm not drinking anywhere near enough. I should be drinking THREE TIMES what I'd normally drink on a daily basis, given the heat and my activity level. And I need to work drinking into each and every scene of ENDURE. 

I've been getting away without drinking much during the show because we've been rehearsing early in the morning. No deal now. So, today's rehearsal was an exercise in theatrical hydration. I drank at every possible opportunity and I'm thinking of changing the tagline of the show to ENDURE RunWomanShow: That's Right Boys, She Swallows.

The second thing I realized was that I need to work in way more electrolyte replacement. I went off sports drinks around the time I went off most processed food and weird chemicals. This is going on two years now, but I haven't trained at a high enough volume or intensity to need to hydrate with anything besides water. 

But, I'm getting my ass handed to me and it's time to up my game. So: electrolyte-rich drinks and lots of them. I'm loading up on coconut water today and I'm also using some recipes and principles from the Thrive Diet – homemade sports drinks with simple ingredients like water, lemon, sea salt and agave syrup. I'm also a fan of Vega sport drink. Looks like hell, works like a charm.

I'm also taking a closer look at nutrition. Rehearsing later in the day means my lunch gets pushed back later and later into the afternoon. The shifted schedule means I've been skipping meals and resorting to eating whatever's around. This ends now.

It's carb-load time! Big breakfasts. All-day hydration. Good recovery eating with tons of minerals, leafy greens and protein. Today I took a container of steamed kale, fresh tomatoes, hummus and dulse (electrolyte and mineral-rich seaweed) with me after rehearsal. I plan on eating my body weight in some whole grain something this evening.

It's also time to conserve my energy. My friend Donna calls it 'going on lockdown.' I'm doing the bare minimum this week: no social obligations, no extraneous chores, no extraneous rehearsals, no offers to help or cram in an extra meeting. 

In my show I talk about 'woman against nature' – well, here we are. Melanie against 100-degree heat. And I can tell you one thing for sure, it's not a battle I can win. So I have to flow WITH it, rise to the challenge and figure out how to adapt. 

It's funny, yesterday on my knees in the john, I was terrified of the heat. I felt powerless and weak in the face of it. Now, it feels like a gift. The heat is asking me to treat myself with more consciousness and care than ever before. It's asking me to listen to my body and put my health first. It's four days before opening and my body is my top priority. This is an excellent thing. I'm blessed to be able to do it.

(And dudes, seriously. If you haven't RSVPed, you might miss out. That would be sad. Sadder than me barfing in the toilet on the fourth of July.)
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