Wednesday, 26 January 2011

...and here's a head shot.

Now that I'm an actor (!) I need head shots; here is one my director took.  I think I am slightly airbrushed!, but my eyes are looking nice and green.

I auditioned for the play to learn empathy

I did!  I wanted to experience a play from the actor side because in Uka I'm always on the side of power, on the director's team, and I figured it would be good for me to scare my pants off by auditioning so I could empathize with the poor students shaking up there on the stage during auditions.  Then I got the part (I actually didn't see that one coming) so now I get to have my pants scared of by actually being in a play--empathy by the bucketloads being one result.  Of course, I also auditioned because I remember pining away for acting regularly during my years in PNG, and here was my chance--not everything I do is motivated by a desire to benefit my little middle schoolers!, though they do feature prominently, actually.  So, collecting observations from the point of view of someone who helps high school students put on plays, here's what I've learned so far.

I'm much, much, MUCH more nervous about rehearsals than I ever imagined I'd be.  Such pressure!  I don't even get so preoccupied about speaking in churches or other things that usually terrify people, but play practice--!  I'm not a nervous person, usually, but the adrenaline before those early rehearsals!  Even now, three weeks in, the hour or so before a rehearsal finds me with elevated heart rate and churning stomach.  Gaah!  Do my students feel this?

Some obvious ones:
You can have a line memorized perfectly at home and be a total dud at rehearsal.
And the corollary:  the line you get perfectly today and yesterday and at every previous rehearsal will be the one you flub up tomorrow. 
And the empathetic realization: you want to appologize and be forgiven, but this is tedious to the director, so you don't, but you just feel dumb and mad at yourself instead.

Being interrupted makes it harder to go back and do the scene over again.  Once you loose your head it stays lost for a while.

It's nice not being on the production team.  I can relax and just act! Whee!  I'm an actor! 

I have learned good characterization skills over the years, and am enjoying putting them into practice.  I keep discovering new things about my character!  This is such a fun process!  And watching my fellow cast members give stunning performances rehearsal after rehearsal--I learn a lot from them.  This is so cool!  Is this why we put on plays in Uka?  Whee!  Sign me up! 

Being on a cast of adults is quite different from a production of teenaged actors and techies.  We goof off as much, but the starting level of emotional and mental resources to draw on is greater, and we are better trained.  We can cut to the chase.  There's more spontaneous generation of character and movement and not all the wooden, poseable robot stuff that goes on sometimes with young actors.  Maggie this one's for you:  we're not afraid to touch each other. 

It's interesting observing a very different style of directing--quite useful. 

I wish we prayed more at rehearsal (as in, we don't at all) but this is becoming one of those boring themes of my life that you can hear me repeat and repeat:  Pray more!  Pray more! 

I had another few good observations saved up to write down, but I can't seem to recall them.  Time to go back to writing another paper, then go to bed.  Good night!  Come see us perform on Feb 18, 19, 25 & 26.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Catching Up with Last Month's Adventures

"Grab your coat and get your hat!/Leave your worries on the doorstep./Just direct your feet/to the sunny side of the street."  Unless you're sitting on the shady side of the street to watch the Rose Parade, then make sure you're wearing a cotton layer, a wool layer, a capeline layer, a wool layer, a cotton layer as well as your coat (wool/cashmere overcoat from a Glasgow thrift store) and hat (a blue watch cap from who knows where).  .  Also a scarf from Nepal.  Also sit close to your cousins for warmth.  Best float:  the reef fish.  Most annoying float faux pas:  bananas growing upside down on the Dole float.  Dole!!  Come on, people.  Best band uniforms:  the dancers and musicians from Mexico had gorgeous costumes.  Best music of a band:  the Marines have them all beat.  Coolest horses:  the Frisians have to win out.  Outfit I was gladdest not to be wearing while sitting on a float in 45 degree weather in a chilly had wind:a mermaid bra and shorts!

Strolling and biking along Colorado Boulevard as it filled up yesterday was a hoot.  We have one night of street people with fancy gear for New Year's Eve in Pasadena--air matresses, heaters, espersso machines, computers powered by generators!!  J.Crew was boarded up by 5 pm, and the crowd was honkng their world cup horns when I was going to work at 10 am Friday. I slept so much better in my own bed than on the sidewalk, and we ended up with a just fine spot near the end of the route, so no worries.

Disneyland with nine Smiths in the rain, preceded by a Bit Smith Sleepover, with three of us in the Garage Cave and getting up at, gulp, 5:30.  I wan't wearing my wool and capeline under my overalls, and I regretted it.  But, Thunder Mountain Railroad in the rain was thrilling!  I was amused.  Disneyland doesn't sell churros in the rain.  Bummer.  And, fair warning:  Michael Jackson as Captain Eo was far, far worse than I had ever remembered, and I shall bitterly regret those 20 minutes till the end of my days.  How could something be so bad? That level of eye-crossing insipidity couldn't be duplicated even if done on purpose.  Also, sitting still while watching it when already wet through made me hypothermic and miserable.  Luckily my chivalrous brother leapt to the rescue with chocolate covered pretzels and kindness.  Thanks, B!  You're a star.

Birthday museum visit to the Norton Simon with the siblings and the niecefews.  Culture!  How I love you!

Birthday dinner party, tablecloths and candles, transforming Chez Gene.  Menu:  babaganouj, tabbouleh, lentils stewed in garlic, and hummus with flat bread, pita, and baguettes; carrot soup; Indonesian rice salad and satay with peanut sauce; Balinese spice cake and vanilla ice cream.

Christmas with lots of rellies!, including three whole meals eaten at tables with real siverware and not plastic and not out of my lap.  Well done, relatives.  The cascading overflow of presents around the tree warmed my heart, too. :-)

A trip on the train downtown with cousin J to see a concert at Disney Concert Hall.  We got student rush tickets and ended up sitting in the SECOND ROW!  God be praised!  We also ate delish Mexican at the central market, where I bought some mole, frankincense and myrrh.  Nice for Christmas!

I talked my way into the church choir for a week so I could sing alto for the Hallelujah, my little Baroque oratorio fix.  I need much, much more of it in my life, but there's no space.  Singing under Dr. Hopkins back at UAF is a little different than singing for the church choir!  He taught me well, better than I ever knew back then.  Thanks, Dr. Hopkins, and I'm really sorry for all the days we giggled too much when we were dumb freshmen and couldn't behave well in public.

I worked a lunch shift where I handled 40 covers in 3 hours.  Yoikers!  Three months ago I could barely handle 12.

I auditioned for a play!  And got a part!!  And rehearsals start Saturday!!!  AND I have to be off book by then!!!!  I am juror #9 in Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men. Yes, all you smart aleks out there, I am an angry man.  Angrier than I can say.

No one else has died this month.  Good job, everyone!  Keep it up.  Give me another month, at least, to keep being sad about Bettie Yarita and baby Smith.

I wrote many papers that last week of school (five, I think, some short and three long).  I wrote one fabulous paper in which I learned a lot and enjoyed examining a piece of art (for Theology & Film).  I wrote another  fascinating paper (for Power Encounter) in which I stored up heaps of ideas to use in Uka and reflected on really mind blowing research and some practice with healing prayer.  And, I wrote one that never got beyond an 18-page rough draft into the 10-page final paper it needed to be.  I ran out of time, but I'd also already given up on success due to being from a different planet from the unfortunate youth who will be grading it.  Alas. Very compelling ideas for the class (Church and Mission in Global Context), but I'm afraid I'll end up with a low grade.  I'll be an example for my own students with my D in a grad class!  And I'll loose my scholarship!  Woe is me! 

I registered for classes that start in two days:  Anthropology, Leadership, Intro to Global Theology.

I read a few library books. 

That's all! 

Curry and Salad

So, I'm glad I'm flexible and all since my life has so much transition, but it's kind of flummoxing to find out just how far my identity stretches and reforms in each context.  It's exhausting and disconcerting to have to find out again in each new home who I am for that place!  We know our identity mostly by observing what we do day in and day out;  that's how we what kind of people we are and what's important to us.  For instance, I'm a reader, one of the cornerstones of my identity.Books!  Books!!  BOOKS!!!  Yeah, well, you get it.  Also big in the last decade or so has been that I cook.  I cook things!  Food!  Cooking!  Feeding people!!  I have a reputation in Ukarumpa as an adventurous cook, I cook all the time, I have people over a few times a week usually.  I cook because I love it, to experience joy in God's creation of flavour and texture and smell and the civilized and rejuvenating art of eating.  I explore new cuisines and rarely cook the same thing twice.  I cook a lot when I'm in Ukarumpa.  Dinner parties, tra la, tra la!

So what happens to my identity here?  Tonight I made curry veg on rice with a chopped salad, one of my so-common-I'm-bored-with-it meals in Ukarumpa...and it's the first time I've made anything like it in America.  I'm just not cooking!  Who IS  this person who doesn't cook?  What am I doing instead?  Skipping meals by working lunch shifts at the restaurant, eating Gene's food on Tuesdays, eating left-overs the rest of the time, eating meat all the time and bread I didn't bake and prepared food...  I cook about once a fortnight now.  I don't recognize myself!

Perhaps that's what's upsetting--I have this huge vocation for cooking and feeding people and yet it's not part of my life here, so who am I, then, this person who doesn't cook here?  At least I still dress myself from thrift stores and hand-me-downs (let's give a little cheer for scuffed orange Dansko clogs, the $7 answer to rainy days and blah outfits), and with a lot more daring than last furlough, where my need to blend in was far outweighing my need to be creative.  I still read the Bible!  I still cut flowers and put them in vases around the house.  I still think I'm going to get around to sewing much more than I actually sew.  I still hate to talk on the phone.  I still love hanging out with people and impromptu parties.  I still am always up for prayer.  I still like arty films and swoon at classical concerts (another cheer here for Disney Concert Hall, my new favourite building).  I still prefer to park a mile away and walk than pay for parking...not that *that's* part of my life in Ukarumpa.  I guess I haven't totally changed...but I miss the parts of me that can't be me here.  I'm making up for it partly by being the me that can go to concerts and museums, that can go on road trips by herself and be on the streets at night and wear pants every day.  Throwing the dinner party for my birthday was great, but was the first time I've cooked for people in...since Alaska, I think!  Gah.

So, here, to reassert my identity as a cook, is a recipe for you. 
So-common-I'm-bored-with-it Curry, with a salad on the side

1.  Set the rice on to boil.  I like brown rice if you have the time.
2.  Briefly toast some spices in hot oil until they release their aromatics (40 seconds should do it).  Pick your curry country of origin and choose spices accordingly.  I recommend cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamon and black pepper if you don't know what to add.  Diced chilies are awesome, but expect to cough as the heat releases the volatiles!  Wipe your eyes and thank God you're alive and cooking.
3.  Add a diced onion, perhaps garlic, depending on the curry country of origin, and saute until soft and somewhat coloured.
4.  Heave in any other veg whose flavour would be enhanced by a saute before the stewing, like celery and peppers.
5.  In need of protein?  Don't neglect the lentils or chickpeas.  Heave in some chopped sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, or the like.
6.  Add water and/or broth and/or coconut milk and/or tomato sauce or canned tomatoes.  Follow your instincts.  The curry force is with you.  Cover tightly and after it comes to a boil, simmer on low heat until the veg are soft--which will be just as the rice is finishing, if I don't miss my guess!
7.  While that gets to know itself and the rice is coming close to being done, get your favourite chef knife or mandolin chopper and make a salad of finely sliced veg, such as cabbage, green onion, coriander leaf (called cilantro in some places), parsley, bell peppers (called capsicum in some places), tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, daikon, or anything hanging around in the crisper.  Apples are fine, too.  Add green papaya or oranges--I dare you!
8.  Before serving, toss your salad in a simple dressing of lemon juice and salt, or be more adventurous and make a dressing balancing the sweet and salty with the following:  ginger, shallots, garlic, pepper, rice vinegar, katsup, soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil, tamari, and a bit of water  (the Wagamama cookbook has a great Asian salad dressing) for a Southeast or East Asian style curry or pepper, coriander, salt, molasses, oil and vinegar for South Asian, or just yogurt, salt and lemon juice.
9.  Serve the curry on top of rice, with the salad on the side.  Eat!  I recommend finding a table with a tablecloth and lighted candles, but your lap and a TV will work depending on context.  Reading library books propped up on salt shakers is also a great accompaniment to this dish.  Eat your curry with a spoon, a fork, chopsticks or your fingers and bread depending on the curry's country-of-origin.  Obviously a pot of tea that compliments the curry's country of origin is not to be overlooked, though a big glass of tap water is quite satisfying.
10.  Box up left overs in lunch containers.  Your salad will be wilty if you dressed it tonight and eat it tomorrow, but the veg juices and dressing will make a nice condiment to dump onto tomorrow's reheated curry.  Rehearing this lunch in the staff room will get you a reputation as a good cook--no one else's lunch will smell as delish as your curry.