Wednesday, October 31, 2007

not-so-typical dutch wedding

Tom & Liselot's wedding was so beautiful, and we were really happy that we were able to make the trip to be there. Our travels to the ceremony was a bit of an adventure... Maggie helped us get a 25% discount "Bahncard" to ride the trains in Germany for cheaper. We took the train to Cologne on Friday night and stayed overnight at UwP's German office, otherwise known as Frank Liffer's apartment. Then we rode with him (on the autobahn in a BMW going 180 km per hour, which to those of you who drive in miles, is super fast!), to Amsterdam.

We were lucky to have the uwp network take care of us once again... a friend on the road with us connected us with a friend of hers that used to work for uwp, and actually traveled in B97, so we were in Denver with her back in the day! So Nicoliene met us at the wedding and showed us to her apartment, and graciously hosted us for the weekend.

The wedding was at 3pm in a cool old building that used to be a church. Tom & Liselot wrote their own vows that were just beautiful, and their officiant, who was a justice of the peace, I think, was a bit of a jokester.

Then we took shuttle buses to a really artsy, funky event center for the reception. There was the biggest disco ball I've ever seen, and a large unicorn hanging from the ceiling. We caught up with many old friends, and Scott was excited that the entire management staff from cast A 99 was in attendance! We had a delicious, very classy dinner served family style at three long tables, with a cream puff & fruit "cake" that came out to the tables with fireworks! We sang and danced until 2:30am.

On Sunday we met up with everyone for lunch, explored Amsterdam, met up again for a festive dinner, and enjoyed our first two-days-in-a-row off since the end of june. We rode these crazy swings at a carnival in a square in Amsterdam-- it was a bench swing that raised at least 100 ft in the air. It was windy, cold, and so fun!-- though I wondered when we were at the top, how it was stabilized and able to go up so high. On Monday, we took three trains across Germany to arrive in Prenzlau by 6pm. I love public transportation!


10-28-07: I was lucky to have the chance to visit Berlin twice this week. We visited the East Side Gallery, which is the remains of the Berlin wall, painted with murals and graffiti. We took a cast photo in front of the Brandenburg gate, and visited the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. The memorial is incredibly powerful, and easy to lose yourself in. Long rows of columns, that as you walk to the center begin to tower above your head, until they are four meters above you. You lose everyone else, and just catch glimpses of people walking among the other columns… the symbolism was overwhelming to me, I felt this panic of not being able to find my group again, and thinking I would see them in the distance, but only a glimpse, and if I ran to catch them, I would only be successful if they hadn’t turned. And the columns were so wide, it hid people and was quickly disorienting. And the museum underneath the memorial was really well-done, though it was exhausting, as all Holocaust memorials are. Though somehow, I feel like its one of those things that I need to spend time doing, taking time out of my rich and bountiful life to remember that sick tragedy and all those lost lives. If you are ever in Berlin, this memorial is a must-see.

And yesterday on our free day, Joern took us around his old neighborhood in Berlin. We visited a flea market, had a tour of the Jewish Museum of Berlin that focused on a comparison of Judaism and Islam (which was fascinating) and then had dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant. Homemade fettuchini with pumpkin and sautéed onions, buffalo mozzarella with truffle oil and basil, antipasto with roasted eggplant & pinenuts, octopus with tomatoes, potato soufflé, and many other delectable flavors. It was a relaxing dinner, and a nice end to our very busy week in Prenzlau. The only thing I was disappointed about was that we got back too late for me to call home. I am grateful for the emails and photos that you send—Kato, I love the pink hair!

ice cream freezer

10-27-07: My former intern Hanna, who is awesome, and is one of those people who always looks to see how she can add value to an experience. What extras can she find to make things better… anyways, she was on the advance setup team here in Prenzlau, and she asked for a donation of ice cream bars for 70 people. Instead, she got an entire freezer full of popsicles and ice cream bars of various flavors… pink grapefruit, black licorcice, and my favorite: banana ice cream dipped in chocolate and rice krispie-type crunchies. Delicious! We called it our bottomless freezer, because as hard as we worked to make a dent in the supply, we still couldn’t see the bottom of the chest Saturday night after the show. I think our truck driver Michael took the prize with 15 ice creams over the course of the day. I restrained myself, and only had four.

appreciating our cast

Today was our cast appreciation! The staff has been staying together all week here in Prenzlau, Germany, and every night we’ve been preparing the celebration that we did today.

The cast was convinced that something was really wrong. Joern and Frank Liffers (our European tour manager who traveled with Scott & I in ‘97) told the cast when they arrived that there was “an issue” that the rest of the staff was meeting about. Frank said that he usually is excited to come out and visit the cast, but not today. Then at 8:30am they opened the doors to the auditorium and saw that we had set up the stage and decorated the set with streamers, balloons and signs. We had stayed up late all week learning dances and songs to perform for the cast—the show’s swing dance, “Everybody’s Everybody” from our previous uwp show, and a few other fun songs to have them laugh at and with us. My ribs are so bruised from doing the flips in the swing dance, and my stomach muscles have never been so sore in my whole life. But it was so worth it. From when I started as road staff, the cast appreciation day was one of the things I looked most forward to. And overall, it went so well! We had a few technical difficulties in getting our opening video started, but after that, the little show, the dance party, and then a movie in the morning were all big hits with the cast. We set the table and served them a sit-down lunch (rather than a buffet line how we eat most every meal) with candles and Frank Sinatra playing in the background. We wanted to show them how much we appreciate their positive attitudes and commitment to the program.

hunger banquet

On Thursday 10/18/07 we focused on poverty and hunger, and the distribution of wealth throughout the world. We started with about 10 people sharing statistics and examples of what it means to be poor in their respective countries.

In the afternoon, we walked up an old narrow road to the ruins of castle built in 1250. We had a guided tour from some local students whose teacher wanted them to practice their English. In the castle we simulated the distribution of the wealth of the world by having 100 coins on the ground. People picked up as many as they could, and we divided them by how many they ended up with. (some chose to share with those around them, as we had blindfolded some people and taped others’ hands together.) It was perfect to do this division in an old castle

Later in the afternoon we went to a monastery, and a monk spoke to the cast about his perspective on poverty in this age. Then the divisions from the castle came into effect—we broke the cast by the percentages of the world’s wealth. 15% of the people (nine cast members) were the wealthy class, 35% (22 cast members) were the middle class, and the other 50% (the remaining 34 people) were the poorest class, those in the world who struggle to have their basic needs met.

The wealthiest class sat at a dining table with real dishes and silverware, and while Jared (our lighting technician & resident expert on poverty and hunger) was sharing facts and information, Scottie & Joern began serving the top 15%. The route from the kitchen walked right through the middle class group (sitting on chairs but no table) and the poverty class, who were sitting on the floor. So Scott & Joern carried the vat of soup (which smelled delicious) to the wealthiest class, and then served salad, sautéed turkey breasts with garlic, basil and tomatoes, rice, and dessert. All through the rest of Jared’s presentation, while the majority of the cast was sitting hungrily on the floor, we heard the clinking of the wealthy class’ dishes. Once they had their main course and the presentation was complete, then the middle class went through a buffet line for a scoop of beans and of rice. The poorest class was given a bowl of rice to share, and a kettle of slightly salted water.

It was such a successful event, a powerful experience for the whole group. I loved watching the faces of the wealthy class as the food just kept coming, and so many students expressed that they were glad to have the experience of eating just rice and bad water for dinner.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Zell a.H.

We have spent the week in a charming little city in southwest Germany called Zell am Harmersbach. Our host family was the lovely Maggie Goette (from cast C 97) and her boyfriend Ralf. And actually, since Mags had to study in Munich Mon-Thurs, Ralf was stuck with us by himself!

We've had lots of pretzels and beer, and a busy week of working on our upcoming cities. Yesterday we had an awesome workshop on poverty and hunger that I will blog about separately (once the other cast has also experienced it...), but it took place in a castle and a monastary, which really added to the atmosphere as we talked about wealth distribution and economic classes.

We also had our first German show, with the audience drinking beer and eating pretzels, and lots of energy and encores! There's nothing like performing for a German audience--- they are so appreciative!

This weekend we are off to Amsterdam for an exciting wedding of two castmates from 1997, and will be rejoining our cast on Monday in the opposite kitty-corner of Germany: Prenzlau, which is on the Polish border.

Right now we are off to have a coffee with Mags before heading on our way to get to the wedding. Tschüß!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

gorgeous Switzerland

Now we are in beautiful Luzern (or Lucerne, depending on if you're German or French...) and are having an incredible and crisp fall week in this city. On Tuesday, after a foggy boat tour of Lake Lucerne, we took the steepest cogwheel train in the world (with a gradient of an impressive 48%) to the top of Mount Pilatus. Hiking in the steep and impressive Swiss Alps, riding gondolas and cable cars and toboggans, and topping it off with an incredible Raclette dinner last night... we have had an amazing Swiss experience so far.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

US tour wrap-up

I promised an update on how the US closure worked out... I was so pleased! We had all this end-of-roll clean newsprint, and I painted each city name and all of the "facts" of the city, like the service sites, show facilities, workshops, speakers, etc., up under each city. They covered the walls all the way around the room. But the paper was mostly blank, and so we took about an hour to personalize the mural-- people wrote up memories, quotes, drew pictures... we played music, and I think everyone really enjoyed walking around, reading and laughing about all the funny moments we've had together already this tour.
Plus these murals are going to be fabulous for our end of semester! It was a great success, and I got some really positive feedback from students. Its a keeper.


It ended up being 64.5 hours + 8 additional hours of sleeping on a gym floor, but we made it through, and Milan is of course bellissimo!

Its been a quick week of scavenger hunts through the city, spontaneous classroom visits, and two sold-out shows. A funny highlight for Scottie and I: our show facility yesterday was in a smaller community near Milan called Cernusco-- where we performed 9 and a half years ago! A mural that we painted outside in the courtyard plaza had been painted over, but the flags of the world that we put up in May 1998 were still slightly visible. I'll post a photo once I can upload pics again.

Tonight we're doing our second show in the city where most of the cast is living: Cusano Miliano, which is a 20-minute commuter train ride to connect to the Milan subway.

Travel to Europe has given the cast a lot of independence, (and some students a kick in the pants!) as we don't have a bus within the city. There were lots of people lost somewhere on public transportation, or needing to ask directions of local Italianos to find their way home. Its so fun! ... and it came at just the right time for this group.

Monday, October 1, 2007

On the Road Again

The adventures continue!

So, it should be known that we are in the midst of the longest travel extravaganza in the world. We are on our way from Las Vegas, NV to Milano, Italy, so let me break it down:

We started our travels at midnight on Sunday morning. Our plan was to not stop for an overnight sleep but rather to drive to Seattle in order to catch our flight to Italy. This meant that we had four drivers in each of our vans and took turns driving and keeping the driver awake. We did this for about 30 hours, which was incredibly exhausting as we never really got any quality sleep when not driving. After several rest stops, we arrived at Sea Tac to drop off our first group of travellers, but the remainder of us still have until 9:30 pm until our flight departs. As we felt pretty much like arse, a few of us decided to get a hotel so we could sleep a few hours and shower. The rest of our travel:

* Depart for London Heathrow at 9:30 pm from Seattle on Monday, October 1st
* Arrive at Heathrow at 3:00pm October 2nd
* Depart for Milano at 7:00pm October 2nd
* Arrive Milano at 11:00pm and sleep in a sport hall overnight until we meet our host families the next day at 5:30pm October 3rd

All said, this will be a 61.33 hour travel extravaganza. Had it not been for our quick stop at a hotel, we would not have showered for about 4 days...YIKES!

Wish us luck...we think of you all and are hoping that life is well. We will update our blog as we are able.