Three New Things

The problem with deciding to write a blog post every day is that… well, you have to write a blog post every day. And it turns out I don’t actually have enough time to write a blog post every day. Especially not in the middle of a theatre conference in Alaska (I’M IN ALASKA! AGAIN! HOORAY!)

But, I am a dedicated person. And I started this stupid idea and now I’m really attached to it, so I’m going to try and do it even if its really really really inconvenient and means I wind up missing out on a lot more sleep.

So, without further ado, three more new things!

1) See Anchorage

On Friday, my new thing was ‘See Anchorage.’ I have always wanted to see Anchorage. A treasured childhood book of mine was called ‘Julie of the Wolves’ (I may have mentioned it before) and it was about a girl who lived in Alaska. So I developed a bit of an obsession with Alaska. And, as I found out when I used to stare at the atlas pages for hours on end, Anchorage was the biggest town in Alaska and a certain mythology then started to grow up around it for me.

Because I left it so late to get plane tickets this year for the theatre conference, I ended up having to book a ticket a few days earlier than I needed to get into Alaska. Which gave me a whole day on Friday to see Anchorage.

When I first found this out, I thought I would use the day to do something exciting – climb a mountain, go kayaking. But, because I was so busy organising things for Brighton etc. this year, I was really slack about organising myself for Alaska. I turned up in Anchorage on Thursday night realising I hadn’t actually worked out anything to do on the Friday.

Not to be deterred, I got up early on Friday morning (I didn’t have much choice – jetlag), got dressed and headed out. It was raining. But, I was not going to let this bother me either. I headed to the bus stop to wait for a bus. Of course, one left just as I arrived. And, as I found out when I checked the bus timetable, buses don’t come in Anchorage as regularly as they come in London (every half hour? Every HOUR??? WHAT IS THIS??) But, I’m a chipper person (well, I was that morning) and I was in Alaska and it wasn’t raining that hard and I WAS NOT GOING TO BE DETERRED. I decided to walk into town.

All went well until I took a wrong turn and found my pedestrian walkway suddenly disappearing. I was wet, I was cold and I was not in anyway heading towards downtown. But, it was nothing a little bit of a capella Kool and the Gang singing and sidewalk dancing couldn’t fix. I found my way back to the right street and continued on my way.

A bus finally came along and I jumped on board. I put a $5 bill into the machine and got my ticket. But no change! I questioned the bus driver. “Oh, yes, that’s a full day ticket you have there. It costs $5.” But I didn’t want a full-day ticket! I only wanted a single ticket! (which cost $1.75) This was way more money than I had intended to spend on the bus that day (a single into town and a single out = $3.50). But, I was NOT TO BE DETERRED! I was NOT TO BE DISHEARTENED! I took it as a sign – I should catch buses around Anchorage to see the town and hide from the rain and also to make use of my ridiculously expensive bus ticket.

Which I proceeded to do. And what I discovered was – Anchorage isn’t a particularly pretty town. Well, ok, its not a particularly pretty town when the cloud is covering the surrounding mountains. And the buses don’t seem to go to particularly pretty places. I saw a lot of malls. There were the occasional interesting, pretty things around – suddenly coming across a Russian Orthodox Church, the University of Alaska’s campus. But, all in all, I’m sorry to say it, Anchorage was a bit of a let-down. I really don’t blame the town. It’s very young (having its centenary only next year) and it does have the feel of a frontier town. It’s a place so surrounded by natural beauty that it’s not really so necessary for the town itself to be that beautiful. But the climate is also harsh, so people are much more concerned with their houses being warm and being sturdy than being beautiful, I imagine. The town has a functional feel, a place that you come to at the start of your journey, as opposed to somewhere that you spend a lot of time in. I hope I’m not being too insulting. I’m sure its a lovely place to live and it has lots of good points about it. I know lots of lovely people who live there. But it was not quite what I was expecting – at least, what I saw from a bus window with a lot of cloud and rain was not quite what I was expecting.

2) Glee Club Concert

On Saturday I went to a full-length Glee club concert. I have always wanted to go to a Glee club concert. Not because I’m a fan of the show (I’m really not), but because I love a capella singing and because I think Glee club’s seem really, really awesome.

Oh, and it was. The University of Alaska, Anchorage’s Glee club pretty much rocked my world all of Saturday night. it was just so much fun, as well as a lot of great singing. Its hard to pick out favourites, but a dance routine to ‘Sexy and I Know It’ was certainly one of the funniest things all evening, and I am a sucker for a show tune, so their versions of ‘Chim-chim-cheree’ (Mary Poppins) and ‘The New Girl in Town’ (Hairspray) were particularly delightful.

3) Kia Corthron

I’m really struggling with Sunday’s new and exciting thing. I mean, I am really, really not thinking about new and exciting things are the moment – most of my thoughts are taken up by the conference and readings and line learning and workshops and hanging out with great people and many other things. It’s kind of difficult to, amongst all that, think of new things to do (and then actually do them).

(I mean, really, the whole week is just new and exciting things, meeting new people, hearing new ideas, writing new stuff, yada yada yada, but I do feel like I have to pick actual singular things to talk about for this darn one day, one thing, one post project)

Anyway, at the conference, everyone gets a panel of experienced practitioners who are tasked with responding to your play. Last year, I was meant to have a great American playwright named Kia Corthron respond to my play, ‘Fishtail’. But, unfortunately, Kia got very unwell just before the conference and wasn’t able to be there. Ever since, her name has seemed to pop up all over the place – one of her play’s is being included in an anthology that Tonic Theatre was writing (the group I was assisting over the end of last year). I found videos of her chatting about playwrighting whilst researching women writers. It felt like a really missed opportunity.

But, this year, Kia has arrived! And the first writing workshop I did yesterday was with her. I wrote a couple of scenes, with *some* good lines (some awful ones too, but what you gonna do with half an hour to write) and found the whole thing quite useful – in particular, it was meant to be helping you ‘come unstuck’ with a play or character you were struggling with. For this particular play, I now believe I have one good page of dialogue. Of course, I still have to deal with the 75 pages of CRAP that is sitting on my computer. But, hey. You gotta start somewhere, right?

Later that evening, Kia (as well as the other featured playwrights) did a few readings of excerpts from their work. I was really happy to hear some of Kia’s work, because I hadn’t ever had the opportunity to read it before. Actually, all of the playwrights were excellent, and most of them I had never read before, so that’s always an exciting thing – finding new writers that you admire. But, again, not really something that I actively went out and did myself (well, I guess if you count all the work I did to get to the conference – writing the play, submitting it, booking my tickets, travelling to Alaska etc. – then maybe I did do all the work necessary for this new experience myself). But, anyway. It was a great night.

So, that’s three new things for three more days. I’m going to try and actively find something to do that’s new and exciting tonight. I’m guessing, because of how the conference works, that its probably going to involve alcohol. This will most likely be the easiest way to get around this pickle that I have got myself in.

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