Shadows and Lots Cast

Author: Russell

Wot? Culture clash in the California southern badlands. My infected thumb and I hop a late-running bus off of Powell St. to find out that the company will drop us off mid-way to load in on a van. Off season they say. Still winter in April so small van to LA. At the switch, I use my honed travel skills to save a seat with a bag as soon as the van arrives. Glad I did, because one poor beaten soul (seriously, he looked recently beaten) had to sit on the floor for the next three hours. I soaked the podcasts and made a big dent in the Day of the Triffids as the dessert stretched on beyond all the fruit and nut plantations. Drought? Your water feeds the USA….. LA LA, not quite hot today but haul luggage from Union Station to catch the MetroLink north along the Antelope Line towards Newhall and CalArts. No problems. How to get to CALArts? Umm…. Oh, look. A bus driver arrives just when I need to ask. “Just take the 4 or 14. Over there,” he tells me. My train ticket gives me a free transfer. Some 20 minutes later the bus arrives and I know to look for McBean Parkway. Hey, there’s the CalArts sign. The driver just drops me off there (there IS public transportation in LA) and I haul my huge, heavy bag up into CalArts and ask a few students where to find the fourth floor theater where Christine’s show is. Find it no problem! She’s surprised to see me there. My honed travel skills prevail for the day. My thumb and Peter’s Shadow celebrate.

The next three hours provide more time to continue reading Triffids as Christine makes her young cast run through parts of her MFA thesis shadow play. I had just missed the preview when I arrived and watched Christine direct away. Making last minute light changes. Having three conversations at once. Directing actors. Giving notes. Fast fast. I flash back to watching Peter Schumann direct Bread and Puppet when I was in VT. This is how I learn, I tell my thumb, though exhaustion from the road continues to wash over me. I really haven’t eaten either. But Christine is probably three times as exhausted as I am. And her cast is so young. And they’re goofing and she’s constantly having to keep them focused. Though she goofs with them too. And a tech is trying to end the night. Guess the building people want to close up. And I am glad that I have no idea what I’m watching be rehearsed so I can watch the world premiere tomorrow. Tired, I read a bit more in the hall. And we finally leave for Val Verde, CA out in the dessert where Christine lives. She fries a few eggs and throws it on rice with some nori. So good. Great meal. A meal that I’ve needed since my cheese sandwich from San Francisco. And we talk a bit about things and the shock coming on that Christine will be done with her MFA program after this week. What’s next? Indeed. And falling asleep for another full day tomorrow and the joy of being on the road and having puppets and stencils in the future.

But tomorrow a breakfast of yogurt and nuts in the VW heading back to Newhall for a train back to LA to catch a subway back to North Hollywood which all takes two hours (public trans in the slow lane). But I make it an hour late to my car pick up, questioning the use of public trans and Amtrak all down to San Diego and then remember my 50 pound bag (camping gear, projector, and books: a back-breaking proposition) and say yes to the car once again. Must kill the planet while in LA. And I drive into North Hollywood thinking that I’ll find stencils on Santa Monica Blvd. but only find a cafe to eat lunch. And then drive the wrong way and end up in Beverly Hills, cutting through a palm-lined street straight from the movies (ha) to catch Sunset Blvd back into Hollywood. Find the part of the city near Guitar Center where I always find stencils and feed the meter in front of the comic store to hunt some. Find a few and want coffee but cafe closed so wander into the comic store where I find a 1990 reprint of RAW. How much? $30 Open it and it’s spine is ruined. In that case $12.50 so SOLD to a lucky me. Nearing 3pm so must hop the freeways north back to Newhall/CalArts before hell traffic. Which I do with ease. Drive through Newhall until I find the cafe across from the train station (WiFi sign in window) and order the coffee and catch up on the Web. Charge the phone.  Double parked by an AA member so chat with the barista as I wait for the woman to mover her car. Back in a car again for more driving, hoping to get to Christine’s to freshen up before her show tonight. Barista gives me wrong directions which sends me a long way around to get to I-5. Not sure why I didn’t just check Google Maps on my crack phone. End up on 126 looking for Val Verde turn off but miss it and wander deeper into the dessert hills during sunset. Which is beautiful out there. Know why Christine needs the open space to recover a bit from the craziness of grad school.

Time running out so I turn around and head back to CalArts. First going to a supermarket to look for organic goods (and finding little) only to buy sunflowers for the graduate and her thesis celebration. Get to the show early and am first person to show up. The audience finally arrives and we all walk through the stage to get to our seats while a small ensemble plays live music. We sit down and the three screens move down stage in a way that looks like they’re about to come crashing in on us. And Peter’s Shadow starts with shadows on the screens. But no puppets really appear. Just shadows and actors. I sit by Christine and console her through some rough parts of the 60 minute play. I marvel at her pushing the cinematic envelop of the shadow form. I can’t quite grasp the feelings that come up from the 3D forest segment. It’s unsettling to watch and I instantly want more. The actors are so young, they seem unfocused at times, forgetting their shadows, which are actors as well. Interesting meta statement there: because Peter loses his shadow for gold. Fool. I know that Christine is under funded and under timed for this production and also sense that the players just don’t have it all together. But I am also excited to see Christine push her visions and ideas into new places, knowing that she is incubating ideas amidst the children who play the parts. If only there was more time!

Afterparty and we move downstairs to a common room for sandwiches and cookies and drink. I end up talking to a fellow who just got his PhD from Duke. He wrote his Sociology thesis on Turkey, so we fall into great convo on the Middle East. Bottom line: he’s worried about Pakistan and their atomic bomb and their problem with a failing government. Also talk to Ellie who won’t give me her family’s pickle recipe because it is passed down in the family. No outsiders though there is a great pickle store in NYC I should visit! Party dwindles and we get kicked out of the room so end up in the hall. A mother is visiting from South Carolina so we chat about that part of the world via geography. She leaves, and then we all move to the student council room where the party continues to YouTube DJ/VJ weirdness (though I mention Crispin Glover as a good video to watch, I don’t comment too much on the YouTube juke box). Wow, party in the Student Body President’s office. Who woulda thunk it. Wine gets spilled so the party winds down and Christine has loosened her tongue a bit. She’s on a roll, blazing a trail of frustration. Fighting for Peter’s Shadow all along the way with the administration. Dealing with young actors who forget notes and directions. She’ll cut many parts before Wednesday’s show because people just aren’t getting it. “Stay off the crack!” she yells, meaning that the actors need to mind their shadows. At one point she tells me that she tried to put up the show enantiodromia (that I helped premiere for her in SF) at CalArts and the actors couldn’t make the cues that we had learned. Wow. That may have been the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. I felt very warm inside and my thumb missed puppets even more after that.

Party over so we head back to Val Verde for ramen and almost a boiled egg (half boiled so not good). Falling asleep to Dorian Grey video but sleeping none the less. I couldn’t sleep due to Mark and the pending big day for him. 3am and all over the clashing down here. Struggling to sleep while I know that Mark’s up and hoping for the best. Exhausted now so will have to fill the Oceanside cracks tomorrow. Thumb says bye and still itches…..

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