Whirlwind Tour Part 3 (continued) – Montreal and Bad News

Montreal, which was just supposed to be a fun trip for me, ended up being related to this project as well.  My friend from SAT and I talked about how to generate interest about teaming up to write a grant to bring the multimedia circus show from Taiwan to Japan…

The problem is that we can not get the National Theater of Japan and the National Theater of Taiwan together; it is diplomatically impossible as Japan has a treaty with China to have no connections with Taiwan at all, so to get the show to Tokyo through governmental grants (the best way, I think), we need to have a Canadian face on it, which SAT can definately provide…

Their answer was a positive one, and we talked strategy about bringing the project to the Canadian embassy there when I get back… that will be the next step in Japan.

SAT asked me a lot of questions about what The Rocker could want from them for the festival, but I did not really feel comfortable answering them as we had never talked about that and I am not really sure what my role is, if any, in the festival planning.  On the other hand, I didn’t want to look like I was unprepared, so I basically told them that we are waiting for information from the National Theater and will give them specifics (budget, etc) as they arrive and that as we had worked with the video artists before, that they would have a pretty good idea what kinds of things that we would be looking for, so if SAT and the artists wanted to work out a small proposal, that would probably help us out.

For now, they seem shy to get in contact with the National Theater for whatever reason, so I’m offering to act as a liaison to free The Rocker’s hands from that aspect of pre-production, and will keep the SAT happy by reducing “fuzziness” and the amount of guesswork and effort on their part.  Once the ball gets rolling, I am sure that we can step out of the process, but until then, I am anxious to keep forward momentum on their involvement — I know that The Rocker wants me to focus more on the acrobatic and programming side of the festival, but my interest in the SAT angle is more from the point of view of a future in Japan since if the SAT is involved we are much more attractive from the point of view of potential partners in Japan.  Additionally, given the fact that the SAT has been successful in winning a lot of Quebec arts grants and that they are really interested in making a first appearance in Japan, I anticipate that if they are involved, they will support us a lot in our efforts to tour over there, from both an artistic and financial standpoint.

I also talked with two friends over a beer, which was supposed to be informal, but they also knew about the festival since I’d already contacted one of them about participating as an emcee with me.

We talked about ideas for what we might be able to do for a duo, and we came up with some good ones.  we are both excited about that idea, and would be able to be quick, quality, and largely as self-sufficient as needed.

My other friend showed me her clowning DVD which is pretty good. I’ve worked with her in the past and she is particularily good at animations, and good on stage as well.

I had very bad news in Montreal that I owe money to the Japanese government in taxes, something that I was not at all expecting.  This means that my financial situation suddenly went to critical, and that I am in a little bit of trouble.  After I pay the government, I will have exactly enough money to get me to the end of June, but at that point, I will be broke.  I was budgeting to be OK until the end of 2006 even if there was a huge problem with the show and everything, or if my fee was going to be smaller than I am imagining, but now everything has changed.

I really believe in this project, and I want to be there helping in whatever ways I can, but at this point, I am really relying on an artistic team-level fee.  After this news, I contacted The Rocker in person to start talk about our financial expectations, because if I am way off-base on the sort of fee I might be earning on this project, I am in danger of having to drop out and return home.  Before this bad news, I was willing to take a risk for the sake of the project, but that luxury has been very quickly taken from my hands, and I am panicking a little bit.  It is probably for nothing, I know, and I have always and continue to trust in The Rocker’s judgement, but losing the magnitude of money that I have lost is incredibly unsettling.  I’d also like to talk with him about what I can do to help with the organization of the festival.  If he does want my help, what is most important to me is that I make his job as easy as possible for him without stepping on his toes.

Preparing now for meetings with the producing director of Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the artistic director of a youth circus and school, the Hennepin Theater District, the grantwriting and programmation people at the Ordway Theater, and their counterparts at the Guthrie Theater.  I will also be talking to a big theater in a smaller, wealthy town.  The idea is to get these big-name theaters and organizations to co-write and co-sponsor a grant to bring the show to the US for a one-shot deal or a little tour…  essentially we’re acting as our own agent.

I am also looking to find agents in New York that have worked with circuses in the past.

So things are going well except for the big hit I took yesterday in the financial department.  It has been a real shock to me, and frankly, I am a little scared.  for now, it is business as usual, though, so I put it in the back of my mind.

Whirlwind Tour Part 3 – Montreal

Yesterday I woke up early to get to Montreal…  got there exactly on time for my lunch meeting with the guy from Circus Theatrical, my former boss at the Expo.  Now he gave me so much advice and tells me that he is about to quit his job, but no one knows it yet.  Strange to be changing levels like this.

Then, I go to school, and am surprized that everyone there really still remembers me and my number; even people I have never talked to.  They talk me into coming to school at 6 to see their Evaluation Concept shows, and I change my meeting schedule to make it work.

Meet with my friend from the SAT, talk a lot of stuff about Taiwan…  I feel I have a big responsibility, but don’t know how to take it on.

Go to school see the Evaluation Concepts, mostly the same shit that we used to do, but also some good stuff, see all my favorite teachers and a really good friend from a long time ago, and then meet my ex-girlfriend The Gymnast which is weird, of course.

To dinner now with my friend again to finish our business…  talked, laughed, then on to the house of one of my friends, a younger clown from school, where I stayed up til 4 talking about clowning and old times and changes…

Wake up at 8:50 to drive her to work and move out of Montreal, meet my SAT friend for dimsum at 12:00 and then my best and favorite teacher for two hour lunch at Club Sandwich, the old hang out, finish moving out, give away half my stuff to charity, and now trying to find one last friend before I leave… then 20 hours of driving straight to Minnesota to have a drink with my sister!

Graduating class of the National Circus School of Montreal

Who are these people?!

Byamba was gone again today.  I am really starting to worry again.

Physical conditioning, trampo, improvements come slowly.  I did learn the plongeon, and did not have too much of a tough time with it.  The trick for all the forward turning things is to feel that banana peel slip kind of thing when you initiate.  Carol showed me some drills to help find that feeling.

ITA was nothing really since Richard and Alex were gone, and Juggling was boring too.  Hand to hand was hand to hand.

The real meat of the day was interacting with a few of the first years and all that at a pitiful tiny pizza night while everyone else was at Cirque du Soleil for history of circus class.

After training was over, I trained for a long time on side summies with the mats, both with and without shoes.  They came along pretty well, and I got some nice instruction on butterflies as well.  I want to get those, and soon, both of them!  Then I took a quick shower and came upstairs for some flexi work.  One of the flexible high school students had the idea that he would be my flexibility teacher for the 45 minutes or so, and so I had my own private flexi lesson!  Not too bad.

The Dreamer picked at a juggling ball and then saying “Oh! It’s broken!”  when it suddenly started shooting rice out of it made me die laughing because she is so funny and just so incredibly understated.

The Clown is in a mood where he hates everyone, “except you because you are ‘fun.’”

Then came the pizza night!  Oh my gosh, one of the first years told us about how she likes one of the upperclassmen, and how she doesn’t want a relationship with him, just that she wants… you know! 

Oh my god, some of our classmates are turning out to be very different than we imagined.  She said that she liked to think that people think of her as attractive, and also admitted that she thinks The Clown is attractive (and me too, “maybe”).  “Are boys easier to ‘you know’ when they smoke drugs?”  holy cow!  We’re all getting muscular, though. 

Another in our year was my physical conditioning partner for ab work and touched my abs and started to laugh.  “It’s because you were hard!”

Circus acrobat doing a planche on straps

Worst Day Yet

Today sucked.  Nothing good happened at all except that I made it through my first tumbling class since admitting that I was injured a week ago.  Not bad, but I will continue to ice it for a while.  Dance was fun, we started barre and I was pretty good again at the improv section even though I wasn’t happy with my partner.  We did not have an instructor for handstands today, and I was having a crappy day; didn’t hold a single handstand, and so I went and ate instead of finishing up.

Acrobat doing a handstand on a roadtrip to Arches National Park

Me, the Training Hermit

Flexibility went fine, except that I farted right in my stretching partner’s face.  Poor guy.  Dance was okay, I talked with the teacher about how hard it is for me to keep up with the others, and she said that that is really the whole point, so that I should not worry.  We did some improvisation to music at the end of class for the first time.  It was pretty cool.  The first time it was just us and the music, the second time it was with the added constraint that we needed to have clear stops and use the whole space.  It was cool, like club dancing to weird music.  I looked at the other people.  It’s cool that no one here is terribly self conscious, and that everyone feels good about just moving around.  There is no mocking of each other at all. 

The we broke up into pairs.  I was with The Hotshot.  We had to do call and response, basically, with energy passing from one into the other.  If I move towards his hand and then stop, he moves his hand off in that direction and then continues to motion and the energy.  The teacher singled us out as doing it perfectly and I taught him the phrase “kickass.”  I also taught him the lat slapping thing.  The teacher said “great, now the whole school will be doing that.”  He kept coming up to me, having me show it to one after another person.  They haven’t figured it out yet, and I’m not telling them.  They need to figure it out.  They have thought that it is snapping, clapping, my shorts, all kinds of things. 

Equilibre with the weird woman again.  It’s still useful, but not as inspiring or fun.  It’s funny how the teacher really can affect that stuff.  Tumbling I sat out, and trampo was same as always.  I trained with Byamba again, and he had me do some more strength-intensive things.  It was cool.  He said that he would make me four hand balancing blocks for myself!  I feel like that’s a real honor!  I checked out a Chinese acrobatics book and showed him the handbalancing pictures.  He thought it was cool. When I tried one of the figures, falling from blocks, he told me not to do it out of concern for my wrists.  Byamba is 60 today!  He looks 40. 

After that training, I trained in weights, pullups, pushups, levers, planches, and flexibility.  The usual.  More people tell me that they think I train to hard.  I really don’t see it that way, but they poke fun in a kindhearted way.  I hung out with The Artist and The Clown a bit before the party.  Found out that The Clown saw my audition piece and thought it was pretty good. 

The party was fun, I danced this time and joined in on some of the group antics.  I feel pretty tight with everyone now.  It was coool seeing Byamba outside of the classroom as well.  He’s a cool guy, and he barely talks!  One of the favorites of all the students, though, I think.

X-ray of a circus artists's hand

Pain

Alright.  Let’s talk for a little bit about pain.  As far as I can tell, there are a few main kinds when you go to circus school. 

The first is muscle pain from strength training.  This one is the least of my troubles.  I think it is because I was already strong to begin with, and even when I do feel it, it is something that I am used to to the degree that it does not slow me down any. 

Then there is the pain from gaining flexibility.  For me, this pain is always going to be in the background of everything that I do if only because I am incredibly inflexible.  It’s weird, though, because you only feel it when you try to stretch out a muscle a little bit, and once you warm up, it is okay.  When you get cold, however, it is always happy to remind you that it is there! 

Ah, and the pain from being stretched out.  This is probably the sharpest, most intense pain that I feel.  It makes me feel like I want to pass out, and it just keeps getting worse and worse even though you are thinking to yourself “alright, that must be about as bad as it will feel.”  It makes you sweat, it makes you breathe heavily and loudly, it sucks.  But, the pleasure you feel afterwards is immense!  All those endorphins added to the feeling that you are just a little bit more flexible now really help you deal with the pain. 

Now we have the most annoying pain: apparatus burn.  This is what I currently have all over my upper thighs due to working tissus for the first time.  I learned about 4 figures today, but I need to remember to bring some nice sort of skin guard for my next lesson.  At least my teacher is cool, and she is really excited about this tissus tramp thing that was a complete accident.  This sort of pain just sticks with you and makes it hard to wear long pants and to sit with the skin touching itself and to take showers.  Every apparatus does it, though, it is a fact of circus life! 

Then there are old, familiar pains, like my back.  These will never go away, and one has to wear it like a badge of honor.  You’ve earned these pains! 

And, finally, the pain that everyone would like to ignore:  the pain from injury.  Easily the most important pain, but we still work through it like idiots.  My right calf and back are bothering me now. 

Some firsts to mention:  My first time bringing food to the school (almost ate a whole loaf of bread in the form of tuna fish sandwiches!) 

My first tissus class, my first aerial class (did korean cradle for the first time.)  Being a flyer was fun, but the tuck I was supposed to do really threw me.  You can’t hold it in at all, and you need to bring your chest forward, exactly the way that they tell you never to do in gymnastics.  Weird! 

First juggling class (will be boring, but a nice break!  The Clown is really, really good).  First hand to hand class, but I was a porter.  I think I’m pretty good at it, but would much rather be a top.  And finally, I had my first “movement” class.  It was basically contact improv with all the weirdness associated with that, but I actually got to see people who were really good at it.  Some of the older students are excellent.  The teacher is weird and was doing some exercises involving grabbing himself under his penis.  Whacked. 

I also got some lessons at butterflies and side summies from a bunch of people.  It was cool. 

Also got an invitation to take flying trap with one of my fellow first years.  Will definitely take her up on that. 

Ah well.  Tomorrow! 

Circus acrobat doing a handstand in front of 77 Mass Ave (MIT)

Eve for the Acrobat

The party was pretty fun.  The best part was actually taking the Metro to the house with the other six of the first years who actually hang out together.  For lack of a better name, I’ll call this the “crew,” made up of myself, The Contortionist, The Clown, The Tumbler, The Aerialist, The Artist, and The Frenchman.

When we first got to the party, a huge cry went up, and all of the first years had to go through the initiation of drinking a shot of liquor while standing on their hands.  I stood there all nervous as one after another of the first years drank their shot.  I was the last one left, and Cool Guy said “Okay, now your turn.”  I told him I didn’t drink, and he was disappointed, but when I told him that I had kiwi strawberry juice, he said to use that instead.  I went ahead.  I guess I had the biggest shot of the night, because the people we fooled were pretty impressed.  I further impressed them by doing a one-armed handstand to drink it all down (people were holding me up).  I’ve been pretty happy to find that no one really seems to care that I don’t drink.

The Mentor did a really funny dancing character while two of the girl students danced around him sexily.  Pretty funny.  He also got into a silly altercation with Cool Guy, and ended up trying to tear Cool Guy’s hat.  Cool Guy said “He is a fucking clown  I think I am hating clowns.”  Got to talk more with The Aerialist, and also met a few of the other students.  I’m glad I went.  Classes start tomorrow, and I want to get to e-mailing people, so goodnight!