Posts Tagged theater

The Intersection of Theater, Professional Wrestling, and Life

Woolly Mammoth Theater Company

Woolly Mammoth Theater Company is constantly pushing boundaries to defy convention

Years ago, I started volunteering at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company as an usher.  I had seen a few of their plays and was mesmerized.  I wanted to see them all!

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’m into theater.  I even saw 6 plays last summer while I was traveling around the world with Mr. HalfFull on our 30/40 World Tour.

This summer, I joined Woolly’s Claque.  You may be asking, “What the heck is a claque?”  In classical times, a claque was a group of people hired to applaud the performers in French theaters and opera houses.  But our claque at Woolly is so much more.  First of all, we are unpaid volunteers.  Secondly, we are a group of highly engaged audience members who do more than applaud at the actual performance.  Before the first rehearsal, we spend time reading the play together as a group, discuss the themes of the play, and communicate our ideas for audience design.  We are also involved in Working Groups specific to each play.

Mace & Chad Diety

Mace, the main character, speaks as Chad Diety, a fellow wrestler in THE Wrestling, shows of his winning smile and championship belt.

This season, my Working Group was focused on the season opener, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety.  The show focuses on the world of professional wrestling, but it’s about so much more.  I have no interest in wrestling, and would never watch it on TV.  But this play moved me.  In fact, I got chills when the main character delivered his final monologue in Act II on Opening Night.

Please visit the Woolly Mammoth Blog to read my post about The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety.  Find out how this play relates to the rest of us who are not wrestling fans.

  • Do you enjoy live theater?
  • Do you watch professional wrestling?
  • Have you ever been surprisingly moved by a play, movie, book, etc. when the original topic was unappealing?

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Coffee Around the World

Mr. HalfFull got his photo op around the world. Now it’s time for mine.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I drink coffee.  In fact, when I ventured around the world on the 30/40 World Tour:  Quest for Passion, I found that my passions are coffee and napping.  I learned this through various opportunities to enjoy them and be deprived of them.  Undoubtedly, coffee and napping are essential to my life.  Deep, I know.

Let’s take a photo tour of my coffee encounters around the world…

Capitol Grounds lattes

I was armed with a latte from Capitol Grounds on my very first flight out of Washington, DC.

Fiji, our first country on the 30/40 World Tour, was not coffee aficionado friendly.  At our first coffee stop, they tried to tell me that Coke was just like coffee!

Ms. HalfEmpty eats breakfast

Much of my time in Fiji was spent on primitive islands with instant coffee.  Quelle horreur!

I didn’t get real coffee until our final night in Fiji when we checked into Sofitel and I had an amazing cappuccino.

My coffee experience in New Zealand was the complete opposite of Fiji. New Zealand has the most coffee roasters per capita of any country in the world.  They take their coffee culture very seriously; even gas stations have espresso machines with baristas, and no one serves drip coffee.

Coffee @ Mecca Stonehouse

My first full day in New Zealand included a latte (and internet time) at Mecca Stonehouse in Mission Bay outside Auckland.

Blogging in Paihia

I seem to always have coffee while on the netbook, including here at Paihia wharf.

Volcanic Latte

We learned that coffee drinks come from volcanoes at the museum in New Plymouth.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

I even had a coffee in hand outside the Te Papa Museum in Wellington.

Circa Theater

Later that same day when we went to see a show at Circa Theater, just across from the museum, I had another coffee.  Zoom to see me drinking it.

New Zealand was perhaps the best coffee country on the 30/40 World Tour, but the French-speaking countries like New Caledonia weren’t bad either.

Café Malongo in Nouméa

While waiting in line at Café Malongo in Nouméa, I considered my espresso order.

Change in Nouméa

After using bills to buy coffee, we count our change in Nouméa.

Coffee at Le Surf Hotel

Once again enjoying coffee with a side of internet at our hotel in New Caledonia.

Coffee School

When we reached Sydney, Australia, I considered joining coffee school, but decided I didn’t have enough time.

Australian Parliament

I brought a cup of joe with me to the Australian Parliament Building in Canberra.  They wouldn’t let me bring it inside, but I had no problem devouring it quickly!

Phamish in St. Kilda

The coffee drink and coffee netbook seemed to pair well at a restaurant called Phamish in St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Heidelberg Train Station

After visiting our new Australian friends in Heidelberg (another suburb of Melbourne), I waited for the train with coffee in hand.

Latte Art in Melbourne

Loving the latte art at a café in Melbourne before our flight to Mauritius.

Turkish Coffee in Dubai

Enjoying turkish coffee in Dubai with Sir Expat

Coffee in German Biergarten

Coffee in a German biergarten on Lake Starnberg with my cousins. Yes, I know you usually drink beer in a biergarten, but we had done plenty of that the night before!  Don’t I look just like a beermaid, but with coffee and less cleavage?

Coffee @ Marianplatz

Any time of day is a good time for coffee — even late night at Marianplatz in Munich.

Lunch @ Barcelo Sants

A cappuccino complemented my 3rd course of lunch nicely at our hotel in Barcelona, Spain.

  • Do you try to limit your coffee intake?
  • What things/actions are essential to your life?
  • Do you have any coffee location recommendations for me?

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Adventures in Aussie Art

Cow in Tree

I think this upside-down cow in the tree is supposed to be art, but I'm not sure.


Melbourne is a bit of an eclectic town.  Whereas Sydney seems more business-like with pinstripe suits in abundance, Melbourne is for artists in jeans.

We saw some strange stuff in Melbourne.  I think they call it art.  For example, take the upside-down cow in the tree along the waterfront.

Dinosaur in Melbourne

Ms. HalfEmpty is attacked by a dinosaur on the mean streets of Melbourne.

We also encountered a dinosaur in this area.  I was a bit scared.  But I really should have been quite well prepared for this.

Do you remember when Mr. HalfFull and I almost visited Natural Bridge in Virginia?  (We didn’t make it past the Visitor Center, but that’s another story.)  We also saw an open-mouthed dinosaur there.  But that one seemed slightly more tame since it was ridden by a cowboy.

Come to think of it, we also saw a dinosaur in Sydney.  But this one was next to a welcome sign.  So the juxtaposition of the fangs and the welcome sign made it seem slightly less menacing.

Dinosaur in Sydney

Mr. HalfFull welcomed by a dinosaur in Sydney

I guess the fear appeal of dinosaurs is rather universal.

Okay, back to Melbourne.  This city is full of artsy people, including musicians.  We saw tons of advertisements for local bands.  I think you could see live music every night of the week!

While we were in town, so was the AC/DC musical.  Mr. HalfFull is a fan and convinced me this would be another fun theatrical experience to add to our 30/40 World Tour theater count.  Even though this was our seventh play of the 30/40 World Tour, it would be our first musical.

Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be Poster

Show poster that lured Mr. HalfFull

Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be — The Story of Bon Scott is advertised as a musical.  But to me it was more like a rock concert scattered with flecks of narration.  The “play” chronicled Bon Scott’s life from Scotland to Australia.  This included his bands before AC/DC, most of which I had never heard of.  The early music was unfamiliar to me, but I did know most of the AC/DC songs.  The majority of the audience was older and probably remembered Bon Scott from their rock n’ roll party days.

I am keenly aware of kinesthetics and pay particular attention to how actors and musicians move.  The guys on stage moved well and seemed very comfortable as musicians since they are rockers in real life.  However, the lead who played Bon Scott was a bit awkward in his movements.  But I guess he was attractive enough to make up for it.

Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be show

The rock concert part of the "play" (Credit: Marty Williams)

I was disappointed because I was expecting a play, not a rock concert.  When the focus is on the music, rather than acting and choreography, I don’t find it very visually interesting.  I’m not opposed to concerts, they just aren’t as appealing to me.

I think the rest of the audience knew what to expect.  They were completely into the music from their heyday.  They were reliving their youth — alcohol and tattoos in abundance.  They probably felt the opposite of me and could have done without the narration!

Our final day in Australia was spent experiencing the artsy side of Melbourne — cow, dinosaur, and play rock concert included.  Stay tuned for our adventures in Mauritius next.

  • What art has caught your eye abroad?
  • Have you noticed an abundance of dinosaurs while traveling?
  • Do you prefer straight plays or musicals?  
  • Would you enjoy a narrated rock concert?  
  • Do you prefer theater or concerts?  Do you think it’s because you are more visual or auditory?

All posts in the 30/40 World Tour series

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Highs and Lows Come and Go

On our 30/40 World Tour, we would typically book our accommodation before we arrived in a new location. However, on the Oz Experience bus tour, we didn’t have much downtime to do research online. Because of the mechanical problems, we usually arrived at our hotel/hostel late and were so excited to have a bed for stretched out sleep. (Sleeping on a bus can get a bit cramped.) We also had to wake up early to cover the mileage the next morning, so neither the evenings or mornings gave us much time to surf.

Melbourne

Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull in downtown Melbourne

Everyone else on the bus tour had a reservation in Melbourne – even the backpacker teenagers! (I wonder if their moms booked it.) So Squatter made the rounds through Melbourne dropping people off at their various hostels. After my two nights on the tour, I knew I wanted a nicer place to stay. So we got off at the last stop and started walking toward St. Kilda.

We were tired and hungry at this point, which is not a great combo for a traveler with no idea where she is going and a heavy pack on her back. I don’t do so well with the unknown, especially under those circumstances. Mr. HalfFull often reminds me to live my way into the answers and embrace the unknown. But it’s so hard! I like to have a plan and direction.

Our goal was to find a restaurant with free wifi where we could eat and book a hotel like hobos with all our luggage. Even though we traveled light, I still found it a little embarrassing to have so much stuff at a nice restaurant. But they were super gracious at Phamish café and didn’t seem to mind. We were “phamished” so we ordered the sampler appetizer, which turned out to be a huge platter with all sorts of foodie deliciousness. It was quite a contrast from eating powdered eggs.

We didn’t find a lot of reasonable accommodation options in St. Kilda. There were a couple of fancy hotels, but they were rather pricey. I was leery of sketchy places after our last two nights, but reluctantly I consented to a hostel called The Coffee Place. I think its name and color scheme was the only reason I thought it might be okay.

When we arrived, I wasn’t so sure. It was basically run by kids playing video games. In other words, it could have been a frat house. I’m too old for this!

We went up to our room by climbing several flights of stairs. The door wasn’t secure like a front door; it was more like a lightweight bedroom door. Inside everything was clean, but very sparse. There was almost no furniture aside from the bed. However, there was one small built-in shelf with a coffee maker – after all, it was The Coffee Palace.

After seeing the room, I lost it. This was no palace. The tears streamed down my cheeks. There was really nothing wrong with the room; it was fully functional, clean, and spacious. I think I was just exhausted from the bus tour; I didn’t get my afternoon naps or sleep-in time in the mornings! Plus, I was an introvert on a bus full of people for three days. I was drained from all the interaction. I guess six weeks of being on the move left me feeling rather half empty – maybe even completely empty.

Phamish cafe

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoying cappuccino at Phamish café

We enjoyed Phamish café so much that we went back there for breakfast the next morning. I had a cappuccino and internet time…I was back baby! Plus, we were staying at The Coffee Palace for two nights, so I wasn’t lugging my bag around this time, and knew where I would be sleeping that night.

Mr. HalfFull loves sports; I become a football widow during the NFL season. We actually got married on a bye weekend for his football team! He also loves college basketball, and once again goes missing during March Madness. So he was super excited to have the opportunity to witness Aussie rules football in person.

It was game day, so we walked to the train station and were surprised that there were no ticket kiosks. A person on the platform informed us that you could buy tickets on the train. This seemed strange to us, but obviously we knew nothing about public transportation in Melbourne. So we boarded the train and found the ticket machine. We soon learned that the ticket machine only takes coins. What does an ATM not give you? Coins!

So we had no coins and couldn’t buy tickets; I felt like a fugitive. Hopefully, they would let us play the dumb American card. We really did have the best of intentions!

Melbourne Cricket Ground

Mr. HalfFull looking for tickets outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Finally, we arrived downtown at the enormous stadium that seats over 100,000 people. We were about to engage in some more illegal activity. We didn’t have tickets and were scouring the crowd outside the stadium looking for scalpers. We knew the game was a huge local rivalry between Carlton and Collingwood and thus, was sold out.

We didn’t find the shady people Mr. HalfFull was seeking, so we headed to the club ticket counter. The woman informed us that indeed the game was sold out, but she told us to look for scalpers and warned us not to pay more than face value. An employee advised us to seek out scalpers! Is scalping not illegal in Melbourne?

We walked all the way around the stadium with no luck. Mr. HalfFull didn’t seem so half full and resigned himself to the fact that we weren’t getting into the game. Then he spotted a guy with long hair, facial hair, tattoos, and rings on every finger. He looked like the type of guy you didn’t want to fight. Mr. HalfFull thought he might be a scalper. We hung around to listen to his conversation and learned that he too was looking for tickets.

Stadium Family

Ms. HalfEmpty in the MCG stadium with the side of the family who supports the Carlton Blues

Our chances seemed pretty much exhausted when I overheard the conversation of a family nearby. They were talking about how it was too bad that “those two” couldn’t come. What? Two tickets?

So I butted into their circle and asked if they had two extra tickets. They did, but they were tickets for children. Bummer!

Stadium Family

Mr. HalfFull with the other brother who's a fan of the Collingwood Magpies

We started walking away when they said, “But we aren’t going to use them, so you’re welcome to try. Just walk in with us and be our kids for the day! There’s no harm in trying.” I didn’t know what the penalty was for using the wrong age-group ticket, but we had already ridden the train illegally, so what the heck! Weren’t the Australians descendants of criminals anyway? (Kids, this is why they tell you not to smoke because it’s just a gateway to more and more.)

The tickets worked and we all got in! The introvert had accosted strangers in a foreign country to fulfill Mr. HalfFull’s dream. It was amazing.

Inside MCG

Watching Aussie football inside MCG stadium

The stadium was huge and circular, unlike our oblong stadiums. It was impressive to watch these super fit athletes play with no padding. There was a lot of leg to tantalize the ladies. Plus, there were no big bellies like in the NFL. Even the referees were super fit.

The family we sat with explained the rules to us; they were so much fun. We tried to pay them for the tickets and buy them beers, but they didn’t want anything. They even emailed us a few days later to ask if we wanted to grab “a pot.” After looking that up online, I learned that it’s beer, not tea.

Meat Pie

Sampling meat pie at the stadium

We knew that meat pies are an Aussie football stadium staple. Even after our disappointment with pies in Sydney, we tried the stadium fare. It was okay. I guess they can’t make them like the flaky pastries in New Zealand because it needs to be self-contained and more spill-proof for the stadium.

Red Stitch Theater

Ms. HalfEmpty at Red Stitch Theater

That evening we had tickets to see a play called My Romantic History at Red Stitch theater. It was a super cute playhouse. Much of the play took place in the bathroom and the set consisted of three bathroom stalls. That brought our live theater count to six on the 30/40 World Tour.

Mr. HalfFull got his football and I got my theater. It was a good day all around, especially considering the tears the night before.

  • Do you make reservations before you arrive or wing it?
  • How do you handle the unknown? Are you able to relax and let things unfold?
  • Did you have a breaking point while traveling? What helped you get over it?
  • Have you broken the rules while traveling?
  • If you are not normally a sports fan, do you still think it would be interesting to witness in a foreign country?
  • Have you been surprised by the kindness of strangers?

Related:  All posts in the 30/40 World Tour series

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Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oye, Oye, Oye!

Sydney Train Station

Ms. HalfEmpty with her duffel in a Sydney train station

After spending a week on the beaches in Noumea, we headed back to cooler weather to visit the fourth country on our 30/40 World Tour — Australia.  We flew into Sydney and took the train downtown.  But we weren’t the only ones visiting Sydney; Lady Gaga was also in town.

Perhaps that’s why we were awoken at 2 AM one morning to a man shouting, “Welcome to f#@*!ng Sydney, Australia,” from the sound tunnel street ten floors below our room.  I’m fairly certain that drunken outburst was not our welcome committee.

Lady Gaga Kids

Lady Gaga fans in crazy costumes doing a photo shoot @ Sydney Harbor

The Lady Gaga followers were quite a sight to behold.  We watched them pose in their crazy outfits as multiple photographers swarmed to capture the shot.  It’s not the type of thing you see every day.

chocolates

No wonder my pants were sung... look what I was eating in Sydney!

Our hotel room turned out to be a suite with a full kitchen, two balconies, and a washer/dryer.  I guess they ran out of standard rooms or made a mistake.  Score!

It was awesome to have a free washer/dryer in our room.  This was a single front-load machine that washed and dried.  It seemed like a pretty neat concept… until Mr. HalfFull washed my jeans.  Now remember that I only had 1.5 pairs of pants for 10 weeks.  Plus, those jeans were my warmest pants and it was winter.  We soon learned that the all in one washer/dryer uses extreme heat for the drying cycle.  It was so hot that it melted the leather tab on the waist of the back of my jeans.  That made the pants way too snug and I certainly wasn’t losing weight on the trip (although Mr. HalfFull was).

Sydney Walkway

Wide sidewalk through Hyde Park under a canopy of trees

We were only in Sydney for a couple of days, so we mostly explored on foot.  Our hotel was across the street from Hyde Park, which had a huge canopy of trees above an oversized walkway with fountains and monuments throughout.  It was a fun place to people watch and stroll.  We noticed that pinstripe suits are very popular in Sydney.  It was quite a departure from the less formal attire we generally saw in Fiji and New Zealand.

Hyde Park Rainbow

Sometimes even Ms. HalfEmpty spots a rainbow @ Hyde Park

The Royal Botanic Gardens was another green area near our hotel.  Despite being winter, it was still beautiful.  But I think I was most surprised by the colorful birds we spotted flying free.

birds in Royal Botanic Garden

Birds munching on bread @ Royal Botanic Gardens

Our second day in town was unseasonably warm and sunny.  I was quite congested and didn’t feel very good, but I decided to be a trooper and take a short ferry ride to Manly Beach.  I was apprehensive about another ferry ride, but I hoped I would fare better than last time.  I knew it was a much shorter ride, not on open waters, with great weather conditions; so I took my chances.  Fortunately, the ride was uneventful.

Manly Beach

The tiny dots in the water are surfers @ Manly Beach

When we arrived in Manly Beach, we headed to the drugstore to find a decongestant for me.  I read a pamphlet at my doctor’s office a while ago that said the cold medicines you find on the shelves are ineffective as decongestants and you should buy the type with pseudoephedrine behind the counter.  Those are also sold behind the counter in Australia.  So I spoke with the pharmacist to see which ones they had in stock.  She asked me if I wanted codeine!  I didn’t take her up on her offer, but I was certainly surprised that you don’t need a prescription for narcotics in Australia.  Anyway, I took my decongestant pills and felt better.

We spent a few hours walking along the beach and watching the surfers.  Even this half empty girl could realize that it was a glorious day!

Sydney Harbor

View of a sailboat, the Sydney Opera House, and another ferry while ferrying back to Sydney Harbor

In the afternoon, we went back to Sydney and walked A LOT.  We were on a quest to find the best meat pie after reading a review.  We never did find that restaurant.  I was disappointed because I fell in love with meat pies in New Zealand.  Those pies were so delicate, flaky and delicious.  But in Australia, the pies I tried in Sydney were rather disappointing.  Maybe it’s because I was sick, but I don’t think so.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Fortunately this bird did not poop on Ms. HalfEmpty @ Sydney Harbor

In fact, I didn’t like much Australian food.  We always try to sample the local cuisine in each country, but we were generally disappointed with Australian restaurants.  We soon learned that the Asian restaurants were delicious.  I guess that makes sense with the close proximity and number of the immigrants.  So we ended up sticking to Thai and Japanese with great success.

Coffee School

Should Ms. HalfEmpty enroll at the Coffee School?

During that long walk, we found the perfect place for me — a coffee school!  Was it a sign?

Sydney Opera House sign organ poster

Mr. HalfFull at the Sydney Opera House. Is that the only answer? =)

That evening I took another decongestant pill before we walked to the Sydney Opera House to see a play.  It was our 5th play of the 30/40 World Tour… and the worst.  It was such a strange play.  But perhaps this was once again clouded by my sickness, although I doubt it.  On the walk to the play, my heart was racing, my legs were tingling, and I started shaking.  Then I was no longer able to flex my feet as I stepped off sidewalk curbs.  It was such a strange feeling.  When we got to the theater, Mr. HalfFull got me some juice.  After a few sips, I promptly ran to the bathroom to vomit.  Yes, I defiled the Sydney Opera House; it was an accident.

But don’t worry, even though I’m Ms. HalfEmpty, I got better.

 

 

  • Would you dress up for Lady Gaga?
  • Have you ruined clothes in the dryer?
  • Have you preferred non-native food to local cuisine while traveling?
  • Have you gotten sick while traveling?  Did you notice differences in the availability of medications?

Related:  All posts in the 30/40 World Tour series

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Drama on the 30/40 World Tour

As you may have guessed from our initial stumble, we’ve experienced our fair share of drama on the 30/40 World Tour.  Everyone seems to need a little personal drama to spice things up — some more than others. I prefer my dishes on the mild side, while Mr. HalfFull breaks a sweat every now and then.  You would think that being together 24/7 during weeks of travel would generate some spicy drama, but don’t worry Mom, Mr. HalfFull and I still like each other! This post is actually about professional drama…of the Kiwi theater variety. I love live theater.  For years, I’ve ushered at Woolly Mammoth, and have even recruited Mr. HalfFull and other friends to join me.  Since I enjoy great stories, the rush of emotion, and visual elements of light and movement, it seemed natural to seek out theater performances during my Quest for Passion.  While traveling in New Zealand, we were able to attend four plays in Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, and again in Auckland the night before our flight to New Caledonia.

The Brothers Size

The Brothers Size @ Herald Theater, clearly in violation of hip-hop hugging etiquette

Our first day in Auckland CBD, we secured tickets to the closing night performance of The Brothers Size.  We didn’t know much about the play, but the review sounded promising, not to mention that it was the only theater performance that evening in the theater district (our only evening in Auckland before hitting the road in our rental car the following day). Apparently, we had traveled halfway around the world to see a play by an American playwright about African Americans! The cast consisted of three chiseled and tattooed Maori men attempting gangsta accents.  The first few minutes of the play, we had no idea what they were saying.  (Weeks later, we spoke with a Kiwi guy at the same box office who also saw the play and couldn’t understand the accents either.  So that made us feel a bit better.)  We also found their fully embracing hugs to be a far cry from a hip-hop hug in the US.  Even the typically open-minded Mr. HalfFull found himself squirming a bit.

The audience seemed to love the play, closing the night with a standing ovation.  I thought it was a bit long for a play with no intermission (or “interval” as the Kiwis say).  However, I found the movement and lighting compelling.  The Maori actors had amazing kinesthetic awareness — none of the choreography seemed forced or unnatural.  I love when stage movement flows! The venue was basically a black box theater with tiered seating on two sides of a square stage sunk in the middle.  I found it to be an interesting setup, more akin to theater-in-the-round.  But it means that neither side of patrons had the best view all the time — in half empty terms, everyone had the worst seat!  It also meant there was basically no set nor backstage.  The actors not in the scene merely stood off to the side in a static pose.  This play also employed a technique of narrating a line of the story and then acting it out, which seemed redundant and stunted the already challenged verbal flow.

Kapiti Ice Cream Bar

New Zealand ice cream bars are delicious, and the Kapiti Original (vanilla with chocolate shell) wins Mr. HalFull’s official best taste award hands down!

As is typical when visiting a new culture, Mr. HalfFull and I were keenly aware of the people around us, and did a lot of people watching.  We noticed quite a number of classy patrons savoring ice cream bars in the theater before the show.  As an ice cream aficionado, Mr. HalfFull was obsessed with this trend and watched with fascination and envy as elderly men artfully consumed dessert on a stick.  Food is allowed in NZ theaters (a departure from the norm for us), and Mr. HalfFull knew he wanted to be fully immersed in this new found ice cream culture next time! New Zealand takes its dairy very seriously, not just ice cream.  Each accommodation issued us a bottle of milk upon check-in.  It took me a week to figure out that I could ask for trim milk, which is 1 or 2%, and that 0% skim milk does not exist.  Don’t get me started on NZ butter…rich, creamy, delicious.  Ms. Butter would approve; too bad Customs confiscated her Christmas present!

Michael Galvin

Michael Galvin plays a religious zealot in his play, Station to Station

Our next theater experience was in New Plymouth, a small hip seaside town with culture — lovely restaurants, an art gallery, a museum, and theater.  There we witnessed a weird play called Station to Station, which refers to the stations of the cross as reinterpreted for the journey of the characters in the play.  Once again, this play told another story inspired by an American; this time, it was a religious right-wing preacher who recruited Kiwis to help him blow up symbolically important Muslim sites in Jerusalem. As with the first play, we didn’t know a great deal about the play or actors beforehand. Of course, this time Mr. HalfFull was armed with an ice cream bar.  He sat next to an elderly lady who was also enjoying her ice cream and began to chat.  She informed us that the star and writer of the play was a famous soap opera star on Shortland Street, which airs weeknights at 7 PM in New Zealand.  She went on to inform Mr. HalfFull that she was fully prepared to run away with the hot Maori doctor from the show!  We knew we had some TV watching to do, but later discovered it was nothing like my favorite show, Grey’s Anatomy.  It was fun to see a theater actor on TV every now and then, but Shortland Street was not my half empty cup of tea.

Antonia Prebble

Antonia Prebble turned on the lads @ Theatre Royal

The young female lead of the play received cat calls from a drunken lad in the audience.  During the Q&A session after the show, of course he was furiously pumping his hand and proceeded to ask, “Do you find me or my mate more attractive?”  In reply, she asked him if he was the one who yelled at her during the show.  He proudly said yes, only to have her tear into him about how he was rude and ruined the performance for the people around him, declining to answer his question. After the flames subsided, I asked the second question of the night.  Firstly, I identified myself as an American, which got a good laugh from the audience.  My question to the playwright was about the content of the play and how my understanding of the situation in Jerusalem did not mesh with his plot.  It didn’t seem like he was particularly interested in these nuances, but stated that his play was based on an article he read in the UK Guardian and internet research.  At that point, a Kiwi patron shouted, “Well, if it’s on the internet, it must be true,” generating a nice chuckle amongst the crowd.  We also got into a conversation about the people in the US who believed that the world was supposed to end on May 21, 2011.  I mentioned a Washington Post article about the fundamentalist Christians who had quit their jobs and were marching on the National Mall to warn their fellow humans about the approach of the Rapture.  It’s safe to say that the world (well, at least Fiji and New Zealand, so far) thinks Americans are all crazy!  Nice work, Tea Party.

Circa Theater

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoys a trim flat white outside Circa Theater

Our third evening of theater occurred in New Zealand’s brilliant capital city of Wellington.  We saw Meet the Churchills at Circa Theater — a story about Sir Winston Churchill and his dysfunctional immediate family.  (Bonus:  I left feeling much better about my own family life.)  Like our first theater experience in Auckland, this venue also had the audience in L-shaped stadium seating around a sunken stage.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this play finally had a real set.  Granted, the whole play took place in one room, rendering the set design much easier.  It added a great deal of temporal relevance and brought the characters alive in the space.

Meet the Churchills

No, we weren’t celebrating Mr. HalfFull’s birthday in NZ, this was just a crotchety old British dude on a real set.

As an usher at Woolly Mammoth, I usually get to view the empty set (or if I’m lucky an actor’s warmup too), which generally sparks awe, wonder, and excitement for the impending performance.   I enjoy staged readings, but they’re not full productions, which to me necessitates set design.  It seems logical that ticket price might correlate with the presence of a set, but this was not the case in New Zealand.

On the Upside-Down of the World

Great costume, but the metal ladders were not reminiscent of New Zealand’s lush landscape

At the end of our three week journey in New Zealand we returned to Auckland, where we had one final theater experience (and NZ ice cream bar) before bidding farewell to this lovely country.  Shockingly, after three failed attempts, we finally saw a play written by a Kiwi about New Zealand (not the US or the UK) — On the Upside-Down of the World, a one-woman show about the wife of the first chief justice of New Zealand.  It was wonderful to finally see some New Zealand history on stage and learn more about the Maoris.  This show had a set consisting of many metal ladders at various angles across a sand-covered stage.  It was visually interesting, especially with the lighting, but again left a lot to the imagination, as this set represented many things (but never ladders) throughout the show.

Theater in Auckland

Ms. HalfEmpty fist bumps Sir Dove-Myer Robinson outside Town Hall Theater

This theater experience had an unexpected connection to a previous show.  Once again, Mr. HalfFull had a fortuitous seat.  The woman who sat next to him was wearing a stylish twenties era blue hat that I loved.  She arrived with another couple and the three were chatting as we waited for the show to begin.  I commented to Mr. HalfFull about her hat and how she looked just like the young actress from the play in New Plymouth.  He agreed, but doubted it was her.  While reading our programs, we overheard her conversation and realized that she was telling the story of the drunk lad cat calling her at the show in New Plymouth.  Unbelievably, Mr. HalfFull was indeed sitting next to Antonia Prebble!  We chimed in to say that we attended the performance and agreed that the guy was out of line.  I also mentioned that I was the American who asked the question, and she remembered me.  What a small world!

  • Do you enjoy live theater?
  • How important is hug etiquette in modern society (especially for men)?
  • Do you prefer an elaborate set or one that leaves more to the imagination?
  • What food-related cultural habits have you observed at events?
  • How did you react to the portrayal of your countrymen while abroad?
  • Have you experienced a full-circle travel event?

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