Friday, April 30, 2010

Totem - photos

I can't take credit for any of these lovely images - but they are starting to pop up all over the Internet, as the Media Premiere was held a couple of days ago. TOTEM begins with the amazing imagery of the turtle shell, the carapace. it's a tribal chant that turns into an acrobatic extravaganza.

Without a doubt, one of the most stunning performances in the show is this duo trapeze act by Rosalie and Louis-David, recent graduates of l'Ecole Nationale de Cirque. This piece, "Lovebirds", is utterly gorgeous, with jaw-dropping tricks and gentle, perfect theatricality.

Big tricks, crazy costumes and intense composure are the marks of this Russian bar act...

And of course, what you've all been waiting for! Meet my husband, also known as Albert Charles Einstein Darwin, "The Scientist" for purposes of TOTEM.

The cone, in this show, is performed with dazzlingly bright, color-changing glowballs.

...2500 people are watching this show's magic every night now. So far there have been standing ovations and rave reviews. To think this is just the beginning!

Friday, April 23, 2010

At last - the show!

My sister convinced me this week that I simply had to get myself to Montreal for the premiere of Totem. And with a lot of scrambling, we made it happen! I lined up a battalion of babysitters, helpful family members and friends to watch my kids, and get them to and from activities, for full days Thursday and Friday. On Thursday I caught a train up to Boston, and then Erin and I drove the rest of the way to Montreal.

We arrived at the hotel with barely enough time to change clothes before catching a cab down to the tent. The artists are staying in the city center, about a 15-minute cab ride away from the waterfront. We tried to get some Canadian cash from the ATM in the hotel, but it was broken, and we really didn't need it... everyone seems to accept American cash here, which is worth just slightly more than Canadian.

At the tent, everyone was buzzing with excitement, opening night!

Greg says this is called the "soft opening". It's called the premiere in Montreal, but somehow the show isn't considered firmly launched until Amsterdam. I don't quite get what this means. In any case, the mood was celebratory! In the merchandise tent there were free sandwiches, and people collecting donations for One Drop, and passing around red noses.

In the tent, the "animation" was just beginning, where the characters are mingling out in the audience. I got my first sight of Greg in his costume - though not close enough for me to really examine it.

We had excellent seats - third row - and spent the next couple of hours fully immersed in Robert Lepage's vision of Totem. It's an amazing, energetic show, full of color and sparkle and drama. It is still a little rough around the edges though - an occasional stumble, or sometimes an act does not have its applause points perfectly worked out - and it's actually lovely to see the genuine concentration on the faces of the acrobats, as they try to remember just-recently-created choreography and explore their connection with the audience. Many of them have not yet established the mask of performance that they'll grow with time, the perfectly set expression that betrays nothing unintended.

At first viewing, my favorite acts (besides Greg's of course) are the doubles trapeze and the rollerskaters. (perhaps I'm just in a romantic state of mind, as these are the two "love stories" in the show). There are lots of other wonderful moments. There are many human characters in the show, and easy-to-understand mini-storylines and laughs, and animals - all things which are going to make my kids love it.

Greg told stories of some of the special events of premiere-night. Little notes and cards left on the artists' dressing tables by creation-team members. Someone in the cast made a "yearbook" with photos of all of the cast members, and made copies for everyone. Dinner in the cafeteria tent was lobster! with ice sculptures! And after the show was over, Guy himself brought bottles of champagne to the artistic tent and had speeches and celebration.

It is a wonderful energy, and now it really begins - every night Greg will be performing the full show now, 10 to 12 times per week.

More news to come in the next few days... I'll have photos to scan in from the program book, and possibly some more updates on the tour schedule, which seems to be ever-changing.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Things have gone awry

Yesterday afternoon, the kids and I drove north, headed to Montreal. We made it as far as the New York border - nearly 3 hours - before realizing we had left our passports at home.

We turned around and headed back to Philadelphia.

Just outside Philly, on 95 southbound, a carpet had been left in the road. The car in front of me slammed on his brakes. I slammed into the back of his car. And behind me, another car hit me. It was terrifying, and horribly reminiscent of the accident I was in just a month ago.

A quick check established that I had three unhurt but very distressed children. And I was unhurt except for some whiplash. My cell phone battery was nearly dead. After doing all of the requisite information-exchanging with the two other drivers, having them call the police, and leaving a couple of hysterically-crying messages on Greg's voice mail, I managed to put in two more phone calls before the battery died - AAA and Dave Smith.

Dave, who often plays the role of Knight In Shining Armor in both my life and Greg's, arrived a little while later ready to help. (Dave, if you're reading, I am so grateful to you, for this and all of the other times you've been there...) AAA was not far behind, and I was able to send Dave on his way and get the tow-truck guy to take the van. We piled all the kids inside and arrived home, nearly two hours after the initial crash. My poor tired kids... Isa fell asleep in the back of the tow truck.

And now, I have this mess to deal with. We are not going to Montreal (despite my parents' extremely generous offer to come down and fetch us!) We are junking the car, and not getting another one. I'm honestly tempted to just turn in my driver's license, as I feel well and truly finished with driving. But for today I am just taking things slow. Unpacking. Rearranging my schedule for the week. Pausing now and then to ice my neck.

And trying to consider all of the ways in which this could have been worse.

I am normally a very lucky person. I have lived a life remarkably free of grief and misfortune. For a short while last night and this morning, I wallowed in self-pity, thinking, how could this happen to me? But today, I am looking around me and counting blessings.

We are all healthy and safe.

The weather is beautiful - we are forced to walk everywhere now, with the sunshine and the flowers in bloom.

I had nothing scheduled for 4 days, so it's a good opportunity to catch up on some things around the house.

We may not make it to Montreal before June. But we will get there, and we will see the show plenty of times.

There was no teen flash mob at the circus school last night. (long story!)

...and then just in general, I'm feeling grateful for my superhero neighbors across the street, for everyone running PSCA beautifully in my absence, and for all of our supportive extended family. I am still leading a charmed life, and now I'm just going to take a deep breath and make the most of what I have.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cirque updates

This past week, Cirque held their big press conference, announcing the new show. Here it is:

I can't quite figure out how to make this link to the show trailer, but here is the youtube URL:

Here's what Greg said when I was talking with him tonight:

"The official `soft opening' of the show is in 6 days. It’s a good show, with a lot of strong acts. Everyone seems to think that we’re ahead of the game, that the show is in good shape for opening.

"But we’re facing a lot of challenges in this final week, including cast members with injuries, costumes that are still getting finishing touches, and working out the kinks of the newly-invented technology for the show.

"Tomorrow night is our first dress rehearsal for an audience of 2500."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

That's my boy

Baz is finally learning to climb the rope! He's tried numerous times over the last couple of years, but just didn't seem to have the coordination. Now, at age 7, he is suddenly turning into a much more physical, fearless being. Seeing his pride up there warms my heart...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back to Philadelphia madness

It's back to the regular insanity of my Philadelphia life. The month of March was so rough... after my time away I was determined to have a fresh start. But today was overwhelming! Especially when my car broke down and I was stuck waiting for a mechanic on the side of the road all afternoon. (long story.)

You know what... the weather is warm, sunny and gorgeous. We are all healthy and well. My circus school staff is awesome, every day. There are so many blessings to count.

Just to give myself a warm fuzzy for the end of the day, here are a couple of very old photos.

Greg with baby Ayla, January 2005

Greg with 22-month-old Baz, January 2005

Monday, April 5, 2010

Family vacationing

While I originally envisioned this as a joining-Greg-at-work trip, it has turned out to be a mini-vacation, which is nice! He has had three full days off from work. We saw no Cirque du Soleil, but had some nice times exploring Montreal and just hanging out as a family.

On Easter Sunday, the kids were delighted that the Easter Bunny found them in Montreal and left goodie bags, as well as hiding jellybeans all over the living room. (Where Baz sleeps, incidentally). Here they are, doing the delicate "I'll trade you one chocolate bunny ear for two orange jelly beans" negotiations.

Later that morning we climbed to the top of a great local hill / park... Mont-Royal. There are hundreds of steps built into the side of this mini-mountain, which is then surrounded by beautiful walking and biking trails. The kids were good troopers all the way up, and enjoyed exploring the woods a bit at the top, and seeing the views of the city. I think this is a place I will come back to often!

And to finish the day, we had the promised family birthday celebration, for Daddy, Baz, and Isa, since Greg couldn't be home for any of those dates in March. A small cake and a few presents, and everyone was happy.

As I've been living here in a hotel suite for a few days, I've been keeping a list of all of the things I need to bring back from Philadelphia next time we come. Some examples: Tupperware. Plastic dishes. Bath toys. Scotch tape. Condiments. First aid supplies. Crayons. There are so many, many little things that are just a hassle to live without, but not worth the expense of going out and buying new. On the one hand, I appreciate a little inventiveness - Greg molded and cut up an aluminum baking tray for me today to make a vegetable steamer - on the other hand, some things just end up being expensive and wasteful. Like having to buy laundry detergent in little $2 packages at the front desk.

It's going to be a learning experience, that's for sure.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

With Cirque - sort of

On the night we arrived, Greg had just finished the first Lion's Den. This is what they officially call it when all of the Cirque VIPs come out to vet the new show. Only 2.5 weeks before opening, and they expect lots of changes afterwards, even possibly cutting some acts! Greg, and all of the cast members, were pretty nervous, but apparently the performance went very well.

The following day, we all went for a walk in the morning, and then the kids and I were pretty much on our own, Greg had to work all afternoon & evening. We went out walking through Chinatown (which is actually called the China Quarter here - it's a pretty big area), and then stopped in at the Basilica of Notre Dame. We weren't allowed to go inside because Good Friday services were happening; so I promised the kids we'd come back another day to have their first real Cathedral experience. In the meantime, here's a photo of them outside.

Then there was grocery shopping and making our way home (this all took us about three hours, and we really didn't go very far!)

I am shocked and awed by the prices of things here. Greg had warned me that stuff is expensive, and we are in the middle of Centre-Ville near the waterfront, but still, it's rough. I bought two magazines and a snack-size pack of chips at a convenience store this afternoon for $16.80! These are Canadian dollars, but the exchange rate right now is almost equal.

(a photo of Isa in our suite. Greg and kids are lounging around in the background)

My other complaint of the day is that we are not, in our time up here, actually allowed to see the Cirque show, or even to go onto the show grounds. This is a combination of factors. First - until we officially join Greg on the tour, June 15, accommodations are not provided for us. They rented this room for us in a separate hotel-suite facility as a favor to Greg, this is not official policy. If we decide to come up again before June, we may have to squeeze into Greg's single hotel room.
Second - during these last-minute rehearsal days especially, what goes on under the Cirque tent is top-secret. Families are allowed in to watch only certain run-throughs on certain days, and we aren't here for one of those days. So, obeying the rules, he can't even bring us in for a tour of the tent.

The kids seem distracted enough by other things to not be too upset about this. Myself, I'm disappointed. I want to start feeling like I'm a part of Greg's world here, but so far I need to stay on the outside. And I realize I'm really quite anxious to meet some of the other performers on the show. Knowing that these people are going to become a sort of family for the next couple of years... that we will be each other's social network and support; I want to meet them. I want to see their faces, and talk with them, and hopefully start to make some friends.

We have been able to glimpse some video footage of the show. It's pretty darn cool. That's all I can say for now!

One last photo to close... here are Baz and Ayla conquering some public art in Montreal.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Speaking French

I drove in to Montreal late last night, and felt a bit of culture shock as soon as we crossed the border. Somehow I was unprepared for it to be so ... French? I hadn't remembered that everything is so different in this part of Canada - the street signs, the measurements, the shops, the food, and everyone really does speak French here. I'm now getting over my shyness, re-building the confidence to speak to everyone in French. It works, I just have to get in the practice of it.