Today was another long day in the stadium. Twelve hours with lots of climbing up and down stairs. Maybe I’ll lose some weight with all the walking. Or at least keep from gaining the weight I should be gaining from all the chocolate, cheesecake, and wine I’ve been consuming.
We had our first audience tonight and they seemed to quite enjoy the show. And tomorrow is opening, so I’ve got my party dress ready to go!
Speaking of cheesecake, the wonderful men of the wardrobe department brought Lexi and I a piece (with two forks) this afternoon. It was from Bubbles and is supposed to be the best cheesecake in Zurich. It was definitely some of the best cheesecake I have ever had and we intend to go find the cafe that makes it to get more . Just thinking about that cheesecake is making me drool. It was the perfect finishing touch to our dressing room picnic. The picnic was cheese, more cheese, meat, more meat, bread, pickles, cookies, juice, and gummy peaches. Yum.
Now I have a confession, which may be shocking for those of you who know me well. I have fallen in love with a puppy. Gatsby is adorable. Tonight after dress rehearsal Lexi, Simone and I spent an hour playing with Gatsby. We became a puppy playground on the bed and were all greeted with many kisses and excited bounces. Gatsby is behaving as therapy for the end of the crazy days.
Lexi playing around backstage during our first rehearsal with costumes
Today was our last day commuting out to Huttwilen! And the first day working with the absolutely beautiful costumes. The costumes are just so stunning and detailed and unique. And the costume team is fantastic. Bjorn (the wardrobe manager) runs a very tight ship and is one of my new favourite people.
Also on the list of my new favourite people is Evelina, the head runner/assistant to the stage manager who is backstage helping us out. She makes my life so very very happy.
After rehearsal we came back to the city and I crashed. Absolutely crashed. There was talk about going out or doing something, but I just did chores (like washing my clothes in the shower) and then went to bed. Here’s to 10 hours of sleep!
First view of the stadium, all set up for “floorball”
Today was a bit of a stressful day at rehearsal. It was our first “work through” of the show, but part way through there was a medical emergency that required an ambulance. Everyone is okay at this point, but it was scary and a little overwhelming.
Tonight we got our first glimpse inside the stadium. It was smaller than I thought. But when i was thinking about that reaction later tonight I realize that it must be because a speed-skating oval (the only stadium I have experience with) is so big. We went over to the stadium to meet the lighting programer, and ended up watching the Swiss lose the world floorball semi finals 4-3 in overtime to Finland. It was quite dramatic.
After visiting the stadium I headed downtown to meet up with my friends Kaari & Erin who I visited in London and went to Amsterdam with. They are in town just for the weekend, so we decided to meet up and go for fondue. The first place we went to had an hour wait, so we went to a place that their hotel recommended, and when we finally found the random door with a very small sign, we found one table left in the restaurant. It was a table for two, but they were happy to pull up a third chair for us.
Fondue dinner with Kaari & Erin.
We ordered the fixed menu: salads, cheese fondue, and our choice of desserts. It was fantastic. Real swiss fondue: CHECK.
The only problem was that I forgot my camera at the rehearsal venue, so I could only take photos on my iPhone. It’s less than ideal, but it does the trick most of the time.
On the plus side, I think I picked out moms Christmas present tonight but I still have to go back and buy it.
Today was the first of our long days, spending 12 or more hours away from the hotel between rehearsal and commute times. It feels as long as it is, and by the time we board the bus to head home I am exhausted and cannot believe how much energy the actors all have.
I did, however, manage to get out of the warehouse for a 20 minute walk around Huttweilen during our lunch break. It’s not enough time to fully explore the town, but it was great to get some fresh air and see some of the area we are working in. The best view so far was from a small graveyard at the top of the hill. I even got a photo of our rehearsal warehouse showing off the the big Viva Verdi posters out front and trying to give a sense of how big the rehearsal space is.
Our rehearsals are now in at least four languages daily: English, Spanish, Italian, and German. Just when I think I figure out what is going on or being said, the language changes again. It amazes me how many languages the people around me hold in their heads and it is inspiring me to learn more of other languages. Speaking only English is definitely a hindrance in this world.
I’m sorry I don’t have more to say, but there is only so much to report when you sleep, bus to rehearsal, rehearse, bus home, and go back to bed.
Exploring small town Switzerland: houses, a woodpile, a church, a graveyard, one of many fountains, and a great view.
Today I am 1/3 of the way through my adventure (25 days left)! It is also the end of the first week of rehearsal. We have now completed the staging for the two big scenes with the actors, as well as sketching in their entrances and exits for other appearances. This afternoon we walked & talked through the entire show with the actors and things appear to be in great shape. I also finally feel like my music reading skills are back. When we talked through the show this afternoon we played bits of the score to the scenes we hadn’t worked yet and I was able to follow them easily – something I was nervous about. In fact, things went so well today that we ended rehearsal an hour early and came back to Zurich.
The Zurich Soul & Gospel Choir in the singing Christmas tree.
Originally my plan for tonight was to just stay in, but since there was an extra hour I decided to go do some exploring and jumped on the tram to the Bahnhofstrasse. Now the Bahnhofstrasse is the most expensive and exclusive shopping street in Zurich, but I figured I should walk up it at least once, right? It looks like there are a couple of fancy chocolate stores along there that I need to go back to when they are open. One of my favourite things about the Christmas season in Zurich is that almost every business has lights up and in every public square there is a tall, real tree, covered in lights and sometimes baubles. I’ll be walking down a narrow cobblestone street and all of a sudden it’ll open up into a square and there’ll be a gorgeous tree. But along the Bahnhofstrasse, I looked to my right and there was a giant tree filled with a choir about to do a free outdoor concert. The choir was the Zurich Soul & Gospel Choir and it made me think of Alison and the Vancouver VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir. I’m pretty sure that this choir was the Zurich version of them – complete with choreographed snapping and clapping. I stopped and watched for almost half an hour, as a crowd of close to 1000 gathered for this singing Christmas Tree. Turns out that during December there will be concerts 4+ times a day out there.
After making my way back to the hotel, I cracked open the bottle of wine I bought last night at the grocery store and found a place to stream The Muppet’s Christmas Carol online. Traditionally I watch the Muppet Christmas Carol on December 1st while decorating my home. I never do any decorating until it is December and this is how I usually kick it off. Now this year I don’t have an apartment to decorate, but I figured I could keep at least part of the tradition.
This picture of me riding the tram was taken for Nathan. Because I figured he needed a photo of public transit here. Also, I was really cold.
Tomorrow I plan to venture back into downtown by daylight. I know that most of the shops will be closed, but someone suggested that starting tomorrow they are open in the afternoon for Christmas shopping, so I’m going to give it a shot anyways. Plus I need to pick up more postcards, since the ones from Amsterdam have already begun arriving at their destinations.
But this morning I woke up a bit early, had breakfast a bit early, and jumped on my computer to have a Skype visit with Wesley (a dear friend in Toronto) about a possible project for next summer. And just to catch up. It was delightful to have that bit of interaction with a friend to start my day.
And then we were off. Back to the rehearsal warehouse for another day of staging rehearsal with the actors. We finished “choreography” for the two biggest numbers and moved on to entrances and exits for some of the other moments. My favourite was that we got to break out a prop I’ve been excited to see: the giant red flags. When all 20 of them are on stage, with the mirrors behind them it is quite a sight. I can’t wait to see it under stage lights, in costumes, with the chorus singing and all the soloists on stage too.
With Samichlaus at the Coop.
After rehearsal I made my way up the street to the local grocery stores, but the two I knew were very very busy, so I decided to go on an adventure and see if I could find something new. Three blocks away I found another Coop (a very popular chain here) that had only a couple of people in it. Perfect! Then I don’t feel so bad about staring at the labels on the food to figure out what exactly it is and whether or not I can prepare it in my hotel room. But this grocery store had some special guests: Samichlaus and Schmutzli. Today, Nov. 30, is one week to Saint Nicholas Day which is celebrated in Switzerland with the arrival of Samichlaus and Schmutzli, but it means that the shops are getting into the Christmas spirit early. Samichlaus approached me in the cheese section and started speaking to me in Swiss German. I apologized and told him that I only speak English. He switched pretty quickly and asked where I was from and what I was doing in Zurich. I explained that I was from Canada and was here to work on a big opera show at the Hallenstadion. He asked where in Canada, and when I said Vancouver his eyes lit up. He’d been there two years ago and then driven to Banff and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. And then he gave me a goody bag filled with oranges, peanut, chocolate, and candies (the traditional gifts that Samichlaus brings to Swiss children). Before I left the store I had to get my photo taken with him, and he was happy to oblige me.
First snow on the river between Zurich and Hüttwilen
My alarm going off at 3:45am was a bit of a shock. I woke up with a jolt, but when I remembered why I was getting up so early I quickly got dressed and headed over to my computer. I was able to make a connection with the fine folks in Victoria, but not for very long before the internet went away. And I mean just completely disappeared from the hotel. All of a sudden zero wireless networks appeared as options and this continued for twenty minutes of me trying to restart, etc. As it turns out, the hotel was doing a system upgrade that was supposed to take 15 minutes and instead ended up interrupting internet access for about 2 hours.
During the time that the internet was broken, I figured that maybe I could get some work done down in their business center or at least get some printing done. As it turned out, I couldn’t do any work down there either because of the internet issues, but I did get to learn that on a Swiss keyboard, the Z and the Y are in opposite places. Which meant I wrote a lot of sentences about “zou and I skzping”. It was amusing and irritating at the same time.
We had our first snow today. It started about 4:20 this morning and was struggling to stick in the city when we left for Hüttwilen but by the time we arrived there was a considerable amount of snow on the ground. Our Mexican cast had never seen snow before and were running into the rehearsal hall, breathless, declaring how amazing it is. It’s fun to see that sense of wonder about something that is often just a nuisance. There I am standing thinking about how much time will be added to our commute by the bad weather as they are running out to the snow for a giant snowball fight. If it had lasted a few more minutes I would have been right out in the thick of it.
The cast mid rehearsal
Rehearsals are going well. I think that after today the two big full cast scenes are figured out or if not they are very close. This is good since the soloists arrive this weekend! Today the five giant roadcases full of costumes arrived. We don’t get to open them until the master tailor arrives this weekend, but it is getting exciting in the warehouse! Next week our rehearsal days will be much longer, but I am looking forward to starting to integrate all the pieces.
The lights outside the restaurant.
After rehearsal tonight I ventured into downtown Zurich with the stage manager and her husband. We found a lovely little restaurant on a street that we picked because we liked the Christmas lights that were hanging on it. We had been looking for a restaurant from a guide book, but when we got to where it should have been we found a for rent sign and had to look for something else. In the course of our adventures we walked up a number of old cobblestone streets, walked over some Roman ruins that had been found and are now under a glass sidewalk, a Christmas market, and so many places that I can’t wait to return on the weekend. It wasn’t what I had planned for my evening, but was actually so much better.
I am amazed at how much energy our actors have – they sing and dance the whole bus ride from the hotel to the rehearsal space. My tired brain can’t imagine having the energy to do that!
We spent today much as we spent yesterday – cleaning the movement for the top of act two with the twenty actors. This included lessons for them in how to run as silently as possible on a set that behaves like a drum which caused a lot of laughing in the room as the director and other ASM demonstrated both what had been done and what needed to be done.
I’m starting to notice the little differences in terms of office supplies: the paper is A4 and just a bit larger than all the letter sized paper in my book, the project manager uses a two-ring binder instead of a three-ring, and in the rehearsal hall we only drink bottled water.
The fountain in the main entrance of ETH.
After rehearsal tonight, the artistic production manager, stage manager and myself made our way to the chorus rehearsal to be introduced to our chorus and listen to part of their rehearsal. They are the Akademischen Chor Zürichund,a non-professional choir from the University of Zurich and ETH. The rehearsal tonight was at ETH - the MIT of Switzerland with notable alumni including Albert Einstein. The building that the rehearsal was in was beautiful. A large domed ceiling, statues and art carved above the doors. Let’s just say that TWU never looked like this. And bonus – apparently the taxi driver who took us back to the hotel was “enamoured” with me.
Our trip out to the choir rehearsal was my first time heading into the city of Zurich proper as our hotel is out the outskirts. From what I could see it is very beautiful and I’m looking forward to doing some exploring on Sunday. I am threatening to kidnap our artistic production manager at some point and have her show me where the good cupcakes are (and the macarons)! The reality is that I came to Zurich to work and that is the plan. I have a day after the show is over to sleep in and then do some exploring. Until then, my focus is on doing everything I can to support the show.
I’m told that the first of the postcards I mailed to Canada started to arrive yesterday. Which means I need to go find some postcards here to do the next mailing!
And now, I must sleep. It’s only 8:30pm here, but I have a production meeting at 4am Zurich time that I need to Skype into!
Sunday morning. 8:41am. A faint beeping in my ear. Confusion: my alarm is set for 11:32. I look at my phone. It’s a phone call, not my alarm. I should just ignore it and go back to sleep. Wait. That’s the stage manager’s number.
“Hey Lois, how fast can you get to the theatre?”
“Umm….I need to get dressed, so 10 minutes?”
“The actress playing Sarah Brown has laryngitis. We have an emergency understudy rehearsal at 10. I need you to come help make phone calls and get set up.”
Suddenly I’m not tired anymore.
Thus began one of the craziest & most supportive days in my theatre career so far.
The whole day is a bit of a blur. There was a lot of running, a lot of waking people up, and a lot of simply making sure that everyone had what they needed for the next scene. The understudy for Sarah Brown normally played General Cartwright, so the company’s AD came in for the afternoon to play the general. He got off book for one of his two scenes and for the other had the script pages glued into a bible so that he could read them without it being obvious. We adjusted scene changes & crowd scenes, we altered folks backstage tracks to make sure everything was covered. Everyone was lending a hand to help the understudy be as comfortable as possible – after all, she’d only had one previous rehearsal at which to learn the show.
And here’s the thing: performance #74 of Guys & Dolls was an incredibly special thing. The cast, rather than reading books or visiting in the green room, watched the show on the monitors, silently cheering each other on. The focus on stage was at a level it hasn’t been in weeks & it was clear to all of us that the audience was connected to the show in a special way. The second the lights went black the audience was on their feet. They knew that they had just witnessed something special.
It reminded me a little bit of an episode of Slings and Arrows. Season 2, episode 5, to be exact. In that episode the actor playing MacBeth has been fired and they decide to send in the understudy. Completely under-prepared, he goes on with the director prepping him at each entrance with the correct blocking & dialogue. Start watching the video below at 3:15 and enjoy.