Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Milan by Nokia Phone

February 15, 2013


Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a.k.a Fancy Shopping Mall. A blue ghost appears to be running by my left side.

After not bringing a camera to Paris, you’d think I would remember to bring one to Milan. Nope. In my defense, there was barely time to remember. In order to get to Milan, I found myself running through the snowy CERN site at noon on a Tuesday, sprinting to the train stop, and arriving at Gare Cornavin with just minutes to spare. To my own bewilderment, I managed to buy the correct (albeit overpriced) ticket from the SBB counter in French. Do I speak French? I asked myself, as I walked back out into the station. I don’t think sobut I just did…sort of. As I soon discovered, it hardly mattered: I was going to Italy.

As the train slogged through the snow-laden alps I found that, there of all places, I had to restrain myself from butting in on a conversation between Americans a few seats down the car. A woman, claiming to be originally from “Cali,” was talking about cities in the US, specifically, “Frisco,” or alternatively, “San Fran.” A word to the wise: When someone claims to be from ‘Frisco, Cali, they most certainly are not. At least not anymore. I’m sorry.*

At any rate, I changed haphazardly into a dress in the reeking train bathroom as it jerked and jolted along. A dress? Indeed. I was going to the Opera. Simone (of “Club Italia” fame, on this blog) had acquired extremely cheap tickets (10 Euros) for a preview at La Scala. Using his superpowers of dexterous logging in and website button überclicking on multiple computers at once, gleaned no doubt from working in experimental physics, he had gotten in on an exclusive, once a year ticket sale. He offered me a ticket, if I could come. While I wasn’t able to escape work until literally the last minute, I did in fact escape. On the train, I got an SMS: “We will have to run.”

As we pulled into the Milano Centrale, I walked to the first car and spotted Simone on the platform. What followed was an all out sprint through the station culminating in a headfirst dive into the backseat of a taxi. Our driver, I can only assume, was cursing aloud as he waved is left hand at unruly people on scooters who passed us on the trafficked streets. Ah, the strange sweetness of silly stereotypes in the flesh; We made it La Scala with 5 minutes to spare.


Snow on the road out of the Mt. Blanc tunnel and Chamonix

Opera? Well, it was Wagner’s Lohengrin. It was, to abandon any respectable arts critic vernacular, totally rad. Why didn’t I use my Nokia phone to take photos inside of La Scala? I’m not sure, but maybe I was a little embarrassed. I was there, awestruck in the folds of red velvet, craning my neck from a box in the most famous opera house in the world, adrift in a sea of fashion savvy Italians with my dress from a second and store in Sweden, my red hair that hadn’t been cut in a year, and my Nokia phone. During  intermission, La Republica tried to interview me, and I am positive it was because I looked so different. Fortunately, I do know one word in Italian: ‘No.’ C’est drôle, la vie! I felt strangely reverent as a pilgrim is reverent, and yet out of place in one of the holy grounds of classical music. Despite, I am amazed to even have had the experience.


Finally: a nice photo of the Fancy Shopping Mall

At 7Am the next morning we hit the road North (Simone had strategically brought his car to Milan) and were back at CERN, ready to work, by lunch. All I got to see in the city was La Scala, the Fancy Shopping Mall, and the façade of the Duomo (not pictured). Not bad for 24 hours, 10 of which was spent in travel, 5 in the opera, and around 7 sleeping.

Go Nokia Phone! And for the record, I don’t think iphones are totally silly.

Grazie for the hours in Milan, Simone and family! Hopefully I will be back one day.  I would love to actually *go inside* the Duomo. I hear it’s all around better than Notre Dame de Paris, but I won’t believe it until I see it! 


*No, I’m not.

soda pop, ritalin, and musical theater

May 14, 2010

Warning: Post completely unrelated to Sweden. GASP! I posted on this on the Daily Cal Arts Blog a view days ago and forgot to share it with you. But clearly, the theatrical career of Green Day is of utmost importance, so here it comes, nonetheless belated.

The Tony nominations came out the other day and low and behold, “American Idiot,” aka the Green Day musical, aka the show that consumed my life for a couple weeks last fall and made me frenenmies with a couple publicists, aka the show that I got to go to on opening night and sit in the front row, like, two rows away from Green Day (true story)…. has earned three Tony Noms: Best Musical, Best Scenic Design, Best Lighting.

And although I still hold fast to my declaration that “American Idiot” is not a musical but rather a 90 minute live music video with flashy lights and a lot of hormonal rage, I am proud to see it nominated. I listened to “American Idiot” probably 20 times sequentially before seeing the show, and despite Green Day’s notoriously simplistic instrumentation, I can’t say that the album didn’t grow on me (There: I sorta like Green Day. I owned it. Happy?) . “American Idiot” said some interesting things politically and embodied cliche youthful angst and malaise to a generation that identified with exactly that.

On another note, does anyone else taste the injustice in the air? At the same time “American Idiot” is getting named for Tonys, 924 Gilman, the Berkeley punk club that made Green Day what is, is on the verge of going under financially. Ouch. But such is life on the tough streets of Berkeley. I for one, have a feeling they’ll make it through.

For further information:

Check out my post on the Daily Cal Arts blog, in which I reference Green Day, Queen Victoria, and Stephen Sondheim in the same article. Theater is a weird and fantastic world, my friends.

Copy paste that baby into your address bar if you’re interested. Goodness, it felt good writing a post on Berkeley theater!

(the reason I don’t link directly to Daily Cal stuff is because I don’t want pingbacks to this blog posted on the Daily Cal site. If you don’t know what a pingback is…just forgetta ’bout it.)

Every new begining is…

April 27, 2010

Some other beginning’s end. Sorry, I’ll stop with the pop-culture titles here soon, but anyone wanna guess where that one’s from? I’ll give you a hint: It was a one-hit-wonder.

But what I really mean is this: VarGlad Spexet’s avslutningsfest (wrap-up party)


The small crowd of people barely fills out half the room, but that doesn’t stop them from dancing. I sit for a moment in the chairs along the wall, and watch, trying to take in as much as the darkened room allows. There’s the one who is the crazy-good dancer, and the one who is just the crazy dancer. There’s the girl who dances simply by shuffling her feet back and forth, lightly touching each high-heeled shoe to the ground and smiling in time with the music. There’s the two guys that like to dance somewhat dangerously with each other.  Someone gets lured into a Swedish-style swing, and suddenly there are several couples whirling about the floor.

“Tycker du inte om att dansa?” Don’t you like dancing?

“Jo, det gör jag. Men jag vill bara sitta och kolla i en stund för att kom i håg det senare. Det är ju min sista gång med spexet ikväll.”

Yeah, I do. But I just want to sit and watch for a bit, so I can remember it later. It’s my last time with the Spex, you know.”

“Mmmmmm” Ahhh, yes. I understand.

I sit a while longer, and try to catch all of their faces in my mind—but I can nevertheless feel them turning into memories. It is as if the whirling figures before me are already vanishing in a future thousands of miles away from here. Soon, I think, the most of friends who are living and breathing tonight will be little more than stories I will tell my grandchildren one day. I can see it now:

“When I was young, I lived for a little while in Sweden. I was a part of this crazy thing called a Spex. There was music, bad jokes, dinner parties, and lots and lots of song and dance…”

And it will seem so far away. It already does.

On my way out, I got a lot of hugs (hugging, believe it or not, is not awkward in Sweden). I walked home through the safe streets of Lund, all the while the beginning of the end welling up in an unexpected sort of sadness. Even knowing I still have time left here, I can’t help but feeling a little bit like I am not ready to leave.

multimedia development

March 20, 2010

Here is the first part of your crash course in true Swedish culture:

Lesson 1:

1. Singing

2. Making fun of other Scandinavian countries while singing.

3. Eating fish and candy while drinking and singing.

Got it? Good. Now here are your study materials:

Ever wanted to see swedish people sing a song about gummy bears? Ever wondered what in the heck a Spex is?

I made a youtube account just for you.

Check out klips from my favorite Spex songs, and my Choir singing the Bumbibjörnarna song togther here.

My username is Lellearie if you just want to search it (gee, how’d I come up with that one?)

Notes on 1.5-lingualisim, and Dramas

March 18, 2010

I am living in a grey area. Don’t worry, it’s not a moral one. At least not at the moment anyway. It’s the grey area where other people don’t know how much you understand them. When they think you don’t understand them but you do, things can get awkward fast. When they think you understand them but you don’t, you just try to keep ’em believing without looking like a fool.

I am in this weird place in my level of understanding where when people talk to me, I understand what they are saying, but I don’t remember the specific words they used. It used to be in my head så här: Noise–>Swedish–>English–>Meaning. Now it seems to be something more along the lines of Noise–>Meaning. Don’t get me wrong, understanding is nothing short of a rapturous feeling. But for some reason I am still left unfortunately helpless when it comes to speaking, as usually omvänd procesen funke inte…the reverse process doesn’t work (see!). Meaning–>Noise, ok, I can do that. But it’s the Noise–>Language step that’s tripping me up, even in English sometimes (gasp!). Lectures in Swedish don’t really scare me as much as they used too, but discussion section, hoo boy. Yea you heard me, discussions på svenska. I’ve started in on Johanna’s class, sustainable development in Perspectives, and yes, that is a whole ‘nother post, so I’ll leave it at that for the time being.

The Spex has been keeping me busy, as it is now performance week, and I have been spending every night in sköna AF Borgen (vårat gamla hem!) running the light board (hence the lag of blog posts). The Spex has also been an absolutely amazing, fun, and trying experience. It is strange for me to accept the fact that there are people I know who I have never, never, spoken English with, and who have become my friends and my co-workers throughout this entire fantastically nonsensical experience. I plan to write all about the Spex in detail after this whole thing is over, but for the time being (just to put at ease my adoring public, namely my former roommate-you know who you are- who checks my blog officially more than my own mother) I present you with short dramatizations on my 1.5-lingualism and the life of a Spexare (spex-er).

1AM, after 20 hours of working on the Spex during helvetesöndag (the sunday from hell, were we work all day), I stand drinking tea and coffee with a fellow techie.

Fellow techie: (something in Swedish)

Me: (something in Swedish)

F.T.: (something in really fast, really sloppy, tired-person Swedish)

Me: mmmm…mmmm…jaaaaaaaa (I didn’t quite understand you but I’m too tired ask you to repeat yourself)

F.T.: smiles and nods (I realize you didn’t understand me right there, but I’m too tired to repeat myself)

Me: (Good, then we are in agreement. Let’s drink more tea.)

Before the First performace:

Fellow Techie 2: Är du laddad?!? (Are you charged up)

Me: (I know what he means, but I can think only of electrons, unfortuntely) JAAAAAAAA!

—High five!—-

12 Midnight, at Spex dinner, after the premiere (yay!)

Spexare1: Hola! (in the casual way that people often greet each other in another language for fun)

Spexare2: Hola!

Me: (Oh my, spanish, heck yes! Now, I’ll show ’em who’s the bilingual, internationally-savvy one!) Hola! Hablan uds. espanol? Podemos halbar espanol…under hela sittningen! Es más lättare för mig att halbar espanol que Svenska! Es un språk tan bonito!

Spx1 &Spx2: ??????? (clearly, they don’t speak Spanish…)

Spx2: Var kommer du från, nånstans? (where are you from?)

Me: Aaaa. Californien. California, en los EEUU. Dónde många manniskor prata spanska!

Spx1: (in english, very slowly) WHICH LANGUAGE DO YOU WANT US TO SPEAK WITH YOU ?

Me: hehe…svenska…eller spanska si quisieras, gracias! eller, tack, menar jag……Just not English….Dang.

–We took the rest of the night in Swedish–


Spex! And a lot to say…

March 6, 2010

Remember when I told you about doing an audition in Swedish? Remember how I told you that even though it was really fun, I didn’t think I’d get chosen for the scene because, well it’s a little tough when you are just learning the language? Well here’s how it panned out: No, I didn’t get chosen for the scene (as expected). But what I didn’t realize is that what I was trying out for was a Spex (a sort of Burlesque musical comedy that involves copious amounts of overacting, physical humor, and horrendous stage makeup) and a Spex is so much more than just the scene. A spex is a crash-theater experience: for two weeks, the spex meets every evening and works into the late hours of the night to produce a completely student-run, student created piece of theater. The actors are students, the directors are students, the costumes are sown by students, the set pieces are built by students…there is even a committee that plan parties and games to keep the spex entertained during those two weeks and a committee that cooks dinner every night for those hard at work. In honor of my brother, who ran something like 16 mics at once for a show at NHHS, I decided to sign up for the technical crew, or teckniken.

So every night for the last week, I have been hanging out in the källaren (basement, with a rather nice stage) of the AF Borgen (the student castle) learning about plugs and soundboards (ljudbord) and lightboards (ljusbord) and amplifiers (slutsteg), eating dinner with the Spex, and enjoying the general burlesque atmosphere. Also, I force all of them to speak Swedish with me. And they are all so cool that they oblige (I learn so much from them every day!), even if it means that I can’t really program the light board too well…

Last night we had our first “temafest,” or themed Spex party, which includes a three-course meal, performances from each committee, and a dance floor. Every committee in the spex was given a different theme (this time a mix of a TV show and a country. For example: “Finland goes batman”). Never, never did I expected that Sweden would teach me to be so horrifically politically incorrect. My finely-tuned Berkeley political correctness sensors where on high alarm at first: themes like “North Korea goes ‘Cops’, ” “Saudi Arabia goes ‘Baywatch’ ” and “Germany goes ‘Sailor Moon’ ” made me cringe before they made me laugh. If those kinds of costumes appeared at a party in the States, I can only imagine the sort of uproar it would create. I can see it now: the lawsuits, the protests, the disbandment of the whole Spex….But in Sweden, the rest of the world seems a bit farther away. So many other nations were made fun of (not the least of which the USA, with all of our great TV shows) and it all came off as more good-natured fun…rather than racism, hatred, or insensitivity. It was weird.

Can I also mention too, the policy on Alcohol at these student parties? Recall the horrific, unjust ruling by UC Berkeley regarding suspension of the cycling team because a couple of 26-year-old grad students enjoyed a beer in the privacy of their own home and happened to be wearing Cal-cycling T-shirts at the same time. The Spex party served wine, beer, and hard alcohol all in moderate amounts (although I didn’t have any of it) and took place inside of a University building, the student castle. It seems so strange to me that the University here is well aware of students consuming alcohol on their property, especially in comparison to the strict policies we have back home.

But at the same time, no one at the Spex party got really ‘wasted’ drunk. No one turned violent. No one abused alcohol, and no one hurt themselves or another person because of drinking. It was safe, sweet, well-run, well-organized, and well-attended. And even though I personally choose not to drink alcohol, I still was able to have a great time. To me at least, this makes the policies we have about alcohol back home seem a bit like fear-mongering, and makes me wonder if there is a better way to handle the situation. If alcohol where not so much of a forbidden substance, would it be so widely abused by frat boys and the likes? I mean, Sweden still has a very strict policy towards alcohol (see: systembologet). But they allow students who are going to consume it regardless of policy consume it in a safe way—maybe they’ve hit on something here. Or maybe I just haven’t been to enough parties.

After dinner, teckniken and costume design (syet) were lined up to help with washing dishes, my to my delight. there is something supremely satisfying to me about washing the dishes after a huge banquet (just ask anyone who was at Special dinner at Sherman last semester). There is nothing quite like being in the kitchen, washing plates and scrubbing pots with a rag-tag group of swedish theater people.

There is a whole repertory of songs that every Swedish person seems to know, and they love to sing them together. At the dinner table, while playing games, while washing dishes… anytime they group together. So—those of you who thought I was CRAZY for singing the entire Les Mis soundtrack at the top of my lungs while doing dishes at Sherman—take back your accusations of insanity! It turns out there is an entire country of people just like me. In the kitchen, everyone sang Disney songs in Swedish, Bohemian Rhapsody, and of course ABBA at the top of their lungs. And before we knew it, the dishes were done. Even better was that I did not hear “Poker Face” once during the entire evening later on the dance floor. Instead, there was some silly techno stuff, some danish rap, and a lot of American rock and disco that culminated in everyone breaking out in synchronized choreography. It was like a musical, except for better because everyone was dancing as dorkily as I was.

At least I know I’m not alone on that one.

Be Happy!

February 10, 2010

I just did an audition in two languages. What a rush.

I don’t want to tell you too much about it—superstition is a very important part of theatrics, you see.

On a whim and a suggestion from Annika H. I signed up to audition for “Var Glad Spex” or “Be Happy Spex”- one of the many musical comedy groups here in Lund.

The interview in Swedish went well. Easy questions, like: how old are you? (I knew that one!).

The monologue and scene (in Swedish) went well too- I only fumbled once and they let me read from the paper. I had ’em laughing.

The singing- well- um I have been sick the last couple of days. Let’s just say that my singing voice, like my Swedish, is not top notch. On the plus side the guy gave me my starting tone on a Melodica—which made me sort of die laughing on the inside.

And the improv…well, they let me do it in English. They were laughing, so I think I was funny. But I wasn’t Swedish. Dang!

At last they asked me if I had any special party tricks-like weird talents or if I was double-joined or something.

Talents? Well, I said, I can speak English REALLY REALLY well.

I don’t expect to be chosen, but like always, the audition was worth it for the experience. Var Glad?! Ja, det är jag!