Sunday, August 21, 2011

On the Road Again!

So, as if July hadn't had enough travel, I decided to drive up to Hamburg from Vienna to get our boxes from storage in our attic there. I thought I would share what turned out to be a very *interesting* trip with you!

I started out by picking up the rental truck from a company here in Vienna, and was waited on by what appeared to be a teenage girl who seemed far more interested in the fact that I was from FL, than in helping me get the rental truck! Ah well! About a half hour later I was on my way!

The first part of the trip was uneventful (so we'll skip that bit!) As the tank reached about half, I thought: I think I'll go ahead and fill up so that I'll get better gas milage! I stopped at a rest stop on the Autobahn, and to begin with read the signs wrong, and ended up on the semi truck side... :/ After some finagling and driving - for a very short moment - the wrong way on a one way in the parking lot, I got to the gas pumps. I was, understandably, a bit out of sorts due to the recent events, but still thought to look for any sign that the little car (a bit smaller than a US mini-van) might possibly take any special type of fuel. There were no markings in the car that mentioned it. The "helpful" girl had not mentioned anything, and when I opened the little door to the gas tank, I didn't see anything. What I didn't notice was a small little sticker on the INSIDE of the little door that said 'diesel' ...

I think you've probably figured it out by now. I filled up the second half of the tank with regular when I was actually driving a diesel! I noticed it first as I was putting the nosil back on the gas pump. I thought: Well, Lord, I just read this morning about how You'll give Your angels charge over us to keep us, and I thank You that You'll keep me safe and get me to HH! What I can tell you from this experience, is that, with some angelic help, a diesel WILL drive on half a tank of gas and half of diesel! I wouldn't, however recommend it! ;)

My first stop on the trip north was in a little German town called Würzburg, where my bike had been confiscated from me on one of my trips in July (I wasn't permitted to have it on the type of train I was traveling, but having a bike in Germany was new to me, and I didn't know that rule at the time!) I've been trying to get them to ship it to me since then, but the man in charge of lost and found (where the police kindly dropped my bike for me!) was not interested in going out of his way at all to get it to me! I, hence, decided that on my trip to HH, I would make a 1 hour detour and get it myself!

Getting the bike was no problem at all! The guy I'd dealt with on the phone was gone for the day, and the guy who was working didn't even make me pay the 15 Euro fee I was supposed to have to pay to spring my bike from jail!

The problems started when I got back in the rental truck (which btw had no A/C on the roads that were about 97 degrees according to roadside signs!) to crank it... It wouldn't do anything. I thought, OK, I'll give it a minute more, and try again: still nothing. I went to the nearest shop (which happened to be a different auto rental store) and the guy there was very helpful and called the nearest shop of the company I rented from for me. They said that they couldn't offer me a trade because: 1st I had rented it in Austria, and 2nd because they had none of the model I was driving. They offered, however to send an employee over to see if he could jumpstart it. It thought: I don't think the battery's the problem, but OK!

When he got there, he got in, turned the key, and it cranked perfectly! 5 times in a row! I said: wow, I tried that three times, and it didn't work for me, to which he replied, while holding up his hands: healing hands! I thought, or an angel of the Lord!

12 hours after leaving Vienna, I made it safely to HH, but unfortunately all of my able-bodied friends were working night shift, so after three hours I had loaded (much more than I thought possible) into the little van, and was on my way to crash at some friends' house on the couch. The next morning meant a leisurely breakfast with the friends, then on my way back to Vienna.

As I didn't have to stop by Würzburg on the way home, I took what the GPS told me was the quickest route. Little did I know that meant I was going to be driving through the Czech Republic! Not only did I drive through the Czech Republic, but directly through downtown Prague - wow, it was beautiful! It happened to be rush hour, so I got to see A LOT of it! ;) Below are some pics that I took with my phone while sitting in traffic! Not only did I drive through Prague, but also through many very, VERY small towns and even through fields (where I thought: please GPS, get me home!!! And about 10 hours later, she did!)

Love and hugs!

While approaching Prague, I was reminded that I have not lived anywhere that I didn't understand the signs in about three years! Quite a feeling, let me tell you!

Cobblestone streets in Prague!

One of the beautiful buildings that I got to look at for SOME TIME while waiting to move in rush hour Prague!

I got gas, er, diesel in the Czech Republic, and yes, you're reading correctly, it cost 339.00 per LITER! This was, of course in Czech Koruna, of which one equals about $0.06! Still not the best price, but much better than one might first assume!

One of the fields I drove through. This pic I stopped to take because... you can see, NOTHING was coming!

Another example of signs that made me go: huh?

At times, there were other "travelers" taking the same scenic route!

When I saw some of these roads, I thought: is THIS really the quickest way between Hamburg and Vienna!??!

And finally, a pic for Pop - no, I promise I wasn't looking at the phone as I was taking this picture - I was still looking at the road!!!

And the adventures in Europe continue! Sidonie has started rehearsals for Deloris (the Whoopi character) in Sister Act, and has been told that she might get to play her as soon as previews (which begin in about two weeks!)

On the job front for me, I got hired to teach voice, acting and dance for The School of Pop Music here, and will start in September, I also interviewed with a very well respected dance school to teach jazz, modern, and musical dance classes, as well as private voice, and should hear back from them soon! At church this morning, I got asked to sing with a gospel choir that will be at the church in a couple weeks, so things are picking up, as you can tell!

Don't be a stranger!Link

Monday, August 8, 2011

This, That, and 65 hours on the Train

...That's right, folks, during the month of July, I spent a total of 65 hours traveling! But before we get there, let's look back at June.

In June, Ali Baba was running which meant that I had several free days at the time. During one of those breaks, I was offered a voice over gig in Hamburg, so I took a train up (no, that's not included in the 65 hours!) and, among other things, had an audition, did my first German to English translation VO gig, and saw the above artist working his magic on the streets of HH!

For most of June, however, I was in the little city of Hanau.

It's called the 'Brothers Grimm City' because it was the birthplace of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (of Grimm's Fairy Tales). Because of this connection, the summer Theatre festival where I worked is committed to performing plays and musicals every year based on the fairy tales of the Grimms (and others)!

As promised, some pics of the process of preparation for Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.

Here, the Set's nearly finished, but for some painting.

Because the set had to serve three different productions at the same time, there were elements that we didn't use as often as others, and likewise for the other two shows. Here's the set as it looked when we began each night.

Marc Urquhart, our hard-working director from Australia via London.

There was, of course, down time during tech rehearsals! Here, Daniel-Erik found a secondary use for the snacks we had brought that day!

Hartmut, my back-stage neighbor, decided to try on his hat (with hair attached) backward!

Frederich Rau, our Ali Baba, had the same idea I had about taking photos!

At the end of June, I got some very special visitors! Here we are (without Ma because she's taking the picture) walking around Hanau.

The also got to enjoy the beautiful garden behind my house in Hanau!

Mr and Mrs Loos, my landlords, work very hard in their garden, and it shows!

They're really the sweetest landlords anyone could ask for!

I told them that if ever I worked in Hanau again, I would not hear of staying anywhere but with them!

After the jet-lag had worn off a bit, the parents came to see the show!!! Unfortunately, the summer weather we'd been having seemed to have faded a bit, and it was quite cold to be seeing an outdoor production, but they braved it!

So, here are some pics from my show that the publicity department at the theatre took during the final dress rehearsal.

The ghosts, coming to the aid of the heroine.

Such fun dances! Lots of smooth movement, into very sharp hits like the one here, and it all ended in lots of dervish whirling!

Patrizia and I opened the big chorus number "Gerüchteküche" or Rumor Mill.

I also got to play the drum you see here during the show!

There were two of us additionally used as musicians, Tony, also American, played the Sitar, and several Asian flutes. Fun!

The costumes were absolutely magnificent! This was the costume that I opened and closed the show in - I was covered in gold from head to foot!

Because this is a fairy tale theatre (and even though our show was not at all geared toward children) there were LOTS of families in the audiences, which meant: lots of autographs after the shows. The kids were adorable. I had one boy tell me he had seen the show 4 times, and was planning to come back again!

During the rehearsals and run of the show, I was contractually not permitted to cut my hair or goatee. This of course meant that I brought my buzzer along with me to the final performance. Rather than cutting it all off at once, however, I decided to have a little fun for the after party! ;)

Backing up about three weeks...

at the beginning of July, I began the many, many hours of train travel that would amount to a total of over 65 hours.

This was my typical position during the train trips!

My first stop on the way to my job in southern Bavaria, was in Klingenberg where someone special was playing Aida for the first time!

The view from the mountain where Sidonie's theatre sat at the top of wine vineyards.

Even though Sidonie's show had opened about two weeks prior to this, I hadn't gotten to see it yet because of my Ali Baba performances!

We all got to see it together! (Ma always seems to be the one taking these pictures... Don't worry, there are some pics of her too - I took them!)

During June, before Sidonie's show opened, there was a sudden shortage of costume assistants, and things got hectic to the point that the designer was not going home and was just sleeping in the shop for a couple hours before getting up to keep at it. Sidonie offered my help, and they were overjoyed. One of the things that I got to do was to design and build the dress that Sidonie wore for the opening and closing of the show (the museum scene, for those who know the show.)

She was absolutely brilliant (not to mention gorgeous!)

Here's a picture of the Nubians coming to sing to Aida after they discover that their princess is in their midst!

After seeing Sidonie's show, we had to keep moving because we were headed another 8 hours south on the train from there.

Eventually, we arrived in beautiful Kiefersfelded, Germany (right on the Austrian border).

Sidonie got to come join us a couple days later, and we were able to spend her birthday together!

One of the birthday activities, after I got off work, was thrift store shopping! Ma and Sidonie found traditional Bavarian dresses (Dirndl) to try on, and Ma liked hers so well that she bought it! The Bavarian women thought she was adorable in it!

I got to show the folks around the gorgeous little village of Kiefersfelden.

The reason I was really there, however, was that I was the director of dance for the International Performing Arts Academy (IPAI). IPAI is a summer study program for American Musical theatre and Opera artists, and it gives them a chance to come and intensively study their craft with instructors from all over the world in the quiet and secluded Bavarian village of Kiefersfelden. They then have an opportunity to audition for major casting agencies in Europe, and to perform a program that they've worked on for the 3 1/2 weeks of IPAI before an audience of townspeople and industry professionals.

IPAI is what first brought Sidonie over to Germany, and the rest is history! The students this year were super talented, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them!

After I got off work on another day, the 5 of us took a walk over the boarder into Austria!

The cold weather was behind us at that point, and it was H O T!

On my day off, Ma, Pop and I hiked up to a beautiful lake just over the Austrian border, called the Hechtsee.

We got funny looks from the locals as I stopped to take pictures of the tiny little wildflowers along the way ;)

Despite the fact that Dad had hurt his knee in a motorcycle accident just before coming over, they handled the hiking very well!

The views once we got there were well worth it!

Ma and Pop were happy to take a minute to SIT and enjoy the view before I drug them further along!

On one of Ma and Pop's last days with me in Bavaria, we took the train one stop into the next town over the border into Austria, called Kufstein. The Alps were breathtaking from there!

We visited the fortress castle of Kufstein, and got to see inside the tower prison which had double barred windows, although, as you can see, it wouldn't have done a prisoner much good to have gotten out anyway, as they would have fallen onto the rocks beneath (and still been within the castle walls!)

We all found something to photograph at the same time!

With the heat we were experiencing that day, the tunnel passage was a welcome 20 or so degrees cooler!

On one of my last days in Bavaria, before moving to Vienna, I was able to experience a very special church service with a dear friend, Christine Fankhauser in the next village up from Kiefersfelden, Oberaudorf.

So, I arrived in Wien (Vienna) about two weeks ago, and have been getting the lay of the land, and trying to get the apartment setup, as Sidonie's been thrust into 6 day a week rehearsals for Sister Act. Last Friday, I had the pleasure of showing some other Americans who were visiting Wien for the first time around the beautiful city! We went to the Schoenbrunn Palace...

and we visited the treasury, among other things!

The treasury here contains the largest cut Emerald in the world - it's about the size of my fist, and is 2680 Carats!

So, one thing that I failed to mention...

After Ali Baba closed, I decided to get my hair cut off as well! I went to a barber and told him I wanted it cut off! He hesitated a moment, and went for it. I think the first cut was probably about 7 in of hair before he started trimming! So, here's the new do!

Hope you are all doing very well! I'd love to hear from you!

Hugs from Austria!

P.S. Sent out LOTS of resumes and headshots, and the interviews/auditions start on Thursday! Until I book something steady, I'm working to finish my one man show, which should be done soon! I'll keep you posted on what's coming up next!