Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Flow and Gratitude: Blood on the Veil in Orlando -- Part 2 -- Travel Travails!

"Oh yes we can!!" 

(When last we left our heroines, local sponsor Rita Van Trump (Maat Kare) had agreed to host Blood on the Veil in her hometown, this time adding local dancers to the show....)

After a quick chat with the lovely Lisa of the John & Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Orlando, which hosted the show in 2012, we were booked and ready to get the ball rolling.

The first step:  Reach out to local dancers. 

The show is now structured to accommodate up to 16 additional performers as pre-show soloists, walk-ons (or rather dance-ons ☺ ) during the Parade of Props, cane dancers for the show's only group choreography, a Senior Dancer, and an emcee.  

Rita created a Facebook group and invited about a dozen dancers. 

Several began to learn the cane choreography through our online instructional video (yay technology!), a few others signed on as pre-show, and we were blessed to have the stunning Phoenicia -- a former member of Anahid Sofian's troupe -- agree to be our Senior Dancer, and the incomparable MC of MCs Marc B. Lee (a long-time host to everyone from visiting dignitaries to the cast of Star Trek who MCd the 2012 production) to introduce the acts. 
Some members of the BOTV Orlando Cast
Some BOTV Cast members, L to R: Isis, Lisa, Tandava, Phoenicia, Rita

Weeks went by; some dancers dropped out, others signed on. And in the end we had an excellent cast of six:  Marc and Phoenicia as MC and Senior Dancer, respectively; Irene Isis and Lisa Stern as our opening acts. 

And joining me for her very first cane dance was Rita herself!

My dear friend Mariposa, with whom I had shared the stage many times in NY and in the Far East, agreed to travel up from Tampa. 

I booked a ticket to fly up Wednesday afternoon so we could rehearse on Thursday.

And things were going swimmingly Tuesday night. I had a quick Skype session with Mariposa to go over the cane choreography, packed my bags and got up well rested on Wednesday morning for my 2:35pm flight out of JFK.


I am not the most punctual person. 

In fact, it is safe to say that, having been born five days late, I have continued this less-than-ideal habit throughout my life. So traveling by air is always stressful; I always worry I'll miss my alarm, or some delaying catastrophe will happen at home.

But this time it went like clockwork. I woke up in plenty of time to get together and walked out my front door shortly before 12:30pm. It takes a little over an hour door-to-door to get to JFK Airport via public transportation, which had always been my experience -- and Google Maps agreed, so an hour it was!!

NYC's A Train, from Harlem to Far Rockaway
This time, however, I had two suitcases, which perhaps slowed me down just enough to miss my train. And the following one was delayed, arriving shortly after 2pm. There was construction at Aqueduct, which slowed us down a bit -- but I still arrived at the A Train's Howard Beach stop around 1:30pm -- still plenty of time, right???


It turned out the Air Train which goes from the subway to the terminals only had one train in service. So this meant a longer wait, and more crowded cars -- which took a lot longer at each stop.

And I was going to American Airlines -- Terminal 8!!

JFK Air Train
O, JFK Air Train -- Usually I Love You, But Not Today....
The darned thing took nearly a half hour. I scrambled like a madwoman to the checkin counter ... only to be told that I had missed the 42-minute check-in cutoff by less than five minutes.

"We can put your suitcase in storage and you can pick it up when you get back..." offered the clerk.

I explained that I was performing in a show and that the bag contained my costumes and props. "Well...I can put you on a flight leaving tomorrow morning at 6am..." he said.

I almost cried.

"Wait a minute," he offered and stepped away, returning a few minutes later. I can put you on a flight leaving from LaGuardia at 4:30pm stopping at Dallas. There will be an extra charge, though."

Oh God, I whimpered inside... Here it comes. "How much?" I squeaked.

"$3.70. Is that OK?"

My jaw dropped. "Yes! Yes! Thank you!!" He printed my ticket and I ran to the taxi line -- which was about 50 people deep, which freaked me out a little. But I kept breathing and telling myself -- this is all going to be OK. (And YAY for American Airlines!!)
Vintage American Airlines Logo

And sure enough, I arrived in plenty of time. Both flights left on schedule and I arrived in Orlando as planned, shortly after midnight.

My host, Matt, graciously met me at the airport in spite of the hour with a big much-needed hug.

"It's all going to work out," I told him, and repeated the mantra under my breath....

Continued in Part 3...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Flow and Gratitude: Blood on the Veil in Orlando -- Part 1 -- The Drama Begins!

"I don't think you create drama, per se ... but it sure seems to follow you around!!"

Two days ago I returned from Orlando -- capping off a deliriously fabulous remount of Blood on the Veil at the John & Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center, where we'd produced the show two years ago.

That show went off without a hitch. I'd flown in on Thursday afternoon and -- even though I was completely unknown in the Orlando area, but the lovely Liz Langley of NPR gave the show a boost on her show -- an audience of some-odd 30 people showed up Friday night to see one sweaty lady dance a monologue for 75 minutes.

But this time we knew from the beginning it would be different.

Last year in San Francisco I added a new section discussing the different styles of bellydance and the wide variety of props we use. That segment ends with a rip-roaring cane dance which sends the audience into intermission with a smile.

When we mounted the show again here in NYC, I brought in three additional dancers and an emcee. Two dancers would open the show with their respective solos, and then join me at the end of Act 1 for the cane dance and "Parade of Props."  Then the third -- a Master Teacher who had been dancing for 25 years or more -- would open the second act.

During the months' long run, we had a stunning variety of Master Teachers, including the legendary Morocco -- who is the dance historian I quote in the show -- and internationally known dancers such as Nourhan Sharif, Rayhana, JehanShoshana, Dalia Carella, Layla Mary, Aszmara, and Altagracia Bruno.

And nearly each show had some bizarre catastrophe usually involving theater drama which were resolved in unexpected-to-miraculous ways -- like the dressing rooms were inexplicably locked (I jimmied them with an old credit card I'd forgotten to throw out), or the CD player had been stolen from the booth by the prior theater group (an audience member happened to have a portable CD player!). And on and on.

The one with the CD player was especially strange. It was the night Morocco was set to perform and she arrived with her music only on CD. A few other minor things had gone wrong that evening and we had just resolved them, and when that happened, I had that moment of internal collapse, somewhere between "I give up" and "somehow this will work out."

I went out to buy the wine for concession and passed my mother who was just arriving. "Is everything OK?" she asked. "I can't even..." I shook my head.

When I returned, Morocco brandished the portable CD player with a grin. "It's OK!" she beamed, "We got it!!"

My tech Alex plugged it in, we did our quick sound and light check and we were good to go!!

And show after show this sort of thing would happen ... it was as though the lesson I needed to learn was that no matter what, this show would go on!!!

With that in mind, I contacted my Florida sponsor, Rita Van Trump, and asked if she'd like to put together the show in this new format -- with local dancers joining me for for the very first time.

This meant a bunch of people I had never met in my life, who had probably not seen the show two years before, and had no idea who I was would commit to learning a complex cane dance as well as the comedic bits for the Parade of Props.

"So, can we do this?" I asked?

"Oh yes we can!" was her resounding reply.

Continued  in Part 2....