Thursday, 25 October 2012

Just clowning around.

This semester, I'm studying the module 'Popular Performance'; it consists of several weeks' studying of the various types of current performance, specifically comedy including stand up, sketches and... Clowning.

The words 'The Clown' have never seemed so daunting as they did when my friend and I read them on the Learning Network the week before starting lectures. I believe our exact words were: "we have to be clowns?! We have to actually study clowning and BE CLOWNS? Mate, fuck that!" It was terrifying. The thought of having to be deliberately funny in front of a room full of our friends and fellow students (and a select few who dislike us)? Surely that is a reality we'd never willingly face. Yet a week later we found ourselves traipsing along to our first lecture, slightly hungover as per usual and filled with terror...

Clowning is actually unexpectedly awesome. We're looking at Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, The Young Ones, Morecambe and Wise, etc., our lecturers are a theatre pro and a former clown (from clown trio Zippo & Co, as we discovered today), and the whole "being funny" thing isn't really that scary. There are all kinds of views on clowns being considered funny, and how they go about being funny; "the comedian tells the joke, the clown IS the joke."
   Our lecturer told us "don't try to be funny", which is perfect because I personally feel that the moment people really try to be funny, they're at their least funny - y'know? People never seem to understand when I say: "people are funniest when they're not trying to be." I find my friends most hilarious when we're just sitting around talking. I'll be in hysterics for ages over a comment someone made in a conversation, but I'll watch a comedian for a few hours and mostly I'll just smile... Maybe I'm just strange. But this clowning thing makes sense to me.

This week we had to bring in a jacket (one we "wouldn't normally wear"), a hat and a prop of some kind. I opted for my bestie's tweed jacket, a Fedora that someone randomly chucked at me during BOP a few weeks ago, and a newspaper as my prop. We were given the option to wear a red nose today (the "clown man" lecturer brought two egg boxes full of them) and in duos or trios we worked out a clowning routine. Mine consisted of dropping the newspaper and scattering the pages then reading it upside down, losing my partner's hat when it was actually stuck on my foot, trying to follow dance steps and failing, finding a red nose in my jacket pocket and being so indescribably happy when putting it on... It seemed to go well. Everyone else in my lectures is amazing; we saw two clowns in love, three falling about and injuring one another, two fighting over a newspaper, a duo attempting a dance, and a clown couple leading a tour, among other things. Our lecturer even said at the end of the session: "you're all almost too good. It's surprising. You've set the standard now; I'm really impressed."

After every clown lecture, we've all left with our various bits and bobs of clown paraphernalia stuffed in our bags or in our arms - or if you're me, wearing the jacket and silly hat all the way home. My friend does the same, and I think it's for the same reason - we don't want to say goodbye to our clown characters. My silly, slow, smiley clown chick is so much fun to mess around with, and I hate saying goodbye to her when I leave the studio, so I keep her with me the whole way home.

Friday, 19 October 2012

My Resolutions: The Story So Far.

Back in July, while at home and desperately homesick for university, I compiled a list of New Year's Resolutions to be taken into consideration when I started my second year. Well, here I am. It's been a month, and already I think I've crossed a few off my list...

1. Join a sports team.
I've finally joined Ultimate Frisbee, after a year of umm'ing and ahh'ing over it. I obviously love it just as much as I'd imagined I would, and I've already started my ongoing mission to be the best player ever. I'd forgotten, in these past few years of not playing any sport, just how competitive I can be. 
Also, I definitely missed running around; strange, considering I used to be the girl at high school who would fake a "girly pain" to get out of a PE lesson five minutes in (then hide in the toilets for the remaining hour). I may just be a newbie at the moment, but I'd really like to get to the standard of the guys and girls who've been playing for over a year, and be a valued team member.

2. Be in more Student Scene videos.
The Student Scene are, as I've mentioned before, a fun-loving group of people who just happen to be paid by the university to put on parties at the SU and take photos of us students when we're a little worse for wear and dressed in the most ridiculous outfits. One of the first things I did when coming back to university was buy a wireless Student Scene Access Card, which enables me to attend all their events with just a swipe as I walk in; best £15 I have ever spent. I attended their American House Party a few weeks ago, basically just a night of boozing and Beer Pong played by students in American flag leggings and shorts, and had yet another awesome night. As usual, the fellas were wandering around the dancefloor with their video cameras, and after several failed attempts to get their attention I actually walked up to one cameraman and told him about my New Year's Resolution to be in more of their videos; he said "you have to bust some serious moves!" then asked if my friends and I would be comfortable messing around with one another for the camera. I'm not proud of it (I am), but hey, I got in the video!

See me make my cameo at 1:14 and 1:21! I'm the one with the red lipstick and the fringe.

3. Do my housework and take care of my bedroom.
At the present moment, I'm sitting at my desk in my little room with an airer next to me totally overloaded with wet laundry, my bed is stripped, my washing up is done, I've taken out the recyclables and I'm setting aside an hour or two tomorrow to use the dryers on campus - because I found out the hard way that a house with no heating whatsoever means damp clothes hung everywhere for a week before they are wearable. My bedroom has had so much time and love poured into it over the past few weeks, and also a lot of money spent on it. I have posters, fairy lights, patterned throws, more posters, stacks of books and DVDs, pretty bedding and more posters. My jars are sitting on the windowsill, my desk is covered in girly magazines and everything smells sweet thanks to a couple of £1.50 scented candles. I think I've done well with this resolution, at least so far. We'll see how the place looks in a few months, when my assignments are due.

7. Don't be a slut.

Now, this was by no means the hardest resolution to make and has proved almost too easy to keep; so far only my friends have seen the inside of my little bedroom and no fellas have been "all up on this" (a term my friend genuinely uses daily). As a rule, I don't "get with" people on a night out, as we should all know by now, and indeed I will only do so much as kiss someone when I have a good enough reason to. For instance, last night at Carnage one item on my Carnage Checklist was "Pull 5 Randoms", and although I hate/don't understand the whole concept of pulling, I guess a kiss or two counts, right?
I'm definitely still too naive to be in danger of becoming a slut.

8. Keep my friends.

I did have some rotten luck with friends last year; I fell in with the wrong crowd, I lost a few of my closest friends from home (and I am still unsure why)... So far this year I am maintaining my existing friendships, and making even more. I'm also really fighting for my friendships - something I should have done more of last year.

11. Don't get homesick.

So far, I have only felt that pulling feeling in my chest when thinking about home a couple of times. I saw my family last weekend when they came up to visit me, and I call them fairly regularly just to catch up and hear the latest news. I've even introduced the concept of FaceTime to them all - it's blown many minds. Although of course I'll always miss home when I'm not there, I'm so busy lately that I don't have as much time to sit around and miss it like I did last year. I'm only going back once before the Christmas holidays, and I intend to make the most of it, really get my fix.

12. Take more photos.

I am the girl with the camera. A girl actually recognized me last night due to the photos she's seen uploaded onto Facebook - "you're the girl with the wicked photos!" That's me. I was in my element last week when we had a Mad Hatter's Tea Party; there were over a hundred photos of our amazing friendship group all dressed up and drinking vodka out of cups labelled 'Drink Me'. I also have started taking photos on my phone - oh, the wonders of the iPhone! It's a whole new world!

 13. Hang out.

I'm walking up and down Stanmore Lane several times a week, visiting friends and hanging out. Last week I got the bus to my friends' house straight from work to watch some Saturday night TV, and the other night I was round there making pasta. I'll use any excuse to walk up or down the road to see people. However, I do love my own house, too. I've spent a few evenings cotching on the sofa with my housemates watching Gilmore Girls with cups of tea and dinner.

14. Make more effort.

I like to think that so far this year I've made a massive amount of effort everywhere I can... I went crazy over referencing and sourcing documents and articles for my first assignment, I'm working extremely hard at both my jobs, I have To Do lists and timetables stuck up on my wardrobe and my mini Pukka pad is already almost full after just four weeks of lectures.Although, all my efforts are not necessarily in the academic or careers field. I spent three days working on a costume for my friend's Alice In Wonderland-themed birthday party; I bought fabric pens and plain white clothes, cut out card and drew on whiskers, and spent a whole day sitting on the floor of my living room working my way through three discs of Gilmore Girls and colouring in my white clothes with pink and purple stripes. I was the best and most committed Cheshire Cat there ever was.

15. Take more risks.
I've not taken as many risks as I'd like over the past couple of months, however the few I have taken have been big'uns. I auditioned for a play called 'When It Rains Gasoline', and somehow got a part. I applied for three jobs, got offers from them all, and accepted two. I auditioned for a musical, just because I never had before and I thought it'd be a giggle. I sang in front of people (this IS a big deal). I made a video and put it on YouTube. I told someone how I really felt. I used milk that was past its use-by date.

This year is already going better than last. I'm actually working hard, and I only realised the other day just how many Resolutions I've already ticked off. Is this a sign of things to come? I certainly hope so. Keep your fingers crossed for me...


Hi, my name's Gracie. I live in a beautiful little city, I have two jobs, I'm currently rehearsing for a play, YouTube is my main distraction, dark Chocolate Oranges are my weakness, laundry is the bane of my existence, I've realised auditions aren't that scary, blogging is my occupation of choice, I miss driving, John Green is perfect in my eyes, I'm teaching my housemate to love Gilmore Girls, my little sister is my little rock, I own a hip flask that says 'Girls With Class Don't Need A Glass' on it, I'm going to Australia for the eighth time next year, Ultimate Frisbee is becoming a big part of my life, I have eight jars collecting coins on my windowsill, my shower is extremely temperamental, Carrie Hope Fletcher is teaching me a lot, I'm counting down the days until Christmas, I'm actually busy all the time now, and it's different.

I do one of these posts every month.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Joshua: Now on a first-name basis.

There are times when something so purely perfect happens, that it takes you a while to discuss it and you need a few hours, or days, to let it all sink in before you feel you can talk (or in this case, write) about it. For example, saying "Hello" to your ultimate idol, seeing your favourite artist live in concert, or meeting the love of your life... All of these moments need a designated amount of time to get your head around and quietly enjoy by yourself before you can do anything else.
   Two weeks ago, I experienced all of the above at once.

On the 26th September 2012, I traveled to London for the day to see Joshua Radin live at KOKO, Camden. This was the third time I attended one of his UK gigs; in 2010 I was at the front row on Brighton seafront, 2011 I was squealing in Shepherds Bush, and this year I went that one step further...
   I received the tickets (plus his new album) for my 19th birthday this summer. Then a few weeks later, I was emailed with the chance to "upgrade" my ticket, which would entitle me to an exclusive pre-show performance, plus some freebies and a Meet & Greet with the man himself. The sensible person hidden deep within me said: "that's a lot of money, is it really worth it?" and the fangirl I keep close to the surface when it comes to Joshua Radin screamed: "of course it is, idiot!" in response. So I parted with my babysitting money and started a countdown clock on my phone: 35 days until Joshua.

The main concern of mine in the weeks leading up to the show was: what do I say to him? For years I've listened to his albums on repeat in my bedroom, referred to him as just "Joshua", and fantasized about what it would be like to meet him. Maybe he'd fall madly in love with me, whisk me away to California and write me a song with my name in.
   I was reminded of Caitlin Moran's views on celebrity crushes: "don't say anything to him! Try to remember it only happened in your head! You have nothing actual to reminisce about!" Oh, right. I should probably just say something casual and generic when I meet him, I wouldn't want to freak him out. But I also want to make an impression; I want him to remember me...

Two of the best nights of my life have been nights spent at Joshua gigs. I wanted to share the experience with as many of my favourite people as possible; I took my then-boyfriend to the show in Brighton two years ago; my Dad last year and my Mum came with me this year. I still have yet to take my little sister with me, sadly she couldn't come this time because it was a school night. Not cool.
   I also met one of my favourite people at the gig this year: Mary Ennis, AKA @boddahkurdt of Twitter, my fellow Joshua superfan and an all around cool chick. We both purchased the upgrade package and agreed to meet at the venue before the pre-show; I was ridiculously excited to meet an online friend for the first time, as sometimes I feel that my online friends know me just as well (if not better) than my everyday friends.

So there we both were, in a box on the second level watching our man soundchecking and chatting to his band onstage, both swept up in the moment, so much so that we didn't speak to one another for a while. It was so amazingly nice to be in the company of someone who not only understands my love for Joshua, but also shares it. We had been talking in the lobby before the pre-show, waiting to go in, when we heard one crystal-clear note ring out from behind the doors. Everyone gathered in the room, us upgraders, fell silent. Now clustered around the KOKO balcony, staring at the stage, we were still silent and very much in awe. I was again struck by the amazing versatility of Joshua's voice, and the drastic change between his speaking and singing; when he speaks, he's deep and silky-smooth, talking about his love of whiskey and memories of Ohio, and when he sings he's angelic and hushed at a high volume, singing about love, loss of innocence and bad timing.
   He's joking around with his tour manager and the band, and fiddling with his guitar as he plays verses and choruses of certain songs. My camera nearly fell out of my hand when I heard the opening notes to 'The Greenest Grass', my favourite Joshua song of the moment. I waited patiently, camera extended, for my favourite lyric: "I am a lucky man, to recognize your grace"; guess why that's my favourite? No, not just because it has my name in, geeezz. Because it's a lovely message on it's own: recognize your grace. Remember how amazing you are, don't settle for less than you deserve - these are the messages I choose to interpret from it. After playing a snippet of the song, Joshua called out behind him: "I think that sounded good?" To which the tour manager replied: "That sounded amazing. That's my favourite, that one." Joshua laughed and said: "you sap."
   We all received our free Tour 2012 T-shirts, then waited anxiously, hearts pounding, as our fella was brought up to see us. Hi, Joshua. He went around shaking everyone's hands (all eight of us), asking each of us our names. He came to me, shook my hand and I said "I'm Grace."
"Hey Grace, it's so great to meet you." His smile could stop time. And it had made me shy. I just kept on smiling back. We all had a chat with him, as a group, joking about the awful British weather and telling him how amazing the pre-show sounded, then our friend the tour manager said: "does anyone want photos or autographs?" It felt so strange, like he was being whored out, but we didn't mind at all. Everyone whipped out their tickets and notebooks, and several girls had, like me, brought their nicest DSLRs in order to ensure the best photos possible. Bless him, he signed everything that was pushed at him, and smiled away in every photo, and even recorded a message for one girl's friend in Australia. When it looked like I was next, I asked in a tiny voice "is it my turn now?", and shuffled over to him with my ticket, my notebook and my camera. He signed my ticket "Grace - XO", and listened to my silly request; "Can you please write down my favourite lyric for me? I'll probably stick it on my wall or get it tattooed..." He looked more than happy, as I happen to know he loves it when fans get his lyrics inked, took my notebook and asked which lyric. Recognize your grace. "Ahhh, I see what you did there!"
"It was definitely a happy moment for me, hearing that lyric for the first time," I may have giggled a little. He wrote it down perfectly, signed it underneath, and then asked if I wanted a photo. By this point, I was finding it hard to breathe and the fangirl inside me was having palpitations. I got my photo; two, in fact, one with him and one of Mary and I with him. Arms around each others' waists. Wow.
   We were all sad to see him go; he left with "I hope you dig the show," and "make sure you check out Scars On 45, my special guests. They're Brits, I can't understand a word they're saying but their music is amazing."

I met my Mum in a gorgeous pub for dinner, The Lyttelton Arms, for an endless stream of vegetarian tapas and worryingly bottomless glasses of red wine (hers) and Jack Daniels (mine). We joked about the cute bartender fancying me as I handed him my camera battery to charge for the show; I got his number after dinner, after we'd spent a good half hour standing in the toilet listening to a random girl sing her heart out to us and explain how desperately she wants to be a superstar... It was a typical tipsy pre-gig evening adventure, one I'm sure Joshua could write a beautiful song about.

The show was amazing. I say "amazing", for lack of a better word. Having seen him live twice before, I knew this would be a night to remember. Joshua Radin is one of those exceptionally rare artists in that not only are all his songs heartfelt, personally penned and devastatingly beautiful, but his performances are always just as personal and sweet as his music. Between each song, he says a few words (and sometimes those few words can make up a whole essay) about his life and the next song he'll be playing. I could close my eyes and marvel over his smooth transitions between speaking and singing, or watch his face as he recalls a particularly happy or deeply intimate memory, all night long.
   I realised just how much of a fangirl I was when I found myself whispering song titles into Mum's ear when he started telling the accompanying story; e.g. he says "so I grew up in this little suburb in Ohio...", and I immediately whisper: "The Rock And The Tide." I giggled along with the crowd as he told us about a girl named Katy who let him down after he'd written her name into a song, so he changed the lyric to "baby". I sighed when he told me (for the second time) about his Friday nights at the roller rink in Ohio trying to decide which girl he wanted to hold hands with, and smiled knowingly when he told us about the pressure of playing at a wedding - he played at Ellen Degeneres' wedding a few years ago, and was recently asked to write a song for his sister's, and obviously the song was stunning even though he thinks he'll find it hard to get through it while watching his sister and dad dance together on the day.

I was amazed when he started telling us about his personal connection with London. It was like one night this summer when Dave Grohl told the crowd just how much he loves Reading Festival and how he's performed there several times over twenty-three years... Joshua's first trip abroad with his music was to London, after receiving requests on MySpace to play in the UK for us Brits. He paid for the trip himself, since his label wasn't so keen on the idea at the time, and he played a few nights in pubs and bars for his clusters of fans from across the pond; he told us how much he loves hearing crowds singing his lyrics back to him in a different accent to his, how humbling and amazing it is.

I was babbling away in my mother's ear about how incredible Joshua is and how clear and genuine his voice is when it's ringing through the air just a few feet away from you... Bless her, she humoured me. Cut to several songs in, the coats are off and we're both waving our hands in the air, eyes closed and shouting along to 'The Ones With The Light'; we will never change, I like that we are kinda strange.

Songs from all across the albums were played. His tragedy of timing song, 'You Got Growin' Up To Do', the very famous song he has a love-hate relationship with 'I'd Rather Be With You', the new'uns such as 'Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better' and 'Let It Go', plus some less-known tracks 'Where You Belong' (the London-inspired song), 'In Her Eyes' and bluegrass attempt/success 'She's So Right'. And of course, he played 'Closer' and 'Winter'. Two classics, and two of my dozen or so favourites.
   I remember Joshua saying in Brighton two years ago how as an artist at your gig, you want to play your new stuff as well as the oldies, but as a fan at the gig you want to hear the ones you grew up with and know all the words to. So he tries to do a mixture for us, and for himself. Thanks, darling. We appreciate it.

Now Joshua, it was more wonderful than even the best writers could describe, seeing you live for the third time. Yet another night of my life. And it was just a dream come true, meeting you, shaking your hand and hearing you say "Hey Grace".
   See you soon.

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