I spent a few days sick in bed, which was very frustrating. Especially since I was very keen on continuing my regular jogs along the East River. I’ve taken advantage of my free time in New York to build a running habit. I joined a running club about two months ago in Montreal and I was afraid I would lack the motivation to continue here. But it has proved a wonderful way to see the city and start my days. While I was staying with my friend Dustin in Gramercy Park, I was just minutes away from the East River and could run along it all the way down to quaint, cobblestoned South Street. There I would enjoy a cup of coffee and a bagel before taking the subway back. I loved running past the many bridges and boats and since the run took me through Chinatown, I passed many elderly Chinese along the path doing their daily stretches and exercises, which reminded me very much of my time in China.
During my time at my friend Alex’ place (who has a beautiful view by the way), I ran on the broad boardwalk along the Hudson river and the views are perhaps even more stunning. As my time here is coming to its end, I’m realizing that these urban runs were one of my favourite aspects of this trip.
Last week-end was significant because I completed the second and final week-end of my course at HB Studio. The second week-end involved more exercises and scene readings. It was incredibly fun, especially with this particular group of people and I even felt during one particular exercise that I had reached a new level in my craft. Outside of class, I spent some time with a remarkable Brazilian actress and theatre producer. She told me about the play that made her company famous and blew me away by showing me some videos of its opening act. A woman in a wedding gown is repelling her way down a building in the middle of a crowded town square and the unsuspecting bystanders have no idea what’s happening. As they get hooked into the action, an entire play unfolds before them. Talk about bringing theatre to the people rather than bringing people to the theatre! After ten eventful years with this company, Liz decided to start a new life for herself here in New York. What an interesting time in her life! I was grateful to have the chance to share stories with her.
I also went back again to audit my friend’s acting class. As we went for drinks after, I politely offered my notes to some of the actors whose scenes I had watched and they seemed to find them very helpful. This reaffirmed my vocation as a director. When I am not acting, there is very little else that brings me as much joy as directing. I hope to have more opportunities for it in the near future.
A few evenings ago, despite a bad cold, I went to see a Broadway musical: Spring Awakening. The adaptation was unique in that it was produced by NY Deaf Theatre and was entirely translated into sign language. The leads signed and other actors lent them their voices. Sign language was incorporated into all the dances and choreography. How moving it was to see deaf and non-deaf actors working together in a seamless ensemble! The music was not always to my liking, but I think it’s an important piece nonetheless. It deals with teenagers discovering their sexuality and individuality in the very strict context of the late 1800s in Germany.
The following day, I had the great pleasure of attending a SAG screening of Suffragette, thanks to my friend Emma. All I can say is: see this movie. Not only is it beautiful and moving and tells the incredible story of the brave women who sacrificed everything to demand equal rights at the beginning of the century; but it was also written, directed and produced by women. Those who know the film industry understand how revolutionary that is, even in 2015. The lead actress was one of my favourites of my generation: Carey Mulligan. As ever, she was simple, strong and moving. And she was there! She gave a Q&A at the end of the screening and I was so excited to be a few feet away from a great film star. Seeing her in person was a bit strange, because she is just that: a person, a regular person. She had a wonderful demeanor and a rich beautiful voice, but other than that, she was quite normal. I suppose that’s reassuring in a way.
Last night, I attended another screening with Emma for Tarantino’s latest film: The Hateful Eight. I have a feeling I will remember this evening for a long time. It began with waiting in line for an hour in the rain with no umbrella and walking into the theatre soaked to my underwear. The theatre, of course, was air-conditioned so I felt like a wet rag in the refrigerator. I took off my socks and sweater so they would hopefully dry, but my pants and tank tops were still soaking. The film did not start right away, but for a very exciting reason. The 3 hour movie was entirely shot on 70mm film which is exceedingly rare (the industry standard is 35mm). So rare, that the Weinstein company bought special projectors to be installed in theatres throughout the country just so that this film could be screened as it should be. The projector in question was encountering technical difficulty. But the room was filled with professional actors and directors who, despite being soaking wet, were excited and willing to wait an extra hour for the picture to be ready. The room was full of excitement and good humour. Emma and I soon discovered that two of the movie’s actors, who were invited for the subsequent Q&A were sitting DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF US! Kurt Russel was in the seat in front of Emma and Walton Goggins was in front of me. Because of the technical delays, they offered to do the Q&A and tell stories while we were waiting, along with two of the producers. What a delight! They were all so charming and gracious and told wonderful stories about the film and their experience working with Tarantino. We were prepped in the best possible way to watch this film! By the time the movie finally started, we were even more attentive to its details. One of the amusing albeit painful things about the evening was that the film is set in a freezing blizzard in Wyoming and Emma and I were still soaked and chilled to the bone. We hugged for warmth during the film. At intermission, we got paper towel from the bathroom to stuff into our clothes for warmth. But that only made it all more memorable! During the film, another of the actors, Jennifer Jason Leigh, came and sat in the row in front of us. We got to watch the actors whisper to each other and laugh and enjoy watching their own film. That was probably the best part of it all for me. I took away from it all the sheer joy they found in their work and that joy and pride was contagious. I’m still moved by it as I write these words.