Risky Business

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 11:10 AM


"You never regret taking a risk,"* I whisper to myself as my hand reaches for the theater room** door. I am in the basement of Hall A and I am getting nervous. This is silly. I push the door open.

Three faces turn to greet me. "Hola," one says.

"Hola," I respond and walk to join them on the couches. To our left is the stage: an unimpressive wooden structure with black sheets strung up on poles at the back. I take in my surroundings. The concrete walls. The bookshelf of props. The ash tray. And most of my nerves disappear. This place is far from intimidating.

The "casting" proceeds. More people join us. We talk about the theater and do a few improv activities***. It starts to feel more like a casual meeting than an auditon of any sorts. Maybe we all just make it into the group no matter what...okay...cool. I start feeling confident.

Then we have to read scenes. The confidence begins to evaporate. The man who I assume is a director of sorts refers to it as a "prueba"****. The word makes me nervous. Several people already have the scene memorized. I have about 20 seconds to look at the paper before I begin. My partner and I go last.

And...I think I understand what is happening in the scene. And that's about it. So I just try to have the appropriate emotion and gesturing at the right time, speak the words clearly and correctly, and feign confidence.

After the reading, it seems like the meeting-quasi-audition is over. The three people who seem to be in charge(ish) approach me.

"So you've done theater before? I can tell by the way you express yourself."**** Big smiles are on all of their faces.

I laugh a little. "Thanks...I just need to make my Spanish better."

"No, no. It's good!"

Another nervous laugh. "Well...thanks."

"So we'll be in touch?"

"Good. See you later."

Our short conversation recharges my confidence. And as I exit the room I whisper again. "You never regret taking a risk." And I smile as I walk up the stairs, proceede down the street, buy some shampoo, and head home.

*This has become my new motto. It has forced me to: 1. Do more challenging climbing routes. 2. Fall on said climbing routes. 3. Ask strangers if I can join them in their Frisbee toss. 4. Go to a dinner party with said strangers. 5. Join a hiking group called, "Una ruta, Un cafe". 6. Go on a camping trip with 9 people I'd never met with said hiking group. 7. Go to a fair trade/local food co-op. 8. Talk to the woman at said co-op about how to get involved....And more.
**Yes, it's a room. Just a room.
***Which were awesome. Especially the one where we grabbed random objects, put them in a pile, and then each person had to make a scene using each object. I asked if I could do it in English. They, of course, obliged. I proceeded to improv this monologue as a slightly crazy perhaps drunk woman who sits in the cafe all day and talks about the magic sunglasses she found. And even though most didn't speak English, every single person laughed at least twice. (I think.)
****A word, in this context, I associate with "quiz"
*****This conversation was in Spanish. I translate.

Where have all the artists gone?

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 3:54 AM


"Where have all the artists gone?" I wondered out loud as the ending credits of Vicky Cristina Barcelona rolled on my laptop screen. I'm in Spain. People are supposed to be the ultimate free spirits. I should be surrounded by beat poets, painters, and romantic actresses. Where are they? Where is that smoky cafe where I go to philosophize about art and love?

I shook my head and laughed my stereotyping. But I'm sure they're here somewhere -- I guess I'll just give it time.

An answer came a few days later. Having come down with a bit of a cold*, I was trading in the exciting night life of Oviedo for a quiet evening with a movie and some music. I started chatting with a friend of a friend about a film festival happening in a few weeks.

"Si...pero mi primer amor es el teatro. Pero no puedo descubrir teatro aqui...donde estan los artistas?"** I asked him, hoping a native Spaniard would be able to help me in my search.***

He had a real answer.

He informed me that those who govern Oviedo don't really support the arts and have no inclination to foster and encourage new artists. The only successful arts-centered lobbyists are the rich and posh ones who ask for the opera. Therefore, the opera is a big deal in Oviedo, everything else, not so much.**** And that was that.

But, he informed me, there are artists in the area. They congregate in clubs and bars - like the one he works in - and I should come some time and he'll introduce me. He also gave me information on the campus theater group which he has been a part of and encouraged me to attend the casting in a couple weeks.***** Done and done.

As we settled in to watch the movie, my mind was still on the arts in Oviedo. I was excited to have new places to look, but distracted by the fact that the government could have such an effect on art. It is all political, isn't it?******

I began to think about Chapel Hill and Carborro and the comparatively thriving art scene there. How much of that is made possible by the government (and university) support, and how much of it is independent? Could it exist as it does without that support? If those in power didn't care, didn't want it, could they impede it?

I think so.

I started to get that nervous excited feeling when I find something to be passionate about. When I find something I am craving to learn more about. When I find something that I want to change.

Later, after watching Will Smith face continually terrible life situations and somehow come out on top*******, a friend picked up his guitar and started pick out notes. I grabbed a pen and drawing pad and threw out some sketches, pretending that I was an artist.

And I realized art is here. In this living room of this 3rd floor flat. The music played in the air and moved my pen to write. Hot tea, a hoody, and the late hour and I found myself composing beautiful things.

As I walked home I smiled. Yes, I've found some artists. And it's time to do some research in the smoky clubs and bars I've imagined.

*Don't worry, Mom, I'm not that sick.
**Yes...but my first love is the theater. But I can't find theater here...where are the artists?
***I didn't honestly expect him to have an answer. I threw out the comment with an overly-dramatic air as a sort of half joke, half serious comment. I'm working on my ability to tell jokes in Spanish.
****Nothing against the opera at all. I went to the opera this week and saw Tosca. It was beautiful. 6 euros. I plan to see them all.
*****Apparently all I have to do is show up and I'm in. This conveniently takes away the stress of having to improv a monologue in Spanish. Because improving monologues seems to be my ticket to getting a part.
******See Agustus Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed.
*******Seriously, that movie stresses me out.

Think fast

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 7:53 AM


My cellphone's buzz shakes me awake out of my nice siesta*. I don't recognize the number so I answer in Spanish.


"Hola!" That's all I really can catch. Then the voice on the other line starts to rapidly rush thorough what I'm assuming is his name and his purpose for calling.


He then responds a bit slower. As I become more and more awake, I'm starting to realize that he is explaining that he got my number from Monica at the International Relations office and that I'm teaching private English lessons and how much do they cost?

This is a surprise. My mind tries to keep up. English. I can teach that. Lessons. I can earn money. I wanted to sign up for teaching English anyways. Pretend. Fast. Pretend.

I explain that I merely didn't realize Monica was giving out my number, but that I was definitely willing to teach. As for payment, it depends on his level of English, how many classes he wants, and that I'd have to think about it.

A few minutes later I close my phone and shake my head. Looks like I might be an English teacher now.

I laugh a chagrined laugh. I suppose the disorganization of this University can work to my benefit sometimes.*** I don't know where Monica got the idea that I was teaching English, but here I am.

Now I just have to decide how much to charge. Oh, and figure out how to teach English as a second language. Yea. That too.

*Well, actually it wasn't that nice. The noise on the street was keeping me from sleeping.
**Wait, wait. What?
***Versus just this morning when I was informed that, even though it was their fault I signed up for the wrong class, they wouldn't give me a refund. So perhaps this is a way for me to earn back the 100 euros they made me spend.

Benches and blackbirds

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 10:13 AM


The large black dog stands up on his hind legs, puts his front paws on the water fountain, and promptly begins to drink. I laugh a bit to myself from my park bench, my new refuge. Park benches are the perfect place for me to retreat whenever I feel overwhelmed.

For example, after the bank informed me that I wouldn't be able to get cash from my newly opened account until Monday - leaving me with 20 euros for a week* - I practically ran to the park.

I'm not sure what it is about the benches, maybe it's just in the simple act of sitting and watching, but they make me feel secure and rooted. And they provide a perfect vantage point from which I can glimpse quick vignettes into other lives.

A couple walks their child down the path with slight frowns affixed firmly to their faces. Not a word or a look passes between them. They just keep pushing the posh baby carriage with it's pink parasol attachment. I glance between them and the soft young mother who sits with me on the bench. She constantly coos and chats with her small baby.

I look up at the couple and to the right at the mother. She seems to fit the role better. The others form a triangle of discontent.

The sound of bells break my thoughts. I think I'm in Chapel Hill for a moment.** I glance at the statues with a start and realize that I am in Spain. That's strange. Very strange.

I pick up my pen to write. "...And I think, Okay, I've learned my lesson. Now let me come home. But I can't. And I won't."

I breathe in a full breath and once more close my eyes to feel the solidness of the bench under me.

Lifting myself up, I plug my headphones into my ears. The Beatles'*** "Blackbird" comes on. I start to walk and have to pull my notebook back out. I feel distinctly that they are singing about me.****

The song echos, "All your life; you were only waiting for this moment to arise." I laugh at myself a bit for my sentimentality, jot down the moment, and play the song again.

Which will be fine. I just have to hold off on big purchases like a notebook and a new carribeaner and a harness. And closely monitor my going-out adventures.
**Chapel Hill, who I couldn't wait to leave. Now I realize how good you are to me.
***The Beatles are my new soundtrack right now. Many thanks to those of you who enhanced my Beatles collection (and affinity for their music) before I left.
****Don't you love when that happens?