Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over

So much to say, folks.  This has been a hell of a week with a hell of a weekend.  I'm experiencing so much love and emotion winding this program down.  I'm getting to the point where the oddest little things can set me off thinking about leaving this paradise.  We finished all of our regular classes this week.  No telling how my Italian final went; still waiting on grades from that.  The dreaded philosophy paper was handed back with a pleasantly surprising grade... It was nice to see that after living in the heavily creative world for the past 3 months, I still had that ability to knock out a solid academic essay. 

So, where to start.  I guess I'll continue filling you all in on mask-making.  When last we left off, our Zanni mask was a positive mold of plaster.  So this week, we got to add the leather!  First, you have to soak the leather in warm water for about half an hour, wringing it and stretching it every five minutes or so.
Torbjorn, our amazing teacher.

Soaking the leather

Wringing the leather.

Next, you we put the leather on the mold and start to work it onto the shape, nailing it into place along the way.
Putting the leather on!

Nailing on the leather

They kind of start to look scary in this stage.

Yeah looks voodoo-ish
Then ensues the several hours of mandatory Tuscan sunshine in which you use tools made of wood and bone to really work your leather onto the mold and polish it into place.  So, basically, this week was largely spent socializing with good friends in the green grass of our lovely Tuscan villa in the outstanding spring weather.  Not at all a bad gig if I do say so myself.  We also spent a great deal of that time practicing acrobatics and frolicking, because that's what we do best:
Gettin' silly with Pantalone

And with Zanni.

Just getting silly in general.
video
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When the leather has dried enough, you cut the mask off the mold and dry the inside more with a hair dryer.  It's then the most delicate step, cutting and gluing the nose into place.  Our nose ended up being the most difficult of the bunch, with a whopping three cuts in it.  Luckily, the final product hardly shows them.
Drying Jonny-Zanni

Cutting Bonnie-Zanni
Then come the finishing stages of endless application of layers of shellac and the cutting of the edges and eye holes. the string is the last part of construction, and then you can paint it.

I am of course sharing a mold with Jonny and Rachel, so I volunteered to have the third mask.  I kind of regret this decision, because the hardest steps of their masks were completed when Torbjorn was still here and could supervise/rescue.  I only just put the leather on when he left, so the most delicate steps still lie ahead of me and I'm incredibly worried about screwing it up somehow.  But, the good thing is I have no one waiting on the mold after me so I'm taking my time and hoping if I work slow enough I won't make as many mistakes.

On Wednesday, the last official day of mask-making, Torbjorn had us do a "parade" of sorts to show our masks.  I'm really going to miss him; he had such a helpful, positive presence and had very nice things to say about our work.
Cloteal, David, and Stuart?  Or two Capitanos and Scapino?

2 Pantalones... Ben's already painted his!


Love him.

Hippied out, working on Ronnie-Zanni (that's mine!)

Wednesday night was our final cabaret performance.  This was one of my favorite nights here, and a perfect ending showcase to our time here.  The acts were each so heartfelt, many hilarious.

The founding director of the school, Scott McGehee, had his son in town and they, along with Ben, did a very funny original song with Ben and his son playing Pantalones.  They were hysterical.

Elena and I had developed the idea for our act after hearing Fred Buscaglione's "Eri Piccola Cosi" in our Italian class.  We soon realized it was a bit of a ridiculous idea, and that we were guaranteed to look like idiots.  We considered just dropping out several times, but of course, my immortal Davis and Yarshall words of "Go big or go home" got the better of me, and we went for it.  We embrace the fact that we are really the goofy idiots of this program, and I couldn't be happier to fill that role.  The act ended up a great success, and we were complimented a lot for our comedic timing and presence.  I'm so glad we did it.  Here's the whole act if you're interested:
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Jonny took the house down in his debut "Shimmer" performance.  He was planning on doing "Be Italian" from the musical 9, which would have been wonderful, but a few days before he had the stroke of genius to rewrite the song from "Be Italian" to "Be Capacci," as a tribute to our wonderful director of student services and our savior throughout this experience, Monica Capacci.  It was hilarious and spot-on.  Monica loved it, as did the rest of the crowd.  This is a short clip from it:
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Trevor and Elena originally planned to do the heartfelt rendition of "For Good" from Wicked to sum up the strong friendship they have forged here.  During the rehearsal process they found Trevor much more comfortable with singing when he was doing acrobatics, distracting him from thinking too hard about the notes.  Thus, the act became my favorite of the night: a comedic rendition of the song with dangerous and ridiculous acrobatics.  I was crying I was laughing so hard, as I'm sure you can hear in the video.  It really sums up my relationship with these two throughout the semester:
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The lovely BU girls did a beautiful four-part harmony song with Kira, accompanied by Ben on guitar.  My camera had started running low on battery by this point, so I only got a little bit of it, but it was outstanding:
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One of the dancers, Rebecca, is also a very talented singer and songwriter.  Jeremy danced to one of her songs in this act.  He is so amazingly talented.  Short clip:

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Kathryn, our token musician, wrote a piece throughout the semester to reflect on our time here.  The "ADA orchestra," which I was a part of, performed it and most of the performance can be seen here:
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Other great acts included marvelous original songs, poems, dances and more.
Rachael and Kathryn duet

David and Danielle doing some awesome improv dancing

"Philoso-rappers" sketch


Aubrey singing the heartfelt song about Jim Henson

Kevin Brouder: Stand-up extraordinaire

Elena playing guitar for a wonderful all-female spoken/movement piece

Stuart and Hannah in a very cute/touching dance

The final piece, which I don't have any recordings of, was one of the more magical experiences of my life.  After our final "orchestra" piece, we led the audience to the roof of the teatrino, which if you recall from my previous blogs has one of the best views in Italy or in the world in my opinion.  Even at night, when the city is all lit up, it has the power to bring tears to the eyes.  When we got to the roof, it was lit by candles and there were several dancers and Ben sitting in chairs whispering.  They started into an incredibly moving piece with Ben beat-boxing, and the dancers doing movement inspired by our surroundings and our time at the Accademia. I'm not gonna lie... My tears were unstoppable.  It was such a moving piece, and they ended staring out over the town with their arms around each other.  To give some of you a sense of what it was like... If any of old Swannanoa Gathering "Sing and Swing" week folks are reading, it was a similar sensation to leaving the final performance walking out to Leah and Chloe fire dancing to "Tuli Tuli."  For those of you who know what I'm talking about, you can get a sense of how overwhelming that emotion is.

Thursday we had our final voice and movement presentations.  I had been a bit worried about my movement piece, but Terri and I actually ended up creating something I think I can be proud of.  I think Claudia really liked it.  I'm really going to miss having Kevin and Claudia as teachers; I feel like both of them have really helped me grow and expand my abilities in ways I never new existed.  Here is my movement piece:
video

Mackenzie and Cloteal

Moriah and Aubrey

Stuart and Rachael

Ben's magnificent solo dedicated to his injured partner

Monica and Trevor

Sonia and Melissa

Thursday afternoon we had our second Tarantella class!  We had enjoyed it so much in Rome that we begged Claudia to bring Gianni back to us for one more class.  We did a lot of review from our last lesson, but we also went a little more into partner dancing which was very fun.  He passed out handkerchiefs for the ladies to wave around.  It's such a sassy, fiery dance.  I love it.

Thursday night Jeremy's family took me, Elena, Jonny, and Trevor out to dinner with them at our favorite pizza and beer joint.  His family is really wonderful.  His father is a violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra and had really interesting stories to share.  After dinner we said goodbye to the Arnolds and headed to Bob's MFA grad lab presentation.  Bob is Elena's boyfriend who is about to complete is MFA in physical theatre at the Accademia.  He is developing some very cool composition techniques involving creating shapes and placing text onto forms.  I was pulled in to volunteer at one point through the evening, and enjoyed making some poses with Kevin Brouder, one of the staff here.
Bob explains his process.

MFAs and Kevin demonstrate

Warrior/Lady pose #1

Warrior/Lady Pose #2

Warrior/Lady Pose #3


Because we had a mask-making class on Saturday last week, we were given Friday off this weekend.  We had originally planned to do Cinque Terre, but after looking at expenses and navigating on Easter weekend we decided it best to just enjoy Arezzo some more.

So Elena, Emily, David, Jonny, Trevor, and I decided to finally complete the hike to Anghiari that we had learned about in the beginning of the year from Kevin, our voice teacher.  This is the same hike I had done a small portion of before, once with Jonny and Stuart then once again with Mom and Pops.  Well, the full hike, which we needed a map to actually do correctly this time, took us about 8 hours.  It was about 30 kilometers up and down mountains.  I know to my friends that are experienced hikers it's probably nothing but for me it was quite a trek.  The most challenging and rewarding hike I've ever completed.

Spring with fresh water!




We are a motley bunch

Daring to walk across... and wisely deciding against it.


The road goes ever on and on...

David thinking infinite thoughts

The views were phenomenal.  Trees, streams, valleys, fields, food, friends- what more could a girl ask for?  We even made friends with a wonderful cat who we dubbed "Crawford," figuring him to be the daemon/spirit creature of Kevin Crawford, our teacher who told us about the hike.  Crawford followed us for about an hour.  We petted him and gave him ham.


Commence "Sound of Music" photoshoot



Could this field be any more inviting?



Trevor and Crawford!
Even with the map, we got a little lost towards the very end.  I'm not gonna lie- we were all a bit tired and cranky with each other.  But finally, after 8 hours, we made it to Anghiari!  From what we saw the town is beautiful.  Unfortunately, we were so exhausted that all we really did was plop down in a nice park next to the bus stop and play cards until the bus to Arezzo came.
We may or may not have found this mustache on the side of the road.

FINALLY! We made it!

Indeed a beautiful town.

We were so exhausted getting back to Arezzo after the 30 minute bus ride; we just barely made it to our favorite kebab place and got kebabs before unashamedly taking a taxi back to the villa.  After a hike like that, not wanting to make the walk up to the villa is allowed.

This morning (Saturday) I woke up and went to the market with David.  It was slightly overcast and the selection wasn't as spectacular as last time, but I did get a couple nice things for incredibly cheap.  I'm realizing now that I'll still be around Arezzo next Saturday before leaving for Rome, so I will get to see the huge first Saturday of the month antique market that I haven't seen since my first weekend here.  Kind of a nice way to bookend my time here.

Well... Here we go.  Entering the final week of Italia.  All clowning, all the time.  I'm really looking forward to it, but at the moment I can't really picture what my life will be like without my friends here.  We're already making travel plans to visit each other all over the country.  I definitely will be hosting a beach-weekend at some point.

I'm so overwhelmed at the moment, and to end on a somewhat cheesey note, here is a saying that keeps popping up in my head and bringing me comfort as I enter this final week.  It's what I see in a frame in Ed Simpson's office every time I'm in there:

"Gulp. Leap. Soar."

I certainly intend to.

Ciao, belli.

Love and Miss you all.

MJ