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Monday, March 29, 2010

Something in the Way

Today we had a third show added. Not that I can't handle three shows, or even the ten shows this will make over the last three days. It just stunk because I was planning to head to the fabric store after the second show. Now that we have the third show, it will be closed before I even leave the lot. Grr and harumph. Still, if that's the only reason I have to complain, then the day is a good one.

I am still a bit mystified. In the US I don't think any production could just decide to add a show on the same day based on turnaway and expect people to return. I don't know, but I've not heard of it done. Apparently on this show, it happens occasionally and there are indeed people in the seats, and enough to have made an extra show worthwhile. This astounds me. On a bottom-line basis, extra demand and an extra show are good things. They're good for the company and they're good in that they provide another opportunity for me to figure things out audience-wise.

Among the many things this gig is cementing for me, it's the idea of words being only secondary to what I'm doing. If I rely on the words, then changing cultures and changing countries will put a cramp in my clowning work. If I have something that exists independent of the language, then what I do can truly be performed internationally.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Four On the Floor

Today marks the second or maybe the third four-show day that we've had since my arrival and there are a couple more before we leave Nagoya.

There was no such thing as four-show days for us on Ringling: the shows were too long to do that. My first experience with a four=show day was on the Pooh tour. We had some in Malaysia and China and the troops were not happy. It made for a long day. It wasn't exactly pleasant with the humidity and those days were made more difficult by certain members of our cast who weren't practiced at taking care of themselves or simply didn't have the constitution (because they weren't practiced at taking care of themselves). It wasn't fun – we were still doing four shows instead of three – but at the very least, my best friend Leo and I could look at each other and take some solace in the fact that any four-show day was still shorter than a three-show day on Ringling.

The strange thing about the four-show day here on Kinoshita is that it feels very different. I was just noticing during opening of the third show that, hey – it's the third show, but it doesn't feel like it. We still have one more to go and I'm sure it'll move as quickly as the others have today. The shows have even kind of felt like they weren't all there for the most part.

Or maybe I wasn't all there. That's a distinct possibility.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Turning Circle

This past week, my old touring show rolled into Nagoya, four years after the last visit. This time, instead of being the last city in Japan, it's the first city. As with four years ago, Kinoshita Circus is in town at the same time. This time, instead of being on Pooh visiting a friend on Kinoshita, I'm on Kinoshita visiting friends on Pooh.

There are a few people on the show who I knew were still on the show and a few others who I didn't know if they were or not. I was able to meet up with my friends Sallie, Kevin, and Rich and the day after with those three and our old company manager Mitch. Hanging out in the lobby to say goodbye, some performers were returning from a day out and some of the crew was returning from load-in, so I was able to see more people and greet them.

It also was a nice boost to be told so many times how I'm missed. I'd be lying if I said that didn't boost my ego. It's nice to hear because you wonder, you know. At least I do.

As a bonus, the local crew bosses were able to make sure – in conjunction with the manager – that I was able to make it into the building to see the dress rehearsal. I was pretty ecstatic because otherwise their show schedule was parallel to mine. I was able to see even more people that were still around who appeared to be happy to see me. Best of all, I was able to see the show run with the changes that had been put into place since I left.

It all looked great. One of the things that makes me happy is when I'm able to see friends perform. There's a lot less pressure in enjoying than in performing!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Death of a Duck

I was going to start playing catch-up about the last couple of days. However, my friend Steve's duck Señor Pato died unexpectedly this morning.

So yeah. In brief honor of Señor Pato, I'll put off updating until a bit later.

Señor Pato Takes a Bath

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whether You Deserve It or Not

Here we are, going into a nice two days off. These are always great. I even had a good day today going into it. Juggling went great. I dropped, but it played out in a way that it looked like it was planned. To top it off, did I feel like crap for dropping? Did I beat myself up? Nope. For once it didn't matter and I felt good about how everything came out in the end. That was a great feeling to have stacked on top of a gag that went well.

Then, as if to prove a point (or to test my resolve), it happened again the second show. No sweat.

Later, I found that I had once again managed to step into tiger crap somewhere on the floor at some point during Whipcracker, which I didn't understand. I saw no tiger crap, the guys had swept the ring, and still I managed to produce a small piece of tiger crap from the ether and then to step in it. At least it wasn't like yesterday when one of the tigers - or ligers, maybe – had a bowel explosion and I stepped in some at the same point in each show. As a bonus, I even got some on the hem of my pants. It was a treasure, I tell you!

Cleaning off my shoe outside the alley container, one of the performers told me that in Japan, crap on your shoe is good luck. Well then, I had two lucky days in a row.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Noted Improvement

Today was a much better day of shows. Most notably, I didn't futz up juggling and drop. I almost messed up the finish, but Kelly was able to manage to make the between-leg catch despite my having thrown it high and outside.

I also signed my contract extension, so I'm here on Kinoshita until the end of the year. That means more time in Japan, more time working, more time working on clowning, and more time to get a couple of more gags put together and worked in the show.

In our third show today, there was a group of foreigners who I immediately presumed were Americans. During the show they were very vocal with their enjoyment of the show to the point of being obnoxious. After the show, when I was almost completely out of costume, one of the performers came back and said there was a guest who was asking for us. He was trying to get backstage to see us and he smelled of alcohol. Sure enough, it was one of the Americans.

The guy and his fellow Americans abroad had seen fliers for the circus and decided that they would get completely wrecked and come to the circus. That they did. Mission accomplished. He lied and told the employee that he met us at a pub last night and we told them to come see the show. Great. Thanks, guy.

This guy was talking up a storm and cursing and generally acting like a guy at a frat party trying to talk to a girl or the band that just played. The staff had to clean the tent and get it set for the morning and we had to escort the guy to the guy, talking him and walking him. It was just like working back at First Avenue. He understood, though, as we explained that we had to get him out of there, otherwise he'd be yelled at, since it's been done before.

That was great. That was my first ugly American moment in this stint abroad. Drunk American. Why'd it have to be Drunk American?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

And We're Off (Of Our Game)

Yesterday at long last we opened in Nagoya. It took very little time for the Nagoya crowd to outperform the Kyoto crowds in quality of response. It's nice to be performing for crowds that give you a feeling that they will react when something clicks. That dynamic is a boon and it helps a lot when trying to get a sense of what's working and what's working better.

However, it was not without its hitches and I would say that it is the worst opening day I've ever had in my years of performing. That said, I am very unforgiving toward myself when I make mistakes and it makes it even worse when it involves dropping during a juggling routine. Then I beat myself up and feel like a complete failure because I made a mistake and then couldn't bounce back from it. And then I feel awful for feeling that way and for not being more patient with myself and just shrugging it all off. I do not have a very positive view of mistakes or failure, and I feel that any/every flaw detracts from the quality of person I am.

Well, I dropped in the first show. The second show was an even worse travesty, courtesy of me. The third show went smoothly and then I made a stupid brain-fart mistake during a gag in the third show. So as far as I was concerned, I ruined the show, perhaps the entire day. The performers were at each others' throats because the show was so bad! The elephants were eating the ponies! The zebras had the giraffe pinned down and were giving him hertz donuts! The audience fled the tent, intent on razing the city. Mr. Kinoshita actually, physically exploded on site! It was a travesty! All because I dropped during juggling!

As my friend Matt was fond of saying: "Did the show explode? Then it wasn't that bad."

So yeah, in the grand scheme of things it all wasn't that awful. It was only three gags out of how many I've done so far in my life and those that I yet will perform (hopefully)? The audience still liked me/us and still responded very positively, so at least they were forgiving. And if an audience is still with you through all of that, you must be doing something right, right?

On interpersonal fronts, I believe I'm starting to realize a couple of things and will continue to keep my eyes up, my back straight, and ears open. It's nice when patience actually pays off, especially in insight.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Today we returned to show mode with two rehearsals. The first rehearsal of the day is usually running through each and every one of the acts. This doesn't sound weird, except that there are a couple of blocks in the show where numerous acts rotate. As a result, things tend to be drawn out. To stretch things out a little longer, some transitions are being tweaked and a couple of new acts are being worked in, AND someone is going back into the show after having been injured.

The morning got off to a spotty start when we two clowns were told that the rehearsal had been pushed up a half hour to 9:30. When were we told? 9:35. Needless to say – and yet I say it – communication was a bit lacking.

Grand total running time of the first rehearsal with stops, starts, and do-overs:

Six hours.

I was able to run two loads of laundry, do some cleaning, and then prepare food in three separate stages and finish a magazine in that span of time. During the second run, I ate the food and cleaned the dishes. One of the food components was beef cooked with oregano and shoyu sauce. You cannot imagine how delicious it is. Simplicity and taste are directly proportional.


The taste is exponential!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

American Rock Classics

The tent setup takes a few days, which means that foreign performers have all of that time off. I haven't done a show since March 1. We have rehearsals on Friday and had a PR on Sunday.

The walls of the tent are up and the sound and lights are set up and they're running sound checks.

I just heard "The Final Countdown" piping from the tent and it made me smile a lot.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Another Small Victory!

After days of walking around and searching, I finally found a grocery store! Not a convenience store, not a dry and frozen goods store, but an actual grocery store!

I have meat! I have avocados! I have tuna! I have yogurt!

It's right by a coin laundry, but I don't need one of those.

It took a lot of exploring and a lot of walking, but I did it. And as a result, I have a better sense of the area and orientation. Best of all, I did a lot of walking at my own pace, able to explore at my own whim. That counts as mental AND physical exercise, chums!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Early Greenery

I found that while I was walking around a couple of days ago (since I seem to put off writing the blog on anything resembling a daily basis) I was marveling at how many people were out and about. What's the deal? Don't kids have school?

It was Saturday. My life of being occasionally oblivious to the rhythms of the rest of the working world continues apace.

Walking along my favorite arcade I was also instantly reminded that the St. Patrick's Day parade was going to be today. As I walked up toward Osu Kannon temple, I spotted people wearing green and orange and green. Seeing this in Japan was a bit odd. Imagine my surprise when I reached the courtyard of the temple to see a big glass of Guinness playing with children and taking pics with energetic adults. One woman (American or Canadian) was teaching Irish dancing to a group of people and there was a group of Japanese playing trad music. It was a tad surreal.

It's been raining a lot so far this week, so there should be plenty of greenery in coming weeks.

I even bought a few more CDs and a really juicy gorgonzola cheeseburger. I may have to do something about this CD habit. Or I can just buy anime soundtracks for cheap and then sell them on eBay. That'd be a way to make some of the money back!

Kyoto City Report

19 December 2009 - 1 March 2010
147 shows performed

Friday, March 5, 2010

From March 4, a Day Without Internet

The Day of March 4, 2010

I wonder what the deal is with me. Is it with me or other people? One of the things my ex-girlfriend found difficult to deal with was the fact that on vacation, I didn’t really loaf. However, she preferred to sit and do nothing on a vacation, sleep in until whenever, and then maybe do something. When we were in Amsterdam and London, I was in full-on accomplishment mode. Waking at ten was wasted daylight, especially when many places closed at 4 or 5. She didn’t like it and she couldn’t hack it.

The same thing went for the last couple of days.

Kel was part sick and part foot-hurty from lugging around her backpack, so she couldn’t really stick to her normal pace. I think I must be some unheard of lanky lowland plains sherpa because I strap on a heavy pack and I slog. I trudge. I plow forward through sickness and thirst and hunger and fatigue. I think I’m a mutant. I’m definitely stubborn once I get the notion to get moving. And I find it extremely difficult to slow down.

“Foot-hurty” makes it seem like either Joss Whedon or a Joss Whedon wannabe is writing my life dialogue. I could do a lot worse than having Whedon write my dialogue.

Our lot is in an area of Nagoya I’ve passed through before. We’re in Shirakawa Park just a stone’s throw from Osu Kannon temple. Nearby is also a system of arcades that creates a constant whoosh of the sound of money being sucked from my pockets. Some days I’ll win, some days the arcade will win. I have no illusions about that.

Next to the park is the Nagoya Science Museum, so because of my most recent “normal” job – which I hope someday to be able to reclaim upon my return to the Twin Cities – and because of a dinosaur exhibit, I shall be heading over there to check it out. I’m taking bets about whether or not they have anything like our public programs department.

When walking about or exploring, my transport of choice is subway and then I prefer to bridge the rest of the distances in between with walking. I like walking and it feels good. I maintain a medium brisk pace, so I feel like I’m accomplishing at least a little bit of exercise. I like to think that if some day I find myself unable to walk, I’ll not have the regret of not having walked more.

I prefer not to take taxis. It means I spend less money, which means I have more to put to bills or to save.

Or to spend like I did today. I dropped an unexpected amount of money in a few places. I admit up front that – CDs included – it was spent on dorkitude. Mind you, some of it was presents for other people. Everything I picked up was a find that is difficult-to-nigh-impossible to get in the US for a smart price, and each and everyone of them was fulfilling a specific request. In the long run, I feel I came out ahead. In the process I found other gift items for other people, each one a surefire winner!

OH MY LORD, one of the pieces I found was something I’ve been looking for each and every trip to Japan. I always came up empty-handed. Today I stumbled into this shop in Nagoya and I found three of what I’ve been seeking. Each was a bit different than the others, so I made an executive decision based on my personal experience and years of experience in dealing with this particular person for whom the gift is intended. I think I made the killer choice. I would say what the gift is, but I’m sure this person may likely look at this blog, so I’d not want to spoil the surprise. I wish I could be there to see this person’s face. It is a treasure that fulfills and hearkens back to a childhood dream. That’s how special this find is.

As I was returning home, I saw one group of adults preparing to practice some type of martial arts activity. On the other side of the fence, there were groups of younger people engaged in some other type of martial arts activity. However, it looked like they were practicing choreography. I liked to think they were working stunt fight choreography. No matter what was going on, it was cool.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Time to Bounce

I'm bouncing back and forth between lodging right now and have internet overnight.

Left the lot yesterday after having packed my room up and scrawling on much-too-late postcards. Wound up taking the shinkansen (bullet-train) to Nagoya instead o a bus and got there in 45 minutes.

We found the hotel and then I went walking out and about for 45 minutes, checking out movie schedules, finding some new Kit Kat flavors, and taking pictures.

I ate a lot of yakitori for dinner. Delicious!

I treated myself to a cherry chu-hai as I settled into my room to find a couple of numbers and addresses.