“Livet må leves forfra, men kan kun forstås bagfra.”

This blog entry is about Denmark, the lovely place where one of my favorite philosophers is from: Søren Kierkegaard.

Why this random blog?

Because I’m once again touring with the Shakespeare in Performance Project in The Netherlands and last weekend we worked in Copenhagen. Random? Yup. Cool? Hell yeah.

This is what struck me about Denmark:

1. Its quietness
At 8 am in the morning this is what Copenhagen Central station looked like. Empty! We were later told that rush hour is earlier than it is in England but still, Copenhagen is super calm, I mean we went out for a wonder on Saturday and we were all wondering where everybody was!

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2. Its Smørrebrød (better known as open sandwiches)
These are exquisite, not only in taste but also in looks.

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3. Its functionality
Three examples below.
a) Plug sockets above one’s seat on the train. They’ve got this so right. It’s a small thing but it saves time; it’s kind of pathetic to admit it’s annoying to bend down to find a socket but I only admit it now after having experienced the Danish system…all you have to do is reach up and ca-ching!

b) Cars have got a sticker of a clock on their windscreen so when you park in a public parking space all you need to do is move the hand to the appropriate arrival time. Eco-friendly methinks.

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c) Free wifi on train.

4. Its ‘utopic’ feel
Everything seems to be too perfect in Denmark. The houses are all perfectly painted and the streets are clean. The views are like something taken out of a book.

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5. Its slick (Ikea type) design
This is based on the only Danish home I know but still, its style was very different; no carpets, lots of clean white walls, super cool bold lamps and views like this one where you can actually see Sweden on the other side. Mental.

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6. Its free-spirited education system
Again, this is based on the only school I’ve ever worked at in Denmark. Plus, it was an international school. Who knows if all schools work in the same way. Most probably not. However, it’s no news that the educational system in the Scandinavian countries is quite unique and what struck me the most about their style was its sense of, erm, freedom. Schedules had been modified because we were coming but it felt like it was absolutely fine to change schedules a million times. We worked on the Merchant of Venice with the students; this pic is of some art work they did.

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Please note: These views are based on a two day experience of the country. Limited but real. And in case you’re wondering…this is what the title of this blog entry actually means: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. What a wise dude Kierkegaard was.

Peace out! X

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August: Osage County (the movie) – Why it worked for me.

It’s a story about family – nothing new there – and broken relationships – nothing new there. The plot is pretty average in my view, but it’s fantastically written and I think the cast did a superb job with their characterizations. It did feel like every single character was pivotal in the story though, and when performed by top class actors, there was a tendency of it being a bit too much, too intense or simply too good to be true.

I don’t think I’d have been hooked into a story about a broken family had the acting not been that good; I was totally intrigued and interested to see how each character would progress in the story.

And why do we all keep loving Meryl Streep? Because behind each of her characters – no matter how dark, crazy or funny – she finds such pleasure that it spills out of the screen. I realized this in watching her in this movie…I kept asking to myself, ‘How can she do that without it being fake or over the top?’, ‘How can she be so dramatically real?’ She can because she loves to play. How do I know this? I don’t but I do.

Sometimes when I go to a screen audition, I’m overly conscious about acting small to keep it real. You know what? Sod that. If Meryl Streep has fun going nuts, I will too. I must remember that. Jimena, just think Meryl.

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Shakespeare in Performance Project (week 2)

Week two was all about the LOLs.

We started by getting ready to perform/direct Oliver Twist! Yup, it turns out that the Shakespeare in Performance Project also does a bit of Dickens.

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The highlight of the week was definitely Monday night which involved being unexpectedly pulled over by Dwayne, aka Douane – border control (all clear of course), and a 6 hour long karaoke night; so fun it was hard to wind down.

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Tuesday was a day off and it was also a big food day. All we did was sleep and eat. Mc Donald’s never tasted so good and we then went to an all-you-can-eat Chinese place called Wok near the hotel where we stayed for our final 3 nights.

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We worked at Metameer school over the next three days. This school has different campuses and on Wednesday we worked in one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen. Here are some pics of us (team), the kiddos performing and the school…

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On Wednesday evening one of the teachers invited us over to her place for tea; we had Sunday soup (a Dutch tradition) and homemade quiche. It was lovely.

Evidently, one of the things I loved about the tour was the experience of it all, but from an acting point of view it was great to learn about Shakespeare in an educational context. I performed short scenes every day and played characters such as Quince, Mercutio and Henry V which I normally wouldn’t of course. Directing the plays was also great in that it challenged me to study the characters in a different way and it was fascinating to see what the students would come up with sometimes. Most kids would just do what they were told but there were always some nice and unexpected surprises.

Finally, one of the things I loved about my experience in The Netherlands was being so in tune with God. I learned this job on the go and every day we had to amend the workshops slightly. Last minute changes tend to freak me out a little but praying every morning helped me to ease up and take each moment as it came without overanalysing my moves. I was less critical about my mistakes and enjoyed feeling the presence of God at random moments each day.

Sad to say goodbye to an amazing team but hopefully I will return in the future.

Thanks for reading me!

Shakespeare in Performance Project (week 1)

Week one down. Mental! I still remember flying back from Mexico last week and getting everything ready for the tour, and now I’ve just got one week left in Holland. Seriously time, chill!

Wow, what can I say, I mean if you’re an actor, lover of Shakespeare, interested in TIE and open to different cultures, the Shakespeare in Performance Project is for you! (www.shakespeareinperformanceproject.co.uk)

Having a cool boss and working with fun colleagues is a real blessing so I’m loving this tour partly because of that. Seeing Marc enjoying himself while at work has been very inspiring and encouraging for me. Of course I get nervous, but in this tour you quickly realize that the job is not about you but about the students; and like in acting, when your attention is on the others on stage, then the real magic happens.

I’m evidently loving the car rides to the schools in the morning; I love reading the motorway signs in Dutch (I try), the landscape (yup, lots of windmills), and the people looking super cool riding bikes. Traveling is one of my passions in life and so having this ‘international’ job is a great gift from God. I have enjoyed meeting Dutch teenagers and seeing how they interact amongst themselves and with us.

Here is a picture of some awesome students we met in a school last week (Marc Norris facilitating – far right); they were so up for getting into costume and having a laugh it was ridiculous!

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This is another photo with one of the teachers at Farel College who gave Katy (fellow actor) and me a pair of school t-shirts to take home with us.

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And here another photo of the three of us having a pizza break in one of the schools.

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But what about accommodation? Well, we are staying in a sort of holiday park called Dennenhoek near a city called Harderwijk. Although we occasionally stay at hotels, Dennenhoek is our main base. This weekend, Marc flew back to England while Katy and I stayed. Here are some pics of what we got up to…

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(Cycled to Harderwijk, visited the windmill with a free tour included, walked through the town, ate nice food, and chilled at home) #awesomeweekend

Only God

This is the first time in like forever that I won’t plan any concrete projects for the new year. No resolutions. No calendars. No nothing.

Only God.

Since I became an independent young woman about eight years ago, I’ve kept a journal where I write my New Year resolutions. It’s been a great way to think about achievements/failures in the past year and write down new ideas for the future.

This year, I sensed it was time for something different. For a while I’ve been feeling like some big change is approaching in my life. I prayed about it with my husband a couple of days ago and indeed it was clear that what I need to do in 2014 is pray and trust.

God knows my desires; He knows what I need and what I long for but for years I’ve taken control over my actions. I act and then I pray; and although I’m happy with my life, I’m not ‘truly deeply madly’ fulfilled. I know that only God can fill up the void but I’ve never had enough ‘time’ or ‘faith’ to let Him.

I don’t know how to live my life without structure so what God is asking of me is challenging. However -yet not surprisingly – it feels right; when uncertainty is exciting and the unknown isn’t scary, you know that God’s hand is near, holding you and protecting you.

Thank you 2013. Bring on 2014.

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Here I’m on set as an extra for Man From Uncle.

“What’s the point in living?”

That’s one of George Clooney’s actual lines in Gravity. I mean, “hello”, of course I’m gonna love the film. It’s been five years (yikes!) since I finished writing my MA dissertation on death inspired on Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’. Amazing book, amazing philosopher.

As you may guess, death intrigues me. No news there I suppose, I’m fairly sure that at one point in life we all ask the question: What the hell is the point of this? We live, then we die? What for?! For years, human mortality and the meaning of life has stirred my spirit, so if you’ve seen Gravity you’ll understand why it gave my soul an exhilarating boost.

Gravity reminded me that living in the world can sometimes feel like living on space (because I know all about living on space of course), the difference being that on Earth we are surrounded by many distractions that deviate us from asking THE question. We don’t have time nowadays to stop and be on our own to philosophise. If I’m ever on my own, which happens a lot, I tend to be thinking about a million things other than death. Why? Because my phone rings, the kettle is ready, the neighbour is knocking on the door and I’m too freakin scared to feel the void. I mean I much rather go on Facebook to feel the void even more intensely.

But why bother thinking about death anyway? It feels like a ridiculous and complete waste of time. True, but that doesn’t get rid of the fact that I live my life with the big question imprinted all over me, and so I hang out with friends, go out to clubs, buy iPhones, iPads and all the ‘i’ things, wear trendy clothes to ‘seize the day’ and ‘live the now’ as it’s so much in fashion nowadays. I try not to worry about the future because the only thing that counts is TODAY.

But does it?

I very much support the idea of embracing the present moment but I really don’t buy the idea that our mortality is somewhere out there in the future, on that distant day when we’re each destined to die. Our mortality is as present and real as the coffee I’m sipping right now and I believe that inviting it and accepting it as much as we accept life would make us live our lives differently. How do I know this? I don’t. I simply wish I did and naively (perhaps) hope it does. I want to be able to talk about my funeral with people dammit, instead I avoid the void and talk about sex, drugs and rock n roll. And Instagram certainly.

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Typical

Someone: Oh, so you’re resting?

© Ten Ten Theatre (5)

Here we go…

Well, part of my job as an actor is to support fellow actors by going to see their shows; so lately I’ve been to see colleagues in plays such as Mansfield Park at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Jekyll and Hyde at the Southwark Playhouse and The Planet and Stuff at the Polka Theatre. When not supporting people I know, I still invest in theatre and cinema trips because I often learn from the experience. That happened twice this past month when I went to see The World of Extreme Happiness at the National Theatre and Captain Phillips at the cinema. Drastically different stories both with incredible performances.

I also make sure that I keep my body fit. At the moment I’m taking flamenco lessons at Escuela de Baile in North London and I’m also trying to attend physical theatre workshops regularly. I’ve met very interesting people in these workshops and work opportunities have actually come out of them so what better! Picasso once said: “Inspiration does exist, but it needs to find you working”. I’m also still taking violin lessons to keep my musical skills active and I’ve got a brand new American-Latino accent kit waiting to be opened because I intend to get the ‘Chicano’ accent under my belt soon.

So to answer your question, no I’m not resting.

S: But how do you afford all of these fun activities without a proper job?

These fun activities are part of my ‘proper’ job, it just so happens that my job is fun. How do I afford it? Simple, I work. Recently, I’ve done freelance work as social media coordinator for a theatre company but I’ve done all sorts of jobs, anything from life modelling to Spanish tutoring, or doing extras work.

S: Oh, you’re an extra.

I’m an actor who occasionally works as an extra yes, similar to a City banker who may give a business talk at a university conference. Not only has this work sometimes helped me pay the bills but it has also enriched my knowledge of film. It all depends on how you approach the work itself; I sometimes try to get close to the action so I can learn, listen to the director and see actors like Sean Penn do their thing. Being an extra is quite a humbling experience actually.

S: Interesting.

Among other things, you’re damn right it is.

Physical Theatre Course – LAMDA (week two)

Day 1

A day of practical learning:

1. Put the attention in the other person. It’s not about me; it’s about the other. If you stick to this rule, the real stuff happens, you actually stop worrying about what to do next because things simply flow.

2. If you put your focus in the other person your instinct will match your partner’s. Surprisingly true.

3. The three rules of improvisation are: LISTEN, ACCEPT, COMMIT

These rules make perfect sense in my head but I found them tricky to apply. The moment we started to add real words into a scene my mind started to take over and the focus was totally on what I wanted to say and where I thought the scene could go. This made the whole scene feel distorted. I’m glad it happened because it was evident that a busy mind is a huge obstacle in keeping the focus in the other person.

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.

I also noticed that I panic with words. I feel much more comfortable in my body than in my mind and when my mind needed to be activated to come up with a name or a situation I felt like I needed to speed things up. It was actually like being in an audition; the exact same thing has happened to me many times in front of a panel. It sucks.

My personal task for the rest of the week:

Put the focus in the other
Accept and go with the flow
Keep it simple (the hardest for me)

Ta dah!

Day 2

I can’t remember. My brain is sort of dead today.

Oh I remember now. What was cool about today was trying a monologue from Othello for the first time in front of people. Although I didn’t perform it per se, I had to use it to explore my voice and I feel like I can start working on it now. It’s great I’ve got the words under my belt especially since I belong to the ‘Dreading Shakespeare’ club.

Day 3

We did lots of work finding our voice which was fab. We then did exercises based on Grotowski, which I LOVED SO MUCH! I want to get trained in that technique now. The exercises took me right back to my training days when I was an athlete 13 years ago.

Something awesome about today was that one of my brave colleagues suggested going to Southbank to do some street performing! A bunch of us went along and although I was only an spectator, I felt inspired by my colleagues’ will and fearless attitude.

PS. We got kicked out of the street which was in all honesty hilarious. (We needed a permit)

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Day 4

Last day. It was wonderful. I feel renewed, grateful, energized and ready.

MOVING ON.

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Physical Theatre Course – LAMDA (week one)

Day 1

Play + breaking the rules + wearing a red nose. Who is not going to love that?!

I guess there might be lots of people out there who would hate it actually but I absolutely loved it.

Hmm, where to begin.

Today was great for so many reasons:

1. It was the start of something new.
2. I had little control over what was planned.
3. The majority of people in the group spoke something other than English.
4. The people in the group came from all sorts of different countries, ages, performance levels and backgrounds.
5. The instructors were kinda hot.
6. I sweat like an athlete.

At lunch break one of the gals in the group asked me: ‘Why are you taking this course? I mean I would assume that as a professional actress you’d know everything about it all’.

I explicitly want to thank God for that girl and her question. I pray that I never become ‘so knowledgable’ about something that I get to believe I’m in no need to learn anymore. Hurrah for forever learning!

True, I had already played lots of the games we played today and I knew some of the exercises, but there is something awesome about going back into the classroom to put yourself at risk, share your vulnerability, explore and play. I personally need that. I find that in the real world out there, the acting profession can sometimes be reduced to marketing, head shots, boobs, networking and business. Life can become all about ‘that’ and none about ‘this’.

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Day 2

Less enjoyable than Day 1. Mainly due to my own personal issues, specifically one called VANITY. Man, it’s a killer!

You know that chairs game? You know, the one where there’s music and people dance around the chairs and when the music stops everyone tries to find a chair to sit on? Then the person who’s left standing is out of the game and that’s the end of the story?

Well, today we played that game. However, losing wasn’t as easy as just stepping down. Oh no, here the person who was left standing had to entertain people for 30 secs to be allowed back into the game. You could do a monologue, a song, a crazy act, whatever (said the teacher)…as long as it’s entertaining. So obviously ‘whatever’ didn’t quite apply. I would have happily just sat there and fart (hmm, maybe next time).

Of course I was left standing at one point and after 10 secs of doing what I thought was my more passionate performance (it wasn’t), most people in the room were asleep. One woman was so bored she even fell on the floor. I tried to use that woman to turn the act into something more interesting but I think half of my body was frozen in panic and I was gently asked to leave the game…

It’s hilarious actually, but a few hours have passed since it happened so I can see the humour in it now. However, I hated losing, I hated panicking, I hated boring people, I hated me. When I left the game, I let fear overtake me; my mind got overly active with thoughts like this:

“I’m are not very good at this”

“Maybe I should just go to drama school and learn how to act properly”

“Clearly the teacher doesn’t like me”

“Everyone in the room is jealous of me and enjoyed seeing me fail”

“I should have done this…or that…oh, that monologue I know would have been hilarious”

“Maybe I shouldn’t be an actor”

I was hurt, my ego was hurt and I had a hard time letting go. I wanted to though, I really wanted to enjoy the rest of the session; I wanted NOT TO CARE. Who gives a damn anyway?! Nobody but me. I was doing this to myself and I wanted to stop it. It’s as if there was a demon inside me squashing me down to the ground making me feel like poo.

Screw you devil!
Jesus, HELP!

What did I learn?

I can be rigid. I crave for spontaneity and feel free when I pursue it, but a lot of the time my life follows plans, timetables and objectives and if things don’t go according to my plan I struggle adjusting. I take obstacles on board but try to modify them so that things work out MY WAY in the end.

I’m used to winning, I’m used to succeeding and success only happens one way: working hard.

But does it?

Today I learnt that I may have got it all wrong. Success is not about working hard; it is about being in the moment, living the present, being OPEN to what life presents to you and taking the risk to change the things that you’ve planned. It is about embracing rejection rather than ignoring it. “You woman on the floor, you think I’m boring? You’re right, my story is shit”. It’s about recognising, and ever better (and harder) living in peace with the fact that I AM NOT PERFECT.

Sounds wonderful.

I’m sure it’ll feel wonderful. Yes, it WILL feel wonderful because that’s the kind of person I want to be, imperfect and in love with my imperfections. Scratch that. Not in love but in harmony with my imperfections.

Day 3

Today was good.

Lesson of the day: some days are good, some are crap.

Today was good. Tomorrow might not. It could have been a terrible day today but I think that what happened yesterday allowed me to see things slightly different and approach my day in a more liberating way. I volunteered twice to have a go with my clown and worked less hard in the ‘grounding’ session which simply gave room to complicate things less and enjoy more…then beautiful things happened. I felt overly much more relaxed.

Day 4

I can’t move.

My body was seriously not liking the idea of going back to crazy moving. But I did go, and somehow I managed to find energy, and somehow I managed to go wild with my clown (so wild it’s a little painful to think about it), and somehow I managed to vibrate so from within me that I burst into tears and I cried, and I cried, and I cried so passionately that I was emptied and freed.

Today I feel grateful. I give thanks to God for intensity, for meaning, for language, for images, for letting go, for finding life.

In one of the exercises we did today, someone would be in the middle of a circle and the people creating the circle would shout out words to which the person in the middle had to respond to.

At one point when I was in the middle someone shouted out ‘second chance’.

‘Second chance’

‘Second chance’

‘Second chance’

The word sank in and I was born again. Suddenly, I appreciated the floor, my feet, my hands, the air coming through my lungs. ‘Second chance’. I looked up, down, ahead. I cried. I screamed, I was alive. ‘Second chance’, life’s given me more time.

Day 5

Another cathartic day.

For homework we had to write our life in one page. In pairs we then had to read our lives to each other and our partner would choose some phrases/words from what we read to them. I also had to choose some words from my partner’s life which struck me.

After that, we were asked to go into the middle of the room. I read the words to my partner and she had to embody them somehow. It was beautiful to watch. I connected so deeply with her words (with her life) that I didn’t think I would be strong enough to have a go at the words coming from my own life, but the teacher asked me to use that energy inside me to do it. I did and it was an incredible experience.

Still, the most striking thing for me was having been touched at that level by my partner’s life. It taught me that we are all connected even when we might be drastically ‘different’. It made me believe that in terms of characters and casting there are no boundaries; deep down human beings share the same essence. This was a lesson not only for acting but for life; we are all brothers and sisters, we just need to give each other a chance to be, connect and love.

Today was also the last day we did of clowning. Fab time!

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Day 6

I went to heaven for a bit.
I’m grateful.