Mar 11th: Four New Crates (and a Suitcase)
Bill has gone to his grandson’s birthday party in New Jersey, so I have Sunday to myself – to go for a good stiff walk in Patapsco Park and check out the cascades and waterfalls on another crisp, chilly but sunny day – and then after lunch to get to work accustoming myself to my crates – four new crates knocked up by Bill and his brother the other weekend.
I was so chuffed that they did this for me – because along with the wooden box I brought in my luggage and the small period suitcase that RADA in London loaned me, I can do the play pretty much as I have been doing it in the UK. I’m one crate and two pallets short, but the staging needs to be changed only a little.
So I start work familiarising myself with the four new crates and the suitcase – but then get something of a shock. The new crates are the right dimensions but SO MUCH heavier. Where’s the nearest gym, I wonder?
People that have asked ‘How DO you remember all those lines for the play?’ received the response – ‘It’s not the lines, the challenge is remembering where I move the crates.’ And having mastered that last year, I now find I will have to retrain my muscle-memory for these US performances.
I’m reminded of Keith Jarrett – his iconic Koln concert…I seem to recall he turned up there and his piano hadn’t arrived? So he had to make do with a different and somewhat inferior piano they found for him. Very frustrating but he got on with it, and the resulting performance has gone down in legend.
Now, I’m not Keith Jarrett – and my new crates are not inferior to my UK ones, just heavier. But I too am just going to knuckle down and enjoy this different experience – it will certainly keep me on my toes.
In the evening, Oprah Winfrey is interviewed by Van Jones on CNN and is pretty inspiring. Talking about not being sucked in to dissing your opponent, and listing all their bad points, when what you should be concentrating on is your own vision, what you have to offer.
I second that, and head off to bed, where, once I settle, I feel my arms and wrists aching ever so slightly.
March 12th: A Half Day in Washington DC
Another brief workout with the new crates in the morning – and now I’m really getting to like them. Then it’s off on the train to Washington DC to do a bit of sightseeing, and visit the office of the Center on Conscience and War, who are the reason I’m here.
Bill has loaned me the Washington equivalent of an Oyster Card and the metro is not too difficult to fathom (for a lifetime Londoner like myself), but the trains are all SO much bigger than our petite UK versions. Everything is bigger in America (and heavier!).
I spot a potential venue for the play while taking a walk around DC but figure it’s a bit on the large side.
Then I get back on the metro and come out of Dupont Circle station, on one of the world’s longest escalators. I head up to the CCW offices and there is Bill to greet me, and then Maria Santelli, exec director, who is a full Italian (unlike me, the half Italian) – and her lovely dog Cara.
Their rooms, on the 4th floor of St Margaret’s Episcopsal Church office building, are full of wonderful posters, images, and shelves lined with books on conscientious objection and related matters. Maria tells me this is probably one of the two most significant libraries in the whole of the US on conscientious objection. Their staff only numbers four and they work tirelessly, for example helping current day COs in the US military.
Maria and I talk volubly about our Italian heritage, but more importantly we all agree we are so excited that this project is happening.
Their offices have a great vibe and I look forward to spending more time there – and browsing through some of those books.
Bill, Maria and I then head out to a nearby Thai restaurant for supper, and afterwards it’s back to Bill’s house in Relay, to get a decent night’s kip before the 90 minute car ride tomorrow, with my new crates and old props on board, heading to Akron, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for the first performance.
I am very keen (and curious) to see what my first US audience will make of it. Who knows?
What I do know is that I will be letting Bill lift the crates into the car – especially as he helped make them. I’ll be lifting them plenty during the show.