14 July 2014 • by Katy Munroe Farlie
Capitol to Capitol: Thinking Outside the BoxSo.
Lights re-designed, video re-aligned. Chris and Lucy worry about the lights. And the video. I start my USA bumper crossword book. Nervous anticipation. Tuesday 10th July the gates open and Grounded is boarded by its first American audience ready for take off.
55 minutes later it lands.
Fast and furious. And they loved it.
Sigh of relief.
Notes given. Plans made.
Press goes without a hitch. Although they don’t have any reception afterwards.
So we go to a bar (an architecture themed bar) and drink with the guys. (From the theatre).
Reviews are smashing (apart from one. Which said that George was from the UK. But hey, nice to have a bit of variety amongst the praise I feel).
Show’s up and running. Free to explore this whole USA thing. Time to get out of the box and into the coffee-fuelled, 24-hour, scorching streets of Freedom.
When we arrive in D.C. it's pride weekend and Chris also arrives (possibly more than just a coincidence as the pride parades follow him to Baltimore a week later) so we show him the box and leave him to his apartment while we dive in with the festivities. We buy a $2.99 bottle of wine and take to the streets for the Parade.
It is an interesting experience which includes the first military march during an American pride parade which although brief is exciting to be a part of.
We all spend the next week drifting between museums, the pool and scorching heat. I do my duty for the English contingent and very promptly get burnt. A lot. My back looks like a Venn diagram of various shades of red and white. I am oddly proud of this quite artistic feat despite the pain. We also see Mike Bartlett’s Cock which is the other show at the Studio. We also enjoy the many hilarious jokes we can get out of both its name and also the fact that it’s a fully American production of an English play while we perform a fully English production of an American Play.
As Chris nears the end of his Washington chapter George arrives! It’s weird and also lovely to see another familiar face despite being a million miles away from where Grounded first took to the air.
As I mentioned earlier there is no reception on press night, as it happens on the official opening, which is Sunday, 5 days later. Weird. Show ends and we prepare to enter the breach of over 100 supporters and important type people (Chris has to leave therefore its just me and Lucy to represent our box, so I have to wear fancy clothes and borrow Lucy’s shoes).
We walk in and
It turns into a Mob.
A Lucy Mob.
As in they mob Lucy.
In a swarm they gather round her as soon as she gets into the atrium and form an orderly queue to speak with her. She doesn’t even make it to the free wine. Backed against a wall she kindly somehow drags me into the swarm. I am usually not invited to these events and when I am usually plant myself comfortably near the free food and drink. But now I am also trapped, wearing fancy clothes and shoes with no laces trying to think of interesting things to say about the show.
One project that Lucy started in the UK, which continues in full effect stateside, is what has become “Pilots Unite!” a support group for all past and current serving members of Grounded. Although unable to be able to see any other productions of Grounded we have had the pleasure of meeting some of the other Pilots…
...first, in New York, we met Hannah...
...and then, in D.C., we met Carla, the Kansas City Pilot who managed to come and see the show (In their production she was on a rotating stage, which I feel is the one trick we missed with ours.)
So now we are officially open, George departs for Miami and we find ourselves alone. So what do you do when you are alone in the heat, living in D.C.?
We are of course surrounded by the huge amount of museums in the Smithsonian, most of which are free. Conquests include The Newseum (which to be honest is much more fun in name than in reality, news often being rather depressing. Doubled by the fact that the first thing I came across was the Pulitzer Prize winning photography exhibit, just when I thought I was never going to see those photos again.). The Postal Museum (which is much more fun in reality than in name, plus you get to take home 6 free stamps.), The Natural History Museum, The Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Botanical Gardens, The Air and Space Museum, The American Indian Museum and The Zoo.
Now Washington used to be quite a dangerous place, but I learn never to feel unsafe for everywhere has its own police. Even the Zoo. Yes. The Zoo Police will keep you safe.
Aside from all this wonderfully free culture I also try to blend in as much as possible with local life. So I think of very typically American, non-political things to do. Number one on the list…
I consult my new consort of American friends. We get tickets for $6 and head down to the ball park to see the Washington Nationals vs the Huston Astros.
In my naivety I was under the impression I would
1. Understand what was going on and
2. That it would be rammed of American sports fans.
It turns out that going to a baseball game is the equivalent of going down to the pub after work- you get some expensive beer and food and the game just also happens to be going on in the background. We manage to work out some of the rules but are mostly preoccupied with things like looking at the huge score board which shows you which of the bearded gentlemen are currently batting and then the American Presidents come out and race each other whilst being chased by someone dressed up as an ice cream. Much fun is had. So much we decide to return on another occasion with our new real American friends.
When we arrived in America I did shamelessly throw myself at the mercy of the staff like being the new girl at school, desperate for friends whilst remaining aloof enough to be the kind of person people would want to be friends with. From working in an industry where I am constantly having to make new friends for 5 weeks before starting again, there are some short cuts to getting in with the locals.
That’s a Gallon of Mimosa.
At 11 in the morning.
For 2 hours I can drink as many of them as I want.
Or If I want to switch to another drink, the theme of America is there’s always another choice. Lots of them.
Second behind brunch, Washington DC is also known as the Capitol of the United States and is home to the President. The USA may be the new kid on the block in terms of history, but the history they do have is certainly commemorated. Compared to London Washington DC is certainly new and spangly. The streets are wide and in three weeks I am still yet to see any litter.
This is what I saw on my last run before leaving London and found amusing enough to take a photo of:
And this is what I have been running past for the last 5 weeks:
To use the world surreal seems like quite an understatement. Also meandering past Barack Obama’s back door most days takes a few days before it becomes just like anyone else’s back door (although there’s a lot more people to negotiate around…)
Around all this Exploration the show is still going on and we end up extending for another week. Audiences are very different which is very interesting. They laugh more and in different places (although we still get the odd crowd who are too immersed to get a peep out of). We have also had a huge number of standing ovations and many people stay after the show to catch Lucy and talk about the show. The fact that drones here have much more of a presence in the news has meant that people have been able to access it in a slightly different way. In the UK it had more of an educational impact on audiences who in some cases where not of aware of the magnitude of the topic, whereas here it was able to move people to access more of the issues surrounding drone warfare which was received with great interest.
We also had some very interesting audience members, including a lot of vets (including an actual bomber pilot who served during WW2 who came to our opening who was indeed the top shit), Peter Singer and Andrea Prasow who both wrote material on drone warfare that was used heavily during the research and rehearsal process who took part in a post show debate on the subject. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, also made an appearance.
Besides these we also had some friendly faces to join us on our US venture with Eleanor Regan who was an intern at the Gate during the first run came down from Boston to see us, Richard Lee, Director of Jerwood and friend and supporter of The Gate made a surprise visit and the Actress who is going to be playing the same role in the next production in Baltimore came to see the show and become the newest member of Pilots Unite.