Sunday, February 22, 2009



They have a problem with keys at the Zilkha Gallery. Not very many people have them and fewer people know the alarm code. Thus far this has only been mildly irritating but this morning we arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled opening time and no one from the gallery is around. We’ve been given a key to the front door and a dressing room, so we call Public Safety – as the security guards are called in these parts – they say they’ll be with us so we get changed. Fifteen minutes later the only people who have shown up are audience members. The others start small talk. I get on the phone. Sylvia our local performer gamely launches into organising games with the kids. Barry turns up, bless him, to ‘see how we’re doing’, he get on the phone. Our box office guy turns up. He’s got not key. He gets on the phone. It turns out a moment after our initial call a fire alarm has gone off Fire trumps Gallery Opening trumps sitting around with a Coffee and the Paper. We’re out trumped. Some audience are leaving, others are arriving. Just as we’re calculating whether Burglar Alarm plus Fire Alarm trump just Fire Alarm ‘Public Safety’ arrives and all is well. No fights break out. The Public is Safe.

After this glitch everything is great and runs smoothly. Lots of people have seen last nights TV and we’re steadily busy with visitors through the day. The response is fantastic. People tell us how much they love the show and ask questions. It’s busy but not so busy that we can’t keep building the show.

I work on statistics for the vitrines that are poised to be placed around campus. Barry and I talk about Darwin as prep for the Science Department display (later he emails saying there are 27 adult Charles Darwins living in the U.S.). Vitrines are a kind of haiku version of the show, you have to boil it all down to 1m square and keep it elegant in both visually and conceptually. It takes far more time than we ever credit it with.

Eventually Graeme and I nail the Haiku (if you’re following the show on Twitter you will already know the poem). We carry everything over to the Science block turning heads as we go. They don’t often see a brown housecoat in these parts, still less two together. No doubt a rumour is sweeping campus about this new, quasi-Mormon sect.

All goes well with the vitrine, the rice is tidy, the paper all very neatly, Darwin is there, H.M.S. Beagle is there, local creationists are laid out beside local evolutionists. All is as it should be. We carefully lift the Perspex hood over the display and gently lower it down. Beautiful. We admire our work. All is good, so casually we pull the protective plastic coatings from the Perspex and bundle it up into balls. We’re all set to go but inside the vitrine things have gone crazy. Grains for rice are rising up, standing on their ends and leaping from the piles. They’re pinging themselves against the Perspex attempting to escape and the paper is curling at its edges attempting to catch them. Momentarily our allegiances in the Creation – Evolution debate swing decisively then the crackle of static electricity breaks out. Now we’re spinning and dancing with delight. It’s fantastic, now this extraordinary show even has its own weird, flea-show style variety act, should a cabaret opening come up. With one sheet of plastic still to be pulled and my camera-phone poised we shoot what, if Craig can give me the appropriate pass-words, should become one of You-tubes more esoteric clips.

Late in the day at the Student Union Chris and I take the precaution of removing the plastic from the Perspex well away from the rice and earth everything carefully before enclosing the second Haiku.

It’s a seven hour day but shift working gives the others a half day. I’m locked into this for now. Yesterday I went for a break only to find myself online in the union digging out numbers for Albinos in Tanzania and the U.S. (more in the former) and a up-to-date number for Guantanamo Bay internees – which is often an elusive one to find.

It’s been a good day 182 visitors added to last night’s opening crowd gives us 400 so far. We have our own key to the gallery and – don’t tell anyone – the alarm has been left off. Midnight party with the Dancing Rice Grains anyone?


P.S. Having researched Wesleyan's Public Safety department for this blog I am now fully aware they are much more than just Security Guards. I also notice they do a neat line in statistics...



Saturday, February 21, 2009


Local TV - How To Do It

Day 3. A monster day is on the cards, but first we must eat “all we wish” for Breakfast. In contrast to the cornucopia of yesterday’s Dinner the offerings are modest and we escape still trim and bustling for action.

Chris sets to tidying the gallery whilst the rest of us charge to the Olin Library on the other side of campus with all our kit. We set up this ‘satellite’ in the foyer with of a Birth of a Nation stats on one side and university based ones on the other. We finish just in time for brief ceremonials with librarians at noon. Then high-tail it back to the gallery and have thing just about ready when Dan Kain from WFSB Eyewitness News turns up with his camera guy. They are a great team, friendly and efficient, they spend about ten minutes with the show, the piece goes out that evening and it's one of the best we've seen done on the show. It throws into sharp relief our home stations’ failure to:

a> pick up on the show.
b> display any verve in their coverage of anything at all (not that I'm childish enough to harbour a grudge as you can tell).

Click on the link to see for your selves.

Before the cameraman has finished shooting his cut-away shots Jack, Graeme and I are off to Middletown's mid-town Main Street with a huge stack of rice to do a window display. We use a statistic that is so shocking that it keeps me awake at night - but more of that in a future post. Then it’s back to the gallery just in time for a newspaper interview (the Theatre and Visual Art Critics from a local paper have come in tandem which is a great idea for a show people find tough to catagorise). The opening follows seamlessly, with more ceremonials and food, which we miss out on because things are so busy. We also fail to pace ourselves properly. Having neglected to check our schedules carefully and are shocked to realise that though the opening finish at 19.00 we're due to plough on until 21.00.

Desperately hungry and thirsty I manage to mislead people into ‘the other’ Mexican Restaurant in town, not the one that's recommended. It’s a bad business. There are casualties. Food is left. We all cling to our beer for safety.




Thursday, February 19, 2009


Not 'all you want' or 'all you can' just 'all you wish'.

As usual Day 2 means smaller rice piles and things start to speed up. We are in at nine and cracking on with it. I broke out briefly to visit WESU FM, which is a proper radio station, corridor walls lined with dog eared vinyl, 7” & 12”, tatty kit and a deep passion for radio pervading the place. Barry and I do double coverage on Stephan Allison’s River Valley Rhythms show. It’s a classic ‘through the glass’ interview with us in adjoining studios, meeting in the corridor as a record plays out. Stephan has a great, easy American radio voice. He is generous with his show time and as we appeared to run over time I started to grow anxious that listeners in the River Valley weren’t getting as many rhythms as they had hoped.

The big excitement within the team today was discovering the delicious “eat all you wish” facility at the Student Union building. Shockingly, it was here, at the heart of student catering that we discovered the first vitamins of our trip, stacks of salad and fruit and juice. Learning that a similar, but cheaper deal also applies to breakfast our joy was, as you may imagine, unbounded.

Amazingly even Jack, who had availed himself of the ‘make your own waffle’ equipment was able to waddle back to the gallery in time to greet our second batch of volunteer performers, a keen bunch who didn’t appear to resent being kept the full two hours, until 22.00, helping us push things on.




Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Arts Center / Centre

It is brilliant to finally be here. We met Pamela Tatge the venue’s director back in January last year when the show was in New York. Planning for this trip essentially stared then with Barry coming over to see the show a few days later and us talking about the university researching statistics for us. Around Easter time Nick, our producer, happened to be visiting relatives near Connecticut so he called in for a site visit. Subsequently there has been an extended email correspondence.

We have been made to feel extremely welcome. First thing we were introduced to the venue’s impressive coffee making equipment and pointed to Tea cupboard (wisely both these sections of the kitchen are segregated). There was then a planning meeting with the venue staff during which we plotted through our packed itinerary and, almost before we had got down to work and certainly before a grain of rice had hit a sheet of paper we were guests at a introductory lunch during which we met other arts centre and arts faculty staff.

By mid afternoon a plan had was starting to emerge and some big piles were under construction. The gallery sets the rice off beautifully, it has a cork tile floor, walls comprised of vast rectangular stone bricks and huge windows. There is enough shape and character to give us natural sections and journeys.

At six our first team of volunteers arrived for training. They seemed like a keen bunch and rather than too much talking we launched rapidly into an apprenticeship scheme using them as extra hands to speed things along.

At eight we scooted over to an open rehearsal in which the Wesleyan University Orchestra was put through its paces playing a piece especially composed for them by Barbara Croall. Aware of the amount of prep required for tomorrow and having recently spent two days watching Birmingham Contemporary Music rehearse I decide to duck out a bit early.

Graeme cooks a fine risotto and surrounded, by the classics of Russian Literature, for my room is the study of a Professor of Russian Studies, I fall asleep listening to Fighting Talk.




Welcome to Middletown

Birmingham to Newark, Newark to Heartford, Heartford to Middletown. No movies, a bit of prep, a bit of writing and 2/3 of Sadie Plant’s fascinating Writing on Drugs. A smooth trip. We have been lent a beautiful house here, right beside the Wesleyan University Campus and the others were already looking very at home in the vast kitchen with cats wandering around.

Professor Barry Chernoff, one of our hosts, came round to escort us to the local bar and introduce us to its beers, which was very considerate of him. Barry is an ichthyologist (“a fish guy”) and really great value. It soon became clear ‘theatrical anecdotes’ weren’t going to cut it alongside tales of the Amazon, Piranhas, Sting Rays and fish that at crawl inside your penis if you piss in the water. Perhaps only Werner Herzog could trade stories in this kind of company but who wants to trade when the quality is this high? We fed Barry questions, sat back and had a great time.




Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Little Earthquake in the House

Monday was about trying to get as much done before Tuesday as possible. Little Earthquake are in the A E Harris space rehearsing their new show. Last week the staff urinals got boxed and proper doors put on the cubicles to create unisex toilets. We’ve invested in some mugs and other basic kitchen items, moved our best heater down there, curtained off the A4 room and got Clive to open the shutters on those windows, so hopefully the company will feel relatively comfortable and able to concentrate on their work not the cold.



Saturday, February 14, 2009


Proud Fathers

Friday came round and the staff of Bordesley Green East Nursery undertook their City Adventure Day and it wasn’t snowing, and it wasn’t raining, and it was cold, but there wasn’t ice on the pavements; in fact, the sun shone. As usual people appeared to have fun, in the afternoon’s thinking session as well as the morning’s doing session.

Benny, by careful deployment of formal white jacket and bowtie, has made the origami task his own. Graeme was on dioramas. Chris, one of our top hand massage picks, was called in as Craig’s Labour Watch status was cranked up to amber. Hannah was released from the office to stand on a bridge (she likes to get out and about) and proud Father Jake branched out into audio work at the market.

Stan followers need not worry, Jake hasn’t taken to the cloth, last Sunday Molly was born, well done Jo, well done Jake.

In the end Craig did come in and knock out a great documentary poem. We packed up together and by midnight Sorrel was born. Well done Charlotte, well done Criag.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009


The Floor

We, though mostly Craig, have finished laying blue carpet tiles throughout the office. This, combined with the newly painted walls, makes the place look a lot more business like. We are however in danger of getting carried away, catching ourselves saying “yes, we can invite them to the office” as if that will be some great treat for people. To us the new floor is a marvel and a revelation – to the rest of the civilised world they are merely carpet tiles.


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