Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 8:35 PM

When we first joined the ship last month, some of us, during casual conversation, were informed by veterans of the business that suicides are frequent in the cruise industry. This week, we experienced our first.  In this case, it was a crew member, although I’m told that guests jump overboard more frequently. This unnamed assistant waiter went missing Sunday night around 11 PM and was never found. The ship had to turn around in the late afternoon on Monday to start a comprehensive search of the ocean, as one had already been completed onboard. Rumors are flying about who he was, why he jumped, if he jumped at all, etc. But most of the crewmembers around us are acting as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Of course, I don’t really expect people to walk around with looks of horror and/or mourning on their faces, but in the crew areas, it’s eerily status quo. I don’t know which is worse; the fact that I’m here working in a place where people come to deliberately end their lives, or that there will probably come a time when I don’t find that sort of thing odd. I’m shaken up a bit. Naturally. I wish Todd were here. It’s been a few days since all of this started, but I still could use a good cuddle paired with a rom-com. It’s been way too long since I’ve had a cuddle-movie night.
On a lighter note, I’m really enjoying this aqua show, ironically. I was dreading it, but it’s turned out to be smashing good fun! AND! I totally do a kick-kick-double basket toss on the trampoline in the show. Jeremy (the Director) and Jeremy (the previous Acro Captain) both LOVED it when I was playing around so it’s in! AWESOME! Who says cheerleading never amounts to anything?! Definitely not me! Love from the Oasis.

Monday, May 24, 2010 3:52 PM

I just read my last post, which was almost 20 days ago. After careful review, I realize that I sound like such a whiner! Thinking back to 20 days ago, I realize that it wasn’t the best of times, but it certainly wasn’t the worst of times either. I think what really got to me was the daily (or nightly) schedule. If you know me remotely well, you know that my sleep is integral to my daily functioning. More so than anything, being tired and/or hungry can really make me a heinous bitch. So you can imagine how crazy I was after 2 weeks of barely getting 4 hours of sleep, on average, a night (day). Meltdown.  But all that is passed. So if I worried you, my four or so readers, I apologize. I am fine. ‘Twas a moment of weakness on my part. So let me recap the past 20 days for you all, because a lot has happened!
We opened the show, “Come Fly With Me”, in which I play the principle character, Maxwell. The opening went extremely well, sans a few technical errors involving sets, props, etc. We’ve enjoyed packed houses and that really helps. The first 3 performances, the entire previous cast was still on the ship, and they helped bring the audience energy way up. I’m so grateful to have a character to really dive into, even though he’s a mute one. I find myself making discoveries that really allow me to bring this character to life. I’m afraid I really would have gone insane if I were just tumbling with no intellectual challenge. The show has a very loose plot, which allowed me to really make up an awesome back story. If you ever get to see the show I’ll share my thoughts with you!
After we opened, the acrobats had a week off, more or less. We had minor engagements, like open gym time on the trampoline and diving board, but nothing strenuous. For me, it was the perfect amount of time for to physically heal. I’m working at about 85%, but that’s much better than the 40/50% I was experiencing when we opened. After some downtime, we said farewell to the original Hairspray cast, which doubles as the “Come Fly With Me” dancers and singers. So now it is just us, the second cast, in the Opal Theatre. And the acrobats have turned their sites to conquering the AquaTheatre with the newly arrived 2nd Aqua Cast. They all seem amiable, and fortunately for them, much better informed than we were. I think that is solely because they are being led by the AquaTheatre Production Manager (ie Stage Manager) who is fantastic. During our week off, I got a call from said Production Manager to go over a multitude of information, which because of what I was used to the previous month, surprised me greatly. He was instantly helpful, and I knew that the installation of the Aqua Show “Oasis of Dreams” would go much smoother than the previous show installation. And so far, it definitely has. More so than CFWM, Oasis of Dreams is a just-add-water kind of show (literally lol). It’s an easier show for us because it’s more about putting little pieces together instead of “creating” sections. There’s less choreography and more “you have this amount of time to do whatever, so go for it.” In the meantime, I’m counting down the days until Todd gets here, thanks to the post-it countdown he sent in his last care package. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m really trying not to read ahead, but it’s taking everything I have. The care packages Todd has sent me have really helped me remember why I’m here, and that this isn’t permanent, but just a transitional period of my life. So if you’re reading this, which I’m sure you are, I love you and appreciate everything you do for me, Todd!
One day I’ll figure out how to add pictures to this blog so you can have a visual reference to what I’m telling you all about.
One little tidbit that I think you gymnasts/cheerleaders will enjoy: one of the acrobats, Sydney, is from Canada. In Canada, the process of “Cowboying” your legs to rotate faster is called going “spread eagle,” and apparently in Canada you also shorten everything so they call it “spread eags.” I love it, and I’ve been saying it every chance I get. “SPREAD EAGS!!!”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wednesday, May 05, 2010 10:23 PM

I’m listening to “Move Along” by the All-American Rejects before our 11 PM rehearsal. This song is really helping me right now. The lyrics perfectly incorporate all of the feelings I have about the experience I’m going through right now. My hands aren’t really shaking cold, but all of my fingers are swollen and sore…“When all you have to keep is strong, Move along” reeeeally nails it for me. So if those aren’t the actual lyrics and I’ve done what I do all the time and made the lyrics make sense to me regardless of what the actual words are, please refrain from telling me. Today I had a mental breakdown, of sorts, when it came time to do something before bed and after rehearsal. I was so emotionally drained from the last 12 hours that I couldn’t even bear to make the decision to put clothes on and get some sunlight (which I haven’t seen since Saturday). Tiago basically forced me out of the room. Thank god. Everything just seems really gray right now. I can’t think of a better way to explain it. Learning this show should be a blast, especially as the lead character, but the lack of close-proximity support from best friends and soul mates is really depressing me. Tiago is the only close friend I have here, and we share in our mutual disdain for the lack of organization of the entire ship and in our mutual relocation woes, especially when it comes to soul mates. It’s nice to have someone here who is going through virtually the same thing as me. The inability to communicate with the outside world is getting insane. The internet sucks, and I’m sure my phone bill is going to be Monstrous. And all the while, the world is turning without me. How do people do it? There seems to be this whole culture who is perfectly content to leave their whole world (and dry land) behind and exist solely in the presence of 2,000 other crewmembers, while never knowing 90 percent of them. I guess I’m not cut out for it. I feel like Mr. Darcy in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice when he says that his relocation offers a society far less varied than what he’s used to. Even if I did like everyone here, which I don’t, there’s only like 30 people to talk to. It’s the smallest amount of Human Contact I’ve ever experience. I NEED MY FRIENDS! So as a conclusion, if I can get my “guest privileges” worked out, I’m allowed 90 days of guests, which is a little over half of my contract. So I can literally have a guest with me in my cabin for 3 months of this almost-6. So come on! Let me know a month in advance, buy your plane ticket, and get your ass to Ft. Lauderdale!  

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 9:37 PM

I’m having a lot of trouble remembering what day it is. My days all melt together because of our monotonous schedule. All we do is eat, sleep, and rehearse. Literally. I’ve just woken up from my “night” sleep. I feel like I could have used more sleep but I slept 8 hours. My sleeping schedule is extremely hit or miss. And it’s really starting to get to me. Two days ago, I slept through the day for 11 hours, and it was awesome. Yesterday, I slept 2.5 hours and then did some laundry and other remedial chores, and tried to sleep more, only clocking a total of about 6 hours. It’s just frustrating. And there’s an end in sight to this scheduling nightmare, but I need it to come a lot faster. I totally sympathize with insomniacs now. Tiago thinks we’re living like bats, and I agree. It’s awful. But alas, what do you do. My mood is constantly bitchy. And every little bit of downtime I have, my mind wanders to all of the loose ends I have in Tulsa. Right now my bank account is overdrawn by hundreds, I still haven’t figured out the best cell phone option, I need to order new contacts, etc. It just doesn’t end. Before I left for the ship I had this overwhelming feeling of being in limbo, and though I’m here, the feeling continues. I hate this feeling.
Rehearsals are going smoothly enough I suppose. They’re getting longer and more rigorous but that’s to be expected as we draw closer to the show. Bungees are still the bane of my existence, and my body never seems to get used to the process of hurling itself thirty feet and catching a bar with a single extremity. My bruises are healing, and then getting worse. It’s a seemingly endless cycle. Maxwell still hasn’t been cast. But at this point I think Jeremy is leaning towards me. We’re continuing the blocking process with me as Maxwell, and Tiago on a regular Acro track. That’s all with the assumption that we’ll switch eventually and learn the opposite part, but that switch hasn’t happened yet. I put my foot in my mouth a little yesterday. I have been assumed by several people to be the acrobat captain. So what do I do? Start acting as acrobat captain. The whole team accepts me as the leader and I’m running the portions of rehearsal where we’re left alone. So in my mind, after a week and a half of not knowing anything, it became time to email someone and get some information. I emailed someone about all the questions I have thus far: The Maxwell role, Acro Captain responsibilities, “Fly” pay, and about guest privileges for the Acro Captain. Well wouldn’t you know it, that very night (last night), Jeremy finally approached me and pulled me aside to talk. He wanted to know what I’d heard about the Captain position, and whether or not I’d be interested. I’m sure him talking to me was prompted by an email from the people I messaged, about my message. Oops. So I told him I was definitely interested and to let me know when he’d made his final decision. However, I feel like him talking to me and no one else about the position signifies that he has. So now I have another official appointment for which to wait. Awesome. More waiting.
On a lighter note, I haven’t smoked a cigarette, or thought about one for that matter, in 11 days. Miraculously, I think our entire cast is smoke-free, which is amazing for me. My fear coming into this was that I’d find a smoking buddy and my habit would continue as it has for way too long. I worried that Tiago would end up being a smoker but it turns out he quit 2 or 3 years ago. No smokers here! The previous cast has members that I’ve seen lighting up at various venues on the ship, but luckily we have very little contact with them. Bingo! So it looks like I’m finally on the path to becoming smoke free, permanently. And of a lesser concern, but the same genre of vices, I also haven’t thought about drinking in the same amount of time. In fact, every time I DO think about drinking it’s immediately followed with the raw, biological, your-own-body-telling-you-not-to kind of Nausea. I think it’s just the schedule and that my body is in an overhaul mode. I’m burning every calorie possible, then some. Either way, I DO plan on drinking again sometime very soon, so my body better SNAP out of it.:-)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010 9:56 PM

It’s been a while since I’ve written and I feel sore about it. Our schedule is so crazy that I’m exhausted all the time. I find myself, for the first time EVER, struggling to sleep for extended periods and I think it has a lot to do with the time of day problem. So I’m striving for 6 or 7 sleep hours a day at the most, which are spread over multiple nap times, making them shallow and ineffective. Slowly but surely, my body is healing, although, while my muscles feel better, I continue to bruise everywhere. Bruise and scrape inventory GO! Back of both knees, above the hips, scrapes on the right inner thigh (not sure why), a big ol’ bruise on my right bicep and a purple, right big toe. I also have championed my first rip on my right hand (trend??) from the trapeze bar, and while it hurts like crazy, I don’t mind it because I feel like a *real* acrobat. Oh, and there’s a rug burn scrape on one of my toes from climbing a rope every night for our initial conditioning. So basically I look rough. Ruthless. I’m a poor, unfortunate soul. We went swimming today for the first time and Tiago was joking that it looks like I’m in an abusive relationship. And what’s funny about that is that I am in an abusive relationship…with my job. Things are, all in all, going a lot better, and we actually choreographed a lot of the tumble track portion of the show last night, which was nice, and much needed affirmation of why I’m here. I’m really just hoping that I land this Maxwell character. We saw the show last night, and it’s very cool. I wouldn’t call it “moving” or extremely “artistic” per say, but for a cruise ship show, it’s pretty damn well done. There’s very little through line, but I think, as Maxwell, I can really help that. I feel that as a whole, our cast is stronger than the first but that may be because it looked like they were all just over it or lazy. Still, it looks like, when it’s all put together, it’ll be a great show. We also saw the aqua show, Oasis of Dreams, early this week. It was…scary. First, the show is at night at the very back of the ship, while the ship is going full throttle forward at sea. So you can feel the ship swaying and visibly see the pool water just sloshing from side to side. Scary. People are jumping into this pool from 17 meters up. WTF? And it’s not like it’s a huge pool either. It’s shaped like a peanut. And the floor of the pool moves up and down with hydraulics to be either 20 feet deep or various depths or to make a platform level with the deck. It’s a cool idea until you start thinking about the worst case scenario, which I do…a lot. So that freaked me out pretty instantly. AND THEN, we got some information as to WHY the previous Acro cast is smaller than ours. We have six, 4 boys and 2 girls, and they have five, 3 and 2, with one of the boys injured. Ok, are you ready? Apparently, one of the acrobat girls, who is no longer in the cast, was told it was clear to dive into the water and it wasn’t. The floor was partially raised and SHE BROKE HER NECK. What. The. Fuck. Are you joking? Why am I not getting paid a million dollars for this job? So all that being said, my feelings for the aqua show are: It’s a mediocre show with good tidbits here and there but very little substance, it’s basically a glorified talent show in a pool, and there is WAY too much risk involved for a show this bad. And too many costume changes. And cheesy stage fighting. And maniacal synchronized swimmers.

So… it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. The upside to all this craziness as that we will have a lot of time off, generally speaking. If all goes well, and we don’t have to reschedule shows due to cancelation, we’ll have two days completely off a week. And when you put actual performance time on paper, it’s only about 9 hours or less. And when you break it down further than that, we’re only onstage for like 30 minutes tops for each of the shows. So basically, I’m working hard for about 4.5 hours a week, kind of working hard for another 4.5 hours, getting ready to work for 4.5, and I’m off the rest of the time. So I’m working less than 15 hours a week. And that, my friends, is the good part.

Tuesday April 27, 2010 7:20 AM

We just finished our third rehearsal. We got done at about 6:30 and the immigration office is here at 8:15 to do…something. I think we get our passports back because they were taken from us during our first check in on the ship. My. Body. Hurts. I’m in so much pain. The back of my knees are completely purple from bruising. My forearms are having trouble with the fine motor skills it takes to type right now. And it’s all because of this damn bungee training. If I were just tumbling I’d be fine. But no. We’re totally going cirque and we’re throwing skills like triple layouts connected to bungee cords on either side, and then having to hold on to our trapeze bar for minutes at a time. Which is MUCH easier said than done. Hence the forearms. I have plenty of determination; I’ve just never been so embarrassed about my own physical limits. And it’s all to do with strength. I do think I’m getting better very quickly. It’s just a matter of keeping up with the good ones. i.e. Katie and Tiago. (Which is nearly impossible, by the way) I did receive some pretty good information though from some of the original acrobats on the ship. Namely, in regards to the position of Acrobat Captain and such. Apparently, the Acro Captain gets paid an extra $1000 a month while keeping his/her own room. AND they are in charge of signing “guests” onto the ship to stay with acrobats. So that means, if I get to keep my premature appointment, Todd can come whenever he wants and as many times as he wants and just stay with me. That’s it, for now. Hopefully, I will be able to hold on physically to this rigorous schedule and gather more information in the meantime. Cheers from the ocean.

Sunday, April 25th, 2010 4:01 AM

So it’s the official end of my first day on the ship. What a day. We’ll be in Nassau tomorrow morning which is normally the last stop on our seven day Eastern cruise. They reversed the trip for maintenance reasons. I got a message from the captain that explained the new itinerary. In my email inbox. On my TV. This ship is NUTS.

I’m eager to see how the next few days pan out for a few reasons. First, our rehearsals are going to be scheduled from Midnight until about 6 AM every morning. So I’m sure I’ll have a HELL of a time readjusting my circadian rhythm. The reason for the wacky hours is that we’re on the main stage for the first two weeks of rehearsals, and it’s the only time available. Our rehearsal tonight lasted about 3 hours and I’ve decided to do my best at making tonight as long as possible to force my body into submission so that tomorrow (later today) when I go to bed at noon and wake up at 11 PM I’ll be pretty much set. We’re only focusing on one show (Come Fly With Me) until we open it on May 8th, and then we’ll move to the other (Oasis of Dreams). No one has said anything about Splish Splash but that definitely doesn’t mean we’re not going to get thrown into that at any given time. But seriously, Come Fly With Me is going to be BADASS. Second, I’m amazed at how much we’re actually going to be doing in the show as acrobats. There’s a whole bungee session that we got introduced to today in addition to all the fast track stuff. My body is not nearly as physically strong as it needs to be for that! My forearms and abs are especially inadequate. Ironic? Not really. Third, I’m sitting in my own room right now because I’ve been told I’m the Acro Captain. Trust me, it’s definitely news to me. But I’ve been told by the Dance Captain, the Production Manager, and pretty much any random person who knows more about the ship than I do, so apparently it’s true. The reason that my being Acro Captain is so intriguing is because I have no idea why or how they came to the conclusion that I am best qualified acrobat for that position. And unfortunately, after today, it’s very clear that I’m not. I’m not the worst by far, but there’s a very clear cut difference in quality between four of us (myself included) and two people: Tiago and Katie. Katie is 21 and a complete and utter badass. She just got done performing in Cirque Du Soleil’s Mystere. WTF?! How on earth is she not getting paid an excessive amount of money and in complete control of all of us? And although I’m not sure of Tiago’s resume specifics it’s extremely clear that he is the most experience and mature of all of us. The thing is, no one higher than our production manager has explicitly said “Pete, you’re acro captain” so this is what I’m thinking. Jeremy, the shows’ creator, just chose an arbitrary person to fill that position at first because he didn’t know any of us and decided on the only person who has a degree (not exactly sure about that, but it’s a safe assumption), and he’s assessing us all right now, in rehearsal, and will make appropriate adjustments as we get closer to show time. BUT! Get this! Apparently, Come Fly With Me has a “protagonist” (code: lead role) named Max (?) and I’m cast as that part too. I’m really not complaining, and this actually might be a good fit, but again. Why me? I suppose I do have the most theatre training, but why wasn’t anyone aware of these casting choices before we got here? And am I getting paid more? Haha So needless to say, on one hand I’m wishing I was in MUCH better shape and I’m just praying that I don’t completely embarrass myself with my lack of strength and on the other hand, I’m hoping that the way they have it stands, and I’ll always have my own room for when Todd comes, and I’ll get to put Acro Captain and Max on my resume. (Kickass)

So after getting up at 7 AM, sitting on a shuttle bus for about 2 hours, arriving at the ship, going through an excruciating boarding process, taking tours of the ship, sitting through our first of several safety training sessions, forgoing a much needed nap, eating three times at the 24-hour crew mess, watching Hairspray (which was pretty well done), and finishing a 3 hour rehearsal, which, was, BANANAS, I suppose it’s finally time for a little sleep. It is now 4:26 AM and we have our 2nd training session at 8:30 AM. After a 3rd session at 10:30 AM, I’ll be settling in for a long sleep session (think 10 hours or so) to try and reset my already fragile internal clock (only to reset it again to normal hours in two weeks). Ugh. And all the while I’m praying to the god of this ship that I’m not completely immobile when I wake up because of a limp, sore, flabby body. Cheers and good night (morning).