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The book also outlines recipes how best to consume for the best results. This time the English translation is excellent. For a few weeks now she had been talking about the upcoming auditions for the Broadway premiere of Billy Elliot: The Musical , and the possibility that I would be seen for the dance teacher, Mrs. It was well into the evening, and first thing tomorrow I was joining the second year Shakespeare project, Richard III , as text and voice coach. I just got here! Then, I have to arrange a flight back to Toronto, transportation to and from the two airports… let alone find time to look at the scenes and the songs.

Sometimes I hate my job. Of course, my frustration was fueled by more than seven hours in the car with an unhappy cat, a nasty, confused car-park, no food, and NO WINE! Ultimately, there was no hassle. Permission granted by the School. Easy-peasy flight with Porter to the Toronto Island, shuttle to the Royal York, a gentle walk to the Elgin-Winter Garden in excellent spring weather, and I was in the waiting room of the fourth floor studio in plenty of time.

There was one young man nervously pacing, then it would be my turn.


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It helps if the people behind the table respect you, and you respect them. Fingers crossed. Touch wood. Toi toi. Oh, were they nice! Did I mention…she was so nice! Kate Hennig? Are you sure you have the name right? Julian is a tall, crazy-looking dude from England, with one eye that goes a bit sideways. I sang the audition version of Shine. I sang the audition version of The Letter. I started the first scene with Julian reading Billy. Good casting, wot?!

He knows the entire script off by heart. Pick an eye and focus on it. That was my advice to myself. That was it. I stood there… Awkward… What am I supposed to do now? Should I say something? A moment of silence. Come on. No, is the answer. I am a great mover : a physical actor.

Two, sometimes three times a week I do a half hour contemporary dance workout to keep those movement chops happening. I show Julian and Tara a segment of my dance workout. It feels a bit like showing someone a mole that you normally camouflage by wearing a turtle neck. I guess. On the way out Tara said she was so happy to have seen me. That I was even better than all the reports. From who?! I want to know what interloper is giving out these reports! Walk back to the Royal York. Shuttle to the island. Flight back to Montreal. Train to the city. The cat stretches and pleads for food. What else is new.

We have a call-back for you in New York between May 26th and 31st. I told them about your teaching gig. The one and only time I was in New York was back in the early summer of I swore I would never return. The subways smelled of recycled chicken soup. Scary, big, dirty, smelly… and lonely. Who needs it. And there was no way I would risk a hotel near one of the train stations…yikes! I managed to get it all arranged. It was excellent! I was truly moved by the commitment and assurance of these young actors.

I shared a meal with friends afterwards in the Plateau. When you are working with these young actors day to day, you really lose your objectivity. But I was so proud of them: proud of the way they handled the text; the way they shape-shifted only 9 actors in this class, and how many parts in the play?! It was an emotional evening, and the culmination of some intense and grueling intellectual and physical commitment to growth.

I had had no expectation of needing them. All I had was my teaching clothes. And very little make-up. But I threw the best options I could put together into my little Roots suitcase. What I knew at this point was that I would have a dialect coaching with William Conacher, the head dialect coach for the show, at 10am Thursday morning. Then I would have an audition for tout le gang at 7pm that evening. If they liked what they saw I might have call back sessions on Friday and possibly Saturday.

I was up at and in a taxi to the airport by am. One forgets how short the distance is from Montreal to New York. I was at La Guardia by , and in my ground transportation by I had booked a seat on one of those ground shuttles that takes about a dozen people to their mid-town hotels. We were in bags of time I figured, even considering rush hour traffic. An hour and a bit later, having crossed the 49th Street bridge into Manhattan, crawled though mid-town traffic to half a dozen hotels, I figured out that my hotel at 34th and Broadway would be the final destination of this vehicle.

It was now ten to ten, and I was oh-too-soon-to-be-late for my first Broadway audition. When we stopped at a Times Square hotel to drop off an energetic family, I hopped out with my suitcase and my satchel, gave the guy my voucher and a tip, and began a sprinting journey on foot to the studio at 43rd between 9th and 10th. The girl leaned back from her desk and raised her voice to someone unseen in the adjoining office,.

This is the studio that I was told to come to. Dial the number. The girl behind the desk can smell my fear. You can borrow my cell phone if you like. She takes the call, looking away from me. Little Miss Organised. In a nutshell… they gave incorrect information to my agent, and I was at the wrong studio. I got the correct address from him. I offered an embarrassing number of thank-yous to the goddess of the phone, and made my way… with suitcase and satchel, to Ninth Avenue to find a taxi downtown.

We had gone through the same Masters program at the Central School of Speech and Drama in England, though a few years apart, and we had a common language. I had picked up a reasonable attempt at a Northeast accent, and he gave me some great touchstones for the sounds. But so much more important than that, he gave me confidence in the scenes. Just some hints at the things he knew they liked.

The ones that count. So an hour with William set me at ease right from the start. I walked away from Chelsea Studios, with my suitcase and my satchel, making my way towards the Hotel at 34th and Broadway. It was just after noon. I would get to the hotel, check in early, and have a good long nap, a nice meal, and be refreshed and relaxed before the evening audition.

The guy at the desk said check-in was at 3pm. No exceptions. I could leave my bags with the concierge. That was the best he could do. The fatigue of six intense weeks of teaching Shakespeare, watching two three-hour shows the day before, and four and a half hours of sleep was really hitting me now. There was no way I could march around being a tourist for three hours and have the reserves for the audition. I grabbed some lunch and sat in the little park at the corner. It was loud. And there were a million people. Maybe two million.

But the sun was shining and it was a gloriously warm spring day. I sat there for two hours. My head was starting to loll. I shook it. Rattled my eyelids. I wandered aimlessly. I looked a sale racks, but I had no money to shop. I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep in one of their change rooms. I got my suitcase from the concierge, and with my suitcase and satchel at hand, I sat on the floor of the Radisson Martinique in midtown Manhattan.

And waited. At three-fifteen the woman took pity on me and gave me a room. It was the size a closet, but clean, and comfortable. I took off my street clothes and crawled into bed. My plan was to sleep for an hour, shower, get dressed, get something to eat, then make my way gently up to the studio. A small, neatly dressed man, sized me up. He looked at my bare legs under my coat.

He was judging me. I know he was. I had wanted to sleep until I lay in bed until 5, then dragged my sorry body into the shower. It was dusk as I made my way up Broadway toward the midtown studio at which I had first arrived eight hours before. I walked slowly, peacefully, taking in the experience. I was back in New York for the first time in twenty-two years, and it felt pretty good really. It was spring. Loads of people were heading in every direction, and I just went with the flow, smiling at my own sense of calm and centeredness.

Maybe my eyes were stinging with lack of sleep, but no one could tell that except me. I was at the studio twenty minutes early. There was me and a middle aged man who was studiously working on his lines. I sat quietly in the line of chairs under a row of show posters. At pm I started to pace a bit. People spilled out from one of the studios. Important people, I imagined. I sat down again. The important people all went back in.

At ten minute intervals I paced. The middle aged man went in. A woman, younger than me, obviously a dancer, with tap shoes on, moved from one studio to another. I was on a pacing jag, and way down at the other end of the lobby. The studio was not huge. The piano was at the end near the door, and there were two long tables set up at the far end of the room with a gap in between them. There were many important looking faces behind the tables.

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I was introduced to each one of them but my nerves made all their names sound like cartoon characters…. I sing the audition version of Shine for the cast of Looney Tunes. David Chase, the musical director, wants to hear the ending again because I kind of kacked the last note.

Second time is better, but far from perfect. I start the first scene. Julian as Billy. Daldrey looks up from my resume on the table in front of him. I got his attention. I start the second scene. Daldrey looks back at my resume. This is also a good sign. He wants to know more about me. He gives little away, even though I know I have scored a point. I find out that the woman in tap shoes who has been wandering about is not my competition but dance assistant, Cara Kjellman.

Unbeknownst to either of us, Cara and I will spend many fruitful hours together sometime in the distant future… Two of the other people who were behind the table are Peter Darling, choreographer, and Kate Dunn, associate choreographer. Nothing could make me happier. I ask the pianist if he can play some classical music… anything really… and I just start moving to it.

Now my favourite way to move is what one might loosely call… interpretive dance. In my mind, my heart, my soul, I am Twyla Tharpe. Like that. God bless Peter Darling. We begin a series of movement improvisations, that we then link together, and practice. The hour goes by in a blink. So much for thinking I was in any kind of physical condition! Without fear, but with some humility, I show them what we have been working on.

They chatted amongst themselves. It shows range, musicality, and character, and I love to sing it. I did what I could. I showed them who I am and what I can do. A few minutes later Tara comes into the waiting area. The day will start at 11am: choreography with Peter and Kate. Then a break. Then music with David Chase at 3pm. Then possibly scene work with Stephen Daldrey on Saturday, if I make it that far. At pm I am cast out onto the streets of New York City. I feel light headed. Well, excited and scared. I grab a slice of pizza and eat it while wandering back down Broadway to Herald Square.

There is virtually no daylight in interior rooms of the Radisson Martinique. The dark makes for good sleeping. Into the shower. I hate having to go out for breakfast. I have poached eggs on toast in the lobby restaurant. Dreadful tea, and not enough of it. I put on my teacher togs, and head down to the Chelsea Studios on 26th. At eleven on the dot I am in a large studio with Peter and Kate.

Kate teaches me some choreography as Peter watches. I dance in my bare feet because I have no dance shoes. I know I can get the moves. I have the same muscles as any other human body… but it takes a long time to wrap the old dogs around the new tricks. In spite of everything, I always have my sense of humour. And within minutes I have both Peter and Kate laughing. I pull out a few of my jazz-dance moves. These win them over. I believe I have two points now.

After forty-five minutes my feet are sore, and I have sweated off all my make-up and my hair product. Peter has left the room while Kate painstakingly repeats the moves with me… over and over and over… and over again. After an hour my feet are bleeding. He seems satisfied, though not pleased.

This choreography will likely be shown to the rest of the panel later in the afternoon. I make him laugh again. As a parting effort I show Kate and Peter the three tap moves I know how to do. Hoping to impress them. I need epsom salts and bandages. Having had a quick, healthy lunch, a good hot soak in the tub, and a change into fresh dry clothes, I return for my David Chase music session with my feet neatly bandaged.

And I feel myself tensing up around the precision that David wants in Shine. Just at a critical point, William Conacher comes into the studio. My saviour. That makes life so much easier — gives me some perspective — and the session proceeds smoothly from that point in. We hit another difficulty while working musically through The Letter … and just at that moment Stephen Daldrey comes into the room with producer, Jon Finn.

Without warning we are in the acting session that was not supposed to happen until Saturday! Tough luck, girly. We are in the thick of it. The Letter : the emotional crux of Mrs. Stephen and I sit in chairs facing each other. He is now playing Billy. We play the scene. He directs me. You get the picture. We do. Wilkinson is not supposed to wear her emotions on her sleeve, I decide to let the situation move me to tears.

The rest of the panel piles back in the room. I do the two other scenes again, with direction this time. William plays Billy, and that puts me at ease. I do Shine several times with direction, and lots of playfulness. So are they. After a break we assemble back in the larger studio. I show them the dance I had learned three years ago… oh no, it was just this morning.

I do the routine a couple of times. It goes as well as can be expected… in my Twyla Tharpe imagination. We do the scenes again.

Street Corner Kate & The Curse Of The Seven To One Plan

Julian is Billy. Full circle. Stephen tells me to wait in a room down the hall, and he will be in to speak with me shortly. Good little actor. After about 15 minutes I take out a notebook and start to write about my day. As promised, Stephen comes and talks to me. Just me and him. I feel like we have gone through a lot together today.

I feel respected. I feel empowered. I feel loved.

Stonewall Uprising

I had had the time of my life. Stephen asked if he could walk me out of the building. At the elevator Julian joined us. They were just going down to the street for a smoke. These two men, for whom I had gained so much respect, who imbued me with so much energy and enthusiasm, who taught me to be a better actor during the few hours we shared… these two men hugged me on the street… and then I walked lightly east towards 7th Avenue, on my poor bloodied feet.

I have two cousins who are amazing skiers. Their idea of fun is to be dropped at the top of a mountain by a helicopter and to make it to the bottom with only their skis, their wits and their skill. Just them and the mountain. Just me and the mountain. Oh man. Back to life. Back to reality. It was great to see the students so relieved, and so excited about the prospects of their future.

What a fun party. Back to top. And of course, a limo driver that you know. I had both, and the day progressed with the smoothness of its beginning. I made it this far. This among many other godsends. My contract is signed, my boxes are in transit they were held up in Buffalo because UPS lost the detailed and artful contents-lists that my sisters and I worked so hard to create! And from Fresh Direct. There is plenty for me to explore in this rich jungle.

I will take my time doing that. My priority right now is to get Northrop the cat off the top of the fridge. And I hope to do that by making this little white box, tucked between the Hudson River and Lincoln Centre, into an ease-filled home. From the window outside Studio 16D at Ripley-Grier you can see the Empire State Building among the castle peaks of various other amazing art deco towers.

The hallways are crowded with actors and singers, directors and pianists, children, parents, veterans and hopefuls. They resound with the not always dulcet tones of warming up and rehearsing and god-forbid people should hear you so clearly! Ripley-Grier is an entire floor plus! The walls are bubble-gum pink when you get off the elevator, with a sort of tropical theme. The chairs that line the halls are wicker, shaded by huge plants in each of the windows. Stinking hot. And I mean stinking. The smells on the streets here are often a personal invasion: too much urine! But up on the 16th Floor the air-conditioning is blowing, and the real-live-world of the garment district seems miles away.

We are in musical-theatre-land. My first week of rehearsal was spent in the anarchic hands of Julian Webber, the Associate Director. Julian is wild. His short cropped salt and pepper hair stands up at various angles as he brushes his hands through it searching for thoughts and words. And me. He tips his green glasses off his nose for emphasis. He has a potty mouth.

And is adamant. The world of this play. We work through each scene in painstaking detail. This gives me loads of time to settle into the material, but is mostly for the children: they need such specificity.

Mrs. Wilkinson’s Visit

Each boy that plays Billy and there are five that I am working with right now… four currently doing the show, and one little guy, Alex Ko, who will start on stage the same day I start… which is now October 6th is so completely different. Each has been given his own little moments of leeway to make the part his own. Each moves differently, responds differently, and instantly there is a unique relationship between me and each one of these young treasures. We may have been wondering why the Billy Elliot folks wanted me to rehearse for eight weeks, but I think I know now: in many ways, I am rehearsing five different shows.

Of course the lines are the same, and the blocking is basically the same, but I will have a different scene partner and all my scenes in the play but one are with this young man for each show. This is extremely upsetting and has left me with the added administration of an insurance claim to deal with. And beautiful things lost, including a vase from Denmark and a porcelain canister from Florence, among the other shards.

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Irreplaceable really. My little apartment begins to feel like a home, and I am already entertaining… a feat rarely accomplished in NYC apparently! I am making friends, and connecting with acquaintances from the production of White Christmas that I did for the last two winters, and contacting the list of Canadian ex-pats down here for one reason or another.

They are no longer as I still am strangers in this strange land. It is somewhat incongruous to look out the window of my apartment and see horses and carriages. You can imagine. Not exactly the vehicular traffic one would expect on West End Avenue in Millions of yellow cabs, and the occasional anachronism. I live just at the edge of many great amenities: a five minute walk from Lincoln Centre, and from Riverside Park.

Central Park is a fifteen minute walk; fifteen minutes to 72nd and Broadway, or to Columbus Circle. And about a half an hour walk to the Imperial Theatre, where I will soon be working. In my first week here I went to see a free concert of spoken word and world music at Lincoln Centre Out of Doors. I expected to just stop in for a listen, and ended up staying for five and a half hours!

Both events were an easy walk from my little apartment. Meantime, the second week of rehearsals went smoothly. I worked with B. He is delightful. And shockingly gifted. Extremely complicated work, mostly because there are always a gaggle of people on stage doing elaborate and extraordinary things, which are only described to me by Kate since we have none of those people in rehearsal. This requires a totally concentrated effort to keep absorbing information which is to this point only available in my imagination. Julian has said not to go see the show for a while. The down side though, is that I am working from the memory of having seen the show once, last November.

Not exactly a straightforward process. I met a few of the folks I will be working with, and spent a good part of the evening talking to Haydn Gwynne, the actor I am replacing as the dance teacher. That was so great. That spirit, and a pretty fantastic margarita! Northrop the cat, is settling. It was back to class this week. Or classes. I started the week with a ballet class taught by Miranda. Everyone has to forgive the last name thing… when there are over a hundred people involved in a show and most of them have character names as well as real names… well, the old brain has a meltdown.

Fantastic class. It is such a great way to keep the joints oiled and the muscles firing, and to remember how much I love dancing. I miss Terence… my boxing coach in St. Catharines though Jason is fantastic, and we are going to have a great time working together, especially because he was very impressed by my fitness level, by my skipping ability! That made me feel good. And now I just want to get even better, stronger, faster…. Most of my scenes in the show take place during or around the classes that Mrs. Wilkinson teaches in the community hall.

These classes are full of girls. They are all doing hi-larious and outrageous antics throughout. So on the first rehearsal I found myself stopping and laughing every 2 bars: it was impossible to get all the way through. Then the next day, when we all met with Julian for the first time, all hell broke loose. Julian wanted the girls to introduce their characters to me. So they each took a turn self-describing in the elaborate and honest detail only children can manage to achieve.

And me, writing it all down in my script. Then he directed the girls to turn the volume up on their characters as high as they could go: in other words, if they were frightened, to be REALLY frightened… if they were talkative, to be DOUBLY talkative, if they had a feud with someone in the group… well, you can imagine. I, in the meantime, was to continue the scene as usual. The room was shaking. My ears and brain were exploding. Talk about an exercise in concentration. And on top of that all the lines in the scene are delivered on beats of the music… and I could barely even hear the piano, let alone the sound of my own voice.

In the end we all just fell apart laughing. Ultimately, the achievement was… I certainly knew the girls and their characters better than when I first entered the room with them. And of course, I had a new found respect for their ability, their commitment, and the detail in the work that they do everyday on that stage. And putting all my bits together…? Well, that will come in time. And I still have a good amount of time.

Only nine feet wide. I was thinking about how to arrange the living room furniture… quite a conundrum. And although the four or five row-houses in Grove Court were built as workers houses in the s, apparently one of them sold last year for seven million buckeroos! And yet, although housing may be an issue, the Village has more charm than you can imagine… and the tea and scones at Tea and Sympathy are worth the real estate woes.

The work week was tough. I have to say I was working at my edge. We are at the point now where I am putting numbers together at tempo and the dancing is a challenge to my old bod. If you slow it down of course, what does the rope do? It stops going over your head and under your feet! That means learning all the elements up to speed separately, and then just sort of… praying. The criminal part? Oh my. And still only minimal improvement.

And in the delicious relationship I am building with the 13 year old Alex Ko. So on the day off what a relief it was to find a piece of paradise right at the end of my street. I discovered South Riverside Park: a new park that has been built around the ruins of some of the old shipping piers in the Hudson River.

So peaceful. Wildflowers, rushes, grasses, a boardwalk, and a huge long pier that juts halfway out to New Jersey, just five minutes from my apartment door. I will spend many a Monday there, I just know it. To enjoy the air, the water, and little moments of bliss after a tough week on Broadway.

Oh thank God! Yee haw! Oh, and the high B natural I have to hit at the end of all of it… but… never mind all that! The biggest hurdle is passed. And so the week progressed: classes, rehearsals onstage and up at the studio, running the First Act scenes a few times with BT and young Alex, just to keep us on top of things: a bit of a holding, improving, and detailing pattern.

I got to do Solidarity a twelve minute number onstage with the ensemble for the first time. That was a treat. Having met and worked with all the young Ballet Girls, it was great to meet the men who play the miners and the policemen. There was a wonderful tourist capper to the week. On Sunday night I went on a cruise of the New York harbour in an eighty foot sailing ship called the Adirondack. Bobby and his partner Andy, who is also a child guardian, invited me, along with their friend Vanessa, her dog Tallulah, and Matt Trent a new company member from Australia , and what a wonderful experience we all had.

The ship cast off from the Chelsea Piers at pm and we sailed down the Hudson surrounded by the city lights of both Manhattan and New Jersey, alongside Battery Park, and out into the harbour to see the Statue of Liberty. So awesome. Then, it just so happened that as we were tacking back up the Hudson, there was a huge fireworks display up-river! That said, on Tuesday morning the train arrived at 66th Street, and as the doors opened I was accosted by none other than the sound of a mariachi band: two spanish guitars and an accordion with three young Mexican men looking to earn some money with their fantastic music!

But such was my luck, that at 42nd St… on got a pair of gospel singers needing some funding for college, and they too were amazing! I must take you back a day to Monday. On Monday I met Nicky Gillibrand, our costume designer. Oh, ho, ho, I had the most magnificent costume fitting! This is what sets Billy Elliot apart from the usual Broadway musical this and rehearsing a replacement for eight weeks!

Haydn Gwynne, who is currently playing Mrs. And before I came I just thought… well, I will look different than Haydn does in those costumes. On Monday Nicky lays before me an entirely different set of costume designs, not actually designed for me specifically they were used in the Australian production , but absolutely suited to my body. Breathtakingly awful, in a way only retrospect can truly allow. Too much fun. Oh you guys… you will be howling each time I set foot on that stage wearing another Nicky gem.

That is if you even recognise me with my groovy Farrah Fawcett hairdo! Well I can tell you that fitting put a little fire under me. And my niece Ainsleigh will be delighted to know… I am getting excited about getting onstage! And members of the creative team begin to trickle in: William Connacher comes to do final touches on dialect; and Peter Darling, the choreographer, arrives on Thursday and will watch the tech.

Then the following week in come Julian Webber and Stephen Daldrey, which will bring huge amounts of information to be absorbed as they each respond to the work that I have been doing in secret for the last 6 weeks. And I must be prepared to take in all that information and turn it around in my brain and body, because I will be strutting whatever the result in front of the folks pretty pronto.

I can feel it.

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And I really am getting excited! And a good part of that has to do with Nicky and her wonderful imagination, and her unapologetic sense of the world of this play. Bring on the batwing denim dress with shoulder pads! I can handle it! On deck now. And swinging the bat. All the coaches are gathering to signal their final instructions: brushing their chests and tweaking their noses. Kicking their feet in the sand. William Conacher starts it off with dialect corrections. After only a couple of sessions I find my sweet swing, and my average increases. William is a brilliant dialect coach: he fuels all his choices with action and intention, and in this show he is most concerned that we all sound like we are from the same place.

He has been so helpful to me personally since the very first session we had at the call-back here in New York over a year ago, and I am ever grateful for his encouragement and faith. Oh I loved that! Unbelievably brave work for , or thereabouts. Paul Taylor Company then did Offenbach Overtures , which, though it was a huge crowd pleaser, was not my cup of tea. They could have just put that in a loop and I would have been quite content to wile away a few hours transfixed by their hypnotic movement. Topping the evening off was Savion Glover, jamming with his modern jazz band and a couple of other jaw-dropping hoofers.

Gob-smackingly impressive. And fascinating to see where Glover has come as an artist since he was discovered by Gregory Hines at the ripe age of 14 or something. As for the City Centre theatre itself… well, just go and see anything there! The place is a temple of the theatre.

The cast and the crew are so helpful, and so supportive. They have all been rehearsing a lot of hours on top of their eight show weeks, and yet they sat in the house when they could and cried encouragement for both Alex and me. Oh, I am in such good hands there! So although I only get one pass at the clothes next week before I go on, I feel confident that Margiann will get me where I need to go in those 30 -second changes, right down to the jewelry.

And when the rehearsal stopped in order to check a few technical issues, I turned around to find Carole Shelley and many other members of the company equally verklempt. Peter Darling was in the house, as promised, for both days of rehearsal, and on Friday night we got right down to it. He needs me to look more like a serious dance teacher, and that means introducing a physical shape that is far more controlled than my natural, relaxed behaviour.

It feels completely right, if somewhat daunting to achieve. The writing is on the wall now: the rest of the days before I go on will be filled with dance rehearsals. I really need to wrap my head and poor sore feet and aching shoulder around that. I need to dig my cleats into the soil, align my hips with my shoulders, and keep my eye on the ball. There are only moments now before the imminent arrival of the head coach and his associate. Missing home a bit this week. But too focussed to worry too much about it. Love to you all above the 49th. I spoke with my friend Medina on the weekend.

She is a lawyer in Calgary. I likened my experience oh, you know… debuting on Broadway tonight… la, la, la to her arguing in front of the justices of the Supreme Court. How would she feel? Her family and friends would likely be pumping with excitement and encouragement, and she would be conscious of the love and all the delicious congratulatory remarks coming from the great white north… but ultimately… she would be focussed on the job at hand.

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She asked me if teaching has influenced my work as a performer. I told her, what teaching allows me particularly teaching the elite students at the National Theatre School of Canada is to witness the art of the beginner: that essence, passion, and clarity which pushes a young actor forward into the unknown, where their fear becomes dominated by their courage. And so today, as I head to the shoe-makers, then to rehearsal, and then to my first performance of Billy Elliot in front of the paying public, I think of my family, my friends, and my students: of their support, their excitement, and their en- courage -ment.

I carry those wishes with me, as both a shield and an offering of peace, into the unknown. The water is slowly settling, and if I pace myself now I may even find I can swim. Ah — but perhaps we should go back a few days for the readers. Picking up then from the plunge itself. With the sustenance of family, friends, colleagues, and the tremendous and extensive world that is Billy Elliot , I got through my Broadway debut! I arrived at the theatre for rehearsal in the afternoon to find the marquee at the Imperial Theatre changed to include my name.

HA, HA! You see… you get all the way to Broadway… and they still spell your name wrong. Not to worry. I knew about it before I saw it. The old human error, and not a big deal at all, but funny. Rehearsal was good, and I was let go early. I had time to come home and have a little quiet spell, and force some food into my unwilling stomach.

Then back to the theatre for a thorough warm-up. By this time my dressing room was already looking like a wonderful combination of flower shop and liquor store. All the amazing gifts, cards, and well-wishes put me slightly behind the eight ball, and I really had to rush to get my kit on for the show. I was particularly overwhelmed by a staggeringly enormous bouquet from the theatre community in Calgary.

In fact, when I opened their note I fell to the ground and cried. I have truly never seen a bigger arrangement except perhaps in a hotel lobby. And it is still going strong, a full week later! It is moments like this that remind me that my life is so much bigger than day to day struggles, even if the day is a particularly strenuous one. Stephen Daldrey took the stage to a rush of applause. Maybe my heart fluttered slightly. And after that… things were mostly a blur. Or… more like looking down a narrow, curving tunnel, and waiting to see if the light will ever reveal itself again.

There was so much help from a supportive, skillful, and humourous company. And a gentle and patient crew. And then it was over. I had survived. I had not fallen, nor taken anyone down in the process. This I took as a remarkable accomplishment.

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After the performance, we had a toast in the lobby bar. Stephen Daldrey and Julian Webber offered their gratitude and enthusiasm for both Alex and I, and seemed genuinely pleased with the proceedings. Their opinion has to be the guide for my success or failure, so I was pleased, too. We drank champagne, and laughed and of course… I got notes! It was all good. Exiting the stage door onto 46th, I looked up… the spelling of my name on the marquee had already been corrected.

Across the street from the stage door there is an excellent pizza joint called Patzeria. Sam and Al and William Conacher and I headed over there to fill the now empty space which was my stomach. And that was the end of that wacky night. Home to bed with a bouquet or two, to cut down on the space infringement of the dressing room. Into bed, but not much sleep. Perhaps I was a little pumped.