Thursday, November 22, 2007


I sat down at the mirror, ready to practice my conversational French with my very kind and supportive makeup artist, Elisa. We’ve established a little ritual before each show where we speak about inane and random things in French while she paints my face. Little does she know it, but she plays a key role in my mission to master the French language in my time here. As she began to put base on my cheeks, we started off with the typical conversation starters:

“Ça va?”

“Oui, ça va! Et toi?” And so on…well, all was fine and dandy until she asked me what my plans were between the current show and our last in Lille, on Friday. I have some auditions, I told her, full of excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. I was grateful that the days would be filled with scheduled activities for a change. When I told her where, and how complicated the logistics would be (a train to and from a city in Southern-ish France on Wednesday, and then a train to London on Wednesday night) she froze mid-brush stroke, and took in a sharp breath. Realizing that she had not poked out my eye while lining it with eyeliner, I asked her what was wrong. “Mais, les grèves continuent demain!” This is how I reviewed the French word for “strike” during my pre-show conversation practice session.

I left the make-up room, and bumped into my very own French superhero, Alice – also known as Wonder Woman Française. I begged her help, yet again, in navigating the French Train System’s website, and, ever the rescuer, she helped me find solutions to my dilemma. Instead of taking my original direct train from Lille to said Southern-ish French city (which didn't exist anymore), we found a train to Paris Nord and transfer train stations across town to the Gare de Lyon and then catch a second train to my southern-ish destination. Alice, with her superhuman powers of gathering information, even found me options (yes - note the plural!) of various trains I could take to get to my destination and back and still be on time. She was – in a word – amazing.

After the show, I scrambled back to my dressing room, quickly scrubbed off my makeup, and then headed off home in order to get to bed so I could wake up in time to catch my early train the next morning. I tossed and turned for a bit, unaccustomed to going to bed an hour and half earlier than normal and feeling the adrenaline of performance slowly seep its way out of my system.

My alarm went off at 7:15, while I was in the middle of a dream. The dream immediately faded from my conscious brain, and I groaned as I fumbled with the alarm. I got up, got ready to leave (yoga, breakfast, shower, pack a bag – the morning pages would have to wait for the train) and headed to one of the two train stations in Lille. As I entered the station, a kindly French woman in a loudspeaker informed us all that the train bound for Paris would instead be departing from the other train station in Lille and sorry for the inconvenience. I looked at my phone (read watch) and saw that I had two minutes to sprint 400 meters to the other station. I thought, my day can’t be over at 8:28am – I have to try this. I ran as if my life depended on it and managed to miraculously catch the train.

Thinking I was golden, I wrote my morning pages as we sped through the French countryside. Then we came to a halt. “Sorry, we’ll be delayed 25 minutes due to vandalism on the tracks”, said the conductor over the loudspeaker. All this news that I don’t want to hear coming through loud speakers, I thought…

We arrived in Paris – the metro was also affected by the train strike, so I tried my luck at the taxi stand first. I only had 25 minutes to make it to the Gare de Lyon now (as opposed to my original layover of 50). The line for taxis wound around itself 4 times. Being an optimist and idealist, thinking that this might be an easy solution, I went to the limo service line, which was empty, and inquired how much it would cost to get to where I need to go. 120 Euros. Right. So, I decided to brave the Paris metro, strike or no strike.

After watching two trains go by, I found myself crammed into a metro car like a sardine in a can. That bit in circuses with the plethora of clowns and the impossibly tiny car came to mind and was not funny.

Finally, I got to the Gare de Lyon – 15 minutes too late to catch my train. Still, (Stubbornly? Idealistically? Full of faith in the impossible?) I looked at the station board in hopes that I could still catch a train that would get me to my audition on time. Miraculously, my planned train had been delayed 20 minutes because of yet more vandalism on the tracks. I wasn’t sure whether to thank the vandals for making my trip possible or curse them for the undue stress. They hadn’t even listed the track yet. As soon as the track was listed, I hurried and boarded the train.

20 minutes became an hour delay. I placed a frantic call to my managers, asking them to contact the company in question, and apprise them that I would be late and have to rearrange things (10 minute rehearsal with the pianist, warm up time, and audition time). My blessed management did so, calling me back to say that all had been rearranged.

My train arrived (finally) into the station at 13:20 (my rehearsal with the pianist was supposed to be at 12:45, originally), and I hopped into a cab to the opera house, having absolutely no idea where it was. The taxi whisked me to the opera house, where they seemed to have no clue of my situation…still, I insisted on having time and a space to warm up as well as time with pianist. The opera people were quite flexible, although I must have been really feeling desperate and very focused on the task at hand in order to assert myself and my needs so.

I sang the audition, and then rushed back to the train station to head up to my next stop – London, making my total time in the mysterious southern-ish city roughly a little over one hour and a half. The trip back north was uneventful, minus another crowded experience on the Paris metro.

I wasn’t sure whether to be thankful for the drama of the trip taking away my nerves for the audition or be annoyed that there was drama at all. Either way, I slept well once I got to London.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

toi toi toi for your last show tomorrow - by the way...