FILE NOT FOUND (Oh, FFS!)

FILE NOT FOUND (Oh, FFS!)

My last post was too long ago, and in it, I bemoaned broken hardware. But my Ortho Surgeon friend fixed my microphone, and I was back at recording two weeks ago, not knowing more troubles were on the horizon.

While I was away at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference I allowed my IT Dept. (husband) to make a full backup of my machine, install the newest iOS, and schedule a trip to the Mac store. All this despite my fear that the learning curve of software updates would decrease my productivity or that I might be without a computer for work that needed to get done.

Regularly scheduled maintenance is no one’s favorite phrase, but one of my ports died (the one I use for my USB mic), and the screen was being jittery in a way that made me glad I don’t have migraines or epilepsy. Then the machine crashed in the middle of a recording session.

I had hoped that the update might fix several annoying issues. It didn’t. And neither did a trip to the Mac Store. Well, I have other USB ports.

So last night I got ready to record, and plugged in my mic, and went to pull up the last chapter I had been recording when the Mac crashed suddenly in the middle…

Gone. All Gone. The recording work I did during my last session was kaput. Not on the drive, not on the backups.

Setbacks like this are the hallmark of amateur productions, and I’m disheartened that even after decades of careful checking and re-checking and personal procedures and checklists to prevent exactly this…I am still fallible. Fallibility SUCKS.

So, let’s move on from the fact that I am going to need to clear my schedule and double-down on recording time this week to make my deadlines, and instead focus on those tips I got from Kathy Garver.

Tip # 1 – gestures! 

In my session after the microphone got fixed, but before the Mac crashed for no apparent reason, I was LOVING the gestures! They were really helping me to ZOOM through dialog keeping the voices clear. Now let’s hope that having chosen specific hand movements for each character, notated them in my narrator doc, and practiced them for several chapters…re-creating them will be easy as eating pie. (Which I won’t do because I’d like to lose a few pounds before gaining them back on the cruise ship this summer).

Tip # 2 – warmups! 

This is one I had already been doing, but in my haste, Kathy caught me starting to record prior to physical warmups. I do do this…almost all the time…but she reminded me that just a few minutes of working out the kinks, the clanks, and the clicks helps energise a performer and help them be ready to bring the BODY to bear on the voice work.

For me personally, this is especially true of my chin and jaw. I hold a lot of tension in my jaw, talker that I am. Making a list of movements and never starting work without completing them is the sign of a “professional.” There are no shortcuts when it comes to physicality.

Join me for Tip # 3 next week, plus more stuff I learned at the conference this week.

 

 

 

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All dressed down in my recording duds…

And nowhere to go tonight, because:

1. My hardware is broken.


This screw that holds the thingie that holds my shock mount that holds my mic is busticated. Unclear how that happened.

I *JUST* adjusted it, for the first time in…over a year…on Sunday. Hmmmm.

When I got into the studio today the mic was flopped down. I’m super bummed because I just finished spending my work hours over the last day updating my narrator notes.

I needed to incorporate all the AWESOME 1:1 coaching I got from Kathy Garver this past weekend.

Kathy was an instructor of mine at Voice One in SF, specifically for audiobooks. By inviting her for a mini SB overnight, I was able to tempt her to visit. She took some extra time on a trip to L.A. to spend a couple of hours providing me with coaching.

I work alone and I’m a relative newbie, so it can be hard to evaluate my work and identify how to continuously improve. I asked Kathy to listen to my audiobooks as she drove, and provide professional feedback. When she arrived, I plied her with traditional SB fare (Harry’s Plaza Cafe), the company of friends, and an evening of SB Improv.

2. I am also having a fight with my Kindle app. It keeps telling me that my narration document can’t be uploaded, or converted, or some such nonsense. It will resolve eventually, but the mysterious process by which my Word Doc becomes a Kindle-readable file is clearly snafu-d and there’s nothing I can do but try again and wait.

Based on Kathy’s feedback, I’m trying out 6 new things to improve my audiobooks. Over the next few posts, I will share them, starting with GESTURES. The feedback from her was that sometimes, character’s voices become inconsistent, or fade out. During scenes, different characters will start out nicely different, but by the end of a scene, or when they come back in a later scene, the characters are not as easily distinguishable.

To combat this, I’m designating a gesture of some kind to go along with each character. I “know” that to inhabit the characters I have to change my posture, stance, head position. Usually, a lot of movements make up a character and character voice. Which means that if I’ve made it too complex, it is easy to forget something during the rapid pace of recording, and when the body slides…the voice slides…and if I am not careful, every character sounds just like me.

Bad Form. So to try simplifying and making the voice transitions sharper, I have gone through and picked unique gestures – all hand related – to do as I voice characters. Woo-Hoo! Learning and improving! I’ve practiced the gestures and voices and added hints to myself in my Narration Notes…

 

…the Narration Notes that I can’t open in my Kindle App and that even if I could, I can’t read and record because I have no way to keep my microphone pointing toward my mouth, not my toes.

So ends a disappointing work night for me. Tomorrow is another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tenacious Accountabillibuddies Build Empires

Tenacious Accountabillibuddies Build Empires

Say This Three Times Fast: “Tenacious Accountabillibuddies Build Empires!”

by Silver Webb

Yvette Keller (FLOF) and Angela Borda (Silver Webb)

 

They say, “do what you love and the money will follow.” Well, some people say that.

My mother says, “You should get a job at the bank and work your way up to manager.” I am here to affirm that it is perfectly possible to do what you love, pour your passion into your art, and find that no money follows, not even a penny.

But it is also possible to become a paid writer or artist. The catch is that it takes an enormous amount of effort. Like more work than you will ever put into a 9-to-5 job. I am a blogger, food writer, novelist, and editor. Some of these things pay. Some do not. And they are the reason I am lucky to get seven hours of sleep a night. I have been working on my current novel for five years, and at some point in the near future, my friends are going to band together and *pay* me to stop working on it.

I also blog about my life adventures (visit me at silverwebb.com), eating good food, taking pretty pictures, and turning it into a narrative that I hope readers enjoy. That might be the sum story of me. An editor who has the delightful hobby of writing.

But. BUT! I have two things going for me that assure that my path ascends higher: a refusal to give up and an accountabillibuddy named Yvette Keller, who has kindly invited me to write this guest blog here on her website.

The tenacity part is self-evident. It takes tenacity to query 60 agents about your book. Tenacity to keep revising and writing, even in the face of “your book is not a good fit for the agency at this time.” And more tenacity to keep pitching article ideas to editors.

I was fortunate enough (or tenacious enough, you decide) to develop a working relationship with the editor of a local food magazine, and over the last year and a half have become a regular, paid contributor. It wasn’t anything more dramatic than sending an email asking if I could write an article for him…but that one reply with “sure you can write an article” came after a lot of “no” emails from agents and editors. Now I am writing some new articles on spec that I will begin to pitch to national magazines. I expect there will be a lot of “no’s”…but if I keep at it, I bet you there will be one “yes” and then another and then another.

So, that’s tenacity sorted. My other secret weapon, as mentioned, is my accountabillibuddy Yvette. She is my buddy in accountability. It sounds terribly unglamorous, like something you have in a 12-step program. And it *is* terribly unglamorous in that empires are built on heavy bricks that you have to keep laying day-by-by. But it is wonderful to have support.

We coordinate and discuss our goals, check in on each other’s progress, brainstorm on ways those goals can happen more quickly, offer help when we can, read each other’s work, give feedback, and encourage the heck out of each other to keep going. At least once a week we sit down and evaluate, usually with tea and treats in hand. If you read Yvette’s fabulous newsletter or my blog (where Yvette goes by the moniker First Lady of Frosting, or FLOF), you’ll also get the picture that we have a lot of fun! Usually baking, occasionally sipping cider, often in costume, and always, always writing.

 

Celebrating success is a critical component of being accountabilibuddies!

Over the last year, with tenacity and a LOT of work, Yvette turned a great voice and a microphone into a career of audio book narrator, created her amazing website, published one of her short stories, polished even more stories, edited books, blogged every week, and constructed the bones of her forthcoming novel. And that’s just Year One. I couldn’t be prouder of her, or more thankful.

So that’s my advice for anyone reading this who has talent and a dream. Work hard. Be tenacious. And find yourself a buddy to help you build that empire!

 

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My Audiobook Producer Anniversary

My Audiobook Producer Anniversary

It has been one year since I uploaded my first audiobook files:

I admit, I am tearing up with joy. You are all invited to celebrate with me as my dreams come true in real-time: I uploaded audiobook files I’m working on and received this feedback from my “rights holder”:

“OMG, that sounds GREAT! I love how you do NAME, especially during the drunk scene. So perfect. And you’ve really got NAME’s voice down. AWESOME!”

<sniffsniff>

 

One year later, I have three audiobooks on the market. Truthfully, I thought I would be farther along. I thought I could just crank out projects one after the other. Three doesn’t seem like a lot.

Then I recall how much time I spent working on the books being GOOD. Attending classes in acting, narration, and improv. Interviewing experienced narrators. Learning software for editing the audio. Trying out all the different mastering effects to see which one made my vocals sound the BEST. Making those three books as good as I could, with each one getting better, done faster, and improving along the way.

Work didn’t stop on my writing projects. I took time from production to edit four novels. To attend critique groups. To help out friends, plan a home remodel, visit with loved ones, get sick, get better, and get re-motivated. In short, have a life.

Being hard on myself for not accomplishing as much as I want in one area of interest doesn’t move me along my path. It does not open me up to new ideas and techniques. It does not encourage me to play and grow.

What DOES is knowing that my editing makes for better novels, my audiobooks have made hundreds of listeners happy, and I have plenty of work to do. (So far) no one is posting bad reviews, warning people that my productions are awful, or seeking me out on the internet for derision. That’s a pretty big bullet to have dodged, given the internet these days.

So today, on the first anniversary of teary-eyed elation, I remind myself what I wrote to you all one year ago:

Never give up, people.
Get out there and become/live/do/be whatever you always Wanted To Be When You Grow Up.

Oh, and this is really important: Work with great people and let them help you. I’m looking at Mark, Shéa, and a special shout out to my audio mentor, Phil Mayes of http://philandmaude.com/.

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Recording (closet) Studio

Recording (closet) Studio
Carpet Installation

“Hot Ash” colored carpeting was installed in my closet and office on Monday morning. It is the thickest of the thick, the plushest of the plush. The store was having a deal on a free carpet pad upgrade, which will really be nice at my standing desk and when I stand to do my narration. That means under the plum pudding colored pile is the very best cushioning on offer in the carpeting world today.

So I put it on the wall. And the ceiling. As you do if you are an audiobook producer.

Color Blocking

I already had other, smaller, creme brulee colored carpet rectangles to work with. They were sitting by the side of the road with a “free” sign about five years ago. The stacks were brand new from some neighbor or other also treating themselves to the barefoot sensory decadence of wall-to-wall.

I scavenged a dozen or so scraps back then, knowing clean carpet squares are hard to come by. Also believing they would be useful in a myriad of ways as dog, “Get on your spot” spots, and hatchback floor protection.

In order to make my recording (closet) studio, I had to try to figure out how much material I had and how much cutting I would need to do. I taped out the floor, creating a pattern to indicate the sizes of the walls.

Blue Tape For President!

Then I laid out bits and pieces to determine easily matching sizes and shapes. (HINT: There were only two pieces in immediately useful sizes. This is the point at which I gave up on full coverage and kicked myself for not ordering a dozen extra square feet). The ceiling layout I was able to conveniently pattern off of the floor.

Convenient Ceiling Layout

Finally, after much of the fiddling had been done, my husband helped me find the long staples (Thanks, Sweetie!) and I went to town. The satisfying Ka-CHUNK-a! noise of my Dad’s staple gun started in one corner, and then I worked my way along, smoothing and stapling. First the little triangle bits went onto the ceiling, then the biggest chunks on the main wall, lastly filling in any holes.

Ceiling and Main Wall

I knew I didn’t have enough of any one color or material to do a single wall, or indeed even group things attractively, so I went for as hodge-podge as I could. You can see where I used actual audio foam to finish out smaller gaps. The foam was leftover from creating the other “wall” of the studio: a wooden folding room screen that can be moved out to give more space when I’m recording, or used to visually block off the closet completely when I’m working in the office.

Screen

The screen is pretty to look at from the front side and keeps any casual visitors or clients from touching the sensitive recording equipment.

I was worried that I wouldn’t like the hodge podge, but I absolutely love it. There’s just enough sizes and shapes of rectangles and triangles, lights and darks, thicks and thins, to make going into the space exciting and energizing. Exactly what I need when I’m heading inside to record.

Small World After All

It reminds me of the shapes and designs of It’s A Small World at Disneyland, which is fun. Best of all, the dog likes the new carpet.

Olieo Approval

 

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“What’s your favorite band?” How avoiding bullying made me an agnostic reader (and music listener)

“What’s your favorite band?”
“I don’t have one. I like all kinds of music.”
“What kinds of music, then?”
“All music.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know any band names, I just sing along with whatever’s on the radio, the record player, the movie…”
“Do you know [   ] ?”
“Sure!”

And they sang.

 

Nine out of ten times I can sing along with whatever music you throw at me. I have a great ear, practically perfect pitch, and am an accomplished mimic. But band names? Artist names? Preferences? Not so much.

Because when I was growing up, admitting you liked something was the quickest way to have someone make fun of you for liking it.

A clever child, I figured out that not saying was safest. Besides, it meant that I remained open-minded about most genres of music.

When it came to books, I have also always been an equal opportunity reader. The only genre I actively avoid is horror; even then, I’ll read it if it is recommended or assigned. Mostly because everyone’s “horror” is subjective. What I don’t like is explicit violence and gore.

So, when people ask me, “Do you read Fantasy?” I say yes. Science Fiction? Yes. Speculative? Yes. Historical? Yes. Non-Fiction? Yes. Biography? Yes. Literary? Yes. Business? Yes. Thriller? Not as often, but sure.

Romance?

Up until a year or two ago I probably would’ve said “No,” and it would’ve been the only no in my arsenal. Not because I don’t like romances, or even because I poo-poohed the genre (which I don’t). Merely because my parents didn’t read it. So romance books were not available to me as a kid. I never sought them out later in life because, with so much to read, and so many great books having romance as a “B” plot anyway, why bother?

Then I had friends who WROTE romance, so I started reading their books and enjoying the genre for the first time. I’m an inexperienced romance reader, but as you can see from the image above, my friend Ruth has donated all her old romances to me and I’m going to catch up fast!

As an editor, I was recently asked to turn my attention to a paranormal romance, Mistwalker. I hesitated because I can’t say I know what a romance is “supposed” to be. How would I evaluate it and be able to provide feedback?

Luckily, romances, like every other genre, are only as good as the story they are telling. By looking carefully at the characters, the events and pacing of the plot, and the relationships, I was able to encourage the author to strengthen the book. I can’t wait to hear what my romance-reading friends think of it, so if you like the romance genre, check out Mistwalker and let me know what you think!

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The Top 10 Things I Love About Viola Roberts

The Top 10 Things I Love About Viola Roberts

When you narrate multiple books–“play” a character over and over–you feel like you know them. It is different from just reading a novel and archiving it off your kindle. Some months (like say, April, May, June), I’m living with Viola Roberts during every waking moment: recording her voice, hearing her thoughts, embodying her attitude.

Best of all, when I am preparing, recording, and editing the Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries, I find myself spending a lot of time laughing. What I love about Viola is how much humor there is in her everyday life. She is always ready to crack a joke, express some silly self-awareness, and lighten things up. Like Murder. (Except not really. Murder is serious. Seriously fascinating.)

As a character, she can be a little blind-sided by her loyalty and love for her family of choice. She can be equally dismissive and judgemental about the competence of law enforcement (for no particular reason). But overall she is the writer I know with the most entertaining procrastination plans.

The Stiff in The Study is Book 2 in the series, and what I liked best about performing it was what I learned about the heroine. With that in mind, here are the top 10 things I love about Viola Roberts:

 

10. Like me, Viola loves small-town life. There’s nothing like knowing that if you go out, you’re probably going to run into someone you know.

9. Appreciation for the human form: Viola acknowledges beauty everywhere. Luscious and curvy, spare and lithe, blonde, red, white, black, male, female. Viola hasn’t come across a trans person yet, but I believe she doesn’t care. If they’re rocking their look, she sees it and it rocks her world.

8. Yes. That’s right. Viola saw that. I love someone who’s paying attention.

7. Architecture turns her on. Viola is aware and appreciative of buildings and interior design.

6. Pastries. I love a woman unafraid to scarf baked goods at a stakeout. Or take them to an interrogation. Hell, I love any woman who loves muffins the way I do.

5. Viola is polite (most of the time). Even if she won’t eat your pot brownies, she appreciates that you offered her one.

4. BFE! Viola is your Best Friend Ever. She’s got your back, whether it is getting you out of jail or supporting you at your latest book signing.

3. Ooodles of self-esteem. Viola is okay on her own. Family and friends are great; romance is fun; but at the end of the day, she can–and wants to–take care of herself.

2. Someone finally agrees with me that a beverage that “smells vaguely of rotten mulch,” should not be imbibed.

1.  The girl really knows how to turn a fork into a weapon.

 

Catch this amazing character in book 2, coming soon to audiobook!

 

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Team Momentum

Available now on Amazon, a book workshopped in my writing group!

If you enjoyed The Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross, you’ll enjoy this new book by Richard Hein. Richard’s work is darkly hilarious and his plot twists surprising. It was fun reading the draft and I’m impressed by his polishing.

Here’s the Blurb (I helped with that too!):

Samuel Walker loved being a Seneschal with the Ordo Felix Culpa, keeping the world safe from things that go bump in the night — especially when he got to bump them back. That was before he was given the choice of exile into a normal life or a bullet to the head.

Now in the corporate world, he fights red tape instead of demonic, alien creatures from other dimensions. So when Kate arrives, chased by monsters and carrying a message from her murdered brother, Samuel has no choice but to venture back into OFC’s line of fire.

Maybe this time, with the Archangel Michael on his side, he can go back to the life he prefers/was trained for. It’s going to be a struggle to keep Kate alive and evade punishment for the trail of blood he left behind, but if he can pull it off, Samuel might find that the world is a better place than he thought and absolutely worth dying for.

 

Sounds great, huh?! It is so much fun when someone you support goes live with a book. Or a sculpture you provided train tracks for. Or a painting when you donated the paint! (See the theme?) Helping! ME! MEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEME!

I participate in up to five writing groups. Why? I haven’t said anything like this for about ten years (the last time I job-searched), but I hold a professional certification in team building.

That’s right, I took a series of classes and workshops, practiced and participated, all so that I would be officially acknowledged as someone who can turn a group of people into a team. It’s something I’ve been doing naturally since I started kindergarten. Once I had a group to work my wiles on, I became the adorable little dictator who decides what game to play, casts the roles, and then directs how the story plays out. A Natural Leader. Firstborn, of course.

But in my writing life, I’m a total newb. No books published. Only one short story. And a LOOOOOONG way to go as far as my confidence is concerned. Still, misery…newbieness…loves company. And the reality is that I have Skillz; they just aren’t fiction writing skills….yet.

So, while I leech off of my betters…better writers…I offer them a recompense in administrative, emotional, and team-building support. Because those things are easy for me and…can be lacking….sometimes…in writing groups. It takes a leader or facilitator to set up a structure and point everyone in the right direction.

I do it because I LOVE doing it and because it builds momentum; builds community. When Richard is successful, I am that much closer to being successful. As a team, a group, we can do so much more–make so much more–than I can all alone.

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Cuisine & Confessions: 7 Fingers of the Hand

Cuisine & Confessions: 7 Fingers of the Hand

Watching Cirque isn’t normally my bag (I will not say circus. There is zero resemblance to Barnum or Bailey here). I saw a deeply traumatizing Cirque du Soleil show in San Jose once, and have avoided the performance style ever since.

So when I tell you that Cuisine & Confessions by 7 Fingers of the Hand cirque troupe should be on your life bucket list, you can trust that you won’t be seeing “just another” costume, music, tumbling, flying trapeze extravaganza.

This show is more than excellent clowning and physical daring-do: It is full of stories that spill the guts, sweat, tears, and yes, love, of the performers out for the audience to see. There’s no holding back. Each performer’s viewpoint has been turned into a unique expression of the intertwined nature of community, family, and food.

The day before the performance, UCSB Arts & Lectures sent out a document titled 10 Fun Facts About Cuisine & Confessions. I didn’t get to read it until after the performance, but there were some very interesting items:

 

1) The stories are true. Cuisine & Confessions was built on the real-life personal stories of each cast member. Creation began with extensive storytelling sessions, and directors Shana Carroll and Sébastien Soldevila extracted facts, themes, and images and wove them throughout each act.

 

I didn’t know whether what I was watching was true or truthfully acted (or both). But I never in a single moment of the two-hour performance doubted that what I was watching was dredged directly from some individual person’s soul. It was too raw, real, and intense. Even if I hadn’t learned that it came directly from the performers, I was sure it came from a particular individual’s real experience of the world, and thus, a relatable, point of view that I could learn from.

As with the very best live theater, the show swings back and forth from serious to sporting. To give an example of what I mean, take a musical number about a perfect omelet, made by a one-night-stand-stranger. This is a fun and sexy staging filled with excellent clowning, including the juggling of eggs, oversized whisks, and giant stainless steel bowls. It is easy to envy the lucky audience member on the stage, surrounded by the exuberant cast waiting on them hand-and-foot.

 

2) All the music is original. The entire soundtrack was created specifically for the show. Notably, New York jazz club owner and pianist Spike Wilner came up to Montreal for extensive recording sessions, providing a bank of piano music to choose from during creation. (Director Sébastien Soldevila is also musical director.)

 

Playful movement and music are repeated over the course of the evening as we dance to re-imagined Bolero and even a wholly re-arranged classic hit from Grease “The One That I Want.” And the upbeat music is just as beautiful as the quiet and sorrowful pieces, building off of stories so true that the audience can’t help but revel in the sadness. In contrast, the varied stories and the diverse types of dance and tumbling feel like a celebration. It creates an incredible theatrical experience.

 

8) They keep a “to-do” list, too. Observant theatergoers will see a “to-do” list written out on a chalkboard as part of the kitchen set. This is actually a list of numbers performed in the show, and cast members cross off items as they are completed during each performance.

 

There are two things that constantly threaten to be spilled in this show: food and blood. While it feels nerve-wracking and death-defying, these acrobats, gymnasts, dancers, performers are waaaaaaaaay too good to so much as tear a cuticle while tumbling, leaping, climbing, and spinning as if gravity was a thing they had read about someplace. The aerial silk, the Chinese pole, the choreographed flinging and catching of bodies in constant motion…each number seems easy enough at the beginning, and then quickly becomes unbelievably heart-stopping.

The show feels like something immense that has been simplified, pared down, peeled only to the choicest morsel. But that is the deception of perfection.

How simple can it be to design props that are as flexible as the bodies of the performers using them? A series of wooden boxes that are a dinette in one scene, become 8 chairs in another. The same pieces also act as a series of wooden frames that can be stacked as “hoops” for acrobats to leap through. The tables used for cutting and cooking are at multiple heights, hiding or revealing props and tools as needed like any good kitchen does. What other pot racks (tempting as it always is to use them as monkey bars) can actually be used as monkey bars?!

If you don’t believe me that a lifetime without seeing these performers is a deprived life indeed, I will add a few last tempting details. The performers cook. Pasta, sauce, and banana bread are all offered at the end of the show. And you can eat, and not clean up – they wash all the dishes in the working sink that is part of their set!

The whole audience is encouraged to participate, by setting a timer for the banana bread. The last 36 minutes of the show tick by. The smell of baking INSIDE the theater gets more and more heavenly. No matter how off-the-cuff and playful the final numbers seem, as the smell increases, everyone begins to worry about whether the music and moves will be suddenly interrupted by the echo of a thousand phone alarms ringing in every tone known to Apple and Android. But the performance is so perfectly choreographed that the finale ends, the dancers gather for a bow, and having forgotten momentarily about the bread in the oven, the audience stands, clapping, whistling, and appreciating…just as the timers go off in a cacophony of sounds. Amazing, and timed down to the minute – maybe even second.

Many years after I learned to hate “cirque” at that terribly traumatizing show (faced with falling tightrope artists and mangled tumblers) Teatro Zinzanni in San Francisco redeemed the art for me. But until I experienced Cuisines and Confessions, I still felt reluctant to encounter the artform. Now I can safely say I would go out of my way to experience the work of this team, over and over. See them anytime and anyplace you can!

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