Monday, May 29, 2006

Beirut-Mission Fashion-Week Seven

Hello Everyone,

Sorry I haven't written in a while I have been back here in Lebanon for about two weeks now. Phoenix was great; Ramsey my little bro is all grown up and married now. The shows are going great although I can tell that our team from NY is getting tired and slightly less inspired to be creative and run the race week after week to come up with original concepts that out do the last. This week we are doing superhero japanimation and Cruise ship themes. The japanimation superhero is right up my alley and the cruise ship theme is a little harder to connect to but I can pull ideas from my time spent working with Royal Caribbean. I am sure they will work out fine they always do somehow.

So to briefly recap what happened after the last time I wrote. well, I went to the wedding. That was quite a cultural shock leaving this country and then suddenly being transported to the desert in Arizona to be with my entire family. The wedding was a production and a show in it's self so really I missed a show here but I got to rehearse and repair for a show there. I never really skipped a beat. It was great to see all of my family outside of our normal environment of Alabama. A few people didn't make it, which will remain anonymous, (JENNIFER) but we still love them any way. My little nieces and nephews were great. Little Sophie, my oldest brothers 5 year old has grown form being scared of me when she was an infant to now not giving me a moment of peace. Always "Uncle Mickey, Uncle Mickey,....Magic! Magic! Magic!" I love her to death. The poor girl has so much energy, if you could figure out how to harness that stuff you could run all of the city lights in Birmingham off her. She is the best. I don't think I have to worry anymore about there kids not remembering me because I am the uncle who lives so far away.

So, just when I was starting to get over my Jet lag and adjusting to the USA time, I am off to travel back to Beirut. I got here and was whisked away to my apartment slept and started my 15 hour work day immediately the next morning.

Coming back to Beirut was like stepping right into the lions mouth. I returned on Wednesday night and the dress rehearsal was Thursday morning. No sooner did the choreographer tell me the concept of the show then was I on stage and trying to fake to the directors that I had been rehearsing this all week. Some how we pulled it off.

On top of all of this I had to build in one evening a costume concept that normally in NY I would have taken over a week to accomplish. I turned my bouncing stilt legs into animal legs. They provided me with fake fur and foam, the raw materials which I specified earlier before I left for Phoenix. I made drawings, made patterns cut the fur to fit the stilts and carved and glued the foam to make padding to beef out my legs making it proportional to my body. Well I don't expect you to understand how I made this but the important thing is that it came out really nice. Nicer than I could have wished for. I cant believe that I pulled it off and it looked as nice as it did and I only took one evening to make them. I had been putting off this costume for over a year now because I thought it was over my head. Well nothing like a little pressure to show you what you are capable of. Flambeaux made me incredible horns and the costume was complete. I looked like a half man half goat creature right out of Narnia.

The second theme was a period piece that we called the Marry Antoinette number. We were all in white wigs and pastel suits with ruffle collars and sleeves. Individually we looked so ridiculous but when you got us all together and you saw us all dancing to contemporary hip hop music by Beyonce the number was ridiculously incredible. Probably our best so far.

Ok so on to the weekend. This time I took Flambeaux and Amy with me to Zahalie to meet my family. We drove this time all on our own and got really lost. In fact for a trip which usually takes only one hour by car we took a total of five hours to get there. Just about every couple of miles along the way we stopped and asked someone on the side of the road for directions. Most of them didn't speak English so we would just find a city on the map that was on the way to Zahalie and say the name with a question mark look -expression on our faces. Never the less we finally made it to Zahalie around 10 o'clock. Actually when we arrived I pulled the car over and was about to ask for directions when I saw Nicholi, (my cousin) I immediately thought to my self and I even asked him, "how did you find us? He says "you are here" All along I thought we were lost and we were parked right in front of the house.

The weekend with flam, Amy and I in Zahalie was incredible. We went to ancient Roman ruins, where Nicholi and I were able to pay the Lebanese entrance fee to get in and Flam and Amy paid the tourist rate. That was interesting and the family kept talking about how I passed because I am Lebanese. You could see how they were proud of that. Then we went back to the house and off to the Cherry orchards where we helped the family by picking cherries. You should see these things they are so huge and despite my efforts of refusing them they still sent me home at the end of it all with more cherries than I could ever possibly eat. Everyone we know now has all they could want delicious giant cherries.

Of course we had several feasts. Flam and Amy got a chance to try raw kibbie and we had a new one, pigeon stew. After dinner we were able to pull out our contribution to the meal, Ice cream and Lebanese pastries for everyone. The weekend was a huge success and we all came home definitely reenergized. The family was so happy to have me back and we really connected this time. Every time I see them I feel more and more like we have known each other for such a long time. It will be sad when I have to leave.

So that leads us up to last Monday. This past week we pulled out one of my major concepts, and we did another period piece this theme the 1940's. My concept was to do a major production using tons of fabric. I made waves made of fabric, giant flags of fabric and the smaller weighted flags of fabric. The whole stage was alive with tons of fabric flying in all directions like a tidal wave crashing on the audience over and over. I was really pleased with how my props worked out, and now I definitely have some major footage to use on my promo reel.

The 1940 number was a big feature for my self. We set the stage to look like a 1940 concert hall with tables and people all sitting around cocktailing and socializing. Then 6 show girls walked with me arm and arm to a microphone in the center of the stage where I proceeded to lip sync into an old fashioned microphone to a song from the era. "The Lambert walk" that was the name of the tune. Flambeaux was on the piano and pretending to play the song. There was a show girl on the top of the piano and others fanning me at the high points of the tune. Hard to describe but you get the idea. It was really fun and especially so because this week I was able to invite some of the family to come to see the show as guests in the audience.

They looked great, all dressed up in suits and ties and the ladies looked fabulous. I took pictures with them and I will share the pics with you as soon as I get a chance. It was great to have them and being that they were at the show, all of the rest of the family in Zahalie were watching the show back home trying to pick them out of the audience and seeing me in my big moment on TV.

After the show they were of course asking me if I would go back to Zahalie with them. To see them melts my hart and makes me feel so lucky to have them here in this country. Of course I was going to go back this weekend, and most likely every weekend until I leave for the states.

I managed to kid nap Ronnie to stay with me in Beirut for the night, so we could go out on the town. Then the next morning we got in the car and headed off to Zahalie.
The weekend was full of food, picking cherries and on Sunday I was able to get up earlier and walk with the family down to the Church. Little by little I am becoming more and more a part of this community. Again what a great feeling.

Church was a really interesting experience. Of course the whole ceremony was held in Arabic and I couldn't understand a thing. But then I thought to myself wouldn't it be great if somehow I could understand the words through some sort of divine intervention. What they were saying became to me really more of a song and I could just here the sound instead of understanding. Everyone was real busy praying and so focused, the energy was definitely intense. I was raised Catholic and this was a Catholic church so a lot of it was very familiar but of course still very different. After taking communion, I was praying and I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. I looked around and everyone had there hands together. I think I had a muscle twitch in my shoulder but it felt like a tap to me. Needless to say the church experience was cool.

I returned later that evening and the family now just expects that I will see them next week. They even pulled out a calendar and we looked at it to see how many more days I have and what days I will be able to come to Zahalie.

So that brings us to today. Only two more broadcasts and then back to the US. This week superheroes and cruise ships. And next week the finale.

Got to run. Talk to you soon


Monday, May 08, 2006

Beirut-Mission Fashion-Week Four

I will try to make this brief because I have been in this Internet cafe on this slow computer for too long.
Things are well, the shows are well, I rented a car, and I have a Lebanon cell phone now. If you need to get in touch with me here is the number. When calling form the us dial (001-096-1-03-746988)
I love this country and now that I have a car and a cell phone it has really opened up to me!! There is so much to see and I am so excited to explore all of it!
I have a few photos to share with you this week.
So to quickly recap the production numbers we did this week, one was a wedding theme and the second was Japanese.
In the wedding, the designers showed their wedding gowns and I created two pink and white birds that were flown on stage as they walked down the runway. It was really beautiful. The scene showed white candles, flowering vines, canopies made of pink and white tulle. Dancers leading the models to the runway and 6 little girls throwing flowers as they walked. And of course my sunburned pigeons. No just kidding they were beautiful and added a lot. I think outside the models they were the most featured part of the number. It really was pretty. Nice to know that even though this is not my first choice of theme to work in, I can make an impression.
As for the Japanese theme I created two golden 22 foot flags. Flambeaux and I waved our freak flags on either side of the stage as Amy Goodheart sat in a lyra high above the stage with a red dress on that reached the floor. I really would like to go into this number but I really don't have time so just imagine how Flambeaux and I felt when one of us said "ok time to go get on our makeup so we can go and wave our flags" It was brilliant but funny to realize what we are doing here to make a living.
This weeks shows were great but were definitely a nice break from the fire madness that we produced last week.
Now I am getting ready to leave for a quick trip back to the US to see my bro Ramsey get hitched. He has got to be so excited by now, He has a great fiance and is really lucky. It is going to be great to be reunited with him and all of my family in the next couple of days.
I will be flying to the US tomorrow and will stay for 7 days and then return to Beirut on the 16th to finish this contract. I should win the prize for having to travel the farthest to this event, and I cant help but think how it couldn't possibly get any more different from Bruit to Arizona.
I will have a 5 hour layover in both Houston, TX and Paris France on the way back on the 16th so if any one has any ideas of with who or how I can spend my time please let me know. My US phone number will be working sometime tomorrow night and will be on for the next 7 days the number is 917-710-5080.
Well that is all for now I gotta run. Talk to you soon
Michael Saab