Life at the Theater: Zorlu Center

We’ve finished our second week of shows and I’m getting the gist of how our daily routine will be on tour. The weekday shows have a call time for the cast of 7:30pm.  We go in a little earlier to homeschool.  It gives us plenty of time for sightseeing during the day.  I would try to get some done at the hotel, but the concentration in the room is not there and there isn’t the space to work.  I’m surprised by how little time homeschooling (when they get down to it) takes.

I’m regretting the curriculum I chose and I’m modifying it to suit the girls needs. Math I’m sticking to for both girls. It’s common core and exactly what they’ll need to know when they re-enter the school system. The reading comprehension for Olivia, I find a little basic. I’m not going to go too crazy about that. She has enough to do, but I have asked her to take a little more time on her personal reading. For Olivia’s composition, I’m not going to follow the course. It asks to create web planners and write about things like, what’s your favorite food? or what do you like to do? Instead, I’m having her write about the tour, places we see, history, language and food in each country. I was going to forget the history book completely. It’s covers each era in a page and a half.  We’re covering history in way more depth on this tour, but she likes the book. It takes her about 30 minutes a couple of times a week, so she wants to keep it up.  Science, we’re following, but honestly, I didn’t like science the first time around and it hasn’t changed.

For Eliana’s reading and comprehension I’m sticking with the curriculum.  She only made it into her grade by a few days. She’s the youngest in the class and definitely needing more help. We’ve already had our fair share of outbursts from her getting frustrated.  Composition was proving to be a real problem.  She would be asked to write a story and given a list of subjects.  She just couldn’t even start. She just kept crying that she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t think of anything to write. I just threw my hands up and said “forget writing about these subjects, just write about anything you want to”  Again, she said she couldn’t think of anything. I suggested other subjects and tried to start her off, but then she got annoyed and said that it was my story.  We both got really frustrated and I just wanted to pull my hair out.  I told Clare about this.  The next day Clare came into our room and told Eliana her walls in her office were too bare,  She needed some artwork and stories for her wall.  Eliana sat down and instantly wrote a story with a drawing to accompany it.  Creative and neat! Why didn’t I think of that? Now she has been given the task of writing stories for the other walls. She’s kept this up daily and we’re all enjoying her stories.  Olivia loves writing fiction, so she’s started writing a story about each character in Shrek before they were evicted from Duloc.

The dressing room has become a very multi functional room.  It’s now been transformed into an airport. Boxes have been arranged as aircraft and members of cast and crew have been coming to take flight to the girls new land called “The Land of Doey”.   It’s hysterical to see full grown adults squeezed into little boxes taking the ever so fast ride ;).  I love this about theater people. They can continue to play as children so easily. In fact, it’s hard to tell who was enjoying the ride more.  There are refreshments served and in flight entertainment.

Backstage also has it’s fair share of fun.  Olivia plays clapping games with crew just before she goes on stage. Eliana loves being backstage and knows the entire show, she likes to sing the opening quietly into my ear.  She’s also likes to bring the wig backstage for Olivia’s quick change and to return the wireless mic at the end of the show.  By far my favorite part of being backstage are the moments Olivia and the Assistant Stage Manager, Shelby, have together.  After Olivia has her quick change back to Young Fiona for bows, I leave her stage right and head over to stage left where she’ll come off.  I watch them both dancing together for the final song. It’s so entertaining.  They look like they’re absolutely loving it!

I do love watching Olivia from the sidelines. At nine years old it’s wonderful to see how professional she has become.  She always asks me how her performance was. She’s so consistent, she really doesn’t need to worry, but it’s good that she does… I guess.




A wonderful opening weekend.  The show is absolutely amazing!  Now we have a much needed day off! It’s been 9 days since we had a day off and we’ve been in the theater for eleven hour days. I was thinking maybe we would just lay in bed watching movies, but they’ve had a lot of sitting around watching Netflix while in the dressing room. They need air. We all had a great sleep. In bed at 11:30pm and slept through till 11:30am.

We decided to take a trip to MiniaTurk.  It’s a park with 122 model structures of sights around Istanbul and the rest of Turkey.  The girls were expecting them to be a lot smaller than they were. As soon as they saw the park they were so excited.  There was a maze which they loved finding their way out of and a playground too.  Olivia was so interested in the history of the buildings.  There was certainly more than they could absorb, but it really was a good place to see before seeing some of these buildings in actual scale.  They also had a simulated helicopter ride which we went on.  It was in two segments.  The first being Istanbul and the second Turkey.  We were the only people in there. Not at all like the Empire State Sky Ride, or Disney, where we would’ve lined up for hours. As we passed different buildings on the ride the girls would say “we just saw that” with excitement. We took a taxi back to the hotel.

Both girls wanted Chinese. I asked the front desk if there was one close.  There was one only a few doors away.  We had a good meal there and it was super cheap, not that Chinese is expensive anywhere.  We had a nice evening in watching The Witches and an early night to sleep.

Opening Night

Finally, after an exhausting tech, it’s opening night.  Last night we finished tech at 11pm.  We were told we would be getting the bus back to the theater at 10:30am.  Olivia almost burst into tears.  She was so tired and she really doesn’t do well with not enough sleep.  I know some kids who are fine with little sleep and I think that goes for most of the kids in this industry, but it’s definitely not the case with Olivia and one of the only things that makes me thinks she’s not well suited for the life of the child actress.  Also, for the past two days she’s just not eating properly. She’s lost her appetite, but get’s hungry when it’s impossible for me to get her anything other than junk (muffins, cookies), so by the time she can eat a proper meal again, she’s not hungry.

I woke Olivia up at 9:30am for breakfast and to get ready for the bus.  As I had thought, there really was no need for us to be there.  She wasn’t needed till final dress rehearsal at 3pm.  I really wish I had played the mommy card and said she needed to sleep to be at her best for opening night.  Olivia wouldn’t eat lunch, but halfway through dress rehearsal said she was hungry and needed a snack, but didn’t want a meal. I got her a chocolate muffin.  By the time the dress rehearsal ended she just couldn’t stay awake and had a headache. Eliana and I left her in the dressing room to take a nap. She didn’t want any medicine for her headache.  When I came back an hour later I knew we had a problem.  Olivia had zero energy, looked miserable and I could tell her head really hurt. I made her take some advil, but I knew this ends up with only a couple of outcomes.  She either needs to sleep for an extended period, or she’s going to throw up.  I spoke with Clare, but Olivia told her she will make it on stage no matter what.  We were one song before Olivia was due to go on stage (Duloc) and she suddenly threw up. It was like a horror movie and covered nearly the entire bathroom.  I’ve never seen anything like that. It was all over her dress and her tights.  Eliana ran for help, but somehow managed to stay backstage chatting. I realized she wasn’t coming back, so I called Lindsay (Fiona) from the dressing room next to us.  I really didn’t want to bother her.  A minute later we had wardrobe in the dressing room and the tour manager.  I cleaned Olivia up as best I could and off she went to the stage.  The thing about Olivia when she gets like that, is that as soon as she’s thrown up, she’s completely back to normal.  She managed to perform beautifully, despite the major wardrobe malfunction.  As soon as she came off stage wardrobe took the dress away to clean.  It appeared again after half time, perfect…Magic!  The rest of the show went just fine for Olivia. She played Grumpy, and took her bow.

There was an opening night party.  Olivia and of course Eliana, didn’t want to miss that.  I said they could go for a little while, but they needed to get back to the hotel to sleep.  The girls wore beautiful dresses and felt like princesses when they walked into the lounge vibe party.  It was a beautiful event.  Not at all for kids.  Eliana commented “this is not a kids party” I don’t know what she was expecting.  We stayed for about thirty minutes and went back to the hotel to bed. Not at all the opening I would’ve liked for Olivia, but it all worked out in the end.

Press Day

It’s only a couple of days till the show opens and today we had what’s called Press Day.  Different media outlets came to take photos, video and interview some cast members, the creative and production team.  Olivia performed I Know It’s Today. Last night they changed the blocking.  I think they felt with Olivia being so tiny she wasn’t being seen properly standing behind the balcony wall, so now she’s sitting on it.  I think it looks fabulous, but of course I worry that with last minute changes she’ll forget. No idea why I can’t just mentally let go and let her do her thing, of course she remembers.  She performed beautifully and I was a very proud mommy.  I can’t wait to see the photos and video they release. There’s a great buzz in the theater now. I love hearing the live orchestra.

It was another long day of tech, in the theater till 11pm.  It really is exhausting, the waiting for things to get done.  I’m pretty techie, but if you’re not actually doing something, it’s just a drawn out process.  We had to get more homeschooling done. It’s so hard to get the girls motivated to learn when they could be sitting front of house watching, but they have to do it.  They love sitting behind the sound board and the sound techs are very entertaining, letting them press a button to make fart noises.  How can I win against that?  I’ve told them we need to be smart about allocating the homeschooling time while we’re at the theater, so we can see as much of Istanbul when we’re not.

Our First Day Off

It’s been a week since we left and wow, did that fly by!  Today was our first day off.  I woke up at 8:15am after my usual going to sleep at 2am. I was so annoyed with myself, I fell back to sleep pretty quickly.  I woke again at 11:30am to the maid knocking at the door.    I jumped up and rushed the girls to wake up. Our plans were to go to the Prince’s Islands.  It’s a full day trip.  You take a 55 minute boat ride. There are no cars on the island, so you travel around either by foot, cycling or horse and carriage. Clare, the company manager, was coming with us.  She had emailed saying there were thunderstorms expected, so it was probably best not to go today.  I suggested the aquarium.

We met Clare in the lobby at 12:30pm. We jumped in a taxi having no idea how far the aquarium was.  I showed the Taxi driver where we were going on my phone.  We were driving for so long, both Clare and I wondered if we were being taken out of the country and our relatives would here of us being kidnapped.  I had no idea Istanbul was so big, or that  the traffic was so bad.  I was watching the taxi meter go higher and higher.  65 Turkish Lire later we were there.  It still sounded like so much money to me, but really that was only about $25.  If we went that distance in NY it would probably be closer to $65 not Turkish Lire.  Clare and I hadn’t eaten yet, so we grabbed lunch over looking the Marmara Sea,  The aquarium was absolutely amazing! without a doubt the best aquarium I’ve been to.  There were fish above us, below us, all around us and it seemed to go on forever.  This was the perfect way to spend the day off and I killed two birds with one stone. This weeks science enrichment was to go to an aquarium.

We’re back in the hotel room.  The kids are watching Netflix.  We’re just going to relax tonight, Back to tech tomorrow. I’m not sure if we’ll have another day off before the opening, which would bring us to the following Monday, but we shall see.

Tonight has been another battle, this time regarding sleeping arrangements.  We have a double bed and a sofa which is kinda like a daybed.  At home, even when Olivia would come in to lay with me, she will never stay there to sleep.  She loves her space. Our bedroom is like a sauna and she likes to be cool. Eliana, on the other hand, loves to sleep next to me and would be as close as she could. I don’t allow this very often. I think it creates bad habits and I like my space too. Anyway, it seemed to make the most sense that Olivia have the daybed.  Eliana made such a huge fuss about this, so on the first night I said that on the nights that Olivia doesn’t have a rehearsal, or a show, Eliana could have the daybed. Last night Eliana got the daybed. Well it backfired on her.  Olivia loved sleeping bed with me. I said to Olivia “that wasn’t so bad was it?” She said, “no, I loved it” Eliana jumped up and down with joy and said she was keeping the daybed  Of course, now Eliana wants to be back in bed with me, so they had a fight about it.  I had pretty much fallen asleep with them watching a movie and they woke me up, You can imagine how annoying that was.  after having all three of us in one bed and me getting more and more irritated, Olivia said she would go to the daybed so that I could have some peace.  Thank you, Olivia. Well now I’m wide awake and sitting writing again,  On a side note, I bought a small bottle of the Turkish drink Raki to try.  I had some earlier.  It was absolutely disgusting and honestly should be thrown out, but right now it may save me and send me back to sleep. Night night!


Yesterday was the first day I felt like we were settling into a routine.  We did manage to find the outside playground. It was a little wet.  We were there for all of 10 minutes playing before I heard screaming coming from Eliana, there was blood on her face.  Thank goodness it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  A little graze on her chin and cut from her tooth on her lip.  Never a dull moment.

Olivia  was fitted with her wig yesterday too.   The first part of transforming to Young Fiona.  Eliana wants to be in the show so much. She’s been pin curling her hair and jumping around in the dwarf costume.  It’s definitely a little challenging making sure she feels as much part of this and Olivia is really not helpful fighting with her because she keeps taking her stuff.  I can’t be too mad at Olivia. It would annoy me too, but she does have to make Eliana feel as good as she can.

Today was the first day of tech.  I’m so very tired.  24/7 with the kids, being mom, teacher, chaperone, child wrangler and no “me” time is definitely harder than I thought it would be.  My brain feels exhausted.  Mainly from tearing them apart I think.  My night gigs and time they’re usually in school are really good breaks.

We arrived at the theater at 12pm.  Olivia got into costume and we went to the front of house.  Olivia is in the first scene.  That was over pretty quickly.  We spend the entire day waiting for her next scene, which is scene 6.  It’s now 9pm and she still hasn’t gone on again.  I gave them the day off homeschooling so they could watch.  I thought they could do with day out of the dressing room.  We came back to the dressing room for a little break and now they’re fighting again, so I’m blocking them out and writing.

We’re OK!

We slept so late today, I was woken by my brother, Richard, trying to FaceTime me.  I ignored the call since I was still trying to sleep, but he called back straight away, so I knew it was important.  He told me there was an explosion by the Blue Mosque and he was checking we were ok. Luckily the girls slept so late we didn’t fit in any morning site seeing.  There were messages from the Shrek Group checking everyone was accounted for and saying that management and security would be holding a meeting to address our security going forward. The cast members playing Shrek, Donkey, Farquad, Teen Fiona and one of the three little pigs happened to go site seeing.  They were going to the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque.  Fortunately, they went to the Grand Bazaar first. Everyone was accounted for and safe.  We were meant to take the shuttle later in the day, but with he heightened security they felt it better we leave with the rest of the cast for the Zorlu Center.  It’s very safe there. Metal detectors and security everywhere.

When we arrived at the Zorlu center our security explained our procedures.  Olivia was a little freaked out and doesn’t want to go to any of the sites now, especially the Grand Bazaar, but it’s hard to feel like we’re anywhere unsafe at all. The people could’t be nicer and the Zorlu center is so modern. Not at all what you picture Middle Eastern terrorists being a part of.  The cast went to rehearse and we went to eat and to see what the mall was like. It is absolutely the most beautiful and huge mall I’ve ever seen. It has an amazing playground by the photos, but despite four trips from the theater to the mall we couldn’t find it. Everyone kept directing us to an inside play center. The play center was incredible with a jungle gym, Laser Quest. Karaoke and Arcade, but we were on a mission to find the outside playground. It’s still relatively warm here.

By 5:30pm we came back to the theater and were given our dressing room/homeschooling room.  It’s lovely.  Olivia feels like a star having her own dressing room.  We managed to get the days homeschooling done.  It was so much easier in that space without distractions.  They didn’t end up needing Olivia today. We came back at 10pm, had a late dinner and retired to our room. I’m hoping to finish the “getting ready” video tonight while the girls are sleeping.


First Day at the Theater

Oh well, my plan didn’t quite work out.  I really did think that the four hour nap and 10pm tuck in would turn the girls around, but at 3am I heard Eliana whisper to Olivia to wake her up.  If you’re going to be up at 3am, school can start at 3:30am (my words), so that’s what we did.  We didn’t really get much done.  Spelling for Olivia and Reading for Eliana.  We had FaceTime with daddy and waited for the Call to Prayer.  The girls were quite excited about hearing this at the crack of dawn.  I’m still confused by how this works. I did watch a documentary about the Koran and Muslim beliefs before we left, but I wonder, what happens if you work a night shift finishing at 3 am.  I guess you could stay up for the first calling, but do you, or are you allowed to miss sleep for the others during the day?  The hotel staff here speak a very limited English, so getting any answers that don’t fit into the categories of room, food, or where to go, gets a little tricky.

We went to breakfast at 6:30am, as soon as it opened and then to the gym.  The girls are obsessed with working out since we got here.  The shuttle was picking us up at 9:30 this morning for transportation to rehearsal at the studio next to the theater.

We did get to look at the stage.  It was massive, beautiful, impressive and exciting. I posted some pictures to Facebook of the girls on the stage.  Quite a few comments said how brave Olivia is.  I find it funny how people think that way.  Being a performer myself, a huge theater is way less petrifying than a room in a restaurant, or anywhere else for that matter with 50 people you can see.  A theater doesn’t have that personal connection where you feel the need to satisfy everyone in the room.  There’s not the losing yourself in your role that you have in the theater.  I asked Olivia if she felt concerned at all, ”of course I’m not” she said.

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Olivia was only needed till 11am.  I wanted to take them to the playground, but our shuttle was already booked back.   This turned out to be a good thing.  I got back to the room to continue homeschooling, but about twenty minutes into it both girls started to fade.  I realized I wasn’t going to accomplish much at all, so I said we’ll sleep for an hour.  The alarm went off and I couldn’t move.  A useless mom is going to get noting done, so I turned it off and  we slept for three hours.

We woke up refreshed, finished schooling and went back to the gym.  This time at least I was comfortable having the girls around the equipment and I could work out myself.  We came back to the room. Eliana put on her daily dance show, which we are obliged to watch.   I asked Olivia and Eliana to think about what we’re missing this time on tour.  We’ll be home for a month and can re-pack, so it’s a good opportunity to figure out how to make it even better.  Eliana had one word to say “dad”.  Olivia wants to pack her room.

I recommended going downstairs to see if any of the other cast members were there.  The girls love hanging with them  I still feel a little awkward, for a few reasons.  I feel like I have to be very understanding that these are young adults enjoying their tour together and kids can be annoying, lovely or not, so I limit their time.  Also, as much as I could hang, this isn’t my gig and my concentration needs to be on my girls, so like them, I’m limited too.  This actually has it’s major upsides, look I’m writing this aren’t I? and hopefully I will end up with some great video footage too. We spent maybe an hour downstairs. I grabbed a drink, the girls got an ice-cream and befriended a cat.  I spent a little time speaking with some cast members and we retired to the room for Eliana’s continuation of her dance party and hopefully a movie till they sleep.

And We’re Off!

There was so much excitement in anticipation of leaving the morning of January 9th.  Olivia and Eliana were up at the crack of dawn sitting by the door even though we didn’t need to leave the house till 9:30am.  When we arrived at the airport other cast members were checking in. Olivia was so happy to see everyone.  We were told that we had two seats in the middle isle and one the other side. Olivia and Eliana had their usual fight about who would sit on their own. However, it wasn’t the usual not wanting to sit on their own.  They both wanted to sit with someone in the cast. Of course I decided Olivia would win this one, since she is the one who is playing Young Fiona and had spent time with everyone.  Unfortunately, she found that the person sitting next to her wasn’t someone from the cast at all. She was a little upset for about 2 minutes.


The flight was so enjoyable. We were surrounded by the cast. They both chatted happily.  Neither one of them slept or complained of boredom.  We arrived at the hotel around 8:30am (1:30am NY time) and went for breakfast while rooms were being allocated.  By the time we were given our room they only had smoking and a room with two single beds. They said we would be able to swap the room when other guests had checked out. I realized immediately walking in the room there was no way we could even nap for a little while in there. The room was disgusting and smelly.  We came downstairs and told the front desk we would wait right there until one became available.  I was so miserable and very tired. Eliana was still full of energy and wanted to go to the gym.  By this time is was 11:30pm, 4:30am EST and the girls had been awake since 6:30am EST the previous day.  Fortunately for us, the tour had hired a really wonderful British man as security.  He decided it was definitely not acceptable us waiting.  Eliana had now fallen asleep on me.  He spoke to management and of course we had a room immediately following,  The manager personally escorted us to our new room and helped with our bags.  He commented on how beautiful my girls were and stroked Eliana’s hair. This was to become a continuing theme for our first day.  Thank goodness, we were able to take a lovely long nap.  Four hours, I felt confident we could turn our clocks around now.

We decided to go for dinner.  We asked the front desk for a recommendation.  The Concierge couldn’t have been nicer.  He fussed all over us and while we were waiting for the free shuttle he had ordered he chatted away asking us questions.  The drive was about 10 minutes.  I knew from the brochure the restaurant wasn’t going to be cheap, but by NY standards it wouldn’t be expensive either.  Olivia & Eliana had really wanted good Lamb Shish in Turkey and this restaurant looked like we would get that.  As we walked in we were treated like royalty.  The manager took us to our table and sat us down.  He commented on how beautiful we were.  He said to the girls “you know why you’re so beautiful?” and whispered in Olivia’s ear, cause your “mother is” and stroked her hair.  he then came over and sprinkled flower petals on them.  We’re definitely seeing how much they love both children and blondes here.  They brought out a whole bunch of food that we really didn’t know what it was.  The girls were good, they tried most of it.  We noticed a playroom on the TV screen. I asked what is was, so they took us there to show us.  It turns out, the restaurant have a play center with a ball pit, arcade games and child care. The kids played for a little while. You can come to the restaurant and leave your kids while you enjoy a meal with adults. They bring the kids food to the playroom and you can monitor them on the screen.  What a great idea! Of course I wasn’t going to leave them there and eat on my own.  We did have some lamb shish.  The girls were happy. I didn’t think it was as good as our local Turkish restaurant, but still very good.  We came back to the hotel, sat with the other cast members in the hotel bar/restaurant for maybe fifteen minutes and headed to the room for the night.

Shrek Trek: A Family On Tour

As I prepare to tour with my two children I have so many mixed emotions. Of course I’m extremely excited.  I wouldn’t dream of embarking on an adventure like this unless it did excite me.  For Olivia and Eliana to have these experiences at such a young age is something very few children have.  Olivia gets to live her dream performing in a professional company, in theaters around the world and in a role she loves. I mean, what young girl wouldn’t want to travel the world playing a princess? As a family we get to experience the world and I get to enjoy the view, not only through my own eyes, but my children’s.

So here’s the daunting part.  I will now be with my children ALL the time.  I will not only be fulfilling the role of mother, I will now be their teacher. Now, I know plenty of women who homeschool their children, successfully.  This is not something I would’ve ever dreamed I’d find myself doing.  Homework frustrates me.  I can only imagine the strength I’m going to have to find in myself to push through this. Of course, anyone who knows me well, knows if I’m taking on anything, not only will it get done, but I will not stop till it’s done well. I’m sure this will be the hardest part of the journey for me.

My other major concern is my own career.  Fortunately, I have a husband who can help run my business, but it does take away my own performance schedule. I will really miss performing.  It’s my own life not connected to my children and it’s fun.  Not that I forget I’m a mom when I’m out performing at night, but It’s like I have two different lives and I love that. I know I complain when I’m exhausted cause I’m running on a couple of hours sleep, but I thrive on it. I’m a little worried about losing myself and not being able to step back into that when I return.

My fears are still small compared to my excitement for the future ahead. I look forward to sharing the tour with you. To Olivia, I hope that playing Young Fiona on the Global Tour of Shrek the Musical is everything you hope it will be and to Eliana, enjoy every minute and soak it all in and please, both listen to mommy. XO

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