Credit to @Heughligans for the picture

Outlandish Reflections on a Plaid Carpet Premiere

What a weekend…

Well, it’s been a few days and I’m still not down from the high of all that I experienced at the Outlander Premiere on Friday night. It’s almost hard to know where to begin, but I have heard that the beginning is a very good place to start!

First of all, for those who are a bit wary, this is not going to be a recap of the actual first episode, so those who are determined to be unspoiled on August 9th need not worry! There are some excellent episode recaps out already that have that covered. What I am going to do is give you a window into my experience. Hopefully, this will allow everyone who wasn’t able to attend to feel at least a part of the excitement.

Tell me if you’ve heard the one about 6 women trying to get ready in a single hotel room…

That’s right, you heard me. Before we could go anywhere, it was necessary for 6 of us to get dressed, hair styled and made up. Not that easy as you might imagine. Especially as all of us had brought more than one outfit and it was necessary for each of us to try everything we brought on and get the consensus of the group on THE outfit that should be worn. Through that process, we took the time to order in a lunch as we feared—and were correct—that this might be the last meal of the evening.

Appetites dealt with, it was time to begin the shuffling required to get everyone shower, mirror and straightening iron time. Luckily, we had our own personal stylist on hand. It’s always nice to be friends with someone with red carpet experience. And while there may be no ‘Words heard on set’ tweets from Maril due to the filming hiatus for the premiere, I can report that the following words were heard in our hotel room:

Suck in…Lift your boobs….do you mind if I stick my hand here and adjust this…

And the best of all…

I usually get dinner first before I let someone do this.

But, right on time, we were tweaked, looking perfect, and all ready to go! We requested our UberXL vehicle and headed out for our special night.

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Pinch me…

I think all of us were still pinching ourselves that we were really going to the Outlander Premier as invited guests and we really had no idea what to expect.  Soon enough, however, we pulled up to the Spreckels Theater to join a line of others waiting for the Will Call lines to open. Coincidentally, a band of kilted men came by to help us pass the time. I mean, really, what could be more fun and appropriate! I couldn’t resist having my picture taken with them and was given an Outlander bandana of my very own.

I won’t show a picture, but I was amazed to find that even two of Diana Gabaldon’s children were waiting in line behind us. I figure they are in store for a pretty interesting evening since I’ve heard Diana say that they have never read her books as, in the words of one daughter, “I don’t want to read sex scenes written by my mother.” However,  it doesn’t surprise me at all that Twitter0c2dc2ethey didn’t expect any special treatment.

Pretty soon it was 6:30 and the Will Call line began moving quickly. I made very sure that I stuck close to the lucky girl who actually won the tickets as I knew my +1 status was dependent on her!

Once we had our tickets in hand, we walked behind the Step and Repeat Backdrop and Plaid Carpet the stars would soon walk and entered the atrium of the theater. It was a wonderland of trees, stones and kilted men. I truly felt I was walking through the trees at Craigh na Dun. Once in the theater lobby, we were able to peruse a selection of blue vases—a la Claire’s shopping in Inverness.

I can’t begin to list everyone I met from the Outlander Twitter and Facebook worlds. As with all Outlander-related events, meeting people in person that you normally only tweet and Facebook message with is one of the best parts of the evening.  I quickly ducked into the actual theater for a moment to see where my seat was. Turns out it was in the Orchestra level in Row S. This was one of the last rows in that level of the theater, but the venue was so small and intimate, I was sure I would have no problems seeing anything on stage.

Keeping my eyes wide open…

I then went back out to the atrium to people watch as others arrived.  I had the immense privilege of speaking with several key executives including Chris Parnell (Sony) and Karen Bailey (Starz). However, the highlight by far was the chance to speak with Bear McCreary. He graciously stopped and spoke with me for three or four minutes. I wish I could remember in more detail what he said—or what I said for that matter. I do remember telling him how much I admired his use of instrumentation in his work and he said how amazed he was at all of the support from Outlanders so far. I’m also crushed that I didn’t remember to have someone take my picture with him but I did get some video of him with Kathy. I also spotted Zac McGowan, Luke Arnold and Jessica Parker Kennedy from Starz’s Black Sails walking through as well. Last but not least, I also had the opportunity to speak briefly with Jolie Lash of Access Hollywood. She is the one who has put together some of the funniest cast interview filmed during her set visit to Scotland back in February, including the “Sexiest Gaelic Words” and “What is it about a man in a kilt” videos.

At this point, the greeters started clearing the lobby for the big arrivals. One of these days I’m going to learn that sometimes it doesn’t pay to always follow instructions, but alas this wasn’t the day, so I took my seat.  Others who didn’t follow directions got some great pictures. As I stated earlier, there are no bad seats in this theater.

It really starts to get real or should that be reel…

I had just settled in my seat when I noticed a bit of a buzz. Ushers were escorting the cast to seats among the crowd in the Orchestra level. I would never have expected that to happen. I managed to get some video of them but I apologize for the quality and the sound as I was just a bit excited.

First up was Lotte Verbeek (Geilis Duncan).

Next, crowd favorite Graham McTavish (Dougal MacKenzie)

And entering to a great ovation, author Diana Gabaldon along with Co-executive Producer Maril Davis.

Also to the delight of the crowd, Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) and Caitriona Balfe (Claire Randall) were next. After Sam was seated, I realized I had a perfect view of his face in profile from less than 20 feet away. Never in my wildest imaginings did I think I would be able to see Sam out of the corner of my eye while watching Outlander. I could actually see during the screening which scenes he paid close attention to and which were the ones where he grabbed his water bottle.

And last, but most definitely not least, one of my personal favorites, Tobias Menzies (Frank/Black Jack Randall).

Once everyone was seated, the house lights dimmed and out stepped Bear McCreary to give a live performance prior to the screening. He began with a couple of traditional Scottish folk songs: The haunting ballad Loch Lomond and then a fiddle tunes “Clean Pease Strae” and “Comin’ Through the Rye.” Next, was the very first live performance of the theme for Jamie and Claire that Bear wrote especially for the show. It was so haunting and evocative, I swear I could feel the wind from the moor and smell the heather. Lastly, Bear’s wife Raya Yarbrough took the stage to perform the song from the Outlander opening title sequence—a modified version of The Skye Boat Song. It literally gave me chills. I took a few short video clips but you will have to excuse my inability to keep quiet.

Loch Lomond -

“Clean Pease Strae” and “Comin’ Through the Rye”

Jamie and Claire’s Theme

I am also posting a video that someone else took of the entire performance and posted on YouTube. The video quality isn’t wonderful but the sound is pretty good.

Everything I thought it could be and so much more…

Once the live performance was over,  the curtain lifted and the credits started to roll. You could hear cheers and smatters of applause as names we know and already love flashed on the screen. Costume Designer Terry Dresbach received applause and cheers but the largest ovation by far was when Diana’s name was displayed. Thankfully for those not able to attend, Starz has released the opening title sequence on YouTube. Prepare to be amazed by the haunting vignettes and music. I will warn you that it is very addictive though. I’ve been finding myself singing the song for two days now.

I promised no spoilers for the episode content and I will hold by that. If you are interested in reading more about the actual episode, I highly recommend you read Candida’s A True Fan’s Review of Outlander Episode #101: Sassenach. She does a brilliant job and I understand the review has already been read and appreciated by those at the highest levels. As for my own reaction, I honestly can’t think of anything I would have changed. There were favorite lines, surprises, passion, action and humor. All of the things long time fans have appreciated about Outlander since 1991. Perhaps the best summary of my feelings is this tweet I sent to Maril Davis (@TallShipProds).

But wait, there’s more…

Not only did we get to be among the first to see a screening of the premier episode of Outlander, but there was also a moderated panel discussion afterwards. Even though jet lagged and tired from a day full of press interviews and a ComicCon panel discussion, the discussion among the participants was enjoyable and insightful. There were some great moments, especially when cheers went up for Gàidhlig tutor Àdhamh Ò Broin. Also, I think Ron Moore gave the best summary of Outlander Season 1 ever. I predict that the phrase “and that doesn’t go so well” will become a new catch phrase among Outlanders everywhere.

Here is a video released by Starz of the entire Q&A panel discussion.

The Clock Strikes Midnight

All too soon, the Q&A session was over and I knew my magical evening was drawing to a close. After lingering a bit in the lobby, trying to make the evening last as long as possible and speaking to friends, we finally exited the theater to the sidewalk outside. There we were privileged to have the opportunity to speak for quite a while with Karen Bailey, Sr. Vice President for Original Programming with Starz, and her husband, Palmer. It was great to hear some interesting tidbits about things that may be coming up for Starz and its productions.

Waving goodbye to Karen who was off to another event, I and the rest of my party adjourned to the nearby Westin hotel for a drink, some nibbles and the chance to discuss the night’s events. I sent a few congratulatory tweets to those I knew had made such wonderful contributions to the production including Terry Dresbach and Àdhamh Ó Broin.

Finally, even drinks and food couldn’t prolong the evening any longer. We hopped in our UberXL and made the journey back to Kearny Mesa, a tired but thoroughly pleased party. Sadly our group of six wonderful ladies had to split up and go our separate ways, but we have wonderful memories we will share forever. Thank you so much to Marisa, Candida, Darcy, Jen, and Kathy for sharing this fantastical evening.

Watch out world. Outlander is coming!

Credits to @Heughligans (Plaid Carpet picture) and @Candida_LN (Forest Lobby picture)

Creignish

Traces of Old World Culture in New Scotland – Jigs and Reels

One of the best things about visiting Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia is experiencing cultural traditions that were transferred from Scotland to the new world with the emigrant wave of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is especially true since some of these same things have all but died out in Scotland itself.   Although I’ve been coming to the island every summer for the last 15 years, I have enjoyed experiencing these now familiar activities through the lens of the GreatScot! blog.

Among my favorite traditions are the almost daily Celtic Square Dances that are held in Parish Halls and Recreation Centers around the island. Almost any night of the week you can find a dance somewhere—Mondays are Brook Village, Thursdays are Glencoe Mills and West Mabou on Saturday nights. There are groups of people ‘from away’—as Cape Bretoners call tourists— and locals as well, who spend the week going from dance to dance to enjoy the fiddle music and take to the floor for a set or two. This year, a new community has joined the weekly line-up as Creignish has added a dance on Tuesday nights.  No one on the island seems to know quite how these dances migrated from Scotland, but they are common all around Cape Breton and even on mainland Nova Scotia.

Cape Breton Square Dances usually start fairly late by modern standards—generally after 9:30 pm. This is because in the days of farm laborers and fishermen, no one had time for a dance until after a full days work was finished. The dances also follow a fairly regular pattern, although the origins are somewhat shrouded by time. First the fiddler and the piano accompanist take the stage for a bit of a warm-up, then they launch into the first jig and couples take to the floor. Often fiddlers will trade-off playing as one tires and another takes over. Towards the end of the evening, when the dancers are tired as well, often the floor will clear and individuals will take the floor one at a time for a spot of step dancing. This is the chance for the good dancers in the crowd to kick up their heels and show off for a bit.

In the area of Cape Breton where I spend the most time (the western or Sunset side of the island), the dances consist of 3 figures danced to the tunes of two jigs and a reel and are known as Inverness County Square Sets. Couples form squares (which are often really more round) to perform the figures. Jigs are tunes that are faster paced and in addition to being used for the 1st and 2nd figures of the square dancing, are also often used for solo or small group step dancing.

I took some pictures and some short videos from the Creignish dance to give you a taste of what a traditional Cape Breton Square Dance is like. The musicians for this evening are Wendy MacIsaac on the fiddle and Mac Morin on piano. Notice that all ages and skill levels take part and that native Cape Bretoners are really good about helping people from away join in and learn what to do.

First Figure – Jig

1. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
2. Turn to your corner and dance
3. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
4. Turn to your corner and dance
5. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
6. Turn to your corner and dance
7. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
8. Turn to your corner and dance
9. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
That’ll be it–That’ll be all!

Second Figure – Jig

1. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
2. Dance with your partner
3. Promenade around to the right
4. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
5. Dance with your partner
6. Promenade around to the left
7. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
8. Dance with your partner
9. Promenade around to the right
10. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
11. Dance with your partner
12. Promenade around to the left
13. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
That’ll be it–That’ll be all!

Third Figure – Reel

1. Right hand to your partner, half grand chain
2. Swing your partner
3. Left hand to your corner partner, half grand chain back to home
4. Promenade to the right
5. One couple takes the lead and promenades to face the music
6. This couple turns toward each other (lady on the left, gent on the
right, with gent’s left hand on the small of the lady’s back and his
right hand holding his lady’s right hand) then they turn to face the
lineup and split the couples down the middle.
7. When the head couple has split the couples, they cast off and
return to the music with the men following the men and the women
following the women.
8. Gents on one side and ladies on the other side, forward and back
a few times and show your steps.
9. Join with your partner and do a simple two step or show your
footwork. Everyone dances back to their home place & makes a
circle.
10. Right hand to your partner, half grand chain, swing your partner
11. Left hand to your corner partner, half grand chain back to home
12. Promenade to the right
13. Another couple OR the same couple as before promenades to
face the back of the hall.
14. Repeat number 6.
15. Repeat number 7 returning to the back of the hall.
16. Repeat numbers 8 & 9
17. Repeat steps 1 through 16
18. Right hand to your partner and do a grand chain (passing your
partner by and going all the way to home.
19. All join hands and show your steps!
That’ll be it and that’ll be all

Stay tuned…

Coming soon is a post about my visit to the Cape Breton Highland Village Museum—where I met a blacksmith named Jamie—as well as one on my upcoming visit to The Gaelic College for a Great Kilt demonstration and the opportunity to partake in a milling frolic.

 

 

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Who would have thought…. Exciting giveaway coming soon from Great Scot!

So, who would have thought when I started this blog back in February, that just five months later, Great Scot would be on the brink of 30,000 page views? I know I certainly never dreamed the blog would get that many views this quickly but Outlander fans are nothing if not amazing. I want you to know that I appreciate each and every one of you who has read the posts, retweeted, left comments, reblogged, and given me such wonderful encouragement! I look forward to continuing to share my Outlandish cultural musings.

But, back to the exciting giveaway. As of 11:30 pm EDT on June 25, Great Scot is at 28,900 views. Stay tuned for a very exciting giveaway I am planning for when Great Scot hits 30,000!  I’m not saying what the giveaway is just yet but let’s say it’s a little something I picked up in Seattle. As a matter of fact, two little somethings I picked up in Seattle. ;-)

I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.

 

DG2

By Any Other Name: Genre Gabaldonian

Guest Post for GreatScot!  by Laura Carmichael @LallybrochLaura

With a sigh of happiness, I finished re-reading Shakespeare’s Richard III — a play I have tickets to see performed again soon. After seeing peace restored to England, I closed the book, and slipped it back onto the bookshelf. I then went online, where I was delighted to see a link to an article about another beloved author, Diana Gabaldon, and her Outlander series of books. That delight was marred by a sense of vexation at seeing these works referred to, yet again, as “Science Fiction.” Although I’m accustomed to seeing Gabaldon’s works labeled as “Science Fiction,” or even “Romance,” I felt puzzled at the heat of my irritation. Why, I asked myself, is this still so irksome to me? After all, I am a long-time Gabaldon reader, well used to the haphazard application of these genre labels to her work.

The answer was right there at eye-level on my bookshelves in the well-thumbed rows of books by two of the authors I most love: William Shakespeare and Diana Gabaldon. I’ve recently been re-reading several of both authors’ works — in preparation for my upcoming attendance at several Shakespeare play performances, and for Gabaldon’s new book and upcoming TV series. There on the shelves was the answer: it is exactly as appropriate to label Shakespeare a Science Fiction or Romance writer as it is to so label Gabaldon. From a genre perspective, there is no difference or distinction between these two authors.

ShakespeareLet me explain. Both authors use varied plot elements to advance their characters into extreme, challenging circumstances. From these extremities both authors then skillfully reveal insights into What It Means to Be Human as the characters grapple with their challenges.  Sometimes those plot elements are Science Fiction elements, and sometimes they are Romance elements — or Political, Adventure, Mystery, Humor, or any of a number of other elements. Yet both authors cover the entire spectrum of human experience, from boredom to ecstasy, silliness to sublimity, confusion to single-minded clarity, and on and on. Both authors use myriad devices to get their DGcharacters’ stories in motion, and those devices are never constraining to these authors, nor are they ever The Point. The Point is how the characters feel, think, act, learn, and change with the layers in their stories; The Point is how that in turn makes us, their audience, feel, think, act, learn, and change in our lives.

“Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons” – As You Like It, W. Shakespeare

All right, well enough. All of the above duly noted, it is true the Outlander books use time travel to move characters into challenging situations. Given that, what is wrong with calling Gabaldon’s works Science Fiction? Or similarly, since they feature people in love, what is wrong with labeling them Romance novels? So what?

To answer that, let’s take Shakespeare as a comparison, starting with one example, Hamlet. Several of his greatest and most popular works rely on Science Fiction/Fantasy elements to get the characters in motion — including Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet.

You may recall Hamlet begins with the “dreaded sight” of an “apparition.” It isn’t a figment of Hamlet’s mind, which would make it merely a psychological device. Others see it first, and bring it to Hamlet’s attention. The apparition gets all of the action of the play in motion by calling on Hamlet to revenge what the apparition alleges is his father’s “murder most foul.” Hamlet and the audience never find out what this supernatural being, claiming to be the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Hamletreally is. A shaken, distraught Hamlet fears it may be a demonic force trying to trick him into horrible acts; this is partly why Hamlet is unsure what actions to take. Like most great Science Fiction devices, it ultimately doesn’t matter what the apparition is, or how it got there. Indeed, throughout the rest of the play, it makes only one other brief appearance — and that one Hamlet may be imagining. What matters is that this fantastical force catapults the unwilling Hamlet, and thereby everyone around him, into the rest of the action of the story.

Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Hamlet — all of these rely on unmistakable Science Fiction plot elements to propel the characters into the situations where we see what stuff they (and we) are made on. Yet if we were to read news articles containing phrases such as “noted Science Fiction author William Shakespeare” or “Shakespeare’s greatest work, the Sci-Fi/Fantasy play Hamlet,” we would feel something was rotten. Why? After all, those descriptors are accurate, as far as they go.

And there’s the rub. While they are accurate as far as they go, they do not go far enough. This overly reductive labeling is inaccurate because of its ludicrous, woeful inadequacy.

It’s like explaining America to a potential tourist by only describing Las Vegas — which would create an odd, misleading image. When they later saw Yosemite, they would wonder why we’d spoken only of gambling and sparkling lights — or worse, they might never see Yosemite at all.

How Do I Love Thee? (Haute Bawdy & Hot Bodies)

HotGabaldon’s works have also often been labeled as Romance novels and stocked in that section of bookstores. And, like Gabaldon, Shakespeare wrote about humans in love and in lust — requited and unrequited, enduring and transactional, transformative and twisted. Both authors are superb at evoking these feelings in their audience, and generating empathies and insights we find so compelling we must come back for more.  They are also both superb at showing us the bawdy and comedic aspects of our species’ amatory activities.

Yet most Shakespearean aficionados would cringe to hear Shakespeare described merely as “Romance author William Shakespeare.” Why? None of his works, even those with the greatest couples, love scenes andBrannaugh quotable-quotes, is merely a Romance. While Outlanders love Jamie and Claire — much as generations have loved Benedick and Beatrice — Outlander is not merely a Romance, any more than Much Ado About Nothing is.

“What’s Past is Prologue” – The Tempest, W. Shakespeare

Although Shakespeare pre-dates Gabaldon by 400 years, they share the same wonderful predicament — they have each created their own genre. If Shakespeare started out today, he would likely be as mislabeled as Gabaldon is.  There is some indication he was mislabeled in his own time, and found it irksome: he pokes sardonic fun at the way his contemporaries classify works, as Polonius recites a silly litany of genres “tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited” to Hamlet. Continue reading

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The Outlander Effect or (in Gàidhlig) “Buaidh Outlander”

 Outlander and Scottish tourism

Now that a premiere date for Outlander has been announced, we are slowly yet surely seeing press coverage about the series tick up. One such article published recently got me to thinking. Outlander already has a large and loyal fan base. What impact has there been, if any, on Scotland’s economy and culture? And what can we expect to change after the series starts airing?

First, let me start with the article that intrigued me, published by a site called “We Love Soaps, who bill themselves as the “World’s biggest champion of scripted, serialized storytelling on TV & the web.” I guess the Outlander TV series does fit that description, although I would never call it a Soap! The bit of the article to catch my eye was this:

The fervent on-line fan base totals over a half-million and when the ‘first-look’ photo of Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser posted on the Starz social channels, it outperformed other introductions of lead characters for properties such as The Great Gatsby (Gatsby), Hunger Games (Katniss), Game of Thrones (Ned Stark), and NBC’s Dracula (Dracula). Additionally, when Sam was cast as Jamie Fraser, the fans took it upon themselves to make their voices heard and put him on E! News’ “Hottie of the Week” charts two weeks in a row (which is very rare, if not unprecedented). In addition, #Outlander trended (was one of the top ten things being talked about on Twitter) numerous times during NY ComicCon.  Starz Summer 2014 New Series: ‘Power’ and ‘Outlander’

It is apparent the size and fervency of the Outlander fan base has already been noticed and its impact noted. One example is the recent Twitter trending event held on May 19 for #WorldWideTVNeedsOutlander. The tag trended globally and the fact was highlighted in the introduction of Outlander during the L.A. Screenings event for international TV buyers that same day. You can see Diana Gabaldon author of the bestselling Outlander series of novels — tweet about that here:

Continue reading