All the World's a Stage... Welcome to Unexpected Company's blog, sharing with you anecdotes, adventures and inspirations regarding performing (Performing Notes) - as well as entertainment and other suggestions for many types of events (Nifty Party Tips).
18 Jun

Company Picnic Tips

Summer’s here and it’s time for company picnics! It’s easy to plan a fabulous one; here are a few suggestions:

• If you are in charge for the first time, and the picnic is an annual affair, check to see which aspects are an annual tradition and which areas are ripe for fresh new ideas.

A theme creates specialness and naturally focuses planning choices, from the menu to the activities. For example, a Carnival theme calls for popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, and such fare.


Fun activities for all ages are a must. For children, face painting, arts and crafts, a bubble station, and a clown sculpting balloons are always fun.

For teens and adults: a henna or temporary tattoo parlor, caricatures, name painting, strolling magic, a hip DJ. With the Carnival theme, booths with carnival games and prizes are de rigueur.Name art

Group games are a picnic staple, whether it’s volleyball or softball, or a series of games for all different ages organized by an enthusiastic and well-prepared Gamesmaster.

Decorations can be simple – checkered tablecloths and a few balloon bouquets – to elaborate, depending on your vision.

Don’t forget the sunscreen – and have a great time!

08 Jun

Exploring Rural Kyushu

hay stacks
This is a beautiful area, with many islands, lots of bamboo-forest-covered hills, jewel-green rice paddies. We each have bicycles to use, and it’s wonderful in the morning before work to go exploring – I discovered a small cemetery with elegant new polished monuments tucked among the giant bamboo, and hundreds of black, red, and yellow crabs scurrying about.

I went to Nagasaki with Norbert the Hungarian accordionist on our first day off. We loved the old temples, Japanese and Chinese, on the hillsides tucked among modern neighborhoods – islands of tranquility and beauty, though Nagasaki did not seem like a really noisy city.


At sunset we had sushi and sake at the harbor, and then happened upon a group of maybe 100 people practicing a dragon dance, with a dozen guys animating the dragon, lots of children and adults playing drums and wind instruments, and the support team with snacks and drinks. There is a lot more to see there – including the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb monument. Sobering reminders of incredible tragedy. It is inspiring to experience the peacefulness, vitality, friendliness, and honesty of the Japanese.

All the Huis Ten Bosch staff is housed in a dorm complex right across the water. Last night I enjoyed the 25-meter pool for the first time – yum! And sauna (though in this 90+ degree and humidity weather, it’s not yet a big attraction), table tennis. etc. And it is a wonderfully quiet neighborhood.

Communication is a little challenging; while the Hungarians are chatting with their girlfriends back home on Skype, I’m typing away on an outside server. But communication in Japanese is slowly improving!

08 Jun


Konbanwa (good evening),

light on the fieldsIt’s a balmy evening and the local night bird trills patiently outside my window. The weather has been gorgeous – not ‘mushi-atsui’ (way hot and humid!) as in my first weeks here. It’s sunny and very warm by day, but mornings and evenings are luscious. The peacefulness of this quiet rural neighborhood is enlivened every night at 8:45 when the Huis Ten Bosch fireworks and laser extravaganza lights up the sky, its festivity reflected in the calm river water.

One of my favorite parts of the day is early morning, before work, when i get on my one-speed, company-issued bike and go exploring nearby: through rice fields – now being harvested – and bamboo forests; through small fishing villages, along seawall pathways, through dwarf citrus orchards, past traditional houses with curved blue-gray tiled roofs…it’s amazing how many different corners there are here to discover! spiderThere is a type of spider here, which I’ve seen on many a ramble, whose body is shaped like a Moroccan trading bead – long and cylindrical, in yellows, reds, and blacks – living art!

It’s a holiday weekend here, and Huis Ten Bosch is bustling with people today – festive and fun. There is a wine festival happening, so the Dutch ‘town’ feels very French, with people sampling from over 300 European wines, sitting under the trees with bread and cheese picnics.

I love feeling so safe here, as a solo woman traveller, foreigner, and worker. Being out alone by day or at night, in the cities nearby or on a dark village street – no problem. Everyone is sooooo polite and appreciative, even the very trendy punked-out-looking teen boys. There is no trace of graffiti, litter, vandals, or dog droppings anywhere I’ve been. Also, I’ve seen very few Westerners here.


08 Jun

Huis Ten Bosch, Kyushu, Japan

Sept. 16, 2007

Ohio gozaimasu, Everyone!
My arrival I’m writing from Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch themed resort on the island of Kyushu, Japan, where I am performing for 6 weeks. It is a beautifully-recreated amalgam of traditional Dutch communities, on a river at the edge of a quiet bay leading to the sea, complete with windmills, cobblestone streets, Gouda cheese, and Japanese staff in traditional Dutch costumes in the restaurants and shops.

I just did my first strolling set of the day as a Halloween witch – at 9:30 in the morning, in full sun, in September, in Japan! What’s wrong with this picture???? And no, it’s not a Dutch custom either, but hey, as long as it’s Western it works here. It’s fun to welcome the day’s visitors; they are mostly Japanese, but also come from China, Hong Kong, and South Korea (which is only 100 miles from here by sea).


The other characters which the event department requested of me are Mechanical Doll, Balloon Clown, and Mime. Four days a week I have a 20-minute stage show designed for family audiences and audience involvement. The Japanese are very reserved and polite as an audience – unlike the Koreans and many of the Chinese – but my young male Japanese stage volunteers are great at mimicking my movement, creating a very convincing duo mime illusion in the show and much applause.

05 Jun

Holland in Japan

Well, I’m still breathing after 3 whirlwind days at “Holland in Japan”, Huis Ten Bosch resort. A big storm is coming, fortunately I’m done for the day – today my 1st day of street performing, as mime and witch. 20 minute sets in the wilting humid heat are plenty. The staff is great – so friendly, helpful, cheerful – and cute.

This is a very pretty area, hilly with bamboo forests and rice paddies in between the houses, on the water – we’re very close to Korea here. I look forward to my first chance to explore. We each get a bike from the company, so being able to have 2 wheels is great for the little off time there is each day. There are performers here from Australia, Germany, Hungary (they all are here for Oktoberfest, in lederhosen etc), a Dutch juggler, and a couple other Americans. I’m the only female performer at present so I have the whole bottom floor of the girls’ dorm to myself. Verrrrry quiet!

02 Oct

Kid’s Parties: A Pirate Theme

Both boys and girls love the adventure and swashbuckling of pirates. Here are some ideas to create a fun and memorable celebration.little_pirate

Welcome the guests by giving them their own self-adhesive nametag, with their own pirate name (you can make up names or search online – and yes, there were indeed female pirates!).

A variety of activities is always important – and several simultaneous choices can be useful with a young crowd.

Decorating their own treasure chest requires simple materials; pressed-cardboard little chests are available at crafts stores, as well as stick-on jewels, stickers, and markers.

A treasure hunt is great fun if you have time to plan it.  The clues can be simple to sophisticated, depending on the guests’ ages. The treasure maps can be instantly ‘aged’ by singeing the edges, and using off-white paper, tied and rolled up in a scroll.

For fun and inexpensive booty to reward the hunters, costume necklaces, fake coins, and pirate-themed temporary tattoos,  eye patches and pirate bandanas make popular gifts for each guest.

Accenting the theme in the food department includes snacks like Pirate’s Booty and gold-covered chocolate coins, as well as seafood dishes like shrimp salad, grilled prawns, and crab cakes. To make sure your young seafarers don’t develop scurvy, oranges, mandarins, and other citrus are tasty in sections.

Ahoy, matey – wishing you a merry sail!

18 Jun

Home Parties

There are so many ways to make a home party extra-special. Here are a few favorites:

Choose a theme for your affair, to be carried out with decorations, the food and beverages, the invitation, and the entertainment. For example, a Beach theme could have beach balls, hammocks, inflatable palm trees as décor, and table centerpieces of fun sunglasses for everyone in a kid’s sand bucket, with little shovels and other toys in or around it.

Invite the guests to come dressed in the theme of the party – this puts them in the mood long before they walk in the door and builds the excitement. It’s also fun to have accessories available for your guests to wear – again, with the Beach theme, big straw hats, plastic leis, sarongs or Hawaiian shirts.

Entertainment adds so much to the festivities. Whether it’s a solo musician with background music, a costumed character greeting guests as they arrive and mingling to entertain them, a caricaturist, or a full band or DJ for dancing, the interactivity really animates the atmosphere.

Hands-on activities act as ice-breakers, and bring out the guests’ creative sides.Party atmosphere
One fun option, for kids and adults, is a craft table, with lots of different materials, the necessary tools (scissors, markers, etc), and samples of things to make. Tissue paper flowers – for example – are easy, beautiful, and very personal mementos of your special occasion.

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