Show Reflections – Part 3

This is my final installment of show reflections after having seen 14 shows during my 6 weeks in Europe. It’s crazy to think this journey has come to an end, but I am so happy with the experience I’ve had. Seeing shows was one of the most important aspects of this trip for me, and I am thankful for being introduced to such a wide range of theatre. Here are my thoughts on the final two shows I saw (with the company of my mother)!

Miss Saigon

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For my mother’s sake, I felt that her West End experience should include a grandiose musical. There were so many fantastic shows I had already seen that would have been fun to introduce her to, but I figured we might as well see a show that neither of us had seen. I had heard great things about this production of Miss Saigon, so I figured we should give it a go, though it was a little ironic to see a show dealing with Americans in Vietnam War while in the UK.

For a bit of a summary, the story focuses on the relationship between Kim, a young Vietnamese girl who has been forced to prostitution after the death of her family, and an American officer, Chris. They marry, but he is unable to take Kim to America with him once the war is over, though he promises to return. Years later, the owner of the house Kim used to work for, Engineer, is bribed to hunt her down at the request of her formerly arranged fiancé. When he does find her, he discovers she had a son with Chris, and says that is their ticket to America (claiming he will be her “brother”).

I won’t give away the whole story, but that’s enough for you to know that Kim is the protagonist. The whole show really follows her story, and her needs are foremost presented, yet, at the curtain call Engineer was the last to bow. I have thought and thought about this, but I still can’t figure it out. He did have a song in Act II that was a showstopper, and while it was performed well, I honestly felt it should be cut because it broke up the momentum of the plot. It was simply about how great his life in America was going to be and eventually led to his daydream with scantily dressed women in a convertible. It had the wow-factor, but I was more interested in the story than that.

Speaking of wow-factor, the other note-worthy technical element of the show is that a helicopter flies above the stage as Chris leaves for America without Kim. Though this is a big element, it is way more deserved because it actually enhances the emotional impact of the story.

And yes, it is quite an emotional journey. I highly recommend this show, unless you’re like my roommate who doesn’t like sad things. In that case, stay away.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter

The Landor Theatre

The Landor Theatre

I’ve seen West End, a show at Regent’s Park, a show at the National Theatre, and at Shakespeare’s Globe, but I had yet to see an off-West End work. Luckily, my friends at The Phoenix Artist Club were promoting this original fairytale folk-musical, so I decided that would be the perfect ending to my theatre experience in London.

We arrived at The Landor Theatre hoping to find some yummy snacks before the show, as we had missed dinner after a lovely day at Kew Gardens. Walking past a bar area, we found our tickets at the box office in the back then continued down the hall to find an outdoor beer garden complete with a BBQ! This was much better than over-priced box office confections. My mom and I each had a roasted red pepper quesadilla topped with salad and washed down with a beer for her and a cider for me – yum!

Hut in the beer garden

Hut in the beer garden

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Back by the box office we found a staircase that led to the actual theatre entrance. Our ticket was collected (and not returned) at the door, and we learned that it was general admission seating in a folding chair black-box style set-up.

What a beautiful set!

What a beautiful set!

For such a small space, I was expecting an equally small cast, but the first number surprised me with a company of about 20 people in modern clothing, singing a hopeful song about the annual tradition of waiting to see if the statue in their square would wake. A cloaked figure took over the narration and we were taken back to a world of years past.

This original story has hints of Pinocchio and Hunchback of Notre Dame. The town clockmaker, in grieving his wife, has built a life-size doll that, to his surprise, can talk, move, and even think for herself. After losing his wife, he can’t bear the thought of losing her as well, so he is, of course, quite protective and makes her stay inside, claiming that the people out there won’t accept her.

Of course, she defies his request in search of life beyond walls. She falls in love. She is a successful seamstress. The other seamstress is jealous. Everyone learns the truth of who she is. Climatic song of exclaiming who she is and no one’s gonna bring her down (ahhh-ahhh-ahhh-ahhh). Dramatic turn of events. Dun dun dunn…..

There, that’s me being concise (trying). I do hope you have the chance to see it, as they’re hoping to make it as a West End show. The music is exciting and brought to life by a cast that exudes the joy of performing. Though I narrowed the plot down to mere sentence fragments, it isn’t what you’d expect from a fairytale musical – it’s quite dark and thought provoking, not simple at all.

I had the privilege of meeting the lead’s mom while queuing for the toilet (I’m so British now), and I learned that her daughter is a Canadian who now lives in London with her husband, whom she met while working on a cruise line. I met her after the show and mentioned I’m studying theatre at MSU, and she said she’s done some shows in Branson. We’re always told this theatre world is small, but it’s so hard to believe sometimes because the world seems so vast. It’s not.

So, as I’m fighting the sadness of leaving London, I’ll keep that in mind because you never know where life may take you.

Recurring Events

Many of my blog posts have been about a particular event or general impressions from my surrounding environment. As I’m nearing the end of my trip (sad), I have dedicated this blog post to letting you in on two semi-regular activities of mine in London.

My Quest to Meet John Goodman

As mentioned in Show Reflections 1, I saw American Buffalo, starring John Goodman, Damian Lewis, and Tom Sturridge, my second weekend here. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Goodman is an alumni of Missouri State (go bears), so I was especially excited for my chance to meet him at the stage door.

After the performance I saw, I met and got autographs from the other two stars, but was informed that, “Mr. Goodman has left the building.”

Since I was only a ten minute walk from the theatre, I made a point to continue to go back to try to meet him. I often scheduled my evenings around making a trip to Wyndham Theatre at 9:45. One Sunday afternoon I did some homework at a nearby coffee shop and then walked over to discover there hadn’t even been a show that day. After that, I made sure there was actually a show before venturing to the stage door.

Unfortunately, the good news you’re hoping for doesn’t exist. I tried five times, but he is a man of privacy, which I can respect. With so many things to do in London, you might think this was a waste of my time, but I don’t regret it at all. Though I didn’t meet Mr. Goodman, whilst waiting with other fans, I got to know two girls from the FSU program, a group of acting majors from Iowa State University, and a film student from China studying in England. Though these are mere passing acquaintances, those conversations are what shape an experience like this. Another bonus: I learned at least one route by heart since I walked from my flat to the theatre so many times.

**Damian Lewis and Tom Sturridge also probably think I’m a stalker now since I met them 5 times… oops.

Open Mic Nights

Another fellow bear/friend of mine who studied in London gave me some insider tips, namely open mic nights at the Phoenix Artist Club. Yes, it is a club that meets in the basement of the Phoenix Theatre. It is exclusive to members except for Thursday nights when they open up their back room to house a musical theatre lover’s dream.

You first walk in at ground level where there is a host that allows entry. Then, you walk down the stairs and pass through the bar area that has plush, red velvet seats and walls decorated with headshots and show posters. Finally, through a sliding door, you enter into the open mic room with tiny cocktail tables, booths, and airport seating in the back corner. At the front is a small stage with a piano (occupied by one of the most amazing accompanists I’ve ever seen) and a mic stand. There is a stack of music books available to use, but most people bring their own sheet music. You put your name on the list with Jo and wait your turn as one of the two alternating hosts provides transitions between performers. And I mean performers. This isn’t your average drunken karaoke where most people scream-sing. Many of the singers are fellow musical theatre majors, while others are just lovers of the craft. I was told that one of the hosts played Superman in Superman the Musical (who knew that existed?)!

I attended this open mic night every Thursday, and it became one of my favorite experiences of my trip. The first week I went with a fellow theatre major, and I was just going to soak it all in without worrying about performing, but some guy with a guitar convinced me to sing. I looked through their selection of music and decided to sing “Someone Else’s Story.” Having not warmed up at all, it was a little intimidating singing for a room full of people who actually know the difference between good and bad singing. It wasn’t my best performance, but it was still fun!

The night ends at 1 AM when the entire room that’s left joins in singing “One Day More.” I can’t think of anything more appropriate for a musical theatre club in London!

I had been telling my mom all about this place and was so excited to take her when she arrived in London. We did have a nice time, and I sang again, but unfortunately our trip was slightly tainted by a creepy man who asked for our extra chair and instead sat with us. It was fine at first, but then he was slightly too touchy and just had that general yuck factor you can’t quite pinpoint, but that gives you the heebie jeebies. Finally, he bid us farewell, but then returned with another beer about fifteen minutes later. Taking that as our cue to leave, we left early and did not get to stay for the “One Day More” experience. It wasn’t the best way to end one of my most treasured experiences in London, but I suppose it makes it easier to leave. At least now I have a lovely place to return to the next time I visit London, and hopefully George won’t be there.

Adventure Weekend

I often refer to myself as athletically challenged. Both of my brothers are athletes, and I think they sucked all of the athleticism up. Nevertheless, my flatmate convinced me to sign up to go to Preseli Venture Lodge for a weekend that included coasteering, kayaking, and hiking.

In typical Samantha fashion, I first need to mention the food. The activities, lodging, and food were all included in one price, so you’d think the food would be so-so. Wrong! Seriously, this has been some of the best food I’ve had here. Everything was homemade, and it was pure comfort food. PLUS they permanently had tea and coffee available (with biscuits, aka cookies), and the coffee was actually brewed!

Our first meal after our 5 hour train journey from London to South Wales. What a lovely view!

Our first meal after our 5 hour train journey from London to South Wales. What a lovely view!

An American favorite with a European twist: Haribo marshmallows sandwiched between a biscuit with chocolate filling. Not exactly a s'more, but close Also pictured: Coffee with a Welsh cream liquer - delicious and warm for a cozy evening by the campfire

An American favorite with a European twist: Haribo marshmallows sandwiched between a biscuit with chocolate filling. Not exactly a s’more, but close
Also pictured: Coffee with a Welsh cream liqueur – delicious and warm for a cozy evening by the campfire

Okay, so obviously I didn’t go for the food, but for adventuring! We arrived on a Friday evening, but our scheduled activities didn’t start until Saturday. So, the first adventure was us finding our way to the beach. Along the path, we found a swing attached to a tree on top of a hill, so we got a free little thrill ride with that. It was an added thrill because the hill was muddy, so stopping was a struggle. It was quite a performance to watch me get off that thing, and that experience alone made me a little nervous for the actual events to come.

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A glimpse at the flailing mess I was trying to get off....

A glimpse at the flailing mess I was trying to get off….

Then we made it to the beach, and it was breathtaking. We spent some time frolicking, sitting on rocks, and chatting with some surfers who were camping out in tents.

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On Saturday the real adventures began! Our morning activity was coasteering. Honestly, trying to put on the wetsuit and all of the other gear was nearly as difficult as the coasteering itself. It was so hard to get the wetsuit up, and when I finally did, I was told it was inside out. I left it. We also wore wetsuit socks, extra wetsuit shorts over the other one, a life jacket, helmet, and tennis shoes! All of this was referred to as our kit.

After a short bus ride, we were at the shore of the Irish Sea, and it was time to begin. I saw lots of cliffs, and I was ready to climb when all of a sudden I realized we were swimming there! I knew we’d be jumping into the water, but I thought we would otherwise be on land. It wasn’t too cold because we were so covered, but our hands weren’t. I found the best way to avoid cold hands was to hold them up, float on my back, and just kick. This was probably not the most efficient mode of travel, but it was the warmest. We would swim for a bit, find our way to some rocks, climb them, and then jump off! It was indescribably freeing, but also slightly scary. We had to jump like a pencil, rather than dive, but they told us that on our way down we could flail about or do a dance. I decided to not risk forgetting to go back to the pencil formation, so I skipped the flailing for once.

View from jumping thanks to my friend's GoPro

Chilling out in the water after jumping. Photo thanks to my friend’s GoPro

That afternoon we went kayaking. We had to put on a second wetsuit, but this time I was a pro and put it on the correct way. I must admit, I did not enjoy this as much. It was really difficult to make the kayak go straight, and just as I was starting to get the hang of it I started to get a blister on my hand from the oar. At that point, I just kind of wanted to float in my kayak. Honestly, I think coasteering was just too so great that nothing could compare.

Feeling sassy in our blue helmets, wetsuits, and windbreakers (my kayak also was blue)

Feeling sassy in our blue helmets, wetsuits, and windbreakers (my kayak also was blue)

Saturday ended with us hanging out at the lodge, enjoying the campfire, and making friends with two separate bachelor parties. It was an amazing weekend and, besides my blister, I survived!

How this weekend changed my life:

Apparently now I think I’m untouchable. Yesterday was the last day of the study away program, so my school friends and I decided to spend our final afternoon biking and enjoying Hyde Park. We discovered it would be a 30 minute walk to the park, which we didn’t want to do, but we also wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather. For cycling, you can only bike around the park and not through it, which is an activity we’ve already done. So, I had the bright idea of biking to the park and then finishing the ride there to walk around. (They have this great thing where you can rent a bike at one location and turn it in at another – only 2 pounds for 30 minutes!)

Everyone was on board with this idea, but clearly it wasn’t very well thought-out. None of us knew how to get there on our own, so I led the way whilst looking at the direction app on my phone. Did I mention we were riding on Oxford St, which is one of the busiest streets in London? Yes, not our smartest move. The bike lane shares a lane with buses, so that was a little terrifying.

Two of my friends were really hating life, but I found myself chuckling. Yes, it was scary and I won’t do that again, but it was fun because we did it! If we had gotten hurt, this story would be a lot different…. we took the tube back.

Writing Papers

I like to write (hence the blog I’m writing…). Writing a paper gives me so much less anxiety than any kind of test, but for someone going into her 16th year of education, I suffer terribly from a mixture of writer’s block and procrastination stemmed from being overwhelmed. 

So many times as I’ve turned in a paper, fellow classmates mention how they wrote theirs in just an hour. Seriously, that’s insane!

I’m currently writing my second blog post since the time I could’ve been writing my final paper over Death of a Salesman. This will be my third play analysis with the exact same rubric as the previous two. Having already written these, this should be no big deal, but I know it will probably take me five hours. 

All classes in study away through MSU are pass/fail, so it’s not an issue about a grade. I think it’s more of a competition with myself. If I turn something in that’s not fully thought-out, even if I get a good grade, I’ll know I could’ve done better. Therefore, I end up staring at a blank screen for a long time. 

It’s also overwhelming because I’m analyzing the work of artists. I want to view things with a critical eye because that’s how you learn, but I want to be sure that anything on printed paper about someone else’s work isn’t something I just come up with without thinking it through. 

I’m not looking forward to the dreaded word document with my MLA-formatted header staring back at me, but at least the days of timed essays are over. Those were cruel and not an effective measurement of writing ability, but of how many fancy words you could fit in between smooth transitions. Ugh, hope this blog post doesn’t bring back bad memories that cause nightmares. 

Filming Days

Lights, camera, action!

You’re likely picturing a director in a typical director’s chair speaking in a megaphone. Everything is glamorous. 

What’s more accurate is lights……. camera……………… wait for it ……………. action. Oh, a giant bus drove by. Cut. 

This week we began filming our scenes. The first day, we were set to film a two-person scene of the other two girls in class and one with all three of us. The two-person scene was on the steps of our flat, the other inside. Because there are only three of us, my professor had a friend come to help. 

We decided to film the stoop scene first, and just as we finished putting all of the equipment together, it started raining. So, we changed a line about it being hot out to being cold, protected the camera and actors with umbrellas, and “kept calm and carried on.” Since I wasn’t in the scene, I operated the boom, which didn’t get an umbrella, so in between takes I found shelter in the doorway. 

The rain wasn’t bad, but our normally quiet street was, that day, extremely popular. I’ll be interested to see what my professor will be able to piece together in editing because it was so noisy. It’s also amazing that people walking by didn’t clue in that there was a camera, so they maybe shouldn’t talk. We are lucky, though, because apparently there’s a law you can’t have a camera with a tripod in public without a permit. So, at least no policemen walked by. 

 

Lydia and Kylie featuring my boom

 
With all of those interruptions, the three-person scene was pushed back to the next day. Our scene is from Rachel Getting Married where Rachel (my character) has to tell her druggie sister that she chose her friend over her as maid of honor. However, the dramatic reaction from the sister results in a maid of honor change. There’s a lot of back and forth between the friend and the sister, so this scene became difficult for me because of continuity. I sat in between them and would have to react to the ping pong match, but because there were multiple camera takes, it was my responsibility to react in the same way each time. As I’m mostly a theatre actor, this was difficult because I’m used to following my impulses and making new discoveries each time. Because I was focused on the continuity, I think my acting may have suffered. It would be nice to have quality material for my reel, but if it doesn’t turn out, at least I got experience in front of the camera and no one’s film is at stake. 

The most recent scene was my first two-person scene, and this time I was a lot less in my head. It took awhile to figure out the best staging and set-up for the scene for technical reasons, but once we got going, it was nice. We filmed the entire scene over my shoulder to get my partner’s shots. We began filming the scene again from over her shoulder, but then we ran out of time to finish the scene from that perspective. It’s really hard to only have 3.5 hours and a film crew of 2. 

We only have one class day left to film my other two-person scene and our monologues. 

I was hoping that this film workshop would give me a sense of if I enjoy film vs. theatre, but I don’t think this was an accurate representation of what it would be like. This is partly because we’re so short on time, so we’re rushing to do a scene each day with different characters, rather than going on set each day with the same character for one film. 

In watching some of our exercises and recordings of our previously-learned monologues, I am taking away a hunger to do more. Live theatre is great, and I love the connection with an audience, but I also love the permanence of film. Film also allows for a lot more subtleties in acting, which is intriguing. Thank goodness I have another year of school left which will hopefully be full of opportunities and self discovery. 

Show Reflections – Part 2

I’m behind on reporting on shows because rather than blogging about them, I’ve been writing papers for class. I’ll spare you the six page critical analysis, but here are some of the highlights. (School papers are available upon request ;))

The Audience

Kristin Scott Thomas headlines as The Queen in a speculated retelling of her weekly meetings with prime ministers throughout her reign. This play was doubly interesting because I got to see a good piece of theatre and also learn a lot about British history and government. I went to the Trooping of the Colour earlier in my trip, which is a parade celebrating The Queen’s “official” birthday. As she rode by in her horse-drawn carriage, she was applauded, and a woman behind me even exclaimed, “we love you, Queen Elizabeth!” After witnessing that, it was special to learn about the person behind the fanfare. How difficult it must be to have been born into a life in the spotlight.

With my flatmate/fellow acting student, Kylie, following the perforamnce

With my flatmate/fellow acting student, Kylie, following the performance

Her majesty!

Her majesty!

The Elephant Man

As you may know, Bradley Cooper stars as John Merrick, aka the elephant man — a man who was born with several deformities. Rather than covering Cooper in prosthetics, he transforms his own appearance by distoritng his body in various ways. What’s really exciting is the audience gets to see this transofmration. At the beginning, Bradley Cooper, the actor, stand still on stage. As we view a slideshow of photographs of the real John Merrick, a doctor explains the various deformities, and as each part is described, Cooper adjusts his frame. He stays that way for the full show, and by the curtain call, I forgot I was watching a famous movie star. It was a truly stunning performance.

No picture with Bradley Cooper, but I'm planning on going by to the stage door to try meeting him. Here's a video of the transformation I described: https://www.yahoo.com/tv/bradley-coopers-transformation-into-elephant-man-120994804110.html

No picture with Bradley Cooper, but I’m planning on going by to the stage door to try meeting him. Here’s a video of the transformation I described: https://www.yahoo.com/tv/bradley-coopers-transformation-into-elephant-man-120994804110.html

Beaux Stratagem at the National Theatre

On Monday my Intro to Theatre class took a field trip to the National Theatre for a backstage tour. The NT is, in fact, three theatres (4, if you count their temporary theatre) that all serve different purposes. One is inspired by a colosseum in Rome, but rather than being 180 degrees, it is 118 degrees because that’s the exact measurement of peripheral vision. Apparently, Lawrence Olivier, who was integral in designing the theatre, suffered from stage fright and felt actors would feel better if they could see each audience member. The other two main theatres were the more typical proscenium and blackbox, with the blackbox having a second floor seating as well.

The NT is the powerhouse that fights for experimental theatre. Its goal is to preserve the classics, but also develop new work. Unlike smaller theatres that produce new theatre, their resources are vast. For example, the costumes are historically accurate, right down to the undergarments. Any paintings of a character in a play is painted to look exactly like the actor, and a backup is painted to look like the understudy. We got to see where all of these design elements are produced, and it is incredible to think of the number of hands that touch each show.

That night we saw Beaux Stratagem, a restoration play revival, in the Olivier Theatre. It took me awhile to catch on to the language, but once I did, it was a delightfully entertaining show, featuring a five-piece folk band. I particularly enjoyed seeing some exciting stage combat.

I later learned that the original production of Beaux Stratagem opened in 1707 at the same theatre we saw The Elephant Man. Full circle experience!

Gypsy

I’ve been seeing so many plays and have obviously been enjoying them, but last night I was at home. There are some productions where I’m reminded of why I’m pursuing this crazy life of musical theatre, and this was one of them. Rose was played by Imelda Staunton, and for my Harry Potter fans, you may know her as Professor Umbridge. Wow, talk about a big voice coming out of one tiny lady! Her take on “Rose’s Turn” is confirmation that musical theatre is certainly not fluff and the performers are still actors.

The magic was only lessened by a group of four or five middle aged women (probably drunk) who felt the need to yell out the lyrics with Staunton. During “Rose’s Turn.” It’s her turn. Seriously, if you know a show well enough to know the lyrics, then you should know better. The theatre is not the same as a rock concert.

Anyway, I had the honor of meeting her at the stage door after, and she signed my ticket. (I gave up buying programs at each show when The Elephant Man program was 10 pounds — ugh!). No picture, though, because she says she doesn’t like selfies, which is understandable.

Tomorrow we’re seeing Death of a Salesman, which is the last show I’m seeing as part of my class. Don’t worry, I’ll still be seeing more theatre because my mom is joining me in less than a week! Stay tuned 🙂

Get Off Your Ath and Go to Bath

This weekend I took a break from the bustling streets of London to explore Bath and South Wales.

Our first stop was Stourhead Gardens, which is part of a massive estate. All of the hills and ponds and everything was manmade simply for the enjoyment of the owner. I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.

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Featured in a scene from Keira Knightley's Pride and Prejudice

Featured in a scene from Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice

After being led on a walking tour of Bath, we were given the rest of the evening as free time. A suggested activity was the Thermae Bath Spa. For 32 pounds, you could relax in a pool of the thermal bath waters for 2 hours. After much debating, as I’m saving most of my money on theatre tickets, I decided to use my birthday money from Suzie’s mom towards the spa experience. Thanks, Mrs. Ahlvers! ❤

Wow, talk about money well spent! I love educational tours, walking everywhere, and constant exploring, but it was so refreshing to slow down and just relax. We were given a plain white robe and slippers to wear over our swimsuits as we made our way through the spa. the highlight of the spa was the rooftop pool that overlooked Bath Abbey and the original Roman Baths. It was amazing being immersed in the thermal waters, complete with timed jets and a giant faucet that served as a warm back massage.

The floor below housed the aromatherapy steam rooms — lotus flower, a fancy name I can’t remember that smells like Vick’s, eucalyptus, and sandalwood. To cleanse yourself in between the individual rooms, there was a thermal shower, and if you got too hot, you could go out on the terrace for some crisp, fresh air. The bottom floor had another pool with a lazy river, but I preferred floating in the rooftop pool.

For a truly luxurious experience, you could go to the in-spa café. It was a beautiful sight to see all of these posh people sipping champagne, gazing into each other’s eyes over a classy meal whilst wearing robes and slippers. The middle-aged men were the most amusing.

My new friend Lydia and I thoguht it would be fun to get a treat. Unfortunately, the kitchen was backed up so we couldn’t eat without a reservation, but we were allowed to come in for a drink and small bites. As I sipped my orange cream rooibos tea, for once I stopped talking and enjoyed the beautiful moment with a satisfied sigh. Yes, this is slightly cheesy, but there are truly no words to express that sense of freedom from the world.

It gets better because they added a half an hour to our time, so we finished the experience watching the sun begin to set from the rooftop pool.

Photography wasn't allowed, so check out their website for pictures:   https://www.thermaebathspa.com/

Photography wasn’t allowed, so check out their website for pictures: https://www.thermaebathspa.com/

The next day, we went to South Wales to visit Chepstow Castle. It was neat, but it heavily smelled of urine and wasn’t quite as impressive as some of the other building we’ve seen. I got some good pictures, though.

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Thrown in the dungeon... again

Thrown in the dungeon… again

Our second stop was at Tintern Abbey, and similar to the spa experience, the beauty is hard to describe. If you’re unfamiliar, Tintern Abbey was a monastery, but when the Anglican Church took over, it was abandoned. Now a portion of the structure remains, and it has served as inspiration for poets, artists, and other creators for years. Jane Austen actually writes about it in Mansfield Park. I’ve been enjoying these excursions with a neat group of girls, but at Tintern Abbey I wandered off on my own to silently soak in the beauty.

Stained glass is beautiful, but somehow this tops it

Stained glass is beautiful, but somehow this tops it

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On our final day in Bath, we toured the Roman Bath museum where I got to taste the bath waters. It was warm and fairly metallic, but I probably have superpowers now, so it was worth it.

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Now I need to work on the scenes we’re filming tomorrow and write a paper over The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper. Hopefully the spirit of Jane Austen will guide me.

Status

It’s occurred to me I haven’t talked about my classes, so I thought I’d share a bit, considering this is study away. I’m taking a film acting workshop and Intro to Theatre in London. You’ve already heard a bit about my Theatre in London class because that’s basically going to a lot of shows and discussing them after. So, film workshop time. 

We’ve spent a lot of our time doing cold readings to pick really good material to film next week. Additionally, we’ve been practicing in front of the camera with continuity exercises, and performing past material we’ve done for stage and learning how to translate that to film.

This week we had a guest, Ewen MacIntosh, who has appeared on the British version of The Office. He worked with us on various improv exercises. His main focus was exploring the status (pronounced state-us, in his dialect) of people. Though it could play a factor, socioeconomic status isn’t the focus; rather, it’s about how people carry themselves. How I best understand it is that it correlates with confidence levels. We did one exercise where we walked as status level 1 transitioning to 10 — 1 is extremely  unsure of oneself and fidgety while 10 exudes confidence and is more direct. Then, we did improv scenes where we were assigned characters with a status ranking. The higher status characters became pompous, demanding, and rude, while the lower status characters lacked any spine at all. 

For yesterday’s class, we were prepared to run through the memorized scenes we’d decided on. Before we began, our professor charged us with ranking each other on the status level we each give off as people. The other two separately agreed that I’m an 8 or 9, to which my professor said he had received the same vibe. 

After the high status characters we developed the day before, I began to question if this persona I give off is a good thing. When my professor asked my classmates to elaborate on their reasoning, they said it’s because I seem very calm and able to rationalize my decisions without being affected by others. 

This was nice of them, but I still felt unsettled. Then I realized all of the high status characters we developed looked down on the lower status characters. That’s totally unnecessary. 

It’s okay to be strong in who you are and carry yourself with confidence, but that doesn’t elevate you above others. Self love is not a limited resource. We can all learn to be 8s, 9s, and even 10s because life’s too short to be questioning our right to be here. So, stand up straight, smile, and don’t apologize for taking up space! 

Coffee

The reason my blog has been slacking a bit is because I’m not properly caffeinated.

Okay, that’s not true. I’m busy with class and exploring this amazing city. BUT the coffee situation here must be addressed as a warning to those of you thinking about traveling to the land of tea.

I have been a tea drinker for most of my life. It started with drinking a cup of hot sugar water that was slightly tinted brown for effect, but eventually my taste buds matured and enjoyed the actual flavor of tea. In high school, however, I grew to love the other intoxicating morning brew – coffee. Now, I have a serious problem, but it’s a problem I don’t really care to solve. I drink my coffee in the morning (and sometimes afternoon, if necessary) and settle in at night with a cup of tea. Don’t worry, I drink a barrel of water throughout the day.

This lifestyle has been abruptly interrupted by this unidentifiable brown water that is claimed to be coffee. In some cases, it is instant coffee. Other times it has been “brewed” fresh, but I think they are really just adding brown food coloring to hot water.

One of my loves in life is discovering cute coffee shops. I decided that because my flat doesn’t have a coffee pot, I would begin a quest for good coffee. It has been a struggle. Originally, I scoffed at the fellow American students I saw with Starbucks cups. I must admit, I caved this week and went because I simply could not bear the disappointment of another watery cup of joe.

The search will continue. In the meantime, I am drinking tea in the morning, longing for Mudhouse, Java Haute, and Corner Grind. Much love to those places. When I get back to the states, my steamy love affair will continue….

*Note: Don’t let the featured image fool you. While very cute, this coffee was also disappointing

Show Reflections

I’m a musical theatre major in London. As you may have guessed, I’ve been seeing lots of theatre. My original plan was to dedicate a blog post for each show, but that’s not going to happen because I’m behind by 4 and I’m seeing another one tomorrow, so here it goes. 4 in 1!

thumb_IMG_5762_1024Matilda was the show chosen for the entire study centre to see (all majors included). Wow, what a spectacle of a show! As you can tell from the pre-show picture, the set was imaginative and fun. I was in the third row, so it was a treat to see everything close enough to see how some of the tricks operate.

One of the most surprising aspects of the show is Ms. Trunchbull is played by a man! While this was amusing at times, I couldn’t help but be slightly annoyed at a female role being taken away from a female actor. I mean, come on! My professor said that British theatre tends to do that more often with comedic characters, so at least there’s some explanation. Still, the other main adult female character is Miss Honey who is, as she admits, pathetic.

The highlight of the performance, for me, was “When I Grow Up.” The child actors were so adorable and invested, and it was so obvious to see how much fun they were having together and with the audience. They sang as they were swinging on swings that came down from the fly loft! Then, older “kids” joined them later in the song. Mostly this was the highlight for me because it made me nostalgic of #MT16’s freshman showcase. Love you all!

Here’s us as infants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT8COAIcWmE

The performance concluded with a curtain call of actors on push scooters. Adorable.

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Going about as opposite as you can from Matilda, the whole group transformed into groundlings for the performance of King John at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Admittedly, after reading the synopsis of King John, I was looking forward to the experience of The Globe, but not for the actual show. Shame on me for doubting Shakespeare!

It was surprisingly easy to follow, and the somewhat dry plot was enhanced with a lot of music, both vocal and instrumental. The actors engaged with the audience, particularly the one who played The Bastard. My friend even had her hand kissed by him! Once again, I managed to make it to the second row (I know, I keep lucking out with my seat/standing location)!

Highlight of this experience: the cardinal was played by the actor who plays Geoffrey the Butler in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! At first I thought I must’ve been imagining the resemblance, but the people around me had the same thought and confirmed the suspicion via Google. He was refined, as ever, though not in his traditional butler uniform 😉

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Peter Pan at Regent’s Park was the first piece of theatre on the itinerary for my Intro to Theatre in London class. I was looking forward to seeing something in an outdoor theatre, and appreciated the sentimentality of seeing Peter Pan in the very city that J.M. Barrie conceived the idea. However, with so much theatre out there to see, I was slightly disappointed in seeing a show I already know so well.

Or so I thought.

As you can tell from the photo, there are not the usual three beds in the nursery. In fact, it’s not a nursery at all. It is the medical site at a British station in WWI. The show opens with injured soldiers being cared for by nurses. One begins to read the story of Peter Pan – she transforms into Wendy. From there, the basic story we all know was told, but always with the awareness of the parallel to the soldiers who are lost boys themselves. The connecting feature was a mother, not necessarily Mrs. Darling, who would walk through during transitions, singing songs of love. She represented all mothers waiting for their lost children.

All of the set and props were wartime objects – Tinkerbell was a lamp puppet, maneuvered by an expressive puppeteer; mermaids were made of gas masks and metal and swam around fish made of pajama pants. Perhaps the most impressive feature was the crocodile. Captain Hook hears the approaching tick, but no one knows where it’s coming from. Suddenly soldiers set down two lanterns and four miniature ladders, which seemed random until the floorboard lifted up to reveal the crocodile’s mouth! Hook then was eaten, as there was an escape through the mouth of the crocodile.

We all left holding back tears (or maybe shedding a few) as the story ended with the soldiers who played the lost boys telling of their lives after the war. Besides The Curious Incident, this is my favorite performance in London so far because it was so fresh and imaginative, yet incredibly thought-provoking. As the Brits say, it was brilliant!

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I took myself on a date to see John Goodman in American Buffalo –– GO BEARS! The entire run of this production was completely sold out, but I managed to get a standing room only ticket. I survived a three-hour Shakespeare show, so I figured I’d be fine, but I think my shoe choice was not as smart this time. There were, in fact, plenty of empty seats, but I was instructed to not sit at all, so I was my typical rule-following self. Sigh…..

Anyway, I wanted to meet John Goodman after the show, but after waiting a bit, we were informed by the stage door guard that he had left the building. So, I went back today in hopes of catching him after the matinee performance, but it turns out there wasn’t even a performance today. I’ll just hold onto my program for the next couple of weeks in case I happen to be by the theatre on a good night 🙂

Tomorrow we are seeing The Audience! Cheers for now 🙂