An Actor’s 118 Degrees

My experience of Duke in London has completely expanded the horizon of possibilities in theater that I can comprehend or imagine compared to what I had known about theater before. As we had learned at the backstage tour of the National Theater, the audience in the Olivier Theater is angled at 118°, the same amount of degrees that our human peripheral vision allows us. I took the liberty to compare myself to an actor standing on that stage to explore the 118° of my experience here in London—Not only theater, but also the entire experience of living in London has increased my appreciation  and awareness of theatrical art and the environment around me no matter where I am.

I looked back at the personal statement I wrote for the application for Duke in London. Every single point on why I wanted to come and what I expected to do were fulfilled exactly and more. Amusingly, there is one paragraph from that essay that consolidated my hopes: “What I expect to gain from Duke in London this summer of 2014 is an irreplaceable experience full of learning about and experiencing theater. I look forward to working with actors and learning new techniques. I also look forward to reading Shakespearean text, to make the language my own and see it come alive. Lastly, I also look forward to experiencing London, visiting important tourist sites, eating expensive food, and forming relationships with people that I meet there.” I have gained from Duke in London not only every single wish that I had expected, but many more that I had not expected, and could not have expected because it was new and exciting to me.

First of all, the theatrical immersion that I received has taught me so much about the powerful impact of different aspects of theater.  Everything from the lighting, costumes, set, props, acting, and the use of technology has displayed the most modernistic and advanced art form of theater, used in meaningful, innovative, and brilliant ways.

I’d like to record some technical examples of my impressed attitude towards the theater that we saw: “Great Britain,” at the National Theater’s use of smart glass was ingenious, using three walls of it interchangeably as office separations, restaurant interiors, mirrors, and television screens. The more this type of material becomes accessible to other theaters in the world, imagine what impressive impact the use of them could be in infinite stories told onstage! The sets of “The Crucible” in the round, the Globe theater in the open space, “Skylight” with its realistic, functional water-running, food-cooking system, and “Curious Incident” with its highly technologically advanced aesthetics were all extremely effective in portraying a heightened theme in each play. The versatility of playing spaces we saw showed that theater can really be benefitted by sets that convey further meaning that highlight the main theme of the show. Without the coordinate system or digital screen in “Curious Incident,” we would have had a less immersive experience of what it was like to be in Christopher’s mind.

Onto some less technical aspects of theater, the attention to physical detail in the shows we saw also impressed me. The shows “The Roaring Girl,” “Wolf Hall,” and “Bring Up the Bodies” were very attentive to the costumes of all of the characters, which brought out the style and ambiance of the shows. In the latter two shows, the detailed royal costumes resembled highly of the portraits that I saw in the portrait gallery, so I appreciated the sense of individuality and characterization that the costumes added to the actors. Many of the shows we saw also had carefully selected music that was either sung or played during transitions. I especially appreciated the vocal arrangement of “Enduring Song,” the a cappella arrangements in “Mr. Burns,” and the impressive opera voices in “La Boheme.” I often overlook the necessity of music in theater, even in non-musical theater, but now I know that music appropriately used is quite an effective way to enhance any show.

Personally, I see theater always as a medium to change society in some way or the other—psychologically, emotionally, or even spiritually. The ethical and moral issues that the performances we saw ranged from media corruption to business corruption, pedophilia to ideological battles, gender inequality to racism, even spirituality to mass shootings. Such varied topics display what a strong effect theater can still have on audiences in a world that is inching toward film and other types of media. Just like in “Mr.Burns,” I feel like theater may even be more powerful than film or TV because there are living, breathing human beings onstage right NOW, who are living out some conflict that must be resolved NOW in front of a live audience. There is immediacy in theater that strengthens the reality of whatever the characters must go through onstage that translates to the audience and therefore invokes a visceral feeling perhaps stronger than film does at times. (I love film—I’m not saying theater is better than film in all regards, just that it is happening right in front of us and provokes a certain type of feeling that film may not.) I have learned that the important question to ask when thinking about theater as a social art form is “Why is this show being performed?” and being able to answer that question by the end of the show.

The part of theater that I am most interested in is acting—although I am interested in directing and some types of designing as well. I was highly impressed with the acting that we saw, and was absolutely delighted to see actors who I recognized from film, such as Helen McCrory and Richard Armitage. We saw a lot of brilliant acting and some mediocre acting at many famous venues in London, which proves to me that acting is still a very disciplined, intelligent, and difficult art form that takes a lot of time, effort, and intention to master. At the core of everything, acting is having clear motivations, authentically doing something, and putting one hundred percent into it, which is definitely very difficult in front of a huge audience after being taught all our lives to control ourselves in social situations and to act in acceptable and expected ways. Onstage, though, anything can happen and the actor needs to really live through it, breathe through it, and most importantly, believe it.

As theater studies students, we had come literally to the theater mecca of the world, where the newest ways in which theater is being used were made available to us every night that we saw a show. Compared to all of the other theater performances I had ever seen in my life, in which the safety of being as realistic as possible and as literal to the script as possible, the theater performances I have seen in London within the last six weeks have incorporated so much top-notch innovation and risk-taking that I have been struck anew by the future possibilities of theater for society and for me personally as well.

All things relating to theater aside, the second area of enjoyment for me that increased my 118° in London was how I spent my free time. Every sunday for the last four weeks, I had been attending church at Hillsong Church, which was a wonderful surprise to me because I didn’t know that they had a location here. I explored the major attractions of London, including Big Ben, Westminster Chapel, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Natural History Museum, Camden Market, Borough Market, Tate Modern, the Museum of London, and Buckingham Palace. More than the tourist-ridden sites, however, I enjoyed more simply walking in London and becoming familiar with the roads I walked regularly. For the entire second half of the program, I walked everywhere and did not use my oyster card unless it was impossible to walk somewhere on time, which was very rare given our long afternoon free time. During my stay here, I even recorded a music video with footage of London with a friend, I wrote a song for my boyfriend about long distance relationships, I developed a screenplay I am trying to write, and I finished reading a great book—Audition by Michael Shurtleff. Every day was different, meaningful, and a blessing to me because I was alive and breathing in London of all places.

Lastly, the people I have met on this program also filled much of my 118°. I had known some of my classmates before, I became good friends with a few of them, but I met and respected all of them for who they were and what they contributed to class. We had a really good group of people on this program, all of whom helped me feel even more excited about seeing theater than I had already been. In addition, I met up with some other friends that I have from Duke and even my hometown, Tucson, AZ, in London throughout my stay.

I am very thankful for how much I have gotten out of this program in London. I have learned that so much intention, time, and skill is necessary to create a really good piece of theater. I have also realized that theater is a very social form of art, reaching audiences with messages that should arouse some sort of response towards the world as we know it. I have also determined that if I ever want to pursue a career in the world of theater, there are definitely many opportunities, but I must be willing to work hard and learn from my mistakes. Lastly, I suppose the most heartwarming thing I have realized is how big yet small the world is, depending on if you feel curious and open to explore, or content with focusing on building authentic relationships. Theater is a place where the entire world is brought into one room, where so many things can happen between real people who hypothetically could actually exist outside that one room, and perhaps that is why I love it so much—it’s a beautiful way to have the entire world seeing one hundred and eighteen degrees. :)

Less Than Two Weeks Left in London

For the past week and two days, I have been exploring London without the use of public transportation. That means everything is done on foot and with ample planning to ensure my timely arrival to the shows we have to watch. Throughout my day while I walk, I am then able to stop by markets, shops, restaurants, cafes, and sites however and whenever I like. It’s a really good way to getting to know the area around you without feeling separated by a glass window, or in a train underground. Plus, it saves about 30 pounds per week!! And…walking this much every day has improved how healthy I feel by increasing my exercise and metabolism! If I can make it to the end of the program without refilling my oyster card, i’d be really proud of myself! 

Dance used in Medea

Medea supplement #1: The artistic intention of the dance sequence

I found the dance sequences of the show quite interesting. To me, they portrayed the possessed-like insanity that overcame Medea while she sought revenge on her husband Jason for all that he forced her to do in the name of love, and how he betrayed her. Despite this artistic intention, the dance sequence was noticeably unbalanced with a few dancers performing a full-out choreography while most of the (less experienced?) dancers had simpler choreography. If all of the dancers were performing the same thing, the dance would have been less distracting and unifyingly symbolic.

Here is an excerpt from an article on the intention of the use of dance by director Carrie Cracknell:

"Dance is interesting because it makes you very active as an audience member. You’re being asked to make sense of it, to find meaning in it. It’s not literal, it’s not tied down to narrative."

This, however, is what some theatre audiences find problematic – searching for an elusive meaning. But Cracknell believes UK audiences are too hung up on text and narrative. “I do think we live in a culture of liking to know where we’re being led,” she says. “I would much rather be drawn into a work, and asked lots of difficult questions, than be taken on a well-worn story where I know what the outcome will be.” She pauses then adds: “We still make enormous divisions between dance and theatre, and actually all acting is movement. All acting is breath.”

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/jul/15/medea-national-theatre-dance-carrie-cracknell

Three Shows I’ve Written About for Class in London

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at the Old Vic Theater

            “The Crucible” at the Old Vic Theater on July 8th, 2014 was one of the highlights of my experience on this program so far. I do not say this because I felt jovially entertained, nor do I say this because a sense of peace and happiness greeted me on my way out. “The Crucible” angered me and challenged me to think about the implications of what it means that both good and evil are in the world, not only during the Salem witch trials, or even during the historical context of the play—the Red Scare, but really in a general sense that faith, justice, and truth can so hard to be distinguished from evil at times. In “The Crucible,” evil in the form of paranoia takes hold of the small town, causing real fear in each citizen of being condemned as a witch or instrument of the devil. Theatrically, the set, the lighting, and the acting all highlight the hypocrisy of the church, the existence of witchcraft, and the lie that Christians are supposed to be perfect humans. 

            In the Old Vic theater, the set for “The Crucible” was made in the round so that the audience surrounded the world onstage. In this position, the audience felt both powerful as the prosecutors of the guilty, and powerless to change anything when the innocent were wronged. This powerful yet simple set up was able to evoke an array of emotions within me: one moment I may have felt like all was in control when Abigail Williams was about to get caught in her pretenses, yet another moment I may have felt tempted to throw a shoe at Judge Danforth when he refused to accept John Proctor’s confession as valid, only to protect his own pride. Never have I felt so helpless while watching a show before, even though I already knew what would happen (from reading the play beforehand) and that I was only watching a rendition of reality (a very good rendition of reality), not reality itself. Perhaps the theater in the round symbolizes the hypocrisy of the church in this play. The religious leaders begin with good intentions—Reverend Parris wants his daughter cured, and Reverend Hale truly senses witchcraft to eliminate. As audience members, we want the good, innocent people to be believed, and the bad, deceiving people to be found out. However, as the accusations cause chain-effect condemnations on unassuming women in the society, the reverends are at the mercy of those who do the accusing, and we as the audience are correspondingly at the mercy to whatever the play unfolds to be, even though we would ideally—hopefully—stop such rash, hysteric, and unfair situations in real life.

            As for the existence of witchcraft, the spookiness of the lighting was all it took for me to be convinced that evil spirits were indeed loose and rampant in the Salem on that stage. The darkness of the set consisted of shades of black, grey, and brown contrasting with beaming spotlights of yellow light, outlined in foggy haze. The lack of light showed that Salem was a dark place, where light competed with darkness. Darkness abounded anywhere there was lack of light, just as evil abounds where there is no good in this world. This staged version of “The Crucible” intentionally realized the existence of witchcraft onstage, shown by Abigail’s spell on Betty at the beginning of the play, setting the poor girl into her deathly sickness, as well as by Tituba’s ape-like strolling in the opening scene around the stage with what was apparently a magic soup. The physicality of Tituba, Abigail, and the girls in Abby’s gang literally embodied the dark forces at work in Salem in the play, whether it was supposed to be pretense or not.

The goodness in this play was seldom seen, except at the end of the play when Goody nurse didn’t confess herself, and of course, when John Proctor did not feel right to give other people’s names. The goodness in the play is so covered by the injustice of the paranoid leaders, and tends to convince the audience of the delicate balance between good and evil. When would confessing and admitting to the involvement of other people be okay to save your own life? When is the only righteous action silence, and acceptance of the consequence which accompanies that—death? We know that John Proctor committed adultery with Abigail, but regrets it completely. This detail is important because it shows that even our protagonist, who is a Christian, is not perfect and has made sizable mistakes in his past. When Elizabeth Proctor says she cannot judge John, goodness goes hand in hand with forgiveness, and is often not defined by the absence of evil but the necessity of evil in order for goodness to be apparent. Similarly, in order for the light to shine bright, darkness (and the overwhelming amount of it) is necessary to bring out the purity of the light itself.

The play as a whole recognizes the easiness by which evil can take over frightened individuals who try to defend their pride, but the redeeming goodness of the play comes when John Proctor refuses to lie that he had seen any other individuals “with the devil.” John was willing to falsely confess that he had worked with the devil to spare his own life for the good of his family and future, but the judge’s push to have him lie that he had seen others with the devil was out of John Proctor’s conscious right to do. In addition, John’s guilt for having committed adultery haunted him throughout this play, and unceasingly convinced him that he was not a good man, even though he was a Christian and felt remorseful for his past sin. This play shows that Christians are far from perfect human beings. To the atheist or agnostic, this would arouse thoughts of hypocrisy and statements like “God is dead,” which John Proctor did say in response to the judges’ unreasonable belief in the “children’s” performances. To the Christian viewer, however, frustration, because hypocrisy is definitely a problem, fights with the belief that humans are inherently sinful and imperfect, and God is the one who is perfect and forgiving. Even though the reverends and judges did not die for putting people to death, they will still have their own crosses to bear—as the transitions in this play so clearly showed—in the end when all will be judged fairly.

For me, I stand with the latter half, and I prefer to see the play as a depiction of the human dilemma between good and evil. We may desire to do good, but end up caught up in self-righteousness and pride like the judges and Reverend Parris. On the other hand, we may begin acknowledging our own sin, and never really feel good enough based on our own efforts to right things. Therefore, there must be some other force, some perfect, good force that exists, to counter the rampant evil shown in this play. Otherwise, there is no hope for this human dilemma. What use would John Proctor’s last decision have had if there was no goodness for him in the end? As for me, I choose to believe that there is an uncompromising goodness to fight for, and each person bears their own cross of pertinent decisions to make to point towards the one true goodness that exists beyond this world.

Euripides’ Medea at the National Theater

            In theater, many individually unique ideas combine to create a whole piece of artwork manifested in the final production of the show. Ideally, these combined parts of the play—the set, the acting, and many other things—mesh well together and work towards one clear goal of presenting the play in a coherent manner. The set should complement the action of the play, and should not distract from the action, but assist the action. Finally, acting almost goes unsaid—It should ideally be such an accurate portrayal of reality that any doubt that what happens on stage is actually happening should be nonexistent. In “Medea” at the National Theater, much can be said about the benefits and drawbacks that these aspects of theater had on the entire show.

            The set of “Medea” was an artistic and beautiful set, with multiple compartmentalized rooms in a house-like fashion. The ground was wooden paneled, with four exits in front of and behind two walls on either side of the stage. Stage left had a staircase that let up to the second floor of the house. On the second floor, a covered patio with glass walls showed into a room with a piano and a long table with chairs. On the first floor beneath the patio, there was what seemed like a forest, the exit from the house where Medea, her children, and the nurse lived, that occupied the rest of the first floor. There were couches, tables, and chairs to decorate the home space.

            Individually, the parts of this highly compartmentalized set were beautifully designed, but problems arose in the audience’s sightlines, especially near the sides and top of the theater. For example, the second floor’s glass-covered room was used during one interval to show Jason and the princess having a photoshoot. Because the actors were standing so far to stage left in that room, I was only able to make out a flash of light and the princess’s profile, but I did not see Jason at all.  In the audience, my seat was far right, and on the balcony. Anyone sitting to my right and above me must’ve not been able to see what exactly went on in that room as well. There was also a very engaging dance sequence happening at the same time, so I was also distracted from noticing the photoshoot, but my sightline was compromised anyhow. I had to be informed by my classmate of what happened the next morning.

The exits of Medea on her way to kill her children, as well as her final exit with her children on her shoulders were also frustrating because of restricted sightlines and the use of epic music to build up the emotion. Generally when music builds up, something important is either expected to happen or is happening. In Medea’s case, she was exiting the climax of the play after she showed Jason their dead children—a very important and emotional scene. Was it appropriate to use music—as epic as it can be—here? Absolutely. Did it make sense to have Medea exit deliberately and meaningfully with her children, who she loved dearly? Of course. But the sightline was the problem for me. Because the deep-set walls cut off Medea’s exit prematurely for me, the music was still building up yet I had already lost sight of the action. Once the music grew to the point of highest intensity, marking the end of the scene and her final exit, the scene had already ended half a minute ago for me. The deep-set house structure catered towards the audience members sitting in the middle of the audience, and the blocking of Medea’s exit was so far back inside the outer walls of the set that neither side could have seen her exit at the correctly intended time, which made a discernable sense of dissatisfaction within at least myself. 

Perhaps if the walls were nonexistent or glass, no action onstage would be blocked off. I understand that all audience members see things differently in a theater by sitting in different spots, and by bringing many different life experiences to interpret the story. However, if the audience member does not SEE something meant to be interpreted, there is something missing in their experience that they DID expect to receive. This is especially frustrating when there is obviously something happening that the certain section of the audience simply cannot see. Those audience members are inevitably going to feel unsatisfied, something no director or designer should want. A truly good design should have no problems with sightlines, and if sightline issues are present, there had better be a good reason why it is designed that way. So far as I can tell, there was no reason why that particular set was used to tell such a magnificent story, which can be told in so many beautiful ways.

As for the actors, Helen McCrory was undoubtedly the star of the show, as she was expected to be, hinted on all of the posters advertising this play. However, this should give no reason for the other actors onstage not to give their complete selves into the acting as well. As I said before, acting is best when there is basically no difference between reality happening on or offstage. Otherwise, acting can be distracting and the constant thought that, “This actor is acting,” is in the air. I enjoyed the performance of Medea, Aegeus, Creon, the children, and even the messenger, but I felt like the other characters in the story could embrace the reality—and absurdity—of their situations a bit more.

There were many things that I truly enjoyed about the show. I wasn’t distracted by the lighting, I loved the hidden floorboard where Medea hid her magic ingredients, and I was enthralled by Helen McCrory’s inspiring performance of such a complex character as Medea. However, a show should never rely on the fame of one performer or the spectacle the set offers, for success. A theatrical performance is one show, one piece of artwork that needs to work together. Otherwise, the imaginative, beautiful puzzle pieces just don’t fit together, as this play seemed to me.

Perseverance Drive at the Bush Theater

The performance of “Perseverance Drive” at the Bush Theater touched my heart by portraying what it means that “Goodness is not a competition.” Competition is a very tangible part of all of our lives in this world, often as a productive and positive influence, but also as a negative, hatred-brewing force. Christianity is no exception to the spheres of competition. In “Perseverence Drive,” the siblings Zachariah and Nathan competed to see who would be the best church leader. The wives Ruth and Joleen competed against each other in the areas of sexual purity and supportiveness for their husbands, and Eli competed against his own pride, which is the ultimate problem in all of these characters. Finally, the character who had the lowest status in the family, Joshua, sacrificed the most time and service into taking care of his father, which proved to Eli which son carried the most understanding about goodness. The phenomenal performance of all of the actors in this play successfully contrasted the examples of bad, meaningless competition and selfless, loving sacrifice.

Founding a church was an integral part of the history of the family that lived on Perseverance Drive and an important factor for the competition that arose between the siblings. Eli’s moving testimony about how the Anglican Church had treated his family (sympathized by many elderly black women in our audience) provided the reason for why he decided to start a new church. Understandably, his sons have also taken upon themselves the responsibility to lead the church their father Eli had started. However, the petty dispute over the purity of Zachariah’s new love interest split the two brothers and led Zachariah to form a new church. The result of this dispute showed how little the brothers actually knew each other, how religion had clouded their understanding of true love, and how reservedly they were to forgive.

Ruth and Joleen also competed against each other. In the first act, Ruth was obviously the daughter in law that Eli preferred. Ruth wore a modest dress and had to show Joleen what was wrong with her revealing, sleeveless dress. There was always a tension between these two women to see who could gain the most power over the other, especially because so much power was already taken from them in their conservative, patriarchy households. In the second act after Joleen and Zachariah were becoming successful ministers, Joleen began assuming a lot of power over the rest of the family, and often judged Ruth for being unfaithful to Nathan, as evidenced by the way Joleen boldly accused Ruth of adultery. Ruth was generally less vocal than Joleen about her complaints, less proud and less competitive. However, this was because of her subservience towards her husband, who, by the end of the show, she decides to leave in order to find her own calling in the ministry. The differences between these two women show that humility is often necessary to find closure and happiness—Joleen needed to stop being rude to everyone, and Ruth needed to put down her label as a perfect wife.

Finally, Eli’s pride that he was always right needed to be broken down by accepting Joshua as his son again, after kicking him out of the house for having a boyfriend years ago. In the first act, Eli refused to acknowledge Joshua’s status as a son in the family and did not allow him to speak at the mother’s funeral. In the second act, however, Joshua was the son that came to visit him the most, even without knowledge of how often his brothers came to visit. It was during this time that Eli and Joshua could finally come to understand each other better, and Joshua’s persistent and serving heart was what softened Eli’s pride. Eli forgives Joshua for whatever he may have done wrong in the past, Joshua forgives his father for being so stubborn, and the two of them finally have a true relationship.

In the latter half of the second act, Ruth tells Joshua that he would’ve been the best pastor out of all of the three brothers. “Really?” Joshua replied, with a subtext that sounded like, “Would I really make a good pastor do you think?” My prediction for the future of this storyline is that Joshua does actually become a pastor and really does become the best of them all because of his understanding of love and forgiveness. The remarkable contrast between the character of Josh and his siblings in this play shows how the important things in life can so easily be covered up by petty arguments, competition, and pride. We cannot expect competition to disappear, nor would the world be healthy without it, but we can do our best to “Thank [the] Lord for another day” (a song during the transitions in this play), because our time on earth is short, and as long as we have another day to live, we ought “to be and be better.” 

A Week in London- Still Only Scratched the Surface

Within a week of being in London, I have seen SIX performances: Wonderland, Nederlands Dans, King Lear, Shakespeare in Love, Adler & Gibb, and Enduring Song. Every week will basically be like this, so I really cannot believe how much theater I will get to see on this program! The tickets were covered in tuition, because seeing the shows is basically part of the curriculum itself. 

During my free time, I feel like there are usually three options: Hang out with my classmates and whatever they have planned to do (which would have to be similar to what I wanted to do in the first place), hang out with myself (which would usually mean I wanted to do something different than other people), or rest in my dorm and recharge my batteries.

This past week, much of my free time was spent with the other people on my program because everybody wanted to do all of the touristy stuff in London. One day we went to the South Bank, the other day we went to Hyde Park. Still another day we spend walking around Buckingham Palace and the Westminster area, and another day we explored Tate Modern. 

I feel like there are definitely both pros and cons to exploring with a big group of people (4+) versus a small group of people (1-3). In a big group, you’re definitely safer, you have familiar people to talk to, and you can bounce information off of each other. But sometimes big groups can get confusing when it isn’t clear who’s supposed to provide the directions, or when choosing a restaurant to eat at. Big groups can also cause unnecessary drama, which could be stifling and uncomfortable at times, especially if you don’t know other people in the group very well. In smaller groups, there is very little drama because you know the people better (or at least hopefully decisions are reached easier), less time is spent coordinating and more time is spent exploring, and there is more opportunity to meet new local people. However, smaller groups mean fewer brains, and depending on when and where you are, it could be less safe. My approach is whatever practical works: if I want to do what others also want to do, I might as well go with them. If I have personal plans, with a friend or two or by myself, it’s perfectly fine as well as long as I know where I am, where i’m going, how to get back, and that it is early enough for it to be safe. In either scenario with more or less people, I try to have as much fun as possible, and to take in London as much as possible.

Today I spent much of it on my own— reading in a coffee shop, a garden, and even a hair salon as I got my first perm ever (in Chinatown, in London!). I also met a young lady working in a bookstore, who told me that she’s been working in central London for a year now but STILL feels like she’s only scratched the surface of getting to know London. How much more, then, have I only scratched the surface—maybe even just TOUCHED the surface—of London…Well, I feel pretty rested to start a new week of learning, experiencing, and exploring!  

First Day and First Show

This morning, I woke up later than I had hoped— 9am instead of 8am, so I didn’t go to the bank before class as I had planned. Instead, I simply got ready and ate some Sesame porridge my mom had told me to bring from home and a peach. I was wonderfully satisfied.

During class today, we talked about the different aspects of theater (there are so many) and focused on one of them: acting. While we go see plays (almost) every night on this trip, we will be encouraged to notice things about all of these aspects of theater. Our professor said that the actors are what make a story into a drama. In theater, all of the acting is live as opposed to film, in which actors are captured at a specific time and place doing a specific action, and that single copy is kept forever. In my own opinion, neither one is better than the other as an art form because what you are doing is still the same— portraying a real experience through language and action—but either one could be better in different areas than the other. 

After class, I went to the Waitrose and bought some more groceries for lunch and dinner: pasta, quiche, green beans, artichokes, pasta sauce, and 1 tupperware. I really want to get better at cooking, but honestly I don’t feel like spending too much in London on a variety of ingredients and I want to do more exploring (and eating what they have here!). 

Then, I had my regret of the day—I took a 3 hour nap after lunch. This was way longer than I had planned, but I must have had one of those “oh, my alarm clock went off, turn it off, lie down again” moments and fell right back to sleep. 

When I finally got myself to wake up around 5pm, the Barclay’s bank closest to me had already closed, so I went straight to my next personally planned item on my itinerary—exploring around Green Park station, which is really close to Buckingham Palace. I rode the tube, got off, and started walking…then learned: Always bring an umbrella with you in London. Even if it’s sunny out early on in the day, you never know when the weather will change. 

I didn’t have an umbrella with me.

I kept walking for a little while on Picadilly, but then took shelter under a building, which (looking at google maps now) must’ve been St. James Palace right outside of Green Park. There was a cement part at the top of a window that stood out enough to create safety from the rain, so I stood there for 15 minutes. 

I stood there mostly people watching, but I’m sure many people watched me wondering what I was doing. 

One man with a family walked by and said, “Perfect!” smiling. His little children walked by smiling too. A woman walked past me with her nose in the air and her eyes seemingly closed (although that sounds really dangerous, but that’s what it looked like), as if she couldn’t be more comfortable walking in the rain, gaining energy from each drop that fell on her face. I must have seemed so pathetic to her, just standing there under some bulging cement, but I love being different sometimes. Another woman walked by and smiled genuinely at me, like we had a shared joke or something, and then I decided I should probably keep moving. I had a whole park to walk around back to the station, and I had a show to catch.

On the way back to the station, I finally found the park, and found Buckingham palace. I took some pictures of it as well as the Canadian memorial, in honor of the thousands of Canadians who came over to UK to fight in the two WW’s. 

Then I went to the show tonight with the rest of my class: Wonderland written by Beth Steele at the Hampstead Theater. This play was about the miner’s strike in the 1980’s in England, and the struggles that both sides—the miners and the government—had, in order to win. I was extremely impressed with the scene design. The stage was a box theater on three sides, and a proscenium theater on one side so that the main area of action was surrounded by the audience. Inside the box theater area (where I sat), a mine-shaft-like set with grated texture on most surfaces covered everything. I was essentially sitting in the mine with the miners. There was also a removable center and an elevator—the kind they use in mines, with the grated fencing as well. Besides the set, I was also very impressed with the acting—I was moved to tears when one of the miners told his friends that he had to kill his family’s dog because he couldn’t feed it anymore because of the strike. All I can say is, if every show we’re going to see on this trip is as amazing as tonight’s, this trip is going to be awesome!! 

First Blog Post Ever…from London

So…I’ve never written a blog before. And it took a while for me to figure out what I want to write about (hence the somewhat vague title “Sprinkles of Life”), but I have decided that I would like to give myself the freedom of writing whatever comes to mind, or sharing whatever seems worth sharing. Please feel free to read as much as you like, or never visit my blog again. I really don’t mind!

Today I arrived in London around 8:15am for a Theater Studies study abroad program starting tomorrow. After crossing the UK border and getting my luggage, I followed all of the signs to the underground Piccadilly Line and rode to King’s Cross, where I lugged my suitcase off the subway, up the elevator, and onto the street. From there, I walked about 20 minutes with both hands pulling my suitcase behind my back to the residence hall I am staying at. I asked three people along the way for spatial clarification.

Along the way, I also passed a church called 救恩会 at the London Welsh Centre and even chatted a little with the greeter there. I think I’ll go there next week to see what their services are like and if that would be a good option for me to go to while I’m here. 

After arriving around 11am at the dorm, which was a very nice single (with a private bathroom!), I took a short nap until 2pm when our professor for the program gave us a tour of the nearby area. Honestly, didn’t remember everything and I’m still going to need to do a lot more walking to get more familiar with the area, which I’m very excited to do!

Then we had an orientation at 4pm and dinner at 5:30pm at a restaurant in Brunswick Square called Carluccio’s, an Italian restaurant. Here, I had my first bit of wine on the trip, some Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. I hope I wrote that correctly. During the meal, a pigeon flew into the restaurant at one point and flew into two windows while trying to get back outside. Sorry, that was really random. But it happened. 

When I bought my groceries today, the cashier said that the old 20 pound bills my mother gave me aren’t in circulation anymore. I will need to go to the bank and get them exchanged tomorrow. Thankfully I had other cash I exchanged recently at the airport in Dallas. 

Before going back to the dormitory, I got my oyster card for the tube, so I can start exploring London! I can’t promise I’ll write something every day, but I’ll try to! :)