Week Ten: Final Thoughts

Hello for the last time. This past week was certainly a lot of travelling. One day had an extra eight hours and I still spent the entire day travelling. By now I’m back at home in Eugene and it certainly feels weird. Like a normal weird, but a different weird than I left initially. To be honest, it felt so normal that I forgot I wanted to write one more blog post. But I think it’s important to write one final one because I don’t think a study abroad program is complete without understanding the transition period a bit. In any case, I still started the week in London, so I’ll go ahead and start there.

I didn’t have anything I needed to do on Monday. Or the rest of the week, but Monday I absolutely had nothing to do. I had turned in everything, gotten my grades on everything, and even mostly packed up by this point. So I really didn’t plan on doing anything except sit at my desk all day again, but my friends convinced me to go out one last time. This time to the Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum is located pretty close to where we live, and ended up being pretty close to what I wanted the Science Museum to be. It was large, interactive, and plenty informative. I spent a good amount of time in their geology exhibit and their evolution exhibit, both of which I found pretty interesting. Especially the evolution exhibit with all the new discoveries popping up questioning everything we thought we knew about our evolutionary history. The museum also had some stunning works of art, like this display in the main hall:

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The museum is definitely geared towards kids, but that never stopped me before. In fact, it probably encouraged my friends and I to go to the butterfly exhibit. That exhibit is just a greenhouse filled with many different types of butterflies. We had to pay to get in but it was definitely worth it. Here are some pictures of that:

We walked through that for a while before eventually making it back home. That night we saw a big musical called Half a Sixpence, which was really phenomenal. The artistry in the dancing was really on display throughout, and it was well performed. It was a fun night to end a fun day.

The next day I didn’t do anything until we went to our final non-play scheduled meet-up, high tea. We were initially supposed to participate in high tea in Bath, but that fell through, so instead we ended the program with the fanciest dinner of my life. For those unfamiliar, high tea is basically just everything you would expect a filthy rich, very upper class couple would do for a meal. We had to dress up, which I did. I even found a tie to sort of match my purple athletic sneakers. So that’s cool.

The dinner was spent drinking tea, prosecco, and water while enjoying two courses of fabulous food. Together, we walked from high tea to our final performance, which was an acrobatics display. We had a bit of trouble finding the theatre, but in the end, we got in and enjoyed the show.

Now that should be the end of the story, but high tea got its revenge on me. I think high tea discovered I shouldn’t be participating in high tea in my athletic sneakers, so it planned to kill me. I mentioned that I drank a lot. Well all of it filled my bladder during the performance, to the point where I tried to escape, couldn’t find the exit, then spent the next ten minutes fidgeting and sweating profusely trying to figure out a way to get out of the theatre to use the restroom. I was in distress so badly that one of the ushers motioned to me so I could leave. I was able to escape, only to have the most painful and de-stressing pit stops I’ve ever had. I made it back in just in time to see the beautiful finale. I wish I could’ve enjoyed that more, but I really felt like I was dying because of how bad I needed to pee. After the show, I got some fro-yo with the massive amount of change in my pocket, and eventually made it back home to finish packing.

Unfortunately for me, that still wasn’t the end of the story. The whole incident led to an adrenaline rush, which made me feel completely exhausted and strange for the rest of the day. The adrenaline rush masked a back spasm I had because of the distress I was in, so for the rest of the week I was hobbling with an incredibly stiff and painful lower back. Well played, high tea. Well played.

Wednesday was the day everyone left. Or a lot of people. Not me. I forgot the end date so I booked my flight a day late. Luckily my girlfriend and a couple other friends were in the same boat and we were able to book a hotel for the night nearby. We spent the day wandering around and hanging out in the hotel. Pretty unexciting, but we all had to get up obscenely early the next day to catch our flights out of London. This pretty much sums up Thursday:

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Thursday was the big travelling day, and it started for me at 4 in the morning. I accidentally got up an hour earlier than I intended, so I hung out with my friend that I happen to have a similar flight with. We left together at around 6 to catch a train to get to Heathrow. I really didn’t need to leave that early, but I wanted to leave with my friend. I ended up spending a couple extra hours at the airport.

The flying was very uneventful. The first plane I was on was really fancy. It had windows that could change their tinted-ness and plenty of pretty decent meals. The second flight from Chicago was really dull. I ended up landing in Seattle about an hour early, which meant I could get back home an hour early. Which was good because it was ten-thirty when I finally made it home.

Friday was a day for me to relax and gather everything, including my cat, for my trip back down to Eugene. My mom ended up taking me wine tasting. It was pretty cool. I got to try around a dozen different wines and hang out with my mom. That day I also spent hanging out with my cats. I got some pretty nice pictures of them:

Saturday I left really early to get back early enough so that I could watch the final production of the University’s season, Mr. Burns. In this, I was successful. I made it back before noon, so I was able to get shopping done and get myself settled in without worrying about making the play. Sheldon, the cat, is pretty good in long car rides, so that was nice not having to deal with an angry cat for an hour and a half.

That night I saw Mr. Burns. I was really happy to get that opportunity, because all of a sudden I could compare work similar to what I’ve been doing for the last three years to professional work that I saw in London. Watching the show gave me a unique perspective on what I can do to make our theatre more professional in quality, and gave me insight into things that we do that are of professional quality. I did like watching the play too. The scrip itself is really interesting, and the production was well put together. I was really sad that the audience was really quiet for the show that I saw. I thought it was really funny, but I was about the only one laughing.

So now I’m basically just cruising. I have a job interview lined up and I started my next batch of mead. I’m really excited for this summer. Last summer was one of the most rewarding summers I’ve had, and I didn’t really do anything. This summer, I have projects to complete and I have more friends staying down here. That about sums everything up. Have I changed because I was gone for two months? Probably. Have the people that stayed in Eugene change? Most definitely. Will that cause changes in my relationships with all these different people? For sure. But the only thing I can do about that is look forward to it.

Thanks for sticking with me for these past ten weeks. I will surely have more adventures in the future, and all of you will as well. Maybe my experiences have changed you in come capacity, and that would be all that I would ask from me detailing my experiences like this. I would say until next time, but there isn’t one. Instead, I’ll end in the way that this began, with a cute picture of my cat:

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Have a great summer!

 

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Week 9: When the Fun Comes Winding Down

Hello! This is my second to last personal blog post of the term. That’s kind of intense. Not that this post will be intense, but just that it’s sort of crazy to be able to categorize an experience like this by counting to 10. But here I am. Number 9 of 10. That feels weird to say.

Anyway, this week overall was pretty unspectacular as far as things I did. Since the term was winding down, the work I had to do was winding up. Most days I spent inside either catching up on work or pretending to catch up on work. That didn’t keep me from doing cool things though, as some of the shows we watched this week were really fantastic.

Monday started off as nothing special. I needed to complete three period styles posts this week so I did one on Monday. To do that, I wanted to get some photos of Georgian architecture, so I wandered myself off and came back. All in all, nothing too special. I did see a Rolls Royce in the square I went to. So that was cool. But mostly it was educational, but I did enjoy having some time to myself to wander around.

That night we saw Woyzeck with John Boyega (from the new Star Wars trilogy). The play originates from a series of scraps written by a German playwright before he died, so it is heavily adapter to each performance. This showing was apparently even more adapted than it generally is. Not that I would know; I haven’t read the original ‘play.’ The show itself was pretty good, but I feel I would’ve really enjoyed it if the production had strayed further into the realm of the surreal. The play is about how someone can go crazy because of the situation around him, and the set was a bunch of insulated panels. At times, the play was surreal, but never really pushed the limits. It was, however, clear why John Boyega is well-known. He was fantastic.

Tuesday was a lot of the same of Monday. I spent that day writing my Victorian blog post, but again I needed to go out and get some photos. This time I went to the Prince Albert Memorial on the edge of Hyde Park and across the street from the Royal Albert Hall. The memorial is huge. It stands at almost 180 feet tall and in the center is a massive gold statue of Prince Albert. The monument was commissioned by Queen Victoria after her husband, Prince Albert, died. Here is what it looks like, along with the Royal Albert Hall:

I guess sometimes building 180 foot tall elaborate monuments is a good way to mourn someone. Or not. I’m not a psychologist. Don’t listen to my advice.

Conveniently, the neighborhood I’m staying in is a great example of Victorian architecture in housing, so I didn’t have to go far to get good pictures of that.

That night we saw Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht. Brecht is well-known for his unique style and plays such as: The Good Person of Sezchuan and Three-penny OperaLife of Galileo, however, might just be his best play, and I can say with much certainty that it was my favorite play of the term. One big aspect of Brecht’s style is how he manipulates his plays to distance them from the audience. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the idea goes that by distancing the play from the audience, the audience is then allowed to critically think about the themes of the play while witnessing them. This is done through direct addresses, generally at the beginning of the scenes, to summarize what’s going to happen. Other things include, weird prop usages (no food when drinking or eating), out of period costuming, having actors interact as real people with the audience, and really abrupt song and dance. It seems odd, and a big criticism of Brecht is that his technique makes his shows feel dry or emotionless, and when done badly, this can definitely be the case. However, this production utilized Brecht’s technique just beautifully. It started with the staging. Our group got seats literally in the middle of the stage. There was a large cushioned area surrounded by a wooden walkway that was generally used as the performing area, although the place where we were sitting also was utilized a lot. We has cushions to sit/lay on that could move around, and we were certainly forced to a few times. The actors came out before the show and chatted with us, and I even got to talk with one. He insulted my shirt but I know he was just jealous.

A lot of the other techniques I mentioned were also utilized. This production also used projections a lot, and the projections were projected directly above us. We were encouraged to lay down and watch them. Those moments were completely magical.

On top of all that, the play and the acting was completely phenomenal. The story is about Galileo and his struggles under the powers of the Roman Church. The play deals with how to explore and be scientific under a regime that doesn’t encourage it, flat out denies it, or persecutes people that research (sound familiar?). The play really spoke to me because of my physics background, and I had never really seen that before. All the actors were just so happy to be talking about science and exploring the boundaries of what we know as people, and that’s what I want to be doing. I absolutely loved it, and I want to be a part of the show at some point in my professional career.

Wednesday we had our last acting class and in it we learned improv. However, we seemed to surprise our instructor with how ready we were to do improv games so she had to improvise the lesson plan. It was really fun, but not particularly useful in a gaining knowledge sense since we had done plenty of the activities before.

Before the show, I spent some time outside writing in my acting journal because it was really nice out. While outside, there were a bunch of cute bumblebees pollinating flowers. I managed to catch one, but the pictures only turned out okay. Here they are:

That night we saw Twelfth Night for the second time, but this time it was at the globe. On the way to the globe I realized I didn’t have a picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral, so I got a really good one:

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It was a solid show, and I had fun watching it, but it wasn’t really all that special, and I was definitely still thinking about the show the previous night.

Thursday I spent working on my last period styles post. It was definitely nice to finally be done with that, and I also learned some cool things about buildings I had ran into previously. While looking up buildings that were damaged in the Blitz during WWII, I found a church that I had seen several weeks earlier. At the time, I thought it was odd that just the tower still remained, and that it was situated in the middle of a traffic island. Now I know the area of town was completely bombed and the only thing that survived was the tower that was originally from the 14th century. Pretty cool.

That night we saw a new play called Common at the National. It was really cool and was fun to watch. But I realized during the show that I just have a hard time connecting to shows done in massive theatres like the Olivier. So again, it was pretty good, but nothing super inspiring.

Friday I went out with some friends to go to Abbey Road to do the super touristy thing of pretending to be The Beatles. The road is really busy, and there are a lot of other people trying to get photos. We got lucky at one point and I was able to walk out into the road to get the right angle to get the photo. Here are the best photos of the day, one with me and the masterpiece I took:

That day we also wandered through Trafalgar square and a Primarch, which is basically the cheapest department store ever. It was good to finally get outside and do something since I basically hadn’t been doing that all week.

That night we watched a play called Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. It’s a really funny play about a group of girls, who happen to be fantastic singers, and their journey through a choir competition. They all happen to be Scottish, which made it very difficult understand them because I wasn’t used to the accent. Also, one of my friends had to use the bathroom really bad during the show, which made me think I had to pee really bad, so there just ended up being a massive struggle bus in the back of the audience. In the end, I could tell the play was really good and well put-together, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have.

Saturday was spent inside mostly. It was really wonderful out, so I ended up doing a bunch of homework outside, but I didn’t do anything special that day. I am, however, basically done with all work I have to do for the term, so that’s cool.

I did all of my work Saturday so I could go out and do something on Sunday, which I did. My girlfriend and I went on a date to Hyde Park, where we just walked around admiring the wildlife. There were a lot of geese and swans, and a couple little baby geese and swans mixed in. I got some nice pictures of the lake and some other things:

All in all, this week was spent doing a lot of writing and a lot of thinking, but not a lot of exploring so it really wasn’t all that exciting. In case anyone is worried, yes there was an attack in Central London Saturday night, but no one in the program was anywhere near it, so we’re all safe.

Since the program is winding down, we don’t have that much to do left. We have high tea scheduled for next week and I’m coming home on Thursday. There will be one more post, so stay tuned!

Until next week!

Week 8: School is finally starting to catch up

Hello everyone! This week has been an exciting week of shows, events, personal progresses, and life experiences. First though I want to talk about a few violent attacks that have been locationally close to me and my family and friends. Earlier this week, there was a terrorist attack in Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. Manchester is quite a bit away from London, so no one on this program was affected, but it did cause concern in the area. The UK’s terror threat rose to critical, the parks were completely dark at night, and heavy pedestrian traffic areas were patrolled my several armed guards. In times like that, it’s easy to let the fear of terrorism get the better of you, making you make irrational decisions or judgments. It’s important to maintain perspective. Acts of terrorism are functionally impossible for people not in national intelligence to do anything about. Getting overly worried, and especially attacking other people in the aftermath of these events does only harm. That brings me to the second attack in Portland, where a white supremacist fatally stabbed 2 people and wounded a third after they were protecting some others from a verbal tirade. Many people I know knew these people, and it’s scary to think that in the act of protecting others, one can lose their own lives. The people that were stabbed are heroes, and hopefully this tragic incident will help people understand the true danger of modern white supremacy, and the danger of supporting those that refuse to condemn white supremacists.

Moving on, this week was headlined by wonderfully unique events. On Monday, instead of a class we got to talk with the cast of one of the shows we saw recently: While We’re Here. The two actors were absolutely wonderful to talk with, and the two hour talk could’ve really gone another two hours. After that, we had a backstage tour of the National, which was really uninspiring. We got to walk around the shops and learn a bit about the theatres, but much of what we were told we already knew from just watching shows in all the spaces. It was a really beautiful day though, and we got to spend some time outside which made the tour not so worthless. We had a show at the National that night, so some people stayed in the area, but I’m lazy so I went back home and played video games for the couple hours before I had to leave again.

The show that night was called Salomé. It’s an adaptation of the story of Salomé in the bible, which has been previously adapted many times in different forms of art, including a play by the same name written by Oscar Wilde. The play utilized the space really well, and created some stunning stage pictures, but the scale and epicness of the play detracted from any emotional connection I had with the story. It was still fascinating to watch though, and I still enjoyed it. I called it a 2-hour painting immediately after watching it.

Tuesday was spent on an excursion to Kew Gardens. It is a massive garden originally made by George III but greatly expanded by Queen Victoria. Many beautiful greenhouses were added, which were filled to the brim with incredible plants. We spent most of the day there and I got a large number of pretty pictures:

The big red building is Kew Palace. We also got to see an iguana in the desert green house, which I fully wasn’t expecting. It just sort of appeared behind some of my friends and I had to warn them so they wouldn’t scream and disturb the peace in the garden.

That night we saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This is a beautiful show, based on a book, that’s been running for almost 7 years. I remember learning about it Freshman year of college in my special effects course. It utilized all sorts of different projections, lighting, set, props, staging, and movement designs to create a stunning world centered around the experiences of an autistic boy named Chris. It was truly one of my favorite shows I’ve ever seen and would recommend to others if it wasn’t closing in two weeks.

Wednesday we had the second of two puppetry workshops. In it, we worked on hand puppetry and bun-raku puppets, a type of ensemble puppetry. This was a wonderful class. Instilling life into inanimate objects can create beautiful moments, and is utilized in theatre and film for that reason. I am certainly no puppet master after the two classes, but I gained a new appreciation for other forms of theatre and storytelling.

That night we saw The Treatment directed by Lyndsey Turner, who famously directed the Hamlet with Banana Cucumber a few years back. The Treatment utilized color washes with set and costuming like no other show up to this point to create a disgusting reality of some film producers making a movie. The show is about how someone’s story, when given to others, transforms into things that are no longer yours. It was really cool to watch, especially for the design elements.

Thursday was our first free day of the week so I went to the Tate Britain, an art museum on the river. It was another wonderful day out, as it’s been all week, so I bought me some sunglasses. The Tate Britain is a really well put-together museum with a huge light installation in the main hall. I walked through the history of British art exhibit, and got some cool photos of the art:

The Tate Britain is a place to put on the list when visiting London. It also has a really cool app that goes into depth about different paintings and the styles used. If you are really interested in art or art history, that app is one of the best things you can download.

Thursday night greeted us with another play at the Globe. This time it was Romeo & Juliet. The director made an incredibly bold choice by including rave music and thick clown make-up. The best way to describe it, for me, is a poorly-formed idea of rave culture. The show brought up some interesting aspects of extreme emotion in Shakespeare that I hadn’t recognized before, and it focused the story in a way that was new. However, parts of it were just straight racist or really not thought through well. The show was universally panned by critics, even receiving the mythical one-star review from a few. Did it deserve that? No. It was an interesting idea that should be explored, but way more responsibly than how it was done in this case.

Friday was another free day, but I had to write an essay due on that day so I spent most of the day writing or pretending to write. I did in fact get it done, but it wasn’t until pretty late. I did also get some serious progress with the play I’m writing, which is now 4 complete scenes with one more to go. It’s a whopping 26 pages, so as of right now, it is the longest thing I’ve written. Massive revisions will be required before I’ll let other people read it, but I’m  almost done with the first draft, which in and of itself is a massive milestone for me.

That night we didn’t even have a play, but we did have to prepare for a long full-day excursion on Saturday. This excursion was to Hever castle first, the home of the Boleyn’s when Anne Boleyn married Henry VIII, and the beach in Hastings second. What a wonderful day that was. Here are the pictures of the castle first:

It was yet another beautiful day in a beautiful place. The castle itself is not particularly big, but it is so pretty. The grounds are also home to a beautiful lake and garden. The castle is still privately owned as a hotel I believe. But within the castle are many original pieces of furniture and paintings, one of which is a really unflattering portrait of Henry VIII. There were also a shit-ton of ducks, which were mostly napping when I arrived. They were nice enough to let me get this wonderful photo:

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And coincidentally one of my friends got a picture of my taking that photo:

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We could’ve spent a long time at the castle, but we had a coast to go to. Hastings is home to the famous Battle of Hastings, in which William the Conqueror won and became king of England. It is also home to the first castle commissioned by William, and much of the ruins still stand. We got all the way up the cliff to the ruins to only find out there was an admission fee no one wanted to pay. However, the cliff has stunning views of the city, and I still got some pictures of the castle. I also got some pictures of the rocky beach, which was a pretty unique color:

It was windy enough that I could fly. Here’s some proof:

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During our time there I also bought a bunch of candy and ice cream on a cookie. I also went mini-golfing by myself so I’m basically 10 with a few dollars and not enough parental control.

That about sums up my life and the week I just had. Because we’re getting so close to coming back, I’ve actually had to start like dealing with leaving and stuff. And catching up on coursework. I’m a bit afraid that next week is going to be dominated by me writing, but oh well I really just did that to myself. We do have a couple exciting plays this week, including Voyzeck with John Boyega. I’m really excited for next week and finally returning home, but I’m also excited to finish my play. I haven’t finished a rough draft of anything since early freshman year of college, so this is a long time coming. I’m gonna wrap up with a bunch of pictures of My cat and My mom’s cat hanging out, because cats are cute and I want you to read next week’s blog:

Until next week!

Week 7: Tough things get tougher when you’re abroad

Hello everyone! This week has been a tough one to say the least. My dog I’ve had since I was 8 died this week. She was getting very old and got injured to the point where she couldn’t move on her own. My parents made the heartbreaking decision to put her down as she wasn’t getting any better. I know this is very hard for my parents, as she’s been a child to them all this time. She was a wonderfully smart and stubborn dog that loved all of her family members. For me, I really wish I was home for this. I wanted to see her again before she died, but since I’m rarely at home anyway, that would’ve probably always been the case. I miss her, for sure, and my house will certainly be more somber without her.

This week started off with me having shitty hotel wifi in Bath, a town aptly named for its Roman baths built around natural hotsprings in the area. The town was always a travel spot for rich people to relax and get healthy. It’s home to some wonderful pieces of architecture from both the Romans and the Georgians and was the home to Jane Austen for a while. Probably most importantly, it used to be one of the homes of Nicholas Cage. Unfortunately he had to sell the house, but his former neighbors still think very highly of him.

Monday we had a tour of the city guided by a wonderful person named Andrew. He walked us around showing us all of the important points in the city and sharing fun facts with us along the way. One place he showed us is called the Crescent, a huge field surrounded on one side by big Palladian Houses. Here’s what it looked like:

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The town is small but incredible. It’s really pretty and the history of the place is truly remarkable. After the tour we visited some classic Georgian rooms and the Fashion Museum. The Fashion Museum was incredibly well put together. It was complete with styles all the way from the 1500’s. It wasn’t pictures either. They had complete outfits from those times all the way to modern fashion. The ball rooms were also beautiful. Here’s what two of them looked like:

That afternoon we had time to ourselves to explore the city further and to explore the Roman baths. I went pretty quickly to the baths to wander through. They are stunning. Here’s some photos:

It’s easy to not truly understand the scope of Roman engineering. When going through history classes you get the information that Roman buildings still stand and that their aqueducts are still fully functional and it’s really easy to not get the full scope of how incredible that is. These baths in Bath are almost entirely functioning off of Roman engineering. The pipes and gutters that originally moved the water around are still doing that today, 2000 years later. That’s incredible! The room shown last in this group was a steam room. The stacks of bricks held a floor above them and let the hot water flow beneath them. The baths were also a treasure chest of Roman artifacts. Plenty were displayed in a museum attached. I also had the treat of tasting the water that comes from the spring. It tastes very similar to watered down blood. Is it better than Ashland’s famous Lithia water? By far yes. Is it pleasant? Not really. In fact, it’s more disturbing than anything. 2/10 would only try once.

Tuesday was come back home day. I was a little sad to leave because the town was just so pretty. In fact, it is one of two cities in the world that is a World Heritage site, along with Venice. It’s unique cultural history and beauty really deserve that designation, and I would go back in a heartbeat. There is also an incredible place where you can get a full spa treatment with the waters from the springs. I’m not saying anything but if I came back I might just return with baby skin and smooth buttery muscles.

Anyway, Tuesday was also pretty cool. On our way back we stopped in Salisbury, home to the famous Salisbury Cathedral, probably the second greatest cathedral in England next to Westminster Abbey. The town is very Tudor. Many buildings have that iconic style and quirky not-flat-ness. But really, you come to the town for the cathedral, and it really does impress. Walking into the open field where it is you would see this:

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It’s enormous. And you can get a tour up through the tower, which is taller than it looks in the photo at a whopping 400 and some feet. Unfortunately, all those tours were booked, so I was stuck at ground level. So I wandered in and was hanging around looking at things and I didn’t realize I was waiting for a guided tour until a tour guide came right behind me a small group gathered around me. At first, I was a bit confused, but a random tour is probably the best tour so I followed the group. Definitely worth it.

First thing I learned was that the cathedral’s foundations were 4 feet deep. The reason for that is that below the four feet of earth is about 20 feet of gravel. And the gravel is really just water. In fact there’s a small hole in the ground where someone can stick a stick down in to make sure it is water. If the gravel were to dry up, the whole cathedral would collapse. So that’s exciting.

We almost immediately passed the world’s oldest working clock. It only shows hours and ticks every 3 seconds. It’s pretty cool so I took a bad photo of it.

After that we walked through the rest of the cathedral. It was almost entirely built in the 1200’s in about 40 years. The tower was added in the early 1300’s. Interestingly, the tower, being massive and a lot of stone, put a lot of pressure on the thin foundations of the cathedral, making some of the stone supports bend rather dramatically. Also pretty exciting.

The roof was originally painted and all the windows were stained glass. But when puritanism swept the nation, they hated color and fun, so they painted the ceiling and removed most of the stained glass. Some of the paintings were restored by the Victorians, but most of it was lost. Some of the original stained glass remains, and that it all really cool.

The cathedral is also home to the best-kept copy of the original Magna Carta, one of four to exist. And the cathedral has the largest cloister of any church in England. Basically, this church was pretty badass. But the tour guide pointed out a few times where the stone masons had a bad day and messed up the decorations. They were a bit sad.

I ate at the cafe and then we had to leave. However, I got some great pictures of the cathedral and you’ll get to see what I’m talking about. Oh they also had a really pretty font from 2008 that’s pretty cool. Here’s the photos:

It’s really pretty, and definitely a place to visit if you can.

We got home and had the evening off so I didn’t do anything, as you would expect. The next day we had a movement workshop as part of the acting class and it was really wonderful. Like, she didn’t have us stop at all and I was very sore for the next few days. It was the workshop where I felt I left with something very useful that I can continue with. It was also really fun.

That night we saw Don Juan at the Soho with David Tennant. The show was strange to say the least, and not in the weird post-modern sense, I mean in just it was weird. It was funny, but also like definitely not at times. It was basically the theatre showing off that they had a really famous actor and that you paid to watch him. Strange.

Thursday I spent mostly inside again, except at one point I walked around. Pretty edgy of me I know.

That night we watched a play called Assata Taught Me in this really small theatre. It’s about this well-known black nationalist named Assata Shakur and her relationship with this teenager in Cuba. Assata is a real person, and she currently resides in Cuba and on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. The play was really beautiful. The set and all the special effects were perfectly in time. The acting was also wonderful. The small space really helped give the incredible intimacy that the play wanted. Really a beautiful piece.

Friday I went to the Sir John Soane’s museum, which is really just his house that the English Government hasn’t really touched. Unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures, but the museum is really really cool. Soane was a famous architect and a collector, and both are on full display in his house. It’s not a super long walk-through, but definitely worth it.

That night we watched another play in a really small space called Last Company. It’s a play about two families meeting over dinner. One family’s child had taken his life due to bullying from the other family’s child. It was really emotionally raw and well put together. Very intense.

And that’s really been my week. This weekend I’ve spent catching up on work mostly. I’m happy that I visited all the places I did this week, because they really were incredible. The loss of my dog hurts, and unfortunately being abroad doesn’t help anything, but I have a good group of friends here and at home and my mom sent me several photos of her. If I were to remember her in one picture, it would be in the one where I remember her most. She’s sticking her tongue out and laying next to the fire place.

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Until next week!

Week 6: You know that time when homesickness really starts to kick in? Yeah, me too

Hello everyone! This blog post is courtesy of shitty hotel wifi (that I even had to pay to upgrade because uploading pictures took about 10 minutes a picture)! Anywho, this week has been a short, but important week in my travels. I’ve made a lot of progress on projects outside of the program, as well as deeper personal understanding.

This week really started on Tuesday, as that was the day most people came back from their excursions. I didn’t do anything except play Civilization 6 all day (and all week). That night though, we went to the National for the third time this trip to see an American play called Ugly Lies the Bone. It’s an 80 minute play about a wounded veteran learning how to cope with her pain from injuries sustained on duty and a changing hometown identity. I really enjoyed it, and I’m spending a lot of time with it due to the fact I’m writing an essay about it.

Wednesday we had our acting class again, except this time we learned about Shakespeare and how to approach his writing. It was mostly movement based, as the first half of the class was spent split in two halves to make “faerie choruses.” For some unholy reason I was picked to lead one of the two halves as a choreographer. In case you don’t know, there are two dancers in the group, and conveniently they were split between the two groups. One of them was chosen to lead and choreograph one group while our group was stuck with me (not a dancer). In the end, we collaborated to make an interesting dance to a piece of text. The second half of the class was spent playing with different contexts with Shakespearian text. I ended up getting put into a scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream playing Demetrius, the same character I played in high school. All in all, it was fun, but I didn’t really feel like I learned too much. I’m excited to learn more about Shakespeare next year when I’ll (hopefully) be taking a class on it.

That night we went to the globe and saw Nell Gwynn. It’s a modern play about the first popular English female actor, Nell Gwynn. She also went on to be a mistress of Charles II. The Globe Theatre is where Shakespeare originally had his plays put up before the theatre burned down. Since then, the theatre was rebuilt to the exact same specifications as the original, down to the thatched roofing and wood nails. It’s open air, which means there’s no roof over the stage and the standing room in front of the stage. The play played really well in the space, and utilized the setting sun to allow cool lighting in the second half of the play. The play was also acted beautifully, and was together a really fun experience. If given the opportunity to see Nell Gwynn performed I would recommend it highly.

Thursday I went to the National Portrait Gallery, which is a museum of portraits of important British people starting in the 1500’s. The gallery really was astonishing, as it held the original portraits that would be featured in many, many textbooks. Here are some:

They are, in order: George Washington, a dramatic painting of someone dying in Parliament, Captain James Cook, Sir Edmund Halley, Sir Isaac Newton, Nell Gwynn, Charles II, Sir Francis Drake, and Pocahontas. The gallery also includes significantly more recent portraits, going through the 1800’s all the way to the most recent portrait of Ed Sheeran. This museum really was one of the coolest places I’ve been to thus far, and I would highly recommend to anyone that visits London.

That night we saw the second of two Russian plays, The Three Sisters. This one, like the last one, was certainly disappointing, but between the two, The Three Sisters was much better. It was, however, an example of how Three Sisters could be played as a comedy, instead of as a drama. In general, though, the two Russian plays were pretty disappointing.

Friday was spent visiting another iconic London museum: The Victoria and Albert Museum. I have already visited it once, but I came in from a different entrance and it was a massively different museum. It’s enormous, and because I needed to get stuff done, I limited myself to the history of Britain exhibit before going anywhere else. It was cool finally seeing some Tudor, Reformation & Restoration, and Georgian artifacts in a museum, as things from those eras where surprisingly difficult to find. Here are some photos, mostly from the recreated rooms they had on exhibit:

This museum, like the British museum, is massive and has a ton of famous art pieces and artifacts. Also a must-visit.

Friday night was a play called While We’re Here. It’s a play between two older former lovers. It’s in a really small space and I managed a front row seat. It was also quite enjoyable, and played well with the theme of the week: Life Sucks And Nothing Means Anything In The End Anyway. It was a little depressing to say the least.

Saturday, most of the group went out to Hampstead Heath, but I stayed in to work on writing projects. In the morning, I began to transcribe a play I’ve been wanting to write for a while. If you remember from two weeks ago, I mentioned I had an idea for a one man show. Well, I scrapped that idea, but began thinking about including romance in the story, a theme I’ve been avoiding ever since I started writing. Earlier in the week I began using a new process of making a story and recorded myself being two people in a conversation. After not too long, I had a twelve-minute recording of a potential first scene. This story really could’ve ended there, but Saturday morning I opened up a folder on my computer called “creative writing,” and stumbled upon a bunch of old poems and short plays that I had forgotten about from late high school to early college times. I read some of them, and even read a few aloud to one of my roommates, and remembered how much I really do like writing, but how horrible I am at actually completing things. One poem, called Tunnels, I realized would work well as a part of the play I had started recording. That made me really want to type up what I had recorded, so I began the tedious process of copying word for word everything I said over those twelve minutes. In the end, I had seven typed pages of dialogue, two distinct characters, a story arc, and an idea for the next scene, which I recorded later that day. That recording is 18 minutes long. I really want to have a play I wrote performed at school before I graduate, and I finally have an idea and motivation to complete that goal. So that’s cool.

That day, everyone returned to tell me that I missed a really cool opportunity, but I wasn’t all that sad about it. I got to do something I hadn’t done in almost three years. That night a group of us hung out, got drunk, ate far too much McDonald’s, and failed to prepare for our trip the next day.

Sunday was in fact travel day, but a very fun travel day. We stopped by Stonehenge and Avebury, which is this small village surrounded by sheep and a huge henge complete with an old church. Here are some pictures from those stops:

It was a really beautiful day out. Stonehenge is remarkable, and the surrounding landscape is littered with prehistoric burial grounds and other landmarks. Avebury is also beautiful, and probably cooler than Stonehenge. You can actually walk through the stones and through the henge. Sheep were grazing everywhere, and the church is around a 1000 years old with artifacts in it that are from the Anglo-Saxons, a group that supposedly didn’t live in the area. We ate dinner in the only pub in the world that is inside a stone circle and was visited a couple times by this lovely border collie. After another drive we made it to Bath, where we will be spending the next few days and the reason that I have shitty wifi.

I mentioned in the title that I’m beginning to feel homesick. That’s for sure true. I miss my friends and my cat for sure, but I’m also longing for summer. Last summer was odd. I had almost no responsibilities and was able to more or less do whatever I wanted. This summer will be similar, but hopefully I’ll be able to progress on some hobbies or projects I’ve had to put on the back burner for a couple years. In a lot of ways, I’m being reminded of a few summers ago, being on the precipice of moving to college. Not knowing what to expect but also not being able to do anything about it. That summer, I deepened a lot of friendships, was writing a lot, and really was able to do a lot of self-discovery. This summer is shaping up to be a lot like that, and I’ll have projects to power me through the months. I’m excited, and a bit scared for the future. That seems to be a good place to be.

Before summer though, I’ve got a few more weeks of London to experience. Next week, I’ll be detailing my experiences in Bath, as well as seeing David Tennant live. It’s certainly shaping up to be a crazy fun week!

Until next time

Week 5: Connor Goes on Holiday

Hello everyone! I’m back after a weekend in Barcelona (which is why there has been a delay on posting this post), and I’m ready to continue watching plays, discussing them, forgetting to write in my journal, and to make headway on the show I’m putting together. But first, a sidenote:

Some of you may have noticed that I have been using movie titles as puns for the titles of my blog posts. Last week I used Top Gun and turning it into Top Fun, which is objectively a horrible name. I apologize. I will never be doing that again. Also I don’t know any movies and I’m not going to be able to sustain the low level puns for the entire program.

This week was holiday week, a week where we had a five-day break starting on Thursday to do whatever we want. We’d all known about it for weeks and I really just got a lot of enjoyment in imagining myself doing things instead of actually planning them. That really wouldn’t have worked out well for me, except for the fact I have an awesome girlfriend who managed to arrange everything. Thanks by the way.

Barcelona became our destination after discussing that we wanted to go to a warm beach. Everything was planned, and besides a small hiccup and arranging rides to and from the airports, I didn’t really have to worry about it. In fact, it really was one of the easiest things I had to do this program. Like I wish I could be all dramatic about how we missed the flight and had to hitch a ride on a turtle’s back to get to Barcelona (which would’ve been really inefficient as we would’ve had to go all the way around the Iberian peninsula to get to Barcelona), but I can’t. If I were to use one statement to describe the trip, it would be this:

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The language barrier was occasionally annoying, but I do feel as if I got my first Spanish class for free. So that’s cool.

Anyway, to start at the beginning of the week, I can’t really say it was a super interesting week. Because of the break, period styles took a week off, which meant I had no reason to go anywhere. I was lost. I was wondering. What was the point of existing without a rule to follow? What do I do?

After the small existential crisis, Christle and I took a walk through a small graveyard nearby where we’re staying. It’s a pretty, Victorian graveyard that’s still in use today. Here’s a picture of it:

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It was a short day out, so it became a long day in. Was I productive? Nope. At some point most of the appliances in the kitchen died. I think it was Monday. They still aren’t working so I’ve had to get creative with what I eat.

In any case, that night we went to Consent at the National, which was really amazing. It’s a tough show about two long-term married couples and their friends. Basically, shit happens and nobody’s really happy, but they all move on with their lives. But the writing of the play was truly phenomenal, and a lot of the themes touched on are themes I like exploring. Truly one of my favorite plays we’ve seen thus far.

On Tuesday, I went to the Science museum. I was expecting something similar to the OMSI in Portland, or the Exploratorium in San Francisco, something that is mostly interactive exhibits. I was mistaken. This science museum had the same feel, but only really went through the history of technological advancements. It had a couple really cool exhibits, one on mathematics and a series of display cases of everyday objects used by people from recent times back to the 1700’s. It was really cool, but disappointing because of my expectations. That’s something to always be aware of. Don’t let your expectations ruin a good day of fun. Just because something is what you expect, doesn’t mean it isn’t good or enjoyable, so let yourself be surprised and excited about what comes to you.

That night we saw an emotional two-person show called The Guards at the Taj. It had a moving intimate storyline and the actors were both really interesting to watch. A lot of people said it was their favorite thus far, but I was still mulling over Consent and was a bit distracted during the show so I couldn’t put it as high as other people.

The next day we had our clown workshop day in our acting class. For those unfamiliar, this is not the same clown idea that everyone is afraid of or whatever. Clowning is a specific style of acting where you just allow yourself to be excited by everything and to react without judgement. Sounds odd, and it is. An example that most people would be familiar with is The Three Stooges. The first play we saw with the program also used clowns. It’s silly and strange, but provides some really interesting insights on how to approach performing and acting. I really wish we could’ve gone deeper into the style, but being that we only have one four hour block to be taught in, we could only get a simple understanding of what it might mean to us. Our instructor was fantastic and I hope to meet her again at some point.

That night we saw a Russian play called Three Comrades in Russian with supertitles. Probably the most exciting part of it was me being able to order things on my phone without getting up during intermission and then getting a free drink. The play was pretty mediocre, but I enjoyed watching a different performance style. Our faculty leader, John, apparently really disliked it and left during the curtain call.

Thursday was a long day. I got up at 3 in the morning to catch a ride to the airport. Everything went smoothly for us, but the other group we went with apparently got stuck at the airport for another 24 hours.

Once we landed, Christle and I easily made it to our airbnb and met some lovely French people that were staying with us. That day we wandered around the area, got pasta at a nearby restaurant, and hung out on the beach for a bit before eventually making it back and sleeping really well.

Friday was a day of walking. First, we went to the big cathedral in downtown Barcelona. It is massive and beautiful. There are several, intricately carved dioramas around the inside of the cathedral, and a little open area with palm trees and a bunch of geese. Here are some pictures of the cathedral and the surrounding area:

After the cathedral, we had wandered to the marina where we got lunch and planned our next trip. There was a castle tower we could see up a big hill in town, and we started heading in that direction. Little did we realize just how steep the hill was. Or how important it was to the history of Barcelona. We eventually hiked our way up the hill, got some beautiful views along the way, and got to the Castle of Montjuïc. The Castle has been a defensive fortress for the area since the early parts of the 1600’s and has since been remodeled several times, lastly during the late 1800’s. It was infamous in its use as a symbol of tyranny against the people there, and was used as a prison during the civil war.

Now, it’s being restored and used as a memory of some horrible events in Catalonia’s history (Catalonia is where Barcelona is located. It has it’s own unique history and language even. If you have some time to yourself, I would highly recommend reading over the history of the area. It is fascinating). Here are some pictures of the castle and its views:

After hiking back down the hill, we eventually made it back home where we discovered we had walked over 10 miles. Safe to say I was exhausted and we didn’t leave again until after dinner. At that point we went back into the center of town and wandered down a large street until we discovered a lovely little urban park. We spent some time there and made it back. At that point I was totally exhausted and we both quickly fell asleep.

Saturday was a really warm day, so we had set it aside to specifically go to the beach. Before we went to the beach, though, we went to the Barcelona City Museum and walked through some incredible Roman ruins. I felt weird taking pictures so I only got two:

The ruins though were incredible. This massive underground area was home to almost the entire ancient roman city, complete with a wine distillery and a place where they make fish sauce that’s apparently really expensive. We had little audio devices that also expanded on the ruins. Really truly fascinating and a must see if you ever visit Barcelona.

Later, we went to the beach. It was such a lovely day and we spent a while there relaxing and enjoying the water. It was a nice enough day that we even went back late in the evening to go relax again, although by this time it had gotten cold enough that going into the water wouldn’t have been pleasant. We made it back and prepared for a long day of travelling on Sunday.

It was, as was expected, a long day of travelling. The flight also had some loud, annoying, presumably drunk Brits that really liked yelling. Getting back to our home in London wasn’t an issue, and I spent the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing productive.

In all, Barcelona was wonderful. It had beautiful views and some stunning history that was easy and cheap to visit. I spoke more French than I did Spanish coincidentally enough, due to our roommates, and everything really worked out better than expected. At this point, there’s only a few people here from the holiday break, as most people are coming back tomorrow, and it certainly feels strange because of it. I’m also definitely missing life in Eugene. At some point, everything being overwhelming stops being exciting and just becomes worrisome. But I am determined to finish the last month strong, and I am going to bring back an expanded ability to cook. Just today I bough chicken, and I have a stack of blueberries next to my computer. If you ignore the huge bags of skittles behind my computer, then it really does look like I’m determined to eat healthy.

Next week, I’ll be watching a play at the globe for the first time, and we’ll be heading to Stonehenge and Bath over the weekend. Certainly another exciting week!

Until next time.

Week 4: Top Fun

Well one of the craziest weeks of my life has come to a close. And I am not exaggerating. I have a record 25 pictures to prove it!

The week starts with me trying to figure out how to fulfill a requirement for the Tudor week in period styles. If you read my last period styles post, you would see that there is a lot of medieval buildings in London. For the Tudor period though, that is a much different story. The Tudor reign in England led to a massive growth in population in London, which led to a lot of new buildings being made and made quickly. That meant wood buildings with thatch roofing. Those buildings were built very close together to house as many people as possible. Unfortunately, those buildings were also really easy to burn down, and burn down they did. The Great Fire of 1666 basically destroyed all of the Tudor buildings in London. Generally, I wouldn’t be personally offended by something that happened 350 years ago, but the Great Fire managed that feat. Really, it meant I had to go on a walk through London with our program leader, John, because he like knows the ins and outs of historic London. So I did. And boy did I see some cool things.

The first two pictures are of the Leadenhall market, the first indoor market in the world. It’s nestled right in the center of the poshiest part of London. I could tell because for once in my life I actually felt under-dressed in my fancy shoes and orange shorts. The second picture is of one of the oldest buildings in front of one of the newest buildings in London (I talk about it a bit more in the Medieval Period Styles post). The last photo is of the Bank of London and the Royal mint. Hidden in the bank is the Bank museum, which we explored, but I will talk about that next week in the period styles post. We also saw a statue of the people that made Shakespeare’s first folio, a London Roman amphitheater, and Postman’s park, a small quiet area that has plaques dedicated to people that died saving others. John also got an umbrella, which only lasted him a few days because he left it in a pub. Congrats.

It really was a crazy day, and this was before we saw the play of the evening: Obsession with Jude Law. John and I got to the theatre early (the Barbican if anyone is familiar with the area) and explored the area. The area that the theatre was built on was apparently carpet bombed during WWII, but there was still an old Medieval church and remains of the Roman wall. John also confused a random jolly old guy with the director of the show which looked nothing like him.

The play was intense. We had the literal back row, so we saw everything from above. The director is well known for playing with space, and it had a profound impact on the show. Definitely one of my favorites of the trip thus far.

And that was Monday, but the week didn’t slow down. No. It definitely sped up.

Tuesday was spent doing a puppeteering workshop part one, and followed by a wonderful pub-theatre show called Two Becomes One. There was plenty of crowd interaction and Shania Twain for all and I can safely say I had a ton of fun. Tuesday also marked the last day in London this week, because we were headed to the home of Shakespeare: Stratford-upon-Avon.

Wednesday (also known as my birthday) was spent heading to Stratford and wearing a birthday princess sash. It’s not a horribly long drive, but the bus driver liked driving on detours to tell us about things and we had a long stop in Oxford. The sash got me a free pastry and we were off on our guided tour through Oxford University. The school is broken up into two-dozen colleges, all with separate campuses. We walked by several colleges and other important buildings on campus, such as the Sheldonian, the pubs where Tolkein and C. S. Lewis used to meet up, and several places where Harry Potter was filmed. Here are some pictures from that tour:

The colleges origins are incredibly old, and many of the buildings form that time still stand. Many famous and important people also went through the school, which was pretty cool to learn about.

Finally we made it to Stratford and promptly spent the next hour working with the owner of the B&B to try to get the wifi to work. It finally did, but it took until literally an hour before we left on Friday. So that was cool.

That night (Wednesday), we saw a production of Julius Caesar done by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Coincidentally, that production was being live broadcast for one of those Fathom events things that you see trailers for before watching a movie in theatres. They always sound cool, but you never remember when or what they are when they finally come. In any case, I spent about half the time making sure I had a cool face on so if they panned to the audience I didn’t look weird.

The production was very good, but also quite long (it clocked in at around 3 hrs and 20 minutes). I wanted to go out that night for my birthday, but I couldn’t since everything was closed except for a McDonald’s so I went there to celebrate.

The next day we had a full schedule of visiting a bunch of places that were relevant to Shakespeare’s life, including: his birthplace, his mother’s farm, his wife’s childhood home, and the house he built (called Shakespeare’s New Place, which incidentally doesn’t actually exist anymore). If this sounds a little over the top, its because it really was. Even though Shakespeare is considered one of the best writers ever and is probably the most influential playwright in existence, the town and surrounding area really managed to milk that until is was basically dry. That didn’t stop me from enjoying my day, but man, it isn’t possible to walk around that town without Shakespeare popping up somehow.

However, these tours allowed me to see and walk through old Tudor buildings. Since we were no longer in London, most of the Tudor architecture that was initially built still stands, and man is it weird to be in today:

Classic Tudor styling is the white walls with black wooden beams. This is because the Victorians thought Tudor style was ugly so they painted almost all the old Tudor buildings. Shakespeare’s birthplace (in the bottom left corner) is actually one of the few building that wasn’t painted. The garden and bird are from the New Place, the row of Tudor buildings is the school Shakespeare went to as a child, and I also managed to visit Shakespeare’s grave, which was in a beautiful little Medieval church.

The inside of Tudor buildings is also hilariously similar to those like mindfreak buildings that they make you pay like $30 to visit. The floors are uneven, the doors are randomly sized, and things are just sort of built into the middle of the room. I’ll go into a little more detail about Tudor styling in my next Period Styles post.

The tours also led us to an old farm where we could pet all the animals, which really was a highlight for almost everyone on the trip. Everyone had their favorite, and mine was probably this cow that let me hug it and hang out with it for a while. It was a cool cow.

That night we saw Antony and Cleopatra at the same theatre with many of the same actors. That show was also quite good, but also a bit longer. After the show, we all had dinner at a pub that many of the actors frequent. A lot of people were very excited that they got to order drinks next to one of the people we just saw on stage.

Friday morning we were immediately greeting by one of the actors (in this case the guy who played Mark Antony in the Thursday show), and we were able to have a Q&A session with him. That was really cool. Listening to someone who’s been in the business for as long as he has means that we get to hear some cool stories and get some good advice. One thing I would say, is that he looked like Louis C. K. and meeting him up close only strengthened the likeness. I’m not sure what to make of that I just wanted to pass that along.

That day we had to leave Stratford, but we had a stop at Kenilworth castle on the way back. The castle is fascinating and we were able to fully explore the ruins. The castle was initially built in the 12th century, but was added to by John of Gaunt and later by Robert Dudley, a lover of Queen Elizabeth. It was a wonderful day to go ruin exploring and I got some great pictures of the experience:

It was really impossible to capture the immensity of the castle. It’s enormous and has spectacular views. It’s also amazing to think about how there used to be a massive man-made lake surrounding the castle. I think the craziest thing about that place was running into a pair of old greyhounds we met in Stratford, Muffin and Jonah. They were just as adorable the second as the first time and I can say I was blessed that day by the dogs.

We finally made it back to London and we had a very strange play booked that night called Nuclear War. It was staged in a way that made it seem like everyone, including the audience, was inside this lady’s house. The show itself was about social isolation and the need for intimacy especially in apocalyptic times. The language was stream of consciousness, which gave a really eerie vibe to the show. It was done very well, and left me with some of the creepiest images I will ever see.

That about concludes the week, and a long week it was. Physically, I’m almost healthy again, which is cool, and I’m making progress on a show I want to write. My idea thus far is about a guy trying to worm his way out of something using rhetoric. Really sounds like something I would do.

Next week is midterm week, and Christle (my girlfriend) and I are heading to Barcelona for a few days. It’ll be really fun, but a bit scary as neither of us knows Spanish well enough to get by. Oh well. If this trip has taught me anything, it’s that some of the best things can happen when you’re not prepared. Or some of the worst. Hopefully the first.

Until next week!

Week 3: The Good, the Bad, and the Llama

Yep. That’s me and my boy Danny Rads just hanging out. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the nickname, but I can pretend to. So I made up that nickname. No one else.

In all seriousness, that is, in face, Daniel Radcliffe and myself sharing a probably-too-friendly side-hug. During this past week we watched Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in which Mr. Radcliffe stars in. Me and a bunch of others waited outside in the bitter cold to meet him after the show. He is incredibly nice and short. 10/10 Would meet again.

Crazily enough, meeting Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t the craziest thing I did this week. Although, for the sake of my sanity, I hope this week was crazier than usual. Some of the crazy that happened: the Tube closed and a small group of us took 2 and a half hours to get back from an acting class, someone decided to ‘take a walk on the track’ which caused John to be late to class one day, I visited Westminster Abbey on the Queen’s birthday, and poor timing one afternoon ended with me and a few others leaving a restaurant without food. I think that about covers some of it. Hopefully.

Starting from Monday on this crazy week, I went to the National Gallery, which happens to be a part of Trafalgar square. It is a place that does allow pictures (somehow), but the pictures I got are some of the few I was allowed to get all week for my individual study class. If you want to see some old paintings, go ahead and look at the other post I’ll put up this week.

In any case, the National Gallery is amazing. And also quite literally a maze. My girlfriend and I were going to meet another group at the gallery, and only sheer luck brought our groups together. Before lunch, I wandered through some giant Rembrandts among other old cool paintings, and after lunch we wandered through some medieval paintings and the Da Vinci pieces they had on display. That night we watched 42nd Street, a giant scale Broadway musical. It was definitely huge. The cast consisted of 45 fantastic tap dancers that were all on stage multiple times. It was also quite fun listening to Brits do American accents to varying degrees of success.

On Tuesday, I visited an old church aptly named the St. Pancras Old Church. The building had been used since late Roman times and still had remnants of its building in pre-Norman times. Surrounding the small church is a beautiful graveyard which was the setting for Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. Here are some pictures from the Church and graveyard:

The last picture is showing the full list of Vicars (a leader of the church) that have been recorded in the church’s history, dating all the way back to 1183. I went by myself to this church, and it really was magical. This place, among others, really showed how hundreds of years of history gets incorporated into the Londoner’s daily life.

That night we saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead with Daniel Radcliffe. The play is basically a cross between Hamlet and Waiting for Godot and it was really well done. The absurdist style of play and film is exactly what I want to be a part of, and it was really cool seeing that done live.

Wednesday was the weekly acting class. I really like this week’s workshop, as it gave me new tools to use when writing new plays or stories. Hopefully, I’ll come back with a completed script in addition to the memories and pictures. Wednesday was also the day where it took several hours to get home, so instead of sitting in front of my computer doing nothing, I was sitting on a bus doing nothing. Looking back, it was actually kind of fun exploring far west London on the bus.

That night, we went to the National Theatre and watched Twelfth Night. That theatre has a big budget, and it was flaunted throughout the show. Sometimes that added to the show, and sometimes it took away some of the magic of the script itself.

Thursday we had a matinee showing of Junkyard, a musical about the playgrounds built around London out of WWII junk. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize it was a matinee until we got the tickets, a few hours before the show. Because of this and a poor choice of restaurants, I was left without food going into the play. The play however, made up for it. Not in the sense that it fed me, that would’ve been a bit odd, but it was really good. The music was really unique and the actors were all phenomenal. Ever since the show, the group of us has all been singing a song from the show almost non-stop.

On Friday, I went to Westminster abbey. It was packed, but I got a lovely guided tour throughout the abbey, and the place really is insane. On the tour, I got to see the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor and I got to sit in a chair normally reserved for the President of the United States. For one brief moment, I usurped the power of the President. For one tiny period in time, the world was good. But then I had to get up and continue the tour. One single tear fell down my cheek and on to the 13th century flooring. Here is a picture of the houses of parliament (with Big Ben towering through the picture) and the outside of Westminster Abbey:

That night I saw a play called Paul Auster’s City of Glass, which is an adaptation of a graphic novel. The production team includes a design company that did the projections for the London Olympics, so going in I was expecting some dazzling special effects.

Oh man oh man did I get those dazzling special effects.

Projections were used to give incredibly fast scene changes, and cool effects like a talking poster and a busy subway station. The play also used a body double to make cool montage effects. The play itself was a bit underwhelming. Although the effects I felt generally added to the whole production, the script seemed to be a little unfocused. There was some really poorly written dialogue and the arc of the story didn’t seem to be supported by the beginning of the play. All in all, it was a fun spectacle, but I left wondering what the purpose of it was.

This weekend I spent inside. This is not entirely because I am a videogame-obsessed hermit, but actually due to the fact I have come down with the flu. Even if I hadn’t, probably staying inside would’ve been a good idea. I had a dream with a lot of llamas and sheep .I’m no dream expert, but I know a bad omen when I see one. I also think the llamas all had goat faces because I forgot what a llama looked like.

Break time seems like a good idea.

So that’s where I’ve ended up this week. Next week I’ll probably hit up the tower of London and the Portrait Gallery. It also happens to be my Birthday next week, AND we’re headed to Stratford. Exciting week next week, and hopefully I’ll be able to take a bunch of photos.

Hopefully less goat-headed llamas.

Week 2: Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Use My Camera

Hello again. I’m back to catch everyone up on my adventures in London. And adventures there have been aplenty! First stop was a place outside of London called St. Alban’s:

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Besides the incredible history on display in this little village, the weather was incredible. With temperatures hitting the mid 20’s (lower 70’s Fahrenheit) and not a cloud in the sky, the dogs were out in full force. This beautiful cathedral had an equally beautiful open park, where hundreds of people were out and about enjoying the sun. While there we got some ice cream and visited a local Roman museum, which had the most complete Roman theatre in all of Britain.

The ruins were pretty incredible to say the least. I’ll go into a bit more detail about the theatre and the museum in the Period Styles post.

The town was also home to a medieval bell tower and plenty of old architecture. The featured picture is a photo from outside one of the oldest pubs in Britain, and used to be the home of an old cockfighting arena. Here are some other photos from the excursion:

This week, as far as personal adventures go, I went to the Huntarian Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the British Museum (again). I couldn’t take pictures in either the Huntarian or V & A museum, so my lack of record isn’t even my fault this time.

In case you don’t know (which I didn’t so don’t feel bad), the Huntarian Museum is a collection of medical items. Like organs. And weird skeletons. It was really cool, if a little odd, and incredibly well put together. It also had a really in depth history of surgery. Most of the museum was destroyed in the Blitz in WWII, but the museum was rebuilt and a large collection was donated. If anyone of you ends up in London for a bit and wants to visit a fascinating museum that is a little off the beaten path, I would highly recommend the Huntarian Museum.

I didn’t end up spending that much time in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but it really was spectacular from what I saw. From the cafe, to the architecture, even to the employees, everything was really stunning. I walked through the theatre exhibit, which was not super extensive but interesting, and spent some time in a little jewelry room.

I’m going to go more in depth about my second trip to the British Museum, as the majority of the reason I went back was for research, but I did also have time to wander through some of the other exhibits on display, including: the roman marble statues, an Easter Island sculpture, marble from the Parthenon, and the Egypt exhibit, which had the Rosetta Stone:

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For me, this was probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen thus far. The Rosetta Stone is a symbol of archeology. It’s importance is well-known. Ever since I was a small child, I had known of it’s existence from a Scooby-Doo video game. So really, it’s about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

But seriously, the Rosetta Stone is really amazing, but it, and the whole museum, brings up a lot of questions about ownership. The Parthenon Marbles that is on display has been the center of a big controversy between Greece and Britain for almost 40 years. The mummies that are on exhibit in the British Museum and around the world are basically the symbols of this conflict. Where is the line between archeology and ruin-robbing? For things that are so culturally significant, is it the responsibility of museums to return the artifacts back to where they came from? Or since many of these objects have been at the museum for 200+ years, have they gained a new identity, and belong at the museum to teach and inspire? The conflict is complicated, and been a subject of discussion in one of my classes last term, and I think a general answer would be wrong.

Switching gears, I also watched a lot of plays this week. Well three to be exact, and two dance pieces. I saw: The Wipers Times, Betroffenheit, The Winter’s Tale, The White Devil, and the Men and Girls Dance. The Wipers Times was a comedy about a WWII trench newspaper that was the first less-than-stellar play we saw. Betroffenheit was a magical dance theatre piece about the mind’s response to trauma. It was truly amazing. The theatre was an incredible space (Sadler Wells, for those who are familiar) and the dancing was insanely good. The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s Romantics, meaning it never really stuck to one genre. This was also incredible, and utilized design probably better than any of the other show except BetroffenheitThe White Devil is a Jacobean play by Webster and was played in the Wannamaker theatre, a candlelit theatre attached to the Globe. I was very disappointed by it, as there was a large number of seemingly amateurish issues going on. The Men and Girls dance is a dance piece attacking the stigma of familial or friendly relationships between Adult men and young girls. It was fun to watch, as the whole piece felt incredibly organic and improved. It was fun to watch everyone just being happy and playing around with each other. It definitely made the stigma feel unfounded, but that sort of uncomfortable feeling we all get when I write Men and Girls together is certainly not unfounded. Plenty of people have gone through really traumatizing experiences because of family members or family friends preying on younger children, but assuming every and all of those friendships are traumatizing or unhealthy is overreaching. The dance as a whole was very fun to watch, but I think I’m most excited to participate in our daily discussions, to hear other people’s opinions on the dance.

We had our first acting workshop this past week and I’m really excited to continue those. I’m also planning on visiting Westminster Abbey this week. Probably. It costs money so there’s never any certainty when it comes to those things. I also think we’re gonna see some really famous people act in plays this week. I could know for sure, but that would require me to look at the itinerary, and like why would I do that?

This weekend I’m spending inside, working on homework. It’s a little weird saying that, because this trip still feels like a vacation. I don’t think I’ll get use to this while I’m here. I know that assuming things a while in advance, but I don’t really want to get use to what I’m doing. I want to continue to get inspired by the theatre we’re watching. I want to continue to be awestruck by the history I walk past. This place is wonderful and beautiful and overwhelming. And I don’t want to lose any of that.

So that’s it for this week. Next week I might even post on time. Maybe.

P.S. Here’s a picture from the Millennium Bridge (a.k.a the Harry Potter Bridge) looking down towards the Tower bridge:

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Week One: An American in London

I can safely say that whatever preparations I made were not enough.

However, I don’t think I could have ever prepared enough for this program.

But the very least I could’ve done was bring my syllabus. Or like another pair of shoes.

This week has been a whirlwind of activity, and if I’m standing in the tube station, the whirlwind is very literal. It started off with a 10 hour plane flight that viciously stole my sleeping hours away from me. I could write this entire post about that flight, but I won’t. So I’ll just summarize it as quickly as I can. First, classical music that wouldn’t stop playing. Great row-mates. Free meals and movies which were both surprisingly good. No sleep. First coffee (also not as bad as I would’ve thought). 7 am arrival time. And the flight attendant saying the most British thing I think I’ve ever heard. That about covers it. 10 hours-or more like 18 hours-of sitting done. On through border patrol and then to London.

Without spending too much time on security, which is exactly the opposite of what security seems to want, I’ll simply say it was slow. Very slow. Not like the train to London. That was pretty fast. Then I was in London. My friend Dian was laughing at me but she was giving me shelter until the program started so I let her. A few tube rides later we were at her hotel room and I was finally able to stop for a second.

That day was spent spending money. Too much money. Being a tourist sucks.

I also spent it saying “Wow, look at those Victorian apartments!” and “Wow, those are some pretty Georgian apartments!” and “Wow, that’s huge!” or simply “Wow!”

Even though I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, I could still tell that London was pretty cool.

Dian and I spent the day wandering around. At one point we walked to Westminster Abbey, which was just enormous from what I saw. A little bit of wandering, sleeping, and ridiculously loud construction later, it was the next day, and time to make it to our residence.

The residence is an old Victorian apartment. It’s right next to a grocery store with 2 other grocery stores, the tube stop, KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s, some pubs, a couple liquor stores, a few banks among other things within a short walk. the backyard has a small courtyard and a small classroom. Lots of stairs. Too many fire doors. So many doors. It shouldn’t be a maze but there are literally 4 doors between my room and the bathroom. I just ran into a door. Doors.

First day was spent waiting for everyone to come in, and ended with a pub dinner.

Next day, we went walking to the London Museum. The tube couldn’t get us all the way there because like one of the trains stopped moving so we ended up walking a lot further than intended. That allowed us to get a guided tour from John, who enthusiastically led us down the streets, naming important buildings and events that we walked past. Lots of people were taking pictures. I was making fun of them. So I got immediate personal gain instead of something that would actually be useful for this. Or like my classes I’m taking here.

Real master of planning here.

We made it to the London museum where I enjoyed a lovely sandwich, cool exhibits, and not taking pictures. Unfortunately for me, that meant I would either have to go back through the same exhibits I already walked through or go to another museum for the same things. The reason being is that the independent study course Period Styles requires some pictures and a way to collect them, e.g. a blog. I happen to have this blog and I happen to be enrolled in that class. I didn’t happen to have, however, pictures.

That did give me an excuse to go to the British Museum two days later and get some really nice photos of old things. Like this:IMG_20170407_132818

(If you want to see more pictures from that excursion, look at the period styles blog post)

I also ended up going through the ancient Egypt exhibit and had a chance to see the Rosetta stone. But as you might’ve guessed, I don’t have any photos of that, because like why would I take photos for fun.

The day after visiting the London Museum, we went on a scavenger hunt across London in small groups and I took photos for fun. Like this:

The first is from a church called St. Martins-in-the-Fields and the second is from St. Pancras station, which is right next to the beautiful British Library and happens to be Kings Cross station.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights we watched plays: The Play that goes Wrong, Travesties, and Black respectively. The Play that goes Wrong is about, as you might guess, a play that goes wrong. But you wouldn’t guess how much it goes wrong, or how ridiculously it goes wrong. However, being in plays that have gone wrong, I felt personally attacked by some of the jokes in the play. I thought I was slick that one time I brought a torn piece of journal paper on stage instead of a letter, but now I know I was just receiving the most sad and piteous looks from everyone in the audience. It’s ok. I’m over it.

Probably.

Travesties was a comedy about a theoretical meeting between James Joyce, Vladmir Lenin, and Tristan Zarra (one of the inventors of Dadaism). It is a fast, textual verbal debate between three very different people from the perspective of someone who met all of them. Or didn’t. The narrator is an old man retelling his experiences, but it’s clear that by the end he isn’t remembering everything correctly. It is a wonderful play about memory and rhetoric. Finally, the third play we saw this week was a one person show about growing up and living as a black, gender-queer, opera singer. It was short but powerful, and the standing ovation it got was well deserved. This week we saw three incredibly well put together and entertaining plays, and that just makes me that much more excited to watch all the rest of the plays coming up.

Another thing I did for the first time this week was go out clubbing. We randomly found a little storefront selling tickets to nightclubs for really cheap. So we got them and went off to the first club.

Something I didn’t know was that London night clubs have strange rules regarding clothing. Apparently they need to make sure you don’t look poor before coming in. Specifically they look at shoes. My shoes are cool, I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. However when we got there, I was pulled out. Not because of the shoes, but because I was wearing tan cargo shorts. I was barely let in. I guess my shoes are pretty cool then. My shorts may need some work.

There were obviously plenty of other things that went on this week, but in a vain effort to keep this short, I’ll stop there. Next week, we got a whole slew of plays with famous people. And we’re going to an old roman village outside of London. But don’t worry,

I still miss all of you guys 🙂