It seems as if the post was destined to be ruined, because both times I sat down to start this, a fire alarm went off. Maybe Fate is stepping in on purpose…
It’s been a busy, busy week! But first, let me explain this week’s title. In America, you can find garbage cans (or bins as the British say) almost every 50 feet, if not closer! In London garbage cans are far and few between-for a reason. There were so many garbage can bombings by the IRA (Irish Republican Army) that the city officials took a precaution and decreased the amount of garbage cans citywide. Once I had learned of the background, I immediately felt guilty for loudly whining “WHERE ARE THE TRASH CANS IN THIS COUNTRY?!”
Classes started this week! Although I’m only taking five classes they are all three hours long. As tiring as that may sound, I cannot count the amount of times a professor has exclaimed about the short length of classes back home. On Mondays I have Introduction to History of London Theatre and Theatre Encounters. In Intro. to London Theatre we will be seeing plays and students will be giving a presentation and leading discussion on them. Because today was the first day, we instead went to an exhibit at the British Library. There was an exhibit on some of Shakespeare’s plays (surprise!) and how their history in the world. Kind of a study of production history, you might say. I was very pleased that it was an exhibition on the legacy of Shakespeare rather than another history of the man himself. It was called “Shakespeare in Ten Acts.” It was full of details that aren’t usually taught in schools, so it was very interesting. For example, there were farcical re-tellings of some of Shakespeare’s plays during the Restoration period, because people were beginning to be “bored” with Shakespeare. Keep in mind that although it may seem that nowadays you can’t shake a stick without hitting a Shakespeare production , it was even more common a few hundred years ago.
Theatre Encounters is most similar to a Devised Theatre class. Devised theatre is a style of collaborative theatre that began in the early third of the 20th century. I spent the fall semester at Catawba College in a collaborative theatre techniques class with professor Homan, so I’m interested to see how the two will compare. So far they are nothing alike. We began with several warm-up movement and focus games, and then played a game called Balloon. There are four people on this failing hot-air balloon, and each of them have a set amount of time to convince the audience why they should survive. Each round ends with a death of a character finally leaving two to choose between. The round that I played in there was Micheal Scott (a character from the US knockoff of The Office), Olympic Gymnast Gabby Douglas, King of Pop Micheal Jackson (me), and of course Donald Trump. Unfortunately M.J. was killed after the second round, but it’s a great game to learn how to appease to your crowd and work on your improvisation skills. We learned that if you don’t engage and empathize with the audiences, they will not care a tuppence for you. Even if “Mother Theresa” was on the balloon, if she was providing a more selfish than altruistic argument, the audience wouldn’t pause a moment to vote her off. This was a reminder of how closely linked theatre and sociology is, both constantly studying the actions of people around us. Our teacher, Mark, is toying with the idea of creating a one-person show, so we ended the class with semi-improved monologues that we wrote in class. I can genuinely tell you that mine sounded like every dramatic young person’s monologue. It was hesitant, bumpy, and talking about a youth with a troubling past. Oh well. Only up, up, and up from here!
I don’t have class on Tuesdays, so nothing grand happened. Although Tuesday night is when our program went to go see The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre. If you are curious about this, you can read my response to it from earlier this week. On Wednesdays I have Stage Combat and Voice Wheel. Stage Combat is a semester of hand to hand, dagger, and rapier (type of sword) combat. Of course we are not really fighting each other, that’s the whole point! Stage combat is learning how to safely look like Vin Diesel. Okay, okay, maybe not. Rachel, our teacher, is a combat teacher and is currently working on several production throughout London. After an embarrassing “look how uncoordinated and unfit we all are” warm up, we worked on falls and controlled fight partnership. In most fights (if not every), the loser must always be in charge in order for no one to be hurt. After this we began rapier technique! The rapier is an extremely light and thin blade that is used for cutting and slashing, where as a broadsword is best used for cutting. I couldn’t help but feel like Errol Flynn flying my sword through the air with great conviction and gusto. Although I probably looked more like the pirates in The Muppets’s Treasure Island!
After Stage Combat is Voice Wheel. Voice Wheel is a three part class of dialect, singing, and voice acting. My group has begun with dialect, yippee! This may not be great news for a certain professor who once noted that I “relied” on accents, which of course was 100% correct. We have begun the semester learning the basic English dialect called RP, or Received Pronunciation (it’s also called BBC English). I think it’s a great basic English dialect to begin with and form a solid base to grow upon. It’s not as posh as you may be thinking, which is my problem thus far. I keep slipping into the boisterous posh dialect similar to the extremely silly Hugh Laurie in BBC’s Blackadder. Switching between RP and our regular American accents made us feel very discouraged about our American accents. Through forced perceptions of dialects throughout history, the English RP sounds so much more educated and higher class than an average American dialect. I’m hoping that we will get to learn some dialects from England, like the Yorkshire or Manchestarian dialects.
I swear I’m getting close-like I said, it’s been a busy week! On Thursday I have Classical Voice/ Shakespeare. I’m hesitantly thankful for this class, because I know it’s going to seriously challenge me. Just to give you a taste of the class, here were some things said during it: “What is thinking?…Did that really help you in this game? No, it didn’t”….and a gruesome description of being hung, drawn, and quartered. I’m most likely portraying this class too harshly, which I don’t mean to do. Like I said, it’s going to be a challenge, which is going to be frustrating but overall very good. I say it will be frustrating because I will have to work against my natural guarded and prideful nature when my (tiny) knowledge is challenged. Thursday night I went to go see the wonderfully provocative show They Drink It in the Congo at the Almeida Theatre. On Friday we took a day trip to Hatfield House and the Warner Brothers Studio lot of the Harry Potter movies. Hatfield House is the house where a young Elizabeth I lived until her coronation at 26 years old. Personally, the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC is much more impressive. Although I suppose the historical background is not as impressive. Lord and Lady Salisbury live there now, in a closed off wing of the house. The Harry Potter Studios was an incredible showcase of the technical “magic” that went into making these movies. Even as a Potter fan, this was more impressive from a technical point of view. So often in Hollywood we never give credit to the designers and technicians who put in the brunt of the work, so it was very satisfying to see this recognition of work.
Today I went to the always lovely Evensong service at St. Paul’s cathedral. Evensong services are “a service of evening prayers, psalms, and canticles, conducted according to a set form, especially that of the Anglican Church.” St. Paul’s is an incredible cathedral, with extremely tall ceilings and golden mosaics surrounding the arches.
Alright! I’m done, I promise! You’re free from the bonds of this post, if you even made it this far. I shall be back with a hopefully shorter post. Farewell for now!