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London Winter 10
The last time I was in a plane, was when I was only ten years old. This smile on my face merely masked the fear of flying that I had. And also the fear of the unknown. Whose to say nothing would've happened on the plane (I've seen far too many horror movies to think positively about planes), but I had more or less optimistic hopes! As I took the long drive from Albany to Newark to take an even longer flight to a country I knew practically nothing about. The Adventure Begins!
From my very first moments in the UK I noticed a few things:
1. They are much more laid back about coming into a country than Americans.
2. They are a very different sense of humor as could be seen by our hilarious "tour guide" bus driver.
3. The air felt better. It felt fresher and less harsh like American air. Less polluted.
Feeling: Exhausted However, seeing Big Ben for the first time made the trip real for the first time and that much more enjoyable.
Cleopatras Needle We learned that the people who restored it put it back the wrong way and that the statues "protecting" it should be placed the other way
This picture clearly shows what our first day would be like in London. A DiZZy TiZZy experience. First we decided to exchange our money and that would be an adventure in and of itself. First we had to find a bank or as we would learn a post office helps much more!
One of the biggest differences I saw at first was that their weren't really any signs around saying, "Bank here" or "Post office" symbols etc. The second thing I learned was to say, "Excuse me" that is ALL. No sir or miss or ma'am. Simply "Excuse me". I learned that British society is much more androgenous than I had thought. I made the mistake of asking a women where the post office was by calling her "sir." I had never been more embarrassed in my life. I was mortified, but as Jess soon pointed out, it didn't seem to phase this nice women in the least. She was so sweet and didn't even blink at my mishap as I believe many Americans would have. And she gave us quite good directions to the bank.
It took us a while to find it still. Getting turned around, almost hit by cars (it's still hard to think, "oh yes look the other direction!" Then it became clear to just look both ways, several times before crossing). When made it to the bank unharmed and decided it was time eat! We decided on a lovely restaurant where though it was Europe I was still surprised that they didn't card us when a coupl of us ordered drinks. The nice waitress even help us calculate a tip which she said was a given rate around restaurants in Londond. And then was shocked when we told her to keep our left over pounds because she had been so helpful! I was eventually falling asleep in my seat at dinner and we headed home. Walking was at first a little difficult and tiring (out of shape-yes!) but after a while it got easier and walking and the tube are definitely staples of British culture!
The Dali Museum (Jess' adventure)
I was so thankful that Jessica chose this as her Excursion Suggestion and that I got to see this exhibit. It was only going to be in London for a few more days when we saw it
I will be the first to tell you, I am not one for art exhibits or anything like that. I'll admit it art tends to be lost on me. I never grew up with art in life and having to go and look at a portrait or painting and find meaning in it seemed ridiculous to me. How was I supposed to interpret something someone created from their minds? The truth is, I've learned that whatever the artist was intending to create, draw or show means nothing. It's what you as a viewer of a piece of work makes of it that matters.
I believe Dali's work shows undeniable cultural differences. A large part of his work envolved nudity, but in such a creative, respectful and curious way that it wasn't vulgar because there were breasts or penises in his pictures. It really was art work and beautiful. I think American culture more or less degrades the human body, women's especially. They treat it like an object or something to be hidden and kept a secret or to the other exteme that exposes it in degraceful ways. While Dali takes the idea of the human form and molds it into his interpretaion.
Though this was an interesting first experience to art of this caliber; the pieces that I loved the most were that of 'Romeo and Juliet' - his pieces, I believe there are eight, are so beautiful and compelling in the way they represented Shakespeare's play that I was touched. I teared up going over each one and retelling the story, that I knew so well, in my head. Dali's paintings are so true to what I believe Shakespeare intended for audiences to experience while watching his play. It was truly moving and an experience I wont soon forget.
Thank you Jessica for letting me tag-a-long with you on this one. I loved it!
'Twelfth Night' (Our 1st show!)
The process to get to this Theatre, oh dear, that was a challenge. The lovely quiz that we had to take was...lets just say, wasn't easy to finish honestly. I remember well the quizzing game we played with a women that worked at one of the Theatre's, testing her knowledge on British Theatre history, to see how much she knew and could help us. She was happy play along and we were grateful for her answers! I couldn't believe their was so much history to all the theatres. I understand that their old buildings, some hundreds of years old, but the fact that some had rooms specifically for royalty was a shock (but understandable). The history of these theatres has no comparison to those in the US. Sure some amazing things happend in NYC theatres, but this British history is OUR history and it dates back so far, not knowing it made me want to learn more about these theatres.
I was acutally quite dissapointed with this production of Twelfth Night. I think mainly because of my high expectations that I set for British Theatre, especially with Shakespeare. I think this was one of the bias' I had in connection with Theatre that, "Of course Brtis can do Shakespeare better. They're ENGLISH!" And while they may have had better diction than Americans, I have seen American actors run circles around their Shakespeare. Though this wasn't a hurtful or derogative assumption of British culture, I do feel bad that I made it. I feel like I stereotyped their culture and the fact that Shakespeare was British, therefore all British people should be able to act it! Well I was wrong and I'm glad I was proven so; I think that any play can be a good or bad production and we just happen to see a bad one.
V&A Museum (Victoria and Albert)
This was another one of those places I was surprised I enjoyed so much. It was room after room and corridor after corridor of amazing artwork and recreations. At first I thought how odd it was that they have an entire museum dedicated to things that aren't real; mere replicas of beautiful things that are held in other countries. And then I thought, well why not. Why do other museums and countries get to see this beauty and not others. Obviously, having never seen the acutual productions of Pluto and Proserpine and Trajan's Column I had nothing to compare them to and I was floored. I could not believe the quality and detail that went into these productions. It feels like everything in America is a reproduction of a reproduction and of low quality, while these were- breathtaking. I remember looking at a picture of the actual Column and seeing its reproduction broken up (there were two huge pieces that made the column and then and angel I didn't see until much later that was on the wall high above the room, much like was in the picture as it was hight above Rome) and being able to see the detail that went into making it was amazing.
There was absolutely no way to see each room of the V&A in one day and I was pretty upset over this. Though, it was tiring walking around that massive building the culture and the art that it held was well worth it! We also went through the theatre exhibition, which I must say was a little dissappointing. I think the only things that really impressed me were the costumes (behind the glass, not the dress up ones) and I loved seeing a picture of George Balanchine, because I had heard so much of his method from my dance teacher who was taught by him.
The Moment I had been waiting for...
I was beyond excited to be seeing Big Ben and Westminster Abbey all in one day! I was practically jumping out of my seat on the tube. After what felt like a fairly long trek to Westminster we finally arrived and coming out of the tube station I looked up and there to greet my sight was none other than Big Ben. I believe that any person going to the UK needs to see these two land marks (being so close to each other helps too!).
Being able to experience Westminster Abbey and actually being able to go inside and see it's beauty was undeniably one of the best moments of my life. It was so beautiful and sacred and seeing the tombs of these amazing people that shaped our lives so many years ago was touching. Seeing Queen Elizabeth I tomb and actually being in the presence of her was spectacular. The feeling was overwhelming, being in the Abbey and being able to witness a mass there was a one of a kind experience. It was so peaceful there. I believe that the British hold religion in entirely different ways than Americans do. I felt so much respect from the people that were there. Despite being tourists, most, had a high level of courtesy toward their beliefs and faith and were decent enough to understand that. I don't believe as Americans we take religion the same way. People are agnostic or hedonistic, and many don't seem to care about religion any more, but it is clear that these people do and uphold the higher standards set for them by God. And I think it's beautiful.
Billy Elliot has a clear theme of gender bending and sexist biasts throughout its story. It also has themes of family strenght and over coming adversity. I believe that the most poignant theme is that of male and female stereotypes.
"Why can't a boy do Ballet?"
"Why can't a boy be feminine?"
In the words of Madanna, "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short. Wear shirts and boots 'cause it's okay to look like a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading. Because you think that being a girl is degrading."
I think that Billy Elliot brings a funnier side to the idea that a boy can be feminine and still be a man. There is a musical number where Billy and his friend Michael sing a song while dressing up in his mothers clothing, Billy inquires if this is normal and his friend responds, of course I see my Dad doing it all the time. His friend is clearly a gay child. The story stresses the idea to go for dreams regardless of what they may be. It also stresses the idea that gender should not be equated when considering life choices. The show also depicts the idea of how much family can affect a childs decision making. A child can get a lot their ideals based on how their parents and family act. It shows a lot of growth for Billy's father, when he takes Billy to his audition and helps encourage his dreams! The gender bending idea that goes on throughtout Billy Elliot is especially important today. I think it is important for children and young adults to learn that being different is important and that no matter your sexual orientation a person should be whomever they choose to be.
London Cruise and 1984
I choose to only comment on the Boat Tour. I enjoyed the sight seeing, because you can't really consider it a tour, when no one is telling me what the heck it is I'm looking at. I had a wonderful time taking pictures and seeing sights like Tower Bridge and learning the difference between that and London Bridge. I loved the bonding time that I got to have with these three amazing girls (bottom picture). It was a wonderful time learning more about eachother and I think that isolation in the boat and the idea of being in a different country really helped bring us together.
I will refrain from speaking of 1984 because that show was...I will not speak of it. I will only say that I thought that it dumbed down its audience and I didn't like being treated like a child through out the production. I clearly understand that the 'secret room' is a secret room without there having to be a sign on it. Thank you 1984, I will never see you again.
Tower of London
The Tower of London was by far one of my favorite experiences on this trip. The emotions that came about from walking around this landmark were overwhelming at times. The energy that I felt from being in the Bloody Tower was shocking. It was as if I could feel these people that had been tortured here, as if their spirits were still there. The architecture alone was astounding. Each brick is perfectly placed and structured to create the most visually stunning inside and out fortress, palace, and prison I have ever seen. The tour we were taken on was probably one of the most indepth tours I have been on in a long time. Our guide was hilarious and lived at the Tower and we learned that because of his job his family for all their generations are allowed to be married in the private church The Chapel Royal of St. Pepter ad Vincula on site of the Tower of London. Many bones have been buried beneath the floors of that church including Anne Boleyns which were identified after Queen Victoria made renovation on the chapel. The Tower (I am pictured in) was where a trunk was found in which the remains of two little bodies were hidden. These were presumed to be the bodies of the disappearing princes, Prince Edward V and his little brother RIchard.
It's sad and frightening to think of how many people were killed and tortured and buried in this Palace. There are many unpleasant connections between American History and British History and it all involves death and violence. The power struggles and the deceit that ensure the future that we have today is horrifying; without this violence our future could be very different. I do believe that the deaths that ensured America's future and the deaths that ensure Britains survival were unnecessary. I have to wonder how different our lives would be without all the violence that ensued in our history.
Despite the horrible history of the Tower of London, it was a spectacular and educational place. As the sun dipped down in the sky and the snow began to fall, a calm and serene feeling washed over me as I looked upon this staple of British culture turned tourist hot spot. It was also an eerie feeling, almost like I was being watched. Who knows, maybe the spirits that haunt the Tower were watching us after all.
St. Paul's Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever laid eyes on. The marble stone inside with the swirls of black and white were amazing. I was particularly excited to see this church because this is where Princess Diana and Prince Charles were wed. It was so peaceful there I had a hard time leaving to go on our next adventure in London. The second time I went there with my Mother, a women actually got stuck in the revolving doors of the church.
I truly believe that the UK holds such a higher respect for their religious figures and monuments and buildings. It's nice to see them restoring buildings and making sure they last for a very long time.
This was one of the most anticipated show, for me at least. I could not wait to see this ballet. I have danced for years and I was jumping out of my skin to this show. The ideas that Matthew Bourne had for this adaptation of Swan Lake were exceptional. I was floored when I saw it. An all male cast of Swans, what could be better. The tension between when the lead Swan is a swan and then becomes the Stranger and the Prince is so dramatic and heart felt. This was another amazing idea of how stereotypes of male and female roles need to be altered. It is clear that there is a strong bond between the Swan and Prince and it's tragic because they can't be together because of certain roles the Prince needs to fulfill in his life. I also liked the idea that it could not only be taken in a homosexual connotation, but also in a paternal one. The Swan is extremely protective of the Prince and it is clearly evident that the Prince has had little affection or even physical contact with his mother. The father/King is not present in this story and it could be taken that this Prince is simply looking for that connection and guidance from a male figure that does not exist in his life. Regardless of which way this story is intended to be taken, I think it's important that theatre and the arts are recognizing that not everything in life is black and white anymore; there are not sides. The world is a very large "gray area" and I love that the people creating these master pieces' are taking that into consideration when creating these works.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace was beautiful. The exciting play that took place was quite entertaining and had many interesting facts inside it's hilarity. I learned a lot of King Henry VIII and his women.
Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Kathryn Howard, Kathrine Parr)
I learned that Hampton Court Palace is kept up only by an independent charity that recieves zero funding from the Government or Royal Family. I think this is important to mention because it shows the difference between the US and the UK because I believe Americans are more willing to tear down historical buildings while the UK helps to preserve these palaces and one of a kind architecture. By the size of each room it is easy to tell how many people it was capable of holding, thousands, the kitchens were enormous and the dinning hall seemed to expand the size of a football field (a slight exaggeration, but not by much).
I have come to have a great appreciation for art and the artists that can create things I could never dream of creating. I wasn't having the best day when we went to the National Gallery, but I found one piece that spoke volumns to me; that of Titian's Allegory of Prudence. I wasn't in the mood to be looking at this art work and though I'm glad I did I was still in no mood to traipse through a museum and try to find something that spoke to me. Well little to my suprise I found it. I had been going into each room with my eyes closed. I would open them and what ever caught my interest to most that is the piece I would look at. This piece caught my eye, without a doubt. I was attracted to it instantly and this was my moment of revelation as I stood in front of this piece of art and contemplated my life and what I was doing with it by being upset at this very moment, or even any moment in my life.
The words written into the painting read, "EX PRAETERITO PRAESENS PRVDENTER AGIT NI FUTUR- ACTIONE DETVRPET, translated, From the past the man of the present acts prudently so as not to imperil the future. I stared at these faces of one man. The man in his youth, in his ripe age and in his old age. I felt like this painting was speaking to me, telling me to stop what it was I was doing and think about it thoroughly because whatever I chose to do now would effect the rest of my life. I had a moment of reflection and was happy to be thinking clearly for a moment. It was invigorating to have a sense of understanding of the world for a moment. I will forever love this painting for that fact alone.
Drury Lane Theatre Tour
This theatre is one of four theatres that have stood in its place.
I think my favorite part of the Drury Lane Theatre was the story of how fire curtains were created as a staple to theatre. The safety precaution to have a fire curtain was a large deal; the company had never had a reason to use it and when there was an actual fire the fire curtain was dropped and it was rusted and stopped a few feet (inches?) from the ground and the fire spread to the entire theatre. I like that fire curtains are now checked regularly.
This play was so heart warming I couldn't help but cry. The story of Albert and his horse (best friends) Joey is so touching.
Lisa and I almost missed the opening of this show and I would've been crushed had I not seen it from start to finish. I had a lot of energy from running from the tube station to the theatre which I think helped me enjoy it even more. I had that adrenalin running through my vains keeping my senses on edge and I took every movement and sound and musical note made in this show and soaked it into my brain. The physical features on the horse made it look very realistic, of course you could see inside of it and the people controlling it, but the way Joey's eyes looked and the way he would cock his head or move his ears made me forget that this was a puppet. I almost didn't give this show a chance because of the fact that they were puppets and after 1984, lets just say puppets were not high on my list of things to watch. I am so glad I just took in everything that I was seeing and enjoyed it for the amazing production that it was. The man operated animals were so life like you completely forget that right behind the duck is a man swaddling back in forth. The special effects like quality the show had to its acting was incredible; slow motion scenes, moments where a pony turns into a giant horse, it looks like Joey and Albert are running through the field; I believed EVERYTHING that I saw that night. It was so visually stunning I could easily get over the idea that these were puppets and truly felt for the "animals" on stage.
Jessica and I took it upon ourselves to see a show at the Drury Lane Theatre after such a fantastic tour. The children of this production were superb. I love that talent like these kids have are encourage and I think that both the US and UK take special care to encourage children into the world of Art. I think that each country could do even more to enrich the lives of children in every and any social situation.
I also thought it particularly adorable that when Bill Sikes came out for his bow all the little children of the theatre began to BOO him and he gave them a look so fierce and turned to the Artful Dodger and gave him a smile that was so adorable. I had no idea that it was okay to BOO at shows, of course these being children, what else would they do after watching a man be cruel to little Oliver, and then kill the sweet Nancy. I thought it was a wonderful experience.
'Aladdin' and Aladdin Cast Cabaret
I think that the Panto of Aladdin was one of the most fun to be experience. It wasn't meant to touch your heart or make you think about the reasoning behind Aladdin taking the treasure and being an ass. It simply wanted to tell a fun story for the children to enjoy. I thought it a bit ridiculous that Jasmine wanted to be a truck driver, but I guess more power to her character, to be whatever her heart desired. I love that an important part of Panto is for a male actor to be the Mother character and perform in drag. I think it is hilarious ever since my school performed a production of 'Alice' in which we had a gender bending King and Queen of Hearts!
I can understand why Pantos aren't popular in the US, with all the video games and movies and television easily available at childrens finger tips why bother with theatre. I've had many discussions about how this form of theatre wouldn't really be missed if it disappeared completely. I think however, that would be a tragedy. I believe that if more productions of Panto were available that children would be easier inclinded to theatre at a young age and hopefully develope a love for it. I think it's important for children to experience theatre and performance and art in general and I truly believe that this would be an excellent way to achieve that!
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
The Shakespeare Globe Theatre brought tears to my eyes. I am a HUGE Shakespeare buff and to actually be around a place that his works were first produced was an incredible feeling. The work that came from that place, I could feel. I love to perform Shakespeare and it was a dream come true to be there. Perhaps one day I might even perform on the stage I stood in front of this past January. Our tour guide told us many facts about the New Globe Theatre and how it is the only building allowed to have a thatced roof because of how easy it is set fire and burn the place to the ground. The entire globe theatre is created to be exactly like the theatre before it; with a few modifications such as, sprinklers on the roof. Thankfully they have those just incase another fire spreads through London (cross our finger for a not happening!) The experience of being around a place that holds so much history for Britain and for the people and theatre lovers everywhere was amazing and to actually take a short class was the highlight of this trip.
I can not accept Modern Art as art. It just isn't possible to nail a fake bird to a wall, draw a shotty house around it and call it art. I just don't understand it and I am fully alright with that.
The Tate was not a high light of this trip. The End.
Backstage Tour of National Theatre
This tour was the best tour I have ever had. I nearly cried and screamed all at the same time with all the facilities this theatre has. Three theatres and one you can move the entire stage around in any directions, huge rooms for building sets, for painting, costumes, props. I had the green monster in my ear the entire thinking, "Why can't my school have this? This isn't fair. Why can't every theatre have this type of facility!?" I soon got passed that and just enjoyed the experience of being able to there. I love that we got to see Alice, Joey's mother from War Horse and actually touch her (head anyway). What we all thought was leather was actually more of a styrofoam product that created the manes of the horses. We also got see props from several plays like a Poodle pie and a crocodile head. It was such a great experience to hear how much the community and government care about this Theatre and want to help it continue to produce amazing shows. We definitely need more of that at home!
Despite the story being a little out there (and lets face it the book is just as crazy) I really enjoyed the production of Nation. Mainly because it was extremely cinematical. It was like watching a movie and I took it as such that this was merely a jumble of a book that they couldn't cut down enough. I feel like people didn't just let themselves get drawn into the story of these two starcrossed lovers. It was a sweet story that got bogged down with a lot backstory and crazy ideas. I sincerely loved the story and thought it was a great production (especially the parrot!) and I would see it again if I could!
I thought this production showed a lot of ideas about culture and cultural transitioning and accepting people as they are. These two people are completely different and from two different worlds, but they come together for love. I think it also shows the idea of multicultural relationships which can still be taken as a bad thing. People should love who they love, but I like that it also shows that responsibility in life is just as important and I like that the two didn't simply live happily ever after, they had eachother and when it was time they separated for the love of their countries.
Class and Visitors
I love that we got to spend time with not only a London Theatre actress, but one that went to a Suny school as well. I got to speak with Sharona for a bit during class. She gave me such good advice on stage fright and techniques that she uses to get past that fear and into the performance. I know I have that problem with small groups; put me on a huge stage in front a thousand people and I'm fine, but put me in a small black box with a couple people that I can stare right at me and I can stare right back at them while they "judge" me. I learned a couple of tricks and even got a suggestion about hypno-therapy and how that can help to relieve that fear. It nice to see someone that has done similar work in college be successful in her chosen field. I would never want to work in theatre for little kids, but it's made me hopeful for my future!
This was an adorable "play with songs" reminiscent to that of The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. I think I enjoyed it even more because I got to be seated on the end and was asked by Helena (Cora Bissett) to ask Bob (Matthew Pidgeon) a very important life question, "Should we do drugs Bob?" It was so great to have the interaction with them and have him look right at me to answer the question. I enjoy most shows that have audience participation (as long as it is done in the right way - which this show did). I love that these characters went through such trials in one weekend that most people don't experience in their entire lives. The music was great for being played by themselves. It was very interesting to see them stop for a moment, fully in character and then pick up a guitar or a ukulele and start playing and singing a song that felt so perfect in that moment of the story. The set was minimalistic in the sense that there weren't any scene changes it was merely them letting us know by there actions and spacing on the stage that they were somewhere new. The music was amazing and even the hard rock solo in the end was a perfect fit for this show!
Kensington Palace, High Tea, Last Day!
Kensington Palace was beautiful. I loved being in a place where Princess Diana had lived and raised her children. It was a stunning building and to imagine back when it was the Kings hunting ground, the massive expance of land must have been a sight!
I loved the Orangery. I even tried to take my mother there for the week we were together, but unfortunately it was closed. Having High Tea with the entire group and simply enjoying our last moments together (as I high tailed it out of there to meet up with my Mom!) was such a lovely way to end the trip that was both rewarding and stressful, all in one. It was so fancy I couldn't help but be proper the entire time (the pinky was out while the tea cup was in my hand) and I would delicately put butter and jam on my scone and it was ridiculous, but such a fun experience.
I took away a lot from this trip. I learned a massive amount of knowledge from not only the shows, but also from each student that was on this trip. If my mind was ever an exhibit there would be a little room with this experience mashed inside, because that is how I remember it. It was a jumble of wonderful moments and chaotic moments and I made friends I would have never met who made this experience all that much greater. Their faces would be plastered on the walls of this room (with crazy faces). I had a wonderful time and I couldn't have asked for better flatmates, students, or teacher for this trip! So thank you to you all for this wonderful moment in my life that I won't soon be forgetting. Even though it still feels like a dream!