The Final Study Trip

I’ve officially finished finals and everything now, so I’m getting around to writing all of the other things I’ve been meaning to write.

A week ago, my UK Media class took a trip to London to do two things: go on a walking tour of the places in London where Harry Potter was filmed, and visit the offices of The Telegraph, a newspaper. After a four-hour bus ride that was delayed because some royals were going somewhere so traffic stopped, we met up with our tour guide, Liam, at the Royal Exchange. As it turned out, the tour was not just of Harry Potter stuff, it was more about writers and stories that were inspired or influenced by places in London, including two ghost stories and part of the origin of Dracula (look up Countess Elizabeth Bathory if you want a pretty gruesome story). I really enjoyed it though, it gave a good idea of what London is like, as well as introducing various spots that have been culturally relevant. Our tour guide was also great, really friendly and engaging, and I think he was impressed by our knowledge of Harry Potter.

The tour of The Telegraph was also really cool. Our tour guide was a 70-year old man named George who had been working there since he was 27 and is technically retired, but still comes to work every day. I didn’t know much about what it takes to run a newspaper, but he explained it all pretty well, plus it was pretty cool to see everyone’s desks all laid out, it was an open floor plan. One of their people in the obituary department used to be an ASE tutor who taught this class, so we got to talk to her for a while, which was interesting.

Overall, it was a cool trip, although it was four hours on a bus each way, which was a little long. Today we have final tea and I have one last performance with Bath Phil, and then tomorrow the program is officially finished and we have to move out, which is crazy. But I’ll get to see my boyfriend and begin our travels, which I’m very excited about.

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To London for a Show

On Friday, myself and some other ASE students went into London to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, which had Daniel Radcliffe playing Rosencrantz. This is one of my favorite shows, and I performed in it in high school as Guildenstern, so I was really excited to see it.  It did not disappoint, but I will get to that in a minute.  We got food beforehand at a Mexican street food restaurant, which turned out to be really delicious. And it was Cinco de Mayo, so we accidentally kind of paid homage to that with our food choice. Our dinner ended right around when we wanted to be at the theater, which was right across the street. I had some really good bean and cheese quesadillas and fermented corn and cheese empanadas.

We went over to the theater after that and went to our seats. My seat was very far over to one side, but there was a rail in front of us that was padded that I spent a lot of time leaning on, which I think the theater realizes, and I appreciated that they compensated for that. The set was really great, the stage expanded backwards a ton and had a cloud and sky canvas that expanded through the whole ceiling and onto the back wall and faded into the ground on the stage, and it created a rounded back to the stage. They also differentiated between the “play” and the action by having all of the “play” with a curtain that had some illustrations on it that made it clear it was in the court of Denmark. I thought the set worked really well and I loved how they used it.

And of course, Daniel Radcliffe did a wonderful job. I thought he brought a great energy to the character and made the character’s arc and emotional change throughout the play very clear. Joshua McGuire played Guildenstern, and he did a phenomenal job as well, he really carried things forward, at least in the way that Guildenstern kind of does. The cast of players was also great, they played, I think, live music that fit into the show well and also sounded really good. I was really impressed with how everyone did and was so happy with how the show was. It’s basically over now, but I would recommend it if you have the chance. We stood in line for a little while to try and meet Daniel Radcliffe, but we had to leave to catch our bus back. Overall, it was a really good time and I’m very happy that I got to see it.

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The End of Classes

Seeing as this is a study abroad program, I figured I should probably say some things about the academic side of my life, especially since I (basically) had my last class yesterday.

I say basically because I have a makeup class for Drama on Monday, but we are in rehearsal mode, so it isn’t totally a class. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, the first half of that class was about analyzing and reading plays, and the second about rehearsing scenes and monologues from them. We are all performing part of the first scene from Betrayal by Harold Pinter, I am performing the last about third of it. Then we all have two more three-person scenes (there are six of us in the class, so it works out well). We each are doing one scene from Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, I am playing Alison in mine. Then we all have a one-gender scene (as in everyone in the scene is, in my case, female), and mine is from Top Girls by Caryl Churchill, and I am playing Joyce. Then we all have monologues, I am again Alison from Look Back in Anger.

I’m really enjoying rehearsing the scenes, I haven’t done any acting since high school, just stage managing, so it’s interesting to come back to it. It is difficult though because it’s such a short period of time where we have to get a whole lot done, so while I think the scenes are going well, I’m sure that they could be much better if we didn’t have a 2 hour period to rehearse each of them and our director (the tutor) has to go between scenes to see them all. But I still do enjoy working on them and I think that our show is going to go pretty well.

My Media class has drifted a lot from what I expected when I got the syllabus, but in a good way. We’ve made it more about looking at aspects of media that we are interested in and discussing those in class, which has been really interesting. We also managed to get our tutor to show us about 10 minutes of a documentary that he and a friend made about him investigating the suspicious death of a Hollywood screenwriter, which has been pretty fun. Go look up The Writer with No Hands if you’re interested, I think it’s coming out on iTunes soon. We also have a study trip for that class a week from today, we are going to London to take a walking tour of all the filming locations of Harry Potter and a tour of the offices of The Telegraph, which is a newspaper.

In my Screenwriting class, we have finally reached the point where we have to have our whole screenplay written, which I do. I certainly have a lot of editing to do with it, but it’s all there. We haven’t actually done that much writing for the class before writing our screenplay, a lot of it was lecture-based classes on what makes a good screenplay and the elements of a screenplay, as well as watching movies and analyzing the script in them. We’ve also been doing peer reviews of each other’s screenplays, which has been pretty helpful. The tutor also has been having one-on-one meetings with each of us to go over his notes, which has also been mostly useful.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the classes I’ve taken this semester and it’s pretty astonishing to me that we’re already almost done, things have truly blown by. We are going to be in Stratford for three days next week, which I’m looking forward to. And on a theater note, I’m seeing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead tonight in London, which stars Daniel Radcliffe, so that should be a blast as well.

My Feet Have Never Hurt More: How to do London in One Day

Spring Break has officially begun and Rachel and I started by getting up at 6 in the morning to catch a 7 am bus. Well, I got up and Rachel’s alarm didn’t go off so I woke her up approximately 5 minutes before we had to head to the bus station. She was able to get ready and we didn’t miss our bus, so it was all good. Then we took a three-hour bus ride to London, in what turned out to be basically the last time we were sitting until we got on the bus to go home about 10 hours after we arrived in London. Once we got off the bus, we grabbed some food and headed out to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (see additional photos). Honestly, I didn’t find it to be super exciting, it’s a lot of watching them march and hearing them drumming. It is impressive how in sync and together they were, but there were also a lot of tourists and so it was pretty crowded and a tad difficult to see.

We had bought tickets to go on the London Eye the night before, so we headed generally in that direction, with a few stops on the way. The first was Big Ben (see additional photos). I feel like there are a lot of buildings in London that you go and see, but unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money, you just kind of look at them, take your picture, and then go. That is part of the reason why I am so appreciative of how many museums have been free in the places we’ve gone to, but since it’s London, that isn’t as much of the case. But anyways, we saw Westminster Abbey (see additional photos) and Parliament as well. There were a lot of places around Westminster where people had laid out tons of bouquets of flowers and remembrances for the people who were hurt in the attack last week. It was a really moving and meaningful thing to see, just how many people wanted to support those affected by it. We then headed to the London Eye, and after about a 25 minute wait, got onto one of the little pod things and off we went. I don’t typically like heights, but I actually didn’t mind going on the Eye, partially because it went rather slowly and so it was easy to adjust to, like flying in a plane. And the view was absolutely beautiful (see photo below), I would also be curious to see what it looked like at night.IMG_6812.jpg

From there, we went somewhere I was very excited to go, the reconstruction of the Globe Theater. The original theater burned down when they were doing a performance of Henry VIII and a canon had to be shot off, but it ignited the thatched roof of the building and it all burned down. There’s now a parking lot where it used to be. This was one of the only places we paid to do a tour of, but I’m very glad we did. Our tour guide was absolutely wonderful, definitely theatrically trained, but also clearly had a good time telling us about everything. He gave a lot of good information that I hadn’t heard of before, so if you’re ever in London and interested in theater and Shakespeare, I highly recommend it. And there were also two very cute infants crawling around the stage, getting their photos taken when we got there, so that wasn’t too bad as an added bonus. They based the inside of the theater on reports of other theaters of the time (see photo below) because they don’t have any records of what the inside looked like. The theater still has shows in it, which is really awesome, there were some people rehearsing a sword fight when we got into the visitor center. IMG_6816.jpg

From there we went down the street to the Tate Modern, which is a modern art museum. I thought they had a really good system where some of the galleries were free, but some were paid, so people were able to see art, but they also still had a business model. And the free galleries weren’t that bad, we got to see a Picasso (see additional photos), a Matisse, and a Dali, along with a bunch of other cool exhibitions from less well-known artists. Then we started a mini-trek to see the Tower of London, which isn’t actually much of a sight as it is behind a wall (see photo below). A bonus to having an English history buff as your friend is that she will tell you all of the fun historical things about the sites you’re seeing, like how the Tower of London has had a large variety of functions throughout its years, including a zoo and a prison. We also got some ice cream while we were there, which was much creamier than any ice cream I’ve had before, and I really liked it.IMG_6831.jpg

We then took a break from doing touristy things and went to go find a friend of Rachel’s who works at a pub in London, we eventually did locate him, and said a quick hello and they caught up and all that jazz. At this point, we had walked a fair ways away from the bus station we had come in at, and we began the first of two hour-long treks on our way back to the train station. Our destination was Kings Cross Station, as I am a huge Harry Potter fan and wanted to take a picture at Platform 9 3/4. My feet began to hurt a good amount, but we did eventually make it to Kings Cross. I hadn’t realized, but it actually is a whole commercial thing, with a line and a photographer and props for people to use. It lead into a Harry Potter shop where I only bought two patches, but you could also buy your photo, although they do let you take a photo on your own, which Rachel and I did for each other (see photo below, and I don’t know what happened with my legs going bow-legged either).
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We then started yet another hour-long trek back to the bus station. We got to pass a few cool things though, such as the British Museum (see additional photos), the theaters where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho are playing. We also went by Trafalger Square and the National Portrait Gallery, so there are many places that I could go to if I wanted to go back to London at some point, which I may. By the time we finally reached the bus station, my feet were hurting more than they’ve ever hurt before, and my hips had begun to hurt as well. If you want a few facts about the day, according to my phone, we walked 36,737 steps, approximately 15.8 miles. The bus ride back was a welcome relief from being on my feet, and I slept very well last night. It was quite a good day though, we got a lovely walk back past Buckingham Palace at sunset (see photo below).IMG_6838.jpg

I think it was a good start to spring break, although I am enjoying a much more relaxed day so far, in which Rachel and I have already watched The Muppet’s Treasure Island and The Princess Bride. I’m also almost entirely done booking flights and things for my trip around Europe with my boyfriend after my semester has ended, which is a relief too.