Monday, January 10, 2011

This Entry is As Long As My Class' Syllabus

This toast with jam that I am eating is deliciously carb-tastic. I just thought I'd share that with all of you :p

Today was my first day of classes, and though I use the plural, I only had one on this particular day. It started at two, so one would think that I would have the whole morning to relax and calmly do stuff. But no... because I am me. Since I had to go see a play tonight (more on that later), I decided that I couldn't put off getting my Oyster card anymore. So at ten, I walked down to the tube and took it to the proper stop. I did not look at a map because I knew the address and I had been to the office before. But (now, stop rolling your eyes, Mom :p), I kind of forgot that when I went to the office last time, we had had to get off at a different stop due to work being done on the line. So I got lost... three times. Thankfully, a woman in a hotel I kept walking past looked it up for me online, and it turns out that I just kept walking down the wrong end of the street on every road I went on.
Finally, I made it to the office and got my card (a LOT of people haven't picked theirs up yet). This means that I can stop buying day passes every time I want to go ONE place ONE time (though, thankfully, I usually end up getting my money's worth out of the day passes, since I tend to go a lot of places just for fun.) Unfortunately, being lost meant that it had taken me about forty five minutes to get to the office, so a lot of my free time was wasted.

I visited the school library to see if I could pick up a play I have to read before my Thursday class, but besides having problems with my card so that it took me forever to even get INTO the library, their system is not easily navigated and I had to get to class, so I didn't end up finding the play. The library is GINOURMOUS- it's got a lot of big sections just for studying (and, downstairs, for louder, general hanging out) and floors of journals and books and even a section full of pretty good DVDs. I will definitely be checking it out tomorrow when I have no classes.

My class today, Reading Theatre, was pretty good. I left early to get there, but I wasn't the first one there- surprising, but the girl who was is just as much of an overachiever as I am, but more outwardly so, if anyone can believe that. She's also very nice. People started trickling in and then this woman came in holding a big stack of papers. I say "woman," but truthfully, she looked young enough that if she had come in and sat among us, we never would have asked question. She asked us to arrange the rows of tables and chairs into an inward-facing square so we could all see each other (you know you're in a theatre class when...)
I was pleased to see how small my class is. People had made it sound like we were all going to be in classes of eighty or more, but my professor said that they hadn't even expected as many people as there are to be in the class. That said, there was another section of the class being given at the same time in a different building. I heard from my nice fellow overachiever that we're lucky to have gotten the professor we did; the guy has a reputation as being on the not-so-nice side.
My class is about fifty/fifty in its percentages of international and English students. We have seven Americans, nine English, one Irish, and one whose accent I couldn't place. Not too bad, and no one seemed to judge any one any way, which was cool.
It's funny to hear just how many English accents there are. It might seem like it's a bit late to be commenting on this, but besides the fact that for the first few days here, I was surrounded almost completely by Americans, and actually, London itself is so diverse that I hear way more foreign accents than English. In fact, I've heard more American voices on the tube than I have any other! So sitting in class today was really my first chance to hear a few different accents. One girl even commented on hers at one point: "You may not believe it with my accent, but I am actually middle class," was her statement. I don't think you'd ever hear a comment like that in the States.

In the class time, we went over the syllabus (thank God... I didn't think we were going to do this; I thought she'd just hand us the TWELVE PAGE SYLLABUS and say, "Work hard and enjoy!") and the professor gave us some finer details for the assignments. I don't have a sit-down exam at the end of this class- just two big pieces of writing due that will be huge percentages of our grade- the ONLY parts of our grade. That's one of the weirdest things about academics here- you don't get a participation grade and homework is just reading, so it can't be marked. It's especially shocking to a theatre student not to get a participation grade; that's pretty much our entire grade sometimes at home, along with the assignments we're given during the semester. It's a whole different world over here, academically. While I was getting a little worried, the girl who had been there before me was asking question after concerned question... which was great because she was basically asking everything I wanted to and I could look normal for once in my life.

Another thing about English students (or at least the ones in my class)- they're just like us. In everything I've read and with everything I've been told, I expected my English counterparts to basically already have all of the work done before the term even started- like that scene in Mona Lisa Smile when Katherine asks rhetorical, this-is-just-a-preview questions and it turns out the the girls know every single answer already. But thankfully, this wasn't the case. Some were just as overwhelmed by the reading list as we Americans were, a few complained about being asked to do extra work (and they did it loudly), and some tried their hardest to get out of doing said extra work. It was like... university. So there's one big worry off of my shoulders- I can just blend in (or look like an overachiever. But it's better than looking like a slacker.)

So one big surprise on the syllabus (though thankfully, I had found this out a day or two ago, previewing the document online) was that, even though today was the first day of class, we were supposed to go see a play tonight. As I said, I found out about this a little bit ago, but that didn't make it any less surprising that it was so soon. Some of my classmates didn't even know that we had to see a show tonight. But that wasn't the biggest problem for me; that was that I had been told to order my tickets for the show through the school e-shop. So I did... only to have our professor tell us that associate (a.k.a. international) students wouldn't be being included in the student tickets- we have to buy our own in whatever way we can. Okay... well, I couldn't un-buy my ticket. Unfortunately, my (and another American student's) buying a ticket online meant that I technically took a ticket away from a regular student. Oops...
After class, during which we brainstormed about what "how" and "where"s do to an audience's perception of a show, the other girl and I were asked to stay behind and speak to the professor. Great... my first day of class and I'm already in trouble. We weren't, though- she just wanted to make sure we weren't denied tickets once we got to the theatre. In the end, she just told us to get to the theatre super early to guarantee getting the ticket we had paid for. "If you bought one already, then you deserve the seat," she said.

So the situation slightly sucked- no only was I not guaranteed a seat I had paid for, but in order to hunt down said seat, I had to give up one I definitely had and had already paid for. I had signed up months ago to go on an orientation dinner cruise on the Thames tonight, and I really wanted to go. It had been a nice, clear day, Adrienne and Laura were going, and can you imagine the pictures?! But the show (Julius Caesar) isn't playing again until the 18th, and we're discussing it in a few hours before that night's show. It was a no-win situation, especially since it was Caesar, which is a play that doesn't exactly thrill me. I read it when I was fifteen and came away none too impressed and all too bored.

All the hall-talkiness of my first day of class and meeting Laura at the library afterward meant that, in order to get to the theatre early, I had to run back to my room, change into something acceptably evening theatre-going, and have "dinner" (bread and Nutella, anyone?) before going to the tube station. I made the commute with no trouble and the theatre was easy to find (thankfully, since I apparently never learn my lesson and hadn't brought a map.)

The theatre is called the Roundhouse, and the structure is in its title- it's a round house, although the house itself is not strictly "in the round"; it's more of a thrust. I got my ticket, bought my program (yeah, they're not free here, but they're totally worth the extra money- they have rehearsal photos, interviews, and lots of theatre-nerdy goodness inside) and spent the waiting time reading over the reviews we were supposed to read for class and then reading Going Bovine. As I was doing the latter, I heard a voice talking next to me and glanced up briefly... then did the most giant of double-takes and literally got a head rush that had me tightly gripping the wall. Because standing right next to me, talking into her cell phone was HARRIET WALTER!!!!

Excuse me, this merits some more punctuation: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


If you don't know who she is, first of all, shame on you :p You can see all of the AMAZING stuff she's been in here, but though I love her movies and TV shows, I love her most for her incredible acting book that came out last summer, Other People's Shoes. It's the first non-fiction book that I've ever hovered over with a highlighter because of all of the amazing content. I've quoted it to my friends. I love that book.

Here's the version of the rest of the story I would like to tell: I said, very coolly, "Excuse me, but are you Harriet Walter? I'm Rachel and I think you're incredible." Ms. Walter said hello back and then we chatted like best friends and then we hung out and we are now inseparable.

Here's the version that actually happened: My brain tripped out, trying to figure out how it could be possible, or even if it was possible that it could be her, then accepted that I was in London, at a well-known theatre, and that I was, in fact, standing next to one of my favorite actors. Cue me almost fainting and then freezing like a deer in headlights while my brain screamed, "TALK TO HER, SHE'S STANDING RIGHT THERE!" until she figured out where her friend was and walked behind me toward the bar. Goodbye, Opportunity. It was cool freaking out while you passed. *sigh*

The show itself was actually really good, and I enjoyed it for the most part. I got WAY more out of it than I did five years ago, probably because I've actually had some Shakespeare experience since then. Which made me think... maybe I should be willing to read/see Shakespeare I've previously hated (*cough*KingLear*cough*)... maybe I'll actually like it. I did go in and out a bit during the second act, but it was a very well-done show, and it really made me think of my home school, as the theatre department's next show is Caesar and basically everyone I know is in it. I'm glad I went to see it tonight (mostly because I saw Harriet Walter, but it being a good show didn't hurt either.)

And now for some random observations of the day:

Uttered by my theatre teacher: "I'll hand you out the syllabus." I thought this ordering of words was a Lancaster county thing, but apparently it's not limited to my home county!

Instead of dimming the lights in the lobby when it's time for the audience to take their seats, they ring a big bell.

British actors' resumes are, in general, more extensive than any American ones I've seen. In America, theatre actors tend to have mostly done theatre, and film actors, film. Here, it seems like almost everyone dabbles equally in theatre, film, television, and radio.

At intermission, the audience clears out of the theatre so quickly and completely that for awhile, I thought I had just imagined that there was more to the play and it was over already.

When they do return from intermission, they bring food like candy and water ice, as well as open cups that hold beer, among other things.

I think I'm beginning to understand why, when the British try to imitate American accents, they automatically revert to exaggerated Southern American. It's easy to take the general extension of vowels just that little bit too far.

The tube is a bit scary at night when you're on your own...just sayin'

(Oh, and about comments- I've heard there's some trouble with those dumb twirly letters not being able to be typed... I'm working on fixing that!

A tip from my mom regarding this: when you can't see the box you're to type those dumb twirly letters in, click on where it says "word verification" [it won't look lik something you can click on; do it anyway.] That worked for my mom and me. :) )


Anonymous said...

I may or may not be leaving a comment.
Chloe Nagle

Anonymous said...

Hurray! It worked!!!! Now, onto the real comment I have been trying to leave for the past week! 1. You are living my dream. I want to study in London when I'm in college. 2. Giant squid of LOVE! 3. I can't think of a three, but 4. Do you know of Charlie Mcdonnell? If you do not, please go look him up on YouTube and then look for him around the streets of London. If you get a picture of/with him, I will be in you debt forever. and 5. Do they use weird words in London? Like queue? Or loo? Or any of those other words that are stereotypically English?


Aziza said...

I don't know if my previous comment got through, but i just wanted to let you know that i love your blog, mostly because next fall i'll be there, as well, getting my masters degree! It's nice to see what you experience, because it helps me prepare! Plus, your writing is very sincere, simple and sometimes quite funny! Keep up the great work and don't stop writing long articles every day!

Anonymous said...

Hey Rachel! It's Mary! I wanted to give you a tip on the library that I could have used; when you take out a DVD be sure to remember to unlock it while you're there. It's annoying and hard to remember but you can't open the darn things if you don't. Good luck! and ask Guy if you need help figuring any school things out. I'm sure he'd give you a hand!

Rachel said...

CHLOE! Hello! 1. You can live vicariously through my blog until you get to do it yourself. 2. GIANT SQUIDS!!! 4. I do indeed know of him, though admittedly, I don't watch him as much as I watch some other Nerdfighters (the vlogbrothers, obviously, Alex Day, Maureen Johnson, etc.) But if I see him, I'l say hi for you. Hey, you never know- I've already seen someone very famous! 5. They do indeed use queue, but I haven't heard anyone say "loo" yet- they've mostly said "toilet." Oh, but one of the speakers on my first day here at university said "jolly good", which I didn't think anyone actually said!

Aziza- hi! I hope I can be of help to you. I'm glad you're reading! And don't worry, I am excessively wordy, so my entries will probably all be very long!

Mary! Thanks for the tip. It's good to know, especially since I almost tried to get a DVD out today but thought I had failed enough in there today :p Haha, I didn't even consider that Guy went to QM... the obvious is sometimes not so to me. Thanks for reading and have fun at KCACTF if you're going! :)

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