Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Things I Keep Forgetting to Write About, But That Happened Awhile Ago

Yes, blog readers, I have some stories in the vaults!

1)I got hit by a cyclist. Yeah. On my third or so night here. Thankfully I didn’t die, because that’s an embarrassing way to go. I was on the Jack the Ripper tour with my school group, walking towards the front of the crowd. We were all following the tour guide across the street (with the green walking man signal and everything) and this biker was coming towards us. The group sort of split up in order to let him through, but he didn’t know that and the streets were wet, so he swerved and even though he hit the brakes, the roads were wet, causing him to skid and collide with me. Thankfully, he had slowed down enough that it only caused me to stumble, but it did give me a shock. I thought he was going to yell at me- that's the usual response- but his apologies were just as profuse as mine. And even though I wasn’t hurt at all, I got asked if I was okay so many times by my very caring schoolmates that you would have thought I had been run over by a car. It's nice to be loved :p

2) The Globe wrote me back. How cool is that? When I was looking up theatres to audition at, that was, of course one of them. I knew it was a long shot, but I wanted to try anyway. As per the instructions, I waited until January 3rd (the day I arrived in London. Yes, the first thing I did was mail out a casting submission) and emailed my headshot and resume. I figured that was it. I mean, it’s SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE. But even though I would only be able to do the first production, it was Much Ado. I’m the perfect age for Hero, and she has very few lines- the ideal situation when Shakespeare and I are put together.
A few weeks later, I got an e-mail. A personal e-mail, not a form letter. The woman who wrote me, Chloe, said that because auditions are by invitation only, they wanted to see me perform. She said that if I was in a show, I should send them the details and they would come and see me. You all know the issue there, so I won’t go into it, but either way- I got an answer from the Globe. Perhaps they answer everyone just as nicely, but I like to think my resume had something to do with it.

3) My friends and I (and a poor random lady who happened to be standing near us) were treated like criminals in the tube station. When Lauren came to visit, we of course had to take the tube home. When we went into the Camden Market station, I had to top up. Casey and Deanna went through the gates, and I thought Lauren did, too. This is why I was so surprised when I went through the gate and didn’t see her with the other two. Finally, we saw her on the other side and waved. She tried to get to us through the gate, but her card wouldn’t let her. Sometimes this is due to lack of money, but a lot of time, the gates just malfunction.
A security guard saw her having trouble, and he must have also seen us wave to her. He asked her what the problem was and she answered that she didn’t know. “Did you have someone pass their card over to you so you could use it?” He gave her a look that said that she didn’t have to answer- he knew that she had. He know wrong, however. None of us had done this- it’s illegal and pretty easy to get caught. One of the first things we were told when we got here was to never use anyone else’s card because you will be found out. This is true, as we saw that night- no matter how many times Lauren stated that it was her card, the guard wouldn’t believe her. He looked at the other three of us. I was standing closest and he pointed at me. “You. Let me see your card.” If I had actually done something wrong, I would have been extremely panicked. As it was, I knew I had done nothing and so stood there calmly as he scanned my card and saw that it had only been used once in the last few minutes (plus, Mr. Security Guard, if I had lent her my card, she still would have been holding it.) He did the same thing to Casey, Deanna, and a random woman who happened to be walking by. Eventually, he had to admit that we were all telling the truth and the gate was just malfunctioning. Sorry to disappoint you, sir.

Tonight, I return to the theatre for the final four shows of the run. Tonight's behind-the-scenes experience will be memorization for me. Adaptations performance in Thursday morning! The last few hours has been all of my group members and me Facebooking in rapid-fire abou plans, final drafts, and script changes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Rediscover Yourself."

This is what I was told by a lot of people before I came to England, or some variant of the phrase. My playwriting professor added at the end of his review of my final project, "There is so much to see and do in London. Explore, explore, explore. You will come back a different person."

I have been thinking about the idea that London will change me, and I realised that I still don't know what that means. What am I meant to be changing? Is it a conscious thing? Will it be? Should it? Am I supposed to be making my choices based on the fact that it might change me as a person? That sounds like it could be dangerous.

As I said, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be changing. I know I need to be braver in general. Coming here was a step in that direction I hope- I was as terrified as I was excited to come to England. But now that I'm here and in love with the city, am I changing? Am I rediscovering? Is settling into a routine bad? (Well, either way, I'll be fixing that in five days when school lets out.)

But I suppose change is not necessarily synonymous with rediscovery. To discover is "to see, get knowledge of, learn of, find, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of something previously unseen or unknown." So... I have to do this? See, gain knowledge of, learn of, find, gain sight or knowledge of, myself?

I almost typed, "How will I know if I'm doing this right?" but then realised that there's probably not a right way to do this. Perhaps this is also a step up, being able to see the problem in that statement, as I'm generally always concerned with getting everything perfect. I don't think it's possible to rediscover perfectly.

I guess I just want to be able to tell if I'm doing what I was instructed to do. I don't want to go back to the people who told me this and have them say, "You haven't changed at all." Then again, there are parts of myself that I don't want to change. But that could be part of the problem, too, I guess. I hold on very tightly to things.

*sigh* This is what happens when I do analytical assignments late at night. I start to think. What are your thoughts on this? I would be interested to hear them (and I'm not necessarily talking about how they pertain to me. Just in general :) )

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Have An Addiction: A Novel

(Note: I wrote this post on March tenth, but kept it in the Blogger vaults because I am superstitious.)

It's true. I am completely addicted to auditions. And while I love being in London, when I see an audition, it's bittersweet. I'm starting to realise that, acting-wise, being here, in the world capitol of theatre, is almost as bad an idea as going to school in New York City would have been (most of which don't allow you to audition outside of school, so it's like torture.) The only thing that makes it less so is because I don't know how to find most of the professional auditions here.

But that doesn't matter- I can't audition for professional theatre here anyway, as it would be a violation of my visa. I will sacrifice a lot for an audition, but I'm not willing to risk being deported. I did, however, find a few community (or "amateur", as they call them) theatres and could audition for those. Could, past tense, because at this point, nothing I could audition for would open and close before I left.

I know this. But that doesn't stop me from feeling like I'm going crazy because I'm not auditioning. I've been auditioning steadily since I was about fourteen, and to have that brought to a screeching halt is not pleasant. Of course, the fact that I torture myself by reading casting sites from back home (or happening across one passed between two of my Arcadia friends on Facebook, as I did just a second ago. Let me just wait for the pang to pass)... none of this helps either.

But before I came to London- in fact, over a year before- I started putting together a list of amateur theatres in the city. About a month before I left, I started to contact some of them. Long explanation short, you almost can't stroll into even an amateur theatre and audition. You can, but if you get into the show, you have to become a member, which require a fee, even if it's as small as three pounds. So I figured I'd start trying to get my name into a few of them. I e-mailed, a Facebooked, and I followed on Twitter. It all proved worthwhile- I got audition invitations over Facebook; one of the roles I didn't get was a Facebook invite. Another came from good old searching on a website. And I fell into e-mail correspondence with a director from a third theatre.

This third theatre reentered my life recently; I had been planning to attend an audition there in mid-February, but I had to go see Frankenstein on the only night on which the auditions were held. I figured that was sadly it for that theatre, too, like all of the others ones whose doable audition dates had passed. Then I got an e-mail. A forward, really, with an attachment about a student film. They needed a girl aged 18-25 to play the younger sister of the main character.

I got that excited feeling that causes my audition submission reflex to kick in, and not five minutes later, I had created a new e-mail, written a cover letter, attached my headshot and resume, and sent it off to the contact for the film. I pretty much have this reaction to any part that I'm even vaguely suited for. You need a thirty year old who's 5'3"? Well... I may look like a teenager, but I'm 5'3"- are you interested? Because I am. And believe it or not, sometimes this works out.

Of course, this casting call wasn't extreme at all- I fit it perfectly. A few hours later, I got a response saying they'd love to have me and a copy of the script. Did a two p.m. audition time on Wednesday at the university work for me? OF COURSE IT DOES! IT'S AN AUDITION, AND THAT WORKS FOR ME IN ANY WAY, SHAPE AND FORM!

I said yes. I didn't have any classes on Wednesday. Easy to just hop on the tube, audition at the uni, and come back.

Then I looked up the place. It was in Derby (pronounced "Darby," as in "Derbyshire.") I didn't know it until I looked at a map, but Derby is in the middle of NOWHERE-it's almost four hours away from London by bus. I didn't know England was big enough to have a place in the nation that far away. After looking at many transportation options, I found out that with my audition ending at 2:30, there was absolutely no way I could catch a bus that would get me back to the city in time to get the tube to the show I had to see. So I asked the director if he could bump me up an hour, he agreed, and I went back to the transportation schedules. STILL the bus back wouldn't work. I ended up getting a very cheap bus ride there and a still fairly cheap, but too expensive to do it both ways speedy train ride back to London.

I got up too early on Wednesday morning (though later than I would have if I hadn't straightened my hair the night before- I'm so clever :p) and went to my and Megan's old haunt, Victoria train station. My bus was prompt, and save for the Indian man who would not get out of the aisle for a lot of the ride (which is technically illegal, but he refused to stay seated for too long), the trip was uneventful.

The excitement started when I reached Derby bus station. Everyone I asked for help was very amiable and I was able to figure out which bus I needed to take to the uni. I could have walked, but I only had exactly the time it was estimated to take, and I knew I'd get lost. So I got on a tiny (thankfully very cheap) bus and when the girl with the University of Derby sweatshirt got off, so did I.

I got off at the right stop. Unfortunately, it was the wrong campus. Yeah. Going to both a home and English college that have campuses you can completely walk across in five minutes makes me forget that some colleges are very large. UD was huge- like, spread all over the city. But I didn't know this yet. I hopped off the bus, didn't see the building I needed right off, and figured it would be fastest to go into the main building and ask. I did, and the woman behind the desk was helpful, but sad for me. She told me that not only was I only the wrong campus, but I had just missed the last bus before one o'clock that took people to the correct part. She was very nice and called the director for me (I wanted to do it, but she insisted) and told him that I was going to be twenty minutes late. TWENTY MINUTES.

I am never late, and my biggest pet peeve is when others are late, especially to important things like auditions. I actually whimpered when she said this, but there was nothing that could be done about it. So I got a sandwich, made myself presentable (I was New Yorker auditioner-styling it: leggings under the skirt I was wearing so I wouldn't freeze to death on the commute), and stood in line and waited for the on-campus bus.

Thankfully, they don't charge you to take the uni bus. A very nice guy helped me figure out which stop to get off at (after doing an internal double-take at my accent; I've noticed that happens a lot) and twenty minutes later, I got off right outside the building I needed. Finding the audition room was no problem, though I had to stop outside of it and catch my breath, as I had hurried into the building and up the four flights of stairs.

The auditers were all very nice. There were three- two guys, one girl- and they were very friendly as they talked to me about the plot and what "my" character was like (I had unwittingly dressed accurately), and then we went into the reading.

Something I haven't mentioned is that this audition, just like the last out of school audition I went on, required an accent. It was in the character description, so I knew it had to be done. In one of my e-mails, I asked if British RP (received pronunciation) was all right. He said yes. Okay, cool. I used to have a really good British RP, used to being the key phrase. I used to practice it all the time and therefore used to have no problem doing it. But it's been awhile. Too long, and I was nervous. Because besides being out of practice, which is intimidating enough at any audition, I would be trying out in front of English people, using their accent (or some version of it), and they wanted me to sound like (some version of) them. It was a lot of pressure, at least to me. I didn't want to offend anyone, or fall into the ridiculously posh accent that Americans tend to*, or, in general, be terrible.

In preparation to do the accent, I wrote out the lines in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet.) I don't remember if I mentioned this before, but at Arcadia, acting majors have to take four semesters of IPA. I hated it, not because it's not interesting,but because I'm terrible at it. Really, really terrible. But I knew it was the only way I was going to be able to do the accent properly. I started writing out the lines in IPA, only to realise partway in that I was writing them for my own accent, like I would do in class. I had to start over and write it for British RP. In the end, my notes looked like this:

I guess I was all right. I tried to introduce my brain into the accent by slowly slipping into it as we got closer to the reading. While I introduced myself and chatted in my own accent, as soon as they mentioned beginning the readings, I started slipping into it, hoping not to really bring attention to the fact that I was doing so. They didn't throw up or anything when I read the lines with the accent, so I hope it wasn't cringe-worthy.

I got to do both scenes twice, getting direction between the readings, which is always a good sign. I was so nervous about the accent that my voice was shaking and much breathier than it normally is, but as the character is grieving, it passed (I hope.)

Once the reading had finished, we chatted some more. They asked if I was from America- this question always confuses me, because I forget that some Canadian accents sound very similar to mine, and so usually spend a brief pause thinking, 'As opposed to where?' We talked about that, where I was staying in England, how much it cost to get there (since, if I get cast, they will pay the transportation costs), etc. as I filled out a form and attached another copy of my headshot and resume.

It was a very enjoyable audition overall, despite all of the mix-ups. Through observations while I was on the local bus (yes, Mom and Dad, I noticed SIGNS! On the ROAD!), I knew that once I got back to the main campus, I could get a local bus directly to the train station. I got the bus and to the train station and then to London with no problems. Then I hung around St. Pancras for a few hours, had dinner there, then got to the tube to the theatre to see Company (which was very well sung, though the plot's not great.)

So, all in all, a successful day- I figured out three different, new forms of transportation, auditioned in a country with one of its accents, and had fun at the audition.

Since they're filming tomorrow, I am guessing that I did not get the part, but it wasn't a waste of a day. There could be many reasons that I didn't get the part- they might not have liked me for the character, or it also might have been just because it would be too expensive- they were going to have to put me up in a hotel overnight because I live so far away. But I will never know, and that's how it works sometimes.

*I mentioned doing this accent to some of my Adaptations classmates as we were hanging out in my kitchen before filming some stuff for a project. They immediately insisted I show them. I only agreed to when they said they'd do American accents afterwards. I read a bit of the newspaper to them with the accent. They pronounced it good (they may have just been being nice), but observed that it was quite posh. "But I suppose that's what most Americans fall into. That or Cockney," one girl said, which is very true.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strikes and Chinese Food

There was a strike today at my uni. I don't actually know too much about it, but the leaflet that was shoved into my hands reads (briefly) as follows:

"Academic and academic-related staff who are members of UCU will be striking... to demand the right to a fair pension. As a part of the wider destructive measures being taken against Higher Education, university staff are under attack on all fronts: from cuts to jobs, pay, and now an attack on our pensions... We were left with no option but to go on strike."

Obviously, instructors need things like salaries and pensions and things like that, and I completely understand that they felt the need to strike. But the problem today was that they were picketing outside the front of the school- a prime spot for picketing, but it's also where the entrance to the Arts building is, and that's where my class is held.

So I was walking up the ramp into the building around 8:50 this morning when one of the teachers (I assume) jumped in front of me. "Where are you going?" he demanded. "Uh... to class," I responded, thinking that it was pretty obvious. "Which class?" he asked. I answered, "Adaptations." "Oh." It was clear that he had no idea what class this was, so I added (nicely), "It's a theatre class." A look of complete disgust came over his face as he said, "Well, o-kay." He then handed me a stack of leaflets and cards to give out to anyone I saw.

I didn't really know what the strike was about at that point, but I later learned that the disgusted look on his face probably (hopefully) did not come from a dislike of the art form, but from disappointment that my teacher was teaching. But I got off easy. One of my groupmates came into class and said that she got almost yelled at for trying to go to class. The person who stopped her said, "If you go in there, you don't care about your teachers.You're supporting this." She answered that no, she didn't support what they were fighting against, she just had a show to perform in a week and she was going to class.

This was the problem: obviously, if the teachers are striking, they're not teaching. They're also encouraging students to boycott classes. This is a fine thing to do if you're, well, any other kind of student except for a drama student. It wouldn't really hurt me to miss the next two sessions of my history or RT classes because they're just lectures, and if the teachers aren't teaching, of course, I wouldn't miss anything. But at least 80%, maybe 100%, of the drama students have very important performances to do next week, which means that this week is imperative. There cannot be any skipping of class. We were teching today, and it's hard enough to get the theatre space as it is; even if we wanted to skip class, there's no way we could if we cared about our marks.
I understand that the teachers want us to support them, but they also need to realise that, literally, the show must go on for some students. I suppose they were more disappointed that our teacher was teaching instead of picketing than they were at the idea of us going to class, but this was also them making an assumption. Our teacher didn't teach us today. She did come in and say hi and tell us some good news, but we didn't require her help today, as our projects are completely student-run. So she was out there picketing with her fellows- they just didn't bother to find that out.

Anyway, tech went well- I think our piece is going to be really good. I also got out of being on the crew of the other group's performance using a combination of self-deprecation and gaze aversion. We got out of class at two, starving because we hadn't had a tea break, and four out of the five of us hopped on the tube to Camden Markets. Heidi wanted to show us this Chinese buffet that she said was really good, and she was right (they have a chocolate fountain and don't cover their chicken in sauce. WINNER.) We had a lovely afternoon of overeating and ducking into the many cool shops on the street. It's been nice to hang out with some different friends- most of the people I generally hang out with are on different schedules (I haven't seen Laura in weeks, though we've chatted on Facebook), and right now we're all barricaded in our rooms except for classes, so it's cool that there are some nice people on the same schedule as I am to spend some time with.

A funny thing about accents- I hardly notice the accents around me anymore. Sometimes it dawns on me again that the person I'm listening to has an accent that I love, but it's really become quite normal to my ears now. This means that I also forget that I sound different to them, and even more so. While I don't notice their accents mostly because I'm surrounded by them all the time, they notice mine more because I'm the minority. I re-realised how funny my pronunciation must sound to them this afternoon when the same group was browsing in a shop. The four of us were looking at some clothes, and I pulled one out and said, "Oh, is this a romper?" "Haha, romperrrr," Heidi laughed, exaggerating my rhotic 'r.' At first, I thought she was amused because I had used an American term (she caught my use of "sweater" the other week instead of "jumper"), but then I realised that it was just the way I said it. It's weird but very interesting when these kinds of things happen. Sometimes it's easy to forget how different things like that must seem until they're pointed out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things I Miss

So while I still haven't been homesick yet, there are definitely things I'm missing about being home/at my American school. I've already talked a lot about theatre and the school system, so I'm going to leave those off the list. Here are a few other things I miss:

1) My family. Like I've said before, one of the reasons I think I haven't gotten homesick is because by now, I'm used to living away from home for nine months out of the year, so that's not much different. What is different is not being able to be in constant contact with them. I'm a big texter, and especially my first few weeks here, I had to stop myself short of taking a picture of something random to send to my mom, dad, or sister to send to them because, well, I couldn't (unless I wanted to offer up my first-born child as payment.) And I definitely miss being just a train ride away from my hometown, allowing me to go home almost whenever I want. I can't wait 'til they get here in June!

2) While we're on the subject of phones... my beautiful, lovely, reliable American cell phone. I miss the fact that the screen can be turned off so buttons aren't constantly hit if I so much as breathe. I miss the size (my British phone is so tiny, I hate it.) I miss the memo section, where I had lists of books and plays I wanted to get, movies I wanted to see, and funny things people said, since I never remember those later. I miss the calendar function. My mobile (like my Britishism use?) technically has this ability, but it's not even close to my American phone. At home, if it's not in my phone, it doesn't happen. My life is scheduled on that device. My American phone also actually makes calls. My British phone? Not so much. I usually have to dial a number at least three times before the call with go through, and I do mean dial, because the phone also doesn't save any recently dialed phone numbers. Nor does it keep track of missed calls. I guess this is what you get for thirty five pounds, but not a day goes by that I don't pine for my sturdy blue calendar-and-list toting American cell phone.

3) Rita's. The other day was free Rita's water ice day all over America, and man, did I want some! But I did find out today that there is an ice cream truck that goes up and down the road I live on. I was ridiculously excited; I've never lived in a place where an ice cream truck drives around. So of course, I had to test it out.

The soft serve here is better than at home because it's lighter but with just as much flavor. A lot of the time, they stick a Flake bar in it (which, if you don't know what it is, looks like a stick. The first time I got ice cream here, I was really confused as to why they had put a stick in my dessert.) When I got my cone today, they offered to put syrup on it, which I thought was a bit weird.

4) Target. Primark is okay, but Target cannot be beaten. I think even if I were a millionaire, I'd probably still shop at Target. That's how much I love it. I mean, seriously- Chanel doesn't sell DVDs OR have a dollar section.

5) My parents' cooking/my meal plan. The latter is kind of followed by a question mark, but even though I'm really glad I've learned how to cook here, I'm still pretty limited in my skills. I pretty much make the same five things over and over again, and sometimes I'd just like to change it up, but don't have the skills.

6) Having a roommate. Seriously. Not all the time, of course. There are times, like when I want to listen to music or watch a nerdy tv show/movie, that I appreciate not having to wear headphones, but it also gets kind of lonely... and this is coming from someone who is all right being on her own most of the time. I miss being able to just turn around and talk to someone. It's especially hard coming from two roommates in a row who I was very close with and talked to all the time, about everything.

7) The school theatre community. Not the same as theatre in general! I miss having classes with the same people (well... certain people excluded) and Cabaret Club and costume sales on the lawn outside the theatre. I miss being able to walk down to the theatre trailer and just hang out, or go down there and ask a professor about anything from classes to advice on acting or personal problems (though I've never done the latter, I know many people do.) I'm especially missing being able to just go and talk to my advisor in person, since his e-mail replies are proving rather slow, and it's class choosin' time.

8) Knowing which stores to go to. It's very odd to realise that you need something- band-aids, shoe polish, hair ties, pens, batteries- and not instantly knowing where to get them.

9) My books. My books, my books, my books. I miss them so much. I'm so glad I have an e-reader, or I'd be going even crazier.

10) Snacks. When I'm at school, I'll sometimes grab a 100 calorie pack or something between classes, but they honestly don't have snacks readily available, unless it's more of a candy. It took me forever to find granola bars.

Only one more week of school left! I "finished" by history essay (I'm letting it sit so I can read it over and edit it later), I got a B+ on my Proof essay (not as good as I'd've liked, but a pretty good grade here), and hopefully I'll get my other theatre one done over the next few days-it's not due 'til next Wednesday.

Until all of that is done, this is my motto:

Gives a person some perspective :p

EDIT: Also, Britain does this charity thing called Comic Relief, and lots of celebrities take part in it every year. I found this video because Keira Knightley is in it, and it's very funny, so you should watch it. In the name of charity, of course :p

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Opening Night!

Opening night was lovely. Even though I'm not onstage much, it was almost as much fun as a regular show, and I think that it was only less so because I hadn't had the rehearsal build-up to get me excited. But the great thing is that I feel really welcomed by the cast- we're all able to talk and they invited me along with them to the pub afterwards (though we kind of all dispersed beforehand because they had friends there, so I ran away. That's how antisocial I am.) The one actor even gave me a card, just like everyone else in the cast, and I get to bow with them and everything.

I didn't expect such a warm welcome from everyone after jumping into the show just yesterday, but it's been great. The director thanks me about five times a minute, and I received a hug after the show like everyone else. It truly is wonderful just to be sitting backstage, listening to the show doing my homework by stage light, just like I like to do.

I did feel bad though, because I was meant to meet up with a friend from high school tonight, and then yesterday the director told us we would be at the theatre much later than I had originally thought, so we had to reschedule. I hate it when people do that to me, but I didn't want to promise him and time and be late... and then we ended up getting out early anyway. Bleh. But at least this way, no one will be late or stressed about getting anywhere.

Oh, also, a correction- my friend Stuart noticed that I wrote in the last entry about the show how I hoped I would have to wear skimpy clothes in the show. Never fear readers, I have not changed that much- that was a typo. I desperately need a new keyboard, and the thing it absolutely hates to type are the ends of words. I am not yet English enough to wear hardly any clothing in freezing weather like many of my universitymates do.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Remember how the other day (and for many entries before that) I complained that I couldn't get a show? I was sad. Very sad.

And then all of a sudden, a contact I made came through over the weekend. After a frenzy of e-mailing, calling, and texting between the director and myself, I was offered a teeny-tiny part in an off-West End show.

I (and the rest of the Queen Mary Theatre Company) had gotten an e-mail that the director needed some last minute actors for three roles, one bigger one and two smaller ones. This was about a month and a half ago. Of course, I contacted the director right away, and we e-mailed back and forth for awhile. I was only eligible for one of the smaller parts (though I really tried to negotiate my way into the bigger one, he said it could only be played by a man) and he said he hoped to get to Queen Mary sometime in early March to audition people.

March came and continued on and there was no word. I just figured the director had found someone he wanted and moved on. And then suddenly on Friday, I got an e-mail asking about my schedule. The next day, he offered me the role. My starting date? Today. The opening date of the show? Tomorrow. It runs for a little under two weeks.

Only having a few hours of rehearsal isn't a huge deal- the rest of the cast has been rehearsing normally, and like I said, my part is small. Like, incredibly small. I'm not onstage for thirty seconds, and I have one line (which may be given to the taller of the two of us actors, which will never be me.) This is the kind of part I would not accept at a lower-level, non-paying, non-professional theatre at home, not because I'm a snob, but because it doesn't do anything for my resume. But this is different. While it's a very small theatre, it is off-West End (as opposed to off-off West End, which yes, is an actual thing, just like off-off- Broadway.) I'll apparently also get to mingle with lots of cool people (the cast and director are already very nice.) And finally, it's not like I was looking for a paying acting job, considering that I'll be breaking the law if I get one and take it. Plus, I just wanted a show- you guys know, you've been reading my whining for long enough.

So I went to the... (interruption- our fire alarm goes off constantly for about ten seconds. At this point, we don't even move until it's gone off longer than that. Just now, it blared like an air raid siren for a full thirty seconds [and a mostly packed-up bag from me] before it stopped. I'm sick of this happening once a week.)

Anyway. So I went to the four-hour tech rehearsal at eleven this morning. The theatre's pretty close to the tube station. As I was exiting said tube station, my Oyster card malfunctioned and the guy got all huffy with me. "This means you don't have any money on it. If you do this again, you'll be fined fifty pounds and have a criminal record, got it?" I knew I had money on my card, but I just nodded. "How exactly did you get out of Mile End?" he asked. As it happened, all of the gates at Mile End were broken, and they were letting people through the handicap gate. I told him as much and he gave me a raised eyebrow and a disbelieving, "Uh huh." He let me through and I thought, well, maybe I really don't have money on my card. So I went to go top up. When the amount of money that I did have flashed up (plenty to get through), I could not help immaturely turning back to him, pointing at the screen, and calling, "Excuse me, but I do have money on my card." Sometimes I get tired of acting like an adult. He must have felt bad about yelling at me, because he put more money on my card (I don't actually know why he did this, but I didn't stop him. I was annoyed.)

Once that debacle was over, I walked to the theatre, which is quite small but very theatre-y. The director is much younger than I expected, and also Scottish, which means another lovely accent to appreciate :) The play is set in New England, and two of the cast members are English, using American accents, one is from Baltimore, and the other is Canadian, if I'm hearing his accent correctly.

I was kind of surprised at the part I was given to play. The director had specifically said he wanted two women, so I kind of expected just to come on, get a drink from a bar onstage, and go off or something. I hoped I wouldn't have to wear skimpy clothing... But that will not be a concern, because I am playing a henchman (or... henchwoman) and I'm wearing a trenchcoat, gloves, and a hat. Definitely not skimpy! I go on, shout "There she is!" (maybe), and pull off the actress playing the title character. It was just me today, and it's rather amusing that I have to attack this woman and pull her off stage because she's taller than me. In order to hold her the way they want me to, I have to stand on my tiptoes. I also did today's rehearsal wearing the trenchcoat over my plaid skirt and black sweater. I'm so threatening But all of my notes were good, so I guess I'm scary enough :p

The rehearsal let out at two and I headed back to school. That's right, I skipped class to go to this rehearsal, and I'm not sorry. I never ever skip class unless it's for something like this (and I tend to get permission anyway.) I save up all of my sick days and then use them for acting purposes, hoping there will be acting purposes for which to use them. Plus, it was RT- I know what I missed: two hours of people calling Frankenstein "overrated", as I heard one classmate call it. Since I tend to feel myself going very insane very quickly in that class, I figured I would be fine.

I'm just happy to have a show. This may or may not go on my resume, but I'm just happy to be doing theatre in London, and this "I'm doing a show" happiness will probably carry me until I get home, when I will begin to fret again. It is a cycle that cannot be stopped. The play's pretty short, maybe forty minutes, so there's not a ton of waiting around, and I got a lot of reading done today. Maybe I'll bring my essays along tomorrow, since I'll be there from 12 pm to whenever the show lets out. Gotta love tech and opening night all in one day!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


A few new things cropped up yesterday, and they reminded me of some things I've meant to share, but haven't, so without further ado, a couple of random English facts:

1) Women and girls still wear scrunchies. I can't remember if I've reported this before or not, but it surprised me to see scrunchies being sold in regular, trendy stores. I haven't seen a scrunchie sold in a chain store in America since like... 2000.

For the boys that read this blog, this is a scrunchie ;)

Of course, I might just be less of a fashionista than I think I am- one of the blogs I went on to find a picture of a scrunchie declared that they came back in style last year. I guess with the amount of people I've seen sporting them, this could be the truth. But while I sported many a scrunchie in my adolescent days, this is one style I really hope will not make it back to America.

2) I learned a new term of endearment today: treacle. I've heard of the many strange-but-sweet words the British use to address people nicely, such as love, deary, ducky, etc., but "treacle" was one I'd never come across until I sent one of my classmates a Facebook message and her response ended with "Thanks, treacle!"

3) I also learned a new slang term via Facebook. One of my groupmates posted the monologue she'd been adapting and had asked for some feedback. "Or," she wrote. "We could just leave as is. Waseva." I could be completely wrong, but I assume this is slang for "whatever," written in a more phonetic way, sort of like "s'later" ("see you later.")

4) I've heard this term a few times: "It'll all be gravy." Basically, it means "it will all be fine/good."

5) Juice boxes. Everyone drinks them, of all ages, and in public. I don't know that this is a thing I will ever be able to do... I think I'd still feel like a little kid if I were on the tube drinking a juice box, but I've seen more adults doing it than kids!

6) The term "fittie" basically means a person who is good-looking. This is another term I've only heard used by girls, mostly because I hang out with girls, and they've used it to to talk about boys they like but they also apply it to their friend and sometimes, jokingly, themselves. This term comes from the word "fit", which doe not mean "in shape" like it does at home, but just good-looking.

And now I'm off to marathon rehearsal/performance day!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mixed Messages and Crazy Library Procedures

Even though I've been in the British school system for nearly three months now, it can still sometimes be incredibly confusing. ('Oh, no,' you sigh. 'Another blog entry about her stupid academics.' Yes, say I. But take heart, blog readers. Soon school will be finished for me and I will write about the joys of everything that is not school.)

First is the command that we must "write to the title." When I first heard this phrase, I thought it meant that we would be given the title of an essay and we would have to match our topic to that, and that is sort of what it means, but it goes deeper than that. Essays do not get titles here, or at least not titles as we use them in America. To us, a title is "An Examination of Great Britain's Asylums in the Nineteenth Century," which heads an essay on that topic. But here, "title" and "topic" are seemingly synonymous. So, for example, the topic that I chose for my history essay reads thus: "According to Elaine Showalter, Victorian insanity was a 'female malady.' Do you agree?" This is the topic I will write about, but it is also what I will put in the spot that an American "title" would be placed.

It was said to me very emphatically by the teacher (whose name I do not know) who helped me in finding the style sheet that I was to write only "to the title" and do nothing else. "I know that American students often make up their own titles [a.k.a. topics], but we don't do that here," she informed me. At that point, two weeks into the term, I had no idea what she meant and so just nodded vaguely. I was also told by my Adaptations teacher, that I was not to write in first person ("I was told that American students often do that.") I was actually rather shocked to be told this, and told her that actually, writing in the first person was quite frowned upon in the U.S., at least in all the institutions I've attended, from middle school up.

But, as with all rules, there seem to be exceptions to both of these statements. The first is less malleable- many instructors (or at least all of mine) have allowed the option for students to create their own titles. However, these titles must be approved. This makes sense, but I've found that is is difficult (at least for me) to come up with my own titles, which is odd, as I've done it since I was about twelve. Maybe it's because, as a theatre major, I don't write all that many essays on a yearly basis, and so am just out of practice.

The other frustrating thing about these topics is that though we're told exactly what to write on, there seem to be hidden exceptions. For example, I e-mailed my teacher to ask him about suggested sources for my topic and in answering, he added that I should also include Showalter's counterarguments. Going off of the essay title, had he not said this, I would have assumed that doing such a thing would be deviating from the assignment and so wouldn't have done it. Now I'm confused- how far is too far? There are a lot of counterarguments, as I found in my research, but how many can I present before I am no longer arguing my point?

The end part of my history essay title is "Do you agree?" I was perplexed by this, as this implied I was to answer a question in first person. But writing in first person is not done here... right? Was simply choosing a stance on the topic and writing about it from one side enough to show my answer without coming right out and stating, "I agree/disagree"? I included this question in the e-mail to my teacher, and he answered that of course I could write in first person- it is done often, but I could write the essay in third person if I so desired.

*confusion of epic proportions*

I suppose that I should simply take each teacher's answers and apply their specific responses to their specific essays, but I'm very glad that I don't have to do all of this decoding and exception discovery for every instructor.

In any case, I took another of my teacher's suggestions and went to the Wellcome Library today to do some research. This library is primarily a medical studies institute, so of course it would have the sources I would need for my essay. Getting into the library is a production all on its own. If you just want to browse for a short while, you need to leave your bags and coat at the library desk; only a notebook and pen are allowed. If you want to do research, you have to go downstairs to the cloakroom, hand over your coat and bags, and put anything you require into a clear plastic bag, including two forms of i.d. Thankfully, they allow laptops, otherwise my copious note-taking would have kept me there all day. You can also rent a room for the day and sign up for membership.
This seems to be the procedure for many of the big libraries that hold the Very Important Books. I overheard in another class that in the British Library, you're not even allowed a pencil and paper; they're constantly worried that something is going to get stolen, and a notebook could conceal a torn-out page (so could a pocket, but I guess they can only go so far in their security measures.)

The library is awesome. It's intensely quiet- you can feel the intellect in the air. Even the stairs have padding on the edges so that you make no noise when you use them. They have an incredible mixture of medical texts, from ancient to contemporary, that cover every topic from dentistry to hypnosis to sex to depression, all in several languages. The section I needed was so overwhelmingly large that I knew I could never read all the books that would help me in a year.

And this is just half of one room, on one level.

I stayed there for a few hours, even though I only ended up needing one of the books I had stacked in front of me. I now have about six thousand words of quotes and a few of my own remarks and ideas next to them, so now there's no excuse for me not to write this essay, not even the fact that I've found all of the episodes of John Adams for free online. And as frustrating as all of this is, as scared as I am to attempt this and get it wrong, I got a little reminder yesterday as I was marking The Female Malady that this too shall pass:
A message from the universe, perhaps, or at least from a fellow student, reminding me that as much as essays suck, outside the library/room/my head is an amazing city full of experiences waiting to be had... once my writing is done.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Some Things

Yesterday, I came home to a package! I love packages! I knew that my mom was sending me an ace bandage for my ankle, but I didn't expect the other things:

Girl Scout cookies! Popcorn! And chips (which, even though they're from America, are labelled "crisps")!

Though the ace bandage goes on my ankle, it's actually for my foot. I mentioned in my 2010 overview post that in October, I did something to my foot (I have no idea what) that's made it very painful to walk since then. I've been walking on the side of my foot for nearly six months and the pain stil hasn't gone away. But even with just a few hours of wearing the bandage since yesterday and my foot already feels better- and I'm walking less oddly on the other foot, too. I guess I was doing it to balance myself out.

In other news, I just got an e-mail telling me that I didn't get a student film role that I tried out for yesterday. I got the casting call through the school theatre company, and my groupmate Emily and I both auditioned yesterday between class and rehearsal (though not together.) My audition actually went really well. The script was funny and my audition partner was good to work with. They spent a lot of time with us, both of us getting to read for each character and giving us direction, and I was surprised when Emily came back from her audition within a few minutes. They also talked schedules with us and it seemed like they liked the girl and me as a pair. And yet... no part. If they liked my performance as much as they say they did, it honestly could have come down to the fact that my accent would have stood out. But you never really know.
I'm definitely disappointed, because it would have been a cool short-term project to work on, but these things happen. I think I'd be less disappointed if I had more time here, but just like when I'm back at Arcadia, I'm starting to panic because I haven't gotten a part yet. Limited time in any place makes me fret when it comes to theatre. As I've said before, I did more roles than I usually do last semester because I wanted to but also so I wouldn't feel like I needed a part here. Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten what I'm like. But I guess with all the schoolwork I have to do memorizing even a two-page script wouldn't necessarily be the best thing to spend my time on (says the logical part of me. The other 98% just wants to act.)

This weekend, I'm going to a University of London library that my history teacher reccommended, as the school library doesn't have all of the books I need for my essay. I'm finishing up the one I did find there, and I have to say that my teacher has definitely done his job. In over two hundred pages of academic reading, I understand every reference, know every name mentioned, and know that I have several additional articles on the subjects covered. The book itself is very interesting- The Female Malady by Elaine Showalter- and I'd like to read all of it, but I think I'll have to do that after my essay is due; I don't have time for extra reading right now.

Now time to make some pasta and read about more crazy people...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Soak it In- SOAAAAAK!"

Yesterday was probably one of the best days I've had here- and that's saying something, since I've had few bad ones.

Usually I have Wednesdays completely free, but our group performance for Adaptations is not so much creeping as barrelling closer and we really have to buckle down. Yesterday, we decided to meet up at 11 am and work until we were ready to present what we needed for this morning. It was a slow start- people were really late and there are huge issues with reserving rooms (even if you do, other people don't care... seems to be a pattern in drama departments across the world), so we had to find a place to work. We first ended up in a cafe on campus, and an hour or two later moved to one member's kitchen.
We "worked" for about three hours- I say "worked" because while we did do what we needed to do, we would have been done much sooner if we didn't keep getting sidetracked by just talking about life. And while, yes, getting done sooner might have been lovely, it was just as nice to hang out with my group. I really like all of them and I think the fact that we get along so well really helps our presentations because we're much more in synch than a group that only talks classwork might be. It's interesting because though we were obviously raised in different countries, even our childood interests were similar- I was really into the British band S Club 7 when I was younger and so were they. And then of course, there's the Spice Girls :p We had just as much fun during class and in the rehearsal period afterwards today, and I think our performance is going to be pretty good. We have to be ready to tech in a week- ahhh! (Speaking of tech... I think I'm going to be roped into teching the other group's performance. They made me do sound today and it was terrifying... and I was just using iTunes!)

Between the two rehearsal locations yesterday, I ran into my friend Lauren, who, as I mentioned an entry or two ago, is visiting from her own studies in Italy. She's staying in my friend Deanna's room with their friend Casey, who's spring breaking here. We rejoiced in our reunion and then discussed getting tickets for a show we thought we'd see- the theatre was being difficult and claiming that concessions (a.k.a. student) tickets were not available, which meant we'd have to pay almost twenty pounds extra. In the end, we decided not to see the show, but I told them to call me from Camden Market if they wanted to do dinner.
Even though we had been planning to do dinner since before Lauren got here, I kind of doubted it was going to happen- I screwed up Monday by getting late news on the Arcadia dinner and opted out of going to the bar with them on Tuesday (bars, I figured, are not exactly places to catch up- and I didn't want to go to a bar.) And when six thirty came around and there was still no word, I started making some dinner for myself. Twenty minutes in, I got a text from Deanna saying that they were going to a pub- did I want to meet them in Camden Market?

I almost said no. The news came later than I had anticipated, I was in the middle of making a meal, and I didn't want to be out late because of my 9 a.m. class this morning. But I decided to ignore all of that- I wanted to see Lauren before she went back to Italy today. I pulled my half-done dinner out of the oven and wrapped it up, grabbed my stuff, and left for Camden Market.

I'm so glad I went. It was so much fun. I'm not really a person to do things on a whim- I like my days to be planned out for the most part. But everything we did that night was spontaneous and all the better for it. The girls came to get me outside of the Camden tube station and we stood there trying to figure out what we wanted to eat. They said the pub had been more expensive than they'd anticipated- did I have anything else in mind? I said no. A man with a "Buffet, 3.50!" sign heard us talking an pointedly came to stand right next to us. "Hey, look guys," Lauren said. "There's a cheap Chinese vegetarian buffet!"
We decided to go there (the power of suggestion works well on us) and found ourselves in a very small but nice Chinese/Thai place. I had been a little worried that it would be sketchy, but it wasn't at all. However, the 3.50 price was only for take-away; no sitting down in the restaurant for that price. So we got small plastic containers, filled them to the brim, then walked to a Costa (which is a coffee shop chain here), where I bought a water so we could sit there and eat inside, as it was rather cold outdoors. The food was really good, which was lucky because I've never had Thai food and though I like vegetarian food, I don't really seek it out. The only thing I didn't like was the tofu; the soy beef was delicious.

Delicious buffet!

We got kicked out of the Costa after only fifteen minutes because it's London and everything closes by 7:30. Deanna had been told about a club that was playing some sort of cool music for free and we started walking in that direction, still eating our food out of the containers. When we got to the club, we found out that there was a charge to get in, and Deanna and Casey didn't have any money, so we ended up sitting on some very cold benches next to cast iron statues of nineteenth century horses and workmen while we finished our food. We sat there for a long time, swapping "crazy things that have happened to me abroad" stories (I'm very happy I'm going to Venice and not Sicily) and ignoring the cold.

Something I haven't mentioned is that Lauren is in the theatre department at Arcadia. Though most of the junior year theatre kids are abroad this semester, none of them go to Queen Mary, so when things happen in the department back home, I have no one with whom to discuss them. Adrienne, Laura, my mother, and friends from home tolerate me using them as sounding boards, but there's only so much they can say back about a deparment they have no knowledge of. I didn't realise how much I missed discussing theatre with someone who actually knows what I'm talking about without having to give what seems like centuries of background information. I became aware that I was talking very fast and a lot because I had so much I had wanted to say for so long, but no one to tell, and Lauren was the same way. It was actually an incredible relief, which sounds weird, but sometimes those touches of home are just what you need.

We sat on those benches for a long time- some buskers had been playing when we sat down and had left soon after. Later, they came back, saw us and said, "Wow... you're still here?" We moved on soon after that, but not before we saw a mime run past us (that is not a figure of speech. A mime- black clothes, white face, beret, all of it- ran down the sidewalk next to us.)

We were headed back to the tube station when Casey said that she wanted to see Parliament and Big Ben at night. We said okay, because we can. Westminster was many many tube stops away, but why not? We wanted to go somewhere, and we went. This is why London is amazing.

The best part of that particular bit of the excursion was Lauren and Casey's infectious excitement. I've seen Big Ben and Parliament at least four times this trip. It's cool- it will never stop being cool- but I don't run back to see it all the time. But Lauren and Casey were so excited to see it that it made Deanna and me just as happy. When we discovered that the tube stairs were literally right next to the lit-up Parliament building, I was the first to go, "LOOK HOW CLOSE WE ARE, GUYS!" Lauren, with a mixture of excitement and the freezing breeze blowing in our face, looked like she was about to cry- and she's been to London before! Traveling with those two made me rerealise the amazingness of this city. I've gotten to the point where I take it for granted sometimes, but when we stood on the south bank end of Westminster Bridge, gazing at Big Ben and listening to it chime 11 p.m, I fell even more deeply in love with London.

It only kept getting colder, but we stood on the bridge for a long time, just appreciating... London and all of its London-ness. This was when one of the two non-London girls told the other to "Soak it in- soaaaaaak!" because they are headed back to their respective schools today. Casey said, "It doesn't even feel like we're here right now- it feels like what we're seeing of Parliament is just a backdrop. I can't even take this in." And that's how I feel most of the time when I'm walking around the city- I can't possibly be lucky enough to actually be here, can I?
Eventually, we had to go back because the tubes close at midnight. Lauren and I shared some British chocolate on the tube, they picked up some wine on the way home, and then we said goodbye at my flat.

I can't even describe how wonderful last night was. I kind of detest the "giggly group of girls" stereotype, but that's how we were all night because we were so exhilarated just by our location and each other's company. And to think I almost didn't go!

Now, however, it's back to the grindstone. As I said, assignment due dates are racing toward me. I've barred myself from recreational reading until April so I can complete some sources for my history essay, and I just can't wait 'til they're over and done with. The next two weeks are going to be filled to the breaking point with writing and rehearsals.

Quotes of... Recent Times:

"Who's Nick?" "Just the guy who's caught Adina's eye." "He didn't catch my eye... he just sort of got in there and now he won't get out." "Like an eyelash?"

"This is life juice."

"I think our kids would be beautiful, as long as they looked like me."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Adapting and Getting Uninvited

Dear blog readers, do not think it has escaped my notice that I have been writing about fewer and fewer observations as time goes on. I have, and I feel a bit bad about it.

But at the same time, it's not that I'm choosing not to. It's that, well... a lot of things aren't new to me anymore. It's funny how easily you adapt to life somewhere, and how quickly things become normal. As funny as I still find some things, like hitting what resembles a light switch to open a door, it's the first thing I look for if I have trouble with one. Nowadays, if the temperature is higher than forty degrees, I'm commenting on how warm it is. And even though if I were in school back home and wouldn't be done lessons (er... classes) for another two months, I am chomping at the bit for March to be over so I can basically start my summer.

I do have some observations for you, though! A few things I continue to notice:

Fire doors: On almost every door- literally every one, even if they're five feet away from each other- there is a small sign that looks like this:

When I came over here for London Preview in 2009, I didn't know what to do with these doors. In America, if you were to open a door that said this, an alarm would go off. So when Young Rachel, a girl of nineteen, was standing in the hallway of the hostel, she could not figure out how she was supposed to get to her room when all of the doors would alarm if she opened them. When she finally asked a worker at the hostel, they laughed at her.
Since then, I have learned that pretty much all doors say this and those with alarms are labeled as such. But it can still be very confusing.

Another thing regarding doors: The door handle is no indication as to how the door itself will be opened. For the most part, American doors have a handle if the door should be pulled and either a bar or a flat metal plate if it should be pushed. Not here. Here, they seem to place their doorknobs/plates/handles willy-nilly (and at very strange heights, too. Sometimes they're at waist height, other times, they're level with my shoulder), and so it's like a guessing game as to how a door will actually open. I don't understand it.

A phrase: Something "going pear-shaped" means that something's gone wrong.

A signature: A big thing with young British women (and perhaps guys, but I don't know) is signing anything they write with an "x" (yes, like a kiss.) This happens in text messages, Facebook everything, written notes, e-mails... everywhere. It's cute, but I also think it can be a little excessive.

Things At Different Times: Mother's Day is this month. Daylight Savings (I just found out from Emmie) happens on the 27th of this month.

Food: Ketchup is sweeter (and called tomato sauce, although the one I have from Sainbury's is in fact labeled "Tomato Ketchup"), but this is something I've stopped noticing. They don't refrigerate their eggs or, sometimes, their milk. Powdered milk is also a big thing. They label some cereals and "sweets" as "for adults." I don't like many of their cereals because I find some of them very bland. Digestives remain delicious and I am going to miss them so much when I go home.

Another phrase: "Hiya" is the sort of expression that, if someone said it to me at home, I would give them a look that said something along the lines of, "Are you five?" But here, everyone says it- kids, adult, students, teachers, friends, new acquaintances, shop keepers, security guards... everyone. And I really like it- it's a quick way to be very friendly, and I enjoy being greeted like that.

My own way of dressing: is slowly changing, influenced by London. Yesterday I wore a combination of colors that I would have never thought of wearing at home, but didn't stick out here at all. The difference between Londoners and Americans is that the latter wear a top and a bottom. Londoners have outfits, and they may be really crazy sometimes. Mine was not crazy... except in my own mind :p

And now for a story: the Monday after homestay, one of the coordinators met up with all of us individually to ask us how we were doing, how homestay was, etc. At this meeting, he also asked if we wanted to volunteer at the dinner for this year's preview students. I said sure- I can talk about my experience in London and eat their delicious free food. He took my name down and said he'd be sending the information out sometime in the future.
Jump to yesterday- the day of the dinner, or at least I thought so. We still hadn't been sent any information (two months later), so I couldn't be sure. I had tried to call the day before, but the office runs on London time or course, and so wasn't open. I called back around ten a.m. yesterday morning. I introduced myself and said that I was wondering if there was any info on the dinner, since no one had gotten any. "Oh," the man on the other end asked. "Are you a preview student?" "No, I volunteered to help out." "So you're staying here?" "Um... yes..." No, I just heard about the dinner walking down the street and thought I'd call...? "Uh, the dinner is tonight," he told me, with a little bit of an attitude. This annoyed me, since it was their job to send me the information. He went on to tell me that it was at seven at the same college I'd had dinner at twice, once for preview and once during orientation this year. He said he'd send me an e-mail with all of the info.
Okay, cool. So I kept my e-mail open as I chatted with my friend Lauren, who I know from my home school and who is visiting from her own studies in Italy. She wanted to get together that night and I told her that I couldn't- our school has dropped the ball and I had just found out that I was busy. About a half an hour later, I happened to glance at my e-mail, and there was a note from the London office: "There was an error in the event co-ordination, and therefore your attendance will no longer be required at this event."

Well... okay. I guess I was officially uninvited. I was really feeling the love. But at least I had a clue. Adrienne, who had also signed up, only knew all of this because I told her, and anyone else who didn't contact them is still hanging around, waiting to be told when to come to dinner. I'm not annoyed that they uninvited us to the event- after all, more Arcadia students come to London than any other place for preview, so I understand that they may not have had the room for us. But is it so hard to tell us this? They had to have known by at least last month, if not sooner, how many preview kids would be coming. *sigh*

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cinematic Observations

I went to the movies again today! I saw The King's Speech, and it is truly a work of art. The script was great, the cinematography was beautiful, and of course the acting was brilliant, right down to the little girls who played Elizabeth and Margaret. It made me cry, but it was also surprisingly funny. It's a great film and you should definitely see it if it's still around you!

The English cinema experience is a little different than the American one, though not incredibly so. First of all, the cinema near us has a student price. I don't know if this is in all cinemas, but it's great. Instead of ripping your ticket, they hole-punch it. Along with selling the usual popcorn and soda behind the counter, they also have smoothies, alcohol, and on a wall across from the counter, a row of self-serve candy.

The cinema I go to has a curtain that adjusts to the screen, I guess so a full screen picture doesn't have empty space on the sides. There are a ton of trailers- I don't think we show that many trailers, but I could be wrong. The funny thing is that almost every trailer was American. Obviously, this is because of how huge Hollywood is, but I wonder if it's weird to the English to hear 80% American accents in the trailers.

Something I've always taken for granted is when the green (or sometimes blue? I can't remember) MPAA rating screen appears before a trailer, but since the films here don't need to be approved by an American company, that screen isn't seen. They do have a British equivalent, the British Board of Film Classification, and their ratings are as follows:

U: Suitable for all.
PG: Parental guidance, general viewing.
12/12A: The 12A classification is only used in cinemas (as opposed to on TV), but both mean that it is suitable fore ages 12 and up.
15: Suitable for ages 15 and up.
18: Suited for adults only.
R18: Films only to be shown in specially licensed cinemas of sex shops (it actually says this on the site.)

I think the British are more lenient with their ratings. The King's Speech was rated 12, which I would agree with; because of the swearing, I think it would have gotten a PG13 rating at home (anyone at home know what it did get?) And Black Swan, if you can believe it, was rated 15!

That's all I've got for you today. Tomorrow, I'm going to a thrift sale to see if I can get part of my costume for my Adaptations performance (denim shorts and a "vest top", a.k.a. tank top. I had to ask my classmates what this was, as while I knew we were portraying... women of less than reputable nature, I didn't really want to go onstage wearing only a vest on the top. Here, American vests are called "waistcoats.") Then I have to get cracking on my essays- I at least want to plan one or two of them out.

Friday, March 11, 2011


The coverage of Japan is making me very sad. I don't really know what else to say about it except that I and keeping those affected in my thoughts. I was especially worried when I heard about it because one of my childhood friends is currently living in Japan. Thankfully, she lives a few hundred miles away and it seems that she is safe. She still felt the earthquake, though, and her blog entry about it made me cry. I can't imagine what it would be like to go through something like that, especially since she's in a foreign country where she doesn't speak the language. I've been watching the BBC coverage of the disaster, and it's unimaginable. Unfortunately, we don't have to imagine it :(

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Mystery of the British Notebooks

Hm... that sounds like the title of some Boxcar Children or Nancy Drew novel, both of which I was obsessed with in elementary school.(See a funny video about the questionable quality of the Boxcar Children series here. Even taking all that into account, I still had dreams of living in a boxcar and eating only bread and milk like they did.)

Something I have noticed about around 95% of the notebooks here- they're all TINY. the cute Peter Pan notebook I got at Selfridge's in January is adorable, but only a few centimeters thick.

Cute, but not exactly serviceable.

This is pretty much the norm for notebooks here, and it's what causes me to hesitate buying the large amount of otherwise adorably designed notebooks. Because seriously... I write a lot. I still prefer to write my novels and plays in longhand first, at least partially, and a pad that only gives me fifty pages (25, double-sided) just seems pointless.

But not to my English classmates. When our teachers ask us to pull out our notebooks, the Americans pull out their giant three-subjecters (all identical, since they were literally the ONLY ones we could find.) The English kids, on the other hand, all take out their skinny little writing pads. Sometimes, they even take out those tiny back-pocket ones, the ones that make me want to go, "What are you, a reporter?"

Now, this mystery might be solved as easily as a Boxcar Children puzzle if the British kids didn't write any notes, maybe a sentence here or there. But that's not the case. I enjoy taking notes, and the teachers give us plenty of opportunities to exercise this nerdy pleasure; some classes, like my history one, are divided into two sections, one of them being an hour of strictly note-taking. And the British students take more notes than I do- sometimes I'm just sitting there listening to the teacher talk about something that has nothing directly to do with the subject and I hear scribbling all around me and wonder, "What are you writing down?!" So if they take so many notes, WHY are their notebooks so small? If I took that many notes, I'd have to get a new one every two weeks! My big one is only going to just last me the rest of the term.

The questions don't even stop with the size of the books. I haven't seen a single writing pad with college-ruled paper. I've refused to use anything but college ruled since about middle school, and it really bothers me to see all that unused space on the wide-ruled page.

Anyway, perhaps you're not as OCD about notebooks as I am, so I'll stop blabbing on about them. I suffered through another RT lesson today in which most of the class denied that they'd ever had fun at any theatre, ever, and never would (they seem to see laughter as some sort of mortal sin) and I did a lot of impatient sighing and clock-gazing. Only three more times in that class and then I'm FREE!

Some English words/pronunciations I observed today:

"Anti-clockwise" (a.k.a. counter-clockwise)

"Clagging on" (like "weighing down", "forcing upon")

Intergral pronounced "in-TEG-ral."

Controversy, pronounced "con-TRO-versy."

Now I'm off to make some dinner!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An American Carnival And a Black Swan

I really like carnivals, despite my inability to spell or say the world correctly. Seriously- I once wrote a story in about fifth grade and throughout the entire thing, I wrote "carvinal." I am not dyslexic, but to this day, I still have to consciously make sure that the 'n' and 'v' are in the right places. My speech pattern was very stilted today as I took pauses to make sure I didn't scramble the word.

Anyway, the reason I bring up my childhood and current difficulties is because there was a carNiVal at Queen Mary today! The event description said that it would be an "American-style" carnival with rides, games, food like popcorn and cotton candy (or "candy floss," as they call it here), music, and a free voucher to the one cafe on campus that I've not yet been to. I thought this sounded pretty cool, and so did Adrienne, so we met up around 2:30 to go to the carnival, which had started a half hour earlier.

You certainly wouldn't have known that given how many people were there, the amount being around five. Yeah. It was dead. I don't actually remember any music playing, but there must have been, because when we went up to the booth that had "PAY HERE!" flashing on it in bright neon lights, we had to shout to be heard. Oh, and the "PAY HERE!" sign was a big lie. They wanted you to pay at a table, which had a tiny white paper sign taped at hip level that read "get your wristbands here." If you bought a wristband, you had unlimited access to the rides, food, and anything else you might come across.

Adrienne and I stood a few feet away from the table and looked around us. The big swingy ride was not swinging, as there was no one on it. Even if I didn't believe that bumper cars are instruments of death, I couldn't have driven one if I'd wanted to, because there would have been about thirty unused ones parking me in. The games were a bit pathetic looking, and plus, I have no aim and I throw like a girl, so I tend to avoid those. The "Las Vegas- style pictures!" green screen area was deserted. The popcorn was there, but I don't even think the cotton candy maker was turned on. That was it. I was there for the cotton candy. I love cotton candy. If there was no cotton candy, there was no me.

This is not a carnival. It's not even a carvinal.

Basically, we decided that we didn't want to pay five pounds to go back and forth between the swingy ride and the torture devices that some people call bumper cars, in hopes that when we got off of one of them, there would be cotton candy. I had texted Laura to tell her that we were there and she should join us, but sent her another message not to come- it wasn't worth it. As Adrienne and I walked away, the swingy ride operator called after us sadly, "Not staying, girls?" There was still no one in his line.

Being American, I am worried what people will think of this event. Carnivals (or fairs, as I would refer to them) are not necessarily the coolest places to hang out, but they're still fun. This was not fun. It's just awkward when you're the only one there. Like seriously, even if I had bought a wristband and went on the swingy ride (which I generally enjoy), it's not like I would have exclaimed my joy as it was going on. Sitting alone in the twelve-seat row going "Wheeeeee!" isn't fun. It's sad.
I am also worried that while the carnival lacked anything we Americans considered worth indulging in, the swingy ride did possess a lovely depiction of the scantily-clad lower halves of two women. Go, USA.

Now, I will say that when I returned from my evening engagement, there were people at the carnival. However, it was raining, so I'm not sure why. But whatever. I think I can safely say that most likely, none of the attendees were American.

My evening engagement was something I've been trying to do for awhile, and that was see Black Swan. I've been planning and unplanning to see it since I got here, but since Natalie Portman won Best Actress for it, I figured I should probably go and see it. Plus, as bad at ballet as I am, I love it, so I knew I would enjoy that aspect of the story, too.
I will say this for the film: Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis were great. I did like the ballet stuff. They did a good job of picking where to end the story (sort of.) It did in fact make me feel very paranoid and grossed out. As a performer, a lot of it was accurate- in fact, I read on IMDb that it was originally written as taking place in the NYC theatre world. I'm glad they switched to ballet, firstly because it ups the stakes- an injury could mean the end, there are constant smaller injuries going on, and you're old by the time you're twenty five, putting on the pressure to establish yourself. Also, the movie freaked me out so much that I think I would have been afraid to go onstage again if it were set in a theatre.

But seriously... I did not like this movie. At all. It was, in two words, too much. Everything about it was too much. I have never let a rating scare me away from a book or play or movie. I pretty much read and see what I like and I'm lucky enough to have parents who allow me to do so. But I should have suspected when my mom, along with several other people, warned me about the film. They didn't say not to go and see it, but they did caution me. While I valued their opinions, I thought I could handle it. Seriously, I have read and seen a lot of things and I was like, "They're probably exaggerating."

Nope. Nope. No, not at all. I sat with my hands over my eyes for at least a fourth of the movie. I seriously considered leaving the theatre because I didn't know if I could stand it. Maybe I'm a prude, but HOLY CRAP. I don't care that it was two girls- it probably would have been just as bad if it were a guy and a girl. I don't wish to find out. They leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. And it did bother me. I was very uncomfortable. In fact, I was uncomfortable beginning from the moment when her director gave her her "homework assignment" in the beginning of the film. I did a whole lot of cringing throughout and when it ended, I actually said "thank God" out loud and left as quickly as possible.

So yeah... that's my review of Black Swan. I actually have much more to say, but I figured I'd spare you my theatre student nit-picky stuff.

In other news, I burned my wrist rather badly on a pan when I was roasting potatoes on Tuesday. I burnt myself because I was rushing, which meant that the burn was left untreated for a good four hours or so, and it got pretty irritated. Now it has become a small but impressively dark scar. Me + kitchen = not so good.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Break Plans and Vlog #2

I didn't want to say anything until everything was finalised, and now everything is... so I am going to tell you of my super-secret-except-not-I-just-wanted-to-use-that-phrase spring break plans! As you probably know, I have all of April off- yay!- and while I don't need to be traveling constantly, I do want to take advantage of the fact that I can get to a different country in less time than it would take me to get to a neighboring state back home. I mean, seriously... no longer are my nearest visiting spots New Jersey and Maryland. No, now I am near to Norway and Germany and Spain!

As it happens, I'm not going to any of those places. Instead, here's what my calendar for April looks like:

April 1st-14th: Recover from the millions of essays I just turned in. Go see London-y things that I've not yet done, like the Imperial War Museum, Camden Markets, the V&A again, do a Harry Potter walk, etc. There's still a ton of stuff here I haven't done.

April 15th-18th: VENICE! Yes, I am going to Italy with Adrienne! While I've never had an extremely burning desire to go to Italy, I've definitely been mildly interested for awhile, thanks to The Lizzie McGuire Movie and 13 Little Blue Envelopes. And now that I'm going, I can't wait! (I'm also terrified because the only Italian word I can say is "spaghetti" and I have to get from the airport to the hotel all by myself; Adrienne's coming from previous travels.)
April 22 & 23: Overnight bus tour to Oxford, Cotswolds, Bath, Lacock, and Stonehenge.

April 24-27th: LILLE! I'm returning Megan's visit and staying with her in France for a few days, which should be awesome. Again, I don't speak the language (despite the valiant attempts of my two wonderful French teachers, I'm still terrible), but Megan does, so I won't die.

Then I come back and prep for exams in May. This is all very exciting, but I do need to make it through March first, and that's going to be the tricky part. I got a great group today for my Adaptations performance, and we have lots of cool ideas, but we're going to have to rehearse a lot, as we only have three weeks, really, to put a performance together, including tech and a full script and everything.
I handed in two essays today. One was a pseudo-essay that wasn't too much stress except that the teacher sent out yet another e-mail about it that I didn't get and so myself and a classmate were running around trying to figure out what to do with our essays. The second was my Proof essay. I turned it in a full twenty-four and a half hours early, but keeping it wouldn't have done me any good. I was stressing over it too much to keep it any longer; now it's out of my hands in every sense. I've determined that it's not the students who should be stressing us out, as was suggested to us before we came here; it's the academic system, and the English students are just as freaked out by it as we are. There was a regular QMUL girl handing in an essay at the same time I was and she was in tears from the stress. Yeah...

I recorded another vlog for you. I hope you enjoy. I'm working on my editing, I promise (also, they won't be made this regularly. I was just bored the other day.)

Is there anything you'd like to know about my time here? Food, people, even more school, what places are like outside of my uni? I am missing my commenters :p so let me know what you want to see!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March is Making Me Anxious, Plus THEATRE!

Here at Queen Mary, school is finished in March. Well, yes, we have our exams in May/June, but that's mostly for non-drama people, and since I am mostly a drama person here, I only have one exam then. Basically, once March 31 rolls around, I am home free (until I have to study for my history exam... but you get the point.)

Sounds cool, right? Yeah. It is. Except that because school ends in twenty-eight day, it's basically The Month of Long Assignments All Given At the Same Time. It's really freaking me out. I have my Proof essay due on Friday... which I hope is okay- I've pulled out enough of my hair over it already. Then in the final week of March, I have three long papers, one short one, and a performance- ahhhhh! I'm mostly worried about the history paper. Like I think I've said before, students here don't cross over into other programs. If you're a drama student, you only do drama, same with history, etc. So it's extra fun for the international students coming from liberal arts educations who have to dip into different areas of study. I am going to be sweating bullets this entire month.

In more theatrical news, I've seen three plays (not including mine) in the last few days. The first was a new play called Moment at the Bush Theatre. I went there because my playwrighting teacher told me it put on really great shows. I'd also heard of it many years ago because Keira Knightley's mother, paywright Sharman Macdonald, used to (and maybe still does) get her plays performed there. The play was good, though not as exciting as I would have liked, mostly because they told you the major plot point in the synopsis, and it made the revealing moment a lot less shocking. The acting, though, was top-notch, and the theatre was really intimate, only forty-five seats, so you were really in the thick of things.

The second play was The Shape of Things by Neil Labute. I hadn't even heard of this play before I came here, but in my second week or so here, Laura and I were talking about plays we love and she brought this one up, and she made it sound so good that when I went to Samuel French, I bought a copy of it. I loved it too, and when Laura found out it was playing here, we got tickets right away and saw it last night. It was pretty good. The theatre was located right next to a sex shop, which certainly made things interesting. It was a very small space and the audience sat on pillows on the floor, which was a little inconvenient if you were wearing a skirt, as both Laura and I were. At first I wasn't a fan of three of the four actors' acting, but they did warm up by the second act, and having read the play first, I can say that the way it's written is extremely difficult to get across. They all did great American accents, too, even holding onto them when they got emotional, which is when most people lose any kind of non-native accent (even in real life.)

Tonight, I saw Vernon God Little at the Young Vic Theatre for my RT class. I think this is one of the shows I like the least of what we've had to see. I did like it, but the plot got redundant at points. However, it was funny and sad and the acting was really great. It was set in Texas, and the actors all had really thick Southern drawls and they line-danced in the show while wearing cowboy hats and boots... you could just feel all of the Americans sinking down in their seats. I hope the British don't think we all act like that... It was very good, though, and I'm glad I saw it.

Oh, a tale from today- last night, Adrienne asked me if I wanted to go see the Book of the Dead at the British Museum. I said sure, and this morning she came in and said that you had to schedule a time to see it- she knew I was going to see a show, so did 3:45 work for me? I said yes, and a few hours later, we met up with Deanna and Megan to go to the museum. We stopped off at Primark (which is like a department store- sized K-Mart, but exclusively for clothes) and then went to the museum. As we were standing in line, I realised that they wanted you to present a pre-ticket paper, and that there were no tickets left otherwise. Everyone else had one and I did not. As it turns out, Adrienne and I got our signals crossed- I thought she was asking me if the time worked for me so she could reserve all four tickets, and she thought I had gotten mine, so I couldn't go in. She apologised profusely, even though it wasn't her fault- I shouldn't have assumed, and I left to go occupy myself with something else before the show.

I ended up getting some Starbucks, browsing a bookshop near the museum, then picking up some Pret a Manger and heading down the the area where the theatre was. I was still a few hours early, so I went into the BFI Film shop and got a cool poster and then hung out in the National Theatre bookshop for awhile. It was too cold to eat outside, so I sat in the National's lobby, reading and eating my dinner, and listened to the guy and girl next to me begin what I believe was their first-ever date, which was adorable. So though I didn't get to see the Book of the Dead, afternoons have certainly been spent in worse ways. I love London.