Thursday, July 16, 2009

Long Time No Blog

I'm still alive, don't worry!

I haven't been posting for a combination of reasons:
  • Laziness
  • Writing essays
  • Working on Shakespeare
  • Settled into a routine here (boring for you)
  • Laziness
Don't get the wrong idea, though. I'm having lots of fun. =)

Here is how a typical day works for me:
  • Breakfast
  • Class
  • Gym
  • Lunch
  • A few hours of free time
  • Go to a show
  • Free time / bed time (we get back from shows pretty late)
There is still a lot left for me to see, so hopefully I can get some good photos for my next post.

Tomorrow, I will be headed to Amsterdam for the extended break weekend with Kyle, Ted, and Alex. We will be there until Tuesday, and I'm hoping we have a great time.

Stay tuned for updates from Amsterdam!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 10 - Star-Struck

I met them. I got both of their autographs. THE LEGENDS!


Group shot (we all got their signatures)!

In other news, I got a gym membership today! 22 pounds for a month, which is a great deal around here. I lifted for the first time in a few weeks, and it was roughhhh. I plan on going every day after class, so I'm happy about it.

Madam Butterfly tonight -- very excited, my first "real" opera!

Updates later,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day 9 - Professor X and Magneto

I don't care what happens today. I don't really care about anything at all... until 7:30, I should say.

Why, you might ask?

I have been looking forward to July 7, 2009 at 7:30PM the moment I knew WHO I was going to see -- two of my favorite actors, knights Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart, co-starring in the existentialist play "Waiting For Godot".

I don't even care if I hate the play, because I know that seeing these two gents hamming it up on stage together will be completely worth it.

I'm so excited for this play that I am wearing my suit. In an un-air-conditioned theater. I'm devoted to these guys. =)
Hopefully I can get an autograph if I can rush back to the stage door quick enough... I've been told that Ian McKellen likes to greet his public after a show. If I'm REALLY lucky, I'll get a picture!

As for the rest of my day:
I had class this morning (details in group blog), I made porridge, I'm going to take back my broken fan after this blog post, I'm going to eat lunch at a cheap cafe, I'm going to the National Gallery again since it is close to the theater, I'm going to eat dinner, and then I'm going to EXPERIENCE GREATNESS!

I will update this post later, so keep your eyes peeled.
CMac out.

Days 8 - It finally rained!

Perhaps I was taunting London too much. I was TOLD that it rains like crazy here, and I happened to experience a drought-like week 1. Lo and behold, the start of this week (both today and yesterday) has been characterized by rain! Don't worry though, I didn't (and am not going to) let the rain DAMPen my day (punny)!

Day 8 was quite... lackluster, compared to the rest. Don't worry though -- I promise I'm not bored, nor will I ever be while in this amazing city. I just did boring THINGS yesterday, like buy a new travelcard and some groceries.

I did make a very cool stop yesterday, however. We went to a musical theater store, called "Dress Circle". I could have stayed there for HOURS. I'm convinced they had music for every show EVER created. Check out what I saw outside the store:

Ahh! I've always wanted to see Chicago on stage, and it has Jerry Springer in it!? Crazy. Too bad tickets are impossible to get. =(

Last night, we saw the show "The Observer". We all agreed pretty much instantly that it was our least favorite show. To be fair, the show wasn't BAD at all -- we have just seen some pretty amazing shows. In fact, in terms of production, I thought the show was quite good. The story, however, was not captivating, nor did it raise any significant questions to the audience. In addition, the two main characters were (although well-acted) hardly developed, and not very interesting.

I tried to get a good shot of the lit Big Ben through a glowing London Eye:

I was too far away, and it was a tough shot to get at night. Oh well. =(

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I don't feel like writing too much about the weekend, because it was fairly relaxing. Sadly, July 4th isn't a holiday over here, but we still had a roaring good time! Early in the day, we had to head to King's Cross station in order to get to a show. Look what we stumbled upon:I wish this worked:
We saw the show "When the Rain Stops Falling". Similar to "Time and the Conways" and "Arcadia", the show took place in many different periods of time. This one was interesting because it spanned across 4 decades, even into the future: 1959, 1988, 2013, and 2039. The show was by far the most "dramatic" we have seen, and certainly most modern. All of the characters were quite disturbed with many problems, but the show was quite captivating, and overall a very neat experience.

Later that night, we just relaxed in the dorm and played some fun group games, like "Werewolf" which is a variation on the popular game called "Mafia". Happy 4th from the UK!

And finally, TODAY. I slept in until 2:00 today... it felt so good. =)
That didn't leave much time left in the day, but with the time I did have left, I went to the Natural History Museum. Here are some shots:

There was a lot more than just the dinosaurs, but I didn't want to take too many shots.
We then went to the very popular and famous department store called "Harrods". Unfortunately we didn't get to go in because they were closing, but I plan on it at some point. You can really tell the type of people that shop there based on the cars parked outside. Here were just 2 of many (this is for you, Mase -- can you name both cars?):

Day 5 - "Rent the Cushion"

What a great Friday!
We started the day by watching a Shakespeare play: "As You Like It" at the Globe theater. Here is a shot of the theater (yes, it is outdoors!):
The title of this posts comes from the show. Clum's sound advice for us: "Rent the cushion". Otherwise, you will be plopped uncomfortably on a bench for the duration of the show. It is only 1 pound, and highly worth it. The show was amazing. I've never been much of a Shakespeare guy, but I quickly learned that watching Shakespeare performed (by good actors) is far superior to reading his published plays. The two best characters were Jacques, who is hilariously melancholic, and Touchstone, the comedic jester. These two had hilarious performances, and were applauded multiple times during the performance. They also pulled a stunt that I have never seen in professional theater - breaking the fourth wall (interacting with the audience). Every time they did it, however, it was hysterical!

Afterward, we hatched the brilliant plan of COOKING dinner for once, instead of eating out. We had a lot of fun, ate great food, and saved a lot of money! There were two "teams" to our dinner, that I will dub team "Italian Family" and team "Men". I think you will be able to differentiate the two teams from the following pictures:

Team "Men" enjoyed delicious, grilled 1/4 pound bacon-cheeseburgers and mashed potatoes, in addition to Strongbow cider.

Team "Italian Family" enjoyed multiple pizzas, salad, pasta, and chicken (I think).

Afterward, we all met up and spent quality time together. The end. ;)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 4 - Short and Sweet

Today's schedule was a bit interesting. Class today consisted of a Q/A session with Paul Ready, the star of "The Time and the Conways" about the show. Let me just emphasize again how cool of a guy he is. We had an illuminating discussion about his experiences in the show, including his opinions about the "added" content at the end of each act (there were 3 acts). The director, Rupert Goold, is known for adding content to the shows that he directs. I personally thought everything he added was a technical spectacle, and each addition contributed to the meaning of the play.

After our discussion with Paul, we were then assigned a block of time with him to work on our Shakespeare scenes from "A Midsummer Night's Dream". My group didn't start until 3, so I took a 2 hour nap until then.

For those of you familiar with "A Midsummer Night's Dream", I am reading the part of Lysander in the scene where both Lysander and Demetrius confess their love to HELENA, which is quite funny because they have been in love with HERMIA the entire show. I am going to YET AGAIN emphasize how amazing Paul is. The night before, when our group read through the scene without his coaching, it was... interesting. We sounded like a stereotypical group of bad actors reading through a scene that we didn't really understand. Paul not only made the Shakespeare readable and comprehendible, but he made it REALLY fun. We had an absolute blast with him, even though we only had an hour to work. Under his tutelage, our scene got 100 times better. It is a funny thing... because he doesn't force his teaching at all. He gave us some subtle hints about the language and meaning behind what each character is trying to express, and then we all managed to convey those thoughts like... well, DECENT actors. You rock, Paul. I really like ol' Bill Shakespeare right now.

Here is a shot of my scene group with Paul. He must not have been ready for the photo, because he is usually quite cheery:

After that, we went and saw the show "War Horse" tonight. WOW WOW WOW. I'd love to express my thought about the show, but I'm going to let this trailer do the work:

The music in the trailer is actually from the show -- although it is not a musical per say, there was a lot of music that underscored many of the scenes.

Overall, it was a miracle of artistic work on stage, coupled with very good music and a touching storyline. It was also the first show that I have seen in London that got a standing ovation, which is no easy feat. If anyone reading this is in the UK or coming soon, go see this show before it closes.

That's all for now, and I'm very glad to be caught up with my blogging.

Until tomorrow,
Cheers from London!

Day 3 - "Little people make little noises" (Kyle Glackin)

I'll open with what I like to call the "strange sign of the day" from a random street in London. Read closely, as I hope you will find this sign as entertaining as I did:

No "Hugger Mugger" is going to get my things, that's for sure!

Yesterday got off to an awesome start. We got to work with a professional actor, and not just any professional actor. Paul Ready was the lead in The Time and the Conways, the show we had watched the night before. It is the coolest feeling in the world to work with a professional actor that you have just seen perform.

So what did we do? 3 hours of Shakespeare. To most of you, that sounds pretty brutal. Even to me, it sounded brutal. I couldn't have had more fun! When he went an hour over our normal class time, I wanted him to keep going. We read through 2 sonnets, and a dialogue from Twelfth Night. He was an extraordinary teacher, and he helped us all break down Shakespeare to something understandable and "actable". He really knew his stuff... I guess he should, considering he has had many leading roles in Shakespearean plays.

After class, I went with a group of people (who had a travel agenda planned), but I didn't let them tell me what they were doing. I just wanted to go somewhere fun. =)
My plan worked. I got to see some very neat things, including: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, and a cool museum about the "Horse Guard".

Big Ben:
The group (plus 2 random people on the left) in front of Westminster:

More of the beautiful abbey:

Every American that goes to London NEEDS this next picture. FYI, there are 5 of us in that booth:

At the Horse Guard museum. We were allowed to put on some uniforms:

Alex outside the museum with a really scary guard. He is frozen for awhile, then makes very sudden and loud position changes:

Group with a different guard:

Becca also played dress-up inside:

After all of our adventures, we headed to Liecester Square to eat dinner and go to the show. Interesting sights along the way, including this awesome piece of art drawn by CHALK. Ridiculous:

Haha! They can't have a KFC in the UK, so the have the AFC! Soon to be AGC, I wonder?

And finally, the amazing show we saw:

There's day 3! Another amazing day in the UK.
I'll leave you all with us buying a pitcher of "pimms", a delicious beverage:


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 2 - Time and the Conways

Today got off to a great start. I slept in until 10:15, which felt great after crashing just 8 hours prior after an exhausting yet exhilarating, first day.

Anna -- I saw four Arsenal jerseys today. WHERE’S THE LIVERPOOL LOVE?
You are probably wondering where I got the title for this post. Well, after class today, I ventured into London on my own for the first time with the intention of meeting my second cousin, Ryan, who is in town. Funny story: no way in hell would I have felt REMOTELY comfortable doing this a mere two days ago. It is amazing how accommodating this city is, and how nice most people are. I was scared out of my mind two days ago going anywhere on my own… getting from the airport to the dorm was bad enough. Today totally changed my mind. I felt like a total non-tourist (for once). I knew exactly where I was going, and I had fun on the way!
I met Ryan at 1:45 at the St. Paul’s tube stop, which was just one stop away from the one closest to where I am living. Very convenient meeting place! We stopped for lunch at a neat pub, and he told me about his travels in the UK.

He has an amazing story: Wake Forest (he is a rising senior there) actually paid for him to do his own independent research in Scotland, Ireland, and Great Britain about the history of the banjo. I didn’t get to hear him play, but I know that he is quite talented. He is a TRUE lone wolf – hopping from hostel to hostel, lugging around a banjo, a computer, and alllll of his stuff for SEVEN WEEKS. No way could I do that – mad props to you, Ryan. You’ve inspired me to want to travel even more. Best of luck in Ireland and Scotland!
Here is us at the restaurant:

You might be wondering why the stop is called St. Paul’s. Well, it happens to be a massive (and beautiful) cathedral. This thing makes Duke chapel look like child’s play:

We didn't get to go inside, unfortunately. It costs a lot of money, and we didn't have much time. The building is REALLY big though.

Afterward, I showed Ryan down Gray’s Inn Road (the road we live on) and a few cool stops along the way, and we parted ways. I’m very happy that I got to spend some time with him, but sad that he is leaving the UK.

This next part is pretty cool. Why? I did some more exploring on my own, and I went GROCERY SHOPPING ALONE! I know that I'm way more excited about this than anyone that is reading, but it was awesome.

This is the little square with a lot of really cool restaurants, and the grocery store is at the very end:

Call me bargain hunter extraordinaire -- I shave pounds (remember, that is the word for CURRENCY here, not weight) off receipts like a beast. What was once a 17 pound check, I slashed to 12. Here's proof:

Savings of 5.17? That's like $8 US!

And here is what I got:

Love it.

Later that night, we saw an incredibly good play: JB Priestly’s The Time and the Conway's. It started off very confusing (as Professor Clum had warned us), but developed into the best acting (and story telling) I have ever seen. I personally think that acting is one of the most difficult things to do well, granted I don’t have much a talent for it like many others. The actors in this show not only had to have stunning individual performances to make the play work, but they had to act as a family. This is REALLY not an easy feat – if you think about YOUR family, and how… “unique” your reactions are with every member, think about doing that on stage with a different group of people, while maintaining a character and saying all your lines for a 3 hour performance. Needles to say, it was an unbelievably difficult task that was executed flawlessly. I won’t launch into more about the show, but in addition to the tremendous acting, we say some very cool special effects, involving stop-motion stuff.

Before we go, I'll give you my travel tip of the day. Many American's fear for their lives when they come here, because they never know if they should look left first or right. Thankfully, the UK has "got your back". At almost every crosswalk, they have these:

So when in doubt, just look down. The UK knows what's best for you. Brits are so smart... much more so than us Americans.

A few more photos: (I had to take this one)

This is where we saw the show tonight, and many shows to come (National Theater):

And we will end with a glamorous shot of me eating CHICKEN (not fish) and chips. Disappointing... But I promise I will get the traditional fish and chips when I find a good place for it.