Sunday, October 30, 2011

9 Days Wonder; Or 2 Days for Me

I just got back from a 2 day walk through the Cotswolds. You may not believe this, but I actually walked 33 miles! Wow!

Three of my new friends at the Shakespeare Institute have decided to walk for the Ketterer’s Men Trust. Over 9 days they will be walking the 146 mile path Shakespeare took from the Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon to the Globe in London. All this in honor of their late friend Liz Ketterer. You can find out more about the charity and sponsor the walk here:

For my part, I knew that 146 miles might be a tad far for a amature walker like myself - not the mention the dent it would create in my wallet after eight nights at B&Bs. However, I did want to participate, not only to show my support, but also for the challenge. Thus, on Friday morning I set off from the Birthplace to Shipston-on-Stour.

The walking trail started off well. Although it quickly turned rough as we made our way through ploughed fields. What was meant to be a 17 mile walk turned into 18, with a slight mishap. I saw many a sheep, cow, horse and even several alpaca!

The next day was 14 miles to Chipping Norton. I day I wish to forget, as it was mostly uphill. We even had to stop for some emergency foot surgery for our friend Gareth - who had developed 3 blisters on the bottom of his feet which needed to be let out. About mile 10 I started to slow down. I now have an incredible pain in my hip, but I have made it safely to the hotel. I wish I could continue with the group, but I think it is time to pack up my walking shoes for a bit.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mirate/Sade Strikes Hard at the RSC

I have to say that I expected more from the RSC when I went to press night of Mirat/Sade. I expected to be shocked and horrified - or at least vaguely impressed. However, I felt none of this as I left the theatre. Perhaps I came to the theatre tonight with too many preconceived notions about what I was suppose to see.

Set in a mental asylum during the French revolution, Weiss's play shows inmates re-enacting the last days of political agitator Jean Paul Marat's life under the direction of the Marquis de Sade. The only thing I really took away from this production is its inherant questioning of societal behavior and griping music.

It was clear that some of the audience was a bit disturbed by the subject matter - reportedly an average of 30 audience members leave the show at intermission every night - yet this was not a production that inspired any feeling in me whatsoever.

This revival of a landmark production at the RSC, featuring many shocking theatrical devices and subject matters including torture, rape, insanity and other filthy behavior. Yet this inauthentic version is not impressing the critics. The Daily Mail calls it a "shocking waste of your money".

I suppose this is one of the LOVE / HATE shows. You either LOVE it, or you HATE it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Merrymaking

Last night my friend Matt threw a pre-Halloween bash at his flat. Some of us decided to turn the event into a costume night. Here in England they call it "fancy dress". Needless to say, I think we all had a pretty fabulous time!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Character Study of Edgar in King Lear

I attended a fabulous lecture this week by Ewan Fernie, Chair of Shakespeare Studies and Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute. The topic of his seminar revolved around the presence of possession in the character of Edgar in King Lear.

Edgar is Gloucester's legitimate son. His half-brother Edmund, frustrated with his social status as a bastard son, frames Edgar of plotting to kill their father. Edgar is forced into exile in order to avoid the rage of his father and his own imprisonment. At the end of the following speech he adopts the disguise of "Poor Tom," a mad Bedlam. This personae carries him through the majority of the remaining action of the play.

I heard myself proclaim'd;
And by the happy hollow of a tree
Escaped the hunt. No port is free; no place,
That guard, and most unusual vigilance,
Does not attend my taking. Whiles I may 'scape,
I will preserve myself: and am bethought
To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury, in contempt of man,
Brought near to beast: my face I'll grime with filth;
Blanket my loins: elf all my hair in knots;
And with presented nakedness out-face
The winds and persecutions of the sky.
The country gives me proof and precedent
Of Bedlam beggars, who, with roaring voices,
Strike in their numb'd and mortified bare arms
Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary;
And with this horrible object, from low farms,
Poor pelting villages, sheep-cotes, and mills,
Sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers,
Enforce their charity. Poor Turlygod! poor Tom!
That's something yet: Edgar I nothing am.

“Edgar I nothing am.” – This line cements the casting off of Edgar’s self as he deconstructs himself into the personae of Poor Tom. What does it mean to be ‘nothing’? Perhaps it is the abandonment of self for a time. Perhaps he is a shell of his former state; or contrary to that belief, perhaps he is liberated to be more than himself. In this the actor has to play multiple characters, layered on top of each other in the fabric of the dialog.

I found the topic fascinating as Fernie described Poor Tom as being “more alive than Edgar.” He is possessed – someone or something speaks through him – and this possession allows him to speak in “communal voices”. His feigned madness allows Edgar to speak truths he may have otherwise stifled.

From an acting perspective, I was also struck by Fernie’s questions to his listeners: Does the actor possess the character; or does the character possess the actor? Is human identity threatened by acting? Is there an inherent risk of possession in acting?

He says, perhaps even Shakespeare was aware of possession as a necessary condition.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Play Reading Thursdays!

As part of the numerous weekly social events at the Shakesepare Institute, we have playreadings every Thursday. I am very excited to take part for three reasons - First, the playreadings will introduce me to plays of Shakespeare's time which I would otherwise would not have read. All the plays read must be of Shakespeare's time, but not Shakespeare. Second, it will give me a chance to develop my cold reading skills. This is a skill that I struggle with at times in auditions, but also in life when I need to read outloud from a text. Third, it brings members of the institute together for discussion. I can't wait to meet new friends at the readings. Word has it that there is wine during the reading and a pub visit after, which will make the event all the more enjoyable.

Tonight is my first play reading. We will be reading Edward II by Christopher Marlowe. As I have performed in an adpatation of this play, I am familar with the text. It should be a great evening!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair

Today and tomorrow the Mop Fair is in Stratford-upon-Avon. What is a mop faire you ask? Well, to this American it looks like a street carnival. However, apparently there is a deeper meaning:

Farm workers, labourers, servants and some craftsmen would work for their employer from October to October. At the end of the employment they would attend the Mop Fair dressed in their Sunday best clothes and carrying an item signifying their trade. A servant with no particular skills would carry a mop head – hence the phrase Mop Fair.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Esmeralda at the Bolshoi


This evening my flatmate and I went to the local cinema to watch a live telecast of the Bolshoi Ballet Company's Esmeralda. Bolshoi is one of the leading ballet and opera companies in the world and is located in Moscow, Russia.

I was surprise to pay 15 quid for the tickets and find myself sitting in an assigned seat in the movie theatre - Apparently the Ballet is a serious cinema event. I then watched a romantic version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame performed before me. The intermissions (there were 2 of them) were long and drawn out - but that dancing was spectacular! Too bad I will be out of town when Sleeping Beauty hits the cinema.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cardenio Amazes at the RSC

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Cardenio is described as "Shakespeare's 'Lost Play' Re-Imagined.” It is the first full-scale new production in the remodeled Swan Theatre. The production is a first adaptation/reinvention of Cardenio at the RSC. The production's 3 sources stem from Cervantes, Shelton and Theobald. To reconstruct the text of Cardenio, texts from Theobald’s Double Falsehood were incorporated with Don Quixote along with new text.

In performance, Cardenio presents dynamic characters, romance, action and intrigue. The relationship between Oliver Rix and Lucy Briggs-Owen as Cardenio and Luscinda gave breath to a sometimes comedic, sometimes tragic romance. Briggs-Owen depicts Lucy as a fidgety young lover, struggling with her inner most desires against the forms of her father and society.

Alex Hassell as Fernando tore at the heartstrings – A character one desires to love and hate in the same instance. He is bold, crass and rash in his decisions – A ruffian who takes what he wants without thought of the consequence. Yet, in all his faults he presents a giddy humor and a naivety that puts his villainess nature into question.

Perhaps the best production at the RSC this season, it is a shame this play calls tonight its closing.

The Players present THE CHANGELING!

Yesterday afternoon I auditioned for the Shakespeare Institute Players - the postgraduate drama group here in Stratford. As a group we had decided to produce The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.

To my surprise, I have been cast as Beatrice-Joanna (the leading lady)!

I am a little anxious to be taking on this role at the institute. As this is my first encounter with the play, I will being doing extensive research over the next few weeks as we enter rehearsal.

Tonight I am off to see Cardenio, Shakespeare's lost play re-imagined, at the Royal Shakespeare Company. I truly cannot wait to sit in the Swan and bathe myself in what I hope to be a brilliant show.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Special Collections

Today I visited the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham. The Special Collections and Archives of the University of Birmingham consist of approximately 120,000 pre-1850 books dating from 1471 and some 3 million manuscripts. Today I was able to handle several rare and old books including the 1668 first edition of Paradise Lost and a 1651 copy of Canterbury Tales. - Also (the oldest book I have ever held) a 1484 copy of Plato’s Opera. I think I might be in heaven.

UK Special Keys

As if studying in England isn't hard enough, now I have to think while I am typing. I noticed today while on a University of Birmingham computer that not all of the keyboard keys are the same. It doesn't look like much of a difference, but when typing emails and quotations it gets a bit confusing...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekend of Rest

This weekend has been filled with relaxation, shopping and studying - Not necessarily in that particular order. I have been spending a lot of time in town in cafes trying to access the internet. So far, McDonalds still has the fastest WiFi in town. However, I am still disapointed because I have not been able to upload any videos of my trip so far.

It was difficult to navigate through town this weekend with the abundance of tourists flooding the streets. I am happy to call myself a local in order to disassociate myself with their madness. I have also started to use the lingo here, in moderation, such as "cheers", "dodgy" and "posh".

Last night I went to a Garden Party on Rothers Street - Then relocated to Cox's Yard for a beer. I am still trying to learn some of the lingo here and feel a little out of place at times. Tonight some of the students are going out to celebrate our first full week in Stratford.

I stopped by the Institute about an hour ago to do some homework in the Library and was happy to find my missing university ID card in my Pigeon Hole (mailbox). Now I can access the building and library by swiping my card at the entrance to get in. This also allows me to check out books - Although, many of the books are not permitted to leave the building because they are rare, expensive, and must remain on the shelves so that anyone can access them at any given time.

My room is finally in order. I just need a wardrobe of some kind so I can fully unpack and stop living out of my suitcase. Here is a recent picture of my newly decorated bedroom: