Week Three

July 21st to July 27th

For pictures taken each day, please visit the individual blog posts under “Daily Logs.”

July 21st, by A.J.

Today people had freedom to go off whichever way and fill the day as they liked. Tyler did homework all day and then went to see Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre that night. He had great seats right up front. Please see his response in the “extra performances” part of this blog.

Hannah decided she needed a day to herself, so she went on a meditative walk. She went down besides the Thames past the National Theatre and walked by Big Ben. While it was interesting to see the clock, Hannah reported it was a terrible place for walking due to the heavy throngs of slow-moving tourists. Eventually, she reached Buckingham Palace and lingered around the area before heading off passed the Hard Rock Cafe, and the Ritz Hotel to stop at one of her favorite places; Patisserie Valerie, a bakery. The walk then looped around Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square to return to the hotel. Hannah told me she makes sure to visit Trafalgar Square whenever she visits London because she always finds a different art piece set up there.   Speaking of art pieces and poor segues, Connor spent his time at the Tate Modern Museum after a breakfast he spent listening to a street musician. Here are two things he saw that piqued his interest enough, he took photos of them and sent them to me: .    Kelly was also about the Tate Modern but she and Connor somehow managed to avoid running into each other.  Mitch went to Buckingham Palace to witness the Changing of The Guard. I’m unsure why this was the case, but I’m told Michael Jackson music was played at the event. (They posted video of the event to the group’s Facebook page.) Mitch’s evening was then filled with  The Women in Black, a ghostly theatrical production. I’m told there were many jump-scares and a great deal of illusion through practical effects. Nigel and Burns went to Hampstead Heath and spent the whole day walking about the park and trails there. They ran into an author whose name escapes them who approached them while they were taking pictures of interesting trees, who then engaged them in talk about interesting trees he’d taken pictures of, and showed them a picture of a felled tree he found that looked like a ghost ship. They also found a really good Indian restaurant.

July 22nd, by Mitch

Saturday July 22nd was our 16th day here in the great city of London. A few of us in the group got breakfast downstairs at Bankside house before we had our group meeting with Dr. Schmitz. The day also began our solo meetings with Schmitz and Kelly started them off at 9 and AJ followed at 9:45. After their meeting it was time for our group to discuss our Stratford trip on Monday as well as some more expert topics. The expert topics began with AJ giving his topic on The Knowledge. AJ explained about how The Knowledge is the hardest geography test in the world and it is the process for people who want to drive a black cab in London. To run a black cab people must take a test. They cannot fail out of taking the test, in fact people can take it as many times as they want to. The test originated in 1865 and people who are working on The Knowledge are known as Knowledge boys and Knowledge Girls and they must be citizens of good standing. The process lasts about thirty-four months of training and when it is time to take the test, the driver in training must be able to narrate the drive itself. The driver must also know what building he or she will be driving past while driving the cab. AJ ended his topic with giving the group an optional objective. He gave us three things to find: an odd sized police box in an odd location, statue of two mice eating cheese, and smallest cathedral in London. Once AJ finished, it was Connors turn to give his expert topic on Susan Hilferty who was the costume designer of Salome, a show we recently saw here at the National Theatre in London. He explained that Susan went to London on a study abroad trip and has worked in theatre ever since. She has worked on over 20 Broadway productions in costume design and has received her Masters from Yale in design. Notable Broadway productions include: Wicked, Spring Awakening, and Into the Woods. Her work in costume design earned her the 2004 Tony Award for Best Costume Design. After Conner finished his expert topic, Ryan Burns gave his expert topic on the Congestion Charge. The Congestion Charge is a daily charge for driving a vehicle in the zone on Monday through Friday. The law was made in 1993 and the goal was to reduce high traffic flow and to raise funds for London’s other transport systems. It reduced congestion, helped reduce cost for business, reduced pollution and raised revenue. However, there were some cons to this charge because it encouraged people to visit out of town shopping centers, increased false plate and takes higher percentage of income from the poor. As Ryan ended his expert topic it was Tylers turn to give his expert topic on Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was not well liked at first and she was only 18 when she became queen. Tyler gave information about how she became queen on June 20, 1837 and how one of her uncles tried to sabotage her birth so she wouldn’t be born on British soil. Her spouse was from Germany and after he died in 186, Victoria sunk into a depression and did not come out into the public. Tyler also spoke with a cab driver about nationality and the royal family. For his event, Tyler made an interactive timeline for the group to figure out and we did and his expert topic came to an end. Tyler had another expert topic to do, which was “Mind the Gap.” This is an audible or visible caution to passengers for the underground trains in London. They are made aware of the horizontal and vertical gap. Before 1914, doors were located at extreme ends of the train and the gaps were maximized and after 1914, The London Underground that it was infeasible to alert all passengers. Some voices are: Peter Lodge a sound engineer, Tim Bentinek an actor, Emma Clarke a script writer and Oswald Laurence. For his event, Tyler gave everyone in the group a different emotion and we had to say mind the gap as he recorded them. Some of the emotions were: Melancholy, seduce, and frightened and this ended Tylers expert topic. AJ gave another expert topic, this time on South Wark Cathedral. The cathedral is the oldest piece of Gothic architecture and it contains the tenor bell. The tenor bell weighs nearly 2 and a half tons. The cathedral held a special Shakespeare memorial last year and Edmund Shakespeare brother was buried on the grounds in December of 1602. The cathedral is home to a Shakespeare memorial window, which depict 21 characters from his plays and is also home to a statue of Shakespeare in repose while at first AJ thought he was holding a pen but he later discovered that it was more of a branch. It began to rain so we decided that it was best to head inside the Tate and give the rest of our expert topics there as well as talk about future plans for the trip. Once we got inside Kelly gave her expert topic on the London plague and for her event she gave us each a number between 1 and 8. The person who received the number 8 was the person that would die in the London plague. She revealed that 1 in 8 people during this plague died. Doctors could not discover the cause or how to cure this plague. Once the Great Fire of 1666 happened, the London Plague was no more for the Great Fire killed many of the rats and fleas from spreading the plague and her topic came to an end.

After all the expert topics were done, it was time to talk about plans for the trip. Dr. Schmitz had us take our calendars out so we could write down more plans. She explained how we would leave for Stratford early on Monday morning via train and we would arrive around 10 am and head to the bed and breakfast but not check-in until after the show Titus Andronicus. We would arrive back in London on Tuesday afternoon after seeing much of Stratford. Wednesday is our day to see Much Ado About Nothing at the Shakespeare Globe and afterwards, Dr. Schmitz has a surprise event for us and we told her not to tell us. Thursday is our day to see Hamlet and before that, Hannah is seeing Twelfth Night at the Globe. Friday during the day we are possibly doing our tour of Westminster and that evening, the National Theatre is having a Riverside Extravaganza until midnight that we could go to for a dance party. Saturday, we are going to Brighton and seeing the National Theatre Tour production of Jane Eyre and Sunday will be free. Once we finished our group meeting there were still some solo meetings to finish so Ryan finished his and Tyler finished his while he went to the Rose Theatre with Schmitz, Kelly, Nigel and AJ. Conner and Hannah went for a little shopping trip near St. Pauls Cathedral and Ryan and I got a quick lunch at the co-op near Bankside House. Around 3:30, Tyler, Conner, AJ and I went to Leicester square to buy tickets. Tyler and Conner bought tickets for the Sunday matinee performance of The Play that Goes Wrong and AJ bought a ticket for the matinee performance of Matilda. Once they bought their tickets, we headed over so Tyler, AJ and I could buy tickets for the August 2nd matinee of Les Misérables. After we were done buying our tickets, we felt it was time to meet up with the rest of the group and head over the Bush Theatre for the show Hir. We discovered that the circle lines for the underground were not running so after we met up with the rest of the group, we took a bus. The bus however, had to stop due to a rally that we ran into while heading to the Bush. Thankfully no one was hurt and everyone got through safe and sound as we headed to the Bush. On the way, we found a local pub so everyone could grab a bite to eat. Ryan, Conner, AJ and I all got burgers while Kelly and Hannah each got fried chicken and Nigel ate everyones leftovers.

Once we finally made it to the Bush Theatre it was time to give two more expert topics. Tyler started his topic on the Bush Theatre. He explained how it was founded in 1972 and that it reopened in March of this year due to renovations. The renovations included a studio space, new front-of-house area, backstage improvements, 20 percent capacity increase, and diversity. Tyler also explained that the theatre houses about 15,000 more people due to the renovations and he ended his expert topic. Kelly gave her expert topic on Arthur Darvill, the lead in the show. For her event, Kelly had Nigel read some of Darvills quotes. One from Legends of Tomorrow and the other from Doctor Who. She gave some brief history about him and later revealed that he is also a musician and writes most of his own music with his band. Once Kelly ended her expert topic, it was time for us to take our seats and watch the show. At intermission, Ryan and I each bought the script for the show and everyone was starting to have mixed feelings for the show but we wanted to see the rest of it before we formed our final opinions. Once the show ended we headed back via train and the response to the show was very mixed to say the least. Ryan liked it due to him feeling something from the characters but some people in the group found it to be a little offensive. Nigel did not want to speak about the show and no one asked him about it afterwards. I did not know what to feel about the show and I decided to sleep on it and think of it on another day and possibly after reading the script. We ended our day talking about the show in our rooms amongst each other and the day concluded with everyone going to bed and getting a good night rest before our off day on Sunday. We had a very productive July 22nd day here in London, that is for sure.  

July 23rd, by Nigel

It was another free day for the crew here in London. For Mitch, Conner, and myself the morning started with private meetings with professor Schmitz. The purposes was to get some one on one time to discuss our individual experience here and what our individual goals were for the remainder of the trip. After which the groups broke up to make their own adventures for the day!

After Hannah’s meeting she decided to go for a walk and do some shopping. She ventured out across Millennium Bridge, walking around Fleet Street and into several large shopping districts. She really enjoyed having time to herself and finding unique little shops. Some of her favorite items she bought were a faux leather jacket, leggings, and a button up with swans, which are her favorite animal. She spent most of her afternoon shopping, coming back late in the evening for dinner and to rest up in here room.

Kelly and Mitch also took the day to themselves. They spent their time catching up on homework, reading, and trying to get some much needed rest after all the running around we had done lately. They really enjoyed having time to themselves. Getting to recharge his batteries and think over all the experiences they already had. Kelly also took the time to work on the group’s website and organize things for the rest of her trp. The rest of us however had other plans! A.j, Conner, Burns, Tyler, and myself where heading to see some plays on our own. A.J headed to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda, the rest of us went to see The Play that goes wrong at the Duchess Theatre.

We all headed to Covent Garden market area to grab lunch beforehand. On the way I saw a fantastic little creature that seemed to be a mascot for one of the pubs. They were very nice and let me steal a few photos!  I am still not entirely certain what kind of creature they were supposed to represent but they certainly where a good time!

After walking around Covent Garden for a few minutes we found a nice Italian resturaunt that people where interested to try! The food was really good and we had a preview mob boss moment with A.J. We were given a small booth in the back of the restaurant and it felt very much like something out of a movie.

After we separated to our respective shows, everyone enjoyed their play experience that evening and we all traveled back to find dinner near our residence. The day was a day of relaxation for some and new adventures for others, overall everyone was able to make the best of their day for them.

July 24th, by Tyler

Today was the earliest day we’ve ever had to wake up. We all woke up at 6 A.M. (you can just hear the muffled groans of tiredness…) to meet Dr. Schmitz at Southwark Tube Station at 7 A.M. We all agreed to meet at 6:45 A.M. to walk together over to the station, but a couple of us left earlier to get coffee and breakfast at a grab-and-go mart since breakfast at our housing facility didn’t start until & 7 A.M. Once we met Dr. Schmitz, we all rode the Tube for about 20 minutes until we reached Marylebone Station. Here, we relaxed for 45 minutes, and those who never got breakfast bought it here. Once our time came, we got on a train that took us to Stratford-upon-Avon. During the train ride, Dr. Schmitz gave us a bingo card with some things we might find in the English Countryside. Some of the boxes I was able to check off were a sheep with a black face and legs, a pile of gravel, Warwick Castle, a bike helmet, tractor, and a dog. Kelly was “in the zone” and got the first bingo and then proceeded to get blackout! Some of the items were hard to find, like a stone clock tower, a horse jumping, and red shoes (this is harder than you think; everyone wears black dress shoes here!) Whilst on the train ride, some people slept and some had small conversation. I was sitting next to Dr. Schmitz and we had an enlightening discussion about the show we saw a couple of nights ago, HIR. Out of all the performances we have seen so far, it was the most difficult to process. The discussion we had about privilege and perceptions was thrilling and helped me better understand the show. After a seemingly quick two-hour train ride, we arrived in Stratford.

Once in Stratford, we paused outside of the train station to talk about the logistics for the next couple of days. Then, we walked to our residencies for the night, which was about a ten-minute walk. We all stayed in BnB’s, which was exciting since some of us had never stayed in one. When checking in to our (Nigel, A.J., and I) BnB, we met the owner Iain and he gave us the administrative spiel of the rooms and buildings. (The next day, we all had a great discussion about the area of Stratford and he gave us some cool “pips”—like, Stratford is in the middle of England. You can go anywhere you want in about 2 hours!) After we all got done talking to our respective building operators, we met in a small park across the street. Once we were all there, we walked to down to the RSC to collect our tickets for Titus Andronicus and to browse their shop. At the shop, I bought a plush William Shakespeare doll that will accessorize my room, Conner bought a keychain, and Ryan bought a button. After leaving the shop that we all almost bought out, we strolled along the famous Avon. Upon walking, we stumbled upon a boatman and were able to pay for a couple of boats to row on the Avon. Kelly, Nigel, and I were in one boat and Hannah and Conner were in another. It was a magical experience rowing up and down the Avon. We saw beautiful swans, a perfect landscape, and the church where Shakespeare was buried. Unfortunately, we only had 30 minutes in the boat, but we got some great pictures and developed an experience that will last forever. After we got out of the boat, we walked to the Holy Trinity Church. It is in this church that Shakespeare was buried! The architecture of the church was magnificent. We walked into a separate little room where his burial spot was marked off, next to his wife and daughter. It gave me chills. Also, his baptismal fountain was right next to his site and that was magical. To think a piece like this could last nearly 400 years is incredible. You could just envision the event when it happened. Double chills. Once we left the church, we passed through the old graveyard where Dr. Schmitz told us that some scholars think that Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, is buried. After this eerie walk through the graveyard, we went to a small café for lunch.

After lunch, we marched up to the Guild Hall/ King Edward VI school. Here, Hannah delivered her expert topic on the school. She first showed us the word “Shakespeare” written in Latin. She explained that everyone who attended school here would have to be fluent in Latin. The school was established in 1292 by the Guild of the Holy Cross but was later taken away in 1547 by King Edward VI. It is estimated that 1570 is when Shakespeare would have been educated here. In 1776, the plague struck and forced all the students to stay in the building for fear of tracking the plague. Only three boys survived from this, and their names are scratched above the headmaster’s chair in the building. School was from sun up to sun down, and there was no boarding (you only brought your own firewood and candle light). She concluded to tell us that in 2013, the first all-girls class was admitted into the school. Once inside the school, we went to the classroom where our headmaster told us of things we would need to know about school. He pointed out where he would have lived (right next to the classroom) and where the different grades would sit. A.J. started taking notes, and the headmaster told him that the kids in the class would have thought of him being a know-it-all. He proceeded to explain that learning was taught through repetition and not note taking. By nine years old, you were required to be fluent in Latin. That is unbelievable to me. I am not even fluent in another language. He then proceeded to say that Shakespeare would have studied the classics (Sophocles, Ovid, etc.). In class, however, they studied by performing. So as a group activity, we all lined up and stabbed the person in front of us in the back while they said, “Et tu, Brute.” (This, of course, came from Julius Caesar). After our “lesson” with the headmaster, we all went into the next room and worked on activities, like writing with a quill and ink, dressing up as a headmaster, and sitting in the headmaster’s chair. After about 20 minutes of fun, we toured the small room where the headmaster would have lived and saw an old table that headmasters would have written their initials on. We went downstairs, after, and heard one of the volunteers talk about the building. He mentioned how it was dated back to before Columbus found America. Wow! Also, he showed us paintings by priests over 400 years old. He explained that before the Reformation, the Guild Hall would hire priests to expedite people’s entry into heaven by praying for them. So, the priests built an alter and painted the walls of the room to pray all day. When the Reformation came, King Henry VIII ordered all the Catholic ornaments to be erased, including the paintings. Apparently, people would scrub and scrub to try and get the paintings off, but remnants would still stay, and that is what we saw. Even when we went to the church next to the Guild Hall, you could see remnants of the paintings.

After that experience, Ryan gave his expert topic on New Place. Eventual family home of Shakespeare, it was built by Sir Hugh Clopton in 1483 (whom eventually became Lord Mayor of London). William Underhill I was the person who sold the home to Shakespeare, although it took Shakespeare a few years to seal the deal since there was “foul play” in Underhill’s death. Shakespeare and his wife, Anne, owned this home and raised their three children here. Although Shakespeare was in London a lot of the time producing his shows, this house was filled with everything Shakespeare. We were unable to tour the house because of the cost of tickets, but we were able to walk down to see Shakespeare’s birth home. A lot of scholars believe that that was not his actual birthplace but nothing is confirmed. After we got a group picture and Dr. Schmitz explained the rest of the night, we were off on our own for a bit. I ate dinner with Dr. Schmitz, and we talked about Titus Andronicus, since I was the only one from the group who had read it. Hannah, Conner, and Kelly went to a pub called The Encore just off the Avon. Nigel, A.J., Ryan, and Mitch went back to the BnB’s to sleep. (I don’t blame them…) After a couple hours of down time, we saw Titus Andronicus at the RSC. It was thrilling to see it live on stage, and…well… disgusting, too. By the time we got out, it was almost 11 P.M. Everyone went back to the BnB’s to get sleep for the next day. Boy, it was a momentous day today.