Week Two

July 13th to July 20th

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

July 13th, by Hannah

Mitch presented two of his expert topics on Sam Wanamaker, which bust is slightly in the back of the photo, and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London. Afterwards, we went into the Sam Wanamaker theatre in order to watch an open rehearsal of the Restoration Shakespeare Project, who were working on a production of the Restoration version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

The theatre is lit by primarily real candle light that has to be taken down to be either reloaded or relit.  Here is a glimpse of the stage and the lighting that would have be used within this time period.  Pictured is one of the stewards changing the candles for another project that was happening in the space afterward.

During our session, they asked for audience participation and our own Nigel volunteered.  Below is a video of him performing with the rehearsal cast. He was standing in for Ferdinand.

What we witnessed was an experiment to try to recreate what a restoration Shakespeare would have been like.  This was a collaboration between a group of scholars versed in many areas like theatre, literature or history all coming together to watch and suggest in a rehearsal process.  The use of music was very prominent and at times felt more like an operetta than a Shakespearean piece.  We were watching a Tempest rehearsal yet the dialogue we saw was mainly singing and there were added characters.  It was a trial, error, collaborate and repeat scenario.

Afterwards, some of us went to Pizza Express for lunch. Kelly went to study her walking tour, while the rest of the group hung out for the day. We then all met at 4:30 for a meeting and then went to the immersive Alice’s Adventures Underground.

Alice’s Adventures Underground was unlike anything I have experienced.  I can’t even call it a play because that would be putting it into a category it doesn’t belong to.  It was a performance nonetheless that gave you choices.  You either could be a spade, heart, club, or diamond and each of these took different routes.  For example, the hearts were on the Queen’s side whereas the spades, the suit I was, directly opposed her.  Each group took a different storyline being lead by actors. The setting was like a haunted house style that you walk through but it wasn’t horror based. Everything was set in an underground station and set up to look like different parts of Wonderland like a mushroom field or falling down the rabbit hole. It was immersive and unlike anything words could adequately describe. Conner and I stayed back to eat at the bar/kitchen where everything was Wonderland themed.

After the show, some people went to the Lord Nelson’s pub before returning to Bankside to relax for the night.


July 14th, by Tyler

Today was the LONGEST day we have been here so far (and I think everyone else would agree). We all got up early and ate breakfast at the hotel before meeting Dr. Schmitz at Blackfriars Station. It was 9:30, and just after she talked about the logistics for the day, she “turned the mic.” over to Ryan, Mitch, and A.J. to lead their walking tour throughout Fleet Street (if you are thinking Sweeny Todd, yes). Before we even started the tour, I gave my expert topic on the Blackfriars Bridge. Opening in 1869, the bridge was innovative for its time—shifting from the semi-circular support arches to semi-elliptical arches. Queen Victoria led a ceremony to open this Joseph Cubitt-designed bridge, hence her statue being on the North side of the bridge. I told them that the most remarkable thing about this bridge was that in 1982, a man named Robert Calvi was hanged from the bridge. Other than this infamous instance, the bridge can be seen in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and referenced in The Homecoming by Harold Pinter.

We travelled across the road from Blackfriars to a building adjacent to the station. Ryan presented on the first stop of the tour: Dorset Garden Theatre. It stood standing from 1671-1706 and cost 8,000 pounds to build. This used to be one of only two theaters that were authorized by King Charles II. Much like a lot of old building in the City of London area, Christopher Wren was hired to design and construct this theatre with plans initiated by Sir William Davenport and Sir Thomas Killigrew. Now, it is the site of J.P. Morgan banking company. Ryan then led us the old site of the Prison of Bridewell. He told us that the prison dated back to the 11th century and was primarily housed debtors and petty criminals. The famous inmate that stayed in this prison was Thomas Kyd, who wrote The Spanish Tragedy. Following, Ryan took us to Bridewell Theatre where he told us it used to be a bathhouse in the 1950s. He also mentioned that a lot of the earlier fonts were made here (like, maybe even the one you are reading from right now). After moving a few feet, Ryan showed us the Salisbury Court Theatre. Compared to the Dorset Garden, this theatre only took 1,000 pounds to make. It was built in 1629 but burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. After pointing to the sky to show up a huge tower, Ryan pointed out St. Bride’s Church—which was bombed in the 1940s during WWII but rebuilt a decade later. Dr. Schmitz pointed out how the shape of the church tower we were looking look was the inspiration for the three-tiered wedding cakes we see today!

We were able to go inside of the church to view the incredible architecture and the crypts at the bottom. Seeing the grave plaques and stones that dated back to centuries ago really put a chill down all our backs! While we were inside, Dr. Schmitz pointed out the statue of Virginia Dare; she was the first New World baby and her parents were married in the church we were in before they went to America.

From here, Mitch started to lead the tour. He took us to Temple Church (1185) where he told us it was one of only 5 round churches remaining in England. John Marston (Elizabethan dramatist) was buried in this church. When we went inside the church, we could go to the upper gallery (the “round” part) to get a beautiful view of the church from down below. A.J. also pointed out to me that six members of this church were original signers on the Declaration of Independence! Once we left, Nigel gave his expert topic on the Knight’s Templar.  He explained how the Templar was made up of nine guys who returned from the First Crusade. They became powerful because of their success and their establishment of Europe’s first banking system, but ultimately, they declined after being defeated by Sala Hadin’s army.

After his expert topic, Mitch led us to places like Oliver Goldsmith’s, dramatist, gravestone; Middle Temple Hall, which has a double hammer beam roof and was where Twelfth Nightwas performed, and St. Dunstan-in-the-West, a church where the River Thames used to go up to and where Philip Massinger and Thomas Campion are buried on site. Along the way, two more expert topics were given. I talked about the Temple Bar once we saw the temple Bar Memorial (where Fleet Street meets Strand). I told the group how the Temple Bar was 2,500 stones and over 40 tons that has been moved to Paternoster Square (right behind St. Paul’s Cathedral). Designed by Christopher Wren, it was an entryway to the law offices of the city. Now, it is used for decorative and historical purposes. Nigel talked about his expert topic on the London Planetree, as well. This interesting and seemingly amazing tree makes up over 80% of trees in the City of London. They are hybrid between the American Sycamore and Oriental Planetrees, and they are great because they naturally clean themselves and the air by shedding their own bark.

At this point in the tour, A.J. took over and took us the William Gladstone monument. We paused here for a minute to recognize the statues of Lord Dowding and Arthur Harris, as well. These two men were essential during WWII (they used RADAR to help defeat German pressure). A.J. told us that Gladstone was the Prime Minister for the United Kingdom for four times—more than anyone in that position. A.J. told us that while he was pro-slavery and was on the South side for the American Civil War, he was known as “Good Old Man” Gladstone and was an avid theatre-goer (people would go just to see him). As our little pip, A.J. told us that he would invite prostitutes to his house to tempt himself (he would never actively engage with them, but if he ever felt the need to he drove them back to their origin).

We spotted a police officer and decided to take a picture with him as a group (for one of our photo scavenger hunt pictures), and as a thank you, A.J. gave him an Illinois postcard (which was hilarious considering A.J. had to run a couple of blocks to give it to him!) We then went inside St. Mary La Strand Church (the official church for the Royal Air Force). A.J. told us that it was designed by James Gibbs and is known as an island church because it lies in the middle of the road. When we left the church, A.J. took us to the Royal Courts of Justice where civil cases are tried here. For the most part, a lot of the cases are free to watch. We ended our tour at Samuel Johnson’s house (which he stayed from 1748-59). As A.J. delivered his expert topic on Johnson, we learned that he created the first English Dictionary and write a preface to Shakespeare’s works. While he was telling us his life story, we all were doing odd things (such as making weird noises, blowing on people’s necks, and walking backwards). After his presentation, A.J. said that Johnson did some of these things when he was older and getting sick—it really brought his experience to us on a personal level. Lastly, he pointed out a statue of Johnson’s cat, Hodge. He was Johnson’s favorite cat and was placed across the courtyard from his house by Johnson’s grandson.

After the tour was over, most of us went to Cheshire Cheese (A.J., Nigel, and Dr. Schmitz went to a Greek establishment) to eat lunch and then went to the National Theatre (NT) right after.

At 2:30, we all met Dr. Schmitz in the lobby of the NT to get ready for our backstage tour at 3:00. During this time, I was able to score two tickets to a sold-out production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, and A.J. decided he would like to take the other ticket from me. Also, while we were waiting, Hannah gave her expert topics on the NT and Yäel Farber. Hannah told us how the NT is comprised of three theatres: Olivier (1,150 seats), Lyttleton (890 seats), and Dorfman (450 seats). Although Prince Charles said the NT “looks ugly,” the designer wanted the theatre to not look as appealing than the actual stages so all the attention would be devoted to the front. The Olivier Theatre was designed after the Greek Amphitheatre, the Lyttleton Theatre has an adjustable proscenium, and the Dorfman can morph to any type of stage. Much like the Globe, more than one production may inhabit a theatrical space at once. She also talked about Yäel Farber, who is a playwright famous for her adaptations that resonate with the South African culture (where she is from). She received a B.A. in dramatic arts and has won 29 awards worldwide. Her works include adaptations of the OresteiaJulius Caesar, and Miss Julie.

After she gave her expert topic, our tour guide, Sophie Askew, met us to take us backstage at the NT. We all started by putting on orange vests to show others we were part of a tour (and so we didn’t get lost). Sophie started by telling us that the NT is an open building and is welcome to theatre goers or people who need a place to work or make exhibitions. We went into the Lyttleton Theatre where she explained that it was the “most traditional” theatre of the three. To give us a little history, she mentioned how the NT performed at the Old Vic until the building where they are currently located opened and how the original plans called for a big opera house to go on the top of the theatre but funding ran short before work was made. She then took us to the back area of the theatre where sets and props are ordered, designed, and made. It is here where we got to touch some props, see the future productions of Follies and Pinocchio being made, and saw a huge lift that brings sets all the way up to the fourth-story Olivier theatre. Once we finished in the carpenter’s area, we went to the Olivier theatre to end our tour. She told us that the theatre is fan-shaped at 118° because that is the maximum angle our peripheral vision sees. So literally every seat is a good seat because you can see the entire theatre (brilliant!)

Once we ended our tour with Sophie, we went outside the theatre for two more expert topics. Hannah presented on the Waterloo Bridge (immediately to the left of the theatre), which was built in 1909 and named after the infamous “Battle of Waterloo.” The bridge is made of Portland Stone, which is nice because it cleans itself. In 1924, it shut down due to more automobiles being made and more pressure on the bridge. During this shutdown, a lot of women worked on it to repair it, which is why it is known as the Lady’s Bridge. As a fun-fact, Hannah told us that someone was stabbed with a poison-tipped umbrella on the bridge (that speaks words for itself…) Mitch also presented on the Somerset House (just across the River Thames).  It was named after the Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour. It was designed in 1776 by William Chambers, where it was used for visual arts until the 21stcentury. Now, it is used as an ice rink and for music events. This has been seen in James BondSleepy HollowSherlock Holmes, and London Has Fallen. Mitch made us all sign “The Treaty of Toodle-Pip” (the Treaty of London was signed here) to respect the privacy of others and to get along with each other.

We broke for dinner here. A.J., Dr. Schmitz, and I ate at the café in the NT, and the others got some hot dogs at a vendor nearby. At 6:00, we all met back in the Olivier theatre to listen to a talk by THE Yäel Farber on her adaptation of Salome. It was so enlightening to hear her speak and then see her show. You could tell of a lot of the things she was saying was in her production. She mentioned that she loves the silences, as in the stories not being told, in theatre. To channel these silences, she diverts away from the WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant), European, Male writings. She loves to reactivate texts to give a “nod” to pieces not found in modern texts. And, in all her pieces, she doesn’t “want to have anything on stage that isn’t utterly essential.” Her talk about trying to represent the crowds whose culture has been invaded by another culture (ex. White Jesus) is what she tries to focus on. This struck me as amazing because I don’t know if there is any other playwright out there like her today.

After her talk, we lounged around for a half hour before seeing Salome. I will let you read Kelly’s review, but it left me at a loss for words. It was one of those occurrences where you would not want to be anywhere else in the world at that particular time, and I am so glad I got to experience it with the group. As you could tell by this blog post, we had a tiresome day. When we got back to our residence, we all crashed with the lasting and amazing image of the performance we saw tonight.


July 15th, by Ryan

We all met down the street from St. Paul’s Cathedral, to take Nigel and Kelly’s tour of The City of London. We made certain stops at places such as:

  • The College of Arms
  • Mermaid Theatre
    • Opened in 1959, St. Paul’s actually rang a bell for them as a welcoming.
    • Their sign also feature a very nice spike pole to keep people off of it apparently.
  • Paul’s Cathedral
  • Mary Le-bow
  • Lawrence Jewry
  • Guildhall
    • We actually went into the Guildhall Art Gallery, where there are a few hundred paintings ranging from all different eras. If you go down into the basement of the Gallery you will see the ruins of the amphitheater built in the late 2nd
  • Site of Wren Church of St. Mary Aldermanbury and The Hemminge-Condell Monument
    • This area is where we sat down and enjoyed conversation about the show we saw the night before, Salome. We also worked on our calendars trying to fill out all the events that will be coming our way.
  • Museum of London
    • We came to this location on the first week we were here. They featured a ton of exhibits and information of what London has been!
  • Barbican Centre
    • This Centre was the location of RSC’s The Tempest.
  • Margaret Lothbury
  • Bank of England
    • Us Disney freaks talked about how this location was the workplace of Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins.
  • Mansion House
  • Temple of Mithras remains
    • There is actually construction going on at this site and they will actually be putting the remains of the Temple underneath the building for tourists and other people to see.
  • Nicholas Cole Abby

Expert Topics

Conner:

Conner talked about Ai Weiwei who is a modern artist native to southern china. He is a vicious political dissident and he has been declared by china as an enemy of the state for his controversial art work. Early in his career he investigated the deaths of a natural disaster and found that the government has cut corners in constructing their public buildings, therefore causing the deaths of thousands of children. He published this information and was thereafter on the run. He was caught and endured an 81 day solitary confinement where they attempted to break his will, but Ai Weiwei survived and continued to be an artist. He is most well-known for his Han dynasty urn which he smashed to make the statement that art is not priceless.

He also talked about The Barbican which is a housing project in downtown London that is built upon the grounds of an ancient roman fortification called a barbican. It was built because of the housing crisis Post World War II and because the area it is now built on was entirely flattened during the bombing raids. The housing project is a modernist and brutalist architectural scheme that is designed to be a cultural utopia. It houses every form of art and a college of drama and music.

Mitch:

We stopped at the Guild Hall and Mitch gave his expert topic about Samuel Pepys he talked about how he kept a diary of some of London’s turbulent events. Apparently he was known for writing the most vital moments. One entry was of the Great Fire and how he woke up, thought it would be put out and went back to bed. However when he woke again he discovered how great and terrible the fire really became.

He also talked The Great Smoke or Smog that happened in the early 1950s, and lasted about five days. The smoke was caused by cold weather and the use of burning coal. The smoke was so thick, citizens couldn’t see within 3 feet ahead of them. About 4,000 people died.

Tyler:

Tyler’s expert topic was over The City of London vs Greater London and how the two differed from one another. We found that both have Mayors of London, but the Lord Mayor in the city holds the title as the Right Honorable Lord Mayor of London, the city was also founded first by the Romans and used as a trading post.

Ryan:

I talked about the Great Fire of 1666 and how much over all damage it did to the city. Since that days walking tour we saw a lot of Church’s that actually were affected by the fire itself. It even destroyed the Old St. Paul’s Cathedral which took over 45 years to rebuild and London itself took over 50 years to rebuild from all the damage it had done.

The Day as a Whole:

AJ and Tyler had to leave half way through the walking tour because Tyler was able to score tickets to Angels in America, AJ is quoted saying “Nathan Lane brought a degree of emotional authenticity to the role.”

The rest of us finished the walking tour and all joined Professor Schmitz at a nearby Wagamama’s for lunch. We all went back to Bankside and to work on homework and other last minute things that needed to be taken care of before we go to the Harry Potter tour. The only person who went out for that evening was Hannah she went to the show Half a Sixpence in the Noel Coward Theatre in West end.


July 16th. by Mitch

July 16th was our 12th day here in the great city of London. It began with Dr. Schmitz posting on our Facebook page that tickets for Angels in America with Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane and is playing at the National Theatre had become available this week. Tyler woke me up telling me this and he was going to try to get tickets for the Tuesday performances. Tuesday was playing part 1 at 1 pm and part 2 at 7 pm. He had already seen part 1earlier so we were going to let me see part 1 and I would just have to pay him back at a later date. However, we later discovered by Dr. Schmitz had plans for all of Tuesday so unfortunately we decided to pass on that day, but I had discovered that part 1 tickets for Wednesday night had become available and that day is one of our free days so I decided to get a ticket. I was in the middle of trying to get a ticket but I had to change my password for some reason on the website and when I went back, the tickets had been sold and I thought I missed out so I let it go. AJ came into our room and was talking with Tyler about the Tuesday performances, they both went to the show, and they talked about getting tickets for both performances and just returning part 1. Tyler chose not to go in case we would not get a full refund for his part 1 purchase but AJ went ahead and bought his ticket for part 2 with hope of returning his part 1 ticket. Hannah, on the other hand, had a different idea for seeing a show, she went down to the Shakespeare Globe and bought a ticket for Twelfth Night at 2 pm on the 27th, the same night we are seeing Hamlet. After she bought her ticket she went to eat at a cheap and good restaurant called Paul’s. Everyone felt that today was a good day to sleep in as well, for everyone did not get up until about 10 am. Conner got caught up on his laundry, Tyler, Ryan, and Nigel all got caught up on their homework before it was time to go to our tour of the Harry Potter Studios.

We all decided that it would be best that we should leave by 3 so we could get there on time for our 6 pm tour. We met downstairs, except for Tyler for he did not buy a ticket for the tour, and headed to Blackfriars station, rode to the tube to Euston station and rode the train to our bus stop which took us to the studio tour. The studio tour was an amazing experience for everyone that went. Once we ended our tour, everyone bought something at the gift shop. Ryan bought a Hufflepuff sweater and scarf, for he took the Pottermore test online and discovered he was sorted into the Hufflepuff house. I bought the original screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Nigel bought two mugs for friends of his, and Kelly bought a necklace. Yes, we did stop halfway through the tour and got Butter beer and it was delicious. The tour was a truly magical experience for everyone that went. On the way back we all talked about how great the tour was and we were all glad that we went. Tyler on the other hand, got caught up on his laundry and when he was finished, he went to dinner with Dr. Schmitz at The Real Greek. After his dinner with Dr. Schmitz, Tyler went to The London Eye. He bought a fast pass so he could ride it a lot quicker and he said later that it was a cool experience. Once the groups activities were finished for the day, we all returned to our residents and Tyler and I decided to order pizza for dinner. Once Tyler started ordering our pizza, I checked the National Theatre website to see if any tickets for Wednesday nights performance of Angels in America were available, even though I was sure that they were going to be all sold out. I discovered that there were still tickets available so I decided to buy one for Wednesday night for 65 pounds. I could not control my excitement that I have the opportunity to see both Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield live on stage in a critically acclaimed play in Angels in America. I skyped my family in America after I bought my ticket, for I had not spoken to them since I left so I thought it would be a good time to speak with them. We talked for about 15 minutes and they were excited for the opportunity that I had just picked up. After we finished our conversation, I hung up and by that time our pizza had arrived and that is what we had for dinner that night.

Nigel, Ryan and AJ thought it would be best to turn in for the night once we got back home. Tyler and I went to bed after we finished our pizza and Kelly, Hannah and Conner stayed up a little longer because the downstairs bar had Game of Thrones on the television. All in all, it was a very cool and magical day for our 12th day here in London.


July 17th, by Conner

Monday was the day after we had our trip to the Harry Potter film studio and therefore the group was mostly interested in relaxation. Since we had no major plans we all set out different ways for breakfast and spent the early morning either in bed or not doing much. I preferred to grab a breakfast sandwich from Leon and sit by the Thames. I have a preferred spot behind Tate Modern where I like to sit and watch the morning traffic come and go as I slowly wake up. There was an old man in a wheelchair that morning playing along to some jazz and blues music. He inhabited a certain point along the river where the rail curves outward to the water and forms a sort of cove for performers who like to play for the people. The elderly gentlemen was playing a saxophone and he was quite good.

After a short while my friends appeared to collect me we went down to the Borough Market. It was by no means my first time there, but I had not yet fully explored the area. It’s something akin to a fair ground filled with food venders and rolling machines that make coffee, display food, and act as counters. The area is under an overpass and it has a daily rotation to every lot, so the food and drink is different every time you go. That particular day there was a women standing in one corner playing her guitar and singing. By time we had reached the burrow it was getting close to lunch so we all found something to eat and we sat on the side of the walkway to listen to her perform. She was wonderfully talented and after me and Nigel each bought a CD of her work, we got a group photo with her. Her name was Lucy May Walker.

Later we would leave the market and head towards Leicester Square to try to get tickets for a number of different performances. Leicester Square is always a fun time because there is always a lot of people and a lot going on. It’s one of those places that feels like the city center because everything is within arm’s reach or a few minutes’ walk. In the square itself there is a small park where we sat for a few moments and watched the birds play near the fountain. Just outside the park area is a building run by TKTS where several of us bought tickets to shows. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful until we came to the show for the night. Via the district line on the tube, we were led to The Royal Court theatre where we saw The Ferryman.


July 18th, by Tyler

Today was a paradox in and of itself. A seemingly mellow day was also very hectic and overwhelming for a lot of us; this wasn’t for any bad reasons, but we took in a lot. We started off our morning by meeting Dr. Schmitz in front of our residence (except for A.J.—he was able to see Part One and Part Two of Angels in America). After talking about the day and informing us of a surprise excursion, we went to the bus station on Blackfriars Road to head toward St. Pancras Station. While on the bus, Conner and I got to sit at the top of London’s famous double-decker bus. All I have to say is that it was a nerve-racking experience seeing a big bus make sharp turns and squeeze into tight spaces!

Once we got to St. Pancras Station, we stood and took pictures with the incredible architecture and discussed how this was used in a couple of the Harry Potter Series movies. At St. Prancras Station, Dr. Schmitz told us the “surprise” we had been waiting for (with a courtesy drumroll, too): we were going to the British Library. Now, before announcing what we were doing, she prefaced her announcement with “people usually replying with a (sigh face)… or a (happy face)…” Regardless of everyone’s reactions, we walked about a block into the courtyard of the British Library.

In the courtyard, we rested a bit and talked about the group’s recent activities: touring the Harry Potter Film Studio and watching The Ferryman. Before we did any of that, though, Nigel talked about his expert topic on the Royal Court. He explained the Royal Court is a writer’s theatre—meaning they produce new plays and adaptations. They receive over 1,000 entries per years and have international civil theatres all over the world. Their main goal is to push and produce tougher shows with tougher themes to get people talking about said themes (ex. gay rights, Brexit, etc.) After Nigel, we talked the Harry Potter film studio tour. I did not attend the film studio tour, I enjoyed hearing about everyone’s experience. After hearing about the different experiences everyone had, Dr. Schmitz challenged them to come up with some words to describe their experience. They came up with immersive (because there was so much to do and interact with), real (these weren’t casts or prototypes—the real deal), magical (for obvious reasons), lasts (the receptive experience lasts with the viewer, and the craftsmanship has lasted all of these years), and relatable (you are able to see the impossible made possible). Hannah added in that she believed “lasts” was a good word choice because one of her favorite memories from the tour was shoving into the small blue car, that Harry and Ron drive into the Forbidden Forest, with 7 other people. After enough Harry Potter talk, we talked about the show we saw last night, The Ferryman. To me, there were a lot of mixed reviews between the group. I’ll let you all look at Mitch’s response to see how someone from our group responded, but I think it is safe to say that we had a good discussion about a thrilling show.

After talking for a bit, we finally went inside the British Library. Dr. Schmitz took us the to “Treasures” room of the library where the famous Magna Carta was stored. Our assignment was to find one artifact in the room and write about why we chose it, our experience with it, and what we learned (you can find that under the excursions tab). After we conferred with Dr. Schmitz what we wanted, we were allowed to walk around the rest of the room and explore what was there. I’ll be the first to say that museums and museum-type atmospheres do NOT entertain me, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this room. I looked at various artifacts such as John Milton’s (original copy of) A Paradise Lost, some of the earliest forms of sheet music, and personal diary entries from over 200 years ago. I think I could recycle the words used to describe the Harry Potter tour for this experience. It was so rich and educational; I felt like I didn’t want to leave. Alas, we left the museum (but not before taking a picture under the famous British Museum sign), and headed over to Pizza Express for lunch.

After lunch, we made our adventure over to the British Museum. However, on the way we stopped at The School of Life—a school/shop that sells merchandise on… well… life. For instance, they sold boxes of cards that had motivational and calming thoughts on them, career planning books, and much more. This was a really cool and unique shop that no of us had ever experienced before, but after a couple of purchases we moved on. Outside of the British Museum, we stopped at this small shop that sold old Roman coins and ancient artifacts. While some people enjoyed looking at all of the history in that small room, some of us glazed our eyes over the shop (our lunch was finally kicking in and we were getting tired). Once out of the shop and through bag check, we were finally standing in front of the British Museum.

Whilst standing, we heard a couple of expert topics from Kelly and Nigel. Kelly talked about the Rosetta Stone (no, not the gimmicky television ad claiming you can be fluent in a foreign language in just six weeks). She told us how the stone was found by French explorers on July 19, 1798, in the city of Rashid (Rosetta). This stone found in the delta of Egypt had a mix of hieroglyphics, demotic (Egyptian), and Greek—all three used in Egypt. People started to realize that the stone said the same paragraph three different times in the three different languages. This was the earliest form translation the world has known. And, to make our experience more worthwhile, Kelly had us write our name in hieroglyphics! Nigel, then, talked about his expert topic on Sutton Hoo. Sutton Hoo is an ancient Viking burial site that dates back to the 6th century. It is over 400 acres long and has been active 78 years in excavations. It has, mostly, been well-preserved, and is a Pagan stronghold. After two expert topics, we finally went inside the museum.

Once in the museum, Kelly and Nigel decided to have an interactive experience with a hands-on exhibit while the rest of us walked around the room we were in. (Eventually we all sat since our feet hurt). After Nigel and Kelly’s interaction, we went and viewed the Rosetta Stone. Albeit crowded, seeing this huge stone with archaic language etched into it was magnificent, even though my eyes and posture did not show it (lunch was really hitting me (us) now). After we looked at the stone, we viewed the Elgin Marbles. Dr. Schmitz told us that the Elgin Marbles were founded by Lord Elgin. He took these marbles from Greece to Britain in 1812, but there is some heavy debate as to who should have them. Greece wants them back, but London believes they are entitled to have them (who is right, the world may never know…) Also, Conner gave us his expert topic on Ozymandias. Ozymandias is a poem written by Percy Shelley about a statue collected in the 13thcentury B.C. Shelley was a Romantic writer and stood up for what he believed in, which led him to lose his upper-class standing early in his life. After Conner’s expert topic, we were all free to do whatever we wished to do.

One of our assignments before we left was similar to the British Library assignment—we had to find one item in the museum and write about our experience with it. We got bonus points if we could find an artifact from one of the podcasts Dr. Schmitz offered us to listen to before we left on the trip, as well. Hannah and I stuck together and finished our assignment very quickly. We were so overwhelmed with the day and the museum that we wanted to go to a Café Nero to relax. After our pause, we went to TKTS to get tickets to tonight’s performance of Kinky Boots. I took Hannah to this awesome restaurant, Steak & Co., for dinner, and then we experienced one of our favorite shows. After the show, we were still singing and dancing to the Cyndi Lauper lyrics of Kinky Boots. Once we got back to the room, I found out that everyone else hung around the museum a little longer than we did before heading to TKTS to get tickets for shows (Mitch got a ticket for tonight’s performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap; everyone else got a ticket to the same show but for tomorrow’s performance). On the way to get tickets, Nigel unexpectedly ended up in a Burger King commercial. He was talking to some man who happened to be the manager in charge of the commercial. He was offered the opportunity and did not resist (who would?!). After a while of him being there, everyone left Nigel since he was still filming and they had other things to do. While Nigel was still filming, everyone ate at McDonalds and went their respective ways to either enjoy a show or relax for the night. Once everyone returned, we all conferred with each other on how our day after the museum was. There seemed to be nothing but good opportunities and experiences happening (especially A.J. seeing almost eight hours of theatre!). This was a great moment for all of us, and a perfect conclusion to our day.


July 19th, by Ryan

Another free day for the group, all searching for an adventure in London. Everyone began going their own way at about 11 am.

Kelly, Nigel, and Conner revisited the British Museum and British Library, they all went with AJ who had not had the opportunity to go. While they were there they specifically looked for Sutton Hoo artifacts and ancient Rome artifacts. After returning, Kelly, Connor and AJ, all went to their rooms to work on homework and to prepare for the night.

I myself grabbed my handy dandy Lord of The Rings book and went out and sat in the grass in front of the Tate Modern and read.

Tyler and Mitch ate at the restaurant Porky’s which is right near The Globe Theatre and they both came back and worked on homework.

When Nigel returned to his room, Tyler and I asked if he would like to join us for dinner at Angus Steak House, where we had an amazing meal, then we went to West End together for some others to join us later on in the evening to go see The Mousetrap, the longest running show in London.

Hannah went into Leicester Square to see Harry Potter and The Cursed Child and apparently the line was wrapped all around the building. She ended up changing seats with a married couple who wanted to sit together, she was in the grand circle. Between the shows, since the show is two parts she ate at Pret and went into a steampunk themed clothing and got some ice cream before heading back to part two.

We ended the night after I had suggested finding a karaoke bar to sing and all have a little bit of bonding time. The karaoke place was different than we were used to, our group got our separate room that had its own TV, sound system and waiter where we could order our drinks. We all had an amazing time and we grabbed a cab back to Bankside.


July 20th, by Nigel

The group woke late, gaining some much needed rest. The morning was our own and everyone spent it recharging their battery, doing laundry, and catching up on assignments. There was an anxious anticipation for the event of the day. We had little information aside from wear all black and, knee high, colorful socks. We were to meet outside our residence at 3:00, the group first gathering in the room of A.J, Burns, and myself idly discussing where we could be heading. The meeting time was gradually extended until roughly 4:30, leaving us with plenty of time to invent the most absurd of possibilities. The event was not only a mystery to us students but also to our professor, though they had previously attended a similar event through this group and knew it to be a safe environment. Even the exact location was unknown, a few hours before the event was to take place we started to receive text messages with directions. In some ways it felt as if we were inside a spy film waiting for our next mission. We took a brief walk to the underground train station (the tube) venturing forth into the unknown.

After arriving at the station we followed the next set of walking directions a few blocks, keeping an eye out for yellow chevrons indicating the location. The area we walked through had a very industrial vibe, with what appeared to be warehouses around the area. It did not take long before we saw a door marked with chevrons, the only remarkably thing about the area being how unremarkably it was. When we entered we were transported into a steam punk themed waiting area which maybe one of the coolest interior designs I have seen in some time. We then discovered what our adventure would be, it was there take on a dinner theatre. We split into two different groups entering at different times. The journey took us through several rooms, each with its own theme and food. It was an extremely immersive experience which I personally found to be fantastic. We all waited for each other after and traveled back to our residence where we split into small groups to eat dinner before settling in for the night. For more information on the event itself which is called “The Machine” checkout the play review section!

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