Emily Neer; Written on 8 July 2014
Today seemed to go by so quickly and so much happened since this morning. The good news is that I slept through the night last night, as the London traffic below my window does not disturb me any more. It is quite the wake up call in the morning though! After getting ready this morning, I walked over to the café in the Franklin-Wilkins building to get breakfast on the go with Margaret. I ended up spilling my tea everywhere on the counter and on my new raincoat (good thing that the jacket is waterproof) before we walked over to class. I am not surprised by my clumsiness this morning. Even though it wasn’t the best start to my morning, I absolutely loved class. Like I mentioned our class is called Theatrical London and today we had to prepare to discuss the play, Julius Caesar. But first I want to talk about the location of the classroom. Our class is on the Strand campus across the River Thames. We have to walk across the Waterloo Bridge every morning to get to class and I feel like a true London commuter. Our class is on the 8th floor of the Strand Building and it has the best view of London. We started class by diving right into the history of Shakespeare and Elizabethan London and into dissecting a scene from Julius Caesar. I think I learned more today about Shakespeare and plays than I have in all of my high school years. The way my tutor talked about and incorporated the historical events by showing us where these events happened in modern day London was really great. Our classroom is also set up like a seminar, which is really common here in Britain and is the preferred form of instruction over lecture. I really like that we are all learning from one another and some people were bringing up really great points throughout class. I am so thankful to be in a diverse and engaging class. I am also so lucky to be able to study Shakespeare in central London.
After class was dismissed we walked down to the cafeteria in the Strand Building and had lunch. The Strand Building is pretty old, but beautiful. It has so many corridors and hallways and it is really easy to get lost in the place. It would be fun to try some time soon and see where I end up though. After lunch we had some free time before we were to walk over to The Globe. We went to visit the King’s College bookstore and it is this really tiny shop on a corner of Strand Street. We then met back in the Strand building courtyard and walked as a class over to The Globe. The walk was beautiful along the River Thames and the Globe sits on the banks of the Thames as well.
I learned that theatre was first built in 1599, but shortly after in 1613 during a play it burned down (and don’t worry there were no causalities despite the thousands of people who were there and there being only one exit. It is said that a man’s trousers caught on fire but he was able to douse it with his beer.) This Globe is the fifth reconstruction and is said to sit where the original Globe would have been. Rebuilding the Globe was started by an American actor who was disappointed when he arrived to London and realized there was not a physical Globe Theatre in Southwark. He took on private donations and recreated the structure for £23 million, which opened in 1997. It is interesting because the English government has not paid any money at all for the building since or during its reopening.
The Globe is beautiful and the stage is so ornate inside. I managed to get a couple of pictures after the performance since you are unable to take pictures during the performance. The Globe is open air with room for standing around the stage and about three stories of seats that curve around the stage. It is also the only thatched roof in London (they wanted to make it authentic). We stood on the ground for the entire play and were known as the groundlings. This is where the poorer people of London would stand to watch the plays during Shakespeare’s time. We were right near the stage and the actors would actually look down on us as they spoke their lines and they would run through the crowd as well. I am really glad we got to see Julius Caesar because it is said that it was most likely the first play performed there.
After the play a few of us ended up walking across the Millennium Bridge. It is a bridge that you can only walk across. I have a couple of pictures of it and does any one recognize it? It was used in this scene of Harry Potter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo-U5iOinM8&feature=kp
Luckily, I did not encounter any Death Eaters on my walk across the bridge.
After crossing the bridge we walked for a little bit and then got on the Tube to catch a train back to campus. It was my first experience on the Tube and it was pretty easy to navigate (lucky for me who is so inexperienced when it comes to public transportation). The Tube’s atmosphere here is very different from any metro system I have been on. No one really talks on the train and if you do it’s all in whispers. It is not really polite to make eye contact either and most people were reading the papers or a book. It was interesting, but I am looking forward to more rides on the Tube soon.
We returned to Stamford Street Apartments and then a couple of us went down to Southbank for dinner. We went to eat at a pizza place along the river and it was great! We ate outside though and it was really cold and windy last night. Even though I had pizza (which is not true authentic British either), I am hoping to find a fish and chips place for dinner soon. We are going to ask for suggestions from our tutor. When we walked back from dinner, I went with a few people to a pub on Blackfriars Street a few minutes from campus to watch the World Cup semi-final game. We only ended up staying for one half to see Brazil get dominated by Germany before we came back to the apartments to do homework. Margaret ended up running down to the grocery store and getting us candy to snack on while watching the game. The pub was so crowded and everyone was glued to the TVs. I loved the atmosphere!
We walked back after the end of the half and returned to do homework for tomorrow’s class. We are reading Oscar Wilde’s play, An Ideal Husband. Having never read any of Wilde’s work, I really enjoy it and I am excited for class tomorrow.
My take away today is about the conversations I had today. I met a couple of new people and got to know people even better through some awesome conversations about everything: their hometowns, thoughts on London, and thoughts on our class. The power of conversation is truly amazing.