The halfway mark for my program is coming up next week (along with my 21st birthday), AND I just got back from my first trip to Paris! One of my close friends from high school is studying abroad there.
It’s so unreal, and yet, not so hard to believe. Yes, sometimes I look around my room and remember when I was unpacking, but this weekend on my way back from the train station, it hit me that I was thinking, “I’m so excited to get back home.” I really do feel at home here. My little flat is oh-so-cozy, I feel totally comfortable navigating the tube alone, and I even have favorite little areas—like the canal behind our building, or the Notting Hill Gate neighborhood where I do my grocery shopping.
One of my absolute favorite things about London is how easy it is to get tickets for shows. I’ve seen so much theater—from Beautiful, to Hand to God, to Red Velvet, to In The Heights, and more—and have even more coming up!
LAMDA is taking us on a three-day field trip to Stratford this week, where we’ll be seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Dr. Faustus, and I’m seeing a completely improvised musical tomorrow night after classes!
I’ve also seen more sites, like the Natural History Museum and Royal Albert Hall, and just walked around more neighborhoods. One of my favorites was Maida Vale. There’s a really pretty area within it called Little Venice with an amazing canal. We also walked down Warwick Avenue, which is the name of a song by a British singer named Duffy that I’ve been listening to for years!
On top of all the adventures, my classes and rehearsals are keeping me extremely busy as well. There isn’t really straightforward homework that we have to hand in, but we’re expected to practice our monologues/scenes with exercises that we learn in class, review combinations for stage combat throughout the week, memorize lines, learn our songs, do research on characters/time periods and practice example sentences in RP—Received Pronunciation, which is essentially me learning how to speak with a British accent. It’s very hard to do right, but so so cool. “Homework” really feels more like beneficial exploring/investigating/growing. There may be times when I’m tired, but I never sit down and think, “oh, I have to do this work because it was assigned,” and that’s a huge deal for me. I love my classes at Vassar, but it’s just been so exciting and liberating to study theatre 24/7. Figuring out how to balance my time between working on a script for rehearsal, keeping up with classes and making time to just relax has been the best kind of challenge.
We just started working on our new scenes from the restoration period (a.k.a. Comedy of Manners), and I’m having a blast. We’ve created such a fun, productive rehearsal space just from coming in with good attitudes and being open. Our director, Emma, puts huge emphasis on being positive, cultivating play and fully investing in the work.
We’re rehearsing in a beautiful church in Ravenscourt (it’s really common for actors to rehearse in churches here), but the downside is that the key for our room is kept at LAMDA, and someone from our ensemble has to pick it up whenever we rehearse every Tuesday and Thursday. So, every day after the lunch break, the person who retrieved the key leaves the room while the rest of us plan a little surprise to thank them. Last Thursday, I picked up the key. When I came back in the room for my surprise, everyone was frozen with their arms stretched out and smiles on their faces. Emma told me that they would lead me to my surprise, so I began walking around the room. After about thirty seconds of just staring at my frozen classmates, Emma told me that I might want to look a little closer, so I, very confusedly, stepped a little closer to someone. They immediately gave me a hug and whispered, “thank you, key fairy.” It took me about two more hugs to realize that that was my surprise: a hug and a thank you from every single person (plus a bar of chocolate at the end). I was so touched that I seriously almost cried. I was practically glowing the rest of rehearsal. I can’t wait to bring that kind of joy to someone else in my group this week, and furthermore, I really want to spread that kind of positivity and gratitude in rehearsal spaces when I come back next year and wherever I go. It really makes such a difference when everyone in an ensemble feels safe and supported.
All the teachers at LAMDA make us feel so comfortable when trying out new, often very challenging things. Yes, we get overwhelmed sometimes—but I feel like I’m being constantly reminded and reassured that all I’m doing is trying something new. The word “try” could really be my program’s motto. My teachers care way more about us throwing ourselves into whatever we’re doing than how “well” we do or like things. It’s okay if a certain monologue exercise for noticing punctuation doesn’t resonate with me. At the end of the day, we’re just learning what works for us and fits into our individual processes. The way I see it, the more you put in, the more you get out of this program. We really have the freedom to not only design how we handle our time and responsibilities, but also to choose what works for us and what doesn’t once we’ve given it a chance.
As incredible as this city and this program are—I fall in love with something different every day—I do have to admit that I’m starting to get a little homesick. Not in a “wow, I don’t want to be where I am” way, but in a “yes, I love where I am, but I also miss walking down my street, or grabbing lunch with my best friends, or hanging out with my a cappella group (Beauty and the Beats: I miss you all to pieces)” way. It’s weird to plan stuff like my housing, classes for next year, senior project, etc. here, but it also kind of helps me remind myself that I’m coming back. This time is temporary, and remembering that makes me value each day even more.
Until next time!