Tuesday, November 30, 2010


  Fifteen minutes ago, I was walking home from school in a very "collar-up" kind of English night. Snow was swirling in the air around me, and spikey ice crystals glittered on the sidewalk.
  Three hours ago, I was fighting with a rapier in one hand and a daggar in the other, soaked in sweat. My victory award was a cupcake with strawberry cream cheese frosting. It was well worth my time on the battlefield.
  Seven hours ago, I was singing "Where I Want to be" from the musical "Chess." It went well, and the teacher told me it was a very good piece for me and I should keep it in the audition repertoire. I'll take that compliment, especially since it was the first time I had ever sung it.
  Thirteen hours ago, I was staring into space in a wide-eyed schizophrenic panic as Richard III, wondering aloud to the audience if I should be afraid of myself exacting revenge upon myself for villainous deeds committed by myself.
  Two days ago, I was throwing my dance partner up in the air and over my shoulder for three hours as we rehearsed for our performance, which takes place tomorrow.
  Three days ago, I was at this Thanksgiving dinner with some of my fellow actors:
The group, minus Nick and Vince

  Four days ago, I was at a cocktail party, in character, as a 70-year-old man named Gus Hughes for three hours as part of a final performance for Improv class. I had to invent 70 years of character history, in every possible miniscule detail. I'm a little sad now that this person doesn't exist outside a random photo I took of an unknown man at the bus stop that was the inspiration for it all.
  Thanks, life, for always being interesting and challenging.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Feignsgiving!

Family Memories: The year cousin Reginald was eaten by the turkey and we just had bread

  Wait, didn't you already have Thanksgiving? Yes, observant reader, I did (see "Happy Fakesgiving" post, August). That meal was delicious, but wasn't shared with anybody. Feignsgiving, on the other hand, will consist of my entire class getting together and having the traditional meal. We can all definitely use a breather.
  For the past couple of weeks, we've been going like Hell in all directions at once. All term we've had a huge variety of projects going on, but never to the level they're at right now.
  My schedule a lot of days doesn't get me free of class until 9:00. Then I typically stay up til the wee hours of the morning rehearsing or studying lines or music. I sleep a small bit, get up early, and study again until I have to go to class. Sometimes I study or rehearse during the 45 minute lunch break. Meals are typically wolfed down as quickly as possible- because of a lack of time, or because of having to do very physical work and not wanting to hurl. Sometimes I skip eating altogether to avoid food coma in a performance.
  I don't think I've ever had to memorize so many lines in such a short amount of time, and that's been taking up most of my study time. I really, really like playing Richard III, though. Incredible speeches.
  This last week I sang a whole song in character for the first time. It wasn't anything glamorous- I was a cockney garbageman. It went pretty well, and it was a fun number. Singing tends to still be a little tense for me sometimes, but I have gotten a lot of compliments on my voice; from teachers, and especially from my peers.
Speaking of singing, we have a Christmas concert coming up in a couple of weeks where the whole of LAMDA will be singing. The school will perform a piece togther, and then each class will sing a carol of their own. We've been rehearsing them for the last few weeks, and I think it sounds amazing. I'm anxious to hear the whole school together. Hopefully I'll be able to get some audio from that and share. Being one of very few tenors here, maybe you'll even be able to hear me. I learned last week that we will have actual royalty in attendance at this event!
  Then, it will be time for Christmas break. I'll be flying back to the states to see family and friends for a week. Can't wait. Meantime, I better get ready for this Thanksgiving gig. There's definitely a lot to be thankful for- a wonderful year of changes, adventures, and an incredible amount of support from friends and family. Thank you all for having my back. I fully intend to make you proud.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Three World Heritage Sites...

  ...in one day!

  I hopped on a bus this morning at Victoria Coach Station and headed out on an all day excursion to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. It was a long and absolutely amazing day.
  Windsor Castle, as one would expect, was indescribable. The royal family has lived there for 900 years. I can barely wrap my head around that. I got a few good pictures of the exterior, but to my extreme dismay, NO pictures were allowed in the interior. It's a shame, because it was beautiful in there. Endless, huge rooms, beyond elaborate. Suits of armor. Frescoes. Collections of swords and old musketts. Staterooms and dining halls. The luxuriousness of it all was something you would have to see to believe.
  In the lower end of the castle grounds was St. George's Chapel, where Henry VIII (among many other monarchs and Royal notables) is buried. I love these old churches, and England is littered with them. Towering spires, stained glass, ornate woodwork. The sense of history, glory and devotion you get within their walls never fails to inspire. Again, no pictures. Windsor Castle, on the whole, while a feast for the eyes, was just about a bust on the photography front.
  Here are a couple of shots I found online; first of one of the staterooms, and then a couple of the inside of St. George's. I'll be running some of my own pics, of course, on The Shot (link on the right) over the next few days.

  My second stop, though, Stonehenge, was much more forgiving. You know, I've seen a lot of famous monuments and buildings in my travels, and somehow, for some strange reason, this one really didn't resonate with me like I thought it would. I mean, it was impressive, and it was a site I had wanted to see since I was a kid. I just didn't get that leap in my heart that I sometimes get when I see something in person. I can say definitively that seeing the Statue of Liberty, the White House, the Moai of Easter Island, and the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro were far more affecting.
  By no means, though, did that detract from the experience. I took many pictures from all lengths and angles and marveled at the age of what I was looking at. People put those bluestones up around 2400 BC. How many people had since trod the ground I was standing on? And to what purpose? Incredible to imagine.
  I have a custom of taking a stone from the ground of famous places I visit (especially mountains I climb), but there were no stones to be had on the grassy plains of Salisbury. I tried to fit one of the 50-ton slabs into my jacket pocket, but I was stopped by an overreactionary guide. I settled for a clump of dirt instead.
  Then it was time to visit the city of Bath. I want to say that I fell in love with this place, but I'll feel like a broken record. I'm always falling in love with everything around here. This country is a feast for the heart.
  Bath has a population of about 86,000, and all the buildings in it are cut from the same golden Bath Stone. This gives the town an amazing "glow" as the sun bounces off the facades.
  Our coach came into Bath from high atop an opposing hill, giving us the most beautiful view of the entire city, which builds from the valley floor and then up into the hills on both sides. It was impossible to take pictures, and I was dying for them to pull over somehow, so I could run to the edge of the road and snap a few shots. Suffice it to say, my shutter/trigger finger was frustrated a LOT during the day.
  We drove through a good portion of the city before stopping at the Bath museum, where the Great Roman Bath was located. Passing many incredible views, I felt like a hyperactive puppy trying to jump out of his seat. I got my chance once we stopped. We only had an hour and a half (all of our stops were too short) and so I pressed ahead of the queue and made my way through the exhibits at a pretty quick pace.
  The Great Roman Bath itself was impressive, and the system of pipes and irrigation was a serious piece of engineering. As soon as I had taken it all in, I fled my tour group and walked into the city in a random direction.
  I could only cover so much ground in the roughly forty-five minutes I had, but I saw some great sites. Winding streets banked with those wonderful golden stone buildings, more giant churches, enormous stone bridges over cascading rivers, charming old-world houses, and a hidden park full of fall colors.
  I made it back to the coach with about five minutes to spare, and as we climbed up the hills out of the city, a blood-fire sunset burned up the skies behind us. Again, there was no way to capture it from the bus, but it was beautiful seeing the entire valley coated in those colors as all the lights of the city twinkled on like stars.
  Not only were these three sites amazing, but I have to say just how stunning the English countryside is, too. Vast green, rolling hills, roads bordered with thick-trunked oak trees, rivers and creeks gently sweeping, quaint villages. Absolutely incredible views. I'd love to live there someday, or at least have a second home or something.

  Ah, dreams.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flying High

  The picture above is from a couple of weeks ago during rehearsal for my dance. It's what we in the blog business call a "grabber." It's so that when people accidentally trip across my page, they say, "Tall guy doing cartwheels? What's THAT about?" And thus my audience is grown.
  So, now to the present. I've moved on from flipping myself end over end to letting other people do it. We've done a bunch of trust work lately, which has included climbing several feet off the ground and then freefalling backwards into a catch group. This week, the group picked each person up off the ground and flipped them head over heels. It was easy with the smaller people, and I'll admit there was a fair amount of hesitation from them when it was my turn. Nobody wanted to shoulder up 185 pounds and try to not drop me on my teeth. In the end, I was successfully flipped, and somebody, somewhere, got a handful of my men's department in the process. Awkward.
  We also started Stage Combat this week, which I knew I'd love. As soon as the instructor asked for volunteers to come up and fight him (rapier and daggar), my hand shot up. I love swordplay, and we got to do a lot more that first night than I expected. Awesome.
  There's been a ton of reading this week too (pretty much my entire weekend). We're doing "The Duchess of Malfi" in our Jacobean class, and "Margaret of Anjou" (combining Henry VI and Richard III) in our Histories class. Malfi is so dense that it takes about seven minutes or so per page to read/translate, but it's a fantastic play. Also, I'm convinced that our Histories instructor is a certified madman, but he might also be one of the most brilliant directors I've worked with.
Lastly, far be it from me to complain about ANYTHING over here. I love it, and I don't ever want to come back to the US. However, I do get tired of people over here not knowing how to navigate their space. You go to New York, or Los Angeles, or DC and people know how to move in a crowd (we're talking non-tourists here, Times Square doesn't count). Over here, people just do not understand how to get out of the way. I've gotten so tired of it that now I just pretend I'm on the phone when I get in a crowd, and I have a really loud conversation: "Yeah! Can you hear me? Yeah, *COUGH* the doctor says he's pretty sure it's Swine Flu. *COUGH* He's not sure, he thinks *COUGH COUGH* it's a new strain or something." I find that people part for me like the Red Sea.
  Also, all clothing in the UK is made for little people. It is extremely difficult to find anything over here that fits. XL is not big enough, and stores typically don't carry 2XL. Ridiculous. I'm not THAT big. I feel like the village monster.
  But you know, it's worth it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weekend Fun!

  I can't really call this post "Halloween Fun." Sunday was, in fact, Halloween, and there was celebrating, but there wasn't much Halloweeny about it. But let's start with Saturday. Yeah, let's do that.
  Saturday morning, I began with a Bloody Mary at a pub near Notting Hill Gate, then jammed my way into the Portabello Road Market with some friends. When I say 'jammed,' I really mean it:

  That afternoon, I met up with Alicia, from class, and we had RP coffee time. This has become a new weekly thing for us. Basically, we just meet up in Hammersmith and go to Starbucks for tea or coffee. Exciting, right? The rule is, from the time we meet until the time we leave, we have to speak in our RP accents (standard British dialect). If you interact with anybody- as in ordering your chai latte- it must be done in RP as well. There's more to this than just a couple of Americans acting like jackasses. Well, a little more. One of our classes, phonetics, is based around learning RP, so this is good, solid practice. It's also hilarious.
  So, Sunday. Halloween. What a bust it is here in the UK. They don't NEARLY get into it as much as Americans. There are hardly decorations in stores, and costumes are very hard to come by. I sadly had to attend our Halloween party with no costume at all. I couldn't even find any makeup to improvise some sort of zombie getup. Lame.
  The big theme of the night was "the chavs." A chav is sort of London's answer to the Jersey Shore look from the US. Lots of sports gear, greasy hair, gold chains, low class. Erika came as a pregnant chav and had Meaghan as her thin mustached baby-daddy. Alicia was another chav, but had a lot of Amy Winehouse thrown in for good measure. We had a Clark Kent, a Supergirl, and a biker chick.

That looks like triplets!



Yummy Mummy

Erika gives birth to a 185 pound 75 inch baby boy

Mother and child doing fine

  The best part about the evening was the food and drink. We had a lot of both, and all of us were stuffed to the gills by the end. I cooked a couple of giant calzones that I made in the shape of mummies, and we had a spicy thai dish, some pasta salad, amazing bruschetta and a tiramisu that was the best any of us had ever tasted.
  All in all, not a bad way to use up a weekend!