Thursday, 6 February 2014

If Music Be The Food Of Love

The past 2 days have been very very busy! There has been a tube strike for the past 2 days and its forcing millions of Londoners (and us) to walk, cram on busses, and ride bicycles among other forms of transportation I'm sure. That said, the city has seemed more crowded with all of these people above ground! The strike is supposed to be settled tomorrow and hopefully there will be some sort of agreement or else this strike will happen again next week. This city is so dependent on the underground and I am grateful. All that to say the getting to class on Wednesday was not only cold, drizzly, and crazy windy but it was virtually impossible to get anywhere in any rush. A journey that would have taken 20 minutes on the tube took almost 2 hours. Pray for our patience! Wednesday started off with a tour of the globe theater! When we first got to the theater I was, in all honesty, unimpressed. Ya okay, its an old theater with no roof and its round. Big deal? YES. Big deal!
Once we walked into the theater it was like Shakespeare himself was sitting next to me, whispering the words of Othello or A Midsummer Night's Dream (two of my personal favorites) right into my very being. It's really hard to describe what happened when we entered, I was giddy literally giddy and couldn't help but grin. This was Shakespeare's theater (rebuilt and moved but still). Pardon me what?! Our tour guide was one of the actresses of the company that preforms there and she had such a passion for this theater and for the genius behind the words spoken there that it made me fall in love with him all over again. She sat us down in the audience and explained all about how the theater would have worked in Shakespeare's day.
There is so much in the his plays that dealt directly with how the theater, this theater, was built. Actors making references to heaven and hell, could visually play to that area of the stage. Juliet's balcony is there, the sets of his plays are so minimalist that architecturally the theater itself had to be built to accommodate such scenes. Plays would have started at about 2pm, because it would have been too hard and dangerous to light a theater at night, and they ended near when the sun was setting. Shakespeare is littered with repetitive statements and with obvious articulation. Modern audiences are thinking "You don't have to tell me that she died...I can see that." Our culture is so visually stimulated that nothing surprises us anymore, we pick up on visual clues very easily. This was not the case more than 400 years ago and the people had to be told what was happening on stage, not to mention some of them probably couldn't see after cramming 3,000 people in the building! Our tour guide then took us on stage! It was the most amazing feeling to stand there and look out, to see the audiences seats, the sky that would have not always cooperated with weather, and to feel only a tiny fraction of as much anticipation as the actors would have felt, and still do!
After our quick rush on the stage we were hurried inside for a brief lesson on understanding Shakespeare's words, definitely helpful! We discussed how when a Shakespearian character speaks in prose they are generally speaking "from their head" when ones speaks in verse it "comes from their heart." The plays are littered with literary clues as to what is happening on stage. My favorite tool that this remarkable genius uses is called iambic pentameter. It is a sort of beat that each line of a play receives and is counted out in syllables. For instance when Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night says "If music be the food of love, play on" his phrase is a balanced 10 beats while Hamlet in Hamlet says "To be, or not to be, that is the question-" is an uneven 11 beats. These beats can be compared to a characters heartbeat and Shakespeare is telling his audience (albeit very sneakily) that uneven beats often mean that a character is under emotional or psychological stress. I'm telling you, genius. There is something about a play that connects us with story and with narrative, a characteristic of humanity that runs in our veins and makes us alike and yet beautifully different. Theater, with story, with movement, and with passion makes that come alive. Being part of an audience is one of the most real things that you can do, a show will never be the same 2 nights in a row and unlike film you can use all of your senses to let go of reality and envelop yourself in another. The story may not be yours exactly but at the heart of every story is a heartbeat from which we all come.
Once we left the theater to which I have now lost my heart in, it was time to weave our way through the crowded streets to my afternoon class which was yes, London Theater. Long story short I was almost an hour late to class and very cold and wet by the time a few of us sulked in looking like drowned rats. Class was short because we then headed wayyyyy across town to Stratford East Theater and saw Oh What A Lovely War. It was terrible. It was supposed to be a satirical expression of WWI, I guess it was funny. I just felt like it made light of war and of the millions of lives that were lost.
On another note today was great! Class was held at the Churchill War Rooms and Museum and we spent about 3 hours there exploring Winston Churchill's life and work, talk about a cool man! I would talk about it more but the history of war isn't really my speciality...or interest. So I'll just let you all come to London and see it for yourselves! Then I took a NAP. It was the most glorious hour of mid-day sleep that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I drudgingly climbed out of bed to get ready to see Les Miserables!! It was the most amazing show that I have ever seen. I've seen it before but something about this time hit home with me. I cried with Eponine died, I was moved when the rebels fell, and I sang with them that "to love another person is to see the face of God". Tonight I left part of myself in that theater and I'm so glad that I did.
Tomorrow we're going on an all day trip to Bath. Better get some sleep!
Missing you all,

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