The Art of Collaboration

Cast Meets with Susan Burk

Cast meets via Skype with Susan Burk from the Matthew Shepard Foundation during rehearsals for The Laramie Project – photo by Vince LaMonica

Not soon after I started working at the community college where I teach, I was thrilled that a new degree was added–an Associates of Fine Arts in Drama. The young woman who led the program brought back to life my love of all aspects of theater production. I had dabbled in community theater as a publicist, properties manager, stage director and actor in several places where I lived, but raising a small child and teaching a heavy adjunct load meant little time for this passion.

 

The drama department at the college brought it all back to me. Furthermore, it offered me opportunities to get back onto the stage through small roles that didn’t require a great deal of rehearsal time. Jennifer, the director, always made it doable, and the more I became involved the more I wanted to do. Because her department is small, and she is the only full-time instructor, Jennifer and I, an English teacher, started finding more and more opportunities to work together, forming a cross-curriculum relationship that has, I think, greatly enhanced both departments for the advancement of our students and has sustained us both by allowing us the creative outlets that we crave.

It all started one day, long ago, over lunch at a Chinese buffet restaurant, when we were discussing the upcoming production. Jennifer had decided she wanted to do two one-act plays with her directing one and me the other as I had expressed the desire of getting my feet wet as a director. She had already decided on one of the plays–Blue Window by Craig Lucas, but she hadn’t been able to find a suitable play for me to direct.

Almost as a joke, I said, “Hey, guess what?”

“What?” she said.

“I wrote a play long years ago. It’s called Green Room. How about that, Blue Window, Green Room.” I was almost laughing. I really wasn’t serious at all or suggesting anything, I swear.

Then, she said, “Let’s do that one.”

“What?” I said.

“Let’s do your play.”

“But you haven’t even read it. You don’t know anything about it. It might suck. I mean, as far as I remember it does suck.”

“Here’s the beauty of it,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. Whatever we don’t like, we change.”

Thus began a truly productive collaboration between two instructors. I can’t tell you what it means as a writer and an educator to have this kind of partnership, which protects Jennifer and her department from isolation and offers me opportunities to stretch the creative side in me–the writer, the actor.

We did produce Blue Window and Green Room. I ended up handing the directing baton over to Jennifer when, two weeks before opening night, one of the leads quit, and I had to step in to act. In addition, Curtis, a student who played a lead role in the play, also composed original music for Green Room and has gone on to collaborate with me, and Jennifer,  on many projects even after he left school.

The next semester I directed my first full length play, Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children. Was I crazy? Of course, I was, but of course, Jennifer was there to help me through the process, and without her expertise the show would have been a disaster. On the other hand, because of my knowledge of German (I double majored in English and German in undergraduate school), I was able to contribute direct translations from the original text when the British translations we were using didn’t work. Also, I have a particular interest in musicals, which Jennifer doesn’t share, so working again with Curtis, we composed original music for the play.

Over and over again, Jennifer and I, along with students like Curtis, as well as colleagues, have collaborated on productions. So many times our ideas came from just seeing plays together in the community or at conferences. Other times they simply sprang from casual conversation or out of a desire to find a special project for a special actor. Here are just a few examples of our working together (in no particular order):

  • A production of Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project’s Laramie Project with student-led talk back facilitated by the public speaking instructor at the college. In addition, Jennifer had frequent discussions with Susan Burk from the Matthew Shepard Foundation and cast members had a teleconference with Burk to prepare for their roles. I acted in the show and wrote two features about the production for the local newspaper. Follow these links to read the features: 1)  Pre-Production 2)  Production
  • BRCC’s participation in the 48 Hour Film Project, winning Asheville’s contest in 2008. See the film at this link: Serial Love
  • Tennessee Williams’ One-Act Play Festival–we had two separate stages, a southern-style picnic and a lecture on Williams by one of our English faculty
  • Pre-show lecture about Lord Byron and the Shelleys before the production of Howard Brenton’s Bloody Poetry
  • Pre-show lecture, scenes and short film (produced by drama department) before production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
  • Pre-show lecture by me and an adjunct English instructor before Shakespeare’s Macbeth (we both acted in the production as well)
  • World premiere of A Carolina Story, a musical based on the Book
    Carolina Story 029

    A Carolina Story, April 2012

    of Job, by me with music by Curtis (We produced it a second time as a fund-raiser for the student emergency grant and loan fund)

There have been so many other examples of how our collaboration has enhanced our teaching. Currently, we are collaborating on perhaps our most ambitious project yet, an original stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. We are attempting to preserve the plot and style of the original while adding exciting multi-media effects to enhance the production.

Most theaters cannot sustain this kind of freedom and collaboration between writer and producer/director. It is educational theater, especially in higher education, that allows for this kind of risk-taking to take place. It is also this kind of educational theater that should be supported with proper funding and promotion because in the end, collaboration between faculty, staff, students, administration and community is what it takes for the arts in education to flourish, teaching us to work together for the betterment of all.

And hey, if you’re near Asheville the weekend before Halloween, come see Frankenstein!!

 

 

 

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League for Innovation in the Community College 2016

chicago

Courtesy of sheratongrand.com

I’m in  Chicago for the 2016 League of Innovations Conference. I have already experienced some of the best professional development I’ve ever had after only one day of meetings, which makes for an auspicious beginning.

Yesterday was all about getting here and getting settled in. John and I left Asheville super early on Saturday and got here before noon, so we had plenty of time to explore the city. It wasn’t warm (this isn’t called the Windy City for nothing), but the sun was out, and it was a beautiful day, so we left the hotel, ate at a sandwich shop down the street from the hotel and walked down to the Navy Pier, less than a mile from our home away from home.

navy pier

Navy Pier (courtesy of Trippy Media)

According to conciergepreferred.com the Navy Pier was not developed for use by the military but was used as a housing and training facility for the Navy during both world wars. Since 1946 the pier has been used for various purposes, including the undergraduate campus of the University of Chicago, but now is mainly a recreational facility, featuring a major embarking center for city cruises and bus tours, restaurants, biking and walking paths, restaurants, music venues, a children’s museum and, of course, the Ferris wheel. Walking around the pier and down the walkways along the Chicago River was a great way to be introduced to the city.

After making it back to the hotel and getting registered for the conference, an easy process thanks to the efficiency of my college’s educational foundation staff, we relaxed in the room for a while and later enjoyed a great meal at Bongiorno’s Italian Deli and Pizzeria. We were greeted by the proprietor, sat under signed Ernie Banks photos, had excellent service, ate authentic Italian Capricciosa pizza, drank good imported Italian beer and enjoyed a nice chat with the owner, who told us how he played minor league ball in Greensboro years ago and kindly admired my beautiful double-knitted scarf that my daughter Hannah made me for Christmas. Truly a Bella Notte!

Bongiornos-Italian-Deli-Pizzeria

The only thing that marred the evening was that Bongiorno’s is directly across from the Trump Tower–Just can’t get shed of that guy.

Today started early. We had breakfast at the little cafe in the hotel, then John headed out to explore while I started a long day of informative and interesting sessions as the conference began. Here’s a breakdown of the sessions I attended today:

8:30-9:30–Expand Your Horizon of Inclusion: Connect with Local Communities. This session was led by Dr. Leo Parvis, Coordinator of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minnesota. He is the author of  Understanding Cultural Diversity in Today’s Complex World, now in its fifth edition. Dr. Parvis uses this textbook in the course he teaches on cultural diversity, so I bought a copy to take back to the college and share with our Inclusive Education Committee of which I am a member. An excellent presentation by one of the nation’s leaders in inclusive education.

9:45-10:45–Toward a New Ecology of Student Success: Expanding and Transforming Learning Opportunities throughout the Community College, The Cross Papers, Number 19. I have to make a confession. I did research, wrote and submitted a proposal in the 2016 Cross Papers’ competition and did not win, so I attended this session out of curiosity about the man who won this year’s competition more than anything else. I also must confess that I was humbled. Jim Riggs, who wrote this year’s monograph, gave a wonderful presentation, discussing the importance of faculty and support staff working together toward the same goals of student success–that faculty are the center of this effort because of their close contact, but that this “new ecology” must include ALL of the college–that the disconnect between these two parts of the community college must be repaired. I look forward to acquiring a copy of the monograph and bringing it back to the college and sharing it with administration, staff and fellow faculty.

11:00-12:00–How to Successfully Teach Online–Michael Corona, Business Communications Instructor, Excelsior College, NY–I didn’t learn a whole lot of new things at this session, but it was great for my spirit because it validated so much of my own online teaching practices. To hear that such an experienced and obviously successful online instructor employs many of the same strategies as I do in his online classes was inspiring. I also had a chance to network with other instructors, which is one of the main benefits of attending educational conferences.

1:00-2:00–Storytelling with Data: Telling the Tale of ALP–Facilitated by a former English instructor and a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, who, I found out later, taught at Piedmont Community College, this excellent session gave me some great ideas about how to present program data that helps elicit real change. I am looking forward to sharing this information with my supervisor and colleagues. After the session I had a nice discussion about ALP (Accelerated Learning Program) with Dawn Coleman,  the grad student who used to teach in North Carolina.

2:15-3:15–Life During Community College: Your Guide to Success–Terry Arndt, College Transition Publishing. This was another validating session, but I also was introduced to a few very useful tidbits I can take back to the college that is sure to interest many at my college, especially ideas about orientation courses and student retention. Listening to the questions and comments from other educators, I also realized in this session how progressive our college is when it comes to the first-year experience as well as our instruction in library resources.

If you have to work on Sunday, then this was a good way to do it.

Now I’m back in my room, watching the Penguins play the Capitals, the Pens just went up by one, and wondering when John will get hungry enough for some more good Chicago food and drink. I love the Penguins but…..

Online Inspiration

I teach 200-level college transferable literature courses online at a small community college in North Carolina. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same things myself when I developed my first course–World Literature II–years ago. Things like

  • I will never be able to engage them like I can in a seated class.
  • This course will never be equal to a seated one.
  •  The grading load will be totally unmanageable.
  • I need the interaction with students that only a seated class can give.
  • I will never be able to have the kind of variety of assignments and activities that I have in my seated classes

All of these things were true in those first years and perhaps at least one or two of them is still true in my mind, but the time is rapidly approaching, with new advancements and technology as well as continued training when even the final issues will be resolved and students will be able to choose whatever form is best for them and know that they will get equal quality of instruction.

My opinion about teaching online classes has begun to change primarily because of training offered by our college’s distance learning personnel and help from colleagues as well as computer savvy young people, including my 21-year-old computer-raised daughter. I, who thought I had died and gone to heaven when I received my first Smith-Corona electric typewriter with its changeable cartridges,

never imagined back then the Star Trek technology that would become a reality in my lifetime, but as the programs and software have become increasingly user friendly, I have been able, if not to master them, at least to find ways to incorporate technology into my online classes. Some of this technology has helped to engage my students and aided me in what was at first an untenable amount of grading, while maintaining rigor and upholding the standards expected of college transfer students.

At my college’s professional development day last Thursday I shared some of the ways I am using technology to help the students in my online literature classes become more active readers as well as learn to research more deeply. I will be presenting this same presentation in March when I attend the League of Innovation in Community College’s conference in Chicago.

I used Prezi (one of the free presentation software applications I talked about in the PD session) to create a slide show that in itselfis a representation of how my knowledge of technology is improving. Furthermore, I have to tell you a secret…I had fun.

Here’s the link to the Prezi presentation (It may take a minute or two to load):

Dig Deep: Encouraging Active Reading and Deep Research in Online Classes

Let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Herman Melville, Lincoln’s Inn and Serendipity

Lincoln’s Inn–London (photo courtesy of Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn)

One of the things I love doing as a teacher is creating opportunities to become a student again. It renews the love of learning that is at the heart of my profession but sometimes gets lost under the mind-numbing bureaucratic tasks and pointless political pandering that has become so much a part of what it means to be an educator.

It’s at times like these that I most need to remember how exciting it is to learn something new, to read and study a work I’ve never encountered before, to visit places I’ve never been. My trip to London in the fall of last year provided me with many such opportunities.

Like the day I discovered Lincoln’s Inn.

I say discovered because I hadn’t gone looking for Lincoln’s Inn. I didn’t know it was there. I didn’t know anything about it. I certainly didn’t know that a month later I would be writing a lesson on Herman Melville for my new online American Literature I class and encounter Lincoln’s Inn once again.

It happened this way:

I woke up the first day that I was alone in London, finally free to do some serious walking and exploring. I planned out a trip that I had been longing to take ever since I developed a sample travel project for my British Literature II class several years ago. I decided to walk from my hotel in Russell Square to the Sir John Soane Museum at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Sir John Soane was a famous and wealthy Regency Era architect who designed the Bank of England and other famous landmarks, including his own house that he willed to his country.

Not knowing how long it would take me to walk there, I sat out rather early, clutching my google map instructions tightly in my hands. I made quick work getting there, too quick in fact. The museum was not yet open. With more than 20 minutes to wait, I decided to cross e street to Lincoln’s Inn Fields and walk around. Although it is a beautiful little park with its trees at their peak of Autumn foliage, I still had about 15 minutes to spare after walking the perimeter.

I decided to explore just a little further, and noting the street names began to head towards the most interesting brick building. As I approached, I realized that there were other similar buildings. Then, I passed through what looked to be a very old tower gate, and I realized I was in some sort of compound–beautifully landscaped and tended–the large main building almost like a church with beautiful stone accents and stained glass windows. I saw that there was a library  in the building and got a hint to its use when I saw a man traditionally dressed in barrister’s robes walking up the sidewalk towards the building.

I returned to the Morton Hotel after many more wonderful adventures, including the Sir John Soane Museum that I finally got to see (it was magnificant), an outdoor art display by Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts (incredible), lunch at a classic London Pub (tasty onion and mushroom pie) and a trip to the British Museum (I love that place). Even though I visited the British Museum on my first trip to London, I went to rooms I didn’t get to see that first time–my favorite being the Ancient European room and the clock room.

After a bite to eat from the little Tesco down the street and a hot shower, I settled in to find out what exactly that incredible building was. I quickly discovered that what I had been looking at and admiring was none other than Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court, which are the professional organizations for all barristers in England and Wales. I researched and read until late in the night, fascinated and excited to learn something new that would help me read, study and teach more effectively as well as humbled, feeling that I, as a teacher of British literature, should have known more about these things already.

When I returned home, I immediately found ways to incorporate what I had learned in my British Literature I class. That goes without saying, but I had no idea how my experience of discovering Lincoln’s Inn would enhance my teaching in American Literature until I read Melville’s “A Paradise of Bachelors.” The setting is one of the Inns of Court where the main character in this highly autobiographical story goes walking through the streets of London just as I did and is impressed with the beauty and grandeur of the grounds around the Temple Bar, just as I was.

IT lies not far from Temple-Bar.

Going to it, by the usual way, is like stealing from a heated plain into some cool, deep glen, shady among harboring hills.

Sick with the din and soiled with the mud of Fleet Street — where the Benedick tradesmen are hurrying by, with ledger-lines ruled along their brows, thinking upon rise of bread and fall of babies — you adroitly turn a mystic corner — not a street — glide down a dim, monastic way flanked by dark, sedate, and solemn piles, and still wending on, give the whole care-worn world the slip, and, disentangled, stand beneath the quiet cloisters of the Paradise of Bachelors. Sweet are the oases in Sahara; charming the isle-groves of August prairies; delectable pure faith amidst a thousand perfidies: but sweeter, still more charming, most delectable, the dreamy Paradise of Bachelors, found in the stony heart of stunning London.

Melville’s description spoke to my experience so completely. His observations so piquant that I immediately found renewed admiration for this, one of the greatest of American writers.

“Found in the stony heart of stunning London.”

Again, No Time But Must Post Something

Prop poster

Mock Propaganda Poster Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (Pinterest)

I’m in the midst of grading my brains out here at the end of the semester, but I don’t want to let any more time go by without posting something because the current state of liberal arts education, especially at the community college level in my state, demands it. Thank goodness there are others who feel the way I do. So until I’m able to do some more research, I’m posting this great article by Gary Saul Morson, professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at Northwestern University.

As a literature instructor I was a bit taken aback at first, and a little insulted, but then I read on, and he has some great things about the importance of college level literature studies as well as sensible ways to engage students in literature classes.

Article by Gary Saul Morson from Commentary Magazine

England–Days Seven and Eight

Large Day of the Dead Statue--British Museum-October 2015

Large Day of the Dead Statue British Museum-October 2015

Happy Halloween, Everybody!

It’s Halloween, and I made it back late last night. I was hoping to work on my blog while I was waiting in the airport, but I couldn’t connect to the Heathrow WiFi. I’m one of those throwbacks who doesn’t have a smart phone. And that’s my first word of advice for my literary travelers is GET A SMART PHONE and pay for short term international use if you are going to be out of the country. What few problems I had during the trip would have been helped if I had been able to communicate better. I have some serious jet lag today, but I have the weekend to recuperate and have time to catch up with my classes.

The Morton Hotel on Russell Square October 2015

The Morton Hotel from Russell Square
October 2015

My last full day in London was simply marvelous. I had a grand continental breakfast at the hotel–quite a spread. There were all kinds of pastries, including real English muffins, not the kind we eat–they are more of a spongy type of bread– and all kinds of fresh fruit, plus a variety of cold meats and cheeses. I lingered over my coffee and got caught up on some correspondence with family, students and colleagues.

The hotel has a pleasant sitting room, which serves several purposes–reception, general seating, bar and breakfast room, all decorated for Halloween, which originated as the Celtic festival of Samhain. As with Christmas, eventually the pagan traditions blended with the Christian All Hallow’s Eve, the day before All Saints Day. Both pagan and Christian traditions commemorate the changing of seasons and passage from life to death, to be renewed again in the spring, with Easter, another holiday with combined Christian and pagan elements.

The Brits seem to love to celebrate Halloween just as much as we do, and like in the States, Halloween seems to be becoming increasingly popular with adults, with all sorts of announcements about parties at different restaurants, hotels and pubs. In fact, the Morton Hotel is slated to have a Halloween High Tea today.

After breakfast I started off towards the first stop on my agenda–The Sir John Soane Museum. When I wrote my first sample travel project a few years ago on Georgette Heyer and her Regency novel “The Foundling,” I discovered a little gem of a museum in the house of the eccentric Sir John Soane, best known as the architect of the Bank of England, who adored his wife Eliza and was heart-broken after her death, which fits in so well with the spirit of the Regency romances written by Georgette Heyer and, of course, Heyer’s inspiration, Jane Austen.

I was going to take the Underground to the Soane, but once again, the line was shut down temporarily where I needed to go, so I  hoofed it, but it felt good to walk and soak in yet another area of London I had not yet explored, so I didn’t mind. I got there early and enjoyed strolling around Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London’s largest public square, across from the museum.

Lincoln's Inn Fields October 2015

Lincoln’s Inn Fields looking toward the Soane Museum–October 2015
October 2015

Lincoln's Inn October 2015

Lincoln’s Inn
October 2015

I took pictures there and then walked around some more and found Lincoln’s Inn itself. This incredible building is not what you think of when you hear the word inn. Lincoln’s Inn is the name and location of one of four legal associations that developed in the 13th and 14th Centuries, making this a good place to visit for anyone basing their literary tour on Chaucer. I could imagine the Man of Law from the Canterbury Tales being a member of this association even if the actual Lincoln’s Inn buildings weren’t built until later. Because the buildings were built in the 16th and 17th Centuries, this would also make a great place to visit if studying Shakespeare or Marlowe. The architecture is marvelous.

One of the spires at Lincoln's Inn October 2015

One of the spires at Lincoln’s Inn
October 2015

Today, Lincoln’s Inn houses the offices of many London barristers (lawyers) and includes an extensive law library. I saw one barrister going to work dressed in the traditional legal garb that British men and women of law have been wearing for centuries, although the dress code is now somewhat relaxed. The man I saw was dressed much like David Tennant in the picture below from the movie The Escape Artist.

DavidTennantEscapeArtist

When I made my way back to the Soane Museum, there was already a short queue forming as the hallways in the house are narrow and there are only a few people allowed in at a time. But I didn’t wait long. Entrance to the museum is free, but I bought the more detailed guide book to use as a source for my sample itinerary (I’m going to do an update sometime soon).

Sarcophagus of Seti Sir John Soane Museum London, October 2015

Sarcophagus of Seti
Sir John Soane Museum
London, October 2015

With the book I was able to just roam around and spend as much time as I wanted in this fascinating place. Soane ran his architectural business from his home, so there was a tiny office and rooms full of architectural artifacts for himself, his clients and students to study. He was also quite a collector and one of the most fascinating things at the museum is a sarcophagus, a huge stone coffin, that once housed the remains of Seti, the father of Ramses the Great.

One of my favorite places in the museum was the picture room. It’s a small room, so I had to wait to make my way in there. Each room has a guide who can answer questions about Soane and the house. The guide in the picture room was particularly helpful. He showed us how Soane built the room with pull out panels to hold more of his art collection in a smaller space, very clever.

My favorite pieces were another series by the British painter William Hogarth, called The Election. I had seen a similar series by Hogarth in the National Gallery, and his paintings do a marvelous job satirizing life in England during the 18th Century, with that mixture of humor and pathos that is my very favorite style of writing, seen here in picture form. The guide described the series as one of the first “graphic novels” and pointed out details of the pictures and explained their historical context–really an early form of the political cartoon.

Soane’s house is the perfect place for anyone who is interested in what England was like during the Georgian age–late 18th to early 19th Centuries. I had no idea when I included the museum in my first sample literary tour itinerary several years ago that I would get to visit the museum one day. It is delightful! Here’s a link to the museum’s website: http://www.soane.org/

The British Museum October 2015

The British Museum
October 2015

After leaving the Soane Museum, I made my way to the British Museum, not far at all from my hotel. Although it was not yet noon, I was hungry, so when I passed by The Plough, a typical British pub with a plaque outside remarking how it has been frequented by British writers through the years, I decided to have lunch there. I had another typical British pie, but this one vegetarian–mushroom and onion–washing it down with a lager. It came with chips (French fries) and some tasty veggies. Hit the spot. Now it was on to the museum.

The Plough Restaurant October 2015

The Plough Restaurant
October 2015

I went to the British Museum, also free admission, on my trip in the summer of 2011, but the place is so huge that it would take many visits just to see the permanent collections. I was greeted by huge skeletons like the one above in the courtyard and a big skull along with a skeleton in the atrium area where the Rosetta Stone is displayed, but I passed quickly by them. I wanted to focus my visit this time on the literary and old European collections, and I’m glad I did. Anybody doing any literary tour about a British author should plan to include the British Museum in the itinerary because it covers all aspects of British history and because so many authors have been influenced by items in the museum.

One of the first rooms I went in includes selections of hundreds and hundreds of old books, including the beautiful editions of Shakespeare seen here.

Old Volumes of Shakespeare's Work British Museum, October 2015

Old Volumes of Shakespeare’s Work
British Museum, October 2015

Then, in the old European room, I hit the jackpot, finding and photographing many artifacts from the burial ship found unearthed at Sutton Hoo, believed to date back to the time of Beowulf. Most fascinating to me were the helmets, swords and shields.

Helmet and shield found in the burial ship at Sutton Hoo British Museum, October 2015

Helmet and shield found in the burial ship at Sutton Hoo
British Museum, October 2015

Could Beowulf's Sword looked like this?

Could Beowulf have used a dagger like this?

Celtic Brooches and Sword British Museum, October 2015

Celtic Brooches and Sword
British Museum, October 2015

In another room were marvelous examples of Celtic art, including crosses and the large ornamental brooches seen to the right. Anyone doing a project on Dream of the Rood, Beowulf, Lanval or any of the early British works would appreciate these rooms.

I could have spent hours and hours at the British Museum, but I was getting a bit weary and had a big night ahead, so I went back to the hotel, caught up on some more work and took a nap. Good move. Naps, if not too long, can really help travellers get the most out of their visits.

I had some tea and a biscuits (shortbread cookies) in the room and headed out early to get to the Savoy Theatre, next to the famous Savoy Hotel on the Strand, another vibrant section of England that was really hopping that night, even though there was a steady drizzling rain. Londoners and tourists alike have learned to adapt to the rain, which comes and goes frequently. As I passed through Covent Garden on my way to The Strand, I noticed people sitting outside under canopies, seated around these little outdoor fire grates, laughing, talking and ignoring the rain.

Covent Garden at Night

Covent Garden at Night

I arrived at my destination early, so I walked up and down the Strand, soaking in the atmosphere (no pun intended, but I did forget my umbrella the one time I needed it). I bought a soda at a little kiosk and headed back to the theater to wait some more, but boy, oh, boy, was it worth the wait.

I’ve seen Gypsy several times, and I was an assistant stage manager for a community theater production of it, so I know the show very well, but this was hands down the best production of it I have ever seen or been a part of, mainly because of Imelda Staunton as Rose, who was simply astounding. Some of the best acting I’ve ever seen and the lady has pipes!

Imelda Staunton as Rose Savoy Theatre, London, October 2015

Imelda Staunton as Rose
Savoy Theatre, London, October 2015

The final scenes between Gypsy and Rose were everything they were meant to be and the final number, Rose’s Turn, was the final release of all the pent up anger and resentment of a woman who has spent too long living her life for and through her children, not realizing the damage she was doing to herself and all the ones she loved. It was heartbreaking and triumphant. It was so real. I don’t know how anyone can act like Imelda did that night. Simply amazing! Then, in the final scene, Gypsy comes on stage and Rose breaks down again–finally humbled and remorseful, a broken woman as she leaves the stage, and her daughter’s last gesture, a simple arm over her mother’s stooped shoulders, just said it all.

I was also thrilled to see Peter Davison, who played the role of Herbie, Rose’s friend and would be husband, who loves Rose despite everything but has to leave her in the end. It was a special treat seeing Davison, whom I had a crush on when I was a teenager and loved to watch him play Tristain in the British TV series All Creatures Great and Small. He also was one of the many actors to play Dr. Who (the 5th doctor).

It was a great way to end my last night in London. I didn’t even mind the walk back in the rain and the crowded subway as I made my way to Russell Square. I stopped one last time at the Tesco’s and bought supplies for a midnight snack and some breakfast before going to my room. They were still showing all the Harry Potter movies, so I watched Imelda Staunton again as Dolores Umbrage in the final Potter movie while I had my snack and checked e-mail.

What a great day!

The final day was all about travel.

I left the hotel pretty early after getting all packed up because I also like to arrive early and wait rather than rush and worry about missing my plane. I discovered that because I had an oyster card and had bought an extension to London when I arrived that I didn’t have to pay any more. I also discovered that I had paid a 5 pound deposit that can be returned with any money you do not spend when traveling, if any. If you prefer, you can keep your Oyster card, and it is still good when you return to London. I definitely recommend an Oyster card if you are going to spend any time in London.

English Breakfast at Heathrow before I Boarded the Plane October 2015

English Breakfast at Heathrow before I Boarded the Plane
October 2015

Once I got to the airport, checked in and got to the correct terminal, I had my last meal in England, a traditional English breakfast washed down with an English lager. This time I had the beans but still didn’t try the black pudding. I’m not that English!

The trip was uneventful from then on out. It was a long trip back, but it was totally worth it, and gave me a better understanding of the country, people, history and literature of England, which is important to all Americans because we share a language and England is our mother country, one of our best friends in the world today.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts about my trip to London. I have learned so much and am so looking forward to using what I have learned to improve my instruction of not only my British literature courses, but all of my classes.

Cherrio and Mind the Gap!!!!

England Trip–Day Three

It’s really late, so I’ll give a short update and write more in the morning. My friend and I were so tired that we slept in late. I went over to the Tesco’s, a little grocery store, to get us some breakfast–super yummy croissants, yogurt and grapes–a god breakfast and cheap. First, though, I enjoyed walking around Russell Square and taking pictures.

After breakfast and a nap, Melissa still wasn’t feeling too well, so I went for another walk and discovered another park and a modern mall. I love walking around the city and exploring. Also on my walk, I saw the neighboorhood where Charles. Dickens lived for awhile and saw a statue of the great British woman writer, Virginia Woolfe.

Later we took the Tube to Leicster Square and had a fabulous meal at Bella Italia. Then we saw The Suffaragette at the Odeon, a cinema known for its premiere. There had been a premiere of the new James Bond film earlier that night.

We ejoyed the film, and because it was filmed mainly in London, it was extra special. Well, tomorrow is the big Hamlet day, and It’s a long play, so I better hit the hay.