Crackling fire in the hotel
Brace yourself, this is quite a long post!
I went downstairs to have breakfast with our group and I was one of the first people up again. After everyone finished breakfast, our group went to a workshop at the Royal Shakespeare Company, something I had been looking forward to for the entire trip. I loved every minute of the workshop and wish it could have lasted even longer. The warm-up exercises were incredibly fun and I can’t wait to teach them to the kids at the theatre camp I work at in the summer.
For the first exercise we read a Shakespeare speech aloud while walking around. Each time there was punctuation at the end of a sentence, we would turn around 180 degrees and continue walking. When there was punctuation in the middle of the sentence (such as a comma or semicolon) we would turn 90 degrees and continue walking. I felt a bit dizzy and trapped by the end, which was how the character would be feeling by the end of his speech.
The next few warm-ups involved following directions. We walked around the room at a quick pace and whenever the RSC member called out an action we had to do it all at the same time and then continue walking. Some of the commands were stop, go, clap, jump, reach up, and touch the ground. It got really tricky when he changed the meanings of the commands. We had to remember that stop meant go, clap meant jump, reach up meant touch the ground and vice versa. These warm-ups required a lot of concentration and I would love to use them in the next play I do.
The next warm-up felt like it would be impossible. We were told that we needed to walk around silently and then without communicating with one another or trying to lead the group, we all needed to stop walking at the exact same moment, kneel on the ground, and then get up and continue walking as if nothing had happened. Somehow we were able to complete the task at hand and it felt amazing to work together as a group.
The next set of warm-ups felt more like games. First we played Triangles. Each person silently chose two people in the group and once we started walking around again we had to stay an equal distance away from the two people we chose, forming a triangle. The next game was Bombs and Shields where we again picked two people without telling them. One person was a bomb and one person was a shield. The object of this game was to keep the shield between you and your “bomb”. This game had a very different energy than Triangles and we moved around erratically. It was so much fun and the entire time I kept thinking how much the kids at the theatre camp would enjoy it. I would probably have to change the name to something less violent – perhaps “Shields and Fireworks”.
Our last warm-up was a combination of the previous three. We were told to walk around and “feel” what game was going on. We played a game of Bombs and Shields, Triangles, and then slowed down to stop all together and kneel. I’m not quite sure how we knew which game was happening when, but we did. I would love to try this with my little campers this summer and see how it works with them!
After the warm-ups we were given the scene from The Merry Wives of Windsor between Anne and Slender where Anne is trying to get Slender to come inside for dinner. We partnered up and practiced the scene once on our own. Then we were told that we could take one step toward or away from our partner on each of our lines, but we had to stay still during our partner’s lines. We then tried the scene two more times. Each time only one character was free to move. Next we were given three different scenarios as background for the scene. The first scenario was that Anne and Slender despised each other, the second was Anne was desperate to get Slender to walk inside to avoid a beating from her father while Slender was determined to not go inside because he was playing it “cool”, and the third scenario was that Slender and Anne were madly in love with each other. It was so interesting to see the shift in power each time we did the scene using a different scenario. My favorite was the first scenario because I got to play Anne a bit angry and sarcastic. After we finished with the scenario we did the scene two more times with the characters following one another while walking around the room. I loved how different the scene felt each time we performed it.
We were then split up into groups of four or five and given a scene with several characters in it. We ran out of time and didn’t get to do much with theses scenes. I really wish we could have spent more time in the workshop. I know I’ll definitely be using these exercises again and I think some of the members of our group are now interested in joining the theatre clubs at school! (One of us! One of us!)
After the workshop, a group of us went to a nearby cafe for some warm soup and then everyone walked to Shakespeare’s childhood home for a tour. It’s incredible to think that I was standing in Shakespeare’s house, let alone standing in the room where he was born. The amazing thing about British museums and historical sites is that they are so trusting. For example, there were chairs that Shakespeare himself sat on and the only thing to protect them from destructive tourists would be a small ribbon tied across the arms and a small sign that said “Please do not touch.” In the States, you can be certain that any priceless artifact would be behind thick layers of protective glass, but I suppose there isn’t enough glass in the U.K. to cover all its treasures. One of the upstairs rooms was converted into an exhibition room and inside I learned that famous people have been visiting Shakespeare’s house for hundreds of years, most notably some U.S. presidents. In 1786, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson visited the Birthplace together and signed the guest book. At the end of my visit, I also signed the guestbook, but I cannot imagine that anyone will have that on a plaque in 200 years.
Afterwards, everyone took some time to shop in the town and I spent even more money on souvenirs and gifts for my family. Since I’ve been running dangerously low on cash, I decided that this needs to be my last shopping excursion of the trip (or I won’t be able to afford my meals!)
Speaking of meals, that cup of soup just wasn’t cutting it so while I was shopping I stopped into a Pasty Shop and tried a vegetarian pasty with chickpeas. A pasty is basically a portable pie and it was delicious. Next I went into Accessorize which had wall to wall jewelry, scarves and generally adorable things. I ended up buying an “I Love London” passport case. (I know I said I wasn’t going to buy any more souvenirs, but it was pretty and on sale!) On the way back to the hotel, Liz and I wandered into what can only be described as a witchcraft shop. As soon as we walked in the door we were surrounded by the strong scent of incense and there were strange odds and ends lining the walls. On the table was a basket filled with turned over tarot cards and a sign that said “Free to read, 20p to own”. I sifted through the cards before finally choosing one to turn over and read. To my surprise, I got the travel card! (Coincidence or magic? – you decide.)
Tea is a feast here!
Once back at the hotel I had a bit of time to blog before our group tea at the hotel. I quickly learned that “tea” was actually a full meal. The waiters arrived with three tiered trays filled with scones, jams, cucumber sandwiches, and desserts for us to share. The scones were incredible and the cucumber sandwiches were very tasty. It was a lovely meal and it made me sad that our journey was almost over.
In the evening our group (minus the professors) went to the Garrick Inn across the street from the hotel for drinks. This pub had been standing since Shakespeare’s time and it was incredibly likely that Shakespeare himself drank here. I had mulled wine which is a hot drink and a “Shakesbeer”, the house specialty.
The Garrick Inn, Stratford’s oldest pub
Both drinks were very good, but I did prefer the mulled wine. I enjoyed getting the chance to spend some time with our group, just talking and enjoying ourselves. I fell asleep right away that night and felt very happy to be in such a lovely place. Even though I am starting to miss my family, I don’t want to leave Stratford.