We're far closer now to the end than we are to the middle or beginning of the semester. I know everyone said to expect that, but it still doesn't prepare you for how quickly the end rushes towards you. It doesn't even feel as if it's been that long since I checked in here, but the calendar doesn't lie, and here I am eight weeks later.
The English class just got home last night from a weekend trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, the town in which Shakespeare was born and died, and the current residence of the Royal Shakespeare Company. After only an hour or two there, I found myself wishing our class had more than three days to spend in Stratford; everything about the town was...well, it's hard to describe. The town didn't make any strong assertions of character. Pleasing to the spirit, maybe? After such an intensive dive right back into second module, it felt like such a luxury to amble around the footpaths and along the river Avon, people-watching and swan-watching. Granted, our class wasn't just there to laze around on the grass or sightsee for three days. We were scheduled to see three RSC shows in the three days we were there: Richard III, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest, plays that we'd spent the first three days of the week reading and discussing at length. So needless to say, I came to Stratford with a lot of strong interpretative ideas and questions I was excited to think about in the context of the RSC's productions.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre was unbelievable. The building had been recently added to, and the theatres themselves recently recreated into better spaces. The outline of the building rose up into Stratford's skyline exactly as a historical art icon should, whatever that means, but I can't think of a better way to describe it at the moment. I loved that no matter where I was in Stratford, I could look around for the RST's signature red brick tower and know which direction I needed to head for the performance. Richard III was pretty phenomenal. Hands down, my favorite production of the weekend; I could have spent an entire separate blog post talking about it. Jonjo O'Neill's Richard was an unexpected kick in the face, and I use that expression because his Richard might have thought it was funny to kick someone in the face. Seeing that production, which was exceedingly different from what I was expecting in terms of character relationships and trajectories, was a great exercise in making sure that I had a thorough understanding of the text. Their production worked, and I was pleased that I could explain why in terms of their interpretation of the text (thanks to all that academically-minded journalling David has been pushing us to do instead of opinion-minded writing). The next morning we got to sit down with the man himself, Jonjo O'Neill, and talk about the production with him. It was incredibly helpful in understanding the production, but also made me want to be involved in theatre again at Oberlin. The two following performances at the RSC were really interesting, and we had a ton to talk about in class when we got back to London, on top of the two plays and Evelyn Waugh novel we had scheduled for this week. Also in Stratford, I discovered a grown-up version love of bubbles and feeding ducks.
I find myself in a strangely unexpected relationship with London, one that has me thinking of London as home. That sounds corny, so let me explain. I flew out to Paris for spring break, excited for such an easy opportunity to see another country, let alone famed Paris. Here's the catch--I don't speak a lick of French, and the places I was staying were far from the centers of tourism within the city; therefore, I (and whichever Parisians I needed to talk to) had to resort to wildly expressive gesticulation and overly emphatic native languages in the hopes that the other would get what we were trying to say. It was ridiculous, but most everyone I ran into was totally willing, and some totally eager, to jump into the game with me. After seven days of clumsy, albeit really pleasant, social interaction with Parisians, the return home to London came as an immense relief. I found myself comforted by the familiar architecture of my neighborhood; the signs pointing in different directions for Regent's Park, Madame Tussaud's, the London Zoo; the seat cushions on the tube. I hadn't realized until I left for an even less familiar place that London had embedded itself into my subconsciousness with associations of home, comfort, relaxation, assurance, security. Being in London for the first few weeks made me feel all these things about Oberlin and San Diego. Who'd have thought that those same feelings would eventually make their way into my feelings about London?