Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"Final Day" in London

Today was the Final day in London. Not the last day we would be there but the day we took our finals for our classes. I actually really enjoyed these finals for two reasons. First because we got to type them, thank you spell check. Second because they were the most fun Final Questions ever. We got to talk about our experiences in London and our favorite parts and why.
So mostly for my benefit so I can find them later I want to post my answers here.

1. Does studying Shakespeare in London make a difference? This was my question coming into this program in April, and now after experiencing it I can say that it does. Being on this study abroad in London has given me a greater appreciation for London as well as Stratford-upon-Avon as key sites for gaining greater knowledge about Shakespeare and appreciating his work. The experiences of reading the plays, seeing them performed and then discussing them as a class has help me develop greater critiquing and analysis skills as well as the ability to write insightfully about them. Most importantly studying Shakespeare in London has helped me be a scholar of Shakespeare and develop relationships with others on the program.

Living in London and visiting the ‘Shakespeare sites’ has been more than just a tourist experience; it has given me a greater appreciation for Shakespeare and his work. No experience could make me appreciate Shakespeare more than seeing Much Ado about Nothing in the Globe Theater. Being in the Globe really gave me a sense of what theater was for people in Shakespeare’s time. It really was an escape from their lives into this other world of enjoyment and that was exactly what Much Ado was for me. I was able to watch the show in the little world of the Globe Theater and just enjoy myself and it really made me appreciate why Shakespeare wrote plays. It was for the enjoyment of people and I don’t think I would’ve been able to understand this principle as clearly if I was not at the Globe. Going to Stratford made me appreciate Shakespeare in a whole other way. Going through his home and seeing all those who had made that pilgrimage made me appreciate his literary genius but more importantly I was able to appreciate him as a real man. Learning about how he wore a dress a child, like all the little boys and girls did and how he gave a allowance of money to is daughter yearly for her to use really made me feel a connection to him as a man. This kind of connection would not be able to be had anywhere but Stratford.

Not only has studying in London made me appreciate Shakespeare as a entertainer, writer and man, but it has been a great learning experience about being a scholar of Shakespeare. The structure of our classes where we first read the plays, then saw them performed then discussed them and finally wrote about and critiqued them had helped me gain stronger analysis and critical writing skills. The way this was most clearly shown to me was the difference between my experience with our first play and our last. While studying The Tempest I really struggled reading the language of Shakespeare to the point that I really did not enjoy it or know what was going on. This could not be more different from the experience I had reading Macbeth, which was easy and enjoyable because I had become use to the language of Shakespeare. Seeing the Tempest and seeing Macbeth could not be more opposite either. I did not enjoy the tempest at all and Macbeth was my favorite production and this had nothing to do with the actual performers but with my ability to analyze and appreciate the productions. Through discussions in class I gained a more critical view of performance and instead of focusing on how good or bad actor were I was able to focus on deeper meaning of staging, costuming, lighting ect. And in doing show enjoy the show much more. The greatest difference came in learning how to write like a critique being concise and insightful. This came mostly from class discussion and my ability to really look at what I was trying to say and get to the heart of it quickly. This program has not only helped me be a better patron of Shakespeare but a better writer as well.

Most importantly this course has helped me be a better scholar of Shakespeare and develop relationships with others. I did not realize that coming on a study abroad would help me make friends but it really did. And as silly as that sounds it was the fact that we were all studying and learning the same things that did it. I have built friendships here that will last because we were able to experience Shakespeare together. The first night we went to the Globe I forgot a coat and so Casmin and Lauren sat really close to me to keep me warm, how else would we have become such good friends, we owe it to Shakespeare. In seriousness being able to discuss and debate shows with others is a wonderful part of this experience and the greatest learning tool we have on this study abroad.

So anyone who says that you don’t have to go to England to really experience Shakespeare is wrong. I have a greater appreciation for him as a writer and a man because of living in London and going to Stratford. I am a better scholar of Shakespeare because of the experience of reading, seeing and critiquing his plays here in England. And I was able to build meaningful relationships with other Shakespeare scholars because of the experiences we have had here together.


Can you capture Shakespeare’s brilliance as a writer and entertainer in one simple moment of a play? I’m not sure it can be done but of all the plays we have seen while being in London, one moment of a scene seems to stand out above the rest as a great example of the Shakespeare genius. It is interesting for me because the moment that stood out to me the most came in the play I liked the least, and maybe that was part of why it stood out the most. The moment that really made me realize the brilliance of Shakespeare was the speech given by Shylock in Merchant of Venice. When Patrick Stewart said the lines, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” it encapsulated for me what Shakespeare is really about. It showed Shakespeare’s command over language. It showed how his plays were written to be performed and the power they conveyed. Most importantly it showed how Shakespeare wrote to relate to the audience and make them feel.

Shakespeare uses so many beautiful words in his writing; whether he is being witty or serious his words always seem right on and this small moment in Merchant of Venice is the perfect example of that. The line is so simple but has such power. It shows how Shakespeare did not have to use complicated language to invoke such emotion. Many contemporary writers rely a lot on profanity to create strong emotions and comparing that kind of language, for example Little Eagles to this speech shows the genius of it. The line “if you poison us, do we not die” is much stronger than any swear word I’ve ever heard used. This line was what stood out to me when read and when seen on stage which is an indication to me of the power of Shakespeare’s control over language.

Shylocks speech was the moment that stood out to me the most for more than just its literary genius it was also in the delivery of the line. Patrick Stewart delivered these lines with such emotion that the audience could not help but feel them. The rhythm of the lines was so beautiful that delivering them as an actor must be a wonderful experience. This is just another way in which we see the genius of Shakespeare in that his plays were meant to be performed. These lines were a great example of how even though Shakespeare stands up to literary analysis the words he wrote were meant to be heard.

Not only was this speech made up of powerful words and the delivery of them emotionally moving but the true reason for Shakespeare’s writing can be found in them which is simply that he wrote for his audience. When this play was written there was a lot of anti-Semitism which is why it was relatable to the people watching it in Shakespeare’s time, but the great thing about Shakespeare’s writing is that it is still relatable to today. When I was listening to this speech I couldn’t help but think about those who have judged me for being different or others that I have judged for being different. This is the genius of Shakespeare that he can relate to his audience and make them feel.

So can Shakespeare’s genius be captured in a single moment? No. But Shylocks speech can give us a glimpse of how amazing Shakespeare as a writer, entertainer, and teacher. This is why it was my most memorable moment even though it was within my least favorite play.

3. When I use to think of spiritually uplifting art or performance I would only think of things like church movies or EFY CD’s but my time in London has changed my ways of thinking and has made me realize that the spirit can be connected to the arts in many different ways. I have learned that the spirit can help us discern if what we are seeing is uplifting or not. The arts and the spirit are also connected in the way that performance can testify of God’s love for us. But most importantly I have learned that every performance has a spirit that drives it and that is what we connect to as an audience.

This experience in London has helped me realize that all performances affect us spiritually and it is by listening to those feelings that help us decide if what we are watching is uplifting or not. Macbeth was a great example of this for me. While watching the performance I was caught up in the action of it all, yes there were parts that disturbed me, like the hanging children, but for the most part I walked away thinking it was a great show. That was until I assessed how it made me feel. I realized that the spirit was telling me that what I just saw was dark and not uplifting and it did not make me feel good. I was glad I had that experience because it showed me how the spirit can speak to me about what things are uplifting and what is not.

So when I watched shows that were uplifting I gained a greater insight into the relationship between theater and the spirit, that theater can strengthen my testimony. For me seeing The Cherry Orchard was one of those moments. It was not that it was a particularly uplifting show but the spirit was able to testify to me while watching that show that the things in life that really matter are people not possessions. This was a great spiritually uplifting message that I was able to receive during a show which also built my testimony that things besides church movies can be spiritually uplifting.

The greatest lesson I learned about the connection between the spirit and theater was that every show has a spirit about it, whether good or bad. Watching War Horse was the greatest example of this to me. I was really able to connect with Joey and Topthorn even though they did not speak because of the spirit that I felt watching it. This connection taught me something very valuable about theater and the spirit; that every show is trying to create a spirit in which they connect with the audience and it is when this done effectively that it is a good show. Even One Man Two Governors which was not deep at all had a wonderful spirit in which we could connect with the show. On the contrary Silence was a very deep and thought provoking show but because I didn’t feel that connection to it I did not enjoy it.

It amazes me how many ways the spirit and theater are connected. Not only can the spirit help you discern between uplifting and not uplifting material, a show can help the spirit touch your heart and strengthen your testimony. The most intriguing thing I have learned while in London about how these two are connected is that every show has its own spirit and that is how an audience connects to the show. So does something have to be produced by the church to be uplifting entertainment? No, the connection between the spirit and theater is much greater than that.

4. All life experiences that we have change us, and hopefully always for the better. Studying in London has changed me in many ways. It has changed how I view art, especially theater. It has changed my testimony. Most importantly it has changed how I view myself and what I am capable of. When I started the journey in April I expected to have a good time, experience London and learn about theater, I never expected to learn, change and grow as much as I did.

The first area in which I have changed is in how I view art and theater. Last semester I took a humanities class and often found myself asleep when my teacher was talking about art, I didn’t enjoy studying it. This summer I have learned to appreciate it in a much different way that appeals more to my way of thinking. Being in class and discussing the shows we have seen, sometimes very extensively has taught me that art is something to be analyzed not just appreciated and by thinking about it and analyzing it I gain more appreciation for it. This experience has changed me in that now when I go see a show I’m thinking about it constantly while I’m watching it and after to see what deeper meanings are trying to be portrayed. This will help me in the future to be a better patron of the arts.

The second area in which I have grown is in my testimony that God knows me personally. At the beginning of this experience I knew that God loved me and that I was a divine daughter of his but I did not have a firm knowledge that he really cares about my day to day life. This changed during this program. When we went to Kew gardens and I was prompted to bring my umbrella I knew that Heavenly Father cared about my daily life and he knew that I would’ve been miserable in the rain. He also knows me personally because he knows I have a hard time making friends and it really was inspired that I was on this study abroad with people I am great friends with now. So this experience has strengthened my testimony and I think it will help me in the future to realize my blessings from my Heavenly Father.

The last area of change for me on this trip was getting to know myself. This trip has taught me that I am very capable of taking care of myself and that I don’t need to rely on others. Planning our trip and going to Spain was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I have never felt more like a grownup. But the fact was that we did it and we were okay. That taught me to trust myself in making decisions and being confident in them. I think getting to know myself and what I am capable is the greatest thing I will take away from this experience and will help me most in the future. In the future I will be confident in making my own decisions which will help me in all aspects of my life.

So has London changed me? Yes, in the greatest of ways. I am now a student of the arts and will always be. I have gained a stronger testimony of my heavenly fathers love for me and most importantly the promise that our stake president made to us was fulfilled for me. I really invested myself while I was here and was able to know myself better. All life experiences change us, London changed me for the better.

Okay, so I know that was long but as I said before it was basically for my benefit more than anything. The other thing we did tonight was go to a show called Haunting Julia. It was a very scary play and was meant to really get you to jump. I liked it parts were almost comical to me because I was sitting next to Ellie and she was so scared that her nails were dug into my arm and at one point her leg was across my lap, it was absolutely hysterical. It wasn't exactly what I would've picked for our last show but it was good.

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