June 14, 2016
Today has been my favorite day of the entire trip!
This morning we went to the Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie building, formally 20 Fenchurch Street (I looked it up, Kyle ;)). The building is 37 stories tall. On the 35th floor is the Sky Garden which has 360º of windows that allow you to see all of London and its major landmarks. The large atrium also has wonderful walkways surrounded by growing ferns and flowers, and several coffee bars. “Hashtag super cute,” -Shawn Irish. I wish it had been less of a gloomy day so I could have gotten some better pictures of this beautiful city. Here’s my favorite picture from this morning of the Shard:
Our booking at the Sky Garden allowed us to stay for an hour, so i grabbed a cappuccino, set down near a window and read some of my book. It was a lovely way to start my morning.
After this, we took a pretty long, slow tube ride to South Kensington, the location of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The V&A is pretty similar to The Met in NYC; it has a little bit of everything. Before entering the museum we took a break for lunch. I went to a pub and had some of the best mac and cheese that I’ve ever had, and certainly the best I’ve had on this trip. At 2 pm, we went into the museum. We went with the purpose of viewing the Curtains Up exhibit, which was a tribute to all things theater in London and New York. The exhibit had many costume sketches, including swatches, actual costumes, scenic design models, programs, and other theater memorabilia from lots popular shows. Among my favorite things were:
The costume sketches and swatches for “Masquerade” in Phantom of the Opera, which I had the pleasure of seeing about a week and a half ago.
Several pictures and programs from The Windmill Theater, which is the theater that the story of Mrs. Henderson Presents is based on. I saw two pictures that showed the queues of soldiers waiting to get into the theater during WWII. I also saw this “glowgram,” which allowed audience members to follow along with the order of the songs because it was printed on slightly transparent paper that could be read when held up to the light.
Several silk programs, which were printed for special performances or galas. This one is from a performance of The Mousetrap, which is the West End’s, and the world’s, longest running show of 64 years.
Many models for sets that explore the theme of presenting abstract ideas in real, tangible, built elements of design. This type of idea has presented itself in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Hamlet. Curious Incident‘s design almost reminds of playing Tetris. It is sectioned off into blocks in order to represent the mathematical specificity with which someone on the Autism spectrum may live their life Hamlet, discussed explored the idea of madness manifesting itself through the creation of art. Matilda, whose set model I got to see today brings Roald Dahl’s words to life and throws them at the audience in a scrabble-tile-looking proscenium.
After taking my time exploring this exhibit, I went downstairs to an exhibit called Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear. This exhibit was placed in a circular room. The outer ring of the room had several period piece garments ranging from the 1750’s to about the 1970’s. The inner ring of the room contained both men and women’s undergarments from the 1750’s all the way to present day. I found the displays fascinating. They were not set up in chronological order, but rather the undergarments were grouped in such a way as to provoke thought about underwear as it pertains to gender roles, sex, modesty, and the idea of privacy. It was very interesting to see how underwear, especially for women, has evolved and adapted to changing social and political climates.
But the best part of the day was yet to come!
I left the museum and headed straight for Leicester Square with the goal of entering my name in the lottery for The Book of Mormon. Tonight’s show was sold out except for two tickets, which would have cost £150 ($212) each. I showed up at 5 pm and wrote my name and address down on a card and put it into a big bingo wheel type thing. They draw at 5:30, so I went down the street to Pret and got a cup of mango slices as a snack. I went back to the theater in time for the 5:30 draw. It’s all very suspenseful and dramatic. There were 22 lottery tickets available for tonight’s show, which means only 11 people will win because each person wins two tickets. The announcer draws the names one at a time and calls them out to the waiting crowd, “Hailing all the way from etc. etc…” Five people had won before he pulled out that fateful ticket. “Okay, we’re going back to the US now. Texas, actually. Dallas…” I start moving through the crowd when he says Dallas, I know it’s me. He said my name and the crowd cheers for me. I show him my ID to verify that it’s me, walk into the theater, and buy my two front row tickets for £20 each. Brilliant.
I had dinner just down the street at the Spaghetti House. More gnocchi. Yum. Then I walked back to the theater about 45 minutes before the show was scheduled to start so I could try and sell my second ticket. I found a guy who bought it off me for the same price I paid for it. I had a nice conversation with him when we got to our seats. He was either Scottish or Irish, I couldn’t really tell. He told me that his son was also studying theater and that he sees a lot of shows when he is in London, which is quite often.
The show was amazing! For those who don’t know much about the story, The Book of Mormon is a musical satirizing the beliefs and practices of the Church of Latter Day Saints, but it is hilarious because it is offensive to almost every race and people group that there is. It is a good fun and sends the greater message that we shouldn’t judge people based on their religion or any other factor, because we’re all a little bit crazy. The actors were wonderful, the set, costumes, and lights were grand, and it was all made so much better by sitting in the front row.
Today was an amazing day, to be followed by another! Tomorrow is a free day and a large group of us are going to tour the studios where they filmed the majority of the Harry Potter series. Excitement is in the air. Not sure what show I’ll see tomorrow night, but whatever that show is has a tough act to follow.