Friday, April 24, 2015

London - March 11, 2015

I really and truly had not meant to go back to London this spring.  But the thing is, I was sitting on Expedia on Black Friday 2014 and they had this deal come up.  It was a vacation to London... three weeks for the price of one... and suddenly... how could you not?  

I bought the insurance, though, telling myself I would cancel.  

But then suddenly all of my favorite actors were doing shows during the time I was scheduled to be there:  Emma Thompson, Rufus SewellTamsin Greig, Stephen ManganMaxine PeakeOliver ChrisJuliette BinocheJames McAvoy, Mark Strong, Ralph Fiennes...  There has been this golden age of theater going on in the UK and sometimes you just have to show up for history.  So... I started buy theatre tickets.  And then I found out that I play that *I* had written was going to get a space at the Dramatists Guild in NYC as part of their Friday Night Footlights program a few days after I was schedule to come back.  And then suddenly the same play was going to get a reading in London.  And I thought, "Well, heck.  Let's do this."  So I did.

I started off with a trip from the west coast to the east coast and got myself a lovely little hotel room in Jamaica (NYC) next to the sewage plant to crash until my flight the next day.  I told myself it was a "writing sabbatical."  Nothing like being forced to work when your really can't leave your room.  But the next day dawned and made my way to the airport for my transatlantic flight. 

My dad has this theory that one direction of your flight is always just going to suck. I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be this one. I got upgraded to business class. 

(they even had a menu!)

I got to go into the fancy lounge where they served free cookies. I had a lie-down bed for my flight and attendants who brought me almond encrusted chicken and Black Forest cake. For the first time in my life, I got to Heathrow not looking like death-on-an-international-picnic. 

Aaaand then my shuttle was two hours late. 

And while I was waiting, I realized I left my phone in that schwanky business class lounge next to the complimentary chocolate covered pretzels in NYC. 

And suddenly you're in a foreign country with no phone and you kind of go, "Do I spend a couple hundred dollars to get another one for a couple weeks?"  And then you go... "No."

This trip turned into a 21st Century version of a spiritual retreat.  Twenty-one days without tweets or emails or burying my nose into a screen instead of looking around.  The only people I could talk to were actual people who were actually in the room with me.  I hear humanity used to live like this all the time.  And I gotta say, it was good.

I got to the hotel eventually after being picked up by this wacky shuttle driver who made the Night Bus in Harry Potter seem like Driving Miss Daisy and, oh... the hotel was so lovely.   I was right in Trafalgar Square steps from the Thames.  The lobby was caramel colored marble columns and three-story drapes.  London turned its face, suddenly realizing I had arrived, and smiled upon me like it always has to welcome me back. The polished and primped gal at the reception desk saw how long I was going to be there and said, "We can't put you in this room!" and on the spot upgraded me to digs on the top floor with a microwave and refrigerator, and a view of Saint Paul's and Big Ben out my window.  I was going to be living for three weeks on a rooftop in London!  Oh!  What a sight! 

I had a few minutes to wait while the room was getting ready, and stumbled across a John Singer Sargent exhibition, which was phenomenal. I've always loved his work and I've never seen so many of his paintings in one place. 

I returned to my hotel room and it was just a charming.  They thought of all these little luxuries.  Like, putting the temperature control next to the bed so you only have to roll over to adjust the heat.  And empty bottles and a chilled water station in the hall so you weren't constantly buying Dasani to carry around.  And a whole closet filled with toiletries and an invitation to help yourself.  Do you know how lovely it is to know you don't have to beg for an extra packet of coffee? 

I caught a little nap and then I ran over to the Donmar Warehouse for this sweet little acting workshop they were teaching in conjunction with Closer (which was sold out and I, literally as I sat in Jamaica the night before, was able to get a return ticket for the the following night.  Another way London is so fantastic - if life happens, you can return your theater tickets.  If they sell them, you get your money back.  No harm, no foul.  And what THAT means is that people actually return their tickets, so there is an actual chance of seeing a sold out show instead of theaters sitting empty because someone couldn't get a babysitter.) 

ANYWAYS!  I was expecting a more informational workshop on how they run rehearsals and Donmar projects. Instead, they gave us all scripts and told us just to play around. What?!  Play around?  In the Donmar's actual rehearsal hall?!

This was hallowed ground, my friends!  Tom Hiddleston tread these boards putting together Coriolanus.  Not to mention Rufus Sewell and Oliver Chris and Nancy Carroll in Closer (FYI - tickets to every single performance of Closer sold out seven hours after they were released.  Seriously, people.  I was trying to buy tickets.  Seven hours!  When does that ever happen in America except for a rock concert?!)  Donmar is the actor's version of Sun Studios.  Or at least my version of Sun Studios.  And the workshop was a hoot and I actually made people cry with my performance.  Do you know how long it has been since I have said words that made people cry?!  It had been three years.  I just looked at my acting resume.  Three years.  Ye gods it felt good...  Like a soul massage.  By the time the evening was done, I already made friends, as one always does in London.  Because London is magic.  

I couldn't go back to my hotel room.  Not on a night as gorgeous as that night in a city where a single gal can wander around all by herself at 10 o'clock at night and it is safe.  It is filled with smiling people and happy hearts.  So I just wandered around getting lost. Because wandering around a city alone surrounded by a sea of strangers is my favorite.  My favorite ever.