Monday, June 11, 2012

my kingdom for a monkey

I'm not used to setting out for the midlands two days after checking into London, but I'm two weeks behind the students this time; many of them have been here since mid-May. So they're settled in and London is old hat. I'm still trying to remember how the tube stops hook up at this point (hint: lots of them don't) but I'm always happy to head to Shakespeare country, even in drizzling rain at 7:30 am. We boarded the coach (NOT a bus, never say bus) and I think I was asleep within 10 minutes. Thanks to Bon Iver and my ocean wave app! It was a beautiful hipster concert by the sea.

We stopped for breakfast in the middle of nowhere, but England has all of these really nice truck stops (I mean it - really nice!) where you can sit in a Starbucks and catch up on your voxes. And sort of wake up. Which I did. And I felt great! Even though my sweater ripped. (Can't win them all, I guess) (unless you're Ken Jennings) While inside that Starbucks I was blasted from the past by hearing "Keep Feeling Fascination" by the Human League on the radio. Remember that one? From the 80's? From my youth? When I had a flat top and kept feeling fascination?

Today was Lauren's birthday. It was also Alayna's. Here is Lauren, who is a Stookey. The Stookeys are in my home ward, and I love them. All of them. Here also is Topher, who I also love, but in a special professor way. I have to say that it's hard to keep hearing the name Topher, since that's been my nickname since birth. Every time someone calls "Topher!" I whirl around and look for my mom. Or my wife. Or my brothers and sisters. It's Pavlovian. I promised Topher that I would adjust, so I'm working on it.

We hit Warwick Castle and you will be pleased to know that I actually attended it this time. As opposed to two years ago when I just wandered around Warwick taking pictures of spiderwebs, or last year when I just took a giant nap at the peacock park and then hit up Subway for lunch. It was fun to go inside again and try to find something new. I challenged everyone to find the secret hidden monkey in the State Rooms, only to find out from the tour guide that they've removed the monkey "for conservation." I didn't tell anyone, so they all scoured the house for the monkey. The house is all set up like Downton Abbey, and all these wax figures are pouring baths and having affairs and clinking spoons in the dining hall. We kept ourselves busy dressing up in cloaks and Kaitlyn and Ally even snuck onto one of the canopy beds when the guards weren't looking. I had a nice lunch of chicken and potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. It was carbo-riffic. It was nice to be inside where it was warm, eating warm food, and reading my book: So Rugged and Mountainous, by Will Bagley. It's about the Oregon trail and is not related to England at all, but I'm directing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Sundance this summer and I like to find out about dysentery, buffalo chips and "white man's fool water" in preparation.

Don't make me sing!!!

Part of Warwick castle today was a very special ghost tour, which was mostly ineffective during the day when there are no shadows or spooky corners. But we did hear some great stories about hidden whores and scratchy doors. The tour guide kept calling me "Dear Boy" and didn't seem to understand that if you scream at the end of every story we will, eventually, figure out that you're going to do that. But Warwick Castle was beautiful and fun and inspired Dan to say that "even the fields are in iambic pentameter." And he's right.

Speaking of ghosts, we checked into The Hollies, our B&B in Stratford, and I was ushered all the way upstairs into a Harry Potter attic room. I immediately fell into a nap in which I kept dreaming that a little boy was tugging on my arm and poking my face and demanding that I leave his room. That went on for a few hours. We'll see if I get a repeat visit tonight. I hope this little ghost knows that I am well trained in ignoring little boys who try to wake me up from naps (HUGH)

We had dinner at the Dirty Duck, which has become kind of a tradition. It's always delicious and I had chicken tikka masala with a Poppadom. And a giant pint of Diet Coke, even though I knew it would give me a bad case of the tinkles! I had a fun talk with Bonnie, Kaitlyn, Emily, Jena, and Dan. They filled me in on all their illegal activities in Edinburgh, and I was suitably impressed.

Tonight we saw Richard III at the RSC, and I kind of went crazy for it. My expectations for the RSC are so low lately; after such hit and miss levels of quality I was not expecting what we got tonight. It was a really spare and clean staging, and the whole costume design felt sort of H&M. Lots of exposed light bulbs and live music (reminded me of my Macbeth for Utah Shakes) and fascinating velvet and corduroy pieces in jewel colors. The show was electric. Literally. Sparks flew from the swords in the final battle. And the whole thing was funny - so funny - and the energy was amazing. It never stopped for a moment. And this is Shakespeare's longest play, and one of the most difficult. They made it move in ways I've never seen before. I was fascinated the entire time - and that doesn't happen often. Or ever. I was captivated and caught myself smiling throughout. It's just wonderful, and so rare, to see Shakespeare done with that kind of creativity and verve. Special kudos to Jonjo O'Neill, who played Richard. He couldn't have been funnier, wittier, or more pathetic. A really great performance.

One thing. The house manager at the RSC is a Nazi. And so are her minions! Nick and I spotted two front row seats not being used, so we moved down at intermission. Minion #1 confronted Nick and demanded that we return to our seats. So we moved to another pair of seats on the front row. Minion #2 confronted me and asked why I had changed seats. I told her that my seats upstairs hurt my neck. They didn't, really, but wasn't that a dumb question for her to ask? I MOVED DOWN BECAUSE I WANTED TO SIT ON THE FRONT ROW! She told me I could stay. But then Nazi House Manager came up and said "I understand you have an issue with your neck?" And I confirmed that I did.  She told me that I would still need to go sit back upstairs, but I refused. No one was sitting there. She said it didn't matter; the seat was sold and the customer might still "turn up." For sure, lady, ninety minutes into the play! Basically I refused to leave. Because it made no sense! I offered to upgrade my seats, but she wasn't having it. And guess what, Eva Braun? I wasn't having it either! So we finally worked out a deal where she let me sit on the main floor but back a few rows, and she let Nick sit by me, and we had a pole sort of in our way, but it wasn't that bad. And that was the end. I refuse to be bullied, even when I'm sneaking into seats I haven't paid for.