31 July 2012

Olympic fever (and darling English boys abound!)

Well, of course, Mitt Romney and Barbara Walters were wrong!
(What a most unlikely couple, very deserving though, after their recent anti-Brit comments!)
The Olympics are going swimmingly (pun intended), and London has more than lived up to its reputation as a world class, capital city. (And, the Queen is wonderful. Full stop/Period.)
The opening ceremony (directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle) was the stuff of legend.
The real stars of the ceremony for me, after Her Majesty, The Queen, herself, of course, were HM Queen's adorable corgies, Holly and Monty!
BBC has released stunning excerpt for YouTube...

Britain always manages to rise to the occasion in grand style, elegance and grace.
A more than a few Darling English Boys thrown in for good measure...

Team GB Heartthrob Divers, Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield 

(Well, if the guys have Beach Volleyball, Men's Synchronised Diving is one for us gals, for sure!)

Rule Britannia!

24 July 2012

Feeling better

"Sweet are the uses of adversity, which like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; and this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stone, and good in everything." - As You Like It

Shakespeare always gets it right. These words from As You Like It found me today, reminding me that there is good in every situation and circumstance. It is always worth taking a moment and remembering that one has much to be thankful for.
Spent much of yesterday, outside on the deck, in the sunshine shaping my course schedules for the Autumn term. I'll be teaching for two very wonderful university programmes in London. Both have great students, incredible support and terrific colleagues. The work itself is freelance and contract-based, which means it's not permanent, but also mean that I have the freedom and flexibility to be mistress of my own time. 
Sure, I'll never make a fortune, and I do tire sometimes of being a "roaming Shakespeare scholar", it would be nice to have a permanent place to pitch my academic tent. But - at the end of the day, I get to do what I love. And, that is worth everything.
Throughout my time here in Britain, I have sadly felt "lead up the garden path" on a fairly regular basis. From early in 2009, I was invited in for a number of meetings with the BBC about the then forthcoming "Shakespeare Season" for 2012. I met with seemingly countless development people and producers, who seemed keen and interested in my ideas and thoughts. 
After a series of personnel changes in the BBC's development area, I was, along with my ideas, lost in the shuffle. I have since had a very kind apology from a chap wasn't involved this fiasco, that was in fact much appreciated. That was balm to my troubled soul. At the very least there was an acknowledgement that I had been taking for a ride. It did not, however, make it any easier for me to sit and watch as the current BBC Shakespeare Season has carried on and passed me by. A great cultural moment. I have not be able to stomach it.
The next great cultural moment will of course be the big Shakespeare anniversary in 2016. I am determined to contribute to that in some way. And, perhaps, it will be a way that I create for myself.
In the meantime, I must find peace, solace and comfort in what the wonderful opportunities that I have had and have. Shakespeare has led me on some truly incredible adventures: from Alaska to Romania. I have this very morning received confirmation for a Shakespeare lecture I'll be giving at the British Council in Hong Kong next month, and am currently discussing the possibility of a Shakespeare lecture tour of India in October.
As Shakespeare suggests, one should always be on the look out for the good in everything.

18 July 2012

The Life I imagined?

"New heaven, new earth...past the size of dreaming." - Antony & Cleopatra
"Is it all that you imagined?" Thus began the letter I received recently from a Reader keen to embark on her own journey of a new life in brave new world. It has taken me weeks to respond. Busyness and an overly lengthy "To Do" list aside, I have struggled to place my feelings in the right frame, the right words.
I started my response to her many times, but then ditched the effort each time, finally today, I feel I have found the word or words, and hope she will excuse this public reply to her queries...

That is how all of this began, and love is what keeps me and this story going. Next month will be four years since I left my high-flying life in Manhattan for the bucolic British setting that is now my home - a story book English village that charms and delights me daily; where I feel safe, secure and valued. I risked everything, all I had and all that I was. 
Was it worth it? Without a doubt.
Is this life all that you imagined? 
And, no.
I don't have words to describe fully the frustration and isolation I have felt as I have struggled to rebuild my career here in Britain. Incredible high and gut-wrenching lows. 
I have had to fight for every little corner I have achieved. I have had to find reserves of shameless self promotion that I never knew I had. I've had to be fearless, brave and resilient. Creative and persistent. And, thick-skinned. Or - at least attempt to be thick-skinned. 
A journey such as this is not for the faint-hearted.
Depression, disappointment, anxiety and anger have all been present in full measure alongside joy, passion, laughter and love.

Love is the only thing that has got me through each and every rejection - and there have been too many to count. Every time a door has slammed firmly shut, I've retreated into the warm and open arms of my DEB.    
For this, I am thankful. For this, I live and find the strength to keep going.
There are so many things here that give me joy: family (the best in-laws in the world!), friends, community, etc. & etc. 
But, I would be lying to say that it has been easy, and not without struggle. It requires living on ones wits, straining the nerves, and surviving. The lows can be incredibly low, and hope a very distant thing. I have come to believe, quite honestly, that I have more chance of winning the National Lottery than I do of ever finding sustained and fulfilling employment in my field in this country. Seriously.
Would you do it all again? Absolutely. But, I would do it differently.
"What an amazing life you have! How can I be you?" - The young schoolteacher smiled at me broadly  at the end of a very enjoyable Shakespeare workshop I'd led with her students. Her words left me speechless. All I could do was smile back at her weakly.  If she only knew what it meant "to be me"... 
Four years on: Love is the only thing that keeps me going. 

08 July 2012

Star-studded times

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, and joyous time of creativity.
The RSC are on peak form, and I've fortunate to have work (lots for a pleasant change!) surrounding the current season of productions.
The new production of Richard III is simply brilliant, with Jonjo O'Neill doing an hilarious and amazing job of playing Shakespeare's most daringly crafted villains. Paola Dionisotti returns to the RSC stage, after a 17 year hiatus, as Queen Margaret. She gracious offered her time for a hugely enjoyable post-performance discussion session with my HF Holidays group.   

Paola Dionisotti shares her journey to playing Queen Margaret

Group photo at Harrington House

The other production that seems to be featuring heavily in my life these days is Greg Doran's stunning rendering of Julius Caesar. Paterson Joseph, a chum of mine from "the good old days", is making a triumphant return to the RSC as Brutus. Caught up with him after the show to wish him a "Happy Birthday", and had to get a photo of him in the tshirt his wife sent him from France, appropriately bearing the words: "Et tu, Brute?" Which, in French, apparently means "Stupid." Fascinating.

Paterson Joseph in his "Caesar" shirt

When not running round lecturing over the past few weeks, I have been doing the legwork producing a reading of "Song of Songs" at/for Barford Church. The experience, though exhausting, has been sheer joy. And has reminded me of "my old self". The director/producer me. The "mover and shaker" me in NYC.  The production was a sheer delight and gave me the opportunity work with two of Britain's brightest and dearly loved stars: Timothy West and Prunella Scales, who kindly lent their talent to our fundraising efforts.

Rehearsal for Song of Songs

Tim and Pru were both so lovely. The only way I can describe is adorable! Truly. So kind, gracious and generous. And, of course incredibly talented. Every director's dream!
During rehearsal, I got dewy-eyed and nearly wept with joy at the sound of these two legendary actors reading the luscious language of "Song of Songs". Sometimes, when you are in midst of things, there's very little time to reflect on just how significant the moment truly is. This time, I stopped, pinched myself, and whispered, "Hey, look at you, you're doing this!" It was truly amazing.
Hearing that I'd produced and directed this production, one of my former students emailed me and asked, rather cheekily whether I'd "made Prunella Scales and Timothy West do the 'Vowel Wheel'" -- one of the dreaded warm-up exercises I used to put my students through on a regular basis. We didn't do the Vowel Wheel, but we did do a brief warm-up!
I can't wait to do something like this again. It is always good to have a reminder of what you can do, when given half a chance. In the end, we raised over £2000 for church funds, a real relief in these difficult times.

Timothy West and Prunella Scales