An American Girl in London


Emily Chudzik, Staff Writer

Last issue, my fall break trip to Italy concluded with my excursion to the canal-filled city of Venice. In these past two weeks since break, I have actually been quite busy with classes and schoolwork. We definitely wasted no time getting back into the swing of things. However, in the midst of newly assigned essays and presentations, there was still time for a bit of fun.

Although I am not training to become an actor, I am lucky enough to be studying at the world renowned Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. In addition to lectures and seminars about Shakespeare and his plays, we have been taking voice, movement and acting classes with the Globe staff.

These classes are unlike anything I have ever done before, and I’m really enjoying them! This past week, we finally transitioned from the rehearsal room to the actual stage, which was such an incredible experience. Walking on from backstage into the bright lights of the stage was such a powerful moment. I know I will never act on a professional stage in the future, so I am happy to have had this unique opportunity.

We also got a behind the scenes tour of the theatre from a stage manager. He took us up to the attic to where some of the bigger props were being stored. He was very knowledgeable about the theatre and told us about of the history and some stories from his time here. He also showed us a hatch in the ceiling that dropped straight down to the stage, which was about forty feet below us. We then crawled underneath the stage and saw where the trapdoors were, among other hidden treasures. We even got to go through the trapdoor, which was so cool.

After spending some time on the stage, we went up to the balcony portion. It was such a serene feeling to look out and see the entire theatre bathed in the warm glow of the lights. On the final leg of the tour, we saw where the props and costumes were stored. All the costumes are made by hand and with materials that people in the Elizabethan period would have had access to, such as silk and wool. When the tour concluded, I felt like I learned some of the secrets of the stage.

Completely aside from classes, Halloween was also this week. Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering what Halloween is like in another country, especially in one so close to where the stories and traditions of the holiday are said to have originated from. Well, let me tell you, it was nothing like I expected it to be…

About a week prior, my friend Frasier found an event happening at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. It said the Gardens would be transformed into Asgaard, the home of the Norse Gods, and was advertised as a “firework display and fire magic show.” This description made the event sound quite appealing, so around 10 of us decided to get creative with the clothes and materials we had here and make a costume to wear.

When we set out for the night, we noticed something was different right away. London is a massive city home to millions of people, and hardly anyone was dressed up! I would guess that out of every fifty people, maybe five were dressed up. It was so strange. Stranger still, at least three people stopped us and wanted to take our picture… We were so confused. Was dressing up in a costume not a common Halloween practice here?

Things changed a bit once we arrived at the Gardens. We saw more people dressed up, but the adults who were wearing a costume were really only dressed as skeletons, witches, or vampires. There were no “funny” costumes in sight, which also felt a bit odd to us. We stayed there long enough to watch the fire show, which didn’t feel very Halloween-esque to us, either. There was a large bonfire burning in the background while dancers performed on the makeshift stage in front. The two main men acted as Thor and Loki and performed a story for us. Songs like “My Heart Will Go On” (yes, the one from “Titanic”…) and “Thunderstruck” (the AC/DC song) were playing while they danced and acted out the story. It was something cool to see, but not the Halloween spectacle were we anticipating.

After we left the fire show, we tried to find somewhere else to go. We got more stares as we rode the Tube to Southbank, but once we arrived, there were more people dressed up. That was at least a little reassuring to us.

However, we had no such luck in finding some kind of Halloween event. That was surprising since we were walking around the heart of London. So, I have to admit, Halloween was a bit of a letdown over here. I was expecting it to be an even bigger deal since the rituals we adapted our modern Halloween traditions from originated in Europe. Looking back, it was silly of me assume that Halloween in England would be the same as Halloween in America. We are clearly two different countries with different cultures and traditions. This was a good reminder of why assuming things is never the right idea.