And Then the Sun Came Out
The last week of March was the last time I remember sun in London. Not a fleeting break between afternoon showers and cold, late-night drizzle – real sunlight that lasted for hours. The sky was clearer today than any I can remember since living here. Looking to the horizon from atop the North end of Hampstead Heath, the city stretched for miles. It was the first time I could see clearly past St. Paul’s and the Spire. Even the smog had to make way today.
London is a different place when the weather is kind. Everyone sort of stops. You have to. Weather like today’s doesn’t come often. We all huddle under bus stops, ruin pairs of shoes, and rush as fast as we can with our shoulders held tensely to our ears. It’s miserable. I wake up most mornings to look outside my bedroom window to see that it is in fact already raining. Or, if it’s not raining when I wake up, it is as soon I leave the house…and it’s cold. My wellingtons have become my most faithful companions along with anything made of wool. I can’t help but grumble some days, “I just want to hang up my winter coat already.”
Sure, the weather is an easy thing to complain about – but it really does
something to people in this city. Day after day I’d get on the tube and look at the people sitting near me. Everyone sat there with their own brand of a sullen and dejected demeanor and I soon followed suit. Society has a way of mirroring itself like that. It’s almost too easy to fall in to the lull.
Thankfully over the past miserable month of a wet chill, I’ve been involved with something that’s made it not so bad to muck about the city in the mud. I’m working on a devised community piece with the Old Vic New Voices called Epidemic. I haven’t worked on a play since 2011. I’ve been wholly thrown into improv and y’know…getting my Masters degree. At the beginning it sort of felt like getting back on a bike for the first time in a long time – a little wobbly to start, but that first whip of air in your face as your legs pump steady and strong reminds you that you’ve known how to do this all along. It’s been an honor to work on this project (and not just because it has the fancy Old Vic to its name – but I’m not complaining about that either) – namely for how much and how quickly the directors and production crew trusted me to, as we say in Philly, “Do work, son.” And by that I mean I feel like an important cog in the wheel.
Speaking of Philly, I’m not the Philadelphian in the show! There are in fact two actors from my dear hometown. It’s so comforting to drop items like “tasty kakes” and ” Reading Terminal” into conversation and know they know what I’m saying. The whole Philly thing has actually come to serve me quite well. Let’s just say in my “facilitation style” I let my Philly ‘tude come out – but in a good way. As our director says, there are just some things I get away with that people over here can’t. Namely warming people up with a game like “Big Booty.”
It’s also been so lovely to feel part of a “theater family” again. The friendships that come out of these experiences are the reason I’ve stayed in theater for so long. It’s this massive group of people working on something that everyone cares about fiercely, and in the end you get to walk away with something everyone can be proud of. I remember feeling slightly out of place on the meet and greet day when the project first started. It feels like ages ago but it was really only a month or so. I have immense respect for the people I work with – the actors, non-actors, volunteers, designers, and everyone in between who is trying something new, challenging themselves, and expanding themselves in new, weird ways. Epidemic has brought together dozens of people from all walks of life, all ages, backgrounds, jobs, education, nationalities for as many diverse reasons. It’s beautiful in that way. It’s most valuable aspect is that it’s making art accessible for those on and off stage as well as the audience (it’s free!). In depressing economic times as these the arts are easily disposed of, and far too often at that. It’s an important reminder that society lives and breathes on more than supply and demand . It survives on human beings interacting with each other in new and challenging ways, on discovering possibilities, and every once in a while breaking into song and a choreographed dance routine….because we all need a little bit of camp to get through the day.
And as of note, it’s started to rain.