Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Theatre Learning Moments and my Manchester and Liverpool Adventure!

So I have not updated in about a month and I’ve had many an adventure since then.  So this post is not so long it makes people reading it feel like that have a homework assignment I’ll just stick to my trip to Manchester and Liverpool for now.  I do go off on some tangents during this but this trip was a big growing experience for me so that’s why.  As well as my other post, at the end of this I have a sparknotes version for those of you who care about my life but are also feeling lazy today; enjoy!

My solo Manchester and Liverpool Trip!
Well, I did it!  I took a four day, three night trip to Manchester and Liverpool completely solo.  I was really proud of myself for doing all the planning for this mini trip without any help.  Manchester and Liverpool are both major cities in England.  They are only a short train ride away from each other so I knew I could do both in one trip.  Also, they both take about three and a half hours to get to by train from Twickenham so I knew this would not be a day trip.  This trip was a pretty spontaneous thing for me.  I had an extra long weekend and was inspired by my friend Jess who took a trip to Italy by herself and thought, if she can go to a different country by herself I can at least go to a different part of an English speaking country by myself.  I wanted to use this trip as a tester trip for me to see how I would do with traveling completely independently.    I consider myself an independent person but I have to admit that I’m usually the lazy one when it comes to planning the trip.  I end up letting others take the lead when it comes to planning things like where we will stay and how we will get there.  So when I decided this was something I wanted to do I sat in an internet café’ for five hours one day and planned out everything.  I found a cheap and well rated hostel, looked up train tickets (though I know now I could have saved money by taking a bus) looked up cheap restaurants that were well rated, tourist attractions, and of course theatres. 
Manchester Day 1
Getting to Manchester went very smoothly.  Plus I got to ride a nicer train for of the majority of the way there so that was kind of fun.  I spent a lot of this day just wandering around, I went to their tourist information center and got a map of the city center, which is the main area of Manchester in which I stayed, and was a live saver during my short time there.  Manchester was super easy to get around and very touristy friendly.  They are really trying to get known for being a tourist hot spot so everyone was very keen to help and the street signs even kept me from getting lost, for anyone who knows me, this is a huge accomplishment.  The city was really clean and felt very safe.  It had the city feel yet was so much more manageable then getting around London, plus everything was right in the city center and within walking distance.  I went to The Royal Exchange Theatre and ended up getting a free ticket to see their show Mogadishu, which is a new work.  It takes place at an inner city school in London.  In the play a white female teacher breaks up a fight students and a 15-year old-black male student shoves her during the fight.  Then the teacher does not want to turn the student in because she knows it could ruin his life to get expelled but the student spreads rumors that the teacher shoved him first an called him a black bastard.  So then the teacher gets suspended and there is a lot of other stuff that goes down as well.  It was really interesting, and I really love seeing new works.  The theatre space was incredible.   It’s a theatre in the round space build inside an old historical building.  It is hard to explain how amazing it looks so I’ll just have to add pictures.  I did have a great “theatre learning moment” during this show as well, that might only be interesting to other “theatre people and other performers” but I feel like writing about it anyway. 
outside of the theatre

The Royal Exchange Theatre space inside the theatre

My “Theatre Learning Moment”
Before the show they had an hour long concert in the lobby with a girl and boy about my age.  The girl sang contemporary and classic songs in an Adele style while the guy played guitar and piano.  The girl’s voice was incredible but she was so annoying to watch.  I had about an hour to think about why she was this way.  Meanwhile, the guy was good, not amazing, but really interesting as a performer.  The girl just seemed like she didn’t believe in herself, and she didn’t seem like she was having that much fun.  As an audience member it was aggravating to watch her when she was acting like she hardly even deserved to be up there.  It was the perfect example of somebody apologizing for being on the stage.  I have never watched someone perform for that long of a duration which such an attitude of apology.  If I was a casting director I don’t know if I would have wanted to work with her, even with how beautiful her voice was, because it would be such a huge risk to hire someone who didn’t think they were good enough.  It made me realize how hugely important it is to fully commit to everything you do on stage, because it is always more visible than you think it is.  It also made me realize how important the piece of advice I got from the acting coach Chambers Stevens is, he told me “Never apologize for walking into a room.”  He was referring to the fact that on stage I’m really confident but I needed to learn how to carry that attitude with me through every aspect of my acting and just being a person in general.   To this day I think that is the best theatre advice I’ve ever gotten, which was reinforced so many times over while watching this girl sing for an hour.  I just wanted her to break out of her shell and enjoy what she was doing so much, because she really had a breathtaking voice.   
On the other hand, the guy that was playing the instruments was one so confident and relaxed in his own body that I felt like some theatre god was sending me a teaching aid through these two.  He had this attitude of complete confidence without being cocky.  He was just doing his thing and really enjoying it, and you could tell he was having a good time sharing his love of music with people.  Yet there was nothing showy or pushy about his performance.  He had this air about him that he could have played naked and still been completely confident.  It was just very refreshing to see this in someone.  He was just being himself without judging what he was doing or over complicating it.  This made me want to know more about him and see more.  It was one of those moments where I really realized that if you don’t believe in yourself as a performer, it dosn't matter how good you are, and others are going to wonder why they should believe in you.  Also, what is the point of performing and not letting yourself enjoy every second of it?  It’s not selfish; the audience wants to see you enjoy yourself.
Back to Day part one in Manchester
I was feeling really lonely that night and slightly regretting my decision to do this solo until I talked to the other people in my room at the hostel.  I met a really nice girl from Greece named Eva who was in Manchester doing her residency as a dentist, and she had not found an apartment yet. I also met a woman who was about my mom’s age who was an artist taking a week long print making workshop in Manchester.  I went to bed feeling much better, and realized I just needed some human interaction after a full day of having hardly any.
Manchester Version of the London Eye
Manchester Day Two
I spent the first part of the day hanging out in the lounge in the hostel and just talking to different people all from different countries and hearing their stories.  This is where I met the first of three Canadian teachers in Manchester because they said it is nearly impossible for teachers coming out of college in Canada to find work, so many have resorted to teaching internationally.  I ended up going to the Manchester Art Gallery with Eva from Greece this day, and it was fun to hear her stories.  The art gallery was amazing, especially for me because they had a large amount of Pre-Raphaelite paintings which is one of my favorite eras of art.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Astarte Syriaca
Willian Etty's The Sirens and Ulysses

Eva had to leave to go look at an apartment so I spent the rest of the day wandering around the city and just enjoying it.  I spent a lot of time in China Town, and went to a Chinese bakery where I had a lunch of green tea cakes and a custard filled bun, both of which were great.  I also made my quest to walk to The Whitman Art Gallery, which took a long time to walk to but I was enjoying just seeing the city.  This is where I had my second “theatre learning moment”
Part Two “Theatre Learning Moment”
The Whitman Art Gallery had a huge exhibit on Mary Kelly, who was a big feminist artist.  The only thing was is they didn’t put a lot of it in context.  They did for some of the pieces but not for all of them.  My theatre professor Janet is always telling us how important it is to put things in context (they all tell me this, but she pushes it the most.)  There was a moment where I walked into a room and it was filled with these single pieces of framed paper.  Each sheet of paper had typed up on different kinds of food which I assumed is what she ate that day and medication she took, or something like that.  I was trying to find some information to put this in context but couldn’t.  Then I saw some really stereotypical artys people looking at these sheets of paper like it was so important and I started laughing.  I realized that if you don’t put stuff in context you are just staring at in confused while other people look at you like “shame on you this stuff is important!” Well, why is it important?  Because from where I’m staring I see a framed sheet of paper on it that says mashed potatoes and don’t really give a damn.  We can be so snooty as artist sometime about why what we are doing is important but if our audience does not get it what is the point of doing it?
Back from my tangent and on to the rest of Manchester Day 2
While walking around this day I also paid visit to The Gay Village, which is just what it name states, a whole area full of gay bars and clubs, which was a little uneventful during the day but I wish I would have seen a drag show their at night.  That night I deiced to do a pub crawl that the hostel ran.  The pub crawl was fun but without a wing woman it was a little weird.  There were about 25 of us on the pubcrawl and there was not even one other American, but it was actually really nice since sometimes I only hang out with the other Americans at school and need to meet some people who are not from my own country.  I ended up talking to the two super tall girls, they were literally about 5’11 and wearing heels and made me feel like a midget, one was from Sweden and the other from Norway.  They were fun but I got annoyed hanging out with them because it loud bars their conversations were a foot above my head and I couldn’t always hear what they were saying, these are real life issues of the vertically impaired.   There was also a group of Spanish guys who were fun but one decided I was his aim for the night or something and kept putting his arm around me and trying to flirt with me, so I avoided him the rest of the night, because without a wing woman, (aka Lisa Michaels, the best wing woman ever, I hope you are reading this) flirting with a guy in a bar just did not seem right.  I was at the Irish Pub when I met the two over solo traveling girls and that is when I really started to have fun, plus neither one of them was above 5’4, score!  One was from Germany and the other one was from a small town near Manchester I think and just visiting for the weekend to go shopping and have fun.  This is where there was a live band and this 75ish year old man dancing and really getting into it.  He reminded me of David Hennessey from the Commonweal with the way he loved to dance, if you ever get a chance to dance with David from the Commonweal Theatre, please do, it is very fun.  Anyway, this guy was really going for it and dancing with the three of us but especially with me and I thought he was just being fun grandpa type until when we were leaving.  He tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was going and asked if I was heading out and seemed really disappointed that I was.  I hope he was just having fun dancing with some girls who didn’t mind goofing off but he said it in a way that made me think grandpa was trying to flirt with me.  The final stop of the pubcrawl was a nightclub that played really odd music.  The girl from Germany and I had a lot of fun dancing in it was really liberating to just really go for it on the dance floor with someone I just met an hour ago in a different country where no one knew me.  After this I have not cared what I look like when I dance when I go to clubs because as long as I am having fun I don’t care if I might look a bit silly.  I am a dorky white girl, and that shows when I dance but I find dancing fun so who cares!  Life is too short to not put yourself out there.

pubcrawl group
Liverpool Day!
It might have not been the best planning decision on my part to get up early to go to Liverpool the next day after the pubcrawl but that’s the way it went.  I went straight to Albert Dock in Liverpool since I knew that is where I would sign up for The Beatles Tour.  By the way, Liverpool is very beautiful, but very cold and windy since it is right next to the water.  I did The Beatles Tour right away and that was pretty sweet, it was fun to get my picture taken at Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. I really liked hearing how the band got their start and all met too.

In Liverpool I ended up just walking around and looking at the city a lot, I walked to The Liverpool Cathedral, Albert Dock, The Tate Liverpool, and The Cavern Club.  I was really tired and it was so cold that I ended heading back earlier than I thought I would.  Liverpool had a more confusing layout as well so it took me a really long time to find stuff.  I did find a pizza place called American Pizza and had 2 slices of pepperoni pizza that tasted like they were from New York City, it was amazing.  I got back to the hostel and realized that even though I can take trips solo, it’s not as fun as sharing the experience with someone.  I do grow a lot from doing things by myself and I am really not one of those people who needs someone with me all the time, but I don’t think I would want to plan a solo trip that was longer than a week.  I have been wondering if I am the type of person who would have fun backpacking through Europe alone for a summer and this trip made me realize I would want at least one other person with me.

Liverpool Cathedral
The Tate Liverpool which is on Albert Dock
Maillol's The Three Nymphs
The 4th and final day
    I got up early this day and really embraced the city of Manchester.  The feeling that I was going to be able to sleep in my dorm that night gave me a certain buzz throughout the day.  I left the hostel around 10am and until my train left around 5pm I just walked around the city hitting all the major spots I had missed.  I did a lot of shopping because the northern quarter of Manchester is a vintage shoppers dream.  There is a mall there called Afflecks Palace that is all vintage shops, fancy dress (or in America we would say costumes) shops, and independent fashions designers stores.  I got three dress from here for only 46 pounds!  I also went to The Ardale Market which had a lot of good food stalls in it, Printworks, The Triangle (neither  of those two were worth it) The John Ryland’s Memorial Library, which has some really cool stuff like some pieces of the text that made up the bible and other historical, books, and The Manchester Chapel.  I just wondered around too and got my head out of my map which is when I ended up just running into a lot of cool stuff as well.  I got on the train back to Saint Mary’s feeling really good and wiped out at the same time.  Even though it had only been four days I realized I grew a lot from doing this.  It was not so much the city as it was me being independent and putting myself out there. 

*I had a long weekend so I decided to take a 4 day, 3 night trip to some other major cities in England, Manchester and Liverpool and stay in a hostel.  I wanted to take a trip where I had to be independent. 
*I went to a lot of places in Manchester like a mall there called Afflecks Palace that is all vintage shops, fancy dress (or in America we would say costumes) shops, and independent fashions designers stores.  I got three dress from here for only 46 pounds!  I also went to The Ardale Market which had a lot of good food stalls in it, Printworks, The Triangle (neither  of those two were worth it) The John Ryland’s Memorial Library, which has some really cool stuff like some pieces of the text that made up the bible and other historical, books, and The Manchester Chapel, The Manchester Art Gallery, The Whitman Art Gallery, The Gay Village, and China Town .  I also saw a play called Mogadishu at The Royal Exchange Theatre which is a really cool space.  The city was very tourist friendly and easy to get around.
*The hostel I stayed at, The Hilton Chambers, was really nice, and I met a lot of people there but not even one other American.  I did a pubcrawl through the hostel which was really fun and I hung out with tall girls from Sweden and Norway at first but could never hear what they were saying because I was a foot below their conversations and bars and clubs are loud.  At an Irish pub a 75 year old man danced with me and I’m not sure if he was trying to flirt with me.  I met a girl solo traveler from Germany and we danced at the club and it was really liberating to just have fun with people I didn’t know in another country.  Also one of the Spanish guys was freakin me out during the pubcrawl so I hid from him.  I did have a lot of fun just talking to everyone and hearing their stories.
*I went to Liverpool and it was pretty but cold.  I did The Beatles Tour and got lots of cheesy pictures and also went to The Tate Liverpool, The Liverpool Cathedral, Albert Dock, and just wandered and had the best pizza I have had in ages.
*I had some “Theatre Learning Moments” during my trip that reinforced what I have been learning about never apologizing while on stage and putting things into context.  Basically, I watched a singer and musician perform together and the singer was great but didn’t seem to enjoy being on stage or feel comfortable in her own skin.  The musician with her was very comfortable in his own skin and therefore much more interesting to watch.  As an audience member it was very annoying to watch the singer not own what she was doing.  The putting it into context lesson came from looking at modern art with and without having the information beside it to put it into context, without it you are just staring at a blue canvas saying, “really, and I care why?”
*I loved this trip and learned a lot from it but realized I don’t want to many trips longer than a week solo because certain things are just more fun when you have someone to share them with.
Next time in Alyssa Takes London (don’t I sound fancy), I need to cover my trip to Stratford Upon Avon (home of Shakespeare), all the 4 shows I’ve seen in the last month, London Zoo (which was amazing) and The Decemberists Concert I’m seeing tomorrow (They are my favorite band)!  Those have been the biggies of my last month here!   To all my friends and family reading this, I miss you loads, and wish you were here sharing in my adventures; it’s not the same without you.


  1. Alyssa, my weekend in Toronto, ON was not the same without you as my wing woman either! I've decided: we simply must reunite for further crazy-fun antics and wing woman-ness!! :)

    Keep having a ball across the pond!

  2. I've been stalking your blog for a while, and it sounds like you're really living it up! That's awesome! I'm jealous!

    Also, I saw The Decemberists recently (so good!) too! And they are also my favorite! Hope you like them!

    It's interesting to read what you're up to - it's been such a long time. Hope you continue to have fun learning experiences!

    Heather (Ide) Williams :)