This Afternoon in the Cemetary

Today, I will remember my umbrella.

We’ve had astonishing luck with the weather here in London thus far. Today is day six. I’ve not yet been caught walking in any severe bout of rain, and I’ve spent quite some time ambling about the mews, roads, and lanes of Londontown. Certainly I’ve survived the fall of an English drizzle upon my well-coiffed golden crown of hair, but I’ve not yet been threatened by much more.

Yesterday, I narrowly dodged walking home in a downpour by staying late at our LAMDA first day welcome party and having another complimentary glass of wine. Isn’t that a statement! I’m a fortunate boy!

Our first full day at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts was equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming. For starters, I’ve not had to meet such a large number of new people since I began studying at the School of Theatre 3+ years ago. As Christian, Jae, Caleb and I neared the end of our precipitation-free morning walk to the school’s premises on Talgarth Road, I felt long-dormant butterflies begin to flutter around my gut.

My first shining moment of social discourse came when a program head, Debbie, took attendance. I waited and waited for my name to be called. “Michael?” “Hi!” Debbie began to move forward to a name that began with the “S” consonant sound. I very immediately mistook this for her trying to pronounce my last name, so I interjected with all the projection of a young actor with a good bit of voice training, “CISZEWSKI,” before very quickly remembering I am a fool. Debbie kindly humored me and asked for the pronunciation it seemed I so desperately needed to supply her.

I am reminded of the great frequency with which I spoke (or asserted) my full name at each and every opportunity my freshman year at BU.

Furthermore, there is a popular belief regarding growth in the School of Theatre that originates with Paula Langton. She says we grow in a spiral, continually encountering similar, essential events—challenges and obstacles, successes and opportunities—as we grow. I find relief and truth in this notion, and if I apply it to my first few moments at LAMDA, perhaps I am right on track.

After morning pleasantries and timetable distribution and explanation, we had a nearly two-hour lunch break during which a rather large group of friends—new and BU—took a stroll into the Hammersmith neighborhood in which LAMDA resides. Those without lunch found a lovely little patisserie at which they purchased sandwiches. We stood outside in great number and congested the local walkways, making enjoyably surface conversation on our origins and backgrounds back in the States.

It began to drizzle as sandwiches were finished and we began to walk into the neighborhood to explore a bit more. We happened upon a beautiful, small cemetery. Many of the weathered, moss-covered tombstones had begun to lean into their earth on one side, giving the cemetery the appearance of a lush, green mouth abnormally replete with jagged, crooked teeth. I lingered behind the group a bit to indulge in the somber, graceful dignity of the place. I recalled an anecdote Mark Cohen shared with our class before we left Boston. According to some lore, a soul that dies on the British Isles must remain there forever, as ghosts cannot travel through or over water. I shared this with a new friend named Eliot who trailed the group with me. I’m not sure how he spells his name exactly, but Eliot met my story with several almost unbelievable tales of near-death experiences growing up in France and Brazil.

Our afternoon memento mori was extended by a fascinating first lecture on the English Kings of Shakespeare’s histories to prepare us our visit today to Hampton Court Palace, seeing Royal Shakespeare Company’s Richard II starring David Tennant tonight, and working on the histories as our first performance experience at LAMDA.

I suppose we’re off and well on our way.

I’m still having adjusting my sleep schedule to Greenwich Mean Time—I’ve been falling asleep around 9 PM and waking for an odd, restless hour checking Facebook at 2 AM before returning to sleep and ultimately starting my day at 6:30. The sleep has been fitful; the dreams have been fascinating.

Christian, Caleb, and Jae just finished watching some old British game shows in the TV/Study room. Before we walk to Hammersmith, I’m off to remember my umbrella—just in case.