Get Emily to England!
SO! Where does the woman who loves Shakespeare and new verse need to go?
London, of course!
I'm thrilled to have gotten a sit-down with Bush Theatre's Artistic Director in mid-May (she's awesome, check her out ), and I'm doubly thrilled to be meeting with the creator of Wooden Overcoats (it's hilarious, check it out ) while I'm there.
I'm also *ahem* hoping to catch a certain Mr. Hiddleston on the stage, and see what he is made of. (And whether he is worthy of being in future verse.)
However, being a woman of modest means, I could use some help to fund this trip. Including:
• Passport (slightly expedited) - $200 - ACHIEVED!
• Round trip air fare - $550 - ACHIEVED!
• Lodging for one week - ACHIEVED!
• Seeing Betrayal - ACHIEVED!
• Food - $150 (I can be frugal! And I have some cash tucked away for per diem.)
• Underground - $50? (I think $50 is a safe bet for four days of travel hither and yon)
I'm excited to be taking this bold new step into a city I love. And I'm hoping, I'm really hoping against hope, that it opens up a new chapter for me as a playwright and producer...which in turn opens up a new chapter for so many other writers, directors, actors, dramaturgs, and Folks What Like Seeing New Versions of Arthur, Please!
Thank you, thank you, for your support and belief and cheerleading. It's scary to put myself out there. But it's like being windy on a precipice. And with you, Wendy, we can fly.
All my love,
Hello, friends! As you can imagine, the last few days of London were a whirlwind. After seeing several shows, it was time to spend some time in Audio Drama.
I met up first with a whole slew of British podcasters at - where else? - a pub, where I got to hug the maker of the AMELIA PROJECT as well as chat with some of my personal voice acting heroes.
The following day, many of us women made our way to the "Shout Out Live" event for women and people of color in podcasting. There I met even more cool people (I somehow fell in with some important influencers; mostly because they had Cool Hair), sat in on several panels, had tea with the makers of MADIVA, THE PRICKWILLOW PAPERS, and DASHING ONIONS (check them out)...
And then promptly fell asleep for a good twelve hours. Because an Emily can only extrovert so much.
What was most delightful was realizing that, much to my surprise, I'd come to London and found "my people." There's nothing quite like meeting someone in person, getting lost trying to find your way to a train station, discovering that far from parting, your journeys are continuing on that train a little longer.
Sunday - my last full day in England - I spent as a proper tourist. I got myself to mass at Corpus Christi (alas, in Latin - not my favorite, but there we are), then wandered over to a French tea shop, before deciding to meander the streets of the city and see where I went.
It started to rain when I hit Trafalgar Square, which didn't seem to dissuade either the tourists or the buskers at all. But it did send me inside the National Gallery where I appreciated some fine art and got myself a Monet-inspired scarf (after discovering I'd unwittingly dressed in matching colors for the Monet!).
The rain let up, and I continued my amble, going down to St. James Park, walking along the north bank where - 19 years before - I'd walked, trembling, along the south. (A longer story for another time, perhaps.)
It was glorious out. So beautiful, that I even enjoyed seeing the geese and taking photos, before bumping into Buckingham Palace and - the day being done - winding my way back home.
There my hosts had invited me to a proper Sunday roast, which was DELICIOUS. I sang a few more songs for them (Puccini this time), and Monday morning I was off back to America, and then down to VA to teach Shakespeare, and then back to NYC where I have finally caught breath enough to conclude my account of this wonderful trip.
I cannot thank you enough for getting me across the pond this first time. I have some high hopes I might be able to get back there this year, to deepen my relationships with those theatres, actors, content creators and more - because I'm bound and determined to work both continents.
In the meantime, you can see all the exciting photos here: https://www.instagram.com/emilycasnyder/
Love you all much!
Yesterday was the big day, beginning with a delightful meeting with Lynette Linton, the Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre (where I'd seen CLASS the night before).
It was a joy to talk about play development, the importance of theatre in a time of turmoil, the need for diverse writers to create nuanced projects, and all sorts of various topics that we both waxed passionate about.
The Bush Theatre fosters new contemporary work with small casts that speak directly to the diverse area of London that they serve. At present, they're looking to expand and revamp their development/educational branch, in order to streamline the methods of getting shows from page to stage.
One of the things we discussed was the benefit of working collaboratively - of bringing creatives AND audience in early to the development process, so that the humanity a playwright jots down isn't merely theoretical.
Lynette just closed an all-female, POC RICHARD II at the Globe, and is about to re-open her production of SWEAT for a larger audience. (Which I hope to catch at least the end run of later this summer!)
After that, it was time to jaunt over to see BETRAYAL, starring Zawe Ashton, Tom Hiddleston, and Charlie Cox. I'd prepped by watching the (not super great) movie version from the 1980's featuring Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Hodge. Considering that I'd been redirecting the movie as I watched (never a good sign), I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with the stage play.
As I entered, I had a momentary shock to look up from my phone and see that standing directly in front of me, inches from my arm, was none other than Sir Kenneth Branaugh. Alas, he noticed me clocking him, and gave the time honored look of: "Oh, please, don't clock me." And so, I looked away and gave him space. (It turns out I was in the wrong line to begin with anyway, so I gracefully moved myself around the corner to where all the plebs enter.)
Since I knew this was a play All About Subtext, this was the one ticket I'd sprung to get close seats for, so I could really see their faces. The lady next to me was from Singapore and quite cheery and chatty. While the usher on my left - whom I noticed bopping along to the pre-show music - opined that actually he'd been quite put-out that the audiences hadn't gone a LITTLE bit mad, what with the star quality up there. Everything had been very civil throughout the run. I suggested that perhaps, given that the crowd that came in were here in an act of hero-worship, there was a sense of trepidation and reverence, rather than raucously having opinions about the play itself.
I'll do up a full review for all the shows I've seen this time through, but in short I was delighted to see that this really was a Good Production. The simplicity of it, the starkness of the design, the balance of the actors, the poetry of the direction, the way they all allowed themselves to take the PAUSES and had *whole soliloquies* - wordless soliloquies that were nevertheless fully evident - the way they brought biting laughter, and the pain, and the conflict, and the cruelty, and the heart - the HEART.
Really. Bravo one and all. (Also, yes, I was particularly inspired by the Lancelot/Arthur dynamic happening between the two friends.)
My sole complaint - and this has to do with the text - is that the final scene is CRAP. It's pure and utter crap. Jeremy Irons couldn't pull it off. Charlie Cox made a go of it, but the words are just nonsense. And reveal more about the pettiness of Pinter than anything. The last scene, which is the first scene chronologically, shows the "reason" why the adultery happened. A SEVEN YEAR AFFAIR. And rather than looking intensely at why a person cheats, instead the seducer just says nonsense teenager stuff about his target's beauty, and for some reason that's enough for her to leave her new marriage?!?!? I call BS.
The director did what he could, and gave us a poignant final image (see below), but I still want to shake Pinter for chickening out and not going deep enough into his own motivations. (BETRAYAL is based on his own affair.)
I did get into line at the stage door, and while Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton zipped out before my very end of the line, Tom Hiddleston was good enough to do a double queue (his team is really excellent), and so we exchanged a few words and he was good enough to take my card.
I then exhaled and just started walking in a direction. Any direction. Ended up next to a statue of Shakespeare, and wandered around what was clearly a very food-y area, and so decided to get myself one decent meal, dammit. After which, there was time to grab terribly cheap seats to Mischief Theatre's THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY, which was excellent and too poorly attended. I've seen their masterpiece, THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG three times on Broadway - once with the original cast, and twice with the American replacements - and this group does farce gorgeously.
BANK ROBBERY is different from TPTGW insofar as it's less meta-theatrical, and actually tells a story...set in AMERICA (fairly credible accents to all). There's an absolutely stand-out bedroom farce scene, involving a Murphy bed, a window with angry seagulls, a chloroformed banker in a cupboard, an extended game of charades, and a whole host of mistaken identities - as these things do.
Which means, of course, that today I'm taking it easy. Writing to you, finalizing (finally) the proof of my latest publication (NUTCRACKER from YouthPLAYS - just in time for your Christmas needs!), and sleeping in.
I will say that I think I should like to work here. That in fact the answer to my question: "Could I/should I be bicoastal?" is a resounding YES. Perhaps that became most apparent to me as I zipped through Paddington and Waterloo, barely looking up, until I realized my body already knew the way through the mazes of the underground to overground stations.
If possible, I ought to get back here at the end of the summer to see Lynette's show. And it's possible Josie Rourke of the Donmar will be back in town then, too, and might have a few moments free.
There isn't, so far as I can see, new verse theatre here. (Although the soliloquies in EMILIA were *delivered* in verse, but not printed that way.) But I think, fairly easily, there *could* be.
Tonight, I'm headed up to a bar to meet other audio fiction folks. And tomorrow there's a women in podcasting conference. More soon, friends!
It was a beautiful day for Covent Garden and environs, taking in quite a bit of theatre and enjoying the beauty of old architecture (photos, as always, on Instagram @emilycasnyder).
Began by taking tea and a tour with Reverend Simon Griggs of the Actors' Church in Covent Gardens - the place where MY FAIR LADY'S first scene takes place. And I must admit, that as soon as I arrived, it took everything within me *not* to startle the crowds by bursting out "Isn't It Loverly?"
It turns out that a few years ago, they actually staged a concert version of the musical, with full orchestra, outside the church. Very, very cool.
They also have a full summer season, this year featuring HAMLET and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. Alas, rehearsals for the former begin Monday, so I wasn't able to sit in on it, but I did have a nice chat with the director.
From there, it was a short jaunt down to see EMILIA. (Pictured below.)
Now, when I was looking up the RSC to see what was on, they had information about EMILIA - which was originally developed and premiered there, before the current transfer to the West End.
Unfortunately, the marketing for this play is fairly misleading. Various posters use the word "Othello" and "all-female" and "Shakespeare"...so that it looks like perhaps a OTHELLO told from Emilia's point of view? Or other posters try to sell the play as "Saturday Night Live meets Shakespeare" and "hilarious" and a "comic romp" - which is to say, nothing but light and silly. Or, because it has a diverse cast, they try to say it's like HAMILTON and...something hip hop?
All of these are wrong. Dead wrong.
EMILIA is a beautiful play, in conversation with the playwrights who have gone before, commenting both forwards and backwards on what it means to be a woman then, now; all through the lens of a historical poetess who might have been Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" and who lived an extraordinary and scrappy life in a time when life was hella hard.
This is a drama. It is a female drama, which means that there's music, and ensemble, and laughter - but gallows laughter - there's dance and childbirth and death of children and childhood; there's fury, there's justified FURY, and there's striving and friendship and peril and weakness and strength.
This is a play that could ONLY be told with a diverse, female-only cast. It's a play that would suffer from traditional casting, because it's about the people whom theatre won't let in. But it's more than that. More specific than that.
There were so many lines that caught me off-guard, that resonate RIGHT NOW. Watching my male colleagues who've done quantifiably less than myself get advanced, while I struggle for each crumb. Yet, allowing those men to ask: "Why shouldn't I benefit from my own hard work?" While the women on the stage ask: "Why must I struggle to benefit from mine?"
It's about the way trauma changes you; makes you into someone else. It's about finding your voice, and learning how to shout. It was uplifting. It was devastating. It's still thrilling through me. My hostess and I were nearly speechless as we grabbed dinner after. What had we witnessed? How had we been seen?
I then had the joy of bopping down to the Bush Theatre (where I had a lovely chat with the AD today - more on that later). I got to see their import from the Alley Theatre in Dublin, called CLASS. Very well performed, asking questions of school and social structures, among old and young.
The Bush Theatre fosters new playwrights, championing diverse voices and points of view. They're revamping their development program now, and I'm very excited to see how the theatre flourishes under Lynette's direction.
All in all, this trip has been hugely restorative, and I'm excited to see what they're developing over here and how myself and TTF might be part of the conversation.
In just a few minutes, I'm off to see BETRAYAL. More soon!
Hello, friends! It's been a loverly time so far in jollie olde England. I'm staying with a dear friend from Shakespeare Forum who's now living here, and letting me crash at her place. (Compleate with wine, and conversation, and catching up, and me singing opera at her.)
The flight over (once I was in the air) was perfectly delightful and, better still, they had a fantastic selection of movies which meant that I *finally* saw THE FAVOURITE (excellent), BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (whelp, I saw that), and most of MARY POPPINS RETURNS (I have notes).
Touched down here round about 10:30 PM local time, and managed by a multitudes of transportation methods to make it to where I'm staying in Wimbledon. (Where we promptly drank Prosecco and talked about life and art.)
This morning, I was meant to zip up to Central London to meet with the creators of two of my favorite podcasts, WOODEN OVERCOATS (featuring Felix Trench, pictured below) and Chris Sugden (sadly not pictured) of VICTORIOCITY.
HOWEVER, once I got on the train...it decided to crawl along at a pace a toddler could out-shamble. And then just stop altogether, while other trains sped by. And nary a word about What In The World Was Happening.
What surprised, and outraged me most was that all the Londoners surrounding me, business people with Important Things To Do, didn't get ruffled about this at all. Were this New York City, we'd be leaning over and chatting with each other, and sharing communal outrage, and helping each other get signals to try to reach our bosses.
The Londoners didn't BLINK.
Sadly, when I contacted my friend to see whether this was normal, it turns out that the delay was due to a casualty on our rail. Bless the soul of whomever died today. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Fortunately, Felix and Chris were perfectly lovely and gracious, despite my forty minute (FORTY MINUTE) delay. You can see a pin of Felix's latest podcast, QUID PRO EURO, which podcast I'm looking forward to binging! We also talked verse drama (of course), and how America is behind the UK re: audio drama, the benefits of recording actors simultaneously rather than remotely, and much more. There's apparently a London podcasters' meet-up Friday night here in town, so I'll be moseying down to the pub to meet other creators then, too!
(Curiously enough, in Massachusetts there was interest in me as a director. I go to NYC, and they're all like: "Director? Pfft. Oh, wait, you're a PLAYWRIGHT?! Hello, sexy. Wanna cast me?" And here in London, thus far it's been (to me), "Well, as you know as an actor..." Emily looks around for the actor. Realizes she's it.)
When we finally parted ways, I tried to book it down to the Globe to catch a symposium on directing, but - London streets being inconsiderably NOT on a grid, and GoogleMaps being slightly as befuddled as myself, I didn't make it in time. Which meant that I spent my time moseying about the South Bank, instead. (You can see a bunch of photos on Instagram, @emilycasnyder.)
Came back to home base and a late supper, after which I had the pleasure of singing opera and Broadway standards for my friend and her husband, which was just a delightful treat.
Even more of a treat since, at least as of this first day, there's a certain QUIETNESS to Londoners which makes me feel all the more New Yorkish, and wanting to dance or scream or SOMETHING in public - or just say "God bless you" when someone sneezes. (Everyone just looks embarrassed that a bodily function happened.) Naturally, then, since there wasn't anybody on the streets to my hostess' house when I got back, I danced my way along them, just to let the air out. Hence, letting out my lungs a little in song was as much a treat for me.
It's also a little curious, since I am primarily UK by heritage (English, Irish, Scottish), people look at me like I'm anybody else. Then I open my mouth, and there's a little start from everyone I encounter, when my vowels are American. I imagine we do the same to people from the UK in America. How small and vast the sea between us.
Tomorrow, I'll be headed up to chat with the Rector at the Actors' Church in Covent Garden, and then my hostess will be joining me to take in the matinee of EMILIA, which is an all-female riff on OTHELLO...but irreverent and funny? The advertising is confusing, frankly. But we plan to get boozy after and pick it apart like true Shakespeareans.
Thursday is the Bush Theatre and then BETRAYAL. Friday is now Podcasting, as is Saturday. Who knows what Sunday will bring?
All I know is that I think I need to come back here, somehow.