Archives For The Merchant of Venice

Culture Night

October 18, 2012 — 5 Comments

I have a few stories to tell from the first three months of living here, so I thought I’d spend some time catching everyone up on what I’ve been doing over here OTHER than going to class and studying theatre (almost) non-stop.

Last month Dublin held their annual Culture Night. Once a year on a Friday night in September the great cultural institutions of Dublin keep their doors open late into the evening and allow the public to wander in and out, all for free. This ranges from the museums and libraries to other, more restricted places like private clubs that wouldn’t normally allow the average man on the street to pass through their doors.

I had been given an assignment by one of my professors to go view a particular painting at Dublin’s National Gallery, so with my friend Elisa in tow, we spent a pleasant September evening wandering in and out of some of Dublin’s more “cultured” establishments.

This is a painting by Caravaggio called The Taking of Christ. It was painted sometime around 1602, and thought lost for hundreds of years before it was found in a Dublin Jesuit’s hall. Professor McGuinness said I should study the use of light, to help with coming up with ideas for set design and lighting for my conceptual Merchant of Venice assignment. But what I really found interesting was a painting by a guy named Lyonel Feininger. This gave me all sorts of ideas about how I wanted to deisgn my (imaginary) set.

Umpferstedt III by Lyonel Feininger

After the National Gallery we wandered into the Alliance Francaise, or Dublin’s French Club, more or less. They had stacks of Post-It notes everywhere and invited people to design mosaics on their walls. Lots of kids there having fun.

Post-It mosaics at the Alliance Francaise

Then it was on to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Basically a fancy club where Dublin doctors go to be fancy and…I dunno…talk about heart transplants?

String Quartet! Fancy!

Fancy Books in Fancy Bookshelves

Hmmm, I think after that we wandered into the National Library, which was easily one of my favorite spots.

The Reading Room in Dublin’s National Library

Sweet-looking marble banister from the National Library

Studying The Merchant of Venice with Haroosh

That’s Haroosh in the above photo, by the way. He came with me to Dublin. More about him another time.

After the library we met up with another friend named Ken and decided to wait in the long line for the Freemason’s Club.

Why such a long line for one particular place? Well, the Freemason’s Club is one of those ultra-exclusive places you never get to see on ordinary days. There’s a long history associated with the Freemasons, and many people have all sorts of crazy theories about how they secretly control all the governments of the world.  Of course there’s a Simpsons episode about it.

Who keeps the metric system down? WE DO! WE DO!

The actual Freemasons Hall in Dublin is a crazy mish-mash of different rooms all with their own theme. One is a “Knights Templar” theme; another has an Egyptian theme. It’s kind of like going to that part of Epcot Center where all the different countries sit around a lagoon. You just wander from one strange, slightly kitschy place to the next. The main hall feels like a parliamentary hall where nothing important ever gets voted on.

The Mighty Throne of …. Something.

They can’t be that secretive if they’re on Facebook.

Dejected after No Secrets Were Discovered.

Overall, the Freemasons’ Hall was a big letdown. Just some fancy rooms where a bunch of dudes hang out and probably avoid going home to their families. Anyone can join for an annual membership fee of only 125 Euros… as long as you’re a man. No women allowed. Ugh. No thanks, Freemasons. I need more ladies in my life, not less!

By the way: their website is HILARIOUS in its awful, awful design. Check it out.


September 28, 2012 — 3 Comments

I thought I’d cheat a bit, since the last two days have been spent doing work around the house, working on class assignments, and pondering concepts for an imaginary production of The Merchant of Venice.

But let’s talk breakfast first!

On the weekends, I allow myself to indulge in the spectacular breakfast food that can be found here and in the U.K. (Okay, so Thursday/Friday isn’t really the weekend, but this week I got a head start on the pork-centered goodness.)

When you travel to places like Britain and Ireland, it is pretty much impossible to avoid ordering what is referred to as “The Full Irish.” (Or a Full English Breakfast, or whatever it might be called in Wales or Scotland.) A typical full breakfast will include the following:

  • One egg.
  • Two sausages.
  • Two rashers, a.ka. bacon, a.ka. The Most Delicious Bacon I’ve Ever Eaten.
  • White pudding.
  • Black pudding. (An acquired taste.)
  • Fried tomato.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Baked Beans (only in Britain.)
  • Potato wedge (not all the time; it seems to pop up rather randomly.)
  • Toast.

While horrible for your heart and arteries, it’s great if you’re traveling on a budget, since a hearty breakfast like this will get you through most of the day, and it’s often included with a hotel stay (and of course a Bed & Breakfast.)

I limit my hearty breakfasts to eggs, toast, and either sausages or rashers, never both. Today it was sausages, because I stopped by the Superquinn grocery store on Wednesday and theirs are the best. (Superquinn is a bit pricy, like shopping at Dominick’s back home, and so I tend to get my food at either Tescos or Lidl.) And it was delicious. But since I’ve spent the last two days mostly puttering around the house working on assignments, I haven’t gotten much exercise. This is not good for the waistline.

Okay, enough about breakfast food. What else have I done with my time these past two days?

First I re-read a play called The Weir, for Monday’s writing class. I first picked this play up ten years ago and fell in love with it, and I’m glad to see that time has not diminished my feelings for it. Five people sitting around a pub in rural Ireland, telling ghost stories. Always wanted to direct it, but it being Irish, it has a lot of swearing and drinking in it, and I didn’t think Limelight would have been the right venue for it. Maybe someday…

I’ve also spent some time gathering information for that pretend-Merchant of Venice. Costumes and soundtrack ideas. Been listening to a lot of post-classical stuff, very minimalist. Just piano, some occasional strings. Watched a documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi (which is excellent) and that pushed me in the right direction, sound-wise. My Merchant is a very lonely version, and it emphasizes the more tragical elements of the play. So lots of Philip Glass and Max Richter.

Mug Shot! (One of the student-gifted mugs that came with me.)

Where the magic happens.

Other than that, it’s been laundry and haircut and going over my budget. (We won’t get into that now. But man…this is an expensive project I’ve got going on.) It’s almost 8 pm on Friday, the oven’s warming up, and I’m about ready to put away the schoolwork for a day or so. Heading into town to see Dubliners with some friends, and from what I hear, it’s supposed to be great.

A drying rack helps with the laundry. And the budget.


September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

Like Monday, I woke around 8 am and made coffee in a cheap coffee maker I bought at Tescos for 12 Euro. It doesn’t keep the coffee very hot, so I drink it quickly in my mug before it gets cold. The rain continued to come down steadily; I don’t think it had stopped since Monday.

Tuesdays are devoted to Text Analysis and Performance. Currently we’re working with Frank McGuinness on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Identifying who drives the story, is it a comedy or a tragedy, how would we stage it, etc. It’s just myself and one other woman in the class (who also does youth theatre), so we get a lot of one-on-one instruction, and it’s pretty great. Frank suffers no fools, so you have to be on your game in that class.

After class finished at noon my classmate and I headed into town to see a show called The Boys of Foley Street. (By the way, heading “into town” means heading into the Dublin city centre. Back in the states I suppose we say “going downtown” instead.) The show was a site-specific show; that means that everything took place in an “actual” location. There were only four people in the audience per performance, and you went from alley to car to dingy apartment and experienced a rather uncomfortable story about inner-city poverty, drugs, and violence. (And that’s all we need to say about that, former students. Stay in school and make good choices, right?!)

After the show we grabbed a bus down to the main University College Dublin campus at Belfield to hold auditions for our fall semester director projects. I have to be evaluated on two projects: one where the professors watch me rehearse a couple of scenes, and another where they view a finished project. I’ve been assigned two “classic” pieces, and I’m not exactly happy about the choices, but ahh well, “Theirs not to reason why” and all that…

We had a nice turnout and moved through about twenty people rather quickly, doing some improv exercises and cold reads from Chekhov. I would have liked to have had more time with the actors, maybe run a callback session, but I was just working with what I was given. It’s all been pretty confusing and hazy, and half the time I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing with a particular project or assignment.

And that’s probably the strangest thing about being a full-time student: the realization that I’m not in charge of the content or the process anymore. As a teacher and a director, I always ran the show, but now I’m back to just doing what’s assigned to me.

And to be honest? I kind of hate it.

The washing machine is IN the kitchen!