On our fourth day in London, we spent some time in the morning reflecting on impressions of our time in London so far. We discussed unexpected discoveries about London that had occurred in the first three days, as well as how we now defined the word "international." Some of the expected discoveries included observations about food, different ways of saying things, and the friendliness of Londoners.
In the afternoon we traveled to the Tate Modern, and students had the opportunity to view various exhibits, including the museum's collection of Mark Rothko paintings, a special exhibit on pop art, and an exhibit examining the relationship between visual and community engagement. The Tate Modern is an impressive building with some amazing art work. Certainly a must-see on any trip to London.
In the evening we saw a production of You for Me for You by Mia Chung at the Royal Court. Chung is a playwright from the US and a current fellow at New Dramatists. The Royal Court focuses on developing and staging new plays by writers from all over the world, so many playwrights working in the US have had a UK or world premiere at the Royal Court.
Chung's play is about two sisters living in North Korea. The younger sister wants to escape from North Korea while the older sister is reluctant to leave because of her past history and her illness. The play uses abstraction and non-realism to explore what it's like to emigrate to the US, and this particular production was bolstered by outstanding direction and an incredible design. The six actors also performed the play with a lot of integrity and attention to detail. It was also fun for us to hear references to NYU, Washington Square, and New York City throughout the play. Afterwards, I learned a lot about society and culture in South Korea from some of my students, and I really appreciated that opportunity. The authenticity of the play had an impact for them, which I think it important.
These two experiences had strong visual components. The museum for obvious reason, but the play on the page does not necessarily indicate a such a realized visual world. It's exciting to see what a director and designers can achieve when they are working together with the playwright's intentions and the actors in service of the play.