Share this article

print logo

GOODBYE TO THE SAFE HARBOR OF HOME

War happens somewhere else. Not in America. At least, like most Americans, that's what I thought until the morning of Sept. 11.

I spent half my summer somewhere else -- London. During my time there, a bomb exploded in Ealing. Riots broke out in Brixton. The day I went to see "Giselle" at Covent Garden, the surrounding area was blocked off due to a bomb threat. Police barricaded the streets, instructing people to move on or get inside a building.

People seemed unfazed. Women sat calmly at cafe tables nearby, sipping tea. A restaurant owner continued to sweep his front steps. Shoppers strolled past, gazing into boutique windows. The ballet went on at Covent Garden.

I had to stop and remind myself I was somewhere else. This was London. Bomb threats were part of life. This particular threat -- like many -- proved to be a hoax.

That was the closest I got to any real danger in London. The threat was enough to make me slightly uneasy, even on the short walk to my job. Every day except Monday, I worked as a research intern for the Globe, a reconstruction of the theater for which Shakespeare wrote many of his most famous plays.

Every time I stepped into the Globe space, I was awestruck. It was like walking into the cardboard model of the Globe we had studied in high school English class. All the familiar elements were here in life size: the yard for the groundlings, the musicians' gallery that doubled as Juliet's balcony, the thatched roof.

One thing that surprised me was how colorful everything was. The models and drawings I had studied were tinged brown, but the real-life Globe was a burst of brilliant color, echoing the Elizabeth love of bright hues and trompe l'oeil painting.

The wooden stage pillars were painted to resemble gleaming red marble, as were the balusters lining the galleries where the audience sat. The inner roof of the canopy covering the stage, known as the heavens, was painted midnight blue and dotted with gold stars and zodiac symbols.

Seated inside that wooden "O," watching pigeons swoop over actors' heads during rehearsal, I almost forgot the potential danger of the 21st century world outside. Only the drone of a police helicopter flying overhead could interrupt this feeling of escape.

My tasks at the Globe varied from week to week. During the first week, I followed the progress of the Mansaku Nomura Company from Japan, a visiting troupe performing "The Kyogen of Errors." This was an adaptation of "The Comedy of Errors" re-imagined into the world of kyogen, a traditional Japanese comic form.

The next week, I sat in the cramped, temporary Research Office typing a report on the production. I also answered the various research inquiries phoned in from across England. These inquiries ranged from a student asking, "Where can I find out about currency used in Shakespeare's day?" to a soap opera fan wondering "Where does the phrase 'darling buds of May' come from? (It was the name of her favorite soap opera).

For the weeks after that, I researched the life of Ellen Terry, a Victorian actress famed for her portrayals of Shakespearean heroines. My research included a visit to her house in Smallhythe, a town in Kent that's so small it doesn't even have a bus stop.

In my free time, I went to all the plays, museums and landmarks that I could. I climbed the rickety iron stairs to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral, where I was presented with a gold button proclaiming "I made it to the top!"

I got lost in the corridors of the bizarre Victoria and Albert Museum, which exhibits everything from medieval vestments to pink plastic vacuum cleaners. I crossed Southward Bridge, mistaking it for the more famous London Bridge.

But tonight, as I walk home from school past clusters of candles burning in the ground and the roar of fighter jets overheard, my time in London seems a midsummer night's dream.

I am home, but now home feels like someplace else.

Heather Violanti, from Orchard Park, is in her third year of graduate studies at Yale Drama School in New Haven, Conn.

There are no comments - be the first to comment