Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Journey Home

Monday, October 19, 2009 to Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A very personal blog.

Monday was a really rough day at school. Not only was I still trying to get better and trying to catch up on the work that I missed from the previous week, I was also dealing with holding myself together. I felt so fragile. I felt like I was holding the weight of the world in order not to break down in front of my entire class. I felt like I was just waiting for a call and in a sense, I was. I was waiting on the call from my father to tell me that Papa had died. Why was I having such a hard time with this? Why? I mean, it was for the best. Papa would be happy and wouldn’t be in any pain and I knew I would see him again. But why was I in this weird place that I couldn’t explain? Was it because it was the first death in the family that I would ever have had to deal with? Was it because I felt so helpless because I was 4,000 miles away? Was it because I was surround by plenty of people at school but still felt completely alone? I didn’t know what was going on. All I knew was that after ever single class let out and that every ten minutes during a break, I was checking my phone for the call. Monday night I did so much prep work for my Tuesday classes. Looking back, I don’t know where my focus came from but I did more homework and preparation for my classes in that night than I had done total since being here.

Tuesday was a huge day for me: a monologue in acting, a dance piece in jazz, a song for Presentation class, a song for my private voice lesson, and a singing concert that night for the entire school after my classes were finished. The day was terribly exhausting but somehow I made it all the way through my classes and was ready for the singing concert. I sang “She Love’s Me” from She Loves Me. As I got ready to go on, I turned my phone off for the first time in almost a week. I was fifth in a line of forty-nine so I didn’t have to wait too long. At 7:20 I walked on to sing my two minute song. When I walked off and turned on my cell phone, I discovered that at 7:21 I missed a phone call from my dad. I went into one of the extra classrooms to call Daddy back to hear that Papa had just gone peacefully. One last grasp of air and it was over. I hung up the phone and it felt like everything that I was trying to hold on to just came crashing down on me. I told a couple of the other students what had happened and asked them to tell the teachers what was going on and that I was headed back to the States on the first flight back. While I was on the bus headed home, the head of Mountview Musical Theatre Deparment, Paul Sabey, called me to let me know that he, along with the rest of the faculty of Mountview, were there if I needed any help. He also told me to take as much time as I need in order to be with my family and to deal with what I was going through. When I made it back to Chester House I booked my flight and opened a nice bottle of red wine. I figured I wasn’t going to be able to drink when I got back to the States so I might as well have a glass while packing to calm my nerves.

I ended up getting about two hours of sleep before I had to get up. I had to wake up early to catch the first tube at 5 am that ran to Heathrow Airport which meant that I had to catch a bus around 4:30 to make it to the station in time. I didn’t realize how far away the airport was. It took me an hour and a half to go thirty five stops on the tube. Basically, I went from one side of London to the completely other side of London. The flight to the States actually didn’t feel that long. I watched several movies on the plane including The Proposal and Star Trek and made it back to Memphis around 5pm. Daddy and Brittanie, my older sister, were at the airport to pick me up. It was really nice to finally be home. It was nice to see family, people who where feeling the same way I was about the whole situation. We left the airport and headed straight to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to have dinner with the family that was already in town. It was good to see my grandmother and just give her a hug. It was then that I started not wanting to go back to London. I don’t know why but I just had this incredible desire to just stay here for the rest of the semester and be with my family. About an hour or so after dinner, I had to go home. Since I didn’t really sleep on the plane ride, I was starting to get extremely jet lagged and so daddy took me home to go to bed. Can I just say that I forgot what a piece of crap mattress I was sleeping on in London until I got back to my bed. I had the best sleep that night that I had had in months!

Thursday morning I woke up and did a couple of things around town that I needed to do. After that, I spent the rest of the day preparing the music for Papa’s funeral. I met up with my grandmother, went over a couple of things, showed her some of my suggestions, and we figured everything out that we needed to. After that I spent my time finding sheet music, making copies, and prepping the music for the pianist. That night the family stayed in and had a wonderful home cooked meal that a family friend had brought over (Thank you miss Sonya…it was amazing!).

On Friday I woke up early and went to rehearse with the pianist. After that I worked with Kassie, my younger sister, on the picture slide show of Papa for during the visitation and funeral. Once we finished up there, Kassie and I went back home to get ready for the visitation that night. I headed up to the church early so that I could sort of have my own time with Papa. Most everyone else had had their time to say goodbye. I really said my goodbyes in September before I left for Europe but I just needed a moment with him by myself. When I walked into the church he had already been brought in by the funeral home people and placed in the sanctuarty. This was the hardest thing that I think I have ever had to deal with. I mean, I’ve seen dead people at funerals before but this was different. This was Papa. This was the man that, besides my father, I looked up to most. This was the man that I wanted to grow up to be just like. I want to mean that much to people. I want to have that big of a heart. I want to always put others before myself. I want to have a servant’s heart like his. I want my grandson to love me as much as I love him. I want to be a major part of somebody’s life and just by smiling at them make them know how much I care and love them. I want to spend time with someone down in the basement making stained glass, or working on the tractor, or building something, or fixing something, or just be down in the basement doing something just to do it. I want to do something right because if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right. I want to slip someone a $20 for gas because I know he needs it but he wouldn’t ever ask for it. I want to sit on that back porch forever on my swing looking out into my back yard. I want to carry on the Gilland name with the upmost respect because it is the only thing I came into this world with and it is the only thing that I will take with me. This was Papa. Like I said earlier, I don’t know why I was having such a hard time with this. He was in a better place, happier, he could hear (not selective hearing anymore. HA!), and it was a good thing. Anyway, after a few minutes alone with Papa the rest of the family started to show up. The visitation was really exhausting but a lot of people came to pay their respects and to see the rest of the family as well. After the visitation a group of the cousins when out to eat and to hang out. Everyone’s lives are so busy that this was the first time that the entire family had been in town together since my first cousin’s wedding almost ten years ago. It was really nice to see everyone and catch up. Natalie had just come in town from Tulsa and so she got to join us for this as well.

Saturday was the day. It was the day of the funeral. It was the day that we would finally put Papa in the ground. It was a day that we’d all knew was coming but weren’t really ready for it. The whole day just seems like a haze to me. We went to the funeral. I sang and made it through most of the songs. The four sons of Papa, including daddy, all met with the preacher at different times to talk about their expierences of Papa and what he made them think of. During the service, Brother Danny shared some of these stories. The following is what daddy wrote to be read at the funeral and is so true to this man, his wife, and our family:

“Grandmother and Papa – to our family this is one word. When God put these two people together in marriage and made them one, this is exactly what we as a family had. Two people acting as one to raise, mentor, love and encourage us as we grew. He was and she is the most selfless people I now and will ever know. We were told the only thing we would take with us to the grave would be our name, so don’t mess it up. Be proud of it and build on it each and every day. The memory of Daddy cannot be broken down into just a couple of instances. It is one constant memory. He was steady as a rock in his day to day life with very little change. If it needs to be repaired, adjusted, built or torn down, now was the time to take care of it and he would be there every second teaching and helping. He never had other things that were more important than to help and teach each of us how to survive in this world with a strong work ethic and common since. When their first grandchild was born they both reached a new level of guidance and love. She guided, he taught and they both loved. I have been told by my children more that once that when we are blessed enough to become grandparents, we will have monster shoes to fill and they doubted it could be done. Papa…… you will be missed and remembered as long as we draw a breath. We were proud to be your sons, daughter-in-laws, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We all love you.” -Darryl Gilland-

The male cousins were the pallbearers for Papa. I felt this was very appropriate. This man had carried us and taken care of us so many times that it was only appropriate for us to finally do the same for him. After the graveside service, all the family went to my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Tim’s house to hang out and be together. It was so wonderful for the entire family to be together. That is what it is all about. What we should all work and strive towards. Building a family that loves and cares for one another no matter what. I don’t care what anyone says, I’ve got the best family in the world. Don’t get me wrong, we have our problems and we have our differences, but I would do anything for every single last one of them and I know they would do the same for me. Family is everything.

On Sunday, Natalie left to head back for Tulsa. It was so nice to see her and I was so greatful that she drove in town. Nicole also left on Sunday to head back to Bama. It was also really nice to see her as well. I hadn’t seen here in forever and it was great to be able to spend a little time with her that weekend. It is times like these that friends and family are what really do matter the most. They are the people who help keep you strong and help you out along the way. The rest of Sunday was spent at home with the family.

On Monday I spent the entire day with Grandmother. While she, of course, was up by 6 am, I slept in until about 10 am. We had lunch with Nana and Pops, my grandparents on my mother’s side of the family, at Crackle Barrel. May I just say I do miss that wonderful southern cooking in London! After lunch Grandmother and I went over to Grandmother & Papa’s house to do a little cleaning and work on the house. While she was inside packing up boxes, I work on cutting the grass and picking up limbs. It was almost soothing to be able to do this. Something that I had watched and helped Papa do for so many years. It felt like he was right there with me, picking up each limb as I did and watching me cut the front hill to make sure that I did it right! Ha! After a couple of hours we headed back to the house for dinner and to turn in for the night.

Tuesday was the day I headed back to London. Like I said earlier, I really didn’t want to leave. I really wanted to stay here at home and help out where I was need and take a bit of the load off of my parents. But obviously, I didn’t stay. I woke up that morning and ran to Walmart before I left just to pick up a couple of things that I would need while back in London. It was easier to buy things like medicine and shampoo in the States since it was cheaper. I finished packing and my dad took me to the airport for my flight. My mom met us at the airport and we sort of just sat there for a while until it was time to go through security.

As I left my parents for the second time in two months now, I realized something. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t excited about my future about living on my own and away from my family.

The Honeymoon Period is Over…

October 12, 2009 to October 18, 2009

So I’m only three weeks in and I’m beginning to feel the stress of all the work crashing down on me. A song due for this class, monologue for that class, I’m already behind and forgot that dance…the honeymoon period for London was officially over. I was no longer fascinated to sit and listen to people talk for ages just so I could hear their accent nor was I excited to travel to school everyday just so I could really be living the “London life” and all that jazz. I mean, I’m still in love and want to be here but all the glamour, magic, and the sense of everything being new was over.

Wednesday I decided to go see Billy Elliot. No one else was really up for it so I decided to go by myself. Billy Elliot was the one show on my “must see” list so I was going to go see it. I got out of Anything Goes rehearsal and headed straight downtown to Victoria where the theatre is located right outside the station. I got there and realized that Billy Elliot doesn’t have student tickets at a discounted price. I figured it didn’t really matter because I was already here and I had to see the show anyway and so as long as it wasn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg I’d see it. It only ended up cost me £25 and I was very happy about that! I went and found my seat and waited for the show to start. As I was sitting there in my really good balcony seat, I turned around to see my little Tulsa friend, Erica, standing in the aisle taking pictures! She was the girl that I wrote about a couple of blogs post ago who is from TU. We didn’t meet each other until we got to London and realized we were both from the same school. How funny that we also decided to come see the show on the same night! Weird! Anyway, the show was absolutely amazing. The people were so talented and the Billy was absolutely incredible! I waited after the show and got several autographs with Erica. Afterwards, I walked her and her friend back to the tube station and headed back home for the night.

Thursday morning I woke up sick as a dog. My throat was killing me and I had a terrible headache so I decided to stay home for the day. I went down to Boots, the pharmacy here in Muswell Hill, got some OJ and medicine and came back to Chester House for some sleep. After I woke up and couldn’t fall back asleep, I decided it was time to catch up on a few TV shows from the States that I had missed such as The Vampire Diaries and Brothers and Sisters. I decided to go to bed early that night in order to be extra prepared to hopefully go back to school on Friday. I couldn’t sleep and it wasn’t because I wasn’t feeling well. It was something else. Something just wasn’t right. After hours of just laying there, not being able to commit to sleeping and at around 3 am in the morning, I saw that I had a missed call on my American cell phone. My dad had called me twice: once from his cell and once from the house. I knew immediately something was up. I called him back and he explained that Papa, my grandfather on my father’s side, had just had a massive stroke and wasn’t doing well at all. I knew it. I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t fall asleep. I knew something was wrong when I saw that my dad had called me. I knew before I ever came to London that Papa was going to die while I was studying abroad. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just did. So after my dad talked to me for a few minutes we decided to skype instead just because the phone bill was going to be too expensive if we stayed on the phone much longer. After I skyped my parents, I skyped Natalie. I didn’t want to be alone right now. I was over 4,000 miles away and I needed to talk to someone about this besides my parents. I need to just talk. I needed to vent about how I was feeling. After I finished talking to Natalie and after tossing and turning for a while, I finally fell asleep around 5:30am. My alarm woke me up around 7:30 and I just hit the snooze button. After the night I had and with me still being sick, I was in no mood or mindset to go to school. I stayed in bed that entire weekend just trying to get better. I watched movies and continued to communicate as much as possible with my parents in order keep up with what was going with Papa.

I started making arrangements to be able to leave town at a moments notice and started preparing myself for what was about to happen in my life.

My First West End Show Since Being Here!

October 5, 2009 to October 11, 2009

The week started off really nice because for the first time since Discoveryland! ended back in Tulsa, I was on a schedule that repeated itself. For the first time in almost two months, I was back to a weekly schedule. It was hard to adjust to at first but also nice to know what my week was going to be like.

On Wednesday the Kellys convinced me to go see Blood Brothers with them after school. Right after we finished up with workshop we headed for the tube station and then it was off to Leicester Square to find the theatre. The girls promised me there was nothing to worry about since they went to the theatre on Saturday and knew exactly where it was. They also had “directions” if we got lost. We got completely lost…like had no clue were we were and didn’t know which direction to go in. Luckily, I used my phone again and got us there! We were literally running to the theatre to make sure we got there in time for the show. Only £20 for 8th row center seats since I was a student! That was so nice. I went into Blood Brothers not knowing anything about it and came out a HUGE fan! I loved the show! And the cool part was that out of a 10 person cast, 4 of them graduated from Mountview! After the show we went to the stage door and talked to the cast for a few minutes. We talked to the cast members from Mountview about their time there and they asked us if their teachers were still working, etc. It was so cool to talk to these people who about 6 years ago where in the same classes back at Mountview that we are in today!

Friday night a group of us went out to see a movie. We headed to the bar first for a little pre-gaming and then headed to the theatre to see UP! in 3-D. I saw it back in the States in July but everyone wanted to go see it that night since it was the first day it was released in London. I think that it is so weird that we see something back in the States and it takes almost three months for the producers to release it in the UK. After the movie we all headed back to the Goose, a pub in Wood Green, to celebrate a birthday of one of the guys from Mountview.

Saturday started off as a pretty boring day. Got up, ate lunch, and then it hit me: why am I wasting time just hanging around my dorm when I’m in London? I decided that I was going to make this Saturday a good day. I finished lunch and headed to the tube station to go downtown to Harrods, one of the oldest and nicest stores in London. When I got on the tube, I decided to take a small detour and stop and King’s Cross Station and visit Platform 9 ¾. For all you Harry Potter fans, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I figured since I was going right past the stop, I couldn’t not go take a picture. After I had my picture of Platform 9 ¾, I continued on my way to Harrods. The place is huge! I spent fours hours in Harrods going from floor to floor looking at clothing, music, pianos, fine furniture, sporting goods, and, of course, the Christmas displays. It is such a cool store and I plan to go back there before I leave and do a little shopping (and I mean very little since it is so expensive there.). After I left Harrods I headed a couple of blocks over to take a stroll in Hyde Park. I walked around the park looking at all the different statues, buildings, and works of art but two things really stood out to me. First of all, I found the Peter Pan statue and took a picture of it. (For those of you who don’t know, I have this obsession with Peter Pan and have had this obsession since I was really little. I used to watch it four times a day when I was little and watched it so many times that we had to buy another copy of it since the first video wore out. I have this weird theory that Peter Pan made me who I am today: my favorite color is green…everything about Peter Pan is green, I am a Musical Theatre Major and love to sing…it is a musical, and I have this weird obsession with London and that I had to study abroad here…takes place in London! I know, crazy. My mom actually bought the special addition DVD a few years back and gave it to me for my 18th birthday. I know, I should probably grow up but I just can’t! Ha! Another thing Peter Pan and I have in common! J) Anyway, the other thing that I really liked was the Princess Diana Memorial. It is basically this really nice, fenced in area in the park that has a fountain running through it. The memorial is a wonderful area to just lie in the grass and read a book or something on cool fall day. It was a wonderful day to take a walk in Hyde Park. After I left Hyde Park I decided that I didn’t want to stop walking so I made my way down to see Big Ben and Westminster. I took this time to really appreciate the opportunity that I have to be here and just relax. That night I decided to just stay in, chill with a few friends, grab a bottle of wine, and watch Jerry Springer the Musical at home. You know, going out and having a crazy night is fun and all but I think I’m more of a stay at home and be with the people you care about kind of guy. This night reminded me of a few wine nights back at Tulsa…miss you guys!

To see my pictures of Hyde Park, Harrods, Platform 9 ¾, or of London so far, look on Facebook or copy and paste the following link:

Saturday, 7 November 2009

My first week of Classes at Mountview…6 Weeks after the first day for TU!

September 28, 2009 to October 4, 2009

Ok…so here I go... This first blog about school is just going to be about each day of the week and my classes. I just want to explain what I’m actually doing here in London.

Mondays start at 9 A.M. (Well, classes started at 9 A.M. but I have to be up by 7:30 in order to make it to class on time. I have to catch the bus every morning and make sure that I sign in at school at least ten minutes before my first class or I’m not allowed in for the day! They are really strict here but that builds character, right?) On Mondays I have Actor & Text, Movement, Pilates, and Workshop. In Actor & Text we learn to work with a piece of text and how to get as much information from the text as possible. At the moment we are working with Much Ado About Nothing. In Movement class we work with archetypes and getting them to really sink into our bodies. Pilates…well that is obvious. Workshop is a lot like “Workshop” back home at Tulsa that we had last fall. This semester we are working on Anything Goes while the other group of second years is working on Me & My Girl. We actually have workshop Monday (Music), Wednesday (Acting), and Friday (Dance).

Tuesday starts at 8:25 A.M. (6:25 for me back home at Chester House…and for all of you back at TU who had Music Theory with me freshman year and knew how hard it was for me to make it to class by 10, you know how big a deal this is for me to HAVE to get out of bed at 6:25 in order to make it to school for the day!) Tuesdays I have Ballet Barre, Jazz, Acting, Presentation, and my private vocal technique class. Ballet Barre is simply a warm-up for my Jazz class. Jazz class consists of making sure that my technique is right, moving across the floor, and learning difficult choreographic pieces (Right now we are learning one of the dances from Pricilla, which is currently on the West End). Acting is a lot of fun and we are working on monologues from 1890 to 1900. I am doing a monologue of Sir Robert Chiltern from An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. In class we also do a lot of exercises that deal with working with others and being ready, focused, and in the moment. Presentation is a lot like MTP2 in that each week is a new audition and we have to have a new song each week. My voice lessons are really nice…although it took the entire first lesson to understand what he was saying. They use different terms over here than we do back in the States and so communicating ideas and exercises at times can be difficult.

Wednesday starts like Mondays at 9. Wednesday I have Sight Reading, Voice Rep Class, Tap, Singing and Workshop. Sight Reading here isn’t exactly what I thought it would be. For Mountview, sight reading class isn’t used for sight reading music but for sight reading text. It is basically a class where they teach you how to read a piece of text, pick it up off the page, and communicate it properly. I have never had a class like this before and I am finding that it is very helpful…especially since I suck at sight reading and cold readings of scripts. Voice Rep Class is a thirty-minute session with a pianist for me to work on new pieces or have songs that I am working on recorded for me. Tap is fun and I am actually learning at whole lot in such a small amount of time. The tap here is British Tap and isn’t exactly the same as American Tap. For example, the time step here is much different from ours back home. It has been a fun class though and we are moving really fast. By our third lesson we were already working on pullbacks! The tutor is very talented, encouraging, and knows what she is talking about. Wednesday’s Singing class is where we work as a group on hard harmony parts, sight reading music, and a blend of singing with music theory. Knowing scales, key signatures, etc. is a must here! Like is said earlier, on Wednesday we use Workshop to block, work on acting, and work on the American dialect for Anything Goes. (My American dialect actually isn’t that bad! Haha!) After school on Wednesday I tried to go see a production of Mountview’s third year students in The Rink. I got on the waiting list but unfortunately I didn’t get into the show. I figured I would try again tomorrow night since I heard the show was just too good to miss!

Thursday is like Tuesday in that I have to be at school by 8:25. On Thursday I have Ballet Barre again, Ballet, Music Theory, and Voice. Ballet Barre and ballet are of course working on ballet technique. Music theory isn’t as hard as I thought it would be but the only thing that I am finding difficult is understanding what the teacher is talking about at times. Like I mentioned earlier, they have different names for things here so it is just taking me some time to get use to the names of everything. I am very surprised though at how much I actually remember from my classes in the past and that I am keeping up with the course work. Voice class is the “V” part from “V&M” back at TU…also called Voice & Movement. This is actually one of my favorite classes. Last year when I took V&M I was so worried about everything and everyone else around me that I wasn’t able to let the exercises work for me but for some reason I can completely release myself here and allow the exercises to work. So my “words of wisdom” to the current sophomore class at TU: don’t hold back, don’t worry about what everyone else might think, and allow yourself to go for it! J This is the one day were I actually end early and I get to go home at 2! This is truly the best day of the week! After classes I went to the library to copy as much music as possibly and to kill time while I waited to go put my name on the waiting list for The Rink. The show is playing in a small theatre right down the street from Mountview so I really didn’t want to go home and waste all that time traveling. I’m glad I waited because since I was the first person on the waiting list, that night I got in! The show was really good. I mean, I understand why the show itself didn’t do so well in New York and on the West End but the students were very talented and did a fantastic job with it. Seeing this show and the quality of what Mountview produces made me even more excited about my time here in London.

Friday starts at 9. Friday I have Jazz, Singing, and Workshop. This jazz class is very different from the class on Tuesday in that I have this class with the devil! That’s right, the devil! If you read my last blog you will have heard me talk about Kresida. She is a crazy lesbian who hates men…and my entire class is only guys. The music she plays for her “warm-up” makes you feel as if you are entering into the gates of hell and it is telling you that the torture is coming. This woman is crazy! The Singing class on Friday is a little different from the one on Wednesday. This class is more like choir back home and right now we are working on the opening number of Sweeny Todd. Workshop wraps up my day on Fridays with choreographing the numbers in the show. After school on Friday, I went home to clean up real quick, grabbed dinner, and headed out to see Mountview’s other production at the time of Lucky Stiff, also put on my third year students. It was the first time I have ever seen the show so it was nice to be able to just sit back after a long week of school and just take everything in.

One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet but would like to is that they have placed into my week’s schedule several different breaks. One is an hour and a half break on Tuesday morning, the second one is Thursday afternoon for an hour and a half, and the third one is for an hour on Friday. These are really nice just to work on different schoolwork and to get together with fellow students and work together on certain group projects.

Saturday was a very chill day. Just worked on some homework and walked around Muswell Hill just to get a better understanding for where I was living. That night, a group of us went out to Heaven, a bar is Soho, and saw the Saturdays, a girl band from London, play.

The course work is really intense here but I love every second of it. And for the first time in my life I understand the following quote: “Work hard, party harder!” Let’s just say that the weekends in London are epic. I LOVE LONDON!

To see my pictures of London so far look on Facebook or copy and paste the following link: