Unfortunately with this week's post the words will have to speak for themselves-- I just didn't take any noteworthy photos to accompany the blog this week.
Before I get to my weekend, I'll fill you all in a bit more on my classes than I usually report.
Let's see, where to begin. We've entered for real now into work on commedia dell'arte. It's fantastic. We have started work on the zanni, Arlecchino and Colombina (our teacher actually calls her something different which I can't recall at the moment, but she's the same character as Colombina just with a different name). This artform is incredibly precise. We're all sweating and huffing and puffing for the bulk of our three-hour classes (which we have every day). We each have a chain of 7 movements that we put together on our first day of commedia, and we start each class repeating that chain over and over again for 30 minutes. It's truly exhausting, and that's just the warm-up! We experiment a lot with filling the space and changing the volume, tone, and rhythm of our movements. We then move into stretches and isolations. The isolations are imperative to commedia, each movement is so exact and each body part should be able to move independently of the rest of the body.
I especially enjoy Arlecchino. He's very much like Homer Simpson- a bumbling fool who lives in the moment. I've had so much fun exploring movements and thoughts as that character. When practicing our entrances for the Colombina character, I got so excited that when it was my turn to demonstrate, I kicked my leg with so much enthusiasm that I fell right onto my ass. Straight up. The thing every student has nightmares about. If I had been in front of any other crowd of people I would have probably been mortified, but I was easily able to laugh it off and take a bow. To me, a good unplanned fall on the ass is comedy at it's finest.
I'm trying to make more of an effort to volunteer and be vocal in my classes. In this place where everyone is an incredibly bright, gifted, passionate student, it's hard to show your professors you're exceptional. But, I'm trying.
Each week there is a different group of students designated as the "events core," and they are encouraged to plan some sort of activity for us to participate in. This week's core decided to have an improv night on Friday before dinner, and I hadn't realized just how much I had needed it! It was very loose and chill; about 10-12 people showed up and we played a number of games, some more successful than others. It was very reassuring to me, because I often find myself feeling somewhat inadequate in comparison to most of my classmates here in voice and movement classes. I can't help but feel sometimes like everyone here is better than me at everything. Well, at the risk of sounding conceited (but it's my blog... so why not), I'm pretty awesome at improv. Better than folks here. I know it's probably rude for me to think in these terms, but it was just nice to get that boost of confidence and raise my self-esteem a bit which has been dropping now and again since I've gotten here. I just love feeling like I actually have some real promise at the things that I love to do the most. I see a lot of improv, I study it, I practice it, I work hard at it. It's nice to know those things pay off, considering that's what I'd most like to dedicate my life to. It certainly made me miss Charcoal Pony. When our core is up for events (not sure which week we have it) I intend to propose a running charades night. I've gotten my improv fix to hold me for a bit, but I'm really missing me some good running charades.
Speaking of sharing my passions with my classmates on this side of the Atlantic, I've finally worked up the courage to sign up for one of our "Cabaret" performances. The first two have both showcased some amazing talents. This week's theme is "Collaboret," meaning we're supposed to collaborate on an act with at least one other person, preferably someone you don't often get to work with. Well, I talked to the organizers and successfully convinced them that there's no better way to collaborate than by taking the finale spot of the evening and getting everyone on their feet for a contra dance. Everyone I've talked to here has been really eager to learn contra, so I'm going to make the cabaret my first intro to it, just a big, easy circle mixer to get people interested. Hopefully we'll have another night sometime where I can teach some good improper dances. Everyone here is so talented with dance and movement that I know they'll catch on in an instant. I did not like the thought of playing recorded music, so I'm recruiting a small band to work up a contra tune by Wednesday. I have a piano player and guitar player. Not the ideal combo, but we're gonna make it work, and it shall be glorious! I've so missed contra and calling!
I guess that brings me to the weekend. My two closest friends here, Elena and Trevor, and I decided we wanted to do Florence again, because even though we've seen it there's no way you can get everything out of that city in one weekend. It was a new experience for me not having Chris and Julia to guide me this time; I actually had to rely on things like my sense of direction, which is probably not the more reliable.
We took the train over Saturday morning and checked into our hostel, which was very pleasant (the David Inn, right next to the Accademia). We then headed straight to "Yellow," a fantastic restaurant that was a favorite of Chris and Julia. Trevor had not been yet, and Elena and I would not stop raving about it from our last trip. It certainly surpassed expectations yet again.
Then, we went shopping.
"What's that, MJ? I certainly must have misheard you... There's no way you of all people voluntarily decided to spend an entire afternoon shopping. You're a tomboy! A hippie! You wouldn't know how to buy your own clothes to save your life! You must have gone kicking and screaming! You must have collapsed after one store! Surely!"
I know! It's shocking! But let me take this moment to announce to you all, my dear friends and loved ones: I, Maggie Jo Saylor, shopped all afternoon and had a blast doing it. I'm talking going into stores, looking at clothes, trying on clothes, and buying clothes. Classy, stylish clothes. Clothes that I'm going to wear next time I see you all and you'll say "Wow, where'd you get that?" and I'll say "Oh, this? I got this in Italy. When I went shopping." I'm still amazed at the thought.
I have been incredibly frugal up to this point in the semester and will of course continue to be, but it was nice to let go a little. I really had not bought anything (besides juggling balls and food) in the whole month I've been here, and I'm in the most fashionable country in the world! It's high time I lived a little!
I won't go into detail about each purchase, but I will tell you I got some super-classy, super-pirate, real made-in-Italy leather boots. Exactly the ones I set out looking for. It was no easy feat finding the perfect pair, but I eventually did it.
Okay, enough about the shopping. Instead of dining out at a restaurant we opted for Appertivo at "Moyo," yet another wonderful spot passed onto us by Chris and Julia. It's such a great deal. You buy a 7 Euro drink, then you have access to a buffet of delicious pastas, salad, toast points, and even french fries. After stuffing ourselves we went off in search of night life, all sporting our fabulous new duds purchased earlier in the day. We found ourselves at an Irish pub watching a football (soccer) game with a mix of locals and other American students. We had a couple rounds of some delicious Guiness. I certainly love the wine here, but it's so refreshing to find some good beer in Italy every now and then to change things up. It's not easy to do.
We left that pub and went to another that had karaoke. Elena established herself as the belle of the ball early on by rocking a Madonna song. Guys were all trying to buy her drinks and win her attention. We kind of ended up ruining our reputation by the three of us performing a pretty horrendous rendition of "Hey ya" together. It was fun, but we could tell we were not too popular with the Italians after that and we took that as our cue to leave.
It was at this point that we headed to "Tabasco," and kind of shady-looking gay bar we had heard about. One thing I've noticed and have not enjoyed in Italy is that Italians don't dance. Ever! Even at bars or clubs with live music or a DJ it just doesn't seem to be a norm for them to cut a rug. Well, one thing you can count on in any country; where there is MJ, there is dancing. There was a very good DJ here who played requests and we got out there and started our ridiculous "Dionysian" dancing (as Elena called it) and pretty soon everyone there was surrounding us on the dance floor and joining in. It was such a blast. It's the first dancing of any sort I've really done since I've been here, and I never left the floor.
We woke up this morning and went to "The Diner," which is in American-style diner in Florence. I cannot tell you how delightful it was to eat an omelet with hashbrowns. After a month of breakfast consisting solely of yogurt, toast, hard-boiled eggs, and Nutella, this was incredible.
We then trekked back over to the Accademia to see the David. As we had heard from others, there really isn't much to the rest of the museum. It was honestly rather forgettable, but the man himself really is every bit as impressive in real life as you imagine he would be. I also did enjoy seeing some unfinished sculptures of Michelangelo's, which gives a sense of his process. It's so impressive!
Well, I'm now back at school. I'm trying to get my white outfit cleaned and dried for Commedia tomorrow morning. Hope that works out, but chances are I'll be working in damp attire.
I'm gleefully looking forward to the following: 1 week until Carnival in Venice (I know you're jealous), 2 weeks until Spring Break in Germany, 3 weeks until Mom and Pops visit, and 4 weeks until Rome! Pretty sweet calendar, huh?
I apologize for the unnecessary length of this post. Usually I get out most of my longing for conversation with you guys by writing it out in my journal, but apparently I just wanted to keep writing to you directly in the post this time! Hopefully it wasn't all too boring.
Love and miss you all.