“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed” — Neil Armstrong
This week we escaped the cold weather and basked in the balmy climate of Houston, Texas. Rice University is a regular stop on the tour (both Dan and Jen have been before), so I’d been primed to expect a beautiful campus and great facilities and certainly wasn’t disappointed. The Wellness Center would be the envy of most top health clubs and boasted machines we’d never even seen before. It could almost tempt me to join a gym back home, but somehow I think my local leisure centre might pale in comparison. It was surreal to turn up at the airport in all our Indiana winter gear to be met by Christina in Capri pants and sandals. Our hotel even had an outdoor pool. I was too much of a wuss to try it as it was un-heated, but Rob was hardy enough to give it a go.
We had a great week of classes and the students were bright and game enough to try whatever we threw at them. A highlight for us all was Friday’s lunch and afternoon class with Dennis Hutson who kept us entertained for hours. In fact, I had the pleasure twice as I also attended his Wednesday class…where I was slightly taken aback to discover (after a brief discussion about accents and dialect in performance) not one, but two fellow Brits among the students – one was even a fellow Essex girl!
On Thursday, we had tea at Baker Master House with some other fellow Brits, Rose and Ivo and their gorgeous dogs Bronte and Baker (though Bronte’s cute demeanor masks a true huntswoman’s heart, squirrels beware!) There is a large British ex-pat community in Houston, served by ‘British Isles’ a shop in Rice Village selling British goodies (crunchie bars, tea and Bridgewater china) and run by the Uncle of one of Rob’s good friends from home…who is also friends with Rose and Ivo…the world is small really, but we still crave our home comforts.
I was thinking a lot about our relationship to places and objects on Friday morning when I taught a workshop on A Streetcar Named Desire as part of a module exploring the writing of New Orleans. Rob had been in and done some scene study with the students earlier in the week, so I decided to focus the workshop on the senses and the actors’/characters’ response to objects and place. It was a great and thought-provoking session where we journeyed not only to New Orleans but also France, Vermont, El Salvador, Indiana, and Wyoming.
Then, at the end of the week, we journeyed to the moon. Well, okay, not literally, but via a trip to NASA where Christina had kindly put us in touch with fellow actor H.R., who performs in regular shows at the Center (letting us see what life is like on-board the International Space Station – who knew they recycled urine into drinking water!). H.R., in turn, linked us in with Tour Guide Kevin, who gave us a completely amazing private tour of the Center…which included the chance to sit in Mission Control for the Apollo landings! To sit somewhere so steeped in history and stories was truly awe inspiring; there was the red phone to the pentagon, an ‘abort request’ button, and, perhaps most poignantly, a mirror used onboard Apollo 13 and donated to the Control Center by the astronauts onboard, in recognition of the work done to save their lives.
We rounded the week off sitting outside (in February!), eating Tex Mex, and drinking a Margarita or two before team As You Like It got ready to head to College Station and Texas A&M.
Over and out.