I loved my years at Regent’s in London, known as one of the most respected of England’s independent universities and one of the most internationally diverse. No wonder I have devoted an entire blog to its assets. I had a great time in the drama department although acting was not my major academically. Regent’s had a fine program that drew the most talented students from everywhere in the country. As a result of the competition, it was tough to survive. First you had to get a role in a major production and then perform admirably for all the world to see. This was not the end of it. Then came the reviews—sometimes good and sometimes bad. It was mental torment waiting for them to come in. You would either brag as loud as you could or hide your head in the sand. The opinion of fellow students actually counted for more than that of the writers. Well, at least to me.
After my regular classes to satisfy my requirements for graduation, I rushed over to the theater. I remember the long days of rehearsals and the director’s critical barbs; but he made us all better in spite of it. Over the years, we grew in self-esteem and confidence. I give him a lot of the credit. He never praised us unnecessarily on Facebook, but gave us our due when we merited it. Our nerves would be frayed, only soothed by the sound of the audience clapping at the end of the performance. We gathered together after receiving our special guests and the press and went for tea to soothe our tired voices. The warm liquid was a palliative to a parched throat.
We had other survival tactics including a wonderful foot spa for aching feet that have been stuffed into ill-fitting stage shoes. We had to make do with the costume sizes available. My feet relished the massaging water and I would leave them in for hours, getting up only to refill the spa. It was self-heating but there was always some evaporation. The theater company had purchased more than one of these gems for the student actors. We badly wanted to take them home, but it was not allowed. It was all about sharing in those days. The spa had to be plugged into an electrical outlet and since it contained water, we had to be careful not to spill it on exposed stage wires. We set them in a corner or a dressing room. After the show, it was first come first served as we rushed to get in line. We tore off our tight shoes, ripped off our stockings, and immersed our feet. If we had time we would scent the water with essential oils like lavender, hibiscus, or lemon.
Some ingenious stage hand produced small soft white terry towels, the kind you find in most gyms. It was as good as being in a real spa. All I needed after this was a foot massage and a bit of fragrant lotion. Now this is indeed survival!