A Love Letter to Glasgow
written by Sarah Barney
photography by Brittney Rivera
Confession: Scotland has turned me into an insomniac.
Regardless of my bedtime the night before or lack of alarm, my eyes snap open at 6 AM every morning, refusing to return to a state of restfulness. Maybe it’s a subconscious fear of wasting anytime in the city of Glasgow, or maybe it’s just a funky form of jet lag, but I’ve learned to make the most of my bright and early wake up time. I spend my mornings wandering the alleys of Buchanan Street, scoping out hole-in-the-wall coffee shops in the West End or watching the city gradually awaken from the steps of Royal Exchange Square. I nurse my first cup of coffee (instant dark roast bought for a pound at Poundworld and drunk from a cheap travel mug procured at the same establishment) in the company of my consistent breakfast companions: garbage trucks making their morning rounds and pigeons beginning a day of scrapping and squabbling. I have come to know and love this city in its earliest hours, and the undeniable and almost instantaneous familiarity I felt the second my boots first hit these cobblestones only deepens with each wee-hour-of-the-morning walk.
Days in Glasgow are divided between class, rehearsal, masterclasses and city exploration. Everyone in the company is itching to create, generating an electrical momentum that underlines each experience. The intimacy of working so closely with Lynda on script development, the intricacy of the story developing through the show’s staging and the relationships blooming out of moments of humor, trust and vulnerability among the cast and crew are quickly turning this production into my favorite rehearsal process to date. Our little world of study exists within Dance Studio 1 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. D1 has become a mini Pepperdine paradise, a space of artistic exploration and experimentation in a constant state of identity crisis; one second it acts as the locale for a makeshift Greek amphitheater in REL 301, the next it is being taped out to resemble our much anticipated venue in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival, and still later it will serve as the lecture hall for an inspirational and invigorating masterclass.
In Glasgow, the desire to create is enough to validate art or the pursuit of a creative idea, a supportive and pro-independent-work mentality that can be somewhat lost in the competitive, prestige driven theatre culture of the United States. Beyond educating and exposing us to incredible, cutting-edge artists, the masterclasses give us a taste of the culture of Scottish theatre. Both of our guests this week, the electrifying Kieran Hurley and the obsession-worthy Isobel McArthur, talked about the prevalence of solo shows in the country’s dramatic landscape right now, highlighting these one person performances as means of economic and artistic freedom. In America, solo shows are often self-gratifying displays meant to demonstrate an individual’s abilities, but Kieran and Isobel redefined the practice as a free form and empowering means of self-expression.
Looking forward to the theatrical adrenaline rush of the Fringe Festival, I am grateful for the holistic understanding we are receiving of Scotland, especially as we prepare to perform here. The quaint villages like Glenelg and fast-paced cities like Glasgow are two distinct but essential parts of the Scottish identity; the heritage-filled highlands are every bit as relevant to telling the story of the unique and thriving country as the bustling city. This diverse blend of pace and progress result in a country of character and opportunity that places equal weight on the significance of the past and the potential of the future.