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Intro to Applied American Arts

By gjmacdougall

This week has been completely consumed, in the best way possible, by tech week and performances for the final show I am a part of this semester, GW Shakespeare's 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'. As I have found with most of my experiences here in America, theatre at GW can get a little intense, with 5 shows being performed over three evenings. However, again I am incredibly grateful to have been given the chance to create something with the loveliest, most talented people, as well as to the friends who came to give their support. This experience has definitely been the biggest highlight of my time here so far.

The greatest people you will ever meet...
The greatest people you will ever meet...

Keeping up the energy for the performances of course meant lots of caffeine and sugar, the latter of which I found in the form of 'froyo', going with a friend to the FroZenYo store next to Farragut West Metro Station. I had thought Edinburgh did pretty well on the frozen yogurt front - at home me and my friends are fans of 'Frisky' - but it seems DC has the last word. Being priced by weight and not by size and topping means that you can try the whole range of flavors at FroZenYo (such as pistachio, birthday cake and dulce de leche) and all the toppings (think pecans and blueberries through to brownies and gummy bears)...before taking it to the till and realizing you have the size and price of a small dinner (which is in fact what it becomes - 21, who?!).

Inner peace at FroZenYo (photo credit: Kelli Jones)
Inner peace at FroZenYo (photo credit: Kelli Jones)

Another activity that I enjoy in Edinburgh is going to the galleries and museums - the National Museum of Scotland being my favourite place in all the city - so I was looking forward to continuing my week of theatre and culture by finally visiting more of the vast number here in DC. On Sunday I went to one of the free classical music concerts held in the West Garden Court at the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall, as part of the 74th Season of Concerts. There I listened to the National Gallery of Art Orchestra play music by Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen, the beautiful melodies mingling with and becoming part of the equally breathtaking setting.

I also briefly visited the Smithsonian American Art Museum which again had stunning architecture and again felt a little like a film set, modelled in the style of classical Europe yet oddly retaining its sense of newness. I was also slightly brought up short by a reminder of home, the collection turning out to contain a number of paintings by John Sargent which gave me a surprise pang of the heart.

However, this week I was sharply reminded that these great experiences I have been having are not shared by everyone. On shopping at Whole Foods (poor planning on my part meant I claimed I did not have enough time to go to favourite Trader Joe's and instead went to the closer but more expensive Whole Foods to 'grab a few things', which inevitably always ends with financial regret) I was talking to the cashier about being an exchange student and he asked 'do you like America?', to which I replied 'I'm finding it great!'. What slightly shocked me was his response of, 'I hate it', a stark contrast to the sometimes extreme patriotism and even nationalism that is a stereotype of America and that I have encountered here, saying he would rather go somewhere like Egypt instead.

This uncomfortable mixing of two worlds of experience was again to be noticed when at the American Art Museum, the grandeur of the building, combined with the triumphant classical music somewhat mysteriously blaring from speakers outside, having a dystopian feel when contrasted with the area of Downtown/Chinatown DC, a neighbourhood appearing much less affluent than the area of Foggy Bottom I have become used to.

Another off note was struck when passing the White House on the way there, a heated argument apparently regarding a DC tour being given what one felt was special attention by police officers, due to the ethnicity of those involved. However, it is not the first time that my friends and I have been wary of the police and security and their seemingly overly heavy-handed attitude.

Now that the play is over I feel both free and slightly lost. However, this week I am able to distract myself with the wonders of 'Halloweek', seeing the 31st of October celebrated in a way unlike anywhere else in the world.

To the end of a second full month here, and the opening of a third,


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