I’m Moving to London!

It’s official! The secret’s out!

On July 1, 2013, I will land at Heathrow Airport at the end of a one-way journey. Why? You may well ask.

For the Adventure

Because I can. Because I’m 28 and have a British passport. Because I’m old enough to do whatever I want and too young to know better. Because I want to be the kind of artist, the kind of person, who would just up sticks and move to London. Because apparently there are 101 reasons you need to live in London once. Because it’s so close to the rest of Europe! I’ve already got plans to catch the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. Paris is just a few hours away on the train. And Berlin is right there. And theatre festivals all over the place, all closer to London than San Francisco is to New York.

For the Challenge

I’ve spent the last five years in San Francisco figuring things out, refining my aesthetic, gathering new skills, building some wonderful relationships. I’ve learned a lot. And while there is certainly more I could learn here, from an amazing and inspiring community of artists, I’m ready to go and see what else is out there, what else I can learn. The San Francisco scene is going to continue to be robust and vibrant without me – and who knows, maybe I’ll rejoin you all in a few years.

For the New Plays

A few months ago, I tuned into a Howlround Twitter conversation about the UK vs US new play development models. The British theatre is not without its challenges – indeed, they are many of the same challenges we face here in the US. But, as detailed in this American Theatre Magazine article, there are key cultural differences in the UK that create an environment more conducive to my work as a director of new plays and a devised theatremaker. New plays are produced in London, rather than developed as they are in the US. Two thirds of all productions (excluding Shakespeare) in the UK are new plays – and 40% of those are by women. That’s a very different story than we’re telling here.

But I know, it’s not all roses. Major cut are proposed to the budget of the Arts Council of England (similar to our National Endowment for the Arts). But in the UK, we’re talking about billions of pounds in arts funding (£2.4 billion from 2011 – 2015), compared to millions in the US ($139 million in 2010 –  the agency has awarded $4 billion total since its founding in 1965) – and those are total grants, not funding per capita. It goes without saying that in the US we are stretching that smaller number of dollars among larger numbers of artists, organizations, and communities. This article even uses the US donor-reliant funding model as a cautionary tale of how cutting government support can dull theatre’s impact and discourage risk-taking.

Also, theatres in England have bars! That sounds like I’m being glib, but it’s actually a huge cultural difference in how we welcome audience members and the general public into a creative space. You can eat dinner in the cafe at the National Theatre, and stay for a drink after the show, rather than being ushered out by underpaid house staff who have been there all day and night and want to go home. I’m sure I’ll be blogging many more new shiny revelations when I get there.

For the One-Year Master of Arts Programs

Right now I don’t have any specific intention of pursuing higher education. Like many young artists, though, of course I’ve considered whether I need to go get an MFA to succeed in my field. Whether I “need to” or not, I am interested in more training after my BA – I spent those four years figuring out that I wanted to be a maker of new experimental plays rather than a musical theatre actor. Very valuable information! But having now figured that out, maybe I’m ready for some formal training. There are some pretty intriguing masters programs and approaches to directing in the UK that I am excited to check out. Plus, one year in academia in London sounds way more appealing (and cheaper) than three years somewhere in New England.

For the Family

It’s true, it will be really hard to leave my family here in California. I’ll especially miss Kate, who has been my roommate for nearly 3 years as well as my big sister for my whole life. And even though I see my Portland sister and my East-Bay family pretty infrequently, it will still be very different living 8 timezones away. But I also have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in England whom I’ve mostly seen at funerals these last few years. It will be so nice just to go round for lunch or celebrate a birthday.

For Some Answers About National Identity

Am I repatriating, “moving back to England,” going home? I was born in England and grew up with an English family, drinking tea at home and visiting grandparents in Yorkshire and Staffordshire. So I’m “really” English, right? But my family moved to California a couple of months before my fifth birthday. I went to Elementary School here, where I quickly lost my accent to avoid being asked by my classmates to “say something in English.” I grew up in the Bay Area, played softball, took Spanish in school, learned to drive on the right side of the road, went to the University of California, and in my 23 years in America, absorbed the culture, the language, the regional idioms. I say “awesome” instead of “smashing” and I don’t really know how long a kilometer is – or is it kilometre? They use kilometres over there, right? I think big and make ambitious plans because I can do anything, right, that’s what my 4th grade teacher said? So am I expatriating, “moving to London,” going on an adventure to a foreign place?

During my senior year of college, I “studied abroad” at the University of Manchester, my dad’s alma mater, about 20 minutes from where I was born. I started writing a play, Hyphenated, for my senior thesis project. I started trying to find my own answers to these questions. I got as far as, “well, yes, both, neither…” but I didn’t get as far as feeling comfortable in that in-between state. I’m ready to dive into the divide once again. On the one hand, it’s fascinating. On the other hand, it’s frustrating as hell not knowing what your voice really sounds like and what accent it uses.

For Some Silly Reasons that Actually Really Matter

For the bars in the theatres (it’s worth repeating). For the tea. For the bank holidays. For the socialized health care. For the London Underground. For the markets. For the British Library and the Tate Modern. For the BBC. For the puns. For the jammy dodgers.

For All the Other Reasons I’ll Discover When I Get There

Because how can I really know if it’s the right move until I make it?