Before twitter there were fan letters: Dear Mr. Redford

November 12, 1973 Dear Bob  Mr. Redford,I just had to write to tell you how hot and sexy talented, I think you are.  Laura and I bickered over who was more desirable — Robert Redford or Clint Eastwood — with as much fervor as we girls once debated who our favorite Beatle was, Paul or John, George or Ringo. Laura's mother, tiny Corky, curled up in her easy chair with a ciggie and a cup of tea, pronounced both actors 'tall drinks of water'. This was so long before  water became such a desirable commodity that we actually had to buy it by the bottle, back in the seventies when water was still free even in the once desert lands of Los Angeles, that I never quite understood the praise. But yes, Redford could put his shoes under my bed any time, as our mothers might have said, mostly about men whose paths they would likely never cross. I had it so bad for Robert Redford after seeing The Way We Were ; wishing I were Barbara Streisand with her impossibly long eleg

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Above Ground on the London Underground—Day 20: Going for Drama in Hammersmith

Hammersmith Station, Christian Hook  

I’m taking a virtual walking tour ‘above ground’ on the London Underground. Using my Tube guide and my fitbit® device, my goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day roughly following along the Underground route, reporting back here on Fridays with my findings. Currently following the Piccadilly Line. This is Day 20.

Last week I ended my weekly virtual walk at the Hammersmith Underground Station. After my pub crawl I might have ended up sitting on a bench, like the family in Christian Hook’s portrait above. Unlike the family, busy modern Londoners,  scanning phones and checking briefcases, waiting for their train, I was just taking a break before I hit a couple of must-see Hammersmith sites.  

The Ark, Hammersmith: Ralph Erskine/Architect                                                             

Construction on the Ark on Talgarth Road, designed by noted architect Ralph Erskine, began in 1989 and was completed in 1992. The dramatic-looking building, while deriving its name from its hull-like design resembling a huge ship, rather than appearing to float free on the high seas, seems moored in port, hemmed in by the A4-Flyover—the highway which runs above the Talgarth Road, raised on a knifed-edge blade like an ice skate—and the railway. I would love to see the Ark with some breathing room, surrounded by a reflecting pool much like Frank Gehry’s design of the Musee Guggenheim in Bilbao. 

Inside, the Ark was originally a network of open office space and communal walkways and staircases that maximized its’ light and open feeling, and led to a sense of community. Despite its innovative interior, the Ark has had trouble keeping occupants and has been redone in the past decade to maximize the actual office space. Last year a San Francisco based media company took possession, hopefully they’ll stay awhile. It’s the kind of experimental design I love discovering on TedTalks; I wish there was a tour. I’d take it. 

Then there’s the LAMDA campus, which has been undergoing some construction of its own. I think it’s fair to say that LAMDA will always be more famous for what comes out of its buildings than the building itself. The London Academy of Music & Dramatic Arts, dating to 1861, and one of the oldest acting schools in the world, routinely turns out talent of the highest order—Jim Broadbent, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Claflin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brian Cox, Dominic Cooper, Jeremy Irvine, David Oyelowo, Rory Kinnear, John Lithgow—John Lithgow? Yes, Americans study there too. These are all names I've blogged about over on Chapter1-Take1 in just the past few weeks.

Like RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, getting in is a battle but that entry is like a golden ticket. Having LAMDA on your resume means a casting director is going to give you a serious look; it’s the kind of training most American actors don’t get, and that most American casting directors don’t pay all that much attention to. 

I think I’ll see if I can get hold of Diana Scrivener who teaches Historical Dance at the college, and see if she wants to join me for a cup of tea. Scrivener isn’t just a prof, or an example of  ‘if you can’t do it, teach it’ mentality, Scrivener is a successful choreographer in the industry who I ‘met’ online while whilst (as our Brit friends say) I was writing about the recent production of War and Peace on Chapter1-Take1.

It would be a blast to meet her in person. Scrivener choreographed the all the dances in the BBC series, most notably the sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic waltz danced by Lily James and James Norton. 

Downton Abbey staff cut loose

And while we say a teary goodbye to Downton Abbey, so will Ms. Scrivener; her CV includes all the choreography for the Crawley celebrations. I hope she’s not too busy to take a break! I know that auditing classes is strictly verboten, but maybe she’ll let me take a peek inside her dance studio? And maybe, just maybe we might get a sneak peek at the next Benedict Cumberbatch. 

Ralph Erskine (Pinterest)
The Ark
201 Talgarth Road

155 Talgarth Rd, London W14 9DA
+44 20 8834 0500 

Diana Scrivener

Counting the Fitbit Steps

    Day 1-19:                                   161,475 steps/73.7 miles

    Day 20:  The Ark/LAMDA                 4225 steps/1 miles
    Total Imaginary Miles to Date  165,690 steps/74.7 miles

    Read last week’s post: Day 19


    Linking up with British Isles Friday over at Joy’s Book Blog


    1. The dance sequences are so romantic. I love your tour. Now I would like a pub lunch as I am thinking about London and what all I would love to do.

    2. Cool architecture. I loved learning about LAMDA and all the terrific people who have learned their craft there. How wonderful that you met Diana Scrivener through your blog! I'm sure that's enough of a connection to merit a tea break together.


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