Drama Trip to LA – Blog

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Day 1 – Arrival

3am alarms, bleary eyes, two-tone Drama trip hoodies concealing tired, excited smiles, we leave school for Easter in Los Angeles.
An 11 hour flight passes by quicker than expected, sleeping, chatting, watching films and then we’re here; Los Angeles, L.A., The City of Angels, sunny sunny La La Land, centre of the nation’s film and television industry.

Our watches go back 8 hours, so instead of dinner and pyjamas, we’ve got ourselves another day! Here it’s midday and 25 degrees, so after checking in, a quick dip in the pool and few bench presses in the gym we’re ready to begin exploring. Universal CityWalk, a three-block entertainment, dining, shopping promenade that forms part of the Universal City theme park is a perfect first destination. A sea of restaurants, shops, colour and music, remind us we are somewhere big, somewhere American. At 7:30 pm it’s 3:30 am at home, time for an early night, so we return to the hotel, full from burgers, fries, shakes, sweets – and one or two soaking from a dance in the musical water fountain! Bring on tomorrow. Nite nite.

 

Day 2 – Nostalgia and Sequins

The curtains are opened. Sunlight and warmth stream in. This really is an antidote to the British winter. After a hearty breakfast of fruit, eggs, yoghurts and waffles with maple syrup, we set off for a workshop with Jeff Webber, a celebrated music producer whose projects have yielded two Grammys, seven Grammy nominations, at least seventeen top ten albums, two number one albums and an assortment of other honours. The pupils are won over by his old school knowledge and enthusiasm.

But now it’s time to hit the shops. The Original Farmers Market is ideal for one of those days when you just want to walk around, discover new things, and eat a lot.  With bellies a lot fuller and wallets a little lighter we step back into a legendary time on the Sony Pictures Studio tour. Through the famed gates of the former MGM studios we find ourselves behind the scenes at one of the most historic and exciting studio lots in the world; standing in the sound studio where Judy Garland recorded Over the Rainbow was a real treat and a timely, nostalgic reminder of those wonderful old fashioned Hollywood musicals.

As the sun set we ventured out to watch Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the theatre – – delivered with enormous energy and packed to the rafters with iconic pop tunes. Finally, after a late night feast at Denny’s we fall into our beds with sequins in our eyes and glitter in our hair…

 

Day 3 – “I’d like to thank…”

A good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast and it’s off to a workshop on Naturalistic acting in film, where the pupils did us proud. Their behaviour really has been exemplary so far and it was wonderful to sit back and watch them both learning and impressing.

Entering through the doors that have welcomed hundreds of winners, a tour of the Dolby Theatre, home to the Oscar ceremony, is our next treat. What a place – an homage to good taste and glamour; and who knows, a member of this very group might be back there one day, hearing those immortal words ‘And the winner is…’  Care to place any bets?

Our driver gives us a tour of Beverley Hills, pointing out many a landmark on the way and giving us inside information and celebrity gossip as we make our way to Venice beach – a cool, bohemian gathering of different types of people from different parts of the world drumming, dancing, getting into the zone and feeding off other people’s energies, a quite extraordinary place and a new experience for us all. We stroll along the promenade two and a half miles to Santa Monica pier where, after a swing and climb on the beach gym we wander through promenades and shops, the children chomping at the bit to be let loose.

 

Day 4 – Hooray for Hollywood

Easter Sunday in L.A. sees us on our way, in the sunshine, to Warner Brothers Studios to find out how some of those famous favourites are made. It’s a tour packed with treat after treat – being on the set of The Big Bang Theory and The Ellen show, touching Harley Quinn’s car and the Batmobile, standing where Prince shot the Album cover for Purple Rain driving round the locations for Pretty Little Liars. The excitement and fun never stops; everyone loves it – being sorted into houses by the Sorting Hat, performing in a scene from Friends with Phoebe  and Monica, being driven through landscapes, streets and jungles that have been created for some of the biggest Television shows and movies – Rebel without a cause, My Fair Lady, Casablanca, Harry Potter, Superman, Batman, the list goes on…and on…and all the while the pupils continue to impress us with their ease, their warmth, their manners, their charm. Our kids are really very special.

We continue to ride high, making our way to Griffith Park and the Observatory which commands a stunning 360 degree view of Los Angeles – and, of course, the iconic Hollywood sign. It also provides a chance for us all to rest, to stop, to sit on the grass together and to bathe, for a while in this beautiful warm Easter sunshine.  We step out in the evening to the theatre. Not, this time, for sparkles and songs, but to see something a little more challenging. ‘A Noise Within’ is one of the few theatres in Southern California producing works of world drama in a rotating repertory with a company of professional, classically trained artists. This theatre company presents classic plays for modern audiences and it is to their production of Shakespeare’s epic war story Henry V that we headed. Incredible choreographed fights, stunning sound and original music, wonderful, atmospheric lighting and top notch performances come together to create a powerful, inspiring evening.

Finally the choice of Chinese banquet or a late night pizza club means that everyone ends the day happily, ever well fed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Happy Easter!

 

Day 5 – Go, Kings, Go

Universal Studios Hollywood is the only authentic, working movie studio and theme park in the world. It’s as much a can’t-miss for visitors as it is a popular weekend attraction for L.A. locals. So, after another hearty breakfast we arrive bright and early to spend a whole day there. It is a child’s dreamland, a magical place.

There’s a street from the world of Harry Potter, laden with shops selling wands, potions and sweets, carts of Butterbeer, and, of course, the Hogwarts Express. The main ride/attraction itself is a brilliant simulation flying on our own broomstick, with Harry Potter beside us, avoiding the Whomping Willow, playing Quidditch and escaping a feral Dragon and the dreaded Dementors. There’s a Jurassic World ride where we float along the river, get attacked by dinosaurs and soaked by water when our boats suddenly drops 80 feet to escape the clutches of a ferocious and hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex. The Transformers ride is a 4D experience  where we are caught up in a live action battle.  We are terrified by the Walking dead Zombies, enter the wonderful world of the Simpsons, we’re entranced – and hugely impressed – by the  Waterworld live action show full of stunts and pyrotechnics, climaxing with a plane crashing onto the scene, into the water and bursting into flames. The list just goes on and on… We spend the whole day there together – and it’s wonderful.

Then it’s off to the Staple Center for our first Ice Hockey game.  What an experience.  The Center is their equivalent of the O2.  This is a big big place!  The game is like a huge theatrical show.  Even the least sporty of us find ourselves cheering and chanting for the L.A. Kings, our new heroes.  Each and everyone of us found it a thrilling, aggressive, exciting, incredibly skilful and entertaining evening.  What a perfect way to celebrate Logan’s birthday.

“Go, Kings, Go!”

Happy Birthday, Logan.

 

Day 6 – BLIGHTY BOUND

And so we reach our final day…after one last session in the hotel gym for some and a few laps of the pool for others, it’s time to check out, board the private coach and make our way to the Chinese Theatre, to the Hollywood Walk of Fame for a glimpse of Marilyn’s hand prints, Gene Kelly’s footprints and those of other legends that have made Hollywood so great.

Macy’s and Bloomingdales provide some last minute retail therapy before we head back to the Original Farmers Market for our final, farewell L.A. lunch.  A tasty Chinese or a Caesar Salad for some, and for others it’s one last American burger.

We are waiting for our plane as I write.  It’s on time and the children are lying on the floor at Gate 25, heads on rucksacks, chatting together. Time to leave the City of Angels, the Hollywood glamour and the sunshine to head back home…It has been a wonderful trip.  It really has.  We have had such a great time together and the best thing about it?  Our kids. It has been a privilege to be with them.

That’s all folks!