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A glorious month one in Bristol! And a holiday surprise!

Just about one month ago, I had my first day of classes at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School... it's hard to believe a month has gone by in that it's flown, but I also feel as if I've gained a lifetime's worth of acting lessons in five short weeks.

Our days are packed with practical courses in everything from Quarterstaff Combat, to Received Pronunciation dialect practice, to Ballet, to Improv. We also have classes in Movement for the Actor, Voice technique, Singing, Acting Basics and Acting Tutorials, The ITM of Alexander, Journals, Pilates, Period Movement, Theatre History, other Combat (thus far including Unarmed and Rapier & Dagger), and Text; right now we are a week away from sharing The Last Days of Troy by Simon Armitage—our foray into Greek Theatre in which I play Thetis (mother of Achilles and demo-goddess extraordinaire) and a rather cheeky soldier—directed by the inimitable Jacqui Crago (renowned actor, director, sometime audiobook narrator, and vocal coach for the RSC, War Horse, and more). We go five days a week for about 11 hours a day. It's rigorous and it's delightful.

Most of us on the first day of Ballet (photo from Sasha Dominy)

I can't share much more about school, as they have asked us to keep a low profile on social media, but I can say it's been blowing my mind every day. Greatly, due to my incredible ensemble of classmates, each one a shining star in their own right, but all with the innate knowledge that together we are much greater than the sum of our parts. The work ethic, and willingness to play, and grand empathy of my group is truly astounding. I am quite lucky indeed to consider myself among such a company of fellows.

In addition to the everyday epiphanies of school, I've attended many wonderful welcome events, seen several plays, done my fair share of sight seeing, begun little ukulele practices with a classmate, and even started recording my first audiobook over here in Bristol (I'll keep you posted on this one).

I've got my eyes on a London trip in a couple weeks, to see my beautiful friend, Sarah Lamesch, visit with an old mentor from my BU days, and hopefully see a great play or two.

Needless to say, there isn't much time to be homesick. But every now and again I think of family, Fall in New England, and my darling boy, Ben. Although, he'll be here to visit before I know it. We're thinking of spending Christmas here in Bristol, now, as it's supposed to be magnificent and we are both living on that grad-school budget. I will be sad to miss the rest of the family during the holidays, however. Be sure to squeeze your loved ones extra tight for me.

Speaking of the holidays.... are you looking for a unique, practical gift with a good cause behind it? My incredibly talented brother, Luke Shalan, has donated 10 limited-edition, custom-batch mugs with the decal "Shakespeare invented the word swagger" on each one. You may have seen my beautiful mug that inspired this batch? He made it for me several Christmases ago, and since then I've had endless compliments and requests for these mugs, so now you can claim your very own and help raise funds for my education. Priced at $45 - shipping & handling included (in the U.S.A), most mugs can be delivered before Christmas.

My fundraiser has gone remarkably well thus-far, but I still have about $6k to my end goal, and the sale of these delightful mugs will help immensely!

Ordering your mug is simple. To purchase, simply select the "Shakespeare Mug" reward one my fundraiser page, and leave the address where you would like the mug shipped. I will send you a confirmation email with an estimated date of delivery. ​CLICK HERE TO CLAIM YOUR MUG: https://www.generosity.com/projects/bring-gail-to-the-bristol-old-vic-theatre-school/payments/new?perk_amt=45&perk_id=4307298

Don't miss your chance to snag one of these ten unique mugs!

Use this mug for coffee, tea, holding your quill, or even as a little beer stein.​ (all images and design property of Luke Shalan):

You can find out more about Luke's work and process here : http://www.lukeshalantechne.com

You can follow him on Instagram for daily aesthetic delights at @lukeshalan

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