Destination Theatre: Another Challenge

At first sight, Destination Theatre looked like too big a challenge for me. It took me a great deal of time considering if I should take this course or not. But in the end, I decided to take it. After all, coming to Canada from South Korea and studying at Western was already a challenge for me. In fact, everything I had to go through in Canada was a challenge. Not only studying and doing assignments, but also going to restaurants and trying to order things without stuttering, calling the bank to figure out what happened to my money, and of course, seeing plays and never figuring out what the characters are saying to each other. Such challenges are stressful, but they never are impossible to overcome, and in the end they improve me. So why not go through another?

The reason I was attracted to Destination Theatre was because I thought the course will allow me to experience studying theatre abroad with a whole group of other students (and a professor) with a common interest (I am technically already abroad, but you know what I mean). It is a rare opportunity to meet a group of people that are interested and passionate about theatre, and discuss the plays we were able to see together. It seemed like an opportunity I should not miss. I hope to hear from a lot of different perspectives, and share my perspective as well.

The first thing I hope to get from our time in London is the courage to continue studying theatre. I am of course very much interested in theatre, and have been planning my career in the theatre industry. However, as an art-loving woman from a country that is misogynistic and does not encourage art, an inevitable depression has clouded me lately. I hope the experience in London, UK will ignite my passion once more and give me the strength to keep on my path.

Another thing I hope to get is friends. It is not easy to find people with common interests, but I think it is even more difficult when your interest is theatre. This is a precious chance to spend a lot of time with people who are not only insightful, but also are in love with theatre. I hope that we will get a lot of time to talk and become friends with each other.

My biggest fear is that, because of my lack of proficiency in English, that I might not be able to understand all the performances we are going to see. It is an obstacle I find very difficult to overcome, and I am afraid such difficulties will keep me from contributing insightful thoughts to the class or even understanding what the class is discussing in the first place. For the same reason, I am also concerned that I might not be able to understand the contexts of some lines in the plays. I hope I will be able to overcome at least a portion of it by engaging in more conversations with my classmates.

Advertisements

Art Over Adversity

I have always wanted to study internationally for a while, however I noticed that there weren’t many worthwhile abroad opportunities for humanities students. One morning I came across a promotion e-mail from the department of humanities at Western. My first reaction was like ummm this sounds dope! I honestly didn’t even think that my application would be considered as I am not in the Theatre Studies program at Western. But I thought ah what the heck, let me give it a shot! And about a month later I got an e-mail with my acceptance to the course! It sounds pretty silly that I was so excited for a course – but like, it’s THEATRE… in ENGLAND.

I have to be honest, after taking in that I was going to UK… I got a little hesitant. There’s an uncomfortable amount of Islamophobia and hate crimes in that part of the world, which for me, opened room for doubts about this trip. However, as a student eager to learn more knowledge from all different parts of the world, no matter how challenging – I know travel can be very empowering. There are bigots and racists everywhere in the world, and as a person of colour, I know I have to be prepared for that – and growing up as a visible racial minority, certain upsetting encounters have already prepared me for the most part. It’s unfortunate to see that a place as beautiful as England, with all of its artistic and literary glory (I wouldn’t say fully attractive – as romanticizing imperialism and exploitation is never cute!), has major social setbacks… but I guess that can be said about most places.

On a more positive note! One thing I will definitely be observing is the art and culture throughout London. While I am looking forward to just enjoying the art for what it is in the moment, I will have to be taking lots of photos for my final project so I have some content and authenticity to work off of (stay tuned to see some dope art visuals created by yours truly!).

I travel quite a bit and one thing I have noticed over the years is that I tend to compare different cities… a lot. Comparing the diversity or lack thereof, the warmth one may or may not feel from its people, the hustle n bustle or slowness, the billboards, the quirky advertisements, the independent coffee shops, the number of stray cats I can spot, subway musicians playing all sorts of instruments that I never knew existed, hidden art murals, vintage record shops… OKAY, you get the picture. That being said, I’m hoping to find a little bit of beauty in both London and Stratford – which I am sure will not be hard to come across!

Although this trip definitely put a strain on my finances for the year, I know it will all be worth it! I’m looking forward to spending time with my classmates and getting to know them better as well. One of my English professors at Brescia told me that I must check out The Tate Gallery as it has a TON of breathtaking art – so if anyone wants to tag along with M.J. and me, please do! Overall, I am super pumped to soon be in England and can’t wait for the opportunities in store for all of us!

Taking a Risk: Destination Theatre

To begin, I will say that I’ve never been anywhere. Anywhere that is deemed important enough to exclaim that one’s been there. The furthest I’ve come to ‘travelling’ or ‘exploring’ is going to Toronto or Niagara Falls. Travelling is never something I thought I’d be able to do. Not because I do not have the courage to go, but because I lack the funds. I came to Destination Theatre in the hopes I would be able to travel at least once in my lifetime and this would be my chance to do it with the support of the University. Travelling to London, to me, is much more than just travelling to London. This trip is a symbol of my academic accomplishment and self-driven success that will allow me to experience theatre and a city I always thought I would dream of. To say the least, I am very thankful for this opportunity to learn and immerse myself in a theatre culture that is much different than the one in London, Ontario.

In travelling to London, I want to wake up before the sun rises in the hopes of witnessing London in a way that tourists do not ordinarily see. I love photography and since it has been something placed on the backburner while I pursue my studies, I hope to be able to engage with it once again. For the two weeks I am there, I hope to capture some amazing moments that reflect the grand nature of London, England.

As I study Media, Information, and Technoculture, I am very interested in class struggles and power relations between institutions and the populations they oversee. During the trip, I’m excited to explore how architecture plays a physical role in encouraging or preventing certain classes from engaging with theatre. When developing spaces and real estate for theatre, developers usually benefit some individuals while putting others at a disadvantage (like most things). In this case, space and architecture can be political. This political nature of theatre, or the theatre space to be more specific, is what I’m interested in looking at most. Susan Bennett would describe it as the outer frame of theatre, all the cultural elements which create and inform the theatrical event.

Some of my fears of this trip relate to doing too much and doing too little at the same time. Like I have said before, funding, and my financial situation, is little to none, therefore if I do too much, I put at stake not being able to pay my bills over the summer. If I do too little, I’m missing out on experiencing and learning so much while in London, England, something I’m not likely to experience again (unless I do extremely well and find a great job, which is also unlikely).

While going to school here at Western, I never imagined that taking a second-year course in Theatre Studies with Margaret Jane Kidnie would push me to develop my theories in class struggles and relations through the experience and study of theatre.

“All the world’s a stage”: Finding My Way to Destination Theatre

If you had asked me to participate in this course a year ago, I would’ve told you that you were nuts; I am a total introvert and have always steered as far away from being the centre of attention—and, thus, theatre—as possible. When I saw the email for this course in my inbox, I immediately disregarded it because there was no way that I was going to be taking a theatre class. And then my friend, Adrianna, brought it up one day in the fall and we started researching what the course actually entailed, and, within a week, we were applying to go to London.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had dreams about travelling the world, and I suppose the fact that I’m an English major, and have always had a deep love for books, has eternally steered my heart towards England. Some of the greatest stories in human history have come out of this country and, if I did nothing else before I died, I had to get there. I had to experience the world that my favourite authors experienced; I had to feel the magic of standing where they stood.

When I started to think about it, I realized that this desire also translated over to theatre; going to Shakespeare’s birthplace is kind of an English student’s dream come true. To see these timeless plays performed live in the place where it all began, to see those actors repeating the same words that have been said for centuries, to hear and see the action rather than simply reading it will be an experience unlike any other. I can’t even imagine what it will feel like to sit in an auditorium so close to where Shakespeare himself penned it all, and get to experience what it was like to be one of the first ones to have heard his words.

While I may not want to be the one on the stage, I’ve always been fascinated by live performances. I don’t know what it is but every time I see a live performance, it’s like this magical, out-of-body experience. To see how the cast and crew set up a scene, to see all their hard work come to life in this indescribable way, is something that never ceases to take my breath away. I’ve seen quite a few plays and musicals over the years, both amateur and professional, including all my high school’s performances and a couple of Broadway shows (go to see Cirque Du Soleil: Paramour if you ever get the chance; it is astounding!), and each and every time, I am left speechless. There is something so transformative and authentic—ironic, I know—about real people on a real stage with a real audience watching their every move.Cirque du solielAs for what I am afraid or unsure about, I can honestly say that this is the first time I have not had any serious worries about going to a foreign country. In high school, I went on exchange to France and, being the first time I had gone abroad and the first time I was away from my parents for so long, that was absolutely terrifying. The next year I went to Ireland and, while it wasn’t as nerve-racking since I had previous experience, there was still that stomach churning, heart racing nervousness. This time, however, while it will be the first time I am flying without my parents, I can honestly say that not even that scares me that much. I feel like I have been waiting for this trip for my entire life, and I am so ready to get to the place where my heart belongs.12

 

 

An Opportunity of a Lifetime… I hope: Destination Theatre

Coming into my first year, the options for students interested in furthering their knowledge of drama and theatre were very limited. There were no classes available for first years. I decided that the best way to learn theatre was to continue being a part of it, and take on any opportunity I could to act. I didn’t get an opportunity to be in a show at Western until second semester of my second year, where I had a minor role. Finally, first semester of third year I took on the role of Malcolm, in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.   This is where I found out, through fellow cast mates who did Destination Theatre, that there are other opportunities to educate myself on theatre and be a part of something as exciting as this. My theatre knowledge was limited to the several productions I had taken part in, in the past, but other than high school drama, I have rarely sat down and learned about what theatre actually means, and I haven’t had much opportunity to watch shows, and break them down in terms of how they were done. I figured I could finally take a course that will allow me to do so.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 4.31.18 PM

When I decided to take this course, I thought about the possible benefits I could get out of it and the list was endless. First of all, as mentioned before, it’s an opportunity to actually take a course on theatre and find out what it’s all about, in a classroom environment. Second, what better way to learn about something than actually experiencing it? This was an opportunity to be able to go to England, one of the world’s theatre capitals, and be able to watch a plethora of shows by the world’s best actors. An opportunity to be able to experience several workshops with popular actors and coaches, tour the city and actually experience the impact theatre has on the city, and finally, be able to digest and discuss what we had seen the previous night with a well-educated professor and a group of peers that have the same passion for theatre as myself. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to experience a certain culture and way of life that I have never been exposed to. I saw it as a way to be a part of something that I have never been a part of, and an experience that I can not only learn a lot from, but also find a great deal of enjoyment in. It’s always been a dream of mine to experience European culture, and this could not be a better way to do so.

Despite my excitement, there are several things that I am somewhat apprehensive about. As with any new adventure, you don’t know what to expect and it can be frightening taking on something by yourself, or with very few people you know. It is also frightening knowing that I am stepping out of my comfort zone for this new experience that I am hoping to get the most out of, but despite this, I am unclear as to what will happen because I’ve never done anything like this in the past. Regardless, I firmly believe that the joy and experience you get from doing something you’re not 100% sure of has to do with what you put in to it, and this is an experience of a lifetime that I am very excited to be a part of.

 

My Journey to Destination Theatre

It was a few days before school started that I randomly decided to check my school email account. In my inbox appeared one of the many mass emails that are common throughout the year, usually from faculties and departments that have nothing to do with my own. Reflexively I went to hit the delete button when the subject line caught my eye. As I read through the email I started imagining what it would be like to stroll the streets of London with new friends and take in world-class theatre.

I quickly shook the thought from my mind though. I was a science student; surely I wouldn’t be able to participate in an opportunity like this, having nothing to do with my degree. On top of that was the cost of the trip, which I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford. All of this aside, I decided to look more into the opportunity before making my decision. As you can probably tell, I decided this once in a lifetime opportunity was too good to pass up, leading me to the beginning of my Destination Theatre journey.

My formal experience with the study of live performance begins and ends with a single musical theatre class I took last year on a whim, after needing to fill a time slot for a class I wanted to drop (I was desperately trying to escape organic chemistry). It turns out that course had a much bigger impact on my life than I ever could have imagined. While I always enjoyed watching my friends perform in our high-school’s productions, I had never seen a professional show. Shortly after seeing a professional show together as a class for musical theatre, I found myself looking to see what shows played nearby and soon had a stack of tickets sitting on my nightstand.

I have mostly seen musicals, so one thing I am hoping to get from this course is the experience of viewing a broader range of live theatre. Of course I do hope we get to see a musical or two while we are in London! Another thing I hope to gain is a greater understanding of the general study of theatre because I do not have much formal experience with this. I am also looking forward to being surrounded by classmates who are all just as excited about the shows we will be seeing as I am, and am looking forward to group discussions to help me gain insights I wouldn’t have had on my own.

While I am super excited about Destination Theatre, there are some things that are making me nervous. Being from London, Ontario I have always lived at home during school and have never had to live on my own away from home before. I have also never flown alone before and I’m nervous about finding my way to Queen Mary after landing in London. I am hoping to find some classmates with the same fear so we can tackle this challenge together!

Overall I know this will be the experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait to see what England has in store for us!

Fear of the Unknown: Destination Theatre

I’ve always been very passionate about the performing arts. I’m originally from Ottawa where my mom urged me to immerse myself in the arts at a very young age. Between dance class and gymnastics, I was a busy little lady. Living in the city we were able to attend an innumerable amount of live productions. This opened up an entirely new world of performance for myself. Once we moved to a small town on the shore of Lake Huron my opportunities involving performance and arts dwindled. Although dance and gymnastics were still available, my new small town couldn’t provide the same rich arts environment as Ottawa had.

Early in my childhood I became a closeted theatre geek. I would beg my parents for tickets to Toronto’s newest performances rather than the new “it” toy. I took pride in my love for performance, but it was often hard to find friends that really understood and loved my passion the way I did. Often times I made new theatre friends unexpectedly after eavesdropping on a conversation about their most recent theatre favorites. Once I moved to London, I realised that I needed to crawl out of my shell a little more if I wanted to really enjoy my passion for theatre. This is much easier said than done.

Since becoming a student at Western I’ve been surrounded by an environment of people with many opinions and passions similar to and different from my own. The exciting environment of being around unique individuals pushed me to concentrate on what I loved rather than the judgement of others. Growing up in a small town it was very difficult to develop and pursue any passion that differed from the very strict status quo that was apparent within the community. Being that Western is a very social and encouraging environment I have found that I am able to more openly and enthusiastically pursue my passions. This positive social setting has given me the confidence to take risks and try new things that I otherwise may have passed on.

IMG_5666Originally when I first saw the advertisement for Destination Theatre, the program seemed too good to be true. How often is it that you can find a course that allows you to study your lifelong passion abroad regardless of your current degree? I was in disbelief after reading the synopsis of the course and immediately started talking myself out of applying in fear that I wouldn’t be accepted.

Every element of this course left me anticipating a summer of traveling and theatre, but I couldn’t help but wonder, what if? My excitement for this course was paired with anticipation for what could be my dream summer, while also keeping my hopes at a reasonable level. I went back and forth between the application before I finally felt confident enough to take a chance and apply. Once I was accepted into the program I began to lose confidence in my abilities to impress my classmates. My biggest fear was that I would have the least amount of theatre knowledge in the class and seem incompetent. I’d go back and forth between days of convincing myself that this was an awful idea to packing my bags three months in advance. This anticipation and dread quickly melted away after our first class when I realized that we’re all just university students trying to expand our theatre knowledge and have some fun on the way.

In about three months our small group will be flying into a new city with open minds and anticipation for a trip of a lifetime.

 

Discovering Theatre Abroad: An Adventure to Look Forward To

Shakespeare

It was in Professor Kidnie’s Shakespeare and the Drama of His Age class that I first learned of the Destination Theatre course. As I sat there listening to a fellow student recount her experience in England last summer, I found myself picturing a summer abroad. I weighed the pros and cons, I considered the financial situation I would be in if I applied… and then I asked myself, “When will I get a chance like this again?”

It wasn’t long before I applied, and soon enough I was accepted into the course that would change my life for the better. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling my bank account. After four years at Western, I have decided that this is the perfect way to end my undergraduate experience. As I write this, I am already day-dreaming about the sights, the excitement and the culture that England has to offer.

Theatre has been a love of mine since the tenth grade, when I discovered the highs and lows of putting on a production. I invested every free moment in theatre in the years to follow, either through directing, acting, set building, or even discovering a passion for mask-making. When I came to university, I took a step back from the performance and back-stage aspect of theatre, focusing my attention on school. Fortunately, I have had the chance to keep my passion for theatre alive through reading plays and seeing a play here and there. Most recently, I was reminded of how much I enjoy Shakespeare when our class went to Stratford to watch Romeo and Juliet.

In contrast, visiting the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon will feel like another world entirely. I look forward to exploring the archives, and I cannot begin to describe my excitement when I imagine seeing Christopher Eccleston perform in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I think above all, the moment I look forward to most is stepping into London’s Globe Theatre which is “at the core of London’s cultural sphere” (Harvie 26). As someone who has only seen relatively small local theatre, I am eager to finally witness a traditional, open-air production in London. I am also ecstatic to have a chance to be given a tour of London by Jen Harvie – someone who seems to know the culture inside and out. I hope to have a chance to see some musicals as well, such as Les Miserables or maybe even The Phantom of the Opera, as I am familiar with the films but have never had the opportunity to see them performed live.

I think my greatest fear of this trip will be to miss out on a life-changing experience. I know that there are about a million and one things to discover in London, and I don’t want to blink for a second knowing I could miss something special. I can already predict that I won’t have a moment when I am not sightseeing or seeing extra shows in order to make the most of this experience.

Shannen Stroe is a fourth year Political Science and English Literature student at Western.


Harvie, Jen. Theatre & The City. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.

Image Source: https://www.traveltipy.com/top-places-to-visit-in-london/shakespeare-globe-theatre-london-england-uk/

Before we go to “Other London”: Hopes, Dreams, and Anxieties

I am one of the most unlikely so-called “theatre kids” that I’ve ever known, and I’ve met some crazy (and also extremely wonderful) people through theatre. I’m horribly shy and often actively try to avoid social interaction, and yet, live performance is something that has always resonated deep within me. So have I evolved since grade six, with my barely audible auditions, onward to extremely minor, nearly nonexistent roles, then medium-sized, and even leading parts (in a big fish, VERY small pond sort of way). More recently I’ve also expanded into various production roles, as well as writing for the stage.

I’m one of the very few students at Western who is actually part of the Theatre Studies major module, hoping to double with English. I’ve known about the Destination Theatre course for my entire undergraduate career, and always referred to the website longingly, wondering if it was something I could make work. I have extensive family obligations, a limited budget, and most pressingly, that pesky awkwardness and fear of social situations. However, as soon as my family became aware that this course existed, they struck down that barrier, saying two weeks studying what I love abroad would be better than sitting around, waiting for something to maybe happen with them. The budget issue disappeared as well, the course fees being gifted to me. Thus, I ran out of excuses, and had to face my anxieties concerning travelling abroad.

As a person who tends towards anxiety, I definitely have some concerns going into this. I very rarely travel by plane, and haven’t done it alone before at all. I have a very poor sense of direction, and usually have to map out a route on Google for anything that isn’t a straight line. Even then I can be pretty useless. I’ll also be worried about what’s going on at home while I’m away, because I can never help but worrying about any and every possibility. That said, I’m great at contingency plans.

Don’t let any of my negativity trick you into thinking I’m not excited, though. I couldn’t be more thrilled with this chance I have. I absolutely love Shakespearean drama, so the idea of seeing the very place it all began is amazing. I’m also hoping to get some musicals in, as my absolute favourite genre of theatre. Hopefully, with the variety of shows our class chooses, I can also expand my horizons a bit with non-musical and non-Shakespearean theatre.

In ways I never believe possible, but happen regardless, theatre continues to force me to ask questions, seek out answers, and grow stronger as a person. As such, I expect that I will gain something from this experience in England that I wouldn’t be able to guess would happen beforehand. I hope to gain a bit of confidence in social settings, and in myself, which are both things I’m aware that I am severely lacking. Our class seems to be a group of lovely people though, and this is a very unique opportunity for me, so I’m not so afraid of disappointing myself. And since this is a blog, I’ll suppose I’ll…keep you posted.

My Road to Destination Theatre

Theatre never seems to end up in my life on purpose, and the Destination theatre course was no different. It is not that I avoid theatre, more that it always appears where I am least expecting it. When I first toured my high school back in grade eight for instance, I did not expect to be convinced in a few short sentences that drama was the art course to take and I certainly did not expect that theatre would become a mainstay of my high school career. However, after a phone call home and being paged to the drama office twice, I knew I could not escape theatre- but then again why would I ever want to do so?

Skip forward five years from the day my drama teacher told me I would be crazy not to sign up for grade ten acting class. I am sitting in my room, checking my Western school email for no particular reason. Sitting in my in box is a message from the English department. I always wonder why, as a science student, I am constantly getting emails from the English department, but nonetheless I decide to read the email before deleting it.

“Students in Theatre Studies 3900G will explore the performance culture of a contemporary world city in a hands-on, intensive way”, reads the first line. Having spent the summer writing a play I do not know what to do with, theatre studies caught my eye and I continued reading. After several minutes of imagining myself immersed in theatre at the Globe and marvelling at the sites of London, I turned off my phone. I knew I could not take the course. My schedule was full, I was too busy, and theatre was not even close to my educational focus. Yet, for whatever reason I did not delete the email.

In September school continued as usual and it was not until November that Destination theatre would return to my mind. I am not a social media person, and as such my mom has taken to sending me anything she sees on Twitter that she thinks might be relevant. So one Saturday afternoon, when I was at the mall with my friend Faith, my phone buzzes and a link to the destination theatre page appears. I would have probably ignored it but Faith asked me what it was, and so I told her about the email from the summer.

Thus with the words “We should so do it”, the two of us were enrolled in the course within a week. Theatre had once again found its way back to me, even as I sought to evade it. Finally, now that I am here I could not be more excited!

As I mentioned, I spent the summer writing a play, for no reason other than I had an idea and thought I could do it. As I participate in this course I know I will gather invaluable information for making my play better and perhaps I will even find an avenue to put it on a stage one day. I love that theatre is something that always comes to me through spontaneous action. I always fear not being prepared for every contingency. There is something about theatre, however, that sets me free from this inflexibility, something about knowing the script but also knowing that improvisation is always an option. While I worry that I may have to face the homesickness that often seems to plague me and I know I will worry about everything coming together ‘perfectly’, I hope this mindset allows me to let go of these worries and enjoy England as it comes. I do not know what England has in store for me, but I do know it is an adventure that I will never forget, and one that will, in whatever small or large way, shape the rest of my life.