Feeling the Cultural Fabric

Theatre is a passion of mine. I can obsess over the Broadway headliners, I will dance around my house to opening numbers from big-band musicals, and I will recite trivia back and forth about original casts and script changes.

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Me in “Little Women”, 2012

During high school, my brother and I performed together in multiple productions and competitions for musical theatre, voice, and dance. Theatre became the thing that bonded my family, and we attended a theatre performance of some level and genre probably 3 to 4 times per week. We were season ticket holders at multiple companies, we knew the casts, we were friends with the directors, and we indulged in a lot of theatre.

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Myself and my brother as Danny Zuko in “Grease”, Calgary, 2016

Since coming to Western, my schedule has gradually become jam-packed and my intake of theatre has gone down. Instead, I choose to use theatre as a research topic for independent projects – I was even selected to present my research about West Side Story at the Western Student Research Conference last year. But then I found Destination Theatre, and I knew I had to enroll in this course. Not only does this course combine theatre and travel, but it allows students to actually experience performances, not just study them, and to experience some of the best theatre the world has to offer.

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2015

I imagine Destination Theatre will provide me with an opportunity to further my experience of theatre through an academic lens, in addition to being a fan and advocate of the art. I hope to also broaden my international experience, though the thought of flying to the UK by myself brings me nauseating visions of lost passports and stolen luggage. I think what I’m most excited for is to experience something new. I’ve been so privileged as to have visited the West End before, and this time I want to see something innovative and unapologetic, something unpredictable and inspiring. I want to see something that I wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else, something that I can’t really describe because I don’t know that it exists yet. I also want to have a completely new experience, not just inside the theatres, but within the cultural fabric that connects the London theatre community with the city at large. I want to witness everyday performances: public transit riders, high-end retail workers, dive bar waiters.

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The Audience of “As You Like It”, The Globe, London, 2015

During past trips, I’ve kept a list of random things that remind me of events, even if it’s just one word. For Destination Theatre, I plan on this list becoming a source of inspiration that I can keep coming back to for creative inspiration or academic motivation. Theatre will always be part of my life – whether woven into my career or as a weekend escape, I plan to always collect playbills and to find old ticket stubs in my coat pockets.

I plan to keep track of the everyday performances.

Morgan McAuley is a second-year student studying English Language & Literature and Advanced Arts & Humanities at Western University. She is from Calgary, Alberta. 

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Expectations, Hopes, and Fears – Carling

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Me now

My journey to Destination Theatre really began over a decade ago when I was seven years old. A close family friend bought tickets to see Annie at the Grand Theatre for me as a Christmas present. I remember being a little uncertain as I had never seen a play before and didn’t know what to expect.   As we sat in the plush velvet seats and I unwrapped a mint my mom had given me, I waited eagerly for the red curtain to rise.   From the moment the lights dimmed and the first note sounded, I was enthralled. I sat there breathless, and felt the rest of the performance pass in a blur. I knew in that moment that I was hooked. Theatre became a passion of mine as I began seeing plays on the regular, both amateur and professional.   I even took up acting and fell in love with being on stage as well as off. Although I semi-retired from acting after high school ended, I never lost my passion for theatre. I started spending any money I had left on shows in Stratford, London, and the surrounding area.   Although I was busy with university, I always kept my eyes open for new opportunities in theatre. Then, this summer I got an email from the English Department about the Destination Theatre program. I applied on a whim, never really expecting to get in. A few weeks later, I got an email congratulating me on my acceptance.   I was thrilled.

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Grandma and me in London in 2008

What drew me to Destination Theatre was the desire to revisit my love for theatre and to explore that love internationally. Although I have been to London, England before and experienced some of the city’s amazing theatre scene, I’m excited to go back it as someone older who has a new appreciation for the vast literary history contained within the city. During the last three years of university, while I have enjoyed watching theatre, I feel as though I have become somewhat distant from it. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I am no longer acting or performing various behind the scenes roles. Even though I still watch theatre and I study the text of famous playwrights like Shakespeare in my classes, something doesn’t feel quite right anymore.   My role in my love of theatre has changed from active participant and spectator to an observer and academic. It is one thing to read the text of a play and another to see it performed live, and unfortunately I have done more of the former in recent years. I have discovered that I’m not content to simply watch from the wings (if you’ll pardon my stage pun). I hope that by exploring both our local Southwestern Ontario theatre and the theatre in London in Destination Theatre may provide the new perspectives I crave, and may serve as a starting point to doing more Theatre Studies courses. I also hope that by participating in Destination Theatre that I may get back involved in theatre again either as an actor or as someone behind the scenes.

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Me at Traitor’s Gate in the Tower of London in 2008

Although the prospect of studying abroad has always appealed to me, I can’t help but feel some fear as well. I worry about traveling. I’m somewhat of a homebody who enjoys having her own space as a refuge from the world. While I have no doubt the people in this class are wonderful and like-minded individuals, I still worry that perhaps I might not fit in and that I may be wandering alone in a strange country. In some aspects, England is no stranger to me. I hear it in my grandmother’s voice, and picture it in the stories she and my great aunt tell me. I see it in the books I study. Sometimes when I picture my future, I can feel the tug of England on my heartstrings, the call of a motherland. I used to dream of getting an English passport, although Brexit may have slightly soured that dream. In some ways returning to England, years after my grandmother took me there to see where she came from, seems like it was made to be. Though leaving Canada may leave me slightly paralyzed with fear, the excitement I feel at the prospect of getting to create my own memories in a country that my family has lived and loved in overcomes any anxiety I may be have.   I can’t wait to see what Destination Theatre has to offer me and I hope that you come along with me for the ride.

Carling DeKay is a third year English student at Brescia University College.  She lives and writes in a haunted farmhouse with three cats.

London Local Ready for New Destination

I am in my fourth year and I cannot imagine a more exciting course to conclude my time at Western. I have been a Theatre Studies student since the program began and Destination Theatre will complete my minor. I have learned how to think critically about performance and production choices and I feel ready to expand and apply these skills in a new setting.

I have seen shows in Toronto, our Stratford, and our London. Therefore, I have never experienced a theatrical performance that is not shaped by the Southwestern Ontario environment. I have been to New York City, but I sadly did not see any theatre. It is a shocking revelation that my theatrical experiences have been very geographically limited. On this trip, we are going to see eight or more shows of various types across the city and beyond. If I were to go to London, England with my family or my friends I would hope to see one show at most. When will I have this opportunity to see this much theatre again? Probably never. I am counting the days.

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Stratford Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario

 

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Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon

I learned by reading Jen Harvie’s 2009 book, Theatre & the City, that geographical location shapes productions and vice-versa. I understand this concept, but I am yet to experience what this looks and feels like. I have read the theory, and now I am ready for the practice. My theatre outings are frequent in this London. Reflecting back on the recent performances I have seen, I realize that I almost always know, or at least recognize, someone in a production. I typically see shows at Palace Theatre, The Arts Project, and on campus. My perspective on theatre thus far is extremely localized. I have grown up in London’s theatre community and have never ventured afield, until now. I am excited to learn about spectating in different contexts, and I hope to experience many different forms of theatre while in England. That being said, I also look forward to embracing traditions. I especially like seeing and performing Shakespeare so I am most excited to visit Stratford-upon-Avon and see a Shakespeare production in its country of origin.

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Western Summer Shakespeare’s 2016 Production of Much Ado About Nothing outside of Talbot College on Western’s Campus. Photo by Whitney Bolam.

 

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Regent’s Open Air Theatre in London, England

My only concern is that I do not have a lot of travel experience. Since I am not a particularly spontaneous person, I prefer to know what is ahead. I feel like I don’t even know what I don’t know! When I think of England, what instantly comes to mind is Shakespeare, Love Actually,  and my very outdated knowledge from my Anglo-Saxon Literature course. There are some gaps in my knowledge, to say the least. Kim explained in our first lecture that there will be culture shock in England, even for Canadians. I understand there is much more to England than the tourist stereotypes I know, and I cannot wait to see how it affects their theatre. I know that Destination Theatre will break me free from my London, Ontario bubble and broaden my perceptions and knowledge in ways still unknown, and it cannot come fast enough.

Rachel Flear is a fourth-year English and Theatre Studies Student at Western from London, Ontario.