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.

 

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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.