My “Thing” or Not: Opening My Eyes to The World of Theatre

I first heard about this amazing opportunity from my friend who is in involved in Western’s Theatre Studies program. She said she just got accepted to go to England for two weeks and watch live performances in theatres such as “Her Majesty’s Theatre” and even go to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birth place of Shakespeare.
Now I’m not a huge fan of theatre— or so I thought, as I begun this course. I’m from a very small town and we don’t have any live theatre performances other than whatever the local high schools put on, and so from lack of experience I was ignorant —and still am, in a way,— to what I have signed up for. As classes began for the course, I learned more about theatre and famous plays and I became more and more interested, and just wanted to see a live performance for myself. So when I went to see Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad at The Grand theatre, I was blown away. The theatre was beautiful, and it gave me an excuse to dress up and feel like more than just your typical university student. As I followed the streaming mass of theatre lovers in and took my seat, I couldn’t help but look around in avid awe. So this is what sophisticated people did for fun, I thought. Marveling at the fact I could now be counted among this unique society. As the lights began to dim and the commotion of the audience slowly died away, I was transfixed on that center spot light and melancholy music drifting throughout the theatre, pierced only by the strong, hypnotizing voice of Penelope herself. And that was it, I was done for.
I have always been known to prefer hiding away in my room with a good book, then go and hang out with friends, and I thought that was my thing. But I’m now thinking that maybe theatre could be my thing too. Both are experiences that remove you from your everyday life, freeze time, and transform the way you see things, whether that be through a two-hour play or an 800-page novel.
I hope to further my knowledge of the theatre, and increase my respect for literature and live performances in general. Also this course takes place in England among all places… the birthplace of my favourite authors, and a country filled with so much history and memories, I can only hope that I will learn a lot and hold on to that information for years to come. This trip is going to make a dreary summer of working a 9-5 job, amazing. I can’t wait to come home and tell my friends and family all that I have seen and done.
As school comes to a close, and the takeoff date for England comes closer, I begin to feel a bit anxious and unsure of myself. I truly don’t know anything about theatre and what if my classmates look down on me for just discovering my interest in theatre now. I just hope I can get as much from the plays as them and contribute insightful opinions and follow the conversation along.
See you soon England!

I’m Luke Lee Young, and we’re rolling out looking for the UK’s greatest scenes, shows and spectacles!

I registered to be a part of Destination Theatre because when I go abroad, I like to see what theatre productions are showing at the locations that I am visiting. However, my family is not a big fan of theatre and I do not often get to go see productions when I go abroad because my family claims I “ruined” theatre for them. Since I was young, I would perform in musicals and thus, my interest in theatre began. However, my mother would force my siblings to attend my shows and they hated every last minute of them. The last time I went off to the United Kingdom (specifically Edinburgh, Scotland) Sister Act was touring with Alexandria Burke playing Deloris Van Cartier. I really wanted to see it so badly, but my siblings said no. Now with Destination Theatre, I get to go to England with the intent of seeing various shows with a group of people that actually want to see them. I basically get to do what I love abroad and nobody can say “no” to seeing theatre when that is the purpose of the course. I also study theatre at Western so what better way to widen my knowledge of the theatre than to experience it out of country. Something that bothers me is when people go to the Caribbean, for example, and only stay at resorts. As someone who was born in the Caribbean, I know that there is so much more beyond the resort building that people choose not to see. This does tourists a disservice because they do not get to experience the true essence of the place they are visiting. I have learned to appreciate other cultures by exploring and theatre is an excellent medium to explore a different country.

However, I do have some questions before we embark on this journey. I am arriving at Gatwick early on the 14th because I booked a Spice Girls concert for the next day. My source of anxiety is first of all finding my way from the airport to the arena. Also, the residence is not open until the 15th for our stay. I need to find an Airbnb to stay at so I am not homeless. So, I need to figure out: (1) how to get myself from the airport to central London (2) how to use the transit system and (3) do I choose an Airbnb near QMUL or near Wembley Stadium where the concert is held? I also think I need to take into account what to pack. I know I need to bring a converter to charge my electronics, weather appropriate clothes, get some UK currency and get a cellphone plan. I am also terrified of getting lost but if I get lost, I can most probably message someone. I am mostly concerned about the time before the June 15th and after the 30th because my flight is on the July 2nd rather than the 30th of June so once again, I need to figure out Airbnb and transportation on my own. Other than that, I am ready and super excited.

Oh, The Places We’ll Go; 
Things I Have to Say Before We Go Up, Up and Away

During my childhood, I was always interested in performance. I grew up as a dancer and took drama throughout high school, performing in three of my high school’s musicals. With theatre and performance being a big part of my life before Western, I questioned how it could continue during my studies. Last semester, I stumbled upon Kim Solga’s experiential learning course when looking for a half semester elective to fill my schedule. Her class allowed me to visit Toronto and see five amazingly diverse shows. Being an English major, I had never seen live theatre in my studies, so this class was a real treat to me. At the time I was also taking MJ Kidnie’s class Remediated Shakespeare. This course also allowed me to visit Stratford for the first time and try my hand at playing Hamlet for our final project. Both Kim and MJ exposed me to a side of Western I had never seen before, and needless to say, I am officially hooked. To finally answer the question, “What brought you to Destination Theatre”, I give credit to both of those classes in guiding me towards Theatre Western’s fall production, POSH. A few classmates and I saw this production with MJ and one of her previous students who had taken Destination Theatre. During intermission, MJ and her student gave us a very persuasive and intriguing sales pitch for this course. Upon further research, I knew this class would be an absolute hoot, and the perfect way to grow my love for live theatre.

Me in my first dance recital – 2004

I hope this course allows me to see many different types of shows. I am curious about alternate forms of staging, especially when the audience is immersed in the stage itself. In Kim’s class, we were able to see Gertrude and Alice at Buddies in Bad Times theatre which housed the stage below two sets of risers that faced each other. This was a very immersive experience and gave the personal story even more intimacy. I think this could be used in interesting ways and agree with Helen Freshwater’s ideas regarding a non-static audience experience. I believe theatre does not exist without the audience, so including them when creating a piece is vital.

Me in my high school’s production of Mary Poppins – 2016

I’m also interested to see how small scale productions in the London function differently than in Canada. I feel that mega-musical’s will remain consistent across borders because they are produced to travel and appeal to global audiences. What interests me more is how London’s ‘fringe’ theatre functions. I wonder if it is provocative, stimulating, and gutsy like some shows I’ve seen in Ontario. I have a feeling it will function in the same boundary-pushing way that some productions in Canada are able to but am curious as to just how much the production can press at hot-button topics or social issues.

Logistically speaking, I have many questions. I have not done a lot of travelling and this trip will be my first time overseas. With that in mind, I am both excited and nervous. I have flown twice previously and am not particularly nervous about the flight, but I do gain anxiety when thinking of navigating through airports and London on my own for the first time. I am comforted, however, knowing that I am not exactly in this alone and will be with a group of very eager theatre-loving kids just like myself. I find myself getting more excited by the minute!

Theatre on the World Stage: Why I Choose Destination Theatre

All my life, I have loved to perform, whether it was in dance, school plays, on a field, on the ice, or putting on shows with my friends for our parents. Unfortunately, as I grew up, I became so involved with sports I lost out on the chance to perform in a theatre setting. In coming to Western, I have had the opportunity to combine my love of performance and textiles while re-introducing theatre into my life through Theatre Western. In the Fall of 2017, I was the Costume Designer for Theatre Western’s production of Our Town by Thornton Wilder as well as the Head of Wardrobe for their Spring 2019 production of Chicago by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Though I wasn’t performing on the stage during these productions I still fell in love with theatre. With the love of theatre re-ignited within me, I chose to take Destination Theatre to enhance my knowledge of the way theatre companies chose which plays and musicals they will produce as well as how they choose who to hire to run the show in the background.

While in London, England I hope to learn about how professional companies run and how they are able to put on shows when something goes wrong. In my few experiences, I have found shows often have challenges to overcome during preproduction, be it political, or creative which makes it difficult for the stage hands to create the director’s vision. I have also seen how technical mistakes or difficulties can affect a show, and would like to know how actors and stage hands deal with these moments. I would also love to learn about their costume departments, how they come up with the costumes and construct them as well as learn better ways of keeping the wardrobe area clean, clear, and organized.

Aside from learning from the theatre companies, I look forward to learning about the culture and ways of life in London, England in general. I have spent a great deal of time learning about England during Roman and Medieval times and look forward to learning about the city in modern times. I have been to other parts of Europe but have never had the chance to travel to England before, so I am very excited that Western offers this opportunity. The concerns I hold about the trip itself revolves around the days I am in London outside of the scheduled days, as it will be the first time I will organize a trip myself. I need to figure out where I will be staying and what I would like to see and do while I am there. Aside from these reservations, I look forward to this trip.

Why I Chose Destination Theatre

If time would be kinder
I wouldn’t need a reminder
But winter to spring makes me blue;
The clocks are a bummer
But soon it will be summer
And the British sun brings me to you.

Growing up, I was probably definitely the kid that annoyed everyone else because I always did my homework and raised my hand in class. Although I used to be super passionate about schoolwork, last year and summer my disposition changed. I reached a low point in my program and my self-esteem. I was enrolled full-time in Business courses and while I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to pursue my degrees, it really affected my morale. I wasn’t inspired by what I was studying and I felt like everyone around me was trying to game the system or compete against me. I definitely didn’t fit into the mould and with every piece of myself that I shaved or carved, I realized I was becoming unhappier and more exhausted. To exacerbate an already difficult situation, I drifted apart from a very important friend of mine during the summer and that shattered my already fragile self-confidence.

Now, you’re probably wondering what this sob story has to do with Destination Theatre (and I don’t blame you). Destination Theatre fits into this story like a kind note from an old friend that you find at the bottom of your backpack. It acts as my reminder to enjoy school and to unfold my inner passions. It’s the first time in a long time that I am genuinely excited about a course! I think this is a great opportunity for me to rekindle my connection to my inner nerd all while discovering a completely new country and culture.

I’m most excited about the workshops. I saw Wicked on Broadway in January and I absolutely loved it! However, I wish I understood a bit more about the acting, costuming, and singing. Therefore, I think the workshops will be a great way to deepen my understanding and appreciation for performance.

In addition, I’m excited to be surrounded by people who appreciate art and performance. Although Western has a great Arts and Humanities community, the majority of non-Arts students do not have a true appreciation for it. In fact, I think that a lot of people undervalue Arts degrees. I know that our professor mentioned that British people generally have a deeper engagement with art so I can’t wait to partake in a culture that normalizes and appreciates theatre.

In terms of my fears, I’m most worried about being in a new city and finding my way around. Luckily, I know a lot of people in my class, but I am still nervous about meeting new people in the class and in England. I’m also curious about what England will actually be like and how it will compare to how it is portrayed in media.

There’s a lot of new things to learn about in England and I hope I’ll be able to revel in the experience, without crumpling under my insecurities. I hope that at the end of the trip I’ll be able to fold and carry my experience as a constant reminder of what inspires me.