Issue 343: 6 / 7 / 2010
From Southwest to London
Reprinted from the Tri-State Defender
Study-abroad trip thrills theatre students
by Libya Freeman
Special to the Tri-State Defender
Talking about London theatre is not quite the same as seeing its bright lights and hearing its unforgettable sounds.
That is one of the enduring lessons learned by Southwest Tennessee Community College Theatre Appreciation class students who traveled to London to study English theatre during spring break.
Ten students, ranging in age from late teens to mid-fifties, made the trip, along with three professors – Levi Frazier Jr., Evelyn Little and Deborah Frazier – and a media person, Kendall Gloster. It was all part of a state-supported Study Abroad program component that is unique to Southwest. The component caters to students who have work and family responsibilities and cannot be away three weeks in the summer, which is the rule in the Tennessee Component for International Studies, a statewide college and university program that allows students to take classes in foreign countries.
“This was the first semester/year for this (special Southwest) component,” Frazier. “You could say it was a maiden voyage.”
The seven-hour plane ride to Amsterdam, and then a connecting flight to London, tired the students. Still, as the airplane prepared to land at Heathrow Airport, their faces lit up with excitement.
After a good night’s sleep, the students awoke on Sunday morning and attended orientation given in the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) dormitory by Clair Kibblewhite, an IES programs manager. There they received itineraries and a lecture on safety procedures, local etiquette, and some must-see spots around the city. Next up was a sightseeing tour that included amazing sights such as the Buckingham Palace, the Clock Tower (Big Ben), and the Millennium Bridge.
Monday morning the students awoke and went to breakfast at a local Belgian restaurant. As they enjoyed their meal, absent ice in their drinks, student travelers noticed the first of many differences. Americans almost always demand ice but that is not the case with cultures abroad.
After breakfast, guest lecturer and Oxford Professor Raymond Chapman spoke to the students on the life and times of William Shakespeare. His expertise and humor engaged the class as he discussed Shakespeare’s works.
Monday night the students attended the first of five performances, Tennessee Williams’ play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” starring James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, and Adrian Lester. After the performance, the students and professors met Rashad and Jones backstage.
Five of the ten nights we were in London, we attended performances and frequently met the actors backstage. With each production, the students were able to examine how the plays differed in theme, direction and overall creativeness.
On Wednesday, we went on a backstage tour of the National Theatre where we gained a great appreciation, not only for those on stage, but those working behind the scenes such as the costume designers, seamstresses, set builders, painters, lighting technicians, etc. Also, during the day, everyone went on a walking tour of one of the famous theatre districts and saw several theatres where African-American greats Paul Robeson and Ira Aldridge performed.
One of the great highlights of the trip was our visit to Stratford and the home of Shakespeare. His home and belongings gave us a glimpse into daily life.