Exploring Theatre and Ourselves

Theatre in London was first popularized during the reign of Elizabeth I, from 1558-1603. The queen hosted regular private performances for her court, most frequently selecting productions by Shakespeare’s company of players. The first permanent theatre in London was built in 1576, when the public was introduced to Shakespeare en masse. In 1642, the Puritans banned all theatre in London for a period of 18 long years, but after the end of the English Civil War, the new monarchy reinstated their patronage of the arts. Theatre has continued to flourish in the city ever since. Today, there are over 230 professional theatres in the city, and is an international destination for both classic and contemporary theatre, holding a wealth of offerings for the cultural tourist.

Potential Itinerary

We take an overnight flight to London and arrive in the morning. After settling in to our hotel, we gather as a group to map out our program itinerary and the set goals for our week in England. Students create a “full value contract”, where the expectations and roles of each member of the group are aligned. Traveling educators provide feedback and guidance. Individual students then lay out their personal learning goals for the trip, and all group members make commitments to support each other’s development. Envoys staff introduce the rules and protocols necessary to maintain good health and minimize the risk of accidents.

We dive right into the ancient world of London theatre with a visit to the Globe Theatre, first built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The original building was destroyed by fire and the second construction was closed by a city ordinance in 1642 closing all London theatres, which cited the incompatibility of public plays, representing “lascivious mirth and levity” with the current “times of humiliation”. However, a studious reconstruction of the Globe opened in 1997 close to the site of the original. With a historical guide, we visit the third incarnation of the Globe, learning about the history of theatre in London and how old traditions are being kept alive today in this incredible open-air space. We end the day with a walk through Bloomsbury and our first dinner together in London.

We start the day with a theatre workshop with a group of local artists, followed by a visit to the Sir John Soan Museum, a house museum that was the home of neo-classical architect John Soane. The house is home to Soane’s large collection of paintings, drawings and antiquities and is a national center for the study of architecture.

After dinner, we attend a performance at the Royal Court Theatre, a non commercial West End theatre and the home of the English Stage Company.

We spend the day at the Inns of Court. The Inns of Court, professional associations for barristers in England, were built in the 14th century to house common law
lawyers who were prohibited from studying law within the city of London by Henry II. The Inns played an important role in the history of Renaissance Theatre. Dozens of notable literary figures and playwrights resided here, and the earliest recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was in the Middle Temple Hall. After dinner, we attend a performance at the Almeida Theatre, a 325-seat studio theatre with an international reputation that produces a diverse range of drama.

We walk the Millenium Mile, a scenic walkway along the south bank of the Thames River that provides wonderful views of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. We spend the rest of the afternoon at the legendary Tate Museum of Contemporary Art. Afterwards, students get some free time to explore Borough Market, the city’s most renowned food market, to try local specialties and discover the vibrant international food scene in London. After dinner at Borough Market, we attend a performance at one of London’s most reputed theatres, the Young Vic.

We return to our Shakespeare workshop for a morning of immersive theatre instruction, and then attend an afternoon performance at the National Theatre, one of the UK’s most prominent publicly funded performing arts venues. The theatre presents a varied program including Shakespeare, other international classic drama, and new plays by contemporary playwrights. After an afternoon of rest and relaxation, we have a special group dinner at Moro Restaurant in Exmouth Market.

We head out to Eton College, established in 1440, for a guided tour of the historic campus. We close our day with a final dinner, where students share what they have taken away from the program and make public commitments to share the experience back home, and use it as motivation for their own practice and exploration of theatrical performance.

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