The England abroad group is back and concentrating hard on preparing the play Pericles for the Principia community. The play will debut Thursday, November 17th at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. The play will run from Thursday through Saturday.

Now that they are back on campus, the England abroad students are rehearsing for four hours a day and taking a Shakespeare class. Though the abroad was open to all disciplines, each of the students on the abroad is either an English or Theater major (one student is both). Those who are English majors are taking an extra Shakespeare class and those who are Theater majors are taking a voice class.

The England abroad group poses at the Globe Theatre. photo / Dana Gaubatz

While in England, the abroad students had the unique opportunity of attending classes and participating in workshops at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. The group worked with many of the same teachers multiple times while at the Globe Theater. These teachers helped them with voice and movement, how to interpret text, and also taught them dance, music, and costuming workshops.

In talking with the director of the play Chrissy Steele, she said, “The work at the globe theater is really tremendous, the training the students get there in voice, movement, and text analysis really does enhance their acting. Their skills develop tremendously during this work and it all feeds into their work on the play.”

At the end of their time working at the Globe Theater, the abroad group performed some scenes from A Winter’s Tale to showcase all that they had learned.

While in England, the group also got the opportunity to see ten performances. About half of the plays were Shakespeare. Some of the remaining plays were contemporary while the rest were more modern. Seeing these productions taught the students important lessons about production and showed them ways they could improve their play. The group saw a lot of great theater and had many opportunities to do in depth-research all of which helps in preparation for the play.

Steele commented, “The exciting thing about doing a project like a Shakespeare play in connection with the abroad, is that the students have had an immersion in Shakespeare’s world and language.”

Steele also said that Pericles was chosen because it has many “juicy roles” instead of just a few key characters. By doing this play, it allows more actors to do big roles. Another great aspect of this play is that it has room for gender switching. An example of this is the character Sermon. In the original play the character is written as Lord Sermon, but in the England Abroad’s show the character will be played by a woman.

While in England, each student researched at the British Library to find out more about their characters for the play and to learn more about how they would have lived during their time.

Steele said, “Although I don’t think the students were excited by the play at first, they have really embraced it. Once we started to understand what the play was about and the students did research into their characters they have gotten really excited about it.”

Pericles is a lesser-known Shakespeare romance that he co-wrote with George Wilkins. A Shakespearian romance has elements of comedy and tragedy. Senior Hillary Moser explained, “A Shakespearean romance starts with order, then all these chaotic things happen, and then it ends with order.”

Senior Mackenzie Olson described the play this way: “It’s got sword fighting and dancing and prostitution and shipwrecks and incest, it’s got everything!” Junior Rachel Bailey joked, “It’s got something for the whole family, everything you could possibly put on stage.”

The actors are currently doing a lot of work understanding and interpreting the text. Steele said, “What’s really important to me is that the audience understands what it is being said, it isn’t enough for the actors to know what the words mean, they need to be able to convey the meaning of the words in a way so that the audience will understand their meaning.”

The current England abroad is the first group to go to Keswick and York, which are both located in the Lake District. The Lake District is a region in North West England popular for its beautiful lakes and mountains. While in Keswick, the group got to visit Castlerigg Stone Circle. It is the oldest stone circle in Europe.

The group had plenty of free time in Keswick and York to explore and study English culture. While in these regions, they had the chance to interview natives and talk to them about what it means to be English.

Something interesting the group learned was that there are a lot of unspoken rules about politeness and not asking people certain questions. Olson said, “We learned that it is really rude to ask outright questions. People in England always talk about the weather. That is always a safe subject.”

Moser said,  “We have been so immersed in English culture and literature for the past 11 weeks, and our experiences in England researching characters and seeing plays really helped us to better understand our play and its characters.”

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