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A group of Oglethorpe students will soon be embarking on their “Shakespeare at Oxford” experience. This unique course and trip, satisfying the English Department’s Shakespeare requirement or upper-division elective credits (no prior performance experience is required), will involve studying five Shakespearean plays in the classroom, through play-going, and through student performance work in Atlanta, and via play-going and sightseeing in London, Oxford, and Stratford-upon-Avon. Play-going and study will include Georgia Shakespeare’s productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and
Titus Andronicus, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the Oxford Shakespeare Company’s performances of The Comedy of Errors and Romeo and Juliet.

The Atlanta portion of the class, team-taught by Renaissance Drama scholars Drs. Hornback and McCarthy, will meet for three and a half weeks, Monday-Thursday, 10:30-12:50 p.m., from June 22-July 15. While reading and studying five plays matched to those they will be seeing, students will also be exploring select scenes through
performance.  The class will be meeting with Georgia Shakespeare
actors and Artistic Director Richard Garner to get “behind-the-scenes” insights into the company’s productions.

After the Atlanta class portion, students and professors will then begin the course trip to England from July 16-July 28, with four days spent in London and seven in Oxford (with one full weekend in each city), arriving home at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday the 28th.  We’ll depart from Atlanta, Thursday, July 16, at 10:30 p.m. on Delta for a direct overnight flight (eight and a half hours) to London, arriving at noon on Friday July 17th.  While in London, we’ll stay at the four-star Russell Square Hotel, which London guidebooks call “the best of the grand Victorian hotels” in the city, and tour historic sites (e.g., the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey), museums (the nearby British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Gallery), and the British Library; see a play at the Globe Theatre; and take a cruise on the River Thames.  For fun, we’ll also attend an outdoor performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the lovely Regents Park, London. 

In Oxford, where we’ll stay in Oxford University dorms of castle-like Wadham College (founded 1610), we’ll be continuing the performance/scene-work initiated in Atlanta, ultimately putting on a final performance of select scenes before we celebrate with a formal banquet by candle light in the majestic Great Hall or Old Library at Wadham. In addition, we will see historic sites in Oxford, have a hands-on workshop at Oxford University’s magnificent Bodleian Library, enjoy “punting” (boating propelled by polls) on the Cherwell River, visit Shakespearean sites in Oxford and in a full day at Stratford-upon-Avon, see plays by the famed Royal Shakespeare Company and the Oxford Shakespeare Company, and chat about it all in historic pubs like the Kings Arms (founded 1607), the Inklings’ (Tolkien and Lewis) favored Eagle and Child, and the famed Turf Tavern, the site of a tavern since the thirteenth century.

Alongside this remarkable course and trip, many students will be taking directed 2-4 unit Independent Study courses in topics of their own devising, including “Tolkien,” “Percy Bysshe Shelley,” “Roman Britain,” “Antony & Cleopatra,”,“The Olympics in London,” “Art History,” and even “Harry Potter.”

Itinerary for Shakespeare at Oxford '09

Student Feedback on Shakespeare at Oxford '08

The first thing that struck me about the Globe was how small the space seemed. There is very little distance between even the box seats and the stage. I supposed I had imagined the Globe to be this massive, cavernous theater that was every bit as epic as the plays staged there. Instead, the relatively small size fostered a sense of intimacy between the performers and the audience, allowing both to connect in a way that a more sprawling theater could not.
As I thought about it, I decided that there really is not a bad seat in the Globe. Rather, how you experience the performance is completely different depending on where you are sitting. The experience for the groundlings would be much more visceral, but sitting higher up would provide a better overview of the on stage action. Sitting on the side means that you miss some of the “big” moments but are privy to others that the rest of the audience cannot see. The Globe Theatre seems made, almost by design, to demand multiple viewings of the same production to fully experience every facet of the performance.  –Greg Wallace '10,  English Major, Minor in Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies

It seems like quite a simple statement to make, but I loved Oxford. It had something to do with the oldness of everything—eating breakfast in the original Wadham dining hall, sitting in the centuries old King’s Arms, seeing the grounds of some of the colleges. I am (sometimes unfortunately) nostalgic by nature, and the whole week just felt like one moment of recognition after another. Getting to perform in the cloistered garden at Wadham was a very real experience for me, particularly when I was Gloucester: actually falling into the earth, smelling the dirt and leaves, and feeling the rain on my face made everything so natural to me. I felt very honest in all that I was in that moment. . . . There is something so comfortable about that city for me, and I hope that I will be back again not very long from now. Oh, and “punting” on the Cherwell was sweet. –Stephanie Laubscher '09, Independently Planned Major

It was forcing [me] out of my comfort zone that made me love and appreciate Oxford. One such moment came from performing in the Cloister Gardens at Wadham College. There was something about being enclosed by buildings hundreds of years old that really allowed me to lose myself in performance and become the characters I was playing. The fact that students have been studying in that garden for centuries made me realize how timeless words are—that no matter how long ago they were constructed, carefully crafted phrases studied and performed with energy can mentally and spiritually move both the actor and the audience of any time period. And students have been engaging in such a challenge on that very soil, a humbling moment when you really think about it. –Olivia Rocamora '10, English Major

The Globe Theater was one of the coolest theaters I have ever been in (though I liked the one in Regents Park, London, the best of any I have ever seen a play at). I liked the way it was set up with space for the groundlings because in our modern thoughts it seems very strange to stand up for the entirety of a performance (besides a concert). I wish I had a ticket for standing up now that I saw how engaged the actors were with members of that audience. Those audience members were right up in the action with the trap doors and the men running about half naked with fake blood all over them. It was intense. I couldn’t picture as many people as we had talked about being there in Shakespeare’s days because the night we went it wasn’t sold out but very crowded as it was. –Megan Van Doran '09, double-major in Rhetoric and Communication Studies, English

 At the National Portrait Gallery in London I was struck most by the portrait of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife. Her portrait was the largest of any of the wives, and to me her presence was much stronger than the rest of the women. I also thought she was the most beautiful of the wives. Her face is delicate and gentle, yet seems firm of purpose; her gaze is pointed and intelligent. The composition is interesting with its triangular repetition of form and the richly detailed patterning of the rug beneath her feet and her clothing, all working in unison to make her seem quite a formidable yet feminine queen (really, her sleeves alone demand one’s full attention). The most intriguing aspect of the portrait, however, were her interlaced fingers and the flower they held. In a composition dominated by symmetry, her fingers are plaited asymmetrically. It is interesting to note that hands holding a flower appeared to be a convention of court portraiture of the time, but Catherine’s hands are much more tactile than most, as she seems to be experiencing the texture of the flower, rather than holding an uncharacterized object. The description-plate by the painting said that Catherine was a great patroness of the arts, and the way she grasps the flower seems to convey a sense of her aesthetic appreciation. As I looked at her, I could not help but wonder what her fate would have been had she not been the one that “survived” her husband. –Chelcie Rowell '09, English major with a minor in Art History

                                                                       

 

 

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