Many come from near and far to the artistic and cultural hub of Orange City, Iowa. With a prolific college theater and active public arts scene, the small town can be seen as a welcome place for thespians seeking to find treasures in the most unusual places. But what are students to do when they want to see what the world has to offer for theater? When it takes a day’s drive to find a new show and college budgets are tight, what’s a curious entertainer to do? Northwestern College is offering students the opportunity to learn about the history and culture surrounding theater with its theater department for a Summer Study Abroad in perhaps the most historic city for the art: London, England. And after putting on a plethora of shows such as Puppet Fest, RUSH and “The Cherry Orchard,” both students and faculty are looking forward to some time to let their artistic curiosity be indulged and their own time in the patron seats.
Students have the opportunity to accompany Dr. Bob Hubbard and Professor Ethan Koerner as they travel across the pond this summer to dive deeper into the art and culture of England. The trip is from May 21 to June 12 and begins in the midland city of Gloucester, home to the infamous Gloucester Cathedral (and where multiple scenes in the Harry Potter film franchise were shot). When in Gloucester, students will stay with host families for five days as it serves as a base for numerous day trips. These ventures include Malvern Hills, Ludlow Castle and Stratford-upon-Avon. Not only is Stratford-upon-Avon renowned for its Tudor-Style architecture, it’s also the birthplace of playwright William Shakespeare. The previous London Summer Study Abroad was led by beloved NW Theater retirees Jeff and Karen Barker. This trip included day trips to Oxford, visits to St. Paul’s Cathedral and front-row seats to “Les Misérables.”
After their time site-hopping from Gloucester, students and faculty will spend over two weeks in central London. Mornings will be spent going to class and learning about the arts and culture of the city, afternoons visiting numerous museums and evenings spent at the theatre. While shows haven’t been picked yet, there’s no doubt the group will be seeing some of the best theater in the world. This will include multiple Shakespeare plays, up-and-coming dramas and at least one West End musical (London’s equivalent of Broadway).
Dr. Hubbard, who is leading his fifth trip to the city this summer says, “The theatre in London is a wonderful mixture of subsidized and commercial theatre. One of the results is that ticket prices are much less than comparable theatre in New York. The plays are often more challenging than what we can see in most of the commercial theatre in the United States.”
Professor Koerner is looking forward to his first time on the excursion: “I’m excited to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, and experience theatre in the Globe (a reproduction of the theatre Shakespeare performed in), as well as experiencing some of the best theatre in the world and visiting some of the oldest and largest museums.” Dr. Hubbard echoes this sentiment and hopes the students who attend will gain a greater appreciation of British culture through its expression in visual arts and on stage.
“London is one of the most diverse and most culturally influential cities in the world, and this trip will provide students to engage with culture and the arts on a global scale, as well as engage with the rich history of a city that has been in existence in one form or another for almost two millennia,” said Koerner.
Come next fall, there will be numerous stories and experiences to be shared both outside of, and within, the theater department. Perhaps an even richer theater experience will be brought back to the DeWitt Theatre Arts Center to be shared with all of campus throughout next school year.