Applications for this project are now closed. Thank you for your interest.
No city in the world is more central to the history and vitality of English-language theater than London. New York and Chicago are theatrical powerhouses, but the history, traditions, and variety of theater in London are simply unmatched. This 2018 Winter Term project offers a group of 12 students the chance to travel to London for two weeks to study theater in performance, principally by preparing for, attending, and discussing eight plays currently in production. The immersion in theater will be complemented by exposure to whatever aspects of London’s immeasurably rich cultural and social life you may be interested in; the goal will be to provide you with a productive balance of structured group experiences and free time, so as to allow each of you the most rewarding Winter Term possible.
This project is based on my experience of teaching on the Oberlin-in-London Program six times since 1982, and of co-directing London theater trips for Oberlin alumni every other summer since 1996. I have lived in London for extensive periods and know it well, and I love introducing students (and others) to the vitality of one of the most dynamic cities on the planet.
Plays will be selected to provide a balanced variety of classics and new work, but the primary criterion will be to find the most interesting productions, based on my sense of the London theater scene. We will also tour the reconstructed Globe Theatre and Exhibition, take a backstage tour of the National Theatre complex, and visit relevant exhibits at such institutions as the Museum of London and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The goal will be to give you a sense of the role theater has played in the city’s social, aesthetic, and intellectual life over the course of four centuries, not through lectures, but by introducing you to the artistic and material evidence available on site.
I will ask you to read as many of the plays as are available to us during the winter break and first week of Winter Term. Once in London, we will meet as a group for about 90 minutes every morning for a full discussion of the production we saw the night before, the play we’re about to see that night, and other evolving issues in our consideration of theater. (For instance, we might discuss the differences between the experience of seeing a play in an ornate Victorian proscenium theater and seeing one in a small space built into the brick arches underneath London Bridge railway station. My last London Program group had these experiences in the first week of their semester.) By first exploring the various interpretive problems the play poses to its director, designers, and actors, we will be primed to think about how the particular production we see responds to those challenges. Students who are used to considering plays primarily as literary texts often find it a revelation to think about them from the perspective of performance; conversely, students especially interested in the practice of theater find their knowledge deepened through textual analysis. Budget permitting, I’d like to invite an actor whom we’ve seen in one of the productions to meet with us as a class; my London groups have met with such actors as Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Alex Jennings, Eve Best, Lindsay Duncan, and Rory Kinnear, and those meetings have been among the highlights of our experience.
While the project will incorporate considerable group activity—the morning meetings, periodic afternoon excursions, evening theater—I believe it’s also important to allow you the opportunity to explore the city on your own. Those who have not visited London previously may want to visit such sites as Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, for instance, while others might prefer to explore the Brick Lane market or (depending on the weather) Hampstead Heath. Most of the major museums—the British Museum, the National Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the V&A, etc.—offer free admission, and I’ll encourage you to take full advantage of it. All participants will be issued Travelcards, which allow unlimited use of the bus and Underground system throughout central London.
Participants will be selected by application and (possibly) interview. I will give some priority to those who have studied dramatic literature and/or had theatrical training, but all students with a serious interest are encouraged to apply. I welcome those who have not had the opportunity to travel abroad previously, and I will work to give them the tools to feel confident about doing it. Once the group is selected, I plan to meet with you in the fall semester to help prepare for the trip, both by sharing information and by introducing you to each other, so that we can hit the ground running when we arrive in London.
Our morning classes will be based at our Oberlin-in-London headquarters in Bloomsbury, where students will also have access to a computer lab, lounge, and library. You will be housed in small groups in furnished apartments with kitchenettes, which will enable you to economize by preparing many of your meals at home. You will be responsible for arranging your own transportation to London and for your own food costs in London, but otherwise most of the costs of the trip should be covered by the program fee.
I hope you’ll be interested in applying.
Professor of English