Over spring break, Park Tudor’s Theatre Department travelled to London for an experiential learning adventure. Senior William Main, juniors Oliver Main and Michael Gibbs, sophomore Matthew Wessler, and freshmen Chloe English, Stella Friskney, Alicia Zelmanovitz and Raiden Miyamoto travelled with Mr. Nolan Brokamp and me. The focus of our trip was to see theatre on the global stage, in a city where the arts are thriving.
We toured Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where we met an actress for the Royal Shakespeare Company, who ran a workshop exploring the text in King Lear. We visited Colfe’s School in Greenwich, where actress Maggie Bain led a workshop using Frantic Assembly’s rehearsal techniques. Frantic Assembly is a theatre company renowned for their movement direction for film, TV, and stage. We had a backstage tour of the National Theatre, considered one of central London’s top employers. Around 4,000 people worked at the National Theatre in 2017-18 - from actors, to ushers, to scenic artists. The National Theatre offers an interesting argument for investment in the arts: “The NT receives a regular grant from Arts Council England of £16.7m each year. Grants allow us to tour our work around the country, run learning and participation programs, protect our lowest ticket prices (which offers any person under 25 entry to every play they produce for £15) and invest in the development of new work and world-leading artists. Public funding for the arts makes up just 0.05% of Government spending and delivers a return of £5 in taxes for every £1 invested. This modest investment in the Arts is one of the reasons why the Creative Industries are the fastest growing part of the UK economy.”
Jesse Fox, one of my students from the UK, is now an actor, playwright and director. We interviewed him and met his theatre company at the New Diaorama Theatre, as they ran a technical rehearsal for their new show, Keep Watching, which explores the impact surveillance is having on society. Jesse talked about his journey from high school to university, giving advice about how to audition for theatre programs at university, and his professional life so far. His advice to our students: “In theatre, know how to make meaningful work so that you don’t have to rely on someone else to hire you. Although it’s great when you get commercial work, my background in devising and original-theatre making has been what’s kept me working for years.”
London theatre always has interesting new works on offer, and Hundred Words for Snow by Tatty Hennessey didn’t disappoint. A one-woman show exploring a teenager’s grief after losing her father was poignant, hilarious, and moving. Seeing Matilda got us excited for when we will perform the musical on our own stage (soon, but not next year!), and the new musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jaime, had us dancing in our seats. We finished the week off with The Woman in Black, a two-man show meant to horrify audiences; the theatre was full of screams.
The London Theatre trip was an transformational for all of us and we are grateful for the opportunity to offer such an extraordinary experience for students and teachers alike.
“The London theatre trip was one of the most meaningful traveling experiences I’ve ever had. Since I’m very interested in pursuing a career in the arts, this trip gave me a detailed look into the world of theatre, mainly through the eyes of performers, writers, and directors. Workshops such as scene study at The Globe theatre and physical theatre with Frantic Assembly really furthered my understanding of how to connect with audiences. After each and every show, we all left the theatre with a new perspective or sense of excitement. Even the streets of London were dramatic. We saw so many interesting things like street performers, carts selling an array of foods, graffitied walls that seemed to never end, and of course Pizza Express. I will take a lot away from this adventure including lasting memories, inside jokes, new friendships, and an even stronger love for theatre.”
-Stella Friskney ‘22