How can a student see a show in a candlelit Jacobean theater, visit a 500-year-old pub, and get a backstage tour of a theater complex in just two weeks? By going on an Oberlin winter term trip, of course.
This January, Professor of English and creative writing David Walker led the Theater in London winter-term project for the second time since 2016, taking 12 students on a thrilling trip to see 10 plays and musicals in one of the most dynamic cities for theater in the world. For Maya Wolf ’20, a theater major with a concentration in management, everything about this trip was right up her alley.
“I wanted to get the chance to explore a different continent for a little bit, and this was an opportunity to see so many different shows and styles of theater,” says Wolf. “It gave me a chance to combine my areas of interest because we were reading the plays and talking about them as both pieces of literature, and through the constraints of an actual physical production.”
Walker relied on his extensive knowledge of London theater in choosing which productions the group would see. Having led the Oberlin-in-London semester abroad program multiple times and taken groups of alumni to London every other summer, Walker’s familiarity with the scene facilitated another great itinerary for this year’s students.
“For me, the biggest benefit of the trip was remembering how theater, which I did a lot of in high school but haven’t engaged with at Oberlin very much, intersects with so many other of my academic and personal interests,” says Nathan Carpenter ’20, an environmental studies major.
In addition to classroom discussions, the group took full advantage of the opportunities inherent to simply being in London. The schedule included field trips to the National Theatre, a backstage tour of the production facilities, a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe, and a show in the adjacent Jacobean theater, lit only by candlelight. With ample free time to explore on their own, students visited the Tate Modern and the National Gallery or walked the wall of the Tower of London as the sun set over the city.
“It was really amazing to be in London for two weeks because it was just enough time to really get a feel for the city, and as a history major with a specific interest in European history, being able to see over 2,000 years of history built into a city itself was kind of mind-boggling,” says history and English double-major Rami Teeter ’20.
Of course, traveling to London and participating in these activities wasn’t free. But due to funding opportunities through the college, Walker was able to apply for grants and make the trip accessible for students of varying economic backgrounds. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity and I wish every student had the chance to take part in a trip like this,” Walker says. “The only way it’s financially feasible is because of terrific sources of funding to subsidize these types of projects.”
And for the students on the program, it’s undoubtedly worth it.
“This program was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done in my whole life,” says Teeter.