Shakesperience 2017: Original and Unique Experience
Lauren Boultbee, Business Student, Bishop’s University
Shakespearience – there are no words that can effectively portray how truly incredible this course was. In today’s day and age originality and uniqueness are increasingly hard to come by but Shakespearience had that and more in spades. Shakespearience immersed us in culture, introduced us to different characters and gave us an opportunity to make connections that will last a lifetime. A course such as this will continue to have reach and relevance for years to come and it was an absolute privilege to have been a part of it.
Throughout the intensive week-long course, we were surrounded by all different aspects of culture. The predominant culture that we were immersed in was of course that of literature and its place in theatre, as that was the outlined focus of the course. It was enlightening to learn about the development and history of theatre. Over the years the culture of theatre itself has changed from being one that was considered risky and dangerous to a pursuit considered more prestigious and for a higher-class patron only. While today theatre is often viewed as something often limited to elderly individuals or those with a specific interest in the arts, Dr. Riddell did an amazing job this trip of reassuring her students that “this is our theatre” and we can define and contribute to it however we please. Culture, we learned, is also now being introduced into theatre in terms of different ethnicities as well. In many of our post show chats with the amazing actors from various plays it was mentioned that introducing colour into the casts holds great meaning for the actors and producers. Today’s culture is evolving and expanding faster than it can be defined which has the potential to leave some of society in shock. Younger generations however tend to be very open minded and accepting of this new reality which makes for a promising future for the theatre. What should be thoroughly portrayed, is that the theatre is a culture for everyone, regardless of personality, age, race, gender, or career focus. As Dr. Riddell taught us, “this is our theatre” to enjoy and we can do with it what we will.
As we made our way through our well-planned itinerary we were introduced to many different characters. These characters came from both the pages we were studying and the activities we were participating in. From the young and naïve characters of Romeo and Juliet, to the confident and headstrong characters such as Bess from “The Fair Maid of the West” and Viola from “Twelfth Night”, it was demonstrated that every character has attributes and skills that are unique to them and without this variation the stories they are a part of would be extremely mundane. During the various workshops and post-show chats with members of the casts and tours of the theatre with volunteers, the importance of uniqueness was also stressed. At the end of the song and dance workshop, for example, our instructors mentioned that they credited a large part of their success to having diverse talents and an open mind to trying new things. This fact is true in any career path as organizations are stronger when they are made up of character and skill diversity. After learning how important it is to have a unique background, it was incredibly reassuring to be surrounded by other amazing students from the extraordinary Maple League, participating in such a special opportunity as Shakespearience.
In conjunction with being immersed in culture and learning the importance of character diversification, and the important role those two aspects play in our everyday lives, this amazing course also allowed us the opportunity to make connections with the people involved. Aside from meeting the other dedicated Maple League students that participated in Shakespearience, there were also so many other incredible people we encountered throughout this unforgettable week. The Stratford Theatre personnel and actors we interacted with enriched our understanding not only of Shakespeare but of the theatre and its place in society as well. Throughout the week including the last Friday night of our trip we had the opportunity to meet and network with various Bishop’s alumni of all ages. Alumni are always granted a certain level of respect, no matter which school someone has graduated from, but at a Maple League school, especially Bishop’s, alumni have a special place in every student’s heart and an automatic connection is formed. Many of the alumni had extremely unique experiences to share and diverse backgrounds which made for a great evening of getting acquainted; the Friday night banquet was a spectacular finish to an amazing trip. The most wonderful and meaningful connection made on the whole trip however was by far the connection made with our fearless leader Dr. Jessica Riddell. It was clear, merely from early correspondence before meeting her , that Dr. Riddell has an undeniable passion for her job as an educator. It was that passion that made her such a perfect person to be the one to lead us through our Shakespearience. Her inspirational approach opened minds and encouraged all ideas and unique thought paths. Shakespearience would have been completely different without Dr. Riddell and I am extremely grateful that she created such an amazing course. This will absolutely be a connection that I hope to continue to foster during my time at Bishop’s and likewise post-graduation as an alumna.
Experiential learning has inherent benefits that are unsurpassed and rarely equaled. Shakespearience is a classic example of experiential learning at its best. This course combines the study of Shakespeare and the theatre with the exploration of how culture, characters and connections affect our learning, our experiences and ultimately our society at large. The relevance of this course and the uniqueness of each participant’s experience cannot be underestimated nor can the impact such studies have on our communities.