Today, Western formally launches its Theatre Studies program with a two-day celebration. In honour of that occasion, Western News asked four students – Caitlin Austin, Jack Copland, Rachel Flear and Sarah Gilpin –to share their reasonings behind studying theatre and choosing the new program.
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Finding a Destination like no other
By Caitlin Austin
This fall, I was honoured with the invitation to trial run the crown jewel of Western’s new Theatre Studies program, Destination Theatre 4215F, and work closely with English and Writing Studies professors Kim Solga and M.J. Kidnie. We travelled to London, England, to do some program ‘window shopping’ that was both wildly productive and incredibly fun. Offering a student’s perspective as we explored London and made plans for the course, I attempted to answer one question:
‘What will future Destination Theatre students really want in a trip such as this?’
Well, if future trips are anything like this one, those students are in for a treat.
The trip to London marked my first time in Europe. I was over-the-moon excited, but, as a closet homebody, I was a little nervous to travel so far away. Luckily, Kim and M.J. were superb guides. They offered comforting support while still encouraging my own independent discovery. By week’s end, I was even giving fellow tourists directions.
This course is a fantastic way to feed your inner travel bug in a supportive environment. Whether you’ve traveled all your life, or you’ve never stepped foot in an airport, this course is a valuable opportunity to enrich your outlook on the world.
In one of the theatre capitals of the world, I took in five plays in five days, and had the chance to enjoy my passion with both my heart and my head. I let myself feel all the feelings live performance gives me, and then had the opportunity to reflect, digest and dissect those feelings and experiences with like-minded people. Working in a field that excites you, and with people who share your excitement is truly a gift.
This course is very special to me. Destination Theatre fills a void Western didn’t know it had; it offers an intimate, yet broad-scope, experience in a field near and dear to my heart – theatre and performance. It’s a course for those who love theatre, yes, but it’s also a course for those who love travel and adventure, history and pop culture, invigorating discussion, authentic feeling and shaping unique relationships.
Caitlin Austin is a fourth-year English and Theatre Studies student pursuing a career in education.
Finding a perfect match
By Jack Copland
When I learned about the Theatre Studies program, I was looking to pair an early acceptance to the Ivey Business School with a minor in a field I was interested in pursuing. Theatre, and its history, has always fascinated me. The fact the Ancient Greeks did it, that Shakespeare changed language with it, and its overall mysterious nature led me to ask if Western offered any specialization in theatre. At the time, they did not, but one was being created the following year.
My early acceptance to Ivey meant I needed to maintain an 80 per cent average through my first two years – something much more difficult to do at university than in high school. It was also my plan to complete a dual degree, making it important for me to major in something I was passionate about. I knew if my interest was there, the effort would come easy, and achieving my required average would not feel like a chore.
I was amazed by how much had been organized for this inaugural class. Trips to see shows in Stratford and throughout London, guest lecturers and the amount of material covered made me excited to walk to class. Readings never felt like readings, and class was an opportunity to learn about something I would come to love.
Theatre Studies thrives on class participation. The open discussion platform, where students can share personal impressions of a play or text, has uniquely prepared me for the business world. At Ivey, our classrooms are an open discussion, and the ability to put ideas into words is invaluable. Having the confidence to share your opinion is much more manageable in Theatre Studies classes, making the switch to sharing your opinion to your entire section much less intimidating. The pairing of these two faculties, Arts & Humanities and Ivey, has also changed the way I think about them individually.
By completing a dual-degree with Theatre Studies and the Ivey Business School, I have come to understand the importance of finding a career in which I must be passionate and well-prepared, as this will help lead me towards success.
Jack Copland is a third-year Theatre Studies and HBA student pursing a career in the arts.
Shaping true characters in life
By Sarah Gilpin
The process of applying to university was a daunting experience. I always knew I wanted to study at Western, however, at the time I applied, the university did not have a Theatre Studies program. As I took time to deliberate my final choice, I recall feeling upset a university so close to resources, such as the Stratford Festival, along with a supportive community like London so invested in the dramatic arts, ultimately did not have a drama program. I took a chance with Western knowing I loved the campus and the program I would be studying.
Nevertheless, in first year, I still felt a disconnection from my passion.
By the second semester of first year, a fellow member from the Arts & Humanities Students’ Council informed me a Theatre Studies program was in the works for the following year. I almost cried.
I am now in my second year enrolled as a Theatre Studies student and happy to report this program has exceeded my expectations. Every Theatre Studies course I have taken is one of my favourite courses of my undergraduate experience. The professors are extremely passionate and provide unique perspectives on plays I have studied in the past, while also informing me of new plays. Most importantly, professors provide the students with acting experiences in class that relate to the plays we are studying.
In fact, a course I took last semester was a completely hands-on experience. I was able to thrive in roles behind the scenes I never knew existed. Through my experience with this course, I have discovered a passion for stage-managing.
In the future, I will continue to express my passion for theatre through teaching. I will embed theatre in my future – regardless of my job. Theatre Studies does not simply teach academic skills, the program also teaches students true empathy through analyzing various situations characters experience in the plays.
A graduate of the Theatre Studies program has endless possibilities, ones that shape not only resumes, but also people with characteristics of genuine understanding of others.
Sarah Gilpin, of Burlington, Ont., is currently in her third year at Western, working toward a double major in English Language & Literature and Theatre Studies.
Never regretting reopening a door
By Rachel Flear
When I was a kid, I did theatre in every possible way. I remember my first role as ‘Farmer Brown’ in junior kindergarten. My role of ‘Clown’ in an Original Kidlets production promptly followed. I joined the main company of Original Kids and auditioned for Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts in Grade 3. Pearson introduced me to every aspect of theatre: props, set design, script writing and, of course, performance.
I loved it.
I also remember when I gave up theatre. At the start of Grade 9, I began playing a more competitive level of soccer and quit Original Kids. I thought it was fine; I still had drama class at school. Except, like many high school students, I was told to “be careful and not close any doors.” This translated into “take all the science and math courses you can in case you wake up and decide to be a doctor one day.”
I did not take drama after Grade 9 and filled my high school timetable with sciences, just in case. Yet, English was the one subject I loved all through high school. I never groaned when we read Shakespeare and always loved giving presentations. I missed performing. As a Pearson student, I had to be in plays. I never realized what I was giving up when I stopped. I was never interested in math or science, although I gave them my best shot, and decided to be an English major at Western.
Two years ago, I was introduced to the Theatre Studies program. It sounded exactly like what I wanted to study. I was hesitant, though. What was the guarantee for success? It felt risky, but I switched my minor to Theatre Studies.
I have never regretted this choice.
I am genuinely interested in every one of my courses. Theatre was a door I had closed, and I am glad it has reopened. I have learned to disregard other people’s definitions of success because I have found my own. I am successful when I study what interests me, and I have always been interested in theatre.
Rachel Flear is a third-year English and Theatre Studies student from London, Ont.