By Deneia Washington
In case you didn’t know, the Department of Theater has international study opportunities for students looking to experience theater through a culturally expansive lens. The Temple Theaters London program allows students a firsthand look into the city as one of the major producers of theater. The Rehearsal Room sat down with Dan Kern, the Program Director of Temple Theaters London for information about how and why students should consider abroad study as a part of their college experience.
The Rehearsal Room: Can you tell me a little bit about the Temple Theaters London program and how it was created?
Dan Kern: As a department, we really believed that it’s extremely important for young people to experience life in another culture. It’s one of the most educational things that you can do. When we separated from [the School of Communications & Theater], we no longer had a financial stake in that Study Away program. Another thing was that the coursework that was being offered by the SCT program really focused on media, but for our students it wasn’t a very broad selection of courses that they could take. So that’s why we [developed this new program] – because we believe in Study Away and we wanted to create a program that would make it possible for our students to have this experience. [caption id="attachment_847" align="aligncenter" width="585"]
RR: What made London the city of choice for the program?
DK: There is probably no other city in the world that has a greater reputation for producing world class theater than London. The art form is very, very healthy in London. It is not overly burdened by the commercial world, so there is a lot more theater and more people are working, which I think is a healthier environment for the art form. I think that for our students to be able to go and see two or three plays a week done by world class performers in small venues all over the city, all with different kinds of perspectives and political points of view is just an extraordinary opportunity.
RR: Why do you feel it’s important for students to study abroad?
DK: I think that we have to look at the future of this world that we live in and I think the worldview for the future is a global one. But another reason is because it shows to the artists, the people of the theater, the only thing that an artist has to say is what an artist knows or can create in the artists’ imagination based on what they’re asked. So to feed the soul with new experiences is only to expand the palette that the artist has to work with. So to go and see different architecture, different cultures, different ways of living and being, just makes the artist more sophisticated.
RR: What would you say the student experience is like?
DK: I did the program in 2005 and every single person describes it as being a life changing experience. One of the most significant things they did while they were in college, and I’m still in touch with all of these people. Three of the theater students that went with me in that year have actually gone on to do significant professional work. They will tell you if you ask them that that semester they spent in London is what turned the corner for them, and was what inspired them and kicked them into high gear.
RR: What does the curriculum consist of for the program?
DK: We are offering our students the option of being able to take one of the required acting courses, which is either Acting III or Acting IV, and we’re also offering them additional acting course called Acting Styles. We also offer a course called World of the Play, which is our capstone course. It’s a writing intensive that’s from the Dramaturgy course. Another course we’re offering is Art History and in this particular course, students will never be in a classroom. Each week they meet at a different museum for three hours and have a professional instructor show them all the artwork, so it’s really a muscular art history class that gives a lot of firsthand exposure. Then we have an internship program that we’re making available to the students, which if they choose, they can work in a number of different capacities in one of the one of the smaller theaters in the city. British Life and Culture is the other course, which is a course that we’re asking everybody to take for the obvious reason that it is a great accompaniment to their experience of being here. [caption id="attachment_851" align="aligncenter" width="585"]
RR: So the program emphasizes student interaction with the city?
DK: It does. We have a number of planned trips where we take them to various areas in the city. We’re also going to be taking them outside of London as well to places like Stonehenge. Part of the package of the course is that students get to go to nine different plays as part of World of the Play. So we’re really loading them in the theaters too.
RR: Would you say the program helps shape leaders out of these Temple students?
DK: Absolutely. Most people are content to just not do anything – just to stay. It’s easier. So I think they go together. Leadership, curiosity, and the willingness to go into the unknown is the hallmark of good leaders.
RR: Can this program help solidify students’ professional goals for the future?
DK: What it does is completely shift the foundational balance. In other words, all of a sudden you’re in a different place in a different world and you see things in a different way. It gives you the opportunity to reassess and reevaluate and if that means shifting yourself in a new direction – absolutely. [caption id="attachment_849" align="aligncenter" width="585"]
RR: What advice would you give to students on the fence about doing this program?
DK: Well I think that the feedback that I’ve been getting thus far is that folks are sitting on the fence not because they don’t want to go, but because they don’t have the finances together. Or the process of putting the finances together is a little too scary. But I think it’s also important to look at the real net cost. I would say that if you’re sitting on the fence because you are uncertain about what the cost may be or you don’t know how you’ll be able to afford it, one way of looking at it is that the semester abroad is, whether you’re in-state or out-of state, is gonna cost you about $10,000 more money than if you went to school here – and that’s a big chunk of change. But I would say that when you look at in the grand scheme of things what $10,000 gets you, that an investment of this type would pay huge dividends in the long run. I don’t think you would regret it.
RR: If there was one word you could use to describe Temple Theaters London, what would it be? Why?
DK: Enlightening. It opens up and sheds light on all new vistas that you’ve had a chance to really experience. More information on Temple Theaters London can be found online.