If you come to Castleton University, or anywhere to study theater, it would make sense that somewhere along the lines you would have to go watch good, live theater. At least that’s the thought process behind the “Plays of Castleton” class.
The class takes students on a weeklong trip to either New York City or London, England to watch some of the best live theater the world has to offer.
This year, it was London. And the students who went got to have a blast roaming the streets of the UK’s biggest city.
“I really enjoyed it. The weather was nicer than I expected,” said Tess Webber. “Although I did expect a little rain.”
The experience of witnessing London is a large part of the trip. In a city with so much culture and history, only going to the shows would be a waste. So, the group was able to go around and visit sights like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey.
“Being right in Russell Square, in the middle of it all, I felt like that made it so much better,” said Ryan Boeke.
The central location for the group was a big help in cramming as much as possible into the trip. Being a three-minute walk away from the British National Museum, and at most, a 25-minute tube ride away from any other sight, made being a tourist that much easier.
Getting acclimated to the Tube, was a different story.
For most of the students, it took two days to fully understand the underground train system. During a group discussion in the class sessions since returning, I brought up the moment it all clicked for me.
“I didn’t get fully acclimated until I tried to use the District and Circle line where I realized that multiple trains could be on the same track, so Tess and I trial-by-fired that,” I said.
“He literally dragged me off of the train because I was like ‘what’s happening?’” laughed Webber. Most of the Tube lines are on their own track, however, some tracks like District and Circle can provide multiple different lines on the same track, which caught a lot of the group off guard.
Traversing the city wasn’t the only part of the trip that involved figuring out travel.
For some members of the trip, it was their first time leaving the country.
For others, it was their first time flying.
With 13 hours of flying to and from the UK, the group was pretty exhausted after the trip. Unfortunately for the leader of the trip, theater professor Harry McEnerny, the trip didn’t end as soon as he would have hoped.
“We got back to Castleton at 7 o’clock, everybody got into their cars and got picked up and then Monica went around the corner to get our car and it had a boot on it,” laughed McEnerny.
They called Public Safety to get it all figured out. Then McEnerny had the officer let him into his office so he could get his keys.
McEnerny and his wife then ran into problem number two.
“I get in the car, keys in, and nothing, dead battery, so we called Triple A, basically you guys got out of here at seven o’clock, we got out of here at 9:30,” he said.
But traveling and seeing the city was only a small part of why the group went. The larger part was to watch live theater. London’s West End houses one of the largest theater cultures in the world, rivaling even Broadway.
“It was bizarre to think that people were watching theater a long time ago, and then today we are still watching it and it’s still making us think,” said Jess Nguyen. “And there are still shows that are just funny and are there for entertainment and there are shows that are like ‘hey, we’re still here to make you think about society and the world you’re in.’”
The group saw six of London’s best shows through the class. Of those six, three were farcical comedies; “Tartuffe”, “Comedy about a Bank Robbery,” and “The Play that Goes Wrong.” Two were musicals; “Come from Away” and “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.” And one show that won seven Olivier Awards (the British equivalent of the Tony’s); “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.”
It was a pretty strong list of shows. That’s not even including some of the award-winning shows the students opted to see during their free time, separate from the group.
“I liked being able to share theater experiences with other people and then being able to talk about it especially with people who appreciate and understand theater as much as I do,” said Clara Young.
The group will be discussing those shows much more in depth in the coming weeks. But everyone had their own take-aways from the trip.
“I still want to do this major, I still want this job,” said Susan Pipolo, a senior about to enter the field of technical theater.
“I would say the same thing, watching shows and seeing how they affect me, I’m very happy to be able to do something that will have that effect on other people,” said fellow senior Thomas Tifft.
“My love for theater is so big and watching these shows it made me excited for my future because I want to be able to be that person that makes somebody in the audience react like I did,” said Webber.
“That I love theater and that I love to be able to travel the world, but I also get to travel the world with people that I consider part of my family,” said Eliza Sigel.