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Students Reflect on Stratford Trip

Dr. Susan McGrade, Indiana Tech professor of English, teaches HUM3380: The Shakespeare Experience. This course focuses on the works of William Shakespeare, both as individual works of art, and as cultural forces that have shaped other works of art over the course of time.

The focal point of the class is a trip to the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario. The Stratford Festival is North America’s largest classical repertory theater company. It presents, from April to October, several classic, contemporary drama and musical productions, with special emphasis on the plays of Shakespeare.

“After my first trip to Stratford about 15 years ago, I realized the potential for our students,” Dr. McGrade said. “The town is largely devoted to the arts, and the rotating list of plays provides ample opportunities for the study of literature. At only six hours away, this town provides a completely immersive experience in the arts, and by removing students from their traditional schedules, their major areas of study, and their home country, they are asked to give themselves over to this experience.”

In September, 17 students joined Dr. McGrade on the trip to the Stratford Festival, where they attended five different plays that included histories, tragedies and comedies. The students also took part in a costume and props warehouse tour and engaged in a Q&A session with the festival’s artistic director and a visiting scholar. Some of the attendees shared some of their perspectives from the trip:

Dr. Susan McGrade

This group of students reminded me of the value of trips such as these; in fact, the students’ reactions, their observations, experiences, and their interpretations, were so powerful that it was as though I was experiencing these things for the first time. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was having adrenaline rushes as I watched our students in Stratford. They were open to new experiences, they were appreciative to the details and nuances of the arts, they were thorough in their analysis of the plays, and they were insightful about the ways these plays comment on the human experience. From what I have gathered, there were intense discussions about the merits and value of individual plays – without my prompting, and after the hours of traditional schooling. I was overjoyed to see their investment in these plays and in these discussions; it was another nice reminder of what happens when we immerse ourselves into the humanities, into unfamiliar experiences, and into the hearts and minds of others.

Sadie Leatherman

Biomedical Engineering Major
Class of 2022

Sadie Leatherman and Kristen Forti
Left to right: Sadie Leatherman, Kristen Forti

As an engineer, I was especially interested in the materials they used to design props. In engineering school, we learn to consider material properties when making design decisions. Factors pertaining to the performance of a product are affected heavily by materials. For example, the needs of the end user, the functionality of the product, and cost are some factors engineers will consider when choosing materials for their designs. I saw these same principles put into practice in the Costume Warehouse. I totally nerded out over the 3D-printed ray gun that was made from 10 separate custom-designed pieces. I’ve worked with 3D printers at school and in my internship, so I know the amount of time, work and technical acumen that goes into designing functional mating parts in CAD and operating 3D printers.

Art challenges us to think deeper about issues and come to an honest personal resolution. I’m an engineer, and I don’t spend a great deal of my time pondering or appreciating the arts. But during this talk, I found myself reflecting on the place that art has in society. I realized how absolutely dull the world would be if there was no art, and I am learning to appreciate it more and be grateful that I’m privileged enough to be able to experience it.

To be honest, I spent a great deal of time just thinking, pondering, and trying to find deeper meaning to the ideas that were presented to me on this trip. I can’t say that I totally agreed with every opinion and idea I heard. And I can’t say that I will change my mind about the things I believe to be moral or immoral. But I can honestly say that I intentionally listened to the voices of people who think differently than I do about certain topics. And I have a greater appreciation for opportunities to hear different perspectives. As an engineer, I am trained to see things in black and white. But a majority of controversial topics are full of grey, which is why they are difficult to talk about. My experiences in Stratford helped me understand how to navigate that grey area and not shy away from challenging and thought-provoking conversations with people with different backgrounds and experiences as me.

Josh Bailey

Computer Science Major
Class of 2023

Darrell Martin, Josh Bailey, Jacob Ritchie
Left to right: Darrell Martin, Josh Bailey, Jacob Ritchie

Stratford provided the means for a beautiful artistic experience. It was a shift of tone, attitude and passion among a community of artists. I met so many friendly people, and everyone seemed eager to talk. In fact, it was hard to get out of a conversation in Stratford. Stratford has been profoundly shaped by the arts, and I hope that never stops.

This trip was my first time leaving the country. This trip was also my first time seeing a play that wasn’t in a high school done by teenagers. It was an absolute joy to experience both for the first time. Although, I probably could have done without being pulled over at the border. I loved the adventure, and I especially loved walking around town and experiencing the beauty of it. Staying in the rocking chair house is a memory I will look back on and laugh about for years to come.

Noah Smith

Biomedical Engineering Major
Class of 2023

Noah Smith
Noah Smith

I loved this trip and experience. I believe it gave me a full understanding of the works of literature that we read throughout our class thus far. It made the class a full experience of reading them all and then seeing these professional actors portray the characters you understood as one way, as another! I became closer with other people on the trip that I do not think I ever would have.

I made memories for my senior year that I will never forget. If I am being completely honest, I decided to take this class strictly for the trip to Canada, but after reading these plays and then experiencing them in action, I am so glad I made the decision to come. I feel as though I have grown so much personally through experiencing the themes portrayed in the plays and the conversations about them with others

Cat Stafford

Electrical Engineering Major
Class of 2023

Kristen Forti, Cat Stafford, Sadie Leatherman, Noah Smith, Sam Harvey , Jacob Grant, Kole Samsel
Left to right: Kristen Forti, Cat Stafford, Sadie Leatherman, Noah Smith, Sam Harvey , Jacob Grant, Kole Samsel

The [highlight] was when [the artistic director and invited speaker] singled our students out and made sure to make us welcome and ask about us. The genuine happiness from both the speakers when it was mentioned that we were a tech school that has this kind of in-depth immersive humanities course was heartwarming.

Kristen Forti

Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering Major
Class of 2023

Sadie Leatherman, Kristen Forti in a cafe
Left to right: Sadie Leatherman, Kristen Forti

The Talking Theatre was a wonderful educational component of the entire Stratford experience. Similar to the Costume Walk Through, it provided more information that expanded my appreciation for the performances .

I appreciated [the Artistic Director] Cimolino’s response to my question about the jokes that seemed to be aimed at America. I truly did not realize that America was the big fish in the pond. There was an older woman who I talked to after the session had ended and she shared how much the unrest in America impacted Canada. She said that when the violence in America started four years ago, there was a rise in violence in her town in Canada. Perhaps so much of the world has a distaste for America because we fail to accept the responsibility that rests on our shoulders.

There was an older gentleman in the audience who used to be a monk who shared the beautiful illustration of the Church and Theatre. He said that it used to be if you attend a church service, you should leave as a slightly changed person. That doesn’t happen in most church services around the world today, but it often happens in a well-done performance. He said, “I leave the theatre as a changed person.” and I couldn’t help but feel my appreciation for the arts grow. A big takeaway from the experience was that art has the power to transform people and we must be careful not to abuse such a power.

Lauren Barton

Biomedical Engineering Major
Class of 2024

Lauren Barten, Darrell Martin, Rebecca Lee
Left to right: Lauren Barten, Darrell Martin, Rebecca Lee

Also, I did enjoy seeing everyone’s faces when Abbey had said we were from the states, and it felt like we instantly became celebrities as everyone was so happy we made the trip up and were experiencing Shakespeare and it was such a welcoming environment! It was also bittersweet as I realized that the conversations the audience was having with the producer would never be able to happen in the states. I feel as though Americans would not be able to take criticism and be pushed to think outside the box and that the little talks, we had with people would turn into fights more than having an actual conversation. Which made it so much harder to leave Canada! There was also a man that came up to Sammi, Becca, and I after the talk with the producer was over and told us how happy he was that we came, and he wanted us to know that we were going to change the world and that he cannot wait to see what we have in store for him and his wife! He was so nice and genuine, and it almost made me cry!!

I learned that it takes perspective to understand one another when you are having trouble finding middle ground between two opposing sides. I found that you have to be open minded to things you don’t understand because you will never understand if you don’t open up and try! I also learned that what we do in another country does impact other around us whether we like to admit it or not! And finally, I learned that not everything is as it seems, sometimes it does take a deeper look at things to see the big picture! I just wanted to thank you personally for this experience as it has been by far one of the best of my life and I cannot wait until I’m back in the class to go again!

Brendan Mulkey

Class of 2025

Rebecca Lee, Noah Smith, Brendan Mulkey, Jacob Grant
Left to right: Rebecca Lee, Noah Smith, Brendan Mulkey, Jacob Grant

I came into this class thinking I would be bored with Shakespeare because I don’t typically go out of my comfort zone that much. I found myself walking a lot more, eating all new kinds of foods, trying different drinks and water, meeting new people, talking to new people, and meeting people from all over the world and experiencing new things.

Something I’ve learned to love about my experience at Indiana Tech is the passion that everyone has to their subjects and their studies. I knew nothing about plays or poetry and I learned a lot about iambic pentameter and other things with Shakespeare and cool facts! Everything about the trip was so much fun and I am so thankful that I was able to experience something that I knew nothing about and now have a passion for!

The discussion we had in class about the trip were cool too and I’m glad I experienced something that was out of my comfort zone. I never thought I would have enjoyed plays and the arts so much.

Jacob Grant

Electrical Engineering Major
Class of 2023

Kole Samsel, Noah Smith, Jacob Grant
Left to right: Kole Samsel, Noah Smith, Jacob Grant

To me this trip was a big deal. I was excited to go on this trip, but it turned out to be more than just a trip. I grew a larger passion for the arts.

This trip had allowed me to talk to people I would probably not talk to on the daily and get to know them on more than a surface level. To my educational experience it was eye opening. Being in Stratford I was around people who appreciated the arts the same way I do and more of them than not appreciate it more than me. Watching all these plays it brought me to a greater appreciation of the arts.

Sam Potters

Biomedical Engineering Major
Class of 2023

Rebecca Lee, Samantha Potters, Lauren Barton
Left to right: Rebecca Lee, Samantha Potters, Lauren Barton

Having the opportunity to experience and travel to another country is truly the best experience of my life and I wish more students were able to have this opportunity. I am very grateful and fortunate to be part of such a great group of people and to go to such a school that allows for these types of opportunities. Its trips like these that keep me alive and grateful to still be living.

I wish I could take full credit for that I’m sure I heard it in a movie somewhere. I truly meant it when I said that, and I think that’s why so many people forget about the arts. We become so focused on our everyday lives and what has to be done in order to make a living that we forget how to live and enjoy the life we live and truly feel alive instead of just waking up doing the same mundane things everyday / every year. Going on trips like this one, and on my trip to Ireland have really made me feel so grateful to have had these opportunities to not only see how others live, but to also feel alive myself, and to remind myself to not get caught up in what I have to do to make a living or in school, but to also make sure I’m really living my life and becoming the best person I can be not only for myself but for my future family.

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