Student Blog: School of Shakespeare
Greetings from across the pond!
Hello, my name is Mackenzie! I just graduated from Baylor University in May with my BFA in Theater Performance with a concentration in Musical Theater and a minor in History! I am currently pursuing my Masters in Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London and Shakespeare’s Globe! AND I do it in ONE YEAR! I’m crazy, I know.
There are a lot of really cool things about this program, but probably one of the biggest is that I take about half of my classes at Shakespeare’s Globe! King’s College has a phenomenal partnership with The Globe, giving us invaluable experience working with (the closest thing to) authentic modern day theater spaces! For various reasons, including but not limited to the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the banning of the theater during the interregnum (1649-1660), we (very unfortunately) have no spaces for original theater of this period. Shakespeare’s Globe consists of both the iconic outdoor playhouse rebuilt in 1997 and the Jacobean indoor theater space, The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse built in 2014. Without getting too cheesy about it, Shakespeare’s plays have were written to be performed in spaces like these, and these theaters, in turn, also inform his plays and what we know about early modern theater practices.
Now this program is an English/history of theater degree, it is not a hands-on acting program (I will talk about my acting background and how I got to this place in an article by later blog). This semester I am taking two courses, Working with Early Modern Literary Texts and Early Modern Playhouse Practice. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but the way graduate school works is that we don’t have a ton of required courses, but instead we have lots of optional workshops and seminars that we can (and MUST) to assist. I also do a ton of reading! Before my first class, I read Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, Virgil’s “Aeneid”, and a significant portion of the King James Bible, to name a few. That was a bit off balance on my part… oops… spoiler alert: I’m a nerd! The premise of Working with Early Modern Literary Texts is that in order to understand Shakespeare’s works and his inspiration behind them (as well as some of his sources), we must read what he would have read. The objective of this course is to prepare us to analyze and research texts from this period in a textual and critical way. Early Modern Playhouse Practice studies the context in which these plays were produced and performed. It considers the literal and metaphorical circumstances surrounding these works and how they influenced Shakespeare, his contemporaries, actors and audiences.
Ok on the fun stuff!!! I live in London, something that was beyond my wildest dreams! Getting my visa was a nightmare to say the least, but I’m here now and it’s everything I could have dreamed of and more! I flew to London the day before Her Majesty The Queen’s funeral, so was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the procession outside Parliament. I also visited Buckingham Palace, and outside there were (no exaggeration) millions of flowers and tributes left to honor the Queen! Pictures and words could never do it justice, it was an overwhelming feeling of grief, humanity and love. Truly a show that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. I’m a big fan of history, especially English history, so I’m in seventh heaven here! I don’t think I could visit all the museums or historical sites this city has to offer in just one year! Highlights so far are the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the Victoria and Albert Museum! I plan to travel as much as possible this year, it’s definitely an opportunity I will never return to, and I want to learn and see as much as possible!
Nerd alert! Let me tell you – taking classes at The Globe is just as amazing as it sounds – I was beside myself the whole first day we were there! We even have access to their archives (oh wow) for research! The archive contains everything from performance reports, rehearsal and performance recordings, to scholarship books, manuscripts and props! Sam Wanamaker’s aim when he started this restoration project was for this working theater to also be an archive and a place of education and experimentation – and I truly think that has been accomplished and surpassed! What the Globe team has accomplished and continues to create is truly amazing! A real academic highlight for me so far has been attending The Globe’s 25th Anniversary Teach-In event where we heard from reconstruction architects, theater historians, costume designers and the director artist of the Globe herself, Michelle Terry!
We got to see their current production of “Much Ado About Nothing” after our initiation/orientation in the Yard as the Groundlings – and it was just an amazing theatrical experience! It’s really hard to put into words what it feels like to study what you love where you love – the closest I can get is ‘artistically fulfilling’. I was also about to catch the rest of The Globe’s summer season: “The Tempest”, “Henry VIII” and their original production of “I, Joan”. There’s incredible artistry at The Globe right now, and London has such an amazing theater scene! There’s so much to see and so little time, but I’m so excited to take you on this journey with me!