For my STEP Signature Project I participated in the London Theatre Study Abroad Program. During our month long visit, we were required to keep a thorough journal of our experiences, whether it be performances we saw, museums we went to, parks we strolled through, or restaurants we dined in, an entry was required. All together we saw 24 performances, I saw two on my own, and completed our assigned Learning London Menu experiences—ranging from parks & gardens to places of worship & palaces.
Of the many plays we saw, museums we visited, restaurants we ate in, tube rides we took the three most important experiences of my London Theatre Study Abroad were my meeting with Dr. Richard Hougham at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, my meeting with Dr. Anna Seymour at the University of Roehampton and attending Groundhog Day: The Musical.
After I visited two of the four universities I am considering for my masters in drama therapy, I decided that I would need at least a year between completing my undergraduate degree and starting my graduate degree. Both Dr. Hougham and Dr. Seymour recommended that I take time off so I can experience the world as a person and not a student. It is common for recent graduates in Europe to take a gap year before attending university because the experiences available to individuals being out in the world can help inform what they decide to study. The areas of drama therapy that I have experience in, mainly children with autism are more developed than treatments for adults with, for example, mood disorders. As drama therapy is more popular in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States I need to broaden my horizons to more diverse populations. Drama therapy programs for adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia do not exist in the U.S. but they do in the U.K. and thanks to my meetings I now know that I will need to work with these populations before applying to either program.
Visiting these graduate schools also revealed some innate characteristics of myself that I wasn’t aware of. I thought London would be too overwhelming as a place to live, both of these universities are in London, but I was surprised how quickly I found my way in the nonsensical streets and sprawling neighborhoods. Since University of Roehampton resides more on the outskirts of London I figured I would feel more at peace there. Whether it was the professor I met with or the school or neighborhood itself, Roehampton did not feel right to me in the same way that Royal Central did. Being more in central London, Royal Central feels like a faster paced place and I was not expecting to feel comfortable in that environment, but it suited me. Even though the curriculum moves quicker and the people speak at speed, I had no issue keeping up—whereas at Roehampton it felt like I was digging my heels through sand trying not to move too far ahead. I guess I do not prefer small towns and suburbs as much as I thought I did, another realization I would not have had without this trip to London.
To change gears rather dramatically, Groundhog Day: The Musical transformed me more than I would like to admit. I have typically enjoyed musicals, despite not performing in many myself, but never loved seeing them because I find the lyrics difficult to understand and there typically isn’t much of a plot. Perhaps the low expectations I held walking into the Old Vic allowed me to enjoy this particular show. Theatre can do so much as long as the audience is willing to suspend their disbelief and embrace the story they are being told. I am glad I did just that, because I felt a change in my soul after the shows final song “Seeing You.”
The only song from the musical that I can find on YouTube, thankfully, is “Seeing You,” and I am happy to report that it still makes me cry even out of context of the emotional rollercoaster of a musical. Without getting into too many personal details I can say that song brought up many of the choices I know I’ll have to make this coming year and reassured me that I am doing what is best for me. Some of these choices have already taken place and I am lighter and freer to be myself because of them. Listening to the lyrics themselves again I cannot pull out which part of the song made me feel all the feels but it doesn’t matter because music is magical that way. That song, that performance, gave me the conviction and strength I needed to move into this next intimidating chapter of my life. I am more sure of theatre’s power to help and heal than ever and am on the right path to make my dreams a reality.