A Summer of London Theatre

Name: Ronda Christie

Type of Project: Study Abroad

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

I used my STEP funding to subsidize my involvement with the London Theatre Study Abroad. On this trip, we saw over twenty plays, visited multiple museums, and engaged with British culture in numerous other ways. We also took part in a class, in which we discussed our various London adventures, heard from guest artists, and connected our new experiences to our own work as theatre makers.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I went into this project expecting to have my view of theatre changed, simply through the process of interacting with so many plays in such a short time. However, I was surprised by how much my interests in visual arts changed as well. Visiting visual arts museums that housed some of my favorite paintings of all time, such as the Musee D’Orsay during my short trip to Paris or the Victoria and Albert Museum, provided me with fresh inspiration and a drive to make more visual art. I was surprised by how much a trip focussed on the performing arts spurred my interests in visual arts.

Being so far away from home for a month proved to be a bit more emotionally difficult than I had expected, namely because my aunt had a very unexpected stroke and passed away within the first two weeks of my trip. I learned a lot about myself in the subsequent weeks, because the sense of a loss of control in my life led me to react to my surroundings very differently than I had expected. I struggled to keep up with my class work and I was easily overwhelmed by seemingly insignificant things, but that helped me realize some of my issues with anxiety that I need to address. Having had such a traumatic experience while so far away from my family also impacted how I experienced the plays we saw, making some more poignant due to relatable or timely subject matter.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

Some of the plays we saw truly transformed me and my tastes as a theatre maker. The very first play we saw, entitled Flesh & Bone, was an incredibly visceral experience that has changed the way I want to make theatre. It has inspired me to fuel my plays and acting with physicality and movement as a way of connecting to the audience. It was also a brilliant use of language, as it was a contemporary production written almost entirely in Iambic Pentameter. A number of the plays we saw encouraged me to utilize stillness as well, and to not be afraid of silence. Even the plays that I truly hated were learning experiences, in that they made me realize what it is that I resonated with or resist in theatre.

Beyond the theatrical experience of this project, the unfortunate event of my aunt’s passing was by far the most transformational aspect of my trip. It reminded me that horrible, inexplicable things can happen, despite our greatest attempts to plan and control the world around us. Talking to one of the graduate students on the trip about this experience helped me realize that I don’t need to apologize for my emotions, or for being a human. Life at home doesn’t stop when we travel to a different country, even though it seems like it does. Now I know to say what I want to say to those I love before its too late, but I also know, from one of the plays that I saw, that “It’s okay to be angry” and its okay if I didn’t say everything I wanted to.

The experience of traveling in a group of around 20 people was also a surprisingly transformational experience for me. I went into the trip already knowing everyone in the group relatively well, though I was closer to some than others. Going through such an emotional time in my family life so publicly made me realize who in the group actually cared about me. The people I knew the least on the trip proved to be far more helpful and supportive of me than those that I thought were my closer friends. I feel like I made a lot of amazing new connections and made some great memories with people I did not expect to connect with. Before the trip, I would say there were maybe two people in the theatre department of OSU that had seen me cry. After the trip, that number had gone up to around twenty. I could be embarrassed about that fact, but instead, I choose to be liberated by it. There is nothing wrong with showing emotion, being vulnerable, or being human. Those are actually some of the most important aspects in creating theatre, as well as creating a life you’re proud of.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

My academic interests and professional goals are on the making of theatre, specifically with a focus on acting and playwriting. Seeing this many plays, and in such a short period of time, gave me the chance to recognize what it is that sparks my interests and excites me in theatre, as well as what pushes against or challenges me. This trip gave me the push I needed towards new forms of artistic expression, in both the visual and performing arts. My personal goal of being a self-aware, mentally-healthy individual, was challenged by this trip because I went through one of the hardest experiences of my life on a different continent, far away from my family. However, I came out the other side knowing more about how I handle stress and what I need out of my friendships, as well as understanding how to be less apologetic and more willing to accept of my own humanity.

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