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“In Our Own Words”: Clay Jeffries Discusses English 492: Drama in New York

MANhattan

E.B. White once said that no one should come to New York unless they are very lucky. Clay Jeffries with Lin Manuel-MirandaThrough the University of Tennessee, I had the opportunity to go on a trip to New York City December 11-21 for a course titled, Drama in New York, and I feel very, very lucky. The course allowed me to see eight shows and journal about my experience, with a research component due the following semester—and by doing this I will attain a three-hour course credit for an upper-level English class. From the moment I stepped into the city, I knew this was going to be a special place for me. I felt at home in a city that was 890 miles away. What I didn’t know was that the next ten days were going to be some of the best (if not the best) days of my life.

I have loved theatre my entire life and strutting down the streets of Manhattan on my way to a Broadway show had always been a dream of mine. That dream became reality my first day in the city. My friend and I visited the Statue of Liberty before a matinee of King Charles III, but upon our return we took the wrong train and wound up on the opposite side of the city. Suddenly, we became the movie of the guy and girl running through Times Square asking everyone for directions (because naturally in New York City both Google and Apple maps cannot be trusted). Drama in NY Course 2015We arrived with a minute to spare, and after catching my breath, I realized how thrilling the city is (even during stressful situations). I did not know anything about King Charles III, but I was blown away with the bold content of the story and the brave portrayals of the Royal Family; I walked away with a desperate urge to research and learn all there was to this play. This post-show feeling was not an anomaly.

As the following week progressed, I was mesmerized by Phantom and grief-stricken in Fun Home and The Flick. I was astounded by UT alum Conrad Ricamora’s performance in the current production of The King and I. On another day I watched The Tonight Show where Jimmy Fallon hugged me (and I was even featured on the broadcast), followed by an astonishing performance of Hamilton. This is a revolutionary show that A-list celebrities cannot even get tickets to, yet Dr. Anderson was able to find a source who could get all twenty of us tickets with great seats, too. Within minutes of the show starting, we quickly understood what all the hype was about. After nearly every Broadway show I saw, an even deeper passion for theatre than I ever thought possible ignited within me.Drama in NY Course Jeffries

I was originally worried that going to New York City for the first time for a class might restrict my experiences, but I could not have been more wrong. This course opened my eyes to what felt like an entirely different planet, and I feel privileged I could venture on this journey with such incredible peers, too. Now that I have had a chance to reflect on the trip and the city, I have a feeling I’ll be back for good someday to make my life and make my way, but for today I’ll remember and enjoy these incredible memories. As a future educator, I feel blessed to have this opportunity and cannot wait to one day bring back what I learned to the classroom.

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