English 491/591 is a three-week off-campus drama course offered during second Summer Session. The course carries three hours of credit at the 400 (undergraduate) level or the 500 (graduate) level. This year’s 491/591 will take place from July 15th to August 5th. At the course’s beginning and end, students will get to experience Europe’s great summer theater festivals. The class highlights two exciting International Festivals: one in Galway—a venue for Ireland’s best dramatic companies– and the other in Stratford on Avon where the Royal Shakespeare Company continues to produce first-rate Shakespearean and contemporary drama at three different theaters. In addition, the class studies contemporary and classic dramatic entertainments in Dublin and London, from great Irish drama at Dublin’s historic theaters, the Abbey and the Gate, to William Shakespeare’s plays in London’s Globe theater to spectacular musicals and contemporary drama in the West End.
Summer Theater Festival in Ireland and England gives you the chance to learn about drama in performance at the world’s leading international arts festivals and theatrical venues. During the three weeks abroad, you will travel from Galway to Dublin, Stratford on Avon to London and experience the diverse cultural landscape of Ireland and England. If you enjoy theater and like to travel, this course offers the experience of a lifetime.
After arriving at Shannon Airport, we will travel by coach to spend our first five days in western Ireland’s coastal city of Galway, a gorgeous medieval city with winding streets, live traditional music playing from virtually every pub’s doorway, large green parks, and lots of local charm. We will see three or four performances at the Galway International Arts Festival, one of Europe’s great theatrical festivals including dance, music, and drama by companies from across the globe. In 2023, the Festival featured performances by artists such as Iris Dement and the Saw Doctors, in addition to Sean O’Casey staged by Ireland’s excellent Druid Theatre Company. We will take a day trip during our time in Galway to visit Connemara or one of the nearby Aran Islands.
We will travel next to Dublin for three days. Ireland is the city of James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula and home to Ireland’s long history of brilliant drama. We will see plays at The Abbey Theater and The Gate Theater, two of the classic venues for Irish drama from the nineteenth century to the present. It is also the locale for a new innovative theatrical venue called Smock Alley. In this second of our two Irish locations—Galway and now Dublin—you will have the chance to explore another side of Ireland, its culturally rich cosmopolitan capital. In Dublin there will be plenty of opportunity to visit Trinity College with its fabulous collection of illuminated manuscripts (including The Book of Kells), its famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and to visit Dublin’s great art and history museums; or to go boating on the Liffey; to visit the city’s great craft centers for glassware and linen; or to wander among its bookstores.
Stratford on Avon
After arriving by plane in the UK from Dublin, we board coaches that will take us to Stratford on Avon for four days. Stratford is the small town that was home to Shakespeare and that is now the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The RSC has the finest repertory company in Britain. We’ll see two plays by the RSC, get a behind-the-scenes look at the theaters and have a meet-and-greet with actors and directors; we’ll take guided tours of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage—the wife to whom Shakespeare left his second-best bed–, Mary Arden’s House (historically preserved and still active as a working farm), New Place (Shakespeare’s home in retirement), Kenilworth Castle (a great ruin made famous by Walter Scott’s romance) and more. We stay in local Bed-and-Breakfast hotels within easy walking distance of the theaters and the river Avon, and you’ll discover where actors go after performances–the wonderfully nicknamed Dirty Duck, Stratford’s best venue for informal theatre learning.
From Stratford, we will travel to London, one of the world’s great cosmopolitan cities that manages somehow to feel like a collection of small villages and diverse neighborhoods. What Samuel Johnson once wrote about the city in the eighteenth-century still holds, “If you are bored with London, you are bored with life.” It has everything from world-class museums to elegant tea-rooms at Harrod’s, terrific used bookstores to Europe’s best flea markets. We will spend ten days in London, the single most important venue for performing arts in the English-speaking world. It is too early to know for sure what plays we’ll see, but we’ll certainly get tickets for a big West End musical; a show at the National Theatre—a great theater complex like the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. or Lincoln Center in New York; a show at the new Globe Theatre (modelled on Shakespeare’s Globe), and plays at several of London’s edgy small theaters like the Donmar Warehouse and the New Vic. The plays in London will be a selection of the best dramatic entertainments available, contemporary and traditional, in order for you to experience the impressive range and diversity of theater available. The London segment of the class also includes a free long weekend where you will have the chance to include in your itinerary travel to another location of your choice. Paris and Amsterdam are only a few hours away by train.
Carolyn C. Thompson and English Department Grants for English 491/591
The Carolyn C. Thompson Grant offers financial support to students participating in Summer Theater Festivals in Ireland and England: English 491/591. One award in the amount of $2800.00 will be made for a student planning to enroll in the course. Five additional grants of $500.00 each are also available from the Department’s Hodges Fund. Address inquiries about the Grants to email@example.com. Deadline for the applications is December 1st.
For more information about “Summer Theater Festivals in Ireland and England,” contact Prof. Rob Stillman, English Department, firstname.lastname@example.org.