Theatre in Scotland & England: ‘A Crucible of Culture and Conversation’

Professor Mark Stevick, center, with students at All Soul’s Church in London.

If all the world’s a stage, the United Kingdom is the host and this year marks the 18th consecutive theatre trip there for Gordon professors and students. From August 10-26, 2012, Mark Stevick, associate professor of English, and Norm Jones, professor of theatre arts, will lead 30 students—the most enrolled since the course began in 1995—for a week in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a week in London, England. This year also celebrates the 300th student to participate in the study abroad seminar.

What began as a two-credit elective course has now grown into a four-credit interdisciplinary exploration of such subjects as history, art, English, creative writing, theatre, psychology, and communication, which fulfills core requirements for the aesthetics theme in the Gordon core. Here’s how poet and creative writing professor Mark Stevick reflected on the history of the class as well as their upcoming trip:

“The two-week trip is a crucible of culture and conversation, one that inspires the leaders for another year of making art, and makes some indelible life memories for the students.

We used to travel right after commencement, and in those years our itinerary included places like Dublin and Galway (Ireland), and in England, Bath (with its Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge—twin to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence), Stratford-Upon-Avon (home of three very different theatres and to the Bard’s crypt), Oxford (with a cooling pause at the Inklings’ Eagle & Child pub), and Cambridge (there to savor an evensong at King’s College Chapel)—and, always, London.  Day trips have taken us to Salisbury (tallest spire in the UK—at 400 feet) and nearby Stonehenge (big gray stones; little red poppies), to Ely (named for its eels, and home for a decade to Oliver Cromwell), to Coventry (with its massive Graham Sutherland tapestry behind the altar of the 1962 cathedral, itself verging on the ruins of the Nazi-bombed 14th-century cathedral), and, in Ireland, to the Aran Islands, to James Joyce’s tower in Sandycove, to Glasnevin Cemetery, chaste resting place for the 19th century’s greatest English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and to the village of Kinvara.

In 2004, we switched to an August trip to take advantage of the thousands of theatre, dance, music, spoken word, and nearly unclassifiable performances in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. We see as many as we can in one week: Jeff Miller, professor of theatre arts, manages three shows a day on most days.

We’ve honed our approach, so we can offer a lot of culture for a little green. Classes occur in the morning, usually with a latte, often in one of the several lobbies of London’s Royal National Theatre, or in an atrium at the foot of Arthur’s Seat at the University of Edinburgh. Continue reading

Summer Scholar: Juliet, Visky and Orvieto, Italy

Gordon students aren’t the only ones who see summer as an opportunity for fun or new experiences; many, in fact, are heading overseas, interning in professional settings or gaining valuable work experiences. (More on those soon!)  Gordon’s faculty are busy too. They use June, July and August for special projects, study trips and ongoing research they’re passionate about. This is the first in a series of stories about Summer Scholars, exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

“Juliet, Visky and Orvieto, Italy”                                                                                                                                          By John Skillen, associate dean of European Programs in the Office of Global Education

An exciting project of my summer is to produce, in Orvieto, Italy, a play by one of the most esteemed contemporary playwrights of Eastern Europe, András Visky.

Visky’s play Juliet is a riveting 90-minute solo work, a monologue spoken by the title character in near-delirium as a Job-like cry from the heart at the end of her endurance in a labor camp with her seven young children. The play is based on the experience of the author’s family under the brutal Communist regime in Romania during the early 1960s.

In 1939, Visky’s father had fled Romania for Hungary, where he met his future wife. After World War II, the couple returned to Transylvania, by then a part of Romania. There, Visky’s father, a pastor in the Hungarian Reformed Church, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the crime of “organization against socialist public order.” Soon after, his wife and their children were themselves deported to a Romanian gulag a thousand kilometers to the east. Visky was only two years old at the time. In 1964, the family was reunited when his father and other political prisoners were released during a short-lived period of relaxation of repression. Visky’s father’s ministry in the Protestant churches of Eastern Europe continued all the more powerfully after his release.

Visky–as poet, playwright and essayist–carries on in a different mode his family’s deep and mature Christian faith. He is the author of more than a dozen plays, staged variously in Romania, Hungary, France, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and the United States. Continue reading

Preparing Students to Go Global = A Winning Strategy

NEWS UPDATE: Since posting the below story (on April 12, 2012), Jessica Ventura went on to win a first place award in the Best Professional Paper category at the Northeast ASEE conference, which included a cash prize as well. To read her paper in its entirety, click here. Congratulations, Jessica.

When Jessica Ventura, assistant professor of kinesiology, extended her research by teaching a class in Honduras through Gordon’s Global Education Office (GEO), she discovered more than the mechanical and physiological bases of human movement. She also realized the importance of preparing students for cultural experiences before they embark on overseas programs and to solidify those experiences once they return. As a result, she will be presenting the work Gordon’s GEO does as an example during the American Society of Engineering Education 2012 North East Conference, April 27-28 at U-Mass Lowell. Her paper “Developing Intercultural Sensitivity through Directed Global Education Programming,” will be published with their final conference proceedings. Here’s Ventura’s abstract of her paper:

“In view of the impact globalization has on engineering, many colleges and universities have made global experiences part of their undergraduate programs. When developing a global engineering program, educators should start by assessing where students are on the spectrum of intercultural sensitivity when they enter and thereby determine how the program can best succeed in increasing their sensitivity. If engineers have not been exposed to worldviews that differ from their own, they will assume that everyone holds to similar views. Thus, the first step in attaining intercultural sensitivity is to understand the dimensions of culture. From a different angle, educators should also present students with the stages of intercultural sensitivity, which range from experiences of ethno-centralism to ethno-relativism. Directed programming that brings students into discussions about these points prior to and following global experiences adds significant value to those experiences and can easily be implemented alongside overseas opportunities.”

The Lessons of Dislocation

Liesl from below San MinLiesl Smith, director of administration and management in the Global Education Office and adjunct professor of history, has published an article in the most recent Chronicle of Higher Education in which she reflects upon the value of the study abroad experience. The article, entitled “The Lessons of Dislocation,” can be found here for those with a subscription to the Chronicle. After thirty days, the article will be posted in full on the Faculty Central website.

New Monasticism meets Renaissance Bottega

Transformations at the Edge of the WorldJohn Skillen, professor of English and director of the “Gordon in Orvieto” program, penned a chapter entitled “New Monasticism meets Renaissance Bottega” for the book Transformations at the Edge of the World: Forming Global Christians through the Study Abroad Experience (Abilene Christian University Press, 2010).

The publisher describes the book thusly: “This collection of essays is characterized by the diversity of its voices. The contributors represent a broad range of faith-based institutions and a wide array of academic disciplines. The study abroad programs they describe, scattered across five continents including North America, reflect a variety of models. Gathered into this pioneering collection are essays that theorize about the conjunction of spiritual formation and global engagement, share practices that are already bearing fruit, and identify potential areas of growth and improvement for the future.”