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How to Pursue Your Passion Abroad: A Tale Told from a Theatre Seat

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One of my main reasons for choosing London as my study abroad destination was its reputation for the theatre, and the arts. Theatre has been my passion, and something that has taken up a fair chunk of my life since middle school, but I have never seen so many shows in such a condensed amount of time as I saw while I was in London. Not only did I get to see shows, but I was able to join Queen Mary’s Theatre Society and through them, participate in four festivals throughout my year abroad. The combination of QMTC, and the vast theatre available to me in London were two very high highlights of my time abroad. Every time I sat down in a theatre seat, and forgot about the world for a couple of hours, I was reminded why I want to be on stage and why theatre holds such a meaningful place in my life. As the weeks went by, I slowly gained more and more theatre tickets, and added them one by one to the wall in my flat. By the end of the year, my wall was covered, and I am still pleased with how I took advantage of (some of) the theatre available to me in London.

The first show (of what would be many) I went to see in London on my own was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I couldn’t have spent time in the United Kingdom without fulfilling my Harry Potter dreams, but this topped them all in that I got to combine my love for a magical series, and my favorite performance style. I was blown away by this play (much like someone had cast expulso on my brain), and little did I know that many of the other plays I would see in London would have a similar effect on me. This was only the beginning.

Flash forward several months (and several plays), and I decided to day-seat for Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre. I knew it was a jubilant show filled with choreography, and as a dancer, this seemed right up my alley. This musical had me smiling from beginning to end, and the soundtrack still provides me with such happy memories that whenever I need a pick-me-up, I’ll put it on and remember how delightful everything about Sixpenceis. This show was one of my favorites that I saw in London, and I wish I could re-watch it every day.

Remember how I said I wanted to live out my Harry Potter dreams? I think I managed to top my Cursed Child ventures when I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead starring Daniel Radcliffe! This was the first show I saw with a well-known actor, and everything about the ambience in that theatre was of such a different level to anything I’d seen before. The Old Vic was literally a-buzz, and the show itself was thoroughly enjoyable, especially considering the ironic fact that I was reading Hamlet at the time for one of my modules at Queen Mary! I kept hearing snippets of traditional Shakespeare, and realizing that I recognized them because I was writing an assignment for my course on that exact scene from Hamlet at that time. I never thought I would see a show in London that would crossover with a non-drama class, but such experiences made my study abroad special. It was cool to have my academics and pleasure combine for a second, and it gave me a different appreciation of that scene when I went back to continue work on my assignment.

Move ahead a few months to one of my absolute favorite shows I saw in London (and I still talk about it today). The epic eight-hour marathon of Angels in America was not only a full day of seeing theatre, but it was unlike anything else I’d ever seen before. The play is a beautiful, poignant, gut-wrenching piece, and getting tickets was only somewhat short of a miracle. It was a masterclass in acting, and I know that this show will live on in my memories for a long, long time (Side note: I loved it so much that I went to see the NT Live screening of the show back in the states so I could experience the production again).

One of my last shows in London was Don Juan in Soho starring David Tennant. I got to experience this show with my mother, and ending out my performances with a run of comedies was one of my better ideas (I couldn’t face the sadness of leaving). Sharing the theatre with my family has always been special to me, but being able to do so in London meant that much more.

Sitting in so many theatre seats, and experiencing such a large variety of shows during my year in London was, for me, the best way to combine my passion with study abroad. I saw over 30 shows in my nine months abroad, and I know that all of those theatre seats in which I have sat made an impression on my life. That being said, I got to get out of the seats with QMTC and get on stage, which allowed me to meet other people on campus who shared my love for the theatre. The four festivals I participated in were original, creative, and most importantly, a right laugh. Being a part of these four shows made me feel like I had a place on campus, and allowed me to find another way to bring my passion into my study abroad experience. Moreover, I got to be involved in a panto, which is so quintessentially British, and I think that made my experience that much better (oh yes it did)!

All my theatre tickets have been preserved in a scrapbook now, but I know that they will forever provide me with memories and reminders of how much theatre means to me, and why London was the right choice for me.

Miriam Jaffe is a student at Scripps College and studied abroad with IFSA at Queen Mary University of London in London, England for the 2016-17 academic year.