The Wide World of Project SUCCESS in London
Above: Students on the stage of Shakespeare's Globe after participating in a workshop with a professional from the theater company.
We know from nearly 25 years of experience at Project SUCCESS that theater makes a difference in students’ lives. Research agrees: School groups assigned to go see a live play report greater social tolerance and a greater ability to see a situation from different people’s perspectives.* When you combine theater with an immersive global experience, it can be life-changing.
In October, eight students -- each from a different one of our partner high schools -- and two Project SUCCESS staff traveled to London for four days to experience the city’s theater, art, history and culture firsthand. The students' passions for the arts ranged from theater to show choir, from visual art to fashion. Project SUCCESS first designed our London experience last year, bringing students to King Lear in advance of the Guthrie’s production, and coordinating a student reflection video which was then shared with their peers to help them reflect on the subject matter of the show.
This year, the London theater experience focused on two performances -- The Ferryman, a family drama set in 1981 during the Northern Ireland conflict, and Dreamgirls, a musical about a trio of female R&B vocalists navigating show business in 1960s America.
The two Project SUCCESS staff members who chaperoned the trip, Director of Programs Laura Garcia and Program Manager James Rone, collaborated with Theater Curriculum Associate Khary Jackson to thoughtfully choose the performances students would see during their time in London. They developed workshops for students while on the trip, focusing on central themes of the performances, including loss and identity.
Students also had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on the world-renowned Globe Theater stage with a professional actor and Shakespeare expert. Students were wowed by the opportunity to walk on the Globe stage -- and developed a deeper appreciation for Shakespeare though the workshop.
“The Globe was the most important thing I saw,” said Sam, a senior at Roosevelt. “I already had a strong connection to theater, so seeing where one of the greatest playwrights' plays were performed was a big deal to me.”
“The Globe workshop created such an atmosphere of enthusiasm and passion for our students around Shakespeare’s work, while also being a safe space to take risks,” said James Rone. “It was an experience that couldn’t have happened in any other setting.”
Students built a tremendous amount of confidence in themselves and their abilities to travel and open themselves up to new experiences – a skill that will serve them well for years to come.
“This trip got me out of my comfort zone, travel-wise, which will be a big help before I enter college,” said Sam.
“In college, I was planning on studying abroad, but was unsure if I could study in a large city like London. Now I know I could,” said Camille, a senior at Patrick Henry.
Ultimately, Project SUCCESS seeks to create global education experiences that broaden students’ perspectives, and open new doors of possibility for them. London, as a global hub, allowed students to not only experience British culture, but an entire world apart from their lives in Minneapolis.
“The most important for me was the British Museum, just because there is so much history and culture in one place,” said Nathan, a junior at Washburn. “I was able to see the whole world.”
“The trip helped me broaden my sense of how wide the world is, and how many possibilities there are,” said Viola, a senior at South. “I was surprised how many different people are in London – whenever someone opened their mouth to speak, I couldn’t predict what language or accent would come out.”
“This trip has inspired me to push past my limits when something stands in my way,” said Eddie, a junior at North High.
* Greene, J. P., Erickson, H. H., Watson, A., & Beck, M. (2017). The Plays the Thing: Experimentally Examining the Social and Cognitive Effects of School Field Trips to Live Theater Performances. SSRN Electronic Journal.