This is a weekly installment in a series of blog posts submitted by a team of Centre College students studying away or abroad throughout the spring semester. Learn more about Centre’s nation-leading study abroad program, a guarantee of the Centre Commitment.
A sophomore from Memphis, Tennessee, Olivia Wilkinson’s passion for the performing arts has led her “across the pond” for a semester abroad at the Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance, an international drama school in the south London suburb of Sidcup. She says she chose to study abroad at Rose Bruford in order to further her education within the field of dramatic arts and “experience the many opportunities the school has to offer.” On Centre’s campus, Wilkinson has been involved in many activities related to the arts, including a number of Drama Centre productions. She also serves as a supervisor for the Norton Center for the Arts Scene Shop, secretary for Centre Players (fall term) and the vocal percussionist of the College’s acapella group: Common Time. After Centre, Wilkinson plans to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts in directing and eventually aspires to teach dramatic arts at the collegiate level.
Rose Bruford: WEEK 1
“Was the customs queue long?”
My brain quickly begins to simultaneously try to find an answer to the question and swiftly scan my vocabulary for the word “queue.” Finally, my love of British television has become useful. I think, “Oh! ‘Queue’ means line! He means ‘Was the customs line long?'”
After arriving in Sidcup, England, I quickly realized how different American English and British English are. I knew the basics: fries are chips, chips are crisps, cookies are biscuits, etc. However, I didn’t realize how vast the differences would be. I’m not walking on the “sidewalk,” I’m walking on the “pavement.” The American English pronunciation of the word “arrow” is the equivalent to an English candy bar. Even today, in class, I had to explain what sitting “crisscross applesauce” means to my classmates. It turns out they say you’re sitting “cross-legged.” While the slight difference in English was a surprise at first, it has been something that I have become acclimated to over time.
The main differences I have noticed have been in my academic life. My schedule is never the same. My module is never in the same room or for the same amount of time. On any given day, I could have the same class for three to twelve hours. The past couple of Saturdays, I have even had six-hour modules. At Centre, all of our classes for that semester happen concurrently, while at Rose Bruford my classes start throughout the semester and last for different amounts of time.
My classes are also highly specialized. I am currently studying within the American Theatre Arts course. My current main module is Theatre for Young Audiences. In this class, my peers and I devise a piece of working theatre from scratch. This specifically is aimed at presenting the idea of borders, independence, protest, refugees and other political topics (topics that may normally be considered too mature for younger audiences) and tell them in a way that makes them digestible and understandable. As someone involved in the dramatic arts, the devising process is completely new and different from anything I have ever experienced before. For example, one of my prompts was simply to roll around on the floor like fire. Another was to close my eyes and react on impulse to any one of my classmates touching my arms or legs; however, my impulse must be driven by the idea of water.
Another one of my modules is called London Theatre. This class takes place once a week for approximately 10 weeks. Each week, we go see a piece of theatre in either London or one of the surrounding boroughs. The past two shows I have seen were also devised pieces of work. This class has exposed me to theatre that isn’t necessarily sought out throughout London—it’s the nitty, gritty stuff. It has been so interesting to see works that are constantly evolving and works that might possibly never be finished come together as a finished product. They interact with the audience in a completely different way than the theatre that is commonly seen.
Besides getting to see some truly remarkable theatre, this class has also offered the opportunity for many sightseeing explorations. My favorite adventure includes getting to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It was truly remarkable to see this historic place and theatre landmark.
Overall, my experience so far has reaffirmed my goal of a career within the dramatic arts. The people I have met, the places I’ve been and the theatre I have seen have all inspired me in some way, shape or form. I can already tell that the things I will learn at Rose Bruford College will shape me as a creative being for years to come.
by Olivia Wilkinson ’21
February 26, 2019