If you’re going to go overseas to teach, study or participate in theater, it’s hard to beat the Stratford district of East London. The area is home to the historic Theatre Royal Stratford East and the more contemporary Stratford Circus.
The area is also home to the University of East London, which has a renowned theater department and will open a new performance space adjacent to the Stratford Circus this fall.
And while the name of the place doesn’t have anything to do with Stratford-upon-Avon, where William Shakespeare was born, there is a certain undeniable resonance.
“East London has a truly vibrant theater community,” says Tammy Meneghini, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance, who spent a month teaching master classes and workshops at the university in April.
She also was conducting research for a new work about Joan Littlefield, whom some call “the mother of modern theater,” and whose centennial falls in 2014.
“There will be a huge celebration. I’m going to go back and workshop the new piece with a colleague at the University of East London,” Meneghini says.
The department has a semester-long exchange program with the UEL that offers tremendous opportunities to CU-Boulder students. Set in the heart of Stratford — home of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park — the university is just a 20-minute “tube” ride from downtown London. It’s one of the most diverse universities in the world, with 20,000 students from 120 countries, including 20 percent from outside Britain.
“I knew when I went to college that I wanted to go abroad. … There was really no better place to do anexchange than London,” says Leah Winkler, a senior with a double major in theater and advertising who spent the spring 2013 semester at UEL. “I was the only American in all my classes and all my friends were British.”
The theatre-studies studies program offers degree programs in International Theatre Studies and Community Arts Practice. The program explores the rich cultural heritage of diaspora communities in East London with a global practical and theoretical approach to intercultural performance and globalization, says Bud Coleman, chair of the department.
CU-Boulder exchange students can take part in the UEL Welcome Programme, which offers social events, practical assistance and trips around the United Kingdom to such places as Shakespeare’s birthplace. The theater program conducts regular theater outings, including free tickets.
“They had every sort of performance. It was so very, very culturally interactive,” Winkler says.
CU students get credit for all classes, which are covered by their CU tuition, paying only for housing and food.
“This is just a great, great program. It’s very global, very diverse and more centered on the idea of world theater and devising theater, creating new theater for a global community. Meanwhile we are a more classical training program,” Meneghini says. “They have something we don’t have and we have something they don’t have. It’s a lovely collaboration between two outstanding departments.”
Photo: CU theater student Leah Winkler, second from right, with friends in London. Courtesy photo.