New York, N.Y.
Home of the historic Broadway district and numerous acclaimed playwrights, the Big Apple is undeniably the center of American drama. Next semester, students will have the opportunity to live among its inhabitants for 10 days, earning three credit hours in a unique, off-campus English 492/592 class titled "Drama in New York."
Created roughly 30 years ago by English professor Robert Stillman, Ph.D., English 492 remains a testament to the quality of American theater.
"We had an ongoing program to Stratford and London, but it seemed to me that if you want to see great theater in the world, you don't have to cross the ocean to see terrific plays," Stillman said. "New York ... (is) good location to take students to get a firsthand experience and cost a lot less money."
Designed to provide visceral, first-hand exposure to professional theater, the class includes a week of tickets to various notable productions.
This year, the schedule includes Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and "Twelfth Night," "Matilda, The Musical," Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land," Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie,"and "Sleep No More," an interactive retelling of "Macbeth."
The program will spend eight nights in New York City and students will see seven plays in total.
"The whole point of the class is to learn better about how plays work, how theater works and performance," Stillman said. "It's much more a production-based educational experience than your traditional English textbook-based educational experience."
Despite being categorized as a spring semester course, almost all coursework is finished before the spring semester even begins, Stillman said.
There is no formal class meeting during the spring semester; however, students do complete a research paper analyzing one of the plays they had seen while in New York to be turned in later in the semester.
Stillman suggests this class for any student wanting either a heavy or light spring semester.
While in New York, students typically meet in the morning to discuss the plays and are asked to keep a journal of their thoughts on the productions. When students are not attending a play or meeting for discussion, they are free to roam the streets of New York, enjoying the city that never sleeps.
Royce Best, a second year graduate student studying English, took the class last spring, spending it immersed in culture.
"I spent an entire day in the Metropolitan (Museum of Art), like seven hours straight, which was awesome for me because I love to look at art," Best said. "One day I just decided to walk to Brooklyn. I walked all the way to the bottom of Manhattan and crossed the bridge all the way down to Brooklyn ... I was in a place where I could completely saturate myself in art and culture. It's an amazing, nonstop experience. I was so exhausted when I got back."
During the class, students are often accompanied by Keith Taylor, a UT alumni holding a Ph.D. in Literature.
A former student of Stillman, Taylor participated in the "Stratford, London and Drama in New York" English courses while in school. After having much success with his nonprofit organization Modest Needs in New York, Taylor began helping to fund the class, sponsoring two students' trips each year and securing exceptional seating arrangements.
"(Students) love 'Drama in New York' and they love Keith Taylor," Stillman said.
Best confirmed Stillman's statement, and said that Taylor's hospitality and intellect make "Drama in New York" both an exciting and educational experience.
"(Taylor) is just larger than life," Best said. "Because of him we got to see so many amazing places that we would have never gotten to see because he would just take us out and pay for everything. He's also brilliant.
"He has a Ph.D in literature and is great to talk to about the plays or New York. He knows everything there is to know about Broadway. He's a huge aspect of the trip."
Taylor has also been known to arrange meetings for the students with actors and production casts.
Just two seasons ago, Taylor set up a 30-minute meeting for the students with famous Hollywood actor Alan Rickman, who is best know for his portrayal of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series.
This year, Taylor will be paying for the students of English 492/592 to experience an off-off Broadway production of "Sleep No More."
Having previously experienced "Sleep No More" himself, Stillman said he is confident the production will please the students.
"(It's) a very unusual full immersion experience of a production of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth,'" Stillman said of "Sleep No More." "Instead of watching the play happen you wonder through various rooms of this warehouse in Greenwich Village watching different scenes of 'Macbeth' take place and you interact with the actors who are in the production.
"I had the experience of being led around by one of the witches and the whole time you wear these masks that look like carnival masks from Venice."
Taking place from Dec. 7-20, students will lodge at the Vanderbilt YMCA, a dormitory-style facility located in midtown Manhattan. Stillman has room for 16 students this year.
Eleven spots are already filled, with only five still available.
"If you want to learn about great theater and great performance then you've really got to go someplace where they have the theatrical productions taking place," Stillman said. "For us in the United States, that means getting to New York City and Broadway, off Broadway, and off-off Broadway plays.
"It's a great way to mix education with entertainment ... Education can't just be left to a classroom. There are certain things you can only learn out there in the world. Take the opportunity now; it will be so difficult when you leave school and get a job to have those great chances to immerse yourself in those cultural experiences that you will never forget."
Students wishing to enroll in English 492/592 are advised to get in touch with Stillman at firstname.lastname@example.org. A $200 deposit is required to reserve a spot in this year's trip.
To learn more about the course and trip, click here.