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Literary London: Bethel students experience British culture through diverse theater

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – In January, during Bethel College’s interterm, 16 students traveled across the Atlantic to spend three fun-filled weeks exploring the countries of Northern Ireland and England. The course, entitled Literary London, focused on learning and appreciating British culture through theater as well as other cultural experiences.

We began with a three-day stay in Northern Ireland. On our first full day here, we traveled to one of the most well-known geographic landmarks of the Emerald Isle, the Giant’s Causeway, an area on the northeast coast with thousands of interlocking basalt columns from a volcanic eruption millions of years ago.

A short journey from Giant’s Causeway is Corrymeela, our home for the next two days. Corrymeela is a conflict resolution center, similar in function to Bethel College’s KIPCOR (Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution). Corrymeela primarily deals with Catholic-Protestant conflict resolution, and we learned a great deal about the history of this conflict in Northern Ireland.

After our two days at Corrymeela, we bid goodbye to this beautiful country to travel to London, our home for the remainder of the trip. The first several days were filled with sightseeing, including such well-known landmarks as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and many of the museums that London is famous for.

To fulfill the literary aspect of the tour, our group attended six diverse theatrical performances. We began with Thérèse Raquin, a dark French drama by Émile Zola. Our second play was Coram Boy (from the novel by Jamila Gavin), an epic set to the music of Handel’s Messiah. This play was my personal favorite, and the music was spectacular.

Our next theatrical experience was new to us all, a (mostly) silent reenactment of Goethe’s Faust, set in a five-story warehouse that we were instructed to explore. The fourth performance was All Wear Bowlers by Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle, an extremely funny play. We enjoyed the slapstick comedy.

For the fifth performance, we journeyed to Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of Shakespeare, to take in The Merry Wives of Windsor, the Musical. On our last evening in London, the group enjoyed The History Boys by Alan Bennett.

The day after the fifth play, the group was given a four-day free weekend to travel or to use however we liked. Three other students and I traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, while other destinations included Paris, Brighton Beach and Oxford.

Literary London was a wonderful experience, from the first day in Northern Ireland to our last night of theatrical performance.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

Bethany Trimble, Clyde, will graduate from Bethel College in May with a degree is psychology.

Other Bethel students participating in Literary London:

Megan Abrahams, junior, Canton

Amy Balzer, junior, Hesston

Hannah Blalock, freshman, Coppell, Texas

Amy Castle, senior, Gardner

Julie Fromm, senior, Newton

Megan Klaassen, junior, Whitewater

Anna Lever, sophomore, Moundridge

Cassie Preston, sophomore, Valley Center

Shawn Rath, senior, Moundridge

Jennifer Regier, sophomore, Newton

Katy Schmidt, junior, Peabody

Tina Schmidt-Tieszen, senior, Newton

Matt Stucky, freshman, Moundridge

Jill Swenson, junior, Hutchinson

Jon VanMaren, senior, Bonner Springs

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