Sometimes international travel just involves a short drive over the border.
Nearly a dozen Indiana University Kokomo honors students, along with faculty members, studied plays invoking the themes of good versus evil, then saw those plays performed in June at the Stratford Festival, in Ontario, Canada.
“There is more to the world than your hometown, and it’s not that far away,” said Erin Doss, director of IU Kokomo’s honors program. “You don’t have to get on a plane to go there, you can drive. Some of these students hadn’t traveled much, so it was a good experience for them to see more of the world and what it has to offer them.”
Doss, together with Donna McLean, international programs liaison, partnered with the IU East honors program to plan the trip. Joann Kaiser, senior lecturer of communication arts, incorporated two of the three plays they chose to see at the festival into a summer session honors colloquium, “Good/Evil: The Dramatic Story.”
They read MacBeth and All My Sons, which they later saw in person at the Stratford Festival, in Ontario, Canada.
Caitlin Laughner, a humanities major from Kokomo, gained a new view of the plays by seeing them in person, in addition to reading them.
“There was a situation with All My Sons where the way we read one of the main characters was very different from how the character is when you see it played on stage,” she said. “It gives you a different perspective. There’s just no substitute for seeing the play performed.”
Kaiser said students learned more about the plays by seeing them performed by a professional company. Because it was an honors class, she added, it included students from majors including business, nursing, education, psychology, and English.
“The plays, and our discussions, allowed them to understand there is an interconnectedness, looking at drama, and understanding the human condition and how it applies to their course of study,” she said. “It’s a way for them to understand that knowledge beyond the classroom extends into our everyday lives.”
Students enjoyed learning how Canadian money worked, and trying the food, including poutine, which is fries with gravy and cheese curds.
“They realized Canada is not that much different from the U.S.,” she said. “We think about traveling and looking for differences, but noticing we’re really a lot alike is probably eye-opening for some of them. We have some different customs, but a lot of similarities.”
Amber Moore, a senior English major, was excited to discuss MacBeth with fellow students and faculty, including Joe Keener, associate professor and resident Shakespeare expert. She had studied the play previously in his class.
“It was exciting to engage in academic discussions, and because I had studied the play before I went, I had something to bring to the table in the discussion,” she said. “It’s like we were colleagues.”
The trip to Stratford was Moore’s second international experience with IU Kokomo, as she visited Europe with a World War II class in May. Prior to that class, she had never left the country.
“I think in today’s society, we have so many opportunities to see the world through social media, televisions, and movies, but it is different to actually experience it,” she said. “To be able to go out into the world, and to see how other people lives, it opens your eyes to question why we do things we do.”
The trip was funded by the honors program, the theater department, a Shakespeare donor award from the humanities department, and an applied learning grant from the Office of Academic Affairs. It also received funding from the Kathleen Ligocki International Travel Fund.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana