Throughout the program in Romania, I saw a lot of happy faces among our delegation. This is not to say that students did not have their own culture-shock experiences and some tears along the way too. It is said that growing up is painful. I did see a lot of growing and maturing among our delegation, regardless of their actual age (and one of my students was over 50). I am proud of them. They did well and made great ambassadors for both UB and our country.
By working together with students from the Balkans and other participating countries, UB students acquired the skills, attitudes and perceptions that will allow them to be globally and cross-culturally competent. Our students enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with students from many other corners of the world, whose shared interest in drama and the arts gave them a basis for dialogue and cross-cultural exchange. Our students gained in “educational diplomacy” and returned to our campus with an increased capacity for tolerance. It is by studying theater among international peers in a foreign setting that students learned about themselves and their art in ways that could not be replicated in the comforting and familiar setting of American/English-based cultural backgrounds.
A main component of our summer abroad program is participation in the International Workshops of Drama Schools of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) of UNESCO. Only eight top-notch schools were invited to participate: Shanghai Theatre Academy (China), Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb (Croatia), Académie Théâtrale de l’Union of Limoges (France), Academy of Dramatic and Film Art in Budapest (Hungary), Seoul Institute of the Arts (Korea), Islamic Azad University (Iran), the Ludwik Solski State Theatre School in Krakow (Poland), University of Dramatic Arts of Targu Mures (Romania) and UB. Each school represented not only its country, but also a geographical region of the globe. Our students performed on stage the same play as the other schools. So it was very interesting for them to see how their international peers understood and portrayed the same text that they did. The contrasts were great—and heated debates ensued after each presentation.
Another component was participation in Ancient Indian Drama, taught by star teachers from the acclaimed National School of Drama in New Delhi. The sessions were intense to say the least. At the end of the course, there was an open performance of Shakuntala, the timeless Indian classic by Kalidasa. UB student Jack Holahan was chosen as the male lead for the group performance and several of our students had important parts as well. In the delegation performance of Shakuntala (which included members from one or more participating country delegations), our group was joined by students from Islamic Azad University. Both performances and excerpts of the workshop session were recorded on DVD, and in the fall of 2006 became available through the UNESCO Chair ITI’s “The Pedagogy of Theatre on DVD” series.