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East Ridge students go 'walking Shakespeare's footsteps'

A group of 13 theater students traveled to London June 15-21. Students toured many sites including the Tower of London. Submitted photo.1 / 2
During their trip to London, East Ridge students were able to watch a group of actors perform scenes from William Shakespeare's plays during a tour of Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford. Submitted photo.2 / 2

This past spring, East Ridge High School brought William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to the stage.

For many students, that was their first introduction to Shakespeare.

Well, earlier this month students were able to get a little bit more up-close and personal with the renowned playwright during a school trip to London.

“London is so important to the history of theater and currently with what is happening with theater,” East Ridge theater director Amanda Hestwood said. “It’s the inspiration of walking Shakespeare’s footsteps.”

Hestwood and 13 students, along with two other teachers and three chaperones, traveled to London June 15-21.

Planning a trip to London dates all the way back to before East Ridge even opened its doors.

“We decided really early on, in formatting our programming, that travel would be a part of that program,” Hestwood.

The plan is to travel to both New York and London within a four-year time period.

The East Ridge theater department took its first trip to New York two years ago.

“Within a student’s four years here they would have the opportunity to go to the two major cities of theater,” Hestwood said.

During the trip to London, the East Ridge group was able to tour many of the historic theater sites including the Globe Theater, the National Theater, West End and Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford.

“We did every theater thing we could do,” Hestwood said.

Even though the group wasn’t able to see a performance at the Globe Theater, they were able to take a tour and observe actors rehearsing for a performance of “Macbeth.”

“That was one of those moments for the kids that was really outstanding,” Hestwood said. “Being able to see this company of actors produce Shakespeare in many ways the way it was intended to be produced, it was really inspiring for a lot of kids.

“We got to see where quality theater is made.”

Hestwood said many students enjoyed visiting Stratford and learning about Shakespeare’s early life.

“I was excited to see how excited they were,” she said.

One highlight in Stratford that Hestwood said students enjoyed was seeing some Shakespeare players performing small scenes, sonnets and monologues in the courtyard at Shakespeare’s birthplace.

“They were doing Shakespeare on demand,” she said. “You can ask them to do whatever pieces you wanted.”

In addition to experiencing London’s historic theater, the East Ridge group also experienced some of London’s modern theater by attending two musicals – “Wicked” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

Hestwood and the students also ventured away from theater altogether with tours of the Tower of London, Hampton Court, a few “Harry Potter” sites, “Dr. Who” sites and some students even did a Jack the Ripper tour.

“We got to do a lot in a relatively short period of time,” Hestwood said.

Hestwood said she was very pleased at how the trip went and hopes the school’s subsequent trips to New York and London are just as successful.

“New York was strictly a theater trip,” she said, “London was a history trip and it was a language trip.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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