In the fall of 2012, the English Department’s Annual Fund subsidized a group of undergraduates to see a play they had studied, August Wilson’s Jitney, at the Court Theatre in Chicago.
Roberta Hill’s class, “Race, Place, and Story,” brought first-year undergraduates together in a small seminar setting to learn the skills of critical thinking and close reading. Jitney was no easy read, according to first year student Lisa White, who deeply appreciated the chance to see the play performed live:
This is one of my favorite memories of freshman year… We had read Jitney in class before seeing it and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I liked it. I understood the concepts it was presenting, like the ideas of black masculinity and the struggles that urban African Americans faced in the 1970s, but I really didn’t connect to it. After seeing the play acted out my whole perspective changed. The passion and emotion the actors brought to the show was something I could have never felt if I didn’t watch the play come to life. After the play was over, it became clear that everyone in the class had felt the same, for lack of a better word, magic that the actors brought to the stage. We were able to speak to some of the actors and director after the show which gave us the change to ask any questions we had about the play.
Her classmates, Cecilia Alvarez, Amy Sleep, and Cameron Olson, wholeheartedly agreed:
The field trip is definitely one of the highlights of the first semester… We knew the play backwards and forwards, but seeing it performed brought everything together perfectly. Actually seeing the words we had read performed on stage, hearing the emotions in the actor’s voices, helped to exemplify the issues present in the play and the themes the play was trying to address. Afterwards, we had a chance to talk with the actors. That was really something special. How often does that happen?
The play was written in a sort of vernacular that made figuring out what was going on kind of tough. Seeing it gave me a completely new perspective and much more insight to the story. Being able to talk with the actors afterwards was also such a neat experience… I loved this field trip and I think it was a very smart investment; I hope it gets to happen again!
Seeing the actual show, the actors turned the script into something amazing… One memorable part of the trip was going to the Chicago Humanities Festival and sitting in on a lecture with experts in their respected fields and having Professor Hill go up to ask the presenter some questions in front of everyone! WE got to see our professor ‘in action’ and really hear what her passions include.
Would you like to support undergraduate field trips like this one? Consider donating here.