The theater is, for nearly all of its patrons, a way to journey to new lands, meet new people and experience new cultures both past, present and future.
For a group of theater students at the University of North Alabama, that will become true in a literal sense as they travel to China to study theater May 12 through June 2.
They will take with them the production of William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” which they will perform for the Shoals on Thursday through Sunday. Proceeds from the production will go toward trip expenses.
Professor Charlton James, who is directing the play and teaches the class — Zen and the Art of Acting — said nine students will be making the trip.
While in China, the group’s production of “The Winter’s Tale” will be presented to their host, Tianjin Foreign Studies University in Tianjin, China, as a thank you for serving as hosts.
Tianjin is the fourth largest city in China and is directly southeast of the capital city of Beijing. James said the students will be making numerous trips to Beijing by train.
“The plan is to go to the Beijing Opera and see as many performances as we can while we’re over there, so we can get an idea of how they approach it,” James said. “Every morning we’ll have a class and meet as a class and we’ll specifically be studying Zen and the art of acting. Which means being able to clear your mind and be in the world of the play.”
James said they also will study tai chi and meditation as ways to improve their acting.
This is the first planned trip for the class in order to build the relationship, James said. He added they want to build on that and make it a tradition.
James said they picked “The Winter’s Tale” because of its larger cast and varying styles.
“As far as Shakespeare’s plays go, this one has a lot to offer in terms of style,” James said. “There are different styles. It starts off and you think it’s going to be a tragedy and you come back from intermission and it ends up being a pastoral comedy. And then it has a resolved where everything is resurrected from the original tragedy.”
Forrest Harlan, who plays Leontes, the King of Sicily, in “The Winter’s Tale” said his character thinks his childhood friend, the Bohemian King Polixenes, played by Max Raybon, is having an affair with his wife, Queen Hermione, played by Candace Williamson.
Harlan said he’s excited to make the trip to China.
“I’ve never left the country before, so this is really kind of scary but I’m excited about it,” he said. “I’m very interested in learning about the different cultures. We’re going over there hopefully to see different performances and plays and stuff like that. I’m really interested in seeing a different type of theater.”
Learning how things are done elsewhere is also something Williamson said she is looking forward to.
“It’ll be great to train, because I know they do training with their body and it would be great to train and be able to project better,” Williamson said.
And learning more about the Zen of acting is something Raybon said he’s interested in.
“It’s very important when it comes to acting,” Raybon said. “You get out here and you prepare and on opening night you’ve got a bunch of people in here and you’ve just got to get them out of your head.”
Caleb Kendrick, the choreographer and makeup designer for “The Winter’s Tale” said learning from the Chinese is important for him on this trip.
“Expanding our artistic education,” said Kendrick. “Just to see another country and how they do things that we do everyday. Just to see that style and how it shapes their teachings and forms.”
Bobby Bozeman can be reached at 256-740-5722 or bobby.bozeman@TimesDaily.com.