With the launch of Our Rutgers, Our Future, a campaign to raise an unprecedented $1 billion in donations to Rutgers, the university aimed to dramatically increase private support for faculty and research, students and learning, university and community programs, and campuses and facilities. Here is the story of how student support allowed Annapurna Sriram to spend a year studying classical acting in London.
As Shakespeare intended
One of the differences of performing at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, a faithful reproduction of the open-air theater for which Shakespeare wrote, is that you can really see the audience. Typically, stage actors perform indoors and to relative darkness; at the Globe, where the “ceiling” is the sky, actors perform to clearly visible faces and reactions.
Annapurna Sriram, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior who studied there last year, says the Globe made a world of difference in her understanding of Shakespeare. “You can really see how when Shakespeare was writing, he incorporated the audience,” she says. “You speak to them and get them on your side and relate to them, because they are like a third party in the play. It’s really altered my belief about how Shakespeare should be done.”
Sriram’s experience is unique for an American college student—but standard for Rutgers. Here, students enrolled in the bachelor of fine arts (BFA) acting program spend their entire junior year at the Rutgers Conservatory at Shakespeare’s Globe.
A rigorous curriculum
In the fall, conservatory students spend more than 40 hours per week training with some of the most accomplished theater artists in the U.K. With the Globe’s master teachers, they study not only acting—a different animal when it comes to Shakespeare—but also various skills specific to classical performance, such as movement, voice, and stage combat.
In the spring, the class prepares a workshop performance of a Shakespeare play (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Sriram’s case). And when they are not training, rehearsing, or performing, the students are immersed in British theater and culture.
The role of giving
Only Rutgers mounts a yearlong conservatory training program at Shakespeare’s Globe, a distinction made possible in part through private gifts. Annual gifts from the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation and the Karma Foundation have helped to expand the curriculum and underwrite the additional costs for students to study and live in London. Ultimately, Rutgers seeks an endowment to provide lasting support for this one-of-a-kind educational experience.
Barbara Marchant, head of BFA acting at Rutgers and director of the Rutgers Conservatory at Shakespeare’s Globe, says donations will be increasingly critical in providing scholarships to maintain a commitment to diversity, and in sustaining the program overall. “When planning my year-to-year budgets, I am at the mercy of exchange rates and thinly stretched departmental funds,” says Marchant. “Private support is the only way for us to move forward.”
A competitive edge
A year at Shakespeare’s Globe not only provides Rutgers students with a degree of classical training that typically eludes American actors but also provides an edge in the casting process.
“If I walk into an audition and there are 20 other girls my age, my resume will probably be the only one that includes a year at the Globe, and that’s huge,” says Sriram, who grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. “Every time I talk to people about it, their reaction is, ‘That’s incredible.’ And then I think, ‘Yeah, that is incredible. That is really amazing.’”
Your campaign gift can help provide opportunities for future students to have first-rate educational experiences such as the Rutgers Conservatory at Shakespeare’s Globe. Give online now.