Professor Melanie Dreyer and four Cornell students will be going to Uganda this summer to teach acting and theatre studies to university students, high school students, elementary school students and theatre professionals in Kampala. This is not the first international research trip that Professor Dreyer has gone on, as her professional specialty is international theatre collaboration. She has done a project with Germany and is currently doing a project with Turkey.
How did this Uganda trip come about?
Dreyer: A year ago, I saw this opportunity to go to Uganda through Teach and Tour and I thought – Africa! I’ve always wanted to work with a country in Africa. So I began to pursue the opportunity and made plans to travel this Spring. And then I mentioned it to the students. And some expressed interest in joining me. I’ve taken students with me on research trips before, so this didn’t seem a big leap. We began to form an agenda. I knew that I would be teaching acting classes to university students and talking with theater professionals about future collaboration opportunities. The students expressed interest in teaching drama to elementary school students and in doing social outreach work.
How will the trip be funded?
Dreyer: I wrote to many Deans and Study Abroad folks, explaining about this unexpected travel and learning opportunity and how the students would need help with financing. Many of them expressed enthusiasm for the project, but regret that they didn’t have funds for us. But a couple of folks agreed to help. As we neared the deadline for purchasing airline tickets, some of the students discovered that they couldn’t afford the trip or that their parents didn’t feel comfortable having them travel to Uganda. So we began as an enthusiastic group of 12 and we are now a group of four students, myself and my son Cassidy. Those four traveling students are: Jeremy Flynn, Ilana Gilovich, Juliana Kleist-Mendez, and Ana Goya Arce.
Will the students get credit for the trip?
Dreyer: The trip has now been designated as a Service Learning event by the university, which means the students can receive credit if they want to, but they are not obligated. The Teach and Tour representative (Evelyn is her name) is so excited to have us. She has informed us that four groups want us to visit and teach them: university students, high school students, elementary school students and theatre professionals in Kampala. We will be in Uganda for three weeks. I think we’re going to be very busy.
How is this opportunity related to the Theatre Arts major?
Dreyer: This trip isn’t considered a part of the major in any way. We are inventing this opportunity as we go along. But I certainly hope to include students whenever possible in my international work, and I have already begun to develop a series of study abroad and teacher exchange opportunities with universities in Turkey. I believe that the department of Theatre Film and Dance is well-positioned to become a leader in international training and exchange and I hope to help make that happen. Maybe this sort of event can become an elective for the major in the future.