As a college student, few things are more critical than course registration. We will spend hours scouring through course listings to find the perfect courses that fill general education requirements (ideally two at once), taught by renowned professors, or are just straight up cool. While registering for courses the summer before my freshman year, I stumbled across a true gem: Theatre in Philadelphia. I couldn’t have been more excited because throughout high school, I was a huge theatre nerd. I loved to read plays, act, and see live productions, so Theatre in Philadelphia was a perfect fit.
Theatre in Philadelphia is a freshman seminar in which a class of about twelve students has the opportunity to see plays and musicals in Center City every week, free of charge. In preparation for seeing the production, our class would read the script of the upcoming play and discuss its historical context, relevant themes, and notable past productions. After doing our research in advance, we were finally ready to see the show. Once a week, our class would assemble outside of Fisher-Bennett Hall, meet up with our professor, and take SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transportation, into Center City. We
saw some truly thought-provoking and beautiful productions, ranging from classics like Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House to more contemporary pieces such as Metamorphoses, which used dramatic staging in an onstage pool to tell modernized versions of stories from Greek mythology. We would later write essays analyzing the dramatic interpretation of the play, unpacking the production’s strengths and weaknesses, and highlighting interesting artistic choices.
For me, Theatre in Philadelphia really sums up some of the amazing experiences that Penn offers to its students. Penn’s proximity to Center City gives me the ability to explore a rich, and frankly underappreciated, theatre sphere with a mere fifteen-minute subway ride. As a freshman from Colorado where driving is a necessity for getting where you need to go, I was not very familiar with taking the subway or bus. After taking that class, however, I possessed the confidence and knowhow to navigate SEPTA, which made the city of Philadelphia even more accessible to me. Moreover, Theatre in
Philadelphia allowed me to combine my love for theatre with academic analysis, which developed my skills as both an actor and a student. Finally, since the seminar was so small, I was able to form close, meaningful relationships with other students that I still cherish to this day.
-Katherine F, C'19