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Arviat students take virtual trip to England

A group of high school students got an in-depth look at the famous Globe Theatre in London, England, when they took a 50 minute tour of the building via live video feed at John Arnalukjuak High School (JAHS) in Arviat on March 16.

The original Globe Theatre was made famous by playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by his company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt on the same spot and demolished in 1644.

photo courtesy Gord Billard
More than 20 high school students visited the famous Globe Theatre in London, England, for an in-depth study of the theatre's nooks and crannies via video hookup at John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat on March 16.

The students toured a modern reconstruction of the theatre called Shakespeare's Globe, which was built a short distance from where the original once stood. It is recognized as a unique international resource dedicated to the exploration of Shakespeare's work through the connected means of performance and education.

JAHS drama teacher Gord Billard said the call was put out to drama club students about the 1 p.m. hookup with London. The cast of the club's production of Romeo and Juliet, senior English class students, who are studying Shakespeare this term, and students from Billard's communication class were also invited to join.

“We've done a bit of study on the theatre, and I have a standard little package of work sheets and activities that I did with them before we actually went in and watched the session,” said Billard. “The students had done a lot of that previously because we had already visited the theatre like this once before.”

This time around the students were given a more in-depth look of the theatre. They were shown office and rehearsal space. They were taken out the front doors to look across the River Thames for a view of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral shining in London's night sky. They were also impressed with the hustle and bustle of London's streets.

Billard said it was fascinating to be there for that moment; to realize they were looking at a live view of London and that someone was there talking to them about it from right outside the theatre. The Arviat group was also taken through a bunch of other backstage rooms and to various locations up in the theatre seats, he said.

“Several of the kids were curious about the loft area above the stage that's referred to as the heavens because there's a trapdoor up there,” said Billard. “During some plays, when there's a call for a god to descend from the heavens, they have a pulley device they use to lower people down from that trapdoor. No doubt, some of them were thinking about maybe having something like that for one of our productions one day.”

The visit by the Arviat students was made possible by the efforts of TakingITGlobal in conjunction with the Government of Nunavut, Connected North and Cisco Canada.

TakingItGlobal offers talks and tours given by different professionals from locations all around the world, all via video link. Billard said he would continue offering these virtual visits to his students.

“There's one, especially, where they contact an Indigenous actor who has seen success in his career, and he will do a little talk with the students about his journey, explain how he got into the business and give some tips and advice to those who may be thinking about taking the same path,” he said.