CPVA Students Take The Last Yankee to Romania

Published: April 12, 2019 | Author: Lyndsey Nelson | Read Time: 3 minutes

SUU students on the stage in Romania before a performance of The Last YankeeWhile many students dedicated their spring breaks to relaxing at home, six students from the Southern Utah University College of Performing and Visual Arts used their week off to share The Last Yankee by Arthur Miller with students from SUU’s sister college in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Students left for Romania on March 6, and, after hours of flights and layovers, made it to Cluj that weekend. They then met with the graduating classes of theatre students, who performed two plays for them. “The plays were in Romanian, and so different from what we do here,” explained Will Cowser, the senior who organized the trip as a part of his EDGE Project.

The inspiration for the trip came to Cowser while he was serving in Romania for a church mission.“I was living in Cluj,” Cowser said, “and I bumped into this guy in a grocery store who spoke in very good English. He told me he went to SUU and we had an exchange with this university. I realized, there’s a connection here. Pretty much since then, I decided, I had to go back, I had to do it with the school and I had to bring a play since that was the only thing I felt I had to offer. When I got home, I pretty much immediately started working.”

After watching the other students perform, both schools joined together for an acting workshop, which focused on commedia dell’arte, an early form of professional theatre which focuses on masked acting and character work.

“They study [commedia dell’arte] a lot there, especially in that class because their professor has a lot of training in it. They made their own masks and let us wear them.” Cowser said. Both groups of students shared familiar exercises, as well as introducing each other to new practices and ideas.

The exchange ended with the SUU students’ performance of The Last Yankee, a 50-minute play by Arthur Miller. The play was selected because of its classic American style and themes. By then, the SUU and Romanian students had formed a close relationship, and the Romanian students even made a Facebook event for the performance in order to invite as many people as they could.

“We had this huge audience for our show,” Cowser said. “They added two rows of chairs, and when our actors came out they were probably a foot away from the people sitting on the floor, it was very cool.”

As he reflects on the trip, Cowser says he has learned a lot from this exchange that has changed how he views theatre and the world. “At first, the trip really was a great excuse for me to go back to Romania,” he admitted, “but there were so many moving parts that I didn’t expect. Like, we had met with these students and shared a lot with them. And all the weird theatre kid stuff we joke about, they do it too. It was weird just sitting at a restaurant with these kids and just thinking ‘this is us.’ Theatre students are universal, and students in general are, and twenty-year-old kids anywhere are all the same.”

“The sheer value of reaching out to someone you don’t know and a culture you don’t know and sharing something and being willing to receive something was genuinely life-changing in a way that I never ever thought it would be for me,” Cowser said. “The plays were just so different from the plays we do here, and to be receiving it, like, ‘I don’t understand a word you’re saying, but we’re speaking the same language.’ There’s a lot more value to that than I could have anticipated.”

Tags: Theatre Arts and Dance International Affairs College of Performing and Visual Arts

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