Drama Trip to New York and Washington

At the beginning of the October half-term, twenty students embarked on a Performing Arts tour of New York and Washington. Accompanied by Ms Middleton and Mr Kelsall and a forty-four strong History side, we boarded a plane at Heathrow where we were treated to a perfectly turbulent, 7-hour flight. We arrived in sunny New York at midday, all anticipating a wonderful first afternoon in the Big Apple. We headed straight to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck to experience the beautiful view of Manhattan at sunset. From the uppermost deck, we could see the New York skyline, as well as the entirety of Central Park. We made sure to explore the Interactive Lightroom before we headed to see the iconic Times Square at dusk. 

The second day started gently with a stroll through Central Park, where we got busy climbing rocks and admiring the greenery. The Drama side then headed off to the UN building, all incredibly excited for the Bancroft’s Balladeers to perform inside. We entered the hallway, eagerly awaiting their welcome. It was only once someone had spoken the words “Welcome, children of Armenia,” that we realised something had gone terribly wrong. We sat in silence as the Armenian flash mob began, realising that we apparently were not performing that day at the UN as we were certainly not the Armenian flash mob that was booked. Despite the now traumatising sound of Armenian drums still ringing in our ears, we still managed to enjoy an afternoon of free time and shopping at Fifth Avenue. After dinner, we headed back to the Rockefeller Centre and spent the rest of the evening gracefully (in most cases) ice-skating, with all thoughts of Armenian line-dancing firmly put out of our minds. The Bancrofts Balladeers were able to perform on the High Line, a public park built on a historical freight rail line over the West Side of Manhattan. Armenian usurpers almost forgotten, the Balladeers soon built up a crowd, performing at their best throughout their medley.

The rest of the next two days in New York were full of performances and workshops, which gave us a better taste of what performing on Broadway is like and illuminated what life is like for actors.  Angela Pierce took one workshop, where she took us through some of the most important things about acting and helped us learn how to apply ourselves fully to any script which we are given. The other was lead by Catherine Ricafort, who taught us the choreography and music for the Holiday Inn opening number, in which she was performing. We soon got into the spirit and looked almost professional by the end; we were able to compare ourselves to the originals when we went to watch the musical on Broadway. We were all wonderfully excited after our workshop, and sure enough, many of us were singing along in our seats to the opening number. Holiday Inn was also featured one of the most beloved actors from our childhood: Corbin Bleu, also known as High School Musical’s Chad Danforth. A few people were even lucky enough to meet him after the show, making it one of the most memorable nights ever. We were also able to see the musical ‘Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812’. Based on Volume 2, Part 5 of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the show focused on the love affairs that emerge and one man’s search for meaning in life. The amazing lighting and design work and the emotional musical numbers kept us all enthralled. 

Thursday was the day of our departure to Washington, so we packed onto coaches for a five-hour journey to the Federal City. We broke up the ride with a stop at the Gettysburg National Military Park, where Dr. Hunn led us on his world renowned tour on the American Civil War. We stopped briefly where Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg Address, with three of our own reading out the speech to the rest of us. Warm weather and more history greeted us the next morning as we went on a trip to Ford’s Theatre, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and we sat down to a one-man show detailing the events of the fateful night. Our next stop was the U.S. Capitol, where we were treated to a brilliantly funny tour guide, who broke up the chunks of history with several humorous interludes. The neoclassical design was stunning, making all of us stop to admire the intricately painted ceilings, so our guide promptly informed that us that we were, in fact, “ceiling fans”. That evening we visited the Kennedy Centre to watch the San Francisco Ballet perform Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella. Although we already knew the story, the gorgeous dancing and spectacular set made the retelling particularly unique. 

Our last full day in the States kicked off with Dr. Hunn tour, this time of the National Mall. We visited many of the memorials, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the National World War II Memorial. It was humbling to see the lives that had been given to protect the country. Before dinner, we set off on a Ghost Tour around the city. We trekked around the spots of some truly disturbing deaths, each story finishing with a warning about eerie spirits that may still be floating about. While it may not have been as frightening as we expected, we certainly learnt a lot.

On the day of our flight we spent the morning split up into various groups, each visiting a different museum as the Washington Marathon was going on. We all visited the Newseum, an interactive museum about news. We spent our time there looking at the several exhibits and watching the 4D Movie which took us through some of the most newsworthy moments of American history. The exhibits included a 9/11 Gallery and a Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery; both were hugely emotive and masterfully presented. 

We set off that night back for England, dreading inevitable jetlag that would greet us on Halloween. The trip was certainly one to remember, full of things to learn about and enjoy. We all had an amazing time and made many memories that we won’t forget.