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Scholarship Stories: The Journey of a Lifetime

In the summer of 2017, fourteen American students from the Robinson Community Learning Center came to tour and perform in Stratford-upon-Avon, with the help of a scholarship from Shakespeare's Birthplace America.

When Christy Burgess joined the Robinson Community Learning Center in 2008, she had no idea that she would be taking students to Shakespeare’s birthplace just nine years later. Despite expressed doubt from her peers over the success of a Shakespeare company in the RCLC, she pioneered the first group and has taught Shakespeare to students ever since.

The group that makes up the Robinson Shakespeare Company is very diverse. Nevertheless, they bond over their collective love of Shakespeare and his ability to tell stories that they relate to. They each seem to have a separate connection to the playwright, a meaningful bond with his words, his works, and his heritage. Furthermore, they find joy not only in the words of Shakespeare himself, but in the ability to come together as an ensemble (and in their own words, as a family) to put on his plays.

Robinson Students 2

Their trip to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was an unprecedented opportunity, both for them and for the trust. Many of the students had never been on a plane before; some had families who had never been outside of the country.  When Christy Burgess first told them of the trip, aided by a scholarship they had applied for with Shakespeare's Birthplace America, an audible gasp filled the room followed by applause and shouts of excitement. 

The group spent eight days in England, between the time they spent in Stratford-upon-Avon and their trip to London. While in Stratford, they were able to tour Shakespeare's Birthplace and the other family homes, learn theatre techniques and history from the Trust’s educational faculty, and perform Cymbeline in the great garden at New Place; in carrying out the play, they were the first group to ever perform in the New Place garden. They also instituted an Instagram takeover, managing the social network for the Trust for the few days that they were here:

Their trip was covered by both Notre Dame Magazine and NBC news, and was featured as part of Notre Dame’s award-winning “What are you fighting for?” series. For more information, please keep your eyes out for our next friend's newsletter, view Notre Dame Magazine's wonderful gallery of images detailing their trip, and enjoy the following video that was aired this season during halftime of the first Notre Dame football game on NBC:

The excitement felt by these students was palpable, and continues through video. They treasured the time they spent here in Stratford, learning of Shakespeare, performing his words, and walking in the places that he walked. We are glad to be their partners and look forward to providing future positive experiences for them and others who might come under similar circumstances. 

Robinson Play

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