“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Spring 2024 Tour: Entry #3

By Sam Hill

We arrived at Purdue University, a prestigious public university in West Lafayette, Indiana. We were immediately impressed by… the hotel!! The on-campus hotel is a fantastic 4-star establishment staffed predominantly by students and alumni. We excitedly ran into our rooms like kids on their first holiday. I even had a little jump on the bed- I’m 29 years old… We were even more delighted to discover that there was a bar in the hotel serving an excellent cocktail list and an impressive collection of Japanese whisky and scotch. I could feel my wallet getting lighter already, not that it was particularly heavy in the first place…

The campus here is massive and the rapidly growing student body numbers around 54,000 students. Purdue is a university primarily focused on engineering and is proud to have produced more astronauts than any other university in the U.S (possibly the world??) including Neil Armstrong. You may well ask, “what can a group of actors, teaching classes on Shakespeare, do for students who are looking to start careers in Engineering?”. Well, quite a lot. Most jobs involve presenting in some capacity: pitching your ideas to other people, selling your product, making a power point presentation and more. We teach students to present their ideas confidently, articulately and with ease. Shakespeare’s language is specific and conveys exactly what the author wants to say, by studying Shakespeare, students learn the importance of being specific and accurate in their communication with others. I would argue that if you master these skills before you enter the professional world, little will stand in your way.

Purdue has been a week of great questions. My favourites are the questions about England. These include, “have you ever ridden a double decker bus?” (yes). “Have you ever had Vimto?” (Yes). Do you prefer dogs or frogs? (sorry what?!). But my personal favourite goes to Cooper, in the Q and A after our performance for school children, Cooper asked, ‘why is Bottom so funny?’ Cooper, I would say you made my day, but I think its more accurate to say you made my whole year, thank you!

Our final performance finished, we went to the Boiler Maker Bar and relaxed with a cocktail. However, we were all exhausted after a great week of teaching and performing so retired to bed (relatively early). After a lie-in, we were fresh and wondered into down-town West Lafayette. Two audience members, Linda and Cliff, had invited us to see Artist’s Own: an independent art gallery. Linda was one of a group of local artists who ran the gallery. What an experience that turned out to be. We saw pottery, lovingly made by local artists, a mind-blowing exhibition of pieces by local high schoolers, as well as paintings and jewelry.

Cliff, Linda’s husband, had literally retired two days before. He was (and clearly at heart still is!) a scientist specialising in insects. Cliff told me about the Cicada Broods about to emerge in the U.S this year. In brief, Cicada’s are a grasshopper-like insect that spend years hibernating underground. A ‘brood’ of Cicadas will hibernate for a set number of years. One brood might hibernate for 13 years, another brood might hibernate for 17 years. Here comes the interesting part: this year Brood XIII and Brood XIX will emerge at the same time. They will dig tunnels to the surface and swarm the local area, but there is a crossover zone in parts of Indiana and Illinois, where both broods will converge and emerge at the same time. The last time a double Cicada brood emerged in the US, the year was 1803, Thomas Jefferson was president and George III sat on the throne of England.

Anyway, that is plenty from me! Cliff and Linda, thank you for your kindness, we hope to see you in London! Now on to Grace College, our final stop in Indiana.