Play all day: London theater tour with PEA Theater Instructor Sarah Ream '75

The play's the thing for a group of alumni who traveled to England with Exeter Expeditions. 

By
Melanie Nelson
November 16, 2017
A street view of the theater district in the London's West End.

Participants in the London Tour stayed in close proximity to the theater district in the city's west end. 

Exeter Expeditons

While Exeter has long extolled the merits of study-abroad experiences for students, it has also done a particularly good job over the last 25 years of engaging alumni, parents and friends in overseas adventures through Exeter Expeditions. Run by the Office of Institutional Advancement, Exeter Expeditions typically offers several travel programs in a given year, each lasting approximately seven to 10 days. Best of all, Exeter instructors with deep knowledge of the subject matter serve as guides for the duration of each trip, and the group size is kept small to ensure a Harkness-like experience.

 

The play's the thing

New Hampshire Seacoast residents Karl and Paula Singer P’86, P’88, P’91, P’94, P’98 know Exeter, and Exeter Expeditions, very well. The parents of five Academy graduates, they’ve had ample opportunities to become acquainted with Exeter’s instructors, particularly those in the theater. “All five of our kids took Introductory Theater,” explains Karl, a semiretired physician who has played viola in the Academy’s orchestra for the past 44 years. “And when our youngest son, Andrew, was at Exeter, we met Sarah Ream [’75; P’09, P’11].”

Years later, when the couple saw that Ream, who worked in theater in London for 12 years after she graduated from Yale, would be leading a trip there, the stars, as it were, seemed to be aligning. The Singers signed up for the 2014 junket, and ended up liking it so much that they returned again in 2016, both times with Ream as their guide.

The Singers found the group size and dynamic to be ideal for the many plays Ream had selected and for the Harkness discussions held each morning to discuss the previous evening’s show. “It’s fascinating how everyone sees the plays differently,” says Paula, “how everyone filters them through their own experiences.”

What’s more, the Singers add, the range of productions was wonderfully varied on each trip, with 2014’s itinerary offering adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, and Moira Buffini’s Handbagged, a comedy about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights was a highlight of the 2016 slate, along with William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard.

Like the Singers, Dick Mansfield ’52 and wife, Ellie, have also been to London with Ream. “Sarah gave us a good mix,” says Mansfield, “and she brought a lot of value to the experience.”

Importantly for the Mansfields, the Haymarket Hotel, where the group stayed on their trip, is located just a few minutes from Trafalgar Square — providing easy access not only to the West End theaters where many of the plays are performed, but also to the museums and pubs that became favorite destinations.

Beyond Ream’s knack for choosing riveting plays, say the Singers and Mansfields, she maintains strong professional connections to London-based playwrights, actors, directors and producers that add another dimension to each trip, whether that means having a personalized backstage tour of a film set, dinner with a stage and television actress, or a voice lesson at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Learn more about upcoming Exeter Expeditions

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in the summer 2017 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.