This summer, TDPS student Ely Orquiza participated in the five-week course “Irish Theater” (Theater 113A). Along with 23 classmates, he studied for one week in Berkeley and four weeks in Ireland—two weeks each in Dublin and Galway. In addition to studying the origins and history of Irish theater, the class attended numerous performances, visited Galway’s renowned International Arts Festival and even found time to experience pub culture. Here’s what Ely had to say about his study abroad experience:
Name: Ely Orquiza
Year: 3rd Year
Major: Double major in Theater and Performance Studies & Dance and Performance Studies
On deciding to go to Ireland: I have friends who had taken “Irish Theater” in the past and they all kept telling me about their incredible experiences in Ireland, so I thought just GO. Ireland has such an incredible history and culture in terms of theater. Artmaking and theater are embedded in their community. I was inspired and felt welcomed the whole time. People were very hospitable and willing to engage with me. It’s such a small place that you’d run into playwrights and artists on the streets, and they were always willing to talk about their work. And pub culture! I loved pub culture–just spending time together with friends after a long day of class. The course is rigorous, with class all day and shows each evening, so we tried to find time at night to spend with each other. We’d have fun and make the most of it. Bonding with my classmates was a joy.
Favorite play attended: I particularly enjoyed seeing “The Match Box” at Town Hall Theater as part of the Galway International Arts Festival. It was a one-woman show (starring Cathy Belton) about the grief of losing a child. It was a painful experience to watch the actress’ emotional struggle, but also a very moving theater experience.
Differences between Irish and American theater: One major difference is that Irish theater is in conversation with the country. Their art is very political and speaks to the wider community. In the US, I feel like theater is seen more as just entertainment than as a social or political commentary about the world we’re living in.
On the effects of studying abroad: This experience abroad has given me a new lens to view dramatic text and literature. I’ll definitely be able to apply that to furthering my studies here at UC Berkeley. Also, being in a different culture gave me experience in life. It impacted how I study theater, how I look at the world and how I look at life in general.
Advice for students considering the Ireland program: I definitely encourage you to apply, be adventurous and go for it! There’s so much to see and there’s so much to learn; being immersed in a new culture, seeing amazing arts and meeting amazing people is wonderful to experience. And the friendships you’ll make abroad will last a lifetime. I hope other people say yes to this transformative and enriching experience.