By: Hayley Billet
Dr. Corkery and graduate students from his Spring 2021 Drama class attended a showing of Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat at the Fulton Theater on April 8th. Most of the characters in Sweat are working class people from Reading, Pennsylvania. The plot focuses on the troubles they face when they are laid off from the job they have all worked at for many years.
By attending the showing of the play that they have read for their class, the students were able to enrich their understanding of the play itself, further enhance their learning from the classroom setting, and experience the play rooted in community.
This shows the value of experiential learning, a high-impact practice that all students, graduate or undergraduate, should take part in (https://www.aacu.org/trending-topics/high-impact). The graduate students were able to make real-world connections by viewing a play read in class, on a much larger scale (the Fulton). The graduate students engaged as audience members, at a theater filled with spectators who have personal and impersonal connections to Reading, PA. This community-based experiential learning helped us showcase and apply our interpretations, connections to the community, and our extension of class learning in a very real, community focused way. Students, myself included, also gained experience by organizing this event in coordination with Dr. Corkery.
After reflecting on the experience, I noticed differences between experiential learning for graduate students and undergraduate students. I experienced the play as a graduate student and community member; I wasn’t just a student identifying the characters and themes of this work, I was sitting in a theater rooted in community values, experiencing the plot and characters alongside Lancaster County community members sharing an interest in telling the stories of our experiences in Pennsylvania communities. I have discovered immense value in experiential learning and invite others to work with our graduate faculty planning future community-based experiential learning events.