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Loyola University New Orleans theatre arts professor brings Shakespeare to Uganda

Loyola press release - July 17, 2015

Associate professor of theatre arts and dance Artemis Preehsl teaches underserved students 'Much Ado About Nothing'

This summer, one professor at Loyola University New Orleans truly epitomized the Jesuit call to human excellence and to the fullest possible development of all human qualities by teaching a group of underserved students in Uganda.

Artemis Preeshl, associate professor of theatre arts and dance in the College of Music and Fine Arts, recently spent more than two weeks at Stawa University in Kampala, Uganda. Her participation was part of the nonprofit Teach and Tour Sojourners program, which was made possible by a Magis Grant from Loyola’s Office of Mission and Ministry as well as a Strength in Diversity Grant from Loyola’s Affirmative Action/Diversity Committee. The international teacher exchange program helps provide first-class education to the world’s most marginalized students by infusing the third world with western world teachers at all levels.

Through this collaborative program at Stawa University, Preeshl joined visiting professors from Fordham University, Cornell University, Yeshiva University, St. Mary’s University and the University of Delaware in the disciplines of English, physics, chemistry and business administration to expand higher educational opportunities for students on the margins. Stawa University provides cost-effective college degrees in business administration, accounting, and mass communications for students from the poorest communities throughout Uganda.

“This experience made me more aware of how fortunate we are to drink a glass of water, cook on a stove, and live in a comfortable environment," Preeshl said. "Being in Uganda helped me understand how little is needed to be happy in a community of people. I feel immensely grateful for all the blessings that we have in this country."

Preeshl taught master classes in speech and Shakespeare to approximately 40 students at Stawa University, who for the most part, were unfamiliar with the original playwright and his work, she said. In addition to coaching students at scene readings and rehearsals, Preeshl helped students become familiar with phrases they didn’t recognize.

“In some cases, we acted out phrases such as ‘the fowls sits’ [when Benedick is spying surreptitiously] using the Ugandan guinea fowl as a local example," Preeshl said. Preeshl and the students then rehearsed the scenes in pairs and trios. The actors played the same role in more than one scene to familiarize themselves with the role.

In a June 26 performance, the students presented a staged reading of scenes from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” under Preeshl's guidance, and gave a dance presentation choreographed by Ursula Payne, professor of dance at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

The performance was attended by parents, students, community members, and a member of the Ugandan Parliament, Robinah Nanynuja. The presentation of “Much Ado About Nothing” by the students anticipates the yearlong commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016.

At the culmination of her residency on Friday, July 3, Preeshl presented a guest lecture on “Italian Influences on acting in Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing'” at the oldest university in Uganda, Makerere University.

Outreach activities organized by Stawa University included visits to church services and a home, cultural activities, and soccer practice in the Nawire community in Eastern Uganda. While In Kampala, Preeshl also met with Elizabeth Pfifer Payne, director of Catholic Relief Services in Uganda, and Joan Sanyu, director of Love and Care Ministries School, which houses children who are orphans, and/or children who are living with HIV and recovering from sex trafficking.

Preeshl also attended the Ugandan play “Ssemitogo, The Famous Hunter,” translated by Walabyeki Magoda, and the debut of Yesim Sezgin’s film “Canakkale: 1915,” in honor of Turkish Day, at the National Theatre Gardens.