The drama workshop supplements coursework in drama by affording students the opportunity to develop their technique as actors and performers while learning to negotiate the practical challenges of staging a play. Participating in a dramatic production affords students many skills which make them competitive in a variety of fields. Training as an actor makes students into close readers with an acute sense of empathy and ability to parse situations and people—abilities which are indispensable in business, civil service, law, and medicine. Similarly, the attention to detail and organization required to stage a dramatic production exercises students’ capacities as presenters, technicians, and logistical managers.

In the English Language and Literature program, students engage with works of literature designed for theatrical performance as a means to enrich both their use of English and their understanding of Western literature’s social, cultural, and historical contexts. Through screenings, research, dramatic readings, performance, and the staging of plays, students explore the works of Euripides, Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, Henrik Ibsen, Samuel Beckett, and Tony Kushner, among others.

--Dr. Benjamin Barber


Students' Performances


2017 The Shakespeare Night



2017 Alice in Wonderland-Who Stole the Tarts



2017 Peter Pan-Hook or Me this Time




The Doll House




Being Earnest, Part A




Being Earnest, Part B



Students' Voices


Maya Li, 2016 Cohort

Roles: The gravedigger in Hamlet

           The singer in Romeo and Juliet

           Antigone in Oedipus and Antigone

 IMG E33621

Hamlet: Maya (left) and Gloria (right)

  The process of rehearsal was hard, but actors practiced with one another and gained a close understanding about their roles and background through repeated rehearsals.

  Moreover, the interpretations of the roles have been further deepened. Ben Barber is a very patient and responsible teacher, and he is also a very thoughtful director. He pays attention to the actors' understanding of the drama background and gives us for each part of the dialogue. It is more effective than rote memorizing. In addition, I would like to show my deepest gratitude to Professor Lowe for his pronunciation guidance to me. He patiently and individually counseled us and helped us to express the emotions of the characters properly. He told me "the funny gravediggers and thoughtful Hamlet is an interesting contrast on the stage. Every role has its meaning. They are all important.” He carefully explained the interpretation of my script and encouraged me to release my emotions, which made me become more confident. I still remember at that performance night I enjoyed such a wonderful stage with my friends. We tried to present the best performance to everyone. It’s my pleasure to work with such an efficient and interesting team. This experience will be unforgettable and valuable for me forever.


Iris Cai, 2016 Cohort

Roles: Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

           Ismene in Oedipus and Antigone


  I was very honoured and delighted to have the opportunity to participate in two drama performances of the ELLS program in my sophomore year. I benefited greatly from the two previous experiences. I played Ismene in Oedipus & Antigone directed by Professor David Britton from the Swansea University in September. Through communicating with Professor Britton, I gained a deep understanding of the character Ismene, who is gentle and soft but also covets Antigone’s honor. In November, I played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet directed by Dr. Benjamin Barber at UIC’s Shakespeare’s Night. During rehearsals of Romeo and Juliet, Dr. Xu Xi and Dr. Benjamin Barber also provided me with guidance and suggestions on our lines, which helped me understand and remember them fully. In addition, the Introduction to Literature class in the second semester of my freshman year also helps us read scripts and understand characters. Studying literary classics through reading scripts, learning new words and sentences through memorizing lines and rehearsals, developing self-confidence and immersing myself in the charm of drama, are my greatest gains from these two drama performances.


Jennifer Yang, 2016 Cohort

Roles: Hamlet in Hamlet 3.1 "To be or not to be"

           City Leader in Oedipus

           A member of Chorus in Antigone

  English is a language I am favourable of all the time, and it becomes deeper when I performed two kinds of dramas this semester, and they make me have the possibility to enjoy the beauty of English in drama.

  The first drama I performed was Oedipus & Antigone which was directed by Dr. Britton. Due to the time limitation of rehearsal, actors need to balance the time between rehearsal and study. Remembered individual line, practiced lines with partners, and corrected pronunciation of words and so forth, all required actors’ effort and great input. During rehearsals, I was willing to show my gratefulness to Dr. Britton for he helped all actors to analyze roles’ feelings and characteristics one by one, and patiently and kindly corrected our English pronunciation and emotion we should perform in our lines. 


Oedipus and Antigone: Jennifer (stand) and Ken (sit)

  The second drama I performed is To Be or Not To Be-Hamlet Soliloquy. This one is a great challenge for me because it needs one person to express all the feelings and emotions that soliloquy has. I really appreciate that Dr. Benjamin Barber introduced its background to me so that it would be easier for me to remember lines and also gave me a deeper understanding of the soliloquy. Besides, Professor Mei-hwa Sung’s and Dr. Xuxi gave me some suggestions about how to better transmit feelings and emotions to audiences. It is my honor to have this chance to get close to Shakespeare’s language and cultivate my ability to be confident and poised in front of the audiences.


Gloria Zheng, 2016 Cohort

Roles: Hamlet in Hamlet 5.1

           A member of Chorus in Oedipus

           Oedipus in Antigone


  When I prepared for playing Oedipus in Oedipus & Antigone and Hamlet in Hamlet, literature courses at ELLS provided me with great help. To portray well a character on stage, I needed to understand the history and personality traits of the character as well as his or her relations to the entire play. With the critical thinking skills taught in the literature courses, I was able to conduct in-depth analysis of the characters that I played. Outside the classroom, professors also helped me throughout the rehearsals. Professor David Britton, a BBC playwright and director, and Professor Charles Lowe of our program, both advised me on my acting and patiently corrected my English pronunciation. Therefore, I benefited greatly from participating in both of the plays.


Cindy Huang, 2015 Cohort

Roles: Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet

           Teiresius in Oedipus

           A member of Chorus in Antigone


Dr. Benjamin Barber (left) and Cindy (right)

  In general, these two performances are both challenging and learning opportunities for me. Unlike the professional classes, these two were performed on stage to many people. Not only do I need to overcome stage fright, but also I need to constantly step into my role during rehearsals and make sure that the pronunciation of each word is correct. The teachers in my department, such as Ben, gave us a lot of help during the rehearsal. He helped us understand the role and corrected our pronunciation. After the performance, I not only learned the knowledge on stage but also made progress in spoken English.


Ken Hu, 2015 Cohort

Roles: Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet

           Oedipus in Oedipus

           A member of Chorus in Antigone


Ken (left) and Dr. Benjamin Barber (right)

  For me, to perform a drama, especially a big drama, is equal to do an academic research. It’s interesting as well as challenging to adapt myself to a role in drama. In Oedipus & Antigone drama, I was impressed by my transformation from an imperial role to a pessimistic character. I endeavored myself to explore my role. All the teachers in CELL offered great help to me during the research process. Ben made several appointments with me to help with my part, which promoted my further comprehension on my lines.