When UW-Madison's Performing Arts Study Tours began in the mid-1960s, each year featured one trip outside the Midwest. This coming year, destinations include New York (in February, in June, and at Thanksgiving); San Francisco; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Washington, D.C.; the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina; the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario; and the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
But even as these educational travel programs have expanded dramatically in scope and popularity, their format has remained remarkably consistent, according to UW-Madison professor Harv Thompson. "Each tour still runs four to five days and combines several performances by world-class companies, educational seminars and lectures, and quality hotel accommodations," says Thompson, who has helped create and conduct dozens of tours since joining founder Grace Chatterton in 1970.
Richard Klemm, who, like Thompson, works in UW-Madison's Division of Continuing Studies, came on board in 1977. Now the director of Performing Arts Study Tours, Klemm has developed and led these educational travel programs to 25 cities in the U.S. and Canada.
"On my first tour, to the Shaw Festival in Ontario, our hotel was a 15-minute bus ride from the festival theater, and one night the bus didn't show up," Klemm recalls. "Getting everyone there was my proverbial baptism by fire. Now we stay right down the block from the theater!"
Lorraine Schuette of Manitowoc will be marking her fortieth year of participation when she joins the Winter in New York City study tour this coming February. "I started out riding the bus to Chicago for Lyric Opera performances in the '60s," Schuette says. "We also went to the Twin Cities for road performances of the Metropolitan Opera."
In addition to many tours in the U.S. and Canada, she has also traveled twice to London and other British destinations on Arts Seminars Abroadinternational study tours under the guidance of Thompson. "And I've spread the word around Manitowoc about these wonderful educational travel opportunities," Schuette adds. "Many friends and acquaintances have become regulars like me."
Among their reasons for returning year after year, or even several times a year, participants such as Schuette cite the quality and variety of the productions; careful planning of every aspect of accommodations and transportation; friendly and professional tour leadership; flexibility of scheduling, leaving ample time to pursue individual interests; and such stimulating educational benefits as seminars, trips to museums, and backstage visits.
"Most of our participants are seasoned patrons of the arts, yet when we take them backstage at the Met or another theater they're every bit as thrilled as a novice theatergoer would be," says Thompson.
"For example, Bridget Paolucci often meets with us for an educational seminar at the Met. Many participants have heard Bridget for years on the Saturday Met broadcastsand suddenly they're meeting her face to face and she's answering their questions. She helps make opera come alive!"
Klemm and Thompson note that audiences at most musical and theatrical performances nowadays include people from all over the world, a major and welcome change from when the tours began.
Performing Arts Study Tours are open to everyone; you need not be a University of Wisconsin alum to participate. To be placed on the mailing list, contact Richard Klemm, UW-Madison Liberal Studies and the Arts, 610 Langdon St., Madison WI 53703-1195; e-mail email@example.com; or phone 608-263-6736. You can also visit www.dcs.wisc.edu/lsa/travel for more information.