Shakespeare at Winedale leaves lasting impact on UT campus

Trisha Dasgupta, General Life & Arts Reporter

On a rare cool summer evening in Texas, a storm passes through Round Top, where UT’s Winedale Historical Center stands. 

With no electricity under a cover of darkness, the sounds of rain in the distance serve as the soundtrack to a performance of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” put on by students taking  part in UT’s Shakespeare at Winedale program. The night of performance made for an evening that James Loehlin, current director and alumnus of the Winedale program, said he will never forget. 

Shakespeare at Winedale has provided UT students with an extensive and holistic study of Shakespeare’s works through performance since 1970. The program meets in the spring as a normal English course or in the summer as a retreat where students live at Winedale for three months while learning and performing three different plays from Shakespeare’s cannon. As the interest form for the summer 2023 program released, students, staff and alumni of Windedale reflect on its legacy. 

Loehlin said Winedale aims to enrich students with a deeper understanding of the plays and Shakespeare’s craft.

“Whatever’s going on with you and your life, there’s something in Shakespeare that will resonate with it,” Loehlin said. “That’s something I like about doing the summer program. … You triangulate among these different works that have different different tones, different kinds of ending, different kinds of language, but that give you some perspective on love, envy or power.”

In addition to the analysis of the works, students at Winedale also learn all aspects of theater and play production, such as how to perform in iambic pentameter and create sets. Loehlin said Winedale provides a safe space for students to learn and grow. 

“Self-confidence and an ability to put themselves out there in front of others is maybe the most important (and) valuable life skill that students develop (at Winedale),” Loehlin said. “We try to make it a really safe and encouraging environment where people can take risks and challenge themselves.”

Program coordinator Clayton Stromberger, who studied at Winedale with Loehlin nearly 40 years ago, said he values the rich history of Winedale and now works to bring Winedale to different communities. 

“There’s really no other program … in the world that I’ve seen that has the history and traditions of Shakespeare at Winedale,” Stromberger said. “The opportunity to work in that setting has been very valuable.”

While oriented to humanities studies, the program welcomes any UT student interested in applying. Students of all majors can find success at Winedale, according to Vincent Cacciatore, computer science and Plan II junior, who says Winedale helped form his course of study, even in STEM.

“The program is very encouraging, especially if you have no theater experience, and you really want to learn,” Cacciatore said. “It really sparked an interest in literature and theater that was starting to go away, even as a Plan II major.”

Throughout the years, the beloved Shakespeare at Winedale program has fostered a long-lasting legacy, enriching students with not only a unique education but lasting connections. 

“Winedale was the first time I really felt in charge of my own learning,” Stromberger said. “I had a traditional concept of school that I was there to absorb the wisdom of the professor and write it all down and reshape it on an essay for a test or something. … This was a light bulb going off (because) really this is a powerful form of learning.”