Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I heard it referred to as Taymor's Revenge.

Patrick and I popped in to see a little bit of Taymor's Tempest the other night. We missed the beginning, and we didn't stay even for an hour so this is by no means a comprehensive review. In addition to how utterly UN-compelling the film was, there was also some kind of problem with the projector. Scenes would blip into blackness for a moment and then come back. It was distracting and the movie just wasn't worth it. We have free passes to see another movie ... I'm thinking Black Swan.

My initial impressions of the movie were that it was visually sumptuous. The island was stunning. The Ariel effects were interesting. The design was lovely. I think we can agree that Julie Taymor is a pretty brilliant designer. But that was about where it ended for me in The Tempest. The soundtrack was completely disconnected from the story that was unfolding. The actors seemed ambivalent. The tempest itself was just not moving. And Taymor tinkered too much with the script for my liking. My liking is not to tinker with it at all... but ...

My biggest problem was exactly what I expected it to be -- Prosper-A. I tried my hardest to keep an open mind. I like Helen Mirren -- I really do. I think she does excellent work. But she was fighting an uphill battle against a director who fundamentally misunderstood the play. There are no mothers in the The Tempest. We have brief mentions of Miranda's mother and of Sycorax, and that is all. They do not appear in the play. They are absent. By changing Prospero from a father figure to a mother figure, Taymor altered the story -- she was no longer doing The Tempest. That's fine... if you don't want to do The Tempest, don't do it. Do something else. Anything else. Just don't say we're doing The Tempest.

I have to defend for a moment. I've been having this conversation a lot over the past few weeks. I am not against cross-gender casting. I love cross-gender casting. I love playing men. I love seeing women play men. I love seeing men play women. We are actors. We act. We pretend to be people that we're not in real life. I am not a wizard. I can play one. I am not a man. I can play one of those too. Check out our company page for The Bookend Project -- you'll see what I mean about cross-gender casting. But you can bet your sweet (insert any body part here) that our female actors who are playing male characters will be playing those characters as men. They're actors. They act.

Just a bit of a rant there. I will now step down from my soap box, and go bake some Christmas cookies. Again, this is by no means a comprehensive review. I am a bit too involved in post-semester vacation land to immerse myself in something "comprehensive" or structured. I hope you all enjoy your holiday season! And in case you are heading to the movies to see The Tempest ... I humbly recommend that you see something else.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

And just in case ...

If after the stress of the semester you feel like you need to watch me get stabbed, here you go. Sometimes this semester, I felt like Rutland.

Happy Finals Week!


OK, it's that time of year. 2010 is coming to a close. The holidays are here. The semester is ending. It's time to be thinking about everything we have accomplished this year and begin thinking about 2011. This is going to be my final post of the fall semester and my final post (at least for class) about the question of authenticity. My inquiry into this question of what makes an authentic performance is certainly not coming to a close ... that is a question, I'm sure, that is going to follow me for the rest of my career. And I'm okay with that.

Over the course of the semester, here are some of the criteria for authenticity that I have come across in my research or in my own responses to that research. An authentic performance must:
- be compelling. To be compelled is to feel moved.
- have an audience. Not just any audience, but a willing, imaginative, and constructive audience.
- a transmissible essence (Benjamin)
- have a voice "that is constructed and expressed visually and orally, and ... heard, perceived, and constructed" (Royster)
- have a basis in biology and in our bodies in discrete energy centers (Reidel)
- have a sense of immediacy (Reidel)

In response to my own musings about how critical the audience is, I have included a short video clip from ADK Shakespeare's production of 3 Henry VI on April 19, 2008. I wasn't able to upload the shorter clip, so please take special note of the audience between timestamp 1:06 and 1:12. Richard and Edward and talking about seeing three suns in the sky, and two audience members actually LOOK! This moment has tickled me since I first watched the video of this performance, and after this semester of research, I am finally able to say exactly why:

Greg Davies (Richard) and Michael Pauley (Edward) have drawn the audience into the story. The audience is willing to construct this imaginary world with Greg and Mike, even going so far as to look at the organ loft in order to see the three fair suns that Richard and Edward describe.

Enjoy! And thank you for a wonderful semester.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Being presenced.

This will be my final post from my 11/20 interview with Leslie Reidel. It was difficult to narrow down our interview to a short series of blog posts, but I had a great time sifting through my transcript. This last post is about presence.

Usually we think about presence as a noun -- it's something that you either have or you don't. Right? Oh, that actor has so much presence. It's a noun. Leslie does not necessarily agree with this! He thinks that we can transform it into a verb so that presence becomes something you "do" not something you "have."

This is a skill that an actor builds. It's not inherent or innate. And it must be made anew each time. Leslie talked about presence in terms of foreground and background noise. The noise keeps us from being present and it never stops. Developing presence as a skill involves making what is in the foreground more vivid, and the background less so. Athletes are very good at this. Musicians are pretty good at this. Actors ... not so good at it. (Improv actors get pretty good at it.) Most actors are not so good at dealing with fixed things.

And this is what we are working with as actors -- fixed things, like scripts and blocking. But if the present is rooted (that is, newly rooted) from moment to moment, how do we work backwards? We must listen. All great acting teachers will tell you that. Even when you are speaking a long speech, you must listen. Presence is more in listening than in speaking. Remember, even long speeches are persuasive arguments, never description, so someone else is always present with you.

To relate this back to a few other posts ... I will fill in this "you" -- the audience.

And to relate it back to Delsarte ... being authentic is being able to say "now." Expressing here (Leslie rubbed his heart), not here (Leslie touched his head). We must feel. Now.

Reidel, Leslie. Personal interview. 20 November 2010.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Now. Now. Now. Now. Now.

Francois Delsarte
This will be the second post in a series of three on my November 20 interview with Professor Leslie Reidel. In the first post, I talked about Leslie's abiding interest in science and its relationship to drama, or rather the drama that is within us at a biological level.  In this post, I'm going to delve into the influence of Francois Delsarte on Leslie's work and how Delsarte's work can help create an authentic performance.

Leslie had mentioned Delsarte to me several years ago, and although the book is sometimes difficult (in part because pieces are missing from my facsimile and in part because it is just so so dense), it is an absolute treasure trove. For a long while Delsarte's work has been considered out-dated, artificial and "stodgy." (If you check out the wikipedia link above, the article describes how Delsarte's work was misapplied and how Stanislavsky's work came in response to this misapplication.) So during our interview, Leslie broke down Delsarte into some basics. Our bodies are made up of three expressive centers -- head, heart, and loins. Think, feel, do. Cognitive, emotional, vital. And Delsarte actually then breaks down the specific parts of the body that correspond to these centers -- for example, the back of your hand is "vital." The inside of your hand is "emotional." The tips are your fingers are "cognitive." Leslie demonstrated this: If you were going to hit someone with the back of your hand, it would be absolutely brutal, right?  Backhanding someone. It comes from your gut, right? But if you slap someone, with the palm of your hand -- your emotions are really engaged. This comes from anger, from your heart. Now imagine picking up a grape with the tips of your fingers and really examine it -- even the word examine indicates that now we're in a mental or cognitive state.

By spending a great deal of time with a given text, we can see which of our centers are being engaged for a character at different points in the play. So Delsarte's contribution to an authentic performance really comes from actively engaging these discrete energy centers in our bodies. Actively engaging. Every moment. The actor must be present and active in every moment of the performance.

More on presence -- noun and verb in my next post!

Here is a link to Delsarte's System of Oratory on Google Books.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Glow

I had a wonderful opportunity on Saturday to interview Leslie Reidel, Professor of Theatre at University of Delaware and Co-Artistic Director of Enchantment Theatre Company, and ask him some questions about authenticity.  Talking with Leslie is always educational and inspiring.  From a conversation of about 2 hours, I can only extract a small amount in this particular post but what Leslie had to share sheds a great deal of light on this very pressing question of how to define authenticity.  Expect at least one more post on this!

I started the interview asking about physicality and movement. In a conference paper that Leslie gave me,  he referred to the physical a great deal, so it seemed like a very key component of an authentic performance. He began by talking about his interest in shifting away from a behavioral or psychologically based model of acting to get at something more fundamental. How much more fundamental can we get than particle physics?  (Interesting turn, no?)  Leslie told me about a NOVA program he had seen years ago on subatomic particles -- quarks. The physicists were able to predict certain directions of motion in the path a particle would take.  Sometimes it would move "up" or "down" but other times it was completely unpredictable and the scientists described this as the particles' "charm." Really fascinating stuff!

Glowing bacteria!
Leslie's interest is in how drama is in us at the level of particles or DNA rather than something we acquire. How are we as actors behaving like quarks? Or are we? Should we be? I think absolutely we should. If anything is at the basis of authenticity, how do we get to a more basic building block than our atoms and our subatomic particles, our quarks? Obviously, drama and writing is a kind of construct but if we can construct these things with our most basic building blocks in mind, wouldn't that make the construction a more truthful, authentic one?

One other science-related item for this post. Leslie also brought up the work of Bonnie Bassler, a microbiologist at Princeton University.  Here's a link to a video of her speaking on "How Bacteria Talk." In a nutshell, she has discovered that when bacteria reach a critical mass, they become luminescent. And that is how the theatre works! Leslie made an explicit connection between Bassler's work and Aristotle's discussion of catharsis. This can only be reached when there's a critical mass of people. It can't happen when you read a play by yourself in your room. This point ties in to a some previous posts where I talk about the importance of audience to authenticity. You cannot truly achieve an authentic performance without the audience. And damn, if you can make your audience glow ... you've really got something there. Something authentic.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Essential building blocks

Finally! I feel like I had a breakthrough this evening. My semester-long delving into this question of "authenticity" in performance should ideally be relatable to the same question of authenticity in composition. "Ideally" has become a bit more practical tonight.

Last week for class, I read Jacqueline Jones Royster's article "When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own." Tonight, I went back to this article for a closer look, and I'm so glad I did. Although Royster is more concerned with voice than authenticity, the two seem to go hand in hand and she defends her range of voices as being all authentic.  She does not clearly define what she means by "authentic," however. (I will come back to this by and by.) Royster takes issue with the current approaches to voice, which see it as strictly "a spoken or written phenomenon" (30).  So far, so good -- this can apply to performance as well. It comes from an author's written word (or voice) and is then spoken by the actors.  I agree with Royster that there is more to it than just that written and spoken word.  The "more" is that slippery, seemingly indefinable thing called "authenticity."

Royster goes on to argue that we should see "voicing as a phenomenon that is constructed and expressed visually and orally, and as a phenomenon that has import also in being a thing heard, perceived, and constructed" (30). Ding! ding! ding! ding! ding!  Voice is not just visual (written) and oral (spoken).  It needs to be "heard, perceived, and constructed," which means someone else must be there to hear, perceive, and construct.  Every voice requires an audience.  By extension, every performance requires an audience.  Without an audience to receive the performance, to hear it, to perceive, and to construct it, it will fall apart.  It will not be authentic!  I emphasized "construct" because, to me, it seems like the most important building block, the cherry on top, if you will.

Every performance has a voice.  Perhaps it comes from a written text.  Perhaps it is improvised.  Perhaps it is even silent (dance?  Lavinia in Titus Andronicus?).  Even in these cases, I would argue voice still comes through whether it be in music, or perhaps the voice of another character.  But it originates somewhere -- written -- and comes out of an actor or performer or musician -- oral.  Check.

Enter the audience.  The audience (whether a piece of writing or a piece of dramatic art) hears.  They hear the lines, or the music, or the sounds.  Check.  They comprehend them, they "perceive" them, and they process them.  Check.

But if the audience does not consent to construct, to build this world with you (whether a writer or an actor or a dancer, etc.), then I would argue there is no authentic performance.  It is the last and ever so crucial step.  Construction.  If we do not consent to work and build together, we'll have an empty shell.  Royster places a good deal of responsibility on us, not only as speakers but as listeners.  I think she is absolutely right.  She says, "voicing at its best is not just well-spoken but also well-heard" (40).  No pressure, folks.

Royster, Jacqueline Jones. "When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own." College Composition and Communication 47. 1 (1996): 29-40. Jstor. 14 Nov. 2010. Web.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In pieces

I am recovering from two days of season auditions for our company, during which time we saw nearly a hundred actors. These lucky hundred people were whittled down from nearly a thousand submissions we received online. We are also accepting video submissions this week, and from this pool of talent and skill I have the happy and terrifying task of choosing two companies of actors numbering twelve and fourteen respectively.

When I got home this evening, from the depths of my deeply fried brain came all these bizarre thoughts about the audition process. I am supposed to make an incredibly difficult and crucial decision based on very little data -- data which suggests how authentic a performance an actor will give me in February or next July. But the audition process has to be one of the most manufactured and awkward processes ever.

Many companies do a two- to five-minute audition slot. Actor enters, smiles, states their name and prepared piece, smiles, states their name, and exits. How on earth can you get to know someone and their work in such a short amount of time? And as an actor, how on earth are you supposed to manufacture an authentic performance? And yet ... it happens. I've seen it. (PS - It's so cool.)

Over the last few days, I've been watching a lot of video submissions as well. As difficult as offering an authentic performance in an audition is, it is confounded by the addition of a video camera. Walter Benjamin in his excellent article "The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction" argues that "situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated." I realize, and I know our actors realize too, that submitting a video audition is better than nothing, but it's not as good as being in the room. The art (at least this kind of art) is somehow "depreciated" by the camera. These are not carefully crafted films in which the camera is being used in a particular way to tell a story. The camera is a tool so the actor can convey to the auditor certain information -- but the information will hopefully be an inspired and authentic snippet of a performance. I think the camera tends to get in the way somehow, in such a case as this.

Benjamin defines a thing's authenticity as "the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced."  But what is an object of art's "essence"?  What does it have to do with its duration, its place in time?  This is even more confusing with theatrical performances which are constantly re-produced.  Furthermore, if we look at an actor's performance of a single monologue, how can the question of authenticity be applied?  The monologue is lifted completely from the context of a play, and often does not make sense unless you happen to know the context.  How can it possibly be considered authentic if the "beginning," as well as the middle and end, of the story have been removed?  (Incidentally, this is partially why there are so few really great audition monologues, which are self-contained stories with a beginning, middle, and end.)

I don't feel like I am any closer to answering these questions.  I would say definitively that I have seen authentic performances in an audition -- both in person and on camera.  They do have an "essence".  A connection happens between the actor and the audience -- but I'm not certain that can be defined either.

All of these questions are supposed to tend back at some point towards Composition Theory.  This is always at the back of my mind in these posts, and I'm going to try to bring a little more to the forefront here.  I think I can translate these questions about theatrical authenticity to writing as well.  Writing is an activity of contrivance -- so is theatrical performance.  Benjamin's "essence" could apply (at least in a modern, though not so post-modern sense).  And I think a connection is established between a writer and his/her audience.  I find it just as difficult to define these essences and connections, but I do at least think there is a parallel.

Now, I will end these particular ramblings for this evening.  But I have talked so much about auditions, I feel it only right to end with sharing a video audition of my own from about two years ago for your viewing consumption.  So:

Hello, my name is Tara Bradway and today I will be reading for you Joan la Pucelle from William Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 1.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I have you now!

After weeks of ruminating and several hours playing with colorful post-it notes, I have finally come up with doubles for The Bookend Project, which you may recall is a dual production of Titus Andronicus and The Tempest.  The Project is this year's contribution to our Shakespeare IN THE RAW project, but is also primarily work for my Introduction to the Profession course.

I had to turn in a short paper for class a few weeks ago, and I was just awash in a sea of possibilities. My initial inclination was to subvert expectations. I want interesting doubles! Unfortunately it seems like we are not encouraged to expect the unexpected.  It's weird or uncomfortable, or maybe it just won't succeed. And we're afraid of failure, aren't we? I'm less afraid of failing and more afraid of mediocrity.  I'd rather fail spectacularly than play it safe.  That's why I do Shakespeare IN THE RAW.

So in my short paper, I was trying to subvert the expected double of Lavinia and Miranda.  I feel like that is where most companies would go with this. Well, I think more of the actors I hire.  I think they can handle the challenge of playing outside the box.  I think the audience can handle it too.  Where I decided to go in my short paper was move based somewhat on instinct, but I did find basis for it in the text (though I won't overload you with that argument): Miranda and Saturninus.  How cool!  Now that I've teased you with that tidbit, that's not actually where I'll be doubling in this production.

Keeping in mind that this project is studying the arc of Shakespeare's revenge play, I wanted the doublings to reflect this binary of revenge/forgiveness. As I was moving the post-it notes around, it struck me that this has a lot to do with relationships. Of course. And not just relationships between characters (both within and across the two plays), but relationships between actors as well.  I am about ready to dig into these but I wanted to offer up a taste of what I'll be discussing in my long paper:

and a discussion of why Aaron will not be doubled with a character from The Tempest

Monday, November 1, 2010

*Eyes* and *Qualities* finally rhyme again!

It must be like watching the original, unadulterated, completely undigital versions of Star Wars!

In ten days, students at Kansas University will be performing the first original pronunciation performance of Shakespeare to take place in the United States: A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I encourage you to watch their video on YouTube, where you can watch them in rehearsal and hear the original rhymes preserved.  Click here for a detailed article on the production.

This production, of course, has me thinking about authenticity.  Is the production going to be more authentic because the actors will be speaking as Shakespeare did?  Because the rhymes are finally going to ring true in our ears, as they haven't in hundreds of years?  I really enjoy listening to original pronunciation (OP), not that I have many opportunities to do so.  The first place I heard it was in Ian McKellen's Acting Shakespeare, which aired on TV in 1982 but has just come to DVD in 2010!  He does a very small bit of Macbeth in OP and it's just extraordinary to hear.  I really couldn't say what the experience of hearing the entire play in OP would be like.  I suspect my ear would get used to it rather quickly, but I have a pretty decent ear for accents.  Would I get too caught up in the rhymes?  What if the actors themselves are not very good?  The novelty of OP is not going to last very long if Helena is not terribly compelling, right?  I can only speculate, since unfortunately there's no way I can make it to Kansas to see the production.

But it's quite a question, does OP make the production more authentic?  I think perhaps it does to a certain extent, at least historically speaking.  In calling us back to our language's past (as Paul Meier points out in the video, this is the accent the first Americans would have had), there seems to be a sense of the authentic.  We tend to value our roots, our origins.  This, however, is not the sense of authenticity I am seeking this semester.  Not quite.  As I mentioned above, if the actors do not present a compelling story, I don't care what sort of English is coming out of their mouths.  So it appears I have one small requirement to add to this definition... for something to be authentic, it must be compelling.  Well, it's a beginning.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shakespeare IN THE RAW - Richard III Trailer

While I search for a way to post this in a "gadget" that will stay put, here it is at least as a post.

All the footage/audio in this trailer is taken from our April 19, 2009 production of 3 Henry VI, performed at the Philadelphia Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA. It begins with a small clip of Queen Margaret (played by Christine Demuth) right after **spoiler alert** the murder of her son, Prince Edward, by Richard III and his two brothers, Edward and Clarence. Hopefully, I can find the time to edit that scene from our video archive and post it as well. I can unequivocally say that that scene was one of the finest, most moving, and most authentic (yes, that's right, I said it!) moments I have ever experienced in the theater. Ever. (And I cannot even begin to tell you what kind of harsh critic I am.)

Ms. Demuth's performance was absolutely extraordinary. She is in her mid-twenties and does not have children, but in this production, she plays a character who would be 41 years old, witnessing the murder of her 17-year-old son. The memory of this performance still (a year and a half later) moves me to tears. What makes such a performance authentic? It is a performance, after all.

In THE RAW performance, we have no "backstage" that is hidden from the view of the audience -- there is only on- or off-stage. We usually play in the round, and actors set prop and costume pieces off-stage behind the audience. So the audience is able to see actors changing costume pieces and transforming from one character to another (as we also nearly always play more than one character), waiting just off-stage "in the wings" for their entrance. We don't actually have wings. We don't hide the actors backstage. We're very "in your face" about the constructs of the play, and we very clearly ask the audience to play and imagine the world with us. I think acknowledging this imaginative element and actively playing together (actors and audience) makes the performance stronger, more effective, and a more authentic, moving experience on both sides of the stage.

Is this why it doesn't matter what age the performer is? Because we all agree to pretend that she is 41 and a mother. We agree to pretend that Prince Edward (who, by the way, was played by a woman) is her son. We agree to pretend that he is murdered. And by agreeing to do this and then actually doing it, we somehow make this experience authentic and meaningful. What matters is the work of the audience and the actors constructing and being invested in this world of pretend. We have made it mean something. We have made it authentic.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Enjoy the (slide)show!

I've added a slideshow of some pictures from our 2010 Summer Season on the sidebar.  These are from our Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet photocalls.  Unfortunately, no pictures from As You Like It yet, but I will upload some more soon.  I'm also hoping to upload a trailer from our production of Richard III which we performed in January, 2010.

I just sat and watched these forty-some pictures scroll through randomly on the slideshow, and I was immediately taken back to this summer: all the anxiety of putting up these three productions but also the joy of working with such an amazing group of people, the immense pride in what we accomplished, the sense of camaraderie and community we were forming with our audience.  All this from a few pictures!

This semester, I'm trying to dig into some literature about "authenticity" and figure out what that means.  Can you sense authenticity in a picture?  In a video?  How does it differ from the feeling you get when you're present in the theatre?  How does it differ depending on which side of the stage you're on?  I sense genuine feeling in these pictures... is it only because I was there?  Or is there some sort of definition or criteria I can use to determine if something is authentic?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A New Semester Project!

I have completely overhauled my semester-long professional development and my key terms project from my Comp Theory class.  Previously, I was planning to create a course sequence for a Shakespeare class but I wasn't very interested in this idea.  Then I had considered a reading list doing double duty as Artistic Director list and as precursor to Comp list.

This has all gone out the window with the revision of my key terms project.  At first, I was going to tackle "rhetoric" - and specifically how Shakespeare uses rhetoric.  But this wasn't really fitting into the purpose of the project.  After class last week, I was so interested by our discussions of authenticity.  This is exactly the question I struggle with in producing THE RAW.  How do you create the most "authentic" theatrical experience possible?  Especially when theatre is inherently a fake, constructed space.  It's not real.  We know it's not real.  How, then, can you create something truthful or something authentic in this kind of space?

I must love this blog so much already, because I am thinking of creating another blog specifically exploring this question of authenticity.  Maybe it can be the same blog?  Why not?  I'm hopeful I can attract some guest authors who can post their own thoughts and experiences with this question.  I'd also like to post some video from our productions.  The plan is (at least for now) to have this blog reflect the work of the semester dealing with this question of "authenticity" and also to compile (for the key terms project) an annotated bibliography of sorts to handle the literature I am digging up on the subject.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Paper #1 ... check.

My first paper for my 19th Century class on George Eliot is complete.  I'm actually rather proud of it!  It's not only my first big paper for this class, it is my first graduate paper and my first paper that I have written in over six years.  Here is a taste of it: my introduction:
Vision, Blindness, and Moving towards Consciousness
in George Eliot’s Silas Marner
Throughout Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe, George Eliot repeatedly describes Marner’s eyes in great detail, focusing on his vision, his ability to see, and most especially on periods of unconsciousness, such as when Marner is suffering from cataleptic fits.  The novel is thus concerned not only with sight, but also with intervals of unconsciousness and blindness.  I propose that Eliot outlines Silas Marner’s journey to consciousness throughout the novel with these references to his vision.  His vision moves from hyperopic/unconscious in Lantern Yard, to myopic/unconscious in Raveloe before the arrival of Eppie, and finally to collective/conscious in Raveloe after the arrival of Eppie.  By mapping this progression of Silas’s vision, Eliot uses Silas Marner as a site on which to make an argument for a collective and sympathetic human consciousness.  Eliot also exercises a blindness in the narrative, using periods of unconsciousness for the reader, much as she uses Silas Marner’s catalepsy.  By bringing the reader to consciousness and vision along with the character of Silas, she is making a case for a sympathetic and collective awareness or consciousness for her audience.  While we are never brought to complete consciousness, perhaps the novel is suggesting an acceptance of limited sight and vision as long as we are still moving toward a collective and sympathetic consciousness.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Coming up on midterm ...

This semester is absolutely flying by, and we are approaching the halfway point.  Today I turn in my very first "official" paper of grad school!  I'm very nearly finished and I am actually pretty satisfied with it.  I'm writing about vision, blindness, and coming to consciousness in George Eliot's Silas Marner.  Though I feel like my writing is a little rusty, I'm surprised that it wasn't that hard to get back into the swing of 'academic writing.'

The amount of reading is really overwhelming and the semester long projects are giving me a lot of anxiety.  We have an additional project for Comp Theory on a "key term" and I decided to go with "rhetoric" -- it's huge, I know!  But I want to focus on how Shakespeare uses rhetoric in his plays.  Rhetoric would have been part of his education, and it shows up a lot in the plays.  I've always been interested in learning more particulars about it, because I don't know much and this seems like a good opportunity.

We're moving forward pretty quickly with The Bookend Project and auditions for the summer season.  Auditions will be November 7 and 8.  There's still a lot to do -- an audition form, an information sheet on both projects, sides to be compiled.  We also have a grant application due on Wednesday.  My scripts are due for The Bookend Project by November 22, and there's still a great deal to do with those too.

It's no wonder I feel like my bloodstream is pure coffee.

Monday, September 20, 2010

In the throes

I am just beginning my fourth week of classes.  It's hard not to feel overwhelmed, but that's what I'm told the grad school experience is all about.

I'll be doing an oral presentation for Intro to the Profession tomorrow, which I'm really excited about.  A prospectus is also due for our semester project -- see my previous post about the Bookend Project.  I also am officially on the schedule as of tomorrow for the Writing Center and I have two appointments already scheduled.

For Wednesday, we are finishing Adam Bede in my George Eliot class.  We have a short paper due the following week, and I need to wrap my thoughts around that.  I would really like to put GE in conversation with Shakespeare's Hamlet -- holding the mirror up to nature.  There's a lot of mirror imagery in Adam Bede and also a concern for naming things in the novel as well as in her journals and essays.  I'm thinking there's something worth investigating there.

For my Comp Theory project, I'm doing some research on performance studies.  I'm thinking more about the syllabus/sequence idea, and how to incorporate performance in a classroom pedagogy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


New thoughts today on The Tempest project for Intro to the Profession.  Since we are producing Titus Andronicus this spring for the RAW, I am really excited at the notion of working on a project for this course that also feeds the RAW Project.  Considering both these plays as variations of the revenge play and also considering their relative positions at the beginning and end of the canon, I think there's a really interesting conversation going on between these plays.  (And certainly with all the plays in between these plays, but that's going to be a bit much to consider for this particular project.)

I'm working on a prospectus for this Bookend Project.  (I'm liking this title.)

Other things of note will be the 2011 Season announcement to the board tomorrow.  I need to do a press release for that and also have some grants to work on, due quite soon.  To manage this with my schoolwork is more than a little daunting.

Friday, September 10, 2010

New beginnings

There's something about a brand new start that always inspires me to write or document what my journey is going to be. Starting my graduate studies is no different, I suppose. I've also been inspired by one of my courses, Composition Theory and the Teaching of Writing, to consider new media (ie, this blog) as a good outlet for such writing. Strange that I haven't thought of this before? Perhaps.
I'm hopeful this will end up being a useful tool for conversation with other students, colleagues, artists, professors, whomever. In these beginning stages, however, perhaps a short introduction will be best.
I am beginning my first semester as a DA (Doctor of Arts) Fellow in the English Department at St. John's University. After being in the "real world" for last five or six years, it's a difficult transition but a really exciting and challenging one. In the years since I graduated from Muhlenberg College, I've pursued a career in classical acting and helped to form the Adirondack Shakespeare Company, of which I'm the Artistic Director. It's my dream job and my pursuit of the elusive title of "Dr. Shakespeare" is to help me tackle all the aspects of this dream job.
Our company is in the beginning stages of a long term project called Shakespeare IN THE RAW in which we're tackling the canon of Shakespeare in (approximate) order. We do the plays uncut, with a small company of actors, few costume pieces, props, and shortened rehearsal time. The idea is to energize the performance and throw focus to the text of each play -- in THE RAW, there's not much else for an actor to rely on except the words they are speaking. I'm planning to continue this project as part of my graduate research.
I'm also interested in playing with gender and casting. We do a lot of cross-gender casting, where a female actor plays a male character -- but she plays this character as a man. And vice versa. We have not attempted this yet with the leading roles in the canon yet, and I'm curious to see what happens when we try this in MacbethAntony and CleopatraOthello, etc.
This semester, I don't know how much I'll be able to focus on these particular projects yet. I'll be studying The Tempest in my Introduction to the Profession course. I'd really like to find a project for this course to tie into our second season of shows: Henry VMidsummer, and Merchant. Or into our next RAW, which will be Titus.
I am also taking a Composition Theory/Teaching of Writing course, in which I also have a semester-long project to consider. There's quite a bit of freedom with this project, so I'm throwing around ideas of working on a paper for a conference, or possibly working towards creating a syllabus for when I'll begin teaching a composition class next semester.
That seems enough of an introduction for now.
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