Snap Shot of a Grad

You may think, “She hasn’t been writing!”

Au contraire, mon cherie! I have been writing my lil’tukis off. My first semester of grad school is only 11 days and 23 or so pages of writing from being over. (That’s a three page assignment, and a 20 page paper ((on Peter Pan)), if you were wondering,)

But here is a sample paper I have been writing tonight for my Theatre for Social Change class. The class has been…enlightening. Sometimes over the top (i.e. staging a puppet protest the week before the election), but on the whole, insightful.

If you ever wondered what it’s like to step into a graduate level theatre course, well here is your peek. I wish you could see firsthand a dozen grown people dancing out metaphorical representations of their life path while being oppressed on all sides by a literal manifestation of their obstacles in a dirty studio. It’s a sight to make a business major shed tears of laughter and jealousy, I assure you.

(Teaching some kids some things I learned this year–wish I had a shot of us crawling around pretending to be hypnotized.)

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(It’s long, prepare yourself)

Drama therapy, our final unit in class has also been my favorite. Despite serious hesitations about undertaking it, I have found it to be pedagogically fascinating and personally insightful.  Since the classes leading up to Thanksgiving, I have taken time each week to reflect on the exercises we explored in class in my personal journal. I have experienced powerful personal insights that I want to remember in the future. For example, before Thanksgiving I was able to enact a memory scene for the class with my grandmother who has passed on. I was able to honor her memory by offering her a simple “thank you” for teaching me about the beauties of nature, love for even God’s smallest creatures, and what it means to be a strong, feminine woman. These are lessons I didn’t fully recognize from her example until it was too late. I also especially found the constellation exercise powerful. Lindsay chose me to play myself as part of her ‘present’ constellation. I had no idea she felt so strongly about our friendship. Her recognition in addition to my own constellation, which felt sadly void in the ‘present’ helped me to recognize the importance of putting some relationships I have been holding onto in my periphery, hoping they would make their way back into the present, into my past. This was a powerful lesson in moving forward and adjusting my focus.
Our class on November 21, the day before Thanksgiving, will be remembered as one of the best I’ve had in my near twenty years of formal education. It was refreshing to find myself thinking deeply about those I love best, the most beautiful moments of my life, and, particularly powerful, thinking of my wishes for the future as already having come to pass. Tears of joy are always better than tears of sorrow, stress, or regret. I’ve shed enough of those.
Today’s activity of dancing our life path was also very insightful. On paper I tried to envision my life not as a linear graph of ups and downs, but rather as a struggle toward centeredness, a balance between outward and inner awareness. The image I created of my ideal future looked like a flower in bloom with spirals outward and inward returning a large center with circles representing self, family, and God. When it came time for the class to battle the obstacles impeding desired progress, I was able to observe the actions of others for a few rounds. I found myself feeling discomfited. As my turn to dance approached, I realized what was bothering me. I have spent a lifetime believing that the challenges we face, particularly, those not of our own making, are tests sent to teach us important lessons and make us stronger. Like waves in the ocean we can break ourselves against them, let them drag us down, or we can ride them as best we can and see what new places they take us. While I do believe I am the primary agent in my own destiny I also believe that there is an all knowing God who can see my potential much more clearly than I can. A gardening analogy works great in this situation.  My grandmother might have writen, ‘Little Seed, you might want going to grow up to be the most beautiful rose bush in the garden, but God might happen to know that you are actually a plum tree. You can wear yourself out trying to grow a red rose, but he knows that with some smelly fertilizer and lots of painful pruning and you will one day spread your branches as pleasant shade, a home for birds, and yield the sweetest fruit in the neighborhood. You are meant to be a lot more productive than a silly, thorny rose bush.’
Thanks Grandma.  When it at last came time for me dance in the face of obstacles, I decided I would try and go with the flow. My obstacle, Elizabeth, and I swayed and boogied and shimmied together. I didn’t stay exactly on track of where I intended, but I sure had a good time.
This is the power of drama. This semester has been full of wonderful growth and challenges. It has been fascinating to make connections, almost daily, between the work we have done in this class, Dramaturgy, and Teaching Methods for Drama. For the latter class I recently wrote about my changing perception of drama practice in the classroom as compared to more familiar to me theatrical practices:
“In drama, learning is made possible through experimentation, activation, and performance. Performance leads to the same mental and emotional awakenings for a performer, with or without an audience present. The audience is the defining characteristic between drama and theatre. In theatre, the performer must be focused not on ‘the self’ embodying ‘the other,’ but also on communication with the audience. However, in drama exercises the performer focuses only on inhabiting the role of ‘the other,’ for personal learning, and perhaps, the support of his fellow participants.”
All my learning this semester seems to have been aimed toward rewiring the way I think about drama methods. Drama allows space and time for personal growth and assessment that is not feasible in a production mode. A student trained in drama methods will be far better equipped to face the demands of an energy gobbling audience. A performer armed with the methods we have studied in this class will have an enormous advantage in emotional processing and being able to identify new ways to reach out to those in and outside the production.

One awesome thing about this term has been the chance to really connect my spirituality with my craft. I feel super lucky that way. Theatre, and Drama, are the coolest!

2/3 of my fellow first year ASU TFY MFAs. (Eatin popsicles back when it was 115 degrees.)

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Any questions?

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