Scene-Swapping

For reasons that may or may not have anything to do with a certain production of Twelfth Night which I’m currently working on (you should come see it, by the way), I’ve been putting a lot of thought into the re-ordering of scenes in contemporary performance of Shakespeare’s work.

Specifically in the performance of Twelfth Night, the first and second scenes of the first act are often inverted in performance.  For whatever reason (and these reasons differ with theatre companies/directors), theatre-makers feel that it’s sometimes appropriate to re-organize these two scenes.

The opening scene of Twelfth Night as it appears in modern editions depicts the Count

Rehearsal: a still life

Rehearsal: a still life

Orsino at his court in Illyria lounging melancholic across the stage as he orders music played for him and pines for the love of the Countess Olivia (the first lines of this scene is the resounding “If music be the food of love, play on…”).  The second scene shows us Viola crawling onto shore after her shipwreck and asking “What country, friends, is this?”.

The opening lines of Shakespeare plays always tell you something about the play.  In the case of Twelfth Night, the show is steeped in music.  Twelfth Night is a show which examines the effects of music on human beings and Orsino’s court is a place where music is constantly straining in and out in the background, filling the edges of the senses.  Orsino calls music “the food of love” and does, in fact, seem to feed off of it for the entirety of the show.  When the music stops, Orsino is awakened to the harsh realities of life outside his court.  His veil of melancholy and self-delusion is lifted, and he finally sees things for what they are.

Orsino speaks the opening and closing lines of the show (…with the exception of Feste’s song which I would argue does not fall into the category of “speech” so we cannot classify it as the “last lines”).  It’s not often that Shakespeare bookends his shows this way and thus we should take special note of the move in Twelfth Night.  Orsino at the beginning is very different from Orsino at the end; everything and nothing has changed.  This is highlighted by his words and the impetus to speak them and through this the audience is forcibly confronted by the journey which Orsino has taken through the course of the show.

By having the first scene occur in a world and a story already in progress, Shakespeare establishes and highlights that world.  We are shown Illyria and how wacky it can be before the play’s outsider (Viola) enters that world.  It establishes something before fully explaining it; allows the audience to encounter an oddity before the oddity is laid before them in its full detail and glory.  In a way, it shocks an audience into paying attention.  It’s a lot easier for a modern audience to glaze over the lengthy descriptions which populate I.ii than it is for them to ignore the pining Count in I.i.

More rehearsing

More rehearsing

Perhaps most importantly, bending a script to one’s will is the cheater’s way out of solving an acting problem.  If you, as a director/company don’t think that you can deal with the script Shakespeare wrote, then don’t perform Shakespeare.  When an actor encounters a problem, he doesn’t simply change the line to fix that problem; he gets creative.  Shakespeare’s text should be treated with the same integrity.  Now granted, I do think that there is a certain amount of cutting that goes into any healthy modern production of Shakespeare’s text.  I’m also not completely averse to changing small words for the sake of clarity (just make sure you check it with your dramaturg first).  I have even enjoyed productions that played fast a loose with the text; but this sort of thing takes a great deal of care and experience.  As a general rule, don’t re-arrange Shakespeare.  Just don’t do it.  It’s sloppy, tasteless, and gives purists like me a headache.

In the interest of full disclosure, the group decided to swap I.i and I.ii in our production (on a day when I wasn’t there to dissent).  I have made the full extent of my discontent with the decision known and have no plans to censor my opinion about this issue.  Despite this lapse in judgment, the production is a solid one with a lot of fun and energy and I highly recommend you come see it (if for no other reason than now you can snob out the egregious violation of textual integrity innate in the aesthetic choice of scene-swapping).

Flux Capaciting

I have come to the conclusion that time, much like age, is a state of mind.

As though to compound the Billy Pilgrim-like feelings that I expressed earlier this week, Tufts has decided that today (Thursday) is in fact Monday.

This is not an uncommon practice for universities.  There are certain days which must be taken/given off, certain days during which campus must be closed, and in order to ensure that each class block is given ample time during the semester, often the flow of the Newtonian universe is manipulated in order to pay homage to the gods of academia.

This semester has been notoriously difficult to get in the saddle of.  As soon as I had thought that I established a rhythm, a giant snowstorm named after a vengeful sea captain (or a clown fish, not too clear on that one) threw everything off.  Campus was closed for several days, necessitating re-arrangements in the semester’s schedule and my reading/general life flow which completely threw off the very light, narrow groove that I had

I have no good pictures to include with this entry, so here's a picture I took of a tiger at the San Diego zoo last year.

I have no pertinent pictures to include with this entry, so here’s a picture I took of a tiger at the San Diego zoo last year.

somehow managed to attain.

What next?  Cats and dogs living together?  Mass hysteria?  Cloudy with a chance of meatballs?

My conception of time is often amusing to me.  When one lives and breathes academia, it’s extremely easy to lost track of the fact that the rest of the world does not.  Simply because my years begin in September and end in May does not mean that the same is true for everyone else.  I’m often stopped short because normal people don’t understand that I obviously can’t come out in the near future because it’s finals crunch and why would they even bother asking? (fact: because they don’t know/remember/care that it’s finals time and have no sense of what it means to live in a world where one lives and dies by paper deadlines).

These troubles are mirrored by certain misconceptions about my working hours.  I know that I’ve often commiserated about this on here.  One of the wonderful parts of my job is the ability to make my own hours and, thereby, the ability to work when I best function as opposed to conforming to some artificial schedule which a tyrannical boss (or tyrannical system) has imposed upon me.  I tend to function best in the early afternoon to early evening; certainly not in the morning.  I avoid late nights if I can, but I would prefer to work a late night than an early morning.  As such, it’s a frequent occurrence that I sleep past the normal appointed time for “the working man” to be up and I’m often sitting at my desk wearing my pajamas when my roommate/local friends/house guests/partner in crime drop by after work.  This doesn’t mean that I’m not working, it doesn’t mean that I’m lazy, it just means that I like to sleep until 8:30 (9 if I can manage it) and will work until 10 or 11 if I have to to get my work done.  I would say that, during an average workweek, I clock at least 40 hours (sometimes as much as 80-100 if I’m working on projects and grinding out the end of the semester; I’ve meant to do an experiment and actually clock my working hours for a month just to clear up this little misunderstanding, but I haven’t yet remembered to do it).

Next week, we’re back to “normal” schedule for a block of several weeks.  I’m very much hoping that this normalcy will restore some feeling of rhythm to my otherwise nutzoid life; or at the very least a small dose of consistency.  Even theatre people need some consistency otherwise the world is just madness and chaos.  Madness, I tell you!

Unstuck in Time

The days keep doing this thing where they blend together; one week rolls into another and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much of anything.  This is particularly funny given how many things are on my desk right now.  The main problem is I’m smack dab in the middle of a bunch of big projects and, for whatever reason, the projects I have basically completed feel very distant.

Measure for Measure closes this Saturday, but the bulk of my work on this show happened over the summer.  I’m proud to have worked on it, but for whatever reason the show’s run doesn’t feel like anything real or tangible.  Insert some comment about the fleeting nature of live theatre here.

Twelfth Night rehearsals continue and we’re starting to really have a show.  We did some

at least campus is looking really pretty... if a little soggy due to the great thaw

at least campus is looking really pretty… if a little soggy due to the great thaw

costume/prop digging last night and have most of our cast clothed (of course, I’m one of the exceptions since my quick-changes partnered with the two drastically different roles I’m playing make me exceedingly difficult to costume… but!  I have a vast wardrobe and a gay best friend to help; we’ll work it out).  Again, this doesn’t feel really real yet… we’ll see what happens when we start inserting props and costumes into the rehearsal space.

I got a big proposal off my team’s desk for my ASTR sub-committee, but the project’s in a holding pattern until it is approved by the big cheese Executive boards.  We are doing a wonderful job of hurrying up to wait.  The brief thrill of excitement at having submitted the proposal was quickly quashed by the dawning realization that we had created a lot of work for ourselves, but couldn’t do any of it until we were given the official green light to continue.  Work hanging over my head about which I can do nothing is perhaps the worst feeling in the world.  Ah well; provided the project is thumbs-upped by all official parties, it should be a very useful thing for the Graduate Student community.  Here’s hoping!

I’m working on a lecture for the class I’m TAing.  Actually, I’m writing this entry as a method of procrastinating from compiling my research notes.  I’m certain that this particular project will become more real-feeling as soon as it is anything more than a pile of disparate word documents.  Maybe a PowerPoint will help.  PowerPoints always make things more real.

Reading, reading, reading for my coursework.  This is a tiresome and thankless job and there’s always more to do.  Completing the week’s reading never feels like an accomplishment because there’s just going to be more dumped on your plate right after.  Really, finishing your assigned reading for the week just means you should be working harder on your papers, presentations, abstracts, or side projects.  Blargh.

board doodle from my ancient theory class.  This is what we do in Grad School.

board doodle from my ancient theory class. This is what we do in Grad School.

German progresses apace (though I took the weekend off to be with my family who came to town to visit me).  As the date of my exam draws loomingly closer (it’s in April, it’s not really all that close), I worry more and more about my own ability to translate anything not written for an eight year old audience.  I’m probably ready to step up my practice reading to something a little more convoluted than Grimm’s.  The Grimm’s tales are great and they were wonderful to get my feet wet, but I’m reading them pretty solidly now (with the occasional pause for vocabulary check).  The test is going to be administered on the level of academic-style writing; not exactly children’s fables.  Ah well.  Bring on the crazy grammar constructions and crammed-together German words.

Podcasting is a constant joy interspersed with panic at finding the time to do it.  The posting has been on hiatus for a few weeks due to my Partner’s real-life exploding all over him.  We should be back tomorrow with the wrap-up of Comedy of Errors and then onward next week to one of my favorite plays Love’s Labour’s Lost.  In case you haven’t already, go check us out!  We make great buddies for your commute!

So despite my busy busy schedule, nothing seems to be landing at the moment.  My life may be fast-paced and exciting, but it’s all a bit hollow right now.  I’m certain the feeling will pass; really what I want is a couple weeks off and somewhere sunny to go without worry about Renaissance playwrights.  Is that an awful lot to ask?

Well, in any case, I did have fun with my family.  Here’s some videographic proof.

Measure still for Measure

For those who have been following the saga, Measure for Measure opened on Thursday.  At this point, it’s nearly halfway through a two-week run.  I was there to see the show opening night and, let me tell you, that was an interesting feeling.

I’ve been living with this project since last April when I sent an introductory e-mail to the director.  Over the course of June/July, we spent a great amount of time cutting the script and crafting an acting edition (the first time I’ve ever had the chance to do this).  Her goal was for the show to run two hours.

It ran two hours on the dot with a fifteen-minute intermission.

Getting prepped for final dress; you can see that I was eagerly telling such to my twitter feed

Getting prepped for final dress; you can see that I was eagerly telling such to my twitter feed

Since June/July, my level of involvement has ebbed and flowed.  I team-taught a text workshop to the cast (along with my colleague who was ADing the show) to get them acquainted with the language.  I called it the “quick and dirty method to opening up Shakespeare for actors who have never studied him before”.  Who says brevity is the soul of wit?

For the most part, it worked.  The product was definitely not conservatory-level, and there are notes I still would have given, but art is art and art is never finished nor is it ever completely satisfying to the true artist.  On the whole, it was a show which I enjoyed (and that’s saying something; anyone who follows this blog can attest to how harsh a critic I can be), a show which I was proud to present to my cohorts, and a show which I had the opportunity to see grow from a seed of an idea to a fully-mounted production.  That is a process which is always satisfying.

Over the course of working on Measure, I would occasionally get e-mails asking not-so-random (but sometimes seemingly so) questions.  Do Catholic churches ring out the time?  How long does it take to become a nun?  What does this word/sentence/phrase mean?  Some of these questions are things I could have predicted (seriously, “Prenzie”?), some of them I never would have imagined.  But that’s part of what was so exciting about this; in working closely with the text and the director, I had the opportunity to come to new understandings about a show I (honestly) hadn’t put overmuch thought into before.

One of the tasks which I enjoyed the most was crafting a timeline of the action.  When does this scene happen?  How much time passes between Act I and Act V?  (…the answer, for those who are curious, is somewhere between six days and three weeks depending on how much time passes between when Angelo takes office and when Claudio is arrested.  After I.ii, the rest of the play’s events occur over the course of five distinct days).  It was gratifying to be able to sift and sort the text and make some sense of it in a useful, tangible way.  This, ideally, is what my job would always be like; someone has a question which needs answering, they ask that question of me, I go through what I know best and find an answer.  Alas, if only everything were so simple!

My partner in crime, who was able to attend opening with me, told me he saw my fingerprints on the show.  That, if nothing else, is perhaps the most gratifying part of my job.  I also received a lovely e-mail from our department chair complimenting my work on the essays in the show’s program (double wonderful since those essays gave me such a headache when I was working on them).

2013-02-14 20.00.10

Opening night. Yes, I know, the set looks basically the same from final dress. Sorry for the redundancy!

So, I declare my first official project as a dramaturg to be a success.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process (even if sometimes it kept me up at night… literally.  I was up until 2AM the night before opening sending out notes to actors) and will gladly do it again.

…maybe after a little break though.  Twelfth Night is relatively time consuming and I do need to catch up on the desk-piles again.  I really wish my papers would start writing themselves.

Games People Play

I have a confession to make.

I play games with myself.

You know when you’re waiting for something or someone?  In those moments when you’re sitting in a stupid meeting that doesn’t really require your attention but does require that you at least look like you’re paying attention?  When you are sitting somewhere unexpectedly and forgot to bring a book or something else to do?

In those moments, to push aside the implacable boredom, I play one (or several) of the following games with myself:*

not sure if I've introduced you to the latest addition to my desk ornaments; mini Will!

not sure if I’ve introduced you to the latest addition to my desk ornaments; mini Will!

 1)   I list Shakespeare’s works in alphabetical order.  You would think that after years of doing this I would have the entire list memorized but, alas, my Swiss-cheese brain still requires kicking to churn forth these facts.  I do know them, just not always in alphabetical order.  I should make up a song or something a la the animaniacs…

 2)   Once I have that list (which, generally, I will write down as I go), I go through and try to recite the first line of each play.  Some of them I have down cold (“Two households both alike in dignity”; “when shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightening, or in rain?”; “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York”), but there are others that aren’t quite so famous.  Tell me the first line of Timon of Athens.  Go on.  Someday I’ll have them all committed to memory…

 3)   I will go through and recite (or at least call to mind) the most famous speech (or, sometimes, just a speech) from each play.  If I don’t know one, I make a mental note to learn one at some point in the near future.  Sometimes this resolution sticks better than others.  I do have a speech from most of the most famous plays at least, and some of the more obscure ones.  That ought to count for something.

 4)   If I’m feeling particularly perky, I will recite the last line of each play.  This one is significantly harder though, again, there are a few that will always stick with you (“The weight of these sad times we must obey, speak what we feel not what we ought to say, the oldest have borne most; we that are young will never see so much nor live so long”; “That’s all one, our play is done, and we’ll strive to please you everyday”; “When I make curtsey, bid me farewell”).

 So there you have it.  If, in the near future, you find yourself speaking to me and my eyes get kind of glazed over, you have a pretty good idea of what I may be doing in my head.  That or re-playing episodes of The Muppet Show, it’s kind of a 50/50 shot at this point depending on how brain dead I’m feeling from whatever research endeavor I’m currently working on.

*admittedly, I stole some of this from RSC director Dominic Dromgoogle and the methods he documents utilizing to pass the time as he traversed the English countryside while walking between London and Stratford in his memoir Will and Me.  It’s a clever little book and gave me a plethora of demonstrations of how I’m not nearly as nerdy about Shakespeare as I could be… so I promptly then became about 10% nerdier.  In any case, the book is very entertaining and I highly recommend that you check it out.

Malaise

At the moment, my life is pretty much the picture of what I would generally describe as being “my ideal life”.

I’m involved in two productions: Twelfth Night (my group’s pilot experiment in communal theatre) is in rehearsal and I’m getting to do some awesome, wacky, fun things with some really neat, smart, talented individuals while simultaneously dreaming about a bright future on the Boston theatre scene; and Measure for Measure (my debut as a dramaturge which, for those who are keeping track, I’ve been working on actively since last June) is in its last week of rehearsal before it opens next Thursday.  I’m TAing one class

Rehearsal the other day; we have a show! From a script that I made! From Shakespeare!

Rehearsal the other day; we have a show! From a script that I made! From Shakespeare!

(Modern and Postmodern theatre) with a professor from whom I’m endlessly learning things and with whom it’s a pleasure to work.  I’m in a class that’s got me constantly thinking, constantly on my toes, and constantly studying for comps.  I’m keeping up on my awesome side-projects (Offensive Shadows has just started recording our episodes on Love’s Labour’s Lost which is a joy to discuss as it’s one of my favorite plays).  I’m living, eating, breathing, bleeding, and sweating theatre.

I guess call me a classic case of “grass is always greener” syndrome, but I’m so tired right now that I’m having trouble enjoying any of it.  I haven’t had a decent break in who knows how long and every time I do manage to eke out a few hours away from my desk that time seems to fill with unexpected trips to the theatre (which, don’t get me wrong, I love but aren’t much of a break for me).  What’s really got me shaken is the fact that’s is very early in the semester to be feeling this way; all of my big projects are on the distant horizon (with the exception of one lecture that I’m working on prepping; the first of two for my TAship this semester).  If I’m working like this before my projects hit the hot zone, where am I going to find time for my projects when I actually need to work on them?

I’m not the only one feeling like this either.  From speaking with some of my cohort, it seems that a general malaise has overcome Dance and Drama at Tufts.  I guess I could blame it on February; the long (but surprisingly so-far easy) Boston winter; or maybe the Genocide course that most of my colleagues are taking (nothing will make you feel awful about life quite like being bombarded with consistent reading about genocide).

out my window.  Nemo does not look awful.  Yet.

out my window. Nemo does not look awful. Yet.

To hammer home the point that all I do is work and there is life outside my apartment, I am currently hunkered down in my office while outside begins the great blizzard Nemo which some stations are predicting will be one of the worst in Boston’s history.  Most normal people I know have been given today off or have a half-day and this extends into tomorrow thus effectively creating a three-day-weekend for the gainfully employed.  I, however, took this opportunity to stock up on library books and non-technology research (in case we lose power) and plan to spend the next few days holed up on my sofa working.  With any luck, I may be able to plow through a bunch of my to-dos while the rest of the Northeast goes sledding.

…The one concession I will make to snow is the potential creation of a snow-tomaton in my near future.  Because making a snowman out of the accumulation from my driveway is way easier and more enjoyable than shoveling it out.

Here’s hoping accomplishment can bust through my malaise.  If not, I at least hope you have a good weekend.  Stay warm and dry!

Community Theatre

This weekend, I saw some friends in a community theatre production (both friends’ names and the name of said production will be withheld to protect the innocent).

The show was okay, the venue was darling, my friends are pretty darn talented. As we watched community theatre in action, myself and my compatriots had a few observations about what makes good theatre into great theatre and what can be riveting about something happening onstage. Perhaps more importantly, we had some D.O.A. don’t do’s that I think the world at large could really benefit from understanding and taking into consideration.

The first thing to keep in mind (and this is particularly important when doing community or

Not all theatre can be this...

Not all theatre can be this…

non-professional theatre) is that every individual should know his strengths and his weaknesses. If a show calls for something (say, a fight scene), that something should be executed to the best of the group’s ability. If there is someone in the group with an expertise (particularly an unexpected expertise), that individual owes it to the group to step up and say something. In return, the group owes it to the individual to respect his expertise. In other words: your fight will look awful if you don’t know how to fight. Or if you think you know how to fight. You have nothing to lose by discussing other ideas or approaches with those around you. No one will disrespect you if someone happens to come along and know a little thing that you don’t. What will make your show weaker is stubbornly clinging to the insistence that you know something. That will, definitively, poison what you have onstage. For this example, fighting safe is the top priority; but if you can fight well then for the non-denominational deity’s sake, fight well. I refuse to sit through another half-hearted, bumbling stage fight… especially when I know that someone in your cast has enough experience to actually make it look decent. Grow up, man up, and admit you don’t know everything.

Second: elegance is refusal. Your show will be cleaner, more professional, and more tolerable if your scene changes are less than ten seconds each. If you have a change that involves anything more involved, for the love of all things holy cut the scene change. Find some creative way to work around it. Chances are it’s costing you more money than it’s worth. Having your already antsy audience sit in darkness for an awkwardly long time is simply not worth the headache it will cause to your stage hands and the polite folks who are sitting through your production.

….Personally, I’m done being polite, but many people don’t have the same cavalier attitude about theatre as I do. I have paid good money to see your show, I expect to be entertained and/or moved, not sit and stew while you bumble around with something far too big and involved to be worth the time to move it. Cut. It.

...but it can be this.

…but it can be this.

Thing three: don’t expect me to be nice. I’m done being nice. I have to be nice all day all the time with my students, cohorts, and professors. I have to be nice via e-mail to my networking connections. I have to be nice to the random people I encounter at the library and/or coffee shop. As far as I can see it, I spend faaarrrrrr too much of my time being nice. Seeing theatre is something that I count as part of my job, but it’s also something that I do on my own personal time. As such, generally, I don’t feel the urge to censor myself when I’m giving feedback about a show that I was asked to go see. If you want me to see your show (and I understand if you don’t), I’m not going to smile and tell you how great you were if you didn’t earn it. I’m not going to laugh if it’s not funny. I’m not going to clap if it wasn’t worth the applause. I will give you an honest opinion; I will try to cushion the blow if I have something scathing to say and at least make it constructive criticism; I will (generally) refrain from bashing your show on the internet (…unless it really really deserved it… Harvard Revels, I’m looking at you). I will not go out of my way to be an evil jerk, but you get what you earn from me. Just because this is your hobby doesn’t mean I have to hang your macaroni pictures on my refrigerator and praise how them every time I want a beer.

Don’t worry, I expect the same of you when you come to see my show. If it’s not working, TELL ME. I don’t want to be out there doing something that I think is brilliant if it isn’t landing with an audience. I can’t see myself from the stage. You, the audience, are an important part of my experience as a theatre-maker. If you see something in performance that you think could make the performance stronger, of course I want to know about it.

In a creative process, giving and taking feedback is important. In a creative process that’s essentially art for art’s sake, it’s even more important. If the product is going to be a lump of raw talent held together by the spittle of one over-worked and over-egoed director, it simply won’t stick. It takes integrity to make a show into something worth seeing, and integrity comes from the strength of the whole. If you want to make art in your spare time (and it is a noble pursuit… and fulfilling when it works out), learn to be an active member of the community. If you can’t handle that, take up painting or sculpture. Theatre is a communal activity and only a strong community can make a strong show.

Why I Don’t Leave my Tower

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good rant about normal people, so I guess I was due in for one.

Through a series of related events, I’ve had to interact with a great many normies of late.  You know the type; people who hold down society-approved jobs, who are good at those jobs, and who probably don’t interact much with people who don’t hold down such positions.  This is generally fine, except for when you find yourself in a situation where these people feel compelled to make small talk (i.e. at a doctor’s office while tests are being run, at your hairdresser while your hair is drying, etc.)  Inevitably, the first question anyone asks is “what do you do?” and they expect a clean-cut answer with no frills.

Things are rarely clean-cut in my world and almost never have no frills.  I swear if one more person asks me as a follow-up question to my inevitable answer of “I’m getting my PhD” “Well, what are you going to do with that?” I’m going to go berserk Homer Simpson style and (literally) bounce off the walls.

Today, a new one got added to the small talk blacklist.  After telling a very nice and well-meaning lady that I’m a PhD student she replied, “Oh, well, at least you don’t have to work.”

Uhm… EXCUSE ME?

Actually, I tend to work 60-80 hour weeks with no break.  I work through weekends and days that normal people are allotted “off”.  I take work with me wherever I go in case I have ten minutes in a coffee shop because god forbid I not be reading during that time.  I’m pretty much on call constantly as students tend to e-mail me at whatever hour they’re at their machines (I try to make a rule that I don’t reply after 6PM and only reply on weekends in case of emergency just to maintain my own sanity, but that doesn’t mean the work isn’t sitting in my inbox).  I serve as chair to a committee for my professional organization; this is a volunteer position for which I’m getting paid in networking opportunities, a line on my CV, and happy thoughts about how I will positively impact the future of my field.  Since my committee is also made up of volunteers, we all work when we have the time to.  We’re on

That's my desk right now covered in things I have to take care of today...  but at least I'm not working.

That’s my desk right now covered in things I have to take care of today… but at least I’m not working.

three separate time zones, we’re all busy graduate students, and it’s not unheard of to be drafting things together at unreasonable hours of the day/night.  Though I make my own hours, I work until I’m done.  Since I’m a perfectionist, this can be late nights and early mornings (though generally more like 2AM “early mornings” than 6AM “early mornings”).

Yea, sure, at least I don’t have to work.

The problem is you can’t really say this to the well-meaning nice people who are only trying to get through their own day.  They don’t understand what it is that they’ve said (which is why they said it in the first place).  Really, it’s a societal problem; there’s a huge lack of understanding about what graduate school (particularly at the PhD level) actually entails.  Those near and dear to me know, one way or another, that I’m busy even if they don’t necessarily understand what that is or what it means.  I no longer (or very rarely) get the piss taken out of me for missing social gatherings because I have to work.  I no longer (or very rarely) have to explain that despite the fact that I’m sitting at my machine in my sweats, pajamas,  or some amalgamation of both, I’m actually working.  I no longer (or very rarely) feel the need to defend my life choices to those whom I speak with.

Which is why it hits me every time something like this happens.  It’s excruciatingly frustrating to feel like the person taking appointments for your hairdresser thinks that you’re “not working”.  I mean really, what does her job entail besides surfing facebook and playing angry birds?

So spread the awareness folks.  Tell everyone you know.  Sit them down and break it to them gently: if they should ever in their travels encounter a PhD student in the wild, appropriate questions to ask are “what does your work entail?”, “Any ideas for what your dissertation will be about?”, “What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever written on a student paper?”.  Asking “what are you going to do with that?” or decrying that they are essentially a giant leech on society because their job isn’t the same as your job is about as appropriate as me telling a Medical Doctor that her degree has taught her nothing and she may as well be a denizen of Plato’s cave, grunting at shadows because she hasn’t ever seen the bright light of truth and therefore isn’t a true philosopher.

Because I swear, if one more person (well-meaning or not) makes this insinuation again, someone’s getting punched.

…I may add a paypal donation button to the side of the page soon.  It will go directly to the bail fund for when I’m inevitably brought up on assault charges for defending the academy’s good name.  It won’t be my fault that my opponent doesn’t understand the act of gauntlet throwing and I cannot be held responsible for my actions.