Mid Semester Slump: Fall Edition

Even though it’s well past midterms, I’m definitely feeling the effects of mid-semester crunch.

This is partly due to how my semester is scheduled (two conferences in three weeks will make a girl extremely tired; especially when she’s still dealing with orals, work for various professional committees she’s on, teaching her class, and still trying near-futilely to catch up on sleep/sanity from the summer).  But I think there’s also a certain degree of universality to it: suddenly, those piles of grading on your desk have a new urgency.  The star-struck wonder and optimistic first few weeks of any fresh start (a semester included) has faded; this is where the real work begins.

With fatigue setting in, I’m having to return to my old “find the energy” axioms.  Here are a few that are keeping me going right now; hopefully some of them can also add some inspiration to your day.

1)   It’s fall in New England and everything is beautiful.  I can barely move without

Captured on a walk yesterday!

Captured on a walk yesterday!

having to pause for a foliage picture (thanks to a new-found interest in photography apps for my pocket-robot, I have some great tools with which to capture these).

2)   Fall also means pumpkin flavored everything.  Though by virtue of having discovered a wonderful pumpkin spice flavor syrup recipe I am no longer limited by the calendar as to when I consume my pumpkin coffee, it’s still comforting to know that on days when I just don’t have time to make myself a latte I can rely on good ol’ dunks to provide.

3)   Soon it will be winter.  Winter is when a break happens.  Winter is also when my favorite holiday happens.  This also means that, very soon, I will have full social license to blast my Christmas Music for at least a few months before it becomes taboo again to do so until next year.  Believe you me, nothing brings a smile to a poor downtrodden graduate student like pop culture icons belting Christmas tunes.

 4)   While conference season is stressful, it also gives me an excuse to wear my favorite tweed jacket.  Though I haven’t had a moment to install the requisite leather elbow patches, that particular upgrade is definitely in the works and I hope to have it in place by the next wave of professional gigs which require professorly clothing.

The blue mountains as seen from my plane during the fly-over last week

The blue mountains as seen from my plane during the fly-over last week

5)   Despite all efforts by nature to kill it, my herb garden is still going strong.  As is my aloe plant.  For those not in the know, I (until very recently) was self-titled DANIOR MURDERER OF VEGETATION (caps required for proper voice intonation).  When my trusty bamboo plant was killed by a tragic fungal infection last year, I thought my days of caring for flora were over.  However, convinced by my own tenacity, I managed to overcome my grief and acquire several new plant-friends.  I don’t want to say this too loudly for fear that they might overhear and decide that it’s a great time to kick the proverbial bucket, but they may just be long-lasting installments in my life/office.

6)   Even though I’m really tired, I know that I’m just one workout away from an endorphin high and a quick battery recharge.  It’s not a permanent solution, but it definitely helps me plug along and plow through the multitudes of material on my desk (today’s challenge: several period fencing manuals, most unavailable in modern typesetting… the joys of archival/textual scholarship).

And on that note, perhaps hitting the gym will give me a little pick-me-up and help me through the rest of this afternoon.

I hope you’re having a productive day, and that the mid-semester slump isn’t hitting you too hard!

Learning to Float

While I won’t be a real professor for some time yet, I have been a teacher many times in my life.

When I was in my undergrad, I worked as a swim instructor/lifeguard.  My father was a lifeguard.  My grandfather (though not his father) was a lifeguard.  It just seemed like the thing to do.  Despite this, and the fact that I am a strong swimmer, before getting my WSI (Water Safety Instructor certification) I had never been a technically proficient swimmer.  I wasn’t ever on a swim team, I only took the most basic of swimming classes as a kid, most of my swimming experience came from growing up in a lakeside community and spending summers paddling around the rafts there.  For a long time, I felt some innate guilt about this.  Who was I to charge for swimming lessons when I clearly wasn’t any kind of expert?

Then I got to doing it for a while.  I taught mommy and me classes, I taught kids, I taught adults who had never learned before.  I wasn’t coaching Olympic athletes, I was teaching people to float.  And to teach people to float, you don’t need to be an expert; you just need to be proficient and have an interest in seeing people get better.  If you’re a great teacher, you’ll have an interest in getting better yourself.

When I was getting my Master’s, I worked as a ballroom dance instructor.  Despite many

Dancing at the studio while studying for my instructor certification

Dancing at the studio while studying for my instructor certification

years of on-again/off-again dance training of different varieties and an innate ability to move gracefully, I wasn’t a technically proficient dancer (at least when I started instructor training).  Even after my time in ballroom boot camp, I certainly didn’t know everything there was to know about ballroom.  But I knew more than any normal person has any right to know.  And even as I was teaching, I was learning more and more.  I got better.

One day, my co-instructor expressed the same guilt I had felt at the 92nd St. Y so many years ago: she wasn’t a true expert.  She felt like a fraud telling people she was because she knew there were things she didn’t know yet.

I shared with her my philosophy: you don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer to teach people to float; just like you don’t need to be a champion ballroom dancer to teach people the basic steps.

On Wednesday, I gave a lecture to the class I am TAing this semester.  The lecture was on Augusto Boal as a theatre-maker and, since I’m at Tufts, included a great deal of historical context.  While I do know something about this subject (and, obviously, more than the average person on the street), I would not call myself an expert upon it.  But I wasn’t teaching forward spot runs.  I was teaching the box step.

So often we graduate students feel the pressure to know everything.  We’re thrown into a world with a lot of intelligent people where asking clarifying questions can be viewed as a sign of weakness and a sign of weakness is an invitation for the wolves to attack your soft underbelly.  It’s vital for us to remember that we came to graduate school to learn.  More importantly, we came to graduate school to learn to think.  More often than not, I know the answer to a question because I know where to find that answer rather than know the answer off the top of my head.  Oh, sure, you need to know some things.  I’m not advocating for the complete abandonment of knowledge as an institution.  But I am saying that it may be time to lighten up on ourselves.  We go through enough stress without holding ourselves to some unrealistic expectation that we are omniscient.

So, if ever you feel the pressure to know, just remember: being able to explain the three unities and Aristotle’s seven aspects of drama is more than most normal people will be capable of.  Knowing who the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen is and why he is important is a unique skillset (being able to spell his name even more unique).  Your undergrads will always come up with questions you can’t answer, but the important part is that you know where to look to find the answer.

Some random mid-week thoughts

With Twelfth Night behind me, I’ve dived head first into an insane-o week.

The midterms for the course I’m TAing have come due and are in the process of being graded.  This process is otherwise known as “Operation: dig yourself out of the avalanche of papers that just fell on you”.  I’m making pretty good progress (and, without saying horribly much about it, the class is turning out some impressive work – good job, team!).

All of the projects which I had pushed off until after the show are suddenly looming before

Plus side to having just completed a show: I get to wake up to this every morning.  I love roses!

Plus side to having just completed a show: I get to wake up to this every morning. I love roses!

me like the chimeras and dragons they are.  This semester’s big projects consist of one paper (due ASAP), one paper (due in May), one more lecture for my TAship (in two weeks), my German qual exam (mid April), a conference paper that’s written but has yet to be conferencified (beginning of April), and a class presentation (end of April).  Basically I’ve got a series of staggered deadlines for big projects that are all screaming at me simultaneously.

Luckily, next week is Spring break.  If I can make it to next week, I can have the entire week to not be on campus and sit and work in my pajamas all day every day.

This doesn’t sound healthy.

…or it sounds extremely healthy.

One of the two, I’m not sure which.

I just finished translating Grimm’s Aschenputtel (Cinderella) yesterday which means I need to start in on a new piece.  I try to spend an hour or so every day with my German.  I’m thinking of going back to the German Goethe articles I had the library pull for me.  I should also probably return to my grammar book.  But translating fairy tales is so much more fun than learning grammar!

I have spent the last week steeping in Molière.  I’m writing a seminar paper on him and there are a LOT of plays to get through.  My professor loaned me some books so I’ve been trying to (with a moderate degree of success GO ME!) to get through them in a week so I can return them to her.  This means over-saturation in French witticism.  I’m continually surprised (to the point that it really shouldn’t surprise me anymore) about how much more pleasant it is to research something that’s enjoyable to read than to research something you couldn’t give a damn about (or is just torturous to get through).  Though he many not be my man Will, Monsieur Molière is slippery, witty, and wonderful and I’m having fun getting to know him.  I’d be grateful if you didn’t disclose this to Herr Shakespeare; he’s a jealous mistress (don’t believe me?  Read the sonnets).

I’ve had some wonderful professional opportunities fall onto my plate this week (details to follow; I don’t want to give too much away before things are finalized).  Suffice to say you may want to leave the evening of April 23 available (Shakespeare’s birthday) if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Portsmouth, NH.

And on that note, I should return to the mountain to defeat the midterm dragons.  They’re becoming rather insistent and I’d rather not walk away smelling of scorched hair.

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.

Not Yet Dead

This is an obligatory “I’m not dead” post (also, incidentally, my first post of the post-apocalyptic 2013…. If we think of this year as “post-apocalyptic”, it’s guaranteed to make no matter what happens at least 50% more magical and 25% more awesome).

Since I got home from New York, things have been rather quiet.

I’m clearing off my desk, I’m sending e-mails that I had been putting off, I’m having meetings that had to wait until after finals, and I’m catching up on quality me-time.

I’m getting my knitting docket all lined up for the semester, I’m kicking off some exciting projects (can you say “eight person Twelfth Night”!?  Stay tuned!), I’m ordering my books, I’m obsessively checking online grading system, I’m trying my darndest not to think about German or Comps for another week.

I’m getting my gym and eating habits back on line, I’m catching up with old friends who

my favorite shot from New York: the Union Square Holiday Market (best experienced while sipping Italian Dark hot Chocolate from Max Brenner's which, by the way, I was)

my favorite shot from New York: the Union Square Holiday Market (best experienced while sipping Italian Dark hot Chocolate from Max Brenner’s which, by the way, I was)

got sacrificed under the finals bus (and were nice enough to understand), I’m mentally resetting and preparing for the last semester of coursework for my PhD.

I’m learning to use my brand shiny new cappuccino machine (thanks, mom and dad!), I’m getting my new computer set up with my docking station (again, thanks to the best daddy on the face of the planet), I’m trying to figure out how to get icloud to sync my calendars without fubaring things (surprisingly difficult given apple’s generally idiot-proof interfacing).

I’m podcasting (http://www.offensiveshadows.com in case you hadn’t heard), I’m rehearsing, I’m web committee chairing, I’m reviewing syllabi for my Spring TA assignment.

On the whole, I’m doing my best to rest and rejuvenate.  I’m also aligning things so that all of my projects are on a roll before the semester starts and thus will not need extra kicking to begin rolling down long bumpy hills when I’m in the middle of paper-drafting or midterms-grading or any number of inevitable things that the semester brings with it.

I highly recommend that you do the same.

The semester will soon be upon us and we all need to be prepared for its onset.

Office Hours, the TA, and you

Over the years, I have come to a certain conclusion: you never know how to do something until you have already done it.

For some things, this is less problematic.  For example: I didn’t figure out how to write a college level paper until the last semester of my Senior year of undergrad.  While it meant that I struggled through writing them for most of my career as an undergrad, it also meant that I had plenty of opportunity to perfect the style in my Master’s and I’m still learning things about how to write a paper (and look forward to continuing this learning throughout the course of my career as an academic).  Things that you, inevitably, will be forced to repeat have an acceptable learning curve.  Your first anything is going to be the sacrificial lamb which dies upon the altar of experience.

Unfortunately, some things you really can’t go back and re-do.

As part of my job, I am required to hold office hours.  While this sounds horribly official, what it truly means is that I make a promise to the students that I will be in a given place (i.e. my office) at a given time (i.e. my hours) and at their disposal to answer any questions they may have about the class, their work, their grades, or the universe in general.

So far, none of the students have taken advantage of this.  I go, I sit, I wait, I bring work

A grading session from my Master’s. Yes, sometimes it really is that bad.

which inevitably doesn’t get done because I share the office with many colleagues who tend to want to talk and visit (which, don’t get me wrong, I do as well), and I mark time until I can go home and actually get some work done.

And I wonder, why am I sitting there alone when this is a golden opportunity for some undergrad to grill me about all of the questions I know they should be asking especially if they intend to go on to graduate school?  Why can’t they see that this is a gift, a precious commodity of connection which they could be cashing in on in order to better edify and prepare themselves for the life to come?

And then I remember: when I was an undergrad, I never went to office hours.  In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of out-of-class interactions I had with professors who were not my advisor (even the professors who had the most profound impact on my academic career and/or personal development).  This is not to take into account that I’m not even a professor; I’m a TA.  I never even spoke to the TAs when I was an undergrad.  They were like some sort of weird mutant minion creature that the professor had cooked up in vats to do his bidding because he was too busy working on his latest book project to grade our finals.  They didn’t warrant making eye contact with much less speaking to.

Ah, the certainty of youth.

Alright, let’s set the record straight: a TA is a teaching assistant.  It’s an individuals hired by the department to help make the professor’s life easier.  This individual knows the subject matter, but perhaps doesn’t have as much in-class teaching experience as a tenured professor (but then again, who does?).  That doesn’t necessarily mean that this individual isn’t smart, capable, and desperate to answer your questions.  In fact, it probably means that the individual ischamping at the bit to get a chance to pass on something valuable.  A TAship is often the first in a long series of steps towards becoming a real professor.  We all serve our time observing, working in a supervised environment, and doing a bit of grunt labor so that we too, someday, can have the coveted job of molding young minds.

The TA’s office hours can be extremely helpful if you find yourself struggling with your writing, understanding an assignment, understanding the course material, or even the college experience in general.  Think of the TA like a friendly neighborhood spiderman: the TA is closer to the undergraduate experience and so is more likely to remember what it’s like, the TA knows the library resources really well because she spends her days digging through them, the TA is excited about whatever it is that you’re studying and would love an opportunity to pass on some wisdom, knowledge, or advice, and the TA works closely with your professor and so knows what is expected of you/the class in general.

Think about the possibilities for a moment.  Instead of turning in a paper that you think may be what the professor wants, with a little advances planning you have someone to ask!  You can better understand course expectations!  You can learn what a comma splice is and why people keep writing in the margins that you’re making them!  You can improve your grades with better communication, pointed questions, and a little bit of diligence!  The TA is there to help, not laugh maniacally while marking down your work for something you did but didn’t think to ask about, so think to ask about it.  How can you use this person to your advantage?  This MVP can bat for your team if only you would take the time to ask her.

So love your TA.  Embrace your TA.  Don’t worry about being bitten by your TA and turned into a radioactive creature of the night… unless your TA actually does glow in the dark and has weird freakish horns, green skin, and eyes without pupils, then you might want to worry.


Hey, Hey and Away we Go

Well, that was a long day.  Thursdays, it turns out, are going to be doozies for a while.

I begin with Directing (the class I TA).  After an hour and a half, I have approximately an hour to myself.  An hour, by the by, turns out to be just enough time that it makes you feel like you should be doing something, but not long enough to truly accomplish anything.  In other words, just long enough to make you anxious without the substance to do anything about this anxiety.  Today, my netbook proved angry at me for failing to turn it on more than once this summer.  It is a small bit of technology with a small brain and, for a cheap computer, rather advanced in years, so I can’t say that I blame it for wanting more attention; it figures that it would be today of all days that the darn thing decided to act up.

After this time, I whisk my way down to my own class (Theory).  Today was particularly

yup. My job.

exciting because it was the first class of my semester that I am actually taking.  This also meant that I got to meet the new crop of first years.

We had a veritable deluge of first years this year.  There are a lot of new faces, new voices, and new people about the department.  Since the department is very small, this means a lot of new things to get used to.  What it also means is that class sizes are larger.  This year, our classes cap out at seventeen.  Last year, my largest class had ten.  These seemingly similar numbers are in actuality vastly different in the context of discussion-based courses (especially those held in small seminar rooms).  It feels different; rather than a round-table, we feel like a motley hoard.  I’m going to be interested to see what this hoard shapes up to in terms of actual class discussion.

Unfortunately, my experience with larger classes is that the strong voices remain strong and the weak fade into the background.  Those who are aggressive fight, those who are more inclined to sit back and let thing wash over them have the security to do so.  This makes the conversation imbalanced and, often, repetitive.  I look forward to seeing how the professors (whom I have the utmost respect for) solve this particular teaching dilemma and help to retain order within the seminar room.

One of the most exciting things about meeting the first years is understanding the new classroom dynamic.  Who is going to speak with a loud voice?  What will be the timbre of that voice?  What opinions do these people have, how hard are they willing to fight, and how are they going to bring their vast array of different knowledges/experiences to the table?

One of my favorite parts about academia is the argument.  One of my colleagues made the apt observation just the other day that “it’s always a fight with you”.  Preparing for class, for me, is donning armor and honing my blade.  Having a roomful of new opponents is the most tantalizing thing I could be presented with.  I was hard pressed not to lick my lips with a knowing grin as we went around introducing ourselves; lots of new and different specialties.  Plenty of fodder.  Let the bloodbath begin.

I rounded out my day at rehearsal.  We’re really getting into the thick of things now and

I also nearly finished the sock I was working on while at rehearsal today!

we’re at that point where most folks are mostly off book.  I myself am off book (though, again, I do need to call “LINE!” particularly when I get caught up in something).  This is a weird place to be.  While the words are in your head, you haven’t quite gotten them in your body yet.  You reach and strive for them and, though some layering comes naturally, often the most intense moments are still evasive.  For me, today, tackling 3.2 proved extremely frustrating.  This is the first scene in which Rosalind speaks with Orlando at any length, and she does so under the guise of Ganymede.  It’s almost specifically in prose (a challenge in itself) and I spend the scene giving speeches which mostly consist of lists.  As if that weren’t enough, capturing some sense of genuine emotion is a roller coaster.  The scene begins, for me, giddy in love and playing around with Celia and Touchstone about Orlando’s bad poetry.  After being ribbed good and hard, I have a few moments with Celia before I have to don the guise of Ganymede and play real, serious, and convincing.

The rhetoric bounces wildly, the mood changes drastically, and I’m still trying to remember all the gosh darn lists that Rosalind uses.

Suffice to say I didn’t quite hit the emotion that we need to drive this scene tonight.  But I have hope.  My scene partners, luckily, are fantastic.  With some more work, I have confidence that we can get there.

…and now, officially, to tackle my real job: reading.  I think I was sorely mistaken when I held the belief that second year would be easier than first year.

Ah, well, back into the fray.


Every year, inevitably, I wake up on the first day of school with the sultry sounds of an over-hyper clown fish whispering at the back out my head (“FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!  FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!”).  There’s an anxiety that comes with day one; will I like my classes?  Will I produce good work?  What’s the reading load going to be like?  Good god, will I survive the semester?

This year, my first day of school was slightly different.  Today, first thing, I had the first session of the class which I’m TAing this semester (Directing I).  Being a TA is a new and interesting experience for me.  I’ve been a grader, I’ve been a co-instructor, I’ve been a production lab overseer, but I’ve never before had this particular job title.

The TA’s job is to make the professor’s job easier.  I’m there to run interference on

that’s our syllabus, my folder, and our “classroom”

workload which means I’ll be doing a lot of grading, a lot of fielding “tier one” questions (“When is this due?”, “How do I do this assignment?”, “Am I missing anything completely obvious that I shouldn’t be missing?”), and a lot of listening.  I’m also there to learn to do my job.

Academia is one of the last professions which still truly employs the apprenticeship system.  As I learn and expand, write papers, and produce my own original research, I also have the golden opportunity to observe an old pro in the field, on his feet, and doing the job that I hope to one day be doing.  I get to see how he interacts with students, how he handles the tough situations which inevitably arise, and on the whole the strategies he uses to perform the duties expected of him which will (I hope) one day be expected of me.

So yes, I sit in class and listen.  But more importantly than that, I’m dissecting and trying to understand the point behind every little exercise the professor puts forth to his class.  Why is this question important?  What are the students getting out of this?  What is the professor getting out of this?  How does the professor best utilize the class time allotted to him to most effectively convey the information he wishes to?

Even after day one, I’m already seeing a few tips and trends (to be digested and applied as the semester continues; I’m not quite ready to stick them here for all the world to view).  I’m extremely excited to continue into the semester, and extremely appreciative that I have the opportunity to work with this particular professor.

Another neat thing about this class is that it meets in the theatre.  At Tufts, our mainstage is the Balch Arena Theatre; a theatre in the round (though often a section of seats is removed for productions making it a three-quarter space).  Just being in the space brings a vibrant energy to the class.  So often, especially at the undergrad level, we are extremely far removed from what we are studying.  To be able to practice something within a space reserved specifically for it brings an immediacy and relevancy to the work and truly validates the experience.  THIS is why we are here.  THIS is where it all begins and ends.

It’s all very Peter Brooks.

Also: pro tip passed on to me by a dear friend that, in my experience, works every time.  If you want to feel smarter, wear argyle.  It’s the best disguise I can think of for an understated “I know and see all” vibe.  I often double-dip on the argyle since I have a weakness for argyle knee socks under boots.

soggy hellophant

As an aside, I learned today where the package room is at Tufts.  Of course, since the package room at any university is tucked away from all semblance of civility or society, my discovery  involved an adventure on the downhill side of campus walking around in the weepy rain of today’s gray dreariness and spelunking buildings I had never before been into.  Ultimately, my findings were somewhat of a disappointment as the “VITAL PACKAGE” waiting for me was only my commuter parking sticker for the year.  Ah well.  Eat your heart out, Indie.

The Rosalind Diaries; Entry Four: Shakespearean Healing

I suppose it shouldn’t be funny to me really, but I do find a recent discovery of mine rather amusing.

Without fail, no matter how crazy my day has been, no matter how discombobulated my state of mind is when I enter the theatre, a good rehearsal will always set me straight.

Today, for instance.  In an outrageous dose of universal insanity, I managed to double-


book my lunch hour thereby nearly missing an important meeting for my show because I was at an important meeting for my podcast.  One phone call from my director and a frantic drive from Burlington to Somerville later and I was late, albeit intact.  Halfway through that meeting, the AD (a colleague of mine) mentioned we should wrap things up since we both had to be at another meeting that I had heard about but apparently didn’t put in my schedule.  Luckily, meeting two didn’t run up into rehearsal for show two (but these two surprise meetings did manage to eat what I thought was an afternoon which I had to myself and my writing or, more likely, my lines).  Luckily, I had woken up early to hit the gym before my day started so that I’d have the afternoon to do work.  Also luckily, I had hit my script pretty hard the day before so I was prepared for rehearsal.

I got to rehearsal out of breath, out of sorts, and out of my mind.

But Shakespeare.  The act of making Shakespeare.  Speaking the words, feeling the emotions, being in a real theatre on a real stage with my fellow actors grounded, centered, and utterly soothed the insanity that had been the day away from me.

It’s still a dream to be Rosalind.  I wake up in the mornings and can’t quite believe that I have this amazing opportunity.  Then again, my life tends to work this way; hazy hopes coalesce years later in ways that I never could have foreseen when I first hatched the aspiration.

Things are not-so-slowly clicking into place.  I managed the entirety of rehearsal tonight sans script in hand (though many calls of “LINE!” were made).  I am hoping to progress forth free from the tethers of the page, though of course will need to return to it between stage-times to really dig into my text and find the specificity that Shakespeare demands.

Today’s discovery: levity.  As I have previously mentioned, my ways tend to be bullish.  I see a target, I throw myself after it.  Onstage, this will manifest itself as flat and one-dimensional.  If I play one thing until I achieve my objective, I will be playing that one thing the ENTIRE SHOW since the point of a play is not to satisfy the characters (especially the main characters) until the very end.  As a result, the counter-points to any single emote or tactic will help to highlight that tactic.

This came into play in I.iii when Rosalind is banished by Duke Ferdinand.  At this point, Rosalind busts into some eloquent yet severe verse and demands certain explanations of the banishing Duke which he does not give her.  Hammering this with a constant aggression, even if that aggression builds, will only make the audience feel like they’re being yelled at.

And so, counterpoint.  Rosalind does stop herself twice to throw honoraries at the Duke.  These are good moments in which to show restraint, an attempt at calming one’s self, or whatever acting choice I decide to make.

Sounds simple and self-explanatory when I break it down that way.  Also sounds like something they teach you day one of actor training.  Funny how easy it is to forget the basics when you’re fretting about your lines, worrying about hitting your marks, listening to your scene partner, and trying to keep the scene fresh and not get stuck in the rut of “this worked, let’s do it again”.

Tomorrow; there will be not enough coffee in the world

In any case, I should to bed as it is currently half past eleven and, for some unholy reason, the university decided to hold a mandatory TA orientation at 8:30 AM tomorrow.  Let’s look at the logic of this for a moment: a mandatory gathering of graduate students during which one hopes to impart to them information which is vital to the rest of their teaching career.  This gather, clearly extremely important, to be held at 8:30 on a Friday morning the week before classes start so that their still-summer-sodden minds are awash with the blinking confusion of “semester hasn’t started yet”.  I wonder what the powers that are truly believe the attendance percentage of their incoming TAs at this meeting will be.  I assume this belief is nothing short of delusional else some semblance of sanity would have kept them from propagating the clearly inhumane treatment of already underpaid nearly-slave labor workers.

Yet another thing to add to my list of “won’t dos” for when the revolution comes and I instate myself as stringent but benevolent dictator over the ivory tower.

I’m wondering if I should order a large leatherback chair, or if I should go with the traditional crown and scepter to denote my status.

Maybe I’ll have the revelation tomorrow as I drive my still-sleeping carcass to orientation.