Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Schoolin' 2: Some sorta boogaloo

This is the followup. Welcome to the followup.

"So what, exactly, Mr. Paul "Everything is Peachy" Rekk -- what, exactly, was not so hot about your schoolin'?"

That's the question on everyone's mind. I actually received eleven e-mails with that question, letter for letter, ill-chosen punctuation mark for ill-chosen punctuation mark, after my last post. Well, maybe not eleven, but it was definitely just this side of zero.

And what was so wrong? The Man, I tell you. The Man was getting us down. For serious -- the administration at Wartburg College, at least as of two years ago (and I can't imagine it having changed much since) had little time and less support for its theatre department. Up through my junior year, the theatre offices (and that's a tenuous plural) were in the communication arts department, the bulk of the storage was in the music department and the theatre was in an old converted high school gymnasium (basketball court with a proscenium on one end -- the kind my mom played on when she was in school) that had shitty insulation and and even shittier lighting and sound options. Oh, did I mention we had to set up folding chairs for the audience to have somewhere to sit? And the building was completely blocked from the rest of the school by the chapel, of all places. The campus was set up like a 'u' with a few apartment-style dorms serving as an umlaut. We were the little tail on the 'u'. And this space was the location of every show the department put up.

My senior year was heralded by the breaking in of a new performance space! Wee-hoo! Not a new theatre, mind you... it was named the McCaskey Lyceum, lest the theatre department get the wrong impression that it was *gasp* their own space! No, we dealt with the hell that was scheduling around a very large and well-supported music department, who also wanted to play with the new toy. And since we no longer needed the old "theatre", the college started to hold some larger classes and eventually as makeshift offices for the athletic department while they got a new multi-multi-multi-million dollar athletic facility. Oh, but never you fear -- the theatre department did have a rehearsal space to call our own. A concrete basement under the Lyceum -- one not quite blackbox-sized room (but completely unfeasible for performance -- or at least anything but the most minimal performance), with a dressing-room, a closet pretending to be a dressing-room, and a storage room that to this day I am still not certain was ever completed, or ours, for that matter.

I've always had a bit of an underdog complex in me, so this environment didn't appear to me so much as a handicap as yet another reason to damn The Man. But looking back, while it was an experience that often solidified us as a department in our struggle, it was really detrimental to the growth or practice of our ability to create and initiate work on our own. When it was a fight just to get the department's shows up, the possibility of doing something on our own was never even a consideration. Unfortunately, I've only been back to the campus once since graduation and that was for about an hour this past graduation, so I don't know how things look now. I've heard that the department has been making leaps and bounds, but the true creative acts -- the ones in reaction to the status quo -- can't emerge if even the status quo holds no authority.

How does one go about solving a problem like that? Well, for the department, keeping their shoulder to the wheel may be working in the long run, but that doesn't do shit for the students there now. How many students' educations and experiences will have been sacrificed for the cause by the time the program achieves a fair amount of respectability from the powers that be? I think the situation calls for a decent amount of Ol' Reliable: revolution. The students currently in the program need to understand that learning by doing just as often means learning without being told what to do.

But this is going to require encouragement - hell, even I would have been (and was) reluctant to do anything to stir the waters too much. When you're 20 years old, a college education seems to be the most impenetrable thing in the 'real' world. You don't wanna fuck that up. Tom and Scott, in their serial posts, mentioned layin' down a few bucks and actually visiting the alma mater to sit and discuss with the students who are there. Maybe that's the sort of thing I should be doing to help kick the program (or at least those in it) in the ass. But then again, and I'm aware that this is just me making excuses, I'm fresh out myself. Part of me feels like I should have, oh, I dunno, actually done something that would make these students a whopping 3-7 years younger than me think I'm worth listening to. I've acted in a few shows, directed a few ten minute-esque shows, had a few ten minute-esque shows of my own put up, and that's really it. Yeah, I started a company, but we have a benefit and nothing else under our belt right now. Half of me says maybe I should wait and get a Per Diem season or two done to make it feel like I've got something of importance to share. And the other half is flashing back to the Anne Bogart advice that was the impetus for Per Diem in the first place. You know, the one with, like, seventy dozen tips that started with the words "Do not wait until..."?

The fact remains that my schedule doesn't allow for me to really even leave the city until mid-December and this is the sort of thing I wouldn't just want to do on a whim anyway, so prep time would also be involved. But if it's something I'm interested in doing, I need to tell myself 'yes', that I am actually going to follow through with it, and sooner rather than later. That's the spot on which I'm wavering right now. (William, I know I could just e-mail you and get your thoughts, but like I said, I'm wavering. So if you're reading this and have anything you wanna suggest/share, please e-mail me.)

I think I had more to say, but like usual, I got started and now my brain's awhirl and I'm gonna let it settle for a bit. A lot of this is also coming from the 500 Clown class that I started on Monday, which is already have a deep effect on many aspects of my life: the way I write, act, and direct; my attitude towards both a certain show I'm working on at the current time which has been endlessly frustrating and a certain 2nd audition I got called in for next week for a certain slam-bang company with the initials BMG; and even so far as my approach to a relationship that is in that uncertain formulation phase. I've also discovered that I apparently have a reckless abandon for my body that I substitute for an entirely absent sense of abandon for my emotions. But, hey, more on that next time.

God, these things never end up where I say they will, do they? Them's the perils of free-form blogging, I s'pose.


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