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Et in Arcadia Ego

November 19, 2008

To Do:
(I think you can tell a lot about someone by their To Do list.)

Memorize and Block Scene from Arcadia for David Walker's Contemporary British and Irish Drama class.
There are many reasons that David Walker's class is amazing. It's the quintessential discussion class at its most effective. David makes sure the conversation avoids becoming cyclical, but doesn't lead discussion too forcefully, save to have us focus on individual scenes at some points. Discussion moves swiftly, as everyone in the room cares. The class has an interesting mix of Theater and English majors, two very different groups with very different concerns. When we do check-ins--a quick go-round-the-room of each person's gut response to the play--I hear an incredible flurry of comments addressing everything from structure, to gender, a character's particular motivation, intellectual ideals, trouble with staging, one's emotional response, use of language, social implications and a million other things.

We're reading Tom Stoppard's Arcadia this week, so a familiar phrase in check-in was "My mind is blown." One of my friends, Chris Sherwood, has spent years telling me about how amazing this play was, and how we needed to do it as his honors project. Then, he would start babbling about gardening, budding sexuality, hermits, historical revisionism and how staging it in Hall Auditorium would be the best thing in the history of the world excepting the invention of Legos. And for years, I would nod and say, "Of course, Chris. Absolutely."

Except Chris was correct. Arcadia is amazing.

The other repeated check-in question was: "I wonder how this looks staged."

That's my homework. Each week, two folks in the class present a scene--blocked, memorized and polished. It's really incredible to watch the classroom get transformed into a stage and to see my demonstrative, passionate classmates become a rapt audience. I'm up for this week, playing 13-year-old prodigy Thomasina as she plots fractals, plays the chaos game and gets googly-eyed over her tutor. I'm excited, but I'm awful at memorizing. I love doing "research"... which is to say, reading about chaos theory.

I'm also doing the scene with one of the best actors in the school, Alex. Normally, Alex is a pretty relaxed guy. But when he goes into character, it's incredible. The Alex-ness of him goes away, and someone completely different peeks out from behind his eyes. I've seen him in shows before--but to watch the transformation from 2 feet away is ... mind-blowing.

Write More for my Novella Class

Right now, I've churned out 47 pages of a dystopian love story criticizing big box culture called "Wasteland." It involves sewage, child labor, the 1939 World Fair, engineering and romance. I need about 20 more pages, and need to polish it up before my Novella class eats it alive. Novellas are "baby novels," so we're aiming for stories between 50 to 75 pages, which is pretty demanding.

After years of workshop classes, I've got a pretty thick skin, so I'm none too worried about my class of 12 brutalizing my little baby story. But they're all really smart, so I want to make the best use of their time. So the more story I have written, the more effective their commentary. The class has a fascinating mix of writers, all with very different tastes and styles. Some of the novellas are solidly realistic; others more stylized, experimental and surreal. Many of my classmates are taking really big risks--writing through unreliable narrators, or doing fascinating things with form. It's fascinating to watch them through the process.

Paper for Ancient Greek and Roman Sexuality Class!
- Decide whether writing on Catullus or Tibullus.
- Choose poems: read the naughty parts of Catullus out loud to my friends.
- Think up brilliant thesis. Smile contentedly.
- Write outline, then discuss with Professor-Captain Kirk Ormand.
- Write first draft, go to Writing Center, weep, rewrite.
- Get an A on paper.
- Rejoice!

The Rest of the List:

- Borrow Nikki's astronomy notes from day missed due to illness. Read about black holes.
- Write lesson plan for Circus Arts Exco.
- Go Rock Climbing (there's a climbing wall in the gym).
- Go to Tumbling Club.
- Go see Jesse's Senior Recital, The Illusion, Cinderella (Cendrillon, an opera), David Bowie movie The Hunger.
- Lead a few circus meetings.
- Run the Turkey Trot?
- Get some sleep?

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