Oberlin Blogs

Studying Here, Studying Away

November 4, 2016

Tom Cline ’18

Hi Oberlin Blogosphere,

It's been a while! I apologize for my virtual (pun intended) absence this semester, but now that I'm back I have all sorts of exciting news and things that are happening in my life to talk about!

First, I'm going to be studying away in the spring! I'm going to be in the Production & Design Studio at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, which I'm really thrilled about. I've been in Oberlin pretty much continuously since last August, and spent Winter Term, Commencement, and the summer here. As much as I loved being here, it's started to feel incredibly small and I think New York is exactly what I need. Even though I've been doing things I really enjoyed while here, hearing my friends' stories about their travels and adventures has made me itch to get out!

I'm very excited for the opportunity to continue studying theater in a new place and at a more focused school. Oberlin has a great theater program, but it's not a conservatory program nor does it have the same level of instruction and resources I'll have access to Tisch. I was really surprised at how easy the process was on the Oberlin side, especially since I'm only the second person to do this program for theater. There's a LOT of paperwork to do, but ever more waiting around to hear back both from the study away program and from Oberlin.

It definitely helped that I had a very detailed class plan (which I've described here), since Oberlin asks you about your progress toward your major on the application. The relationships I've made in the Theater department also proved very beneficial, since professors were willing to look over my transcript and course lists with me to figure out how to make this program work within my major. Once I was accepted into the program and finalized all the details, it hit me that I was going to be gone next semester! As excited as I am, it's going to be strange to be at a school without co-ops, where I'm not working many hours every week in kitchens! I know it'll be a welcome break from the small-town vibe of Oberlin, but I'm sure I'll be happy to be back next fall.

With all of the planning for next semester consuming my time, it seems like this semester has flown by! This semester has been very busy, but since I'm almost done with my Theater major, I've had much more choice in the classes I take. This semester, I'm taking:


  1. Arts Management 1
    This class is taught by the Managing Director for Theater, Dance, and Opera, and looks at all of the things necessary to create and run a theater company. We study everything from budgeting and staffing a production to how to program and market a season. It perfectly suits my interests in theater and often uses real-world examples (some of them from Oberlin) to illustrate our lessons. It's a lot of work and research, but is definitely the most concrete, "real-world" class I've taken.
  2. Theater of the Millennium
    Focusing on playwrights working right around the year 2000, this class has examined race, gender, class, and social issues of the period and how those shape, inform, and are reinforced through plays. As someone who loves reading plays, I've been exposed to an enormous amount of new work and have found our class discussions fascinating. We're a pretty small class (14 people) and mix critical analysis of plays with informal in-class performances and research as ways to understand and work with often complicated texts.
  3. Foundations of Theater
    This class is probably the most traditional class I'm taking this semester. It focuses on the history of theater from its roots in ritual through contemporary work, so we have to work in broad strokes. I've never been a history buff, so this class can get a little dry for me at times. While it isn't necessarily my favorite class this semester, it's been interesting to learn about how the evolution of theater and how modern ideas of drama stemmed from ritual.
  4. Intro to Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
    One of the great things about completing most of my major requirements early is that now I get to take classes just for fun! At Oberlin there are constant discussions about oppression and systems of power, and through the class discussions and readings I've become much better at describing and naming those systems. This class is taught by Chris Barcelos, who is AWESOME. The class wasn't taught for a few years, but I'm really hoping that it continues to happen.
  5. Religion and Politics in the Modern Muslim World
    This class is packed full of information. The professor, Jafar Mahallati, is incredibly knowledgeable and this has been one of the most in-depth classes I've ever taken at Oberlin. We studied the history of Islam for the first module of the course, and are now looking at how Islam influences modern political systems and issues in the Middle East. There's obviously a ton of information, since we're looking at thousands of years of history across many countries, but Professor Mahallati manages to communicate both the overarching trends and idiosyncrasies of individual regions.


I've also continued to be very involved in the Theater department, and as I write this, I'm waiting for an opera dress rehearsal to begin. I'm working as the lighting programmer and board operator for the opera, which means I get to work with Jaime Benjamin, my lighting professor from last semester. Luckily, I was able to run the opera because the show I'm stage managing, Spring Awakening, is on an opera hiatus. Spring Awakening is the Theater Department main stage show this semester, and has been both an awesome opportunity and a huge time commitment. I stage managed the main stage last semester and it went really well, but the added complexity of a musical, an additional class, and completing a study away application/portfolio and the required documents has kept me busy and out of trouble.

This semester I'm also working as a Managing Assistant for the Theater Department. As a Managing Assistant, I work for the Managing Director and help do a variety of tasks to keep the department functioning well. I express student concerns to the faculty and help provide student input on production issues and in faculty meetings. In addition to this new job, I've continued to work as a Staff Electrician, Props TA, Technical Assistant, and to be involved in productions.

This semester has been / will continue to be busy, but now that the end is in sight, it's felt worth it. Hopefully there are many other exciting things I'll be able to blog about soon, I'm just working on getting them finalized before blogging about them.

Every time I write a blog post I get reminded about why I chose Oberlin. It can be hard to remember all of the good things about a place when you're stressed, or busy, and I've definitely been both of those this semester. Knowing that I won't be here next semester and that I'm almost done with my time as an Oberlin student has made me appreciate the things that are really special about Oberlin much more. I'm sitting in King watching golden and red leaves drift off of trees, and know that the mix of intense work, passionate people, and idyllic setting isn't something I'll find many other places.

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