Oberlin Blogs

Vietnam 101

January 31, 2009

Joe Dawson ’12

The second of two pieces I wrote during first semester about performances in Oberlin. Classes are starting soon, so I'll definitely have some non-obsolete material coming.

December 2008-
Vietnam 101 played at the Little Theater last weekend. The play was written by a former obie, takes place at Oberlin, and was performed by Oberlin's Theater 101 class. How Oberlin. More than anything, the play was a history lesson about Oberlin in the '60s. And a reminder of just how awesome '60s music is.

Mike M. told me about the show when he was rehearsing it, and read a few of the play's most dramatic lines to me. I could see the show in my head. Bare stage, lots of pantomime, lots of talking. Not that that's a bad thing. I'm just a visual person. I like movies that tell a story with pictures, photos that tell their own story, and plays that are a little more interesting than a black stage with chairs. You see, I have a secret ambition to be a movie director, and I get frustrated at times (I think we all do) when people go to a lot of trouble to make a movie or write and record a song or put on a play that is very similar to something I've seen before. Maybe it's just me, though.

Anyway, Mike and I played with the idea of reading the intense lines he was given as Desi Arnaz or something to make it more lively, but he decided to play it straight. It was pretty cool to learn specifics about Oberlin's history during Vietnam, even if the presentation left something to be desired. Oberlin students stopped army recruiters from recruiting students for about five years in a row (sometimes illegally), held a city-wide day of protest, and like half of the student body marched on Washington. They got tear gassed and everything!

I think the play would have made a great documentary, actually. Rich Orloff, the author, interviewed hundreds of students for the play and made their stories into composite characters. Seeing the real people tell their own stories would have done it for me in a way actors on a black stage really couldn't.

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