i have a question...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

conversations with my teacher, vol. I

I imagine this is a topic I will return to throughout my academic life over the next 2 or so years, so let's just commit it to a column today.

Yesterday, after my evening acting class--Principles of Acting, Augusto Boal--I ended up riding the T home with my teacher for about 20 minutes of my 30 minute ride. We chatted animatedly about how I ended up in the program: I told her I was from New York but had spent 8 years in California and graduated from UC Berkeley. I told her I'd moved back to New York after graduation and about my soul-sapping day job. I told her about how I started volunteering and discovered this latent gift with children and how grateful I am for it. I told her about how confident I am in picking the right program and place for myself, after what feels like a long time of feeling lost.

We talked about how the theater education students aren't all performers and how brave I think those who don't classify themselves as performers are. And how taking a class studying Boal is a risky move for people who don't consider themselves performers. I suggested that studying Stanislavsky, which can sometimes be about delving into past experiences and our psyches, might seem more intimidating than a practice of theater that is about the reality of one's situation, the routine of everyday life.

She told me that she had used this work in prisons and how everyone always comments that "that must be so hard." It made me think about the fact that, in this class, we're a group of white students sitting together and talking about oppression. And how my teacher (who is black) working in prisons is drastically different than me working in a prison. Obviously. And how that's such a charged issue.

She said, literally, as she exited the train, "We're attracted to our work because of our 'Stanislavsky.' You found working with children for a reason, and now it's your job to find out why."

I almost burst into tears on the subway.