问吧乐享奖学金文章1 - What does a Drama student actually learn at U of T?
10:00. Movement class. Find your feet on the floor, and focus. Run, jump, crawl, dance; engage your whole body; use the space; and just move; for two hours. Devise, and destroy. And then devise.
13:00. Acting class. Improv. Read; and read out loud. Improv. Analyze the text. Play the scene. Do it differently. Do it freshly. You have three hours; in a sauna room. Make your scene partner look good. And make it easy for the audience.
17:00. Voice class. Warm-up, lose your body; lose your jaw. Lose your mind. Be open; be vulnerable. Be the character; be yourself.
This is a typical day of my school life in the past three years. On top of my literature, history and theory classes required for my program, I have to take practical classes introduced above to complete my Drama Specialist. You might feel surprised or distant from such description of university experience of an oversea student from Mainland China. Indeed, most of my international Chinese friends are bewildered and often misunderstand what I study. Questions such as “do you sing opera?” “do you have to cry a lot?” or “do you want to be a superstar?” make me laugh so hard but also make me ponder over the question of what exactly I learn in the drama program.
This year, I am enrolled into a course, called Performance II, which is the third level of acting in the Drama Centre Undergrad Program at the University of Toronto. For the first six weeks of class, we did nothing but improvisation and poetry reading, exercises that seemed to have nothing to do with acting.
Improvisation might be a rather unfamiliar term for most of us. Basically, for the purpose of our study, it refers to creating stories without any kind of preparations or expectations but the goal of saying “yes” to our scene partner; literally and simply, saying yes. It was the hardest thing I had even done in my acting career. There was no space for any question or any rejection; I had to say yes. And here is an example of an exchange between my partner Alex and me:
Alex: I think you’re crazy.
Bridget: No, I’m not…
(instructor: Bridget, say yes.)
Alex: I think you’re crazy.
Bridget: Yes, but –
(instructor: just say yes.)
(instructor: tell us how crazy you.)
Bridget: Yes, I am so crazy that I [email protected]$#^*#&…
It sounds like a very stupid and ridiculous conversation. It does, but it is not. Theatre is a medium and space for real human beings expressing real thoughts and behaving as one’s true self. In our society, we have learned to behave, follow the rules, be neutral and not to project emotion; we have learned to shut up. There is very little value of humanity in our modern life, which is depressing and anti-evolutional. This exercise has taught me not only the techniques and openness required for acting but more importantly the significance for us to stay human, free, organic and truthful to oneself. I am not encouraging rebellion of any forms, but only when we are able to accept and express our inner self would we be able to firstly enjoy life and secondly secure the progression of human life.
So that’s about being a speaker or an agent. What about being an audience or a listener?
It should be answered in the following exercise: poetry reading. Every week, I had to bring in a poem and read it out loud in front of my class. For the first two weeks, my instructor was amazed by my performance. The third time I did a poem, she was truly convinced that I had got talents for poetry reading. There were nodding-heads in the audience. To be honest, I was very self-conscious and nervous, because, after all, English is my third language and the expectations on pronunciation, rhythm, fluidity and vocal energy were very high. As a foreigner to the language, I was regarded as the best poetry reader in this class which is made up of thirteen native English speakers and one non-local student. I hit this point, not for the purpose of boasting and bragging, but because I recognize that everyone in this world, regardless of their background and history, deserves respect and a chance to bring out their potential. So do not judge or reject something before you actually have a taste of it. Have some patience, some generosity and some curiosity.
Certainly, I have learned how to read and analyze a play, how to write an essay and how to write an exam. But what I really appreciate in my learning experience is the culture of equality, freedom and respect, as well as the recognition of the necessity of critical thinking and a sense of social responsibilities.
I am a Dean’s List Scholar in 2013 and 2014, a recipient of the W.J. McAndrew Prize in 2013 and of the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse Scholarships in 2014, awarded based on my exceptional performance in all dimensions in the Drama Program.
Macchiato - 不黑不苏服君~