Thursday, January 31, 2013

Confessions of a Second Semester Student by Ben Lewis

Confessions of a Second Semester Student
Ben Lewis

            I have a confession to make, a dark and terrible secret that I can no longer keep hidden from the world: I was slightly apprehensive about starting grad school. Sure, I had several close friends who had raved about the program at City College, and yes, in recent years I had discovered a passion for teaching that I never knew existed. Still, the prospect of returning to school was a daunting one.

            My undergraduate years were split between a giant liberal arts university and a tiny theater conservatory. At the university, I spent my time hauling comically enormous books from lecture hall to lecture hall, reading and writing and regurgitating in the manner I had been taught my whole life. My conservatory training consisted mainly of rolling around on the ground in sweatpants while frantically weeping, because every ‘serious’ 19-year-old theater student knows the quality of your Tennessee Williams
performance is measured by the ounces of tears you can secrete in a ten-minute scene.

            Going into my first semester, I wondered where on the scale between these two extremes CCNY would lie. Thankfully, Educational Theater turned out to be it’s own wonderful and unique creature. I spent the first semester being bombarded (in a good way) by a near century’s worth of thoughts and methods towards teaching theater and understanding it’s role in a child’s development. Others on this blog have posted more eloquently than I about the joy and fascination of discovering people like Dorothy Heathcote, Augusto Boal, and many others. I will just say that after spending two-thirds of my life completely immersed in the theater, I didn’t think it was possible for me to think about it in a whole new way, but that’s what the program has started to do for me. The difference between my grad school experience and everything that came before is that our goals here are not merely to improve ourselves, but to empower us to improve the lives of others.

            If any first semester students are reading this, I’m gonna give you the big secret I have learned. Many of my classmates figured this out right away, but if you’re a little slow like me, I will tell you how I view the program differently now than when I started. First semester, I viewed the program as the time I spent twice a week in class, the time I spent outside of class doing the homework, and the time I spent in schools doing fieldwork. Now I see that all those things are just components in an even larger network of opportunities and experiences. As the semester went on I met dozens of interesting professionals at networking events, I had one of the best master class experiences of my life one Saturday morning deconstructing Hamlet in a series of brilliant games lead by the even more brilliant Jonathan Neelands, even the simple act of reading and researching the constant stream of emails being sent my way by the Ed Theater department has seriously expanded my understanding and awareness of the field.

            While assisting during the performance of Fable Talk (you can read the great blog entry by my classmate Lisanne Ware) I was waiting back stage when a colleague I just met turned to me and said, “ I need you to paint my nose green with this crayon.” Only in this profession is that as mundane a workplace request as “Pass the stapler.”  As I sat in the auditorium, watching throngs of young children enraptured and enchanted by a group of actors, some face paint and a few sheets of paper, I was struck by how lucky I feel to be a part of this group. We are peddlers of magic, seekers of truth and catalysts for growth in the next generation. As a second semester student, I have a new confession to make: I dig being in Grad School, and I look foreword to what the future semesters will bring.


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