« Innovative Thinking | Main | A Post and a Non-Post »

August 06, 2006

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

MattJ

Absolutely. My response here: http://theatreconversation.blogspot.com/2006/08/reaction.html

George Hunka

Happy to oblige here:

http://www.ghunka.com/index.cgi/Theater/Blogs/walters_0807.html

freeman

My response is up as well, such as it is.

Joshua James

I left a comment on Scott's site, where basically I said, if he wants us to do more innovative work, bring us down and fund it.

Interesting how he states the importance of community based theatre, yet he keeps commenting upon a community (new york indie scene) that he really isn't a part of or live among.

And what's wrong with yelling "FUCK" in a theatre? Sometimes no other word but that one will do . . .

Lucas Krech

My comments here:
http://lucaskrech.livejournal.com/32408.html

Col

Ugh.

a) His idea of experimental/innovative theater seems to come from some misguided notion that theater people are standing around in black unitards slapping meat on themselves, like stereotypical 80s visual srtists doing performance art.

b) I find his attitude terribly Treplev-ish.

c) I've actually performed my solo work in Asheville and found the audience (academics mostly) to be incredibly appreciative, articulate, curious, and deserving of far more forward thinking that what this guy is providing in terms of "edgy challenge".

d) I have never seen anyone yell fuck in a crowded theater, except in Germany. (Zing)

George Hunka

Now yelling "theatre" during a particularly good fuck ... THAT'S revolutionary.

Joshua James

LOL!

Damn George, I'm going to be laughing about that one for a long time - and I'm jealous, I wished I said it!

Lucas Krech

George, You should consider including a comedy in the Minima programming.

Ian W. Hill

Oh, damn, George . . .

LOL and I wonder how many of us are going to have that line come back to us at EXACTLY the wrong point in our personal lives.

Some people might not find it quite so funny.

James

I agree. George, when the hell did you become funny?

(Ah, I'm just kiddin, ya big lug.)

Ian W. Hill

Oh, nearly forgot . . .

Joshua James: "Damn George, I'm going to be laughing about that one for a long time - and I'm jealous, I wished I said it!"

Ian W. Hill: (Brit accent) "Oh you will, Joshua, you will."

George Hunka

The only thing worse than having a high Technorati rating is not having a high Technorati rating.

isaac

Sorry I've been MIA from this conversation guys. Temping is rough today, and I am coming down with some form of the plague. I hope to have a post on this site later on.

Thanks for everyone's participation... George, I think you in particular have p'wnd this one.

Anyway... carry on!

Joshua James

LOL! Ian, ya got me too.

So the thing is, with Scott, (can we talk about this here rather than at his blog? I'd rather do that and boost Isaac's rating, y'know?) is that he's assuming a position that a lot of educators, in particular theatre educators, assume.

That of an authority.

And, well, I don't necessarily think he's aware of how wrong that it, in a sense (bear in mind, I had a nasty dustup with him a few months ago which ended with him taking a blog leave of absence) -

He is a teacher, I don't want to besmirch that, that's a valuable thing - the trouble is, every theatre program I've been in has educators as authorities, rather than an educator as a sharer of information.

I don't think I'm an authority, per say. I've very well-versed with what I've done, so I'm an authority on that - but too often I've met teachers (and to be fair, directors) who live to push buttons and make epic declarations as a way of spurring their charges onwards and upwards.

And that's not nessarily a bad thing - it can be good, because it can spur a student to think down avenues he or she may not have thought before.

The problem is, one - it should be based somewhat in reality. To say all writing today SUCKS may be one's opinion, but it's not an objective reality. Educators (and directors) should know the difference.

Two - the teacher - student relationship is an agreed upon partnership. The student chooses to sit in a teachers class to hear what he has to say and accept or reject it at will. Reject and one might get a bad grade (which I've done) or challenge and get a bad grade. Do what you're asked of (even the challenges) and you get a good grade and later on you can decide if you like or didn't like what the teacher had to say.

But we don't have that kind of relationship with Scott, he's not our professor, he's simply a blogger, like we are, and he can challenge us if he wishes, but we're not going to sit and accept what he says without calling "shenanigans" on his bullshit. We don't need him to spur us on, so to speak, or even to teach us.

that's the flaw in the theatre education system. I've had a couple of really good professors in the seven years of college I've had, but for every good one, there have been ten bad ones, ones who used their position to make proclomations such as Scott did and said it's this way, this is the way to do things but didn't offer to do anything about it.

The great teachers I had never told me to do anything I didn't want to. The great ones (who, incidently, were also people with significant professional credits) where the ones who said," This is what I do and this is how I do it. What do you think?" And left it up to you.

In the end, I would have been better off not getting a theatre degree. I could have learned more just by coming here and doing the work. I have a few friends with great credits who did just that. I wish I'd saved my money and time when it came to a theatre degree, I'm sad to say.

That's a teacher. I don't blame Scott, personally, he's doing the same thing that 90 percent of the theatre professors he's known, met or worked with does.

But I agree that there are problems in our industry. I don't think it's the theatre artists who have let audiences down. i think it's the industry (and i include theatre programs in every university) who has let the artists and audiences down.

I realize I could have posted this on my blog. But I got started here, so what the hell?

Mark

There are many wonderful artists who teach and create work at universities and, unfortunately, Scott is giving them all a bad name with his ignorant proclamations.

Joshua James

My point is, really, that he is not. He's simply doing what the majority of them do.

The great artists who teach at a university level do exist, but my experience (which includes four campuses) are that they are the exception rather than the rule.

In theatre training, anyway. At my undergraduate college, the person teaching the senior level acting class had an MFA in costume design. She came my second year in, now she has tenure, teaches the advanced directing and acting courses. She's never been a professional actor or director, but she has an MFA and is willing to teach at a small to middle sized college in Iowa.

I think that there are many more like that than we'd like to admit.

A friend of mine attended law school, got his degree and is now a public defender in Iowa. He loves his work, court cases all the time, and he's an activist so being a public defender is right up his alley.

but I'll always remember what he told me about law school. He said, the really smart law students usually drop out, because they realize that they don't need a law degree to do what they want to do (start a company, be an agent, etc) and don't want to waste time bickering over nonsense when they could be living their dream.

I think about that often when I consider my years as a theatre major. I don't regret getting a college degree, but I do wish it had been in a more useful area, like American Lit.

My best friend is acting in Mother Courage, opposite Meryl Streep, and opens tomorrow. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from Cornell.

Everything I learned about theatre I could have learned faster without the theatre degree.

The nice thing is that you can network in a univerity setting, true, but what good does that do anyone if very few of them end up working in the field?

James

I didn't get a theatre degree (just a plain ole' BA in English Lit.) and certainly don't regret it. Many people I know (whose work I admire) did get theatre degrees (as I've said, my main collaborators at Nosedive, Pete and Patrick, graduated with degrees in theatre). My best guess is that people who engage in any form of formal education need to garnish their coursework with more than a grain of salt.

I think it also boils down to inherent creativity and drive: if you don't have it, no school can give it to you. If you do have it, no school can completely take it away (although really bad schooling can dangerously hamper it).

George Hunka

Not to get in the way of this worthwhile conversation, but ... "P'wnd"?

Mark

Josh:

"The majority of them" do what Scott does? Really? I'm not saying that there aren't underexperienced, wrongly qualified or "bad" professors out there--that's a separate issue--but are a majority really out there making ignorant pronoucements about specific subsections of the theater field that they have NO experience being involved with or even seeing?

I've had good and not-so-good professors too and I agree with you that the ones that were worth their salt had substantial professional experience. But it still seems like Scott is an outlier in terms of directly inserting himself into a conversation, to the point of using "we", that he doesn't know anything about other than what he reads on the internet.

I'm skeptical of academia, yes, but surely this is extreme behavior even for them.

Joshua James

Mark,

Obviously we've had different experiences, but again I have to say, nope - seems fairly typical to me - In fact, it rings familiar because I know I've had similiar arguments with professors like Scott when in school, with the same flavor to it.

the difference being that we're more of an empowered group than the average group of theatre students. We have power and don't have to put up with it.

But yeah, most theatre instructers are bad. I mean, we can do a whole series on cruddy actoring teachers / coaches ALONE.

That being said, I've been lucky enough to have a couple of really great teachers, both in acting and in critisism (at the U of I) - so they are out there. I do have great stories of stuff I got from truly great teachers. At Iowa, there were a couple of truly outstanding instructers. There were also bad ones, too.

Also what happened at Iowa, they canned the head of the playwrighting program, some ten years back, even though she HAD tenure, they fired her.

Which was a good thing, because she was incompetent.

What happened was, she accused a fellow faculty member of harassment in a certain situation. Unfortunately for her, the situation she described happened to have several witnesses who said, "What? That didn't happen!". The university set up a committee to investigate and talk to all students, current and alumni (including yours truly, I had only taken one class with her) about both faculty involved.

What the committee discovered is that their head the playwrights program, (a very well known program) was HATED by every student she'd ever had, she was glaringy incompetent and possible plagerist (actually no charges were brought but trust me, it happened) and was given to insane pronouncements, such as "He's not agreeing with me, I'm being harassed!" and other such gems. Said committee found themselves shocked and, to their credit, instead of firing the accused (who did not have tenure) fired the tenured prof and cleaned house of other writing professor as well, who had other problems.

There is more to that story, but that's enough for now.

It's very commendable that Iowa did that, but the larger question was how the nutcase got tenure in the first place?

I remember during our semester review (MFA actors are reviewed every semester, if our work is not up to snuff, you're let go) my classmate (the one who became famous in film and TV) walked out of his session screaming at our Voice teacher, Joe, screaming "FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE PRICK) and wasn't let go. He stayed on another year until he got accepted at Yale and landed on Buffy, et al. In Dave's defense, Joe the voice teacher was a shitty prick of a teacher.

I'm not accusing Scott of anything like the above, mind you - just pointing out that theatre departments are little islands where two or three people rein supreme and there is little accountability to those folks outside of it, because it's not a sports program and as a result, there is little scrutiny to whatever it is that may be happening. I don't know Scott and I think he's just used to lording his opinions out over youngsters without challenge. He may even be a good teacher, we don't know for sure without going into his classroom, but his posts on his blog suggest he has a little ways to go.

So yes, in my experience, most theatre professors probably shouldn't be teaching.

Shoot, the professor I mentioned in my earlier post (the one with the MFA in costuming who now teaches acting and directing, from my undergrad years) had, during my junior year, an affair with a student (my best friend) who, even at age 20, was a virgin until he met her (she was 29). It wasn't a secret, in fact, they attended theatre events as a couple and when he broke up with her, she made his life such hell he had to transfer. Her affair was found out by the college and she received a formal reprimand (it was a church affiliated college in Iowa, of course) and later went on to receive tenure and become head of the small department at that college.

We all have horror stories, I'm sure. But I still say what Scott says is, in my mind, hardly atypical behavoir from a lot of theatre professsors.

Joshua James

I should add -

During the brief semester I was at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (grad MFA program there) they fired the newly hired head of the department because they discovered he'd lied about almost everything on his resume' - He was there and gone faster than I was.

And so on -

I don't know if I've ever been to a theatre department that didn't have stories like that.

Playgoer

Isaac,

I may care too much about Broadway. But you, my friend, care too much about Scott Walters.

Don't sweat it, man. Guy's just wasting everyone's time.

Garrett

Col

I'm glad I have a theater degree. I had a lot of great classes. Some crazy acting teachers who taught me a lot (occasionally by negative example, occas. by positive) and some really wonderful teachers who helped me go to the infinities of myself inside acting. Some wonderful theater history teachers, some great dramatic lit classes, some great movement teachers. I am very glad. Not to say I didn't have issues with the theatre program at large, but -- I got the absolute most out of it that I could.

Col

Oh, yeah, people/co.'s I find vibrant/innovative, Radiohole, Collapsable Giraffe, ERS, Nat'l Theater of the USA, Banana Bag & Bodice, Chunky Move, Big Dance Theater, St. Ann's Puppetry Lab, Annie Dorsen, Civilians, Lisa D'amour, Katie Pearl, Alex Timbers/Les Freres Corbusir, Ivo van Hove, um... I could (and will) go on. I can't go on? I'll go on.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

# of Visitors Since 11/22/05


  • eXTReMe Tracker