When I first read over the options for the Freshman LDR courses, I immediately chose Dramatic Leadership as my first choice. I am a theater person through and through, and I found it fascinating that we would be studying how playwrights have been portraying leaders. I thought that surely it would not be a bad thing to get in depth knowledge of both obscure plays and well-known ones. I also knew that this class would act as a sort of introduction to classes in college, so I expected a good deal of it to be developing writing, speaking, and critical analysis skills. So far, this is what we have done. There’s only been four classes so far, but they have been very informative on how to best research and adapt to college level courses. I assume that we will be developing writing and speaking skills using the plays that we analyze as our content to be discussed.
How is theater/drama like other forms of expression? How is it unique?
Theater in and of itself is all about the ways that the human body and voice can express itself. Sure, staging, lighting, sound effects, costumes, and other elements of the stage can help actors in their expression, but if you took away the elements of the stage the actor could still put on a show and a theater piece could still be produced. If you don’t have actors to express what is being communicated, however, the show cannot go on. The most unique thing about theater is this reliance on humans and human words to express what another is thinking. In art, writing, and other creative arts, the piece itself can often stand alone. An artist or author does not need to stand next to their piece and articulate what they want to express. In contrast, you do need people to do that for theater.
Theater is like other forms of expression in the fact that composition is still very important. Words are chosen carefully in poems or stories, colors and shapes are applied in pieces of art, and lights, costuming, and other elements of the stage are specially designed to help actors better express what is happening on stage. Though not all forms of composition and reliance on humans as a main means of expression are the same in theater and other forms of art, this reliance on composition is one of the things that makes the arts as a whole unique.
You have now read Death of a Salesman. Some critics and observers have called it an American classic. Do you agree? Would you consider the play an American classic? Why or why not?
I think that Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is an American classic. It is considered an American classic because it follows the story of a classic American family who is trying to reach the American dream. Though decidedly more realistic, this is the typical American story. The family deals with problems such as work, love, family life, depression, and many other themes that most American classics focus on.
The audience always has a sense that the American dream is unreachable for the Loman family. Willie Loman tries for most of his life to climb the ranks of society, and when he becomes less able to do so, he tries to push the American dream on his children. Reality sets in during the final scene. One of the reasons that this play is an American classic is because it is realistic.
Death of a Salesman is an American classic because it follows a family trying to reach the American dream. However, there are some themes and elements that add to its ability to be considered an American classic, such as its realism. This is why I think that the critics and observers are correct in calling Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman an American classic.
How do you approach material that is difficult, challenging, or upsetting (or all of those)? How do you think about it or try to process it?
Whenever I approach difficult material, I try to distance myself from the matter at hand. If it’s a reading for a class or something similar, I know that my own opinions will just make the reading harder. Looking at a matter objectively makes it easier for my brain to process and absorb the information that is being given. By doing this, I find it easy to plow through topics that others might find difficult or disturbing.
However, I know that my own opinions will make the information that I’m given just as useful, so after I read something difficult or challenging I take some time to reflect on what I have just read. Most of the time this just involves contemplation on my part, but if I am with someone who I find it easy to talk to I will ask if they will talk about the subject with me. Hearing someone else’s opinions and sharing my own provides not only another point of view, but is also a way for me to prevent myself from “bottling up” any negative emotions I have about a topic. If I don’t know someone I can talk to or am about to go to another activity, I’ll listen to some music or work out to work out any problems I have with some material. Using this method of distancing myself from difficult material and then allowing myself to think about my own emotions, I can process my feelings on a subject while still retaining the necessary facts.
I have doubt every day. It can come from anything. However, I have the most doubt when I’m around people I don’t know. This sense of unknown is what causes doubt. Because I don’t know the people I’m around, I don’t know what could offend them, I don’t know what they might find funny, and I don’t know what they might think of me. I doubt myself, second-guess decisions I make, and worry. Perhaps the reason that I doubt so much is that there is not a sense of trust between myself and those I don’t know. With people I trust, I don’t worry as much. Gaining trust is the biggest solver of doubt. A trust is gained, doubt constantly lessens. The unknown that causes doubt becomes known, and I, personally, find my doubt lessening.
Another thing that causes doubt is authority. The more authority a person has, the more people are inclined to doubt, or at least second guess, them. People doubt the President of the United States all the time. That comes not just from differing opinions but also from their position in society. Because of how important authority figures are, more people doubt their intentions and their decisions.
Doubt can come from many places, and be the result of many things. Lack of trust is what causes the most doubt for me, but there are a number of other factors that cause others to have doubt.
If a play contains a real person (whether living or dead) as one of the characters, how does it affect your perception of that play?
The effect of writing a play about real people changes depending on how well-known they are. For example, Richard Nixon is very well-known in the United States, but perhaps not as well-known in other parts of the world. If you already know who a person or character is, you will enter the play with pre-formed biases. For example if you read the play Frost/Nixon and had already learned about the Watergate Scandal, you might be biased against Nixon.
Many authors can and will play off of this preconceived bias and use it to help characterize a principle character or move along the plot. The already known knowledge means that playwrights sometimes do not need to add as much information about a character. (However, this does limit their audience.)
Also, when using pre-existing characters in a play, it needs to be historically correct, and this involves a lot of research on the part of the playwright and actors. They must look up mannerisms, history, and other biographical information to create a true story. Otherwise, the play itself may seem false.
As you can see, having real-life people as characters in a play completely changes the way the play is created and received. Pre-existing opinions and past history are very important to pay attention to because they can shape the way that the play is received. Using real-life people as characters means that the play must be shaped in a very specific way, and can make or break the play itself.
Now that you are approximately halfway through your first semester, reflect on some of your discoveries or realizations. Describe two that you consider positive and two you would classify as negative.
Some positive discoveries that I made mid semester were that I am very good with time management and find it much easier to work when I’m interested in the topic at hand. I have consistently been on top of my work, finishing it two or three days ahead of time. I’ve begun to make accurate estimations of the amount of time it will take me to finish my work (which, thank goodness, is growing shorter every day). My increasing ability to manage my time wisely has meant that I’m not as stressed as most of my friends are, and can still find time to do things I love.
Also, I’ve grown more interested in the studies that I am pursuing, namely theater and anthropology. This has resulted in better work that is done more efficiently. Though there were subjects that I was interested in during high school, I would frequently find myself growing bored with the work I did and try to get it done as fast as possible. This resulted in mediocre work. Now, because I’m actually interested in what I am studying, my work is better.
Two negative discoveries that I have made are that I have a tendency to get swept away in work and that I do not do my best work in the morning. Because I have a tendency to get swept away in my work, I have not been as a social as usual, something I am trying to remedy. While I always knew that I am a night owl, I have found it increasingly difficult to pay attention in my 8:30 class. I am trying to remedy this situation by getting up a little bit earlier, eating lots of brain food, and reading something to wake my brain up. These are the main discoveries that I have made halfway through my first semester of college.
You have just read the play Red by John Logan. What images—mental, visual, intellectual, emotional— come to mind as you envision a Mark Rothko painting?
After reading Red by John Logan, there is a certain amount of hesitancy with which I answer this question. Even though Logan’s characterization of Rothko might not necessarily be accurate, the image of Rothko shouting about the meaning of color and how no one truly appreciates art anymore fills my mind. But I must digress.
When I view a painting by Mark Rothko, I feel hungry. Not necessarily hungry for food, (though red, as a color, has the unintended side effect of making one feel hungry, and is often placed in kitchens and restaurants for this reason) but also hungry for more. I will admit that when I researched Rothko’s paintings after reading Red I expected more than just blocks on a canvas. On the other hand, the intensity behind the paintings themselves made me want to look at more of Rothko’s paintings. Even though I wasn’t all that impressed, I still wanted to see the full array of his paintings, in person. I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something, just looking at the pictures on the internet.
The images that I see in my brain often have to do with the color on the canvas. Red (the color Rothko seems to favor the most) reminds me of the scenes in the play. More specifically, it reminds me of the scene when Ken and Rothko are shouting at each other about the meaning of the color red. Green reminds me of grass and trees. Blue reminds me of the water and the beach. Each different color used is associated with a specific image, and in viewing these paintings, the corresponding images are pulled to the front of my mind. It’s truly amazing how a painting of blocks of color can cause so much imagery and so many feelings in a person.
You are approaching the point in your first semester where you will begin preparing (and submitting or delivering) assignments. These assignments may take the form or written papers or oral presentations. As you approach these assignments:
What is your greatest source of excitement?
What is your biggest concern?
At this point in the semester, I am nearing a time where I start turning assignments that make up a big portion of my grade. I am actually really excited about these assignments because they don’t seem like trivial busy work, and are on topics that I am very interested in learning more about. In high school, we were often forced to write papers and prepare presentations on boring, menial topics that would seem tedious or forced. I am very excited to be researching and writing on topics that I am actually interested in.
My biggest source of concern is that the assignments comprise a good portion of my grade. I worry that receiving a bad grade will result in an awful course average. I am unused to having so few assignments that make up my entire grade. I know that if I make a bad grade, I will have problems raising my grade. My goal is to come out of most of my classes with an A average. However, I know that if I work really hard, study, and make sure to ask for help if I need it, I can achieve this goal.
Because I have red hair, I constantly get asked if I am Irish. In my childhood, this would annoy me, and I would respond, as politely as possible, that I am Scottish, not Irish. Over time, I became intrigued by my Scottish heritage and began to research the culture of Scotland. While looking at history, I learned about the Celts, who lived in Western Europe until Roman colonization in 54 B.C. Their culture intrigued me, and my fascination with the Celts began. I tried to research everything anthropologists and historians know about the Celts. One of the things that is the most known about Celtic culture is the use of Celtic knots. I developed a fascination with Celtic knots and created a collection of necklaces, pictures and other various items with the knots incorporated somehow into the item. One of these is a silver necklace with a trinity knot as the pendant. What I learned about the knot and the memories connected to the necklace make it one of my favorite pieces in my collection of Celtic knots.
Celtic knots carry certain meanings with each different version of the knot. There are seven popular versions of Celtic knots. Interestingly enough, the reason that the knots survived for so long is that when the Romans began to convert the Celts to Christianity, the Celts took that general meaning of the knot and adapted it to the Christian tradition. For example, they took the Trinity knot and changed the symbolism from Maiden, Mother, Crone to Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
The knot that was gifted to me by my friends is a trinity knot, surrounded by a framework of silver. I am a Christian, so this knot identifies closely with my belief system. However, trinity knots, because they were so closely tied with religion, were made to protect the people who wore them from evil. I find that this knot fills me with confidence, and I am able to step a little lighter when I wear it. Also, like most presents, I connect the knot with the people who gave it to me. Like one might treasure a gift given to them by their grandparents, I treasure it because it was given to me by my best friends.
This silver trinity knot is not one that I wear on a daily basis, but represents some of the things I think about when I need comfort. My friends, my family, and my passions are just some of the things that give me comfort. Perhaps one of the reasons why this necklace is so meaningful to me is that whenever I have had a bad day or am feeling down, I simply put on this necklace and it gives me a sense of renewal, courage, and comfort. The delicate twists and turns of the knot that never seem to truly reach an end sooth me.
At this point in my college career, I want to major in Anthropology because I am keenly interested in other cultures. This necklace is proof of that interest. Many people could choose it because they find it pretty or interesting, but I asked for it because I wanted to find the meaning behind the necklace and learn more about the culture from which Celtic knots came. This necklace presented to me not just a beautiful item to wear, but also a chance to learn more about foreign, ancient cultures. I hope that this necklace shows that I like to delve into the background of a story or object, not just look at the surface.
This Celtic trinity knot necklace is not only interesting to me, but is also a connection to stories that comfort me. Whenever I see or hold this necklace, I feel calm and my mind feels alive. There are so many stories, personal and otherwise, that are tied to this necklace. The memories of these stories make my silver Celtic trinity knot necklace special to me.