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Writing Event #13: The End

Welp, this is it, the end!

To be completely honest, my entrance in this class was not because I wanted to major in Theatre, but simply because I needed the credit. It was also pretty much one of the classes chosen for me, so that was a fun thing to witness. I’ve never been a huge theater buff, but I can definitely say I found a lot of enjoyment in the class, and this is probably the one I looked forward to a lot since it was the only one I had in-person. The contents, while different, kind of remind me of the structure of the Greek and Roman Myth class, learning about the history and foundations of each subject, although one is much less chronological than the other. For some reason I definitely get a kick out of history, so that was something I definitely enjoyed a lot. It was also nice to learn more about how thing actually worked. My sister was supposed to be in our high school’s production of Les Mis, but because of the pandemic, that idea was pretty much canned. I knew the bare minimum of the process, basic level thinking, but now I feel like I know a lot more about how everything goes together. If I’m being completely honest, I think that’s the one thing I’ll take away the most.

It kind of relates to how I write my own short stories and pieces; i you remove an essential aspect of the process, the final result isn’t going to work as well as you want it to. Just like you want your story to connect to the audience, it’s similar to the way an author wants to capture the reader’s attention with the story they want to tell. I’m not the most outspoken person, and I can tell you that I commend those whoa re able to craft something excellent, especially actors, because even though I’ve been in a good amount of plays when I was younger, I could never put myself out there without having a nervous breakdown. This class has definitely made me appreciate everything that goes into theatre, the good and bad of it all. It can come from the most unexpected places (yes, this is real and I’m all for it), and can bring opportunity to those who didn’t think it was possible before. Theatre is too passionate to die anytime soon, and the whole world is it’s audience!

With that, I guess you could say end scene.

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Writing Event #12: STEM and…the arts?

Over the past few years, there appears to be much more advocacy for STEM than ever before. The importance of STEM jobs have become far more realized from a technological standpoint, along with for the long-term. However, there seems to be. debate that’s also arisen because of the newfound rise of STEM: How do the arts and STEM relate?

It can be a bit daunting to think about, given that the arts and STEM can be classified as two different areas as a whole. You could say that projects out of the arts, or STEAM, are more inclined to the use of creativity, while STEM could be considered more logical. However, wouldn’t both use that same amount of critical thinking? According to an article written by Connie Lin of Fast Company, she claims that “creativity is general in nature,” and is a multifaceted competency that involves similar attitudes, disposition, skills, and knowledge, all transferable from one situation to another.”

While the aspects in which creativity is applied can be different for both the arts and STEM, it doesn’t take away from the fact that creativity is a sole part of both fields. Creativity allows us to think outside of the box, along with forming critical solutions to different scenarios. Creativity can be described as “human skills that computers, artificial intelligence, and automation cannot achieve,” which is where the similarities of STEM and the arts begin to blend once again. Tara Henderson explains that “The arts allow us to expand ways of knowing and learning to inspire more learners,” furthering the idea that the arts and STEM can coincide, but also benefit each other. An example could be how she also explains how she’d implemented an “art-inclusive approach” to teaching STEM, allowing these concepts to be realized and connected through an artistic lens. There is a broad appeal to the arts, and it allows us to not only improve upon these skills more, but it also can give us new outlooks on art in general.

Overall, the arts and STEM are similar because of their creative aspects, as stated above. They may not seem similar at first glance given the contrasting subjects of both fields, but both field not only require out of the box thinking, but creativity also furthers the effort fo both fields, and they can co-exist and collaborate in helping those who aspire to be in either field.

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Writing Event #11: Do Roles Matter?

When it comes to playing the role of a character, it seems the subject of who exactly plays said role has become more of a widespread topic. Mainly becoming more prominent in the latter half of this decade, many wonder whether playing the role of something you aren’t is acceptable. One prominent example that has been prevalent during the second half of this year was the controversy of white actors playing roles of color, mainly in animation. This was during the peak of the BLM resurgence, and it brought many talking points to the table on whether change needed to come to the industry when it came to playing these roles.

Of course, you could argue in some way that some of the actors who’ve played these roles have been playing this character for a long time (a prominent example being Cleveland of Family Guy), or simply the fact that the person is talented and fit for the role. While the argument is sound in some way, the problem does not lie in whether the person is talented or not, but rather the concept of whitewashing in the industry, a practice that has been going on for decades. Many actors who played the roles of people of color stepped down as a result of this, as they believed because of this practice, their roles were casted incorrectly, and that by playing the role they were engaging in some form of erasure.

The same can also be said for when it comes to cisgender actors playing the role of a transgender individual. The term ‘Cis’ is the simple term for someone who identifies with their biological sex, being male or female. This is another prominent example of why roles matter, even if you are a talented actor. Of course, a cisgender actor could have the talent to play the role, but giving the role to a transgender individual will not only be a more fitting choice, but it also gives more weight to the role as a whole. That sort of representation matters and as we’re trying to fix many practices in the acting industry that could be considered wrong now, it’s important to not just consider one’s talent in a role, but the authenticity of playing a character that you can connect to.

There’s a reason why a musical like Hamilton opened the gateway for people of color to be inspired and dream for a role on stage like that; it’s not just talent, but representing others in an authentic way can make change. More actors are starting to cast in roles that fit who they are as people, and the realization sinks in when this inspires others to play a role like that in the future. So, do roles matter? Absolutely. Yes, there’s a lot of talent out there. But combine the two, and you’ve got a recipe for something special.

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Writing Event #10: Letter Response

To those of the Mary Washington board, I would like to start this by saying that I do understand small aspecs f your decision. Your talk of budget during a crisis such as this is understandable, and so forth. However, I cannot deny the fact that not only are several aspects of your decisions not only unreasonable, but the decision to remove a core aspect of your school is a contrast to what you are trying to achieve as a university that specializes in Liberal Arts.

To start this off properly, one of your larger reasons for the consideration of the theatre program’s removal is very problematic, that in which being the suppression of controversial content. When I first heard your response in that letter, to be honest, I was shocked. A school that thrives off of making an equal place for all doing something like this? If anything, that decision is a large step backwards. As someone who grew up in a christian family (baptist), I understand to a degree where you’re coming from. I know there are many religions out there that don’t exactly think highly of some things, and can get very fired up about it. I’m very aware of it, especially given that one of my family members who I love dearly, actually is very weary of the LGBTQ community because he grew up in a time where it wasn’t as widely accepted as it is now. Simply put, he’s the classic close-minded hispanic dad. However, that does not mean I think it’s okay in any way. In fact, I don’t think being gay, transgender, or anything of the sorts is a sin. But no matter how hard we try, we’re not going to change everyone’s minds, and it’s a sad truth. So while I understand how you could “offend” some people with the plays you produce, I think it’s very important that these subjects are displayed to the public. People are going to get offended by lots of things, no matter how harmless it seems in concept. If people are sheltered to the many things the world, not only will they not be able to expand their own thought process, but in my opinion, sheltering people from lots of things in the world is just cowardly. It’s simply cowardice because although people will be exposed to lots of things as they grow up, it’s important that people are able to gain knowledge and opinions about things.

Lots of voices matter. Hearing different voices matters, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it yourself. Before my current theater class, I can’t lie when I say I wasn’t very fond of it. Not that I hated it, but given my twin is obsessed with it, let’s just say I found it more annoying than enjoyable in a sense. But being in a class like the one I’m in now, I value theater and what it brings us more than ever. People are so connected to theater because it gives representation to topics and world views that a lot of media is afraid to touch, and in a way, it could be pulled off in a way only theater could accomplish. It’s not just something where people act, they give value to the audience, and could give others to reflect on even today. I still remember the first time I watched a live musical (which was before the pandemic!), and I felt like I realized that magic, and I felt like I was in a completely different world. Experiencing theatre changes a lot of things, and learning about all kinds of theatre is a lot of fun to me.

Even if you don’t believe it, even if you want to shelter others from subject that people won’t like, theater is an important part of the pride of UMW. There’s no fear in speaking about things that are ‘taboo’ in your eyes, if anything, those ‘taboos’ are just things that society wants to hide under the dust. There is a place for theatre here, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way. I’m a person who dreams of writing things that will change the world, and theatre has changed the world and inspired so many! It’s helped with progression, getting voices to be heard like never before, and most of all, it makes you think. In a world where things are pretty busy, especially here in the DMV, theatre is a reminder that things can slow down. If you take the time to realize the things around, even if life isn’t what we expect at all, it can be beautiful. It seems a bit selfish of me to talk about how much I find theater fun, but I believe that a lot of other people think the same way. We’re a Liberal Arts college, we strive to makes all sorts of things known despite the advertises of the world. What makes theatre the exception to our progress?

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Writing Event #9: Content Warning in Theatre

When it comes to many things in modern society, the concept of triggers has become extremely prominent. A trigger itself can be something that could evoke negative feelings in someone, and the term is mostly used when it comes to physical and mental health. Triggers can be different for everyone, so when it comes to these kinds of warnings in many different mediums, it can be a bit difficult to determine whether the contentts of a piece are heavy enough to display a trigger warning.

If a play contains heavy context regarding a subject that could make people uncomfortable or trigger then, it’d obviously be sensible to display a trigger warning for those who will react negatively to the subject matter itself. However, if a theatrical production only touches upon a subject lightly, then is it worthy of a trigger warning in the first place? Personally, it all depends on whether you think it’s worthy. If it’s only something small, maybe someone would think that there’s no reason for it to be displayed if it only plays a minor role; however, there could be those who think otherwise and display one regardless of the role it plays.

Either way, I believe that it’s still important to take these actions into consideration whether you find it to be important or not. Everyone in the audience is a different person, and you don’t know what a person has gone through in the past and the present. Despite the way your intentions go, someone is bound to respond negatively to a piece of work no matter what it’s about. It all comes down to one’s stance on the subject, but it’s still something that should be considered in theatre, especially when it comes to plays and musicals that rely on heavy topics for it’s storytelling.

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Writing Event #8: Impact of an Audience

When it comes to theatre, people will always find a way to view it, even if it’s through tactics in which no money could be spent. However, it’s no denying that the most preferred way to view theatre is with a live audience. Not only is watching theatre live a good way to support the actors involved, but many believe it gives a more fulfilling experience rather than simply watching it through a different medium, such as through a streaming service. Yes, you can connect to a piece of theatre watching it through a digital medium, but with the power of an audience, you’re able to experience the journey of select characters through a real lens.

For example, according to a video on the power of live theatre, through live theatre, we’re able to experience wrongness in real-time. When it comes to wrongness, it can be a certain issue that our current society isn’t keen on talking about. In the eyes of some, the situation can be just, while in the eyes of others could be considered immoral. Through watching the character’s journey with an audience, you’ll be able to reflect on your own morals and views on the subject, or life itself. For example, if you laugh at a specific part in which the members of the audience do not feel the same way, it could cause you to think about whether your mindset could be correct or not.

Another quote from the same video dictates that “the lessons of theatre might just be how we make sense of ourselves,” and when it comes to theatre, this quote rings true. As I specified earlier, through watching theatre live, we’re able to be shown a character’s journey in real-time, and personally, I believe we’re able to connect to them more watching theatre with an audience. The audience is able to connect together watching the struggles and triumphs of multiple characters, and after the play, while their views might not change, it could give audience members a new perspective on a topic that they could have little experience with head-on. We experience theatre to gain a perspective of the emotions of others, even if the people on stage aren’t real. We know what we’re seeing is just a work of fiction, but if we’re able to learn more about the world and ourselves, then maybe there’s more value in the theatre experience than what meets the eye. I remember seeing the Aladdin musical live, and while it’s a retelling of a story I’ve already seen translated in another format, it gave me a new and humorous perspective on a story I’ve known for many years. Whether it be comedic or dramatic, watching live theatre can give you not only an immersive experience, but a valuable one at heart.

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Writing Event #7: What is the value of political satire as theater today?

When you hear the word politics, there’s a good chance your senses would probably begin to heighten. Politics as a subject is something that cold be considered undeniably fragile, especially in today’s climate in a world where any sort of information, false or not, can be spread to thousands. In this current era of politics, any mention of the subject at land can immediately bring an army of people against you. So when satire decides to become political, I’m sure you can already understand the outcome.

Some people will absolutely love it, and find it a good mockery of one political figure, or a few in some cases. Meanwhile, there will be others that are absolutely fuming at the result, and are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. These roles could flip to any side of any political party, but if a political group will get angry by satire of certain figures no matter who it could be, then why is political satire still prevalent?

To put it simply, it’s not because anyone wants to make people angry on purpose. If anyone did that on purpose, it definitely would show through their work through a pretty heavy bias. Political satire has managed to thrive in today’s political environment for the sole purpose of its talking points. I’m not talking about during the piece of satire, but what comes as a result of it. Like I mentioned earlier, when it comes t talking about politics, it can get a huge ball rolling when it comes to discussion from either side of the argument. When we see something or someone we enjoy criticized, based on the situation, we can react in many different ways. While these still apply in politics, these extremes are dialed up. For example, the past presidential and vice presidential debates. Not even a few days after the event, people jumped on the satire bandwagon for both parties, and for the most recent debate, not even a week has passed.

It’s pretty obvious that people can capitalize off of politics, it can bring lots of potential viewership. But it can also bring lots of discussion, and even though talking about politics can get out of control, I think being able to talk about it can be a good thing. Sure, we may not agree with every point someone says, but the value of political satire, and especially satire in general, is that it allows society to gain a much more open mind about all sorts of subjects, warts and all. The first political debate seemed like a joke within itself to a lot of people, for all the right and wrong reasons. But if we’re able to make light of the situation in a comedic way, then we’ll be able to think about it more, comedically and psychologically. After all, the world is just one beautiful mess. We’ve just got to make the most of it, even with our differences.

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Writing Event #6: The Responsibilities of COVID Drama

In the near future, it’s quite obvious that there will be stories, fictional or not, about the current pandemic crisis. I. myself have thought about the endless possibilites that one could make out of this event, whether it be a pandemic love story or a tragedy entailing one’s struggle contracting the virus itself. There is no doubt in my mind that slowly but surely, this will become a very prevalent topic in the years to come, especially for those who never lived during the time where the pandemic existed.

If there were ever works to come out revolving around the current pandemic, historically accurate or not, it would need these elements to make it work correctly:

1: Capture the uncertainties that came as a result of the pandemic.

  • To me, this is something that is very important to capture. Even if we say we don’t mind situations that are out of control, you can’t deny the impact it had on our lives. As humans, things that we used to do without a care in the world now seems impossible due to our current situation. Not saying we can’t do what we used to, as now in the further stages of the pandemic, we’re allowed to go back to some fo the things we’ve usually done to a certain degree. However, it’s out anxieties and uncertainties that have gravitated the situation to something unbelievable in our minds. These emotions need to be captured, and the audience needs to feel that with the characters. Why are they anxious about all of this? It’s something that needs to be understood, and that idea needs to be pushed full-force.

2: Allow the audience to understand the gravity of the pandemic itself, and why it’s important.

  • In a few years from now, many people will be born in a world post-pandemic, where they wouldn’t understand the gravity of it all as much as those who inherently lived through it all. For example, I was born in a post-9/11 world, about a year afterwards to be exact. While my parents have told me about how much that situation had changed the world, I don’t have as clear of an understanding due to the sole fact that I never lived through it. All I can really see the capture how that must have felt like are videos and pictures, and my parent’s accounts of that day. When acting in a play about the pandemic, the actors need to resonate why this mattered so much. Make the audience understand to their fullest potential on why they should care about what the characters are going through, and make them feel as if they’re part of that experience.

3: Finally, express the idea of this pandemic’s impact, and express the possibility of it happening again.

  • Now if there’s one thing I definitely do not wish upon humanity, it’s another pandemic. I don’t think anyone could’ve expect another one of these, and look where that brought us! Plays about the pandemic don’t just need to explain the overall impact, but also bring up the possibility of this happening again. We remembered the flu pandemic in 1918, and we didn’t exactly think that something like that would happen to us again. Now, we’re thinking about all sorts of possibilities, and we’re not exactly sure when everything will turn back to the way it was. If anything, it probably won’t be the same afterwards. I’m not saying to bring up this idea to make anybody panic, but more of a psychological question. Yes, it could happen someday in the future, but what would you, someone who’s probably never experienced this sort of hardship, do in this situation? You’ve learned about it in history books, and probably videos in the near future. What would you think, and how would you feel about it?
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Writing Event #5: Will America ever have a National Theatre?

To put it simply: NO.

Now, that’s not to say that it can’t happen. In this world, anything is possible. We talk about things that according to our standards, realistically can’t happen. However, there are circumstances in which these sorts of events can become a reality, such as the event I’m specifying. If these sorts of organizations can happen in other plaes around the world, than it can surely be possible. It isn’t like people haven’t tried to orchestrate this sort of movement, and for a small amount of time, this idea lasted in the form of the Federal Theatre Project, an attempt to bring the values of Europe’s own theatre group to the United States in the mainstream. However, after four years, the Federal Theatre Project quickly faded into obscurity.

One of the biggest contributing factors to the group’s downfall at the time can be described by one word: Politics. Even in today’s society, the mention of politics can quickly tensions due to the many moral and political differences that we as a society face. Because of the slight political edge the group had, many people were not so keen about having political opinion shoved in their faces, especially those with opinions that opposed the group’s own. And in turn, if this were to attempt to turn up in our society today, people would definitely turn against this idea. Not to say that discussing politics in theatre isn’t allowed, but with the minimal knowledge I have in theatre, I can say that people nowadays would not go to see a play solely to witness one’s political agenda being pushed on them. It just wouldn’t work in as politically-driven the United States is, especially now.

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Writing Event #4: Is there value in live theatre performances in the age of digital content so easily available?

In this age of isolation, theatre has come to a large halt. Not that it cannot thrive in this manner, but theatre has definitely been impacted greatly by the current situation the world is facing. However, with the emergence of digital media over the past few years, theatre has been given the opportunity to dive into the digital market, and with musicals such as Hamilton being incredibly successful on digital services, it begs the question: Can theatre still have just as much value in a digital setting as it does in a real-life setting. 

To be fair, the question varies based upon the individual. In my personal opinion, there’s value to be found in theatre from both directions, and can actually give two different perspectives of the same piece of art. For example, seeing a play live gives a more ‘authentic’ feeling when you see it for yourself. It’s definitely the most preferred way to view theatre, and it could have the most value, as living that experience can give a much larger appreciation for said piece. However, if a theatrical work has a digital version, or pro-cut available, it could give a completely new perspective of the work 

through different angles, and being able to focus on the expressions and work of those on stage. But, in the era of the digital age, theatre to me will always have value in the modern world, even with the current troubles of our current society. Although I do talk about Hamilton a lot when discussing these theatre reflections (despite not being the biggest fan of the musical), I discuss it very much because it’s digital success during the pandemic means that the appreciation for theatre is still alive. Even though we can’t see them currently, theatre is an art form that will keep evolving and growing with the digital era of life.

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