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What I’ve Learned In Grad School


I can’t believe it’s been a semester since I started grad school. Here is a list of some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Patience. There are many moments any given day that require patience: teaching, working with others, directing etc. I used to think of patience as a passive activity. It’s not. It requires deep, active listening. It requires us to listen to the others and to ourselves. It is hard work. We must sit forward and watch for the moment that we need to speak, or to act.
  1. Directing is a muscle. I’ve heard this before from multiple teachers and mentors. It’s true. It takes practice and we can always get sharper, and more agile. For me, grad school is helping me tone and define my directing muscles. I now have names for the strange bumps and contours and I know where they meet up with other muscles and how they connect to my larger body of work. Sick of this metaphor yet?
  1. Most statements are subjective and most should be taken with a grain of salt. The more theater I see and make with people, the more I understand that it is all just about preferences. Two people who see eye-to-eye on most everything else can see any moment in a play very differently. Neither is right or wrong. I’m getting over it.
  1. Directing is 1. approaching the rehearsal room with a strong opinion and 2. letting it go the second I step into the room. Both of these parts of directing are essential. Even though I know it’s all going to change, I have to come in with a strong point of view. I have to bring in a strong proposal so we have somewhere to start and a chance to get on the same page. When it doesn’t work, or when it transforms into something totally different, I am excited about it.  SITI Co. members us the expression:” hold on tightly, let go lightly.” It is a daily mantra.
  1. Food is essential. So is exercise. So is sleep (kinda). I’m learning how to make time for these three things. This seems like it should be a given. I was surprised how quickly I neglected these things. It makes a difference.
  1. The long way is often the best way but everyone one needs to be on board and can’t complain the whole time. If we can’t figure out how to enjoy the long way we should save ourselves the trouble and go the short way. If we only take the shortcuts, the play is no good. And then, sometimes we try the long way, or complicated way, or elaborate way and it doesn’t work and so we take the shortcut. Knowing where we have been is essential.
  1. Verbs are really important. Sometimes I  want to forget them or find another way in, but actually I just need to suck it up and use them because they work. What’s your objective? I want to flatter my aunt so that I can get a car for my birthday.
  1. We make impossible things possible. We always need to strive for that. Especially in the last few weeks, I have been reminded of the value of the impossible. I have a lot of excellent examples from this semester. When it’s too easy I don’t learn very much. Staying a little uncomfortable is irritating at first, but tends to yield something deeper. Every time I’ve gotten too comfortable in what I’m doing something has happened to shake it up. The challenge is finding the fun in the uncomfortable. It should always be fun. It’s a good thing we’re not doing brain surgery. 
  1. We’re not doing brain surgery. It should always be fun. Not to say that brain surgery is not fun, or that what we are doing is not a worthy endeavor. It just helps me to remember to enjoy the experience. If I’m not having fun, what’s the point?
  1. Questions are essential. Almost entire creative conversations can be had through questions. Good ones must be specific and yet they still allow for disagreement and change. I want to ask more questions as an artist, as a collaborator and a friend.
  1. There is always more to do – but I need find a place to end. Conclusions are essential. When working on show, there is a built in end point. It’s a beautiful thing. In life, we don’t always get these build in conclusions so punctuation is important. Sometimes I go on-and-on-and-on and I just need to finish my sentence.

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