Challenge Journal 4: The Play’s The Thing… Or Is It?

To take a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet entirely out of context, “The plays the thing!”

This semester, those four words have definitely rung true. Especially these past few weeks, now that I’ve finished up my senior recital for my major and all of my other extra-curriculars, I feel like I’ve been living and breathing the play I’m writing for my Capstone project. Creating this story and building these characters has been taking up all of my brain space. Other classes and finals be damned.

Here’s my problem: “the play” has come to mean more than just the words I’m putting on the pages of the script. Recently–as I’ve scheduled a space in which to hold and film a reading of the play for an audience and have been holding auditions and coordinating rehearsal times and choosing a director–“the play” has come to be more of a logistical problem than a writing one. There are so many moving pieces, I’m learning, of a play you’re trying to both produce and write simultaneously. So many pieces that take all of my focus and suck time away from actually writing said play.

What I’ve found myself wondering is this: is the “play” I’m trying to create this semester the sum of the words on the page, or is it the actual physical piece of theatre?

Should I devote my limited time left before the Capstone showcase into making the script itself the very best it can be, or to the logistics of putting on an actual physical production (casting, scheduling, directing, rehearsing, filming). What about the other elements of this Capstone project–the site and the project intro–that I haven’t even begun to think about yet? Which of these elements are most important to a “play”? What should I focus on to make the best “play”? Where should all these things rank in my list of priorities (not to mention, you know, completing my course work for my other classes, doing laundry, and maybe occasionally sleeping). Is “the play” really the thing? What even is “the play”?

As my “writing” problem becomes less rooted in words and more a question of how to prioritize other production tasks to make something that exists outside of my computer screen, I find it most helpful to look back to another physical theatrical production I’ve put on for guidance, rather than a past writing sample. The biggest performance I’ve single-handedly produced thus far? My senior recital in February. I think looking back how I dealt with all the elements involved in trying to both produce and perform my  recital may give me some insight as to how to proceed here.

The week before my senior recital on Feb. 10, I had the flu. Full blown influenza, the kind that sent me home to my parents’ house for a week. I rarely go back there. And yet, I had posters to make and program notes to write and chamber rehearsals to hold and seventeen songs to memorize and a slide show to put together and run live and a dress to find and have altered. It was crazy. I couldn’t do it all myself in the time allotted, especially after missing a full week from being sick. So, what did I do?

I delegated. I called on as many of my loved ones who could help me. I used all the resources my school had available for me. I prioritized sleep and nutrition so I could be productive and energized while awake. I asked for help. Remember when I said earlier that my recital was the “biggest performance I’d single-handedly produced?” I was lying. It was the biggest, but I didn’t do it on my own.

So, maybe I shouldn’t do this alone, either. Though it takes coordination and extra attention to scheduling and extra meetings, I’ve decided to ask a friend of mine to direct my play. I want to have total control over the whole process, but I need to relinquish the creative direction to her, so that I can focus on writing. I’m hiring my other friend, an art major, to design and run the marketing for my reading. I’m making use of the rehearsal spaces and camera equipment U of M makes available for students. I’m going to as many writing workshop appointments as I can schedule, so that I don’t feel like I have to figure out how to write a 50+ page play completely alone, with no other input from people who actually know what they’re doing. I’m modeling this process on the one for my recital and asking for help to do all the things I could do myself, but don’t have time for.

Assuming that that delegation will help me pull this project off, I guess my remaining question is this: What is it that I want to come away with at the end of the semester? Do I want to have a solid, performable script? Or do I want to have a pretty-solid script, and a video of it being read, and feedback from an audience? I don’t know. I’m hoping for the best of both. We’ll see if I get there.

The play’s going to be the thing this next week, no matter the iteration–script or live performance–it ends up in.

Challenge Journal 3: Third Time’s the Charm?

This blog post has gone through A LOT of iterations. I drafted full posts about being uninspired to write or work on my project, and then about the ways in which my full-class workshop affected by outlook on my project. Yet, nothing got quite to the finished stage, and by the time I went back to hit “publish,” both of those writing problems didn’t seem to quite resonate with me anymore. As Julie mentioned in class the other day, she purposefully structured this course so that we would feel stressed out and overwhelmed NOW, rather than two or three weeks from now. I think this approach has clearly worked on me, as this stressed-out-overwhelmed feeling is making me realize I have a new, completely different writing problem every time I come onto this blog to write about the last one.

So, my third attempt at this blog post will be the charm, hopefully?

I think a lot of the roadblocks I’ve come across lately and attempted to write about can be boiled down to an insecurity about genre. I am having trouble summoning up the courage to write because I am uncertain of my skill in the genre of playwriting; it’s hard to picture how to proceed when I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing.Similarly, I think the critiques I received during workshop hit me especially hard because I felt like my draft didn’t “show off” my writing skill in the same way that prose might. I often rely on colorful descriptions to tell my stories, and with a dialogue-only play there isn’t much room for such writing. I got a lot of–often conflicting–opinions from my classmates on whether each individual line of dialogue sounded “natural” to them. I think I might have had an easier time wading through these differing ideas to find the ones that are most helpful to me if I felt like I had a better understanding of the genre itself, and how to write within it. I realize that my creating this project for myself, I set myself the task of exploring a new genre rather than sticking to what I felt confident in, so this “problem” is largely of my own creation.

So, then, what do I do? Where do I go from here? (Your advice here is welcome, much appreciated, and somewhat needed. :))

In an attempt to answer this question for myself, I’ve tired to look back at other times I’ve written outside of my signature genre of narrative nonfiction. Unfortunately, I can’t find very many examples of such working outside of my own box (hence my feelings like I needed to do so for this project). I’ve written pretty much exclusively narrative nonfiction in college (other than the obvious academic essay for classes).

The closest thing I can find–and, handily, it’s fairly related–is this: in High School I wrote a personal narrative essay entitled Chenille to serve as my Common App essay. Fairly straight down the middle of my usual move genre-wise, I know, BUT: Freshman year of college, I performed this essay as a monologue in a show called the Illness Narratives with the RC Players. So, as it turns out, I have written a dramatic piece before! Even though it started out as a regular nonfiction essay, it did end up fitting well on a stage. Maybe I’m not completely in the dark here, then. I only have to figure out how to write for the stage first, rather than going through the essay genre on the way to the dramatic genre.

*Cue me sitting here, wracking my brain to figure out how to do that, and do that NOW*

Wait… maybe that’s my problem…!? Maybe trying to force myself to START from a perfectly formatted dramatic genre is what’s getting me stuck. Why start from what you don’t know? Why not begin from what you know and then head towards what you don’t slowly, step by step? Maybe I need to make a cue from my process for Chenille, and try to tell the story I want to tell in a way that I feel comfortable and confident telling it in, and THEN focus on adapting that story for the stage. I’ve avoided this approach throughout this Capstone process because it seems awfully roundabout and time-consuming, but I bet even such an indirect approach would be more productive than sitting here twiddling my thumbs and getting more and more stressed out, waiting to suddenly understand everything about playwriting so that I can pop out the perfect play all in one piece.

Okay, then. Here goes: I’m gonna try to start from what I know then work away from it once I feel narratively solid. (Will this work? I don’t know… Any other ideas?)

Wish me luck!   

Challenge Journal 2: How Do I Write Male Voices?

For my capstone project, I’m writing a play, and I finally, finally, FINALLY just wrote something akin to a solid first draft of a scene.

It’s been really hard for me to get started on the actual writing process, largely because my play covers a semi-controversial topic–allyship–that I am not an expert on, and I am therefore terrified of writing the wrong thing or misrepresenting someone’s perspective or experience. I’ve thusly been spending most of my time reading and researching trying to find out everything I can, so that I don’t misstep in my writing, which has lead to a lack of actually putting pen to paper, or hand to keyboard, as it were. I’ve also found it difficult to get started as I’m not historically big on writing dialogue, a factor which maybe makes my decision to write a play seem questionable, and one which I am choosing to ignore.

But, FINALLY, I had an idea; inspiration struck! Something happened in my life, and instead of texting my friend about it, I wrote it down into my “Brain Dump” document for my play instead, and it slowly grew into a monologue for my female character, Riley, and then, as I kept brain dumping, a full scene between both her and my other character, Jonah. Thus, I’ve done it! I’ve written a loose-ish outline of a conversation that will hopefully become the beginning of a real actual play! Huzzah!

Not only is this my first dramatic scene ever, it’s also the first time I’ve written dialogue for a male character in a long while. I didn’t quite realize this discrepancy of genders in my dialogue until I got into writing just now, and found it WAY more difficult to find things for Jonah to say than Riley. Riley’s words flowed right out of me, but Jonah’s voice seemed more forced, more effortful, like squeezing almost-dried out toothpaste out of the tube. You know you need a certain amount of paste to brush your teeth (or words to represent this character fully in your play) and you know that if you squeeze hard enough for long enough you will eventually get enough out to fill the bristles, but it’s by no means easy. This clear difference in ease of writing for my two characters made me look back and think, when was the last time I successfully wrote for a male character?

My answer: I can’t find an example of it. One of the reasons I’ve taken on this project is that all my writing in college has been from my own perspective, and I want to expand my focus and my voice. Even when I do include other characters than myself in my essays, I rarely let them speak. Take as an example this excerpt from my latest essay Read Me, which I wrote for John Rubadeau’s English 425 class:

I’m on a first date, curled up cross-legged on the narrow booth of Ashley’s Bar. My freshly-minted, horizontal driver’s license smiles at his I.D. lying next to it in the middle of the table. We’ve just compared them, pressing the two cards close together to see whether Maryland’s crab or Michigan’s bridge better coordinates with the plastic-y, DMV-like vibe. His face looks younger in his picture; seventeen-year-old Matt isn’t quite the same as the man who sits across from me now, lofting witticisms and whimsy into the space between us. My beer grows warmer in my hands—I keep forgetting to stop talking in order to take a sip from it.

As the conversation ping-pongs easily back and forth between us, I find myself trying to find the words to tell him the secret stories he may find written on my body later. I’m starting to trust him in this dim, warmly lit bar. I want him to read me and know me, to understand the context my body gives me. But I’m afraid that as the night progresses—when we’re out from under the softening glow of Ashley’s neon sign—he won’t like what he sees.  I try to slip little hints into the conversation like tiny red warning signs:

“Yeah, I guess I was kinda having a rough time physically at the end of high school—What? Yeah, I mean like I was sick. But coming here just sort of snapped me out of it, ya know?”

I’m not making much sense, only stringing halfway hidden details together into under-baked sentiments, but I don’t know how to say what I mean: Something happened to me that stretched my skin so much it tore. I can’t explain to you how it felt or exactly what happened, but look—you can see it on me.

“No, no—I’m fine now! I ran that half marathon and everything—yeah, I’m good. It’s—it’s all good.”

I sit there, starting to squirm and struggling to tell him the things that have already been written on me. This night is reinforcing what I already almost knew: my scars tell about a time that is too inextricably integrated into my cells to transcribe into words.

Eventually, at a loss and too worried that he won’t take the time to read the truth on my body, I come right out and say it:

“I have a mitochondrial disorder.”

There’s a beat of silence, and I finally take a sip of my beer. It’s too sweet; I try not to contort my face as I swallow. He squints at me, gently, and I know he doesn’t quite understand—it’s an unfamiliar word, and its clunkiness distracts from the truth of it. I should’ve let my body speak for me.

Read me, I think. Look at me. See my story written on my body. Don’t make me tell you the truths that are already there, if you only look hard enough.

That’s 100% of the content I wrote about Matt in the whole piece. I talk about how easy I found it to talk to him, how easily our conversation flowed, and yet I never once in the whole essay let him speak. And the problem isn’t just men: I do let a couple female characters in the same essay speak, but they get three words each: “Hey, what’s that?” and “Yeah—one sec,” respectively. I’ve chosen to write a genre that relies almost exclusively on letting other people speak, on writing their voices, and yet here I am, struggling to do just that.

So, MiW peers, what do I do? How do I write men? I’m not sure I need help writing for Riley, because even though I have to build her character completely out of dialogue, I’ve given her a voice that is sort of like a heightened, stylized version of my own, and, as you can see above, I don’t struggle to write my own voice as dialogue, just everyone else’s (lololol). In an attempt to find a way into his character, I’ve set up a couple of informal interviews with guys who are similar to Jonah so I can observe the way they speak and learn about their stories and perspectives to hopefully inspire him, but I’m sure I’m going to need even more help. So, any advice on how to create other fictional yet accurate voices would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

I’m definitely stuck here, but I’m trying not to panic because, at the very least, I’ve finally written something like a scene. And Jonah did speak in it, so at least I’ve got something…?

Reimagining Reading as a Ritual (a.k.a Apparently I Like ‘R’ Words)

As we start this semester, hesitantly tip-toeing towards that elephant in the room–this giant project that looms ahead of us–my main preoccupation right now is that I have no good ideas.

Maybe it’s not that big of an elephant: it’s only one project, and it’s only one semester. I’ll most likely work on many more projects in my life, and I’ll hopefully complete at least a few more semesters in grad school. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Finding the perfect, all-encompassing, meaningful project topic shouldn’t be that big of a deal. And yet here I am, worried that this is my last project and my last semester and therefore my last chance. I am worried that I won’t be able to move past myself and make something that matters.

I have a questionable habit of only writing pieces about thoughts I’ve encountered in my own life, often ideas I’ve been grappling with for years. In my writing, I rarely explore the world outside of my own head. Take, for example, the basic questions behind my three favorites of the essays I’ve written recently:

1) Does being named Hannah threaten my own individuality and worth as a person?

2) Is my voice too small to make a difference in the world?

and 3) Why do I feel these things about my body, and is it possible to turn these feelings into something that is important to my identity, rather than something to be ashamed of?

Notice, here, that these are all questions about me written in the first person, and that they share an answer: to write a narrative essay about my own experiences. Yeah, I’ve tried to expand these essays to audiences beyond myself, but my output historically has come down to one M.O.: I write stories about myself in the hopes that they are relatable to people like me.

Maybe this isn’t my last semester ever, and maybe this isn’t my last project ever, but it seems naive to waste the chance this Capstone class is offering me–the chance to invest a lot of time and a lot of thought and a lot of resources into building something bigger than I ever have before–wandering in circles around my own mental preoccupations.

I want to write about something bigger than me, but I am stuck living my life in my own mind and thus don’t know how. What to do, then? Not sure, so it’s convenient that this assignment comes with it’s own proposed answer (thanks, Twyla).

I haven’t really thought much about the concept of rituals before. I’m not especially religious, and I think the two–a lack of religion and the active practicing of rituals–have always falsely seemed mutually exclusive to me. I was glad to learn yesterday that they are not: while ritualism implies a spiritual intention, it doesn’t necessitate it. And, regardless of whether turning an action into a ritual requires imbuing it with spirituality, spirituality could exist for me separately from religious practice, if I wanted it to.

While I hadn’t yet thought about ritual in solving my writing problem, I had thought about searching for a solution in the act of reading. I had my writing problem as I went in to winter break last month, and so, finally free of deadlines and expectations, I intentionally sat down to read. I thought maybe others’ thoughts would remind me there’s a world past my own. Sure, maybe it’s a little questionable to think I’d find a Capstone topic in someone else’s prose, but I think I was more looking for inspiration than for specific ideas, or for a reminder that people outside of myself care about people outside of themselves. I was looking for examples of what people do to act on this caring outside of themselves, because while I think I have the caring, I don’t have any idea what to do with it.

So, on a search for thoughts, I read the 2017 volume of The Best American Essays, a collection of  nonfiction that is published annually under Mariner Books’ The Best American Series. Maybe this wasn’t super far outside of my usual M.O.; all my above questions lead to attempts at a similar genre as was housed in this book, did they not?

I’m a little over a third of the way into this book, and so far my favorite essay has been Leslie Jamison’s introduction to the collection (each year, the series’ main editor Robert Atwan brings in a guest editor, and Jamison was the 2017 pick). In her introduction, she talks a lot about the 2017 presidential inauguration, and what place essays have in the political climate: Can they be political, or are they too literary and creative to have that certain necessary political credibility? In a world and a country that’s a little fucked right now, is there a place for creative writing, or do we need to funnel all our writing efforts towards other genres that more obviously foster change (journalism, etc)? Can essays–in this case, ruminations on outward things that have lived and developed within the author’s mind in the context of their own experiences–really be societally meaningful enough to be worth writing?

Jamison writes, “The essay has always courted a reputation as a solipsistic genre; a mind fondling itself on the page.” Yes, see: this is my worry. My writing is too self-centered, too self-indulgent, because it is inherently driven and inspired by me.

She continues, “But to me the defining trait of the essay is the situation and problem of encounter… The essay inherently stages an encounter between an ‘I’ and the world in which that ‘I’ resides; just as politics is a way of examining the relationship between an ‘I’ and whatever communities she finds herself a part of.” So, yes, essays can’t ignore the “I” perspective of their authors, but there can be an useful comparison between that “I” and the rest of the world.

Jamison goes on for another few pages, continually building my confidence that there’s something meaningful in the genre I love to write, despite “the limits of it’s own vision.” So, maybe in my reading I found not inspiration for a capstone topic, but permission to continue writing in the way that is most meaningful to me, because that I feel that importance means that I can translate that meaning to my audience. Not a complete solution, but a start.

So maybe reading should be my ritual, an attempt to finding inspiration in others’ words, minds, ideas. I think if I actively search out examples of something that  matters to someone other than me, I will be reminded of the things that I care about, too, and will find my topic that way. I’m going to try to read for 15 minutes at the beginning of sitting down to write, before I put a word on the page.

That’s it then: reading is my ritual. I’ve done it before, though, thoughtlessly–without that spiritual intention I think (thought?) rituals needed. Does something I’ve always done become an official “ritual” just because I said so? I think not.

I think it takes this: a reminder that while I’ve read casually and free of intention before, I don’t do it now. I’ll renew that intention, make reading a ritualistic requirement for inspiration rather than a superfluous past-time, and see where that gets me.

Thanks for baring with me through these many, many words. I’ve definitely fallen directly into the trap I warned myself of above, the trap of “wandering in circles around my own mental preoccupations.” But, now I have a way to try to get myself out of it, or else a voice in the form of Jamison that says it’s okay for me not to.

Boilerplate and Cliché in the UM CSG Elections

Elections for U of M’s Central Student Government (CSG) are happening this week, and I have no idea who to vote for. I’m having trouble finding differences between the platforms of the two parties, newMICH and Your Michigan and their various candidates. (Anyone who knows, you thoughts are very much appreciated!)

In my attempts to learn about and decide between the two women running to represent the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, I realized that one of the reasons I’m having trouble making up my mind is that both of their platforms include the very, very similar boilerplate phrases.

For example, both mention almost identically that they want to work toward the “expansion of CAPS to North Campus.” I think this is a great idea, and that it would be very valuable to have these services closer to where we can use them, but neither candidate presents a plan for doing so. The boilerplate statement is easy to agree with, and hides the fact that either woman suggests an actionable plan to accomplish her goals. Further, one says she wants to “bridge the gap between SMTD students and students in academic majors on campus,” and the other that she aims to “make positive change and represent the voices of all communities on campus in Central Student Government by making it more inclusive, representative, and productive.” Again, these all sound great on the surface. Yet, as I attempt to dig deeper into each platform, to figure out how each candidate’s work as representative would differ from her opposition’s, I realize that such vague, easily agreeable language masks each platform’s lack of concrete details and ideas.

Clichés are also flying around the interwebs this election season. Everywhere I look, I am reminded that “YOUR VOICE MATTERS!” I’ve seen this phrase everywhere, verbatim, for as long as I’ve been paying attention to politics. While I appreciate this vote of confidence and legitimacy, being told this again and again gets a little old. The reminder is nice–and, of course, important– but some varied word choice would be appreciated.

I care a lot who is representing my voice at this school, and while boilerplate and clichés make each candidate seem accessible and puts her into a positive light, such heavy reliance on them prevents me from being able to fully understand my options for representative and make an informed decision as to for whom to vote. Too bad college elections don’t hold debates! Although, as boilerplate is such a staple of political-speak, I’m not sure we’d get much out from under this language problem even then.

This Post is Quite Clear (Read: Boring)

In my attempt to find words about writing that, when used, both conceal and reveal meaning, I found myself focusing on adjectives that can be used to describe prose. I have heard these words thrown around in book reviews and class discussions to relate, in a weak attempt at praise, how writers write. More often that not, there’s a hint of scorn behind these generally positive words:

Flowery — This piece uses a lot of colorful images, pretty turns of phrase, and superfluous adjectives. The piece is, overall, quite nice, but lacks substance and meaning beyond shallow aesthetic attempts.

Passionate — The writer’s opinions are on display in this piece, loud and clear. He uses strong, confident, forceful diction, possibly to the point of overgeneralization. He very effectively gets him point across. However, it is easy to see the unbridled fire behind the words, and this can be alienating to a reader. “Passionate” is a little detrimentally overdramatic and unrefined.

Clear — Here, the writing is simple, straightforward, and to the point. The arguments are laid out in black and white, the sentence structure makes comprehension easy, and there isn’t a lot of unnecessarily flowery language getting in the way, mucking everything up. The piece, however, is probably bone-dry boring.

In highlighting these words, I don’t mean to say that if anyone calls your writing “passionate,” they mean so disingenuously, and are only thinly veiling their dislike. “Flowery” prose isn’t always a bad thing–I’ve just rarely heard the word used in a purely positive light. Why people can’t be more specific and literal in their word choice, I don’t know. I suppose words like these, those with double meanings, are deployed to avoid hurt feelings. I worry, though, that the use of words like these means that I’ll never know what anyone is truly thinking.

Why Write About Why I Write?

In class on Tuesday, we talked a lot about both George Orwell’s and Joan Didion’s “Why I Write” essays. Each piece is written so well that, together, they seem to be all-encompassing, covering all of the important reasons a writer may write. I’m a little wary of attempting to write my own version, because these pieces don’t seem to leave much room for creative elaboration or expansion without redundancy.

So, then, why should I bother? It’ll help me learn about my self and my own motivations and habits, sure, but I don’t much like the notion of putting time and thought into a piece that is meant only for myself, that will never reach any wider audience. This brings me to wonder what a discussion of my own writing process could offer a reader: will I be able to come up with anything, anything, that hasn’t been said before, and probably better, by someone else?

In thinking about how my own thoughts and opinions could benefit an audience, I find myself returning again and again to considering what I hope for my repurposing project. This is the longest, widest ranging paper I’ve ever written, and a lot of what is motivating me to write it is, I think, what motivates me to write in general. Maybe there’s a way for my thoughts re:repurposing could transfer over to this consideration of my upcoming attempts to creatively define “Why I Write.”

For one thing, my repurposing essay is a vehicle to prove that representation is important, and that there is in power in numbers. If what I say in my “Why I Write,” while not exclusively unique for me, offers proof to someone who shares my writing process that our way of writing is a legitimate one, one that is experienced and carried out successfully by writers other than him, it will have been worth writing. I hope that when people read my repurposing paper, they recognize themselves in my experiences and their own thoughts in mine, and can gain some kind of self-legitimacy in shared identity. I’m less interested in proving that I am the only one who has ever felt and thought these things, but rather trying to prove that I am here, too, putting voice to qualms I assume a lot of people grapple with. It’s a text-driven “I’ve been there,” “You’re not alone,” “Me, too”. I don’t think there’s any reason why my “Why I Write” couldn’t work toward the same goal.

While it may be impossible for me to present original insights into the writing process which have never before been noticed, I wonder whether I could discuss these ideas in a way that makes the reader consider these tried-and-true motivations for writing in a way they hadn’t before. When I apply these principles to my own life, maybe something will come of it that helps them understand my fairly cut-and-dry writing process in a different way than they where able to understand it through the work of Orwell and Didion. My position as a far less experienced amateur writing in 2016 may in itself be enough to differentiate my ideas from theirs. If I can offer a look into how I write at my level in this time, even if the process is somewhat similar, maybe I’ll  be able to lend confidence to a reader with a similar skill and age, proving that if I can and do write, then maybe they can, too.

Remediation Brainstorming

For my Repurposing Project, I am working on a paper about uniqueness and identity. For the Remediation, I am considering:

1) a photography project — A few weeks ago, I was standing at a bus stop in central campus and saw across the street two girls, presumably strangers, standing a few feet apart. They looked almost identical to one another–same hair color and style, same general build, same winter coat, same boots. This got me thinking about visual identity. How do people look to the outside world, and what does their appearance say about them? Are a person’s fundamental similarities and dissimilarities to others visible from the outside? Did these girls notice each other, and realize that they had a doppelganger, or are they blind to reflections of themselves? Did they feel threatened by this blow to their uniqueness? I’d like to explore these ideas through photography, either candid shots of strangers I see on the street, or possibly a more formal studio shoot of groups of people I think are similar or unique for a variety of reasons.

2) a TED talk — As a singer, a lot of how I engage with text is through performance. I’d like to apply this principle to my work, and turn it into a TED talk-esque lecture, on a stage with a powerpoint and an audience and all that jazz. I think my piece would be well suited to this setting, because it combines research on identity theory with personal anecdote, as I often see in other talks of this type. The narrative sections could turn into a sort of storytelling, and the evidence I provide could feature on the slides and help back up my claims. I think I’d try to create the powerpoint, write the script, rehearse, and then film myself giving the talk.

3) a song — I’ve been wanting to put my newly acquired music theory skills to use for awhile now, and think this project may be a good opportunity to try my hand at songwriting. Because so much of the central argument in my paper stems from my own experiences and observations, I think I could pretty easily adapt it into poetic song lyrics. I could then write a melody, harmonize it (probably with a simple piano accompaniment that I could play with my limited keyboard skills), and record myself or one of my peers singing it. I’ve never written a song before, and the task therefore seems a little daunting, but I think this would be a good way to combine my Vocal Performance major with my writing minor and move my argumentative academic into a move creative format.

These are just a few ideas–I’m not completely convinced by any of them yet. Over the next few weeks and drafts of my paper, I’ll hopefully be able to more directly identify exactly what point my essay is trying to argue. I’ll then choose a remediation project that most clearly reflects that theme. Maybe it’ll be one of these, maybe not… I’ll have to wait and see!

Great news: I no longer go over my data plan

At the beginning of fall semester, I took the plunge: I deleted all of the social media apps off of my phone. In a self-inflicted attempt to engage more thoroughly with the present and make more awkward eye contact with strangers on M buses, away went Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Yik Yak, Vine, and Instagram, off into the unknown. (Not Snapchat, though. All hail Snapchat.) My phone became a device used almost exclusively for communication and the odd game of DinerDash.

I’d been really proud of myself these past few months, having apparently cut my social media usage to a minimum. I’d clearly become a more involved member of my community, devoting my several saved minutes a day to furthering myself as a human being.

And then Ray asked us to pay closer attention to our Internet usage, and all my delusions of screen-less grandeur went straight to Hell. I’m very proud of keeping all my bookmarked pages exclusively academic, in an attempt to prove to any one who comes snooping that I am a Very Serious Student. As it turns out, however, my saved shortcuts to WolverineAccess, ctools/Canvas, and Google Calendar don’t actually reflect my Internet usage. Try more along the lines of Facebook and YouTube, with the occasional foray into the world of random Google searches for the sake of entertainment. I go to these sites mechanically (it’s muscle memory; I no longer have to look at the keyboard), often, and for long periods of time. No wonder it takes me three hours to read a chapter of my musicology text book–the cheaper online version of textbooks are a little bit too close to the YouTube homepage for comfort.

I cut myself off of mobile social media, without really noticing that this had lead to a transfer of my habits rather than a resolution. The battery life on the phone lasts longer, but my laptop keys are sticky from overuse. I attempted to change my habits and succeeded, but only because I found a alternate source of my electronic comfort food. I think I could try again, try to diversify my Internet pathways and purposefully disrupt my navigational routines, but I’m not sure it’d really do any good. I could search for new up-and-coming social media platforms, and make more of an effort to find diverse news sources through which to inform myself of current events. If I put some key phrases into Google just to see what comes up, I’d probably come across some new content I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. But we all know that at the end of the day, I’ll just go running back into Facebook’s open arms, no matter the platform.

My data plan thanks me for relocating my Internet use to the router in our dining room. I thank it for still being there for me if I need it (Flo and her diner do get a little monotonous). Maybe someday I’ll reload the apps, but for now, I’m doing just fine without them.


Never Read a New York Times Theater Review Again!

Tired of sifting through page upon page of theatre reviews before finding a show worth seeing? Do you find that dull black and white descriptions of musicals pale in relation to the brightly colorful real thing? Bored of trudging your way through eight paragraphs of boring stage specifics and scathing critiques just to find out if the leading man will win over with the leading lady? Look no further! Here, discover the classic features of a New York Times theater review. Learn what to expect, apply it to any show you’ve seen or are thinking of seeing, and voila! You’ll never need to spend the time to read a review again!

1. The review will open with some broad rhetorical questions, asking you whether you’ve had experiences that mimic the themes of the show featured in the review. Have you ever felt sad? Have you ever wished for a brighter future? Have you ever wanted to break out into a fully choreographed tap number, joined by all the people in the street around you, all of whom coincidentally know all of the steps? Chances are, you have, and this show’s for you!

2. Don’t worry, though, this show isn’t just glitz and glamour. It has some real, hard core emotional content, which various actors perform to various degrees of excess. In this, the meaty, criticism-heavy section of the review, you will learn the full name and resume of each of the famous actors in the show, and find out whether their role as the “starry-eyed ingenue” or “curmudgeonly patriarch” fit well with their aesthetic and talent, or whether they “left something to be desired” as their performance “failed to lift off the ground.”

3. BEWARE: Plot Spoilers Galore! Skim this next section lightly if you want to experience any element of surprise in the theatre.

4. Also, the costumes, stage design, and directing choices are probably pretty good, but not quite as great as they are in that one other show currently playing across town. Of course, it’s entirely subjective, but odds are this show probably won’t win Tonys in all these areas, especially when there’s Hamilton to compete with. No worries, though, this is New York theatre, the best of the best. The production’s probably pretty aesthetically pleasing overall.

5. Finally, despite any harsh words the critic has doled out over the last few sections, make sure you don’t forget to go see the show! Hard feelings aside, it really is a great production. Or if it’s not, you should at least go see the disaster of this poor attempt at “art” for yourself. You can purchase tickets at or over the phone, or in any number of ways, really, as long as you do remember to buy them! See you there!