in the first part of the ‘University in America’ blog, I described all the practical courses I am taking in America. In this second part of the blog I will be talking about the remaining courses I am taking. These courses are more based in Academics. These are courses whose topics either don’t lend themselves to a practical demonstration during class, or whose topics don’t have a practical output into the world. Courses such as the anthropology-based ‘Dangerous Ideas,’ or LGBT related ‘Intro to LGBT+ studies.’ I’m taking these courses because I am invested in the topics they teach and I want to learn more about them, or because I’m convinced they will help me with my career further down the road.
Stage Management is a course that is taught by a seasoned professional. Not only is my professor a stage manager in his downtime, his is also a lighting- and sound designer. Learning about stage management has been an eye-opener for me. In the Netherlands I had rarely heard of the term ‘Stage Management’ and here the stage managers get top-billing even inside the Broadway theaters. A stage manager is essentially someone who makes sure that the production comes together as smoothly as possible. Depending on the production they start a few weeks before rehearsal to set up production-meetings and during rehearsal they track changes made by the director. Their ultimate task is to lead the production once it actually starts performing, they call the cues and they make sure the director’s vision gets executed every single night. Eventually they are also in charge of understudy-rehearsals. In this course we learn the basics of stage management, since learning to be one is something you do in practice. We get the tools to be a successful stage manager and some students take the course because they are stage-managing a production on campus.
American Musical Theater
In the Netherlands the concept of a musical only really got introduced in the 1960’s with ‘My Fair Lady,’ in America musicals had already been a mainstay since before the second world war. The professor of this course has done extensive research on the subject and has taught us a lot about the evolution of the genre already. He specializes in the composers specifically and we have seen and heard multiple excerpts from composers and lyricists like Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart and Gilbert and Sullivan. This course theorizes that the musical took off way before ‘The Black Crook’ as Opera, Operetta and ballet have influenced the genre immensely. It’s very interesting to compare this knowledge to the shows I have seen already and to see how far the genre has evolved beyond what we are currently being taught.
This course is a one-credit series of lectures put on by multiple departments. Every lecture is given by a different professor on a different subject that could be considered a ‘Dangerous Idea.’ The idea for the course stems from the Anthropology major, exploring the way we think, but has now expanded to include food sciences, music, and other departments. The reason I took this lecture is because I was very interested in exploring themes that were presented and I’m very keen on learning these new things. They will also help me build a network of ideas that could help me later on when I want to write and produce theater that has a more provocative content. Has there been a precedent for a certain subject? What kind of ideas plague society?
Intro to LGBT+ studies
Similar to Dangerous Ideas, I was very interested in this course. Having recently acknowledged that I am a part of the LGBT+ community I wanted to explore what that meant. The professor is employing a very personal tactic of learning, first exploring what we would want to learn and creating the syllabus around it. Right now we are learning more on the Trans community and gender diversity. Once again I have also chosen to take this course to explore modern stories. A lot of the new plays that are getting written nowadays explore the boundaries of gender, sexuality and how to express it. I want to get ahead and learn the jargon from the real stories and theorists that have already explored the field before I learn it from other forms of media. I want to learn where the world is headed and how to represent it correctly.
In the next part of the ‘University in America’ I will be talking about Residence Life. how is it to live on a campus? what are the perks? expect this blog to come out soon!