Lessons My Professors (Sometimes Unintentionally) Taught Me
Gianfranco Lentini shares words of possible wisdom.
Call it an accident or a Freudian slip, we've all had those teachers who've said something faster than their mind could have told them "No." Or maybe it was that signature expression or gesture you've pinpointed since the first day of class that lets every student know exactly what not to be doing.
Your teacher tried taking back those embarrassing words or stumbles, but the class is too far gone into their hilarious uproar, and what's been done has been done. In some strange and unexplainable way, you leave that class like you have dozens or hundreds of times before, but this time something's different. This time you feel you've learned just a little more about the world and possibly theater, and it's all thanks to that one little thing your teacher accidentally did.
Over the course of my semesters here in college, I've collected these lessons my professors taught me through lecture, discussion, and hands-on learning in the production shop. Occasionally a group of us have enjoyed reminiscing through the list of the "darndest" things teachers say, and just as frequently we might have even taken to heart the strangest pieces of advice.
Here's a list of some of the Drama and English classes from which I've taken to heart that one (or two) piece(s) of advice I'll probably carry forever. But just to forewarn you again, these are NOT my personal ideas! Enjoy reading, and I hope you find them as funny and interesting as we all did!
Intro to Theatre Arts: When you're in theater, it's socially acceptable to be naked! Hey, shed a shirt, maybe your pants… Hell, go all out. It's drama, and you can get away with it cause it's art. Be proud! People around you will love it! You never know, you might just meet your future spouse this way.
Theatre Production Lecture: Brush your teeth or no one will look at your resume. Don't get married before 28 years of age or you'll kill your career that way too. Basically, don't do anything with a minor threat of killing your career.
Theatre Production Lab: Student complaints aren't filed when you're being professional. And when you are being professional, double check to make sure you actually like your profession.
Art History: BE FREE! Don't conform to society! Art has no lines! Theater has no boundaries! Throw your shoes in the air, eat in any manner you see fitting, and never believe being human comes with restraints.
History of Theatre 1: No one liked feminists. That's why all the Greeks were gay and no one listened to the wives. Sad, but true. The End.
Early Shakespeare Literature: For every great piece Shakespeare wrote, he followed it up with some piece of crap sonnet. But, really, who are we to judge the genius who gave us some of the foundations of theater we know today… Also, if you can't remember every single line you've ever read in class, college isn't for you. Time to rethink being an actor?
Directing: It's always better to be the best. No shame. People will eventually learn to love you after they learn to respect you.
Play Analysis: Samuel Beckett is insane, and we love it.
Playwriting: Your audience loves creepy characters. They want that crazy guy calling the innocent girl up in the middle of the day for no reason just to see it go horribly wrong. Write creepy characters!
Creative Writing: When you don't volunteer to read, you're probably not a writer. When no one volunteers to critique you, either A) they were busy texting or on Facebook, or B) you're still probably not a writer. Have you looked into literature studies or publishing?
Costume Design: 1) Sticking to what you know best A) can make you even better and B) may eventually drive you crazy. 2) Food isn't going to make the job go any faster or easier. Food is a distraction. Make everyone else eat and pretend you've enjoyed a lovely meal. Stitch, stitch, stitch!
Production Lab: It wouldn't ever kill you to watch your back. You don't know what might end up killing you…
Performance Lab: When your students fear you so much they've begun to worship you in and out of class, you've become infinite. Like no great person ever said: Fear makes the heart grow fonder.