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My Week with Medea

Gianfranco Lentini relates his experience with a particularly strange classroom assignment. logo

By Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys 1868
It's well past midnight as I finally get to lie down with my chocolate chip and granola trail mix and try to put into words the past week. The words that first come to mind are: busy, hectic, and stressful. But then giving it a little more thought, I end up with: certifiably insane and consequently humiliating.

"Nonsense," all of you say giving me a doting look. "Care to let me explain," I suggest. Honestly, what better way to vent than to put it at the mercy of the Internet?

Imagine this: Your lecture class has 250 people. The topic of the lecture for that day happens to be the famous, ancient Greek play, Medea. One week prior to this class your teacher giving the lecture over-enthusiastically expressed to you her love of theater, and she recruits you to play Jason opposite another student playing Medea. And let's make things more interesting: You're not an actor, but rather a production major who doesn't even pretend to know the fundamentals of acting.

Now, finally, imagine going that whole week memorizing your lines only to get your script revised… revised so that everything you've memorized is now cut, and you have the day of the performance to know your new lines. Get where I'm going with this?

15 minutes before the performance: I'm standing backstage in my toga warming up in the mirror saying my alphabet (because actors totally do that… sarcasm) and frantically scanning my new script. The girl playing Medea walks into the room, and as I turn around to run my lines with her, I get an eyeful of a long, paisley, hippie dress and a gold head band - completely Greek, right? Looking past her, I spot the Greek chorus tweeting it up, and still I have no clue what I'm going to do. Ahhh!

From her podium, my teacher finally gives us our cue to enter stage (a cue no one knew when to expect), and off we go. "No! Hold your tongue and listen," I say commandingly towards Medea as I hear the first bits of muffled snickers rise from the audience. "Concentrate, Gianfranco, concentrate," I keep telling myself. Unfortunately, my thoughts run from "How did I end up here?" to "I'm a playwright, not an actor!" so many times that wouldn't you expect it… I forget my lines. Pulling the script out from under my toga (I know, don't say it!), I proceed with the scene reading as dramatically as I can. Once it's over, I calmly head backstage where I let a mixture of relief and humiliation settle on my shoulders.

From here, I don't think I have to go into detail the rest of the day I had; you should all be able to empathize with a bad theater day. Re-running the performance non-stop in my head, I continue on my way to my real, department rehearsal for The Learned Ladies (of which I am an ASM) when a complete stranger stops me in my path:

"You!" she screams.

"Hi!" I scream back not knowing what else to say.

"That was fantastic! Really, you kicked ass!"

"You were there?" I ask trying to keep my mouth from falling open.

"I've never seen someone do that much justice to the play while reading from the script. You guys must have worked so hard," says the girl looking just as thrown as I am. "Please tell the rest of the cast how awesome they were," and off she goes. Just like that.

Left to stand there dumbfounded, I take the moment to honestly reflect on the hell kind of week I've just experienced and what it genuinely resulted in for this unknown girl. The fact that at the end of this pitch black tunnel really was a light, some redeemable quality. Still not being able to process things clearly, all I can truly say is, it's all Greek to me!


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