All This Happened, More or Less

Posted by A Quiet Man with a Loud Voice | Labels: , , , , | Posted On Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 3:19 PM

Way back when George Bush was still president, the economy hadn't yet tanked, and the majority of us were under the illusion that the war in Iraq was a righteous one, I had the privilege of being cast in the role of Dogberry in a production of Much Ado About Nothing at Kent State University's Trumbull Campus.

The play, directed by Heather Fenstermaker (now Heather Whetstone), was integrated into a course I was studying at the time, "Introduction to Shakespeare" taught by Dr. Carol Robinson. This course still stands as one of the seminal experiences of my college career. This is partly because of the sheer volume of work cleverly masked as fun-and-games and partly because I somehow ended up learning something, a rarity in the early days of my collegiate career (I barely payed attention in class back then).

While we studied other Shakespeare plays in the course, the main focus of the course was using the medium of video to present a report on the production of Much Ado About Nothing. Some of my fellow classmates chose to focus on the interplay between Beatrice and Benedick while others focused on the technical aspects. Me? I did a report on myself.

Fair warning for those who have not yet had the privilege of meeting me: I was, and still am, a huge narcissist.

"If there's anything around here more important than my ego, I want it caught and shot now!"
-Zaphod Beeblebrox in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I'm also kind of lazy when it comes to coursework and figured that, hey, since I'm already doing research on Dogberry for the play -- might as well use that same stuff for the class and cut my workload in half.

But something odd happened in the middle of the process. I actually found myself becoming more involved than I usually did. I was forced to look at the play from both the actor's perspective and the scholar's. Right now, in 2009, I wish I did a better job chronicling my journey during that production. The opportunity was there was certainly there -- there's plenty of video footage of me with really bad hair talking about the various aspects of the production.

It was a missed opportunity, and one I regret not taking advantage of. I wish I had kept a written record of the process, something like a journal, or -- I don't know -- a blog.

But back then, in 2003, blogs were relegated to emo-wannabe and/or angry teens posting on livejournal and/or deadjournal about how much their life sucked.

I know. I was one of them.

These days, however, blogging has become rather mainstream -- some political bloggers have even been invited to the White House Press Corps. And various major news organizations are making the transition to the format.

Theatre blogging, on the other hand, hasn't quite taken off as well as political blogs. They mostly become relegated to theatre reviews or audition notices. There are exceptions, of course, including these two favorites of mine:

1. An Angry White Guy in Chicago is exactly what it sounds like. Unapologetically liberal, Don Hall bounces from discussing his political views to very informative posts on the state of independent theatres in the city of Chicago.

2. Angela Learns to Act is a blog chronicling Angela's "attempt" to earn her M.F.A. in Acting. She just completed her first year at the conservatory - and will be beginning her next year shortly. It's actually very fascinating to read, and her blog has garnered quite some attention - and is now being used as a marketing tool by the heads of her program.

Random Note: I met Angela while auditioning for grad schools in 2006 - we both visited Ohio State University's program - and we have since stayed in touch, mostly through the internet or enjoying giant margaritas and Mexican food. Yeah, I was a fan of Angela's blog well before she got all famous. She's as funny, warm, and engaging as her blog makes her out to be.

I have not yet met Don Hall, and probably would quake in fear if I did so - despite the fact he supposedly lives down the street from me in Chicago.

It is now 2009, blogs are mainstream, the economy has tanked, Barack Obama is the new president, Jay Leno no longer hosts the Tonight Show, and I have graduated from college with a B.A. in Theatre Studies and moved on to Chicago. There I helped found a small theatre company, Blackbird Theatre Company, which I have since left. I worked offstage for a Tony Award Winning theatre, which I have since been laid off from. And I have attempted to apply for graduate school twice - each time with comically disastrous results.

A few months ago, I received a somewhat cryptic message from a very dear friend of mine, Jess, who mentioned that my old stomping ground of KSU-Trumbull was putting on a 'deaf' play - Every Man, Woman, and Child by Willy Conley. Not long after, Dr. Robinson contacted me and nudged me in the direction of talking to Dr. Nadon, a longtime friend and mentor of mine and head of the theatre department at the Trumbull branch of Kent State University.

So I did.

Fastforward to August of 2009, I've stuffed the majority of my belongings into a storage unit in Chicago, packed up a suitcase, and made my way home to Ohio to take part in the production. Since arriving in the state two-weeks ago, I've pushed myself into a scholarly overdrive - analyzing and taking apart the play and comparing it to the medieval work that it is based on, Everyman.

In a recent conversation with Dr. Robinson, I mentioned that I was thinking of starting a blog to chronicle the whole process, and she enthusiastically urged me to do so. If nothing else, I figure, it can be used as an additional resource for her current class -- which she is integrating with the production of Every Man, Woman, and Child.

So, here it is: Downplayed and Upstaged. This is intended to be both for my own satisfaction, for students in Dr. Robinson's class interested at getting a more in-depth look at the process, and for theatre nerds who dig this sort of stuff.

I do not promise to update after every rehearsal, though I will certainly try. The way I see it, if Angela can update daily while juggling a full graduate-level course load AND rehearsals, I should be able to as well.

Random Note: In 2003, Dr. Robinson and Dr. Daniel-Raymond Nadon were supposedly working on blending together all the footage from Much Ado About Nothing to create a documentary of the whole experience. It has been "almost finished" for six years now.


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