Monday, February 16, 2009

Jinxed Judgement

Saturday, September 6, 2008
12:03:46 AM EDT Feeling Uncomfortable Hearing Wagner Edit Entry Delete Entry
Jinxed Judgement

There is nothing in the doughnut that isn't in the recipe,
but you can thoroughly examine the doughnut and never find the recipe.

DB - The Vagabond


It is customary when preparing a play that after a rehearsal or a run through, that the company meets with the director who then gives notes. The notes can be about minor matters, timing, the execution of a certain scene or moment. or information about the director's vision and interpretation of the play. So when I say actors are those who give themselves notes long after the show has closed, it means putting themselves in the director's place, aloof from themselves and realizing the scene, speech or moments afresh with more objective eyes.


When I was in elementary school a group of actors came to the school and put on a children's play for us. The plot involved two rival kingdoms. One kingdom made doughnuts. They were very good, delicious doughnuts and everyone loved them. Hence that kingdom was very wealthy. The other kingdom also made doughnuts, but they were bad doughnuts and no one liked them. Hence that kingdom was very poor.

One day the poor king sent spies to capture some of the good kings doughnuts so that his wise men could analyze them and find out why they were so good. The wise men carefully analyzed the doughnuts and reported back to the king that the good king's doughnuts were made of millions of crumbs.

I didn't realize it at the time, but that play taught me two great lessons.

One was the futility of trying to analyze anything by breaking it down into it's smallest parts. Without knowing how a thing is made, all you end up with is crumbs. And so we have words, tones, molecules, cells and crystals. But what is the recipe for a dove or a poem?

That sort of analytical thinking is what most critics are habitual practitioners of. I speak of Drama critics because those are the ones I read most often. Trying to reconstruct for a reader what the critic witnessed by attempting to put the individual parts back together doesn't work; the poem makes no sense, the dove won't fly. The critic must reprocess the play from the beginning, as I eventually did with that play in the school. And finding the recipe for things is the great work of serious science today.

The other great lesson I learned from that play was that great ideas can be understandably, palatably and entertainingly presented by theatre. In so many cases I have seen a student who seemed incapable of grasping a complex idea in a classroom situation, understand it instantly when presented as a play. Unfortunately, many teachers who know that and who try it are not professional theatre people and they don't know how to create the right recipe.

Many years after I saw this play I worked for a theatre company that toured the schools in the DC, Virginia and Maryland area, and I saw first hand, many times the positive effect on students of this kind of learning.

Tags: analysis, recipes, children's theatre
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1 comment:

  1. Sometimes the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Donuts certainly is one of them.