The September Instinct

It is sort of disorienting being on the other side of the classroom this fall. My instinct this time of year is to be preparing the library for new students, running orientations, collaborating with teachers on lessons. And while I’m still doing a lot (I mean, A LOT) of preparing for classes, I’m doing it as a student. Which feels weirder than I thought it would.

Last night I saw the Accidental Shakespeare Company‘s Hit and Run production of Macbeth. For a “hit and run” performance, actors memorize their lines in advance, provide their own costumes and props (often rather silly), but do NOT rehearse. No director, no plan. They come together for the first time on the night of the performance (more details at the links above–if you ever have a chance to see a production, DO IT). And it is amazing. Not amazing as in “incredibly refined Shakespeare performance” but amazing as in “holy crap that takes guts and is also a really incredible Shakespeare performance.” Watching it made very clear the importance of not only knowing what you’re doing, but knowing when to let go and just have fun.

So what does this have to do with anything? Last night as I was sitting watching the performance one of the actors came up next to me (did I mention this was performed outdoors in a garden? Yeah) and said, “Will you be my sister?” And then before I could really think of a way out of it, I was up on stage.

I’ve read Macbeth many times (and even taught it a couple times) but it’s been about a decade since I read it; I know the broad outline, but there are some scenes I’ve forgotten. This was one of them. I had almost no idea what was going on. I just had to follow her lead and do what she told me. And then–because it’s a Shakespearean tragedy–someone came to murder everybody and I hightailed it offstage.

Finding myself on the “other side” of a performance I was, ostensibly, watching was more than a little disorienting. But also kind of fun. Because I wasn’t really sure what was happening, there was no way I could really mess it up (and if I did, I’d never know).

That sudden change of teacher/student or audience/performer can be unsettling, but I think having a sudden perspective shift every once in a while can be a good thing. If nothing else, it reminds us that there are more perspectives than our own.

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