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in media res
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I thought I had posted this, but I can' find it. If you run into it twice, please excuse.


How will students know of America’s actors, writers, artists, or musicians if their history profs never mention them in class?... more»

I run across this problem all the time. I recently ran into a MFA graduate in Acting who had never seen anything Marlon Brando was in. Anyone else encounter this problem?

‘This would be comparable to an American History major not knowing or having read anything about WWII.

A genereation used to be considered about 20 years: about the time it took a person to start to “generate” procreate another generation. Now it has nothing to do with biology. It seems to be a cultural mindest. I think it is five years...or less.

Is it a growth of Narcissism in the world? Or is it ignored purposefully ignored, as it is not deemed important enough to be published in textbooks and by teachers in generals studies programs?

Any comments?


http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=mh9ywWyJrgq3Z24RGwWRVcQhym9vSBPt


best,

in media res

playfull
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in media res wrote:
‘This would be comparable to an American History major not knowing or having read anything about WWII.



My Daughter (17) has just finished school and started college here in the UK. At school, in history she learned of Hitlers rise to power, then nothing at all about the second World war!

Sorry this is a little off topic but thought it relevant to your quote.

regards

playfull 

Last edited on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 02:03 pm by playfull

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This is not to pick on a particular actor. I like the actress and I leave out her name.

But, here is a quote from an actor who responded to me. I received a couple of others in a similar vein who also saw the show "Jeapordy.":

"Yeah, it’s disheartening, isn’t it? Last night, we watched (actresses' name), renowned Steppenwolf Company member, draw a total blank on the final "Jeopardy" question, which was something along the lines of "In which Shakespeare tragedy does the character of 'The Fool' play a prominent role?" She couldn’t even make a guess.

Sam Waterston, however, knew the answer was King Lear....."

From a bio of the actress:

"Actress graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts undergraduate drama program in 1990. She became a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's ensemble in Chicago, which was co-founded by her husband."

Now, her husband is a wonderful actor and director. No disparagement to either of them. I love both their work. This is not a question of talent. But of being informed. A Theatre Education. A cultural education.

Tisch School at NYU costs $40,000 grand a year. And they did not teach the Fool from King Lear? I went to a small undergraduate school that cost 1/5 the cost - accounting for inflation - and I knew the Fool from Lear and I was a Theater Major/History Minor.

What the heck has happened?

Now the real question is "Why were my friends watching Jeapordy!?"


best,


in media res

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 02:44 pm by in media res

timmy
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...might be an over simplification, IMR, but you cared to know. It might be a shock, but many young people today don't....

I also think that "social awareness" might be the term you're looking for. Some of the straight "A" students I have had are memorization freaks, but they don't know shit when it comes to common sense...Give me a hard working "B" student any day who pays attention to current events or reads. I'd hire 'em in a minute.

timmy

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You, know, I've drawn a blank plenty of times on stuff that I should know. Its not that I don't know it, it's an access problem.

I don't think it's laziness on the part of these students, I think that there's much more information to process. There is such access to information that it is difficult to discern the profound from the trivial, especially since the trivial gets so much bandwidth.

Who is acting today who hasn't been influenced by Brando, whether you can name him or not?

If at some point in your self education as an artist (sure we go to school and study with masters, but in the end, it's what we motivate ourselves to do that defines us) we don't start learning about the work of the greats, then we're probably not the kind of artist who is really going to grow. We're the kind of artist who gets stuck and stays that way, and perhaps is very happy that way. Greatness will not visit this artist.

Honestly, when I read the question about the fool, my first thought was AS YOU LIKE IT -- because I've seen it and performed in it so damn much -- because the statue in Startford on Avon is of Touchstone and quotes from that play -- so that made him the most prominent fool for me -- not because I don't know Lear -- but because I just read about a local company doing AS YOU LIKE IT this weekend and that's what floated to the top.

I'm encouraged that the first student asked, "Who's Marlon Brando?"

That's the opportunity -- the follow-up to the question. Was the answer conveyed as a, "I can't believe you've spent blah blah years learning to be an actor and don't know blah blah--!" Or was it, "OMG! He's amazing! You have to rent ON THE WATERFRONT. Wanna watch it together?"

That's where the education is. That's how we hand down the traditions. Through exuberant and passionate exchange.

There's a world of opportunity in what seems on the surface to be a stupid question. We're artists. We're all about getting under the skin of the stupid, right?

--Kato

PS -- the pic is for you, IMR --

Attachment: brando5.jpg (Downloaded 60 times)

in media res
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timmy,

Not surprised a bit. That is why I posted the article. I agree about "memorization freaks," which is an admirable skill however. I worked twice with actors who had photographic memroizations skills. Everyone in the cast was totally envious of them!!! It did not make them better actors, but it sure was impressive. And THEY KNEW THE WHOLE SCRIPT!!!!! iThe comfort was if you ever 'went Up" you would have the best of help! But why should the students you mention get an "A?" merely because they can memorize? Is that the way the testing is set up?

And it is not a matter of intelligence or IQ rating. It is a matter of being EXPOSED to the information so one has the tools to continue to build upon their own education; "Learning how to Learn."

The article - written by a History Professor - does not lay it on the backs of students but lays it at the feet of the history teachers several times. He states:

"The lack of knowledge is not their fault. How can students be expected to have heard of any of America's pre-eminent writers, artists, actors, or musicians if their history professors never mention them in class — and perhaps don't know much about them either? We're teaching the subjects we want to teach, and talking about the people...we sympathize with. Never mind if we're also passing on a substantial amount of cultural ignorance from one generation to the next."

My nine year old nephew in Louisiana - one of the poorest states and underfunded school systems in the United States - made a card for his art teacher at the end of this year and inscribed this on it:

"Art is like a bridge to the mind. And teaching art is like giving a map to the bridge."

Not bad for a young man, whose family had to evacuate and spend a year away from his home and school the previous year living in suddenly and unexpectedly cramped quarters with his Uncle (me) and Aunt because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita - "Katrita."

Of course the art teacher cried...but was also smart and savvy to make a point of every school administrator getting a copy of it. Hope it did some good. They have not cancelled the art program for this upcoming year- yet!

In my original post I mentioned the actor had an MFA - that is meant to be Master of Fine Arts in Acting. If a graduate with that degree has no comprehension of Brando's effect on the acting world, and every actor subsequently in the modern era, how can we expect our History students to know it?

I would love to hear other comments on this article. I have passed it on to several History professors I know. But they know and teach about art and culture, so it is moot for them. I told them to pass it on.

Of course, the article could be reversed: most of my theatre associates have an abhorringly scary lack of knowledge of history.

best,

in media res

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 04:19 pm by in media res

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katoagogo:

A freind of mine came over about ten years ago. I had watched "On The Waterfront" again and told him to look at a scene and tell me what is different from movies made today? he is a highly accomplished artist and set designer.

He watched it. I think it was something like 9 or ten minutes long...maybe longer. It is an engrossing scene with Eva Marie Saint on the swings. He said, "It's brilliant. I don't know. What is it?"

Well, it was a two character scene leavng teh Chruch to the swings to the promenade of the riverfront: ONE CAMERA. TWO SHOT. NO CLOSE-UPS. Just two actors, brilliant script, Kazan as director and Leonard Bernsteins score!

The technique evaporated into the story. They were one.

Now the filmakers would be cross cutting, quick edits, extreme closeups of an eye or a lips back and forth. It is a different way to tell a story, and art does and must evolves yes, but just because the tools of the editing room are available does not mean we have to use them! Usually it is done because the director/producers do not think an audience has the attention of a puppy near a treat bowl.

Thanks for your comments!

in media res

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 03:04 pm by in media res

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Arts schooling has ony been around for a little more than a century (with a handful of exceptions).

Artists used to gain their knowledge of craft and heritage through apprenticeships.

That is still true today. It all depends on what company you fall in with after the formal learning regarding your continued learning and mastery of your craft.

There are a lot of people who are writing about this deficit for whom Brando would have been a contempory artist, and who would have heard the older generation scoff at his technique and dismiss his use of Method as narcissim and his lack of respect for all those great actors who went before him.

Won't it suck if it turns out that Paris Hilton is the great innovator of a generation? You never know...

But, what defines the artistic heritage is the sharing that goes on between older and younger artists working together.

Who are you mentoring? That's the real question.

It's not up to an academic system to ensure that artistic traditions are kept alive (unless thats your major) -- its up to the artistic community.

It's up to working artists to be willing to work with younger artists.

I attended a performance of A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY and during the talk-back session (there was a talk-back session) it was brought up that high school students should see this play -- that it was so important for them -- why weren't the schools bringing this kind of important work to the students -- why don't the schools do this --!!!?

I looked around the room. Not one of these 20 or so well meaning, arts oriented adults had brought a teenager to see the show. "uh, why didnt anyone bring a teeneger tonight?" That was my feedback. Its not up to the schools. It's up the supporters of the arts to induct the next generation. It's up to us. We need to bring teenagers to our theater. We need to offer ourselves as mentors. We need to share this beloved tradition.

Then, students in these college programs will demand deeper investigations. They will because we have primed them, prepared them, and they are ready for a deeper track.

Who are you mentoring?

--Kato

(that's my reaction to the article)

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 03:09 pm by katoagogo

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"Art is like a bridge to the mind. And teaching art is like giving a map to the bridge."

That is an AWESOME quote. I'm putting that one in my good notebook.

It'za keepah!*

--Kato




*"It's a keeper" with a Rhode Island accent -- for those of you not familiar with the Southeast New England accent.

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 03:15 pm by katoagogo

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Katoagogo:

I agree with everything you say.

And yes, I have been continuingly mentoring for thirty years. I know others who do. Including a nine year old nephew from Lousiana!

The best part of mentoring is you never really know when you may be doing it. It comes back years later like me on Santa Monica Boulevard 10 years ago and a young guy comes running after me when I was leaving a small theatre production and calling out my name. He introduced himself and I remembered him. Had not seen him for many years. "I am an actor! I am an actor!" "That's terrific, I replied. "No, I'm an actor because of you! A working actor." And then he told me why. And you know, I never even gave it a thought at the time. I was just going about my business and had professional dealings and conversations with him during breaks.

But what a rewarding small world encounter that one was! I've never seen him again and most likely never will. All who mentor, will receive things like that, whether big or small. So take those teen-agers to plays and museums. I am sure anyone who teaches gets people who say that. But I am not a teacher...at least not professionally.

And I was prepared for professional mentoring by other gracious people especially in NYC in the profession and associated professions and in life and have always passed it on.

And I also know others who charge astonishing fees who pass on a lot of bad info...in fact complete b*llsh*t. Believe me, you do NOT always "get what you pay for!"

I love what you wrote and it is at the core:

"I looked around the room. Not one of these 20 or so WELL MEANING (My caps!), arts oriented adults had brought a teenager to see the show. "uh, why didnt anyone bring a teeneger tonight?" That was my feedback."

"Well meaning" means "nothing."

That's like a writer saying, "I have this story running around in my head."

best,

in media res

P.S. I heard from one of the History professors about the article. Here is his comment. I have left out the names to protect the innocent!

"I did like the article and passed it on to several colleagues. The article mentions ********* but his book on ******** is full of bullshit as is his book on *******."

Now that is the passion theatre artists should have! This is from a world renowned, much published History professor! We share a cocktail every other week and it is the best "class" one could ever attend for him and for me.

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 04:20 pm by in media res

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in media res wrote:
Well, it was a two character scene leavng teh Chruch to the swings to the promenade of the riverfront: ONE CAMERA. TWO SHOT. NO CLOSE-UPS. Just two actors, brilliant script, Kazan as director and Leonard Bernsteins score!

The technique evaporated into the story. They were one.

Now the filmakers would be cross cutting, quick edits, extreme closeups of an eye or a lips back and forth. It is a different way to tell a story, and art does and must evolves yes, but just because the tools of the editing room are available does not mean we have to use them! Usually it is done because the director/producers do not think an audience has the attention of a puppy near a treat bowl.
in media res


IMR:

What you're describing here is trust. Kazan trusted his actors. He trusted his skill as a storyteller. He trusted simplicity to tell the story. He was telling this story (some speculate) to restore his colleagues trust in him. The whole film was an exercise in trust.

What a happy accident this example is.

Because, since the 1950's (a hothouse of its own brand of paranoia), American culture has grown less trustful of everything. We don't trust our governement, we don't trust our infrastructure, we don't trust the media, we don't trust our neighbors.

Hell, we've read planty of threads on this forum about how playwrights don't trust actors or directors to get their play right so they compose all of those stage directions.

But great art takes a big risk, because it trusts.

It trusts that the viewer will understand without explaining itself. It trusts that the viewer will be considerate in the exchange for the viewing of art, whether it is a canvas, a paper, an actor on the stage is always an exchange, a dialogue between viewer and viewed. It is a fragile relationship.

The chance it takes on trust can often be misundertood. Why? Because it is so foreign to our American sensibility, that which does not trust.

Actors work for years to truct themselves, to trust the words on the page, to trust the punctuation. Simply to be. Who hasn't heard that from an acting instructor? "Simply be." And yet, it is one of the hardest things to do. To trust.


--Kato

PS -- there was an awesome exchange on my favorite show on television this past season -- BATTLESTAR GALACTICA -- on trust:

Sharon Valerii has been readmitted to the crew. She is a cylon who has attached herself to the humans. She is being sent on a mission for which she is the key player to help save half of humanity.

SHARON: How do you know you can trust me?

ADMIRAL ADAMA: I don't. That's what trust is.


Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 04:07 pm by katoagogo

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RE: the art quote to all:


Please always give credit to a nine year old boy from Louisiana when you mention it.

It makes it much more impressive coming from him.

best,

in media res

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...totally agree w/Kato about what/how people learn things, recall memory, etc. The same person who can't come up w/a name, piece of data, probably would if prompted by a piece of audio. People learn things today in a myriad of ways and education is still scratching the surface.

Teaching history is a challenge today. Imagine teaching history in the 50's/60's as opposed to today, when another 50 years have passed and one still has the same time span to teach it.

...another problem: the people who know that history are being replaced by a younger generation of teachers who are not as connected.

...to answer one other question you raised, IMR...yes, No Child Left Behind, with its endless litany of tests, tests, tests...lean more on rote information than comprehensive thinking skills. College level, probably not (hopefully not) but still, the learning experiences of those entering higher education are more trained for memorization skills than hands on. Thus our sciences, physics, areas are suffering. The creative student (actors, artists, musicians, etc.) are obviously more "hands on" but are also more intuitive than deductive. Add all this with the increasingly lack of empathy in our younger people and one has one HUGE social problem.

...still, I've also been closely watching the Twin Cites bridge collapse (I'm heading up there tonight for a poetry reading) and realize the common person is still alive and well w/feelings and unhearalded acts of courage toward his/her fellow Man. While, tragic, seeing this gives me hope.

Peace.....timmy

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timmy wrote:


...to answer one other question you raised, IMR...yes, No Child Left Behind, with its endless litany of tests, tests, tests...lean more on rote information than comprehensive thinking skills. College level, probably not (hopefully not) but still, the learning experiences of those entering higher education are more trained for memorization skills than hands on. Thus our sciences, physics, areas are suffering. The creative student (actors, artists, musicians, etc.) are obviously more "hands on" but are also more intuitive than deductive. Add all this with the increasingly lack of empathy in our younger people and one has one HUGE social problem.


I do not believe believe that this is a failure of the education system. This is a failure of the community, of which the school is a part.

Artists making themselves available to members of their community, inviting outsiders in, making it part of their core mission to be an ambassador for the arts -- this is the way we can help.

It is not enough just to make your art happen.

It is not enough just to write a play that addresses a societal or political problem.

We must initiate new audiences into your theaters. We must introduce our theater to new and imaginative venues to capture new audiences. We must always always always be wiling to go out of our way to get people outside of our circle involved.

Not to bring in greater ticket sales or ensure our survival as artists, but because it is an essential component of an active, thinking, open community.

Arts brings people into the room together.

Thats how we can use our art to glean social change.

Theater is exclusively local. Use it to strengthen your community.

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 05:10 pm by katoagogo

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Kato:

...again, you are correct. My point: NCLB is alienating the community by making education results much broader. That time you speak of is no longer available. Granted, I'm speaking of education in general, and not specifically "theater" but IMR brought up WWII history so perhaps I am leaning more in that direction.

The "community" goings-on which you address are more apt to occur outside the typical school, using the physical components (the actual stage) which a school offers to the community.

...at no point did I say our educational system is a failure. What I said is that all this adds up to a HUGE problem. Which it is. I agree theater (even...especially, at a secondary level) is one way to "teach" many aspects of our history, heritage, as well as wanted changes, denied desires, prejudices, AND warts.

timmy

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Cool.

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The HC article seems to have vanished, the link doesn't work any more.

Any idea why?

 



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