Unorthodox Coping Strategies and Understanding: Staging Principles

Hi Lemoners! The blog has been conspicuously silent lately because I am overloading on classes, writing two plays and three short stories, as well as two massive (but very awesome) term papers (expect posts about those soon!). I’m also going through the design process on my senior thesis, A Number, which has been a very interesting learning experience because though I’m generally good at communicating with my team of designers, I’m not communicating the way my advisors want me to.

I’m a very “intellectual” person. I read a lot. I say big words, and I’m also very involved in the emotional lives of the characters in the pieces I direct. I constantly worry about whether the audience empathizes with a character. One of my mentors who I greatly respect kept telling me that I can’t control that, and he’s right. And yet one finds oneself worrying about it.

One of my other mentors, a highly respected Bulgarian director, said something that really helped me: It is very hard to make an audience feel something, and it is worse for an actor to act an emotion. It is much easier to help actors and audiences understand story and character. The emotional resonance of works of art change for one person. It is nigh on impossible to move a whole audience to tears every time. But you can make sure most of them get the story.

The “liking” characters question was only a minor thing compared with my frustration at myself for not being able to compel the design advisors with my “vision.” Perhaps it’s partly my discomfort with the word vision that’s to blame. I’m either not a visual person, or I’ve been told that Im not a visual person for so long that I’ve begun to fulfill it. So I’m being told that I’m intellectualizing, that I’m talking about something that no one’s going to see. And they’re probably right, and that’s really frustrating.

I didn’t dare to show my advisors this image, even though it’s one of the ones that I most respond to, perhaps even my guiding image for the play.

Glenn Ligon's "Study for Frankenstein #1", currently in MoMA

Like a lot of the most important work at MoMA, Glenn Ligon’s work is very conceptual. It is understandable that a print junkie like myself would be especially drawn to it, because he uses text as a vital part of his art. In the above work, he uses a selection of text from Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley’s Frankenstein:

Sometimes I wished to express my sensations in my own mode but the uncouth and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me into silence again.

and repeats it until it becomes unreadable as a result of a kind of residue that bleeds into the picture.

The irony does not escape me, I promise, and I could go on about how Salter’s problem in A Number is that he keeps repeating the same patterns, how language has limitations in trying to express the complexity of identity, but this painting also relates to me on a much deeper personal level. Benjamin Franklin, or Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I am definitely slightly insane. In general, we are creatures of habit, and it is hard to change a bad behavior immediately.

But there is always a part of the adjustment process where you get super, super frustrated that someone isn’t getting it, that you aren’t getting it. There are two possible reactions to this on the self esteem spectrum. One, you say “You don’t understand my genius.” or you say “Wow. I kind of suck, don’t I?” Guess which one the depressed bookish girl picked.

So when I’m feeling helpless and frustrated, there’s very few things that can make me feel better. One of them is definitely this:

I can quote Sassy Gay Friend in close to its entirety, especially the Ophelia episode because it can be so helpful sometimes. For example, in this case:

Ophelia so bad for yourself move away from the water!

So instead of drowning yourself, you’re going to write a sad poem in your journal and MOVE ON.

So let’s do that. Know that we can always learn, and that’s what school is for. Resolve to do better, write a sad poem in your journal, and MOVE ON.

P.S. This is the best your hair has ever looked. I can’t believe you were going to get it wet.

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