This weekend I watched a play that my cousin was in. Noises Off, it was called. My experience with plays is rather limited. A Shakespeare play here or there, but always in English class, where everyone is amateurs and very few students would voluntarily put a little ardor into their acting. Reading them just doesn’t suffice. It takes a certain sort of reader that is good at constructing a scene in their minds with very little information, just some lines of dialogue and a few vague, interpretable cues. Personally, I won’t be able to appreciate a play if I only read it. I won’t understand the plot, I won’t recognize the key events. Watching however, is a totally different experience.
Thespians. This year, we had an extremely strong cast of seniors, and Noises Off was the spring play. I also happened to watch it on a Saturday night, the last night a play is typically performed at our school, which meant that this was the very last play of their high school careers. All four years of their acting, all those long nights of practice and execution had come to this. Granted, lots of extracurricular activities also carry out like this but I don’t watch plays very often, and this one seemed to stand out.
Very rarely can high schoolers act so well that I actually laugh out loud. However, this group of people succeeded! The play was written to be very disorderly, so messily so that I couldn’t believe none of it was improv. It was phenomenal. Regardless of this particular play, I have come to a seemingly insignificant, yet all the more enlightening realization about theatre arts.
It’s a one time only sort of phenomenon. How many times can you watch a play? One of the most challenging aspects for the performers is not to get that one frustrating “act” or “scene” correct during the technical, or the dress rehearsal. It’s more about perfect execution THE NIGHT OF. Whenever there’s an audience to impress,the pressure is always on.
How many times can you watch a play? Well, a video taping doesn’t really suffice, does it? The audience has already been laughed and cried, and thus, when you watch it, the natural reflex won’t come. At the least, this is my experience when watching pre-recorded performances
The thing about plays is that so much effort goes into every single production that they are so extremely hard to recreate. You’d have to have a vast imagination to overcome the lack of props, scenery, and lighting. Of course, they managed to do that back when Shakespeare created his masterpieces, but I feel that since then, we as humans have come to rely on objects and false lighting to construct a setting. While this may be disadvantageous in a sense, I think it’s a fact to accept, a reality that is unlikely to be reversed.
When you’re at a party and you meet a violin player, you can urge them to perform a piece and it’s easy as pie. They can call their buddies up and go grab their instrument out of their car and in minutes, a makeshift chamber group has been assembled. They can play a whole piece beginning to end.
A singer needs nothing but his or her voice, and maybe a microphone. They can easily finish an entire ballad before you have to scramble to find props or equipment of some sort.
You ask a theatre kid to perform a little skit, and it’s relatively simple as well. A snippet of their favorite scene? Easily done. But you ask them to perform the whole play, or even an act, and it’s much harder to accomplish, no? If it’s a monologue, this might be more realistic but in general, you tend to need other experienced and well-versed actors, lighting, scenery, or props, at the least. Obviously this isn’t impossible to pull off but it’s a whole lot harder. People aren’t as willing to gather material and sit through a performance if they’re imagination isn’t comfortable creating the rest of the magical ambiance. Thus, it is important to acknowledge the complexity of recreating theatrical performances, and it is all the more essential to realize that going to see a play is a privileged experience. We should enjoy it when we can and savor the performance while we can, because these actors are sweating, screaming, and jumping around stage to make us smile and laugh.
We can’t always go to school completely prepared, with a pretty backpack and fancy hat.
A service has been invented through which you can send messages to people in the future. To whom would you send something, and what would you write? – Daily Prompt
You are going to start high school next year. You will make the huge transition from middle school to high school. While the jump is not as drastic as it is to leave high school for college, you won’t be prepared. No one ever is. We all have this ideal of high school in our minds that we find is woefully distorted. It is too optimistic. It is too much influenced by the parties and fun that you see on TV. And yet, it’s not as dramatic as the media portrays it. But this is only for me personally, a major introvert.
So I hope I can help you just a little bit.
You need to find friends but don’t cling on for dear life. Your social group is inevitably going to shift every couple of months. You just need to know that it will happen, and it is not the end of the world if it does. People you thought would be by your side for the rest of your life will desert you in a few months. You will make friends with people you never imagined you would. High school will surprise you.
You need to keep your grades up. There’s this evil thing called GPA which measures your grades from day one of year one. The higher it is, the more likely you’re going to go to a good school. Don’t be anal, but don’t take your knowledge for granted. In high school, everything gets a lot harder. You must apply yourself and start reviewing for tests early. You have to find motivation to do your work. You don’t HAVE to learn about the French Revolution, you GET to.
You need to find teachers that will like you. Yes, it’s nice to have them write recs for you, but it’s just nice to have friends that are in positions of authority. It doesn’t look lame. It’s the coolest thing ever. Find one that teaches a subject that interests you and do not be like everyone else in the class. Smile and say hi in the halls. Go to extra help not just to review for a test. Visit them even if they are no longer your teacher. I regret so much not doing so, and I have certainly alienated a good number of teachers that could be very meaningful to me.
You don’t have to find out your passion. You don’t need to decide what you’re going to be. High school is just the very beginning (a very painful and miserable beginning) of a path of stones that will lead you through life. Step completely and heavily and confidently onto the first stone. Explore many options and join clubs. If you find one that you like, you should stick with it. If your friends want you to quit it, disregard their opinion (in this instance). High school is not for your friend group, it is for YOU. It is YOUR experience. You are your own independent person.
Before year 9 you won’t take this advice very seriously because you won’t really know what I’m talking about. Every year you’ll read this letter again and understand it a little better than you did before. And you’ll find out that what I’m saying is true (in some respects, at least). And you will look back when you graduate and regret a little bit but we’re not all perfect, are we?
When I was in junior high, I heard from my cousin (who had many debater friends) about the high school debaters that all went to the “squad room” during their free time to do work and chill and hang out and make friends. Wow, was that a misnomer. All my junior high life I had imagined the “squad room” to be a room with padded walls and cushioned floors, sort of like a wrestling room. I expected there to be tubs of evidence in neatly organized files being highlighted with actual highlighters. But I was young, and times have changed since then. I was wrong.
The squad room at our school is located near the edge of campus, in a basement of a building infamous for its strange odor. But I found that after visiting the squad room a couple of times, I was able to overcome the stench of who-knows-what. There are a couple of couches, tables and chairs to sit on, enticing you to sit and talk to your friends. Awards from previous tournaments hang on the wall, as if to remind us that we are currently occupying the space of past debaters that have long moved onto college, champions of big tournaments that set examples for younger members of the squad. Glancing at the walls will send you a subtler signal that there’s always a reason to continue working hard.
A whiteboard with a single purple Expo marker hangs on the wall, filled with all sorts of messages, whether from the debaters ourselves, or from the friendly, spirited teacher who goes around to every classroom, writing positive quotes in a quote bubble in the corner of every whiteboard.
Furthermore, it’s more or less a no-judging zone, or a safe haven, of sorts. Sure, we’re not all best friends that hold prayer sessions for each other and we don’t all share common interests and beliefs, but that just makes us more diverse and interesting altogether. We can talk about the activity that we all love without the judging eyes of our peers (that assume that debate is merely conversing about Congress) boring into the back of our heads. We’ve all been exposed to radical, philosophical literature, so we’re less likely to arbitrarily assume. It’s like in the Perks of Being a Wallflower, when Charlie and friends go to Bob’s place to be who they actually are, to express their true nature. Perhaps I’m overstating the effect of such a setting to have on a group of people, but I still like to think optimistically about our “dwelling.”
It’s not perfect. As previously mentioned, it sometimes smells weird. Lots of people don’t clean up after themselves; there’s often sticky juice on the floor and crumbs on the tables, and loose-leaf paper and textbooks everywhere, but I don’t really mind it that much. Of course, people don’t always get along and drama happens, but in general, we’re a well-functioning unit. Congregations in the squad room represent “the mixing of all grades for the pursuit of a common goal,” as a friend has so eloquently described. Wonderful relationships are formed between seniors and freshmen, between juniors and sophomores, as help and advice on topics not entirely limited to debate is exchanged.
Practice debates take place; this is the setting where people can improve their debating skills the most. Here, there is interaction between people of all levels. Information is transferred between the students themselves, which I find to be one of the best communicative aspects of the activity.
Sometimes, I will walk down the hall where the squad room is located and hear the music from three classrooms away. We were fortunate enough that someone had left a pair of good quality speakers in our humble sanctuary. Frequently, Kanye’s “Mercy” blares out of the room and annoys the class next door, but most times, we’re undisturbed, surrounded by the booms of the deep, resonating bass.
But this post is not just about our squad room. It’s not solely about the squad rooms in other debate schools either. We all have a squad room of our own. For whatever extracurricular or hobby that we enjoy, there’s a place where people with similar interests can gather and express their appreciation for said extracurricular or hobby. In my experience, I find the squad room at our school to be an overall wonderful place to make friends and learn random things. I can listen to strange, unfamiliar music or just do homework in a free period. I can watch Youtube videos and read blog posts, and I can ask questions and check up on people that I would normally not see during the day.
Do you have an abode, or a sanctuary where you can hang out with people with shared interests? Let me know! :)
Thanks to a friend for the writing prompt!