Wednesday, July 16, 2014

As a Matter of Act

It was day two of Theater of the Oppressed today. 

We started the day by running through our Qigong exercises with Carlos again, and moved on to a listening activity I did last year in Women and Leadership. In it, you spend a full minute silently absorbing what your partner says in answer to a prompt given by the instructor. After that, we moved on to an activity where you disobeyed any command given to you as you walked about the room. I noticed that when we started, she would say "stop" and I would respond instinctively instead of continuing walking. As the activity moved on, I found it easier and easier to ignore the instructions and do the opposite. As a group, we discussed the meaning of the activity; how it takes time to adjust to change and how we accept things as "common sense" and respond as we are taught to without thinking. In our discussions, we have a policy of using "I" only, which is interesting—it forces us to consider the times people assume that everyone has the same feeling that they do. 

Lisa Jo during the forum
We got back into our groups from yesterday when we were making the stage pictures, and we discussed the issues behind our oppression stories. Clasby and I had sculpted images yesterday about the treatment of disabled people, so we decided our group would focus on that. 

After a break, we played a game where two people stood in front of the group in a "forum," a type of skit. In Theater of the Oppressed, Lisa Jo told us that the issue of oppression is that one story is told: it's a monologue, not a dialogue. The one we would be working on featured Nate, playing an oppressor, and Ruiyan, playing the oppressed. The scene was short and silent. Ruiyan approached Nate with her hand extended for a handshake, and Nate almost shook her hand, but turned away and crossed his arms, refusing to turn to look at her. It was clear that Lisa Jo had told him not to turn around unless his character would have changed his mind about Ruiyan's character. When we (in the audience) felt like we could try to turn it into a dialogue, we were told to say "stop" and replace the oppressed character whose voice was not being heard. A classmate, Douglas, almost went, but decided to sit back down, and the skit ran again until Karan, a guy in my class stood up and replaced Ruiyan. He approached Nate, tried to shake his hand like Ruiyan, and Nate turned around again. This time, Karan aggressively placed himself in front of Nate, waving his arms. The class discussed this attempt, then the forum started again with Ruiyan and Nate. This time, I called "stop." I moved to the front of the class, and, when instructed, started the scene. Instead of immediately trying to shake Nate's hand, I approached him slowly, cautiously offering him my hand. When he rejected it, I gently tapped him on the shoulder twice. Nate said after the activity that if we had five seconds longer he would have turned around. My example was accepted as the "effective" method; where Karan had forced himself to be seen, I had asked Nate to see me. 

Bragging time: I later received compliments on my silent acting from Michael, Clasby, and Zoey, and Luna told me that she and the other teaching fellows had discussed how they all felt a "wave of emotion" when I reacted to being ignored. I'm a little proud of myself. 

I hadn't seen this building before; it's behind the Houston Market, and to get to it you have to go up a flight of stairs
At lunch I walked to a little farmers' market with Julia and went to the Nook again, (the Nook is basically a second help desk where you can get keys and Penn cards) and...I suppose I ought to explain myself now. Over the past few days, I've been on a quest to find a piano I can play. (I am about to embark on a long and incredibly dull rant on my multiple-day piano quest, so feel free to skip the next few paragraphs if you don't care about my current emotional struggles. This is going to take up about half of my blog, but hey, my piano struggle has been pretty major for me recently.) I have been playing piano for a long time: I've been able to play for longer than I haven't been able to play. So it's reasonable to say that music is a part of my life. But it's been weeks since I've had a chance to play, and it's becoming agonizing. The Theater of the Oppressed unit is giving me my monthly dose of acting, but my piano quota has definitely not been met.

The quest started when we did laundry. I found a music room across the hall...locked. But it got worse in Jesse's church. There were three pianos in the church. Three pianos! And I couldn't play any of themthere wasn't time and it would have been incredibly rude. Julia heard the first of many whiny "I wanna play piano" monologues that day. After that, I tried my building key on the music room lock, and it didn't fit. Then my room key fit in the lock. But the key didn't turn. Ugh.

So I went to the lounge, but no luck, and no piano. I finally made myself try the help desk, like the pathetic helpless kid I am. They directed me to the Nook, where I could check out a key to the music room. Aha! Now we were going somewhere. Two days in a row, I tried the Nook and was told that the key was checked out, until today, when the person made a phone call and told me that since a student had destroyed the key, they no longer gave keys out to students. 

I am living a sad life. 

My piano skills are being oppressed. 

Note: I haven't given up on the fight for a piano, and have asked my RC if she could get me into a music room without me using a key, and she told me to email a certain Lauren in charge (there are a few Laurens around Summer Discovery at Penn). I have sent the email. The battle rages on. 

Julia and I signed up for lunch with Andy
on Tuesday
When we returned to class, we made scenes based on our issue. Our group had to restart several times, because Lisa Jo kept on telling us that we couldn't do some of our ideas for new reasons. We watched other people's scenes (ours and a couple others were pushed to tomorrow because we ran out of time) for the rest of class. We had a discussion circle after class about what we saw today

Julia and I walked around Penn for a while after class, then headed back to the dorm and relaxed. 

Today was a good day. I hope tomorrow will be the same. 

Fun fact: Julia climbs things

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