|I had support from old friends as|
well as new. My oldest friend
Claudia flew out from LA my first
semester and took this pic. She
gave me that sweater too.
Our vocal work was handled by two instructors, one who taught the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), and the other who acted as a vocal coach, of sorts.
|Sarah spent several years on Ryan's Hope,|
creating a role which was later played by
Marg Helgenberger. By the time she was
bullying students at USC, she had given up
on an acting career.
|I was a victim of Sarah's|
abrasive style in the classroom,
which often included ridicule as
a teaching tool.
She did not seem all that happy about taking round trip flights every week to South Carolina, I'm sure she felt she deserved something better. When we arrived at The Shakes in DC for our internship, she was still on staff, and I shudder to recall an embarrassing moment during a put-in rehearsal for All's Well That Ends Well, during which she threw me under the bus in front of the director. That's a story for another time...
|Melody today. She left USC and now|
has a private practice in PA.
Despite the fact that these courses all resembled those in an acting conservatory, we were in fact at a university, so there was a substantial academic component to our curriculum as well. USC's program was performance-heavy (it's a big reason I chose to go there), but you could not be a slouch in academics. A year of Theatre History was required, both for our degree and to pass the comprehensive exams which would determine if the MFA would be granted. It had been a whopping 17 years since I had taken a test, or studied for a test, or even been in a classroom. In the time between my college graduation and my grad school introduction, computers had swept in and taken over the world. Never having operated a personal computer, I arrived at USC with this:
|Yep, I thought I could survive in grad school with only a typewriter. Hilariously naive. Numerous term papers would be required in Theatre History, and of course my thesis would eventually need to be prepared. This antique would not cut it.|
Noting the panic on my face, my new bestie Deborah spent some hours giving me a crash course in computers in general, and how to use Word Perfect in particular. Microsoft Word had not yet bulldozed the competition, and WP was the preferred program at USC. Not for the first time, I blessed my late mother, who had insisted I take a semester of typing while I was in high school. I didn't know how to use a computer, but I knew my way around a keyboard.
If you take a look at the above picture, you'll see my "office," actually a corner of my bedroom. TWO desks, plus that hilariously oversized computer, my very first. You'll see from all the paraphernalia that the internet had not yet taken hold, so all the research for all the term papers required for the MFA had to be done the old fashioned way: books. At this graduate level, term papers were assigned, but their subjects were not. We'd be told, for example, that a paper was due October 10, but the actual topic was up to us, as long as it related in some way to the current study. I worked so hard on these papers, I have proudly saved them for 25 years. I'll remind you I chose these topics myself:
"Lead Into Gold"
The uses of alchemy in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Robert Green's
Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
"The Antique Chorus"
The birth and development of the chorus in Greek, Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance drama
"When? Where? What?"
The unities of Time, Place and Action as discussed in John Dryden's An Essay of Dramatic Poesy and applied to John Guare's Four Baboons Adoring the Sun
The unaccomodated man in the unadorned play
Treatment of The Rake in Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer
as illustrated by Charles Marlow and Tony Lumpkin
Let me know if you want to read any of the above. I've got that floppy disc somewhere.
In our spare time from all of the above, we were performing. Or rehearsing. Or both. I did 5 shows my first year on campus, but this is the one which dominated most of the year:
|Algernon Moncrief and Cecily Cardew spent many months during 1993-94 trying to determine The Importance of Being Earnest.|
Our production of The Importance of Being Earnest played on campus in the fall of '93, then transferred to Charlotte Repertory Theatre in early '94. In the next chapter of this memoir, I'll leave behind all this dull academic stuff, and regale you with lavish memories of Earnest, which was a delight, and Measure for Measure, which was not.