Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stolen Chair: Going back to college

Howdy, folks. Jon from Stolen Chair here with my second installment on ye ol' ERPA blog.

So...I've been thinking a lot about college lately. This is not surprising, given the fact that one of my survival jobs is as a college consultant; I'm looking at the roster of high schoolers who've just signed on board with me and trying to start figuring out how I can help them find the transformative undergraduate experience I had at Swarthmore College. While I readily and frequently give a nod to my alma mater for shaping the entire course of my adult life (including the development of Community Supported Theatre), I am always surprised when I discover that elements of my undergrad experience have trickled into my Stolen Chair life. And here's what I just realized: the theatre blogosphere (ridiculously codenamed by some as the "theatrosphere") and Twitter have been fulfilling some of my undergraduate nostalgia. (I have to give a credit to Mr. Dave Charest, @DaveCharest, for suggesting the link between Twitter and college.)

The Theatrosphere
Do you remember those conversations in college which started sometime in the late afternoon and stretched out until dawn? There was an urgency shared between you and your conversational co-conspirators; perhaps if you just spoke about the issue long enough, you would together punch through the syntax and cultural baggage to arrive at a revelation. Or maybe, you had locked horns with an ideological adversary, using every rhetorical tool you could muster to bring him or her over to the side of reason (which was, of course, always yours). Or maybe, you dejectedly discovered that your truest allies actually, once the level of the conversation got deep enough, frustrated the bejesus outta you. Or maybe, just maybe, once the dining hall's breakfast started calling you out of your intense battles you realized that maybe all that syntax and cultural baggage can't actually be overcome and we are who we are and we're from where we're from...but we can still find enough common ground to talk, really talk with each other about important issues.

This, folks, is the magical nostalgia that the theatrosphere (at its best) summons from me. You can take a peek at the blogroll here for some of the best and brightest theatrical minds who are provoking such reveries. I am by no means suggesting you go out and start your own blog to join the fray (and that's a topic I'll revisit in my next ERPA installment m'thinks), but I do think that you could do worse things every once in awhile than staying up past your bedtime to get lost in some of the fiery debates and paradigm shattering conversations happening on these sites.

My undergrad had a tiny little cafe called Kohlberg Coffee Bar, always filled with brilliant people en route to class or other activities, or sometimes camping out in the quixotic attempt to accomplish some assignment or other. Though sometimes one of the above mentioned conversations might start at Kohlberg, it was far more likely that you'd just get little snippets here and there. You'd wander into some people's conversations, eavesdrop on others, and sometimes wander into conversations on which you've eavesdropped. And because it's such a small cafe with such extraordinary acoustics, there's a certain performativity to all the proceedings. You are in public. One of the nice side-effects of this is the emergence of a certain decorum as it's probably not safe to say nasty things about people when the world (or at least your world) is listening.

Twitter is just such a cafe, a great equalizer where theatre's biggest and smallest engage in sometimes banal, sometimes brilliant chit chat. I've forged international brain trusts from colleagues I've discovered through such chitting and chatting on Twitter. Heck, three of them even joined the Community Supported Theatre! Again, I'm not suggesting you go out and start tweeting every day, but there are so many brilliant, innovative theatre tweeters (the thweeters?), it's certainly worth a latte's worth of your day to eavesdrop on the rapport. You can really follow anyone on the "following" lists of the inestimable Travis Bedard, Nick Keenan, David J Loehr, or Chris Ashworth (or maybe us)...

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