Swan Songs From our Student Subscribers

It’s end of semester time for the student subscribers who’ve been such a presence in our theater these past 4 months. We’ll be hearing final presentations from the students of Universities of Michigan, California at Berkeley and Merced, and Notre Dame who’ve been in town for the semester doing internships on Capital Hill by Day, and taking in lots of theater by night! Let’s hear from some of them about how the cultural immersion into the world of DC theater has impacted their perception of DC, of themselves as young citizens, and any good parting observations they might have about their now favorite small-to-medium sized Jewish theater. It’s been great having such an engaged bunch sharing so much of themselves and so many generous observations on our blog. Look back at the past 4 months worth of comments. They’re extraordinary.

Here’s an opportunity also to read of other productions students might have seen this semester they’re burning to discuss (or at least get a couple extra credit points!). Go Blue!


8 thoughts on “Swan Songs From our Student Subscribers

  1. I just spent the past few hours putting finishing touches on my part of my group’s project for our final session tonight. I was writing about the interconnectedness of acting and activism. But I didn’t really have to look to my imagination for inspiration whilst writing the description, as it was truly a reflection on the experience I’ve had in Ari Roth’s class this semester. DC is a city fundamentally shaped by politics. And in any city fundamentally shaped by politics, people tend to get vocal about their satisfaction and lack thereof with the socio-political atmosphere that surrounds them. I knew this before I came here, and it’s only been reinforced over the past four months. What I didn’t know, however, was that I would grapple with some of the most poignant and pressing intellectual, political, and social debates in–of all places–the theater. I have always (unintentionally and unconsciously) divided the political half of my interests from the artistic half. “Art is art, politics is politics, and although themes tend to bleed through this boundary, they are two distinct and separate parts of my identity,” I thought. The imaginary wall I had built between these worlds has been shattered, and I find now that I can cross back and forth between these realms with depth and fluidity. I want to thank Ari Roth, my brilliant classmates, and everyone involved in all the incredible productions we’ve seen this semester, for reminding me that art is one of the most powerful political stages that exists.

  2. I’ll be flying out of D.C. in a couple days, and I don’t know what to think. Part of my is sad. I loved my stay here. I met some wonderful people, I worked hard and experienced the benefits of that hard work, and I lived in the capital of the greatest country on Earth. Most people in the world can’t say they did all of those things in a matter of months, so for that I’ll always be grateful for my time here, and I’ll always look back on this semester fondly.

    Part of me is happy. I’m going home, seeing family and seeing friends. That’s always nice, especially because this will probably be my last summer vacation.

    But what have I learned here in D.C.? What has theater class taught me about the city itself?

    The answer is complicated. Simply put, I had no idea there was much of a theater scene in D.C., and this class showed me otherwise. I guess the town isn’t so shallow and callous and politicized – it’s also theatrical. I remember many times that I would go into work on Friday and talk to my coworkers (as an intern, are they coworkers, or are they all bosses?) about the play I had seen the night before. They would respond saying, “Oh really? How was it? I’ve heard good things, I really want to see it.”

    I don’t know why I was so surprised to hear that people kept up to date about the plays in D.C. I figured that everyone else was like me: they didn’t care about theater. Well after this class, that indifference is gone, and now I see why my coworkers are so intent on seeing theater. They work 70 hours a week and yet they still want to see local plays. If I worked 70 hours a week, I’d want to come home and drink myself to sleep, but I guess that’s what separates college kids from real people.

    On top of this, my coworkers’ fondness for theater really opened my eyes to the impact a play can have on a person. Something about the theater is magical, and for someone that works so hard and long day in and day out, the theater serves as an escape, as well as a classroom. In the theater, we escape the hectic schedule of life, but we also learn about life. That is what this class has taught me. The people of D.C. work hard, but they also know when to be introspective, and that is an important quality to possess. Thanks for the class Ari and Kat, and thanks for changing my perspective on theater. It’s something I’ll take with me for years to come.

  3. The DC theater scene has been an experience. In hindsight I am very happy to have selected the Politics of Theater class because it has truly expanded my knowledge of theater and production as well as broadened my views and understanding of various cultural discrepancies and points of view. I had no idea that DC had such a broad and diverse theater scene either! It was enjoyable traveling to different areas of DC and surrounding areas. My favorite theaters have been Woolly Mammoth, for its modern feel and trendy vibes, and Arena Stage, for its sophistication, architecture, and presence. It was also interesting to see such a wide range of plays throughout the semester from varying backgrounds. We have seen plays of race, oppression, hurt, prejudices, and religion. We have seen plays ranging from “The Convert”, to “Boged,” to “Race,” all of which provided the audience with such strong messages. My favorite play of the semester was “Good People” at Arena Stage. I thought the story line was entertaining, the acting was professional and great, and the script was very humorous which called for a captivating performance throughout. Another play that I thoroughly enjoyed was “The Mountaintop.” Even though I saw this production outside of class, I am glad I did. It was both powerful and humorous. There were only 2 actors throughout the entire production, and they preformed wonderfully throughout without ever getting out of character. Although I never considered myself an expert within the theater realm, I also never considered myself a “newbie” either. But after about 3 months or so with exposure to all sorts of theater, I now consider myself much more knowledgeable about this art form and my appreciation for the theater itself, the actors, setting, staging, designers, and every other aspect involved has truly grown.

  4. I’m sitting here reflecting on my time in Washington, and I’m filled with the kinds of memories that usually plague a Pacino film, as he stares in the mirror. Or a Kushner play. Or, dare I say it on here, a Springsteen song. Introspection is a cute word for blogs, school papers, and oral presentations, and is overused (most notably by me) to fill a void where thoughts are left. In this case, though, none is more appropriate.
    I came to Washington with serious and concrete goals in mind – some more tangible than others, and some a bit crazy – all of which fit me and my personality well.
    I wanted to meet Press Secretary Jay Carney, which I haven’t yet done, but which I’m determined to do. I have three weeks left, even after finishing school and class next week, the biggest letdown of this entire experience.
    I wanted to slow down. This is where it gets tough. You lost things in life when you move to fast; I move too fast. People think that’s whimsical, humorous, or off the cuff. It’s not. You don’t lose a few things because you want to move too quickly – you lose a lot of things: family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, jobs, opportunities, money, whatever.
    You don’t come to Washington to learn how to slow down. I was drinking ten large coffees a day in Ann Arbor, trying to work 65-70 hours a week concurrent to full-time school. The good news was that, by most counts, work was done remote so I could do it on my terms, when and how I wanted.
    I came to Washington – now there are things called ‘human hours,’ whereby you are expected to be at work from and until each day. This posed its own challenges. I can delineate in a book I’ll probably write another time, but Washington taught me to balance things, but certainly didn’t help in my introspective quest to slow down – across multiple vectors and in multiple different ways. It made the problem far worse (now it’s 12 espresso shots, two large coffees, and an occasional Sugar Free Red Bull daily, along with endless annoying complaints of how I can’t sleep – I wonder why).
    Washington – I’ll miss our late nights, the friendships and memories made here, and the lessons you taught me. But I’ll mostly miss this – the chance to double-down on our promise and our story in a quick paper, essay, blog post, or email to a friend (this meshes all of those), and reflect from a computer in a bustling coffee shop with Springsteen blaring in my ears at 5 in the morning on a Friday –a stage of life which is fragile and will never come again.
    I love you, and I’ll see you soon. In short stints, I imagine – but nonetheless, I’ll be back.

  5. I’m still here, but it’s my last night.
    It’s cloudy in the morning, just like my feelings; and it’s raining in the afternoon, just like my feelings too.
    There are so much for me to take away from my D.C. life, my work, my seminar, and my THEATER CLASS. So my steps were so heavy, not only have I gained so much weight, but also I don’t really want to leave.
    I remember every single one of you, like I said during my midterm presentation, all of you are so talented and great.

    (The following messages are not in any order, just things that come up in my mind. )

    I still remember when the first day when we met, I was so surprised by how fast Sarah could talk; and now, I really really thankful for her encouraging words after my presentation, also whenever we met in the hallway, her quick greeting with a big smile, “Hi Jingru!”; I was so happy to hear that. *^_^*

    The only one who has both classes with me is Alana, who is incredibly beautiful and intelligent. I was so surprised how well she can write, especially when she was saying that she write poems– that’s my favorite, but only in CHINESE. lol.

    All the ND kids—Melissa, BJ, Lou, Mary, Brain, as well as Matt and Shawn—- I remember the first time I talked to you guys was when I overheard Melissa said, “I really want some Chinese food”. And that’s how I ended up bringing you guys to the Chinese restaurant, and that’s how we became friends. I really really appreciate our time together, you guys came to my place, and you guys celebrated my birthday and even brought me a cake; and we celebrated BJ’s birthday together, we successfully gave BJ a surprise…..

    Sam’s speeches has always been impressive and touching; Brandon has always been so friendly to everyone. I remember there was one time, when we’re back from the Ford’s theater (maybe), I was following Sam and Brandon, Julian, Austin, Jamesa and Mark. I thought they were going to the CENTER; however, when I followed them to the Black & Orange, I figured I went to the wrong way. lol.

    I remember the first person who talked to me was Kate, when we realized we both from Berkeley.

    Lilli is such a pretty girl, who I first thought she’s a mixed. But she’s actually from Taiwan and can speak Mandarin with me, which makes me so glad!

    There are tons of memories with you guys, and are all important parts of my D.C. life. Not need to mentioned Professor Roth and Kat. !~~ You guys are so great!! And I’m so sad that it’s going to be the last class that you’re going to teach. I recommend it to my fellow students already. Well, it proves that they are not as lucky as me!!~ lol

    Too many words…. but really have to go pack!

    BEST WISHES TO ALL OF YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  6. I’m writing this from an airport terminal in Texas, almost back to California.

    When my plane was leaving DC this morning, there was a fleeting minute where I could see the Capitol building, the Lincoln memorial, the Washington monument, my work, for the final time. I’m really torn about leaving today. I have spent the past few years anticipating this semester. Now that it’s over and graduation is around the corner (and I have no concrete plans yet) I can’t help but feel like maybe this was my peak and it’s passing. This theater course has given me a chance to experience the cultural side of DC that I may not have otherwise. I remember bumping in to my internship supervisor at the production of “Our Town,” and discussing Mike Daisey’s “American Utopias” with staff around the office. I had never been to the Georgetown University campus before seeing “Boged.” The first time I went to Virginia was when we went to see “Good People” at Arena Stage. Every week, when I got home from class Thursday night my roommates asked about the performance I’d seen, as did my coworkers Friday mornings. The experience of seeing so many performances in such a short amount of time is another thing I may never experience again. I can’t imagine another point in my life where it will be feasible, or where I will have the energy, to see a performance at the end of every workweek. I said this in my midterm, but I will say it again: if it were not for this class I would never have attended such a wide variety of plays. I probably would have never gone to see “Glengarry Glen Ross” or “The Convert” just by the little I read, and “The Convert” ended up being one of the most powerful plays of the semester. I’ve appreciated being able to take part in post-show discussions, observe a trial run (“Andy and the Shadows”) and listen to a reading (“Ulysses on Bottles”).

    I’ve loved this semester in DC more than I can really express here. I am trying to push back this feeling of overwhelming let down from this crowded terminal. I hope that my homecoming and graduation do not mean my downward spiral. Rather, I hope that I can take a bit of the energy, passion and creativity DC has offered back with me to California.

    I hope we all do. Best of luck to all of you talented students.

  7. I am back in Ann Arbor, sitting in the Ford School computer lab. It feels weird…like I never left, but at the same time so different. D.C. already seems so long ago, and far away, but I don’t feel quite normal here either. I suppose I’ll adjust, just like I did back in D.C. during January.

    My first thoughts of D.C. were perhaps not the best. It is a weird city, especially where we lived in the downtown/government section. Things were dead by 10 pm and everyone wore suits….all the time. Why would CVS close at 9:00???? A friend described it as “D.C. is where creativity goes to die” and I completely agreed—at first. Little did we know that we only needed to leave our little bubble, go a few metro stops and we’d see how lively and fun D.C. can be. This theater class helped a great deal as well, forcing us to explore D.C.

    The productions we saw this semester were a great way to escape the daily grind of our internships, and the friendships formed through the course were an added bonus. From wandering around Georgetown, extremely lost and desperate to find the theater, with Sarah Koehn, to our final presentations just last week, this class had been an adventure.

    I am thankful for all I have learned and seen. I must wish the best of luck to all the seniors in whatever it is they end up doing post-graduation. Thank you to Ari and Kat for all you have done. And finally, another big shout-out to the talented artists, directors, actors, producers, collaborators, dramaturges, designers and everyone involved with all the amazing productions we have seen. It truly has been a great experience that I will never forget. Perhaps the most important take-away from the class is that I truly do hope to continue my exploration of the theater—wherever I end up. Peace and love, all.

  8. It is Sunday night, the house is quiet, my parents are already in bed, and there are snow flakes in the air. I think it is safe to say that I am missing DC, even after only one night at home in Grand Rapids, MI. In the hustle and bustle of packing, cleaning, and traveling, I have not had much time to sit down, relax, and process my semester in DC. I think a part of me doesn’t even want to, because I am so sad that it is over. For sake of this blog post, I will look back on my semester-long experience with Ari Roth’s theater class in the wonderful city of Washington DC, and discuss how it changed my life forever.

    I did not have many expectations for this class. I heard it was fun and I wanted to have a well-rounded experience during my semester in DC, and I thought experimenting with the DC theater scene would be the perfect way to help me accomplish this goal. My non-existent expectations were exceeded and I came away from this semester with a better understanding of the art of theater and myself.

    I have to admit, the semester started out a little slow for me. I think my first few theater experiences were kind of awkward and I didn’t really know what was going on. The last place I wanted to be after a long day of work was class, and I was not the most excited theater-goer in our class. As the weeks went on, my appreciation and excitement for theater grew. I think It all turned around for me after we saw “Our Town” at Ford’s Theater. It was like nothing I had ever seen. I also began to look forward to post-show discussions and blogging after class and performances. I found that my understanding and appreciation grew as I was able to discuss the shows with my classmates and feed off of their ideas and experiences.

    After all this time I don’t even think I could pick a favorite moment in this class. I loved the segment we did on David Mamet, which consisted of going to see “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Race.” I think Mamet is an exceptional playwright and I had not been exposed to him or his work prior to this class. I also extended my experience with Mamet outside of our theater class and watched some of Mamet’s other work via the internet. I think that is when my passion for learning about theater sparked. I am a huge reader and reading books is one of my favorite hobbies…and after my experience with Mamet, I realized playwrights are also fantastic writers, and the words matter just as much as the performances.

    I also loved having the opportunity to see my classmates’ more creative sides. Since none of us are theater majors, it was quite enjoyable being able to see everyone open up and show off their play-writing skills. That is why my favorite part of the semester was our final group projects. I also really enjoyed being able to design and present my own theater season. It was a great way to see how much work and effort goes into planning shows and running a theater.

    It was a great semester and a wonderful experience. I can honestly say that I will continue to be a theater-goer and that just because this class is over does not mean my journey with theater will end. I hope that some day I will be able to return to the DC theater scene and I will miss it dearly.

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