Television, social media, blogs. The mind-boggling advancements in technology over the past 100 years have established a new normal for communication; now, being able to talk with somebody anywhere within the country through a palm-sized device, share content with millions of people through a pixelated screen and get previously physical objects (e.g. books) on a single digital platform is “normal”. With this much power now at everybody’s fingertips, it is a given that the communication of information will have changed significantly from the past century–and in fact, it continues to change both within different existing mediums and as new technology births itself into existence.
Aware of our growing world, the 10th grade English classes (including mine) have investigated how today’s media conveys information. To begin, each student selected an area of interest (e.g. wolves). Then, we compiled a variety of perspectives on the topic expressed through different mediums (e.g. a video of a farmer’s tirade about wolves hunting his/her livestock) and analyzed the source, predicted the intended audience and justified our opinions through written text. Lastly, we presented our findings and ideas through posters displayed in a “Media Fair”, a teacher’s term for putting all of our posters up, walking around, looking at particularly interesting ones and discussing them with their “presenters”. Through all of this, we hoped to understand how many purposes one piece of media can be created for, what effects they have on their intended audience and–ultimately–the scope of the large plethora of content surrounding, within and influencing our lives today.
I chose to focus on the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical Into The Woods, a deceptively dark (I’m looking at you, Act 2) yet intricately artful story of inter-woven adventures taken by the likes of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (from “Jack and The Beanstalk”), etc. along with Sondheim’s original creations of the Baker, the Baker’s Wife and the Witch. With Sondheim’s distinct lyrical genius and Lapine’s meaningful, comprehensive collection of explored themes, Into The Woods has won numerous Tony awards and been nominated for many, many more. It has generally been thought of as a Sondheim masterpiece of continuous cues, epic proportions and even adaptability due to, as Jesse Green puts it, its “gears of solid gold”.
In spite of Into The Woods‘ stellar reputation, I found one review that was written on the night of the Broadway debut that did not put as much faith in the show’s foundation. Sure, I also read Ester Bloom’s editorial asserting that the show is an AIDS parable, but author and drama critic Frank Rich still interested me the most. He stated that although the show had lots of merits and well-intended ambitions, the plot was convoluted and needed more craft to execute both its story and musical elements. His was the only review I read that exuded a generally positive feeling but actually presented a negative perspective on the topic in question. Having watched the show and been dazzled by what Rich would call the “art”, I first found this perspective surprising; however, as he explained his case with volleys of vocabulary arrows such as “tripartite” and “Pirandellian”, I began to find it eye-opening and insightful–eventually to the point where I found myself agreeing with him completely. Both the substance of Rich’s opinion and his phraseology skills drew my hand to nestle on my chin before I realized I was stroking it. In fact, his article makes me think about how I can be more critical of productions and how many angles one can view a single show from; every layer of a show, even the ones at the very bottom, counts–make sure that your angle reveals them all.
But enough about my topic; the other posters presented in the Media Fair were interesting as well. Even better, they were diverse and reflective of the many interests of my classmates–sometimes at a surprising level. One such example of an unexpected interest was presented by the advocate of positive thinking Nana; her topic was–get this–sweatshops. She later explained to me that she wanted to focus on an admired clothing outlet, H&M, but grew to want to look at it from an original perspective and eventually ended up focusing on sweatshops that work for clothing companies in general. She included a personal interview, an image, a news report, an article and an awareness video as her sources; therefore, she was able to get former workers’ perspectives, activists’ perspectives and outsiders’ perspectives.
Out of her grim collection, the source that stood out to me the most was her awareness video, for it featured minimalistic images to let its bold, big text speak for itself against a glaringly red background–as if it was saying “this topic is important”. However, her image of a small boy crying to the camera and her personal interview featuring a woman who seemed an unlikely candidate for a factory worker were both powerful as well. Her realized opinion was that there was no way we could stop buying clothes, but we had to treasure the clothes we buy and remember those working in inhumane conditions, without the right of freedom of speech or action and below the minimum wage.
Before this project, I considered myself knowledgeable about what techniques are employed to present a specific mood, feeling and/or perspective on an issue; now, I realize that I was fishing in waters just shallow of where the big prizes lurked in the dark. I hope to be able to implement similar techniques in my work from here on out–especially when I’m sitting on the lakeside of HL Lang. Lit next year.
On Wednesday, April 15th, I led my own 35-minute dance lesson with my 10th grade PE class. For whatever reason, I was tasked with teaching the entire class–not half of it, as others had done–in the limited space of the dance studio. Adult supervision was scheduled to be provided, but nothing came of it until after my lesson. Needless to say, I was anxious and more than a little confused the entire time. Now, I will be evaluating my planning, what worked and/or did not work and what I would change if I was to do this again.
The most notable thing about my lesson was that I only managed to get through one-tenth of my warm-up before the other group had to go. This was something I did not quite like about my lesson. I assumed that the warm-up, as it was a song for a flash workout tailored specifically for non-dancers, would be an easy pick-up. Especially because I utilized the dance studio’s projector and mirrors, I thought I’d get through everything with time to practice. I personally believe that my confidence had something to do it. If I was an actual dance teacher, I would move each person to a location of my choosing so that everybody had space and could see themselves in the mirrors. But, as the class was bigger than I thought it would be, I lost the confidence to keep myself from appearing awkward and talking softly. So, if I were to do this task again, I would clarify the size of the class I was getting.
Nonetheless, I get the impression that everybody enjoyed it to some extent. I feel that this was the best part of my lesson. As I was running to the projector to play the part we had just practiced with the mirrors, I heard several whispers of something along the lines of “this is really good”. Perhaps this was the best part of my lesson: that the instruction was organic rather than fixed. As a teacher has to adjust with shifting circumstances and understand the energy levels of their students, so must they make changes if necessary. I built my lesson around the idea that I would always ask my students if they had anything they wanted to clarify with me, which resulted in thorough learning of a smaller part than I hoped we would do. But it was alright. It’s better to feel comfortable with something small than feel unsure about something more complex, however rewarding it would have been to master it.
Dear editor(s) of the New York Times,
The editorial “Charlie Hebdo and Free Expression” published in your paper on January 18th, 2015 argues that governments should not impose any constraints on freedom of expression because of potential for government abuse. Instead, it states, editors and societies at large should be the only ones to decide what is fit to print and express, as they are in the best position to understand the tastes, situations and standards that change over time.
While the right to freedom of expression is central to the ideal democratic society, I am not sure if this means that there can be no constraints imposed by the government. Take, for instance, people making false statements about others that cause harm. If there were no legal limitations on this form of expression, there would be little to stop those from spreading any kind of lie. There would be no repercussions for the expressors, and no obligation to take responsibility for the harm caused.
The effects of unrestrained expression as a whole have already been seen in the widespread use of the Internet, technology and social media, or what the editorial states “has opened the door”. Email hoaxes and internet rumors can spread very quickly to masses on a global scale. Therefore, there is greater potential for harmful, untrue statements to cause problems in society.
The editorial’s position that editors are the best fit to decide what should be printed assumes that every editor has journalistic integrity. However, there are institutions and media organizations that tie their ideological views into what should be fact-based reports, unscrupulously pushing their own agendas–and in some cases, inciting violence. So, should they really be entrusted with defining the boundaries of “right” forms of expression?
Today marks the fifth day until our personal project products are due to be handed in. With the onslaught of different theater productions I have been involved in (one of which wrapped up its last performance last Sunday and two of which are scheduled for tomorrow after school), my personal project has been one of the last things on my mind. However, that is not to say that I haven’t been doing my part. That part simply constitutes something I did not realize I would have to do.
The original script for my play, Crossing Borders, is on a Google document. I started the thing way back in the summer break of 2013, when I did not know of any script-writing mediums and wished only to get my ideas down on a digital format. I was aware that it probably was not the most suitable for my needs, but it was the most convenient at the time. Once school started, I asked my friend, who had been in the school film club, if she knew of any programs specifically designed for temporarily-aspiring playwrights such as me. She did know one, and introduced me to its basic functions shortly after I had asked. She showed me Celtx.
Neither of us noticed the top-left search engine that was set to “Stage Direction.”
While I was working on my script–editing and the like–I always wondered why everything I typed seemed to create its own constrained margins and slant in a most disorienting manner if viewed in bulk. I wondered if there was any way to change it. I wondered what purpose such an unreadable font had in script-writing.
I’ve now realized that I must use the font specified for “Dialog” to edit my dialogue. And my play is somewhat dialogue-intensive, which means that I will require large chunks of time I don’t necessarily have to properly edit all of it.
Therefore, I’ve been toying with the idea of asking my supervisor, Mr. Meiklejohn, for an extension. I have heard from the same friend as before that one’s supervisor has the power to grant extensions if they deem the given reason acceptable. Although Mr. Meiklejohn is currently unavailable due to his wife’s illness, I may be able to slip an email or two passed him and receive some kind of response. If that doesn’t work, I can always stop Ms. Rude, the personal project coordinator, in the hallway or march up to her office to explain the situation. I can bring up the point of Mr. Meiklejohn and I “being unable to indulge in the privilege of checking my progress, which other students have exercised most frequently these past weeks.”
Either way, I’m going to have to pour another cup of work into my script. This may an opportunity in disguise, for I fancied changing the script and its plot around anyway in my last post; I just didn’t know when I’d have the time. But if I don’t get an extension, indecision will be forced out the door. This may prove to be the perfect motivator I needed to perfect my personal project, for it would be a shame for all my hard work to go to waste at this point.
Hopefully, I’ll be alive for another post once the danger has passed!
Until next time!
The due date for our personal project product is nearing our doorstep. My mom has just informed me that I need to use at least 10 excerpts in my essay. So here I am, type, type, typing away.
Progress has been excruciating slow. I am currently involved with 4 different theatre performances, three a part of school and one not. As the most time-consuming and complicated show I am in has its production week coming up in the first days of December, every assignment I’ve worked on is everything due during that week, for I will be so “transported and rapt in secret studies” that I won’t be able to do anything other than the 4-hour-long play rehearsals the entire 7 days. Therefore, I’ve only had a couple chances to edit my personal project script. Thank goodness editing scripts is something I am comfortable with, for there is much content that I can cover in a short amount of time with relative lack of strenuous effort. The same principle can apply to writing these entries; it’s not the toughest thing in the world, so I can squeeze it in whenever I have the time (aka, when my mom isn’t hawking over me).
What has been tough is checking in with Mr. Meiklejohn, my supervisor. Due to his wife’s unexpected, serious illness, he hasn’t been able to attend even his regular classes. I’ve skipped two checkpoints–when one is supposed to “check in” with one’s supervisor–because of this unprecedented turn of events. Under normal circumstances, my progress would suffer greatly. However–as already documented in previous entries–I completed my first draft with nearly all the research finished by the end of last summer. In fact, the most pressing matter used to be whether or not I would be able to motivate myself to document everything, for there was nothing much else to do (at the time). Now, I have to focus on editing as much as I can on my own, at least for the time being. This may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for I can concentrate on juggling everything I need to without the obligation of meeting a supervisor during lunch periods already used for rehearsals and Student Council meetings.
As mentioned earlier, I have edited a small portion of my script already. Sometimes, when one is creating something, it is easy to become trapped in the one-dimensional vortex of “I have to finish this, I have to finish this” that technical mistakes appear much less sloppy than they actually are. This was the case with my script. Upon reading it again, I found the characters to be cheesy, the emotions to be forced and the script itself working too hard for the audience. I have been told time and time again to not feel as if everything needs to be explained; sometimes, the content becomes more powerful when the audience is left to connect the dots for themselves, or when certain things are left unspoken.
Generally, I’ve been cutting down rather than building more, as is the way it should be. I’ve managed to get through the second scene without too much trouble, although certain things will have to be reimagined. For example, in Scene Two, I have the characters go down to a ship’s bilge deck to investigate what caused the rocking of the ship. The only problem was that the tremors came from a central point outside the vessel. Especially because the characters wind up with a mermaid, and the bilge deck has no glass or grating to glimpse such a creature, the dynamics will have to be reinvented to make sense both plot-wise and stage-wise; we don’t want the main action to be happening upstage left, for example.
Although there is both technical and conceptual work to be done, I am not worried as I was before. Today, I have a rehearsal at the director of Tokyo International Players’ Little Women‘s house, and as I’m assuming she doesn’t live in a cave, I will have the wi-fi to get more work done. Besides, this rehearsal offers four hours of potential downtime; I am almost being asked to do work.
Anyway, that’s it for now. I will continue to update you on my progress in editing my script. Hopefully, it will be done with some time before the due date!