So I’m thinking about dropping out of PSU at the end of this quarter.
I was at work yesterday, talking to one of my coworkers, and when they asked me how school was going, instead of just saying, “Fine,” and letting that be the end of our conversation, I found myself blabbing about how unimpressed I was with the whole thing. Here I am, taking three classes, and all of them are a mixture of grad students and upperclassmen. I wouldn’t have a problem with this, except that all of these classes are ones I’ve taken before, as an undergraduate at Boise State, and to be quite honest, I feel like I received a much better education on theatre at BSU than I’m receiving here.
Two of the classes are lit classes, and they work like this: We read a play, and then we talk about it. Sometimes the professor enlightens us a bit on the history behind the play, or the genre, and sometimes not. And then we randomly write papers about things we find in the plays. I suppose that’s the basis for most classes at this level, but the undergrads at PSU are just so … droll. They have a really hard time talking about the plays, and when there is a silence, the professor begins talking, but they ramble on and don’t really get to any point. Phil’s Theatre History class (when I was an undergrad) was tough sometimes, and he occasionally rambled, but you got the sense that he was grasping at something larger than himself, or the whole of the class, there. Even Leslie’s World Drama class, while us Philites argued with most of the “-isms” presented, Leslie still taught a good class, she had a strong lesson plan and was extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter, and I don’t remember ever being as exceptionally bored in those classes as I am in these.
I’m also taking a Dramatic Writing course, which is certainly better than the other two, and the instructor, Karin, is really a delightful lady and very pleasantly wise about dramatic writing, but the class still feels … flat. I think it’s partly because it’s a mix of film and theatre students, and film students, I’ll be honest, they don’t know jack shit about dramatic structure. At least the undergrads here at PSU don’t. Or maybe that’s not true, it’s just that film is a different medium than theatre, but still, a basic grasp of dramatic action should be something everyone in the class has at this point, and yet there are students — grad students, even! — who fail to understand it.
Basically I spend most of my time in class wishing I was back with the intensely creative people I went to Boise State with, putting plays on with them, developing my acting ability not through countless classes, but through real life work. Or working at the clinic, making more money so that I can save some for a vacation, or new computer parts. What I’m doing right now is reading tons of plays and writing mediocre essays. I love reading plays, but I’m suffocating myself with them at this point. If a modern rehearsal setting allows you to read the same play in a span of two to four weeks, why in god’s name would you force people to read up to five plays a week? How do people expect to find a deeper understanding of theatre when they’re being suffocated with it?
And on the other hand, in my Irish Theater class, we read one play a week now, which is certainly better than several, but no one in the class talks. We just read Translations, and I talk a certain amount in the class, though I find I have little to say, since the class is basically about Irish history more than Irish theatre, but of course I had to talk for Translations because I was in the damn thing, and still it was me and the Grad Student Who Always Has Something to Say talking.
(I swear, this guy, all he does it look for quotations in the play, reads them, and then hastily cobbles together a nonsense answer, instead of taking the time for formulate something with some substance. It drives me up a goddamn wall.)
To be fair, most of this problem is mine: the longer I’ve stayed in Portland, the more introverted and aloof I’ve become, which, as some of you know, was pretty bad to begin with. It’s at best startling and at worse crippling, this slow descent into my own head; it’s turned my acting ability into mush, and my creativity has gone down the shitter. It’s depressing, but more importantly, it illuminates what I find important in my life and what I really need to work on in order to get those things that I want. I’ve substituted a lot of my fear for anger and disappointment in the people around me, when, honestly, they’re just doing the best they can; that anger and disappointment is for myself, and I need to own up to it.
What I want to do is act, and read plays on my own time. School certainly helps discipline me to read more, but it also is costing me a lot of money, and really, when you get down to it, getting an MA degree is not as good as getting an MFA degree, and that’s what I should be aiming for, because at least then I know I’ll be doing more acting, because it will be my focus, as opposed to PSU, where my focus is reading plays and writing essays.
Maybe at this point you’re saying, “Well, it’s your first quarter, Josh, maybe there will be grad level acting classes next quarter.” Turns out, no, there aren’t. PSU has a lovely Course Planning Guide, in which all the classes for the year are available to see. If I continue this year, my next quarter will be more reading and more essays, more writing in Dramatic Writing, and very little acting or anything even close to acting. Apparently when you become a grad student, you no longer need to take an advanced voice class, or movement class, or anything like that. So, I can either graduate in a year and a half by taking classes that I don’t want, or I can graduate in two+ years taking a couple grad level classes, and then taking undergrad classes that I do want to take as padding.
That’s a waste of money.
Sooooo … yeah. I haven’t finalized this idea yet, but I’m about 75% sure I’m not going back to PSU next quarter. I’d rather work full time and make enough money to do something cool, like take a vacation overseas, or buy a car so I can attend more auditions. Or who knows what. But I’m not finding this to be a valuable use of my time. At least I see that now, instead of waiting all year.