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Monday, November 06, 2006

Dickens Workshops

Every year, I have a minor dread associated with Dickens workshops. I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with my career and my hobby clashing.

A big part of my career is instructional design - determining how to convey the needed information in the best format as efficiently as possible. Workshops are generally run by folks who don't spend most of their days thinking about how to handle this for various topics. So, I go, I sit, and I can't help thinking that I want a more organized, denser course.

Saturday I went to Robert Young's "Dickens Real London" course, and I know what a good story teller Robert is, and I just wanted him to tell us some stories, paint colors into the sketch of london. Instead, he told us a bunch of books we could read. There was not a handout with author name spellings and such, so I promptly forgot them all before I could even search for them, but even if I had time to search for them, I couldn't possibly acquire and read them before Dickens. I've got a costume to mend, rehearsals to attend, and my day job. So just tell me the best bits out of them! Please! That's why you're the instructor. You've done all the reading and can tell us the best bits. Oh well.

Sunday was the Hallelujah chorus workshop, which is much like being taught math by someone who never struggled with it. Much to his credit, Bob spent a lot of time talking at the end of the session about just enjoying singing, and not to worry about doing it wrong. This made me feel a bit better. But the opening was a little daunting. He put on music and we were all to just sing through it. Terror struck. I can't read music. I don't know what note to start on. I always get lost in the music because I lose count of the Hallelujah's in the beginning. So I sat quietly, trying to follow along, while those that knew it sang. He congratulated us for doing so well the first time through. I thought, "Well, yah, 'cause I was quiet." Another girl piped up and said she didn't know what line to follow. Bob explained then about the second line always being the altos. I only knew that because I took the workshop six years ago. So, anyway, not confidence inspiring. I pretty much figured out what I already knew - I know all the words and the timing, so I can hold the cards, but I still don't know what note goes where, so it's best to let someone else do the singing, and maybe, someday when I have some free time, I'll take voice/singing lessons.

Then there's the redundancy issue. We're "required" to take Physical Characterization and Victorian Speech. I took Vic Speech on Sunday. It's exactly the same handout that it has been for the past seven years. It's a good reminder, but really, at this point, you could just hand me the handout, I read it over once, remember the ones I always forget, and move on. Instead, the Vicspeak practice nights over games or drinks or dinner do me far more good than covering the exact same sentences again every year. And I honestly can't face another year of the Physical Characterization lecture. I know about my green umbrella, thanks.

So it's always recommended that we take more workshops. I always cringe. I wish there weren't "required" workshops for the veterans, or that they were labs where we could skip the basics and really work on fine tuning. I wish that the classes were a bit tighter. I wish the instructors were required to prepare a lesson plan for their class. You've got one hour - make it the best hour possible!

Still, all in all, workshops were less torturous than usual this year, and Fezziwigs rehearsal was very good. I still think we Fezzis need to drill our small games and set dances a bit more. They're the meat of our day, and the part that never gets learned outside of rehearsal. But overall, our time was incredibly well-spent on Sunday, running Stagecoach, doing a backleading workshop, running Strip the Willow, and doing a character specificity exercise - what is your character's favorite Christmas gift. I think we scared the crap out of a few newbies with running an untaught Lancers Quadrille, but they seemed to survive with the terror only showing in their eyes.


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