If “we” are not a “We,” then what are ‘”we”? I posit that by encouraging diverse-population students in an introductory acting class for non-majors to examine and reveal their histories and identities in a manifesto-driven project, I can build a “We” in the classroom; not a dissipated notion of a Universal We, but a strong sense of community where both differences and commonalities are respected. By exploring self-identity through the Manifesto experience, students will have a closer connection to humanity and thus the task of acting. By cultivating community, students will be united and engaged in each other’s efforts and well-being with a sense of compassion, kindness and trust that is evident, not disaffected or casual. New sensibilities will develop that can extend beyond the classroom.
The overarching pedagogical conversation in my CSULB graduate acting program has involved the imperative to “see” the students who are in front of us. The inspiration to develop this project based report around my work in the Theatre 113 – Introduction to Acting for Non-Majors classroom arrived following a graduate cohort Writing for the Theater Profession assembly taught by artist and scholar Dr. Jaye Austin Williams. Jaye brought my cohort’s attention to the notion of a “Universal We.” We considered the idea of a utopian collective conscious where all of humanity is born with the same innate knowledge and expectation for success; however, the concept of a “Universal We” is easily refuted and dissipates when one contemplates the timeline of all evolution, including the rise and fall of cultures and civilizations, hierarchies, atrocities, vassalage, enslavement and colonialisms. This conversation unsettled me as I sat in front of my next Theatre 113 class with fifty students and contemplated, “If ‘we’ are not a ‘We,’ then what are ‘we’?” This inquiry inspired me to make zero assumptions regarding students and their backgrounds and to seek a path to better understand whom these learners represent as individuals and as a collective - for their knowledge and for mine. I assessed how would I connect and engage these pupils, and to what end? I decided to use a manifesto-driven project that asks students to inspect their self-identity in a presentation to the class, and also proposed that they examine their personal experience and relationship to privilege and pain. I hoped through this practice to create a profound semblance of community. I decided to use this semester to tackle this proposition head-on and invite the conversation into the classroom as we explored humanity, art and self-identity. Why is this important? Why is there an imperative to “know” our self and each other?
In this paper I will explore the proposal I offered to students to embark on this manifesto journey, document the process and observations of the students’ efforts, and examine the outcome through evaluation of students’ responses to a reflection questionnaire regarding the experience.
|Commitee:||Caban, Andrea, Janisheski, Jeff|
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||MAI 57/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Pedagogy, Performing Arts|
|Keywords:||Acting, Arts, Pedagogy, Performance, Theater, Theatre|
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