A Rich Experience
The CACE seminar on “Theater as a Way of Knowing” will shape how I teach and interact in the Wheaton community in significant ways. I was very challenged by what the seminar demanded of us: to use our bodies in intuitive ways, to put aside critical thought, and to act and learn experientially. As an analytical person, steeped in typical academic training, I tend to want to stand at a critical distance. Part of the reason for doing so is not to expose myself and become involved too personally in the work. The seminar made me engage in personal ways. I had to draw upon difficult past personal experience in order to do the work of the seminar. I would never have thought to react to a play by enacting our response to it, as we did for Jesus Hopped the A Train. I am well attuned to thinking about its language, analyzing patterns and structures and articulating that on paper or in speech. I have never before attempted to do such an exercise as create a bodily sculpture that reflected on—and did not literally depict!—the play.
Going forward, I will be much more aware of how my body presents to my students the process of learning and knowing. Bearing, comportment, gesture, all matter more than I realized. And teaching is something of a performance. Secondly, some of the work we did was intense. For example, in one exercise, we worked in groups of 4 to recall and enact a past trauma. It was especially hard to play the role of oppressor, since I love my fellow faculty members as brothers and sisters. But in order to play that role I had to think about how, for instance, placing my foot on someone’s back, might make them feel small and hurt. And so I had to think about how I would hurt them As a result of this intensity of time together, I deepened friendships with colleagues in those few days to such an extent as might otherwise have taken a year or more of typically casual interaction. I feel much more confident and prepared to engage at Wheaton than I did before the seminar. It was a rich experience.