I was the first to arrive at Tansill Theater. This black box performing space on Conn’s campus is also home to many of the classes available in the theater department. On Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. it is home to me and the other 10 members of my Acting II class. Our first project this semester was a monologue from Jose Rivera’s “Sonnets from an Old Century.” We have been working on them for about a month now and the final showing was approaching.
I sat in the theater, waiting for my classmates to arrive, and journaled about my character’s biggest doubts, concerns and fears. As part of an ongoing assignment for Acting II, we were tasked with keeping a journal for the character we are portraying as well as jotting down anything we take away from class and insights into the craft we may discover. A few of my classmates began to trickle in and we were buzzing about when exactly we would have our final showing of our monologues. To our surprise, our professor, David Jaffe, sauntered into the room, looked at all of us and proclaimed “Folks, today is the day we finish these monologues.” We were astonished to say the least.
Professor Jaffe challenged us to not only perform our monologues but to search the entirety of Tansill Theater for a space to perform. He asked each of us to partner up and travel high and low (and outside) for a space that would exemplify our monologue. I knew the goal of this exercise was to further distract us from the work, thereby forcing us to succumb to our characters’ needs and desires. Performing in an entirely new space for the first time, with no prior rehearsal, was definitely a scary concept. The first monologue was staged in the shop behind the main performance space in Tansill Theater. From there, we moved downstairs, into the lobby, traveled outside, came back inside and up the main stairs and ended in the theater space itself. Each of us was on a respective journey that did not end when we finished our monologue. In fact, what each of us found in a reflection following the pieces was that our professor’s challenge greatly enhanced and improved our work. We discovered that exploring a new space in the mindset of our characters truly allowed us to immerse ourselves in the pieces and free us from the distractions that usually plague our minds.
I always say that Acting II is my favorite class and my reason for this declaration changes day-to-day. When I make this statement now, I can say for certain that my preference lies with the nature of Professor Jaffe’s consistent encouragement for me to be my best self and do my best work. He always says “You are here [at Connecticut College] to do the work and to learn.” I hope he knows that is exactly what my 10 classmates and I did on that Wednesday afternoon.