I need to get back in the warm tones again. My Cranes from the past few days are skewing very blue and purple…
Date: August 21, 2013
Days Spent on Project: 185
Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC
Person I would have sent it to: Professor Turgeon.
Professor Turgeon was my professor for the section of Baby Drama I had been assigned to… For that first year, for the entire year, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, our class would meet at 8:40am until 11am and discuss Aristotle, listen to lectures, perform short scenes, and then discuss what we saw and how they did or did not apply to what we’ve been learning. Almost everything related back to a lesson from The Poetics. Almost everything had been done before. Almost everything had a story that was brilliant and smart and funny.
I would later sign up for a few more classes taught by him, just because he taught them.
I would be cast in his A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as Francis Flute), Volpone (as Mosca), and Arcadia (as Bernard). I enjoyed working with him. Out of all the professors there, he was the one I looked up to the most, yet was frequently humbled by. I never quite felt like I “got” his lectures or his lessons. I never felt like I was good enough for the present moment. But the strange thing is that I was never discouraged by that. He was wickedly intelligent and had seen it all before, and proved that he could bring his talent to the table when he needed to be. If anything, that made you try harder.
His highest compliment was “Good, fun stuff” either spoken aloud in class, or written on one of his index cards that was used for notes and critiques. Hearing that meant a lot. It didn’t happen all the time, but it did occasionally.
He taught a mandatory class for all majors: The History of Western Theater. It was taught at an ungodly time in the morning (8am?), three times a week. It was strictly lecture-based. For 50 minutes, he would hold court and recount what was seemingly the entire history of all Drama from memory, starting with those competitions “to win a goat.” He carried with him a 4″ wide, aged binder for these lectures.
He never needed to use it in public.
It says something that I kept those notes with me, in a binder of my own, for years afterwards. I even used them frequently when I took classes at Yale for my MFA. They always came in handy. At that Ivy League school, I learned I had been taught all that stuff before… at a small liberal arts college in Ohio.
If ever there could be a teacher who defined what Theater meant for me between the ages of 18-22 (and many years later), it would be Turgeon. I’m incredibly thankful to have had four years to learn from him. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t everything. But he was the person who made me realize that theater is bigger than any one person, and that I wanted to be a part of it.
Unfortunately Turgeon passed away earlier this year. He had been struggling with ALS for years now, and I’m glad to know that he’s no longer suffering from that. The outpouring of love and support, thankfulness and appreciation for him was humbling. He was a great man, a really great teacher, probably smarter than anyone I’ve ever met in theater (with the possible exception of one), talented, funny, and just dedicated to this. The more I work in theater, and the more I experience firsthand (and personally) how irritating this career and life can be, it’s comforting to know people out there do stick to it and publicly portray their passion for it.
Just more proof that a good teacher really can make all the difference in the world.
Music I listened to while sewing: I’m listening to Deadmaus again this morning. A little bit of electronic dance music to get motivated for the day. I’m not sure what I’m doing yet; meetings at 10 for a bit… Then maybe nothing.
Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness, and whether or not it’s overrated or not.
Maybe it’s just better to be content than happy.
Is that more achievable?
I’ve been thinking about this because everyone around me seems to be upset or lacking or missing something. Money… Sleep… Excitement… A job… Boyfriends/Girlfriends… It just seems like there’s always something that would make things better, you know?
Is it that we’re just supposed to enjoy what we have? How much effort do we need to put out there to get what we want?