graduate school word vomit: volume 1

8:55 PM / Posted by Ashley /

This is the post that I've been promising myself wouldn't happen until AFTER the GRE (on Monday) but I'm frustrated and tonight I'm feeling especially uninspired on a count of several things, mostly having to do with finances since it's becoming harder and harder (but not yet impossible) to make theatre in this bumfuck economy, let alone any kind of political and/or socially engaged art that according to "recent studies" nobody wants to see because it makes them "depressed". I remain optimistic though because regardless of the situation, we still endure (even if it means performing in the street because spaces are unaffordable/unavailable... which we do, and enjoy). I think I'm angry because I have so many ideas for pieces and plans for action that are at a complete standstill because there's no funding for it at the moment. Of course I'm not talking about funding from the McCarther Genius or NEA Grant either, I'm talking about the bare minimum to rent and light a space or hold rehearsal, or better yet... afford to not work a shift (and still be able to eat) so we can hold a rehearsal. Certainly, this gives me more time to flush out ideas but it's also been making me recognize the fact that THIS is how it could always be. Because we live in a society where artists are underpaid and under appreciated financially (see the article that I posted a few days ago under this post) I have to accept the reality that financial stability may or may not happen through theatre and if it does not happen, I could always be uninsured and living day to day looking for "survival work".

So, after separate discussion(s) with RS and AS that involved (not necessarily in this order) a weepy midnight phone call, a pumpkin with a Freud face on it and a really good hamburger at the Beekman in addition to this career coach (which has nothing to do with RS/AS) ... because I wanted to hear the opinion of a complete stranger (yes, I spent $$ on a coaching session) who happened to give me some of the best advice of my life ($$ for the WIN!), I've decided to go ahead and apply to PhD programs. I was set on not doing it but upon hearing "The kind of theatre you do will never be appreciated outside of the academy... don't you want to have stability AND still get to do your work?" one too many times, I'm sold for several obvious reasons. Not only because I want to be comfortable (I believe everyone should be comfortable) but eventually I'm afraid that my work will suffer, become stale and there will be no space for improvement and evolution if I'm in the same place financially.

So, for the 2nd time, at the 11th hour (shame, shame), I return (hopefully for the last time) to the graduate school application process which I had started, worked very hard on in the spring but over the summer gave up because of the GRE. I want to do everything right because I never want to do this again. I have HUGE issues with the GRE that go beyond the quantitative portion... I'm talking ethical issues. No, I'm not just pissed because I have to do math that I haven't seen since 11th grade and it's bringing back memories of my high school standardized test failure(s) ... I'm pissed because the GRE is completely classist and tests nothing I will need in graduate school (remember, I've been there... I'm certain of this). I'm pissed that apparently my 3.8 undergrad GPA and 4.0 graduate GPA in addition to a stellar CV, writing sample and statement of purpose will apparently take backseat to a test in which you must have close to $2,000 to take a class in order to score well (the class teaches you how to take the test...). What if I don't have $2,000 to give ETS and its minions? Or better yet, what if I spent that $2000 on airfare and expenses to do fieldwork in the area I plan on working in? Yes, I understand it's a "hoop you must jump through" but that still doesn't stop me from questioning this and the very system that creates such a thing. It's a fact that the $150 fee you pay to take the GRE goes to maintain the ETS country club (the Kaplan book says so!)...

However, I will save the specific GRE rant until after Monday...

I love everything about the field of anthropology and (obviously) theatre too. I love the energy, atmosphere, fieldwork, participant observation... the whole shaabang. I love teaching and working with people. However, I have HUGE issues with the academy. I have no interest in becoming a pedant (GRE word... woot!) nor do I necessarily care about publishing for the academy or other "academics". I hate theory that takes you in circles with no answers. I do not want to study something for 10 years only to discover that it has absolutely no practical use in the real world and therefore I'm stuck in the ivory tower vacuum. I care about the people and I really believe this country needs an affordable and accessible education system. I believe it's the job of the academic AND academic institutions to work within their respective communities location wise to develop accessible forms of education.

I'm trying to take the feedback and criticism I received in graduate school and apply it to my new statement of purpose and writing sample. I'm incredibly passionate about what I'm studying. It's so important and needs to be examined both my scholars and artists. However, I need to bolster (GRE word... woot!) my argument up intellectually (because apparently the Palestinian refugee crisis will matter more if I can contextualize it using Marx and Foucault?)

Tonight I revisited the statement of purpose that got me into NYU's performance studies department (fully funded). I didn't overload it with quotes from "groundbreaking" theorists or name drop. Truthfully, I didn't even know how to do any of that. While it is not "theoretically dense", contains few intellectual quotes and citations, has no gratuitous jargon and does not outline my course of study for the next 5 years, just lists all my goals and the dreams I had of saving the world with my degree in performance studies and all the uniquely wonderful things that would come along with being in that program (and don't get me wrong, PS is uniquely wonderful in many ways) it embodies something that my new statement just doesn't have. It's completely and utterly honest, genuine, organic and rather optimistic. Can't fake that, right?

I'm looking over my new "statement of purpose" and laughing to myself at the pretentious language I use and my bullshit list of important "who's who in this field and that department" all the while thinking Is THIS what they really want? Is THIS what it means to be sophisticated in the eyes of the academy? Is THIS what I really want... to be like THIS?! Sure, I can do it and make it sound good but shouldn't this be about finding new solutions and exploring new ways of thinking about this rather than regurgitation? I want more. Theatre gives me this because there are virtually no boundaries or constructs. I'm not sold yet on the academy but looking forward to (hopefully) being pleasantly surprised.

I hate that I'll most probably have to conform. Often I try really hard to fit in with people and at places that I think I should be at for whatever reason and it never feels right. Sometimes I go to extremes to do things just so THEY will love or respect me, even if I think it's stupid or could care less. I'm always looking to be part of something greater than me. I know it's wrong but I do it anyway. I think everyone does this to an extent. Sometime in between the beginning of my Master's and now I have become so preoccupied with how I'm viewed by THEM (I'm using this as a general term... all of the "thems" in my life from the system to my closest friends) that I have lost Ashley. And while I know she's still in there somewhere, I have to admit that it's taking me longer than expected to find her again and that concerns me...



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