There’s a certain sound that keystrokes make. It’s a sound I hear a lot these days, but usually the sound’s only result is long papers about Antigone or Oedipus or Henry VIII. Not that those results are unsatisfactory – not in the least. In fact, my brain feels as if it’s expanding with every day, acquiring more material, whether useful or not, and using it to fill in the gray corners that have remained as empty and barren as understocked warehouses in thriving cities on the verge of poverty.
However, it’s been a great long while since I’ve associated the clack-clacking of fingers on keyboard with something creative. I feel like while one part of my brain is being used more and more and is stretching its limbs and crying out for joy, another part of it is slowly shrinking into the corner, scared, intimidated. The fear isn’t only from this new intellectual beast growing up near it – it’s also from the tremendous amount of talent that my eyes see every day, in the minds and eyes of other people. The school and environment I’m in is full of people who are writers at heart – many are genuine and love writing, although a fair few are also merely intellectual snobs who feel that knowledge is power that must be shown off, not just consumed. But those aren’t the intimidating ones – those are the ones I just choose not to associate with.
Still, the talent that is rampant on this campus is astounding and my creative brain seems to shrivel up with terror at the thought of being inadequate. But I miss it. I miss that part of me. I miss writing stories and poems that don’t rhyme. I miss writing character studies and wracking my imagination for new things to write about, new styles to try out, new places to describe.
I’m coming back. In a big way. I have to, if only to preserve my sanity and give myself something completely outside of my day-to-day struggle with books and papers and people to focus on. I hope I manage to stick by this promise – I’m coming back and I want to write something, even just a paragraph, each and every day. I know that I can’t expect anyone to read my words when I don’t have sufficient time to read theirs as well, but I’m going to strive to meet that goal too. When I was at home, I managed to read so many posts a day and I enjoyed it. I want to manage to read at least once or twice a week the full range of your – all my wonderfully supportive friends’ – blogs and catch up with you as well. I hope I can keep my promises this time. In the names of Dionysus, Henry VIII and Alan Turing I’ll try.
The assignment was simple, but we were all much too nervous to appreciate that fact. The classroom was a buzz of talk throughout the hour and a half lesson as we discussed one theory after another, dissecting one paragraph after the next. The discussion was real and intense, ideas tossed back and forth, shouts of “I agree” and “No, I don’t think so” flying around the room as tongues loosened as we all bathed in the liquor that is shared knowledge and differed opinions.
It was an hour and a half that was free of the normal constraints of time and space. The very walls seemed to change dimensions as the air heated or cooled with the passion of the students, and the time zipped past in a fashion most unlike the normal “classroom time.” Shared craving of healthy discussion and conversation made us all comrades, part of an entity – until our opinions differed and we changed sides in an instant, becoming enemies in a war where the sides respect each other but are each completely adamant about triumphing.
We were working with our essays in front of us, and when my turn came to discuss my passages, I felt like the very air I was breathing was heady – I don’t do that normally, I don’t charge into an opinionated speech based on examples and analysis of a situation – but I did it then, my mind being freed from bonds of shyness or intimidation.
At the end of the lesson after I handed my paper to the professor, I lingered, as I do, to write down the assignments for next lesson in my weekly-planner and to pack up my bag just right. As I got up to leave, I found myself the last one in the room besides my professor, who casually turned to me as he packed up his own bag and said to me “That was very good.” I didn’t understand, so I said “What?” and he replied “That was a very good presentation.”
I stammered some sort of thanks and rushed out of the room. My first week of classes officially ended, and I did something right. Good start.
In acting classes, there are always those extremely odd sessions where the teacher tells everyone to start speaking gibberish. I have to say that apart from being one of the sillier exercises a person can endure, it is also extremely interesting. I know that it might sound strange to say that a bunch of people standing around and making noises that are reminiscent of two-year olds’ babble is interesting, but it is.
Let me try to explain my point. People communicate by tone of voice and facial expression as well as by speech. For instance, a person can say the word “sure” and mean a few different things. They might mean “sure, yeah, right” in a sarcastic way, they might mean “sure” as in “okay,” or they might mean “sure” as in “oh, alright…” The only way we can distinguish between the possibilities is by the tone of voice and the expression used, as well as the body language the person uses while he or she is speaking.
The exercise of speaking gibberish is fascinating, because people can actually enact whole scens of love, friendship, anger or betrayal by not using any real words at all, but rather by using body language, facial expressions and tone of voice to make their meaning come across. It’s a terriffic exercise, and even though it’s hard to let yourself go and make pointless sounds for an hour, there’s a catharsis in being able to throw away all dignity whatsoever in such a performance.
For those who know me personally, you know I listen to lots of rock music [from old rock, to new, more pop-like bands], cabaret-punk, and undefined indie music like Tori Amos and the like. Another part of my broad musical taste is my love, my deepest and most obsessive love, of musicals. I have a friend who shares my love for them – or perhaps, thinking back, she’s the one who actually got me into them. Apart from the fact that I love the music, the stories and the dancing, I am always simply in awe of musicals.
For one, musical casts are made up of actors who are dancers and singers. They roll three separate talents into their person. There can’t be a mediocre one in the bunch, or it simply won’t work. Singing while dancing, they whirl around the stage – and when they stop singing and dancing long enough to speak, they’re as convincing as any other stage actor.
Next, we have the writers and creators of musicals. They compose, they write lyrics, they make up a story that manages to center around it all and somehow fit dancing in without looking ridiculous. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that it takes years to write a good musical.
Lastly, there’s the performance as a whole. Watching a musical on stage is simply a staggering experience. The grandness of it all, the lighting, the costumes, the sheer talent of the actors/dancers/singers! The notes they can hit and the emotion they manage to put in their voices and movements – it is magic, pure magic.
As some of you may know, I’m flying to the United States in a week. I’m extremely eager for this trip, which, of course, makes the time move all the slower. I’ve been obsessing, planning and re-planning, mentally packing and making lists for days now – and with all that came the comparisons between here and NOT here. In musing about the differences between a country fraught with chaos, namely Israel, and a country fraught with a different sort of chaos, namely the US, I stumbled upon a very small but fundamental difference between the places. It’s something I almost never remember until I’m actually in the US.
When most of you walk into a grocery store, a theater, a mall, a cafe or any other public place – you just walk in. You open the door, and walk in. Here, it is not so. Here, there will be a guard. There is always a guard. There will forever be a guard. No matter what public place you enter here, you will have to surrender your bag, purse or back-pack to a guard’s cursory glance, their hands feeling inside it or weighing it to see how heavy it is. In places like the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, you’ll have to go so far as to pass your things through a metal detector. At the entrance to most malls, you yourself have to go through a metal-detector.
After being used to handing over your belongings everywhere you go, I’m always struck by how odd it feels in the US, or anywhere else for that matter, where you don’t have to do that. You can just… walk in. Incredible.
I cannot truthfully say that I understand why the stage calls to me. Shy and timid for most of my girlhood, I nevertheless jumped at the opportunity to join a drama class of young girls and boys such as myself. I played my little heart out in costumes and masks, had fun inventing crazy and strange situations to place our heroic characters in, and had a merry time all around.
The first time I got to read lines though, was something I will always remember. It felt a little naughty, a little wrong, like reading a letter over someone’s shoulder. I knew, of course, that the playwright had put the words down on paper specifically so others would get to read and enact them, but still, I felt like I was prying.
It didn’t matter though. I loved it even though, or perhaps because, it felt a little wrong. I loved trying on someone else’s face, a face that wasn’t even partly mine, not like the characters I’d invented on my own. Trying to find reason and depth in the character’s words and actions – it thrilled me.
This was going to be my short answer for the common application. Since I wrote this, I have written two others that are shorter and that my mother thinks I should use. I decided to see what the verdict on this one was though, just out of curiosity. Hopefully, this sounds collegiate and well written, despite being short.