I wish I had been a better student.
I attended Eisenhower College for my bachelor’s degree. Don’t bother looking for it. It no longer exists. Its syllabus was rather unique. Every student took the same core curriculum. From freshman year through senior year, we studied the world, touring cultures and civilizations one at a time on a chronological path from ancient societies to modern. The curriculum was coordinated so we would study the history, philosophy, music, literature and more of each civilization all at the same time.
I’m afraid I only retained a smattering of it. (Too many distractions, I'm sure.) It leaves me feeling undereducated when we discuss some of the art forms we consider for Popejoy.
My underachievement as an underclassman does have one advantage: I think I understand some of what younger arts patrons might feel when they encounter an art form even slightly out of their realm. And, because so many attended school when the arts were cut from their curriculum, there are far too many art forms that fall into the category of unfamiliar.
One presenter at last year's National Arts Marketing Project conference mentioned that many younger patrons appreciate educational sessions prior to a show so they could learn more about the art form before watching it. Not a bad idea generally, but it can be daunting for local companies. When you consider the limited resources available to them just to produce the shows, adding an educational component can be daunting.
Certainly it’s understandable to think that, for example, the Vortex Theatre might consider a session before each of their Shakespearean productions in their Will Power series every summer. But that means extra personnel, extra promotion for that component and, likely, extra money.
Some art forms we older patrons take for granted might require some introduction to the young: jazz comes to mind, or ballet. There are structures in both that a neophyte might benefit from knowing to better enjoy a performance of either. For example, while swing may be pervasive enough in our society to skip the lecture, bebop might take an initiation.
I found myself a bit befogged recently while watching video of the Nyityagram Dance Ensemble. We have them on the season next year, but I am largely unfamiliar with Indian dance forms. (If only those classes hadn’t been so early, and other mumbled excuses.)
I also found myself wondering how many patrons generally would appreciate more educational sessions before shows. Sometimes a session on more familiar art forms can add to one’s appreciation. For example, would an exploration of visual and aural themes found in The Lion King make it more enjoyable for you to watch? Would a talk on differentiating the historical and fictional elements of 1776, prior to attending Landmark Musical’s production, help keep you better attuned?
I know I am a better student now than I was at 19 (maybe you are, too) so sometimes I explore shows on my own. (Google is a great research tool. So is Wikipedia for basic information.)
I’d appreciate hearing back from those of you who attend the arts. Comment below on what sessions might be useful to you, whether at Popejoy or anywhere else in town. I’ll try to make sure that any arts group mentioned sees your suggestions.
Terry S. Davis
Photo: Nrityagram Dance Ensemble