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Linfield Magazine #27

Inside Portland’s Here’s an experiment: take English, theatre, nursing, accounting and communications majors who hail from Oregon, Washington, Illinois and Japan. Meet at Linfield’s Portland Campus for the month of January to study contemporary drama. Read the works of 11 modern playwrights, from Henrik Ibsen to Yasmina Reza. See six productions at theaters across Portland. Talk with professional actors, directors, designers, stage managers, educators, marketers and drama critics. Write a review of a new play every week. Discuss. M2 0 - l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e Summer 2013 y motivation for the drama course was simple. Portland has a vibrant theatre scene. Linfield has a wonderful campus in the heart of Portland. Why not put the two together? I teach lots of plays in my literature classes (Shakespeare’s especially), and I’d seen how much more deeply students could engage with drama when they experienced a live performance – working on a production in Linfield’s terrific theatre program or catching a show at a playhouse nearby. A January Term course, “Contemporary Drama,” offered a chance to explore theatre outside McMinnville without the toll of a latenight commute back home. So off to Portland we went. And what a welcome we received. The kind staff on the Portland Campus set us up with a well-equipped classroom, parking spots and rooms in the dorms. Some students chose to live with their families in the Portland area or crash with a friend in town; others stayed in the northwest Portland Campus housing and strolled to our morning discussions in their pajamas. The streetcar (free with a Linfield ID) whisked us downtown after our first meeting to sample Portland’s famed streetcart fare. (Ethiopian curry – yum!) And for a $120 course fee (the price of a single ticket on Broadway), the dean’s office helped us score tickets for every student to six hot new shows. The plays on our list all tackled social issues – from military heroism and teenage alienation to education reform and the culture of cooking. So our class discussions focused on theatre as a medium that reflects and transforms a community’s values. In our morning sessions on the Portland Campus, students debated the ethical ambiguities of Doubt, an evocative parable of the fight between teachers, priests and parents for the soul of a lonely boy. They researched the background of Angels in America, a witty, devastating exploration of personal identity and collective responsibility in the wake of the AIDS crisis. They acted out scenes from The Laramie Project, which powerfully documents a small town’s response to a horrific murder. Then, after a lunch and afternoon break, they’d hop on the streetcar or pile into a carpool and head to the evening’s show. I had high hopes for the quality of the productions we saw, but I hadn’t expected how much we’d get to experience beyond the performances themselves. Cast after cast stayed to talk with us after the final curtain. Downtown at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, we discussed the effect of new education standards with the cast of A Noble Failure, a world premiere about teachers struggling to connect with students as administrators demanded more accountability. Crammed into the tiny Daniel Pollack-Pelzner Daniel Pollack-Pelzner is assistant professor of English at Linfield. In addition to teaching, he leads alumni groups to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is the scholar-in-residence for the Portland Shakespeare Project. He helped to edit the new Norton Shakespeare and is writing a book about Shakespeare adaptations. He will offer Contemporary Drama on the Portland Campus again in January 2014.


Linfield Magazine #27
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