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Coursera CEW. Week 5 - Last one

[Unit 5. Module 1]Unit 5. Module 1 Pick one of the four topics listed in the Unit 5 writing assignment and choose the topic that most appeals to you for your final, peer reviewed paragraph. Once you’ve made your choice, start with the first step of the writing process, inventing, and try a few of the methods to develop your ideas. If you find that the topic does not seem to be working, try developing another topic. Once you’ve developed some good ideas for your paragraph, move to the second step, organizing, and construct an outline that you can use for drafting your paragraph.

Topic #2 Identify and describe a favorite activity or interest and provide at least four reasons why this activity or interest holds your attention and/or is enjoyable to you.

Choosing a topic is easy, if only because the remaining three are uninteresting. It's writing something coherent on it that is always a problem, prescribed writing steps or no.


Live Theater and I

In the last five years, I have become a fan of this mode of entertainment, having seen some dozen plays in three different countries. This might not seem an impressive number, but for me, it is the quality of the experience that counts most, and not the number of times I go to the theatre. A theatrical experience most often unfolds the following way.

First, choosing a play. I was given to understand that my way of doing so, by discovering that an actor I like is about to go on stage and following them to the show, is somewhat unusual, seeing as the title of the play, its director, and the country itself where the production is performed do not matter to me. Yet this choice is where the adventure begins: on magazine pages, in internet news, or most often, in fandom hearsay, with the necessity to keep my ears open and not let interesting threads of conversation pass by unnoticed. Indeed, the very first play I went to see, John Gabriel Borkman, was a show in New York that I learned about by asking a fellow fan of its lead actor Alan Rickman to clarify an off-hand tweet of hers about the difficulty of purchasing tickets. Had I not asked that question, I would not have had enough time to save money for the transatlantic trip seeing the play had required.

Second, the preparation stage. The maddening, excruciating, frustrating, exacting, time-consuming and time-management requiring preparation stage. During this stage, learning the performance schedule, the opening date of the tickets sale, the auditorium layout, and the location of the theater are by far the easiest steps, and the only ones required if the play is performed in my country. If the play is a foreign one, it becomes necessary to expend time, money and nervous energy on taking time off work, procuring a visa (the worst part of the process that is never certain no matter how often you travel), booking flights and hotels, and researching travel details. This stage is not exactly pleasurable, but it is a quest the rewards of which make it well worth the effort.

Third, seeing the play. Seeing it from the orchestra, as close to the stage as possible, for this what you come for, this is what the adventure is all about. Ah, orchestra, my love. A place where every minute shift of expression on the actors' faces is clear and where the performers themselves may be an arm's length away from the audience depending on the the configuration of the auditorium, thus exposing you to the full strength of their presence. As important as this presence also is the interaction between the actors and the auditorium, unique to every performance of every play. It starts with somewhat wary expectant silence and develops into something special in the course of the show. If the play is good, the something special is an exhilarating unity between the actors and the audience, ending in rounds of applause after the curtain. John Hurt, one of the actors to perform Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, a one-act one-character closed-room play, said in an interview that while he was not supposed to interact with the audience in any way, the play being about a day of life of a solitary old man, he judged the viewers' involvement in the action by the quality of their tense silence. I was there the day the silence was near absolute and lasted past the final black out when we, the audience, did not even realize the performance was over. It was exciting.

And this brings up the final point, the expected and unexpected extras. On the day I have just described, the audience's reaction made the actor shrug his shoulders and open his hands wide to signify the end of the play, and there followed a delicious moment of him slipping out of character and becoming himself in front of our very eyes. Meeting with other fans, going to stage door, listening to the (often unexpectedly announced) after-show interviews, stealing unexpected moments of genuine emotion off the actors' faces are all part of such extras, like that time I saw the genuine smile on Alan Rickman's face after a performance that was especially well received, and not the studied one he often puts on for the fans, or John Hurt's slightly bashful "You did not have to" in answer to an enthusiastic round of applause opening his interview after the Last Tape. And of course, there are also the actors' reactions to irregular situations during the show: a guard in Twelfth Night using his sword to chase a pigeon off the open-air stage of the Globe theater, or Lindsay Duncan and Fiona Shaw having to start at the high point in their characters' row without the build-up immediately upon re-entering the scene after the show was stopped for a short file due to a medical emergency in the audience.

I can not say which of the parts I like most, they are all integral to a happy memory that seeing each wanted play eventually becomes.


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