In this blog post (the first one of our fall 2021 semester!) theatre students Lillian, Joshua and Jonah talk about the experiences that shaped their first full week in Italy. Read on to hear all of their thoughts about their time here so far!
Lillian Kline, Gustavus Adolphus College
Semester Physical Theatre Program
Take the Walk!
As our first adventurous week at Accademia dell’Arte came to a close, I had a lot of mixed feelings. I’m grateful to be in such a beautiful and inspiring place surrounded by people who are as passionate about theater as I am, but it’s hard to not feel a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of classes and, of course, homesickness. I have never been to Europe before and no matter how much I anticipated and envisioned what it would be like, the reality of being here is completely new to me. This weekend all I wanted to do was lay in my bed and watch Gilmore Girls, one of my all time favorite comfort shows. However, the urge to go into Arezzo and experience the annual jousting festival won. I ended up catching parts of the parade through town, as well as fireworks in the evening! We ate pizza and gelato, and I slowly started to feel more comfortable in my surroundings. A big part of that is remembering my way around town! I won’t be a tour guide any time soon, but navigating from our dinner restaurant back to the Villa and recognizing businesses and statues was definitely a highlight of the week. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in Italy over the next few months!
Joshua Johnson, Coastal Carolina University
Semester Physical Theatre Program
When in Rome
I was fortunate enough to get into Italy a day early which meant that I flew into Rome and got to spend a day there before everyone else got here and we came to Arezzo. This meant that I was free to do whatever I wanted during this day. I was also lucky enough to make a friend in the airport who was very familiar with the city so she gave me a map and pointed out to me good places to go and where everything is in relation to each other. I then walked around on my own and saw many of the incredible sights that Rome has to offer. I tried a true authentic Italian pizza for lunch which was very delicious and then I just wandered with no real schedule to stick to and just went wherever I wanted which was very freeing. I knew that I wanted to see the Roman Colosseum even though it was on the other side of the city. I started making my way there and when I asked a local for help with the directions I realized I had been going the opposite direction. However, with that I got to see another part of the city and I was close to a road that took me almost directly to the colosseum. When I finally got there, I was very tired so I just sat on a wall in the shade and admired what I was seeing in front of me. I was overwhelmed by its history. I then went to meet my friend for dinner and we ate at a good restaurant she knew of and she pointed out a few dishes on the menu that are very authentic to the area. I tried one of them and it was very delicious. I really felt like I got the full experience of Rome.
Jonah Collins, Coastal Carolina University
One Year Physical Theatre Program
In this first week of classes I’ve been pushed harder than I remember ever being pushed in any theatre class before. It is intense. The one thing that everyone was saying in the first three days was “OH MY GOSH MY CALVES ARE DYING”. In preparation for Italy, I was most excited about the intensity of the work. I was so excited to throw myself into daily theatre work and to focus intensely on a few things. I had romanticized it. I continued to romanticize this hard work until about five days into classes, at which point reality decided to tell me “not only your calves, but your entire body is sore and aching and you still have another three days before you get to rest, and even on that day you don’t really get to rest because the whole school is taking a trip to Florence”. I am exhausted. But it’s a good kind of exhaustion. It’s an exhaustion born of improvement, of exploration, and of art.
What I want to really drive home in this blog is the mindset that is necessary to have an even remotely positive experience. The first step is mental and physical exhaustion. That’s the point I was at last night. I realized I had a choice: trust, or distrust. Before explaining, I want to emphasize that safety comes first, last and always, and if an individual feels unsafe with how tired they are or working in spite of their exhaustion, they need to take care of themselves always. But for me, not being in danger of physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental harm, I chose to trust my professors to know that this work is very demanding and to trust that they wouldn’t make things unsafe for us. As I think about it, I realized I could have chosen to not trust them. The difference there is not a physical one; again, being safe, I still would have gone to class and participated in the exercises. Making this choice to not trust, however, would have been a mental shift to one where I’m constantly internally challenging the professor’s knowledge, where I listen only through a filter of antagonism (which is distinct from skepticism and constantly challenging arbitrary tradition in theatre — that’s how we move forward. Antagonism has no point and is somewhat akin to “being pissy” which can be pointless and destructive). On a practical level, I’ve spent too much money to be here to not constantly choose to engage in the work and to dive into the things that I don’t like and understand why I don’t like them and also to understand why I struggle with them. On a more philosophical level, it’s important for an artist to engage with all aspects of art, especially the ones that they don’t like (provided, of course, this is available to them. In the same vein, a single glass of wine can be healthy for some people but a bottle a night can not.) Only when we break an idea down to those essentials that we can understand can we truly have an informed opinion about it, though frustration with not being able to understand a concept is entirely valid. To be remade, though, you have to first break down (safely). So here’s to exhaustion and the breaking down of everything in our way!