Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On the pleasures of teaching an old favorite

Next fall, I'll be teaching a course on Argentine theater in Rosario, Argentina. This winter, I'm teaching Argentine theater at the U. of Oregon. Some of the plays we're studying are plays I've worked on for a long time. Others I've begun studying more recently, as part of my ongoing work on theater and immigration. Still others are plays I've been lucky enough to see performed during one of the international theater festivals I've been able to attend, or on one of those too-infrequent research trips.

Today we discussed Osvaldo Dragún's Historias para ser contadas (we'll continue on Thursday). Historias was one of the first Latin American plays I read, if not in the first theater class I took, at Michigan State with Priscilla Meléndez, definitely in John Kronik's class during my first semester at Cornell. Historias was one of the plays I wrote about in my first published article. I've been thinking about it for a long time. But I still love to go back to the play. (It's been translated by Joe and Graciela P. Rosenberg, under the title Stories for the Theatre, a translation I have not yet read--that's the sound of me clicking the inter-library loan request send button.)

My view of the play hasn't shifted radically over the years. I relish its deceptively simple structure, it's looping self-reference, it's flexibility and openness to reinterpretation and reinvention, as in Rosa Luisa Márquez's staging in Puerto Rico [watch it here, thanks to the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video library: http://hidvl.nyu.edu/video/000540522.html]. But what has me writing about the play tonight is the pleasurable repetition of talking about a text--novel, play, poem, doesn't matter--that has been important to one with a new group of people. It's a privilege to do so again and again over many years. Some of my students seemed more taken with the play than others; some waved their hands in the air, ready to be called on, while others clearly hoped I'd look the other way. That's fine. It's a cliché of teaching that each group of students is different, that the comments people offer in class discussion are unpredictable, that each new class may bring to our attention things we have previously failed to see.

But cliché or not, it's still fun. Fun in the reading, and fun in the rereading. It was a beautiful, sunny, cold day today, perfect weather for revisiting an old favorite: optimistic weather, clear weather, good weather for thinking and conversation.

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