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Why Liberal Arts?

Posted by Sydney Berk '13

January 18, 2013

Category: Student Blogs


berk.jpgCurrently in my final semester of college, 4 years of studying, listening, reading and slaving over papers will culminate in a project that is near and dear to my heart. I will be directing my first full length show, References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot by Jose Rivera.

For the past 6 months, I have had the complex task of researching and prepping for this project. This script has taken me in every direction. I have researched Magical Realism, Puerto Rican Culture, Psychology, The Persian Gulf War, Art History, Folklore, The Mojave Dessert... I could go on and on.

Then, in my first week of rehearsals I had a realization about the education I have received at Catawba. In one rehearsal alone, I described post traumatic stress disorder (which I learned about in my Abnormal Psychology Class), I talked about the common misconceptions regarding the religion of Islam (which I learned about in my Near Eastern Religions Course), I discussed Jungian Archetypes (which I learned in my Psychology of Personality     Class) and I discussed how to approach and analyze this poetic dialogue (with knowledge gained from my Creative Writing Poetry Class). Suddenly I had flashbacks to my First Year Seminar class where we had to write an essay entitled, "Why Liberal Arts?"

I laughed, realizing I finally get it. In reality that essay was written a little prematurely. In hindsight, I can see that the knowledge gained in my general education classes consistently inform my artistic choices. Freshman year, I was just agitated that I had to take math.

  I’ll be honest, when choosing a college I didn’t have any interest in coming to a Liberal Arts School. I wanted to study theatre at a conservatory. I wanted to Dance, Sing, Act, and forget the history classes. I wonder now how you can possibly Act, Direct, or Design without getting a full and varied education. Unless you are only going to play characters from your own time period, how can you be an actress without studying history? How can a director analyze characters without psychology? How can an actor play a character of a different faith without having knowledge of other religions? We do not do theatre in a void of time or space. We create theatre that lives and breathes and must be full of knowledge and facts. You can’t get those things from an acting textbook and you certainly can’t be believable by simply pretending you understand the context of the piece you are in. I know now that I made the right decision in coming to a Liberal Arts school. Above gaining knowledge I have gained an appreciation   for the interdisciplinary nature of Theatre. I am aware now of how big our world is and just how little I know, but I also have tools to further my knowledge and understanding to enhance my art.

And now for the Shameless Plug... References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot by Jose Rivera runs February 6th-9th at 7:30pm in the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre.                
*For Mature Audiences Only*