Thursday, September 20, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: November 1973

Two letters coming near the end of the first quarter of teaching. Thinking of every thing she could to help me to hang on.

Your teaching is terrific. But get braced for disappointments in Greek Drama. Quite evidently your students are attempting to do what they are not prepared to do. So: don't push too far and too hard. Hard as it is: be content with good beginnings. Better start helping them with what they are going to do for their finals. They will need help. Praise them for what they do well -- the bits of understanding, while you point out directions for future work. -- Remember how long it took you to put into action what you were learning.

The group here is progressing, working together at last. The program we are preparing for AAUW might actually be good. I was much encouraged yesterday. R's friend TB is an asset. Talented I believe. Willing to learn. And he knows the discipline of regular, hard work. There is more method in their work between sessions since he came. [....]

Re: The Greeks -- isn't Nixon's daughter an Ismene?

Show your students the "joy" when a piece of drama crystallizes. Is there anything to equal it? Suddenly you are Hamlet in a rotten world -- not playing at it -- suddenly you are. All the pain, frustration disappears, doesn't exist. -- There is nothing equal to it unless it is Beethoven as he writes the last note of the 5th Symphony. There isn't much you can say about it; you can't teach it -- Just have a vision of it and steer a straight path to that vision. Has no one written a biography or autobiography that tells the hell an actor lives through in learning his craft. Is it only the glamor that goes into print? By the way you must read the Chekhov letters just published. Letters of Anton Chekhov, translated by Michael Heim with Simon Karlinsky. See that the library orders it. The humanity of that man! Humanity in a world of inhumanity, and always gentle yet never deviating from his path of humanity. I love him more than ever. Many of the letters I had read, but chiefly the ones of Chekhov the dramatist. These are the letters of the man.

With regard to the Christmas card, I am all anticipation. just remember that most of them go to people like you --



I know well those collapsing moments you speak of. I can't say much but:
(1) Hang on. Have paper and pen at hand always to write to me. This year wil be the bad year so have a safe guard handy.
(2) Can't you get a project of your own started? A group of students who would like to meet to dramatize a Chekhov short story, for instance? A few people who aren't active in UT? Two or three people in Greek Drama who would like extra help?
Do you have a bulletin board? You should have. Where is your office? Can you put up a private bulletin board. I found mine indispensable. The first thing that belongs on yours is the Brustein article in the NY Times some weeks ago on Broadway and young actors. I am sorry I can't remember the title and date and my students have walked off with my copy. Look it up, get a copy, start your bulletin board. Keep adding significant comments (I hope you used the recent student uprising in Greece in Antigone sessions!)  Write observations of classwork, general comments, material you have not time to cover in class. Outside reading and suggestions: Lillian Hellman's "Pentimento". Have you read it? My bulletin board was outside of my room (now Schneideman's) -- an out of the way spot, yet people came up daily to read it. Find some place for it! That's one way of meeting those frightening moments.

"Theatre doesn't have time to produce plays the way you project it". Yet at Eagles Mere summer schedule, a new play every week! And I did it at NU! I don't know how you can use that with students but see that you hang on to it yourself!

Lucy and I will be in Detroit for Christmas. I don't know when we will leave -- about the 20th or 19th, I should think. So plan your visit accordingly. It will be good to see you!


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