Wednesday, June 29, 2011

American Colleges v English Universities Part II of II

USA: Many colleges have Greek life consisting of fraternities and sororities.
England: Greek life is nonexistent but there is cross over between male fraternities and sport societies.
Verdict: Watch Animal House and decide for yourself.

USA: Students pay for living expenses through family savings and employment.
England: Most students pay for living expenses through maintenance loans that begin being paid back when their annual income reaches £15,000
Verdict: English students leave university with more living expenses debt.

USA: Students pay for tuition and fees with a combination of family savings, grants, loans, employment, financial aid, and scholarships.
England: Students pay for university the same way as Americans except loans are more common and financial aid and scholarships are very rare.
Verdict: US wins because financial aid and scholarships are amazing.

USA: Most students live on campus in dorms, suites, apartments, or Greek houses.
England: University accommodation consists of flats, and students can only live in university accommodation for their first year. 2nd and 3rd year students live in off campus houses or flats.
Verdict: England wins, because students always have a kitchen. Also, university flats provide individual rooms unlike dorms, and living in a house or flat during 2nd and 3rd year beats living in a dorm or a suite to a pulp.

USA: Optional summer classes are offered and are usually taken in order to get ahead in one’s degree or because four years is not long enough to fit in all required classes.
England: Following a month-long spring break, which students are supposed to dedicate to studying for exams and to writing essays, university requires students to attend a summer term dedicated to turning in all the essays to taking all the exams prepared during the month-long spring break.
Verdict: US wins by shoving all essays and exams into the semester, effectively clumping all the stress together and getting the term over with.

USA: Law and medicine degrees are not offered at the undergraduate level.
England: Law and medicine degrees are offered at the undergraduate level.
Verdict: England wins, because in the US by the time you graduate from medical or law school, you are balding and being threatened by debtors’ prisons.

USA: Students are assessed multiple times throughout the semester through homework, quizzes, tests, essays, and exams.
England: Students are assessed 1-4 times (usually just 2 times) throughout the term with the majority of the final mark deriving from a final exam or essay.
Verdict: England wins with a lighter workload, but you are screwed if you mess up that final exam or essay. US wins with keeping students on their game and by spreading the weight of the final mark over many assignments.

USA: Many colleges require freshmen to take a writing class in order to learn how to properly write varies types of essays at the undergraduate level.
England: No writing class requirement.
Verdict: Depends if you like to write or wish you had learned.

USA: Students choose a major, which is the degree that they choose to pursue. A minor is equivalent to half of a major. Students can pursue multiple majors and minors. Pursuing two majors is called double majoring, and the student must take all the classes for both majors.
England: Students choose a single-honor, which is the degree that they choose to pursue. Minors do not exist. If a student wants to pursue two subjects, then he/she can pursue a joint-honor. The joint-honor student takes the same number of classes as the single-honor student with half of those classes deriving from one subject and the other half deriving from another subject. Therefore, the English joint-honor is equivalent to two American minors but is the English option of the American double major.
Verdict: England wins on lighter workload. US wins on freedom of choice.

USA: Guided learning philosophy
England: Independent learning philosophy
Verdict: US wins because independent learning is like communism, sounds good but doesn’t work. Given more free time, students are going to party, not research.

USA: Requires that all students take general education (gen ed) classes, which are classes required from every discipline that provide students with a broad knowledge base. These gen eds are taken in addition to a student’s major(s) and minor(s) classes.
England: Students are required and allowed to take only one class outside their degree during their 1st or 2nd year. This class is called a MOMD [Module Outside Main Discipline].
Verdict: England wins on focus. US wins on well roundedness.

USA: Undergraduates are marked on a 0-100 scale with 90-100 being a 4.0 (an English 1st) and 69 and below being failing.
England: Undergraduates marked on a 0-85 scale with 70 being a 1st (an American 4.0) and 40 and below being failing.
Verdict: Just different.

America: Wear graduation gowns and throw caps into the air.
England: Wear graduation gowns and throw caps into the air.
Verdict: We both wear ridiculous outfits on graduation day. I’ve never figured out if throwing the hats is an act of celebration (Hooray! I earned this degree and survived!) or panic (Oh, cruel real world! Don’t take me away! What am I supposed to do with my life?!)

American Colleges v English Universities Part I of II

Hello! I am Anna Rose MacArthur, a rising senior Theatre and English double-major at BSC. For both semesters of my junior year, I studied theatre abroad at the University of Birmingham, England, and I have been asked to blog about some of my experiences here. Before I launch into my tale, it will help if you understand some of the differences between the American college and the English university system. 

American Colleges v English Universities Part I of II

USA: Undergraduate institutions are called colleges. Postgraduate institutions are called universities.
England: Undergraduate and postgraduate institutions are called universities. College is where students take their A-levels.
Verdict: It is what it is.

USA: Contains over 4,000 higher education institutions
England: Contains 131 higher education institutions
Verdict: With England being 74 times smaller than the US and having ¼ the population of the US, England wins with a larger ratio of institutions to size and population.

USA: Prospective students can apply to as many colleges as they desire and as they can afford. Each college charges a different application fee.
England: Prospective students can apply to a maximum of five universities. No application fees.
Verdict: England wins on cost. US wins on freedom of choice.

USA: College usually lasts 4 years, but can range from 3 to 5 years with students on average taking 32-40 classes during that time.
England: University strictly lasts 3 years with students taking 15-18 classes during that time.
Verdict: England wins on less time and less work. US wins on demanding more from students.

USA: 1st years called freshmen. 2nd years called sophomores. 3rd years called juniors. 4th years called seniors. 5th years called super-seniors.
England: 1st years called 1st years or freshers. 2nd years called 2nd years. 3rd years called 3rd years.
Verdict: USA wins on creativity. England wins on clarity.

USA: Classes meet 2 to 3 times a week.
England: Classes mostly meet 1 time a week with a few classes meeting 2 times a week.
Verdict: England wins if you don’t like going to class. US wins on face time.

USA: Every class taken throughout college is weighted equally in the final mark aka GPA.
England: First year does not count towards the final mark, but students must pass with 40% in order to move onto second year. Second year counts 25% towards the final mark. 3rd years counts 75% towards the final mark.
Verdict: It is as though England know that students are going to behave like debaucherous lunatics during first year and accommodate them accordingly.

USA: Apart from specific upper level classes, students from all years take the same classes.
England: First years only take classes with first years; and second years only with second years; and third years only with third years.
Verdict: England wins on all students being on the same academic level. US wins on combining students from different backgrounds, allowing for more knowledge and intellectual diversity in the classroom.

USA: Each college decides their costs of tuition and fees, which include little government subsidy. College costs between $25,000 to $50,000 per year.
England: Government subsidizes and caps university costs, and almost all universities charge up to the permitted cap. University costs £3,000 per year currently, and due to government budget cuts, university costs will rise to £9,000 per year beginning September 2012.
Verdict: Despite budget cuts, attending an English university is significantly cheaper than attending a US college.

USA: Students can transfer colleges with most of their credits transferring as well. Also, students can easily switch degrees if done during the first two years.
England: Students can transfer universities after year 1 and enter year 2 at a different university. If they change their degree, then have to start as a first year again, because their degree courses are so focused.
Verdict: Just different.

Gap year— the year between finishing high school and beginning college (or the year between finishing A-levels and beginning university for the English) in which students take a hiatus from school to travel, work, and/or volunteer.
USA: Gap years are rare and even looked down upon.
England: Gap years are a common and legitimate option.
Verdict: England wins. US fails and needs to embrace this concept.

Quad at University of Birmingham, UK Where I Studied Abroad

Quad at BSC

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Intern :)

Summer vacation? Hah. I'd rather spend my summer working at Red Mountain Theatre Company.

As summer was approaching, I knew I wanted a change of scenery and a break from the "school" setting; yet I still wanted to be completely immersed in theatre.... as per usual. So I signed myself up for interning at Red Mountain Theatre Company, a local professional, non-profit theatre in Birmingham. I had worked with RMTC as a kids several times, and thought why not! I figured I would be doing typical intern duties (i.e. coffee runs, cleaning jobs no one wants to do, and running errands everywhere) but boy was I in for a surprise. While I am still making the coffee runs, and cleaning grimy closets no one has touched in years, I am also getting to experience first-hand how a professional company runs, operates, and produces it's shows.

I feel like I have already learned so much. Just to touch everything here are some of the things I've gotten to take part in.... season auditions, ticket sales, marketing and advertising, event planning, development and non-profits, workshop performances, and rehearsals.... just to name a few. A lot of my work has also been focused on their summer workshops (summer camps provided for youth which include instructors from all over the U.S. for training in dance, theatre, music... etc.) I have also gotten to witness the production build, concepts, and ideas for their upcoming production of HAIRSPRAY. Watching how production meetings are held is so interesting because it really shows how all the different areas come together to produce this show.

The season auditions and workshop performances have probably been the highlight of my time at RMTC. It is so interesting to learn all of the steps to run an audition and how much has to be done before they even take place. Every single detail and step is important, and now more than ever I see how important it is that everyone does their part in order for a smooth event.

This experience is letting me see a completely different side of the theatre than I have seen before; yet I relate everything I have done at BSC to what I see being done at RMTC. Cheesy as it sounds... it really makes me appreciate and understand why everything I'm learning at BSC is so important.

So in the midst of endless ticket sales, the forever broken copier, and scripts, scripts, and more scripts I am going to keep you updated about my time at RMTC and all that I am getting to learn.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Production Photos: Crew Edition

Lisa Bamberg (Co-Costume Designer) artfully ironing a shirt!

Mary Claire Owen working on one of the skirts for costumes!

John McGinnis building a platform.

Gia Nappo working on a platform while Wright Gatewood and Suzanne Reese supervise!

Shea Glenn working on set.

Lindsey Chambers helping out the set designer, Sufia Butt.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"The Miracle Worker" Rehearsal

Hello everyone! Here are a couple picture from "The Miracle Worker" rehearsals! I have lots of videos from rehearsals, but am experiencing some technical difficulties when it comes to actually uploading them! Stay tuned and hopefully I'll get them on the blog soon!

Jordan Crenshaw (Annie Sullivan) and Christie Connolly (Helen Keller) warming up at fight call.

Michael Flowers assisting Jordan and Christie with the fight choreography!

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
Helen Keller

Enjoy, Emma

Friday, January 14, 2011

Freshman Theatre Experience

It has been so exciting being a part of the Birmingham-Southern Theatre family my freshman year of college. I had an incredible time in my Beginning Acting class which fulfilled my longing for a more structured approach to learning about acting craft than I received in a high school setting. My classmates were all so dedicated and talented. It was a joy to watch my friends perform their scenes and to offer comments about discoveries and improvements as the work progressed. I had the privelege of working with Dallas Taylor on a scene written by my acting profesor Alan Litsey called "Al Boasberg Gets His Due." Dallas and I created an intricate backstory to support the challenging dialogue. A scene that could simply be interpreted as a blind date between two neurotic people turned into a complicated family history meeting between a brother and sister who were separated at a young age by divorce and abuse. I grew so much as an actress by working on this scene. One of my favorite discoveries was and continues to be the freedom and flexibility that is part of the rehearsal process. I have worked on theatre for years but have never experienced such a creative exploration and sense of freedom with blocking and character behavior.

In addition to being part of an amazing acting class, I was cast in the first production of the season, Light Up the Sky. I remember the audition night clearly. I was extremely nervous as I walked into the lobby and saw the multitude of actors warming up and reviewing material. I had worked very dilligently on my audition scene with Robbie Hindsman, so we walked onto the stage confidently, hoping to have a good time presenting the scene. I was so surprised that I left the stage feeling great about my audition! I remember thinking that I was proud of myself for memorizing the lines and having fun regardless of the outcome. I was ecstatic when Robbie called me that week and said I needed to look at the cast list. I could tell from his voice that he was excited. I had received the role of Miss Lowell in Light Up the Sky and Robbie had been cast in Cabaret! We were so thrilled to be part of the BSC season!

Several weeks later there were auditions for The Miracle Worker, the Interim production. I was so excited about the show because it is such a huge part of my life. I live in Florence, Alabama, right accross the bridge from Helen Keller's birthplace in Tuscumbia, AL. Every summer, the birthplace, commonly called Ivy Green, produces the show on the outdoor set behind the Keller home. I grew up attending the show and being fascinated with Helen's story. One of my first acting experiences was playing a blind child in the production of the outdoor drama. In 2001, I was cast as Helen Keller and it continues to be one of my favorite roles. I returned to Ivy Green in the summers of 2002 and 2003 to play Helen again. It was incredible to perform at the place where the Kellers actually lived and experienced the circumstances in the show. Ivy Green has such a distinct spirit and joy; it is hard to leave after being involved with such an amazing production. Unfortunately, I grew too old to play Helen again the next year. My heart was set on one day playing Helen's teacher, Anne Sullivan. This past summer I returned to Ivy Green to audition for my dream role. I knew my size would probably be an issue--I am barely 5 feet tall, and Anne has to fight vigorously with a seven year old. However, I was cast as Anne and spent an amazing summer back at the Green!!
So when I heard that BSC was doing The Miracle Worker, I was very anxious and excited. Several people have played the role of Helen Keller and gone on to play Anne Sullivan, but how many people can say they have played Anne Sullivan and then played Helen Keller?? I prepared an enjoyable audition, which included the suitcase scene and the fight scene. Again, I had a wonderful time auditioning and walked away proud of my work. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw my name on the cast list later that week!
Many people may think it is easy for me to do this role because I have played Helen before, but that is far from true. I was only 10 years old when I played Helen at Ivy Green. I had no clue about goals, obstacles, tactics, and communion. I am currently learning so much about her behavior and relationships that I would have never been able to understand years ago. I am also thoroughly enjoying working on the set crew. It is very humbling to experience first-hand all of the techincal aspects of the theatre. Each area works so hard in pursuit of our common goal. I have realized and learned how much heart and power really goes into making a production possible!

I am so thankful for all the wonderful opportunities I have received my first year at BSC! The support from the faculty and students is tremendous. :)
"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar."
-Helen Keller

Friday, January 7, 2011

"The Miracle Worker"

Well friends, once again I am surrounded by scurrying props people, costume-clad actors running to rehearsal, the cacophony of sound cue tests, gel-cutting light crew members, and other similar hubbubs that can be found in the Birmingham-Southern College theatre! Feels like home doesn’t it? Well…for us theatre types at least.

The BSC theatre is currently almost one week into its interim project, “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson. This play tells the story of Helen Keller, a blind and deaf girl that is trapped inside a world of silent darkness, until a determined young woman named Anne Sullivan is hired to teach her. The actors portray the ups-and-downs that naturally come with the frustrating process of trying to teach this young girl how to communicate with and understand those around her. By the end of the show, Annie Sullivan not only alters Helen’s way of life for the better, but also Helen’s family. I find the redemption is this show very moving and something for any audience member to look forward to.

All this I have gathered from a few short days of observing rehearsal and wandering around the building. As the company manager, I have a unique perspective on the theatre interim project as a whole. I am in charge of administrative things such as taking attendance, organizing tickets and the production program, and assuring that the word about this show gets out to the public. Since I’m the lone company manager, every once in a while I get time to visit all the different crews and sit in on rehearsal. Because of this I am once again reminded how many people it actually takes for a theatre company to tell a story like Helen’s.

When I was a freshman working on the theatre interim project, at the time I was too bitter about having to work in the theatre from 9 to 5 everyday while all my friends where relaxing to realize how important my part was. I played “a dead girl” in the show, and while I wasn’t sitting onstage on my “gravestone” I was sewing hem after hem after hem on every single woman’s costume. In other words, I felt very small and insignificant. However, now as a senior company manager, I realize how wrong I was. I hate to sound cliché (frankly I think clichés are a tad trite for my taste), but every single one of the people I mentioned at the beginning of this post (i.e. props, lights, actors, sound…even company managers, if I do say so myself) are integral parts of our craft. We certainly seem to maintain a rather "one for all, and all for one" atmosphere around here when we're not counting down the minutes to our lunch break.

Throughout the month I get the privilege of posting other musings such as this one on the theatre blog! I promise that the next several ones will actually share more about “The Miracle Worker” itself and a hopefully a little bit less of my rabbit trails! In the meantime, look forward to rehearsal pictures and videos that I will be posting soon!

~ Emma Palmer