An Academy Interlude: PULL it, sir

In 1962, Albee took Broadway by surprise with what became one of his most famous plays. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was an enormous success, running for a total of 644 performances and thereby firmly establishing Albee as a major playwright. It also sparked impassioned controversy amongst the critics, many who attacked the work for its destructive theme. It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and yet the committee decided not to bestow this award on it because of the controversy. Some members of the committee who supported Albee’s nomination resigned in protest. Nonetheless, he did receive the New York Drama Critics Award and Tony Award for the play.

listen. the word ‘pulitzer’ is pronounced ‘PULL it sir’. there is no liquid u. you already knew that? great. you didn’t? cool. neither did i. until i took rob nagle’s class, pulitzer prize winners of the 20th century.

D. Thorpe 2

Danielle in Albee’s A Delicate Balance. Scene Night Spring 2013.

when asked to write a blog post about my experience in the class, my first thought was ‘wow, i’ve always wanted to write a blog post.’ and i don’t remember what my second thought was, but i’m really very happy to have this topic as my first assignment.

Rob Nagle 2011

Rob Nagle teaching (or just staring at 2 pieces of paper? You decide.)

not only is rob a phenomenal human; he’s a well-rounded, passionate, knowledgeable, empathetic teacher. with each class, he brought his own humanity and humility. he created an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust and a space to be unafraid. he facilitated a community. one of the things i appreciate most about rob and his teaching is that he’s completely unpretentious (is that my passive-aggressive way of saying i’ve taken class from pretentious teachers? i don’t know – it could be. is it pretentious that i’m writing this blog in all lowercase? nobody is perfect. okay?). rob was consistently prepared. before each scene went up, he provided thorough information about the play and playwright. he engaged us in dialogue about each playwright’s background and when the play was written and how those things inform the play and (more often than not) provide wonderful insight into the world of the characters.

A Pulitzer Prize Winning Class!  (and Santa)

A Pulitzer Prize Winning Class! (and Santa)

as someone who considers herself relatively knowledgeable when it comes to plays, i was pleasantly surprised to find out just how little i know. 81 plays have won the pulitzer prize for drama since 1918. that is so many plays. to make this more manageable, rob created a survey before class began – a survey which listed every play and offered a place for us to check off one of three boxes: ‘i know it well’ ‘i know of it…’ and ‘no idea.’ this, for me, was a great place to begin. rob took such time in looking at the class surveys. he narrowed the list down to around 20 plays. he gave us complete freedom to choose our scenes and he made thoughtful and appropriate suggestions when someone asked for recommendations. he gave us a structure within which to play, which is something i have always found tremendously important in artistic work.

rob was always available for questions and completely approachable. he was flexible in his teaching approach, knowing that what works for one student might not work for another. he knew when to push and when to back off. and of course it’s all about the process and not about the result, but our final scene presentations were great. they were really great.

oh, and santa claus was there. the real one. see picture for proof.

thank you.

THORPE_DanielleAcademy member Danielle Thorpe rhapsodizes on Santa Claus & the wonder that is Rob Nagle – Moderator Extraordinaire.  For more information on the Antaeus Academy, please visit our website: www.antaeus.org/theacademy.html

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