MSU

Upcoming Events and Things and Stuff

I know, lovely lurkers, you’re just plain tired of listening to me apologize for being an infrequent blogger. So I’ll stop doing that. Instead, I’ll be more pro-active and tell you about the things going on in my world.

The three Regis grad students I’m advising, facilitating, and otherwise guiding through various reading and writing projects are about to conclude their sessions. They had some lovely things, including magical realism romance, and analyzing novels in YA literature.

I was movement coordinator for MSU’s The Country Wife, which was a super-enjoyable comedy of manners that the young actors tackled quite well, movement-wise especially, if I do say so myself. I was just chatting with one of the actors the other day, relaying some compliments the SO had given them. I told this student that it’s a pretty impressive feat, to move in that stylized, elegant way (think 1675: wigs, fans, calves, snuff…) when he no doubt just got to his height, what, a couple minutes ago (he had just turned 21)?

I was also, even more recently, brought in to advise the scuffles in Local Theatre Company’s production of The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias. This is a high quality, tight, and of course timely play that I am delighted to be a part of. The challenge of this one is the thrust stage (audience on 3 sides), and though it’s not exactly realism (there are dreamlike aspects to it), it still needs to have a level of verisimilitude that will insure the audience won’t be jerked out of the story. They open this weekend, here in Boulder at the Dairy Center, so if you’re local, lurkers, go see it!

Finally, it’s burlesque time again in Jenn’s world. That’s right, Bronze Fox Burlesque is taking over one of the little nooks at License no. 1 bar in Boulder on a Wednesday night, this time in a Clue movie theme, in anticipation of Halloween. I’m dancing a solo, a duet, and I get to do one of my favorite Madeline Kahn moments in cinema. Again, if you’re local, come down to see us on the 25th at 9. But these events always get packed, so if you do come to this, get there early.

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Video Killed the Paper Star (Part II)

In the first of these VKPS posts, I discussed and showed the Grammar Video Lesson assignment. Of course, you can surely see, lovely lurkers, how this assignment could work quite well in any class subject, any field.

The second way I encourage video projects instead of writing is in the Reading Response. Now, as a prof of the humanities, I perforce assign lots of reading to my students. I curate the reading carefully, and I always ask for a Reading Response (with a few specific guidelines as far as what I’d like to see in their responses). Basically, I want to see that they’ve done the reading, and I want to know what they think about it. More: I want them to connect the readings to other stuff they’re doing, and synthesize it within the rest of their scholarly (and other) experiences.

The Reading Responses (oh, and these are for ALL my courses, not just the ones on writing) usually end up being a few paragraphs of sloppy writing and an accompanying image up on a blog (my assigning blog creation for classes is a whole ‘nother post). But I always give the students the vlog option. Which is simply that they can record a video of their reading response in lieu of a written one, and they post it the same way they would a written response.

Surprisingly, not many students opt for the video version of this, but two students in particular found the option invaluable.

Nate’s writing skill wasn’t top notch, but his immersion in the stage combat class material was. He would ruminate on the readings into his phone while walking through campus, interspersing his thoughts with footage from class, making for an engaging, thoughtful, and thorough response. I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much from a written response from him, and he also got interested in video composition, adding these skills to his technological knowledge in classes. There’s a technology requirement in all general ed courses (which this one wasn’t), which is another reason why assigning videos is a good thing in the comp courses. Here are two examples of Nate’s work from advanced stage combat at Metro. These were from a few years ago, so if you wonder at the video quality, that’s why.

the final over view from Nathan Taves on Vimeo.

Another interview with me and suported by the club. from Nathan Taves on Vimeo.

Jackson is a Composition student of mine. Now these classes are all about writing essays, and for him, writing is a major struggle. So when I gave him the vlog option for the reading responses, he jumped at the chance to have some assignments that didn’t involve writing. Thing is, when he shared his notes for his video responses with me, it was apparent that his understanding of the reading was complete, and when you see his videos, you can hear yourself how intelligent and on top of the material he is. If I had not given him the option to respond with video instead of writing, you better believe I wouldn’t have been able to tell this.

Reading Response Chapter 1 from Jackson Stallings on Vimeo.

Reading response ch 14 from Jackson Stallings on Vimeo.

So there you have it. Two instances of video assignments working well for higher education. That’s not to mention the read-aloud assignment for Children’s Literature…..

Video Killed the Paper Star (Part I)

Apologies for those of you that have been waiting on tenterhooks for these posts–like I said before, work has bullied its way in front of any creative/extracurricular work I’ve been wanting to do, particularly that with only internal deadlines. But now I am FINALLY getting my two cents’ worth on this subject down here, in lieu of pitching it over at PitchLX (sorry I can’t be there after all, folks: have fun without me). This concept is one I have catchily titled “Video Killed The Paper Star,” and it refers to replacing writing assignments with video projects.

Now please don’t misunderstand me–I don’t mean to say that papers shouldn’t be assigned ever (that ALL assignments should be multimedia), or that there’s no place in higher education for rhetoric and critical thinking. There sure as heck is, and every single student needs that particular type of rigor. Believe me. Of course I wouldn’t posit such things–I have a mouth to feed.

What I will aver, however, is that academic writing is obsolete (as much as the Ivory Tower folks still cling to it), and that the single most important lesson a student can possibly learn in college or university (after rhetoric) is collaboration. Sound a bit corporate-flavored, not academic? Well, yeah. And that’s a good thing. (I know, I know: who am I and what have I done with the real Jenn)…

I have taken to replacing written quizzes or papers with video projects in two major ways. The first is a fun project called the Video Grammar Lesson. I came up with this assignment for the following various reasons: 1) I hate teaching mechanics, I’m not particularly good at it, and it’s not my job. I’m a good teacher of writing, and reading (as well as interpretation of same), but the grammar stuff is irksome to me. 2) all of my comp students need grammar lessons. All of them. Every single one. Yes, Virginia, even the ones who are good writers already (and those are few enough). 3) teaching something to someone else is a great way to learn the thing better oneself. 4) there aren’t many group projects that truly teach collaboration, without the loopholes of the lazy (the one who does nothing and lets the group do all the work) or the control freak (the one who takes over everything because she can’t stand the quality of anyone’s stuff but hers).

So I thought, why teach them grammar when I can let them teach themselves grammar? The video lesson sprang out of all of this. They have 5 minutes or less to create a lesson on any bit of grammar or punctuation they want. They tend to choose their lessons based on what they find most interesting, easiest, or most inspired by, seeing the examples I show them and those on YouTube. What happens is usually a fun, creative sorbet before they plunge into the big research paper. Here are some notable examples:

ENG1020studentvidspr2013 from Jenn Zuko on Vimeo.

I am most interested in the first clip of this group’s work. These kids decided that each group member would do a solo video on a part of speech, and they’d stitch them together into one video. I am most interested in the first segment for two reasons: First, the Google search with narration is quietly funny and very engaging, as well as clear and informative. It’s a clever idea. Second, this student was a very quiet young man. I could tell he had a good brain in his head from reading his writing, but he was very very introverted. This is a lovely way of being able to enjoy his dry sense of humor without undue stress, like say what a classroom presentation would cause.


This fun-loving duo came up with a random yet highly entertaining premise for their video on interjections. It’s just delightful and fun, and it’s also cool that Grace’s brother composed the music.

I have a few other examples of grammar video lessons here on the blog. Do a search for Grammar Video and you’ll find them. Stay tuned for post 2/2 where I’ll talk about video reading responses.

Musings Upon a New (ish) Semester

Well fuck. 

I use invective, lovely lurkers, with conscience and reason. Why I just used one of the words that would make my movie Rated R in America is that I just saw that the last post on this blog was posted in, like, mid-August. Seriously, what the fuck? Why do you tolerate this kind of behavior from me, huh? Are you all so busy reading Parallel Bars that you can’t be bothered? Can’t say I blame you, truth be told…

So I’m jogging in the reins of Week 4 at both Metro and Front Range, Week 2 of Regis, and the verrrry beginning of Week 1 at DU. And lemme tell ya about the cool shit that’s happening at all those fine institutions (okay, I’m going with this invective thing):

At Metro: I’m teaching that online Staging Cultures course I’ve told you about before. It’s a really good reading list, lovely lurkers. Let me know if you want it. I’m also doing a MW (that’s Monday & Wednesday, kids) Intro to Theatre, which is a delightful gen ed course I haven’t done in a while. Man are those First Year Success students bright eyed and enthusiastically bushy tailed! They’re just about to embark on their historical presentation projects AND their Raisin in the Sun unit, so wow how much good material can we stomach at 11am? A lot, apparently. Youthful energy, I’m tellin ya…

Beginning Stage Combat over at Metro is Friday mornings as is usual, but as is not usual, it’s SO FULL YOU GUYS! There’s, like, 24 or something people in it, and they’re all lovely young talented energetic insane theatre majors and I am having so much fun and getting so old…. They’re just about to start choreographing their Unarmed fights, and I could not be more excited!

At Regis: I have two lovely and talented grad students doing a one on one Writing the Novel course w me; and one other lovely and talented grad student doing my own self-constructed YA Literature course (one on one, natch. It’s nearly always one on one at Regis). It’s going to be some stellar writing, which will only make me wish I had more time to work on my own work….

At Front Range: it’s two evening courses: a Comp I and a Comp II. The former is revising their Mini-Essays as we speak (Er, as I type), and you know what that means! That’s right: the Mini-Essay Contest winner post is imminent! Let’s hope it’s not the next one, as I need to be more frequent than that here….

Comp II as is usual these days for me, functions under a theme of Creativity and Innovation. They just finished their (quite high quality) Elevator Pitches, and now have just been introduced to the Analyzing An Image essay, which is where they pick an ad or psa and analyze it in essay format. Should be some good reading.

And finally,

At DU: Children’s Literature started today! As my ancient, steam-powered laptop decided to become a doorstop recently, it was quite the challenge to get that course shell updated and ready to go for a fresh crop of Professional Writing graduate students. But I am nothing if not diligent. And, yes, I have a lot of work to do still, but hey at least it’s up and functioning, and thanks to the SO, I have a brand spanking new refurbished box I can now use to get everything even more ship-shape. Thanks to that generous soul…

Oh but that’s not all! I also continue to have professional endeavors:

Bronze Fox Burlesque is doing their next show at License no.1 under the loose theme of Clue (the movie) and murder mysteries in general. I am mulling over choreography for a duet and a new solo right now…

Metro is doing The Country Wife in a couple weeks, a ribald comedy of no manners at all, and I am consulting the period movement as well as choreographing and directing a raucous chick fight with fans. And maybe fisticuffs.

I’m still writing for Parallel Bars and Your Boulder, editing the SO’s spectacular new book, and I’m just now starting to think I could remount my Retro Reviews of Sherlock, over on Sherlock’s Home, now the 4th season is far enough away…..

So.

Megan shows my Intro students the ropes. Literally.

Hm.

I guess there’s a reason it’s taken me so long to post here. Yeah, well. NO FUCKING EXCUSES, AMIRITE?

Ahem. Carry on….

Reflections on the Dregs of a Semester Past…

I’m reclining on my Sherlock chair, a cat taking a bath on me, writing this on my phone, lovely lurkers, so forgive any overlooked typos or autocorrect’s odd mistranslations.

As I (the holidays having passed) finally pick up my color-coded calendar to look at the overview of Spring semester coming up, I needs must tie up the loose ends of my thoughts on the events which colored the end of last semester.

Many many research papers abounded for me, work-wise, of course: both Comp 1 & 2 at Front Range and Staging Cultures at Metro all conclude with research papers, all of which took me the better part of two weeks to take care of. Topics included: all sorts of discussion of marginalized cultures and theatre; medical care for trans people; always a couple about gun control; a few about use of LSD for mental health treatments; the CRISPR gene; the beneficial effect of music and playing it; arts in the schools; the benefits of a mandatory minimum sentence; and the dangers of climate change. Apparently some of my Comp 1 students got me a tshirt that has “It’s on the syllabus” emblazoned on it, which I must fetch from them soon before the new semester begins. Such a sweet (self-aware) gesture!

Professional artistic endeavors ended up very satisfactorily–as you’ve seen here, I’m quite happy with how the fights from Outrageous Fortune turned out. What I haven’t had a chance to talk about, though, is the absolutely stellar production of Hand to God, which I was so impressed with, especially acting-wise, and would have been even if my fights hadn’t appeared on the stage. Meaningful, gripping, funny, and a frankly virtuoso performance by a brilliant young actor named John Hauser. You know your fights turned out well when, as the first blow falls (w/perfect angle and sound), the audience collectively catches its breath: “Ooo!” 

How would you choreograph a man smashing his own hand to a pulp with a hammer?


Being a part of both these productions was helpful in the healing process of the continuing stress of my domestic life but especially the most recent heartbreak, which occurred on opening day of OF. (Nope, not writing about that here: buy me a pint or two and we can chat about it if you like)…

But perhaps the most life-changing professional/artistic endeavor has been my experiences with Boulder Burlesque. Since joining the training program in October, I’ve had the happy opportunity to choreograph, perform, and slumber party with these amazing women (and men); and also work the enlightening (to me) and super-fun Kink Carnival. This last event has contributed to my continued growth in my sexual exploration and expression, as I am sort of starting from where I left off in my 20s in that area. For more about that sort of thing, Facebook-friend Valkyrie Rose, my burlesque persona. I may do simple things here like share basic events, but if this subject matter and my journey thereinto interests you further, you’ll find more of my musings about it on that profile.

That’s about it, lovely lurkers! I should be much more frequent a poster here now too, and stay tuned for another musing upon the upcoming semester. It’ll be a busy one…

Stage Movement Class: sign up plz part 3

This post is all about Sheridan’s Comedy of Manners called The Rivals.

I teach this play in a Period Movement unit, to help students learn about social status gestures, posture for vintage plays, and how to navigate things like corsets and ties and breeches, oh my. All this restricted physicality marries with mastery of complex language, and the classic clowning kernel of: The Conflict Between Mask and Appetite.

Here is a small gallery of only some of the Rivals performances from Spring semesters past:

rivals1

…when the servant is more learned than the mistress…

rivals2

I have always enjoyed the cobbled-together, haphazard costumes that inevitably happen during this unit, but these two gentlemen took the cake.

rivals3

When I mentioned to this class the possibility of cross-gender-casting Mrs. Malaprop? Fugeddaboutit. 

 

Stage Movement Class: sign up please pt. 2

Yes, lovely lurkers, I have taken to begging for students to take the Stage Movement course over at MSU Denver. Well, yanno, it has been cancelled due to underenrollment enough that I feel I need to explain what makes this class such an essential part of a student’s experience at Metro, especially in the Theatre Department.

Here’s the thing: the skills learned in this class don’t only apply to

Don't make this sad clown even sadder. Sign up for Stage Movement.

Don’t make this sad clown even sadder. Sign up for Stage Movement.

the performing arts student. Not at all–actually I’ve had the following diverse folks take this course (beyond the theatre majors, for whom this class is required):

  • a major in accounting
  • a 75-year-old auditing the course for fun
  • an 8th grader interested in the clowning arts
  • a poli-sci major
  • a couple English majors
  • someone who was undecided, who wanted to be able to have good presence in front of a crowd

Recently I have received some advice from an intimate friend in the career reboot department, and I am realizing that these skills are all excellent ones for building my corporate consulting practice. All of these things (body language, vocal work, social status manipulation, presentation skills, etc.) are the difference between a corporate drudgery and a successful businessperson.