CMU School of Drama

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Humbling Tape

sightlines.usitt.org: As an undergraduate student, I was encouraged by my faculty to pursue scenic design. In our only course covering theatre design, I pencil drafted sample flats, drew a ground plan for Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue, and built a ½” scale model of my scenic design for Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun. My teacher was so impressed with my model that I was instructed to enter it into a design competition sponsored by a large mid-western university. So, I drafted a ground plan of what I had designed, took color photographs of the model, packed up my entry, and shipped it off, expecting nothing but recognition of my greatness.

5 comments:

Katherine Sharpless said...

I found this article reliable and useful for a number of reasons. First, I believe there is an aura of superiority in the Drama school but also in Carnegie Mellon overall. So many of us are happy to be here, have worked deservingly hard, and get a new email everyday about the next famous alum or grand invention to come from campus. The bubble can act as an echo chamber, and I imagine it's the same for a lot of school around the country. While we don't need to negate our accomplishments entirely, it's a good idea to take this confidence remembering that we are still students about to enter a difficult industry. That's another great point about this article, it recognizes how the theatre world can tear you down over and over before you find success. But it's also an industry where you can keep learning with every new assignment, big or small, and improve exponentially from undergrad.

Sarah Boyle said...

I agree with Katherine. I mean, I walk over the names of famous alumni and their awards every day on my way to class. Making my high school and regional theater organizational charts in PTM was a good reminder that the real world doesn’t work like a small high school program. High school is a small sample of people, college is still a small sample, but not a random one anymore, and the whole industry has a lot more, very talented people. But I think this story applies well outside of theater too. I have my own humbling tape. My 6th grade math teacher wrote each student a letter at the end of the year, with some words of encouragement and also some feedback. While it was definitely not as harshly worded as blind judging, it was effective in letting me know that I need to filter, and shut up once in a while. I keep that letter in my desk, because it’s clearly still applicable.

Delaney Johnson said...

I am continually reminded on a regular basis that I am here to learn and I am not expected to nor will I be an expert at anything at this stage in my career. I am at Carnegie Mellon to learn and grow and experience new artistic endeavors to prepare myself to move forward in my artistic journey after school. No one is expecting me to be perfect. I mean that is what school is for right? So many times I feel that the CMU design program, especially at the freshman level, makes competition a necessity for survival. We must always compare ourselves to others to seek improvement, or so we think. However, the real truth I think CMU wants us to figure out on our own is that we only need to compare ourselves to one person... US. So it is important that everyone once and awhile we use the humbling tape on ourselves to maintain our own sanity and keep both our ego but also our stress in line. it is okay to be told no. it is okay to be told you aren't good enough if you take that tape, that advice, and apply it toward the future.

Rebecca Meckler said...

I agree that how you respond to the criticism is the key because if you can use it to grow, its more valuable the being told you're amazing. However, I think that this article is extremely anecdotally and offers almost no insight. The main point of the article is to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and try again. Though it must be take a lot of courage to publish an article that so blatantly displays a failure, I think that it would have been a more interesting article if Shanada had mentioned what he did immediately after to deal with the his failure. While it's great to hear that he had a successful career, though not in set design, I’m more interested in the immediate steps he took. Did he do more research on the next assignment? Did he consult the teacher who pushed him to apply for the contest and ask for their suggestions? Did he buy a book about set design to try to learn more? I think that this article has a lot of potential to be extremely interesting but I wish that it included how to turned the experience around, not just the idea that he did.

Helena Hewitt said...

Sarah commented that she has her own version of the humbling tape. I think somewhere along the line we all get one. I have little versions here and there, but I’m waiting to get my big one. My one that I hang onto and keep tucked away in a drawer somewhere. Because if you can not let yourself get dragged down by your tape and instead, as the author exemplifies, allow it to push you and inspire you to be better, it can be an incredibly useful tool. I think that it is always harder to learn from success than failure. But the problem with failure is that it is highly dependent on the recognition of the failure. If you don’t recognise your failure and feel some level of guilt about it, you will not strive to do better next time. However, we are taught that guilt and failure are negative and wrong and should be avoided at all cost. Instead, we should be teaching people how to use their failure to move forward. Because when the recognition of a failure is unavoidable, when your own version of the humbling tape lands in your lap, you should be ready to use it to climb higher instead of allowing it to crush you.

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