December 03, 2009

Speech communication classes plan performances

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Take a break from finals preparation (or just take a break) at Kleinau Theater on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus, where two nights of free performances are on tap.

The performances begin at 8 p.m., with Performing Culture Spotlight on Dec. 8 and Advanced Classes Spotlight on Dec. 10. Both nights are free in the Kleinau, on the second floor of the Communications Building.

The two performance nights highlight the best representations from performance classes in the Department of Speech Communication. The Dec. 8 spotlight features students from Speech Communication 201, a general education course that asks students to explore literature and cultural diversity through performance.

Craig Gingrich-Philbrook, associate professor of performance studies, said students typically prepare three performances during the semester. One asks them to present a character similar to themselves, while the next performance asks them to take on a character far different. The focus of the third performance varies. Gingrich-Philbrook said the course helps students learn to read more analytically, and also, by taking on another persona, to take a virtual walk in another’s shoes.

“For many of these students, this is their first time to perform in front of an audience,” Gingrich-Philbrook said. “It’s really a place to see the liberal arts in action. The performances combine fine arts, literature, sometimes sociology or history.”

The Dec. 10 spotlight features students from several of the advanced performance classes. Gingrich-Philbrook described some of the courses and the different objectives each fulfills.

A course combining performance and ethnography, for example, asks students to conduct their own research into a community of their own choice, and then to become some of the people they interviewed or studied for the purpose of presenting their findings. A story-telling course uses stories, from traditional folklore to modern oral history, as fuel for students to explore different and often contradictory points of view in performance. Prose Fiction in Performance sees students reading two or three novels, and then choosing and developing their own performances from the same source.

“Usually what happens is that we see students from the Speech Communication 201 class come back, either as performers or as audience members,” Gingrich-Philbrook said. “For everyone, this is really a chance to see people stretch and try something new.”