First Week of Classes

I arrived in Bucharest thinking that I would be teaching two graduate courses at the National University of Theatre and Cinematography (UNATC) as detailed in my Fulbright application and confirmed in my letter of invitation. As it turns out, I am teaching two graduate courses: my anticipated pedagogy (teaching methods) course at UNATC and a cross-disciplinary course through American Studies at the University of Bucharest. My other original course, production dramaturgy, was tossed quickly during my first meeting with the Rector of UNATC, who simply said, “We don’t do that here in Romania.” He assured me that we’d discover other ways to share my expertise and interests. So be it. Most Fulbrighters I know have had similar detours.

Pedagogy Class at UNATC

On Tuesday afternoon, October 4, I had my first, introductory meeting with my pedagogy class at UNATC: nine grad students plus the Rector (President) of the university, who also heads the Masters pedagogy program and is spearheading the effort to introduce theatre into the national curriculum for Romanian public schools, which now has only music and visual art. Evidently, a primary reason why I am here and have this Fulbright grant is to help make this happen: I come from and have taught in a state with a huge, vibrant, and successful theatre education program (TEXAS!), and my mission here is to share what works, or might work, in Romania. Daunting, indeed, and a bit overwhelming.

Actually, the first 30 minutes of class was a pitch to an additional dozen students from other theatre programs, who wanted to meet me and were interested in what I might be able to offer them, most likely on Tuesday nights after my pedagogy class. That component still hasn’t been worked out but likely will result in a series of master classes based on topics requested by these students, i.e., an unofficial colloquium on American theatre practice.

The next afternoon, I had my first meeting with the new graduate students in American Studies at the University of Bucharest. 11 of the 15 showed up, and we met for almost the full two hours. Basically, I’m a default but happy solution to the Fulbright Seminar vacancy that resulted months earlier, when a colleague had to decline his grant at UB. My replacement course, “Reinventing the Classics in American Theatre,” examines how American theatre productions have “reinvented” the classics (both ancient and modern). Then we segue to contemporary socio-political issues that are linked topically or thematically.

While I had expected that my biggest challenge this semester would be communication, I now think that attendance may be the great hurdle: so many of these older (graduate) students have jobs and a few also have required courses offered concurrently with mine. In short, I’ve been advised not to require more than 50% attendance and to provide means by which students can make up missed work without penalty. So be it.

Fortunately, I learned during my first grant to Kosova, that being a Fulbrighter demands that you roll with the tide—or, it use on old cards adage: it’s always about playing the best hand with the cards you’ve been dealt. I just hope we now have agreed on what the game is.