Friday, March 23, 2007

Putting the Past to Rest

Life is a constant flow ebb and flow of experience, emotion, people, places, and things.  I've been in Seattle for 20 years now, since May of 1987, and I've carted around certain boxes of paper for every single moment of those two decades.  Last night, one particular file went into the trash after being transferred electronically through my new HP all-in-one scanner to my new HP Tower, for conversion into a PDF archive.  As if that build up weren't enough to put you on the edge of your seat, let me now tell you what the substance of that paper was: my notes from the MFA directing seminar at the University of Iowa, where I matriculated from 1982 through 1985.  I graduated (I have the degree to prove it) in May of 85. 

It was a hellish, agonizing experience, the most horrible of my life; the only thing I can compare it to was a psychological Rack--psychic head tied to one end, and psychic feet tied to the opposite, and Robert Hedley and David Schall twisting, twisting, twisting the rotor and stretching my mind out of shape, breaking my spine, cracking my ribs, turning my organs to mush, my pelvis to putty.  Even now, 25 years later, it remains the singularly most damaging experience of my life, a source of ongoing suffering.  Though at the time I sought refuge in alcohol, and eventually lost control of that coping mechanism, there were others who also lost their minds: L.G., an actress who began an affair with a married colleague for some bizarre reason, almost destroying his marriage (B.K. wasn't innocent in that regard, but it was completely nuts).  I remember actress D.B. assaulting her partner J.N. in public, and then having a stress meltdown during rehearsal.  And there were other, lesser moments of stress dysfunction--which raises the question:  why does one go to graduate school?  To learn something?  Or to be terrorized and psychologically manipulated?

in particular I gazed with horror upon my journal entries for Mel Andringa's Performance Theory class as I tried to coalesce a hierachy of imagery in the context of artistic narcissism.  The upshot is a vivid snapshot of who I was at that moment and I cringe, I recoil with horror and despair.  No wonder I drank!  I was so pathetic and clueless.  The necessary pain was that this was an inventory that I needed to make in order to see the tripe that I treasured.  And how I have grown since then.  I learned more from Mel Andringa than from anyone else at U of I.

At any rate, with these documents now electronically preserved, I no longer have to touch them.  They are one step removed from substance.  They are more memory now, than tangible things. 

I do think that most of my psychological problems have stemmed from my period at University of Iowa.  In retrospect it was the worst decision I ever made in my life to attend there.  I learned a tremendous amount about the creation of art, and my taste was improved (and that was the process that hurt the most).  But it wasn't worth it.  I have flashbacks still that fill me with rage and pain.  If I could take back my decision to have attended that program I would do so in a heart beat.  I repudiate it utterly.  It was without a soul.  If you are reading this, and you were on the faculty at the time I attended there, know that you are a soulless bastard, and that I hope and wish death for you--rather than to punish and infect one more student with the sickness you gave me.

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