Anna Heitz - Journal

11/27/12

Today we presented our slide-show presentation on Yoruban Ritual/Theater/Performance. In comparison to how we were getting on in the beginning, I think this presentation went well. Unfortunately, the time restraints did pose a problem for us. We did try to break down the times and practice our presentation in advance. Originnally, we were aiming for the history portion to be 3 mins, the Egungun Ritual section to be 8-9 mins, the portion on masks to be 4-5 mins, and the conclusion and run-down of historiographical problems to be between 3-5 mins. Obviously, this did not happen. I know some members of the group mentioned concerns about having a shorter talking point, thinking he/she would be penalized because of less presentation time, which may have also lead to the surplus of information for the time allotment. The time restraint was also a little frustrating because I felt we were not able to totally convey the more abstract thoughts such as "Art as Archive" and the problems of the word "Ritual", as clearly as we could have. Still, I think we were able to get (at least some assemblance) of our conclusion across to the audience.

In comparison to other groups that went today, I think our topic was more difficult in some ways. We were not able to pick a specific play/author nor a very specific time period, which definitely made the first sections of research difficult (specifically the "Narrow the Scope" part). Also, we had to study and analyze a group that was non-Western. Although this was difficult in some ways, it was also easy in that we could pose a lot of the questions and problems that we'd been encountering in class; such as historiography and ritual vs. art. vs. performance. I liked the energy from other groups (specifically the group who presented Robin Hood), and I noticed similar uses of presentation format and use of visual aid (video).

Group projects in general are always difficult. Honestly, I found many aspects of this project to be frustrating, not necessarily because people we lazy, but because people work differently and on different time schedules. I understand that group projects are a necessary concept and skill to learn, however as being someone who prefers individual work, it is always a more difficult format of assignment. There were problems with getting in contact with certain group members, group members showing up on predesignated times (if at all), and getting work done by the predesignated times. I often felt (especially in the beginning) that I was picking up a lot of the leg-work, especially in the group blogs. However, as the project went on, I felt less pressure to do so.

In conclusion, I think this project went okay. Going over on time was unfortunate, but overall, the presentation was (I felt) successful in getting the main argument that "art" is archive and social commentary, and the issues of historiography and the word "ritual" across to the audience... I hope.

11/27/12

As we move into developing our presentation for this week, we have been able to split the work load. Each group member has been assigned a specific category of the presentation. I am researching and will be presenting the history of the Yoruban. It has been nice to be able to work individually and I'm hopeful that this presentation will turn out well by Thursday when we present.

The history of the Yoruba is a difficult subject as it is mostly based in oral tradition. However, this allows one to consider how important the history that has been recorded is, in order to survive throughout centuries of the evolving culture. I find it interesting that the term "Yoruba" is not one the people of Yorubaland use to identify themselves, but instead the term was deemed upon the area and culture by neighboring settlements and spread by Christian missionaries. Instead the people of Yorubaland identify themselves by their kingdom or township. However, the people of Yorubaland have similar culture and their myths are similar, if not the exact same.

The general timeline of the Yoruba is comprehensible. However, the more specific dates and recorded history that we as Western culture are used to is blurred in Yoruba culture. That's not to say that the Yoruba are not concerned with their own history, as that is evident in its survival, but it might be that their history is more focused in spoken word and myth than written/chronological documentation.

11/18/12

1. In terms of this research project, what have you been thinking about this week?

This week we expanded our research into the Yoruban theater. We've realized that because this form of performance in not something we encounter ofter, that a great deal of context is necessary. We have decided on introducing an argument of whether or not Yoruban performance can be clarified as art into our presentation. We are still looking for relevant material/articles to make that argument.

2. If you have undertaken any research, what did you discover?

I continued reading the books by Smith and Drewal. Most of this information is contextual, however it did provide a lot of insight into the Yoruban psychology and religious beliefs.

3. How might you relate this research to your work in other classes or rehearsal?

The more I research, especially when it is a topic of which I have little to no previous knowledge, I find new ways of researching and further develop necessary skills for research in the future.

11/11/2012

1. In terms of this research project, what have you been thinking about this week?

Honestly, this research project has been stressful. Our research topic is a little unconventional in that it is based in oral tradition and the art is so embedded in daily life that it's more ritual than performance In addition, illness and busy schedules of group members have attributed to frustration and difficulty in getting things done.

2. If you have undertaken any research, what did you discover?

I looked into resources by Drewal and Smith. Drewal's book described the Egungun ritual and its connection to death and the ancestors. Smith's book described a general history of the Yoruba. I researched the time of Ife and the importance of this city to the Yoruba.

3. How might you relate this research to your work in other classes or rehearsal?

I can relate the general process of research to other classes in which I am also doing research.

2 Comments

Hi Anna,

It seems like you and a number of your other group members are having difficulty with this subject matter because it is so distant from the U.S. theatre that we are so used to encountering. Do not let this discourage you; even if you don't realize it you are finding interesting historiographic questions to analyze. For instance, you discuss the question of whether or not we can define this performance as "art". While we may not be able to say with certainty exactly how the Yorubans think of this ritual, we can definitely see how it differs from our understanding of theatre and performance. We generally think of the theatre as an autonomous sphere outside of work and social activity - it seems like this is not how the Yorubans think of it. Thinking through this simple observation is actually quite useful as an historiographic project - it calls into question the assumptions that we make as a society and proposes an alternative.

In future postings, I'd like to see a little more reflection on the difficult questions you're encountering. You don't necessarily have to answer the three questions in order to get 100%, so feel free to let yourself dig deeper into the areas in which you're finding frustration and complication.

Bryan

Grade: 90%

Anna,

Good job reflecting on the end portion of your research and on your presentation. While I could see that you had a tough time fitting all your information into the presentation, I thought that you did a good job adapting to fit the time limits, and in the end presented a lot of information.

I want to challenge your concern about having a more difficult task than groups who were able to easily choose writers and plays to analyze. Sometimes, because of the difficulty of working with old texts, reading plays is not the easiest work to do. Likewise, just because you were not able to look at plays did not mean that there were fewer avenues for analysis; I think that your group, in the end, got to explore some really meaningful questions about what constitutes performance with your presentation. The point is that there are an infinite number of things that you can look at with regards to different periods of theatre—sometimes finding original research for well-known plays is much more difficult than looking at something completely new. You might look at the Russian group’s presentation for an example of how to find some original questions for a seemingly untrodden path.

Great work on these entries overall!

Bryan

Final grade: 95%

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