One of the aspects of college life I loved the most was the fact that much of the learning took place outside the classroom.
I have fond memories, as most of us do, of late night discussions of Jerzy Grotowski, Max Weber, the Anita Hill hearings, the Rodney King verdict, Tony Kushner’s new play, and the meaning of life while siting on the floor of the dorm hallway passing around a plastic bottle of cheap vodka. At the Mellon School I’ve had similar stimulating conversations inside and outside of the classroom. In fact my favorite memory thus far is the Tuesday night dinner with a discussion and a sense of community so strong that it turned into a champagne slumber party on the third floor of the Child Hall dorm.
I have not stayed in a dorm since I was 20 years old and only chose to do so this time to save money and be close to the daily seminars. That first night sleeping on my stiff twin-sized dorm room mattress with a pillow the density of an anemic pancake followed by a tepid morning shower made me regret my choice. But once my fellow dorm mates and I banded together to demanded hot water and a few more filmy pillows I knew everything would be ok.
The next night, we went to dinner and had robust discussion of the op-eds, living in India, discovering utopian performatives, drag queens as the post-modern saints; love, religion, research, and we just couldn’t stop. So we opted for a champagne nightcap in our dorm lounge. Thanks to Dr. Puchner, who declined my offer to bring a bottle of champagne to the dinner he hosted the night before, I was well equipped to contribute to this late night rap session. In fact Dr. Puchner’s exact response to my offer was “that’s not necessary, keep the champagne and drink it in the dorm,” so in essence, we were completing our class assignment. Everyone changed into PJs, while I chilled our Mellon School water bottles (no cups in the dorm kitchen), and then we popped the champagne and toasted. While drinking we had boisterous debates about the theater, education, privilege, sexism, and strategized on how we would get the most out of this experience. And not unlike when I was 20, the RA had to come and tell us to quiet down. Most of us identified as women, some of us identified as queer and/or people of color, but all of us identified as theater nerds who despite the doom and gloom about the state of our profession and the world at large, wouldn’t choose any other path for ourselves.
As we finally succumbed to exhaustion and disbanded our pajama party I said to group “please stay in the theater and/or education because I am just starting my career and I need all of you.” Long live the Mellon pajama party!
Post by Monica Cortés Viharo