I think that signing up for these kabuki classes was a terrible move. Sure, I would have regretted it had I not given it a try, absolutely. But now that I am giving it a try, I wish there were a way to drop out, call it quits, say I’ve given it a try and it turns out it’s not for me.
Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, in terms of my utter lack of ability to chant the lines right. What am I to expect of myself after only about three weeks (at 3 hrs a week) of practicing this, with literally no more than 5 mins of one-on-one time within those three weeks, and, admittedly not practicing at all outside of class? My friends/classmates have been most encouraging and supportive, or rather, one girl in particular has been. And most of the people in the class seem just as bad as I am; it’s not like they’re all really getting it, right off the bat, and I’m the only one on the outside, thank god. But, even so, (a) they’re theatre people, and this is their top priority, and they can afford to take the time to practice, while I’m devoting the vast majority of my daytime hours to reading or writing papers, and (b) there’s a midterm performance exam coming up, and I really don’t anticipate that I’ll actually be improved at all by then. I don’t know how to project, I don’t know how to control my voice. Granted, I have memorized lines for skits in language class in college, but other than that I haven’t performed onstage, or rehearsed for it, since elementary school. It’s just not something I know how to do… and I just don’t feel that I have the time for it. At all.
Plus, I went into this thinking that at least my background in Japanese language and experience living in Japan and seeing kabuki and everything would give me some kind of leg up. And while, certainly, my experience in viewing kabuki has helped me picture in my mind how certain moves should look, and how certain utterances should sound, I’m no better at sitting seiza or tying an obi or folding a kimono than anyone else. And while my language ability certainly helps in some ways, those who have no Japanese language background at all and have had to memorize it purely phonetically have found it a lot easier, it would seem, to stretch out the syllables, to pronounce every syllable, clearly and enunciatedly. While I cannot forget or ignore how the flow of a sentence ought to go in normal speaking, they don’t have that baggage, and can just start from the chanted sentence as chanted, memorizing syllables and chant at once.
On top of that, I worry that being in this class has dramatically altered my relationship with my friends in the theatre department. We now see each other far too often for it to ever be “Hey! Travis! How have you been!? What’s up!?” and still not nearly enough that I feel in any way a real member of the group, in on their in-jokes or anything, in on what’s going on with them on a daily basis. They’re all really good people, friendly, supportive, and all that, and I don’t think they’re really judging me on how poorly I perform in class. After all, most of them aren’t picking it up so quickly either. But, even so, the relationship has changed, and I worry about what the group dynamics will be next term, when I’m no longer seeing them regularly in class, and they’re in rehearsals all the time and I’m not … hopefully I can still be involved somehow, on the fringes, but I guess we’ll just have to see.
At some point, somehow, something needs to open up so I can feel I have a full day or more every week for a few weeks to really devote to practicing. But that isn’t going to happen, so long as I continue to make as little progress as I have been in my Directed Readings…
It’s interesting looking back at these old posts from the beginning of the term, and just how low my self-esteem was about the whole thing. In the last week or two, I’ve actually felt much much better about it all. The pressure was off, it seemed, to do well, and so I could just focus on enjoying it and getting through the end of the term, and whatever comes will come.. – 12/13