Anker: Personal statements tradition is rite of passage for majors

Marcie Anker

Marcie AnkerWell, everyone. It’s finally that time, a year later, when I graduate and leave you all for good. I urge you to form a support group to cope with the agony of my absence. I thought it only fitting to leave Temple’s theater department the way that I came in – with a personal statement.

You see, like any good religious cult, all new converts must complete a “Personal Statement,” a sort of rite of passage, if you will, to join the Church of Temple Theaters. You are not officially a part of the community until you perform your personal statement.

Let me explain. At the end of each semester, there are either one or two class days allotted – depending on the amount of new theater converts – for the entire theater department to watch the newbies in the Creativity : Basic course perform a one-minute “personal statement.” Essentially, it’s their introduction and initiation into the department. When I first signed up for Creativity and was told, “You have to get up in front of the entire department and make your statement,” I dropped the class. At the time I was still a journalism major, just testing the theater waters, and this was too much. Cruel and unusual punishment, I thought. But, alas, I found myself back in that same class a year later, unable to escape my preordained theater fate.

It was still horrifically nerve-wracking to think about. But luckily, everyone else in the class felt the same way. My professor, a particularly experimental fellow, was even more vague in the parameters of this “personal statement” than my former professor. We could literally do anything. Anything.

I’ve seen naked people during personal statements. I’ve seen a wide variety of boobs during personal statements. Yeah, bet you wish you were a theater major now, huh? But my personal statement was, literally, me putting on about 10 bras and then throwing them around the stage, giving all of the reasons why it’s great having such big boobs. If you’ve ever met me, you’d understand the irony. The point of my personal statement, other than to provide a departure from the typically melodramatic personal statements, was to say, I suppose, that I have big boobs in my mind and that’s all that matters. In a weird way it was something about confidence. I don’t know, I was, like, 19 years old. Or 20.

Now, being one of the grand elders of the Church of Theater, I’ve come to see all sorts of personal statements; and in general, “Personal Statement Day” is the most exciting day of the semester – mostly because everyone hopes to see some boobies. The success or failure of personal statements depends largely on the class’s dynamics and how they work together.

If one person is trying to steal the spotlight from their fellow personal-staters, it takes away from the experience as an audience member. I’ve seen classes perform their personal statements as if they were performing a well-rehearsed show, and those are the ones that are memorable. Sometimes, when the converts are more timid, the statements become predictable. The “No one supported me when I chose to do theater; but damn it I’ll do it anyway!” or the “High school was so hard and so was life so,” or “My family sucks more than yours, my life is harder than yours,” or the “[silence because a girl is just walking back and forth with her boobs out and then sits down].” Sometimes someone will sing or dance, and sometimes someone will yell in another language or talk about horses. Sometimes people will be funny, and sometimes people will try to be funny and I feel sad. There are cute ones, and there are heart-breaking ones; there are offensive ones and there are uncomfortable ones – like, say, a big-boned, hairy fellow wearing a thong flopping on the stage and remaining there for the rest of the statements. But all in all, they’re enjoyable. Though, I must say, I’ve always wished I would see someone confess their love to someone else – preferably me – for their statement.

If I were to do a personal statement now, an exit statement, I’d like to think I’d have the balls to just stand there on the stage, silent and naked until I made people uncomfortable enough to cry, leave or applaud. But my boobs are too big.

I’d like to think I’d be brave enough to do a mash-up of all the personal statements I remember, but I have a bad memory. I’m not sure what I’d do. Maybe I’d confess my love to someone. Like my editor; I’ll miss him terribly. We’ve had our ups and downs, but through it all, I only have one angry voicemail from him on my phone.

But really, I think I’d do a one-minute session of “real talk” whilst eating a burrito. Or I might just skip the talking and stick to the eating. Ugh, I’m trying to stall being serious.

Learn new things: Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one skill because you’re too stubborn to stray away from Tomlinson Theater. Don’t choose to be a one-trick pony, be a theater artist. Don’t ever forget that the walls have ears, information travels around the theater department like wildfire. Don’t let your poor reputation precede you. Be nice – no one likes a diva for more than 10-minute intervals. Do your best not to drunkenly hook up with people in the department unless you’re fine with everyone knowing the details the next day – try the film department. Take classes with as many faculty members as you can. Don’t be that person who lives in the atrium; and please, for god’s sake, don’t sit on the damn couches, they’re weird and dirty. And last, but certainly not least, do not sing in Randall Lobby in the middle of the day – you are annoying more people than you think.

Alas, I must come to an end. Thank you to my editor, The Temple News, the theater department, the readers and the haters – I couldn’t have done it without you. Now might’ve been the time when I’d ask you to feed me, but that will no longer be necessary because – wait for it…

I have a job.

Gasp.

Here is my virtual bow.

Lights down.

Curtain.

Applause?

Marcie Anker can be reached at martha.anker@temple.edu.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*