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My City of Play

ecohn's picture

Scrolling through the Emily Balch seminars was a daunting task: Having to narrow my preferences down to three was overwhelmingly difficult. Each one sparked my interest with a catchy title and a syllabus of interesting material. In the end, I chose the “Play in the City” seminar, mostly because of the professor.

Theater had shaped my high school (and middle school) experience, and although I wasn’t too interested in a theater major, staying involved and working with people who shared my passion seemed like a great idea. I chose “Play in the City” for many reasons, including Mark Lord.

Mark Lord proved to be the stereotypical theater professor, having us walk around the classroom on the first day, observing all we could. We, the students, examined the classroom, seeing as much as possible, and hoping to not say a “wrong” answer. This second day of classes was pretty uncomfortable in Taylor F, awkward silences ran amuck, and Mark’s command that we live with the discomforts and “give each other time to think” was pretty outside of our comfort zones. However, the class soon bonded and developed an ebb and flow of conversation, which includes many different voices bringing up important and diverse points on whatever we may be discussing.

Mark Lord’s progressive style of teaching was also evident in the first trip into Philadelphia. As he gathered us on the steps of the Free Library, he declared that we should play. Whatever that means to us, we are free to do it. Whether we wanted to sit and read a book, or go shoe shopping, he encouraged us to explore our desires. This was a new experience for me. On school trips, I am told to stay with the group. On family trips, I am forced into museum after museum, enduring all sorts of lectures from whoever in my family knows what they’re talking about. Having the freedom to explore what I wanted to do was a wonderful, liberating, and enlightening experience.

Choosing my own activities, direction, and fate is a big step in the way of independence, and thus, is a stepping-stone on my way to adulthood. I feel like this class, so far, has made me more mature because of the freedoms it has allowed me. It has also given me insight into what I appreciate most, and what activities I am drawn to.

It appears as though I have a passion for food.

Most of the highlights of my trips into Philadelphia involve food. These include an exploration of Reading Terminal Market and the enjoyment of The Franklin Fountain’s homemade menu and environment. I’ve appreciated each new experience and flavor. But mostly, I’ve loved that I was able to. Sure, the sole purpose of the trips was not the food aspect—My group stopped at Reading Terminal Market before our time slots for The Quiet Volume, and we hit up Franklin Fountain during our independently planned trip between a visit to Independence Hall and a venture into an amazingly stocked used book store. Food itself was never the purpose of my trip, and yet I’ve repeatedly found it to be one of the most exciting and memorable aspects. This class has opened my eyes to what my interest in a vacation is.

Leafing through the Emily Balch Seminars, they all seemed to run together into an exciting, semester-long adventure.  I had no idea how different they could each be, or how much personal growth they would inspire. I hope that the rest of the semester encourages as much independence and joy as what I have so far experienced.