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My City of Play (Reworked)

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Ellen Cohn


Reworked Essay

My City of Play

At the beginning of my Bryn Mawr-bound summer, I had a checklist of everything I had to do to prepare myself to begin college. One of the most daunting things on the list was to select my top three choices for an Emily Balch Seminar.  Although each one seemed intriguing, I ended up selecting the “Play in the City” Seminar, largely because of the professor teaching it: Theater has been a big part of my life, and although I do not necessarily want to major in theater, staying within a community which I understand, and which generally understands me, seemed like a great idea. With Mark Lord, the head of the theater department, teaching my Emily Balch Seminar, I figured that I could get to know him without taking a theater class or participating in a main stage production.

I got so much more out of this Seminar than I was expecting. When I initially wrote this essay, I wrote about food, and how my freedom in the city (provided by this course) allowed me to express myself through my travels and the takeaway from those travels. Many times, the choices I made involved food, so I connected the enjoyment and freedom I felt in the city with that of the food I experienced.

Now that this course is over, I can reflect on everything I’ve learned. Throughout this seminar, we have read many essays, articles, and interviews. We have written many postings, had many discussions, and filled a toolbox. We have met in writing groups, done many classroom exercises, and found different points of view for our papers. We have also learned about a few different types of play.

Learning about Ackerman’s concept of Deep Play in this seminar was quite an interesting experience. I agree with the point that we all try to find deep play, and I would like to connect this with Sontag’s assertion that interpretation makes it harder for us to have an emotional reaction to art (or, anything, for that matter).

In my first trip into the city, my group and I were walking around before our show time for “The Quiet Volume”. We stumbled upon a large, cement park, filled with giant game pieces. This type of art did not lend itself to being interpreted; we did not sit there asking why the domino was falling down, or trying to give meaning to the giant top hat. We simply ran inside and started playing. By rejecting the idea of interpretation, and instead allowing ourselves to have an emotional reaction to the park, we got very much into the idea of play. I believe, we began to deeply play.

Studying the concept of Deep Play was pretty cool. I believe that I try to deeply play frequently, and I search for it whenever I can. One example of this occurred that day of our first trek into Philadelphia, in the park with the large game pieces. The game pieces’ insanely large sizes provided a sort of “Alice in Wonderland” experience for me, making me feel small, like a child again. This allowed me to invest more in the moment. I became truly in the moment, and enjoyed the rarity, joy, freedom, physical engagement, connection, and fullness of time that are all characteristic of a moment of deep play.

I don’t think that I would have been able to enjoy this moment of deep play if I had focused more on interpreting the park. If my group and I had stopped to wonder why it was there, who may have created it, why it was created, why the artist creates specific pieces, and why they colored or arranged them in certain ways, we would not have had such an emotional and riveting experience.

Selecting my Emily Balch Seminar may have been a daunting task, but the decision I made proved to be spectacular. Learning about things like Deep Play has helped me understand many of my experiences, and finding relationships, such as between deep play and the lack of interpretation, has been truly enlightening.