Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ethnography Rough Draft

What do you think about the structure of the essay? Should I change anything? Maybe help me with a stronger conclusion?? Any help would be greatly appreciated! :) <3>

Lauren Santos

English 11

Holly Pappas

October 15, 2009

UMass Dartmouth Theater Company

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Theater Company has been a part of me since I was six years old. I was apart of the ‘family’, not only a part of the Crachit family, in the production of ‘A Christmas Carol’, but a part of the Theater Company family. It has been such a part of me that I had never stopped to think about how the company worked. How each single member and their hobbies, interests, and habits, effect the workings of the group. After being assigned this essay, I thought that it would be the perfect time to find out. I walked into the field study with some questions I hope would be answered: “What does each member of the theater company bring to the table?”, “What does the group do when they aren’t performing/rehearsing?”, and “What is the member’s favorite part of being in the T-Co family?”

I walked towards the Theater Company office on a brisk fall evening to attend a rehearsal for their upcoming production of “You Can’t Take It With You”. The overwhelming smell of concrete and fried food filled my nose before I even entered the building. I put my hand on the silver doorknob, trying to hold down my dinner while the smell of old socks enthralled my nasal cavity. The office surprisingly only smelled mildly of the concrete/food/sock combination, partly because they sprayed air freshener. As I walk further into the vibrant red office with my sister, the laughter and talking seemed to escalate. Accents from all over the state, region, and country filled the room like steam from a big ‘melting pot’. I managed to find a seat on a lumpy blue chair that smelled like something died on it. The fluorescent lighting flickered above my head.

As rehearsal was about to begin, the twenty-five people in the room tried to get situated in place while finagling their way around objects in the room. It looked like a Native American rain dance when a few members tried to move around the large table in the center of the room. The left wall, was a mirrored wall with a few countertops and seats for getting ready before performances. On the back and right wall was a line of couches and storage units. The main wall had a few computer desks and a twelve-foot statue of Apollo. Poor Apollo, he had to be covered by a sheet because he “freaked out” the director. There were scripts and food containers strewn around the room, color everywhere, posters from past shows and office supplies that looked like they were never used.

I look at the T-Co members sitting down reading over their lines. Every member is aged between eighteen and twenty-three. They are all dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, pony tails and flip-flops for the majority of girls and sneakers for the boys. I wondered if the girls knew that it was forty-two degrees outside. When the director called for a ten-minute break the talking got even louder then when I had first arrived. Cell phones shot out of pockets to send the latest gossip across the room.

The discussions that go on in the Theater Company family don’t really have intellectual substance. It’s usually who’s dating who, how to do the dance combination, what youtuber is copying BeyoncĂ©’s Single Ladies dance now, etc. Also, the majority of the company is a big fan of cursing, it got a little annoying after a while. Yes, some conversations have to do with academia, but, its usually a discussion about what class they feel like skipping today.

You could say that the UMD T-Co had their own language. Most of the abbreviated text/instant message lingo translates into spoken word. For example, I overheard this conversation: “OMG! Didya hea about that girl who was wit that dude? OMG!” Very well spoken English, right? Nicknames are also a very big part of T-Co. Many are invented from a combination of a member’s first and last names. Some nicknames are completely random and make you scratch your head. I have a nickname in the Theatre Company, “Little Maureen”. My older sister, Maureen, is a big member of the T-Co, so when I’m around, I’m “Little Maureen”.

After rehearsal ended, I heard the group talking about their plans for the weekend. Many plans revolved around shopping, eating, partying, playing video games, and sleeping. I glanced over at the ‘grocery list’, if you could even call it that, for an upcoming party. “ Chips, coffee, ice cream, alcohol, chicken fingers, frozen pizza, soda, cookies, and in big words TAKE OUT.” Sounds healthy, right?

Over the course of this field study I got my questions answered. The UMass Dartmouth Theater Company member not only radiates talent, but a sense of togetherness. Together, they make one big; loud, dramatic, semi-conceited, funny, creative, cooperative, crazy, obnoxious family. It may sound weird and crazy and you must think to yourself, “That sounds awful!” But, you’re wrong. It’s a sense of family that can only be found during those late nights, long rehearsals, and double performance days. I am SO proud to be a part of the UMass Dartmouth Theater Company.


  1. Hi Lauren-I really liked your essay and I especially liked your use of detail with regard to the smells of the room, the signs on the wall and the clothing that the people were all wearing. I laughed at the description of the food list for the party, that part was awesome! I like your structure, you take it through the time sequence of when you were there so it's helpful for the reader to follow along. To answer your question about whether you should have a stronger conclusion, I was wondering if you should maybe just change the location of the 2nd to last paragraph and the last one so that the last becomes the 2nd to last....if you worded it right, I think you could end with the "sounds healthy, right?" question and maybe keep the last line about it's a sense of family that can only be found during those late tie it all up with the same tone you had throughout the rest of the essay. Hope this wasn't too confusing for you to understand but again, great essay!!!

  2. Lauren--

    Really nice draft, with lots of good details and a good start at pulling it all together!!

    Some things you might want to think about in revision:

    How 'bout a snappier title?

    Usually you don't refer specifically to assignment of the essay--just as a journalist wouldn't refer to how (s)he was assigned a story.

    Smell details are good, but I'm not quite sure of floor plan and general layout (where and what is the office vs. stage?). Also great details in room description (but try for stronger verbs instead of "to be" and "to have"--not sure about enthralled for sock odor and finagled, though). Maybe add a little dialogue?

    The last para. seems to pull together a general view of the troupe, but you might want to go through that list of adjectives to make sure you have *shown* all of those things in body of essay. You don't really seem to directly address those questions you posed at the beginning, though (maybe a bit about question 2)?? (You could interview couple of them to get their own answers to question 3--maybe on your way out the door as a way to wrap things up?)

    Maybe add a para. or so about the actual rehearsal itself (not at the very end)? Just as with Kristen's, I think you could "embed" some of the generalized details (sounds like an oxymoron--do you know what I mean?) like language into more of a scene (have people actually saying those things within the dramatic situation).

    Overall, though, *fine* work!