Professor Phillip Baldwin, an assistant professor of Media Arts at Stony Brook University, is helping to put on a student-run play at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn on Friday, Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m. called “The Monkey King.”
The play is a modern take on a Chinese classic, “Journey to the West,” and will focus on one aspect of the original, “The Monkey King.”
“This is a narrative of individuality. What should a very energetic individual do?” Baldwin said.
The play, which was reworded and rewritten for this interpretation, has been primarily worked on during Baldwin’s two theater courses, Theatre Arts 216: Introduction to Visual Interpretation, and Theatre Arts 103: Theatre and Technology. These two classes work together to compile different student projects towards their “final,” this play.
According to Baldwin, this style of teaching is nothing new.
“The business psychological behavior grows through socratic method not multiple choice tests,” he said. Even though Baldwin believes that socratic methods are best for learning, he understands that this isn’t a liberal arts university. “Students don’t immediately wrap their head around this concept. We have to lump everyone together and give them a piece of the action,” he said. “I hope everyone has their enlightenment moment where they say, ‘This guy is telling us to not think of universities as a place to bleed our parents money. We do our stuff and get it out into the world.’”
The play’s director, Siyue Wang, a sophomore theater arts major, has been pushing the cast and crew of nine up to this point. “The hardest part is making the schedule. Getting these nine people together and working together was difficult,” she said. “I am most afraid of this one part in the show where I am the sound manager and acting on stage. I hope I don’t miss my que.”
Although Wang does feel some stress and nerves for her upcoming play, she is very proud of her castmates. “Everyone has worked so hard to make this happen. I love doing this,” she said.
Wang herself took both of Baldwin’s theater classes and found that “The Monkey King” was her best shot at getting experience. “I want to do this when I get a job. I want to do this again,” she said.
Micah Baja, a student in Baldwin’s current THR 216 class, grasped the concept fairly early on. “Overall I enjoy the class and how it forces you to pay attention. It’s a good break from the study then test format of other classes,” he said.
The Monkey King, or at least this version of it, is strange and often times confusing, but that is what Baldwin wants. “In Buddhism, the monkey mind is the scattered mind,” he said.
Baldwin isn’t afraid of coming off crass. “It’s not for everybody. Especially from this STEM school where students feel I am too ambiguous. For once in your life, don’t worry about numbers,” he said. “I want to see high levels of passion and creativity. I am giving you that one class because later, for sure, this idea is showing back up in your life.”
Featured image credit: Beyond My Ken