It’s your pal Louis here. Adventures in Gravedigging recently took me to Oxford, Mississippi and the gorgeous campus of Ole Miss to teach some masterclasses and put on our latest performance of Gravedigger’s Tale for Folger Shakespeare Library. If you haven’t, you can head over to Folger’s excellent Spotlight site to see some more pics from the trip. If you’ve come here from there, please note that nothing here represents the views of Folger in any way – just me.
I want to talk very briefly about the world of academia, something that has long had a pull and an appeal to me. I was ten years on the road with a theater company; more often than not we played college campuses, for many communities the only performing arts center, and interacted with tons of students, undergrads and grads alike.
I’ve always been drawn to teaching. Perhaps it’s in the blood – my parents were both educators. Plus, I think one learns when one teaches, perhaps even more so than when one is “taught.” I enjoy the dialectic, I enjoy the rhetorical experiment, I enjoy the sculpting of language in order to communicate as precisely as possible, I enjoy the surprise that can occur when a long-held belief shifts or clarifies. Primarily, though, I enjoy the company of students.
On this trip to Oxford, I had a chance to work with a fantastic bunch of students, all of whom are currently in rehearsals for a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Their professor Matthew Wilson, a friend of mine with whom I’ve crossed paths many times on the Washington DC theater circuit, is directing the play – and was about the most excellent host one could hope for at a tour site. What was meant to be two one-hour sessions with me turned into one long four-hour session, and even that didn’t feel like quite enough time for any of us.
I suppose what I’m saying is that, as soon as this acting thing reaches its conclusion, maybe teaching is the way forward. Feel free to contact me with nice tenure track faculty appointments. 🙂
Now if that all sounds a little bit too highbrow for you, I want to assure you that the trip to Oxford was not without some revelry. Intent on showing me what else this college town had to offer, Matt guided me to the town square where we sampled some locally brewed beer at City Grocery. I loved the square so much I returned the next day for a catfish po’ boy at Ajax Diner. The city has a mystical quality – it very much reminded me of New Orleans.
We also joined several other members of the theater faculty for a dinner at chef John Currence’s restaurant Snackbar, whose raison d’etre is a fusion of traditional French technique with Indian flavors. I had a pork loin vindaloo that I’m still thinking about a week later. Soooo so tasty.
I’ve saved the best for last. Now please understand that I’ve traveled extensively through the course of my career and I thought I’d encountered most regional delights. But Matt told me there was a Mississippi delicacy I was obligated to try before returning to New York. Ladies and gentlemen: Chicken-on-a-Stick. Available at the food counters in local gas stations, this delicacy is exactly as advertised: juicy, succulent fried chicken breast speared on a skewer, and available with choice of dipping sauce. Best enjoyed in the parking lot, torn up with the fingers, while chatting with the friendly locals.
The aforementioned gas station:
Me with a friendly local gentleman:
Me with the most excellent host, and all-around good guy, Matthew Wilson:
And that’s about it for this dispatch. My next trip will take me to Columbia, South Carolina where I’ll do some more teaching, some more performing and will absolutely be eating as much barbecue as humanly possible.
I’ll close with this picture of the courthouse that sits in the center of Oxford’s town square:
Until we meet again!