Saturday, May 23, 2009

Playing at Life

Today R. and I went to see the play Collected Stories at SCR. The play is about a well-known fiction writer who teaches graduate students in a writing program at Barnard College. One of her students, who is promising, gifted, but very insecure, attaches herself to the teacher, who is not young anymore and has a lonely isolated life. The girl sort of moves into this woman's life, becomes her assistant, and practically an adopted daughter, taking everything she can get from the teacher in the way of advice and assistance, then betrays her.
It's kind of close to the bone for us, as teachers, writers, and former young, promising students of writers we admired and relied on. We had a good conversation about the unspoken rules of having a relationship with another writer or a teacher. And there are rules, though they aren't as consciously part of the legal and social furniture as with therapists or doctors. It's always a dicey business breaking down barriers with your social superiors or those who have some kind of power over you in their official capacities, or, if you are on the other side of it, allowing those barriers to be taken down, dropping the mask and becoming merely another human being with your students or clients or patients. Both parties are vulnerable, as this play makes very clear.
The play was also impressive in that it includes pieces of the student's writing, which are just good enough to be convincing and convincing in their unevenness also.
If you have a chance to see the play, I recommend it.


Lou said...

The relationships between graduate students and professors can be very close, so much more so that the undergraduate relationship. And when you add writing to the mix, well, you know.

Robbi said...

Yeah, I know.