By UVA - Darden January 17, 2012 Leave a Comment

Guest post by Lindsay Mecca, Darden Class of 2012:

I never thought I’d be excited to give up a week of my winter break to come back to school early and take a class before our third quarter officially started…but that’s exactly what happened.

Every year, Darden offers Second Years the option of enrolling in a J-Week course, an intense, highly interactive class that offers the same credit as a regular full-term class but only meets for 5 days. There were a variety of classes that sounded interesting — “Integrated Marketing Communications,” “Games and Auctions,” “The Experience Economy,” just to name a few — but I enrolled in “Leadership and Theater: Ethics, Innovation and Creativity.” I had heard from last year’s participants that the class was a “must-do,” and so I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

“Leadership and Theater” is taught by Ed Freeman and visiting lecturer Randy Strawderman, a theater director who has been involved in a variety of local and national productions. The class involves a variety of small group and individual performance exercises and culminates in a 24-hour theater project, where students write, direct, act in, produce and perform plays for whoever is willing to spend an hour watching 24 Second Years make fools of themselves — which, we discovered, is practically everyone!

Early in the week, we spent our time getting comfortable with each other and on the stage and flexing the writing, editing and memorization muscles that had atrophied over vacation. Then, on Thursday morning, the whole class decided on a theme for our final production. We broke into smaller groups and began writing 10-minute plays centered on that broader theme. Once the plays were complete, we worked together to cast and assign a director to each show. Then came the line memorization. And rehearsals. And more rehearsals. Oh, and let’s not forget the marketing and promotion of the show itself. It was as daunting and exhausting as it sounds. Fortunately, Ed brought a huge array of snacks to keep us energized in that final push.

Now, most of us hadn’t had much theater experience since our elementary school days as “Tree #2,” but somehow, we pulled off a fantastic show… and had an absolute blast in the process. No surprise there — it’s hard not to have fun at Darden. But I didn’t expect to have much to reflect on given that it was only a 5-day class. I was wrong. We got valuable training in performance, working under pressure, giving and receiving feedback and more — all of which will be useful in our lives and careers post-Darden.

So, as much as lazing around on vacation for one last week sounds appealing, I highly recommend you pack your suitcase, come back to school a little early and jump into “Leadership and Theater” or any of the other J-Week classes. You won’t regret it! 

Lindsay Mecca
Class of 2012

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