Monday, April 11, 2011

Jekyll and Hyde; also, Sunita Partita

My great adventure for today was participating as an outside reader in the dissertation defense of Meredith Conti, of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Theatre Arts.

I am happy to say the defense was a great success. Meredith's... excuse me, Dr. Conti's serious, meaty dissertation deals with the representation of illness on the 19th century stage, so in many ways it's right up my academic alley. But this dissertation was like a full six-course meal - even the side materials were hearty fare. Soup to nuts. She devotes her primary attention to, of course, la Dame aux Camelias, but goes on to deal with addiction in a couple of very tight, flavorful reads of the first productions of Shelock Holmes and, of special interest to me, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. I perked up my ears on this one, because my student Zander Miller is working closely with various dramatic interpretations of that text right now, from I flatter myself his initial work with me in my class on Monster Theory. Good stuff! Meredith Conti is a name to watch; I've never been in a defense that went so amicably and smoothly, because she had really done a great job. And I'm not just saying that because of this.

After the defense Bruce McConachie, Head of the Pitt department, and I walked over to the Union Grill to meet with performance studies-types from both our institutions to plan the latest incarnation of the intramural mini-conference we have traditionally held. I understand the tradition has been on hiatus for a year, but next year we will revive it. I was very happy to meet Neil Doshi who will collaborate with us - Neil is a fascinating guy with specializations in Cultural Studies, Francophone Studies, Performance, and Comp Lit. Also involved will be the usual suspects in performance studies from our campus; Kathy Newman, Kristina Straub, Peggy Knapp, and the inimitable Wendy Arons. This will be very exciting for our English grads and Dramaturgy undergrads.
Fig 1. The face of an international treasure.

Afterwards, I traipsed on back to Purnell where I ran into Bulgarian national treasure Mladen Kiselov (pictured). I am always happy to see Mladen because there's no telling where on the planet he might be at any given moment. At the present time he is HQ'ed in Estonia where he is adapting Brecht. He asked me for a recommendation for a play about addiction. Instantly I said "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde," about which he gave every indication of knowing absolutely nothing. How terrific it would be to introduce Eastern Europe to Robert Louis Stevenson! At that moment, the earth opened up and Zander Miller rose to join us at the table. Clearly, the gods have something in mind here.

The other great adventure I had was yesterday when the "Young Parents of the SoD" (which is to say, parents of young children at the SoD) threw a bit of an after-nap social in honor of the second birthday of Sunita Weems, pictured here in the Tribune Review. In attendance were Chance Handel, and his Handelers (see what I did there); the Arons-Perdriel Ladies; the Holcomb Three (minus two);  Buzz Miller and the buzzlet, Tatum; and the Hines Clan; along with Zain and Farhana. Also, student support network Lauren Parks, Josh Gelb, and Katie Brook, and Kim, one of Marianne's professional friends from The Builder's Association.

Fig. 2. The face of an international treasure.
I understand Kim went with Marianne to Nepal to collect Sunita (see pic left). Talk about it taking a village. It's a joy to me to have a house full of children and friends and colleagues and students, eating cake.


  1. I had no idea about the Tribune photo! Thanks for the work, sleuth. Marianne

  2. Someone is watching you, Professor Weems!