|My latest university course kicked off on Saturday with a play featuring my least-favourite subject: math. But I still found something to like about it.|
|My binders of printed-out material for the course, called Arts, Criticism and the City. It's a condensed six-week course that will take in many local arts performances and venues. For me, a switch -- I always prefer to curl up at home with a book.|
|But not usually this kind of book. A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas promises to be quite different from the E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf I have been reading lately.|
|Among the topics we'll be discussing is William Morris's philosophy and designs.|
|Another session will deal with textiles from the Banjara tribe of India. This is from the materials I copied for the course.|
I’m so bad at math that I had to memorize my Grade 12 math book to pass the final exam; so bad that sometimes at work I would call John (very quietly) to sort out math issues in stories. So what was I doing on Saturday at a play called Long Division, where the language was algebra and algorithms, prime numbers and happy numbers (yup, they exist), and how parallel lines can be made to meet?
The answer is that it was the weirdly appropriate start to the latest course I’m taking in my graduate liberal studies program at Simon Fraser University. A bit uncomfortably, I’m going to spend the next six weeks immersed in topics I know nothing about: Arts criticism and the local arts scene. Modern theatre, modern music, modern dance. First Nations art. Manga. Mosaic making. Textiles of the Banjara tribe of India. William Morris’s designs. Baudelaire’s essays and poems about the street life of Paris.
All of it quite a long way from the warm bath of 19th and 20th-century novels I prefer to luxuriate in. There was a lot more to Saturday’s play than mathematical terms, of course. There was a tragedy and seven characters finding ways to connect through it. But to me, floundering in my unfamiliar sea, the best part was the actors. Who knew even such a low-key play would feature such skilled professionals? A small revelation, but the first of many, I suspect.