Donate Today! Help us help others.

Lynch Coaching


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bias, Prejudice, Stereotype and South Pacific

Race, Sex and Colonial Politics: South Pacific the Musical

South Pacific: Paradise Rewritten
By Jim Lovensheimer

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "South Pacific" has remained a mainstay of the American musical theater since it opened in 1949, and its powerful message about racial intolerance continues to resonate with twenty-first century audiences.

Drawing on extensive research in the Rodgers and the Hammerstein papers, including Hammerstein's personal notes on James A. Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, Jim Lovensheimer offers a fascinating reading of "South Pacific" that explores the show's complex messages and demonstrates how the presentation of those messages changed throughout the creative process.

Indeed, the author shows how Rodgers and especially Hammerstein continually refined and softened the theme of racial intolerance until it was more acceptable to mainstream Broadway audiences. Likewise, Lovensheimer describes the treatment of gender and colonialism in the musical, tracing how it both reflected and challenged early Cold War Era American norms. This superb book offers an intriguing portrait of a Broadway masterpiece and the times in which it was written.

South Pacific: Paradise Rewritten offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how Rodgers and Hammerstein diluted the radical social and political content of the musical "South Pacific" between its conception and its Broadway opening in order to ensure its commercial success, resulting in a work that remained edifying but that did not offend its audiences.

South Pacific: Paradise Rewritten
By Jim Lovensheimer
Oxford University Press
Hardcover; 288 pages; 30 photographs and 11 music examples

Diversity and Teaching at CSN

I have local, regional and national experience working with and benefiting from diversity, other cultures and communities. We are also part of an increasingly international business and communication universe. I feel uniquely qualified to contribute in opening the classroom to this evolutionary trend.

In addition to teaching, I serve on the board of a very high profile national organization, with international conversations and connections on a daily basis. I am currently enrolled in an on-line PhD program, where I have been dealing for three years with professional educators from across the US and overseas. Both of these experiences have opened my own life up to a wealth of learning opportunities from others, particularly from those whose professional and life experience is different from my own.

The College of Southern Nevada is located in the Las Vegas market, the fastest growing urban area in the nation for all but one of the past fifteen years. The transient nature of the market brings with it a wide diversity of ethnic, cultural and language groups, including a massive growth in both Hispanic and African American communities. The college also has an aggressive international program, which includes a larger than normal English as a Second Language population. We have active Community College High School programs, homeless outreach, senior citizen and workforce education and retraining programs.

I have taught at all three primary campus locations, the “tech” centers, Nellis Air Force Base and various satellite CSN campus locations. My experience includes teaching courses in all of the geographic and diverse environments Clark Country Nevada has to offer.

In addition, I spent almost ten years teaching acting at a minority owned business to an extremely diverse population of students age 4 to senior citizens.

Southern Nevada includes a work force and retired community spanning much of the globe in origin and identification. References I can provide on request include students from Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, Mongolia, the Pacific Rim, Australia, South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico.

I have found that the diversity of the classroom is advantageous in teaching speech and communication as in those courses students contribute their backgrounds, experiences and opinions to the discourse of the classroom. The students bring first hand examples of why we need to be aware of the “noise/screens/filters” that get in the way with truly listening and communicating with each other, of the importance of understanding and participating with civic responsibility, the universality of many aspects of the world around us and the way we communicate with each other.

As a member of the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild, I serve on a wide range of active national and international committees, including the Ethnic Opportunity Committee and the National Spanish Language Media Task Force. The nature of the organization encourages diversity and active representation of minorities in governance.

Diverse opinions and interpretations of communication come with the diversity of the students, in economics, in gender, in ethic or racial identification, and in personal experiences. When students are allowed to openly share their views, frustrations, life experiences, they begin to open up to the world of the other students. Communication and understanding become possible. At times I serve as a moderator, making sure that the discussion and interaction ties directly to the subject matter of the course. I also believe in open and honest disclosure to facilitate the type of comradely and improvement in grades which occur every semester in my course sections.

When particular segments of the population may be missing from a given section, I bring in (with the permission of the student) examples from previous course sections, from current media, or from courses I am now or have previously taken. The students appreciate honest representation of the work or presentation of previous students, my own course room experience and current events (if tied to their current needs or experience).

Students with disabilities offer the opportunity to, by example, enrich the classroom experience for all students. I recall an hearing impaired student who took me aside and asked if the students doing presentations could look his direction more often and if he could have additional office time to review concepts he may miss by not seeing my lips or by lacking the full audio content of the course. I agreed to both.

A final note on the ESL students. When encouraged they overcome their fear of presenting in English and offer perhaps the most unfiltered view of their culture and society possible without visiting the actual countries. I offer personal coaching, office hours, e-mail response and a range of Web based instruction supplements for these students on an as needed basis. A computer translator is allowed in the classroom and when taking exams. I strongly encourage them to become an active part of the class, partnering in research and study with a native English speaker. Both students benefit from the pairing.

Overall I want to encourage the supportive, collaborative, and substantive goals of what some educators terms “the learning community”.

Language and ideas, Oral Language is contextual and fleeting

Language enlivens your ideas--the words you choose get your audience's attention, help them visualize your main points, and facilitate their ability to remember what you say. Language refers to the system of words you use to communicate with others. It is arbitrary, ambiguous, abstract, and active, characteristics that present speakers with both opportunities and challenges. 

Because language is arbitrary, audiences may interpret your words in ways you don't intend. Because language is ambiguous, consider both the connotative and denotative meanings of the words you use. Because language is abstract, consider when to discuss ideas and concepts rather than tangible objects and specific actions. Because language is active, the words you use and how you use them change over time.

Language and culture are interdependent. You learn about the meanings of words from your culture, and words help you interpret culture. Slang, jargon, idioms, euphemisms, and clichés highlight the link between language and culture. Because your audiences may not always share your cultural background, it's best to avoid these types of culture-specific words or phrases unless they're essential to the speech. You must also pay attention to gender and language when you give a speech, considering how the gender of your listeners will affect how they interpret your message. In addition, use nonsexist language to avoid alienating some members of your audience.

Spoken language differs from written language in that it is dynamic, immediate, informal, irreversible, based in narrative, and rhythmic, whereas written language is static, distant, formal, revisable, able to describe multiple facts, and rich in imagery. When you give a speech to an audience, use spoken language in an engaging, conversational manner and use audience-centered language. When you take an audience-centered approach, you put your language in context, personalize your language, use inclusive language, use visual language, and spark imagination with your language.

The language you speak determines the way you see, perceive and understand the world around you. Safir- Whorf states that we can only understand to the extent of our ability to comprehend through language. Speakers need to understand the most effective language to use to send the desired message successfully to their intended audience.

To successfully use language to engage your audience, use spoken language, choose meaningful words, balance clarity and ambiguity, strive for conciseness, avoid offensive or aggressive language, build in redundancy, and don't get too attached to your words.

Disclaimer: For Educational Use only. From varios sources and texts. No claim to be original ideas or conceptes by author.

Hrair Messerlian, SEIU Exec, immediate past Nevada SAG Executive. "Art is extremely intelligent and passionate in the work he champions and the individuals he mentors and represents."

Art was the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) elected National Board Member from Nevada and the elected Nevada Branch Council Member during my tenure there as the Nevada Branch's Executive Director and previously while I was a director in SAG's benefits organization (SAG-PPHP).

Art is extremely intelligent and passionate in the work he champions and the individuals he mentors and represents.  As an elected official both on the national stage and locally, Art has demonstrated his communication skills during organizational and public presentations, discussions and debates. 

Art has been able to interact effectively with a broad cross section of individuals with varying backgrounds in age and gender, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds, skills and professional levels, socioeconomic classes, political leanings and disabilities.

We have testified together before the Nevada State Senate to persuade the legislature to enact production incentives to bring more quality work to the Nevada arts community.

Please let me know if I can provide any additional information.

Hrair Messerlian
Statewide Field Coordinator, SEIU Local 1000
CDCR, DMH, DDS, DVA, Special Schools

"Madmen" has political, social and educational value...


Recently launched class centers on consumerism and social change in the '60s as seen through the lens of the AMC series.

A professor at Chicago's Northwestern University apparently thinks that Mad Men is not just entertaining but also has educational value.
Michael Allen, an assistant professor of history, has created a course titled Consumerism and Social Change in Mad Men America, 1960-1965. Sixteen freshmen are enrolled the course, whose syllabus includes watching the first season of the AMC show, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
"Mad Men provides a good understanding of how ordinary people participated in history and produced change in politics broadly conceived," Allen told the Northwestern News.
Allen said the show offers an accurate depiction of life during the '60s, from the clothes and decor to the interests and concerns of the time, as well as frequent references to political events.
"But more importantly, the writers are well-versed in source materials from and about the period," he told the Northwestern News. "Their familiarity with the literature, film and advertising of the late 1950s and early '60s gives them a deft feel for the complicated office politics, gender conventions and sexual mores of the day. "
Although Allen has high praise for the show, he added that it does have some shortcomings.
"I don't think it fully addresses the complexity of race and ethnicity in the early 1960s," he said. "I also don't think it gives a full understanding of class and socioeconomic relations of the period. It doesn't always make clear the government policies and structural inequalities that underwrite its characters' lives."
Mad Men has won multiple Emmys and Golden Globes along with nearly universal critical acclaim. Allen told the Sun-Times that he plans to keep teaching the course "if the show maintains its high quality."