Sympathy correspondence from former student through CUNY Theatre Department.
Alexis Greene, PhD, 1987
February 20, 2012
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I remember the first class I took with Dan Gerould. It was dramatic structure, and we potential Ph.Ds sat around a square configuration of rectangular tables – they barely fit inside the classroom at the old Graduate Center on 42nd Street. I was prepared to be bored. The very word “structure” sounded dry and appallingly academic, and I imagined that we would parse plays very much as I had been taught grammar, many, many years earlier. So it was a revelation when this quiet, and quietly humorous, ascetic-looking man, wearing a bowtie of all things, began to talk feelingly about the varieties of dramatic structure that we would explore: the beautiful organization of Oedipus Rex and the imaginative messiness of The Birds, the ingenious simplicity of Noah and the Flood and the careful architecture of The School for Wives – with many more to come. Form, under Dan Gerould’s ministrations, would, as it turn out, unlock a world of insights about dramatic literature, a world that I hungrily absorbed, sitting at that square configuration of rectangular tables. Sitting and responding as Dan asked questions and led the class, in his sometimes gentle and occasionally impatient Socratic manner, to discover the variations of dramatic form for ourselves. Many years later, after I had acquired my Ph.D. and gone on to be a “professional” theater critic, Dan wondered why I had endured the travail of the Ph.D. process. After all, he opined, “reviewing” did not really require all that knowledge. And indeed the new American plays that I saw week after week were certainly less complicated formally than the contemporary European and Eastern European plays Dan loved and taught. But I would not have foregone that Dramatic Structure course, or any course Dan Gerould taught. In his classroom, theater was the heart and soul of the universe: theater was meaning, it was history, it was humanity, it was a terrific mixture of ugliness and beauty, as we who had come to theater, from our different backgrounds and varying reasons, always knew it should be.
Alexis Greene, PhD, 1987, “Alexis Greene,” The Daniel Gerould Archives, accessed November 13, 2018, http://www.danielgerouldarchives.org/items/show/114.