Phew. These last two weeks have been very tiring. As part of my stagecraft class, I had to be on the crew for a student theatre production. Starting the last weekend of September, I had to be at technical rehearsals for most of Saturday and Sunday, then for three hours every night that week, then for every performance over the next two weekends.
My academic load is lighter this semester than previous ones, which was a blessing during tech week. While it was a hefty time commitment (I counted up the other night; over forty hours!), it was a fun experience. I got to know some of the other theatre students a little better. It’s nice to be on a first-name basis with people; this is only my second semester at UNM, and I’m still learning how to network. When I first saw a run-through of the play, I wasn’t sure how much I liked it, but as I sat in the dark wings through every performance and got to know the actors’ various performance styles, it grew on me. The play is called “The Fire Bugs”, by the way, if you want to look it up.
This past Sunday was the final performance, and I had to stay late to help with strike (tearing down the set). To help you understand how much of a pain that was, let me tell you a little bit about the set (which I helped build, as part of my stagecraft class): The main set was a two-level metal and wood structure, with a huge round revolve in the center of the bottom level (picture a lazy susan type contraption, except in the platform, not on it). Then there was a staircase that took you to the second level, about ten feet up, which was supported by huge iron legs. All around this two-level contraption were more iron structures that stuck up through the grid (a sort of net above the stage made of thin metal lines so techies can walk on it and adjust the lights) and were bolted to the stage floor. There were also four or five iron ladders that must have weighed a couple hundred pounds; each took at least five people to carry.
So, my entire semester in this class so far has been spent building, paintaing, and installing the set for this play; now we had to take it all down in one afternoon. It actually went surprisingly fast; the entire cast and crew, including the director, helped, and some people brought friends, and some other people from my class that weren’t on the crew came to help. Strike started at 3:30, I left at 5:00 because I had to study for my stagecraft midterm (scheduled for 9:00 Monday morning – yay!). I heard that everything was done by 7:00.
Monday was exhausting. I stayed up late Sunday night, finishing some French compositions and studying for that midterm. I also woke up early the next morning to get some more studying in. When I got to school, everyone in class seemed to have their books out, trying to do some last-minute cramming (very last-minute for some; I overheard one girl say she had forgotten that we even had a midterm that day).
Richard (our instructor) came, passed out the tests, and we all scattered around the scene shop to work, some sitting on the floor, some standing, some awkwardly trying to use a table saw as a writing surface. Richard had set about twenty tools out on the worktable for us to identify, as well as various other machines around the shop. As I moved down the line, trying to remember the endless illustrations I had studied, I was shocked to see that several students in the corner were huddling around an open textbook. At first I wondered if someone just forgot to put it away, but I realized my foolishness when I saw them flipping through pages looking for the answers, or asking each other for help. Richard had gone to his office to work on something else, completely unaware of what was going on.
I tried to ignore the whispers and focus on my own test. When I finished identifying the tools, I went to another corner of the scene shop to work. As I looked at a large, upright saw that had been labeled to I.D. and realized that I had no idea what it was called, a girl came up to me and asked,
“What did you get for seventeen?”
I was taken aback, and while I was definitely not going to give her an answer, all I could think to say was,
“Uh, I don’t know.”
“If you don’t want to tell me, that’s OK.” she said, and walked away. As if I had to be reassured that not cheating is OK.
When I was mostly finished, I made one more sweep over the tools to try and remember the two or three I didn’t recognize, and all around me were whispers.
“What are some other power tools?” “Yeah, that’s a circular saw.” “Did you get number twenty?”
I get it. The instructor was in the other room, no one was watching us, and since it was kind of a free-roam exam it was very tempting and easy to cheat. But come on, people. We’re not in high school anymore. This is college. If you don’t care about doing your own work and if you don’t take this seriously, don’t come to college. It was infuriating.
In hind sight, I suppose I should have said something, or told Richard. I guess I didn’t because I’ve somewhat resigned myself to the reality that people are going to cheat, and they’re the ones who will get hurt in the long run. It was disappointing, however, to witness students I had thought fairly well of and begun to view as friends giving each other answers.
I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who didn’t cheat on that midterm. Or at least, I’m one of the very few. Maybe I should feel good about that, but it just makes me feel sick and angry. I think what gets me the most is that I studied for that test; I sacrificed sleep to study for that test, and everyone else obviously blew it off. But I’d rather get a bad grade than cheat and get a good grade. As after-school-special sappy that sounds, it was my only comfort as I handed in my test.