Cutting Ball by Isaac Schott-Rosenfield

Towards the end of last year, I received the opportunity to be an assistant/student in playwright Andrew Saito’s masterclasses at the Cutting Ball Theatre. The subject was dream theatre. In-between my urgent managements of water pitchers and printers (another education of a very different type), I wrote my short play, possessed by the lively and exacting spirit of both the instruction and genre.

A while later, the Cutting Ball Theatre asked to include my play in their fall show of short Avant-Garde drama. CW artist-in-residence Isaiah Dufort stepped in to direct it. Working in Isaiah’s writerly apartment to restructure my implausible stage directions into something doable, discussing inflection with an attentive actor; I was surprised and moved by the seriousness and vigor which was afforded my work.

On the stage, I observed the difference between my words and their performance, changed by the foreign influence of actors. My detailed, poetic stage directions had to lose their language, had to become visual and actual, rendered in flesh and contour. Theatre entails compromise—between the author and the actor; between the written and the visual. Quite different from the self-contained and thoroughly controlled realm of my usual oeuvre in poetry.

And so while I do not imagine I will become foremost a playwright, acting as one has offered new understanding of dimension and immediacy.

Isaac Schott-Rosenfield, class of 2017

Salable Stories by Isaac Schott-Rosenfield

“[Fitzgerald] had told me at the Closerie des Lilas how he wrote what he thought were good stories, and which really were good stories for the Post, and then changed them for submission, knowing exactly how he must make the twists that made them into salable magazine stories. I had been shocked at this and I said I thought it was whoring. He said it was whoring but that he had to do it as he made his money from the magazines to have money ahead to write decent books. I said that I did not believe anyone could write any way except the very best he could write without destroying his talent. Since he wrote the real story first, he said, the destruction and changing of it that he did at the end did him no harm.”

-Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Hemingway was still appalled, even years later when he wrote down the exchange in A Moveable Feast. As for me, I don’t know what to think. I know that all three of us agree that the thing must be written, and written in its entirety. Nothing can be intentionally left out: it won’t stay away; the work will not complete. But could I really cut it out at the end? Could I ruin the thing I’ve created? I don’t mean to imply that my own work operates at the level of either of the two literary giants, but its completion in my own eyes would be the object of destruction. Others might like it more—they might not even consider it selling out—but I’d know.

These thoughts come to me as I contemplate the assignments I’ve been given. One is the run-of-the-mill, “write a ‘memoir’ which extrapolates a moment from your life and then reflects on it.” It calls for the basic plodding thought process that many English classes aspire towards: an unnecessarily didactic narrative with an “engaging hook,” and too many “describing adjectives” (to use a redundant term). However my English teacher has been generous in allowing me to take to an unconventional formatting: I’m modeling my “memoir” based on a format implemented by Rumi (a Persian poet of the thirteenth century), where a semi-prosaic section sets up and introduces a conceit, to be maintained and explored by a series of long and short form poems. I am excited by the prospect. I like the artistic and intellectual freedom offered. But there are limits, and this scares me. It scares me because, in this long form artistic attempt, I might run across something that was real art. And could I set that down, were it to conflict with the obvious moral-reflective narrative I’ve been asked to construct?

The second assignment is this blog post. Before I sat down to write this, I spent over an hour creating a piece of philosophy that I believe to be true, and that I was proud of in craft and in thought… And it was utterly unpublishable. It was too hard-worded; too uncompromising. It went against the wishes of my audience. It did not fit the assignment. I finished writing it. I said to myself, Emerson wrote “Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again.”

And then I sat down to write this.

Isaac Schott-Rosenfield, class of 2017

Reading Poetry by Isaac Schott-Rosenfield

I started reading poetry again. Not that I really had stopped, but I hadn’t read any in maybe months. I’d been in a fiction unit in school, which meant reading it and writing strictly prose for class, and prose was all I was getting in my English class with The Great Gatsby and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Plus I’d been reading novels back to back; Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast and A Farewell to Arms, and Faulkner’s The Wild Palms. The tangibility of the prosaic object assailed me on all sides. The poem was being subverted to the abstract slur which many of my peers maintain it is. It was too fanciful and too intellectual in turns.

I was beginning to have doubts.

Then my mother asked me to help her find a poem. I went to grab a book of poetry, and looking at the bookshelf, got distracted with the titles and authors that jumped out at me. I made a stack of books I’d read, and grabbed a few I hadn’t, looking for the poem. I brought a few books—Unattainable Earth by Czeslaw Milosz, The Simple Truth by Philip Levine, a book of Merwin, a book of Ferlinghetti, and a copy of The Bhagavad Gita—to bed, and then to school the next morning.. In a couple days I wrote a poem, unbidden.

It hadn’t left.

I am always scared poetry has left me. That I won’t like it anymore, that I won’t be able to write it, that no one but a poet would ever read it. It turns into a blank word document and retreats up in to the air.

But only for a while.

Isaac Schott-Rosenfield, class of 2017

The Culture of Suits by Isaac Schott-Rosenfield

I’ve always wondered why it stopped being proper practice to wear suits, not just in the
workspace or at court, but as everyday wear. They’re comfortable, attractive, afford a fine range
of movement, and, most importantly, they signify an interest in a more mature brand of social
interaction: a proclivity for adult grace. They pushed The Beatles to fame, the Mafia to infamy.
They look brilliant on “The West Wing,” “Madmen,” “Brideshead Revisited.” So why do we
abjure the trappings of professionalism, of power and elegance, in favor of ripped jeans and
sloganized T-shirts? For the “comfort” of stiff Levis? Alors vous êtes nonconformist? Alors vous
êtes cool? It is this culture of studied indifference that I find insulting. It’s not so much that
people don’t wear suits, but that were I to walk into a school in a suit, I would be mocked, the
occasion questioned, my reasoning examined and discarded. A suit is ridiculed as formal and
snobbish, cast aside as foreign and outdated, replaced with a ragged pretension of nonchalance.
These same principles apply to writing and speech. I recently watched a TedTalk with a man who spoke of texting as “writing like you talk,” saying that it would be ridiculous to speak like good writers write. Why? What’s wrong with eloquence, with literacy, with speaking with more than a thousand words, more than ten basic sentence structures?  Would it be so bad if people thought a little before they opened their mouths? I’m not advocating that we speak in regimented sentences, or force a manufactured word into a situation where it doesn’t belong. I’m not saying that casual speech should be lost on us, simply suggesting that we drop the tired offspring of an incestuous diction, to speak with dignity, with care and with grace.
Isaac Schott-Rosenfield, class of 2017

Rehearsal Week!

Yes, that exclamation point in the title is totally warranted, even if the permalink doesn’t think so.

Voyager is off to a great start— we’ve got our whole cast and crew here: Heather, Tony, Rachel, Carol, Isaiah, Maia… Plus the brilliant tech crew we can’t do without (as Beyoncé once said, “Who run the world? [Tech]!”). For the first time since my four-year-memory (the average lifespan of a high schooler), we’ve got all our Skits-I-Mean-Interludes finalized and roughly staged in the first day of theater rehearsals. We’re also aiming high this year, in that every CDub will have their pieces memorized for the show. I expect to just cruise (badum–CHING!) along this week, until Friday, our big show.

In the mean time, here are some pictures to keep y’all entertained:

Melodica-Alien and Jules Justus-Alien Hula/Macarena (?) girls Audience