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Students explore Theater and Dance through MAP

Charlie Rosenblum, Liana Butchard and Dru Greenwood, left to right, all ’18, are each exploring their academic and personal interests through a MAP in the theater and dance department. Photo by Mai Vu Phuong.

This year, Liana Butchard, Dru Greenwood and Charlie Rosenblum, all ’18, are each working on Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) in the theater and dance department. Each MAP is unique to the person and reflects their interests, both inside and out of the classroom.

Unique to the College, MAPs are projects where students work closely with a faculty member to research an area of interest to them and receive credit. MAPs can be an expansion of previous coursework and contribute to a student’s major, or they can be based on students’ interests, not directly related to their majors.

Butchard’s MAP is titled “Choreography in the Environment” and she is working with the National Water Dance, a collection of dances that address water issues in the United States. Artists, like Butchard, can apply to upload a recording of their dance to the website. A powerful aspect of the dances for the National Water Dance is that each dance has the same opening and closing gesture phrase. All the dances are then live-streamed on the same day at the same time.

Butchard’s focus is on the relationship between the prairie and water, so she is using the Conrad Environmental Research Area (CERA) for the site of her dance.

“My piece is looking a lot at the relationship between how people have engaged with prairie spaces, largely being that they have destroyed prairie spaces, since 99.9 percent of prairie space is now gone. And kind of looking at the intersections between utility and beauty, so in place of music I’m using a piece of text by Paul Gruchow called ‘What the Prairie Teaches Us,’” Butchard said.

Butchard is a history and French double major with a concentration in global development studies, so her MAP falls outside of her primary subjects of study. However, Butchard has been involved with dance throughout her time at Grinnell College, and is involved with and has worked for the Center for Prairie Studies. Butchard’s MAP has allowed her to pursue two of her interests that go beyond her majors and concentration.

While Butchard’s MAP handles issues surrounding water and the prairie, Greenwood’s MAP takes on the topic of Black identities in the context of America context. Currently, he is directing a performance of “The Royale” by Marco Ramirez. He finished casting his play last semester and is currently focused on rehearsals, ensuring that momentum is not lost.

“I wanted to do a play about Black people by a person of color that dealt with Black identities within the American context. I wanted to do that because there hasn’t been a play that fit all of those attributes in a really long time at Grinnell,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood’s MAP is a way for him to do what he has wanted but never had the chance to do, due to the lack of representation of works by people of color in theater courses.

“Instead of waiting around for a professor to stage [a play like this], I felt that I might as well use the MAP to get school funding and resources,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood wants to direct plays after he graduates, so his MAP is the perfect way to experience what directing is truly like.

“This is real-world practice for me. Most students would not get the opportunity to do something like this, at this caliber,” he said.

Rosenblum’s MAP similarly tackles the intersection of performance and social issues, studying the long-term effects of sexual assault and the various relationships that survivors have after traumatic events. He hopes to reexamine the common narrative that people use to understand the effects of sexual assault and bring to light other aspects of the survivor’s experience.

“What I’d like to visualize for this performance is detailing the effects of sexual assault long-term, not just right after, but PTSD, depression. I don’t want it to be solely about the survivors’ experiences, I want it to be about the healing process as well,” Rosenblum said.

Rosenblum is a French and economics major, and his interest in dance led him to this MAP. Like Butchard, Rosenblum has also engaged with dance throughout his time at Grinnell.

“I want to do something that is personal, but also shed light on the very political and social topic [of sexual assault],” he said.

These theater and dance MAPs provide Butchard, Greenwood and Rosenblum with the chance to pursue their academic and personal interests through an individual research experience. Their MAPs allow them the opportunity to push themselves to combine their varied interests into a completely unique project.

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