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    The Fourth Factor

    Academic Weirdness

    by , 06-01-2018 at 02:40 AM (68 Views)
    I am in a small classroom in a university, but itís not lecture Iím attending here: itís a theatrical performance.

    There are about a dozen of us in the audience, as well as three dogs, two of them large ones, which is almost enough to make the room crowded. Both the main actors are here already too, in the front of the room. It seems theyíre performing ďFaustĒ- or something Faust-ish, at any rate. Both the main characters are being played by women, the title role by HťlŤne Grimaud, although itís not clear whether itís actually the pianist or just a well-known actress who happens to have that name.

    Thereís also a woman in the back who seems to be involved in some official capacity. Sheís the one responsible for checking ticketsóat least theoretically. Iím hoping that remains theoretical since I donít actually have a ticket. The prevailing system here seems to work like train tickets, where the ticket is good for a certain range of dates. While I do have one on hand, itís good for three weeks in November, and itís still October now.

    She begins by giving a short speech, which she records using a small camera. Predictably, the smaller dog, which is hers, sticks its face directly in it at one point. Things come to a halt for a bit as the audience makes a fuss over all the dogs and encourages her to get them on film. But eventually, the performance itself gets underway.

    For a while, itís just the two leads talking, but very clever dialogue. At one point, the Mephistopheles(-ish) character begins asking for members of the audience to volunteer. And, as people begin to get more comfortable, they begin to participate more. Soonówhat with the intimate space and the lack of separation between us and the performersó itís as if weíre a part of the performance rather than just observing it.

    I look out the (partially frosted glass?) wall at a man walking byóhe probably thinks this is a rather odd lesson, given that itís probably not obvious at first glance that itís a performance. But actually, he seems to be part of the performance as well. He enters the room, placing some notes and a glass with some white wine in it on a lectern, and beings to talk about philosophy.

    One of the audience members comments on the wineglass. The newcomer enters into a hilarious dialogue with them, still in a philosophical vein, all in a complete deadpan. I recall him claiming that he wasnít the same person he was a couple of drinks ago. Another half-dozen people seem to have joined the audience at some point, which is more than enough to make the room crowded. At some point, I wake up.

    After writing everything down, I fall asleep again and find myself in a continuation of the dream. I seem to have watched the rest of the performance, as well as the lecture taking place in the room afterwardsóapparently a Marxist interpretation of diabetes, which Iíve stayed to listen to out of a combination of morbid curiosity and a lack of anywhere better to be. But I have a class I need to get to soon, and I want to get some coffee first, so I gather my stuff together and cut out early.

    Once outside, it occurs to me that I donít actually know where this class is going to be held. I find my notebook in my messenger bag and look through it, but it only looks like Iíve got last semesterís schedule written hereónot this oneís. But I do recall receiving an email from somebody mentioning the classís location, so I can check on thatóbut it will have to be on my laptop, since I canít access that particular account on my phone.

    My room isnít far from hereóitís in a large building just down the street. I enter and make my way up to my room. Itís a tiny room, and unlike anywhere Iíve actually lived, but it all seems familiar and somehow pleasant. I put what seems to be my cast-iron shrine teapot on a hotplate on the top of a small, precarious-looking shelf to one side of my desk to boil water for coffee and sit down to find the email.

    According to the email, the class is taking place at St. Johnís Observatoryóso not on campus, then, since I would have seen it if it were. I pull up a map website to find out where it is. To my own amusement, I initially mistype "Kassel"óthe place I have apparently decided I amóas "Kessel" (kettle, that is).

    Based on the pictures my search has turned up, the place Iím going to is a greenhouse as well as an observatory: itís a small building with mostly glass walls, through which greenery can be seen. Iím not sure where it is relative to me just yet, though, and itís now 17:00, when the class was supposed to begin. Maybe that wonít matter so much on the first day? But then it occurs to me: Iím in Germany. Akademisches Viertel. That means I still have time to get there.

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