Art Keeps Me Sane At MIT by ARTalk
[by Danbee Kim '09] The beautiful irony is that the analytical, obsessive, and perfectionist mindset of a scientist or engineer is what makes artists at MIT so good at their art.
[by Danbee Kim ’09]
My mother, like any other parent, likes to keep tabs on what I’m learning at this fancy college I go to, which is why she gave me a quizzical look when I came home for Christmas break freshman year knowing three new ways to juggle and talking about how I was being cross-cast in the IAP musical. To be honest, the only reason why I started doing theater at MIT was because the Musical Theater Guild was performing Star Wars Trilogy: The Musical Edition fall of my freshman year – the unhealthily obsessed geek within me totally plowed through any stage fright that I could have possibly felt as I sang and danced as Bail Organa, Lobot, an empirial technician, and an ewok in a grueling three-hour, two-intermission-long show.
Kenneth Kamrin, a graduate student in mathematics, works with the Yoda puppet, one of the stars of ‘Star Wars Trilogy: Musical Edition,’ a production of the MIT Theater Guild. Photo / Jax Kirtley
Really, can you blame me for falling in love with theater at MIT? And the more I got involved, the more I learned about every aspect of theater. In high school, I was only ever involved with lighting or set related tech. Spring semester of my freshman year, I got the incredible learning opportunity of directing a musical with the help of a mentor. The next fall, I co-costume designed the show with two of my fellow cast members. And the learning opportunities kept coming. I used to dread dancing the way a lobster dreads lemon butter. Doing musical theater helped me learn to dance, even love to dance. True, I don’t get any credit or pay for the hours I put into the Musical Theater Guild; but after all the math and science I get saturated with in my academic life, it’s mind-blowingly refreshing to have something in my schedule that requires a completely different set of skills and mental attitudes.
That’s how I got seduced by juggling as well. One day, an upperclassmen on my hall started to contact juggle in our lounge in order to take a break from a grueling pset. What is contact juggling? Remember that really cool thing David Bowie did with a glass ball in the movie Labyrinth? That’s contact juggling. And there it was, right before my eyes, and by an MIT computer science major with crazy spiked hair. From him I learned to contact juggle, toss juggle, and even juggle fire and do tricks with a whip. It opened up a whole new realm of artistic exploration and creation, and when I joined the MIT Juggling Club, I found a whole community of people who are also inspired and motivated to push the boundaries of performing art.
I am not exaggerating when I say that doing art is what keeps me sane at MIT. The beautiful irony of it is that the analytical, obsessive, and perfectionist mindset of a scientist or engineer is what makes artists at MIT so good at their art. I remember having a conversation with a fellow member of the Musical Theater Guild about how we were able to break down something artistic, such as a choreographed dance, and analyze why one particular aspect of it worked or didn’t work. And the ability to make unique connections, the desire to push expectations and norms, are all things that can lead to greatness in any field. But for me, and for any performing artist, it’s all about being in that moment, that zone of supreme awareness of each muscle in your body, and understanding how to create something beautiful and exhilarating. And even here at MIT, where the people can spend hours happily coding on a Saturday night instead of partying, people understand the sheer physical joy of performing art.
Of course, it’s a little more difficult to present this idea to parents who are sending their kid to an institute of technology that costs more than $45,000 a year to attend. But for those of us who have found the balance between our academic passions and artistic love affairs, who says we can’t have our cake and eat it too?