Indianapolis, IN (January 2015) – Students from the IUPUI class of 2018 relayed their experiences of being a first-year IUPUI student in an ethnographic performance titled, “Fantasy Forest or Jaguar Jungle.” The performance was offered for the first time this past December at the Black Box Theatre in Cavanaugh Hall on IUPUI’s campus as part of a fall University College Themed Learning Community (TLC) class, which, as part of the larger TLC program, has as its goal helping students understand and facilitate their transition into higher education academics and campus life.
Lines in the performance spoken by the students involve the problems of balancing classes with socializing, parents who have had to take on extra jobs to put [them] through school, dealing with the death of a pet while living away from home, breaking up with a boyfriend, and divorced parents – having to spend equal time with each family. These are all part of a student’s “Jaguar Jungle.” The positive experience of IUPUI student life, dubbed the “Fantasy Forest,” includes comments about organized syllabi, enduring friendships, fun, greater confidence, and the realization that they are not alone.
Dr. Regina Turner, adjunct professor in Communication Studies and director of the performance, notes, “The magical thing about theatre is, it’s not theatre unless it is shared by a community—audience and actors. A large urban campus like ours makes this kind of connection even more valuable.”
Turner added, “First-year students have the difficult task of transitioning from one life to another. It always helps to know that others are having similar joys and difficulties. Company is always welcome on this otherwise lonely road. Theatre helps to accelerate and give meaning to the journey.”
Ethnography is a branch of anthropology, and an ethnographic performance is a presentation about specific groups in society. It is a type of theatre that focuses on the study and research of a given population regarding their attitudes and their lives. The “Fantasy Forest or Jaguar Jungle” performance gave “real-life” information about the students which simultaneously separated them from other populations yet connected them to all humanity.
Turner states, “It is so exciting to see students grow in ways they never would have chosen or never thought they could. In [their] papers and in snippets of conversations, they said things that made me know they even surprised themselves.”
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