Chris Smith

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
Under the supervision of Professor Keith Fowler in the Department of Drama within the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, I studied the use of different modes of presentation in creative performances.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?
I first became involved in research with a UROP grant during the Winter/Spring Quarters of 2002. Using the grant, I directed a show, Baby with the Bathwater, which examined the composition of the modern family unit and dysfunctional family units within the context of the nature vs. nurture debate.
3. How has research enhanced you education?
Research has enhanced my education in several ways. In addition to being a practical application of my classroom experiences, research has enabled me to explore different studies to enhance art. Using the UROP grant, I have had the opportunity to direct a show, produce an on-going show, and collaborate with others to create these events. In contrast to the classroom experience where we do small-scale applications of what we learn, with faculty-supervised research I was excited to apply what I had learned in class to a real event. I have learned the importance of studying other fields in the arts and sciences, such as comparative religion, psychology, evolution studies, sociology, and poetry, to better understand character development, the audience-actor relationship, and other thematic elements of a show. I’ve continued to be a generalist in studying everything that helps me write, direct, act and understand the world that I’m performing in and performing for.
4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?
My favorite experience with research was during rehearsals for my last project, The Serpent. For The Serpent, I had decided to have no music during the show. Instead, the actors would create the music using their bodies and voices as their only instruments. This scared everyone other than the music contingent. The goal for this particular rehearsal was to learn the music for the exiting, which was the Doobie Brother’s Listen to the Music. Everyone had to be a part of the song. We listened to it for a long time, not knowing quite how to go about creating the right sounds. The first few attempts were horrific and sounded bad. As they caught on, as I did, they began to feel where they had to be vocally. They sectioned themselves off into bass, strings, back-up, and leads, and within thirty minutes they created a sound that was better than what we had been mimicking on the CD because it was live and alive. They started dancing around and we had the first really communal moment of the whole rehearsal process. It was a great evening, and every hurdle from then on was an easy jump.
5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?
My future plans are to finish a book I am writing, which uses research in the style of writing from Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller. I’m moving onto James Joyce soon. I’m writing a few scripts that contain characters I don’t understand because they aren’t me. I like to be accurate in portraying my characters, so I have dedicated much time and money in search of books ranging from Zen Buddhism to Joseph Campbells’ Canon on Comparative Mythology, to first-hand accounts of manic depression and suicide. I plan to move to Los Angeles in the Fall to pursue work as an actor, writer, director, producer, and a generalist. Research has helped me realize that others can help me find a path to artistic truth, and that we should never stop searching. There is no end to the knowledge that will help us be better artists and citizens.
6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?
The advice I would give other art researchers is this: find a field outside of the arts that better enhances your art. In reading and talking to people outside of the arts, I have been better able to understand the world I live in and feel more capable of sending an artistic and well-informed message to an audience. Since our job as artists is to comment, critique and produce humanity in our art, we should study humanity in all its fascinating and numerous facets. I recommend comparative mythology to begin—Joseph Campbell is amazing.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '03 Jana Remy
Nov. '03 Jacqueline Chattopadhyay
Oct. '03 Anshuman Chadha
Sep. '03 Ted K. Yanagihara
Aug. '03 Stephanie Domzalski
Jul. '03 Susan Milden
Jun. '03 Mai Nguyen
May '03 Chris Smith
Apr. '03 Erin Ramsey
Mar. '03 Michael Williams
Feb. '03 Emily Slusser
Jan. '03 Laleh Boroujerdi-Rad
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