Out There Learning
When it comes to learning, Patrick Derrickson ’15 has this one word he uses time and again: crazy. As in, out there, fun, weird, different. And for all of its august heritage and gravitas of purpose, the Douglass Cater Society is one of Derrickson’s favorite aspects of studying at Washington College, because it lets him pursue that crazy learning.
“I have lots of crazy ideas to research things no one else would let me do,” Derrickson says. “I also like to learn about crazy things I would never think to learn about, and the Cater Society is a great opportunity to do that. That supplemental learning component of the Cater Society is one of the reasons I was so interested in joining.”
Derrickson is a double major in drama and philosophy. As house manager of the Independent Playhouse, he works with fellow students who are experimenting with their own plays and productions. The Gibson Theatre is his favorite place on campus, and as one of its events stage managers, he gets deeply hands-on with production. Last spring, for instance, he stage-managed the Drama Department’s epic production of King Lear—when he was only a sophomore.
“I think I have more opportunities here than I would if I went to a larger school,” says Derrickson. “At this point in a larger school as a drama major I would maybe just be starting to work on productions. Here, I got to know the professors quickly, and they could see my work ethic because we work more closely.”
Derrickson applied to become a Cater Society Junior Fellow to learn about other students’ explorations, and to pursue his own particular research interests. While abroad in South Africa last semester, Derrickson conducted research on a Cater grant to examine endemic South African theater and how the British colonial influence has affected it. “When the British colonized countries they would impose their theater on a place,” he says. “In South Africa, the effect has been to move the performance more towards a narrative, whereas before that it was mainly performance through dance and ritual.”
Derrickson is applying for another Cater grant to work with The Wooster Group, a New York City-based company of artists who work primarily in the genre of deconstructionist theater. “They take a work and break it into component parts, and they take those parts and make a collage of different media.” He hopes that a research opportunity with the Wooster Group might lead to a longer-term fellowship with the company.
That’s his primary “crazy” idea; others include studying Kabuki theater in Japan, and pursuing more deeply another Cater Fellow’s exploration into the culture and history of the Molly houses of Victorian England. You never know, he says, what might inspire another Cater Fellow.
“Maybe somebody would get interested in going to Tibet to study that weird opera they do there. It’s important to give back, and I’ve had cool ideas based on how people have shared that supplemental learning with me.”
This is a video of a production that Patrick Derrickson directed while he was studying abroad at Rhodes University in South Africa. While there, he worked with local kids in Sakhulunthu on a performance for the Makana Drama Development Festival. They won second best overall production for this performance.