My first and last Night of the Notables as a grade 10 has come and gone, but induced such of flurry of moments throughout the evening that I knew would become some of the most memorable of the entire study. From performing the Talons rite of passage of the in-character speeches, to creating and displaying my learning center, the night was replete with endless instances of overbearing nervousness, relief, surprise, and introspection.
I would think it quite appropriate to say that there is a considerable build-up of anticipation throughout the day prior to the Night of the Notables, as the classroom becomes inundated with learning center supplies and the overall excitement intensifies. Spending our last opportunities to practice our speeches, the grade 10’s, myself included, never escaped from our own jittery nerves until we took our last bow onstage. And as much as we knew that we would be somewhat relieved after it all came to a close, we tried our best to savour, or at least hold on to all the feelings that were passed amongst us.
As the performances of the grade 10 speeches became a highlight for me, I think it is important to reflect upon why they happened they way they happened, and why they have become so crucial to this aspect of the Talons program. With so much time and effort put into an approximately 90 second speech, the performances held a considerable amount of value to us grade 10’s, in terms of being honest to our eminent person’s persona, and enjoying the product of an in-depth study of someone who held some sort of importance to ourselves. By the time the afternoon class was backstage, I noticed that the collective focus of the group was simply to do what he had set to do, and what we had already proved to ourselves that we could do, which was to display our passion for our eminent people, and our commitment to each other as a group.
Even though the speeches themselves are represented of the performer’s personal connection with their eminent people, there is an almost synergistic quality of the process, that the collectiveness of it all is something quite larger than our small 90 second contributions. The day before NotN, Jeanie Mao, a Talons alumna, told me that in a way, the bringing to life of all these eminent people revealed a small ‘slice’ of humanity that could not be truly seen if not for the collaborative aspect of it. While viewing the speeches, the audience is witnessing a collage of just a small fraction of the people who have shaken the world in one way or another, but are also provoked to realize that that it is indeed a very small fraction. Over all the years in Talons, each individual has studied the influence of a person who had made some sort of contribution to our society, whether it be scientific, artistic, culinary, philosophical, etc., and through this, we can see that eminence does not lie in only the names of people like Einstein or DaVinci, but has a far more widespread relevance. So, in the speeches of the grade 10s, we are given a snapshot of these contributions, knowing that there are many more that have been made, sculpting and refining our surrounding world into what it is today.
The ‘collage effect’ was something that I also noticed in the set-up of learning centers. In the small spaces that they existed in, the learning centers also served to capture an aspect of the eminent person’s life or accomplishments, and walking through the halls, one can observe the patchwork-like quality of it. In my own learning center, I chose to recreate a painting of Frida Kahlo’s, and my goal in this was to emphasize the stark and often ‘in-your-face’ type quality of her work. Henry Ford Hospital became the painting in which I built this idea from, which depicts Kahlo lying in a bloodied bed surrounded by images that relate to her miscarriage that happened in 1932. Using a white backdrop and a prop bed and printed out versions of the images, my learning center had a quite disturbing undertone that was very much intended, as Kahlo did not sugarcoat her more dire experiences for the sake of her audience. Throughout the night, as people were passing by my center, it was interesting to observe the divide between people who were openly disgusted and disapproving of the scene, and those who were intrigued by the rawness of it. In retrospect, I was happy that I made the decision to display the somewhat controversial recreation, as it wasn’t in Frida Kahlo’s nature to make her work palatable for everybody. Someone mentioned to me during that night that art was supposed to be challenging to look at, and in its magnified state, it had quite the ranging effect on the guests.
Through my discussion with the visitors of my learning center, I assumed Frida Kahlo’s persona, but found myself often abandoning it for the sake of discussion. In terms of Frida Kahlo’s art, there is so much to be said in terms of the interpretation of her work, and I felt that I could do my learning center more justice if I too were to speak as a viewer. Before the learning center portion of the night, I was imagining myself offering wild amounts of information to the guests, touching on all the points that I had learned in my study. However, just as in the speeches, I found that I was forced to narrow my focus for each conversation that I had, acknowledging that it would be impossible for one to learn everything about Frida Kahlo in a single visit. Thus, conversations took various turns. One of the most thought provoking of the night occurred when someone noted that there was something almost ‘comforting’ about the painting that I had recreated, which got me thinking. It was the first comment that wasn’t recognizing the tragedy of the painting, but rather that although her paintings are so personal and raw, there is something universal about her depictions of isolation and suffering. It was in this conversation that I was reminded that there is much to learn about our eminent people through those who are not experts, but still can offer a human opinion and standpoint.
As guests began to trickle out the doors, and learning center began to get torn down and bagged up, I think everyone took a breath of relief, but the collective energy of the evening ceased to fade. I say ‘collective’ often when I refer to Talons events such as these, because I think collectivity is a very important component. Even as we joined hands and said our last words I our closing circle, the ‘togetherness’ of the night, I believed, was still very much intact. And although it was my last time to say my last remarks in a circle after Night of the Notables, I think that all the grade 10’s were happy to be able to say something along the lines of ‘we did it’, and that we also had done ourselves, our eminent people, and each other, the justice we all deserved.