I remember when Tim Vasen strung work lights across the black box, work lights by which I mean bulbs encased in those yellow plastic nets. Somehow, those lights became Paris between the Terrors, illuminating the architecture of dreamers and killers in Danton’s Death.

I remember a weird mash-up of Pirandello and Shakespeare in which my Ophelia was never told if she was on stage or off, or whether the director wandering into scenes to berate her was only acting. I remember an adaptation of Play It As It Lays in which I finally got to direct those lines, “What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask.”

We called it all “taking risks.” And I remember Michael Cadden explaining that the department lacked the budget to do The Duchess of Malfi, that perhaps for my thesis I could instead “consider the 20th century, smaller casts.” I did, reluctantly, and ended up a French maid committing murder in the thirties, directed by a guy writing his thesis for Joyce Carol Oates, a novel; co-starring a girl writing hers, a poetry cycle.

God, we had so much snow those years that the walk from Firestone across Washington required armor. Once you entered 185, everything else evaporated. Everything except revolutionary France, or 18th-century England. Everything except a country house outside Moscow, or a castle in Inverness called Cawdor.

We were kids playing at being grown-ups. What we learned when we went to those emotional places is a lesson we only understood later. It wasn’t quite confidence. It was sense of place, of possibility. It was who else was in that room, because everybody brought it.

Lea Carpenter ’95 is the author of the novel Eleven Days. She is a member of the advisory council for the Lewis Center for the Arts. Katie Carpenter ’79 is a documentary filmmaker who has produced films and television programs for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, PBS, and the BBC. In 2013 she cotaught a Princeton Global Seminar, “Documentary Filmmaking in Kenya: the Art of Science Storytelling.”

Lea Carpenter ’95 is the author of the novel Eleven Days. She is a member of the advisory council for the Lewis Center for the Arts.
Katie Carpenter ’79 is a documentary filmmaker who has produced films and television programs for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, PBS, and the BBC. In 2013 she cotaught a Princeton Global Seminar, “Documentary Filmmaking in Kenya: the Art of Science Storytelling.”

Credits

This article was originally published in 2015 by the Princeton University Office of Development Communications. It has been reprinted and adapted for the web with permission.

Photography by Kah Leong Poon