A musical that captures the anxieties of being a college student, while also making you laugh. Blank Space Workshop’s presentation of Diseducated took place this past Friday and was a privilege to watch. Blank Space Workshop is in their second year here at Michigan and provides a space for developing shows to be workshopped, re-worked, and staged in a short period of time.
The plot centered around a college English Literature 101 class, in the struggling english department of a struggling university. The english class is taught by the Professor Whitley, a distinguished scholar, holder of two doctorate degrees, and a world-renowned singer/songwriter. Well, sort of. Whitley has never read any of the books he’s teaching, and his titles are decently illegitimate, which becomes evident almost immediately to our main character Beatrice. Beatrice is a fan of classic literature and finds concern in Whitley’s unorthodox teaching methods. To highlight, the class is taught a song about grapes, instead of reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The class has been drinking tequila, to really understand the classic “Tequila Mockingbird.” Whitley prefers to fake it until he makes it, asserting that a lot of people today aren’t as well-read or as well-rounded as they make themselves out to be. Our protagonist is forced out of her comfort zone, and finds herself taking charge of her deteriorating academic situation.
The performance was staged in a large classroom in the Walgreen Drama Center, the perfect ambiance for the musical. The audience sat in our orange desks with chairs attached, reminding us of the feeling of sitting in a class that just isn’t right for you- just like Beatrice. The show’s music touched on issues such as Tinder (and Grindr) culture, beefing up your resume, and most interestingly the frustrating differences between GenZ students and the adults tasked with teaching them. Every lyric was relatable, and tastefully forced us to laugh at ourselves.
The show raised questions about how we see education. Are you reading Steinbeck, or are you pretending that you have for your colleagues? Does it really matter if you have? Is it shameful to enjoy GenZ delights such as multitasking and swiping right? Most importantly, the show was enjoyable. The writing is peppered with clever nods at what it’s like to be our age, like opening the show with a Nick Colleti vine reference. Everyone in the room was having fun, whether they were laughing at GenZ or Baby Boomer critiques.