MIT has excellent taste in writing, if you ask me…

Date August 22, 2007

Talk about getting an e-mail out of the blue! I received the following today from Curt Newton, the Publication Manager for the MIT OpenCourseware project:

Dear Tim,

I’m working with Prof. Brody to publish some materials from 21M.785 “Playwright’s Workshop” in OpenCourseWare. We’d like to include several examples of student-authored plays, including your script for Afterlife Shoes . Would you be willing to have this published in OCW? Your participation is voluntary – please let me know one way or the other, or if you would like to discuss further, by early September.

To participate, you only need to grant us permission to publish the script by approving the attached IP license text – simply reply to this email with:
I approve the terms of the ‘OCW Intellectual Property Notice and License Form’ pasted below.

Prof. Brody has a printed copy of the script. We will scan it with optical character recognition into a PDF, and you can review the file before it would go onto the live course site.

Best regards,

Curt Newton
Publication Manager, MIT OpenCourseWare

I responded immediately granting them whatever IP (intellectual property) they needed. The OpenCourseWare project is a pretty cool example of MIT embracing Web 2.0. MIT has decided that they’re going to post the actual course materials for as many of their classes as they can. This is much, much more than the syllabuses (syllabi?) — it’s the actual content for the classes. That material is then available — totally free! It doesn’t even require registering with the site or the school. It’s a fairly bold experiment. After all, if the course material is available for free, why would someone pay the steep price of actually attending MIT? It’s obvious, if you think about it — there is much, much, MUCH more to a college education than the reading materials.

Afterlife Shoes is the play I wrote in Professor Brody’s class going on 15 years ago. I entered the play in a school competition and actually wound up having it produced on campus and directed by Professor Brody. That was a kick in the butt, if ever there was one. The premise was pretty simple — three good high school friends get in a car accident the night of their high school graduation and all die. That’s the opening scene, which occurs in total darkness. They then find themselves in a vague and ambiguous afterlife…with a little bit of a twist, in that each of them is in the afterlife body of one of the others. The idea was that they would be forced to "walk in each others’ shoes" and learn something about each other in the process. The main thing I remember about writing it was that it was damn confusing to keep track of whom was who from scene to scene. (If I actually got the "whom" and "who" usage in that sentence correct, then my hats are off to Mrs. Martin and my mother; if not, well, then they can at least be relieved that I’m not a professional writer.)

I always sort of suspected that one of the reasons that the play got selected to be performed was that the set was obscenely easy — it was bare and dark with three spotlights, basically. I actually felt a little guilty, seeing as how most of my theater background to that point had been in stage management and set design! But, apparently, Professor Brody has occasionally dusted off the manuscript and used it for teaching purposes. Or, he might. I don’t want to know more, frankly. For all I know, he’s using it as an example of what NOT to do!

Regardless, it’s pretty cool to be part of the OCW project, and even better that it’s through one of the professors whose class I really enjoyed. I feel so hip and cutting edge!

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