Theatre professors spend a year in Malaysia
O'Connor and Tobolski had to adjust to both climate differences and cultural differences.
In the classroom and on stage, they, as Western professors, encountered cultural differences in the training of the performing arts. For Malaysian students, acting is all about copying instead of developing a character from within.
"We had to explain Western theatre as well as directing and the acting process," said O'Connor, who taught directing classes.
"Their style of acting comes from their culture," said Tobolski, who taught acting. "They're supposed to give an outward manifestation of behavior, and then they copy it. Our Western, psychological-based characters are developed internally rather than through imitation."
In the classroom, Tobolski and O'Connor got different reactions from their Malaysian students than they do from American students.
"Here, it's very much the Socratic method of questions and answers," Tobolski said. "In Malaysia, I would ask my students what they discovered from an acting exercise, they wouldn't answer. They weren't used to offering up their own opinions and were very frightened of getting it wrong and displeasing the teacher, a position of great status in Malaysia."
O'Connor found the same to be true of directing.