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Sympathy for Marvin

Well, Itís Sunday. Iím hundreds of kilometres from home in a different city. One with much warmer weather than home, and not too far from beaches, and bush. Where would you expect me to be? If this is the first post you are reading, you might expect something interesting. If not, then you surely know better. Yep, thatís right, Iím in the lab, and have been since 8AM, and will be for some time to come. Seems like Iíve been here before, seems so familiar. Just not in the way the song was referring to. And yes, I do miss my wife. Life. Donít talk to me about life.
Why do they build people with genuine people personalities?

Anyway, because a post along the lines of: Saturday Ė I had a day off, Sunday Ė Iím in the lab doing the same stuff Iíve done for most of the last month (apart from a brief visit home); is hardly interesting (I have no idea what the correct punctuation rules in this case are, and would be happy to find out. I will then play revisionist and change itÖ), this post will probably consist of something a little different other than my life.

My favourite stage production is Fiddler on the Roof, although I do quite like Shakespeareís educational play, The Taming of the Shrew, which did for marriage what Space Invaders did for galactic harmony. I have actually met someone who hasnít heard of it, so maybe it isnít as universally known as I had thought. For anyone who hasnít seen or heard of it, I heartily recommend it, but you can find the basic story online without too many difficulties.

For everyone else, AATTLG productions present:

PhDdler on the Roof

PhDdler on the roof is set in a small university and is concerned primarily with the actions of Tevye, a struggling academic, and his group members.

In the prologue, Tevye explains the universityís rules in determining how the departmentís members work:
The university has rules for everything. How we work. When we work. When we donít work. Who we hire. What we investigate. Even the paperwork we have to fill out. Why? Itís a condition. Without conditions, our tenure would be as shaky asÖa PhDdler on the roof

Note: Several times during the play, the characters burst into song. I will include parts of some of them, but not all of them, and not all of any of them

Tevye: Condition, Condition! Condition! x2
Academics: Who, day and night must scramble for a small grant
Try to get some funding, say his daily prayers
And who has the right as master of the group
To have the final word in-lab
Professor, Professor. Condition! x2

Students: And who must know the way to make a proper lab
A working lab. Productive lab
Who must do the work and get the results
So professorís free to go to conferences
The students, The students! Condition! x2

Act One:

Scene 1: Tevyeís postgrads are wondering whether they will get post-doc positions. They burst spontaneously into song, as always happens in labs.
Professor, Professor
Give me a task
Find me a job
Thatís all I ask
Professor, Professor
Look through your book
And get me a paying job

Scene 2: Tevye reflects on how he wish he had lots of funding, as he writes out a grant application:
"Dear God, you made many, many poor researchers. I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor. But it's no great honour either! So, what would have been so terrible if I had some funding?"
If I had a some funding
(You can insert most of diddles yourself)
All day long Iíd biddy biddy bum
If I had lots of funds
I wouldnít have to work hard
If I had a (biddy biddy) lotÖof funds

Iíd build a big strong group. Post-docs by the dozen.
Get a good spot in the labs
And lots of post grads to do the work for me
I would have one got postdoc to read proposals
And one even better writing them
And one more doing nothing, just for show

A group of fellow academics from the department, including a visiting fellow, Perchik, then come to talk to Tevye about how the university has gutted a neighbouring department, sacking lecturers, removing lab space and kicking out post grads. Tevye invites Perchik, a young post-doc who does not always follow regulations exactly, to give talk for the group, and arranges for him to instruct his post-grads.

Scene 3: Motel, a young researcher, tries to work up the courage to ask Tevye to set up a collaborative project with Tzeitel as post-doc once she finishes her PhD.

Scene 4: Tevye goes to meet Lazar Wolfe, the well-funded professor (I canít be bothered making any butcher jokes in here. Youíll have to fill them in yourself), and they agree to a collaborative project with Tzeitel as the post-doc. This is announced at the departmental meeting (located in the pub), and there is a boisterous celebration. Some medium level administrators are also in the pub, and they join in the celebration.

Scene 5: As Tevye staggers back into his office for a snooze, he meets the faculty manager, who warns him that the university is planning a surprise compliance audit.

Scene 6: Tevye appears and tells Tzeitel about her position with Lazar Wolfe. Motel tells Tevye that he and Tzeitel have a verbal agreement. After a struggle with himself, Tevye agrees to the contract.

Scene 7: (Given that I seem to have written out Golde - oops! Ė I guess this scene doesnít really matter here)

Scene 8: (Iíve dropped this scene out to. There is always a danger with analogies that I will push them too far. For me, this usually happens half way through the first line.)

Scene 9: The lawyers draw up the contract. The department sings:
Tevye: Is this the undergrad I lectured
Is this the grad student at play
I donít remember getting older
When did they?
When did she get to be so learned
When did he have workers of his own
Wasnít it yesterday
They were unknown
Department: Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunsetÖ

To the departmentís alarm, Perchik offers Hodel a job and she accepts, performing the forbidden act of offering a job without it being approved by the university, signed in triplicate, sent back, sent forth and buried in soft peat for three months err..I mean advertised, interview for and then given to the person who was going to get it in the first place. At this point the faculty manager and the auditors come in and write a lengthy non-compliance report. The faculty manager says to Tevye, "Iím genuinely sorry, you understand?" Tevye replies with mock courtesy, "Of course" The group begin cleaning up the mess left by the audit report.

Act two:

Perchik tells Hodel that he has accepted a position in Kiev, gives her a contract, and tells her that he will send for her when everything is set up. Tevye is less than happy about not being consulted about the move, but he accepts it in the end, because it is whatís best for Hodel.

Later, Tevye discovers that Chava has decided to quit her degree and has begun working out in industry. Tevye canít accept this, and, even when she tries to set up an industry-university linkage program, he still refuses to speak to her.

The faculty manager comes in and tells the department that he has been ordered to shut down the department. All the academics and their students are shocked, but soon begin finding places to transfer their tenure or candidature. Chava tells Tevye that they are withdrawing all funding from the department, but Tevye still wonít talk to her. Tzeitel says goodbye to Chava and Tevye asks Tzeitel to add ďGod be with youĒ

Wow. I can't believe that, no only did I just un-Jewish Fiddler on the Roof, I have just removed all social and religious context from it. I should be ashamed of myself.


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