John C. Bale

Although the routine and rhythm of my life have radically changed since my retirement in 1990, the habits of a lifetime of teaching and related activities have continued in a different key. I taught part time in the first years of retirement and later taught Tuesday Seminars (for non-credit adults) and Lutherlag courses in summers. New for me has been the freedom to shape my own activities throughout the year, including extended travel in spring and fall, and to undertake new projects like researching family history. Several of us retirees developed new routines: a weekly breakfast of the over-the-hill gang and a monthly Faculty Emeriti discussion meeting. Shakespeare continues to be an important passion for me (motivating my keeping abreast of scholarship and seeing new productions of his plays), and so does the St. Louis Cardinal baseball team (being a fanatic since 1934). The biggest change in the rhythm of life in retirement is the difference in the pace: slower and irregular but also frighteningly fast!.

John Bale photo

The happiest experience for me during my retirement years was co-leading (through the 1990s) a January term course in England on "The English Theater as a Mirror of Society and The Human Condition." This experience was a sheer delight for me, not only for the opportunity it afforded to winter in England and enjoy the world's best theater, but also, equally rich and exciting, for the chance to continue teaching young people and to become rejuvenated by their boundless energy and enthusiasm. Teaching and experiencing theater this way tested and validated a statement I wrote nearly two decades ago at the end of an essay on the British theater:

“If the theater is a little world, a microcosm, it is not one to be seen through a telescopic lens from afar. Rather we in the audience of theater at its best are part of the 'crammed action' itself. This means that what we bring to the theater is as important as what we get from it. We bring our ideas, confusions, loves, hates, and total life experiences to 'the wooden O' to be reexamined and refined. The human condition—what the theater is ultimately about—is our condition.”

AGORA: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Opinion, Fall 1988, 29.