Monday, February 25, 2008

It's the Little Things You Do Together

For those of you familiar with show production, you can probably guess what my stress level is like today. It's all normal for me and for plays, but it's still not fun. Kelley, Janelle, and I are all low-patience, high-anxiety as we try to get it all done. By Friday we need to
- Sew elastic into the leg pieces of 25 boy's costumes
- Cut out 70 tunics
- Find and rent 25 boot spats
- Re-string 20 breeches/skirts
- Come up with a system for tracking over 200 costume pieces (handled by junior high school students, no less)
- Make a stool fit for a prince (oh, for a stool boom!)
- Find and fix the leaks in 5 air mattresses
- Make a lute
- Finish making four banners for the castle wall
- Re-attach the sleeves to one of Winnifred's dresses
- Re-block the end of the Finale
- Cut the music for black-outs and exits
- Find two sound effects
- As nicely as possible, beg the district to give me my microphones back
- Clean off the pit area, which has become out work-zone
- Set up the prop tables backstage
- Finish assigning light cues
- Make the queen's crown
- Find two peas

Friday is our big double dress rehearsal. A few shows ago, we stumbled on the idea of taking one of the student non-attendance days and using it for our own purposes. We appropriate the auditorium and our hallway and go from 8-3, running the show twice through (once with each cast), including notes. As hard as it is for all of us to give up a day off, it's really nice to have that time to focus only on the show. The kids have fun, we all feel productive, and it's a good company-bonding day. My techies even went out two weeks ago to buy pajamas just to wear that day. Well, the girl techies did, at least.

So, we directors are trying frantically to get it all done by then. However, we also have mid-terms, parent-teacher conferences, and, oh yeah, school to contend with this week. I also had a teacher who asked me to get my students signed up for a writing program on line. It actually sounds like a good program. Except I had to have my kids registered by Friday, otherwise the district was going to take away the program from our students. So, after a lot of hassle tracking down the login methods, I registered my kiddos for it. Then I found out that they had to have work submitted on it to keep their places. By Friday. There goes my lesson plans for this week, and I spent most of my consultation today trying to book the school computer lab for those classes for this week.

In the long run, that really wasn't too much of an issue. But it was almost that proverbial straw.

The thing is, though, we actually are further ahead on the show than usual. We originally wanted to have our show next week, which makes sense since it follows the dress rehearsals. However, next week is the Direct Writing Assessment, one of the big state tests, so all in-school activities are strictly verboten. Which means that if we do get that task list settled by the dress, we'll have almost a full week to polish the performances and iron out the kinks. Which will be nice. Still, our kids aren't really stressed about the show yet, which stresses us out even more. We had to go three days over the weekend without rehearsing, and now we have to wait until Thursday to rehearse again. It's frightening.

Part of the stress is the sickness. Many of our cast members are sick, and parents are keeping them home until their fevers break (a phrase I've heard a lot of lately). I appreciate that, but I shake my fist at nature. Especially since after my kids gave me a lovely cold to take to San Francisco last week, I took home some kind of stomach virus Friday night. I spent Friday night vomiting, and Saturday curled up in a fetal position in my bed. I'm glad it was Saturday, since I could spend the entire day sleeping (and believe me, I did). Unfortunately, I had a lot of things I was planning to do that day that went undone. Darn virus. I'm a lot better today - I went to school and taught and everything, but I keep getting bouts of nausea that make me want to curl up in bed again. It dang well better pass.

To keep my spirits up, I decided to
1) Treat myself to a frozen yogurt on the way home (the favor was kind of "eh", but I appreciated the sentiment)
2) Work out (which I haven't done in a few weeks due to the aforementioned illnesses)
3) Write down more things that I'm happy about.

So, I'm glad for
1) Enough energy yesterday to clean my kitchen (sorry about the noise during our phone conversation, though, Mom and Dad)
2) PBS deciding to film the revival of Company and broadcast it, even though it was at 1:00 am last night. Still, I loved this particular production!)
3) Tickets to see "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" with Heidi and Brent Friday night.
4) Songs with unusual words (like "commas and ampersands" in I Hear the Bells by Mike Doughty or "catenaries and dirigibles" in Bridges and Balloons by Joanna Newsome/The Decemberists)
5) Ugly Betty and How I Met Your Mother DVD box sets (which got me through my few waking hours this weekend)
6) Random envelopes from my dad containing surprises like the tickets from our trolley ride in San Francisco for my travel book
7) More daylight
8) The kids who are so eager to help that they follow me around and ask "What can I do?" every time I pause for a second to think (well, I'm trying to be grateful for them at least).
9) The kid in my English class who took on the challenge I gave them to write a sonnet, then had the courage let his class hear his poem. The girls all "Aw!"-ed over it, which also makes me happy.
10) My Kindle, which keeps reading materials at my finger tips. Even when I'm too sick to pick it up, having fresh books is my security blanket.

See? Ten things to feel dandy about, even in the bleakness of the shows on the horizon. And another cold sore coming on. And parent-teacher conferences tomorrow with an AVID parent-night presentation afterwards. And the kid who was texting on his cell phone in class today, then flat-out refused to hand it over to me.

I'll stop.

But before I do, here's a little clip of said Company for you. It's 1) fairly reflective of my mood and 2) a good example of why my parents hate Sondheim.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Clang, Clang, Clang!

As previously mentioned, I spent President's Day weekend with ma familia in one of our favorite previous-home-towns - San Francisco. My sister posted an excellent entry about the highlight of the trip (food, shopping, Chinatown, Beach Blanket Babylon, Muir Woods, general merriment and such), so you can check hers out if you want detail. Or, you can also check my new set at flickr.

Mom buying treats in Chinatown

Lions dancing in the streets

Dad with a doppelgänger in a Buddhist temple

Andy playing with a whale bone (no, really!)

My cute parents

Me and my new hat on the beach near our old house

Trees growing from the trunk of a fallen tree

Muir Woods!

Rachel and Ben appreciating nature

The four of us kids in front of the Painted Ladies, doing as Dad intended (with the sunlight directly in our eyes!)

Tree blossoms next to the copy of the Chartres labyrinth
(Andy took this one)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Last Thursday I took my English class, Avid class, Advanced Drama classes, and a few other kids to see "Romeo and Juliet" at the high school that rented us set pieces for "Mattress". Despite being in the throes of my latest illness, the field trip went well. The kids behaved well, the show was better than I expected, and the chaperons almost all showed up.

One student made me tremendously proud by telling me at intermission, "Did you notice that they cut off that line? They said, 'With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls' and then they stopped like it was the end, but it wasn't!" We played statue garden with key lines from the play earlier that week, and that was her group's line. I was thrilled that she had remembered it well enough to note their cuttings. On the other hand, one of the mother-chaperons tapped me on the shoulder at intermission and asked, "What language are they speaking?" I was in teacher-mode, and took the question as a reference to the lesson I had given about the history of the English language. When I said, "Early modern English," rather matter-of-factually, the mom looked a bit affronted, as though I was being condescending. She looked at me for a beat, then said, "I just don't understand a word they're saying." It's funny how much I feel like I have to educate the parents along with the students in this job.

I've been passing around a thank-you card for my kids to sign for the cast and crew. Before I send it off, though, I need to share with you some of their notes. They're just too entertaining to pass by unnoticed. And, for all further writings in the post, [sic].

Your play was good
I played Benvolio Better JK
But yeah good job.
- Chris

I liket the play &
everything that has to do w/it
It was a great play

Most of the guys from the play were drop dead gogeous.
They did a great job everything looked really awesome
and I love your school!
from: Tiffanie
P.S. Romeo was smexy
haha thats my word.

Deng!!, That play
was Tight, I hella' liked
Markreshio or whatever
he was hella Funny! Thanks
for inviting us it was REALLY
COOL! - Johnny

Ben Folio! OMG! I loved your character & the way you played him! U R Soo hot! (heart)/Breana P.S. (her phone number) Call Me

That was great!!
Fantastic -oh- (heart)
You guys were awesome
the guy in the monkey whatever suit was HOT!
LOL yeah. Well good job. Keep it up.
Juliet you are too cute. -Jerilynn

I (heart) you Marquseo!
- (heart) Tosha

Thanks for letting us
see that Awesome & hilarious play.
It was nice. (peace sign)-out
- Gabriel

When I look over notes like these, on one hand I feel like a good English teacher - after all, they're watching and paying attention to a Shakespeare play, empathizing with the characters and all. One the other hand, though, their grammar and spelling cause me great despair.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I've Got the Sun in the Morning

I've got a chest cold, so I took the day off school today. Kind of. I still went in for rehearsal this afternoon, but I actually saw the sunlight today. When I walked outside, breathing in the fresh air and the sunshine and all, I really wanted to just get in my car and drive away and just enjoy the daytime.

It's a really good thing that I get to run away this weekend. The itch to escape has been really persistent lately.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

In the Middle of the Room

Earlier this week, a parent emailed me, requesting that I change the blocking for the show so that her son (one of the Dauntli (that would be our plural form of "Dauntless")) wouldn't have to kiss Winnifred. While I really did appreciate that she came to me with her concerns (as opposed to going over my head to the principal, which parents are all too apt to do), her timing was a bit unfortunate. We had blocked that particular scene the day before with the other cast, so the company was sitting in the audience, anticipating the kiss. Per the mom's request, I adjusted the blocking, but of course everybody noticed and reacted. Loudly.

So in my repsonse to the email, I pointed out that it was unfortunate that she had waited until the day we were blocking the scene to make her concerns known. Especially since the leads have known since the day they were cast that there was going to be a kiss in the play. I really didn't mind too much changing the blocking, but it's one of those cases where the parent made the embarrassment far worse by interfering to try to save her kid from embarrassment.

It was a little annoying, too, that the parent suggested that I was forcing the kids to kiss. As politely as I could, I pointed out that I wasn't sure how I was supposed to know what the kids are thinking if they never say anything to me about discomfort or not wanting to do the blocking.

Kelley, afterwards, pointed out that perhaps having your first kiss be a stage kiss is the best way to go - there's no possibility of rejection, no fear about misreading signals, and if you suck, well, blame it on all of the people watching you do it.

Karma apparently saw a chance to have some fun on that note. Tonight I went on the aforementioned date. I'll say first of all that the guy was perfectly nice, but unfortunately I felt no, well, sparks. Still, it was going along pleasant enough for a first date. We had dinner, then went to a play (cheesy, melodrama, amateur style). I had never been to this particular theater before, but it seems that the tradition is that after the play and before the final act (cowboy music and bad jokes), the evening's emcee comes out and banters for a bit with the audience. He announced birthdays first and have everyone sing to them. Then he asked if there were any anniversaries out there. No replies.

Emcee: How about first dates? Anyone on a first date?
Me: chanting in my head Don't raise your hand, don't raise your hand.
Date: Raises his hand.
Emcee: Really? You're on a first date?
The house lights come up, the entire audience turns in their seats to stare at us.
Emcee: thinking he's funny What website did you meet on?
Me: in my head Don't say it-
Date: eHarmony.
Emcee: Seriously? So, you two have 30 traits in common!
Audience chuckles, continues to stare.
Emcee: So, how's it going so far?
Date: gives a thumbs up.
Emcee: You look good together. Stand up, let everyone see you.
By now, I'm sitting with my legs and arms crossed, not looking at Date. As opposed to everyone else in the room.
Emcee: No, seriously, stand up!
We do.

Emcee: Well, maybe we can make things go better. Or make them awkward-
Me: You mean more than you're doing?
Emcee: laughs Ha ha ... yeah. So, what we're going do is, we're going to sing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" while you two dance, and at the end you're going to kiss.
The entire audience by now is more on our side than the emcee's, and you can hear the sympathetic exclamations. But the emcee is the one with the mic, and so it continues.
Emcee: sings Let me call you sweetheart...
Audience joins in. Date and I stand awkwardly next to each other. Really, I like dancing, but we're standing in the middle of a dinner theater with about six inches of space between the table and the chairs. Thus, no dancing, just awkward standing.
The song ends, everyone's looking. Date, to his credit, responds by sticking out his hand and we shake firmly (and thankfully). Finally, still laughing at us and his own emcee cleverness, the emcee cues the start of the next act.

I really don't embarrass easily - teaching teenagers really helps with that, but I can honestly say that was a ridiculously awkward experience, and shame on that emcee for doing that to people on their first date. On the other hand, I now have an awesome bad first date story.

As for the rest of the evening, well, it was educational for me - I realized that I am a snob. For instance, when we sat down at the table at Olive Garden (his choice), and I unrolled my napkin, he said, "Oh, it's one of those fancy places where you have to put the napkin in your lap!" I really felt bad about my realization, but I couldn't escape it. I am a snob, and I'm not inclined to change. I am comfortable in "fancy" restaurants, I enjoy international travel, I read all the time, I like independent movies, and when someone asks me what shows I saw when I was in New York, they're not going to be titles that they usually recognize ("Oh, Part One of Tom Stoppard's Utopia trilogy," is usually met with confused silence). I want to date someone like that - I'm comfortable around people like that. It's not that I'm better than someone who doesn't do those things - it's just different worlds. It's like people who are sports fanatics or who like camping - I don't, but that's fine for them. I'll just go to an art museum instead.

The other thing I realized in this latest risk-taking endeavor of mine is that I would rather be happy and single than with someone that isn't right for me. I keep forgetting that I'm actually confident and have healthy self-esteem. Being single right now is not what I want, but I am not going to settle and I'm glad for that. Despite what Grandma Cook thinks.

I'm a little sad that it didn't work out, and I hope the guy doesn't feel bad. As Heidi pointed out to me a while ago, I don't choose the easy path. But I am happy. So no sorry feelings, okay?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight?

For the most part, Janelle, Kelley, and I have been sticking with the versions of musicals that are adapted for elementary and middle school performers. In fact, the only uncut musical we did was Seussical. These editions really are a good deal. So long as we swear that our performers will not be above 9th grade, we get shows that are
1) Cut to be between 60-80 minutes (I have no delusions there - no matter how good a director could be, no one should have to sit through a 3 hour production starring middle-schoolers),
2) Pre-orchestrated with recorded accompaniment (the only way to make that 3- hour production worse? Live music performed by the school's orchestra)
3) Cleaned up of inappropriate material (and Mattress is amazingly clean. For example, the queen's exclamation of "Oh God, you're bright!" in "Sensitivity" is changed to "Egad, you're bright!", which inevitably makes me think of the mayor's daughter in Music Man),
4) Licensed for an unlimited number of performances within one year's time,
5) For only $500 in royalties (which is pretty cheap for a popular musical - Seussical cost us $2000 in royalties).

It's not perfect, though. To get these shows lower run times and lower ratings, they cut out a lot. Sometimes, I really have an issue with what they chose to cut. For example, while I would love to direct Fiddler so I can teach these kids all about Judaism and Russian history (no, seriously), I hate that they cut out Motel's "Miracle of Miracles". When we did Guys and Dolls, Jr., I was really upset to find that they cut out "Sue Me". That song is the one time we see just why Adelaide would put up with a louse like Nathan Detroit for 14 years. To cut it undermines their entire relationship and just makes her look both needy and stupid. When I called Musical Theater International, though, to ask for permission to put the song back in, they told me, "absolutely not" because "the version of the show that you received was approved by our company for performances, and any alterations to the show would violate your contract with us." Even if the "alteration" was to put back in a song that was written for the show and originally performed in the show.

(I'll try not to get up on my soapbox here about the ridiculous restrictions by such contracts on the choices directors can make. I'll just say that while I understand that some people would of course make terrible decisions, it's frustrating to not be allowed to make changes to accommodate the needs of your production, and thus improve the audience's perspective of the play itself. Have a little faith in amateur productions and let go a little of your play. Theater, by it's very nature, is not meant to be exact reproductions of an original. If you want copies, make a movie.) (So much for staying off my soap box).

Anyway. As we've run Mattress for the first time all the way through, we started to find the gaping holes in the plot that their edits left in this production. The problem is that there are lines that actually refer to things that don't happen anymore, because they cut it. For example, in one scene we see Larken and Harry get into a fight with each other. In the very next scene, the king tells the Minstrel and Jester that he's worried because Harry and Larken had a fight and Larken's running away. Um... except, the fight happened in Winnifred's bedroom. So, we wonder, how is it that the king knows about this fight? And what's this about Larken running away?
And so forth. Another scene that's missing is the one where the Minstrel and Jester overhear the Queen plotting to test Winnifred using a pea under 20 mattresses. Given that it's the Minstrel and Jester who stuff the bed with the jousting equipment we see them reveal in the finale (oops - spoiler alert!), this is kind of crucial.

As we found more and more of these sloppy cuts, Kelley and I tried to figure out what to do to fill in the gaps (without adding lines, of course!). Finally, we thought of something that just might work. What if the King was constantly falling asleep?

Now, now, work with me on this. The King, since he's mute, can communicate things without adding any lines to the show. Plus, he's been shoved out of power and made virtually obsolete by his obstinate wife. Why wouldn't he give up and keep dozing off? (Actually, in the original, the character responds to this usurpation by chasing after all of the young maidens in the castle - hence the name "King Sextimus". But, like I said, this is the squeaky-clean version where he does nothing of the sort and he's only referred to as "The King").

So, we have him constantly falling asleep in his throne, and thus he remains on stage for entire scenes that otherwise would be "private". So, he sleeps through Winnifred's arrival and song ("Shy"), which explains why the King would say that he hasn't seen the new princess yet when everyone else in the kingdom is on hand for Winnifred's first scene. He's sleeping in the room when Harry and Larken fight, and their shouting wakes him up, so the King knows all about their tiff. And he's sleeping in his throne while the Queen tells the Wizard about her plan, and thus he overhears that plot and he passes it on to the Minstrel and Jester during the Spanish Panic that follows.

We just started weaving this idea in during rehearsals today, so we'll have to see how it works as the show comes together. Basically, our kings will wind up being on stage for virtually the entire show. Fortunately, the two boys playing the part are up to the task (naturally).

I guess the contract's restrictions do stimulate some creativity still - it's certainly taking a lot more thought to clean up their editing messes than I expected. Kind of like writing a sonnet - the power's in following all of the rules and restrictions (can you guess what today's English lesson was about?). Anyway, if you do come see our show, I'd like to hear if you think the sleeping/eavesdropping king idea works.

(In case you haven't seen it, here's the delightful Nathan Lane and Faith Prince singing "Sue Me":)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Monday, Monday

Want to know what I do on a typical school day? Read on!

5:15 am - Alarm #1 goes off
5:20 - Alarm #2 goes off
5:25 - Lamp automatically clicks on
6:20 - I actually get up
7:00 - Head out the door, off to work (light snow falling)

7:50 - Advisory begins. I only have the stage crew for advisory, so we usually spend it either setting up for different events around the school, or cleaning up from different events around the school. Today's work included testing all of the microphones and boxing up the broken ones to send to the district to get fixed, chasing down the assistant principal to find out whether the school pictures people are using the stage (it turns out they are, so we have to figure out how to clear off our 10'x4'x4' platforms to give them an empty stage), and bugging the shop teacher to please, please, please put back together one of our set pieces. We had about five minutes left after that, so I popped in the Lincoln Center/Helen Hunt performance of "Twelfth Night" to show them one of my favorite set designs.

8:25 - First period.
(Check-in question - "What was your favorite TV show when you were 10?")
Being an "A" day, that's Drama 1 for me. I've got about 40 kids in the class, a few 9th and 7th graders, but mostly 8th graders. We began learning basic theater vocabulary last time, so today, after check-in, I took them on a tour of the auditorium. This exciting tour includes such sites as the cyc (ooh!), the paint closet (ah!) and the booth (wow!), which is inevitably their favorite part. That is, it's their favorite part until I take them back down to the front rows of the house, I turn off all but one row of work lights, and I tell them the story of the theater ghost (Georg). It's not a terribly spooky story, but they're junior high kids, so just saying the first line ("Every theater has a ghost.") in my low, story-telling voice totally freaks half of them out. It's fun.
After the story, I lead them back to my room where we review the two monologues we're memorizing (the prologue of "Romeo and Juliet" and Juliet's "Romeo, Romeo" speech). Then we begin acting out the plot of "Romeo and Juliet". This involves me acting as narrator/line-feeder while volunteers from the "audience" come up to act out different characters, thanks to a miscellany of props and costume pieces from one of my closets. It's always a hit.

9:57 - Period 2A, 9th Grade English
(Check-in question - "What is your favorite pick-up line?" (student-suggested))
I love this class. It's taken four months, but we have a fantastic time together, as evidenced by the fact that today's lesson was full of laughs, despite being part 2 of my lecture series "Why Shakespeare Didn't Write in Old English". Last time, I gave them a brief history of the English language. Today, we listened to/tried to read examples of Old English (the prologue from "Beowulf" and "The Lord's Prayer") and Middle English (the prologue from "The Canterbury Tales"). After those, we turned to the prologue from "Romeo and Juliet" and looked at why that's actually Early Modern English. (This, by the way, is in between the counseling office calling out 6 of my students at various times and my stack of handouts running 5 short, so I had to dash up to the office to run off more.) After that, we had just enough time to define what an iamb is, particularly since they were so chatty today that they owed me 40 seconds after the bell rang. Next time - pentameter!

11:20 - Lunch/Consultation
As I begin my rounds about the school, I notice that it's actually turning into quite a snowstorm outside. Ah well. I stick my lunch in the microwave Janelle and I keep in one of her back rooms, head to the faculty room to check my mailbox and refill my water bottle, the up to the main office where I copy three sets of papers for my English class for Wednesday, check in with the secretary about buying some more copies of the "Romeo and Juliet" (they added another student to my class, so I'm short), talk to the head custodian about our upcoming dress-rehearsal on a student-non-attendance-day, and then stop by the bathroom.
After the rounds, I pick up my lunch from the microwave, and eat it while enjoying my newest guilty-lunchtime-pleasure: clips from "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" on
Next, I gather up the stacks of permission slips and receipts for my fieldtrip next week and I start making the excusal list by entering the names, student id#s, and grade levels into an Excel document. I just barely finish putting in the last name when the bell rings to mark

1:25 - 4th period, Advanced Drama
(Check-in question, same as English)
After a very rowdy start to the class, they calmed down enough for us to finish off our unit on monologue workshoping. This included Michelle's performance of Emilia's "Then let them use us well, else let them know/The ills we do, their ills instruct us so." speech, Omar's version of Dogberry's "But masters, remember, I am an ass!", and Mary's "If it were done when 'tis done" speech from "Macbeth". We made a dumbshow for Michelle's, having seven students join in to pantomime the different acts she accuses husbands of doing. For Omar, we tied (kind of) a student to a chair for him to interrogate, and for Mary we put one of her friends "asleep" on a table, clutching a crown to his chest, while she stood over him with a (trick) dagger, debating what to do.
Since these were the last of the monologues, I wrapped up the unit with a little talk-back about taking risks, stepping out of your comfort zone, and what else they could use these monologues for. Then, we pushed the tables out of our way and, mostly because it felt like that kind of day with the snow falling outside, I taught them the "Sun, Moon, and Star" dance that Susan Dibble taught us at Camp Shakespeare (see the last video here). We only had time for the first half, so we'll finish that one on Wednesday, too.

2:55 - Rehearsal
Off-book for the first time today! Our plan was to run the prologue through scene 6 ("Swamps of Home" - just about half-way through) with Cast 1 today, lines and all. After my traditional cast greeting ("Hello Rosencrantz!" (the group 1 students scream) "Hello Guildenstern!" (the group 2 students scream) "Hello Helpers! (the high school assistants and techies scream)) and Janelle's vocal warm-ups, I put the cast up on stage to review how you communicate physically, from isolations like "Show me happy elbows! Now show me anger with only your legs!" to status. We made one of the their weekend homework assignments to come up with a real character name (either Sir _____ or Lady ______), so I also had them mill about and introduce themselves to others in the castle, begin sure to show status as needed. We then ran through the selected scenes, and I was really impressed with how smoothly it went for the first day off-book. Good for them!

4:30 - After our traditional post-rehearsal trip to the bathroom, Janelle and Donavon play with the purple ball chair in the room while I put in attendance and shut down my computer. We get in our respective cars and head home.

5:15 - I get home, chatting with my mom on the way via cell phone. I find a fun package of New Yorker articles from my dad in the mailbox (Thanks, Dad!), including one that shows while I may not read the depth of Art Garfunkel's book choices, I certainly beat him in quantity. I feed my cat, who has been chasing me around the apartment, batting at my ankles and yowling that she's starving, I steal a bite of the banana-chocolate-chip-walnut bread I baked yesterday, and make some chicken teriyaki stir-fry (over brown rice, sauteed in fresh-squeezed orange juice) for dinner.

7:00 After dinner, I do my customary checking of emails and blogs, then spend some time working on my professional portfolio. I also update my iPod, including my new playlist for working out.

8:30 I hop on my elliptical machine and work out for about 40 minutes to said playlist. Here's the songs I listened to ('cause I know you're curious):
I Get To Show You The Ocean (Faith Prince, from "This Ordinary Thursday")
Fairest of Them All (Slaid Cleaves)
Far Away (Ingrid Michaelson)
I'll Cover You (Original Broadway Cast, "Rent")
Being Alive (Revival Cast, "Company")
Run, Freedom, Run! (Original Cast, "Urinetown")
Come What May (Move Cast, "Moulin Rouge)
1234 (Feist)
Home (Marc Broussard)
Anyone Else But You (The Mouldy Peaches)
I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty)

It's while I'm exercising that I decide I want to record the day's events, so here we are! It's now just after 10:00 and time for me to start getting ready for bed so I can do it all again tomorrow. Fun, fun!

(And if you're still with me after this long, long entry-without-pictures, well, I hope it was worth it!)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Will I Ever Tell You

Teresa and I got together today to watch "Slings and Arrows" - a TV show so great that I wonder why I've never heard of it before a month ago. Granted, it's Canadian, but still! It's about a Shakespeare festival company and the craziness of, well, theater. Plus, it has this awesome theme song:

Cheer up, Hamlet
Chin up, Hamlet
Buck up, you melancholy Dane
So your uncle is at hand
Murdered Dad and married Mum
That’s really no excuse to be as glum as you’ve become
So wise up, Hamlet
Rise up, Hamlet
Buck up and sing the new refrain
Your incessant monologizing fills the castle with ennui
Your antic disposition is embarrassing to see
And by the way, you sulky brat, the answer is “TO BE”!
You’re driving poor Ophelia insane
So shut up, you rogue and peasant
Grow up, it’s most unpleasant
Cheer up, you melancholy Dane

Couple that with our usual habit of speaking in hyperbole, nonsense, and outlandish imaginings and you've got a fun afternoon.

I followed up that excitement by (gasp!) doing my taxes! I know, exciting, right? But I was eager to know if I'd be getting a refund that could help with my Thailand travel plans. The answer, it turns out, is yes! A good-sized refund, actually. So hurrah for that!

This week went fairly well. A lot of snow, which lead to some awful commuting to-and-from Dead President Junior High. Rehearsals were on the up-side. Wednesday and Thursday we ran the show's songs all in order up on the stage on our partial sets. We also got a lot of costuming business done, which gave the cast some down time to socialize and gossip and chase eacho ther all about and such. Between those things, the kiddos had much happier energy both days, and we directors all left feeling like the rehearsals were both productive and fun. So, yay!

Lest you think all is well, I'll add that one of our leads dropped out this week because her family wants to go on a cruise the week of the play; we tried rehearsing with microphones only to find that three don't work at all anymore, one broke during the rehearsal, and the chorus can't be heard at all from the stage, although they sound marvelous when they're in the audience; many of the leads perform their solos with looks that say "I'm trying desperately to remember my next line/move and ew! ew! ew! I have to touch that guy/girl now!"; and 80% of the knights and ladies look bored every second that they're not dancing. All challenges to overcome in the five weeks left before the show, right?

I have a story for you that I'd like to write about because 1) it's funny (at least to me), 2) it's very junior-high-ish, and 3) it's a bit of news I wouldn't mind recording in this (albeit public) journal of mine. However, I have been debating whether to post the story because I'm afraid certain readers of mine will have overreactions akin to my students. I shall tell you the story, but you readers (and you know who you are) are not allowed to betray any thoughts like those of my students, m'kay?

For check-in on Friday, my AVID students asked for a Valentine's-themed question, it being the first of February and all. Thus, given my unfailing (although selective) honesty with my students when it was my turn to check-in, I admitted that just the night before, I had been asked out on a date.
Squeals of delight from my students (that, I'll admit, were totally expected, which is why I didn't mind telling them - there's nothing quite as deafening or entertaining as the pure joy of a bunch of junior-high girls).
The questions came quickly: Who is he? What's his name? Do we know him? Is he cute? Where are you going? When are you going? Can we come, too? Are you in love with him? Are you going to marry him? Can we come to the wedding? OMG! Can't you just picture little Waters running all around?
I finally calmed them down around the time that they were speculating whether or not I should change my name (the consensus, by the way, was no; which I have to agree with. My last name is pretty awesome) and I answered a few of their questions (A guy; Ben; No; I don't know; I'm not telling you; next Saturday; definitely not) and declined their offers of chaperoning. They decided that if they couldn't come along, I should instead bring a video camera and film the whole event for them to see. One of my stuents, Tiffanie, also took it upon herself to announce this news to my drama class later in the day (she decided it fit under the "business" section of our class procedures), which lead to a virtual word-for-word repeat of the conversation of that morning.

There are two things I'll point out from this. One, it was a really nice affirmation of the fact that these kids really care about me. I work hard to keep myself firmly planted in the "teacher" relationship category (vs. "friend") with them, but at the same time I'm not afraid or squeamish to let slip some details about myself that I know makes me more human to them. I think they respect me more for it - it's part of the whole constantly-shifting-status game I play as my discipline plan. And it truly does work.

However, two, it is the perfect illustration of one of my frustrations with the culture that I'm living in - that it is virtually impossible to date casually. There is so much pressure for marriage that from the moment you first meet a single of the opposite sex, it's presumed that marriage is on the table. It's unspoken, but it feels like you actually have to decide not to get married, rather than deciding to do so. So, for me to approach this event with the mindset of "here's a nice fellow and the potential for a fun evening" and nothing more, I actually have to work very hard against the prevailing voices that cry "Marriage! Marriage! Marriage! Yay!" And that's a lot of pressure to put on any sort of relationship. So when I hear my kids leap from a date to planning my wedding, I worry that some of my readers who are concerned at my prolonged single-hood will make the exact same conclusions.