Monday, September 29, 2008

I Think I'm Acting

Thanks to Kelley's last comment, I realize that the longer I wait to post something, the greater my tendency to turn more reporter than commentator. Hmm. That could be on GraphJam.


I should tell you what I was actually thinking during/after the whole reading last week. If only because it actually does make for more interesting blogging, right?

When I first arrived at the theater, I was 1) panicky over my pantyhose emergency making me arrive a good 20 minutes later than I had planned and 2) sad that our Rock Band session was over. Seriously. John and I comment often in emails back and forth how ridiculously addictive that game is. We're not joking. Ben is all too good a dealer. He gives us just a taste of the good stuff, then cuts off access until we're begging for more. MORE!


So I arrived at the theater flurried and bummed, and was immediately delighted to see Heidi outside. That delight only grew as I walked into the theater to find Katharine, my parents, my grandmother, my brother and Jen, Janelle and company, Ben, Lynn and her son, Angela and her entire family, Dr. Teresa and Nick, and four very dear and very excited former students. More than delighted - I felt totally loved, and that was really, really good for me right then. I couldn't believe that so many people cared enough to take time out of their weekends to come see this little play I helped write. It's been 10 days, and it still means a lot to me. So for those of you in that group - thank you.


As the play itched to start and as the house manager tried to find more places to squeeze in folding chairs for the people who just kept coming, I took a seat next to Heidi in the back row. I needed to be next to her, and I needed to be in the back. I tried to listen, wishing I had brought some paper and a pen because I was dying to do something. I wound up doing the dexterity exercises I teach my English classes, just to keep my hands busy (mostly the OK-3, for those of you in the know). This is where the conflicts started - my four main theater instincts started firing off, sometimes alternating, sometimes simultaneously.

Former Usher/House Manager me wanted to get up and stop the door from squeaking each time someone entered or left.

Former Techie me wanted to get those girls some microphones because the big crowd was sucking up all of the sound waves and they just weren't quite loud enough.

Former (dang well better be temporarily former) Director me wanted to get those girls to be louder and add some more gestures or something else visual.

Most of all, Former Actor me was really, really picky. After the first couple of pieces, I could guess which of the four actors would be reading which pieces. Some of them were fine choices, like the redhead doing my "I Am a Celebrity" poem. Others were not. My favorite piece of the ones I had written, "Losing My Voice", I was disappointed in. Probably because I so badly wanted to be the one to do it. I love (LOVE) performing that piece, so I was really bummed when the actor doing it just didn't find the flow of the words and bumbled the climax.

I don't think the actors rehearsed nearly enough - they stumbled a bit more than I could forgive, and there were a few pieces they just never found the rhythm on. It's not that the rhythm's not there, I've heard it myself. They just had not run it enough times to actually find the writers' rhythms. Which is too bad.

On the other hand, they casted actors who were all teachers. I think that explains the range of acting experience that I, at least, could sense. However, I also think that it was a very wise move on the director's part to ensure that the people speaking those words, our words, knew what it meant to be a teacher. I also found it interesting that the director was moved enough by the script to make that call. One of the most touching post-show comments came from one of the actors. She used to be a teaching in Yugoslavia, I think it was, and she said that our play reminded her so much of teaching there. How remarkable to think that we had created something that speaks on a universal level.


About halfway through the show I realized a few things:

Revelation #1
All of my mental fretting was over the acting, not my own writing. I am really proud that I wrote something, some things, that are strong enough that I don't feel any need to criticize them, even after a few months of leaving them to hibernate. Often, I don't like my writing after a while; but these pieces I do like still. And I'm glad I had the chance to spend so long workshopping and editing and living with them to hit that comfort level.

Revelation #2
Apparently, my writing is really distinctive. REALLY distinctive. Almost every time an actor began reading one of my pieces, my mother would turn around and look at me with eyebrows raised. I would nod confirmation, she would smile, then turn back around. Okay, fine. She's my mother. I would have been disappointed if she had not recognized my stuff. But when Ben, Teresa, Lynn, and even my awesome former students started turning around to look at me for confirmation mid-piece, well... I just didn't realize my voice was so... me.

Revelation #3
I needed to be there that night. And not for the reasons I thought. Yes, it was wonderful to be there as a playwright, to hear the audience laughing at things I had written and to hear if my writing was strong enough for someone besides me to perform it. But about 20 minutes into the show, sitting there behind those kids that I love dearly and who loved me enough to come see this thing I had done, I suddenly thought, "That's right... I used to love my job."

And I did. And I had forgotten that, because I don't anymore. And I need to fix that, because that's really, really not okay with me. I used to love my job, my kids, and my classes. And this year has been so hard and so frustrating and so consumed with the business of triffles that I dread going to work each day. And I totally understand why Troy, one of the other new teachers at DPMS, drove away after school two weeks ago and never came back. And I find myself, for the first time in my life, thinking about walking away from teaching. And that terrifies me.

But I sat there, in that little blackbox theater, and I listened to the words I had written not too long ago, and I thought, "That's right... I used to love my job."

And that made walking back into DPMS the Monday afterwards really, really hard.

But most of all, my friends, I felt proud of what Heidi, Katharine, and I had done. And I felt gratitude for the audience and their thoughts and comments after the show. And I was touched that they took us seriously - that it wasn't just "well, that was a cute little play; now let's go get ice cream" kind of feedback. The audience honestly felt that this was something, and that it is, in fact, on the verge of becoming a big something.

But mostly, I felt loved.


  1. Wow! That was a wonderfully written post. I so wish I could have been there to see it your piece. And mostly I hope you will begin to love your job again once more. I know you were one of the best teachers I could have ever asked for.

    I may have been shy and uncomfortable in who I was and acting but I always felt a great ammount of encouragement from you. You are amazing keep up the great work you do. So many will benefit from having you as their teacher, I know I did.

  2. That's what I wanted to hear - thanks so much for sharing. You always do such a great job of formulating your insights and I miss hearing your opinion on things! I hope you find a way to love your job now, and I certainly hope the "director" side of you will have a chance to emerge soon! You are loved and if you ever need to vent I'm certainly willing to listen! Ben - the dealer, I love it!!

  3. I was SO pissed off that I got sick and couldn't go to that reading. SO pissed. Not so pissed anymore, but still. I'd been amped for forever, and I end up getting so sick I can barely get out of bed.
    But I'm glad to see that you had a good time and that things went well.
    You'd better work your way down here again so I can actually see you.