Sunday, October 31, 2010

Till We Meet Again

Glory be, we survived the Home Speech Meet.

Even happier, it went really well.

It so wasn't because of me - my assistant coach, Paula, was phenomenal. She subbed at the school most days this past week, and she often stepped into my room to see what she could do to help. She also was fantastic the day-of at just getting stuff done - if there was a need, she did it and did it well without coming to me first to check. I love that.

My other assistant coach, Trice, stepped up and ran the debate draw for the first time. A small group of students stayed after school Friday to help set up the rooms, won with promises of extra credit and candy after the speech seniors collectively abandoned their earlier promises of help for a Key Club project. The parents brought food, the judges came and worked well, the Team Mom did a fantastic job setting up and cleaning up, and most of teams came on time.

We started about 30 minutes late, since we had to wait for two teams to show. However, since I had so many judges and so few competitors (relatively speaking - we had 8 schools competing with around 80 students. Normal meets get 15 schools with 160 students), I sorted the speechers into sections of 4 or 5 students (rather than 5-7). As a result, we not only caught up on the lost time, we wrapped up 30 minutes early. Cleanup happened swiftly, thanks to my speechers who stayed after to help and who got started as soon as the competitors were out of the rooms (before awards). We were totally done and out of the building by 5:20, although I had to stick around in the parking lot until 6 waiting for two students to get picked up, thereby bringing my day to a solid 12 hours.

I ran back to the condo to throw my stuff and cat into the car and head back down the mountain. I celebrated the day by watching the Halloween episode of "Community" with Rachel and Ben. Then I went home and slept for 11 hours. And now I'm dying costumes for Robin Hood.

Another week, another production.

I especially enjoyed having Rachel and Brian come judge - it was fun to share a little of what I do with them, and I liked having people I like to talk to around during the day. I think they both had fun, too. Brian even asked if there were other meets in the Denver area he could come judge at. I told him we were heading to Lakewood High School on Saturday, and promised to call that coach on Monday to ask if they needed more judges. He was especially excited to hear that it was a tournament meet, so it will have the kind of debate he did in high school (as opposed to the festival-style debate that we do and he so frequently poo-poos).

The night before the meet, Rachel, Brian, Ben, and Jack came up to the condo. We had dinner together and played a game after I made sure the team doing the homestays were all secured. It was nice to get some Jack-time and have something to look forward to in the midst of the craziness. Also, Rachel gave me a "yay-Speech Meet" present, which I'm very much looking forward to reading.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You're the Apple of my Eye

Yesterday in Speech class I mentioned that one of my favorite sounds in the world is the sound an apple makes when you toss it up in the air and catch it in one hand.

Today, returning from a trip to the main office, I passed a student coming out of my room. "I left you something on your computer," she said, mysteriously.

"thinking/throwing/magic-sound apple"

Exactly what I needed today.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Man of No Importance

This helped to cheer me up:

We started blocking Macbeth this morning. The bleeding sargeant came stumbling into the scene and bowed to the king, like I had taught them.

"Now how do I stand up?" the sargeant asked from her bent-over position.

"Duncan needs to give you permission, right?" I said.

Duncan asked, "How do I do that?"

"Well, what could you do?" I asked.

Duncan thought for a moment. "I could say, 'Rise sir'-"

And the entire class joined in, laughing, "from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most decorous!"

And, oh, I was so proud and so happy. Mah babies are quoting Wilde while rehearsing Shakespeare! What could be better than that?

Monday, October 25, 2010


I had a crappy day. Too much to do, no time to do it because there's so much to do, and it was capped off by a parent calling me (on my cell phone, no less) to yell at me about what a crappy job she thinks I am doing.

I know that she's misdirecting a lot of anger at me. I know she's wrong and unfair. I know.

Still, it's a crappy thing to have to endure on my commute home from a very hard day. And it took a lot of will power and a little Phra Bart training to calm down enough to 1) not cry and 2) drive safely the rest of the way home.

I want it to be two weeks from now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Laundry Quintet

While the thought of starting church at 9:00 in the morning made me dread having to set my alarm on the weekend, I do have have to admit that it was grand to be done with church at noon today.

I had declared today to be my catch-up day. I made some phone calls, washed dishes, took out the trash, and caught up on my laundry. I'm not sure whether it's with shame or with pride that I tell you I've done five loads of laundry today. I even stripped my bed and washed my sheets!

Yes, it is exciting.

Things, as always, have been frantic. They will, of course, continue to be that way too, which is why I welcomed a chance to take care of some housekeeping while I caught my breath.

Tomorrow after school I'm having dinner with Jill before packing Natasha and myself up for a week at the condo. With the home speech meet on Saturday, a play the following week, and all of the usual school craziness, I decided it would be easiest to be up there for the week so I could be on hand to take care of last-minute stuff AND have a hope of getting decent sleep.

This weekend was fun, though. Thursday night Rachel cooked schnitzel as a birthday dinner celebration for me and Miranda. Happily, the Walkers were in town visiting for the weekend. Friday was a Teacher Work Day, since midterm exams were this week, but I took my kiddos to a speech meet instead of doing grades and attending a workshop on child abuse. Whee.

It was really nice to do a speech meet and still have my Saturday free. I went to lunch with the gang, braved the lines at JoAnns to get fabric for Robin Hood costumes, and played games/ate garlic knots at Rachel's with the others in the evening.

The Home Meet is less than a week away. Oddly, I feel like things are under control. I'll probably still be at school way too late each day, and I'll probably keep working through lunch, as has been by habit the last few weeks. Still, my assistant coaches and team mom have been all over their jobs, and I think we'll be ready.

Here's what's needed for a speech meet:

1) A schedule of events
2) Formal invitations to all schools
3) A website for schools to register students
4) Parents to host students overnight from school more than 3 hours away
5) Breakfast, lunch, and snacks for 200+ students
6) Breakfast, lunch, and snacks for 65 coaches/judges
7) Classrooms for all events (pre-scheduled)
8) Maps of the school
9) Door and directional signs
10) Arrangements for janitors, administrators, and police to be on hand
11) 100 copies of ballots for 11 different events
12) 6 Value Debate topics
13) 50 or so Creative Storytelling and Impromptu Speaking topics
14) Index cards, scratch paper, and pencils for draw room
15) Packets for coaches with instructions
16) Packets for ballots after they're completed
17) Computer system for tabbing Individual Events and for Debate
18) Back-up plan for when network/website/power goes down and we can't use the computer
19) 50 judges' cards for scheduling rounds
20) Tables set up for registration, judges' check-in, and ballot-turn-in
21) Trophies/medals/ribbons for 11 different events, including back-ups in case of ties
22) Instructions and handouts for judges' training, to be held Wednesday and Thursday night
23) Stopwatches for judges
24) Thank-you gifts/cards for all the helpers
25) The will/stamina to get through this year and still want to host another one next year.

Mai bpen rai, right?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

God, I Hope I Get It

I worked through my lunch and stayed at school for two hours beyond after-school speech practice today, but I actually managed to cut Macbeth and cast it. It still had over 20 characters, even after I cut it (from 87 pages to 42!), and it was only with the help of two spreadsheets, several sticky notes, and a lot of rereading of the script that I figured out how to make it work with only 10 actors (two of whom only want small parts).

I'll have to get to school early tomorrow to run off copies of the cut script before class. But they so wanted to know the cast before the long weekend, and I certainly can't blame them for that. Then, during class today when we were talking through the story of the play, Molly leaned forward into the circle and said, "Guys, we should commit right now to doing a good play. Not make it funny or do stupid things for laughs - a GOOD play. So everyone should memorize their lines right away and let's make it awesome."*

And so, despite midterms, a (different) play in two weeks, an away meet on Friday, and a home meet next week, I cut and casted it for them.

They owe me.

* A comment that totally made going to Dracula Monday night worthwhile, since I'm positive her respect for dramatic theater comes directly out of her enjoyment of that show.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Out Tonight

On Sunday afternoon I met some of my students at the lightrail station by me. We rode together to the DCTC to see Stories on Stage - a monthly series of the company's actors reading short stories on various themes. The first story, a Bill Bryson one, was well-read and well-written. The second one was far too long and poorly structured. The third was fine, but not particularly fantastic. The cookies and milk following the show were delicious. The average age of the audience was 70. The consensus among my students was that the outing was fun, but the show was "eh."

On Monday evening I met a different group of students at the theater to buy student rush tickets to Dracula. Another reason to love DCTC? They extend their student rush discount to drama teachers.

The show was, perhaps, a B. I'm not a fan of the writer, Charles Morey, and the show was about 45 minutes too long. The actors did a fine job, though, and the tech work was fantastic. There were a lot of fun "spooky" effects and a nifty simplistic set design. Most of all, the students loved it and came to school today telling everyone to go see it. Many others are going to go this weekend.

Worth the lack of sleep? Perhaps. I enjoy watching the drama bug spread.

A Reckoning

Now we are 31.

My celebration:
  • I called an end to speech practice at 3:15 and got home by 5!
  • I'm going to bed after I post this so I might actually get 8 hours of sleep!
  • (Don't mock me - I'm really excited about this.)
  • A joint-birthday dinner with Miranda and co. on Thursday, cooked by Rachel

What I received:
  • One of my freshmen girls brought me brownies, which brought my Drama class much joy.
  • One of my speech boys brought me a batch of peanut butter cookies, which brought my speechers much joy.
  • One of my speech seniors told me she made me cookies then left them on the counter at home but assured me they were delicious, which brought me much joy.
  • Many students sang to me and wished me well.
  • Several sent messages via text/my whiteboard.
  • A phone call from my brother
  • A sparkly-striped scarf from Paula, my assistant coach
  • Some Philosophy products, stamping supplies, and a Paris guidebook from my parents (and their safe return home from Chicago, also good)
  • A dragonfly umbrella and a butterfly luggage tag from Cedes
  • A book about the wisdom of children's books from Emily
  • A check from my grandparents
My accomplishments this past year:

Read: 83 Books (about 1.5 books per week)
Saw: 25 Plays/Operas, 25 movies (check out that symmetry!)
Plays Produced: 7
Blog Posts: 203
Traveled: Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, Seattle, New York City, Thailand, Chicago, Salt Lake, Cedar City, and a whole lotta speech meets and trips up and down the mountain
Appearances in newspapers: 3
Radio interviews: 2
Performances of play that I co-wrote: 4
State championships: 1
"New" cars: 1

Not bad at all. Bring it on, 31! What've you got for me this year?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pick a Pocket or Two

At first, my students were shocked at the idea of charging admission to shows.

We had a talk about it back in August - I wanted to charge people for tickets to the class productions, $2 or $3, for example. The students protested vehemently - "No one will come!" "No one wants to pay to see our shows!" "We've never charged people before!"

And there lies the crux of the issue. I was surprised last year when I first heard that the teacher before me didn't charge admission. I couldn't figure out how she stayed in the black, given all of the expenses putting on even a basic show accrues. Then I looked over her budget records and discovered that she did it by not paying royalties and by copying the scripts on the school's machine.


Well, that was going to stop. I didn't tell the students about my discovery, but I did tell them that if people get something for free, they respect it less than if they have to pay for it.

They didn't believe me.

We came up with a compromise - a mandatory donation, of sorts. I and a student helper sat at the door Thursday night and, as people came in, we asked them to "Pay what you choose, but do pay something."

One kid paid with a paperclip. It was all he had on him.

One gentleman handed me a $20 and refused change, telling me to put it towards the drama program.

I'd guess the average was $3 a person in the end - about what I expected.

When I shut down the ticket table 10 minutes into the show, I counted up the money. For an audience of about 80 people, we had taken in $181. I had spent about $60 on props for the show, so that gave us a profit of $121. The students who didn't appear in Act 2 were standing at the back of the theater, leaning on the half-wall at the back of the "booth" to watch the show. I showed them the sticky note with the totals written on it. (I believe in transparency with this kind of thing - they need to know about the business of theater as much as the art.) They were astounded.

And it might have gone to their heads a little. After the show, they, per tradition, ran back around to the lobby to greet their audience. I powered down and locked up the sound and light systems, then followed them to the lobby. There I found my little cast of 9, swaying with arms draped across each others' shoulders, swinging a rousing rendition of "Old MacDonald" while Jack passed Dr. Chasuble's parson hat around the crowd for "tips and donations." When they ran out of lyrics, they broke into improv games, determined to entertain the crowd for more money.

We'll have a talk tomorrow about decorum and such.

It was a success, though. Thursday night was a little precarious with one actor who failed to show up altogether. He had been flaky in the (albeit optional) after-school rehearsals, so the actors already knew how to carry on without him, unfortunately (it was Lord Bracknell, a part I created for the class. He didn't have any lines, but he did have some blocking and some interactions with Lady Bracknell that cued other things in the show).

The next morning, as we warmed up for the in-school performance, one of the girls told me with a worried look, "Don't get too mad at Zack".

"Why not?" I asked, wondering if she had heard something I hadn't.

"We just don't know why he didn't show. Maybe something bad happened. You should listen to him before you yell at him."

"Oh, Ms. W- doesn't yell," Kalen said solemnly, "She plays mindgames with you."

Reassured that the class was looking out for each other and wouldn't punish Zack socially without hearing him out first (and also beaming inwardly at their perception of my classroom management), I nodded my assent to 'play it cool.'

Sure enough, five minutes before we opened house and 25 minutes past call, Zack strolled down the aisle of the auditorium, grinning and waving at all of us.

"You're late, Zack," I said, calmly.

"Am I?" he said, with a rather goofy look.

"Yes," I said, letting a bit more iciness into my tone. "You've got five minutes to get into costume. Skedaddle."

To his credit, he picked up speed and headed for the costume room. He reemerged a few minutes later, interrupting the last of our warm-ups to tell me he couldn't find his jacket. "I'm sorry to hear that, but it's not my problem," I responded, then turned back to the cast to finish what we were doing. He found his jacket.

Later, when we opened house, I was mending a hat in the prop room when I heard a conversation just outside the door.

"Zack, man, where were you last night?"

I could hear the shrug in his response: "Home."

"Why? Why didn't you show up for the play? I could have given you a ride."

"I didn't feel like coming."

"Well, that's pretty shitty man," the student said, with a surprising amount of compassion in his tone.

And, indeed, it is.

The in-school performance took place during the class period. I had emailed the faculty inviting them a few weeks ago and asking them to RSVP. About 5 teachers had, which would have given us a decent audience. I think a lot of teachers threw in the towel, though, between it being Friday and the week before mid-term exams, because the classes just kept coming and coming. I had to get up on stage and ask people to move to the middle/walls to open up aisle seats, and several teachers grabbed chairs from the band room to line the back wall. The house was packed.

The kids did fine. Zach (other Zach) stole the show, as I expected, with his appearance and smoker's voice as Mariah the maid. He was originally Lane the Butler, and I had switched Merriman's (the other butler) gender to create a dumb-show love-triangle for between acts. When the girl playing Mariah/Merriman was suspended for two weeks for selling drugs, I asked Zach to take on the part. I had suggested making Merriman Lane's evil twin (with a mustache, of course), but that was before Zach found the French maid outfit in our costume shop. A guy in drag is such an easy gag, but, as my dad quotes, no one has ever gone broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Half of the kids told me post-show how they couldn't wait for their next production (Macbeth), while the other half just wanted to keep doing Earnest. The freshman who saw the show declared in the Intro to Drama class later that day that seeing the show just made them more nervous about their own production in three weeks.

"That's great!" I said to all of those comments.

And it is.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another Wedding Song

Scene: 7:15 AM Friday morning. I am leading my small cast in warm-ups for their performance of "Importance of Being Earnest" for classes during first period. The students are chatting eagerly, despite my attempts to get them to focus, thanks to pre-show nerves.

Me: Roll your neck around slowly, working out any kinks or stiffness you find...

Molly: Last night's show was so much fun! Zach, you were hilarious.

Bri: I'm so nervous! I'm more nervous about today's show than last nights.

Cody: Yeah.

Me: And, keeping your hips facing forward, twist your shoulders back to stretch your spine...

Sean: Ms. Waterhouse, can we come to the wedding?

Me: See if you can turn- Wait, what? I twist back around to face him. What wedding?

Sean: Your wedding.

Me: I'm not getting married.

Kalen: No, but when you do. Will you invite us?

Me: But I'm not getting married.

Shelby: But don't you want us to come?

Cody: We want to be there!

Me: Guys, I'm not getting married. There's a few steps in-between. Counting off on fingers. Boyfriend, fiance, then wedding!

Zach: What about Jason?

Me: 11 years. Not going to happen.

Sean: You get us a picture and we'll write the profile. We'll get you hooked up.


Sean: Just leave it to us.

Molly: We want to be there! Won't you remember us in a few years?

Me: Oh, come on. You'll all be old and married by then with your own kids. You won't even remember my name, let alone want to be at my wedding.

Students: (In chorus) Yeah, we will!

Molly's Mom: Sticking her head out of the dressing room where she's been doing the girls' hair, and raising her hand I'm 51 years old and I still remember my favorite teacher, my high school drama and speech teacher. She disappears back into the dressing room.

Me: (Yelling after her feebly) But I bet you didn't go to his or her wedding!

Kalen: Ms. W-, what we're saying is that you make an impact. We'll remember you.

Me: Immensely touched, so I quickly change the subject by checking the time on my phone. 8 minutes until the classes start arriving, guys. Let's wrap up the warm ups and cheer.

P.S. "Awww!", right?
P.P.S. I swear we don't spend all of class time talking about my dating life. This class just seems particularly interested in it for some reason, and the conversations are too amusing to keep to myself.
P.P.P.S. The shows went great. I'll tell you more details later this weekend.
P.P.P.P.S. I'm off to bed. MY bed. BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE A SPEECH MEET TOMORROW! Yay!! (Crazy-Kermit arms)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Touch of Class

I don't think I've told you much about my classes this term. So, here's a brief update/summary:

Period 1: Advanced Drama

I technically have 13 students on my roster, although two are currently on extended suspension (due to being caught selling meth in the bathroom and vodka in water bottles. They are not the brightest Crayons in the box, these two) and one ran away from home about three weeks ago.

So, my intrepid nine and I are putting the finishing touches on "Earnest." We'll do an evening show on Thursday and an in-class show on Friday. The students are almost memorized, but they have won a special place in my heart by requesting after-school rehearsals all week. They don't get all of the jokes, but by golly they want to do a good job telling them. We ran the show twice today after school, once at "normal" speed (70:43) and once at "double-time" (46:21). Three students didn't show, so I took on the parts of Lane, Merriman, Chasuble, and all the techie work as my faithful six rehearsed and had a grand time.

They're a small and a rag-tag bunch, but I like 'em.

Period 2 - Consultation

I get a lot done.

Period 3 - Intro to Drama

Aside from a few misfits, this class is sharp, literate, and extraordinarily enthusiastic. I love working with them, and they're coming up with great gags that actually fit the show well. This class is doing "The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood" (yes, I'm still recycling shows). The show goes up the first weekend in November, and we've just finished blocking Act 1. Due to the set for "Earnest" being up on stage and the aforementioned snowstorm, I decided we should remain in the classroom today instead of trekking across the parking lot to the other building. So instead of blocking more of Act 2, we practiced the choreography for "Men in Tights" (for bows) and started watching the Disney version of the story. Man, I loved that movie as a kid. And, not at all to my surprise, I still love it. The music is awesome, the characters are funny, and how sexy is this guy?


Also? I realized something:


Oh, funny story: I did a little meditation session with this class a few days ago. Another teacher nabbed me in the hall the next day to say that she had gotten a phone call from a parent of one of the kids in my class. Neither of us was clear on why the parent had called that teacher, but the mom was quite concerned that I was preaching 'Middle Eastern' religions in my class, 'especially when we're at war with that country.'

But, seriously. Great group of kids and I love working with them.

Period 4: Speech

Ah, speech. This class doesn't have it's stand-out leaders like last year's did, but I don't need them as much as I did last year, either. I know what I'm doing now and that makes things a heck of a lot easier. That being said, this class is one with some very strong, very easily-distracted personalities. Every day is a fight for their attention. However, it's certainly no worse than what I had teaching middle school. I'm used to handling them, but it's unusual in high school. There are a lot of freshmen in the class, and immature ones at that. Happily, they're also a talented bunch and there's some real potential for the team in the future.

They're working on Duet Acting right now, which basically means they're doing two-person scenes. I let them have most of the period to work today, but called them back together for the last 20 minutes of class to mix up the scenes - I'd call up two people who weren't working together and they would each say their lines in order, but with two totally different scenes happening. It's a fun exercise, since inevitably you get some lines that somehow make sense.

Really, I've got good class this year. I am absolutely loving not teaching English. When I did my year at STMS, I was heartsick for the lack of Theater; so I wondered how it would be in reverse. I don't miss it at all. I'm still talking about literature and writing with my drama and speech classes, but I'm not trying to find time to grade essays or teach grammar (well, at least not at school I'm not) on top of prepping two shows and coaching speech. It's a good thing, really.

Public Answers

To address my sister's comment:

- Yes! You can come to the reading. You can all come to the reading! It's on Sunday, though, so you have to face some Mormon guilt. But! It also means we can still go shopping on Saturday. And it would be nice if said shopping including a run down south so I can gets me some more garments.

-I don't know if the kids were inspired by seeing the show. I get little comments here and there ("They didn't use any microphones, did they Ms. Waterhouse?") that tell me a) they paid attention to some of the performance details and b) they're still thinking about it. But they're not at the place yet where those ideas can transfer into their performance. There's a big gap between seeing it and creating it. Sadly. But we're taking the first steps of getting there.

- I went to my old ward. I haven't woken up early enough to get to the family ward (9:00). Maybe this Sunday. And yes, maybe sleeping in is only part of the issue and I'm still dealing with the whole "I don't fit in anywhere now that I've flunked the singles ward" feeling.

-What kind of mountain kid doesn't pack his coat?
A 15-year-old boy. That's who. :)

And now my question:
When do I get to see my nephew again? Could I babysit him on Friday?

P.S. The rainstorm I drove to work in became a snowstorm during 2nd period today. Which, of course, put one of my favorite poems running through my mind the rest of the day:

Undivided attention
By Taylor Mali

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps - like classical music's
birthday gift to the insane -
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth-floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers' crane,
Chopin-shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second-to-last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over, and
I'm trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long-necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers' crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

Oh, Taylor Mali. I do love your poetry.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Steppin' Out

Oy, what a week!

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday:

I stayed late after school each day earlier in the week working with the speechers. Although having a larger team (48 kids) does help us win more awards, it becomes a lot more difficult to coach each student. Unlike other sports, it's not a group thing - I can't line up all the duet acting scenes and shout "Okay, go!" I like taking the time to work one-on-one to refine a piece, but it takes a lot of time.

I cut rehearsals short at 4:00, changed into my va-va-voom dress in the teacher's restroom, and headed downtown for 39 Steps. The kids were excited, talking about the show all week. I actually had a phone call from a parent who had left the directions to the theater at home and was calling in a panic because she "didn't remember how to get there" and she "wasn't going to miss this!" because she's "50 years old and has never seen a play before in her life."

That's another thing they didn't teach me in college - how I often wind up educating the community as much as I do the students.

The show was great, the kids loved it, and they behaved perfectly. In fact, there was another school group there seeing another show. That group was in t-shirts and jeans, had stragglers sneaking off to the side smoking, and a few were literally hanging off the sculptures in the courtyard. My students were dressed up for the theater and spent the time before the show chatting quietly and taking pictures of themselves in their fancy clothes (remember doing that, Rachel?). I was proud of them.

Happily, all of the groups made it safely to and from the theater, too. One senior, Matt, volunteered to drive a bunch of student down in his family minivan. They called at one point to ask, and I quote, "Are we going the right way on Highway 6?" Which demonstrates their belief in my divine omniscience as much as the students who called me to say, "We're in a parking garage. Which way do we go now?" I checked my cell phone obsessively until the minivan o' students showed up safely. Their tales the next day of their decision to go find a Village Inn after the show for dessert and subsequent loss of direction "in the ghetto" gave me retrospective palpitations. I'm too young to be worrying on this level of mom-ness, aren't I?

The talk-back with the actors went splendidly. The actors/crew were terribly gracious, my students asked good questions, and the parents in the room seemed quite happy about the extensive encouragement for college educations. It added so much to the kids' experience to get that special attention from the company, and when Mr. Nagel posed with us for a group photo after the show, many student declared him their favorite actor ever.

All of that is why I'm working on arranging another group trip to the DCTC for this weekend to see a reading.

Friday and Saturday
Working on minimal sleep by that point, I somehow managed the make it through another overnight speech meet. I, two chaperones, and 28 students hopped on the bus after school and drove the twisty, windy, motion-sickness-inducing mountain road to Silverthrone. I turned the kids loose for two hours to get dinner and enjoy the outlet stores (which prompted one kid to raise his hand and say, "Thank you for the extra time!" Seriously - when a statement like that makes me all farklempt, perhaps I'm feeling underappreciated.) While the kids relished the retail (remember, they're Mountain Town kids - stores are a big deal to them), the chaperones and I had a leisurely dinner at the Chinese restaurant near the bus.

We got to the hotel a little after 7. After a little mix-up with the reservations, I handed out the room keys and gave the kids until 10:00 to swim and rehearse their speech pieces. Despite the fact that 1) the pool was outdoors and 2) it was currently snowing, they all rushed into their suits and jumped in. By 8:30, we had taken over the lobby and the sound of various short stories, snippets of theater, and impromptu speeches filled the area.

The hotel staff was very nice, considering. They not only let us use their lobby like that, but the manager asked me if the kids would enjoy "some goodies". He came out of the back room with four grocery bags filled with free samples of toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, makeup remover, and razors. As I handed them out, the kids declared it "the best hotel ever!" And that was before they discovered the waffle-maker at breakfast.

True to our word, we taped the kids in at 10:00 and I settled in for a restless few hours of sleep. We headed off for the meet at 6:45 the next morning. I spent the meet working the judges' table, so I scheduled the judges for each round, checked off their ballots as they came back, and generally ran crisis-management. I took a lot of notes for my own meet (three weeks! Eek!).

There were some slimy things going on by the host school which hurt some of my kids, but we didn't do so badly overall - 15 ribbons and Best of Event in three events. We were back on the road by 6:00, stopped for a fast-food dinner in Frisco, and made it home through the fog, the snow, and the windy, twisty road. I gave my coat to the one kid whose parents weren't at the school when we arrived and we waited together in the bitter wind for about 20 minutes. Finally, I got to go home myself, where I promptly crawled into bed.

I woke up at 8, went to church, fell asleep in sacrament meeting three times, then went back home to bed for a two-hour nap.

My Advanced Drama class called for emergency rehearsals after school to get their play together for the show on Thursday. It's nice that they care that much. I did a Goodwill run when I got down the mountain to hunt down a few props. Now I'm catching up on TV from last week, i.e. The Office. Which prompts conflicting feelings of "Squee! Sweeney Todd! References to Sondheim on TV! Squee!" and "No, the runtime is more like 2:45, not 1:45. And how is it 10:10 in the first act of the show according to Ryan's iPad? That doesn't make any sense!" and the general squeamishness of Michael (in a theatrical setting no less). Still, Sondheim! And good for Ed Helms singing "Johanna"!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I Wish I Could Go Back to College

Topics my Theater Education class in college should have covered but didn't:

- Butcher Paper, Staples, and Coat Hangers, Oh My!: Building a $20 Set Without a Woodshop

- So Sayeth the Shepherd!: Literary Classics and What Parents Will Hate About Them

- OSS, ISS, Flu, and Family Vacations: How to Rehearse When Half Your Class is Missing The Week Before Your Show

- "Can't I Just Cover Her Mouth With My Hand?": Coaching Students Through a First Kiss While the Entire Class Watches

- "Too Gay For You, Too Hetro' For Me": Helping Teenage Boys Confront the Closet

- To Dream the Impossible Dream: Well-Written Plays with More Than 30 Parts (With a bonus bibliography of plays with more female parts than male!)

- "I'm so excited about the show on Thursday! I've never see a live play before.": Why Field Trips are Worth the Paperwork

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Question and Answer

What happens when you give your cell phone number to students on a field trip...


If You Win You Lose

We not only survived the first meet of the season, we came home with 26 ribbons, 7 of which were "Best of Event" (i.e. 1st place). So, whoo!

Happily, the hotel stay/transportation of 8 freshmen away from their parents for the first time ever also went well. Just one phone call from the management about the noise around 9:00. We moved everyone from practicing in the hallway to practicing in the lobby, and all was well. We taped the kids in at 10:00, the Team Mom (who's not me) did a round of the hallway around midnight and the two freshmen rooms were the only ones still awake talking.

The judging was all over the place. The host coach lets seniors judge at this meet (being a novice meet), which tends to create some real wild cards in the results. The students perform their pieces just once in front of three judges (as opposed to performing three times in front of one judge each time). I had one kid who, on his three ballots, received a 1/49, a 1/50, and a 4/42 (the first number is the rank from 1-4, the second is the speaker points ((which go from 31-50))). Like I said, all over the place.

The funniest ballot comment was, of course, from a student judge:

3 words for you:

Last year, I discovered that 1) They had discontinued team points; that is, they no longer tallied what school won each meet and 2) Ruth continued to tally that on her own and announced it to her students as if it were still happening universally.

The students kept asking me how the team did overall, so after two meets I asked Ruth what they were talking about. She showed me how to calculate team points and I spent the awards part of each meet frantically tracking every ribbon for every school so I could do the math on the bus ride home to figure out the overall place.

On one hand, it was nice - my principal, the newspaper, and others all understood "We took first!" a lot more than "We got 26 ribbons overall!"

On the other hand, I hated seeing how disappointed the kids were when they got anything less than first. I'm such a non-jock, but I'm working in a scenario where the idea of performing for the sake of the performance (as opposed to an award from judges who hardly ever know what they're doing) is as foreign to them as the idea of performance-as-competition is to me. Plus, I felt bad knowing that the other coaches had decided to abandon team points, so our continuing to rank each school's totals is rather unfair of me.

So I made a decision for this year, and when the students asked "How did we do overall?" as they got on the bus, I said, "Oh! Actually, they've stopped doing team points. Weird, huh?"

They were disappointed, sure, but no one threw a fit (unlike last year). Within a few meets, it should be forgotten at least until State.

I might miss the bragging point, but I'd chalk this up as a win for artistry over sportsmanship.

Next week: Battle Mountain!