Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pro Bono

I know that pro bono work is a part of many professions whether it's formally done, like the hours Jason dedicates at the law firm, or informally, like my father diagnosing his neighbor's eye problems in the middle of the night. As a teacher, I am not typically called on to instruct for free (if you do not count the after-school activities or my callings at church, that is).  Well, I went pro bono tonight.

Ann, a teacher at my school, approached me yesterday. Her son, Mike, an in-between-jobs young man in his early twenties, performed in an Edgar Allen Poe reader's theater event last fall. Apparently one of the audience members is affiliated with production of the new movie, The Raven. She contacted Mike last week and asked him to re-perform "The Tell-Tale Heart" at a special advanced screening of The Raven tomorrow night here in Denver with several movie-mucky-mucks and actors (including John Cusack) and important-types in attendance.

Naturally, Mike has been a nervous wreck all week. He called his mother in a panic, saying that he has run it over and over again by himself but he wished he could just perform it for someone else, a director who can give him actual direction (apparently the director of the reader's theater show had never directed before and approached it very much as an actor talks to other actors). Ann, of course, volunteered me, gave Mike my number, then came over to my classroom to inform me of these events.

So after I got home from school today I headed to a nearby park to meet Mike. He performed his piece for me, and then we picked it apart, word by word in some places. I asked a lot of guiding questions, had him try lines this way then that way and let him talk through the choices, we spent several minutes working on just three words ("oh so gently"). I pointed out to him the hidden heartbeat in Poe's language, pointed out which words he didn't understand, and pointed out the connections between this story and MacBeth (I mean, for Pete's sake, there's knocking at the door and then the narrator says, "What need I fear who knows it?" It's Shakespeare! It's always Shakespeare!) Basically, I did two hours of speech coaching, just like I do for my not-so-wee ones.

I didn't really mind it. I adore Ann, I enjoyed working with someone literate with talent, and I do like directing in the minutia. Two hours picking apart a ten-minute text, and we could have kept going. Mike, I think, was completely oblivious to the time, but I am struggling to take care of myself this week. So I started nudging us along once we got past the big moments and sent him off with a list of things to work on tonight. I'll be curious to hear how it all goes for him, and I'm curious to see if I get asked for more pro bono work in the future.

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