Sunday, December 18, 2005
In a Little While
I'm watching "Once Upon a Mattress" as I type this. While I am thrilled to see musicals making a comeback, this one has been sliced down for TV and seems to be targeting the 10-year-old girls. The costumes are fun, and I like the castle set; but this show is definitely better on stage. Still, exposure is exposure, right? And I am still offering extra credit to my students for watching.
I am enjoying the supporting cast, too. Tom Smothers is charming as the king, and Carol Burnett plays well for the camera. Denis O'Hare is old enough to compliment Tracy Ullman as Winifred, but he also plays Dauntless with a cute naivete. Plus, Matthew Morrison is just plain yummy. I miss the depth you get in the fuller version, though.
While we're on the topic of movie musicals, I should say a word about Rent. I didn't like the added sexuality (as if the play doesn't have enough as it is), but I think I liked the show overall. I don't think it will make any new fans, either, but for what it represents in a revival of the movie musical. I hope "Producers" is decent enough to pull in more than the Mel Brooks/Broadway crowds.
Speaking of Mel Brooks, do you know what his latest project is? A Broadway Musical version of "Young Frankenstein". Yup. That's right - Hollywood's attraction to Broadway has nothing on Broadway's infatuation with Hollywood. Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, The Producers, Mary Poppins, Tarzan, The Wedding Singer... the two coasts are getting closer and closer together....
Monday, November 14, 2005
The elementary school performance went splendidly. The audience, all 850 of them, was fully engaged and responsive for the entire show!
Thursday night had a typical weeknight audience - quiet and smaller, but they still enjoyed the show. The actors were a little thrown by the difference between that audience and the kids of that morning, so the show itself was shakier. They pulled themselves together, though, and we had a near-perfect show on Friday.
Overall, we made about $1200 dollars, which after deducting the cost of the show, brings in about $550 profit. I was happy, though, that the quality of the performances has really gone up, while my nerves during shows have calmed. It seemed, well, doable in a rather simple way, if doing a show can ever be simple.
No one else dropped out, although two of them came close at the last minute. The lights worked, my actors were loud enough to be heard (glory be!), and everyone seems happy with it. My kids even got me a lovely bouquet of roses and kept it a secret! There was an "incident" our school detective took care of, which only reinforced my growing support for sterilization as a legal consequence. I'll tell you about this particular incidence of stupidity sometime, perhaps. Other than that, it was a pretty smooth run.
After the show, I had about ten hours to rest before conducting auditions for the Relief Society play. Those also went well - we had 20 show up, and 20 parts to cast for. Now they just need to all show up to the read-through on Wednesday....
Monday, November 07, 2005
It's Only a Play
Well, it's hell week - hence my infrequent posting. The Advanced Drama play opens in two days. On Thursday, we perform first for the elementary schools, then in the evening for families, etc. And again in the evening on Friday.
Last Friday, my wonderful students came in on a day off to rehearse. It was rather fun, actually. The costumes are from various time periods and countries of origin, but colorful, characteristic, and fun. The shows are funny, and all of us now know the hustle. A-wa-hoo.
Mmm... Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire commercial on tv....
Anyway, I am in post-painting, pre-show tiredness. I have been reading the twelfth book of "A Series of Unfortunate Events", but I keep dozing off.
Here's two odd things about the play: 1) My actors are indeed better this year than before. They seem more focused and dedicated. This I love.
2) Producing plays seems to be getting easier. Time and energy-consuming, yes, but somehow less taxing overall. Things are just running... smoother.
Okay, bed soon. After "Arrested Development".
Fingers crossed for the play this week!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Run, Freedom, Run!
The first, the evil stepfather, I forgive, since he handled it rather responsibly. He realized about a week after I casted the show that it would be too much for him to handle his class load and memorize lines, so he dropped the class. Fine. I moved the male understudy into that part, and he's been doing wonderfully.
The second, the Godfather, I have to forgive. He dropped out a month into it because of religious reasons. His father objected to the implication of magic in the play, so this student dropped his part. Harder to replace, since I'm short on guys anyway, so the female understudy is now this character. Oy.
I thought I was in the clear. Two leads out, and relatively early, too. I was wrong.
I learned today that one of my narrators ran away from home over the weekend. When she is found, she will not be coming back to our school.
I don't mean to sound unconcerned. I actually am worried about her safety, but I also tend to be rather...focused... as the show draws closer.
I do have two weeks to get the part covered, so I think I'll have an actress with a smaller part take the narrator's on in addition to her own.
I just hope everyone else is in for the long haul, and I don't have to do any more part shuffling. Two weeks. We can do it.
(knock on wood)
Sunday, October 23, 2005
And All That Jazz
Yes, another birthday has come and gone. As one friend said, "Huh. I guess you're still young enough to want to celebrate those." Yes I am!
Last weekend I went to Chicago with mia familia. The excuse was Dad's AAO meeting. What a great town! The weather was gorgeous, excellent museums (especially the Art Institute), a great aquarium, and a giant chrome bean. We had some wonderful food, saw Wicked (which was excellent, by the way. I had no idea Ana Gasteyer could sing so well! I actually liked this production better than the one in New York), and shopped, of course. Tres amusant!
I eased back into school this week, thanks to UEA. That's the annual teacher's convention for our state, which is always conviently scheduled at the start of hunting season. Utah does have its own culture, it seems. In any case, we had Thursday and Friday off school. And I have kept busy.
Thursday: Janelle and I went to the convention to get free stuff. We spent the morning browsing the vendor booths. Best one? Staples. A whole canvas bag of office supply goodies (Janelle and I are both office supply junkies).
After that, we grabbed lunch at Mocha Salsa, then went to her house for a beauty session with her friend Christine. Janelle did her nails, and I dyed my hair. Exciting, since I have never done that before. I did get "Midnight Black", but my hair only went a couple of shades darker, which my mother will be happy to hear. I actually kind of like it. I can see how hair dying gets addicting.
After an hour or so in a bookstore, I went to an institute class with my grandmother.
Friday: I taught a workshop on drama in the classroom at Westminster College, thanks to an invite from my friend, Heidi. That afternoon, Heidi and I met with our writing group to swap some new pieces and continue work on our "Edgy-cators" show. Then I went home, cleaned my apartment, and watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Janelle and Christine.
Saturday: I slept in, did my elliptical routine, and went shopping for props (including Rapunzel's hair, a giant book of fairy tales, and paint for our set). I spent the night watching Blue and painting the book of fairy tales.
I'm having fun, luckily, even though October is zipping by.
Toodle-oo, my friends. I'll post some Chicago pictures when I get them uploaded. For now, here's my favorite shot of the trip (taken by my Dad):
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Only in New York
Last Friday I flew to NYC to see mon ami Jason and, of course, to see shows.
Thanks to a prolonged wait at the baggage claim, and a slow A train to town, I arrived with just enough time for us to toss my suitcase in his room and dash off to see Wicked.
Pretty good show! It was terribly satisfying to finally know the whole plot of the show, instead of just what I could piece together from the CD and the book it was based on.
I liked the show far better than I liked the book. The music is just wonderful. The gal who played Glinda did a great job. Ben Vereen is a relic (not necessarily in a bad way), and Rue McClanahan gave a fine example of the Rex Harrison school of "singing". The best part was how they weaved the references to the original "Oz" in. I am looking forward to seeing it again next weekend.
After the show, we grabbed a falafel from a hole-in-the-wall next to the dorms and decided to take advantage of being in a big city, and went to a midnight showing of Proof. It took us a wee bit to find the theater, but we only missed the first minute or so. The movie was actually rather faithful to the play. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Fine acting, good script (of course!), and it reiterated to me why I love films so much - they are just so much more intimate than theater (ironic, I know).
We slept in the next morning, then walked around NYU. Such a great campus! Then we changed for the opera and headed to the Met at Lincoln Center. They were doing La Boheme with sets that almost made me cry with happiness. It was so fantastic. That is, however, what you get when you hire Franco Zeffirelli to design them. Seriously, though. Sets to make me cry.
After the opera, we had dinner at the Gray Dog Cafe, next to the dorms. We shopped at the best-named bookstore ever (see photos below). I was good - I only bought 3 books. Which was remarkable, given the price. Then it was off to "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee".
Putnam County was hilarious! They had an excellent set-up in the lobby. The cast was outstanding. I enjoyed seeing a show in a smaller space, too. The show lacked the spectacle of "Wicked" and other multi-million dollar shows, but in some ways it was a better production. Not to be cheesy, but it had more heart. Plus the fact that I could easily name students of mine to match each and every character on stage. If you get a chance, go see this show. Or you'll just have to wait until I have my community theater and I direct it. :)
Because we weren't tired enough, we actually went to another movie that night - Serenity. I was worried at first about falling asleep, but this movie was so great. I have to say the best part, as with "Lord of the Rings" was seeing it with fans. They lost all restraint and reacted quite vocally the second half of the movie. My two favorite moments were 1) when the fans vocalized the full gamut of emotions ("Gasp!" "Awww!" <
Aside from the fans, it really is a good movie. Proved even more so by Jason's enjoyment of it without ever having seen an episode of "Firefly".
We slept in again the next morning, then got a mandatory breakfast of bagels, lox, and cream cheese, and shopped Soho. Back to the dorms to get my bags, and off to the airport.
As a final piece of advice to you, let me caution this: When flying out of New York, be sure to check not only your flight time, but the airport as well. Because going to JFK when your flight's out of Newark is a costly mistake. You can imagine the scenario, but I will tell you this: the guy at the movie was not the only one who swore this weekend.
Au revoir, mes amis!
I Want to be a Part of It
1. Jason at the NYU library
2. Me at the opera (avec gloves and glasses!)
3. The two of us outside Lincoln Center
4. The best name for a bookstore ever!
The Book Report
Here's a picture of the two authors:
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Spread a Little Sunshine
Things have been crazy here. I've casted the Advanced Drama play for the fall. I think it turned out well, too. I tried to get a balance of talent with those who need/deserve larger parts than they've gotten in the past. These are such fun kids, I'm really looking forward to seeing how their characters turn out.
I had a chance to go on a business trip to LA this week. I went with some other faculty members from my school to tour some Urban Learning Center-based schools in downtown LA. They were fascinating! They are doing such cool things there. We can back with tons of ideas, and a fantastic new energy for change at our school. The next step is to figure out 1) our immediate and long-term goals and 2) how we break the news to the rest of the faculty, particularly those who are... resistant to change.
The surprising thing about this trip was my realization that if my school was truly committed to making the changes we talked about, I would actually be okay about staying put. For a while. If I can travel in the summer, I would really like to be a part of reforming our school. Our principal seems enthusiastic, too, about buffing up our growing reputation as a performing arts school. He even mentioned the idea of Kelley, Janelle, and I going to New York to observe school programs there.
I'll stick in some photos from the trip, although I won't be in any of them, since I was the one behind the camera.
I'll give you a full report of the shows I see next weekend in New York.
Until then, TTFN!
LA Trip Photos
A mural at Foshay Learning Center
Here's JP showing off one of the awesome hallways at Foshay Learning Center. They brought in the artist who does the House of Blues to help with the painting.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Three Little Maids from School Are We
School has begun again! This marks the beginning of my 3rd year at KJHS, and I am happy to report that I am glad to be there. Difficult as it is at times, I do like my job.
I have been given more drama classes this year than before, and they are all packed with students. I am teaching the usual Advanced Drama class (year long, 43 students), two 8th grade Intro-to-Drama classes (a quarter long, about 35 students each), and a ninth grade Drama 1 class (semester-long, 37 students). My other two classes are new to me and to the school. They consist of about 35 7th graders (And how I detested them at first. There are clear reasons why I got a secondary certificate and not an elementary certificate. I am liking them better now, but I still miss abstract thought!). Those classes are also a quarter long, and focus on reading and writing skills.
It's quite the change in my schedule. Four preps is a lot (five if you count my advisory class); however, it's nice to find that a pattern for my curriculum has developed for my Drama 1 classes. I know pretty much what I want to teach then and when, which does cut down on my mental prep time, if not on the preparation of materials.
Tuesday I will hold the auditions for our Advanced Drama play this fall. Given the size of the class, I choose to do two shorter plays in order so everyone could have a part. I also thought it might be fun to try some children's theater with my students, so we'll be doing "Twinderella" (the story of Cinderella and her long lost twin, Bob), and "Rapunzel Uncut" (the "real" story). We have two evening performances scheduled for November, but I wanted to try something new. So, I sent out invitations to our final in-class dress rehearsal to two elementary schools. They've replied and we will have an audience of about 800 1st-6th graders there! I'm not convinced our principal understood what I was proposing when I asked him if I could do such a thing, but he always enjoys anything that makes him look good, so hopefully that won't be too much of a problem. I should probably warn him about the size of the crowd, though....
My own theatrical needs are soon going to be delightfully satisfied, as well as my travel needs. In about a week, I'll be going on my first business trip. My school has won a hefty grant this year, and representatives from each of our departments will be sent to LA to observe other schools who have won the grant. I'm going to represent the English department, and the great thing is that we finagled it so Janelle will represent Music and Kelley will go for P.E. It should be quite fun to go look at other schools with my friends (and have it all paid for to boot!).
About two weeks after that, I'll be going to NYC to visit my friend, Jason. He's just begun his first year of law school at NYU and no sooner had he been accepted than I picked a weekend and bought theater tickets. We'll be seeing "Wicked" on Friday night, a matinee of "La Boheme" at the Met, and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" on Saturday night. Hurrah!
As if that's not enough, two weeks after that, I get to go with my family to Chicago for a weekend. "Wicked" is just opening up there, so we'll be going on Friday night. Then the rest will be delightful tourism, museums, and, of course, great meals as my parents celebrate being NIGJ (Not In Grand Junction).
Ah. There is nothing like having trips in my immediate future to make me perfectly satisfied in the present.
I do have other shows I'm working on right now, one for my church and one that my friend Heidi and I are slowly creating, as well as my preparations for our spring musical. This should be quite the theatrical year, in any case. Hopefully, it will inspire many entertaining blog postings.
If I'm awake, that is. :)
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Another Openin', Another Show
The show went pretty well. We had more people in the audience than on stage both nights - hoorah!
Friday, August 05, 2005
Easy as a Life
August 9 and 10, 7:30 pm
Stage Right Theater Company
5001 Highland Drive
and I'm playing... a director! Talk about typecasting. At least I'm getting better at not directing the play itself. Given my role in theater for the past few years as a director and the fact that I am playing a director in this play, it was difficult at first to refrain from blocking the other actors in the play. :)
I really like this read-through format, though. It's much more blocked than I expected. The lack of stress is wonderful - performances are imminent and I still like theater!
My brother's in the show now, too. He came into town with me on Tuesday. We saw Howl's Moving Castle on Wednesday, and The Island yesterday, both of which I'd recommend.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
I have officially returned from my travels for a bit now, and have re-entered the theatrical world. My friend Teresa talked me into auditioning with her for a staged reading of Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author". And guess what? We were both cast! Teresa as the step-daughter and myself as the manager/director.
Today was the first read-through with the cast. This should be rather intersting - we only have five rehearsals; and will perform with only suggestive costumes, minimal blocking, on book, and on the set of their current full production. Aside from being a new experience for me as an actor, I get to do it with cher Teresa (always a delight!).
For those of you in town, the show is August 9 and 10, 7:30pm, at the Stage Right Theater Company (the dates listed on their website are incorrect - it is indeed the 9th and 10th).
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Statues and Stories
I apologize for the delay in posting. I have been traveling, traveling, traveling!
Currently I am in Grand Junction.
Yesterday, I was in Baltimore, Maryland.
The day before, I was in Chincoteague, VA.
Three days before that, I was in Washington, DC.
A week before that, I was in Grand Junction.
A week before that, I was in Newport Beach, CA.
It has been delightful! A family reunion at the Pacific Ocean, and visiting with two dear friends near the Atlantic Ocean. I will tell you this: The Atlantic Ocean is indeed warmer.
Places of interest I have been recently:
Disney's California Adventure
Universal Studios Hollywood
Arches National Park
The National Archives
The Mall in DC on the 4th of July (fireworks, baby!)
The Kennedy Center
The National Gallery of Art
The Museum of American History
The Folger Shakespeare Library
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The National Catherdral
The Washington, DC LDS Temple
and various airports.
I have been having a grand time, actually. I am not ready for school yet, so thank goodness I still have a few weeks. I did, however, have my students in mind on these trips. I got some materials for my classes at some of the museums in DC, and I am saving up some good stories to share with them about what I did on my summer vacation (including 1) goin' shootin' and 2) goin' clammin').
I will post some photos from these adventures at some point in time.
Till then, mon amis, bon vacance!
Monday, June 06, 2005
Why We Like Spelling
I am indeed on summer break - a wonderful feeling. And there is oh, so much to talk about! I shall try to cover all without too much rambling.
1) End of the school year.
I am actually a little sad about this year being over. I will certainly miss my Advanced Drama class. They were very sweet and rather sappy towards the end. I ordered various scripts to give to each of them as a "Thank you and good-bye" gift, which we did in a mock-graducation ceremony. I especially missed my classes last night as I watched the Tonys, as I remembered I would not be able to discuss the awards in school the next day. I think sleeping in until 10 for the past few days has tempered my sorrow, though. :)
2) Announcing the musical for next year.
We did indeed make the announcement. I think the kids are excited, too. Their reservations are coming mostly from having no knowledge of "Once on this Island", which is certainly understandable. They do have the summer, though, to do some research on it. I should be getting the materials for the show in the mail in the next few weeks, as well, so when school starts up again, I will make some of those scripts available to be checked out by the students. Since I began teaching, I have been trying the improve on what my professors called "transparency". I am certainly more open and forthcoming about this whole process than any of the directors I've worked with. For good or for ill, I am not sure.
3) Summer schedules
Since school has gotten out, I have relaxed into a delightful summer schedule. It won't last for too long, since I begin my travels in two days, but for now I am enjoying it. For example, here's what I've done today:
7:10 - Woke up, panicked that I was late.
7:11 - Realized I am not late, went back to sleep.
8:30 - Woke up with the cat sniffing my lips. Shoved her off, listened to the rainstorm pounding outside, smiled at that, and went back to sleep.
10:00 - Woke up, got up, and examined the cold sore that seems to be developing above my eye.
10:10 - Booted up computers to continue my current project: transferring my iTunes music files from my old computer to my new computer.
10:30 - Showered, made a bagel for breakfast (made with cream cheese, lox, and tomatoes - just what I've been craving since New York!).
11:00 - Left to drop off a copy of Tom's latest draft to him (I'll explain about that in a later post, if you don't know what I'm talking about).
11:30 - Drove to Gateway Mall in search of "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and "Light in the Piazza" CDs.
12:30 - Checked Barnes and Noble and Virgin Megastore, with no luck. Both stores had sales people who expressed surprise that they were sold out of those CDs. I refrain from informing them in a haughty manner of the Tony results last night (of COURSE they'd be sold out! You probably only ordered 3 copies! Bah!)
12:45 - Called around town, found another Barnes and Noble with both CDs in stock, put them on hold.
1:30 - Went to see "Dear Frankie" at Trolley Square - a delightful movie!
3:30 - Drove to other BN to get the CDs.
4:30 - Home now, typing this post.
Plans for later: Make a carrot cake, listen to my new CDs, continue transfer project, and discuss the Tony awards with Jason.
Not a bad life, now, is it?
I have really indulged in media since school got out. Since last Thursday (which was the last day), I have watched 6 movies (Spiderman 1 and 2, Fear and Trembling, Kinsey, Frida, and Dear Frankie), bought 8 books, and read 2 novels ("Eragon" and "Inkheart", currently reading "The Golden Compass"). Don't worry, though. I don't plan on keeping this lifestyle up. I'd go broke rather quickly if I did.
This is getting to be a long post, but I cannot neglect the Tony Awards. So -
4) The Tonys
I crave theater. I really do. It's so barren here. I want to be in New York, seeing all of these shows, and more! I am thrilled that we did go in April, so "Spamalot" was a lot more meaningful, but oh! I want to see more!
- I was surprised at how distributed the awards were among the nominees. I had expected "Spamalot" or "Putnam County" to sweep all of thier catagories.
- I did not like the choice of song for "Spamalot". It was fine, but there are better numbers in the show.
- I loved "Putnam County"! That show is now second on my list for "Must See ASAP".
- The "Sweet Charity" number was disappointing. Christina Applegate cannot sing, although that's not really a surprise. She can, however, take a joke. :)
- I liked the "Light in the Piazza" number more than I expected, which is why I bought the CD today. I am curious to learn more about it.
- I wonder if Sarah Ramirez will change the lyrics of her Diva song at tomorrow's performance of "Spamalot" - specifically the line "I've no Tony awards".
- I also like my dad's version of "Find Your Grail" for her - "Find Your Bra".
- It's wonderful to see people who are really grateful to be doing what they do - that seemed to be a theme in the speeches.
- I also loved how both Norbert Leo Butz and Dan Fogler proved that being different can get you places ("...with this hair!"). I think I'll use their clips as discussion points in Drama next year.
I will give you more thoughts later, but for now I better post. If you want a list of the winners, go here or to the New York Times here
Friday, May 27, 2005
Thursday, May 26, 2005
It involved sweeping the parking lot with a flashlight, spending 5 minutes trying to coax her to my reach, hoping a fence, then (even more interesting) hoping back over a fence while holding a cat with one arm as she clung to me, claws in my chest.
But she's back!
And, believe me, all of my windows are shut.
With Cat-Like Tread
No Natasha yet, although late last night there was a development. Just as I was about to go to bed, a neighbor knocked on my door. She told me she had just seen my cat, and her husband was watching her as we speak. I threw on some clothes, and dashed outside. By then, Nash (if it was her) had slipped away, though, for she had disappeared. It surprised the husband, who was dilligently watching the car she ran under, but I was not surprised. Remember, this cat is an expert at avoiding people.
As I walked back to my apartment to get a flashlight, I did see a furry shape dash across the parking lot into the bushes near to the construction site next door. I searched the bushes, but to no avail. I retired a half-hour later, with thorny hands but higher hopes. My wonderful neighbors said that other people in the complex had seen her earlier in the week as well.
I am feeling much more optimistic, so I am sticking with the idea that it was her. This means a) she is alive and b) she is very close. Much better than my worried imagination scenarios.
It made me happy enough to forgoe canvassing the nearby animal shelters this afternoon in favor of high tea with Janelle and her friends. It was a last hurrah before her wedding this weekend, and it was delightful. Yes, I was dressed in a black pageboy wig, black clothes, and heavy black eyeliner (today was my annual poetry reading session in my English classes), while the others were in British lady's clothes. I donned my beret, and joined them with a set of gloves and was pronounced the French friend that rounded out their British trio.
Tea was served at the Grand America hotel downtown. It was delicious, elegant, and rather European.
I shall go out again at sunset tonight to search again. Here's hoping!
Monday, May 23, 2005
O, Men of Dark and Dismal Fate
I discovered late Sunday night that Natasha had escaped the apartment through a loose screen window in my library. Andy and I have searched the surrounding areas, but to no avail. She is, we have learned before, an expert at hiding.
I am quite sad. I miss my kitty and I worry about her. I believe I will have to leave it up to the kindness of strangers, as it were, in the hopes that she gets sent to Animal Control.
I don't know what else to do, which I hate. Living in an apartment makes it seem more unlikely that she'd find her way home. After all, what she knows of the building is what she's seen through a transport cage and what she saw as she leaped from my second story window.
I am trying to perk up with the anticipation of the end of the school year, the excitement of announcing our choice for next year's play (we'll tell everyone at the farewell assembly on Friday), and general summertime mirth. Unfortunately, I just miss my cat.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
The year is winding down, and boy do we all feel it. It's strange, actually, to think of how few classes I have left, particularly with the block schedule. I believe I only have about 4 more class periods with my Advanced Drama class, which I am rather sad about. They're my favorite class, after all. And, boy, are they marvelous right now. I wish I had another year for them so I can enjoy all they've learned. As one of our final activities, we went to see "West Side Story" at the PTC. Great set design, horrible directorial decisions. The worst? An addition of a little blond kid, dressed in white. He sang a solo during the ballet sequence, which was fine, but then the ending! Maria trails off stage after Tony's body and the various gang members, leaving the gun in a spotlight down center. I can deal with them ignoring the stage direction that the adults remain on stage "helpless". However, this production ended not with the gun, but with the little boy appearing again, walking to the gun, looking mournfully down at it, then out appealingly at the audience.
ugh! Awful! I now refer to this as the "crying Indian" ending - it smacked of the sentimentality of the 1970's anti-litter commercial.
The happiness was that my students were just as critical as me! We had a great discussion on the bus ride home. I have taught my students well.
That discussion redeems my students from an earlier one in the week. In reviewing for this show, I was quizzing them on the creators. I asked them who wrote the lyrics for it. They didn't know. I said it was the same man who later wrote "Assassins", "Sunday in the Park with George", "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", and "Into the Woods". One of them ventured a guess - "Andrew Lloyd Webber?"
I gave him a withering look and informed him that he could burn in theater hell for making that mistake. (They laughed.)
Other happy theater news - the Tony nominations were announced Tuesday. And we picked out musical for next year!
But I can't tell you what it is here. I know a few of my students read my blog, and we're keeping it a secret until our school's farewell assembly in two weeks. I am excited about it, though!
Au revoir mes amis!
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Our trip was fantastic! Dad scored us a fabulous hotel room that was literally on Times Square. It was great to be able to stop by during the day to drop stuff off as needed.
In addition to seeing the plays I listed before, we also did the Museum of Natural History (the Hayden Sphere exhibit was quite fun), the new MOMA, and some general wandering around. On Sunday, before our flight, we went downtown to the Greenwich area and wandered. To my utter contentment, we also went to the Strand bookstore, a great new/used/hard-to-find bookstore (I bought 7 books there) and to a drama bookstore closer to the Theatre District (4 books). Mmm... two bookstores in two hours - delicious!
As for the shows:
"The Musical of Musicals: The Musical" was hysterical, but you definitely had to be a musical-buff to enjoy it, I think. There were some references even I didn't get (mostly the Jerry Herman section. All I really know by him is "Hello, Dolly!".) The theater is was in was dang awesome, too. It was in a below-ground converted movie theater complex - five theaters ranging in size from about 200 seats - 500 seats. The whole thing was done in concrete and steel with ornate lime green and gold accents. A live-theater complex - oh the possibilities!
"Shockheaded Peter" was my favorite show of the weekend. Unfortunately, it was only about 2/3 full (I think it freaks people out). The theatrics, the use of puppets, the timing and playing with the audience was all excellent. I think I learned more watching this show than I would have at any teacher's conference (thereby justifying my taking a day of "professional development") to go on this trip. I recommend this show to anyone going to NY in the near future, although it doesn't look like it will be around for long.
It also made me wish that the Tony's would open up to nominees from off-Broadway as well. Some of those shows deserve the publicity, and the costuming of "Peter" was definitely comparable to any of the shows running on Broadway, let alone the other elements of the show. "Best Musical"? Probably not. The most innovative and stylish piece of theater I've seen in a long while? Definitely.
"Monty Python's Spamalot" was our original purpose for this trip. We actually bought the tickets back in January and even so were up in the nosebleeds. A stroke of luck - my friend (I should add quotes to that to pacify my students) Jason decided to join us in NY at the last moment, so we bought a ticket for this show from a scalper. It turned out to be in the row behind us, two seats over. Cool, huh?
The show was hysterical - very silly and flashy and fun. It's nice to see the musical comedy lording over the Lloyd Weber mega-shows. The most interesting part of the experience for me was seeing a show with an entire audience who had most of it memorized. I am used to seeing shows that I already know (probably 95% of the shows I see I have all of the music memorized beforehand), but here the actors only had to say the opening sentence of a bit ("Old woman!"), or in some cases, simply walk out on stage, and the audience would erupt in applause and cheers. The worst of it was when they sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" - there were many whistlers in the house. They anticipated this, though, and the bows included a sing-along to the song.
After the show, I did the cheesy thing and got some autographs. Sure, I had to explain to my students exactly who was David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry, and Hank Azaria and why their signatures are cool ("Who, Tim Curry? Jim Carey would have been cooler" I was told several times.) It was also pouring rain, at the time, which is why my poster is slightly waterlogged and why Tim Curry wound up signing my chest. (Hee!)
(Okay, not really. I just held the poster against my chest to give him a surface to write on. Still, my statement is not entirely inaccurate.... :) )
I look forward to seeing the Tony's (June 5th on CBS). I also look forward to going back. I still want to see "Wicked", and I don't want to see the reduced touring version. Perhaps this summer....
For now, adieu!
Friday, April 29, 2005
A Hell of a Town
Tonight: "Musicals of Musicals"
Tomorrow Matinee: "Shockheaded Peter"
Tomorrow Night: "Monty Python's Spamalot"
Our Hotel: LITERALLLY on Times Square, baby! (Boo-Yah!)
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Pretty Little Picture
Friday, April 15, 2005
Make 'Em Laugh
"Ew! What is that?" The kids cry out in chorus.
"It's juice," I reply, taking a swig of it.
"But it's green."
"It looks gross. Can I smell it?"
I shrug. "Sure." As I make the rounds so everyone can smell it, they comment on it:
"It's not green, it's black - No, purple."
"Nah, it's green. It looks like shredded grass."
"No, it looks like what happens after you drink stuff like this!"
"Hey, it's good for you!" I say in protest. They look at me skeptically (yeah, I'm being judged on what I drink from people who dissolve sugar cubes in Mountain Dew for breakfast). So I read the label to them: "Odwalla's Superfood with micronutrients. Put some green in your genes-"
I am cut off by a horse's guffaw from the corner.
"Not 'jeans', James," I explain to the kid who's now pounding the desk with laughter, "Genes as in genetics."
Ah, junior high school. At least I keep them entertained.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Something's Gotta Give
Two days off in a row. Not typical for me when I only have a cold. As I debated this morning, I wondered what it was that makes me so reluctant to miss school when I'm sick. I convinced myself in the end that it would be best for me to take a second day off. After all, if I went to school, I'd either be crabby or exhausted all day. Then again, I didn't have any lesson plans set up for a sub for today. I ended up recording some short instructions on my Subfinder account, and wishing the sub good luck. Drama days are tough on substitutes.
I am compensating for missing two days of school by spending my afternoon grading English papers. I am about halfway through them now.
In the end, I think taking today off was a good idea. Knowing my colds as I do, today should be the worst of it. When the coughing sets in, talking (i.e. teaching) only aggravates it. I hope spending a day in silence will help expedite the healing process.
I think I have fine-tuned my cold schedule. Here's how it goes:
Pre-cold: General weariness
Day 1: Sore throat
Day 2: Runny nose and tired, but feel fine otherwise (always a deceptive day!)
Day 3: Completely congested, with headache.
Day 4: Congestion improves a little, coughing begins
Days 5-?: Cough, cough cough.
And so it goes. I am glad, though, that I got the cold now. This should set me up well for the Shakespeare Festival next week and our upcoming trip to New York (!).
Well, back to papers and, hopefully, school tomorrow.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
What is this feeling?
Hello my dear, dear readers!
I promise I did not forget about you. There are, in fact, three reasons why I haven't posted in a while.
1) Immediately following the show, I went to Denver for my spring break, and then to Grand Junction the following weekend for my mom's birthday, thereby removing me from computer proximity.
2) I have been rather daunted at the thought of writing about the show - wrapping up that story, as it were.
3) I actually did write a lovely post for you; a lengthy one in fact, but when I clicked the "Publish" button, I got a "operation timed-out" message, and a refreshed screen - all that was left was the title of the post. Oy! Frustrated, I decided to wait for a better time to write.
And today is it! My post-show cold finally struck and I am home right now, wrapped in an afghan on my couch, surrounded by orange juice (care of my brother) and tissues, watching the Hallmark channel and sniffing. In short, I have called in sick and have decided to write.
So. The show. Here are some summaries:
- 3 performances
- No major glitches (!)
- Audience attendance was about 520 all three nights (a good crowd for us)
- Several teachers came with their families - a wonderful showing of support.
- Opening night, a kid in the audience threw a golf ball onstage. No one was hurt, though, and the detective caught the kid.
- Worst problem? The sound system reset itself during the second-to-last-song on our last night. Unfortunate, but our actors did exactly what they should do - they waited for the music to fix itself, then continued as if nothing had happened. I was proud of them!
- Total profits? $6000!
Overall, I am quite happy with the show. The kids were very sweet - they got us directors some lovely bouquets of flowers and presented them to us during bows the last night of the show. They also managed to thoroughly embarrass me (something that is not too easy to do since I started teaching at a junior high school). I'll tell you that story another time.
I was also delighted to have my friend Heidi come see the show, and my parents, my sister, and my grandmother all came to town to see it. It was wonderful to visit with them and to show off my students a little. Amusing moment: My family snuck backstage before the show to say hi and found me in the choir room, surrounded by little people dressed in yellow, all raising their hands towards me and chanting. As Rachel put it, "We were wondering what kind of cult you were running at your school." No, no. It was just our pre-show cheer. :)
So "Seussical" is done. Strange. I am doing my best to fill the void, though. Janelle, Kelley, and I have already started the selection process for next year's musical. We have narrowed it down to a few choices - "Once Upon a Mattress", "The Pirates of Penzance", and "Crazy for You" are the top runners. It's surprisingly difficult to find good musicals with sizable choruses that are not too "objectionable". I am excited about our choices, though, and glad that I've got such fun people to work with. We're hoping to have our show selected by the end of this year, so we can get a jump start on the preparations. That's the problem with doing a good job - I keep raising the bar on myself.
My advanced drama class, troupers that they are, is also plunging ahead with our preparations for our school's Shakespeare Festival. We've got a one-act to perform for the ninth graders and then again in the evening for families/friends. After that, I think we might call our season done. They've put in a lot of work this year on shows, and I think we need the last month of school to relax and have fun.
Oh, get this. I am actually seriously considering taking a group of students to the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City this fall - my first overnight field trip (as a chaperone, that is). It's definitely in the hazy planning phase, but my principal has okayed it, so I think it might happen. Talk about fodder for my blog!
Well, readers, I think this is getting to be a long post. Besides, I want to go in search of some more medication in my cabinets to see if I can clear up this sinus pressure.
Have a happy Tuesday! I'll write again soon, I promise. :)
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Another Openin', Another Show
This will be a shorter post, I'm afraid. We have officially gone on spring break. I have just arrived in Grand Junction, stopping by on my way to Denver for the extended weekend. Thus my blogging will be rather intermittent for a while.
I realize I have not yet commented on the events of last week, i.e. my show. I will give you a much fuller account when I have a computer that works and time to do it in. For the time being, let me just say that it went remarkably well. No one was arrested, no set pieces collapsed (although one student did run smack into Whoville while making an exit Thursday night), in short, there were no exciting disasters. We made just over $6000 on this show, and had about 530 people attend each night (a large audience by KJHS' standards).
I hope this will suffice for now. I will tell you many, many more details soon, beloved readers, as well as an account of my adventures in Denver with Emily and Rachel.
Until then - adieu!
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
One Day More
Today (Tuesday) was our teaser assembly and final dress rehearsal. The assembly went pretty well. We picked the best 7 songs for that cast and ran them pretty much in the order they appear in in the show.
I was really happy with the teaser. The kids did a nice job and the audience was wonderful. They were engaged, receptive, and engrossed (a remarkable things when you remember that it was a junior high school crowd).
In between songs, I gave away a couple of sets of free tickets to the show to kids who could answer some trivia questions about Dr. Seuss (What book did Dr. Seuss write after his editor bet him to write a book with less than 50 words in it? What teacher at our school has the same birthday as Dr. Seuss? and Where did Theodore Geisel get his nom de plume from?) . That was a new thing this year, and I think it made show tickets a bit more desirable to the students.
It's hard to say this, but I am actually declaring the set finished. Maybe. Watching my drama classes do their monologues today, I kept looking at the set behind them, noting things to change: Rounding out that staircase on the backdrop, masking the curve under the Whoville platform, add some shadowing on the mountains, et cetera. Maybe if I get a chance tomorrow afternoon before the show, I will keep tweaking.
I was good today, though. After rehearsal, I only stayed for another hour or so to make a call, answer some emails, and to type up some cues. I was actually home by just after 8. Better, I let my stage crew go right after rehearsal.
I am tired, though. It was an early morning for me (I was at school by 6:45 to help my kids set up for the assembly), following a long week. I still like it, though. Moreover, I adore these kids. I love the devotion they are giving.
Here's an interesting side effect. I think that what with running around all day the past few weeks, I've lost some weight. At least, my pants feel looser on me. A good thing, yes, but the ill-fitting pants results in a frequent sensation that my zipper is down. When I hear kids snickering after I turn away from them, I worry about that. Granted, with a crowd like we had at the assembly, there were perpetual snickers that had very little to do with me. Still, I keep having to check my fly.
And you can tell that I've been spending way too much time in middle school when I find the possibility of embarrassing myself like that an interesting phenomenon. Oy.
Tomorrow it begins!
Friday, March 11, 2005
At the End of the Day
I'm out early today because it was not a student non-attendance day. We actually scheduled two of our dress rehearsals for today so we could have some non-interrupted time to work with the casts. We ran the show twice, once with each cast. It's looking pretty good. The kids have found awesome costumes. Some of the leads have been dropping lines lately, which baffles me since they are lines I know they know. But it's coming together and I am optomistic.
The fish and hunch puppets are working well, thanks to the ingenuity of some of my Advanced Drama class. The shadow puppeteers need more time to practice with them. I hope that part comes together, since it could be nifty if it does.
We have gotten amazing support from some families this week. A couple of families have come in after practice and because of their help, we're actually almost done with the entire set! I haven't had to cut back any of the design. It's all cut and painted, so all we have to do is brace Whoville and mount the backdrop. The lights we're renting should arrive on Monday. Here's hoping they work.
Our lightboard went out earlier this week. No one knows why, although it did the exact same thing last year. Unfortunately, all of the programs were whiped out from the computer up there, too. Oh, and our sound system isn't working, either. So aside from not being able to see or hear the actors, everything's great!
I'm kidding. A little. Worse comes to worse, we can still do basic stage lights, we just can't do the effects we'd like to.
Apparently, I've taken to referring to myself in second person. Hmm.
So as we come down to the wire, my to do this for this weekend is:
-Make 3 Bird tails
- Sew some body mic belt packs
- Sew a field for the clovers
- Make the program
- Write Thank You notes
- Find some Thank You gifts
I was going to start on these projects now, but suddenly this week is catching up with me. I think I'll take the advice that a chorus of my kids shouted at me as I drove past them on the way home today: "Get some sleep!":)
Maybe tomorrow I'll write about some of the show dreams I've been having. ...
Monday, March 07, 2005
Checking in to the "Maison des Lunes"
So. Last Thursday we did a set session. Our shop teacher, the stage crew, and a couple of awesome parents joined me on stage after rehearsal and we built the arch, the staircase, and some of the peripherals. One of the moms bought pizza for everyone, too, which was wonderful of her.
Friday, I ordered the paint, which I picked up this morning. 12 gallons - I hope I got enough. :)
Today, our shop teacher worked during classes and finished up some of the platforms extending from the archway. So, after rehearsal, three veteran students and I primed the set with paint leftover from previous shows. Tomorrow will be another group-effort set night, so hopefully we'll be able to pretty much finish it (fingers crossed!).
Speaking of today's rehearsal (Act 1 top to bottom with the assembly cast) - it sucked. (My vocabulary tends to descend the longer I spend at school. :) ) The leads did well for the most part. I could tell how much time they have been putting into this. The chorus did pretty badly, though. They didn't know the blocking or the choreography; they missed cues and entrances; when on stage, they just sat there with no emotion; and there were many times when 1 lead would be singing louder than the collective chorus.
So Janelle, Kelley, and I chewed them out. Guilt trip, yelling, disappointment, etc. Better to scare them into rehearsing well now than waiting until dress rehearsals, I figure. I don't like being the bad-mood teacher, but I swear they just don't seem to be motivated until we get really upset. I think the panic is setting in, though, and I hope they will pull it together. Tomorrow is Act 2 with the same cast. We'll see if they rehearse tonight!
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss
To celebrate, we began selling our show pins yesterday - Yea!
In just two days, we sold enough pins to pay for the lights we want to rent! - Yea!
A fabulous parent arranged for a wonderful array of donations, so we're also doing a raffle for funds - Yea!
Another great mom has arranged for 10+ helpers to build our set tomorrow night after she picks up our wood for us - Yea!
After calling around I found the paint supplier for our school district, who offered to sell me paint for our show at district cost (almost %50 less than what I usually pay!) - Yea!
Parent-teacher conferences are through for another year, with my interviews being both complimentary and helpful - Yea!
Our poster is ordered, the kids are excited, and the buzz around school has started - Yea!
Our show opens in LESS than 2 weeks - Yea!
Yesterday, for the first time, I said the following sentence out loud and meant it - "I love my job."-
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Dressing Them Up
Afterwards, we sat down with the leads. We had scheduled an emerygency rehearsal; however, some of the leads (mostly the ones who needed the rehearsal the most) had left, and everyone was tired. The actors agreed that they needed to work on blocking most of all, so we decided to do a speed-through of the show. We did Act 1 with one cast, then Act 2 with the other cast, speaking the lines/songs at top speed and walking through the entrances, crosses, and exits - all in just over an hour. It helped, at least me, figure out how this whole show fits together.
More than anything, I went home with a feeling of pride in these actors. They are troupers, and the ones that put in time like this are just phenomenal. They're what make these shows fly.
10 rehearsals left!
Thursday, February 24, 2005
I Whistle a Happy Tune
I just wanted to let you know that things have perked up. I am back in my optomistic phase with the show. We've picked a poster from the designs submitted by various students (we do it as a contest each year, and the top three poster designs get cash prizes, thanks to our awesome administration). Each time we do this contest, it seems that the entries get better and better, thereby making it more difficult to choose.
I went to Barnes and Noble today after rehearsal (always a happy place to be!) in search of "Horton Hears a Who". We wanted to reference the book for our shadow puppets. I actually found a collection of 12 of Seuss' books (including most of the major parts of the show). I also found a very cuddly little elephant that I couldn't resist buying for our elephant-bird puppet. I've named him "Hojo LaBird" (as in Horton, Junior/a reference to Horton's friend Jojo; and the elephant-bird's mother, Mayzie LaBird). He is very soft and my cat is bewildered.
Speaking of my cat, if my writing seems awkward today, it's because Natasha, having been repeatededly removed from the warmth of my running laptop, has now settled on the end of the lapboard my computer is balanced on, thereby making me type at a 30 degree angle. Aww....
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
After a delightful weekend in San Diego (including a trip to IKEA!), we're back in the swing of things. The Whos rehearsed today as we head towards our final weeks. My moods sway from panicked to stressed to a stressed-induced euphoria. Poor students. ;)
Janelle and I decided today that this is the "Wednesday" time of the school year - it seems everyone at school is, well, blah. I know things will pick up in March, but for now it feels like we're just dragging ourselves to spring break.
Some things for the show are progressing well - I bought 25 some-odd yards of tulle and tomorrow we will begin crafting tails. Others things (our sets, for example) are, well, stalled.
Friday is costume parade - hurrah! I'll give you more of an update later!
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
"My own planets and stars are glowing"
Guess what? I've been to the planetarium. So for a moment, I will branch off from my usual theatrical focus to tell you about my most recent field trip.
I am on a core faculty team, meaning that the students I teach in English class have the same science, math, and history teacher. As a team, we decided to take the students to the planetarium today.
Just before the end of first period, the science teacher and I loaded 75 eighth graders onto two buses and headed downtown. The math teacher stayed behind with the kids who didn't get their permission slips back on time, and the history teacher was (convenient) absent today. We took his sub instead.
You know, I think I was more excited about this field trip than a lot of the students. I hadn't been to a planetarium since I was in eighth grade.
We watched a star show ("The Ultimate Universe"- a title I always hear read with a booming bass voice and lots of reverb), then gave the kids about an hour to wander the museum/gift shop. I bought some glow-in-the-dark stars that were on sale and my 4th period class helped hang them up in my classroom. I also bought a chomping dinosaur head, which I've named "Bernard" (accent on the first syllable). He entertains me, and I entertain the students.
You know, I find it's rather effective to keep them wondering just how close to the edge their teacher really is.
All in all, our students were well behaved and seemed to enjoy themselves. This was despite, as one student observed, all of the other school groups there were from elementary schools. :)
Meanwhile, on the Seussical front, I spent some time at Home Depot today trying to figure out what I could turn into Seuss-inspired weaponry. Then I found feather dusters and an idea began germinating. We'll see how it turns out....
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Gee, How I Hate to Get Up In The Morning!
Today was a good day. In Advanced Drama, we raided the dance classes' old costumes for fabric and started designing puppets for the show. The kids were coming up with some great test models, which makes me quite optimistic about the actual puppets.
At rehearsal, we ran some of the smaller scenes in the dance room while the Hunches worked on their dance on stage. It's looking cool, and it certainly was fun to see. We had to do a bit of work to convince our Mayor to actually hug his wife and son for the reunion scene at the end of the show, but hey, he's a teenage boy.
After the formal rehearsal, my Gertrudes hung out for a while, so we worked "Notice Me, Horton". One of them lingered along with one of my Cats, just chatting for a while, which is fun. Finally, realizing that it was past 6:00pm and I still had some tasks to do for accreditation tomorrow, we called it a night.
The other good news is that I had some responses to my hotel-sheets inquiries. I drove out to a Marriott by the airport after I left school tonight to pick up a box of sheets the hotel manager had promised to leave me. The box was actually so large that it took both the housekeeping manager and me some time to wedge it into my backseat. Yea! It will be interesting to get that out of my car and into the school tomorrow, but then again, what else are TAs for?
I think we're good to go on our sheets, now, and that's from just one hotel!
So I drove home, picking up some dinner on the way. When I got there, I was just in time to strip to my pajamas (okay, underwear), turn on "Scrubs" and settle in to eat. Most delightful after a long day.
unfortunately, just after "Scrubs" ended, the doorbell rang. I quickly pulled on my clothes and answered it to find my brother. He said he had just finished typing a paper and wanted to get out of the dorm for a while. We talked for a while- he ate some corndogs, I browsed the internet, etc. He started playing the guitar I have, and I recalled one of my smaller Seuss projects. So Andy figured out the chords to the opening of one of Gertrude's songs, and mapped them out for me. Tomorrow, I'll pass my notes on to my two Gertrudes so they can actually strum along to the opening of "The One-Feathered Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz". This will be interesting since neither them nor I play the guitar. Fortunately, anyone who plays the guitar is always more than anxious, so I think we'll be okay figuring it out.
Tomorrow - accreditation, which means, among other things, that I have to be at school at 6:45. I've been trying to brace myself mentally for this day all week, in the hopes that if I am psychologically prepared, I will actually wake up and get up (those are two separate events for me) on time. Oy. Not a big deal, you say? Consider this, though. I am my father's daughter and although I am technically supposed to leave my apartment at 6:45 each day to get to school "on time", there have been many a day this year when I don't even wake up until 6:45. Whoops. Thank goodness for prayer and light traffic, right?
Farewell good friends!
Monday, February 07, 2005
F-R-E-E- (No the long way!)
So I have this idea to introduce international puppet theater into "Seussical". Here's a link to one of the styles I'm picturing: Shadow Puppets.
This idea is complicated on two fronts. 1) budget and 2) the fact that I have never done anything like this before. Fortunately, neither of these issues are stopping me.
My mom had the brilliant idea to call up hotels and see if they've got any sheets they're willing to get rid of. I figure we get one good sized sheet, make a frame to stretch it out on, and bingo, shadow screen. So after rehearsal today, I called up about 7 different hotels in the area. I've left messages for various general managers and housekeeping staff, but I am very optimistic. The one manager who was still on duty said that they usually just take them to the DI, but they don't care who the old sheets go to. "So what are you looking for? 10? 100?"
Suddenly, I see myself surrounded by sheets. 100! We make screens out of them, flow-y fish puppets, ghostly hunches, puppets galore!
I tell him we'll take "whatever". He, along with 6 other hotels, will be getting back to me soon.
My stage manager made some calls during one of his TA-ing class periods and talked Home Depot into making some donations, too. They requested a list of what we want, and they said they'd get back to us. The manager there also pointed out that each Home Depot is run on an independent budget, so we could hit up multiple stores. I have hope that we might actually be able to afford this show!
As for the second obstacle, well, that's what Advanced Drama will be figuring out tomorrow!
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
A Little Fall of Rain
We are wrapping up our music rehearsals this week. We ran the highlights of Act 1 with the entire cast on Monday, and they did pretty well, especially given that it had been two weeks since we had learned some of those songs. Today we ran the whole Act 1 with just the soloists, a process we'll repeat with Act 2 tomorrow and Thursday.
As we ran over the songs again today, I encouraged my actors to start having more fun, to find their characters. We started doing some minor blocking in the middle of the circle of desks (we were rehearsing in my classroom, as the stage was being used for an Academic Games competition), and as I coaxed my Hortons onto the tops of their desks ("Then carefully, tenderly, gently he crept/up the trunk to the nest where the little egg slept"), I prepped my Things 1 and 2 for the scene where they create a rainstorm for Horton.
According to the script, they are supposed to pelt Horton with water from squirt guns. Lacking those in my prop supplies, I grabbed two bottles of water from my fridge and tossed them to my Things. They caught them as Horton and the Bird Girls were singing their part, and looked at me wonderingly. I nodded and encouraged them to "Go ahead!" Unfortunately, I was forgetting the precariousness of giving 8th graders those instructions with fully-loaded water bottles.
It took less than 3 seconds for them to empty those 1 liter bottles on both Hortons, the Mayzies and the Bird Girls, some of my Whos, and Janelle, not to mention the scripts each of those characters were holding.
You know, after the water fight we had in Advanced Drama last year, you would think that I would remember that middle schoolers lack of propriety when armed with water bottles....
Harm or Help?
As most of you are aware and as I am coming to believe, I don't teach what's typical for "junior high school" theater. I think part of that is because I didn't start doing drama until high school, so I lack that personal experience. I am teaching my students as I was taught. And they enjoy it.
Here's what makes me wonder: Yesterday, one of my veterans came to visit during rehearsal, and stayed awhile to chat. I asked if how drama was going at GHS, and he gave a lukewarm "eh". Pressed, he explained that "It's just not like your drama classes."
You know, that's not the first time I've heard that response, either. I love pushing my kids, keeping my expectations high for them. And they like it, too! They take pride in it, running up to me after each performance to ask if it was a high school level show or not, knowing that I will be honest. Knowing that a middle school level performance is below my standards for their success.
But maybe I'm doing a disservice. What good is my pushing them like this if it makes them so restless in high school drama class that they give it up?
The thing is, while I have been thinking about this, I can't even imagine changing how I teach. I'd get so bored if all we did was goof around with no purpose!
It's funny how much of my teaching is driven by a need to keep boredom away. Not from my students. From me.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Clovers Clovers Everywhere
Through a friend of a friend, Janelle found someone who had laid down piano and drum tracks of the Seussical score for a high school in the area. After some negotiating, we got the CDs. It is such a relief to have the music we'll perform set and ready to go!
Although there is little room for improvising with pre-recorded accompaniments, I think it is a better option than a live orchestra at this level. It lets the focus stay on the actors and the story, instead of being caught up in slow-tempo, off-key music. Our school's orchestra department does a great job on their own, but accompaning a show is an entirely different matter.
We've also begun work on the clover blossoms for Horton. I bought $30 worth of yarn at Wal-Mart on Monday, and since then my TAs and anyone else who's bored have been converting that yarn into pom-poms. We're about two-thirds of the way through the yarn, and we've filled an army trunk with blossoms.
Next week, we start making puppets!
Monday, January 24, 2005
A boy, an egg, and an idea
I am here with a few remnant cast members - a Mrs. Mayor, a Gertrude, and a Horton. We are chatting about kissing and "friends" and Spamalot and punishments for the Hortons. I have decided (wielding my director's power as I do) that my Hortons need some character development. So, they will "get" to carry around their prop eggs for a while (classes and all), and their prop clover blossoms for a while. Oh, how I love causing embarrassment among my students!
Speaking of embarrassment, we are debating if we should add kissing to the show; specifically, Horton and Gertrude or Mr. and Mrs. Mayor. I've already relinquished my other trademarks for plays (huge fight scene and a guy in drag). But a show with no kissing? Hmm. That might mean I actually won't get pulled into the principal's office and yelled at by outraged parents for once....
Here, I'm going to type the dialogue going on as I am writing this post:
Gertrude: I think it's great that she's making you (Horton) carry around an egg!
Horton: (taking my candy jar hostage) This is my new egg!
Mrs. Mayor: You know what I didn't know? That white thing inside the egg is the umbilical cord! You know that white thing that floats!
Me: Horton, you want to say anything else?
Mrs. Mayor: No, the other Horton.
Horton: Um... let's see.
Mrs. Mayor: I really didn't know that.
Horton: That's why you should get the unfertilized ones.
Mrs. Mayor: That's when they're raw. Yuck. That's gross.
Me: Hold on! Talk slower so I can type.
Gertrude: That's why I'm the smart one. I'm not talking.
Horton: (finding a cardboard poster tube next to my garbage can) What's this for?
Me: Some posters I got in the mail.
Mrs. Mayor: Oh my gosh, look at Horton.
Horton: (has inserted his arm into the tube and is now dancing)
Mrs. Mayor: Domo arigato
Gertrude: (joining in) Mister Roboto!
Horton: (whacks Mrs. Mayor with the tube)
Mrs. Mayor: Ow!
So, you see what kind of fun we have when I don't lock them out of my classroom after rehearsal. So much for grading the English papers I promised to hand back last week. Whoops.
See, this is why it would be a good thing if I only taught theater.
FYI, we rehearsed "Chasing the Whos" today sans sheet music (we forgot to copy it). It actually went really well! The chorus is finally picking up sound. Until we put them up on stage, that is. Oh well. 7 weeks to go!
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
It seems like it's been a while since I've written. We had a three day weekend with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (yea!), during which I went to see House of Flying Daggers (excellent fight scenes and coloration, as usual; but I liked Hero better).
Tuesday marked Day 1 of 3rd quarter at school, aka second semester. It was an English day for me (as opposed to a Theatre day, that is), and we kick started our unit on the Holocaust with a pretty good round of small group activities and discussions. Oh, we also had a warm-up discussion on the significance of MLK, Jr's work. To quote one of my beloved students "Martin Luther King is important because he made it so we don't have slavery today."
Oy I say.
Today was the first Drama day of the new semester, which meant I had two new classes. Big classes. My Drama 1 classes now number at 41 students and 38 students. Thank goodness we're on block schedule. Otherwise, it would take us the better part of a week just to get through monologue performances.
For Advanced Drama today, I took my students to see "Steel Magnolias" at the PTC. They actually really enjoyed it (yes, even the boys). It's great to see that they have progressed enough to really enjoy a good production, even if it's not your typical teenage fare.
As for Seussical, I spent yesterday's rehearsal working with some of the leads on their solo parts. We had fun - we were able to start doing some minor blocking and character work. The bigger achievement was that we directors made up a rehearsal calendar. It actually looks like we can get it all done in time!
(Mark those words - chances are I'll be recanting them later....)
Friday, January 14, 2005
They Made Me Stop
We've spent the week working on the music for the show. "Seussical" is close to an operetta in the amount of singing, so we (Janelle and I) decided to dedicate the first month of rehearsals just to learning the songs. Unfortunately, this makes things a little boring for the kids (one hour of the same task!). I think it'll improve as they learn more of the music and find the fun in it.
Today (Friday) was a student non-attendance day, which I look forward to. It's amazing how much I can accomplish in a virtually empty school. To my dismay, though, I found out that the custodians would be locking up the school four hours earlier than I had planned. There goes my plans to finish the rehearsal calendar and costume designs in time to hand out on Tuesday!
I called my parents as I drove away from school at 2:00, having been escorted from my classroom to the door by the janitors in their efforts to get rid of me. As I complained about my principal's lack of consideration for teachers who need days like today to get things done, my dad pointed out that I was complaining about getting off work early.
So I made the best of it. I spent an hour browsing at Borders, then went to a matinee of "A Very Long Engagement".
(Quick review of "A Very Long Engagement": I do like Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Tautou's film-making, but Amelie is better. This was too much of a war movie for my taste. There are some lovely shots, though. It was particularly fun to play the "Hey, I've been there!" game. For example, see the photos attached below....)
Monday, January 10, 2005
And Thus We Begin.
It took 11 minutes to warm up.
Papers laminated, I wedged my way down the hall, hearing the shouts as I neared the auditorium doors - "There she is! She's coming!" The crowd parted and I taped the papers to the door, then barely made my way out of the crowd as it surged forward to look. Cheers, shouts across the hall - "You made it!" "You're Mayzie!" Etc. The cell phones come out as kids call home. Fortunately, I don't see too many kids in tears or visibly upset- I always dread that part.
I did hear of some dissention in the ranks - kids saying we played favorites, casting students from my Advanced Drama class primarily. So the question - do we address these feelings or ignore them? I asked Janelle (the choir teacher) , and we decided to talk to the cast about it.
The thing is, I know it can help to have something like that to believe in. If you can blame the rejection (i.e. not being cast how you want) on a more external factor, it's easier to deal with.
But we didn't play favorites. All three of us directors collaborated on the decisions. There may be some benefit to having me as a drama teacher, since that means a) I have seen more of your talent over the semester/year and b) you have direct training in how to audition. However, many of my students ended up as extras and many students I have never had in class made bigger roles. The thing is, it's just up to the directors. That's the thing that sucks about auditions - you are being judged by people who won't or can't tell you why you're just not right.
The rehearsal went well, though. We reviewed what the characters are/do, handed out scripts, and started working on "Oh the Thinks" (the opening song). There is so much excitement and creativity surging through these kids!
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Having been there myself, I feel bad about making the kids wait over a weekend to find out the results. They were rather anxious, too. A group of them seemed determined to wait it out at school to see the cast list Friday. They gave us about ten minutes after we had dismissed them from the call backs before they sent one of my stage crew guys into the auditorium to ask us if we were done yet. When I tried to break up the group and send them home after discovering them in the hallway (still) a half-hour later, they begged to know the casting. I told them we were so far from being done that I would be typing up the cast list over the weekend. In dismay they thought about that for a moment, then asked if they could call me at home Saturday to find out the casting.
Aren't they cute....
The cast list is finished, though. Now comes the tricky part - waking up early enough on Monday to get to school before the students are allowed in the building. :)
By the way - with 152 in our show, that means over 1 out of every 10 students at our school will be Seussified for the next 10 weeks!
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Onward to Call-Backs
Number of students who auditioned: 158
Number of students we called back for tomorrow: 46 (24 females, 22 males)
Height of two of the loudest female singers: 4'9"
Number of male students who acturately performed the entire dance: 1
So after 8 hours (spread over 2 days), we're now done with phase one of auditions! There were a lot of pleasant surprises. Some of my students have really grown between their auditions last year and what we saw this week. It's really interesting to see both talent and confidence increase over time. I also loved seeing the few students who have done the previous two after-school shows I directed at KJHS ("A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Guys and Dolls"). Not many 7th graders were in "Midsummer", and I find I have a soft spot in my heart for my "veterans". This show marks the first one with students who have been in shows all three years of their being at school here - an accomplishment for both them and me, I think!
Tomorrow we cast!
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Auditions - Day 2
So tomorrow the official auditions begin. According to the sign-up list, we've got auditions straight through from 3:00-7:30 both days. Oy!
By the way, my sister pointed out a rather pertinent piece of information I forgot to mention. The name of the show we're doing is "Seussical the Musical". :)
Monday, January 03, 2005
Auditions - Day 1
Today, Monday, marks the first official day. Really, it began last August when we applied for the rights to do this show. However, today we began auditions.
Auditions actually take a week in our program. The first two days are for getting the information and learning the song and the dance. Wednesday and Thursday are auditions; Friday is call-backs, and Monday we post. So while the actual auditions aren't quite underway yet, today was good just to get some ideas.
Guessing from the number of blank audition forms left in the stack, I'd say we had about 150 kids show up to audition today. I was glad to see a good showing from my English classes, including some kids I didn't expect to be interested. Those are always fun discoveries.
The girls learned the dance and the guys learned their song today. And they sounded good!
All in all, things are looking good for the start. While I do dread casting (having been there myself, I hate making rejections), it also gives a nice feeling of coming together. Plus, after five months of planing, I finally get to focus on this show! (I just have to remember that I also teach English....)
So, check back again. Although the early hours of work have gone well, I can almost guarantee you that there'll be stories to tell. Who knows though? Maybe I'll actually get to direct a show here without having a lead drop out/be kicked out hours before a show!