Saturday, February 26, 2005

Dressing Them Up

Yesterday was interesting. It was costume parade - when all of the actors don their costumes and line up on stage in groups to be inspected by their directors. I always enjoy it - this is when the visual show becomes evident.
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

Hello all!

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

Sitting Becalmed....

Hello faithful readers!

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!

-Moi, de-stressing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"My own planets and stars are glowing"

Salutations mes amis!

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....

Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Gee, How I Hate to Get Up In The Morning!

Greetings again, O Best Beloveds, and a happy Tuesday to you all!

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!)

Can I just say this? Hooray for donations. That may be one of the few cheers for big business.

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.