Monday, September 29, 2008

I Think I'm Acting

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About halfway through the show I realized a few things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But mostly, I felt loved.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Let the Play Begin

Last weekend I flew to my old hometown so I could see my play (!!!) in the Page-To-Stage festival and to play Rock Band with the DPJH crew. Not necessarily in that order.

It was a wonderful weekend, marred only by how difficult it made work on Monday for me.

Behold! Orange Tuesday reuinted!

And the less well-executed "Chop Suey" (although you have to admire Ben's accomplishment, since according to the doctor, his vocal chord is still paralyzed. Rock Band heals!)

After we had lunch at our old favorite curry place, Janelle, Ben, John, Kelley and I headed over to Kelley's house to play Ben's Rock Band 2 in her basement.

A little over three hours later, I finally looked at a clock and realized how late it was. Ben drove me back to Janelle's house, where I had left my rental car, and I changed clothes quickly before heading to the theater (stopping very quickly on the way at a store, since my only packed pair of pantyhose naturally ripped in, like, four places while I was pulling them on).

The show was... amazing. We had a terrific turn out (65 people in a 45-seat blackbox), and the audience was very receptive. Respectful, even, of the possibilities of the project.

Some photos, courtesy of my Dad's iPhone.

A theater head-shot:

Look at the crowd!

A few of the faithful from DPJH came to support me, and caught up with each other, too.

Aw! My adoring and adorable fans. On top of showing their love by coming to see the show, they even composed a song on their cellphones before the show started to celebrate my return.

Andy and Jen chat with Teresa and Nick:

The grinning founders of Chichi:

Katharine (the other playwright) talking to the actors after the show:

Heidi and I celebrating at dinner after the show:

After a delightful dinner at Buca di Beppo with my family and friends, we went to see Andy and Jen's new place. There, I met Norman. He liked being scratched.

After seeing my family off, Heidi and I met for lunch at Oasis Cafe to debrief/plan for the future. The good news is, I think that reading may just have been the beginning....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Singing My Song

Hey, DPJH folks!

Look! I'm not crazy!

Spread the word!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

[title of show]

Just to prove that the title of my blog is still apropos (even if I'm not currently teaching drama) I give you, sans editing, with the original ink choices,

A Note Confiscated By The Teacher During Period 5

IDK! But I tried to talk to her But she was like I don't care any more It pissed me OFF

O is dat why you asked for ur sweater back?
O R U on C's side she's nice n all but she gets annoying tho

I AM NOT ON ANYONES Side But She Pissed me OFF


Ya I want to be her friend IDK what to do and IDC ANYMORE

G dat sucks u should just talk to her if u want

Probably but want I say might Piss HER OFF and Stuff

O why what were u going to say to her.

I was going to say look whatever the I did well don't blame it on me C said it it did not come out of my mouth

O I do'nt know if shell get mad

IDK I Hope not I want to be her Friend but it does not matter I AM done fighting wit her

U guys will probably become friends again but no matter what Im still ur friend

(At this point the correspondence abruptly ended)


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Famous Feet

(click on the picture to read it, or go to the link below)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm Getting Tired So I Can Sleep

First cold of the school year!

I didn't stay home today. Probably a mistake, since I got a fever mid-afternoon. I think I'll stay home tomorrow - I brought all my grading just in case.

Monday, September 08, 2008

On the Town

(Link via my Daddy-o!)

Hey Fellas, Let's Talk

Three vignettes:

#1 Mrs. E., the science teacher on my team, regaled the FAC with this dialogue:

Mrs. E.: To the class Now that you've practiced taking measurements, turn your worksheet over, close your eyes, and draw a bunch of straight lines on the back of it. Then measure them!
Mrs. E. wanders the room, monitoring. Her teacher-senses tingle and she hones in on one corner.
Mrs. E.: What's the problem, Vanessa?
Vanessa: Miss, I don't get it. How are you supposed to measure with your eyes closed?

#2 While walking a student to class on Friday, I decided to pull out my AVID training and inspire the kid:

Me: Hey, Omar, have you thought at all about what college you might want to go to?
Omar: Not really, Miss. Maybe this one in Mexico.
Me: You know, Omar, there are some colleges that will pay YOU to go there if you are a good soccer player.
Omar: Really?
Me: seeing the magic gleam in his eye, springing on it Yes! And college classes are FUN! What do you want to do for a living?
Omar: getting more excited Oh, Miss, I already know! I want to be a porn star! Because you get free sex, and they PAY you for it!

AVID never covered that one.

#3 I was standing at the back of the room today, trying to get a kid to behave better through proximity while I explained to the class how to fill out a worksheet. As I spoke, I felt a hand grabbing my chunky silver bracelet. As the hand squeezed it, the kid it belonged to (same as the one I was proximinating) said (while I was mid-sentence, mind you), "That's a cool bracelet, Miss! What's it made of?"

Thus proving that while I was giving them instructions, he was actually thinking, "Ooh! Shiny!"

Oy. Vey.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sur La Plage

I finally didn't spend a Saturday at school working!

Granted, I had to run away to San Diego in order to do that, but still!

Here are some photos (courtesy mon pere et moi) from the trip:

The family at Sylvie & Larry's house (foreground: George chatting with Sadie on the "phone", on the couch: Grandpere, holding Lexie, Sadie, Sylvie, and me)

Me, Mom, and the Incredibly Cute Baby:

Plum Tart, Grandmere making one of her amazing salads:

Dad holding Sadie in front of the shrine to the grandchildren,
me and Lexie:

A picture of my dad from 1960:

We also got to see Grandpere's airplane
Can you pick out his?

How he films while flying:
Flip Camera+Velco

Grandpere pointing out the stickers that show the states in which he's flown that particular plane. Note also the windshield cover he made himself with fabric from Wal-Mart. The craftiness runs in both sides of my family!

Not shown:
* Fabulous Sunday spent at the beach. Lots of swimming, minor sunburn (Note: Spray-on sunscreen doesn't work out so well when it's windy)
* All-you-can-eat Sushi!
* Yummy BBQ at Sylvie and Larry's
* Sylvie and Larry's nifty living room rug, rest of house
* Sadie's Curious George-themed bedroom
* Tower of chocolates bought at Trader Joe's
* Mom, Dad, and I all grading vocab tests while waiting at the airport Monday
* Lots more baby-cooing

And, since I haven't told you before, my Aunt Nathalie has the Most Awesome Title Ever. Sadie dubbed her "Wowee" at least a year ago, and Nathalie's determined to keep it. And who'd blame her? We all look forward to seeing "Wowee George!" come over.

Make Me Happy

I walked into my classroom this morning and found on my desk an envelope with a dried flower glued to it. Inside was this note (replicated without corrections and with matching ink choices):

Dear: Mrs. H2O

I am so glad to have you as my teacher.
I hope that you'll be my teacher all year.
I love you a lot and I will do for ever.
Thank you for everything.
I Love you

From: Jennifer

Sometimes you get what you need, right when you need it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008