Monday, December 27, 2010


I like to learn new skills. Whether it's practical like knowing how to properly take off surgical gloves or archaic like hand-spinning wool, I tend to tuck each new tidbit of knowledge away with a "there's something else that might come in handy after the apocalypse" thought. Yes, when civilization as we know it comes to an end and the Michaels and JoAnns are picked clean by zombie grannies, you are welcome to come to me for your knitting needs for I will still be able to provide yarn.

Today I pulled on the metaphorical boots of my Viking/Pioneer/Farmer Woman ancestry and learned a new skill.

The toilet at my parents' office overflowed. It was kinda gross. After calling several plumbers, my mom (who provided my aforementioned genetic strappiness) and I went to a hardware store and got a toilet snake.

I wielded the snake. My mom wielded the bucket of ammonia and a mop. In the end?

Toilet: No longer clogged.

Patient-who-flushed-paper-towels-down-the-toilet: Cursed by us all.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's Begining To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Yes, that's right, beginning.

For my family, Christmas proper will actually be happening Thursday at the Mountain Town condo. Rachel was working and Andy and Jenn spent the holiday with Jenn's parents, so it was just me, Mom, and Dad (and Natasha, of course) in Grand Junction for the official holiday.

We each opened a few presents - Mom's present to Dad wouldn't travel well, Dad had some car-trip stuff for Mom, and they both insisted that I open two gifts right away. I was all in favor of waiting, but saw their insistence that I would want this one now when I opened the package to find a shiny new iPad!


The second package was my remarkable dad's solution to the pickle I had presented to him a few weeks ago. I had asked him about his iPad experience, since I was looking for a new gadget for traveling. The iPad seemed much better suited to travel in terms of size, portability, and setup, but since I usually blog-on-the-go, I wondered about the ease of typing and whether a smaller, sturdier laptop would be the better (albeit less luscious) option. The solution? My dad found an iPad cover/Bluetooth keyboard combo!

Most awesome indeed.

We hosted the annual game day Christmas afternoon, enjoying lots of tasty food and some new board games with my parents' circle of friends, Brian, and Jenni. A quiet way to spend the holiday, but not too bad considering the lack of siblings.

My dad has been either operating or tucked away in the basement working on some project I am verboten to know about most of the time since I got here. My mom has been doing various projects herself, plus assisting me a bit with my own craftiness. I hope to post some photos of my current project after our Christmas.

Oh! Also, Natasha flew in a plane for the first time! My mom booked me on a charter flight to get down here Thursday. After hearing about the two chemical-filled tanker trucks that overturned at Vail Pass on Tuesday and shut down I-70 for several hours, I called to thank her again for enabling me to skip the drive over this year. Nash flew for free with this company, and it is totally a case of luxuries once tasted. No security, no parking hassles (thanks again, Rachel!), and I didn't have to be there until 20 minutes or so before the flight. It couldn't have been easier. Natasha didn't seem all that frazzled, either.

She did, however, find the Christmas present my mom got her - she dragged the cat toy-stuffed stocking out of the shopping bag on the table onto the floor and was rubbing her face vigorously against it when we found her. We opened it, and she enjoyed a joyously drugged-out afternoon.

Happy Holidays, my friends!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brush Up Your Shakespeare (Again)

I found the other Macbeth student plot summary that I wanted to share with you guys:

In McBeth there is a king and prince. Also 3 wierd sisters who can tell the past and future. The 3 wierd sisters told McBeth that he would get 2 medals and then become king.. McBeth ended up going home and killing the king in his own house, with the king as a guest... Then the kings son ran away to England witch was very bad because know hes a guest.. McBeth got his 2nd award witch made him mad with power. He hired 2 assins to kill Zack & Tyler, but only killed Zack. Wen he finally because a king he had a dinner and then saw his ghoast. When he say this he went crazy.. Later we find out that McBeths wife has been sleeping walking rubbing he hands trying to get blood that wasn't there clean. Once his wife dies a batttle comes McBeth dies and the kings son who fled is now KING OF IRELAND :)

Granted, she did a better job following the plot than the last one. Still, we don't have a Tyler in the class and she seems to be a little fuzzy on the geography of the British Isles....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Hope I Get It

The musical's cast and, thanks to Facebook, the cast list is circulating among the students as I type.

We're doing You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, by the way. We double-casted the leads (we had enough guys to do that!). I was always happy with the double-casts at DPJH, but this is high school and it's never been done that was here and so on and so on. I hope it'll work.

I'll give a better report of the week when I get back home (I'm crashing at the condo again).

But it's done, it's out there, and I'm excited to get the rehearsals rolling!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

I offer my speech and drama classes extra credit to go see plays. Knowing how easy it is to pick up an extra program or ticket stub for a friend to get credit, I have a worksheet for them to fill out for the points. The first question asks them to summarize the plot of the show.

These are often just plain fun for me to read, and I've been sharing the Macbeth evaluations from the Drama 1 kids with the Advanced Drama kids. Here's one of my favorites:

The King wouldn't allow his daughter to be with Mcbeth & she wanted to kill her father and have Mcbeth as King. So mcbeth kills the King and he becomes King but mcbeth gets killed in the end by his own men after he ordered them to kill his wife and servants. In the end Seans character became king because the men rebelled against mcbeth because he kept killing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Far From the Home I Love

I've been feeling blue the last few days. It's the result of a variety of things, including a dual homesickness.

I'm wanting to be with my family and doing Christmas the way we usually do. I'm excited for auditions this week, and I like two of my classes well enough that I'm glad to have more time with them before they're dissolved at the end of the term. But still, I'm tired, I need a real break, and I miss my family. We're also trying to figure out how to do Christmas together this year properly, and I'm sad that no matter what, we're just not going to be able to do Christmas like we've always done. I knew that it had to end someday, and I figured when Rachel announced her pregnancy last year that Christmas 2009 would be the last of the way we used to do it, but I'm still really bummed that this year's just not going to be the same. Which I think is why I've been feeling, well, lonely this week.

It finally started to feel a little bit like Christmas for me yesterday when I ran some errands. I went to the spice store for some gifts for people, and walking around downtown Littleton buying presents and sipping mulled cider finally gave me a little of that sens du Noel.

December always makes me homesick for Germany, too. Of all the places I've lived in December, Germany is the most Christmasy to me. I think it was the Christkindelsmariks - the yellow glow, the wooden booths, the Santa figurines, the glass ornaments, the smell of wurst and cider and frost, and the sound of people and oompah-bands. All I have to do is take in a lungfull of cold air or see some frost clinging to pine-covered hills and I miss it horribly.

Jason and I were talking potential vacations tonight. I wanted to discuss travel plans, since another reason I'm blue is that I don't have any major trips set right now. All kinds of possibilities, but nothing I can firmly point to and say, "There. There is where I get to go in a few months, so keep on working1"

We know we want to do at least one trip together this summer, but in batting around other ideas we came on the possibility of going to Strasbourg over winter break next year.

It's not impractical - I actually get out of school on Dec. 16th, so we could fly to Europe, revel in the markets in Strasbourg for a week, and fly back to our respective families in time for Christmas (with suitcases full of treats, of course). Jason said his family wouldn't mind him losing a few days with them if he brought back goodies. I told him that if I told my parents I was going to Strasbourg in December, there's a good chance they would tell me they're coming along. (We're both okay with that, by the way, Mom and Dad.)

And so instead of doing the projects I should be doing tonight, I looked at photos like this:

And my heart is just welling up with homesickness.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I Remember It Well

This week, this very week, I have absolutely no after-school activities.

For the first time since early September and until after the musical next spring, I don't have speech practice or play rehearsals or anything to keep me from going home after teaching.

I'm almost giddy with the joy of being able to do laundry and such.

Another perk is that I get to carpool again this week (although it's not so much a perk tomorrow when I have to leave at 5:30 AM because John has an early department chair meeting). Today on the way home, Tiffany told me that they were talking about Russia in her World History class today. Apparently, some students said, "Russia! Ms. Waterhouse lived there!"

Tiffany: "Oh, that's right, she did live there or go there or something. I went there, too. See, here are some pictures I took of Lenin's-"

Students: "Yeah, she, like, lived right next to an insane asylum, too!"

Tiffany: "No, I'm pretty sure it was an orphanage."

Students: "No, it was an insane asylum. She told us all about it."

Lesson learned: Students will recall things I tell them in class over a year later if it involves crazy naked Russian women.

Now I just need to figure out how to work that objective into all my lesson plans.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Touch of Class

Dear Class o' Mine -

Look what you did.

You did Shakespeare. You did Macbeth! You did it with only 10 people in the class. You made it something that got the whole school talking.

You made it creepy and haunting. You made the special ed teacher spend the rest of the day explaining to her students that you were all okay and you did not need to go to the hospital.

You made everyone "Ooh" and "Aah" over the ridiculously simple staging of the death of Duncan.

You made it through the fight scenes with only a few small injuries.

Also, you broke three swords.

You kept the show going after one of you whacked his head on the stupidly-designed fusebox backstage, raising a significant lump, blurry vision, and ringing in his ears. You were ready to jump into his place on stage and take over his lines, but then you rallied behind him when he insisted on finishing the show, and you insisted on hugging him before his mom took him home.

Then, you wrote him a thank you card because he finished the show.

You wrote a thank you card for another of you who had a hellish emergency at home right before the show. You recognized that he chose you over his family, and you wrote him a card without my even knowing you did to say 'Thank you for being there for us.'

You knew that one of you had such bad stage fright that he didn't show up to the evening performance of Earnest. You forgave him, you encouraged him, and you made him understand that all he had to do to make you happy was show up. And so he did. And you celebrated him when he said all of his lines in just the right places and did just fine for all three shows.

You filled the stage with puddles of blood the last night.

You stopped caring about what you look like or what people will think and just did the costume changes as fast as you needed to and to heck with whoever was backstage with you at the time.

You insisted that I bring in extra students for the fight scenes, then you didn't insist on it being your friends but rather "good actors from the other drama class". And thus you changed the lives of a small group of freshman and one very lucky 4th grader who is so proud of the "McNugget" nickname you gave him that his parents must have had a hard time this weekend getting him to change out of the tights and tunic.

You gave your troops a pep talk in the dressing room before leading them into battle in the opening scene, telling them that they were about to "die heroically."

You had people commenting on your "professionalism," your "focus," and on how "tight" the performance was. And I think you knew how fantastic those particular comments are.

You told each other to breathe deep, to focus, to take care of each other, and to be aware of the space around yourselves. And so you quoted me to each other without knowing that I could hear you.

You argued about what the lines meant, what the words meant, what the story meant, and whose fault the murder was. You argued with ME about it and you argued with each other, and I loved you for it.

You spent the entire intermission of A Christmas Carol, which we went to on a field trip this week, discussing all of the ideas we should steal for our show.

You stayed late at rehearsal practicing the Macbeth death because you so badly wanted him to die in just the right pose so his hand landed just next to dead Lady Macbeth's hand because the symbolism of that was just so cool.

You made people cry when Macduff found out about his family.

You insisted that I come to your party after the last show. You wanted me to be there, and then you didn't need me to be there because you had each other.

You called yourselves "a family" today during check-in. And each of you made sure to give every person individual kudos when we did our post-mortem discussion.

You reinforced each other. And you made me so incredibly proud to be your teacher.

Look what you did.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Blood Brothers

The field trip today was awesome!

My cold is slowly going away!

Macbeth isn't quite there yet, but will be!

The blood looks fantastic!

So does the fog with the lights!

The final fight scene makes all my director's bones tingle in a good way!

We put in a shadow-puppet-kind-of-scene!

The flash paper looks awesome!

No curtains or hair have caught on fire yet!

I just blew out (blowed out?) a dozen eggs!

Now I'm hunting for battle music!

Maybe the soundtrack to Braveheart!

Because of Scotland, you know!

I'm really excited about this play!

My Advanced Drama class rocks!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Joseph's Coat

Just a quick update:

1. Had a grand Thanksgiving in SLC, despite getting horribly sick almost right away. Fortunately, I was in a place where I could curl up and sleep all day while my parents and grandmother attended to me. If you can't be sick at home, being sick at Grandma's house is pretty good.

2. My mom, grandma, and I spent Saturday afternoon/evening sewing Macbeth costumes.

3. I spent tonight dying said costumes. See?


4. Since I'm at the condo for the week and therefore sans washer/dryer, I hung the dyed tunics/skirts/witchy-vests/sashes in the garage. Here's hoping they're not crusty-frozen tomorrow morning.

5. Macbeth is looking great, but sounding weak. The spectacle's working - we choreographed the ending fight scene today, strewing the stage liberally with the corpses of the extras we brought in just for that purpose. Happily, the choreography for the fight between Macbeth and Macduff still works, even with all the bodies around. The students don't know their lines nearly as well as they should, but that's in their hands.

6. Tomorrow we're going to try a run with all the effects - blood, fog, flash cotton, etc.

7. Wednesday we've got a field trip to see A Christmas Carol at the DCTC. It was supposed to be next week, but scheduling issues arose.

8. Saturday is our last speech meet until January.

All of the above make for a hectic week, to say the least. It also makes now not the greatest time to be sick. Still, at least the worst of it fell over the break.

It was also really fun to see all the relatives, especially Andy and Jenn. I was hardly the greatest of company, but I did enjoy seeing them all the same.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

By the Sword

I'm up at the condo. They were predicting snow, so I figured why not pack up the cat and head up the mountain for the two days of school I have this week?

When I arrived, there was a chirping sound coming from upstairs. One of the smoke detectors had a low battery. Not a big deal, except the detector was mounted at the peak of the vaulted ceiling upstairs, a good 5-6 feet above my head.

A puzzlement, but I was on the phone with my parents at the time, and my dad reminded me that I had a trunk full of long, semi-pointy objects. I fetched the claymore, climbed on top of a chair, and attacked the enemy.

I managed to unscrew the case using the tip of the sword, but the battery was in the cover and it chirped teasingly at me as it danged from its wires. Now, whacking at an actively electrical object with a 50" metal sword named "MacLeod" might not be the cleverest idea. But still -

Victory is Mine!

Victory is mine!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Momma Looks Sharp


A. Receiving 11 swords in the mail from my dad has triggered all the D&D glee in me.

B. I mean D&D as in Jason's 4 Groups of People (F, D&D, Peace, and Bobo), not as in the actual game.

C. I'm stating for the record that I have never once played D&D.

D. Although a growing number of my speech/drama kids are apparently meeting on Monday nights to play D&D together.

E. It heightens the irony of my being called "Coach" when my "jocks" get together to play D&D, doesn't it?

F. The kids are as excited as I am over the swords. They've claimed their favorites and, to my absolute delight, they've been really, really great about being careful with them. Macbeth and Macduff work on their fight scene in slow motion, per my instructions, AND they switch themselves back to wooden staffs anytime they find kinks to work out. I'm quite proud of them.

G. Still, the swords were pointy. So I jumped at the chance when a dad at the school offered to dull them down for me (he's a metalworker). He dropped them off for me after school today, and they're nice and round at the tips.

H. Oddly, at the same time that I felt relief for not having to worry as much about my students' safety, I was disappointed that I didn't have a trunk full of suitable anti-zombie weapons.

I. Because, yes, I had actually thought about how I now had lots of protection in the event of a zombie attack, provided I could get to my car.

J. I had my hair colored this week. I wanted something different.

K. I was not so fond of the results, but after a few days I've decided it's because of how the lady cut my bangs, not the color. I'm liking the boldness of the color.

L. Even though one of my assistant coaches said, "Huh! It makes you look... older. Which is fine, if that's what you were going for."

M. My students all love it, though.

N. Which might just call the color more into question because, after all, #D.

O. The bangs are definitely wrong.

P. One of my classes is starting the Goal Project. (Remember that one, former students o' mine?)

Q. Which means I also need to come up with a risky goal to accomplish in the next month.

R. There's another speech meet tomorrow. We leave at 5:30 AM.

S. They pulled the entire student body out to the football field today to spell out "Buckle Up" for an advertising contest.

T. I was in the bottom of the "C".

U. This was after a fire drill earlier in the day.

V. And a bunch of kids went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter. Then they stayed for the 3:15 AM showing.

W. It was not the most productive of days.

X. That's it. There's no concluding point to this post. As I said, "Miscellany."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Honor of Your Name

Long ago I got used to being called different names by my students. Often affectionate ("Water"), some are humorous ("Grandma"), some remarkably clever ("H2Owen"), some unimaginative ("Waterbottle"), and some are inappropriate to print here.

I was, however, mystified when some of my speech team boys started referring to me as "Lady Deathwhisper."


It is a compound noun of three syllables, but kind of a stretch still. "Am I that strict?" I wondered, with not a little pride to merit such a title.

No, they clarified. Apparently it's a World of Warcraft character, whose voice is remarkably similar to mine. Here, I'll show you:

What do you think? Does it sound like me?

According to the WoWWiki:

The lich Lady Deathwhisper is the Supreme Overseer of the Cult of the Damned and the second boss of the Icecrown Citadel raid.

It does not make a great deal of sense to me, either, but it sounds impressive. I'll allow it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Great Big Stuff

Contents of my car:

- 1 empty wine jug, stripped of label
- 5 bottles of fake blood
- 3 ignitor palm switches
- 1 packet flash cotton
- 1 up-lamp
- 1 fog machine
- 1 sewing machine
- 10 black hooded capes (Thanks, Rachel, for the sewing help!)
- 6 swords

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Choice is Mine

And I chose sleep.

Well, to be accurate, I chose sleep, my Netflix Queue, two books (so far), and homemade rice pudding with coconut milk.

And maybe some Cafe Rio later for dinner.

It's been a decent day.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


I woke up with a sore throat this morning. I've had a headache since first period and a cough since 3rd.

Shortly after school let out, I went to the secretary and filled out the form for a sick day tomorrow.

I'm allowed, right? It's okay for me to take a day off and sleep? I could still get up and go to work. I can still talk and stand upright (for a few minutes at a time, at least). I could do it.

Or I could sleep.

Beautiful People of Denver...

...I have a story for you.

I showed my drama class "Clue" as part of our post-show celebration. As they watch, the students are required to list the characters, describe them, and then cast the show using the people in our class.

The kids loved the movie (of course), and were excited to share their cast lists afterwards.

As the final question in our discussion, I asked the students which character they'd want to play, if they had a choice. They answered in chorus. To my surprise, more than half the class said, "Wadsworth!"

To which Dom, this adorable sophomore who's about 5 years old developmentally, said, "I'd go to Colfax!"


(Yeah, see? You have to know Denver to get it. But, since you were nice enough to read this far anyway, here's two movie clips for you:

Monday, November 08, 2010


I love swimming in the ocean.

I love floating in the waves, feeling weightless and very much aware of the up and down pattern. I love the tumble of the rougher waves, the loss of balance and control when I get swamped and suddenly it's all salt water and sand.

Yesterday felt like that moment when I finally find the right way up and get my head above water for a breath of air. There's always that next wave coming, usually faster, harder, and higher than I expect; and I'll get swamped again. But, for a moment, I catch a breath.

I worked three 14+ hour days in a row last week on top of my usual 10-hour days of rehearsals and practices and classes. It all went well - the show was good, the audience turnout was good, the speech meet Saturday was good for the kids (as in, we didn't do as well as usual, but they've been slacking off lately in practicing, so it's good for them to get a little humble), the improv show we went to after the meet was a huge hit with the kids, and I'm finally down to only one production in the works. (Sort of. Rachel, Jesse, and I are planning to meet soon to talk musical stuff, so the reprieve will indeed be short-lived.)

So, yesterday was my gasp for breath. I called my parents on the drive home from the improv show Saturday night when I was finally off-duty. I needed them to talk me home so I'd stay awake the whole way. I made it, thanks to them. I greeted my neglected kitty, and I crawled into bed immediately.

I got up in time for church and actually stayed for the full block. I'd close my eyes for the prayers and have a really hard time opening them again. One woman sat by me in Relief Society.

"How are you doing?" she asked, friendly-like.

"Oh, fine," I replied.

"Really? Because you don't look so fine sitting over here."

"Well, I'm kind of exhausted," I said, a little surprised at her forwardness.

"Why? Fun weekend?"

"Heh. Kind of. I worked a long day yesterday."

"Worked?" She blinked at me. "What did you have to do besides... teach?"

I'd try to explain, but I just didn't have the energy to get into what, exactly, it means to be a speech coach/theater teacher. I stuck to a generic response and, thankfully, the lesson started up.

After church I started a load of laundry, then fell asleep for a few-hour-nap. Happily, Rachel, Ben, and Jack came down for dinner. Even happier, they brought dinner with them, since I haven't been to a grocery store in two weeks except for props/paint/costume-parts runs. They took off around seven, and I wrapped up the laundry.

And then I heard the rumbling as the water rushed past me back to the sea. I took a deep breath, found my footing, and dove back under the next wave.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Happiness Is...

- A show where every student in the cast shows up
- A gorgeous bouquet of flowers and a thank-you card
- A show that the audience enjoyed despite all kinds of mistakes and sloppiness of execution
- A note from a student that says "[She] knows Romeo and Juliet by heart, thanks to [me]"
- A kid who's missed a lot of class for court appearances/being locked up who tackles the problem of making a jail that rolls on wheels whole-heartedly and who does a great job figuring it out
- Having a place to stay near school so I didn't have to drive all the way home last night
- A little sister who steals my beauty products, even though we're both grown-ups
- The chance to see my parents next weekend
- Only one more show to go before I only have to work on one production!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Not a Day Goes By

So you want to take your students to a speech meet?

2 Weeks Before: Create and post sign-up sheet for that meet. Remind students daily of deadline for signing up.

The Monday Before: Pull down sign-up sheet and register online. Hunt down and convince students to add/switch events as needed. Practice after school.

The Week Before: Update online registration constantly as students add/drop as health/grades/parents/relationships/whims demand.

The Tuesday Before: Check eligibility list; inform students whether or not they can go. Practice after school.

The Wednesday Before: Confirm bus, paperwork for student travel, registration, and submit request for check for entry fees. Practice after school.

The Thursday Before: Compose and send out letter to all students attending describing the details of the meet. Hold team meeting to confirm students attending and get those who haven't been practicing in to practice.

The Day Before: Deal with last-minute changes to registration. Practice after school. Attempt to get to bed early, since you have to meet the kids/bus at 5:30 AM.

The Day of the Meet: All kinds of crazy.

The Monday After the Meet: Take photo of students who won last meet, email photo and press release to local paper. Write and email announcement of how you did to school secretary and administration. Record points for placement of each student who competed. Post sign-up sheet for meet two weeks from now, pick up plan for the next meet that week at "The Monday Before".

And repeat.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Blood Brothers

Do you remember the movie "Defending Your Life"? Where Albert Brooks dies in the beginning while listening to "Somethings Coming" and goes to a video-and-pasta-filled version of heaven?

One of my favorite lines:

Waiter: You like pie?
Albert Brooks' Character: I love pie.
Waiter: I like you. I'ma gonna bring you nine pies.

My dad reminds me of that scene. Sometimes it's because he's quoting it. Sometimes it's because we have phone conversations like this:

My dad: You need anything for Macbeth?
Me: No, we're good, Dad.
My dad: Nonsense. I'm going to buy you blood. Look! Zesty Mint Flavored!

Oh, I love my dad.

And I have had so much fun this last week or so. I keep getting packages in the mail at school, and I, of course, open them right away and pull out the latest prop. I've got five different types of stage blood on my desk at school right now. And, of course, I immediately open each bottle and test it out on my hands. The other teachers and students are getting used to seeing me head down the hallway towards the bathroom with bloody hands and a big smile on my face.

I might even let my students play with it sometime.

Nah, I kid. This morning I led my class out to the parking lot to try out the new flash paper ignitor. I handed one girl a bucket of water and instructed her to "throw it on anything that catches fire, including me if need be." Then I put a little tuft of flash paper in the metal thimble-sized cup in my palm and flicked the switch.

"Whoosh," went the paper.
"Whoa," went my class.

And then they all stopped complaining about the cold and wanted a turn.

I'm thinking it goes either with the witches or Ghost-Zombie Banquo's disappearance from the banquet. Not sure yet, but it will certainly be used.

We then went back to the room to keep running the show (we're in my room since the theater's filled with stuff for Robin Hood). When we hit the first murder scene, we just had to try out the blood:

Bloody Hands

(Yup, the dagger's a present, too. It's got a clear blade that fills with blood from the handle when you tilt it.)

Bloody Mackers

I love it. The students do, too. Then, I get this email from my mom:

We are definitely doing puffy shirts over the holidays. And anything else that might help you get ahead of the game.

She's insisting we spend the holidays sewing puffy shirts for the MTHS costume storage. This is not too long after spending the holidays sewing several dozen white skirts for a certain musical.

My parents are awesome. The end.

P.S. Here's the clip of the restaurant scene, if you want to see it:

Monday, November 01, 2010

Racing With the Clock

I dyed 13 tunics last night, all of which I had sewn out of white sheets I got donated from a hotel last spring. I also finished sewing a stack of Robin Hood-style hats, a pair of pants for Prince John, and hunted down some sound effects.

I taught three classes today, filled out a bunch of paperwork to clean up from the meet, registered our team for the next meet this Saturday, ran a 2.5-hour after-school dress rehearsal while playing Prince John from the booth (since he didn't show up), then stayed after for another hour to help two kids block their speech duet to convert it to a duo interp for the tournament meet Saturday.

I want life to slow down.

Funny thing is, it already has. Today felt... doable.

But I'd still like a day off, please.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Till We Meet Again

Glory be, we survived the Home Speech Meet.

Even happier, it went really well.

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

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

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

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

Another week, another production.

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

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

You're the Apple of my Eye

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

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

"thinking/throwing/magic-sound apple"

Exactly what I needed today.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Man of No Importance

This helped to cheer me up:

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

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

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

Duncan asked, "How do I do that?"

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 25, 2010


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

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

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

I want it to be two weeks from now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Laundry Quintet

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

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

Yes, it is exciting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mai bpen rai, right?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

God, I Hope I Get It

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

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

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

They owe me.

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Out Tonight

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

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

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

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

A Reckoning

Now we are 31.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pick a Pocket or Two

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

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

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


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

They didn't believe me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I didn't feel like coming."

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

And, indeed, it is.

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

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

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

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

And it is.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another Wedding Song

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

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

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

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

Cody: Yeah.

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

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

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

Sean: Your wedding.

Me: I'm not getting married.

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

Me: But I'm not getting married.

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

Cody: We want to be there!

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

Zach: What about Jason?

Me: 11 years. Not going to happen.

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


Sean: Just leave it to us.

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

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

Students: (In chorus) Yeah, we will!

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Touch of Class

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

Period 1: Advanced Drama

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

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

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

Period 2 - Consultation

I get a lot done.

Period 3 - Intro to Drama

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


Also? I realized something:


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

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

Period 4: Speech

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

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

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

Public Answers

To address my sister's comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Undivided attention
By Taylor Mali

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

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

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

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

So please.

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

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

Oh, Taylor Mali. I do love your poetry.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Steppin' Out

Oy, what a week!

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I Wish I Could Go Back to College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Question and Answer

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


If You Win You Lose

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

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

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

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

3 words for you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: Battle Mountain!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jeannie's Packing Up

Tomorrow we leave for the first speech meet of the season. It's an overnighter with 36 kids. Here's my packing list as coach:

- 1 list of names
- 4 Copies of hotel room assignments
- 1 stack of emergency release/insurance cards
- 1 file folder of behavior contracts
- 3 notepads
- 1 set Post-Its
- 10 pencils
- 10 pens
- 5 stopwatches
- 1 bag of medications released by the school nurse to carry for students
- 6 granola bars
- 10 fruit snackpacks
- 1 travel first aid kit
- 1 box of Tampons (assorted sizes)
- 1 set of emergency pantyhose
- Printed directions to the hotel and host school
- 2 checks (to the hotel/host school)
- My personal overnight bag & purse (with contents)
- My DS
- My Kindle
- My Laptop
- My notes for corrections to "Making Waves"
- My motion-sickness bracelet
- 2 Rolls masking tape

Why the masking tape, you may ask? I fully credit Ruth for this stroke of chaperoning genius:
At the appointed hour, the other chaperons and I make the rounds. We check each room to make sure the assigned students are in there (and no one else!). Once the room is approved, we bid them good night, shut the door, then place three pieces of masking tape scross the door's seam (top, handle, and bottom).

The students know that
1) We will untape them at the designated hour in the morning (usually 6:00)
2) We will be making rounds during the night to check the tape
3) If the tape is found broken, the entire room gets in trouble with me/their parents/the administration and are banned from further overnight meets.

See, it is impossible for someone to exit the room without the tape being broken. Even if they manage to open the door in a way that doesn't tear the tape, it is impossible for that person to get back into the room and reattach the tape from the inside.

Brilliant, I say!

As for the windows, well, I request rooms that are not on the first floor. If the hotel only has one floor, well, the kids currently believe that I tape the windows, too (and don't you dare tell them otherwise!).

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

High Hat

My awesome pere recently took up the cause of costuming my student for their upcoming production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Which is really very nice of him, since I have a working budget of, like, zero dollars.

In the last 24 hours, I've had a slew of packages arriving with such treats as top hats (including one that collapses!), a monocle, a necklace-magnifying glasses, and a padre hat. This is in addition to the awesome set of hats for the female characters and the smoking jackets for the men my dad got for us at a vintage store downtown when he came out to visit last weekend.

Padre Hat
Dr. Chasuble, I presume?

Jack & Algy
Jack and Algy in smoking jackets and top hats. Despite the evidence to the contrary, we've had many discussions about how you actually wear pants with smoking jackets. Algy is similarly stubborn about wanting to carry a briefcase around. I might lose that battle.

But the best package of all was one that I just can't justify putting into the show.

I mean, is there really any reason why Algernon would have a headless butler?

Headless 1

Any reason at all?

Headless 2

Oh, come on. You know me better than that. I'm not one to sacrifice the integrity of a show for one joke.

Headless 3

And I've explained this to my students over and over again.

But then they came up with this idea that I kinda love -

At the end of the show, as the audience exits the theatre, they want there to be a tombstone with "R.I.P. Bunbury" on it.

And standing next to the tombstone?

Our headless butler.

Headless 4

Thank you, Dad, for getting my students really excited about doing this play!

Monday, September 27, 2010


My awesome Friday morning started when I saw this comment via email.

Dude. Am I right? Dude!

So, as soon as I got to school, I booted up my computer and fired off an email to my new favorite actor clarifying that we were actually seeing the show in two weeks and yes, yes, yes! we are interested. (He wrote back, by the way, and we're setting it all up for the later date and the cast is all on board).

And so began the rekindling of my love of the DCTC.

Amid the fury of sending an email, answering all kinds of questions, collecting speech contracts and money for the hotel for this week's meet, and getting the room set up for a sub, one of my Advanced Drama kiddos announced that he had a couch in the back of his truck for our production of "Earnest". Hurrah! It's missing its cushions, but still! Free couch! Hurrah!

(Side note: Today's conversation in class -

Me: Let's head over to the theater to rehearse and to see if any critters crawled out from our new couch over the weekend.
Kalen: It was covered in frost. That'll kill any critters that might have been in it.
Bri: Critters?
Me: Yeah, but you never know. Plus, the moisture could be an issue.
Bri: Critters?!
Kalen: Nah, it'll be fine.
Bri: CRITTERS?! What kind of critters?
Me: You know... bugs...
Kalen: Mice...
Me: Giraffes....
Cody: Giraffes would be awesome.)

So, I dropped off the failing kids in the main office for the period, opened up the theater to drop the couch off, and we headed off on the short bus to downtown Denver!

We arrived about 20 minutes before our appointed time, so after some discussion with the bus driver over where to park a bus in downtown Denver on a weekday, I led my kids up a few blocks to the nearest Starbucks. Once they had drinks in hand (and three minutes to chug them), we went back to the National Theater Conservatory building to meet David, our guide for the day.

David introduced us to Jessica, one of the resident actors/educators. Jessica led my students through an hour-long workshop. By my request, she focused on character development. To my delight, when I mentioned to her that my students were working on "The Importance of Being Earnest," she quickly made that a part of the workshop. She exclaimed with delight over their doing the show, then asked "Who's Chausible? Who's Cecily?" and so on until every student had a chance to share their part. She then started working with them on it, going around to each person and having them name an adjective for their character, then helping them build a pose/expression around that. It was wonderfully specific, and I loved watching my students suddenly realize that "Hey, this is a famous show! Other people know and love it!"

When David came to fetch us at the end of the hour, the students groaned with disappointment over having the workshop end. Jessica bade us farewell, and David started telling us about what we'd be seeing.

He did a great job as tour guide, joking with the kids, building immediate rapport, and saying just the right things to make them feel like extraordinarily special guests. He led us through the scenery shops (wood, metal, paint, design), the costume room (where the costumers were all quite busy getting everything done for the show opening this week), the costume storage area, the shoe room, the prop shop, and the lighting designer's office. The kids were great - they were respectful, totally into it, and asked great questions. David treated them like avid thespians, using all kinds of specific terms, letting them figure things out, and admonishing them to go to college and get at least a bachelor's degree ("Yay!" cried the former AVID teacher in me).

After the tour, we slipped into the technical rehearsal of Dracula. I was concerned that my students would get bored - after all, we spent an hour watching the actors work about 5 minutes worth of the play. They ran a few lines, stopped to fix a sound cue, ran the same lines again, stopped to talk about the blocking with the director, ran the lines again, stopped to adjust the placement of the coffin, ran lines... and so on.

I was excited - they were seeing so much! The difference in the volume of their voices when they're talking to the director vs. saying their lines, the way they always do the lines with the same level of emotion and focus no matter how many times they've said them already, the lighting effects they were playing with in the background, the step-by-step process for blocking a few basic moves in a fight scene. I kept looking at my students to see if they were paying attention. And they were! They were engrossed in it, and asked to stay a little bit longer to see them run the fight one more time.

During one of the mini-breaks, one of the techies pointed us out to the cast and crew, naming us as "special guests" and saying where we came from. Everyone turned to my kids and shouted "Hello!" and waved. Then the technical director for the show came up to where we were sitting and asked "What do you love to do?"

"Act?" Molly said, uncertain if that was the right answer. I pointed out my techie at the end of the row, and the technical director went over and spent about five minutes talking to her and the others. He asked about their plans, their theater experience, and encouraged them to go to college ("Yay!"), look into particular programs, keep doing theater. My techie told him she wanted to do what he's doing for a living, and he told her to go for it.

Just before they broke for lunch, we snuck out the back. David took us to two other theaters in the complex, showing the students a theater-in-the-round and a more traditional, albeit tiny, proscenium stage (where they're performing 39 Steps, so some of the students will get to see it in action next week) (the space where Dracula is being performed is a modified thrust stage). He encouraged them to take advantage of the student rush tickets (something I've been plugging for months), answered questions about the summer and weekend classes for teenagers, and bade us a fond farewell.

In short, my students got to see live and in use everything I've been teaching them in class. It was huge, and I so love that the DCTC recognizes the importance of this (for us and for them) enough that the tour was completely free of charge. I definitely want to make this a tradition for my classes, and I hope to build a strong relationship with the DCTC myself.

We walked outside and, after a very exciting spotting of one of the actors on the street ("It's Dracula! Look, it's Dracula!"), I led my students up to the 16th Street Mall. There, in a fit of bravery that I so wouldn't have done a year ago, I said, pointing, "McDonald's is that way a few blocks, Goodtimes is over there, I'll be in Tokyo Joe's, meet me here until the clocktower in 40 minutes. You have my cell phone number - call if you need help or get lost. Otherwise, be safe, be smart, and have fun."

And they were off. I enjoyed a quick salad at Tokyo Joe's and browsed the street fair a little before meeting up with my kids. Two were late, but they called me at exactly the appointed time to say that McDonalds was just making their food now and they'd be there asap. And they were.

We walked back (while I discouraged Zack from asking our workshop leader, Jessica, to Homecoming; declined to follow Sean's plan for me to hit on the Budweiser truck driver while they stole some beer; and agreed with them that yes, David was very cute and charming, but he also had a wedding ring on and therefore I was not going to ask him to Homecoming), met the bus, and arrived back at the school around 3:30.

It was, in short, everything I'd hoped it would be. I asked them on the way down how many had seen a show there before. Of the 9 on the trip, 1. ONE of them had seen a show at the DCTC, and that was just one show several years ago.

I asked how many had been downtown. Only a couple raised their hands.

While we were walking up to Starbucks in the morning, one of them looked at my face and said, "Ms. Waterhouse, you look really happy."

"I am," I said. "I love this city!"

And I do.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happiness is...

...getting to spend Sunday night with Rachel, Ben, and Jack. They're a fun bunch to be around.

Also? Happiness is a field trip done well, which I'll tell you all about tomorrow night (hopefully). For now, I'm going to do a load of laundry so I have clothes for the week and then get myself off to bed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Standing on a Corner


Well, tonight's conferences kept me hopping!

My desk is still covered in papers, although I did make tidier stacks for the sake of my half-day sub.

Right after my last class, I grabbed the food from my office desk (hidden from the chillen's) and took it down to the main office for the faculty. I made Peanut Butter-Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats, Fruity Pebbles Treats, and had an array of fruit for the healthy types at the school. All were a hit.

I allowed myself ten minutes to hang out with adults before abandoning the conversations to go back upstairs and do some Speech Coaching. I worked with students until about 4:30, stopping twice for conferences. After another conference, I grabbed some dinner at the cafeteria and then held a Speech Parents meeting to address all of the questions and mysteries for the parents new to speech. Following that, I had back-to-back conferences straight through to 8:00. Good, since the parents were all very nice and complimentary (apparently I'm a popular dinner conversation topic around Mountain Town) and I talked two girls into trying speech out this year (which brings the total number of kids on the team/class to 47). Bad, since I had all kinds of plans for things to do today.

So, I stayed an extra half hour to type up sub plans for tomorrow and am now hunting around on Google Maps for places for me and my kids to eat tomorrow. Many of them have never been downtown before, so I planned some extra time for us to grab a bite there. If traffic behaves, we'll have about 45 minutes before we need to be at the theater, so I'm thinking we walk over to Market Street/Writer's Square for breakfast of some kind. Then, after the stuff, we'll walk a few blocks up to the 16th Street Mall for lunch. I was worried that the restaurants would be too pricey/sit-downy for my kiddos to grab a quick bite, but there's a McDonalds, a Goodtimes, a Tokyo Joe's, and a Paradise Cafe there, so we should be good.

I'll still have to get to school on the early side tomorrow. I have a few students who are coming by in the morning to drop things off for Speech, and I still need to put together some work packets for the boys who are staying behind due to grades. If I leave the condo by 6:30, I should be in good shape. Unfortunately, I tend to get to school later than I should for being only 10 minutes away. The lure of sleeping just a bit longer is intensified by knowing how close I am, I suppose. Shame on me. I'll try to get everything shut down and packed up in the morning so I can go straight home after the field trip. If I don't, though, I'll be back up here Saturday for Homecoming, so there's still that.

Wish me luck tomorrow for my first official MTHS field trip (not counting speech meets)!