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.

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