Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Every Day a Little Death

I'm in my classroom right now, just starting hour 2 of the 10 hours of Parent-Teacher Conferences to come in the next 28 hours.

I'm guessing this round will be the annoying ones - the conferences that come in spurts just far enough apart to keep me from getting anything done (like cleaning my work area - I didn't set up a filing system when I changed classrooms, so since then the papers have just been languishing in piles. When I filled up my desk with papers, I added an extension by pulling a student desk over. There's now three students desks attached to mine, filled with papers).

And since I don't like to file unless I can sit down for two or three hours and create folders and color-coded tabs to my heart's content, I am choosing to blog instead.

Topic #1:
Death keeps coming up. So many friends and students are dealing with death in various forms lately that on one hand my prayers are full of names and my heart just aches for them, while on the other hand I'm terrified that at any moment death will slip through that bubble film between these people and the ones I hold closest to me - that next it will be one of my family or my close friends who's coping with brain cancer or bone cancer or leukemia or suicide or an eating disorder or a car accident. It's brushing against me now, and my muscles are tense, in a constant flinch, waiting for it to move in closer.

Topic #2:
It's foggy and raining right now. Last year at this time we had snow. I prefer this.

Topic #3:
With Conferences going until 8:00 each night, I'm staying at the condo until Friday. I'm sad to leave my cat alone for three days, but I'm really excited to get to sleep in until 6:00.

Topic #4:
One of my goals this year is to get my students to see more professional shows. I've really noticed a difference in their performances between them and my DPJH kids. Despite being younger, my DPJH kids were definitely better on stage than these MTHS kids. After last year, I concluded that it came from exposure to "real" theater.

The MTHS kids are quite isolated, as you may expect from a "Mountain Town". A few have been to Denver to see a play. Some have gone to the local community theater. Some have seen the past shows at the high school.

And here I come in talking about cheating out and telling the audience the story and asides and minimalist sets and they just stare at me blankly because they have absolutely no idea what any of that looks like. All they know is it doesn't look like what they know and therefore = bad & scary.

So I'm taking my Advanced Drama class to the DCTC Friday to let them go on a tour of the theater, do a workshop with an actor, and watch a technical rehearsal. It's a small class, so we're taking baby steps.

I also arranged group tickets to an evening performance of The 39 Steps at DCTC in a few weeks. The student matinees were sold out weeks ago, but in a stroke of genius the DCTC does shows on week days starting at 6:30. 6:30! That means that even with the hour-long drive back up to Mountain Town, my students will be home by 9:30!

So I hung up a sign-up list, told the kids they had to get their own rides (I'll meet them there), and invited all of my students to attend. 35 signed up. Which is, honestly, more than I expected. I'm thrilled for them to see the show and so excited to see if what comes out of it, performance-wise. If it works, I'll have to work on arranging a lot more side-trips like this.

Topic #5:
I'm still mad about the rules for acting in Speech that say that 1) the actor(s) cannot change characters and 2) it must come from a published (i.e. text) source. Alas for the loss of Mary Zimmerman's works and Rowan Atkinson's sketches!

Topic #6: DUDE! While looking for a link for that last sentence, I discovered a video for "Lookingglass Alice". Kelley! Jason! - the chairs! The Caterpillar! The White Knight!

Oh, how I love Lookingglass Theatre! Let me count the ways:

Topic #7:
They brought in boxed dinners from Qdoba for the teachers. So that wasn't too bad.

Topic #8:
I want to create theater like Mary Zimmerman and the Lookingglass Theater. I doubt I can do it here at MTHS.

Topic #9:
I like speech better now that I know what I'm doing. However, I still fiercely disagree with the competitive philosophy.

Topic #10:
This is not the first time Conferences have coincided with Spirit Week. I am glad that Decade Wars were yesterday, since I imagine the parents would have been a lot more mystified by my mid-1800's dress. Still, today being Superhero/Villain Day, I am wearing black head to toe with heavy eye makeup and a lot of scarves. I had a beret on too, but removed it in the heat of my classroom, so instead I'm sporting awesome hat hair. I created the outfit mostly based on the feel of a good villain, without a specific one in mind. It quickly became clear, though, that today would hold a series of people asking, "So, who are you?"

So, I've been telling people I'm the evil Drama version of Miss Viola Swamp. Sadly, very few know the reference.

Topic #11:
Most of my conferences today have been reassuring parents about the overnight hotel trips for speech meets. As one mother just put it, "He's just too excited about this." I nod in sympathy, explain with confidence and authority, and then leave the choice completely up to them. Ha, ha!

Topic #12:
It's now 7:15. 45 minutes to go. So, I'll post this now and see you all tomorrow.


  1. I'm so glad you found that video - now I can jsut show people rather than try to explain how phenominal it was!! And I totally got the Miss Viola Swamp - i loved those books when I was a kid. :)

  2. Anonymous10:50 PM

    hello there. i'm one of the actors in THE 39 STEPS at DCTC. saw your blog and thought it was great that you're bringing a group. i was talking in the dressing room tonight about you and the class, and we thought it might be nice to meet you all afterwards. just to say hello or have an informal, post-show talkback, if you'd like. wanted to offer that to you because we think trips like this should be encouraged.
    you can decide after the show tomorrow night, if you'd prefer. just send word backstage by way of the house manager and we can meet you in "club denver" -- just off the lobby of the theatre.
    regardless, thanks for organizing the group. very cool of you!
    rob nagle
    (, if you'd like to contact me before showtime)