Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Snow Day!

Ullr finally looked down on my theater schedule and decided to treat me right.  The first snow day of the year fell on the one day this week that won't seriously mess up musical auditions.  Praise Ullr!

Natasha and I spent a good part of the day like this:

It was wonderful.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Nope, I Was Wrong

The next Chaperone Test was a student rolling off the bed and gashing his head open on the night stand at 2:30 AM.

"This is happening!" he said when he saw the blood.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Chaperone Test

In general, coaching speech isn't too hard.  The kids are typically some of the best in the school, so even the bus drivers say they like driving speech meets because the kids are so well behaved.

Which makes me wonder what the crap is going on.  It's like the Chaperone Gods are throwing all possible incidents at me, one after the other.

Two meets ago:  
- Our bus driver is pulled over by the cops for erratic driving (which she was doing).
- Hosting team pulls some lousy stunts directly aimed at our team and get five of my kids disqualified for unfounded reasons.  (But we still won the meet.)

One meet ago:
- High-strung driver who hates the world and hates children insists the boys sit at the front of the bus and the girls at the back with at least two seats between them.  We've had this argument every year when she drives us.  She says this prevents 'hanky-panky'.  I point out the openly gay kids on the team.  She says, "Well, they won't make babies."  I bury my exasperations and remind myself and the kids to pick our battles.
- Blizzard at Vail Pass.  Long drive, lots of jacknifed semis on both sides of the freeway.
- Two of my kids get the stomach flu at the meet.

This meet:
- I am sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for parents to come get two of the kids.  I caught the girlfriend coming out of the boyfriend's room shortly after we arrived. I doubt they were up to anything, but it's a clear rule violation.  Girlfriend's dad yells at me for ten minutes over the phone ("When you take a child away from their home, it's your responsibility to bring them home!  I'll sue you, I'll sue the school, etc.").  He was pretty ticked about having to drive 2.5 hours to pick up his kid late at night.  "Yes," I said.  "It really is too bad this happened."

Knowing the kids, I actually think this is a case of a unwise girlfriend and the boy's innocent of any wrongdoing besides picking the wrong person to date.  Still, it was his room and my contract's very clear on this point.

And so I wait in the lobby with two silent kids, one dozing off and one pacing anxiously, and with their signed contracts in front of me in case the dad works himself up again on the drive here.

I was really hoping to get some decent sleep tonight.  Oh well.

It makes me wonder what test I'll get at the next meet.  Smuggled drugs or alcohol?  Shoplifting at the dinner stop?  Bus runs into a goose on the road?

All of which has happened to other teams.  We speech coaches have many a story to swap at these meets.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Look How Good We Are

We painted the cyc today!

I thought it was going to be a two-day project, but my students are terrific workers who busted it all out in two class periods.  

Not only are we 3 weeks from the AD play, but I happened to design a set that works for that show AND the musical.  Which means I'm 3/4 of the way done with the set for the musical and auditions aren't until Monday!  Boo yah!

I'm so good it's almost like I've been doing this for a living for 14 years or something.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


We wrapped up the granddaddy of units for my new World Mythology class this week - the Greeks.  One of the tasks I gave students was to create a Facebook page for a mythological character using a template I designed.

To my delight, some of my brighter kids had a lot of fun with this project:

#Blessed indeed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

I Have the Best Parents

I received this in the mail today:

The note reads:

"Black spots - the better to express your judgement/disapproval Treasure-Island-style.  Yo ho ho, b'likes, and avast, by curses!
-Mumsie and Popsie"

How cute are they?

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Chicago Wrap Up - The Show, The Sleepover, and The Brunch

The play itself was definitely not my favorite Lookingglass/Zimmerman production.  The script was weak - too wordy, too many needless monologues.  However, it had many moments that are exactly what I love about these productions - gold pieces of foil flitting down from the catwalks, a sparkling rainfall of "treasure;" a jungle created from no more than six wired plant leaves; the wonderful musicality of men drumming on the ship and singing a sea chanty; cannon balls made from rubber balls and bean bags; and the set!  Oh, the set!

The production was set with a thrust stage.  Upstage was a large, tattered sail that acted as the cyc with blue, white, and purple sky-like lights shining across it.  The stage itself was the deck of a ship, curved slightly upwards on both sides.  A ladder ran from the ship deck to a bridge projecting out from the house balcony.  The set didn't change while the setting shifted from inn to ship to island, but, like all of the productions here I like, simply asked the audience to pretend that they are somewhere else.  They say we are at an inn, and the planks become hardwood floors.  They say we are in the tropics, and the rope ladders swung from the deck to the catwalks become tree trunks and vines that the sailors scale as deftly as they did on the ship.  It's the same premise as Shakespeare's plays - trust in the words and in the imagination of the audience and you can create scenes just as powerful as the big-budget, grand scale Lloyd Weber-type shows.  "Think when we talk of horses, that you see them/Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;/For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings," right?

But here was the best part of the set - when the crew finally set off to sea, they unhooked the ladder from the balcony and as a trio played on guitar, flute, and drum, the rest of the crew stood on either side of the ship and began to rock it back and forth.  The entire deck rocked, with the perfect wooden creaking coming from the beams underneath to match the visual of the voyage.

Lookingglass really excels at creating atmosphere, and here the play did not disappoint.  The pirates were so deliciously piratey; the set and lights so right for a nautical tale; and the music, both instrumental and acapella,  was so perfectly sound for the tale.*  I mostly know Treasure Island from the Muppet version, but so much of what we think of when we think pirates today comes from this Stevenson novel.  Thus the battle scenes with pirates shouting and swords swooping and guns shooting made me feel like I had dropped right into the source material for such a huge chapter in Western fantasy.

Sunday morning, which brought weather the antithesis of Saturday's, we walked towards and along the river a bit before meeting up with Vanessa and Stephen and their cute new baby Sierra for brunch at Sienna Tavern.  The food was quite tasty, especially the sweet dishes we share - monkey bread and bomboloni (Italian-style doughnuts served with bottle of raspberry, chocolate, and caramel sauce to inject right into the dough), and I always enjoy conversation with Vanessa and Stephen.

The weekend, as a whole, was really wonderful.  The company was marvelous.  I was a bit nervous about how the whole traveling-as-three thing would go.  I know I love Jason, and Justin certainly seemed nice from the bit of time I spent with him in June; but this was something new and, moreover, this was a prelude to a much more ambitious trip in December. 

To my delight, though, the best way I can describe the weekend is this - it was easy.  It was easy to talk, to plan the day, to share food and stories, and easy to sort out and avoid things that could have been awkward but really weren't because it was easy.  

We got not nearly as much sleep as we should have, even with the bonus daylight savings hour, but we did stay up until the wee hours taking quizzes, talking about clothes and hot celebrities, playing MASH, singing along to awesome songs, and doing all of slumber party things right.**

It was a delightful weekend, I reveled in feeling so incredibly happy (yay, antidepressants!), and I'm super-excited to spend more time with these fellows*** soon.

* I acknowledge my pun and I do not regret it!

**Although, being respectable adults in our 30s, the quiz was on the Five Love Languages, which lead to a fascinating discussion of our communication types and how they impact our work and our families; the discussion of clothes included planning what to wear to the opera next month; and the talk of hot celebrities was mostly cooing over how adorable Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are with their kids and their Halloween costumes.

We really did play MASH, though, after Justin and I were scandalized to hear that Jason had never heard of the game.  You'll be happy to know that Joseph Fiennes and I will soon be living in a mansion in London and traveling by hot air balloon. 

As for my other results, the ones from the columns that were oh-so-scandalous when I played this when I was twelve, well, some things aren't meant to be shared outside of slumber parties at a Marriott in downtown Chicago.

The awesome music, btdubs, came from the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge.  Yes, we three sang along with Ewan while getting dressed Sunday morning.  Yet more proof of my excellent taste in friends.

*** I've also decided I should go by my middle name when I'm with them.  Jason, Justin, and Jane - am I right?

Dinner at El Ideas

This dinner started off in proper Michelin fashion - the cabdriver turned tentatively on a street that seemed full of empty buildings and chain link fences and asked us to repeat the address one last time.  Happily, the building was clearly labeled (with the street number, not the name.  One must maintain some standards if one is a Michelin restaurant) and we were able to assure him that we were indeed at the right place and were most likely not going to murdered there.

We were seated inside a small dining room area, which was soon filled with other diners as well.  Once everyone was there and settled, the owner, dressed as a Jedi, greeted us and explained their philosophy.

El Ideas has set seatings - normally two per night, but given the holiday there was only the 8:00 seating that night.  You pay for your meal and tips in advance when you make the reservation, it's BYOB (our waiter was a bit confused when we declined offer after offer of wine substitutes and insisted that we were happy with water), and you eat whatever the chef feels like making.

With each course, every patron was served at the same time and once the food was out, one of the cooks would step up to the half-wall between us and the kitchen and explain what we were about to eat.  We were also encouraged to create a dinner party atmosphere - mingling with the other guests and hanging out in the kitchen (behind the "hot lines") was encouraged.

Our first course - roe on a bed of pomegranate seeds, creme fraiche, and cucumber:

"You'll notice that you don't have any silverware," the chef told us.  "We're kicking off the night by showing you just what we mean when we say we do things differently here.  We expect you to lick the first course right off the plate, and we expect it to be licked clean!"

Justin dove right in, and the waiter (dressed in a priest's robes with a skeleton face) complimented him on getting his plate quite clean.

Thus began our 3 hour, 15 course meal

#2 - Lobster gelatin with chunks of lobster, flavored with saffron and topped with a cauliflower mousse, macadamia nuts, and caviar

#3 - Monkfish on a bed of seaweed, bok choy, and pistachios with dehydrated mandarins

#4 - King salmon served with roasted eggplant, sesame sauce, and nasturium leaves (this was one of my favorites)

#5 - Beef tartar with hong vit, ghost pepper jelly, nori, and paprika

For the next two dishes, the chef explained that he wanted to reimagine favorite childhood foods.  These two dishes were my absolute favorites of the night, both for flavor and for novelty.

#6 - A ball of fried bread filled with tomato soup and topped with melted cheese - in other words, a grilled cheese sandwich that you pop into your mouth and bite into to get a burst of tomato soup.

#7 - Potato leek soup with potato croutons topped with vanilla ice cream flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen, a.k.a. the chef's version of dipping your French fries into a Frostie.

The warm soup:

The chef coming around with a misty bowl of ice cream:

The effect of the combination:

It brought me pure delight, and was pretty tasty too!

#8 - Quail served with a poached quail egg with an array of pastes made from bell peppers, manchego, and crowder peas

#9 - Veal shank in a raviolo (I've never had occasion to use the singular before!) topped with kohlrabi, pear, anchovy, parmesan, and shaved white truffles - another flavor-favorite of the night.

#10 - Matsutake mushroom in a sauce made from black garlic, soy, and katsuobushi

#11 - Wagyu beef lightly seared with maitake, beets, and caraway (and, according to the menu, "smoke")

#12 - Foie gras with salsify (a flower, apparently), granola, huckleberries, and yogurt.  It was strange to add foie gras to other ingredients I associate with breakfast, but the combination actually worked pretty well!

#13 - A sweetened egg yolk on a bed of pureed yam, marshmallow, rooibos, and thyme

#14 - Cheesecake with coffee and grapefruit purees, pumpkin ice cream, and shaved chocolate

#15 - One last childhood delight - chocolate cake batter served with mini smiling spatulas

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Post-Show Snack

Once we got out of the play (which I'll talk about when I'm not typing in a phone), we crossed the street to get a bao snack:

Then, since we were right there and dinner was three whole hours away, we swung by Ghiradelli's: