Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sorry, Ghandi.

Part of being a teacher is stepping out of your comfort zone. I was raised Catholic, have become...I don't know what you would even call it...maybe something like Universalist, but not exactly. The Universe and I are BFF...there should be a name for that. Law of Attractionist? I don't know.

Anyhow, among the many things I have to teach is Hinduism. I don't know much about Hinduism in my personal experience, as you might imagine, but if you have to teach it, you have to learn it. Because it's such a dense and confusing religion, I need to make sure that the kids understand Hinduism as its absolute basics.

Clearly, I have sucked at this.

The assignment was: Pretend a Kindergartener has asked you, "What is Hinduism?" Explain it in terms a 6 year old can understand. They needed to include the following concepts: reincarnation, Brahman (the sort of big-cheese god with its three main god-parts), karma, puja (how they worship), and the caste system.

Here are some actual responses from today:

There are 2 kinds of karma, bad and good. Good is mostly when you have an awesome soul, bad is when you are rude, mean, nasty and etc. (No shades of grey here, clearly.)

The whole goal of Hinduism is to be reincarnated so many times that you reach the Batman. The Batman is the force in the universe that makes up everything, including all of the people and the flowers and the animals and Mrs. Browne’s coffee cup. When you get to the Batman, you don’t have to have any more lifely troubles. (She means Brahman.)

The Ghandis River is very sacred to Hindus because they say it washes away your bad feelings. Like Ghandi did. (He means Ganges.)

Good karma will help you reach the Brahman, which is beyond this world of suffering, where the true essence of life is found. Once you have reached this blissful point, you don’t ever have to be reincarnated on this stupid Earth ever again. (I have referred her for counseling.)

In India, people do not think of death as an ending or the beginning. It’s a ferris wheel, but it’s also a fun ride because if you get good karma, then each spin around is better than the next. (Take that, Slumdog Millionaire.)

I'm better at teaching...well, everything else. I promise.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dear Sixth Grade Girl

Dear Sixth Grade Girl,

Actually, strike that. Go back to texting or putting on lip gloss or whispering in someone's ear. I need to talk to your mothers.

Heeeey there, mothers. Here's the thing...I'm totally one of you now. I have a sixth grader. And I preface this by saying that my little sixth grader is about as awkward a bird as you'll find. Awkward and so incredibly smart and dear and sunny and geeky in all of the best ways. I would never want to squash that, and however your daughter is awkward and geeky and dear is precious. She is herself, and I certainly believe whole-heartedly in allowing her to find her way, try on different personas, and experiment with lots of ways of being.

Within reason.

Mothers, please. Before your daughter leaves the house, please make her sit in a chair to make sure you can't see into the back of her pants. Long shirts, please. Likewise, require a bra. Even if she has nothing much happening up there at all, you just never know when the classroom will get chilly and then it's just all kinds of humiliating.

I know...all of our daughters must experiment with fashion and hairstyles. It's part of the ritual. Mine, in fact will never NOT wear a saggy old low ponytail in her beautiful curls, no matter how much I passive-aggressively beg. (You look so pretty with your hair in clips...or any single other way than that...) You won't always win the battle, and that's okay. BUT, if your daughter has a full out black moustache on her pasty-white face, and there is absolutely no cultural reason for that in your heritage, FIX IT. Please fix it. The same goes for a unibrow.

We walk a fine line, mothers, between encouraging their self-esteem and preventing them from being embarrassed in the locker room. I sympathize, and I am typing all of this around the plank in my own eye. Small things, though, make a difference. Small things like underpants, and not letting them wear pajamas to school. And buying them deoderant, and then sniffing them to make sure they wear it.

Okay, girls. Turn around. YOU'RE PRETTY! WE LOVE YOU.

But you might need a shower.

Hugs and Kisses,
Your Teacher
Also a Mother
But Not Yours
But Please Wash Your Hair.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

To Teach, to Join, to Go to the Festival

Wednesday. I love Wednesdays. It’s now 5:25. I cleaned the sunporch. Dinner is in the oven. (Lemon thyme chicken…reference ever post I have every made about how much I hate to cook. Still do. But I made it, ‘cause on Wednesdays, I can.) I have already dealt with Abby’s “I HATE chicken! What can I have instead? Whaaa whaaa whaaaaaaa…” It all sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Now, as I wait to take it out of the oven, I am watching things I have saved on the DVR…Betty White’s 90th birthday, sitcoms that Patrick (who's working late) won’t care about (Two Broke Girls, Up All Night, Hot in Cleveland.) Soon it will be homework done, shower done, knots brushed out of gnarly curly hair. Aaah, Wednesday night at home, being Mom. Both jangly and relaxing as the dryer whirls.

Hmm… Actually, it’s a funny thing. Usually, by this point in my “winter play” process, I am already tired, and Wednesdays home are such a relief. I actually don’t feel that way this time. I am excited to go to rehearsals. That’s saying something, I guess. I don’t know if it’s saying something about my enjoyment of my job, or the current level of annoyance with my pre-teens. Not sure. Maybe both.

I went to the choral concert at my Fancy High School last night, and it made me feel all nostalgic. Concert Choir was really one of the formative aspects of my high school life. First, there was my teacher, Mr. Leavitt, still one of the greatest, most loving men I have ever known. Mr. Leavitt was near retirement by the time we had him, crippled by bone spurs in his toes, and, we thought, possibly drunk a lot of the time. Still…he was one of the first people I had ever met who spoke music like a language. I met him when he was the traveling music teacher for our elementary and middle school, while still running the high school choir. He smelled like Old Spice, wore a giant class ring with a bright blue jewel, always had a laughing twinkle in his eye, and a booming laugh that seemed to originate from this soul-level I didn’t yet have words for. Looking back on it now, I can see him as troubled, conflicted, someone whose life took him in directions he didn’t plan, but he bloomed where he was planted, here with us, and was still so full of genuine love and joy. Mr. Leavitt liked me, a nervous little mousy welfare kid, because he used to play Name That Tune, whistling songs from musicals and the American Song Book - he had the most perfect, fetching whistle - and I was the only one who knew those songs… (Thanks, Nana’s player piano.) Alexander’s Ragtime Band and Birth of the Blues and the theme from the Love Boat. He was a gentle, sophisticated, merry, accomplished gentleman, and always seemed larger than life to me.

When we got to high school…(Sidebar…whenever I think about high school, I think about what “we” experienced, and the we is always Lisa, Chris, and me. Funny.) Anyhow, we knew how awesome it was to have him for our choir director because he was so fundamental to the town, part of the twenty-something year legacy that he had led at our high school. We knew that the songs we would sing in the Christmas concert were the same ones our aunts and uncles had sung decades ago, and that when he was our pianist in the musical, no matter what happened, he had our backs.

I remember when he tried to teach me music theory in high school, I was such a little jerk. I remember saying, “I don’t need to learn to play the notes. I just learn by listening and singing them.” He looked me in the eye and said, “That won’t always work. And no one else is going to take the time to teach you this, so pay attention.” And so I did. I remember he made me write out the transposition for “I’d Rather Be Blue” for Funny Girl as an exercise to prove I had learned what I was supposed to, and if I didn’t do it right, he said he wouldn’t play it for me, and he would cut the number from the show. But he said it with a smile, and I worked really hard to do it right. He had a way of making everyone love him, and work for him, even on the cusp of retirement, even in chronic pain. We loved him just because he was ours, devoted to all of us, and we knew it. We used to sing various concerts at Christmastime…nursing homes, malls, that sort of thing, and there would always be a party after one of those at his house, where his long-suffering wife would feed all of us (“Mum’s lasagna,” he used to call it.) There would always be a sing-along beside his giant grand piano, and whatever in-bred drama was happening in our little choir at the time would always seems to somehow play out in the backdrop of those parties. A fight. A kiss. A reconciliation. Maybe it was just me…but I doubt it.

He set the tone for our choir, and made sure we all knew our roles. As freshmen, we knew the seniors were the leaders, and we worshipped them. As seniors, we knew the freshmen looked up to us, and that it was our responsibility to be good people to set an example. We all were committed, though, every year. I lived for my 45 minutes of chorus class every other day. Being in the Concert Choir felt like being a part of a very long, old, in-bred, extended family, and as corny as it sounds, music was our tie. Our vocal lines in “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Hava Nagila” were the ribbons that connected us, one graduating class to the next.

I went to the concert last night expecting to see something like that…some sort of a community, tied and affectionate and cohesive. I didn’t see that. I saw some stand-out performances by talented kids (the best of whom are in my “Into the Woods” cast…but I digress.) I saw some moments of connection and fun and light pass through the kids, but mostly…I did not see that sense of delight in singing. And it made me feel sad. It made me feel like there is a golden opportunity here that’s yet to be ignited. The feeling of singing in a chorus, of blending your voice as the third alto from the left, indistinguishable from the one beside you, or the soprano on the other end of the riser, is such a sensation of camaraderie and belonging and togetherness, and I want that for these kids. Maybe I just missed it. Maybe it’s there, but being on the outside, I can’t see. I hope that’s the case.

For now, I am not a part of fixing that, or giving that, but…I want them to have that in this show. That I can help facilitate. I really hope I can encourage that kind of mindfulness for them now. I want to help them truly feel that joy of singing, moving, story-telling as one, and recognizing the power they have to move people when they share that with an audience. I want to be Leavitt-Like, providing a world, a backdrop, a soundtrack, for them to have their own personal discoveries and growth experiences and above all, the very pure joy of finding their way to another person through music.

Ack. That sounded corny, even for me. But it’s really how I feel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dear Sixth Grade Boy

Dear Sixth Grade Boys,

Tuck Everlasting is a beautiful book, full of poetry and meaningful concepts and deep discussions about life and the nature of choice and consequence. If you spoil our reading circle by losing yourself to a fit of giggles over the word "spurt," rest assured that you will be writing a page on exactly what that word means to you and why you think it's so funny. Don't mess with me, fellas. I'm bigger'n you and I've had three additional decades to cultivate a dirty mind. There's not a reference you can find in any of these books that I haven't already thought of, and snickered over. But in polite company, we keep such things to ourselves. Learn to save it for after class.

While we're at it...a friendly reminder...NO SWEATPANTS. Please, oh please. I know you can't possibly be looking for loose change in those pockets. There is nothing to buy here. I don't know what else I can say about that.

Staring at Her Coffee Cup,
Your Teacher

Monday, January 23, 2012

That Awkward Moment When...

I’m sure it won’t shock you to know that I was a very awkward teenager. High school was not my window of popularity or confidence, despite what it might look like I accomplished on paper I was a very annoying mixture of Hermione Granger, Anne of Green Gables, a little bit Patty Simcox and Sue Heck from that show “The Middle.” Always saying the wrong thing, raising my hand where I just should have probably sat there, even being the annoying voice reading the Pledge of Allegiance and the morning announcements. Or at least that's the way I look back on it. Maybe everyone feels like that a little bit.

But now, as an adult, I find…I’m pretty much equally awkward. I just mind it less. In sixth grade, I almost never mind it, because even at my most awkward, I still know that there is nothing on this green earth as awkward as a 12-year-old boy, so at least I’m still ahead of that game. And the girls are still just at the beginning of the cusp of caring what’s "cool," so most of them don’t mind me too much. And if they do, they tend to keep it to themselves. Kids are smart; I might not be perfect, but they know that spending a couple of hours a day with me is better than what they might have in another classroom, or in another school. So I do okay there.

In my high school, it’s different. I’ll be going along, directing something, staging a scene, feeling in the flow and focus of it all, and then *bam* … there it is, that awkward moment when your director just said “balls” by accident. And then snickered. Or today, when we were staging the scene that preceeds the Act One finale, and we had to have the conversation about how to “milk” the senior girl playing Milky White. I can’t ever handle things like that with coolness. I just can’t do it.

My students are kind, though, and I think generally that they all are just used to shaking their heads at me and forgiving me for being such a goofball. There is always that secret fear that someone is cell-phone-taping me, and there will someday emerge some website or facebook page or something that runs all of my ridiculous trip-overs on one of those auto-tune loops.

I’m only three weeks in, and this show has already won the prize of my Favorite Show Ever. The cast has already bonded, they are acting and sounding like an ensemble, and rehearsals feel productive, energetic, and joyful. It’s fun. AND it’s already excellent. How often does that happen? I hope everyone feels that at their job sometimes. No matter what their job might be. I hope that the surgeon sometimes feels that thrill of “I fixed him,” or that the counselor knows she’s given comfort and light, or the carpenter looks at a perfectly hung door and says, “I did that.” It feels so good to be the captain of a ship that's sailing toward Excellence. I feel both proud and humbled at the same time, just to get to be a part of it all.

I knew it would be like this, though. I absolutely knew, even a year ago, that if I did this show, right now, as my last show with this group, it would feel like this. It would turn out like this. The process, and the product. I’m doing very well at staying in the moment, and not getting myself knee deep in a well of sadness about losing them to graduation. I learned my lesson about that in my own senior year – I spent so much time worrying about the end of things that I didn’t enjoy the journey. Cinderella’s Prince has a line in response to Jack’s hysterical mother: “Worrying will do you no good.” It’s played for laughs, but honestly, I find it very poignant. Worrying will do you no good. I have a poster in my classroom that says, “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strength.” So, I am not worrying about tomorrow, or lamenting, or goodbye-ing before it’s time. I am just enjoying every day with this process, this music, these kids. I hope they are doing the same. They seem to be.

It's fun to be back to blogging. It's fun to have something to write about that inspires me as much as this does. I like having a focus, and a reason to write. Even in this long hiatus I had from blogging, I have been writing all the time. The more agitated I feel, the more I need to write. I am addicted to writing the same way some people get addicted to things like cutting themselves or, I guess, even drugs. That sounds psychopathic, but honestly, it's my therapy. If I don't journal, I get all twitchy and out of sorts. I have been hyper focused on my big Secret Project, and I am so boring, such a one-note Johnny about it all. I have to write it down so I don't bore my loved ones any more than I already do.

Despite the uncertainty of this time in my life, I can truly say that I am really happier right now than I have been in a very long time. And it seems to keep on growing. I hope that continues.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

And What Might Be in Your Basket?

People who know me roll their eyes at my not-so-secret fear of the world ending in December of 2012. I can't watch movies about Armageddon, the Apocalypse, or anything that has to do with life after people. I've been mentally preparing myself for this end of the world for a long time, and even my planner says, for December 22nd, 2012, "Faux Christmas...or the end of the world." (What better way to go than with the Faux Christmas crew?) My biggest bucket-list goal was to make sure I got back to Disneyworld one more time before the world ceased to exist, and we did that in December, so, honestly, if it happens, I’m really all set. I’ve done a lot of things in life, and I guess my biggest disappointment would really be never finding out how Ted met the Mother.

I don’t think that’s going to happen, though. More and more, I have come to feel that the end of 2012, and everything that will follow, is part of Malcom Gladwell’s Tipping Point. (This basically says that in every kind of trend or social change, there is a "moment" when it goes one way or another. Spreads like a virus. The point at which "everyone" is suddenly on Facebook, or wearing Uggs, or eating Greek yogurt. It is sometimes a slow build, but eventually *something* happens to tip it to being trend-worthy, or viral.) So much thought and energy has been focused on this big time, and I feel like the world is on the cusp of changing… for the better. I feel like 2012, and 2013, will be a giant step forward in positivity, joy, open spirituality, and a release from fear for many people. I know that I am the proverbial Cockeyed Optimist, but I can’t help but think that there are so many more people out there like me, doing their tiny things to better the world in their little spheres, and that eventually, maybe sooner than later, it’s going to have resonance for everyone. I think it has to, vibrationally speaking. And I feel like I’m a part of that. I have spent nearly 20 years in a unique position to connect with kids and encourage them to find their own best, uncharted, unique paths inspired by authenticity and a sense of responsibility for not only their own happiness and success, but others’ as well. I have learned that as a teacher and director – I’m only “good” if THEY are. Their success is the only measure of mine. And I really, really like it that way.

So, from the introduction of my new favorite book that I haven’t even read yet, (by Martha Beck) called Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want:

Find a new way. A better way. Your way. The unknown, uncharted path through this wild new world that allows you—yourself, in your uniqueness—to reclaim the full measure of your true nature.

Can you accept this challenge? If you can’t, I hope that you’re comfortable living in your cage—and seeing it smashed by a tidal wave of escalating change. If you can, congratulations. Your future will be filled with adventures and excitement. It will also find you charting your course in a new peer group. The decision to heal your own true nature, by definition, makes you one of nature’s healers. And as it happens, healers play a unique, powerful, perhaps unprecedented role in the wild new world.

She goes on to talk about how “Healers” are really just people who are living their true natures, and just by doing that, they help/encourage/teach others to do the same. Well, I guess there’s a whole book full of how that works, which I will be reading toot sweet. She calls these people “The Team,” and essentially, if you are reading, and if you’re wondering if you are, in fact, on the Team, then you are. I didn’t have to wonder that. I totally know I am, and have been for a long time. It’s caused me to feel pressured, sometimes, but I have recognized it and taken responsibility for it. (Totally bet you are too.)

She says that members of the Team often share some qualities, among them:

• High creativity; passion for music, poetry, performance, or visual arts.

• Difficult early life, often with a history of abuse or childhood trauma.

• Intense connection to certain types of natural environments, such as the ocean, mountains, or forest.

• Resistance to orthodox religiosity, paradoxically accompanied by a strong sense of
either spiritual purpose or spiritual yearning.

• Sense of intense connection with certain cultures, languages, or geographic regions.

• Disability, often brain-centered (dyslexia, retardation, autism) in oneself or a loved one. Fascination with people who have intellectual disabilities or mental illness.

• Apparently gregarious personality contrasting with deep need for periods of solitude; a sense of being drained by social contact and withdrawing to “power up” again. (This is a major hallmark of my character.)

• Daydreams (or night dreams) about healing damaged people, creatures, or places.

So, yeah. Kind of freaky. This book can not get delivered soon enough for me to learn what to do to heal the world. I’m pretty sure it’s going to tell me that I have to start with myself, first. Maybe that’s all part of my journey through the woods. This book will certainly be in my basket.

I will venturing through this snow-covered morning to paint scenery, carefully lettering the “Storybooks” that will be part of our pre-set, opening to reveal the homes of three of the main characters. I like that sort of work, though I don’t enjoy being up on a ladder. I am not the best set-helper, keeping that in the hands of my very capable tech-designer and team-mate, Brooks, but I try to always do a little something to contribute. This is my contribution this time. Or one of them. Then rehearsal, then probably more painting. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Each Time You Go

A snowy Saturday, with no where I have to go, nothing I have to do. I am brimming with gratitude for that. On this most ordinary of winter days, I am snuggled in yoga pants and a ratty old school sweatshirt that I found abandoned at the bottom of the props closet I cleaned out when I first started at this high school. It’s my most comforting article of clothing, one of only two things I have with the name of the school on it, and I have realized recently how very often I snuggle when I want to feel most relaxed and cozy and myself. It’s a battered, grubby (and technically, I suppose, stolen) symbol of belonging to a place I love, and I really give it more value than I should, I guess.

I’ve spent much of this afternoon focused on my stirring my potion, doing some research and writing that will help me move forward in my goals. I have also been flipping through my underlined passages in some books I’ve already read and found inspiring: The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, Ask and It Is Given by Jerry and Esther Hicks, and my most recent favorite, Steering by Starlight by Martha Beck. I’ve just discovered that I love her, (thank you, Andrea!) and that her words and life-coaching instructions are very resonant for me right now. (I just read an excerpt from her new book, Finding Your Way in a New Wild World, and I'm in love with it already. I just ordered it on Amazon.) I chuckle at the term “life coach,” because really, what that means is that someone listens to a client as they talk themselves into what they already know to be their soul’s purpose. I have done that very well, thank you, with years of obsessive journaling and actually listening to my own heart….as well as reading and heeding the words of the Master Teachers that click with me.

Since I have now chosen to focus this blog on my journey as a director in an attempt to get me to actually stick to it, here is an email I sent to my cast today to announce a change in rehearsal time for tomorrow. I find it funny that football is interfering with play practice, because back in "my day," the two were about as connected as watercolor painting and taxidermy. Disconnected fields. Not in my new world, which, really, is one of my most favorite things about it. Anyhow, the email:

Hi Everyone!

Well, because of some sort of "game" going on tomorrow, due to popular request, we are going to move our rehearsal from 12:00-3:00 instead. I know that this impacts some people in terms of church, so if you can't get there till 1:00, I understand...but please do let me know, as we are starting with "Ever After" and will need to know how to best cover for missing parts. (Getting how critically important each of you are to this process? Friendly reminder. You are needed and beloved!)

On another note...I know I haven't talked too much to all of you about this yet, but trust me, it's coming...This show, as we move through it, will soon become a metaphor for all of us. We are all journeying into the woods together as a team as we journey "Into the Woods," but the reason that I chose this show is because every single one of us is also journeying on our own, for our own purposes. For some of you, the experience of this show is a journey to friendship and connection and to becoming more deeply aware of your high school persona. For others, it's the beginning of your transition away from the safety net of your high school world to your life beyond, where the path is not straight. Regardless of where you are on your journey, I challenge all of you to begin to be mindful of where you are now, when we have just begun this process, and to pay attention to where you go, and who you become, as you grow through it.

I won't require it, of course, but I would suggest that each of you begin keeping a performance journal of this process. You do not need to share it with anyone, though if you want an audience and/or feedback, I am more than willing and happy to provide that. Either way, think about how you felt as you prepared for your auditions, how you felt about the casting (good, bad and ugly) and how the rehearsals are feeling for you so far. Then just write about it. I think you will find that as we go, more and more lines and lyrics and moments of connection will begin to resonate with you and prove to be instructive and inspiring for your journey, both now and in the future. At the very least, your journal can become a keepsake of a special time in your life, one that will have as much meaning to you as you allow. The more open your spirit to this kind of journey, the more powerful the journey will be.

Just a thought. I welcome your ideas and feedback on the topic!

Anyhoo...I'll see you tomorrow at noon. Please stay safe today...way better to stay in and study your lines than drive anywhere!

I wonder if they’ll do it. I hope they do. I walk a fine line with my high school kids…I want to be their teacher, but really, I’m not. I’m just the lady that comes a few afternoons a week and tells them when to cross down-stage-left. I know that I set the tone for the drama club, so there’s that, but there is just so much more I want to do, and can’t from this strange part-time, one-foot-in-the-door position. In this show, however, I am hoping to "teach" more, especially because there are so many seniors leaving me, and so many things I feel like I haven’t told them yet. I feel like Molly Weasley shouting her last instructions as the Hogwarts express pulls away from the station… “Wear your sweater when it gets chilly! Mind your manners! Eat your vegetables! Oh, and make sure you journal your experiences because you’re not going to believe how much you’ll change…” Never enough time to teach them all that I wish I could.

I think what I have most discovered, though, about high school kids is that while I don’t necessarily teach them quadratic equations or the finer principles of the Stanislavsky method, I can, at least, leave them with a living example of a passionate, creative life, enthusiastically and mindfully lived.

This show, Into the Woods, has been a metaphor for me for twenty years. If I were to write my memoirs, I could title every chapter of my whole life with lines from this show. And here I am, at this very pivotal crossroads, back in the woods again and realizing, more than ever, that each time you go, there’s more to learn of what you know. I didn’t chose this show for me; I chose it for them, in the hopes that they will find such connection to their own lives. But every project I have ever done in theater is most successful when I put my heart and soul into it as well, and so I am this time, listening hard to what this show has to teach me this time. Life-Coaching with Sondheim 101.

Ready for the journey.

Here are some views from my cozy corner of the world, snuggled up in the Athenaeum:

My snowy window to the world.

Sweet Ginger snuggled at my feet.

My year-round tree, and my current vision board.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Must Begin My Journey

One of my various bosses said to me a few years ago, “Aren’t all theater people just naturally full of drama?” I bristled so over that, and it still bothers me now. I, myself, like things calm and tidy and happy, and when drama happens in my little theater families, there is never a part of me that looks on from the sidelines, excited for the adventure of solving the problem or reveling in the action. (Not to say that I don’t enjoy a bit of theater gossip about other people…I totally do. But I am always glad when it’s not at all affecting me.)

This show started out calmly enough, quite drama-free, with a very exciting audition workshop that was full of enthusiasm and positive energy. Auditions went great, even though everyone who walked through the door knew that half of them would not be cast. (We are doing this one true to the script – no ensemble or anything. I did cast a person as Milky White, but more on that later.) At auditions, there were some standouts, particularly the girl who was cast as the Witch, a junior, who had the single best high school audition I have ever seen for anything, anywhere. It was thrilling to watch her rise and conquer with such apparent ease, and every single person there knew, when they left, that she would get the part. Oh, how I love when it’s that easy. The guys were much harder to cast, and it took some long discussion on the casting board to weigh the pros and cons of each person in each role. We finished, though, and I left feeling glad that most of my seniors were going to be happy, and that there wasn’t anyone that I would truly devastate.

I’m generally quick in my casting, instinctive and decisive, and I very nearly always do it in one day, and email the list that night. There is the time between making the decisions with the team, to then getting home, getting into my pajama pants, pouring the chardonnay, composing the thank you all for coming I wish I could cast you all blah blah blah email, and hitting send. That part of the drama I like, actually. That breathless moment just before, when everyone still feels like anything can happen and they still have a chance. Then I hit send, and the destinies for a major important piece of each kid’s year are determined. By me. And then I duck and cover. It used to be that I was friends with the high school kids on Facebook, so I could immediately eavesdrop on the buzz, the proclamations, the bitching, but I am not allowed to be “friends” with them now until they graduate. Which, believe me, is really just as well.

Then, often kids will email me back with a thank you or a hooray or a what-did-I-do-wrong, which I answer appropriately, and then I trudge wearily to sleep, still wound and worried. Excited and scared. The next day, when the parent emails and phone calls come, as they inevitably do, I try to handle them with grace and compassion. Sometimes I am better at that than others. This particular show, because of the intensity of the kids’ enthusiasm for it, and because of the fact that the fall musical cast was so large and so many kids wanted to come back, I had more of those interactions than usual. It was draining, and in one case made me very sad, but it’s part of the job.

One mom, however, of a freshman girl who was not cast, wrote to me about how her child had so enjoyed the audition experience, and tried out despite major conflicts just for the learning, and how the group of seniors that are our leaders are so inspiring and kind and supportive, and congratulated me for building a group that everyone wants to be a part of. It turned out that this freshman girl was actually very spectacular, and had she not had conflicts, she very well might have gotten the part of Little Red Ridinghood over the sophomore who ultimately earned the role. And not because her Mommy was nice to me, either.

Rehearsals began, and immediately exceeded expectations. The kids so far are very serious, totally committed, and seem to understand how very ambitious it is for all of us to expect that we can pull of a very complicated Sondheim musical in less than two months. But they’re all in it, a little more than ankle deep in the journey so far.

In the dramatic way that dramatic things happen in drama clubs, several days ago, the girl who is playing Little Red discovered an immovable conflict for the second night of the show. Due to the nature of “theater people,” as my former boss had explained, by all rights I should have been doing some serious freaking out. But I didn’t. Because generally speaking, I don’t. I talked it over with my Zen Master Musical Director (more on the wonders of this lovely man another time), calmly called my supervisor (the nice one), and worked out a plan. No crying, gnashing of teeth, flipping of any kind. I let the girl we cast keep the role for Friday night, and the girl with the lovely mother, and the fabulous audition, will play it on Saturday. Win win. I love a win win.

That’s some of the background on where we are at so far in this production.

In other related news, my potion-making, magic-seeking project hit a snag yesterday. Might be the end-game, but might also be just a road-block. The hair was pulled from a maiden in a tower instead of the ear of corn, that sort of thing. (Look, if you’ve never seen Into the Woods, this blog is going to get very freaking boring very fast. Might be there already.) I am holding fast to my faith in the fact that things happen for a reason. If something doesn’t go the way you want it to, it’s always because there is something better around the bend in the road. Some higher purpose or destiny that you are supposed to inherit. I’m always on the lookout for that. I’m not giving up my dream, though, without a fight. To mix my theatrical metaphors, I’m going to the mattresses. When you know what you need then you go and you find it and you get it.

Journeying on.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Into the Woods

I know. You’ve forgotten my name. Removed my bookmark or tab or what ever little corner of your web that I wove in. I’m attempting a come-back.

I made recently made a list of goals for 2012, as I have made for every year that I can remember. Some of my goals for 2012 are simple: Wear a dress at least twice to a week to remember that I’m still a girl. Paint the sunporch. Read the Game of Thrones series. Finally learn yoga, dammit. A return to blogging is on that list, so I am trying to figure out how best to go about that.

I am dwelling in a very intense time right now. My brain is intensely awhirl, even more than usual. I am directing a play, one of my very favorite shows, “Into the Woods,” and it is, without compare, the most excited and inspired I have ever felt as a director. Even more than when I wrote a play. I have had this special group for four years, and I want to truly enjoy the rest of the time we have together. I want to guide them to make something special, for the audience, but way way more importantly, for themselves. I want them to make a journey. I want them to learn something about their own spirits, and about love, about choice and consequence, about the ways in which you hold and release people, and how to let them stay a part of you even when you let them go. No one is alone. So, there’s that. And I think I really want to write about that, about what happens to some of them. I have to protect everyone’s privacy, of course, but I can write some things.

In this process, however, I am making a journey, too. I have hit a very definite crossroads in my life, a fork in the road, and I need to make a choice about which way to go. Or rather, I need to wait for some other people to make the choices that will illuminate my path and allow me to follow it. My path is not straight, and not certain. I know what I wish, and I have done all that I can to make my wish come true, collected my ingredients, made the potion. Now I just need to wait for the “witch” to grant my wish. In the meantime, I am watching everything around me with eyes wide open, trying to make sure that I don’t exchange a cow for magic beans. That is…well, whatever the term for “vaguebooking” is in blogging terms. It’s a thing that I really want to talk about, but can’t yet. I have journaled about very little else for several months now, so I can retroactively share that part of the journey when the time is right. Stay tuned.

The part I can do, while I wait, is to very seriously cast some magic spells of my own, like I did when I was trying to get my house. I am sitting in that very house now, just as I had envisioned, by the light of my Christmas tree, which is still up, and lit. Don’t judge me. The point is, my house is a very concrete example of the fact that I am a little bit magical when I put my mind to it.

So, along with my Big Wish, I am putting my mind to this show, and I think I would really like to share that journey, if you’re interested.