Friday, September 29, 2006

Actor's Intensive

It's official! I just received my letter of acceptance to the actor's intensive in Lenox. I'll be in Lenox in January!


On NPR traffic this morning...

On the 5 south - don't let this happen to you: A driver is stranded on the center divider. He's locked his keys in his car. It will cause people to talk about you on the radio.

Okay, it doesn't sound as good written down, but I promise it was funny. It made my morning drive.


So, I decided to do some "Dibbling" with my students last week. We did the dance that goes with the song from Chocolat . It was a lot of fun and went surprisingly well. I got 26 teenagers to not only dance, but dance while *gasp* holding hands!

Because the dance we learned only took up the first half of the song, we did it twice through. They did it once with their original partners, then there is about 4 counts of 8 until the melody repeats. I had them do a bow, exchange partners, and bow to their new partner before starting the dance over.

I have the counts and choreography for the change written out if you want it, and I have a video of the students do the whole dance if you are interested.

Anyhoo, here are some pictures of my students dancing. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Another Case Of Mel's "Why Are You Laughing?" Disease

So in English class this morning, we've just finished a class discussion about parental expectation and the like to take us into an Amy Tan short story.

How is it that my kids never think these talks are leading to literature? It's a constant source of amusement to me.

So I move things along. "Let's think about that idea of your parent's expectations while we open our Lit books to page 195."

And they're shocked! You mean this was about a story!? Oh! The injustice!!

One girl speaks for them all, "Is this going to be a long story?"

I had to apologize for the laughter that caught me for the next few minutes. I just kept imagining her saying that with a hand puppet.


Happy Thoughts = Casting Thoughts

Friends -

It's time for my least favorite part of directing - casting. Ironic, since I do it constantly (I'm always casting friends, family, and students in movies/plays I'm watching). I do dread the junior-high tears that inevitably come. So, I thought I'd ask for your friendly thoughts.

It's for our fall play, "Much Ado", which I recently finished cutting - I've reduced it to well under an hour, and expanded the original dozen or so characters into 31 named parts. That way all 34 of my actor-students will have particular roles - 31 characters, 2 filmmakers (we're creating a documentary on producing a Shakespeare play), and an assistant director.

Expanding the parts tapped into an odd vein of creativity, but I enjoyed it. Especially since I named all of the new characters with Shakespearean names - my own whispers of you all. For example, my Fleance is a co-conspirator with Don John, but Kim's charming portrayal in her scene with Christine will flicker in my mind whenever I see the name. <>

Anyway, I promised to post by the end of the day tomorrow. Wish me luck!


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Real Conversation

I had a conversation with a student yesterday afternoon. I will try to recount it to you word-for-word... but even if I get the words right, I'm sure I won't be able to convey all that was going on in our hearts and minds.

John, a very smart and misunderstood young man, stood before me and said words I had heard from other students many, many times:

"Mr. Wilson, I'm quitting school and taking the GED."

I then repeated, almost by rote, words I had said many, many times:

"Why, John? This is your senior year."

The conversation continued its predictable path:

"Yeah, I know. But I've always hated school. This gets me out of school a few months early."

"Well... I wish you the best, John."

Then came the obligatory Goodbye, Mr. Chips/Dead Poet's Society compliment:

"Even though I hated school, I always kind of liked your mythology class, Mr. Wilson. I always looked forward to that last class of the day."

Sensing the end of the conversation, I said my part of the script:

"That's good to hear, John. What did you like most about it?"

Then he spoke words that hit me like a gut-punch, words that brought me fully into the here and now:

"Check-in. Some days I spent all day thinking about what I was going to say at check-in."

As he spoke of check-in -- the touchstone of this summer's experience -- everything around me suddenly became very fragile. All at once, I believed I could say something to salvage the moment... something to salvage this person in front of me. I said:

"John... if you stay in school, I'll let you check-in first every day."

He laughed as if caught off-guard, then he said:

"That would almost be worth it, Mr. Wilson."

John wasn't in school today, and may never be again... but he's always welcome in our circle for check-in. Always and forever.


The kids stay in the picture

For two weeks, I have been teaching acting classes to kids in the evenings. Much to my surprise, I'm having a wonderful time. These kids are more outgoing, courageous, and talented than 99% of the high school students where I work, and I think I figured out why.

Ten-year-olds don't care what they look like. They don't worry about being cool, or looking silly. They have no baggage, which is an unusual trait in actors. Hormones haven't screwed up their heads yet, so they're confortable with who they are. Yesterday was my second class with the beginning group, and I did ninety minutes on subtext, and they did higher quality work than any seventeen-year-old who ever passed through my class.

I wish I could adequately explain how amazingly bizarre and fulfilling it feels to do actual theatre work for the first time in years, even if it's with munchkins.

Musical Theater Is Calling To Me...

In some of my discussions this summer, it seemed that some of you were bewildered because I, a theater person, do not like musicals.

Well, you can put your hearts to rest.

A musical is opening this weekend in Paragould, Arkansas (that's right... Paragould) that promises to open my heart wide to the world of musical theater.

This weekend, I will drive three hours to see Night of the Living Dead, the Rock Musical!

The offer to sleep on my couch is certainly open to any of you this weekend... and I'll spring for your ticket if you show up!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shakespeare in the News. Again!

Speaking Shakespeare's language

Ron Rosenbaum hopes his new book deepens interest in the Bard's words
By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff September 24, 2006

NEW YORK -- Ron Rosenbaum's new book, ``The Shakespeare Wars ," bears the dedication, ``To Peter Brook and the cast of his `Dream. ' For changing my life forever."
That's a strong statement, but neither Rosenbaum nor the now-legendary production of ``A Midsummer Night's Dream" that Brook directed for the Royal Shakespeare Company 35 years ago is a stranger to strong statements.

Rosenbaum, one of America's ablest (and most idiosyncratic) journalists, has been making strong statements in print for more than three decades, perhaps most notably in his 1998 book ``Explaining Hitler. " And the Brook ``Dream" continues to inspire them. With its trapeze-riding fairies and white-on-white set, it has come to be regarded as one of the defining stage productions of the 20th century.

Not that Rosenbaum knew this when he bought a ticket in Stratford- upon-Avon one September evening in 1970. He just wanted to see some Shakespeare, as what former Yale graduate student in literature wouldn't have, and ``Dream" was what happened to be playing.
In a sense, ``The Shakespeare Wars" is Rosenbaum's way of paying the debt he incurred that night, an attempt to share the overpowering excitement Rosenbaum felt then -- and that Shakespeare has produced in him ever since.

Rosenbaum speaks tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Brookline Booksmith and Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Wellesley College.

Shakespeare's works have never lost their popularity. But the past decade has seen an upsurge of interest: the success of ``Shakespeare in Love" ; such other films as Julie Taymor's ``Titus" and the Ian McKellen ``Richard III "; the best-selling status of Harold Bloom's ``Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human" and Stephen Greenblatt's ``Will in the World."

Rosenbaum hopes to deepen that interest -- not through describing great performances of the past or Shakespeare biography (``just raking over shopworn anecdotes for the tenth time," he says), but through what is most glorious in Shakespeare , what is most Shakespearean , his language.

``What I want to do," Rosenbaum says, ``is bring to the reader a lot of what I find to be incredibly exciting controversies over how to speak Shakespeare, how to play Shakespeare, how to listen to Shakespeare, how to watch Shakespeare. Controversies that have scholars at each other's throats, that have directors and actors pounding the table."

Literally pounding the table, as the director Peter Hall did, while describing to Rosenbaum his crusade to get actors to pause, ever so slightly, at the end of each line of iambic pentameter as they speak it onstage. A chapter examines the merits of printing Shakespeare's text with the original spelling (which makes more sense than you might think). Another relates the ongoing debate among scholars over agreeing on a standard text for ``Hamlet " and ``King Lear. " Or there's Rosenbaum raising the possibility, in the endless debate whether page or stage is the better way to appreciate Shakespeare, that screen may trump both.

``These controversies open Shakespeare up to people who've read him but maybe don't go back to him a lot. There's an excitement there you don't get from your usual regional theater productions or through just trying to plow your way through the works once again. But if you hear these directors and actors and scholars arguing about something like this, it's a way to reconnect, I think, with some excitement that's there that you may have lost or never experienced."

Rosenbaum, 59, is sitting in the Yale Club. Vaguely Tudor, its baronial splendor is probably as close to a Shakespearean space as you're likely to find in Manhattan. In this setting, he looks like an actor -- a dark suit for costume, an open beer bottle and crumpled napkin for props -- but not one likely to be appearing with the RSC. Rather, with his scraggly beard and intense gaze, Rosenbaum could be Billy Bob Thornton's spiffier, riffier older brother.

Rosenbaum speaks with a nervy intensity. Shakespeare matters to him, and he wants Shakespeare to matter to you, too. He brings a nervy intensity to most things he discusses. His Edgy Enthusiast column, which runs biweekly in The New York Observer , is something special in US journalism, a unique blend of intellect and loquacity, rant and celebration. In the column, Rosenbaum has mourned his late cat Stumpy , decried the popularity of ``Seinfeld, " and proposed marriage to country singer Rosanne Cash .

``When Ron is writing something there's a level of involvement, a level of obsession," filmmaker Errol Morris says of his friend. ``Ron looks at a problem and he looks at how people look at problems. His way of getting closer to Shakespeare, the meaning of Shakespeare, the cultural significance of Shakespeare, is to look at the same time at other people looking at Shakespeare, interacting with Shakespeare. It's a very powerful device."

One of those people was University of California, Berkeley English professor Stephen Booth , whose close readings of the sonnets move Rosenbaum to a level of passion he otherwise reserves for Rosanne Cash. What's it like to discuss Shakespeare with Rosenbaum?

``Very, very pleasant," Booth says. ``No energy was going into him looking good. His topic was what are all these Shakespeare scholars doing and why. What most struck me was his intelligence, his ability to focus instantly, really, on what he was concerned with, his absolutely unaffected modesty."

``The Shakespeare Wars" may have begun with Brook's ``Dream," but it needed Adolf Hitler to get rolling. ``I was in a really deep depression after finishing the Hitler book," Rosenbaum explains. ``I lucked into listening to some Shakespeare cassettes and CDs and then I couldn't stop. I'd walk from room to room carrying a boom box, so I wouldn't miss a word. Then I'd be on the subway. I have a distinct memory of hearing a great audio tape of `Richard III' on the No. 6 local of the Lexington Avenue line. It was somehow appropriate: Richard III at his most malevolent through the roar of the tunnel."

Asked which Shakespeare character he'd most want to play, Rosenbaum says, ``I like the fast-talking Shakespeare characters, Mercutio, Hotspur, Cassius, Ulysses, even the villainous Edmund. If I had to choose, Mercutio."

Mark Feeney can be reached at

Monday, September 25, 2006

unique resources

So, it's getting late and I am writing up a pages-long lesson plan in our new district format in order to prepare for an observation this week. We have been struggling with some yucky changes in teacher evaluation. This new lesson novella is required to have pretty much an entire history of thought leading up to 42 minutes of instruction and some sort of quantitative assessment. I have been using all the cleverness I can muster to write up my advanced drama lesson in such a way that honors the students and my real goals, and still answers to what the district obviously wants.
Anyway, there is a section that asks the writer to describe "unique resources (human or material) needed to successfully complete this experience." Of course, I thought of all of you. Without you, my students would not be having this experience at all.
You unique human resources, you.

:) Jessica

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hey Mel...

He can mounty me any time!

I just wanted to make you laugh at an inopportune moment. It made me giggle in the car - there was an NPR article about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I hope you're surrounded by multiple students - to none of whom you can tell the joke.

Now More Than Ever, We Must Be Green

Think gently of us tomorrow at my school. I just got a call today that one of our kids was killed last night in a car accident. There's an early faculty meeting and we'll have extra counselors.

The boy hasn't been in my class but I know this loss will make big ripples. It hits me hard for the obvious reasons but then also for the vital role a caring person can play.

Time to pass the gift...

RSC taking a cue from Shakespeare & Co.

RSC on mission to improve teaching of Bard in schools

The Royal Shakespeare Company will launch a major campaign tomorrow to change the way Shakespeare is taught in schools and tackle the impression amongst young people that the playwright is boring.

Teaching Shakespeare - Time for Change calls for a more theatre-based approach to teaching the Bard, including giving every young person access to at least one live performance of a Shakespeare play during their school career.

A symposium will take place at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to launch the campaign, while some of the country’s best known writers, politicians, actors and personalities have recounted their first experiences with Shakespeare to help highlight the cause.
Michael Parkinson recalls Shakespeare being regarded as "an obligation rather than a pleasure" at his grammar school, with no-one attempting to put the plays into context, while journalist Polly Toynbee describes the idea of teaching Shakespeare as a dry text without acting it as "not only deadly drudgery but wrong".

Actor and director Janet Suzman describes being smitten with Shakespeare thanks to a young English teacher who was "perfectly cast for Rosalind and knew it" and acted her way through the whole of As You Like It in class.

"Our teacher made us read aloud, which makes all the difference," she said. "You can’t do plays sitting down."

Hope you're all off to great starts this year!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Getting Ready For Halloween

For those of you who prefer a little Shakespeare with your trick-or-treating... THEATER OF BLOOD.

This was Vincent Price's one chance to do something Shakespeare-related on film. Most critics consider it his best work.

By the way... a lot of folks believe Vincent Price was an Englishman. He wasn't, of course.

He was from Missouri.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Oedipus (with vegetables)


In our first rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet, the question arose as to what Shakespeare used parantheses for. Do they indicate intention without voice? Or an aside? Or what?

Honestly, I would just say the line until it felt right, but Kathleen has asked, so I told her I'd check with the Shakespearean scholars that I know.

Thanks! -Em

P.S. Shakespearean scholars? That's you guys.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Prepare Yourself...

...I mean,


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Celebrities' Children

Guess who was in two of my classes yesterday during parent orientation!



No, silly. It was Lionel Richie! I teach his son twice every day. He's a pretty good kid, for a seventh grader.

a civilized start to the revolution

Until recently, I actually thought I might live my whole life without ever blogging, but I really wanted to share this with all of you.
On Thursday, I have an appointment with the superintendent of schools to talk about the institute and my thoughts about how my experiences will alter instruction. She and I saw each other in passing, just after she received The Letter, and she mentioned that she was impressed with all it said. I told her I would be happy to sit down and discuss it with her, and made an appointment, perhaps the first voluntary appointment ever made in her office. Even though I am a little nervous, I am really excited about discussing the summer with her. Of course, there are some things I will leave out, and other more administration-friendly ideas I will stress. Any advice?
I think of you all often.



Strangely, last night I had two dreams that involved this blog. In the first one, one of our ranks was anonymously posting nasty and inappropriate things to the blog. I had my suspicions regarding the poster's identity (Quinn!!!), but I kept my mouth shut. In the second, my dead aunt was alive and was asking me questions about the blog.

On a Shakespearian note, I've just been assigned to teach a project at my school. A project is a class that meets once a week for two hours and runs for a trimester. My project is on Othello. There were two available projects- the Harlem Rennaisance and Othello- and two of us wanted Othello. The other teacher had more seniority, but once I described what I did all summer, they gave the project to me.

I hope you are all well.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Did You See It?

We have a distinguished new commenter!

National Novel Writing Month

I know that many of you write for fun, so I wanted to let you know about National Novel Writing Month. Each November, tens of thousands of writers from all over the world attempt a semmingly impossible feat: writing a 50,000-word novel in a single month. The Web site offers a forum that helps with research, as well as a cheering section for all participants.

I've participated in NaNoWriMo for the last three years, and I've "won" three years in a row. I've got three novels sitting in a drawer in various stages of rewrite, and this November I'll add a fourth. It's a lot of fun, and it's an incredible sense of accomplishment.

You might think you have no time to write that much, but you'd be surprised. My first year, I closed on my house on October 29. I spend the next month painting every room, watering the lawn daily, packing up my apartment, and moving into a new place, and I somehow still found time to crank out 50,000 words. If you put your mind to it, you can absolutely get this done.

Check out the Web site and read the FAQ. I'd love to have friends doing NaNoWriMo with me this year.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lucky me, lucky me, look at what I'm dripping with...

I got an e-mail last week from a new theatre company looking to expand its education department. I interviewed last Friday with the artisitic director, and she e-mailed me this morning and asked if I could start teaching classes next Tuesday evening. For the first time in many years, I'm going to actually be a theatre teacher. There's just one catch.

I'll be teaching ten-year-olds.

I've never taught ten-year-olds. I know nothing about ten-year-olds. If a ten-year-old was in my presence, I wouldn't know what to do with him. Is he still in diapers? Does he feel feelings? What do he eat???

I'll be teaching two classes a week, an A and a B class. The B students aren't necessarily more advanced, they've just taken the A class already. Each class meets once a week for 90 minutes. Each class will end the semester with a simple recital for their parents, where they present whatever it is I have them do for the next twelve weeks.

The thing is, I can't even play a lot of theatre games with them because the classes are so small (ever heard a teacher complain about that before?). The A class has four students, and the B class has three students. All are girls.

Have any of you worked with tiny humans before? I could really use any ideas, advice, and materials you have.

Sick Day Thoughts and Shameless Self-Promotion

I took a sick day today. I wasn't SICK sick... I was actually just worn down physically. Most of my time outside of school these days has been spent working on audio theater scripts and a new stage play for Halloween. For the past week I've literally been working around the clock, so I took a day off to rest and recuperate.

I realized this morning when I woke from Second Sleep at 11 a.m. that I hadn't given the substitute any notes explaining the process of check-in. I'm really curious to find out if the students convinced the substitute to make check-in a part of the day's activities.

Now, on to the promised shameless self-promotion:

On the weekend before Halloween, there will be several opportunities to experience theater written by Michael Wilson. Maine Public Radio will broadcast Horrorscope, a two-hour audio theater production that will include selections by Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury and yours truly... the college radio station at Fresno State (out in Califor-nee) will be doing a live on-air production of Draculer!, my comedy/horror piece, that same weekend... and in the little town of West Plains, Missouri, a new original stage play entitled Witch's Ransom will be performed at the Yellow House Community Arts Center. Although Witch's Ransom cannot approach the language and power of anything written by our Beloved Bard, it does have moments that have been influenced by some of his tragedies. Craig, I know it ain't Shakespeare, but you're welcome to "sleep on my couch and eat all my food" that weekend. I extend that same invitation to the rest of you as well!

And for those who would like to listen to the broadcast on Maine Public Radio, here's a link to their web site: MAINE PUBLIC RADIO. I'll update you with exact broadcast times when I know them.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Et Tu Brute? Jesus said that.

Many of you have already heard the story about the lovely contestant on Survivor who attributed Ceasar's (and Shakespeare's) words to Christ. I would like to contribute another installment of the " Shakespeare Really Said That" saga. Riding home on the Hiawatha Lightrail, I overheard a conversation between two preteen boys:

Boy 1: " Man, school sucks. I'm not doing my homework."

Boy 2: "Yea right. Your parents will make you do it."

Boy 1: " No, I can do what ever I want. The world is my oyster."

(This is where I suddenly went from amused to intrigued).

Boy 2: " Where did you hear that?"

Wait for it.........

Boy 1: " Shows what you know. Scarface said that, man."

Ah, youth!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Part Two in an Ongoing Study: Things My Students Say That Make Me Weep For the Future

Today's morning announcements were suspended so that a 9/11 tribute could play on our school TVs. After watching fifteen minutes of the World Trade Center in flames, a girl in my class turned to a friend and said, "Did this happen today? Where is that, anyway?"

Macbeth Music

Dear ones -

I am heading towards doing some air broadswords in my classes, and I would very much like to get the background music we had for our session. Anyone know the title/artist/album that wonderfully dramatic music came from? Or, if not that, similar music I could find?

Yours with eye contact and the weight of an invisible weapon (Craig, keep the sex jokes to yourself)-

It's About Me, But Partially About You

The latest post on my personal blog came as a result of Kevin's letter that arrived today. Might be of interest to you.

Full NY Times article

Here's the article Christine put a link to. Enjoy!

Much Ado About Reading
Published: September 2, 2006

’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. W., the most simple, unreflective and Manichaean of men, communing with Will, the most subtle, reflective and myriad-minded of men.
Under Laura the Librarian’s tutelage, the president is discovering the little black dress of 60’s education, as one scholar referred to the president’s summer reading list of “The Stranger,” “Hamlet” and “Macbeth.”

Mr. Bush’s bristly distaste for the intellectual elite has been so much a part of his persona, from Yale on, that it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around a heavy W., steeped in French existentialism and Elizabethan tragedy.

On the 2000 campaign trail, W. told me that he did not identify with any literary hero, that baseball was his favorite “cultural experience,” and that he liked “John La Care, Le Carrier, or however you pronounce his name.”

He was a gym rat, not a bookworm. He told Brit Hume in 2003 that he rarely read newspaper articles, preferring to get his information through aides, and he told Brian Lamb in 2005 that he would fall asleep after 20 or 30 pages of bedside reading.

But the first lady must have grown alarmed at seeing her husband mocked as a buff bubblehead wrapped in a bubble. She began giving interviews saying her man did too read newspapers, and she slipped W. some Camus and other serious fare.

Jackie Kennedy once complained that the Kennedys could turn anything into a competition — even oil painting. Just so, W. tried to keep his new gravitas homework interesting by engaging in a book competition with Karl Rove. Bush aides told Ken Walsh of U.S. News & World Report that the president wants it known that he is a man of letters.

W.’s claim of having read 53 to 60 books already this year has been met with some partisan skepticism — The American Prospect calls it “demonstrably ridiculous” — despite a Wall Street Journal article pronouncing speed-reading back in fashion among busy executives.

But I’m tickled that W. is reading Shakespeare, even if it’s just to please his wife or win a bet with his strategist. The president has been so tone-deaf in dealing with the world, and even with his own father, that he can only benefit from a dip in the Bard’s ocean of insight about the vicissitudes of human nature and war. Not to mention the benefits of being exposed to the beauty and precision of the language.

Stephen Greenblatt, the Harvard professor and author of “Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare,” demurs, noting that “there’s no reason to think reading Shakespeare necessarily makes you a more reflective or deeper person. Otherwise, the Nazis who kept the German Shakespeare Society going in the 30’s and 40’s would have learned something.”
Shakespeare’s texts are so complex, he says, that they “allow a huge range of readings and political views, like the Bible.”

Take “Macbeth,” Professor Greenblatt says. Bush critics might see irony in W.’s reading a play about a leader who makes a catastrophic decision to overturn a regime that ultimately brings his country and himself to ruin. But the president may be reading it differently, seeing shades of Saddam Hussein in Macbeth, a homicidal tyrant who gets his bloody comeuppance.

But he agrees there are some trenchant lessons that W. could glean, including Shakespeare’s doubt about quick and easy wars, and his conviction that what the professor calls “the rose-petal view” is an illusion; Shakespeare found a gigantic gap between what we imagine and what is actually likely to happen.

Ken Adelman, the former professor of Shakespeare and arms control director under Reagan, has compared W. to Prince Hal. But the Republican consultant, who teaches a management seminar with his wife, Carol, on Shakespeare, agrees that W.’s insulation prevents him from having the leadership strength of Henry V, who mingled among the common folk in the taverns and the soldiers on the battlefield.

Sometimes the second-term President Bush seems more like Henry’s opponent, the Dauphin of France, who has no sense of the reality of battle or his troops, misunderstands the situation and treats Henry with undeserved scorn.

The relentlessly black-and-white Bush could learn from the playwright’s riveting grays. “With Shakespeare,” says Marjorie Garber, a Harvard professor and the author of “Shakespeare After All,” “nothing is ever finished. You never close the door on anything. There’s never any ‘Mission Accomplished.’ ”

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bush & the Bard

A recent article on Bush & the Bard...Miss you all.


P.S. Check in is working wonderfully but I'm having the same timing issue with checkout that Emily is having

Fun and Games

If you all need a laugh, check out book a minute classics.
(They also have movie and sci-fi versions. They condense classics works of literature to pieces you can read in less than a minute.

For example:
Julius Caesar
By William Shakespeare
Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard and David J. Parker

Caius Cassius

Brutus, we're plotting to kill your best friend Caesar. Wanna help?
Marcus Brutus
Because I love Rome more, I will.
(They all stab Caesar.)
Julius Caesar
Et tu, Brute? In that case, I'd better die. (dies)
(The nation mourns, and everybody commits suicide.)THE END

Thursday, September 07, 2006


And, of course, the administration is very unhappy about the whole petition thing. Two of them have come up to talk to me about it separately. They said "you have to put a stop to it."

I told the kids yesterday that they could try, that it probably wouldn't happen, and that I was flattered.

I figure, if they want to shoot the kids down, they can do it themselves.

I'm not dying inside or anything because I knew nothing would come of it, but I'm feeling bogged down again with the politics of being here.

They like me, they really like me

I've been working with my drama class the past few days. . . milling and seething, text lay-ups, etc. It's been a ton of fun, and the students have pretty much embraced everything we've done. But today was, I think, my favorite teaching day ever.

Remember how we did the monologue for Antony and Cleopatra with Sandy? I did that exercise with my kids today using a monologue from JC (O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth). We read through it a couple of times and had them emphasize words they thought were important. They they each chose the word that meant the most to them and we went around the circle and they just said that word. Then they said the word with an action. (I think we did this with Michael?). The final time we went around the circle they just did the movement, but they had to be totally comitted to that movement.

It was amazing to see the different actions as they flowed around the circle. When it was done, nobody said anything for a moment, then one of the students sort of sighed, "that was cool" and they all grinned at each other. A student I've had before looked at me and said, "You know you turned into a really good teacher this year."

Thank you, thank you, thank you all for turning me into a "really good teacher" this summer!


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

Since I have left the green world I have moved from the Caribbean to the Midwest (a bit of an adjustment). I also have been unemployed. Being a type-A personality, this was a source of great pain and despair for me. I find it is especially difficult to be unemployed when you are trying to meet new people. Inevitably after, " what's your name?" "where are you from?" and "am you real?" you get asked, "what do you do for a living?" I have managed thus far by using a trick I learned from my artist friends. They are never unemployed. They are always ASPIRING (as in aspiring actor, aspiring rock star etc.). For the last month I have been referring to myself as an aspiring revolutionary. I am happy to say that now I am actually going to have to live up to my words. I have a job! Yay! There's just one catch-it's Elementary School! I have never taught students so young. Anyone have experience with this age group? Anyone have experience with the Core Knowledge curriculum? Help!

Building a sonnet

Yep, I spent several hours cutting paper.

All in all, it went well. It was chaos, but slightly-organized chaos. I told my kids about raising their arms over their heads when it's time to be quiet so that I could give further instructions, and that helped a lot. It's one of those activities that works well with students of all levels. Some bright, enthusiastic kids really get into the imagery, while other students can "phone it in" without derailing the whole class.

Some advice: do this after you've done some basic voice work. It takes at least twenty minutes (minimum) to burn through the words in the envelopes, and at least another fifteen to build the sonnet. If you want any time for warm-up or reflection, make sure you have a process or routine for that kind of thing because you won't have time to introduce warm-ups on the day you build the sonnet.

I'm loved! -- first day of school

Some of my Geometry kids ran up to me today with a petition-- They're going to the administration to ask for a new Algebra II class to be created, with me teaching. They said, "It'll be like a reunion!"

I feel so flattered!

Also, the sixth and seventh graders are so SMALL! I forget every year because they grow up so much by June. But, man, are they tiny.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Checking In/Checking Out

Hello, all! Just a bit of news from the teaching front:

1) Check in totally works! I've been doing now in every class (English and Theater), and the kids are catching on. Sometimes I give them a prompt (something fun you did this weekend, etc.), sometimes I just ask them how they're feeling. Things I love about it: a) I'm learning names much more quickly, b) every student who enters my room speaks at least once a day, c) I was surprised that after checking in, my classes seem smaller, more manageable. This is despite having two drama classes with 45 students. Amazing, but true! I cannot encourage you each to do check out if you aren't yet. It takes time, but we're so much more focused and "there" with those minutes.
By the way, I end each check in with a "That is us!", my own little reminder of whose footsteps I'm following. Today, before I could say anything, three students simultaneously ended the round with "That is us." Aw.

2) I am working on the check out still. I like it when I do it, but I tend to get caught up in activities and wind up with not enough time. On the other hand, when I find myself with ten minutes to fill, it's quite handy.

3) My Advanced Drama class (these would be 9th graders who took Drama 1 in 8th grade) are so excited that we're doing a Shakespeare play. Then again, they would be excited no matter which play I picked. But they are really getting into the Shakespeare thing. We did text layups (a little hard to keep them focused, but that's junior high school for you), milling and seething, and now we're playing with the text. I'm planning on doing auditions sometime next week, once I finish cutting the play. It's "Much Ado", by the way. I'm so excited to do it - I never thought I'd get approval, what with the whore thing and all, but lo and behold, it's on the approved reading list for 9th grade English classes in my district. As my hated principal put it when I asked for his approval, "Well, it's Shakespeare, right? So it's safe, right?" I, working on my play-it-dumb role, nodded enthusiastically and said "of course!" The play is December 14th and 15th, by the way, Craig. And my couch is free.

Oh, speaking of which, here's a question for you all: Should I split up the parts of Beatrice and Benedict (like we did in Caesar)? I'm trying to cut the play for 40-ish actors, so as many parts as possible are needed, but I'm not sure the transitions would work as well in a comedy as they did in a tragedy. Opinions?

5) I bought 10 yards of red fabric today (Whoo dollar bin!). The elderly seamstresses looked at me oddly when they sweetly inquired what my project is and I replied, "Blood."
"I'm a drama teacher," I say (all too often, in my opinion).
"Ooohh." They reply.

C'est mon vie, oui?

Miss you all terribly!

Okay, okay, I know it's not funny... but...

I am very sad that Steve Irwin died. I know there are a lot of jokes that can be made about the demise of the "Crocodile Hunter," but none of them will ever be made by me.

I did find a bit of Shakespeare-related humor, though, with one aspect of the Associated Press story about that sad event:

'Crocodile Hunter' Dies Doing What He Loved
CAIRNS, Australia (AP) - Steve Irwin, the hugely popular Australian television personality and conservationist known as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray while filming off the Great Barrier Reef. He was 44.

Irwin was at Batt Reef, off the remote coast of northeastern Queensland state, shooting a segment for a series called "Ocean's Deadliest" when he swam too close to one of the animals, which have a poisonous bard on their tails, his friend and colleague John Stainton said.

A poisonous bard, indeed.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Anyone Else Identify?

I'm out to dinner this weekend with my family, eating pasta.

"Wow," I think "this is really good. I can't think of the last time I ate pasta.
I wonder why I haven't had pasta in a while..."

...then I remember. I have been sick of pasta for almost a month--couldn't even think about eating it.

It's five o'clock now,
what's for dinner?
You said pasta?
You're the winner!

this could be you...

... if you hopped on a plane and headed to california!

rachael was the first to come visit me in san francisco -- we went out on the town friday night, headed to napa for winetasting saturday, and saw shakespeare in the park on sunday. the tempest was such a perfect outdoor play for san francisco, with the fog quickly blowing in over the bridge and the sun coming in and out. we loved it... but we missed you all!

we're scheming up ways to have a big reunion, but in the meantime, you are all invited to come to sf... more pics on the kodak gallery if you still need to be convinced that california is a fantastic place (though i can't guarantee that redhead rachael will be here to show you a good time... i will do my best though!)

hope your labor day weekend was labor free (though as i write that, i sit with the already present stack of essays to be graded by my side),


Friday, September 01, 2006

When it rains it pours

I am sitting in my classroom waiting for the Open House to begin, and all those excited students and parents to come and meet their teachers. However, there is a small problem with this happy picture:

They will have to come here by boat!

Ernesto has arrived and has caused major flooding. It has rained so much the main highway is flooded in sections. All the districts around us have closed, but our fearless leaders seem to think 60 mile an hour wind gusts and minor flooding is no obstacle.

Think of me as I float through the day!