Monday, October 29, 2007

While You Might Not Get Porter Wagoner... might get the larger meaning of this post.

I just got the news of the death of West Plains, MO's favorite son, Porter Wagoner. Giggle if you must, but the news of his passing didn't bring memories of listening to his music with my PaPa or even actually seeing him perform at the Grand Old Opry. It brought memories of buying a card for Michael with Mel and Amanda and trying to explain to them who the man was. That memory then led to memories of playing games in Hubbard and laughing until I hurt and a general feeling of silly grinning that's lasted for a few minutes now.

You all just pop up in the strangest places sometimes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sir Ian McKellen

I saw Ian M in King Lear with the RSC this weekend. The performance overall was technically perfect: every scene was carefully rehearsed and directed. Ian was wonderful.

However, the entire play (and they did the ENTIRE play, 3 1/2 hours worth) left me very cold. I often found myself thinking about how their inflection changed the meaning of the line, or how her rhythm was lovely to listen to... not feeling the story. I laughed twice and I felt drawn in on Lear's "never never never never" line, but spent the rest of the show admiring the set, and seamless transitions and fabulous ensemble work.

I realized that, no, we NITSers are not the Royal Shakespeare Company, but we had our priorities in the right place. Who cares if you know your lines? Who cares if you've blocked the scene? If you are making the audience FEEL something, then you're doing it right.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Common Problem

In my discussions with other performing arts teachers, I keep coming across the same problem: How do you occupy the other students while you work on one scene? I know we have talked about this before and I have ideas if the students are self-motivated, but what do you do if the students need to be monitored closely at all times and cannot be left to their own devices?


Monday, October 08, 2007


In an unprecedented bit of luck, it seems the head of fine arts for the district took my side.

My principal came up to me after school on Friday and said, "I talked with the head of fine arts, and we have a compromise. You can do this show for the contest, but you can't have a performance of it here on this campus." Which is totally fine with me, but it seems odd. How is that a compromise, and not a victory for me? The only scenario that makes sense is, the fine arts director told my principal that the show was not problematic (it was even done by other school in this district a while back), the principal didn't want to eat crow and tell me she had been overruled, so she had to craft some type of middle ground so it didn't look like she lost this one.

I've been butting heads with administrators for my whole career, and something finally worked out! I know this is going to be the year I finally get to see what I'm capable of.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


My district’s one-act play competition is on December 1. I read a lot of plays (a LOT of plays) to try to find one I liked enough to direct. Finding a play for a middle school contest isn’t easy. Most plays are either way over their heads in subject and tone, or way below their intellectual level. Everything is Arthur Miller, or melodramas for six-year-olds.

That’s why I was thrilled when I found the play I wanted to do. It’s a quirky little play about a twelve-year-old boy who flees from the oppressive military regime in an unnamed Latin country. The boy goes on a kind of hero’s journey, meeting characters from Mexican mythology and folk tales on his journey north. In the end, he is captured crossing the border into America, but he promises that his story will be remembered. The play is fun, challenging, thought-provoking, and age-appropriate. I have just enough time to start rehearsals and get it the way I want it for the contest. I have a clear vision in my head of what I want, and I know my kids will be successful.

Too bad my principal told me today that I can’t do it.

The city my district is in made national news recently because of a city ordinance requiring landlords to check citizenship papers before renting apartments. Those in favor of this policy say that it will force those who don’t pay taxes out of the city. Those who oppose this policy say that it’s illegal to turn landlords into INS agents. Immigration is a hot-button topic in my district, and my principal doesn’t want a play dealing with it.

I told her that the play’s plot really isn’t about immigration at all, it’s just a factor in the climax. This play is about immigration like King Kong is about skyscrapers. But even if this play was all about immigration, wouldn’t that make my school an ideal place to produce this play? Wouldn’t Little Rock’s Central High School have benefited by reading Langston Hughes poems in 1954?

She asked the head of fine arts what he thought, and he’s asking the guy above him, but I imagine they’ll uphold my principal’s decision. I’m so frustrated about this. Last year my school did The Yellow Boat, about an eight-year-old with AIDS, and Then They Came For Me, about the Holocaust. Is a story about a kid meeting Mexico’s mythological figures more controversial than that?

So now I have to start from the beginning and find a whole new play. I’ll probably do Midsummer, since I’ve already done a good cutting and I know the play well, but my heart’s just not in it.