Monday, December 31, 2007

Another from Emily

Hello, friends!

I hope this holiday season finds you happy and healthy.

If you have a Ralph's club card, you can earn money for my theatre company, Rogue Artists Ensemble, without doing anything except buying groceries and swiping the card (which I assume you do anyway). We just got our 2007 check for a little over $200, and we had only been signed up for two months. You can sign up any time: the "new year" has already started.

Either of the processes below will help us out a lot. Our last show had a budget of a little over $20,000. We're planning to remount that one, and have one more on the calendar for next year. EVERY PENNY helps!

Here's what you do:

If you shop at Ralph's and have a Ralph's club card (if not, get onethey're free!), you can register to donate a percentage of your grocery bill (1-4%) to the Rogues every time you shop. Simply visit and click the "sign up" button in the "participant" box. Enter the code 84744 in the NPO box (it's right at the top), fill out your card information, and submit! It takes just a minute of your time, and you'll be helping fund art in your community without costing you a thing.

If you're feeling especially generous, you can also make a secure donation through the new " Amazon Honor System." Or, you can simply make your regular purchases through the link on our website (look for it in the right-hand column of the main page). Every time you make an Amazon purchase using our link, a small percentage of the total order goes directly to the Rogues! The best part is that there is no additional cost to you and every item you purchase remains at the low price.

Thanks in advance for your support!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Apartment swap?

I'm thinking of joining an apartment swap community (e.g. I'll stay a week in your house in Dublin, and you can stay a week in my apartment in Los Angeles). Has anyone heard of good companies, anyone who's tried it, anything at all? The only websites I've found so far require an annual dues payment, and I don't want to join until I'm sure I want to do this.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Seasons Greetings

Merry Christmas everyone!

From me and them...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Taylor Mali

Between the snowstorms and the steady approach of the winter break, I've been thinking of lines from this poem by my Most Favorite Living Poet Ever. And, since I've also been thinking of you all quite a bit lately, I decided to share:

Undivided attention
By Taylor Mali

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps - like classical music's
birthday gift to the insane -
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth-floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers' crane,
Chopin-shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second-to-last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over, and
I'm trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long-necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers' crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Dread of Something

My Advanced Drama classes and I decided to memorize some of the big Shakespeare speeches lately. We already had "Romeo, Romeo" and "Two households" down pat, so I pulled out "All the world's" and, of course, "To be, or not to be".

It's been fun. The kids dove into the dictionary work willingly enough (I tested my new theory that kids will try anything that is referred to as a "game". While reluctantly giving in and writing down the ninth definition of a word, one kid grumbled, "Waterhouse, this feels more like dictionary work than a dictionary game!" I just laughed to myself and walked on.), and they came up with some fantastic moves for gesturing the lines. They like doing the poems, and they're proud of what they're memorizing.

There is a little shadow of worry in my mind, though. One of my girls, Valerie, her older sister committed suicide last year. I checked with her when we started it to see if she would be okay with playing with a poem about suicide. She said she's "totally fine with it".

Still. Every time we do it, every time we do a line where the students assigned a gesture of stabbing yourself, I either furtively look at Valerie or deliberatly try not to look at Valerie to see if she's okay.

There's really nothing big to report - she does seem fine with it. But I wonder what you, my fellow teachers, think about/do for the kids for whom the tragedies are all too realistic?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Where the wind comes right behind the rain

(and the crippling ice storm right behind the wind)

Let's all think good thoughts about our favorite Oklahoman (sorry, Chuck Norris) who braved a terrible storm. Speaking of brave, she's staying in a hotel with her whole family! We love you, Jen. Come home soon!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Script Ideas Needed!

I apologize for being off-topic, since the blog is supposed to be about teaching Shakespeare, but Jenna just hired me to direct Lenox Middle School's non-Shakespeare production in the Spring. Since I'll also be spending the Winter and Spring doing Shakespeare Residencies in middle schools and elementary schools as well as leading the Riotous Youth, I think it might be nice to have a brief Shakespeare break. Also, this show would be with the same kids I'm doing Macbeth with right now, and I adore them, so I'd love to work with them again.

Here are the guidelines:
There are 50 kids in Macbeth, and in the past they've have comparable or even more numbers for the Non-Shakespeare production. So I need a play with lots of parts, and opportunities for expansion.

The theater program is an offshoot of the English department, and the school principal is really adamant that the script be of obvious literary value. This is probably the most important factor--you can't underestimate the snob factor.

The school says "no musicals."

Since Macbeth does not offer a lot of opportunities for them to be silly, I'd like to do a comedy in the Spring.

Recent Titles include (and therefore are off the market) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, and The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe.

I'll take any and all suggestions--and I'm totally willing and able to do an adaptation if you can think of appropriate public-domain source material. I've got a playwrighting background.

thanks in advance!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Curtain teasers

I helped herd kids at the school's choir concert tonight. There must have been 400 audience members packed into the cafetorium to hear the show. I'm told that the usual audience for theatrical performances is around 50. This leads me to believe I should include more kids in my next show, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Our stage isn't all that big, so I can't just add 100 fairies to the show. I was thinking of starting a bit smaller and just having my sixth grade class perform a curtain teaser, and/or some kind of epilogue (a bergomask?). My only two ideas so far are a choral performance of "once more unto the breach" ending in an air broadsword battle, and a song and dance of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."

Both these ideas seem a little twee. Any other ideas? Has anyone ever had success with any kind of curtain teaser that's unrelated to the show?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The results are in

Like most things in Texas, the public schools’ One Act Play competition is a big deal. The high schools compete in an intricate bracketing system that takes eight schools to Austin for the state finals each May. No bracketing system exists for middle school (they just do the play once within their district and trophies are awarded for first, second, and third place), but it’s still a pretty big deal in my district. One of the high schools that my school feeds has been to the state finals seven out of the last eight years, and has more trophies from the state finals than any school in Texas.

Our competition was yesterday. Despite a kid flaking out on me (I had to kick her out on Friday after she had skipped three rehearsals, and then I had to talk another cast member into learning her role in a day) things went well. They talked way too fast (we usually ran the show at 29 minutes, they did it in just under 20) but they were enthusiastic, expressive, and loud.

The awards ceremony started with the tech awards. They gave trophies to the best tech crews, and we were awarded first place. I’m a very competitive person, and I’ve always wanted to win an overall trophy, but that tech award means more to me than anything else. The overall trophies basically come down to the whims and opinions of a single judge, but the tech awards are decided by the in-house crew. A good school can walk out without an overall trophy, but this tech award means I’m doing something right as a teacher. The high school tech teacher said that my kids were the most well-prepared and professional of all the crews.

Then came the acting awards. The judge picked eight kids from the whole district as the “honorable mention all-star cast” and eight kids as the “all-star cast,” plus a “best actor” and “best actress.” Would you believe the girl who took over the role at the last minute was named part of the honorable mention all-star cast? My female lead got “all-star cast,” and my male lead was named “best actor” in the district. Seeing my kids winning awards for things we’ve worked on together is one of my proudest accomplishments. Seeing them smiling down at me from the stage and holding their medals filled me with complete and total joy.

In the end, we took third place overall. The shows that took first and second place were legitimately better than ours, and my kids recognized that, and they weren’t bitter. They said it gives them something to aspire to, and next year they’re going to blow everyone else away.

Yeah we will.