Monday, September 29, 2008

callbacks using feeders

A word of warning: it goes slowly. However, it offered me a chance to figure out who can read - and who I could use as a "second" if needed. I also made notes during auditions about who was a strong reader, even if they weren't a strong enough actor to cast as a "partner".

Casting seconds allowed me to use almost twice as many kids (one second is doubled up), to bring kids onto the team that I wanted to work with, and good actors that wouldn't have been used otherwise. I now also have a good back up system in place in case someone drops out or their GPA dips below 2.0. It might add the pressure they need to stay on top of their lives - they know there's another person capable of stepping in with no notice. I'll keep you all apprised.

This is my explanation/justification of the term "second" that I am sending home with students.


I borrow this term from dueling, one of the most civilized activities in modern society – at least by reputation. Like acting, dueling is a visceral experience, one that draws from the most primitive of human emotions, yet it has been dressed up with rituals, rules and routines to make it acceptable to a polite society that shuns such passionate acts.

In traditional American duels, the parties in dispute would both name a “second,” a trusted confidante who would make sure the duel was fairly arranged. The second had many duties: the first was to protect and support their friend by reconciling the offense without violence. If those attempts proved unsuccessful, the second would communicate with the other party’s second to arrange a fair “field of honor” and examine the weapons. In extreme cases, the second might step in and fight for a wounded friend.

Here at AHS, the second’s duties are much the same. She supports her partner and shares the challenges of rehearsing, creating a character, learning lines, and being at every rehearsal and performance. The two partners work together seamlessly, and will ultimately find that the rehearsal process is twice as joyous when it is shared.

Though the second may not perform for an audience, their role in the production is vital, and their contribution is to be honored as much as that of all other members of our team and family.

-Emily Coalson

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sharon Loves Her Yankees!

Just wanted to know how many peeeps out there saw (our very own) Sharon on TV this past week. She looked awfully cold, but she was clearly at (her beloved) Yankee Stadium for their last game. She got some nice TV time, too!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It Lives!

(Courtesy of Craig and Jen)

Monday, September 22, 2008

The nerdiest joke ever

We’re doing status. We’re doing the activity where a kid leaves the room, and I tell the rest of the class who that person is, and everyone gives him that status.

A kid left the room, and I told everyone that he had a terribly contagious disease, and it was fatal. He came back in, and everyone freaked out, moving away from him as fast as possible, covering their faces.

Me: Okay, do you have a guess for who you are?

Kid: Um, am I the guy that came up with the idea for the Star Wars Holiday Special?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Parable from Kevin

(I promise I'll post the warm up stuff on Sunday.)

We're in the middle of Director Training for the Fall Fest, and Kevin told the following story, which I thought some of you might find interesting:

The four "Super Friends" were walking along together one day when they learned that in the next garden was a songbird with the most beautiful voice in the world. They rushed to the garden, but the bird would not sing.

"Sing, or I'll kill you," said Mohamed
The bird would not sing.
"I can teach you how to sing," said Jesus.
The bird would not sing.
"I'll wait until you choose to sing," said Buddha.
The bird would not sing.
"I'll sing, so that you will sing," said Krishna.

After discussing how all four of these tactics are part of the successful director/teacher tool kits, we went around the room to name which was closest to our default mode, and which was one we found it hardest to use. (And of course the Mohamed example is not so much the default of threatening violence to your students, but rather the high-authority, high expectations voice that does not allow students to refuse to try.)

Of course, this was followed by a rather hilarious discussion which included statements like "I tend to be Jesus..."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Grand Experiment

Auditions are on Monday and Tuesday, callbacks on Thursday, cast posted on Friday. Rumors (thanks, Craig!) has ten parts, and all auditioners know I will cast two in each role, one who will perform, and one "second," a term I am borrowing from high-society sword fights. I demonstrated feeding in at the "play meeting" yesterday, and the kids all went "ooooohhhhh." I will hold auditions with seconds feeding in to auditioners, and rehearsals will use the technique until everyone is off book. The acting teams will be responsible for building characters and learning lines - together.

I'll keep you all updated on how it goes.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

a great theatre arts book

Gai Jones is a mentor of mine. I worked with her when I was in high school, and continue to call on her when I need something. She is in the thick of SoCal educational theatre, even though she "retired" a few years ago.

After she retired, Gai published a book, Raising the Curtain, that outlines a course of study for beginning and advanced theatre students (more acting than tech). It is full of activities to bring to the classroom, and tips on creating a positive, supportive learning environment. It's got worksheets for almost anything you could want. (It is NOT a text book.) I highly recommend it. I find that I can open that book to any page and have my day's lesson plan ready to go.

Her website:

The book:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dallas Rock City

On November 20, 1973, The Who was playing to a sold-out crowd in San Francisco. At the start of the encore, Keith Moon passed out after having taken handfuls of tranquilizers. After attempts to revive Moon failed, Pete Townshend asked the audience, "Is there a drummer in the house?" An incredulous teenager raised his hand, and got the impromptu opportunity to play "My Generation" in front of thousands of screaming fans.

I, too, was called to greatness.

Earlier today, lunch was nearing an end. I was chatting with some teachers in the lounge and doing a crossword puzzle when the secretary came in. "Does anyone here have 5th period off?" None of us did. "Oh, that's too bad," she said. "The fundraising guy is here for the 7th grade assembly, and he set up the game Rock Band, and he's looking for teachers to play as the kids and entering the gym."

I bought Rock Band at the start of the summer, and it's practically all I did for two months. I love Rock Band. I adore Rock Band. Once, when my wife was out and I had a few drinks, I got to third base with Rock Band.

"I'd love to play," I said, "but I have a 5th period class." The secretary insisted, saying she'd find someone to cover my class. I didn't need any more prompting.

I wrangled two of the coaches to play guitar and bass (if I ever form an all-teacher band, I'm calling it The Whom), and we rocked out to "Say It Ain't So," Creep," and "Wanted Dead or Alive." The kids cheered. "Our teacher rocks!" my 5th period class shouted. The fundrasier guy was so impressed that he got other teachers to cover our last two classes of the day, so we got to play for the other two assemblies, adding "Mississippi Queen," "In Bloom," and "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" to our setlist.

I spent the last half of my day playing Rock Band, and getting paid to do it. I rule!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Hey gang, I'm trying to compile a warm-up regimen for my Advanced class. I want to prepare around twenty minutes worth of vocal and body warm-ups and put them all on a list. Each day I'll assign a kid to lead the warm-ups, and he'll pick his favorite five minutes worth of warm-ups and lead the group.

I've gone through the NITS handouts (milling and seething, oh how I've missed you!), but I'm still looking for more ideas. Do you have any favorite vocal warm-ups, or tongue twisters, or body stretches, or anything like that?