My life of late… better know as insanity
// November 28th, 2009 // Life
I’m a chronic volunteer. I cannot stand a need not getting done. I’m Type-A, except when I’m not. And then I’m so Type C you wonder where all that OCD, anal-retentive, I alphabetize my DVDs and color-coordinate my outfits to my underoos, dominant – and occasionally domineering – life is a project and I must manage it, personality goes. Well, I’m here to give you the answer. My Type-A personality goes to Madagascar. Why Madagascar? I don’t know. I just like saying “Madagascar”. But now you know. Tangent about my weird personality aside, my organizational skills and inability to “Just Say No” to something that needs to get done often works in my favor. For example, when Drue transferred to her present elementary school and someone mentioned they needed an arts coordinator to run the Talent Show and restore the Drama Club, it took less than a second for me to raise my hand and say “I’ll do it”. In fact, I wasn’t even consciously aware of agreeing to take on these projects until people started clapping. But me being me, I figured I’d feng shui and organize the H-E-double hockey sticks out of it (see Drue, Mommy even stopped cussing in her BLOG), and all will be well. How hard is it to put on a play and run a Talent Show right? Right?
In January of 2008, right after Christmas, I came home to sixteen emails in my personal inbox explaining how the Talent Show had always been run. I like learning from the way things have been done in the past – why reinvent the wheel, right? Unfortunately, the way things have always been done equated to a three and a half hour Talent Show. And no one wants that, especially me who is stuck working backstage the entire Show. The judging process was fun. Most of the acts were tasteful and cute (okay minus the whole Bootylicious, panties hanging over the yoga pants business inflicted upon me and my fellow judges). For the show, we changed things up and put acts in front of and behind the curtain. The first year that worked well; we cut the show down to 2 hours, 10 minutes. Then last year we got arrogant. Our first year was so successful, that we had double the number of kids audition. Rather than cut the number of acts via an actual judging process – because who really wants to make a bunch of K through 6th graders cry – we let them all in and I used the same methods from the year before.
What I did not count on was that double the number of acts means double the number of parents. I also did not consider that double the number of kids meant double the number of things that could go wrong. And wrong they did… first, six kids did not show up. No phone calls, no emails, nothing! They just did not show. And they were all placed before the curtain. I placed the acts “in a round” so we don’t have dead space while setting up for our acts behind the curtain. So the first half of the show took seventeen minutes longer and we had dead air because I did not have enough before-the-curtain acts to cover. Then we ran out of pizza which meant people were hungry. Then we ran out of water while we were ordering more pizzas so folks were hungry and thirsty. Papa John’s was called, a parent was dispatched and after the longest intermission ever (32 minutes), we were rolling again. During the second half of the show, one of the kids forgot the cord to her amp, and her guitar picks and basically everything she needed to play her guitar except the actual guitar. A band member from a separate act saved the day and loaned her his guitar… but putting a guitar that fits a 6’3″ guy on a 4″11′ child… well you see the issue, right? Then her brother had a meltdown because we would not let him “warm up” his drums (dude, I am no dummy… drums do NOT need to be warmed up) while we solved his sister’s guitar dilemma. Finally, we get them set up and head backstage and it hits me…. the show just hit the three hour mark with nine acts to go. But what can you do? So we finished the Talent Show and this year will be better. It will be better.
But I deviate from the actual topic at hand…. Drama Club. Drama Club is the reason I am exhausted, overwhelmed and occasionally, a bit smelly, during the months of September, October and November. I say a bit smelly because, while I bathe regularly, once you’re under the hot lights of the stage, you might as well have skipped that shower. You sweat like you’ve been living on the streets the last three weeks. For 11 weeks, 85% of my focus is on teaching 50 plus kids about the theatre, helping them learn lines, gain confidence, paint backdrops, build props and then, just when everyone is B-A-K-E-D, we put on four performances just before Thanksgiving. It’s an awesome, fantastic, bonding experience with these delightful young people (and their parents) and I enjoy almost every minute of it.
Sure, we have our trials and tribulations. Usually the trials come from one of three parents I dub the “crazy parents”. And each year I have three of them. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, the parents are wonderful! They volunteer and work hard right along side Jason and me (yes, I drag Jason into the whole Drama Club thing… he loves it and honestly, none of you are surprised that he’s right there beside me, are you?). The parents bring food and drinks and are amazing. And even the three parents who drive me UP THE WALL are pretty amazing as well in that they love their kids and want what’s best for them. They just forget that I have to make decisions on what is best for ALL the kids, and not just theirs. So it can be difficult and often I am walking the hall in my house groaning and getting the irritation that can occasionally build up out of my system. This means I can email these particular parents back NICELY as opposed to saying what I want to say. And what I want to say is often summed up in two words: Go. Away.
This is our second year running Drama Club at Mantua and I think this year trumps last year in a lot of ways. Last year, Jason and I were new to managing 50 plus kids under the age of 12. It’s kind of like herding cats. However, unlike herding cats, there is that moment when they come together and it just makes you cry in sheer joy and, if I’m being 100% honest here, a little relief. Last year, the kids performed Wizard of Oz and it was great. This year, the kids performed Peter Pan and it was, to quote one of the sixth graders, off the HOOK! Get it? Off the Hook? Peter Pan? Sigh. A lot of why we came together this year in a really awesome way is the fact that I am better prepared and organized this year. A lot of why I am better organized and prepared this year is that my old job and I parted ways. Another reason is that this is our second year. And unlike Talent Show, I did not get arrogant and assume what worked for year one would work for year two. I adapted based on the kids’ personalities and figured out what would work well for them and for this year’s crop of parents. And because there was lots of communication and because we were better organized – I had actual work plans for each rehearsal – the kids got a lot out of it and even had some time to bond with each other.
To keep me sane and the kids focused, I set up an incentive program. If the kids came to rehearsal on time with their scripts, did not talk during group time, worked above and beyond in tech, and memorized their lines by November, they got stars. Then based on how well they did on stage, they got pirate coins. And the stars and coins translated into the number of times they put their name on a slip of paper. Those slips of paper went into a bag and we drew names for our giveaway during the cast party. Also, kids with more than 20 stars got a trophy. Because this is public school and we live in a culture where everyone gets something just for showing up, we ordered cool dog tags and bracelets for the kids who got under 20 stars so that everyone got a gift. All was well until gift time. The kids loved the drawing of the names and loved the prizes (B&N, Best Buy and Itunes gift cards). They did not love the trophies, dog tags and bracelets as kids who got trophies wanted a dog tag or a bracelet and kids who got dog tags or bracelets wanted trophies. And the parents who had to write their kids’ names 20 plus times on 20 plus slips of paper did not like that aspect either. On top of that, by the time we grilled the hamburgers and hot dogs, everyone had a chance to eat, we gave out all the prizes and ate cake, almost three hours had passed. The kids were tired, the parents were tired and Jason, Drue and I were past baked. We went home and passed out for more than 12 hours each. While we will keep the incentives program, we need to fine tune it a bit. And next year, I want cast party over in 2 hours flat. Goals, baby. We all need goals.
Leading up to the performances and cast party are two long weeks for me – the first to prepare for the second week and the second week where Jason, Drue and I and the Drama Club kids spend 20 hours preparing for the performances. The kids and I call it Crunch Week but I suspect to all of us it is akin to H-E-double hockey sticks because it is long, arduous and yet completely necessary. Which is why I’ve done nothing but work or Drama Club during weeks four and five of my journey. And that’s okay. Because if you look at the smiling faces in these pictures, you’ll understand why I invest so much of my time and energy into Talent Show and Drama Club. You’ll also see why I invest my heart, soul and time into teaching these kids about the theater and why I enjoy spending hours and hours with them. And for the kids and the parents, 10 weeks of juggling Drama Club rehearsals and siblings’ activities, late night dinners, exhaustion, homework shuffling and that one final week of 20 hours at school, getting up at 5 AM to finish that project or make a veggie tray for the kids to eat, only to get to Drama Club and sit there and watch kids work on scenes over and over and over when not on stage working on your own scene over and over and over becomes worth it the moment those children step into the spotlight on Friday night and perform.
I was trying to describe Drama Club to someone who does not work in the arts with children. My explanation was pretty inadequate; however, in my defense, it was last Sunday, my one day of rest, and I had come off a week of little to no sleep and was facing two in-school performances the next two days. But after two days of sleep and not much else, I’ve realized Drama Club is like giving birth. It’s long and painful and exhausting and hard work and yet there is so much you learn about yourself and the people who support you. And at the end, you forget the hard work and late nights and exhaustion and you are filled with joy and amazement and happiness and such pride at what you and everyone around you has accomplished. You feel love and loved and cannot believe the entire process is over. And yes, there is a little relief there, too. And with all those wonderful emotions comes this rush of endorphines, and as time passes, you just remember all the warm, fuzzy feelings and think to yourself, “I absolutely should do this again!!”.
And then, you do. And it all begins again.
3 Responses to “My life of late… better know as insanity”
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