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August 2015

July 2015 entries

Remembering Jason

Impossibly, it has been a year since we lost our dear friend Jason. A group of his close friends gathered together last night for dinner. We shared memories and laughed and marveled at each other's strength over the past 365 days. We ended our night by releasing lanterns into the night sky --- something we did a year ago from Jason's balcony.

While we can't reverse the clock and bring Jason back, and while we miss him every single day, we take comfort in each other, in friendships that have grown closer as a result of horrible loss.

Remembering Jason

Remembering Jason

Remembering Jason

Remembering Jason

Remembering Jason


Laughter is the Best Medicine

My King Arthur posted an interesting documentary from 60 Minutes in which Eric Idle, original member of the Monty Python troupe and writer of the musical Spamalot, talked about the process of creating the show. You can watch it here: http://youtu.be/xCjq9PBuVkA

Whenever I work a script, I try to listen for what it has to tell me, my actors, and our audience. As I prepared for directing this show, I kept coming back to the idea that the show was reminding us that it is really okay to laugh and have a good time. We can (should?) even laugh at ourselves. In Spamalot, the concept of musical theatre and often melodramatic style (think Phantom of the Opera) is mocked. In the interview, Idle says he thought Broadway was taking itself far too seriously, and that audiences were just not responding the way he thought they should. Certainly, Spamalot is "intelligent people acting stupid" in such a way that the audience can laugh and enjoy themselves.

Tonight, we start with choreography of a song called "Not Dead Yet," from the famous "Bring Out Your Dead" scene in the Holy Grail movie. What I love about this scene is not only the comic juxtaposition of dead bodies suddenly jumping up to protest that they are "not yet dead" but also the subtle reminder to not get too caught up in our little first-world dramas. After all, it could be worse -- we could be dead and on a cart in a plagued village. So, get some perspective and dance a little while you still can!

Laughter is the Best Medicine


Selfies for Days

No summer in Central PA would be complete without a trip to Knoebel's Grove Amusement Park. We usually get there earlier, but our other trips took precedence, I suppose. What a first-world problem, right?

There isn't too much to report about this trip. Fun was had. Food was eaten. Games were played. I'd say the most remarkable part is the realization that we are growing ever closer to the time when the big kids each ask to bring a friend and for a meeting place and time. We spent considerably less time in the kiddie land, and more time in other parts of the park that have previously gone unnoticed by our clan of Connors.

Entering new phases of parenthood can be exciting but scary at the same time. But, it's like being strapped into a roller coaster -- once the ride starts, you can't get off until it's over, so you may as well scream a little and have some fun while you are at it.

Selfies for Days

Selfies for Days

Selfies for Days

Selfies for Days


My Kind of Cast

Image

At our read through for Spamalot, I gave the cast members two worksheets, guiding them through character analysis. I asked them to buy a one-subject or composition notebook to serve as their actor's journal -- all typical expectations for my high school stuednts. I wasn't sure how well my "book work" would go over at a community theatre, where adults are used to learning notes, learning lines, and being moved about like pieces on a chess board in "blocking" rehearsals. I expected perhaps some resistance, but heard no grumblings as I explained that we would be doing some journaling and reflection throughout the process.

Yesterday afternoon, the day after the read through, I received an email from one of my cast members . . . with a 3-page Word document of analysis on his three different characters he wanted me to review. This is a man whose resume filled an entire page -- he's clearly at risk of being one of those "I don't need this crap; I know how to act" guys. Instead, his analysis was insightful and thorough, and I am convinced that this front-loading of character work will spill over to create a more meaningful (and believable) performance on stage.

I can already tell -- this is my kind of cast!


Concept

Yes, I know I just started the process of directing Spamalot, but I already have some exciting ideas for our fall play at MAHS. We are doing a beautifully simple, yet well-written show called "Anatomy of Gray," and I want to incorporate something I have seen at several shows in Nebraska: silk aerialists.

The concept is fairly simple: the aerialists will not be characters in the play; instead, they will embody the weather (an important image in the show) and help to change the scenes by moving pieces of fabric in different places. My friend and choreographer has professional experience "spinning the web" (aka climbing a rope to dizzying heights and performing acrobatic work) and she has agreed to teach my students.

I met with our elementary gym teacher who is also a local gymnastics coach,and with the blessing of my principal, we have started planning the logistics of truly making this happen on my stage. The nice part is that our proscenium is not that high (maybe 12 feet), so the dancers (likely girls, though it is possible that we have some men try out to do it) will not have to climb all that high to achieve an impressive effect.

I love summer -- just right balance of free/family time and creative planning for the rest of the year time! Next task -- select a musical!

Concept

Concept


The Joys of Motherhood

Ah, the joys of motherhood are incomparable. The warmth of a snuggling, cooing infant in your arms. The happiness and pride of a child's first steps. The screaming preschooler in the timeout chair who declares, "I hate you, Mommy! You are just one big meanie." It's what we live for, really.

Parenting Liam may turn out to be the most difficult thing I ever accomplish (if we accomplish it!) in my life. It is tempting to think, "Aidan wasn't like this," or "Ellie never acted like this," but we have to remember that Aidan and Ellie are only 22 months apart. They have had roughly the same maturity levels their whole life. There are over 5 years between Aidan and Liam, and over 4 years between Ellie and Liam. The "big kids" are embarking on new horizons: middle school, technology, the upstairs "Tween" level of the public library. Little Liam tries oh-so-desparately to keep up, but he can't . . . and shouldn't.

The fact that Aidan and Liam share a bedroom compounds their relationship as well. Aidan is moving toward more "grown up" toys and books and games, while Liam faces another year of preschool and is generally the culprit when their room is a mess.

While we love summer, it will be a little easier (I hope, I pray) when school starts and Liam has a routine. He can throw the biggest tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants. We have been using the timeout chair, taking away Minecraft, and restricting his privileges, but when he sees the big kids with their seemingly unfair freedom, it can be maddening for the poor little guy.

After a particularly rough afternoon, Liam and I took Gingersnap for a walk (walking the dog and driving in the van seem to produce the best mother-child conversations), and through the use of the "Gentle Leader" halter, Liam was able to hold Ginger's leash and walk her like a big kid. He was absolutely beaming with pride. And of course, I used the scenario as an opportunity to talk about how much I liked it when he is a big boy and acts right.

I suppose it can be labeled inconsistency, but I prefer to positively reinforce good behavior, as opposed to responding to punish every little infraction. I will often ignore his little comments so as not to validate them. Attempting a logical debate with a screaming 4-year-old is futile. The storm passes, and he is much more apt to process logic when he is calm.

I keep reminding myself that one day, I will miss the screaming toddler in some small way -- maybe not as much as I miss the snuggling infant -- and consider this period of our lives a joy (to have lived through, I mean).

The Joys of Motherhood

The Joys of Motherhood


Spamalot Begins!

After two nights of auditions and a night of call-backs, we managed to make the very difficult choices necessary to compile a cast for Spamalot. I was truly impressed with the talent of the folks who came out to audition, and while I hate hurting people's feelings, I am always glad when the auditionees make my job of casting difficult. I think we have assembled a great group,and I am really looking forward to starting with the read-thru tonight!

Spamalot Begins!


That's What Friends are For!

My friend and fellow teacher, Karen, was in need of a ride to catch a flight out of Pittsburgh. Her husband was supposed to take her to meet her daughter, a student at Carnegie Mellon, but he became unexpectedly sick and wasn't able to take her. She asked me to drive her to State College to catch a bus, but since the Connor Family Calendar was astonishingly clear for the day, I took it as a sign from the gods that I should take Karen to Pittsburgh instead.

We met up with Hannah, an engineering student who has (GASP!) not seen any shows at her school in the entire year she has been there (because I don't care how elaborate the fashion show is, I am not counting it as her having seen a show). I shamed her accordingly, and she has promised to reform her wayward ways.

We had lunch, walked around campus, and Shadyside before catching a movie at the Waterfront. We had dinner at 10:30 PM like a proper girls' night out at a place called Burgatory. (The title clearly appeals not only to my pun-loving side but also my penchant for Catholic humor. The crabcake burger was delicious, too.)

Karen and I stayed at a hotel by the airport, and she traveled to Milwaukee for a science teacher conference the next day. I drove home, listening to hours of podcasts. I'd say that is a pretty decent spontaneous weekend!

That's What Friends are For!

That's What Friends are For!

That's What Friends are For!

That's What Friends are For!