Urban Shakespeare: Final Reflections

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

My photos did not come out well at all: for some reason, the inner workings didn’t work too well, so…unless I get more photos from the production, I will have to make do with what is above. My apologies, but what you see up top: on the left, my Pucks (six in all, ranging in age from 7 to 13); on the right, my Helena & Hermia (back to back), with Demetrius to the right. Theseus is in the far background.

“Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (I, i, 234)

One of the first things said after the curtain call (NOT by me) was: “Look at what we accomplished!”

NO…look at what the kids accomplished!

It’s all about them, not the adults, who bickered, got in each others ways, made scapegoats, argued, ignored, interrupted, did not work as a team with the production staff, the production staff who did not work with others in the production staff…it’s not about the adults. The kids either get it or they don’t, and in this case…

They got it. The 44 kids, ranging in age from 7 to 13, DID get it, and they did present SHAKESPEARE!! Whether they knew it or not, they enhanced their literary knowledge, were not dumbed down to, and they rose to the challenge. They spoke in iambic pentameter as LANGUAGE, learned comic and dramatic timing, presentation, stage and life skills, and so much more in a relatively short period of time.

Just so you know, their first performance? After it, I couldn’t talk. I teared up and cried from the pride I had at what they had accomplished. I was SO touched by what they put out on stage for their first paying audience. They earned their applause and laughter all the way. It wasn’t the Parent’s audience…you know, where no matter what happens the parents will applaud and love it. This was an audience of other camps, whose campers showed them the work before them was worthy of laughter and applause.

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
William Shakespeare

There were moments and aspects of this production that I will never forget:

  1. The young man who played Bottom WAS Bottom, from the audition to the final performance. If anything, he honed his comic timing and acting presence to a fine art, and I truly to hope to see him continue in the craft. Yes, I did tell him so. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with a young actor as I was with him, except for…
  2. The young woman who played Oberon: yes, YOUNG WOMAN. 9 years old, and just blew me away! Barely 4 feet tall, what she put into the performance was simply mesmerizing. She deserved this part, earned it, grew into it fully and expertly. I also expect great things out of her.
  3. The two female leads (Hermia & Helena) are truly gifted young actresses. Both blessed with amazing voices (the musical director and they created character development songs that ADDED so wonderfully to the show), they also grew over the six weeks into their roles.
  4. The final rehearsal for the mechanicals “Show Within A Show” had all of us laughing so hard. Our Demetrius was crying with laughter from their antics. None of us could keep it together: they were just so over the top funny. I wish we could have recorded THAT for a blooper type reel. Truly: six young people being SO amazingly nutty AND ON TARGET!  I wish you could have experienced it with us. Writing about it just can not give it justice.
  5. With a great Stage Combat artist, we were able to have our Lysander and Demetrius fight not only with words over Helena but with staves as well. We talked it over, and then when I first saw it in actuality…it was a Wow moment, and it was for the audience. Excellent timing and a great addition to the show.
  6. The Fairy Lullaby
  7. The Pucks, when they actually began to really work as ONE PUCK, when it finally clicked for them.
  8. The Finale: after Puck’s final speech, I wanted something hot and on fire, with an entire cast blow out (before the curtain call). While I did not really get what I wanted (a friend who came to TWO of the performances said “it was nice” but…nice was not what I wanted), it still was a great button to the show, and the audience dug it (little did they know that it was Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat” that got them going).

So…I am very glad to have had the opportunity to finally direct most of my artistic version of one of my favorite of Mr. Shakespeare’s plays. I truly did care and love most of my cast (even if they gave me the heebie-jeebies with their non-stop talking and antics). There are many things I could vent about here, but I won’t. In the end, the play is the thing, all the world’s a stage, and I’m done with this and moving onto my next project, as it should be.

Puck. If we shadows have offended, Think but this and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends. [Exit.

      –William Shakespeare

(*Special Thanks to Mr. Derek Galloway for the three pics inserted into the essay)

The Parent Syndrome: Meltdowns in Education

The Blame Game: Pointing Fingers

Don’t Blame the Teachers! Blame the Parents!

Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? 

A terrible thing:  no one to blame.  ~Erica Jong

Truth be told, I rarely ever had to deal with the dreaded P word: Parents. Being a Drama Specialist CERTIFIED teacher, I mainly saw the parents of my Drama Club, and they were the supportive ones. I saw the one or two disgruntled NOT MY CHILD! Parents over the years, but I learned how to build relationships with them.  We talked about why I graded them the way I did, we discussed, etc. I really only had one parent walk away that her child’s behavior (poor) was my fault, even though she said the kid  did the same at home. If you just went “Huh?”..yeah, me too. There are a LOT of the clueless walking around.

When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.  ~Louis Nizer

I am going to admit something a good many of you might get upset with me about: after numerous attempts to get a cast of 44 quiet for starting the last dress rehearsal, and I mean NUMEROUS, I said the dreaded: “SHUT UP!!”  You may disagree with me, but guess what: after way over five mins (most likely more, not less), that “Shut Up!” got them quiet, and we were able to finally move on. So, call me Machiavelli if you must (and yes, I do know he is only credited with the saying), the means did justify the end result.  

Yes, string me up from the tallest yard arm, flog me, tar and feather me, but…really, I am very, very tired of the PC garbage. I am tired of educators (esp Elementary) babying the kids, which only reinforces the immaturity levels we have. I am tired that we have to be scared of parents, that instead of making working healthy partnerships, we have another adversarial situation more times than not.

I had a parent in my face yesterday about my “Shut Up!” While I DID apologize for saying what I did, she was not taking that, and I got a whole tirade on how unprofessional I am, how SHE would never do that (she’s a teacher in NYC DOE and has her own dance school), what a wonderful talented kid she has, and on and on and on..and really, all she wanted to do was tell me off. That’s ok in itself: she was angry. She was not into having a discussion, a dialogue. She wanted to vent on me, and she did.

Now, the fact that her daughter has back talked all the instructors and counselors, walks around in a mopey mood, complains about the food, the trips, the activities, the play, that she didn’t get the part she wants, that the part she got was “beneath her” (Mom’s words, not mine)…well, none of that mattered to Mom. When I did try to tell her that her kid’s audition on both audition days was subpar, no energy, no attempt, Mom then said: “Well, she didn’t work on her piece.”

OK..if you’re like me, you again just went “Huh?” Internally, I was thinking “Really? You’re telling me this kid has talent to spare, and you are stating this like you’re almost proud of it?”. I shrugged my shoulders when she said that and said: “well, there you go. it showed”…and that was that. She went ballistic on me. Unprofessional this, Unprofessional that…I should be fired, etc etc etc.

Guess who did not send her child in for the FIRST PAID PERFORMANCE? I had someone cover, who did an excellent job, and the girl was not missed in the slightest by the cast or anyone else.

Yup…call me unprofessional. If you are shaking your head, welcome to my world. If you think I’m the ONLY one to blame, then…I just shrugged my shoulders. Honestly.

Why did i write this? Because, yeah, I’m PO’d at her coming in shooting for bear instead of trying to have a discussion. The “not MY Child” just doesn’t cut it with me. I know I did “wrong” in what I yelled, and that I did yell…but, let’s move on. I apologized, what’s done is done…and i will be aware of it in the future.

But in schools, the “not MY child!’ syndrome hurts the child, the teacher and the rest of the class and the school community. It snowballs, because the kid is believed long before the situation is addressed, and then the teachers are the enemy, and the parents are the enemy, and the kids are the enemy… and it just snowballs.

Let’ sit down and talk like adults and treat each other like thinkers instead of trash. Going back to a previous post, this was a case of an Adult Bully.

8/11 NOTE: Holly, the first commenter, made me realize all I was, when writing this, was angry. I am NOT taking back what I said above, but tonight, when I get back from the second performance, I will write about Parents who BUILD and support on all counts, and I DO know…there are many, many, many of them out there. I shouldn’t give press to only the negative ones. I apologize if anyone who does walk the more positive path took offense. This was not directed to you.

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