T-to-the-A

Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

(Tap, tap, tap) Is this thing on?

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on March 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Alright kids, pull up your overalls and get ready for some soap-boxin’ – I have just come from one of those meetings that make you itchy all over with Verbage Coloriscus.  (Yes, I just made that up.  And I like how it sounds, so I ain’t deletin’.  I told you, I’m soap boxin’!)

… AHEM…(ready?)

Writers.

We love to read their words, we love to watch their plays/movies/t.v. shows.  We love to revel in the visual representation of their imaginations.  We know it’s slow-going, and difficult to succeed, but somehow, through all the impossibilities that impede a writer’s life, the cream (hopefully) rises to the top of our book-stacks, Blockbuster queues, and DVR schedules.

And we love them for it.

So it makes sense that, after a life spent rejoicing in the fruits of a writer’s labors, the occasional citizen (okay, many, many citizens) feel inspired to tackle the process themselves.  They think “I can do that!  I have a GREAT idea!” and, fighting plenty an obstacle to dissuade them, they set to work harvesting minutes from whatever it is they usually do, in order to indulge the passion that has swept over them.

And it is fun!  It’s exciting!  They have discovered a challenge of great personal reward!  They rejoice in the creation and birth of their idea-baby.  And I applaud mightily those that sweat their way to “The End” or “Fade out” because between having an idea, and seeing it to fruition, lies a trecherous path paved with self-doubt, the skepticism of family, friends, and bosses, irritating day-jobs, and various other personal challenges- some as revelatory as realizing “This isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be!”  And so, with that final, blessed period, the average citizen has just done something even seasoned writers can struggle with- they’ve created a First Draft.

And it is awesome.

All those words!  All those thoughts!  A pile of pages where before there were none.  A world of ideas painted by you!

You stand up from your desk and allow the internal dance of happiness and accomplishment to wash over you.

It is awesome.

It is also terrifying.

Because now you must actually hand this precious egg over to those who would evaluate it.  You must deliver it to the hands of (gasp) The Reader.  And The Reader, who may be your mother, your cousin, a teacher, or a professional acquaintance… They will look your baby over and deliver judgement.  They might be kind, scalding, indifferent… you have no way of knowing what an audience will think/see/feel/or even (God love ’em!) say.

Your dance of happiness and accomplishment tries to ignore the reality of this forthcoming “sharing”, and keeps dancing; you’ve come this far, surely the next part will be easier…

But your responding action to The Reader’s, well, response, is where a number of new writers stumble, throw in the towel and grumble.  The dance of joy becomes a tantrum of panic.  “You mean I’m not done?!  But… but… ARG!!! ”  It is yet another hurdle to hop.  It is the crossroads at which those who are content to have just done the thing go back to their day-jobs, and those truly believe (perhaps insanely so) in their work, in their idea, and in themselves, pick up the thing (now battered and bloody) roll up their (tired) sleeves, and set out to make it better.

And so the process goes; With each idea – new challenges and lessons.  With each lesson learned – new skills and stronger understanding of the craft.   With a stronger understanding of the craft – new and better work.

This is the life of the writer, it is one of constant evolution.

And anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.

Because we don’t live to be still and we certainly don’t write to be stagnant.  We create to revolutionize – to stir thought and consciousness -whether to laughter, to tears, or to change – it is all born of “I have something to say that will move you.”

Which is why, if you have an idea, you must yourself be ready to move – to take action – to evolve.

Some people don’t see this.  They fail to open themselves up to the transformation that must occur, the metamorphosis that becoming (or accepting your path as) a writer requires.  They stand still and unbending, their “idea” wrapped around them like a steel case, cast and forged of machine, and they are unable to grow – unable to see the sun when it shines, disputing the rain when its drops fall, and forever peering up at the mighty trees around them wondering “Why can I not see what they see?  If I were only as tall as them, why, I bet I could see for miles and miles!”

The Sapling, so eager to protect itself, grows not an inch.  The Idea, born of so much passion and enthusiasm, sees not the light of day from its steel case of Ego.

And to these people, I can only say “I am sorry.”

For it is not enough to look up at me as I grow and ask me why you do not; you must also be willing to listen when I  answer.

You must be willing to try the tools that I hand you.

You must be willing to part ways with old thoughts, if you are to have any hope of absorbing the new.

And I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to pass my hard-won lessons along to those with deaf ears, blind eyes, and few roots.  I cannot describe to you the view from where I stand if you insist on staring at (and complaining about) only your own rocky ground.

Because I am moving.

Because it has taken me my whole life to get Here.

And I will continue to evolve as Here becomes There.

And until you respect and understand that writing a thing and becoming a writer are two very different things, all the words in the world will not be enough to make sense of that to you.

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Passing the buck… or lack thereof (OR) Why it pays to be stupid

In Essays, The Daily Drool on November 19, 2009 at 11:28 am

I cherish the time I was at UCLA.  It’s one of those places that I walked into and immediately felt at home with.  I knew, the moment I stepped onto her campus that THAT is where I should be.  So I applied.  It was the only school I applied for, actually, having gotten my AA and been wandering around the LA acting ‘scene’ for too long already.

Then I got in.

And I LOVED it!

I loved it so much that when I graduated, I went back for my MFA in playwriting, and when I finished that degree, I cried.  Because it had become a bit of  a nest.

But now… I look at the fee hikes being issued left and right, and I shiver- one of the only reasons I could attend UCLA was because of her affordable student fees.  UCLA’s in-state tuition was a fraction of what it is now.

Because California is passing it’s financial mess down to it’s youngest and most innocent to carry.

Education is always at the top of the list when it comes to budget cuts.  It’s been that way since I was young at least- I remember in high school being told that the budget for the arts programs was getting cut even as the sportsters were being protected against AZ’s deficit.  I looked up at my mom and asked her why a football player was worth more than me.  She wanted to strangle the idiots making those blind decisions.  Because ALL OF IT matters, ALL OF IT is important.  (Note to State- these are children you’re sending messages to, and the last thing you should be telling them is that they are not worth funding!)  And all of it effects the young citizens you hope to one day manage the mess you’re leaving in your wake.

And here I am again, thankfully graduated before the axe truly fell, but sitting in wonder at the absolutely asinine decisions our government seems to be making in regards to education- what does it say about your country when you tell young hopefuls they must pay for the mistakes of the government, made before they could even vote?  What do you think will come of those unable to afford the raised fees?  How do you defend an action that expresses such a severe depreciation in the value of our young people?

For if you imagine a Tree of Knowledge, and each leaf a student blooming- these cuts are to that tree’s water supply, and those leaves are going to shrivel up and fall off, the tree itself looses it’s strength and curls…  The future of our country is right now studying in the very branches of a system some seek to ignore!   And no one is worried enough to stop it.

HOW is this HAPPENING?

Because it’s not their mess to be cleaning up or paying for.  Education should be one of those things we all staunchly support.  WE SHOULD BE FEEDING OUR YOUTH, rather than starving them of knowledge they need in their way to becoming their best selves.

It’s horrifying to me that Education always suffers when money gets tight.  It’s disgusting how quickly comes the knife when belts must be tightened- But perhaps it’s because it’s all ust numbers to these people.  Maybe if instead of tallies and pie charts, those making the federal slices were looking into the hungry eyes of the children, teens, and young adults they are starving… well, perhaps it would inspire them to look elsewhere first.

Because, yes, times are tough.  We’ve gotten ourselves into a terrible financial mess.  But it’s not tomorrow’s generation that caused it, or even contributed to it.

So how dare anyone ask them to pay for it.

Applying for jobs… and pulling out my hair!

In The Daily Drool on September 11, 2009 at 9:04 pm

I spent two hours today filling out an application for a teaching position… What could they possibly have asked that would require that much time on an application, you ask?  Well, it wasn’t so much what they asked for as it was that I simply had all the requested information scattered about my newly reorganized apartment!  DRAT!

I had to go transcript and diploma hunting, as well as address and phone number diving… All because while I remember my GPA, I don’t remember how many units I completed, and while I remember where I worked, I’ve since forgotten all their phone numbers.  (sigh) So what should have taken but a brief chunk of memory recall wound up a desperate search and rescue mission instead.

I suppose the thing to remember though is that now I have all said information in one location – a lot easier to access next time.  But as I’m sitting here printing this sucker out, I’m wondering if the next one won’t be asking all sorts of different questions that send me back to the excavation.

Inventory

In The Daily Drool on July 31, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I realized a few weeks ago that all of the energy I was pouring into the kids at the performing arts camp I was teaching at was coming at a price- that I couldn’t possibly sustain that kind of effort without it sapping some juice from my personal life at the same time.  Well, after 6 weeks of so much “giving” I find myself turning my nose up at even the slightest hint of “need.”

It’s just that I’m tired.  And I’m a single girl who’s been tending to 53 kids, every day, without anyone at home to ask me about my day and tend to me… (Not that being single is to blame – many a partnered gal could make the same complaint)  but my point is this:  I’ve been giving my all to these kids and now it’s time to recharge my batteries, so I just don’t have any extra to hand out.

That’s not to say the process wouldn’t be accelerated if I had a little help… a footrub or two, a nice dinner… you know, treats.  But where’s that going to come from?  The cats?  Gar!  Sometimes being single in LA can be a real pain in the ass.  Maybe I just need to get my feet to the pedi-place and pay someone to rub my piggies.  Maybe it doesn’t matter who’s giving the love as long as the love’s being absorbed into each little toe…

In any case, it’s an interesting feeling to have hit your limit – to just not care about excuses or someone else’s crap.  Revel me with tales of your adventures, catch me up on all the news, but don’t ask me for anything.

The Tiffany shop is closed for inventory.

Whew!

In The Daily Drool on July 30, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Well, it’s been a long week.  (I suppose you can tell that from the relative silence on my end.)  Apologies, for those of you who missed me.  I’ve been going crazy.

Remember that whole performing arts camp I mentioned earlier?  Well we went into rehearsal this week, with the resultant performance going beautifully this evening, but WOW, I feel like I’ve been running on fumes for the last three days.

I remember six weeks ago frantically trying to figure out just how I was going to manage everything – and now that I’m here I can’t believe it’s only been six weeks.  I’ve learned so much both from the process and from the kids.  They challenged me in many ways (not always pleasantly) but through it all I was reminded just how much I enjoy teaching!

This week has been all about the original performance piece we created together – and I’ve been Facilitator, Director, Sound Designer, prop maker, and Stage Manager for this whole thing.  It’s been incredible.  And terrifying.  I remember quite distinctly saying to someone on Sunday that I really wanted to hit the fast-forward button on this week so I could hurry up and get to the place where everything was working… well, here I am and I can honestly say that I’m thrilled with the getting here.  I’m so proud of these kids and the energy they put into this piece.  And I’m so excited to have helped them get here.  That’s the best part – knowing that six weeks ago we were a group of total strangers, not knowing where we were headed, and now here we are – an Ensemble.

So I guess I’m just kind of soaking it up – the relief and pleasure of this accomplishment – and I’m smiling as I think about it, about my eager students.  It’s been great, I would definitely do this again, and I can’t wait to get back in the classroom again.

But first… some SLEEP!

I just planted my flag!

In The Daily Drool on July 23, 2009 at 7:23 am

I don’t know what was going on last night, but the little romantic in me found myself a Tall-Dark-and-Handsome in my sleep, and was whispering things like “I want to discover your lips forever” and then kissing him and saying “I just planted my flag.”

I might be loosing it.

What amuses me so much is that not only were we holding on to one another everywhere we went (there were a host of odd things happening, at one point even climbing some rocks to get to my friend Amber’s bar where I had to help her carry drinks but I dropped my phone… crazy nonsense) but that I was speaking in such dime-store-novel cliches.  We already know that my mind retains some of it’s metaphorical lyricism -I’ve even woken up with bits of dialogue for plays I’m writing – but this?

Maybe it had something to do with the great anxiety I was suffering yesterday afternoon upon realizing that the kids and I have so little time left to polish up this performance piece.  That anxiety could have created some want for safety… and maybe my inner glow worm thinks safety is to be found at the bottom of a big soft doe-y pair of eyes and soft lips (and a man who won’t spit up his breakfast at such saccharin announcements as those)

Anyway, I thought it worth exploring right here, with you… if only to get you to giggle at the flag-planting line.

Working hard to hand it out

In The Daily Drool on July 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Wow.

I’m tired.

There’s something to be said for the sheer outpouring of energy this camp requires.  Every day I come in, responsible for getting these kids revved up and every day I leave sputtering like a studebaker on empty.

But I can’t imagine another way of doing it.

Because I really care.  And it’s the care that gets me excited to show up every morning.  Working every day to help these kids learn about theater and help feed their passions for it is exhilarating in the exhaustion… and I’m learning so much in the giving.

The thing to remember though is to keep a little in my own pocket because they all pool around you, eating it up as fast as they can like happy little piranhas who poop rainbows… You can’t get mad at them, you just have to learn when it’s time to get out of the water.

Real Listening

In Essays, The Daily Drool on July 13, 2009 at 4:37 pm

So the kids and I have been doing a lot of listening exercises, mostly because at 15, 16, 17 years old, your head is flooded with thoughts and ideas and working as an ensemble means leaving those thoughts at the door so you can tune in to one another.   And I’ve noticed, out of these warm-ups, that to really listen- listen with your whole body- you have to leave yourself and step into that intimidating shared space between.

It’s equitable to yon castle keep – You can shout at one another from behind your walls, but it takes a strange kind of courage to step beyond the gate into a border-less landscape and look into another’s eyes.

Because walls = safety (or so we tend to think) But what wealth are we missing from behind them?  The very invention of walls if born of protection, and giving that up (even for a moment) can be frightening, dangerous… or really freaking freeing.

And we’re not talking about anything more than listening.  Because that’s where it starts.

It’s not easy.  It can be really difficult to give someone your full attention!  Not only must you send your ego/judge out to pasture, but to actively listen you can’t just tune in for every other word as you secretly formulate your next speech.  You must really engage in their telling, how they are saying it- their bodies, their eyes, their verve…

And while it’s not possible to be this attentive to every moment in real life, it’s a shame more people aren’t as aware of their own listening habits as these kids are getting to be – because the world around us is just bursting with information, energy, and answers – listening, really listening is just hard enough that we rarely have the genuine experience of ever truly hearing or of  truly being heard.

I imagine if people were walking this earth less immersed in the “Me” and more tuned in to the world, they might be amazed at what they’ve been missing/misunderstanding/ and taking for granted… In fact, taking time to stop, look, and listen might be just the ticket to feeling less outside of things.

And wouldn’t that be lovely?

Rule-Breaking-Rulers

In The Daily Drool on July 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm

It never ceases to amaze me that no sooner do I speak the words “Every play must have a beginning, middle, and end.” someone thrusts their hand into the air, fingers waving, challenge poised on the tip of their eager tongue.  It seems everyone wants to break the rules, and I’m merely there to set up the hurdles.

In a way, it’s kind of cool – here is a room full of hungry young people, eager to bring the theater world to its knees with their words – but what is fascinating is their passion to buck the trend, deny the basics, and break all the rules… rarely are they able to see that only in learning them first (and why they work) can you really seek to write a play with such purposeful dissent.  Of course there are playwrights who break rules in their own right, but they generally have a mastery of the craft of storytelling that allows them to bend and play with the dramatic form.

But what fiestiness must there be within these young writer’s imaginations to motivate them (so strongly) to want to laugh in the face of the “Tried and True” before even trying their out their first word.  But isn’t that the thing about learning?  You plan a course, raise your hand, and before you know it your hock deep in something you barely understand, only to come out on the other side of the experience a bit weightier from the knowledge and kind of surprised at how you digested it.

And of course, when push comes to shove, I find that many of them end up walking the line in spite of themeselves… but walking it with purpose.

It’s really a gift to be there as they begin to figure it all out… thing called “Play.”

Starting from Scratch

In The Daily Drool on July 8, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I’ve worked on theatrical pieces from many angels, many different starting points – be it actor, writer, director… but I’ve never created a piece as an ensemble before… and now, right now, I am responsible for leading a group of teenagers in this just such an endeavor.

As you can imagine, I’ve been learning a lot along the way.

It has been fascinating to get them up and talking, listening to them talk about the world around them, as it pertains to them, listening to them express their feelings about world events – both on a global and personal scale.  Their dedication to the exercises I lead them in has been inspiring, and led to some truly fantastic theatrical moments within the creative space.   We’ve learned a great deal.

I’ve also found myself shouting out things that my teachers used to shout out to me – reminding them to trust the process, to trust their instincts, and to get out of their heads.

Isn’t life a funny thing?

I think it’s all hitting particularly hard with me because I left acting like a bad rash and ran off with lusty abandon towards the Playwriting cap… This return to things left to dust has been a whirlwind of remembering, re-learning, and re-adjusting.

I just hope that we continue to trust in the work, in ourselves, and in one another as we begin to shape our final piece.  That as we take all of the exercises that have been bringing us together and teaching us about one another, and turn towards them with an eye on performance, that we maintain the joy of the discovery.  That we develop a piece the kids can feel proud of!

And then I’m taking a nice, loooong, nap.  Because all of the ringleading is wearing this girl out 🙂