Today is Mountain Day!

What is Mountain Day? It is one of the many traditions of Smith College. The president of the College declares a day off from school. The bells ring early in the morning, announcing the expectations that students take the day off to enjoy the beauty of a New England fall–the crisp blue sky, the sparkling colors. We are encouraged to go hike, picnic, wander in the mountains–anything but crack open a book or do any work. I don’t know that I took full advantage of Mountain Days when I was at Smith, and I wish I had.

Now the tradition has been extended, as Smith takes advantage of Social Networking and announces to all the alumnae that today is Mountain Day. Every Smith alumna I am in contact with on Facebook has had something to say, and each of us admit to wishing we could really take a Mountain Day. I think everybody deserves a Mountain Day once in a while, but sadly we lose that when faced with the reality of working in our country. To mix some metaphors; we get on the treadmill and feel like we cannot stop to get off and jump in the leaves instead.

I think that I am going to make it a goal in my life to have a mountain once a year. I know that isn’t always possible, but it is definitely worth trying. Anyone care to join me? If so, I’ll see you in the mountains.

The Age of Innocence? Not Hardly (via 60 Steps to Glory)

Interesting, and related to my blog today. I have to agree with this, even though it contradicts my own concerns. I guess the issue is simply very complicated.

The Age of Innocence?  Not Hardly Last week, the Internet was abuzz with the story of Katy Perry’s visit to Sesame Street.  It seems Ms. Perry’s fashion choice — a green party dress with a mesh top portion — upset a few parents. Many of those upset parents posted comments on Sesame’s YouTube site, where the clip of Perry singing a G-rated version of her hit Hot-n-Cold was posted.  As you migh … Read More

via 60 Steps to Glory

When I Was Young . . .

 

The child is grown, the dream has gone.

Image by just.Luc via Flickr

 

“. . . I walked to school in snowstorms, uphill  both ways.”

Okay, not really. But, I spent all day Saturday directing a group of high school students in a play for the Inge Center’s 24 Hour Play Festival, and my experience there have made me reflect on the differences between high school students today, and high school students when I was one of them. I’m not thinking of this in the “What’s the matter with kids today” kind of way; rather I’m wondering what’s the matter with our society that has allowed young people to grow up so much faster and harsher.

Now, I admit, I was a naive goody-goody when I was in high school, so maybe my perception of reality isn’t a true one.  The students in my play did something that I would never have even thought of in high school; they made lots of sexual innuendos and told dirty jokes with me (a total stranger who is also an “adult”) in the room. I went along with it, trying to be the cool teacher in the room I guess, but I don’t know if that was the right thing to do.

I remember being a senior in high school when some male friends made reference to a sex act and I consciously made an effort to hide my embarrassment from them. I still remember the feeling of shock and maybe a little shame that I was so naive. Okay, I get it, people were having sex when we were in high school. But still, I don’t recall those jokes ever happening in the presence of adults.

The plays from the festival also reflect some kind of difference in society. Of the five plays, four of them were dark and dealt with issues ranging from incest to murder to psychological meltdowns. They were well written, but I did not expect that mix of topics from high school students. I thought there would be more humor . . . boy was I wrong.

I have to ask why? Have events like Columbine and 9/11 taken away innocence at a younger age? Are young people today inundated with images of sexuality, crime, depression, drugs, and murder to the extent that we are raising a generation not capable of enjoying innocent fun? Or am I simply still naive, hoping that the darkness of life can somehow be avoided in childhood.

These kids were great kids; fun, committed to creating good art and exploring things, very intelligent. At the same time, though, they were beyond me. I felt like the nerd in the group of popular kids. So maybe the problem is that high school really hasn’t changed. I don’t really think so though. I think we, as a society, are failing our biggest challenge–that of making the world a better, more peaceful place.

That makes me sad.

Trapped! Horrible Job, No Hope (via Good Witch / Bad Witch)

Food for thought.

Trapped! Horrible Job, No Hope Life can be hard enough without feeling like you’re cornered with no options to a job you can’t stand. How to stop waiting for rescue and take charge.      — BadWitch Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed… Dear GWBW — I’m underemployed. I hate my work but feel trapped. Bills and my laid off husband make me feel I have no alternatives again. When’s it my turn? — Frustrated  End of Liner == Dear Frustrated End of Liner, No doubt about it, these … Read More

via Good Witch / Bad Witch

What is Racism? I Simply Don’t Understand

 

August Wilson Side Door Mural On The Iroquois ...

Image by takomabibelot via Flickr

 

I was all excited to teach my theatre appreciation class. I had chosen a play for the class to read as an example of how a playwright will use his/her own experiences as well as historical and social contexts to write a play. I chose the Tony Award-nominated Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson. I gave them some background on August Wilson, his inspirations for the play, and some historical facts about the time period. I thought that was all good.

We re reading it out loud, and we come to the n-word. I apologized in advance, acknowledging the word, but reminding them of the historical context. A black student (the class is only 6 people, two blacks, one Hispanic) stopped our reading and said, “I’m uncomfortable reading this. You could have chosen a different play knowing there were black students in the class.” (Note, the older black woman was not in class today). I was shocked. I apologized and stopped the reading, asking them to read it at home. I explained my reasons behind the choice, but it didn’t matter.

I didn’t say this to him, but I kept thinking, “You are objecting to a play by a prominent black playwright about the black experience because it contains the n-word?”

Am I supposed to pick plays only written by dead white men then? I can’t do that.

Was my choice a racist choice? I did choose the play with those students in mind, because I believe that its important to see that plays aren’t just written by white men. I always chose culturally diverse plays. Is that choice racist because I am choosing things outside my own culture? If that is true, then should I only choose plays written by white, Jewish women? It’s possible to do that, but my options become very limited.

Please help me understand.

“Playful Kiss”

 

WED/THURS - MBC - PLAYFUL KISS  장난스런 키스 (2010)

Image by dramatomy.com via Flickr

 

The other day as I was browsing through Hulu I stumbled on the Korean show Playful Kiss and I got hooked. I found it to be a sweet, fun, quirky romantic comedy about a less-than-smart high school girl (Oh Ha Ni) who has feelings for a genius boy (Baek Seung Jo) who thinks he is superior and shows it.An earthquake destroys Oh Ha Ni’s home and she and her father move into Baek Seung Jo’s home (because the two fathers were close as children).  The show, based on a Japanese manga, reveals those roots (at least in the first 2 episodes) with some moments of pure fantasy.

After watching episodes 3 and 4 last night, I thought about the cultural differences that are reflected in the show. Doing research this morning, I recognized those differences are even greater than I thought. Insight into what others are thinking really made me see that we all perceive things differently. In those differences lies the complexity of our world.

I saw Playful Kiss as a comedy. I’ve even experienced the ever so rare laugh-out-loud moments watching this show. BUT, it is billed as a drama (and I believe that is how it was billed in Korea). If it is a drama, then some of the objections to the show might be legit, but if it is a comedy it looks at the world through quirky rose-colored glasses.

Some of the complaints I read this morning surrounded the idea that the 4th episode showed the Oh Ha Ni as drunk, and because Baek Seong Jo made a sexist (or harassing) comment about her small breasts. This is where culture comes to play. Yes, she was drinking, but under the supervision of the adults. They were celebrating her grades and offered her one drink which, of course, went straight to her head. Now, I’m not saying that parents should hand drinks to all there children. But, how often have American audiences watched as the parent figure on-screen (and in real life) turned a blind eye as their  perfect child throws a wild party that included enough alcohol to poison half the town?

As for the comment about small breasts, it seemed natural given the circumstances (Baek Seong Jo was carrying the drunk girl home by piggy back) especially as girls at that age worry about breasts and boys are fascinated by them. What I found more interesting (and reflective of culture) were the clear expectations that females should clean up and take care of males. Evidence of this appears throughout the show. Of course I notice these things, as I still reflect on remnant sexism that exists in American culture today, but I recognize it for what it is–different cultural values.

I think the show is interesting for the contrast it makes to American values in that the hero is the smartest kid in school (in addition to being cute and talented in every way). Yes, he is wealthy as well, but he is the heart-throb at school because he scores 100% on every exam. Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened in American high school dramas more often?

It seems to me that, in this time of technology providing so much access to other cultures, we should really spend time evaluating the things that make us different as well as the things that make us human. Meanwhile, I’ll keep watching Playful Kiss and enjoying ever sweet moment.

Childhood Memories: School House Rock! (Another Argument for Arts in Schools)

 

Schoolhouse Rock!

Image via Wikipedia

 

I am preparing to direct a production of School House Rock, Live! that goes up in February. So, in a natural way, the songs are floating around my head on a regular basis. The thing I find fascinating is how many of them actually live in my brain. There are a couple I don’t remember, but for the most part I know almost every song, including the tunes as well as most of the words. Now, why do I remember them so well? Simple answer, they were fun, they included music, and they were interesting. Why does that recipe for success in learning seem so elusive these days?

This morning I started watching the videos again. There is nothing fancy about them; they include basic animation, with excellent music, and catchy words. Some of them are very dated. BUT, they still touch something inside me, and bring back good memories. They live in my memories.

Isn’t that what we hope to achieve for students today?

Which cartoon do you remember the most and why?

Reflections of a Theater Director

I was cleaning up some of my files and stumbled upon some images from past shows that I’ve directed. They made me think about why I direct, and what I gain from the experience. I think reflecting on this might help me clarify my goals as I pursue new passions and a new path. So here are some of my thoughts in random order:

  • I love creating pretty pictures and playing with light.
  • I love challenging the status quo, and asking people to have opinions and think.
  • I love working with creative people.
  • I love thinking in metaphor and trying to bring those metaphors to life.
  • I love magic on stage–not magicians tricks–MAGIC!
  • I love creating new works, or adding new pieces to the works I direct. For example, I brought in a fabulous musician for Wiley and the Hairy Man who wrote an incredible song for the show. (If I figure out how, I’ll add it)
  • Ultimately I just love creative energy.

Making a Living; Making a Life

I have been thinking a lot lately about the difference between making a living and making a life. I know that we all need money, to some degree. We all need to make a living; to put food on the table, to pay for some sort of shelter, to supply our basic needs.

But if making a living is just doing those things, then are we truly making a life?

I am in this strange limbo where my choices for making a living seem to be rather limited. There are a number of reasons behind this; the economy, location, and (most disturbingly) over-education. So, I have been working on ways to turn things I love the most in life into a way of supporting life.

I love words. I love creativity. I love collaboration. I love learning. I love organization. I love variety.

These are all things that make life worth living, but are they all things that can help make a living? That is where my struggle lies; how does one turn passion into money without it losing something in the translation?

How does one turn making a living into making a life?

I know that I will find a way. I also know that it will take time. I fear, however, that it takes more courage than I currently have. I am lost in limbo at the moment. Does anyone have the map that will guide me out?

Hours of Creative Madness

 

2500 Creative Commons Licenses

Image by qthomasbower via Flickr

 

There are moments when I am reminded of the wonderful stuff that can happen when passionately creative people get together and focus on one goal. Yesterday I was a director for the College 24 Hour Plays at the Inge Center for the Performing Arts. I won’t say brilliant pieces came out of it; some were good, some were interesting, some probably needed more work. But I will say that having a group of people focused on this one thing, the creation of fully staged 10 minute plays that didn’t exist the day before, was revitalizing. My cast (for the most part) were completely amazing; they dove into finding nuances and creating depth in roles that I believe truly nurtured the play.

I’ve experienced this kind of energy with a few people, and in a few situations. Now, I know that creating theatre doesn’t necessarily change the world (although I truly believe it has the power too). But, I am thinking about the potential power of bring a group of truly committed artists of all types in creating something good for the world. When egos are set aside, the air is filled with pulsing powers that could lead us somewhere amazing.

If we take the power of dreams, the creativity and drive of artists, and the power of groups, and the strength (but not the egos) of individuals, where might we go?

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