Sunday, November 24, 2013

GIRLPOWER; Part II The Apple Schleppers

One by one, I met with each girl while we were waiting for their guardians.

If you are waiting for me to say that I nailed them to a wall and said "you little sh*t what in the Sam Hill do you think you were doing instead of being in class, you idiot!" That's not how it went.

That would have been fun though.

For some reason I was having a "mom" day and my heart was softened to these scared little girls who happened to make a stupid choice that day. I had made some stupid choices in my life. (1984, '85, some of '96 and all of '97)
The voice inside my head said "find out who they are." Because when I was a kid all I ever wanted was someone to find out who I really was and like me anyway.

But that would take my entire day.

So I decided to take a deep breath and find out who they were, what they liked to do (besides smoke). I started actually looking them in the eye, studying them while they talked and, well, you know... I like to take on a project. I had officially decided not to have them cited by the police, but to give them a warning and have their parents take care of their consequences. Wasn't I nice?! Benevolent Jan! Jan the Great!

I visualized sending them little inspirational notes in their lockers, give them secret "high fives" in the halls, listening to them speak at graduation. This would be my Stand and Deliver moment baby! After the heart to heart talk with Jan, everything would be better and they would go straight home and dye their hair a normal color, take out their weird facial piercings and do all their homework.

Can you tell I don't have my own children?

Yeah, this wasn't going to end like that.

Under the pressure of being in the Principals office for the first time in their life, two of the girls cried like tiny little children and unveiled to me things that only Principals get to know. I cannot tell you the magnitude of their trials. Just take my word for it, kids are not supposed to go through those kinds of things. They're not.

And before you start to say - well you were at a very dramatic school in Salt Lake and that doesn't happen in Happy Valley or in "regular schools" or wherever...it happens everywhere. It's a hard, heavy world out there...everywhere. Getting heavier by the day.

But I will tell you that after the third girl explained her life in a nutshell, I was thinking about being raised by Joe and Kay Shelton and their "Rules from the Third Reich" (as I thought they were at the time) and I was SO GRATEFUL! When Girl Four left with her mom's roommate, I cried. I was exhausted with the weight of it all. How are we going to help these kids that come from every kind of background, that are ALL harming themselves in more ways than one, addicted to something terrible, going home to empty houses...and the list goes on. If it takes a village, somebody in the village isn't pulling their weight and...

...it might be me? duN, DUN...dUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNN.

I was beginning to regret the "hand slap" I had given all of them, but especially the last girl. Then a miracle occurred and her mysteriously missing backpack appeared out of thin air! Someone had hidden it for her. Peter Pan Collar.

Rockstar searched... and seized...and seized...and seized.

Girl #4 was pulled back in.

However, instead of pouring her heart out to me, I got the information I needed to know through the blame game. This confused me even more. In fact, each girl, one by one had excuses for their behavior. They left class early because the "teacher didn't care" (LIAR!), because they "really needed to use the bathroom" (all at the same time? LIAR!), because they "weren't doing anything in class" (ha! At this school?! LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!!!). They were smoking "because their mother gave it to them" (NOT A LIE), because their friend had it (NOT A LIE), because smoking replaced an addiction to something worse (NOT A LIE)...

PP: "would you rather I go back to that, Jan?"
Jan: No. No, please do not go back to that. Please.

All grim. So grim.

Their grades were bad because teachers had stereotyped  them, they weren't supposed to be in that class, they had this syndrome or that syndrome.... and I'm not being mean - they may have had learning challenges, it just shocked me how quickly they knew the vernacular and slammed down every excuse in the book.

And then there was that "stupid Senior girl who went and told on us. We'd be fine if she didn't have some stick up her *bleeping bleep*."

Jan: You realize that stupid girl is your Studentbody President.
Girl 4: I didn't vote for her.
Jan: The point is, it's her job to preside over and protect this school. Do you even know anything about her?
Girl 4: She's got a problem with me.
Jan: How do you know that?
Girl 4: Because she ratted us out.
Jan: You were breaking the law in the bathroom of the school that has been her beloved home for the last four years. So... everything would be fine if she would have kept her mouth shut?
Girl 4: I hate her.

At least she admitted to smoking. PPK still won't admit it, even though there were five witnesses. Name, rank and serial number over and over again. That's all. Frustrating to say the least. (Update: Peter Pan eventually got help in rehab. I'm so glad.)

At that point, if they had just sucked it up and had been the least bit sorry about wasting my day for making a stupid decision, something that the state and our insurance and the district takes very seriously, I might have sent them back to class and written it up in their files and called it good.

But the excuses and the blame...and the ease at which they flipped out the list of things they had done that were worse than smoking in their estimation and how stupid did I look for bothering them with a little cigarette when they had done THIS and THIS and THIS... oh and so and so was doing THIS and THIS and THIS "did you know about that, Jan?" Don't you feel stupid now?

Bang.....BAng...BANG... (my head hitting my desk) This is the day I might take up Diet Coke again.

Jan:     Ever thought about becoming Studentbody President?
Girl 4:  Haha! Whatever.
Jan:     What? Is that dumb? You know where she's going to college? Anywhere she wants.
Girl 4: You're point?
Jan:     She's made choices, you're making choices. Her choices are going to give her a           life...freedom...independence. I'm having you cited today by the police for bringing illegal substances into my school.
Girl 4: Wait! I thought you weren't going to site me!
Jan:     I've changed my mind.

Back up to October, 2012.
My niece, Shayne, was standing on the finish line at the St. George Marathon waiting for her dad to cross when her phone started lighting up. The LDS church had just announced that they were going to allow their young women to enter the mission field at the minimum age of 19 (instead of 21).

Aside from the obvious...why was that significant to Shayne?

Well, Shayne was/is a swimmer in high school. A really good swimmer. And we all thought that with her great grades and amazing service portfolio, she'd swim her way through college. It was a foregone conclusion. Junior Olympics, team captain, student council and all that. Great scholarship winning times...

And when you're the daughter of a school teacher (which she is) college money isn't sitting in the bank waiting for you to use at Harvard or Yale...you need to be movin' that water. And she did.

Until she contracted meningitis in the winter of her Senior year and spent a week in the hospital, gray and lifeless. You'd have hardly recognized the girl who was cheering at her team mates just weeks earlier at the state tournament.

It was a full month before she could get back in the pool. Then to everyone's horror she just couldn't recover her times. Recruiters went cold.

I was not there to hear or see the tears that must have caused. I can only imagine. Mine were bad enough. But she describes crying out in frustrated that she had spent the last SIX YEARS of her life getting up at four o'clock in the morning (mom too) to drive to the pool and train for something that she loved to do, chose to do, dreamt of doing. All those meets. Hundreds of meets - everywhere in the country too. Have you ever been to a swim meet? You wait for hours and hours in the chlorinated humidity wishing you had some ear plugs, and then your swimmer gets up to the platform. You scream like the place is on fire, which it obviously isn't - all that water - and as far as I can tell, the swimmer can't even hear you, but the screaming is actually for YOU - you are so grateful that its finally her turn and all. Then in less than a minute, sometimes two, she's done, depending on the race. I liked the relays - they take a little more time.

So Shayne was done, it appeared. She worked hard to bring her times back but it was lousy timing. Scholarships had long been given to those that managed to steer clear of meningitis mid Senior year.

So she prayed to her Heavenly Father about what to do and determined that she would stay at the local college for now. It was cheap. It felt like the right only thing to do. That was in September of 2012.

By the second week in October, she had her missionary papers filled out and in a puff of smoke it seemed she was on a plane to Perth, Australia to serve her Heavenly Father with thousands of other 19 year-old sisters in that very first new call to serve.

He called and she went because she could.

And what an incredible missionary. Here's a link to something amazing that she wrote if you're interested:

http://sistershayne.blogspot.com/2013/11/this-is-gospel-of-jesus-christ.html

***

All girls have a certain amount of power when they are born. For lack of a better term I'll call it...girl power.

;-)

I liken it to a basket of apples. I was born with a pretty big...basket...of apples. Andy's gonna read this and he's laughing right now. He agrees. But this is the analogy I gave these girls on the fly. I was no longer speechless - just tired, okay? And I was fighting to reach them with all I was worth.

Each apple represents your power. Over time, outside influences (like good friends and strong parents) can GIVE YOU apples, build you up, give you confidence, love, strength, a spiritual path, a place to belong, etc... These apples give you POWER over temptation to do dumb stuff, power over your TRIALS, power over YOURSELF!

Over time, you can also go out and get your own apples. Good grades, knowledge, like teachers - they can give you apples - but you have to reach out and take it from them, they can't try to toss it into your basket from a distance. Parents know stuff too - you don't think they do - but they might have done dumb stuff once too (1984, '85, all of 1997) Take those apples of wisdom and put them in your basket. You don't have to even find out for yourself! Isn't that beautiful?! You can simply look at someone that is working three jobs and heavy bags under their eyes and know that when they say "go to college, I wish I did," that is an apple you can just HAVE, courtesy of WISDOM vicariously from someone else. You don't have to put yourself through every bad thing. Just look around. These apples of knowledge and wisdom give you freedom, independence... You can do anything! I went to college twice! I've owned a home, cars, clothes and I can even feed my dogs. Good grades. College. I don't do illegal things. Big apples.

To my surprise they each picked up on the analogy but Girl #4 turned it on me. She told me about all kinds of influences that took apples away from her all the time. And it wasn't her fault. They just came and took them away. I am a victim of apple theft. Oh no! What to do?!

I asked her what kinds of power she still had? None. No apples were left in her basket. She had a terrible home life, she was addicted to...things...she didn't know where her dad was....and maybe she was right...she didn't have a single apple in her basket. I thought of Shayne...a girl with a bushel basket full of apples enough to share with everyone around her all the time...so much girl power just to share.

I argued with her. I firmly believe that we invite people to treat us a certain way. We ALLOW people to treat us how we want them to treat us. DID SHE REALLY WANT TO BE SPENDING THE DAY IN MY OFFICE TALKING ABOUT APPLES?

NO. Hell no.

Which apple thief MADE her smoke in school? Which apple thief chose her awesome group of friends? Which apple thief sluffed 14 times last term? Which apple thief held a gun to head and demanded that she dye her hair blue and pink or pierce her lip and eyebrow? (I didn't say that last one. That would have made me an apple thief).

I digress. I was really close to throwing my apples at her blue noggin.

I explained that sometimes my basket is really full and sometimes not so full. I've had bad days and I've stayed in bed covered in self-pity. Apples fell out of the basket. I. l.e.t. t.h.e.m. f.a.l.l. I didn't have the strength to lift the basket with power...and the apples, they just fell out. Sometimes I needed other people to help me put the apples back in the basket (like a therapist, or a great husband or a prescription...Just kidding! I didn't tell her about that last stuff!)

Sometimes I have just thrown the apples out myself.  I have been so angry (or tired, or depressed, or weak, or frustrated) that I have hurled apples into the next county. I had the power, and then I deliberately threw it away because I wasn't strong enough to protect my basket (self). I gave the apples up. On purpose. I lost my power because I had no self-control. I couldn't get out of bed to go to class, I ate an entire pizza by myself, blah, blah, blah....I gave up my confidence, my freedom to go...to do...to be the me that I love...the girl with the big basket of apples that rules the world.

She teared up when we talked about her dad. She teared up when we talked about giving up cigarettes and how she got them and why she needed them. I knew there was a gooey marshmallow center in there somewhere!

Girl #4 was picked up by her mom to spend the day at home pondering what I had said.

YEAH, RIGHT.

I am funny.

Time will tell. They are only Freshmen after all. There's lots of time. I wish them well. I wish they were at this school for the right reasons like so many are, gaining apples by the bushel. But instead of getting immersed in productive activities that will build resumes for college applications, they are trying to see how far they can throw their apples. Parents no matter what - get your kids away from their bad friends and into something productive and don't give up on that. Kids that are busy at home or doing productive activities at school will only end up...in college.

What can we do? We need help. There are SOOOOO many kids out there that need more help than they are getting at home. There are so many kids out there that aren't going to make it through their teens without some major GOOD adult intervention from multiple adults. We can no longer complain about how many times our car has been broken into (three times for us) or how far this generation is from God without doing something about it. They are not only far from God, they don't believe in Him at all.

I have fears. Can you tell?

My last big thought, and I do have one, is that girl power is abundant in families where the men in those families encourage it to flourish and under mutual respect, the men flourish too.
I have that family. There are a group of girls that wield incredible power in our family and I want to show them to you.



Abby R. is here on the far left in the ruffled tank. Is that not a smile that melts a thousand suns? Abby and I got to spend a LOT of time painting a set for a play this past summer. Years ago, in my Octo-mom depression, I gave up listening to music. I just..I don't know. I was in the habit of listening to the depressing news. My car radio was set to NPR and talk shows, etc... Abby listens to music. She knows music. Because of Abby, I credit her completely, I have earphones on RIGHT NOW as I'm writing this and I'm not listening to CNN. I'm listening to Lorde, Abby, Royals...and I even know some of the words. Woot! You can call me Queen Bee...Thank you Abby. Keep reading and keep writing.

Next to Abby is her sister Katie R. in the polka dots. I saw Katie come out of her mother. I will never forget that moment and I'm so grateful for the opportunity even though I felt I was intruding on my brother-in-law a little. I love you Charles for letting me be there, because this is the drama child who thrives in the belly of the theatre and I have watched her like a live 8 millimeter film of myself. She is the reason I do theatre. Who knew? I only laid a path of understanding for her parents so she could run down it. If I had one ounce of the talent she has...and she gives the most incredible foot rubs.

Next to Katie is the real Queen Bee...Ashley. She is the first grandchild, the oldest of six siblings! Talk about girl power! She's a superhero to me she has so many apples in her basket. I remember visiting her after I came back from Japan. She was just pulling herself up to the couch to walk along side it. She was about 9 months old or something. I was so jealous of my brother. How dare he have a child before me?! But there she was and she was stunningly beautiful and everyone said "she looks just like Jan." And now she's just about to graduate from SUU in education of all things. No one is a better at being the oldest sister. She exudes confidence! How 'bout them apples?

Next to Ashley is younger cousin Sophia B in the blue stripes. For some reason, Sophie, Abby and Katie (and in part Ashley and Bradie) have all followed a "dramatic" path. I don't know why. Except to say that I think they were supposed to be my children, but they got so tired of waiting for me that they gambled and went down to my siblings instead. PHEW!! That was a close call! Because Sophie chose the Beckstrands she got those million dollar dimples. Sophie was able to be in several of my plays while we were living in St. George and she was my stand-by "little girl" until she outgrew me and started junior high. Sophie spends her birthday every year doing temple work. She's so powerful.

Back to the front left corner is Bradie, sister of Ashley and renown family soprano. Which is rare because when we all sing together she is out there on her own, literally. There are about 10 altos and Bradie. Bradie doesn't let someone's mood pass her by. If you are "off" somehow, she will know. She is so intuitive and then she wants to help. Tell me what I can do. How can I help? Do you need anything? I think that is appropriate for someone that is in her third year of college studying psychology. Did I say she's also at SUU? APPLES!!!! (Being at SUU is like collecting Honeycrisp apples...heh heheh.)

And finally...next to Bradie on the right end is Shayne. That's the swimmer. That's the girl that called her bishop about three minutes after she heard that she could serve a mission at 19.  That's the girl that writes home and says "I love you heaps." That girl's got apples. (Note: this blog was written soon after she left and she will be home in about 2 weeks!)

(Now I know what you're thinking. But no, it's not because the sun was in their eyes that their eyes are all squinty...that's just a Shelton thing.)

There are four other "little Shelton girls" that aren't in the picture. Emily, Jenna, Mattie and Brynn. Surrounded by all that older girl power, there's a good chance that the power of the family will pull them all through the times as they drastically change around us. We just have to try to stay in our family units. If I have learned anything in the past five days its that family is EVERYTHING. Everything. e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

It's Thanksgiving and it's also my birthday today and I just want to take a minute to thank my family. Andy of course, for letting me schlep around such a big basket of apples all the time and for picking them up when they fall out all the time. I've had a year of sparse apple gathering but everything's going to work out.

I have an incredible example of girl power in my mother who is the superhero of all apple schleppers.

I'm grateful for my dad - he raised 4 girls that ALL have big apple baskets and the one thing that all of those high school girls had in common was the absence of a 24/7 dad. I'm so grateful I had one. He pushed his girls on missions and into colleges and careers and taught us how to pick apples. I feel sorry for those that think Mormon families repress their women. This is not my experience and for that I am so grateful.

"We are not women of the world. We are women of God. And women of God will be among the greatest heroines of the 21st century." (Sheri Dew; "The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 102).



(Thanks Jalee for the pictures! You have so much girl power!)





Friday, November 22, 2013

GIRLPOWER: Part 1

On the eve of my...cough...wheeeeeze...49th birthday, I really should be packing boxes (we're moving up the street next week) but here I sit compelled to write a blog, which I haven't done in so long I'm not sure I can do it at all. But I must. It helps me sort things out. There are things to be sorted.

This week I had to be the Principal for two days while the real principal was flat on his back with the flu. E.V.E.R.Y. single time he is out of the office for the entire day something happens that reassures me of how much I DON'T want to be a principal and how much I truly despise the school administration position. Of which I am a part. Right now.

How did this happen again?

Monday morning at 5:30 AM I got the text saying that I was going to be in charge for the day. I moved a little faster since that meant that I was going to have to open the building, deactivate the alarm, etc... I dressed a little better in case...in case I needed to "deal with something." I put earrings on. So yeah, I basically invited the universe to throw something at me. Something big. With prickles.

I teach one class this year, Humanities, which I really like but haven't taught for a long time so I am doing a lot of prep for it. I needed to give a long awaited test that day, so I write the test, no biggie. Wrote the exercise for after the test and tried to preview a video clip. It was about ten minutes into the video that my studentbody president and one of her council members ran into my office breathless.

"Jan, Jan..." (I've always been called Jan my whole career, I don't know why or how it came to be, it just did) Jan...there are four Freshman girls in the back bathroom smoking an E-cigarette! We were just in there and they were refilling it, passing it around and....smoking it!"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes! We took, like, forever to wash our hands so that we could get a good look at who they were so we could identify them for you later. We know what they are wearing and the color of their hair...everything."

I was impressed with their CSISaltLake skills.

"Do you think they're still there? I'll need you to come with me so I gather the right ones."

"Awesome! We know exactly who it was! We washed our hands a long time."

"And they just smoked while you were in there?"

"Yeah! They didn't even care! And they are Freshmen!" (says the Senior girls that run the school...literally.)

So we ran down to the bathroom (I walked very quickly - I mean I'm nearly 50) and they held the door open for my grand entrance. As I walked in it occurred to me that I didn't even know what to say. I was...

...speechless.

And I have been speechless a lot lately which is why I haven't written my blog this year. I get dumbfounded that I'll screw it up or offend someone. I'm worried that I've lost my funny. I'm worried that what I say doesn't matter anymore. Then my sister told me about her secretary at school that saw her at a book fair and said she missed my blog and then I remembered that there were people reading my blog. And all the moments that the Spirit has thunked me on the head to write all came rushing back to me like a giant warm blanket saying "you have a responsibility to yourself and others to write. I need you to write." So I'm writing. And I actually KNOW that this is what He wants me to say. Because the best blogs are the ones that God himself puts in my head and I just jam them out. That's happening right now. It's pretty awesome.

I digress.

The second the girls see me in the vintage tile doorway of the bathroom they shout out "teacher! teacher! teacher!" and doors on the stalls shut and lock very quicly and very haphazardly. I notice five girls there and since the Senior girls told me there were only four I can't just use my good rope and haul them all into the corral, I have to PICK and CHOOSE based on the descriptions that they gave me as we were walking, running, down the hall.

I am trying to remember....blue hair...you, come with me....blue and pink hair, you come with me too...black pants (oh no! there's two of them! What to do?) So I just take all five of them into the office and try to sort it out there. As we leave the bathroom one girl vanishes into a nearby piano classroom. That's fishy, I think. But she looks "normal" so I let her go. Probably a mistake.

I am speechless and I say a little prayer "help me....I'm speechless...tell me what to say."

And He does.

So I tell them to get all of their stuff and follow me to the office. At this point, I can't get behind them because the bell has rung and the halls start to fill with students of every type and size. I am swimming upstream and trying to herd mad cats at the same time. REALLY MAD CATS.

I finally get them into the Principal's office (because mine only holds two people at a time) and it sounds like this:

A: I don't know why I'm here. I was just changing my clothes for dance.
B: This is stupid.
C: This is super stupid. Somebody needs to go get [smoker #5] she went back to class!
D: What? We weren't doing anything. (reeks of cigarette smell)
E: What if I wasn't doing anything, but I just had to pee real bad?

And other inane things like that that minors say when they have been caught with a controlled and illegal substance on school property.

We are blessed at this school with a Registrar/Front Secretary that is a ROCKSTAR. I'm not kidding. And she doesn't even read this blog. ;-) She used to be a security officer at a nearby school and we are so very lucky to have her here. She knew immediately what to do. Which is good because...it was time for Humanities to start and I needed to give a test.

*#!;*!

I give my class time to study for the test and The Rockstar and I search backpacks. We find nothing. We learn that the girl who escaped into piano class needs the "electric chair" apparently (according to the others - remember this is a school full of dramatic types) and we send for her. They say she has the E-cigarette we are looking for. She comes in, plaid wool skirt, white blouse with Peter Pan collar, leather backpack. Her nose is already in the air, the air around her is so thick with self-righteousness that I can barely breathe - she has already convinced herself that she is miles above the other girls in this nicotine-reeking office and "there has been some mistake."

One thing about girls that I have learned since I became an administrator: Girlfriends that share sin are not sacred secret keepers. Just the opposite.

It's too easy.

But they are careful not to speak at once. They are looking around at each other. They don't want to be the one that tells the truth, or speaks first. They are all in the same room and a thought comes to my head "move them to different rooms." "Thank you," I say back to the voice in my head. I begin to separate them. Then one by one, The Rockstar and I get them to fill out "Incident Reports" and they write out their versions of the story on paper, all pointing fingers at two kids basically. It becomes very clear what happened. The story from those that were not involved is exactly as it was told to me from the two Senior girls. The story from the one girl that was actually smoking is a pile of warm, smoking poop. Laughable actually. I'd like to frame the account that Miss Peter Pan Collar gave me and hang it on my wall for a good laugh every once in a while. At least the others were smart enough to sense their doom and owned up to the fact that there were witnesses, Everyone except Peter Pan. She will never grow up. She was beyond adamant about her non-involvement despite the fact that both Seniors identified her involvement to her face.

This is the conversation the two girls had when I brought them together:

Rockstar: Where is the E-cig?
PP: I didn't smoke it. I don't know where it is.
Owner of the E-Cig: Liar! You had it in the bathroom! I gave it to you. You were in the stall smoking it. Those girls saw you. You had it last!
PP: I never touched it.
Rockstar: Impossible. You were identified as one of the girls who was smoking it.
PP: I never did.
Jan: But that's not what any of them said in their report. FIVE girls witnessed you smoking.
PP: I don't know how because it wasn't me.
Jan: FIVE girls SAW you smoking.
PP: I never smoked. I may have touched it, looked at it, but I never smoked it.
Owner: Then where is the E-Cig now?
PP: I don't know.
Owner: You were the last one to "touch" it.
PP: I have no idea where it is.
Owner (to Jan) She's a LIAR!

Like I didn't already know.

So Rockstar and I spent the remainder of the day suspending four fifteen-year old girls for the day and telling eight parents to come and get their kids. This task in itself is unbearably difficult because people work, and people are no longer married so you might end up with way more than 8 guardians or way less. So...you never know who is going to show up or how long its going to take. This is the world today.

It took allllllll day.

But in that day, I got to have four awesome conversations with four very amazing girls.

And that's really what I want to tell you about.









Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WHEN...it's about time.

Well -
Back in the day, I was watching the Tony Awards (shocker!) and that particular year Susan Stroman won two Tony's: one for Best Director and one for Best Choreographer. I was really jealous that one tiny person could have that much talent. And she was a woman to boot! Woot!

In her acceptance speech(es), both of them, she thanked a lot of people, but she didn't thank anyone in her family, a spouse, or parents for example. I have my Tony Award acceptance speech already written out and it includes (in this order):
  • God (from whence all blessing flow)
  • Parents (who never thought it was strange that in my childhood I took the bed sheets off my bed to make costumes out of them for my front porch version of Snow White and the Three Dwarves, and still PAID to see the show every time.)
  • Andy (my muse)
  • My high school drama teacher, otherwise known as "my dealer." (because that would be hypocritical if I didn't mention that he put up with my shenanigans while I was certifiably insane. And let me say, I'm not sure I was insane, but I do KNOW that after decades of doing the same thing he did, all the brilliant ones are definitely insane...so...)
  • Everybody who worked on the play
  • My agent
Anyway - Susan Stroman thanked all the BIG people. Both times. I wondered why she didn't at least throw a bone to her parents. Most people have parents. Or to her mom at least. AND THEN IT HIT ME.

Maybe she and her mother don't like each other...

...maybe she and her mother don't speak...

...maybe she hasn't spoken to her mother for years..

...and years...

....and she grew up on a potato farm in Idaho...so she's embarrassed about her past and all the rotten things she said to her mom as a teenager....the things that drove them apart...

...on the spud farm...

...And now she has become a BIG TIME director, with a Tony Award or two and her mom is still in Idaho, directing little plays at the local high school....

...because she loves kids...she just didn't know how to love her daughter because they were so much alike...

...and now she has Alzheimer's disease and needs her daughter to go home and take care of her while she's dying...even though...she won't even remember her who her daughter is anymore...

...and that's both the tragedy and the blessing...she won't remember WHY they hated each other, but she won't remember who she is either....

...because she waited too long to go home and make it right....

G.O. H.O.M.E. .S.U.S.A.N!!!  G.O. H.O.M.E!!! Tell your mother you love her while it counts!!

And that, my dear friends is how a play idea comes to be. At least for me. You can see that my imagination is still on overload and has been since age 9 when I started taking the sheets off my bed.

THUS - after I got my graduate degree and had written a pretty successful play called "Breathless," I thought I was unstoppable. And then, thanks to Susan, I had this idea floating around my head that wouldn't go away. So I ran with it. I was single after all, so was Susan, and I was a director, so was she and I knew something about the collision of those two comets and how...after a while...you don't have any people in your life at all because you live at the theatre. I felt AT ONE with Susan. I could make up her life story. Sure.

So I did. But it's nothing to do with her. Just a freaky little linear cause and effect idea that I came up with on my sofa, by myself...back in the days before blogging.

Well - we produced the play I wrote in 2011(10?) with a cast from Tuacahn High School - here's the proof:


Oh my beloved cast! At their curtain call, closing night, they all wore purple ribbons for Alzheimer's awareness! Can you believe that!!!! I cried until I had a good headache - worth it! Those kids also raised about $2000 for Alzheimer's and that's pretty hard to do when you are also in rehearsal all the time. Those kids know WHY we do theatre for real. The experience always changes us for the better, and in it's purest form, it helps others too.

Last year SUU approached me to produce WHEN...and they did...but I couldn't see it because I was also doing a show at the same time (another shocker!) I hear they did a fine job but only did an hour of it. That's too bad.

Anyway...it's time now to unleash it's power on other unsuspecting high school groups, or just groups in general....drum roll please...

I have posted it to my TeachersPayTeacher site! This is a site where teachers post their work so other teachers can go in and buy stuff they need and don't want to create themselves! (Thanks Natalie Kay for telling me about it!)

For a while I only had one thing posted - a lovely, rare Shakespeare monologue I cut for a competition. I fully intend of posting the rest of my Shakespeare cuttings, including a 90-minute Midsummer and a 75- minute Taming - so look out for those. I get asked to cut pieces, find pieces, all the time for people and hopefully all that time spent, all those hours and hours of work might pay off.

I digress...

But truthfully, I need to find a way to raise about $25,000 for a...thing...and I know my measly cuttings won't do it, but if I post my life's work - lesson plans, plays, original scenes and monologues, etc...it's better than having them sit in binders rotting on a shelf now that I'm out of the classroom.

*

Need to deal with that last phrase for a second.

*

I'm back.

SO HERE I GO. Trying to create a little savings for an (adoption? maybe?) Don't get your knickers in a twist...we're just putting the idea out there.

But if we don't at least try...well, you know the rest.

So in case someone is looking for a play full of amazing girl roles, very little sets and modern costuming...(All the things you know I know you need) its at this link:

THIS IS THE LINK:  The Teachers Pay Teachers page for WHEN

Take a gander but know this for sure: I am officially okay about letting other people take the work. It's an important piece, written by an amateur...but gosh I love it so.

I'm not telling you this so you'll buy the file! You dont' have to buy the file!! But if you truly want to spend a couple of hours reading it, email me and I'll send you the file for free. I'm charging $15 for a download on Teacher Pay Teacher and that's kind of a lot, but I figured if people wanted to make copies of it after that, they can.

WHEW. I did it. I didn't think I would. Somethings take me a while.

From Act 1 Scene 2..for all my theatre teacher friends out there...

BLITHE
When did we decide to wear wings, Miss Cassie?

CASSIE
My mom made them - she thought they might be cool. I like them. She said she’d make everyone a pair. She will.

BLITHE
Being a dream fairy in this version of the Bard’s comedy does not include the wearing of wings made out of pantyhose. It’s about physicality. We talked about this on the first rehearsal. This is not the first rehearsal, this is a dress rehearsal. Without wings.

RACHEL
I am not wearing a pair of wings covered in glitter - it might get in my contacts and I hear glitter can cut your eyeball.
(We hear in the background Young Audrey yell, "Everybody on stage for warm-ups!" and Cassie eiits immediately)

DANNI
You can see the elastic.

CASSIE
It is a play - it’s not . . .we have masks, what’s the difference?

BLITHE
Masks are from our great Greek heritage - this play is set in Athens, GREECE. It is part of the total concept. Look, it’s just not going to happen.
 (She takes a deep breath and starts moving wildly around room)

Girls, it’s about physicality. It’s about moving like a woodland fairy - thinking like a woodland fairy. BEING a woodland fairy from your center - from your psyche. . .

CASSIE
Did we cover this in rehearsal?

DANNI
C’mon, warmups!

RACHEL
Has anyone seen my inhaler? If I lose my inhaler I’ll never make it to the fifth act.

CASSIE
What about just for the dance scene? We could wear them in the dance . . . my mother . . .

BLITHE
Has anyone seen my keys?


Monday, January 28, 2013

Holy Herriman!

Note: This one is so long...Sorry! But I am BUGGED to ranting.
Pardon the attitude and piousness that I espouse to loathe. It's my blog. Take it or leave it. 

Sucks to be Herriman, Utah, right now. Or just Utah in general.


We're looking stupid. 

I want you to know that not all the Eagle Forum members are Mormon. It wasn't started by (Mormon) Gayle Ruzicka, she just runs the Utah Chapter. It was started back in St. Louis by a lady named Phyllis Shafly who was Catholic. Phyllis fought against ERA in the 60s which I think is the ultimate irony. Nevertheless, the Eagle Forum is something that exists in many states to protect "family values." For some reason, in Utah, they really create some unnecessary chaos sometimes. There are some nutsy people out there that piously wave their self-made rules above all our heads. Careful you don't stand up too tall, they'll put your eye out.


I gave a tour through our school to a mom and her son last week. They were from Herriman. I asked her why she was thinking about sending her child all the way out here to the East bench in Salt Lake to school every day and she said "you haven't seen the news?"

I did wonder (silently, when I first shook hands with her) if she was going to inspect my production season before she registered her kid. Would she complain about Legally Blonde...I was waiting for it. But instead, she was thrilled to hear that we still had free open enrollment.

Shame one bad apple could label a town overnight.

And to be fair, the label belongs to a group of people that hold an imaginary key to all the worlds morals and ethics. I wish I had that key, I'd toss it in the JORDAN river.

Because I didn't post this blog two weeks ago when the issue was hot and bothered, I should review:

Months ago a teacher in the Jordan School District (here in the Southern end of the Salt Lake Valley) did the play Dead Man Walking. This play opens the debate about the death penalty. There was a disgruntled parent, whose child was in the play, and AFTER the play was over, complained to the Jordan School District flanked by The Eagle Forum, a political group hell-bent on getting the entire population to see things through their rose-colored glasses.

Of course the Eagle Forum has the media on speed dial, so within minutes it was public knowledge that a teacher in the Jordan School District was actually using the theatre as a forum to make her kids think.

Only kidding.

That's just what I wish had happened.

Instead, Jordan School District decided to create a "play selection policy and THE LIST." CLICK ME TO READ THE ACTUAL POLICY. This created a board of people that would decide what was appropriate to produce on the high school level and what was not. They also created a list of plays that teachers could choose from. 

In Utah we have a teacher advocacy group called the Utah Advisory Council for Theatre Teachers. Several of the UACTT leaders went to the meeting when the policy was discussed. They actually encouraged the JSD to avoid any policy that takes the selection process out of the hands of the Principal and their drama teacher, arguing that they were the ones that were best able to judge what kinds of plays would best serve the education of their students at their school. Jordan didn't listen. Remember, The Eagle Forum was breathing down their necks. School districts don't like attention unless it's the good kind. There was a big stink, the play was already over when the complaint was made, the teacher kept her job and the policy was ratified.

Forward a few months.

There was (is) a drama teacher that decided she wanted to produced All Shook Up, the Joe DiPietro musical which is owned by Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW - this company ROCKS by the way!) She happens to teach in Jordan School District.

After she cast the show, which in itself is a horrible task, they started rehearsing. And then it happened. ONE parent came in (flanked by an attorney) and voiced a complaint to the Principal that the play violated "community standards." She demanded that one of the songs in the show be cut (A Little Less Conversation) and the line in the show indicating that the town was full of "unsatisfied women," if you know what I mean. DO YOU? I am unsatisfied when I have to work 15 hours a day. I am unsatisfied when we run out of ice cream. It was very clear that this parent went straight to the ghetto train of thought and climbed aboard. All aboard!! Oh wait...no one else is on the train except your paid lawyer? Let's cancel the play anyway. Okay!

Lawyers scare school districts.

***

This is where is gets really fuzzy for me. Was this parent the appointed voice of the community en masse? Was there a petition of disgust signed by more than half of the community en masse? No. But this one parent s.h.u.t. the learning d.o.w.n. And the media descended on the ludicrous claims...again. The media was satisfied and then some.

Since I know (because I am one) that NO administrator would EVER call in the media to report on this ridiculousness, this must have been a very powerful parent. Dun dun duhhhhhn.

And so well connected to the media, too. Hmmmm...

And so good at keeping their name a secret too.

If you are going to complain about something...OWN IT. Sign your name! Participate in the solutions to the problem. Only masked terrorists drop a bomb and run.

(Right here is where I digressed so far I actually copied it into its own blog...Hehehehe...coming later)

Let's get back on track. I'm not sure how far into the rehearsal process they were at Herriman, but they were standing in front of set pieces on the news, so I'm assuming it was far enough to give that brand new, first-year teacher a mighty anxiety attack or two. I feel so bad for her. She had the play approved BEFORE the new Jordan District policy had been put into place. She should have been okay to trust her Principal to know the community when she might not because she is brand new. 

She did what most teachers do.

Just for the education of those non-drama types that read this blog, this is how it's usually done: months in advance the teacher gave her play choices to her Principal and he/she approved it. After all, All Shook Up had been produced in Utah nine times before Herriman paid to rent the script. After she got permission from the Principal to go forward, she applied to the company that owns the script and they cashed her very big check (probably around $2000), and sent her the scripts. 

You can't just pick a musical or play and do it. Someone wrote that script, music and orchestration. You have to PAY all those people to use their work. Big licensing companies manage those contracts, advertise it, distribute it... they fight for your business. I have the upper hand, I am the customer. Every playwright wants people to pay to use their script. Except Neil Simon...but that's another blog.

Not all musicals are "up for grabs." I LOVE it when people say "I think you should do WICKED! I saw it four times at the Capitol Theatre and you should do that next!" To simplify this explanation let me just say, new shows, blockbusters (Wicked, Lion King...) that are still selling out on Broadway years and years into a run, are "restricted" to Broadway only until they start to lose money and then they are opened up to us amateur pee-ons. So if you see a high school producing a full-length version of Wicked, that teacher is on her way to the big doll house, if you know what I mean.

So when you get a script, you aren't apt to violate copyright, though it does cost the the state more to keep you in jail than you take home in salary...just sayin'. And they will do your laundry for you in jail...and make sure you eat three times a day...ah, the luxury! But then you wouldn't be able to work 15 hours a day getting your show up. You might just have to read all day. Or think. Or sleep. Or write a blog...

(Mind wandering...lost my train of thought....oh yeah)

More than the opportunity to have the taxpayers take care of you for a while, you're giving yourself permission to think you are a better playwright than the actual playwright, and more than that, you are just as bad as a parent that wants the "swears" taken out.

So don't just cut the "bad stuff" on your own.

The way to get around all those "swears" is to write a list of what you want to cut, need to cut, and mail it in BEFORE you have paid your licensing. Talk to your licensing rep who will then talk to the playwright and get permission to make those cuts. THEN...once they have come half-way with you, make sure that you say the following before the show stars (or print it in the program) "Any changes that were made in the original script of tonight's show were made possible through Theatrical Rights Worldwide" (or (Music Theatre International or whoever owns the script). We thank them for acknowledging the role of educational theatre in the lives of our young people as they learn about life and all its trials and tribulations before they have to actually go through it themselves. Okay that last part's a bit preachy...

Jim Hoare said it best. Jim is our friend, whom we LOVE, at the licensing company of Theatrical Rights Worldwide in New York City. They own All Shook Up. Jim came out to see our production of it in St. George. We've stayed friends since then and so when the Herriman debacle went national, he picked up the phone and told Andy he really didn't want the good name of TRW and All Shook Up dragged through the mud nationwide. What could he do? Andy said "if Joe DiPietro (the author) is okay with it, let them cut the "offending song." Joe said "has the check been cashed? Let them do whatever."

Then Jim did the smartest thing ever. He sent Andy this text from the PRESIDENT OF TRW and asked him to read it to the teachers out here: (This is copied and pasted from Andy's phone)


Subject: Just Ask

Dear TRW theatre family,

The majority of the musicals in our catalogue were written for the Broadway stage, to be performed by professional actors in front of audiences expecting and accepting of a heightened level of language, nuance, subject matter and presentation. In essence, the Broadway production is a “destination experience” for those who attend.

Your school, community or regional theatre production is a “foundation experience,” and, no two foundations are built the same when factors including the age of the performers, the region of the country or the demography of the audience are considered. No successful theatre program can be built or survive without a solid foundation. We understand this and support it.

So how does the destination experience of the Broadway musical assimilate to the foundation experience at your theatre?

Our License says you cannot change, delete or add to the music, lyrics or dialogue or anything to the musical as provided. We expect that upon your selection of a certain title, you plan to perform it exactly as written. But, our License goes on to say that any proposed change, addition, omission, interpolation, or alteration in the music, lyrics, or book shall first be submitted in writing to TRW. In accordance with copyright only the authors can change the show, and if they approve, we will come back to you with their edits.

For many of our titles, we have already modified the script and/or lyrics to have the Broadway language alongside a school/community revision. In addition, we have several titles with youth or school editions now available or soon to be released.   

So when we see you at conferences, or meet at your theatre, or talk to you by phone or correspond via email, we want you to know that you can ask us about making changes. At times you will be told no-you must present the musical as written. At times you will be told yes-with all or a few changes allowed.

We want you to ask, because TRW is a part of your theatre family.

Sincerely,

Steve Spiegel 
Isn't that awesome! BOO on Neil Simon and you're welcome for the vacation house in Italy. Your piousness is no longer in fashion. Your holiness to the written F word has suddenly dipped on the stock market....big.

Oh... so good to get that off my chest.


Sooooo.... I hope that gives you more power as you choose your seasons. Don't be afraid to choose new material or even material with controversial themes. This is why the theatre exists...to make us critical thinkers... OH and never forget my favorite quote by Brigham Young: 

"Upon the stages of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy result and rewards; the weakness and the follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon minds of a community an enlightened send of a virtuous life, and also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and a just dread of its consequences. The path of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed, and how to shun it." (Discourses of Brigham Young, pg. 243)

Would the Eagle Forum argue with Brigham Young? I don't know...I only know that I taught drama to some of Gayle Ruzicka's kids in junior high and they were awesome. I'm not sure why she's on a holy war against the theatre...maybe she didn't get the role she wanted in junior high...those scars run deep if you aren't allowed to learn how to deal with them.


The picture to the left is not Gayle Ruzicka, but the lady that started the Eagle Forum. She looks like she didn't get the roles she wanted either. Or she wasn't allowed to be in plays at all. Shame. I've seen plays change lives. I wrote about it at 


That's My Olympics


She needs to be in a play. There's a great role for her in The Wizard of Oz. 

I digress...

So as we were watching the news and the reporter said Jordan School District had intervened and stopped the production of All Shook Up at Herriman, we gasped with laughter! A.L.L. S.H.O.O.K. U.P.? The Elvis/Shakespeare love child? WHAAAAAAAT? We had a blast with our 2010 cast of about 75 kids at Tuacahn High School. We racked our brains for something we had cut. Nothing.

We knew it would sell well in our retirement community, so we actually rented a bigger theatre and sold E.V.E.R.Y. S.E.A.T. In addition to putting so much money back into education, it changed lives!  It's an upbeat compilation of Elvis music tied together (fairly loosely) with the plot of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Well, now that I'm dissecting it,  I realize that right there you've already spelled trouble. You've got Elvis, America's hip-swiveling gift to Rock 'n Roll circa 1950, and Shakespeare, Britain's foremost expert on all things sexual, circa 1590. Did Joe think about that when combining the two phenoms? I think he did. Because the resulting musical reminds me of the first time I ate cotton candy, or held a cuddly puppy, or got a surprise check in the mail. It isn't Les Miserables, lets face it. You don't always have enough voices to do Les Mis. And sometimes the audience doesn't want to spend three hours watching a bunch of French students die. (Les Mis is my third favorite musical by the way, next to Godspell and Pippin... don't judge.)

The All Shook Up cast was one of the best combinations of roles and kids we've ever had. They just "fit" the roles so well and they took the message of the play very seriously as most kid do that attend a performing arts high school. We had two kids at the helm, Chris and Phoebe. I saw it challenge and stretch them as performers, and leaders, before my eyes! We stylized the acting by incorporating the feeling of a 1950's B horror movie into the townsfolk. Sort of Urinetown meets Little Shop of Horrors. (Incidentally, that ensemble won "Best Ensemble" at the Utah Musical Theatre Awards later that year. Those kids were rock stars!)

One of the first big numbers is (Heartbreak Hotel) which happens in a 1950's diner and I could have gone that way, all poodle skirts and bobby socks...but in All Shook Up, the town needs a tune-up.  Everything is worn out, the diner, the auto shop, there's even a dilapidated fair grounds where everyone goes to make out. I would. Even the museum has gotten a new curator.

The lead is an Elvis type character that has just been released from jail for getting the women "all shook up" in a nearby town. Chad's motorcycle breaks down in another worn out town that just happens to need his magical services too. The leading girl, a motherless mechanic at the repair shop, falls instantly in love with Chad and the rest of the musical is about that journey.

Yes...she does kiss him. And yes...she is dressed up as a boy when she does it... (sigh...) Chad thinks she's a boy. The only person that complained about that in St. George, was another local drama teacher. "How did you get away with that?" she wondered. Well, we reminded her, the audience is well aware that the character is actually a woman...dressed up, as a man...remember that whole Shakespearean device? The kiss ends and both characters have a moment of "what just happened?" I chose NOT to have Chad run from the kiss in horror. The tone of the direction was probably not the tone of the community standards as a whole...it was neutral. N.E.U.T.R.A.L. 

And that's how you get around a lot of things! TONE. When you present things in high school, encourage your actors to find the neutrality in a reaction and let people think for themselves. If you were in a regional theatre or Off-Broadway in a "destination" experience, then neutrality be damned, you get to do what you want. Do the all nude version of All Shook Up. But think about the word "shake" and all that nudity... just sayin' you might want to think about that. 

What to do... what to do....


ADVICE TO THE PARENTS:
I want you to read the scripts of the plays your children are auditioning for BEFORE you let them audition. Be that involved. Don't be a bully about your particular standards. Teach your children that if the play content does not reflect your standards, then they should simply choose to do something else without piousness. Matthew 6: 2 - 6. 

You have every right to complain about the content of a play BEFORE it's produced. But unless you bring more than half of the community with you that believe the same thing, don't cover yourself with the "community standard" blanket. There isn't one. Once a play is up and running...back the hell off! Let learning happen. If you go to the play and find out that "OH NO! My child says some swears! I'm going straight to the media about this," that ship has sailed! It's too late! Your ignorance does not give you the right to complain anymore. 

TO THE MEDIA:
The story about the mom that wanted the teacher to censor a play AFTER the play was already in rehearsal isn't a story about censorship, the Eagle Forum or even a wayward school district. At that point, it was a story about a dumb parent that didn't do her homework. You looked dumb because you covered it. 

TO THE JORDAN SCHOOL DISTRICT:
Unless you love all this negative media attention, get rid of the list and give the power back to your Principals.

PRINCIPALS: 
I hear you talking in the halls about the football games as if you have bet your life savings on the team. You know every detail of your star quarterback's life including how much money BYU is paying to get him next year. Have you honestly READ the play you just approved? I pity the Principal that would rather die than read a play. I know you are exhausted!!!! I was at the school 74 hours last week and I don't even teach this year! Read the list you are given. I feel that the Herriman Principal jumped to a conclusion and didn't know the rules and regulations of script copyright before they had already cancelled the show. KNOW THE RULES. 

DRAMA TEACHERS:
The rest of this is for you, take it or leave it. Provide copies of the plays to be read that can be checked out of your library by anyone that wants to read them - well in advance! Provide a copy for the Principal. Provide a list of the changes you intend on making. If you don't want to have parents in your office, the Principal can pre-empt that but ONLY if they know what you are doing about it. I love what my friend and fellow drama teacher Stewart does. He gives each auditioner a "swear chart." So they know the content before they audition. He makes the parents sign off on the content before they audition. 

Teachers, instead of changing the scripts, choose scripts that you know don't need to be changed for your audience and do that show perfectly! Do you feel less of an artist when you aren't doing the Laramie Project, Rent, or Jet of Blood? You should teach on the university level. Would you get fired if you did the full nudity in Metamorphosis, but you LOVE that show and want to direct it with the nudity soooooo badly? After all, it says right in the script that the character is naked. CHOOSE ANOTHER SCRIPT. Not sure if you know this, but all private parts should be covered on the high school level. Even cleavage steals focus from a storyline. This is high school for crying out loud! They are 15 - 18 years old! Let them learn about that stuff after they have decided who they are. It's okay to learn Absurdism by doing a scene from Brecht's Mother Courage... instead of Artaud's Jet of Blood

If that's not enough for you as an artist yourself, STOP TEACHING. Go back to school and get your MFA or your PHD and do what you want with people that already set their standards and are strong enough emotionally, mentally and spiritually to handle content like that. You are a high school teacher. Your emphasis should be your kids. Not your resume. (Though I don't ever direct anything I don't want to direct. The money on the high school level is WAY TOO BAD for that.) Do you know how many plays and musicals are out there? Don't fall back on what you know...read, read,  read more!!! See shows!! Be in shows!!! 

Spend some time with your script. Don't assume it's perfect because you remember doing it in high school yourself. Time spent will help you decide how to change things by altering the TONE rather than the script.


Wanna do Godspell? You should! Afraid? No need. Stephen Schwartz will answer your email. I asked to drop the character names and just use the actor names instead. Audience favorite! 

Pippin? Don't do the suicide at the end. Make it a magic trick. Put a disappearing box up on stage. Pippin has an opportunity to disappear forever... eh??? Same exact thing! Different directing choice. 

Trouble with "Oh My God" in Legally Blonde? Do the "junior" version and put a cell phone in every girls hand and make it OMG which means exactly the same thing and actually makes it very current. 

Grease is a huge money maker!? Hate the demoralizing ending? Put Danny Zuko in a student council sweater and add some glasses and a backpack. Ta da! No changes to the script are necessary. Everyone does things to "win" over the person they love. YOU, the director, have made a choice that changes the tone only.

Love Seven Brides? Think about that kidnapping thing. Assault too. Wish it wasn't so embedded in the plot. Pretty sure there was some premarital sex going on. They even use Witch Hazel on all their wounds. They were witches. And Oklahoma has the "rape ballet," a pogrom in Fiddler on the Roof, an abortion recipe in Quilters, a wharf full of prostitutes in Les Mis...(don't even get me started about all the profanity in Les Mis, yet is sells out in Utah in five minutes wherever its produced. Explain that to me). Little Shop has a man-eating plant, The Little Mermaid has that shell costume, Once on This Island has an intended murder, pre-marital sex, West Side Story has gang violence, Annie Get Your Gun = women's liberation, guns... Urinetown...hmmm...nothing to cut in Urinetown except it has that terrible title.... ;-) And how do you advertise Damn Yankees with that big swear on the poster? (That was real phone call I took one day).

Wanna do Midsummer? Good luck with that...every other line is filled with sexual references, but according to the Educational Theatre Association, it is still the most produced play in high school's around the nation for the billionth year in a row. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

"But I might see Cupid's fiery shaft, quenched in the chaste beams of a watery moon..."
                                            - A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 2 Scene 1
Sheer porn. 

By the way, you can cut Shakespeare's plays at will. He's dead. He won't sue you. His children won't sue you. Once a playwright has been dead 75 years+, most times those plays become public domain. Except for Neil Simon, I'm sure he's already got his lawyers working on how to prevent that.


FOR EVERYONE THAT GOES TO PLAYS:

It seems to me that far and wide a people will be base and uncivil if they aren't educated. They will appear pious and self-righteous if they complain about something and don't tell us who they are. They will have power because they know how to shake that piousness over a little Elvis music and call it "indecent" and shake the entire theatre world... but for good. It took the Herriman event to get us talking. 

Holiness to the written word, mothers, fathers and apple pie but PLEASE remember respect for the sheer amount of work it is to be a drama teacher. Can you help them take the drama out of drama?

They are a producer, contract specialist, artistic director, team manager, casting director, concept designer, dramaturg, certified acting teacher, people mover and arranger... a music director, accompanist, voice teacher...a choreographer, stage combat designer...a costume designer, fabric buyer, cutter, stitcher, milliner, finisher...a set designer, builder, lumber buyer, hardware expert, painter, mover, safety controller...a sound designer, i-tunes specialist, sound board mixer, microphone repairer, cable runner, battery changer...a lighting designer, buyer, colorist, special effects creator, light board operator, mood maker, electrician, circuitry mathematician, follow spot expert...a props master, pyrotechnician, historical decor professional, craft innovator, spray painter, glue gun queen...a public relations diva, graphic designer, press release writer, professional photographer, advertising mogul, poster printing expert, post master, radio ad maker, poster hanger, ticket seller, house manager....an accountant, a nurse, psychiatrist, custodian, mediator, psychic, wailing wall...and don't forget...THEY ARE EDUCATORS! And they work for pennies because they love it and they believe in what it does for kids. 


And finally, drama teachers are the lantern by which we lead our kids through the darkness of their teenage years. Teachers need to stand up and speak out. We have a right to choose because we know the literature! We like our work, we like our clientele. We are professionals! We will protect your child. We will get them on stage! We will teach them to work in a group, to meet a deadline, to communicate, to love the art inside of them. The research is there...put a gun in a teenagers hands and you have given them the ability to create death. Put a script in someones hand and you have given them the ability to create LIFE! (I know that might sound over simplified to you, but it makes perfect sense to me.)


DRAMA GROWS GOOD KIDS. And you don't believe that you can come in and say it to my face. We'll be civilized as I throw you down and call you ...I digress...and so often do. Excuse me now I need to go back to rehearsal...where I make a difference and not a stink.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Not So Little Women

Note:  Paula's birthday was November 21st and I'm just getting this done. But in a way, it's perfect because it's the first week of 2013 and Paula is an amazing example of self-motivation and GIRL POWER. What kind of goals does a person set that seems to have conquered all the typical demons?



“…she was one of those happily created beings who please without effort, make friends everywhere, and take life so gracefully and easily that less fortunate souls are tempted to believe that such are born under a lucky star.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women


I was sitting in the back of my parents car...seems to me it had a maroon interior...we were going to the hospital to pick up my mom and the new baby. I remember my dad asking me what I wanted to name her and giving me a list of possibilities. I don't remember any other name on the list but the one I liked: "Paula." And that's one of my earliest life memories.

They say you begin to remember things long-term when you're about four year-old. Paula came into the world just two days before I turned four. So I like to think of her as my life's light. Before her, nothing but a few shadows of memory, after her...a rainbow, and almost always the memories involved her.

I do not have an older sibling. So I really was making the role up as I went along. With the brother that is between Paula and I, it was survival of the fittest. The One About Steve . Steve always had a football or baseball in his hands. I was usually holding something that resembled a microphone. Then a little sister came along and I felt the distinct conundrum of leading the group, but wanting to be independent. She repeated everything I did and it really stressed me out. I expressed this to my mom when I was about 10 or so. She told me that it was going to be my job to keep track of Paula, to teach her how to do stuff, and especially what NOT to do. The a.n.x.i.e.t.y. of it all! Would she always be sticking around?

When you're ten and you have an six year-old shadow trailing you everywhere, you hide from her, you lie to her, you make her work for you, you do everything you can to use her adoration for your benefit.   I was (and still am) terrified of the dark and she was too young to tell on me so I used to pinch her in the night to get her to cry. My mom would come in and lay down by us until we went back to sleep. She did prove useful sometimes.

Back then we were more Lucy and Linus than Little Women ... I'm sure there was a time when she thought "...big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life.” We shared a room until I left for college. Our fights were classic Felix and Oscar (and I was not Felix). But that was about it. The day I left the house to start my Freshman year at SUU I cried all the way to Levan leaving her behind. (Remember when you had to go through Levan because 1-15 wasn't done yet? Yeah, I'm that old.) She was starting her Freshman year at Lehi High and I would miss all that.

It doesn't occur to you when you're 6 or 10, or even sobbing as you leave the house at 18, that you are inescapably connected to that person forever. You may cycle through friends and work mates, but sisters are forever.
Even when we were across the earth from each other, she was in Italy on an LDS mission and I was in Japan teaching high school. We lived those memories together through snail mail as if we were characters in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

(use a British accent, it helps)

          .....Dear Jan, I stood in front of the ancient Colosseum this afternoon, such magnificence, such history! There is a reverence here, a whispering of the past on the breeze ...

          .....Dear Paula, riding the Shinkansen is like traveling to the future! Can I be crossing the land so quickly while standing as still as Stonehenge? If the tranquility of the Japanese people can be learned, I hope I can be a stalwart student...

Just kidding...real translation:

           Dear Jan, Italy's nice. The men drive me crazy, it's like they never saw a blond before. My apartment is freezing and nobody wants to talk to us....

           Dear Paula, Japan's nice. The men drive me crazy, it's like they never saw big boobs before. My apartment is freezing and people pay me a lot of money to talk to them...



Colosseum - Paula in Rome as an LDS missionary
Paula Shelton Rogel has never been a little woman. Not physically - she's 5' 9" tall, not spiritually - she's been a giant in her church responsibilities, and not even emotionally - she'd head up any cause if she thought it would change the world for good. She's Enjolras at the barricades! Even when she was a child, there was an calm power about her. She didn't need attention like I did. She didn't need reprimanding or pushing and prodding like I did.

I have both great pride and utter reverence for her when she's in my presence and I always did. I somehow felt protected by her, even when we were little women.

We grew up playing in our playhouse, pretending to be married to Donny and Jimmy Osmond. We called each other "Cathy" and "Wendy." Last Monday we went to the Donny and Marie concert at Abravanel Hall and when Donny came out into the audience she burst into tears. As he ran back up onto the stage, he had to exit through a door near us and she followed him right out to cut him off at the pass. "I got to give him a side hug!" she screamed, "he said he loved me!" Was she still 8?


Around the Block Parades. If there was a parade to participate in, we did.
We've known each other 44 years now. We've gone from our Donny days to...our Donny days...and somewhere in the middle we blossomed as two entirely different human beings on the same path, but over the years she passed me on the road. The older sister walked slowly behind and stopped far too many times to smell the roses. I never understood how it was she progressed through the milestones of life so quickly and I seemed to struggle so. Hadn't we walked down the same road?

“If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you. - Louisa May Alcott, Little Women


Sportswear! She used to catch worms with my
dad for fishing. He would say "A princess
doesn't pick up worms!" 
Eventually, to my surprise, she stopped following me around. ;-) She was able to pull away from my clown school because she had certain "talents" of her own. Within our sturdy, stocky German genes, there emerged someone that looked more like she belonged in Iceland. I swallowed that one hard. Despite how much she loathes the stereotype, I could tell life was going to work out for her because she was beautiful. Somehow I felt that I worked harder for respect than she did. I had to learn how to crack a joke to get attention but she just got attention because, unlike me, her waistline was smaller than her bust line. And she was blond.


This is when we learned about
spray glue and double stick tape.
I'll bet she doesn't know I
have this picture!!!
How did she get to be blond?

She was in student government in high school. I always ran but never won. She got straight A's because she really cared about it. I only cared because if I didn't keep my grades up I couldn't be in plays. Her transcript was full of difficult classes that would develop her brain, prepare her for college...I took Drama 1, 2, 3, 27, 28 ...choir....more choir...


Drill team dance? You could never write "State Mental"
on your costume these days. 
The most obvious difference between us was the boys! There were so many boys. I did not have an official date in high school unless it was girls choice. She was on the drill team (dance team).  Nobody scans a debate tournament looking to pick up chicks. Its hard to get a date when you spend your weekends in a tweed suit arguing about the arms crisis in Nicaragua. When I was in Thailand she sent me a prom picture... and her dress was strapless!!


We've been standing in front of that
wall for more than 30 years getting our
picture taken.
Strapless was unheard of in our Mormon house...maybe it was just unheard of with me...because, let's face it, it's WAY easier to say "no strapless dresses at our house," than "Gordolita, you don't have the arms for strapless and, considering my enormous "blessings" at the time, a strapless bra would have surrendered in the first five minutes or exploded in the middle of Total Eclipse of the Heart. Nothing eclipsed there. Either way, not a prom scar I needed to blog about 30 years later.


Getting ready to ride in the
Lehi parade. The yellow tights
with the chucks...Awesome.



In small town America, if there was a parade to participate in, we did. I pulled the floats wearing a horse costume, a worm costume...It Is What It Is... she rides wearing a tiara. 


Not a bad upgrade from the bluebird.

I went to Thailand on my mission...land of open sewage canals and the biggest cockroaches in the world and she was sent to Italy, land of pasta, Rome, Florence and Venice. I worked for a year in Japan while she was on her mission and in our letters across the world, we decided to return and find jobs somewhere close together and share an apartment while she saved more money to go back to school.

But the brainy, princess types don't stay single for long.

“…she'll go and fall in love, and there's an end of peace and fun, and cozy times together.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women


Paula and
Charles Rogel, 1993?
This guy started showing up that was a student at BYU. The nerve. They'd been in Italy together and he was taller than her, gorgeous...and I tried to ignore the fact that he was also a comedian. I liked him immediately but I saw the writing on the wall. Paula was going to get the life I wanted in the time frame that had passed me by years earlier. I would be back to scanning the ward for roommates.

But I put my skills into action - all those years of costuming and cake decorating helped the family put a wedding together in my parents amazing backyard.


Always a bridesmaid...


Years later she did the same
for me.







I continued to line up roommate situations for years to come. Paula and Charles added four brilliant kids to their family Christmas photo and they let me borrow their kids all the time. In fact, her two oldest daughters are heavily involved in theatre and THAT'S MY KARMA! Hehehe... Andy and I tell everyone they were just tired of waiting for us so they came down to my sister.

I was living at my parents house while I was working down the street at the local high school. Paula convinced me to build a house. She would help me. As she matured spiritually and emotionally as a wife and mother, her pace on the road of life really took off. I felt trapped in a world of me, me, me. I could live with roommates at 35 but would rather die. However, living alone made me talk to myself and no one was there to say "don't you think eating 12 pounds of toffee should be your limit?" It made me sad and emphasized my failure at finding a husband. It was like living in an above ground coffin.

Paula prayed - and I know she did because I felt haunted by her prayers - every day that I would find a person that could take care of me, know me, love me for me. She knew me better than anyone and I'm sure she saw the morbid inner monologue I had written plainly across my face painted with loneliness. So... when Andy and I entered the Timpanogos Temple sealing room, I looked at her first and she was a wreck! What a relief. The younger sister could relax and stop worrying about the older sister now, though I have a feeling she cried more than I did after Noah died.  I never wanted my miscarriages to define me or to make my sisters feel bad that they filled their homes with amazing kids. They didn't. They brought babies into the world and they have created and shaped that investment with sacrifice and hard work. And in a way, that's what I do too. I just get to let other people pay for their phones, college and car wrecks.


THIS is a gorgeous family inside and out.
“I want to do something splendid...something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women


Everything about Paula's life seemed so perfect and Mormon orderly to me. Mission, husband, house, kids. I know she's not perfect, but she's darn close. She wanted to be a journalist, to travel and maybe broadcast the news or have a talk show. But that all had to wait. She worked to help put her husband through school and didn't go back for her degree until her kids were all in school themselves. Some would say that sacrifice was too much, too old-fashioned, archaic even. UNLESS YOU KNOW THESE KIDS. Then you would say "what an incredible investment! So smart! Why don't more people do that?!"

Well, lots of women do. So what's so extraordinary about this ordinary American that can lift and inspire others? I mean, she isn't President of the United States, though no doubt, she could do the job blindfolded. ROGEL 2016. She could have stayed at home, encapsulating herself in her children's upbringing from the laundry room. But she didn't.

1. She conquers her "natural man."
She got herself up every morning before her kids were even up and she conquered her natural man for an hour by working out at the local rec center or running around the neighborhood. It's not her good German genes that enable her to wear swim suits in public at 44. She runs miles and miles every day! She creates her power by not eating 3 pounds of a 7-pound Costco cake. And when she eats an entire batch of her famous chocolate chip cookies, she runs 10 miles to make up for it.

2. She says YES because it's the right thing to do.
She expands her skills and talents by sacrificing her free time to volunteer in church and community. She was President of the Relief Society (LDS women's organization), President of the PTA at the elementary school, fundraiser for the local beauty pageant, the Bishop's wife...You don't get assigned those callings. You have to say "YES." Yes, I will take care of a.l.l. the women in my neighborhood. Yes, I will do a fundraiser to earn money to remodel the faculty room at the elementary, yes I will bring cookies and cookies and more cookies to the bake sales, yes I will take meals to the sick, elderly and widowed, yes I will make a gift basket for a new teacher, yes I will allow my husband to spend his precious time off at Girls Camp, yes, yes, yes....And nobody says YES anymore!!!

Case in point... and yes - I'm going to digress just before I wrap it up...

When I was called to lead the singing in our children's meetings at church, I said "yes, sounds like fun," and the bishop got emotional. He said, "We've asked four other people before you and they all said no." I was shocked. How hard is it to stand up in front of a bunch of kids and teach them how to sing? I guess it's hard for some. I shouldn't judge.

But that's THE THING. THERE IS A THING...AND IT IS...

We were taught, that to build your POWER, to become a NOT SO LITTLE woman, we could say YES, DO for others, be STRONGER than we were yesterday, JUMP IN and take the bull by the horns. And even if you don't know how to do something, FIND OUT how to do it. The 25-hour day actually exists if you can conquer your natural man.

"We must go forward. God expects you to have enough faith, determination, and trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. He expects you not to simply face the future; He expects you to embrace and shape the future - to love it, rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities."  - Jeffrey R. Holland ( The Greatest Talk Ever given by Jeffrey R. Holland )

So as you say YES, your skill set expands and you are MORE CAPABLE and you continue to break down your insecurities and build your POWER as a woman from the I.N.S.I.D.E. (It can be so much more effective than wearing pants to church! Oops! That's tomorrow's blog!)

Originally I was going to tell you about all the other amazing things Paula does but she would kill me. My question is, how does a person like her come up with New Years Resolutions?! My list is ridiculous!


“I've got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women


This year my New Years resolutions definitely involve Costco chocolate cake. I have a picture of Paula, my light, my example, on my fridge. It used to be a picture from a magazine of some nameless woman with a great body...but she probably never gave birth to four people or was a Relief Society President. This is a woman I know personally, who has challenges but she makes goals, rises to them, and kicks their butt. I can, we can, use her as a prime example right now as we traditionally re-evaluate at this time of year. In order to build our power, we must have enough energy (get healthier) and be willing to say YES!, create the world, shape it, move with it...in Paula's case, run with it. 

A few years ago we went to New York City together and at the end of seeing the Stephen Schwartz musical "Wicked" she turned to me and said - her face soaking wet with tears, "I get you now." It wasn't a moment marked with fireworks or a parade...but it meant so much to me. 

I've heard it said, people come into our lives for a reason, 
Bringing something we must learn 
And we are lead to those who help us most to grow
If we let them and we help them in return
Well I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am because I met you...

Because I knew you...
I have been changed for good.
                    (For Good, from the musical "Wicked")