Friday, June 29, 2007

Oh, the drama

So I actually wrote this post months ago, right about my "Acting Up" club performed its first, um, performance: The Case of the President's Laser Protected Disappearing Time Machine. And in retrospect, I have no idea why I didn't blog about the process. I think it was because we met on Fridays and afterwards, I always kind of wanted to die. Here are some highlights:

Usually, I come up with programs and then market them, but this program was actually the brainchild of two girls who come to the library every Friday to do things like check the circulation on their favorite sci-fi novels and research a family tree. And at first I kind of put them off, but they wore me down to the point that I put a handwritten sign-up sheet on the table, and told them we'd do it if they could get 10 kids to sign up. (That's the most I've ever had attend any of my brainchildren.)

There were 10 names in three days. Lesson learned.

Then I wanted to also attract kids who might not sign up for a drama club, so I created a poster that said "Don't worry--no one has to wear tights ..." and called the group the "Acting Up" club. I forgot that even middle school kids are developmentally unlikely to take things figuratively. Three boys reported for duty the first day and actually thought they were in the wrong place when someone said "drama club." They were like, "Hell no, we here to act up."

I made everything up as I went along, including rules, so we ended up with a three-part code:
  1. No flying kicks.
  1. No simulating sex with Beyonce.

  2. No questioning people's sexuality or gender.

I wanted to write one of those vote-for-who-did-it-surprise-ending-mysteries like Shear Madness or The Mystery of Edwin Drood. So I had the kids choose the setting and then the crime and then develop characters. And for setting they chose the Whitehouse, and then they wanted the crime to be the theft of the American flag from the oval office to protest the election of the first black President ... and I went upstairs and explained this to my boss, insisting that the whole thing wasn't a cover for my radical political organizing and it was all Their Idea. I admit I was a little relieved when the following week, they had changed their collective and mysterious mind and wanted the stolen item to be a time machine ... or a wheel of cheese.

Three weeks into the program, one of the stars of our play was kicked out of the library for a month. I tried to talk to him out front one day, but he just leaned against the bike rack and wouldn't look me in the eye. Apparently, he got all up in the face of one of the librarians, swearing, etc., and nothing I could do would get him reinstated until he'd done the time.

A week before the performance, while I was at ALA, one of the teen employees ran a last rehearsal, and every one of my kids showed up (including the kid who was in exile for awhile) and then every one of them got kicked out of the library. Yeah. For real.

On the day of the performance I baked 50 chocolate chip muffins (with the oven at 200 for the first 10 minutes because I'm scatterbrained); collected an assortment of hats, scarves, and props; said a prayer that the time machine would remain intact; and went to the library. Everything went swimmingly during our lightning-fast-top-secret-whispered rehearsal, except that The Scientist didn't show. I called his mom and she still had to pick him up for basketball practice.

It killed me, because this kid was brilliant. He designed the time machine, pronounced words like "perambulate" without flinching, and knew how to swear in Nigerian. But halfway through the second act, when I was in the middle of playing his role and mine (which was hard, because I kept having to change hats and switch which side of the table I was sitting on so I could interrogate myself), he showed! And the whole play stopped and the audience applauded and we went back to the beginning of Act II, and he got to take the time machine home with him.

So I'm uploading the script in case anyone really cares. I'm also mentally composing a list of things I learned that are hopefully transferrable, and I'll add that soon. I read/skimmed a number of books on teaching drama before I started the program, but I found that they were focused on the art of it, and I was just trying to get a show off the ground (art schmart). And in the end, I think I succeeded in that much. If nothing else, I made 50 muffins, right?

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