Sunday, November 08, 2009

Yeah, I know....

OK; so I know this is long overdue. It seems there is always something more self-destructive to do.

I've been dealing with my life somewhat better since my last post. There are good and bad periods. The summer was great and productive, but now that the kids are back at school and I'm not working, I'm finding it difficult to remain engaged in worthwhile activities. But I'm focused on being grateful and trying to stay positive.

Finally, an update.... In the fall of 2005, Avan was a senior at Woodridge High School. Their musical director had moved to Florida, and Avan was at risk of having no show her senior year; so she asked if Tom and I would consider directing. We knew it would be a challenge, since we were short on time, but we did it for Avan--and a little bit for us. I would be director/choreographer, and Tom handled the music and the set construction.

It was a good decision, and a great time for me. I was excited to get involved in theater again. Just stepping foot in the auditeria (auditorium/cafeteria), I felt life coming back to me. I had returned to the mothership. We chose Working as our show, because we were familiar with it, and because we felt confident we could throw it together in a short time (we had six weeks, including a week of auditions) and with a small budget. The cast was inspiring, and we had a wonderful, challenging, exhausting time. We opened and closed the first weekend in March of 2006.

"Something to Point To"


Though we had originally designed that we would do only the one show, for Avan's sake, we fell in love with the other students and decided to come back the following year. We moved onto Pippin, a show I love, and a show which Tom felt confident he could handle from the pit, since he had since rejoined 1964... The Tribute, and was back on the road virtually every weekend. He juggled things, and the show came together at the last minute... literally. Our first non-stop run-through was opening night, which, despite a few glitches, went very well.


The next year we decided to tackle West Side Story. I'm still not sure how we thought we could pull it off, but we were ambitious, and tried the if-you-build-it-they-will-come approach. It worked. This is still my favorite musical, and even though I had started a part-time job working in the cafeteria at my kids' school, I was still on a West Side cloud for the five months we put into the show (we started much earlier this time, and had until April instead of our usual March deadline). We had some new and talented leads, Tom pieced together an orchestra, and we enlisted the help of our neighbor who works in construction to help us throw up a workable set in a short period of time. We had sold-out shows, and we received the most positive feedback we've ever had as directors.

West Side Cast

After that show was over, in the spring of 2008, my part-time cafeteria job turned into full-time kitchen manager. I worked at an elementary charter school called Imagine. I sent my children there for one year, with promises from the staff that Jensen would get the attention she needed for her ADD. She didn't. Unfortunately, there were so many behavioral problems within the school that Jensen didn't need any attention by comparison. Cooper grew there in full-time kindergarten, but we decided to put them back into public school that fall.

As a side note, I loved working at Imagine, for the most part. The people there were great. The work wasn't exactly exciting, but I loved dealing with the children. It was an inner-city school, and in a lot of ways I wasn't prepared for some of the things I saw there. I didn't know there was that kind of poverty, violence, and neglect in our own neighborhoods. It really opened my eyes, and I fell in love with so many of those kids. I struggled with one member of my kitchen staff, and came close to quitting because of her, but in the end I was able to deal with it. I also made so many great friends there, and am grateful for the experience.

So I was working full-time during the school year in which we put up Into the Woods at Woodridge. That meant all rehearsals were moved into evenings, and with Tom still on the road, we were only able to rehearse a few times a week. It was a big production with a lot of details to consider, and there were a few times--OK, a lot of times--when we thought perhaps we had bit off more than we could chew. But we had several very responsible and reliable seniors this year who were dedicated to putting on the best show we could. So we formed task forces for them, and they did most of the work advertising, collecting props, painting and dressing the set, assisting with costumes and makeup, and keeping me afloat. Tom used a computer-generated program called OrchExtra provided by MTI that filled out the relatively small orchestra he'd assembled. Again, we were down to the wire, but the cast handled some potential train wrecks very well, and the audiences were none the wiser.

Jack, Jack's Mother, and Milky White

It was a great experience, but afterward I was exhausted and out of passion. Doing such a big show and working a full-time job on top of it really took it out of me. Usually we were thinking about next year's show before the current year's was even over, but not this time. Tom and I were both spent. Understand that if I could just show up and direct and even choreograph* I would love to. But each year we were also responsible for advertising, fundraising, programs, sweatshirts, and all technical aspects of the show, including lights and sound. There was too much red tape, and since we aren't from that community (Woodridge is 35 minutes away), we didn't know whom to ask for help. We found more help as the years went on, but not enough to keep our fire lit.

*I'm not a dancer. I can move, but I've never taken dance lessons. So to call me an actual choreographer is laughable. I come up with movements in my mind, and have to describe them to my performers. Thankfully, they've been able to understand and interpret correctly. Often they'll say, "Oh, you mean a pas de bourree?" Or "Is that an axel turn?" And I'll be, like, "Yeah. What you said." Then I'll use one of them to teach it to everyone else. It ends up looking really good, and I've gotten great compliments, but I still don't feel right calling myself a real choreographer.

So we've bowed out this year. I'm worried that some of the students we grew fond of will be without a show this year, but we've referred someone else for the position, and we hope it works out. I'm torn, and we really did go back and forth with the decision, but in the end we just felt that if we couldn't give 100%--or even 75%--then we shouldn't do it. Not to mention that our children suffered, too, with late nights and having to sacrifice their own extra-curricular activities. We don't have family here to help us out with our children; so we had to drag them with us most of the time. We had to consider them (even though they both cried when they found out we wouldn't be directing at Woodridge anymore).

Ironically, now that I don't have the show on my plate anymore, and have more time and energy for my full-time job, I got laid off from the kitchen manager position at the charter school. Charter school budgets got seriously slashed in Ohio, and they couldn't afford me. (I get that a lot.) They've gone with a less expensive caterer; so I'm at home on unemployment. I had actually gotten my Teacher's Aide certificate last spring (I got a perfect score on my Praxis exam!), hoping that I could return to the school in that position, but they didn't have funding for those, either. I looked for other Aide positions in the area, but school budgets have been severely cut across the board. I've been sort of looking for other work, because we need the insurance, but I was really hoping for something at a school, so that I could be with my kids during the summers. We're getting by for now, but things could change any minute....

Besides directing the Woodridge shows, I've been involved in a couple of productions on stage, too. I was in Jekyll & Hyde during the summer of 2007 at the Canton Players Guild. (Canton is the town directly south of us.)

Cast of Jekyll & Hyde

Immediately after that, I co-directed and performed in a review called A Night on Broadway at North Canton Playhouse. Jensen was in that with me. She sang "Castle on a Cloud" from Les Miserables. I'll post the video in case you haven't seen it yet.

"You're Just in Love"

"I Dreamed a Dream"

The next summer I was in another review entitled Bad Girls on Broadway back at the Guild. It was compiled of various numbers based on "bad girls" from different shows. That was great fun, and I had a lot to do in it.

"Cell Block Tango" (I'm the blur in the middle.)

Now Jensen and I are rehearsing a musical version of A Christmas Carol, also at Canton Players Guild. It was written by two local artists, and the music is very impressive. Jensen is in the ensemble, and I am playing Mrs. Cratchit, along with several other parts. I'm glad to be back onstage. It's good for me.

As many of you know, acting and performing is all I've ever wanted to do. I remember being in the third grade and hearing my teacher tell us we'd be reading for parts in the Christmas play, Hand-Me-Down Hildy. I didn't know why, but my heart started pounding, my head spinning, my blood rushing. A switch turned on while I read for my teacher, and I remember telling my mother when I went home that if I didn't get the part of Hildy, there was no reason to live anymore. (I did.)

I don't know why I was never motivated to try to make a living at it. I think it was a feeling that I wasn't special enough to succeed, so why bother trying. Still, nothing makes me feel like I feel when I'm even in a theater, let alone on stage. So even though I've had to become much more particular and selective about which shows I do, because of my family and their schedules, it's still my passion. It's in my blood. Like Uncle Gord says, "it's what we do."

So that brings us to now. Along the way I've discovered Facebook which lead to reconnecting with old friends and making it back to North Bay for TOROS (summer theater) and Chippewa Secondary School reunions. It's corny, but my best and closest friends are still the ones I made back then. I'm lucky that way....

Currently, besides the show, I'm planning for Christmas. It looks like we'll be spending the holidays between Tom's sister's in soutern Ohio and his parents' in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm so excited about that.

That's it. Not very exciting, I know, but I promised an update; so there it is. I know better than to promise another blog anytime soon, but I'll do my best.

Thanks for indulging. Feel free to comment. Love to you all.



bellj said...

You are never to old to live your dreams!! Set your goals and you can achieve anything. I am always a true believer in that! Miss you!

Ali said...

I Love You Maria. Isn't it crazy how much we can enjoy some things!! The love of another...their understanding, it can be a blessing!!!
LOVE YOU!!! ali