Archive for sadness

The Sun’ll Come Out….Tomorrow.

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2009 by erikball123

“Bring on tomorrow. Let it shine. Like the sun coming up on a beautiful day, it’s yours and mine. We can make a difference. It’s not too late. Bring on tomorrow…I can’t wait.”

Fame has never been my favorite musical. Sure, it has redeeming qualities…but I’m not overflowing with excitement about the piece. This song, however is from the show. I started with ANNIE’s: “The sun’ll come out, tomorrow…” but figured readers would drop off the site quickly due to it’s overexposure!

I like the lyric. Anytime a piece of music reminds me that a brighter future waits around the corner, I am immediately attached to the piece. You see, all too often I wind up with a gray cloud around my head. Someone will say something hurtful…sometimes a class will test my patience…sometimes my patience will test my endurance…sometimes my endurance will test my faith…sometimes people just mess with my corn flakes! Whatever the reason for the change in weather, I, like many other overly paranoid, highly emotional, sensitive and strong, yet fashionable drama teachers, have a hard time resting my head on my pillow at night. How does one not tire of (what they believe to be) their calling?

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Prayer. “Simple solution, sir.” Say it, don’t spray it! Okay, okay….so prayer is what Pastor Steve tells you to do every Sunday. Prayer is what happiness when you remember to fold your hands at night. Prayer is what happens when you are all alone. Prayer is what happens, when you need a solution, and it’s convenient. Prayer is not a stronghold investment in your faith, and I’m simply talking from MY point of view: an ignorant Lutheran with a whole lotta sin on my heart. I’m a terrible example of a Christian and prayer NEEDS to happen because it is the solution…not because it might be the solution…if it’s convenient…if I remember….if I care.

So, what does this have to do with a brighter tomorrow? I’ll tell you: President Barack Obama. (Whoa! Didn’t see that one coming, did you!) It’s true. Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching the 44th President being sworn in, elbow to elbow with hundreds of my students in the brand new chapel/theater auditorium. The streaming video connection wasn’t the best…and it paused every so often, only to jump forward a few seconds, and I’ll admit, that made it a smidge distracting, but the overall experience is nothing less that historical.

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I sat there among my students…some sleeping…some joking…some rolling their eyes….some crying…watching history. Over 400 years ago, Abraham Lincoln challenged an important piece of parchment called the Declaration of Independence. He freed the slaves. Some people were not too happy. Years later, women were given the right to vote. Later, African-Americans attended public schools side by side with Caucasian students in an effort to bring us closer together. Not merely in arrangement in the back end of the everyday, stuffy bus…but more so in heart, mind, and soul. These are momentous occasions, as they draw us closer to a promise of a free country for all who desire, work and pray for it.

I asked my students, “why should you care about this day? Why is it significant?” They responded, “Well, it’s the first black President.” I prodded, “Okay. Well…what does that mean?” My beautiful, white-collar, 100% Caucasian class stared back at me as if I was setting some sort of political “you outta know” trap. I shifted my approach.

“How many of you have auditioned for a play or musical here at Faith Lutheran?” (About 20 hands.) “How did it work out for you?” (No response!) I explained that very rarely does an audition turn out exactly as you envision. I can look them in the eye and promise until I’m blue in the face that no matter who they are, what their experience is, and how vigorously they’ve prepared…when they walk through that audition door, they have the EXACT same shot at getting the leading role, as their peer that has earned that opportunity. I can SAY it’s based solely on the audition…even to myself, in my heart…but how can I ever PROVE that? Can I? I haven’t found out a way yet.

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I reference Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech: ” I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the treu meaning of it’s creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'” I love that speech. All men a created equal in the eyes of God…and should be seen that way in the eyes of man. Have we had the opportunity to prove that? Not until yesterday. Yesterday, the people of this country put into office the first African-American President. Republican or Democrat, black or white…Christian or otherwise…this is the new tomorrow. This is the beam of light in the cloud that darkens. This is the “something to look forward to.”

I watch as my property value goes down. (I counted five foreclosures in my subdivision, last time I walked the dog.) Gas prices have come down…but will they stay there? We’re a country at war where lives are lost daily. In my own backyard, I watch as our school cuts out those navy blue, itchy faculty polos to make room in the yearly expense report for primary spending. It’s a tough time.

But the sun’ll come out tomorrow. Is Barack Obama the solution to our problems? Who can tell. Maybe…maybe not. All I know is that we as Americans took a giant step yesterday in proving to every citizen that this is truly the land of the free, where everyone has the opportunity for a leading role.

Will the inauguration effect my drama students immediately? Yes. I remember being their age and watching the Challenger explode. I recall the smell of burned coffee in the air, and the look on the Rebel Yell secretary’s face when I walked into my office at UNLV the day the twin towers collapsed. They are vivid recollections. These students…when they are my age…will remember sitting in the Chapel / Performing Arts Center watching a hiccuping screen as our President was sworn in. That promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL was cemented in a huge foundation block yesterday. And while the immediate ramifications couldn’t compete with the wonderfully comfortable auditorium seats and the sleepy-headiness of some…the long term ramifications woke up a nation nodding off.

It is my prayer that somehow, someday…I will be able to prove to my students that hope is always around the corner. There is a new tomorrow, and it will shine.

“We can make a difference, it’s not too late. Bring on tomorrow. I can’t wait.”

AUDITIONS: The Aftermath

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, DIRECTING FOR THE STAGE, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by erikball123

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Well….the dust has settled.

Who am I kidding. The dust will be whipping thru the air for some time! The aftermath of a high school audition tends to linger and simmer into deep resentment, broken hearts and hurt feelings that snowball into entitlement issues, brazen commentary and yet more hurt feelings. Regardless of the length of the pre-audition pep talk….regardless of the post-cast list “open door”…..It’s high school. It’s gonna happen. Let’s not forget that there is much to celebrate for all. Those that DID get in the cast…congrats! Those that barely missed it….congrats! You did great. But, you can’t really have a dialogue with a piece of paper stapled to a bulletin board, right?

My wife (who is the director of this particular show) and I sat in the drama classroom with 20 hopefuls who were called back for round two. When we left, we were SO very impressed. Without pouring myself into specifics regarding each student, let me just say that I was surprised at the level of dedication that each student achieved. Truly, the cast could have been generated in a dozen different ways. I didn’t envy my wife last night as she toiled away, sitting at the dining room table.

Of course, I chimed in from time to time. I’m pretty sure that’s why she turned up the volume to the Cosby Show episode that we Tivo’d.

I love my wife because of many things…but one of the top ten reasons remains the fact that she’s a stellar director. Far superior to anything I’ve ever offered in many ways. Her philosophies and HOW she executes her vision is VERY different than the way I do things. (But from a creative aspect…that’s a good thing, right?) I think we compliment each other well. Her cast is brilliant. They will flesh out the farcical “CLUE” amazingly, I have no doubt. But I can’t help but thinkg that it is the students that DIDN’T get the role today, that they thought they deserved (who may walk away gritting their teeth) that brings me to my blog today.

Emily and I have the unique privilege of working with very talented students. There is always a forum for dramatic arts: inner city, gold-plated suburbia…and, of course Summerlin….and there is never a short-handed supply of those who WANT to perform. (How many students went to sleep yesterday with visions of Prof. Plums dancing in their heads?? I argue: many.)

What we don’t get is a consistent stream of opportunity for those interested. We chose, with great care, mind you, plays and musicals that will be appealing to patrons as well as performers, something enriching, something fun, something challenging……something borrowed, something blue! We have to think about marketability…who wants to play to an empty house. And on top of all that (and more) we’re the ones to light the fire under those students who are on the fence as to whether or not they even have the confidence to attempt to get a role! (That’s a hard fire to shovel coal into.)

That cast list is posted and the smiles will turn upside-down. The nervous hands will go limp. The tension will release. And emotion will take over. I will have 9th graders scorning 11th grades. Young hopefuls will turn into young hatefuls. And I will have students never return to the stage as a result. I argue that passion is never a bad thing, if it’s about something you care about. (Imagine students having passionate feelings about something they believe in…might be a nice change.) It only when they lose sight of those beliefs do their passions turn into pains. Am I being too dramatic? How dramatic is TOO dramatic, when you’re the drama teacher? I think I’m just being honest.

I want so badly to just…..shake these kids! (Reason #56 why Emily and I don’t have kids yet!) How can someone SO talented….so dedicated….so thoughtful…..be so unbelievably clueless. I’m sorry for the reality check…but the fact remains, students DON’T get roles 90% of the time because they are OUT AUDITIONED….not because we don’t think they’re good enough.

“GOOD”….heh. Funny word, isn’t it? Yet, it’s used all the time in things like auditions. Students tend to think we’re looking for something “good” in them. What they don’t know….is that we already know there is. What we’re looking for is a means by which to compliment the students by fulfilling the demands of the show…all the while, educating them. That’s not as easy to say as “Good.”

Granted…not all students are alike. I’m addressing a few, only. There will be those who sing praises regardless. I’m not even concerned or upset. Merely, I want all of my students to know that I believe in them. Mrs. Ball believes in you. We have Faith that win, lose, or draw….God has a plan for all of you. If that means not being a part of the High School Play “CLUE”….so be it. But, until we meet again onstage or off…you are always in our hearts and prayers, for we want you to succeed.

I love my students. I love my job. I love theatre. But, until the day comes that someone somewhere develops a less human way to cast a show that leaves everyone involved chipper….I will stand by my wife, and stand by the formula that is the audition. It works. It works very well. I hope some of the students who were in the room during auditions will selflessly reflect on what those who DID get cast did what was right in order to garnish that role. Until then….with my door wide open….I will continue to offer a shoulder, an ear and thoughtful consideration to anyone who wants to talk about drama, post-audition.

Counselor, I’m not….but I am a human being with feelings. And when my students are crushed….I’m crushed. I don’t have the constitution to be any less a person.

“We’re actors. We’re the opposite of people.” – Tom Stoppard

Again…I Say Rejoice!

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2008 by erikball123

Why is it that every time I want to rant about something…every time I find an opportunity to get nasty….every time I need to vent about how badly I was wronged….something swoops down and dissolves the mood? Can you believe I’m complaining that I can’t find an opportunity to be upset. That’s irony folks.

My apologies for not posting in a while. On the heels of a very exciting, very busy week, I find myself sitting in my church clothes on a Sunday afternoon…finally taking a breather. Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once and a while, you could miss it.” True dat. Despite the fact that earlier this school year, at some point, I sneezed and found myself in the middle of October…I’m a week away from opening a musical….and I’m looking forward to the first official week of utilizing the new Chapel / Performing Arts Center as a fully functioning space….I think I should take time to talk about what makes me happy. (I’m about due. I looked at my previous blogs….Surgery, Death, Boo-Berry Cereal….sheesh. I’m one depressing dude!)

First and foremost, in the spirit of spreading joy…. Chick-O-Sticks….ever heard of ’em? I’m finding that alot of people haven’t. This is probably the most under appreciated candy bar ever. (I’d rank it up there right next to Jelly Beans as MOST under appreciated candy of all time. Not Jelly Bellies….darn that stupid buttered popcorn!!!!…..Jelly BEANS.) But, Chick-O-Sticks….I love them. They have a delicious, crumbly crunch and wonderful peanut butter taste, toasted coconut….they’re orange and have nothing to do with Chicken as the name would imply. Stinkin’ awesome. I find that if I keep one of these timeless puppies in my glove compartment…on those days when you just don’t know how to deal with life….a Chick-O-Stick makes life a little bit sweeter. (Figuratively and literally.) I don’t expect you to rush out and grab one, (But if you do, get me one!) but I would ask that the next time you see one….try it.

You know what else makes me happy. Seriously…RAFFI’S “Banana Phone.” It’s a stupid little children’s song that I happened upon when two of my students did a musical number routine to the song in full banana costumes for their Thespian Society inductions. I downloaded it and reserved a corner parking spot for it on my iPod. On shuffle, every now and then, I’ll stumble upon the song, and it instantly puts a smile on my face.

I love my dogs. We have four total. Two are officially Emily’s (because, quite simply, she’s laid claim to them) and two are mine…because they’re not Emily’s. Actually, that’s not totally true. Penelope the Pug is all mine. (A birthday present from 7-years ago.) I love her so much. She’s so…..simple. Like her papa. Everything is always brand new to her. There is never a clever moment for this pooch…and as they say, ignorance is bliss. She’s wild, snugly, noisy…and she’s all mine! My other joy is Beatrice. My 12-year old, blind, toothless, diabetic Chihuahua. She carries on like a headstrong senior citizen and shuffles through her every day with her little tongue sticking out. She’s my gummy bear. Dogs are funny. They’re completely dependent on you, they are loyal to the max, and they bring you such joy…a joy that cannot be described. I’ve actually talked to my dog while snuggling with her on the couch. Have you ever done that? At first you think to yourself…”what am I doing?”….then you figure “who will ever know?…then you realize “she’s actually listening to me.” Dogs are special because they do listen. They don’t know what you’re saying, but they will respond. Try to find another living thing that will immediately respond to you without hesitation or agenda, every time you look them in the eye. I look at my dogs in new ways everyday because of that.

I love performing. Yesterday we had a weekend rehearsal for “Beauty and the Beast” which is opening in a week out at Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Center. Click here for more info. (Hope you can make it!) Let me tell you something…trials and tribulations aside, there is something special about theatre. I was sitting next to my friend Kari (she plays Belle) and we were watching a scene onstage, and we talked about how there is nothing like theatre. Where else do you take something REAL, scale it up or down, dress it up really pretty, dissect it, analyze it…and then try it on for size…and then offer it to a willing audience? Where else can you find such raw dedication? (And the funny thing is, the audience accepts it!) There is just something magical about it. When two set piece are put together and suddenly you have castle doors. When a lighting effects stretches the imagination, and suddenly you’re in the woods. When a shift in dynamic accented with music, evokes emotions and suddenly the audience is a part of the “mob scene.” Dang…I love it. It’s hard stinkin’ work putting up a show. Time, effort, money…patience. Sheesh. But, at the end of the day, it’s something that was a part of you…and a part of the audience. You can never take that away. I’ll never be a pirate…but for one night I was Captain Hook. I may never see the Broadway stage, but for one night I was a choreographer in a chorus line. I may never be a gallant suitor…but for one night, I climbed a castle and fought a Beast! As long as I live, theatre will be very, very close to my heart.

I love my students. I have six classes, and I approach each of them VERY differently. Even the two sections of High School Drama…talk about different personalities and atmospheres. I always find it interesting how the time of day plays a huge part in how students approach work in class. Last block before they go home, for instance is very different than second block right before lunch. Teaching has its own rewards…especially in the way that it keeps you on your toes every second of every day. My Advanced Drama class is a unique one this year. It’s kinda hard to explain…allow me to try. Imagine a class of Juniors and Seniors (all of which you know very well…most of which you’ve worked with before onstage) and now put them right next to a group of students who may not have as much experience in performing, but NEED Drama class, because they are wildly creative people with passions that need to be expelled.  (Hey! There’s chocolate in my peanut butter! No, wait! There’s peanut butter in my chocolate!) Anyway…all of these kids I care about very much…but I’m finding myself struggling with them more than any other class. Not because they are bad, mind you. To the contrary…they all want to be a part of something good…and fun. But in heir varied (sometimes impulsive) efforts, the true ensemble effort gets lost in translation and the result is two camps…..ultimately generating two philosophies.

On one hand we have students who desperately want to WORK…..gnash teeth if necessary….to bring their craft to the next level. On the other hand, you have students who want to perform…and have fun doing it. Both groups want to be successful…but neither want the other group to “get in the way” (for lack of better words) of their efforts. A lot of the class/scene work is given a group, “ensemble” grade. Over the last few days, we’ve had to forgo the usual lessons to actually sit down and talk, as class. (Something I think is WAY underdone in classes today.) The results were very good. Everyone was forthcoming, everyone had an opinion…and now we’re working toward a better tomorrow, together.

Will it be perfect? I don’t anticipate that. But I do know this…where else can a teacher go to a “troubled” class and sit down with them…look them eye to eye, collaborate, and together….regroup. Even MENSA meetings wind up in arguments over why the Oreo cookies should be arranged in vertical rows and who owns the second series of NUMBERS. You see…I love my job. I know that, as a class, we’ll get there…and we’ll do it together. If we have to trample on the “routine” of teaching that class, and approach this self-disciple in a weird, awkward way to do it….so be it. I’m ready, and I have the privilege to work with students who WANT to get ready too.

I could go on: Grandmas, my wife’s smile, the smell of freshly cut grass and freshly pumped gasoline (I know, I’m a freak)….and there more! Plenty of stuff I have to be thankful for, and find great joy in. But I would like to end by mentioning something that I presented in a Children’s Chat at church today from Philippians 4:4-13. This scripture, which details the message Paul wrote from prison, reminds me that even in my darkest moment I can find peace in the Lord. I can turn to prayer and know He will hear. I have plenty to be thankful for and a multitude of things in my life that bring me great joy. But, I admit, I have sad moments…I hang my head low and think sad thoughts. During these times it’s a great comfort to me that the Lord is listening and He will help me cope.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!”

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