Yesterday, I took my theater arts students to see Comedy of Errors at CSUN. We got very lucky that for this particular show, CSUN offered student matinees for FREE.
In many ways, I am living my dreams with this job. If you asked me five years ago, teaching drama and directing plays would have been on the top of my "buried list." Last year, while teaching dramatic literature through performance in my English classes, word started buzzing around with my kids that I should teach drama the next year. The school had a drama teacher at that point, but he wasn't really directing plays and running a theater arts program, but just teaching one academic class. I had a feeling he'd be gone the following year (and my feeling was right), but I didn't think I could handle being a drama teacher yet.
Then I read this book and did this study with my church called One Month to Live. It changed the way I look at life. Honestly. The idea behind the book really is to eliminate the word "someday" from your vocabulary and replace it with the word "today." So I decided, "Why not" and asked if I could have a theater program. It was the best decision I ever made. Although it is the hardest thing I have ever done, it is also the most fulfilling.
A few weeks ago, I was really frustrated about some of my actors not taking rehearsal seriously and not being as committed as I wanted them to be. I started to think, "What can I do?"
At a big performing arts school or at a college or in a professional atmosphere, I would threaten to replace them... but this is none of those, and I need every single kid I have there. I had a brief (yes, very brief) pity party in which I thought, "Not fair. When I was in high school, there were tons of kids who wanted to be in drama, and I would have a lot to choose from... not just all these uncommitted kids who mostly can't sing (we're doing a musical this semester)."
Then I paused and thought, "But the school I went to had like 3000 people." True, my high school drama department had a reach of about 80 members, but that is less than 3% of the school. The program I currently run has about 45 members. This may not sounds like a lot, but I teach at a school that has 450 students. This means I have 10% of the school involved in theater arts. That's not half bad!
Then, over the past couple of weeks, I have started to really dwell on that and have realized how amazingly lucky I am. This is my first year teaching drama. I have never done it before. In fact, before this Fall, I had never even directed a full-length play, just a few short scenes. Yet, with the help of my amazing students (and my dad and my friend Janelle), I directed and produced Go Ask Alice. When I was talking to the coordinator from CSUN yesterday and he asked what we were doing this year, I told him we had just finished Go Ask Alice and he said, "Wow, that is really heavy for high school kids!" I hadn't really thought about that, but you know, it was a heavy show. Not a single kid I had on that stage had ever acted in a full play before. They were pretty amazing if you consider that.
I was worried that they wouldn't understand Comedy of Errors yesterday, as Shakespeare can be really intimidating. Not only did they understand it, they loved it! I had been too nervous to think about doing Shakespeare yet, but I think I am feeling Midsummer Night's Dream next Spring.
I really am lucky.