I’ve been busy this summer. And like millions of other teachers around the country who get their summers off, I’ve been working. My summer job actually started before school ended—I began rehearsals in mid-May for the first of two plays I directed at Crane River Theater Company. I had the distinct privilege of directing John Logan’s beautiful play, Red.
If you are unfamiliar with the play, it is a fictional look at the two years in Rothko’s life when he was working on the Four Seasons commission for the Seagram’s building in NYC. It explores several ideas including the cost of success in art, the artmaking process, father/son relationships, evolution in art, etc. It’s a beautiful two-person play that I connected with on many levels. You might be wondering why I would choose to direct more theatre when my whole school year is filled to the brim with the stuff. The truth is, I can’t do shows like Red at school. I have to do productions with a big cast to encourage involvement in my program that I am desperately trying to rebuild. I need those numbers so I can sell a lot of tickets to make up for my non-existent budget. I also have to be very careful with the content of each play I produce at the high school level due to the conservative community I live in. The language in Red was sometimes colorful (hah!), although never gratuitous. Beyond the text, I got to work with two trained and incredibly intelligent actors. Although I might get to work with some smart kids in high school, they are just beginning their actor training. Michael Williams (Ken) was fresh out of Webster University’s BFA Conservatory Program (where I spent two years of undergrad) and David Rozema is a local star in town who has performed in many a production with Crane River and Kearney Community Theatre. David is also a Philosophy Professor at the local college. Both of my actors had deep respect for the story they were telling and were a dream to work with. The other benefit to working for a semi-professional theatre company in the summer is that my one and only job is to direct the show. Unlike at the high school where I serve as set/costume/light/sound designer, marketing department, box office, carpenter, stitcher, electrician, accountant, etc., my only job was to direct the show. Okay, I was the sound designer as well, but I’m unsure if I only know how to do one role in the theatre at a time anymore. I love working with real designers who bring so much to the process and the production.
Red had a three-week rehearsal period during which we discovered characters and action through exercises. It was really nice to just direct and focus on the work. I need that. You see, I am an artist who happens to be a teacher. I love the art I make with my students and I deeply believe in what we do together. That doesn’t mean I don’t need to sometimes work on a higher level to feel fulfilled. Neither is more important than the other. I know enough about myself that I need both in my life.
Right after Red, I had surgery on my ankle and was forced to wear a boot for six weeks. Two days after surgery I was in rehearsal for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. We rehearsed from 9am-10pm each day and I did my best to stay off of my newly reconstructed ankle. I’m a terrible patient and I hate depending on anyone or anything. I couldn’t drive for 5 weeks because it was my right (driving) foot. My fiancé was so kind to cart me to rehearsal every day. I bit my lip and dealt with it as best I could. We closed the show last Sunday and I have to say I will miss that wonderful cast so much. They just had so much gosh darn heart. They were hard working, gracious, generous, talented, and beautiful people. It was a pleasure for me to be a part of their lives for a short time.
Once Joseph opened, I got the rare opportunity to go on vacation. I spent seven days with my extended family in a remote cabin 15 miles outside of Estes Park in Colorado. It was restful, fun, and wonderful. I fell in love with the mountains, the big sky, the people, and nature. It was hard to come home.
Now, I’m beginning the journey of my second year teaching at Kearney High and my first year teaching adjunct at Central Community College in Hastings. I’m excited about both. I know that I’ll be a better teacher this year due to my experiences this summer. I can’t believe it, but I’m pretty excited to get started.
Have a great school year everybody!