Friday, March 18, 2011
Then it turned out that those in the camp would audition to be in P&B's children's theatre production. So, obviously I auditioned. We did the show "The Hobbit" by none other than J.R.R. Tolkien (I know what those of you who know me are thinking, "how appropriate"...I tend to agree...lol) and I got cast as one of the dwarves (obviously) along with someone many of you may know, Stephen Lynch (Comedian and Broadway Performer as the lead in "The Wedding Singer").
I did theatre there and at my high school where I trained under Robert and Jan Klump for a few years, who now have an acting school in Massachusetts called Act Too Studio, plus I continued to work and P&B. I also got the privledge to be accepted to study my senior year at the Center for the Arts and Sciences in Saginaw, MI. Now called Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy. It's a small public high school and middle school for developmentally advanced children. Again, I knew of this place because of Stephen, who I did shows with at P&B.
When I graduated from CAS and my high school I went to Delta, studied TV and Theatre and then found I had a knack for teaching. I took an exploritory class in education and placed myself at a local high school and the teacher was horrible. Oh boy, do I remember her. Sheesh! I changed schools and worked under a wonderful teacher at Heritage High School. I learned a lot and applied to Western Michigan University's Theatre Program and luckily got in. It's the only place I applied to, hence the "lucky"...lol!
Stephen was there, as was Gavin & Laura Lewis (another amazingly talented actor and actress sibling set I had worked with at P&B), and I spent three years there on the "Education" track learning directing from amazing people like Dr. Karsten and Lyda Stillwell. I even got lucky enough to perform on the main stage there as well as the black box. I also was lucky enough to get the opportunity to Stage Manage and Assistant Direct for the Black Box Season there.
But, the school wasn't prepared for the fact that there is no National Teachers Exam section for theatre. They told me I'd have to take the exam in Communications in order to graduate. I was livid. How the hell was I to pass an exam with questions about things I never studied? Ridiculous. I started looking for another school. When I found it, I remember walking into D. Terry Williams' office (Dean) of WMU Theatre and he told me I was smart. I had to sit when he said that. LOL! He said their Theatre Ed department wasn't where it needed to be yet and that my choice to go to Winthrop University was wise.
Once at the School of Theatre and Dance Department at Winthrop I was focused on finishing up my education. Of course, it was different in the south (and wamer thank God!), so there I majored in Theatre, not Theatre Education. I then also had a second major there, in Secondary Education. This way you studied your emphasis and got your degree in it, and then you studied Education and how to apply what you had learned to teaching it to others. I hear they don't have it anymore, but you used to take this class called Education 400. It was during the month of May, every day M-F from 8am to 4pm and it kicked your ass. HA! Wow. If you survived that class, man, you KNEW you could be a teacher.
I took the NTE and got a 660 (which I found out was rather high, which shocked me cause boy do I suck at multiple choice tests!) and thus, got a teaching job right out of college in a middle school, whose name I wont mention so that I can say what I please about them. My kids were amazing. The heart of those middle school kids were just astounding. The parents were so supportive of my unusual ideas and innovative structure for teaching. But oh, the southern faculty were not. They missed the teacher I'd taken over for. A teacher who had left teaching to "make it" working in professional theatre. I was let go a year later because she wanted her job back. Interesting. Read into that what you will but those kids got the best of me and I'm still in contact with some of them today because, as they've told me, I made a difference in their lives.
I then spent a summer working for a chiropractor and then 6 months for a car dealership...trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do. I got a call from a high school near Winthrop who were in need of replacing their haphazzard theatre teacher who was "sick" all the time. So I interviewed and got the job. I moved back to that area and was blessed to work at that high school the rest of that school year as well as the following. Our first year at Palmetto Dramatic Association Festival we took a good number of awards and the theatre company at the high school grew from 15 kids auditioning for my PDA show to 70 auditioning for me the next fall for "The Crucible." I was blown away! I asked for help from the school since I had so many kids. They couldn't spare anyone...or maybe no one had the time...or wanted to give their time. Hell if I know.
So I reached out to my friend Shana Dunlap who was a dynamite Stage Manager from Winthrop University and she started to help me out. As did other friends like Mary Cipolla (Theatre History), Jay Varner (Improv) and Joseph Gann (lighting). I taught these high school kids not from their high school text (unless I was out sick, which was rare) but from lesson plans I devised on my own using my college text books as basis...yet changing the wording so that they would understand the information. I expected high quality out of these kids and they delivered over and over again.
We did some great work while I was there. "The Crucible" will be the most heart warming show I've every directed until the day I die. And someday I'll blog about why but right now, we're gonna stick to the facts of my theatrical history. We did an amazing production of "The Night of Januray Sixteenth" where I incorporated film to go with it and we treated it, in the school, as if it was "real." On Monday the 17th of January signs were all over the school saying, "Who killed Bjorn Faulkner?" We did short video's on the morning announcements to publicize the "trial" (the show) and then each character had its own theme music from a TV show or movie.
Like I've said. I'm a bit different. :)
But sadly, I didn't stay another year (for multiple reasons that maybe I'll eventually blog about) and that's when I truly believe God grabbed ahold of my life and shook it up. I was doing "Midsummer Nights Dream" in Rock Hill's Shakespeare in the Park. Lysander had quit after an argument with the director. His replacement (who had the worst breath EVER...and I should know, I was playing Hermia and had to kiss the lout!) introduced me to a man, Don Nance. He put together teams to come to NYC to compete in the Grassroots Play Festival. For a lump sum of cash you'd pay for hotel, two shows, two dinners and hotel for two nights and one afternoon your theatre team would perform for judges and compete against other teams.
So I created a company. It was a mix of the kids from the high school I use to teach at (the ones who had graduated) and friends. We started a company called Avante-Garde Productions. We took two 30-minute shows to NYC that fall of 1999 and we received five awards. Included in those awards was one for best direction. One of the judges was Bob Lambert (Asst. Casting Director for "All My Children") and he said to me, "What are you doing living in SC?" He had a good point.
I spent the next two years working for an insurance company in Charlotte, NC and working with Avante-Garde Productions. We competed in 2000 (won 4 more awards, sadly not another directing award as they didn't give one out that year) but unfortunately not in the fall of 2001 due to 9/11.
But, a year later, I moved to NYC. It was September 6th, 2002.
And that, my darlings, started the ball rolling.
PART II to come soon.
Monday, October 26, 2009
I like to think I'm all three...or at least strive to be.
Positive in how I see my life. Not just where it's been but where it's going.
Passionate about not only my loves like theatre and writing, but about my friends and family as well.
Powerful, as "in control" of my life, my heart, my soul and who/what it touches in this world. To have the opportunity to touch the lives of others in a positive way and in doing so let my life be a reflection of that as well.
This BLOG is going to be me and my theatrical adventures. I've been doing theatre for many years (*cough cough 30 years this summer cough cough*) and yet, I have nowhere to catalog it. So, this will be where I do that. I have another blog under my writing pen name but...since theatre in my world is about to jump again into the forefront with my idea to start a theatre company for kids inside my already established company...I thought I should seperate the two blogs.
So, here we are. Let the journey begin.