CONFESSION - #Sol 16 Day 26
I have a secret desire.
I have an urge to sit in a corner to memorize lines. Then to move on to rehearse and rehearse with a group of artists. Finally, I want to be part of a theatrical performance even if I just state a complete sentence, a fragment, or even just a life-changing word in the lives of the characters.
I am not hungry to perform because I want to be vain! Okay, I will admit, being on stage would make me nervous, but I would also love the attention. I can't lie. I'd take the bouquets of flowers too, but I cannot tolerate strong odors even good ones, so just smiles and compliments will make me feel happy. Okay, enough vanity.
I am hungry to communicate through an actual performance the experiences of humanity. I do not want to analyze human experiences through a thesis statement or supporting body paragraphs, I want to embody experiences through my voice, motions, and heart. Yes, on a stage! During the duration of the play, I want to leave myself behind and be a character...to remove myself from the confines of my worries and dreams and embody the dreams and worries of a character. I want to communicate an experience to an audience instead of speaking about it.
I will even remember the advice I give to students during classroom performances. Advice I have found online or heard Performing Arts colleagues tell my students. Years ago, two wonderful colleagues came to my classroom to perform a scene from Othello for my students. I remember scribbling notes as they gave advice to the students: "Acting is in the reacting" or no matter how many times you have rehearsed a scene pretend you are in this scene and reacting (to what is expected in the script) as if you have heard this information for the very first time not the 11th time.
Let's Do This Lesson Again (hopefully better this time...)
Wow! Sounds like me when I have taught a novel for more than a decade or when within a day I am teaching the same lesson for a second time. I make sure I keep my soul and energy excited and curious as I listen to students share their thoughts and ask questions even the ones I have heard many times in the last 22 years.
The beauty of teaching is that there is always something new in the students' reactions and thoughts. In fact, whenever a student shares an original thought, I love to inform her or him with a bright smile of wonder that in all my years no one has made that observation. Every student comes with their own memories, experiences, understanding and make a text their own. Students notice parts of the texts that I may not have noticed. Student-centered reading is key.
Most every day, I remind students to notice what they love and pursue their interests in their studies and later in post-high school settings. I am always excited to listen to students' goals as I ready to write their recommendation letters. When students come back to visit, it is with excitement that I listen to their journey and wish them all their best with all their endeavors.
I need to start listening to myself as well....
Shreds of Memory
I attended a small high school that did not put on school plays, so I did not have that opportunity.
I remember in 5th grade, our class put on an informal performance of Rip Van Winkle. I do not remember what part I played if any. I simply remember the excitement to share a story.
I also remember learning Haitian Folkloric dances when I spent the summer in my parents' province in Haiti. They were getting divorced, and my mom sent us to the countryside in Haiti. We packed our favorite toys and left our parents and New York for the summer. I remember practicing Haitian traditional dance moves to drum beats on the local stage. I remember that the little boy assigned to dance with me fled because he did not want to dance with a "mazora" or toothless girl.
I remember playing the part of Mama during a class reading of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. I was not a popular girl in school, but that day many people complimented me. During that class, I was not the shy girl who liked sitting in the corner, I suddenly was Mama nurturing her plant and reminding the family of their priorities.
Oh, I wish I could have met Lorraine Hansberry. Had she not died so young, she would have revolutionized our way of seeing the world.
I remember switching from a photography class to a Acting I class in college. I could not afford the photography equipment. I remembering memorizing a soliloquy from Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.
I remember attending amazing performances directed by a fellow student, who is now a published author and famous director, Robert Ohara. I sat through Colored Museum and all his plays. I knew then Mr. Ohara would be blessing this world with amazing work. I hope to see his productions one day.
Why didn't I audition in college? Why? I did not even think of it at the time. I was happy sitting in the dark experiencing a "Slice of Life" on stage.
Oh, I just remembered (I had completely forgotten) modifying a Feminist Spoken Word piece that my friends and I performed at the Campus Center. It was so much fun. This poem asserted our pride as women of color! If cell phones existed back then, I may have had a video copy of our fun performance.
I guess deep inside the acting bug though dormant was starting to come alive.
Do You Have A Business Card?
I have periodically performed my poetry for two fundraising causes at my former church. For one event, I even got to work with an actor to prepare my performance. He gave me so much helpful advice. I take the time to thank him now. I remember the day of the performance. I remember standing in the comfort of the darkness under the light. I remember literally feeling my mom's warmth behind me. She was visiting from the Spirit World as I performed. My son and my niece, in the audience, were truly supportive.
Recently, I signed up to perform a poem for an exhibit. Part of me was nervous and regretted asking to perform. I thought, "Natasha, just stay quiet in your corner." Another part wanted to perform my poem. In fact, I received a lot of warm feedback despite the fact that I fell when I got off the stage. The oohs and ahs came from my literally falling flat on my knees. I was in pain for weeks, but during the exhibit I was so happy to listen to other poets and receive warm feedback about my performance.
One person shared that my poem did not seem compelling on paper, but when I performed it, she said it came to life. One fellow artist came to ask for my card (I had none) because she wanted to know my other performance dates (I had none). I could not believe it!
For 22 years, I have been a classroom teacher. It is a pleasure to hear students' burgeoning thoughts and witness their growth as thinkers and citizens' of this world! I will not lie even one of my evaluators shared that I thrive on the performance aspect of teaching. I know teaching is not about me but the students, but there is always that moment that I read a poignant section from the readings or bring to life a discussion. It is clear that I would not be happy sitting behind a desk all day. It is just not me. Performing while teaching literature allows me to remind students that in our texts, we are examining true experiences of humanity. We are taking advantage of the luxury to study, so we can grow as human beings (not simply earn good grades) to create a better society.
My lesson plan is my script, and the lesson itself becomes an improvisation-led play as students share their inputs. Once that bell rings, life happens! Most people do not realize the backstage work behind the curtains to make this performance/learning experience happen on a daily basis.
Mid-Life Career Choices
This morning I overheard in the midst of errands a woman named Barbara Hardly Hagerty. The National Public segment caught my attention. Ms. Hagerty had helpful advice for people who might suddenly feel a bit stuck in the same motion. In fact, she has recently published a book entitled Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife. In her website, she notes, "There are concrete steps we can take to make midlife the best time of life. Bring novelty into your marriage, tweak your career to seek meaning rather than mere success, find a new passion, build your friendships -- essentially, engage those things that matter with intention and verve" (Hagerty).
If you are tired of reading this entry and want to hear from Hagerty herself, here are some links:
Contrary to what many people think, Hagerty sees mid-life as an "opportunity." She advises people not to try and "re-invent" themselves but rather focus on how to use present skills. You can read/listen more at: http://www.npr.org/2016/03/26/469823517/care-for-a-career-change-up-these-stories-are-proof-its-never-too-late
I Only Have One Life (as far as I know)
I wonder if one day, I will be able to join a small theater group to be part of a production? Why wonder? I need to start doing research and look for local acting classes and community groups.
I know it is crazy idea, but who knows if I will be back on this earth a second time.
This will be a long way from the weekly poetry recitation I did in high school. In our school, we had to memorize a poem every week and stand in front of the class to recite. I used to memorize the poems, recite them to my mom (who listened attentively despite her tired eyes and nodding head), and then put my notebook under my pillow. I have no idea where this myth came from: if you sleep with your notebook or book under your pillow, you will remember the information. How many nights was I tempted to just put the notebook under my pillow, skip the studying and go to bed.
I fear my memory may not remain as strong. Caring for my dad (who has Alzheimer's) right now will impede me from taking an acting class right at this time. In the meantime, I am always excited to recite lines from Macbeth as students tell me, "How do you remember all the lines!" Oh, all these years of teaching Macbeth, I have had no choice but to learn some famous lines. I also have students toss lines (an activity from Shakespeare Set Free) and enjoy seeing students grab these thematic lines as anchors to understand better the characters and their motivations.
Will I one day act? Yes, I will make it a life goal to take an acting class whenever possible. I can. I will plan to do one performance before my memory starts to fade. Even if I only state one word...(I know I already mentioned that thought...Enough talking...I need to start acting!)