Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Estaba el senor Don Gato...

I'm actually sitting right next to the bowl of Halloween candy I've reserved for trick-or-treaters, and eating straight out of it. Awesome.

Halloween pretty much happened over the weekend for us, as it did for many people. Despite my ass-kicking cold, we had a great time. Brian and I had some trouble thinking of costume ideas, so we ended up going with our original concept of Kevin Federline and pregnant, brunette Britney Spears. It turned out great, if I do say so myself. Brian managed to look like a total trashball complete with tight wife beater, blazer, chin scruff, and pinstriped fedora, while I somehow became unrecognizable using only a long brown wig and small pillow. Random people guessed our costume, and familiar people didn't recognize me, which I say fits the criteria for sweet Halloween getups.

Finally, the "real" photo:

This week I'm more immersed in the Day of the Dead. I've been working on an arts residency with several other artists in a local elementary school for the month of October, centered around Dia de los Muertos. It's so fun, and because of it I am now the proud owner of a dancing skeleton puppet and various other crafts, several sugar skulls, picture books, and I can sing an entire ballad about cats, cemeteries, and skeletons in Spanish, with accompanying gestures. Next time I see you, remind me. I'll give you your own performance.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I'm not dead yet!

Okay, alright, okay. I took a little break from blogging because I was busy enough that I didn't have time, nor did I really know what to post about. And now I'm back. Interestingly, the couple of weeks that I didn't post were a period during which I was constantly looking forward to a different time. And I think that I felt, somehow, that if I wrote about them they would not change as quickly. Strange, I know.

I spent a large part of those two weeks as a substitute teacher. Shudder. As much as I know that there are plenty of competent, interesting people who work as substitutes, every time I hear the words "substitute teacher" I still think of the weirdest, most awkward, least qualified individuals ever, and as a result I don't really respect subs. So I didn't like to think of myself as one. The circumstances around my short stint as a substitute were very specific, however. In August I interviewed for a possible job as a theatre teacher in an elementary school. It was complicated, however, because although I have a degree in Educational Theatre, I do not currently hold a teaching certificate. So the principal told me to get my transcripts evaluated and look into certification programs, and in the meantime to acquire a substitute teaching certificate, since he might be able to have me teach theatre as a sub in the meantime. So I did all that. And once I got my sub card, he said "I don't have all the theatre details worked out yet, but I really need a sub in this one classroom for awhile." Turns out their teacher had randomly retired, they didn't have a new teacher, and I was really starting to need the money. Yarrr.

So I did it. And on the first day, I found out that it was a class of 7th and 8th grade special ed, which in this case meant an awful-sounding, puzzling category known as "trainable mentally handicapped." There were only 13 of them, but it was the widest range of abilities and special needs ever. Two were non-verbal, two could read and multiply, and everyone else was at a different place in between. It was a wild two weeks, but I have to say, quite entertaining. This was a very funny group of kids. There was none of the usual maliciousness and self-hatred that you might find in a typical group of 12- and 13-year-olds, and a healthy dose of crushes and sexual urges. Classroom management was not difficult (thank god), though enforcing the "no touching each other" rule was not so easy. Also, there was no "curriculum" to follow, nor textbooks, so every day was sort of up to me. Some funny shit happened. Burps and farts were totally commonplace, hilarious to all but not grounds for ostracizing anyone. I had glue puddles on desks, some pretty major odor-control issues, and a kid who cut a one-foot-wide hole in the crotch of his sweatpants one day. And not everything went wrong-- I had some of the most successful impromptu dramatic storytelling sessions I've ever done in that class, and we did some wicked collages and M&M math lessons.

Aaaaanyway, so that's over now. It wasn't a horrible couple of weeks, but the principal ultimately dragged his feet for a long time, and in the meantime I got another job. So there! Now in addition to my high school theatre stuff, I'll be working on a grant project with the Chicago Teachers Center, helping to enhance early reading initiatives by modeling and training staff in ways to integrate the arts into their curricula. Fun! The people are great and I like the work already.

In other fun news, Brian and I went to Traverse City over the weekend to visit my dear friends Andy and Lizzie, who both should have blogs but don't. We had such a good time, hiking on sand dunes, admiring pretty leaves, seeing movies, and eating, eating, eating. Best. Hot. Apple. Cider. Ever. It was so nice, in the midst of all this, to get out of town and relax and have a good time. I've never been so happy to not get phone calls!

Now I have to go...valuable Halloween costume planning time is being wasted!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Time to take a stroll.

This week I began teaching a theatre apprenticeship for students of a specific high school. It's done through Freestreet, a well-established youth theatre company, and After School Matters, a city organization that pays students to learn and create in the arts. It's a pretty sweet deal, because since they're paid, we got to interview kids in order to "select" those that will participate in our apprenticeship. (Never mind that we let in everyone who interviewed...the fact that many of them made it to an interview outside of their high school on a half day of school was enough of a demonstration of committment for us.) And we've gathered a pretty great group. I haven't worked with high school kids in a while, and it's very refreshing to teach a group that you can actually reason with, and who I don't have to trick into doing every single thing. Who knows what they will eventually do--the idea is for them to learn many aspects of performance and writing and then devise their own play--but in three days they've already become so comfortable with one another and in being creative and (somewhat) uninhibited for three hour stretches. And they seem to like it! And they're pretty decent writers! So, while working until after 7pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is not the most ideal situation timewise, I do look forward to it each time.

Also this week, I went to New York for 24 hours to help my sister move. My mom was there too, and we made a lot of progress in a couple of days. Annie, of course, found a lovely apartment on the most beautiful block in Brooklyn Heights. And in a matter of days. It has tons of character, a sweet lofted bedroom and massive high ceilings. It was sort of a last-minute move, and it was imperative that she get the majority done before Thursday, because that is when she left to GO TO PARIS FOR FASHION WEEK. Yes. Mais oui. To clarify: she is a nanny for a family in Manhattan, and the mother owns a designer boutique in Soho, a job which necesitates trips to fashion shows and meetings to scout potential buys for the next season. This mother also just had another baby two months ago and he's too young to leave at home, so Annie gets to accompany mom and baby, strolling with the little guy through the streets of Paris until the designated times when they meet mom for feedings. They also stay in an exquisite hotel and fly first class, and at the end of it all she gets paid for her "work."

Speaking of jobs, I still definitely don't have another one! Teaching theatre after school is definitely not going to cut it. And it's very stressful. Today is an absolutely gorgeous Saturday, and I'm sitting at home worrying about credit card bills and loan payments. How messed up is that? I have get out of the house!

Oh, and another thing to distract me from my woes: I'm reading Interpreter of Maladies, the new One Book, One Chicago pick, by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's really good so far! And I feel such civic pride!