Thursday, March 5, 2009

Play in - Play out

I was in the 10th grade drama club.

Well, truth be told, there wasn’t much to do in the club. I blamed the drama teacher for this. Since I can’t remember her real name, I will just call her “Ms. P.”

Anyway, Ms. P was the 11th grade English teacher. She was one of those people who had high hopes of becoming a Broadway star. Then, when this did not pan out, she had hopes of becoming a producer. Again, this did not go anywhere and now she had the desire to teach students what it was like to act on the stage.

Correction: She had the desire to teach only a select set of students to act on stage. This select teenage troupe was her pride and joy. She had crafted a certain play involved in a competition between schools. She almost won the previous year. Ms. P was adamant that she had to win the following year.

Ms. P worked with this troupe at every spare moment. When the stage at the high school was in use for other activities, she would drive the students down to the local middle school and use their stage. If this did not work, she would use the cafeteria or the gymnasium or the parking lot or anywhere she could change into a temporary stage. Obsessive, thy name was Ms. P.

Well, I signed up for the drama club with several of my friends. We expected to learn something from this: maybe how to create our own plays or work with the backstage equipment or talk about boys. Yet every day we would listen to the p.a. system blare out, “All clubs are meeting today except those no-names in the drama club who are not worthy enough to kiss Ms. P’s rump to be in her spectacular play that would win the national prize so Ms. P will fulfil her lifelong dream through her very special select drama troupe” - or something to this effect.

After three months of no club meetings, I guess someone complained to the principal. He complained to Ms. P’s secretary at the talent agency (a.k.a. one of her gifted actresses). She relayed the message to the massage therapist (a.k.a. another teen actor) who told the drama teacher. In a huff, she called a meeting of her special troupe and they hatched a plan.

Parent Nite.

They would put together a stupid little play to be the opening act of their main performance while selling tickets and showing off their remarkable skills. Perhaps they could even convince the parents to go to the other schools and vandalize property so Ms. P can win the competition.

So the entire drama club had its first meeting.

While giddy with excitement, we sat on the hard linoleum in the hallway outside the auditorium. Ms. P did not allow us inside because the special troupe was practicing their lines. The drama teacher had a small play and needed one person from our group. Yes. One person. The play needed four actors, but Ms. P had already filled those positions with three other girls who had auditioned for her main show and did not make the final cut.

Wasn’t Ms. P such a wonderful person?! *cough-cough-hack-gag*

So began our auditions. Ms. P had an easy way of choosing this single person. We had to pretend to be seamstresses fixing the hem of an imaginary dress. She had each of us ad-lib the part. With her legs crossed and her one foot tapping at the air with impatience, she said for us to use our imaginations and be creative.

*snicker* Telling me to use my imagination and be creative was like telling me to breathe and occasionally blink my eyes. I guess all my readers know who got the part.

So I was in the only play our drama club had for the entire year. My part involved a scientist and the other girls were my three willing volunteers. We divided the stage up into three sections with pieces of plywood. One of those sections had a stool. The volunteers each had a section to stand in. Based on the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov and his experiments where he had dogs salivating every time he rang a bell, this play involved a bell that would ring as the volunteers would recite a phrase (and I can’t believe that I still remember it).

“This land is mine. It is big and beautiful and nobody else is allowed on my land.”

It was simple enough for a play. The gist of it dealt with the bell and their responses. Every twenty seconds the bell rang and the volunteers said their phrases until they became so conditioned to the routine that when the bell did not ring, they would STILL repeat the phrase when twenty seconds passed. And the more the play went on, the more possessive the volunteers would get over their own sections until they would go mad with rage if someone entered their land.

There is more to the play than this, but I will let it be a surprise at the end. Anyway, we had our parts to learn. Mine was the easiest since I was only on the stage at the beginning and at the end. I believe I had about ten lines in total. I had my character memorized. The other girls had longer parts. The other girls had more interactions and the most stage time.

The other girls were slackers, which explains why they had failed the auditions for the first play. They missed meetings. They skipped learning their parts. We were totally unprepared when Parent Nite came. Yet Ms. P did not care. The show must go on. We arrived, gave hugs to each other, and went on stage.

I did my beginning lines and left the stage. The girls ad-libbed their parts as the audience laughed and cheered - to Ms. P’s horror. How dare anyone deviate from her script?! She insisted that I go out there early, which would signal the end of our performance so she could start the main show. I did not go out there. I waited because my fellow actresses were using their imaginations and being creative. Exactly what Ms. P had asked from us. When the girls finally came to the scene that was actually in the performance (the grabbing of the stool), this was my cue to go out there. I demanded that the volunteers stop arguing with each other as they began repeating their phrases in a trance. “This land is mine . . . nobody else is allowed on my land.” Then they turned toward me - the intruder on their lands. I cowered on the stage with two of them holding me captive and the third lifting the stool as the stage curtain descended. With the curtain down, the stool slammed against the floor to signal the end of the play and my death.

We got a standing ovation.

Even better was what happened after the main show. People from the audience came up to us and said our opening performance was better than the other play. Ms. P said nothing as she threw glares at everyone.

I suppose you could say that Ms. P was, well, pissed off.

(Hee-hee! You know I had to say that at the end. P--pee--pissed off. There is a method to my madness, until stools fall on top of my head.)


  1. What a terrible teacher and role model for the world of creativity! Bra.vo to you for refusing to end your play early.

    Hey, did Mz P win her coveted production contest? hehe

  2. Angie: Yeah, that teacher was a real work of art, although the whole school district was a bit strange. I guess you can tell what type of influence they had on me.

    I don't believe they ever won. I had a childhood neighbor who was in the play and she liked to brag. She never said anything about it.

  3. Those drama teachers always had their favorites. I was a techie, and the same people would end up in all the lead roles the whole school year. Funny how that works...even when the kid doesn't fit the character.

  4. I guess that explains why Ms P never made it; she was ambitious but had no talent. Improvising, I take it, is a part of every performance. Not that I have ever performed on stage; I only improvised when I was asked questions in school I did not know the answer too. And it actually worked.;)

  5. Brilliant! I'm a BIG fan of "what goes around comes around," and Ms. P got her just desserts.

    Good on ya, Michelle. This is most definitely one for the Keeper File.

    PS: Answer to your question... Hossa went into the boards head-first in the first period of the game in St. Louis a couple of nights ago. Just a sore neck, from what I read, i.e., nothing serious.

  6. Natalie: I was a techie too. Strange how kids like that are treated different all because they are seeking more education during their high school years.

    Protege: Ms. P was steamed when they strayed from her script. I never saw someone's face that red before.

    Buck: Keeper File? But this story has a moral. It goes against the grain of my true surliness. Haha!

    *Glad Hossa is all right. Despite him leaving the Pens, no one wants to see any player hurt like that.*

  7. Great story! As you might imagine, I love stories wherein the repressive person gets shown up in the end. Truly one of my favorite things you've ever written, Michelle.

  8. Suldog: Thank you! I think I only remember the story because of the strange play. And I am known for my strangeness...

  9. Another great story Michelle. Mrs. P reminds me of my high school Chemistry teacher. If you weren't naturally gifted at chemistry, you received little help, but plenty of ridicule. I squeaked by with a D, and did not pursue any further science classes in high school.

    Glad to see she received her just due.

  10. Buckskins Rules: Ah, this reminds me of the revolving door policy some schools have.

    I can't understand it, don't know why some teachers won't take a more active interest in students who struggle, and still scratch my head on why teachers get praised for allowing it to happen.

  11. I loved being in the drama club in high school. I can't remember the first show we did, but I played a little girl named Jessica who wanted to be a wrestler. It was a fun part!

    I found your blog from Tranquility Jones' site. I wanted you to know that I linked to your blog in a post I made the other day on "Six Degrees of Separation."

  12. Amy: I think my drama club would have been more fun if we had put on more shows. We only had the one, and the special troupe had theres.

    Thanks for dropping by and for linking me!

  13. Hee-hee! Funny someone should mention wrestling. That is the topic on Sunday's post.

  14. so, who got to hold the milking stool? :O lol

  15. laughingwolf: The cat with the cream on his whiskers. lol! ;D

  16. That's a riot! what fun!

    "Ms. P was steamed when they strayed from her script. I never saw someone's face that red before."

    lol. great post!

  17. Chris: Glad I could give you a laugh!


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