Opening Night & the Adventuring Teen Returns Triumphant 

Good day. 

I made a fair dent in my end-of-year marking, working productively through the  day before heading home to rest before our first official showing of The Comedy of Errors

We had a nice crowd who laughed in all the right places and donated generously afterward. Nobody noticed when I messed up my lines, or that I was so cold that my teeth were chattering. We did have a great time, though!

   
                     

(The bug spray I borrowed was effective, but it also stripped the blue paint off the beads I’m wearing, dying the skin on my neck blue!)

Right after getting out of costume, I ran up to the school to meet our boy. Well, technically I walked. Hubby had the car and was already there. I was almost at the school when the bus arrived, so I was able to wave at them as they pulled up. 

Sadly, my phone was out of juice so I don’t have a pic of my son coming off the bus with this awesome fluorescent green squid hat on, clutching a small Chibi Flash doll and smiling tiredly, his face a mix of relief at being home and sadness that his fun adventure was over. He had an amazing time, a trip he will never forget, overcoming some fears and building friendships and trying new things. I’m sure he grew another few inches while he was gone, too. 

The whole house feels more settled, now that he’s home again. 

And the earth turns on. Tomorrow I have to go back into the school to keep marking, we have to start cleaning for visitors next week (I’d actually love to have the cast and crew for a campfire on Sunday if I’m able to get the house presentable by then), and the second show is tomorrow night. No sooner does one thing get done that the next needs doing. 

Slow down, Earth. Just for a bit.

 Addendum: the Squid Boy!

  

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Reflections on a Successful Field Trip

Despite the long LONG drive yesterday, the late night and early morning, I surprised myself by staying fairly alert throughout the day. I had a few moments where I completely forgot what I was doing or where I was going, but aside from minor mental lapses and occasional clumsiness . . . well, anyway, I didn’t keel over or curl up under my desk to sleep. Lots of coffee and then a nap after work in which I kept getting interrupted by this or that. I hate that sudden lurching hot surprised feeling from being shocked out of a sound sleep.

Working on the photos from ComicCon, deleting some and tweaking others. I do enjoy digital editing, cropping and enhancing colour, etc. And going through them reminds me of some of the awesome things we saw and experienced.

There was a guy dressed as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, and he had all the physical mannerisms and vocal patterns down to a “T” — one of my students thought he really was Jim Carrey for a minute! And it was astounding how he never once broke character throughout the weekend. Every time I saw him in the crowd, he was Ace Ventura. Fantastic! There were a couple of other absolutely dedicated cosplayers, such as the lady playing Effie Trinket (she’d hand-made both her costume and her friend’s, and they were gorgeous). I really admire that. ComicCon and FanExpo are basically fantasy-playgrounds for the highly imaginative. I’d love to be able to do that one day — come up with a really kick-ass costume and sink into the role for an entire weekend.

Watching my students’ reactions to the cosplayers, the vendors, the artists, the panelists, the celebrities and listening to their discussions afterward was entirely worth it, though. I heard them critically analyze the value of being an artist in this day and age, assess the effectiveness of workshops, rate the convention as a whole, and reflect on how well they did or didn’t budget their money. Whenever one of them scoffed (happily) at the idea that this trip was (air-quotes) educational, I reminded them that it really was, for all of those reasons. Maybe it connects to the concept of learning through playing, or maybe it’s being given small responsibilities within a framework. But they all concluded that it had been a valuable as well as highly entertaining (and even life-changing) experience.

I think, too, that if I organize another ComicCon trip next year (as many students are urging me to do), I’ll put together some kind of interactive game for them to challenge while they’re walking around. One or two were already doing that on their own — 17-year-old J decided he needed to take four photos with the 4th Doctor (different cosplayers) throughout the weekend, and he did it. 19-year-old B wanted to photo bomb as much as possible, but shied away after a while, even though it was fun (he has an absolutely perfect “soon” face). It would be neat to create a ComicCon / FanExpo scavenger hunt, or a BINGO card, asking the cosplayers or vendors to sign off on them as proof of completion. And I could provide a prize for the winner, like an event t-shirt. Just a little something extra, especially for the few individuals who were underwhelmed by the number of things to do that didn’t involve line-ups or vendors on the first day. Those few had expected more hands-on activities, I suppose. 18-year-old D thought it was more of a nerd-based merchant / trade show than anything else, and there is something to that. I was glad to see him attending many of the workshops and panels, instead of just sitting around. Anytime a student told me that they were going to an event, I told them how awesome that was, because it’s true.

But now it’s over, I’m compiling the photos and making copies available for some (especially our group shots around the DeLorean Time Machine and the TARDIS, and the groups who went with me to get photos with Paul Wesley and Billy Boyd), and I haven’t unpacked yet. I’m terrible at unpacking. It will honestly take me until the weekend. I have marking to catch up from last week, final numbers to submit and the bus bill to pay, plus keeping up with the lessons for this week. I’m contemplating booking a personal day next week, just to be able to get a day of quiet and rest after all this hustle. That’s something else — my proof copy of Crystal and Wand arrived, so I have to get moving on checking through both the pdf and the paperback. There just isn’t enough time for all of the things. Not at all.

If you’ve been following my journey of taking students to ComicCon in Ottawa, be patient — I’ll try to get a few  more pictures loaded tomorrow.

Stress levels rising . . . so I putter with happy-making things.

The field trip to Ottawa ComicCon is right around the corner. One more day. I have to pack tomorrow night, meet up with my mother halfway between our respective houses so she and my dad can look after the 9 year old for the weekend, make sure to remind all of the students to bring snacks, pillows, and chargers on the bus, and on the very quick, get information from the place where we’re staying so that the secretary of our school can cut the cheque before we go.

Yeah. Had a SNAFU with the accommodations. It’s almost cleared up now, but I was close to panicking, thinking we were going to end up bedding down in a former student’s apartment instead of where we are actually going. Wasn’t for lack of trying on my part — I didn’t want to call every day and make them not want to help me out, so I was contacting them once a week for the last month, and we just got the contract for the rooms TODAY.

Stress stress stress stress . . .

No movement on my cosplay plan, although I still have time to put something together. I’m likely going to be Miss Foster from “Partners in Crime”, but for that, I’ll need to bleach my hair blonde again. Not sure I want to spend the money on that, even if I can find the time after school (and IF a hairdresser has time for me. Takes a good two hours to get the dark brown out of my locks!) between getting my Bridget ready for Grandma and Poppa’s house and making sure Jack gets to karate, plus, I still have to pick up crickets for Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, I’m getting peppered with questions, too, about current events regarding teachers in the news. In a small town, when you regularly go to the same shops and Tim Hortons and the staff knows you, they feel comfortable in asking what’s going on. Even if I knew, I wouldn’t be able to say anything, but I don’t, and I can’t. Frustrating.

Stress stress stress stress . . .

So in the middle of all of this, I finished my Daredevil fan video after school. I’m not 100% satisfied with it, but for a first go, it’s not bad, IMHO. And it pleases me that there is now a video online that pairs up Matt Murdock with Corey Hart’s epic 80s song, “Sunglasses at Night”, because whenever I watch an episode, that’s one of the pop culture references I keep thinking over. I went hunting for a video that combined the two, but finding none, I made my own.

Good way to kill some hours and try to lower the stress levels.

I’ve noticed, too, that off and on, over the last six weeks or so, whenever my resolve on this trip has wavered or I’ve made a decision to stay positive about it, a song comes on the radio that bolsters my spirits. So I’ve downloaded it on iTunes, for when I need the boost. It suits the mood of taking kids to Ottawa ComicCon completely. I’ve also had kids ask me if I’m going to do it again next year, because if I am, they’re very interested.

Something else has been helping a little bit, too. I chose Danny Wallace’s book Yes Man for my grade 11 College English novel study this semester, and it’s such a positive read about taking chances and pursuing opportunity, it really is infectious to think over an option and say, “Why not?” (Soooo tempted to just plunge back into being blonde tomorrow after school!!!) Helps to keep things in perspective. Like the prospect of being in charge of 17 young adults on a three day trip to our national capital.

Breathe, breathe, breathe . . . I’ve done this before. It’s not that bad. The students are responsible, even the youngest (who’s partnered up with my own child, who will be in contact with me). They’ll be in a contained environment (except for our afternoon / evening walk in downtown Ottawa — eek!). Breathe, breathe, breathe . . . and I’m not going alone, I’ve got a male chaperone and his wife coming with, sharing the head-counting, etc.

You know what gets me through the pressure of this the most? It’s the positive attitudes and gratitude and enthusiasm of the kids. Last year, when I took a group (almost all the same students!) to see Night of the Living Dead Live! in Toronto, a few of them thanked me profoundly, over and over, for bringing them to the city for the show. One or two of them I hadn’t expected that from at all, not from any flaw in their individual characters, just — it wasn’t expected, and it was really very nice.

Still, whenever I do a trip like this, I don’t sleep well for the last few nights beforehand, or during the event. I’ll crash off and on during the week afterward, though.

Let’s go, indeed. I almost wish I could hit fast-forward on tomorrow, so I wouldn’t have to experience all this last-minute stuff, and just find myself happily on the bus, halfway to Ottawa. I need a montage! Where’s my flash of scenes pushing me through?

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A moment of sadness, too, that it turns out Billie Piper isn’t going to be there on the Saturday and Sunday when we are there. So I am a little disappointed I won’t get a chance to meet her, get the autograph, maybe a photo, and so is my boy, for the same reasons. But there are so many other awesome things to do, see, and try, and so many other incredible people to meet as well — breathe breathe breathe . . . stress stress stress . . .

School trip planning and the benefits of the Long Weekend

So it looks like the school trip to Ottawa ComicCon is a go! I needed 15 students at a minimum, and I currently have 14, but there are a couple of interested participants (and parents) that I’ll be speaking with next week. The cost of the trip per student / person goes down a little more with each new attendee, so I’m going to step up advertising next week and try to fill the minibus to the maximum of 30 students / people. It would be great to have more parents come along, also — although they may want to book rooms of their own rather than bunking with the teenagers!

Putting together a field trip is a headache but always worth the effort. Now that I’ve got some numbers, the next step is to fill out the necessary paperwork and start booking accommodations and getting the Con tickets, as well as confirming the transportation. And once the convention puts out its schedule, I’ll have to call together the students to tell them about their options. The senior students will have more freedom to roam than the two or three grade 7/8s, including my son, but having also seen FanExpo, I’m pretty confident that even the youngest members of our group will have specific places they’ll want to see or events they’ll want to attend. I’ve also informed each student that if he/she doesn’t have a cellphone of their own, they’re to partner up with someone who does so that I can get in touch with them quickly if necessary. I’m also on the lookout among staff members for a male chaperone. Hopefully the extra adults will be agreeable to sharing some of the shepherding duties . . . I’m a bit selfish and would like to be able to go off on my own to one or two things as well. Like getting Billie Piper’s autograph . . . (sigh)

The students who have brought me deposits are super excited and already planning their cosplays. In a way, attending ComicCon as a field trip is awesome because of the dressing-up and creativity, but it’s also going to be potentially frustrating if there are a lot of the same cosplayers. At FanExpo, for example, there were any number of Deadpools, so imagine looking for one teenager in particular in that costume! I may have to come up with something I can use to identify my students at a distance. Maybe I could have them carry signs in their backpacks that they could hold up if I called them and asked them to show where they were . . . or big silk flowers . . . Hm. I think, too, that if I dress up, I should include a large staff of some kind that could be easily recognized from a distance. I found that that came in handy when we were meeting up with friends at FanExpo, and the friends were carrying such a beast of a prop.

So . . . lots to do this weekend. There’s cleaning so the Easter Bunny isn’t scared away by our horror of a house, marking to catch up (still), permission forms to write up, and different hotels or accommodations centres to contact, even if it’s just leaving a message. Plus I still have edits to finish. I’m not sure where to start. Same old story . . . cleaning will tire me out before I can get the paperwork / marking / editing done. I could sit on my duff and do all the edits, marking, etc., but the house will only degenerate further because we’re all at home and I haven’t been successful yet at training the kids to help out. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I have a hard time letting go of the control over cleaning, too — there are certain tasks I like done in specific ways, and I tend to resort to doing them myself just so I’m satisfied. Difficult to let go of that. It’s also hard to get the cleaning done in our limited space when there are bodies in the way. Mama gets grumpy when her cleaning gets interrupted!

The good news is that we’re not on any real schedule, save for E.B.’s arrival on Sunday morning. No family coming up or need to travel anywhere. Sleeping in will be a definite treat. And on that note, I’m heading to bed early so I won’t sleep in too late to waste the morning.

May your long weekend (if you have one) be enjoyable, relaxing, and safe.

My heart still belongs to The Toronto Phantom, 26 years later…

Sometimes there’s just that tune you can’t get out of your head. Tonight, for me, it’s “Prima Donna” from the Toronto cast of Phantom of the Opera — oh, how I loved that show. I was fortunate enough to see it twice. I had the soundtrack on a tape cassette when I was a teenager; I played it so often, I wore the tape out. Had all the lyrics memorized. I’ll never forget that thrill of being absolutely swept away by the music in the gorgeous Pantages Theatre, watching that immense, glittering chandelier rising slowly over the audience. I still get chills thinking about it.

I’m such a fangirl when I fall in love with something. At one point, my room was almost a merchandiser’s dream: I had the Phantom mug that was heat-sensitive and revealed the white mask when the mug was filled with hot liquid; I had my Phantom t-shirt until the summer that a friend barfed on it during a carnival ride (I guess I really should have stopped spinning that cage around and around when she told me to . . .); Phantom poster, Phantom ball cap with a fabulous red lining (I think it was meant to be reversible), Phantom song book, Phantom sheet music . . . When I was sixteen, my father gave me a beautiful castle snow globe with music box that played “Music of the Night” when its key was wound. I still have it, safely tucked away from children’s hands. And I have my copy of the original Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (translated into English).

If there were ever a production I would move heaven and earth to see again, it would be this one, at the Pantages in downtown Toronto.

Last year, I saw there was a performance of it scheduled in Boston and I was greatly tempted to try to find the funds to bring us all down and across the border, but my kids don’t even have their passports yet. (Really, really need to get to that!) But at the same time, I worry that seeing the production somewhere other than that stately, grand old building — a structure that was reinvented for this very musical (I love you Andrew Lloyd Webber!) will wreck my memories of seeing it for the first and second times. Like, I cannot even listen to the Michael Crawford / Sarah Brightman, as much as I know they were (and are) adored world-over — for me, it must be the original Toronto cast: Colm Wilkinson in the title role and Rebecca Caine as Christine. Glorious. Yes, I’m gushing, because I’m listening to it right now and wishing I had stereo speakers so I could pump up the bass and the treble together, make the windows rattle and my kids wonder what the hell I’m doing . . .

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There is so much that I still take away from this performance. It’s mysterious and romantic, sure, but it’s also frightening in its explorations of the risks people will take for passion, whether that passion is driven by love or vengeance. It’s deeply sensual, seductive, drawing us into the shadows where we discover the dark is much hotter than our imagination would have us believe. It’s loneliness and fire, innocence and betrayal, guilt and fear, courage and beneficence, loss and regret. I always felt so sorry for poor Erik, alone all his life, twisted and clutching for beauty in his empty world . . . A murderer who finds a moment of redemption, however slight, giving up his selfish desires to let his love be happy. In the novel, Christine disappears behind a door with him for an undetermined length of time before emerging alone and leading Raoul back to the surface. I like to think that she did give herself to him, the angel bedding the demon for one experience of heady sensation before returning to the mundane world. But who is to say . . .

I cannot watch many other Webber musicals for the life of me. I read Les Miserables in high school and it depressed me so much that I refuse to watch it on film or on stage. Never saw Cats. No interest in Jesus Christ Superstar. I once had a book on his show Aspects of Love, though I never saw it, and I had some music from Evita — I enjoy singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” badly in the shower. Maybe it’s that Phantom has the hint of the supernatural in it, the occult being employed by a genius with questionable sanity to shape the world to fit his desires and imagination. The staging, images and frames being drawn up as if by magic from the stage, voices overlapping in combinations that, as a teenager, I’d never heard before. The time period also helps — the Victorian and Edwardian periods are my favourite, as a student and teacher of history. I’m an unabashed admirer of spectacle as well: the lavishness of the production in every detail was such a feast for the eyes, it’s hard to imagine anything else even coming close to matching it. I saw The Secret GardenShow Boat, and Miss Saigon in Toronto, and while they were also fantastic, it was Phantom which stole my heart.

Even now, I still covet a leather half-mask for my bookshelf or my wall. But the eye-mask that was central to the advertising campaign, or the brow-to-jaw type used in many productions? I cannot choose. Either. Both.

The practical adult in me says that such an item would be yet another dust-collector, something to stay in a box if I cannot find a safe place to display it, like the Firefly parasol I picked up this summer, my dragon and wizard figurines, and so many other treasures. And it’s not like purchasing a memento at the souvenir booth during intermission.

It’s like so many of those little relics of the past we like to bring home and gaze at once in a while. Why some buy Barbie dolls and keep them in their boxes, keep toy cars spotlessly clean in clear glass display cabinets, build Sega- or Nintendo-themed gaming centres: when the adult world becomes stressful and difficult to bear, when the bills weigh us down, the state of the world is a burden that we can do little to change, and exhaustion is the order of the day, those little reminders of an earlier time in life when joy came simply, without strings, and experiences were shiny and new — they’re an escape. It’s why we take pictures and keep them in photograph albums or text selfies to our friends, ink images or phrases into our skin. When the present and future are too much to bear, the past is a comfort. Yeah, you can get lost in it and forget that the present exists, and so it has to be indulged, like all things, in moderation. But I think spending a little time in happy memories can be strengthening. It reminds me that because I’m a parent and a teacher, one of my responsibilities and joys is introducing young people to new experiences of their own, helping them to build those fantastic memories for when they’re in their late 30s and contemplating life, the universe, and everything . . .

Oh, and by the way, something else that The Phantom of the Opera taught me: when you go to see a live theatre performance, if you hang around long enough outside the building waiting (heh — “waiting” — no, really, we were waiting for our bus but my that became convenient!), the actors come out and you might get to say hello. I actually got to meet and speak to Byron Nease! (swoon)

Bottom line: might be time to start planning another theatre field trip of some kind. 🙂