The catharsis of building a Haunted House

Not a real haunted house — the fun Hallowe’en event. Just so we’re clear! 😜

There are a couple of new elements to this year’s experience, and I’m finding that they are having a positive impact on my mood: 

1) I’ve got reams of help, in the form of three — THREE! — other adults sharing the tasks of design, tracking, and development, and over sixty (OH MY GOD) students who have signed up to participate. I’m fully aware that we may only end up with 30 or 40 regular volunteers, but that’s away and beyond what we had last year. 

2) I get to be crafty, and not just in planning messed up ways to make people scream (and possibly pee a little) — I get to make messed-up crafts. This afternoon, for example, I experimented with zombifying a stuffy. Observe the prototype below!

 

I wonder what the custodian thought about this?

 
I think I will experiment further with adding green and yellow blobs for protruding guts and bones, maybe using papier mache. It was so fun making it, though! As I told one of my partners in crime, I felt both bad and giddy at the same time. Found myself actually apologizing to the thing while I was cutting it open and pulling its stuffing out. 

And then laughing crazily as I daubed it with red paint and glued on the fangs. 

Pure, delicious, consuming evil. 

And this is just the start. We have pages of plans and notes to share with the rest of the volunteers, teams within the larger group that will work together to make the second haunted house even more creepy and frightening than the first. 

I will admit, it’s taken me a little while to get my momentum up on this. Coffee helps, but even more so is the excitement of the others, their push to do it well and get the jobs done — that’s lighting my fire, even in my exhaustion. I cannot wait to see it pulling together over the next two weeks. And as soon as I have footage, making the trailer for social media, too! (I’ve got one ready, using pictures from last year, which will go live on Oct 1 — I’ll post the link for you to enjoy as well. 😬)

I worry, too. I’m anxious about trusting the kids to get their jobs done, and to be there when they say they will be. I worry about the lists of things to be obtained by borrowing, buying (damn, still haven’t asked about my budget!), and making by hand. But knowing I’ve got a team around me and (potentially) a small army of teenagers who are eager to make their friends and family shiver and shriek makes all the difference. 

Stay tuned for updates and photos as the project takes shape. Hallowe’en’s a-coming!

Reflection (in poetry) on Rehearsing The Comedy of Errors

I spent most of today in a long professional development workshop, learning about our new school board-issued iPads, and for the most part, helping my colleagues who were struggling to set things up or learn how to use features. And then this evening, I got to spend time in rehearsal with adults I know as volunteers and teenagers I know from my classroom — which rather felt more like professional development than the other. I’m not in charge in any way, shape, or form, in this production. I have to memorize my lines and portray my character using the director’s suggestions, decisions, and feedback. I have to work in tandem with the rest of the cast, rather than giving orders (as is my usual role with a production filled by student actors). And I have to practice the skills that might normally be teaching. For years, I have advocated teamwork, laid out how to prepare for a performance, taught projection, advised young people in how to memorize their lines. Now, it seems as though I must put my money where my mouth is — walk the talk — in order to help this performance shine. It is an effective challenge. It’s both intense and great fun. Only six nights of rehearsal remain until the official rise of our metaphorical curtain. This poem is composed of some of my thoughts and reflections while in practice tonight.

Unknown-10edging closer to opening night

concentrate

preliminary blocking complete

focus

the lines are fragments still

pieces

that i stretch to bring into order

sequencing

with timing and emotion

fit

for the work of the Bard

*

a handful of days remaining

intertwining

work and play both demanding effort

time

dedication to the words

pages

markings by ink, scrawlings of lead

repeating

copies of what has come before

cycling

through years and decades

teaching

actors who are students who are actors

*

watch the young man memorize while

struggling

to also write paragraphs and reports

receiving

feedback that he uses to grow

performing

while i struggle to memorize while

balancing

grading and exams and reports

ending

what is the beginning for them

*

the play is the thing

connecting

an exercise in hearing and listening

talk

patiently gathering wisdom

experience

the student is the actor is the student

adult

wondering if they see me as i see them

learn

our positions change