Once Upon a Stage

Once upon a time, I picked up an easy two-hour subbing assignment (for which I would be paid as if I worked four hours). Enter stage left.

Drama as a class in high school is something I have plenty of experience with.

Drama as most high school students want to play it is something I’d rather avoid.

What’s a Mime?

During the last class of the day, a sub expects robust energy. Yes, while the teacher’s mind is fading, blinking out to the large drink and crispy apple waiting at home, the students are revving up to do whatever it is they’re going to do once the final bell rings.

A mime is a silent actor.

The TA did her best to introduce the giddy dramatists to turn off their voices and exaggerate the movements she directed.

I applaud this girl. She had stage presence and enough projection to silence any craziness. In fact, she was able to keep a higher percentage of the class on task than I did in my last middle school final-class-of-the-day.

One girl had silent music she jitterbugged to the entire time. A skinny boy wearing a plaid shirt mimed his force pulls and throws pretty impressively.

And I wonder how often we’re going through the motions of life. Listening to some offstage voice calling out moves.

Isn’t there more to life than this? Shouldn’t I be going somewhere?

But watching the ladder-climbing or stair-climbing mimes distracts from any deep reflection.
Like so many unnamed distractions from those things that would add meaning to our lives.

And I’m back in the auditorium supervising a group of students. The class period is winding down. I can tell by the deconstruction of the actors’ concentration on the invisible treasure chest.

Sounds like this once upon a stage ends in a happily ever after. Exit stage right.

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Flashback or Dream Sequence

I find myself seated in the center of the second row in a nearly empty auditorium. Am I having a flashback to high school play auditions? Or is this a dream where I’m the director seeking a cast for my original short production?

Or maybe it’s neither.

It’s my other job…as a substitute teacher.

And it gives me plenty of flashbacks. Although the dreamlike-moments are far and few between.

An Easy Two Hours

The permanent teacher’s sub plans are the shortest (if not the sweetest) I’ve ever seen. “Hi there. Thanks for taking my classes. I have two amazing TAs who will run the class, so sit back, relax and make sure everyone keeps their phones away and no one dies.”

Seriously. Those are the exact words.

What would any writer do when told to relax?

Write, of course. So that’s what I’m doing. Because this blog needs content, and if I was home, I’d be working on the never-ending edits.

The TAs were responsible. They happily ran the classes (not like other TAs who balked when I asked them to step up to the plate for any reason).

Strangely Disconcerting

My brain rebels at the thought of sitting in a cushy chair while others lead in my place. Even if I’m clueless about what the class might expect.

After all, I’m getting paid for this. Shouldn’t I do something to earn the paycheck?

That’s one hundred percent my mother’s influence on my psyche. No one had a stronger work ethic than she did.

Industriousness isn’t reclining with an iPad on your lap, even if you’re spewing words that will appear on your website at a later date.

Burst of raucous laughter break my train of thought. They’re playing a game, acting off the cuff. Some have a bigger ham-bone than others. You can tell the ones who’ve spent more time onstage.

What about you? Do you find it disconcerting when something is much easier than you expected? Do you feel dishonest getting paid if you don’t really “work”?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Louder than Words

I am a fan of young adult stories – but not straight romances.  Especially not YA romance which is generally too much angst and drama and not enough story. Iris St. Clair makes me a liar with her phenomenal book Louder than Words.

I’ll admit I picked up the book because it was at a special release day price, and the author is in a writing critique group I recently joined. The blurb piqued my interest because it sounded like some non-romance young adult novels I’ve read and enjoyed.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

“Disappointment has been on speed dial in Ellen Grayson’s life lately. Her dad died, her mom numbs the grief with drugs and alcohol, and her so-called friends have slowly abandoned her.

Trusting a popular teacher with her troubles should have been safe and should NOT have led to an unwelcome seduction attempt that made her desperate to escape the final moments of Junior year. Lesson learned. Best to keep all the sordid details to herself and trust no one.

Enter Rex Jacobi, a cocky boy, recently transplanted from New York City and fellow summer camp employee. Though his quick wit and confidence draws her in, she can’t let him get too close. And summer is just long enough and hot enough to keep a boy like that at arm’s length.

But by the time Rex’s charm wears down her resistance, it’s too late. He’s put Ellen on the “just friends” shelf and has shifted his romantic attentions to the impossibly annoying and perky anti-Ellen. Even worse, the teacher who tried to get her to sleep with him is still at it, preying on other girls while Ellen struggles to come to terms with what happened.

With her ability to trust as shaky as a chastity vow on prom night, Ellen must decide if she has enough remaining courage to speak up about the well-liked teacher and risk retribution, tell Rex how she really feels about him and risk heartbreak, or hold all her secrets inside. After all, it’s the only safe place she knows when the only thing louder than words is the fear of being rejected.”

So, I open the book expecting this to be in the vein of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. And the opening scene keeps that illusion alive (see paragraph one, two and five from the blurb). But after chapter three there’s nothing more about the groping teacher.

Sure a small scene where he practically threatens her at a restaurant, but the story is obviously “just” a romance. It’s about her pushing away Rex and then regretting it. Attempting to settle for friendship with him when her heart and mind are calling her all sorts of hypocrite. Ho-hum.

About halfway through, things change when the teacher re-enters the picture. And, yes, it does broach the same subject as Speak and does it in a way that is so non-confrontational that any teenage girl who read it would think, “I could do that.” Whereas, the trauma value to Speak’s heroine holds some kids who consider themselves “normal” at arm’s length.

I tip my hat to St. Clair for dealing with sensitive subject matter with finesse. It’s not just the definition of “what is a consensual relationship” that she addresses. Nope, there’s a list of volatile topics:

  • How do we approach a child we suspect is being abused?
  • How can we be a friend to someone who’s lost a parent? Or whose parent is a drug addict?
  • When is withholding the truth a sign of friendship? And, conversely, when should the truth push us from our comfort zone?
  • Why do teenagers consider bullying the norm? Why are so many willing to be bystanders rather than take a stand?

Each of these questions finds an answer in the midst of this not-just-a-romance story. St. Clair handles them with tact and without ever hinting at being preachy or judgmental.

Upon finishing the last page, I had to sit down and review this book because the magnitude of the accomplishment astounded me. From something marketed as a “young adult romance,” a spotlight falls on important subjects many teenagers face (or wonder about).

I laughed. I teared up. Most of all, I believed Ellen could truly exist in this world. And I wanted to meet her because I felt like she is someone I’d want to befriend. Just a regular girl with standard problems who faced them with the bravery of an Amazon warrior.

Yes, this “romance” gets five stars from me because it is so much more than “just” a love story.

My favorite romantic line from the book: “The tingles have formed throbbing gangs who have sprayed suggestive graffiti all over my private property.” Now, that sounds exactly like something a teenager would think – and is totally sexy while being amazingly appropriate in the same instant.

If you have a daughter who likes romance, get her this book. Read it so you can have some important discussions with her about some of the subject matter subtly confronted in between teenage angst and drama. It is worth every penny and every minute. I promise.

Romance or Tragedy?

With difficulty, I managed to keep myself from gagging, choking and puking over the gushing responses of some of the women in my Shakespeare class. They seriously consider Romeo and Juliet an accurate depiction of true, deep, abiding love.

These are probably some of the same people that put Titanic at the top of the box office in 1997. Meeting someone and having sex with them a few days later isn’t true love.

When Titanic came out, one of the girls in the church Bible study group I directed repeatedly went to the theater and extolled the virtues of this as a true love story. I finally asked her what made it seem that way to her.

“He stopped her from killing herself.” That was her answer. Doesn’t general Christian charity compel us to keep another human being from physical harm?

In fact, it was Cameron’s masterful direction of the movie that stirred the heart strings. I found it incredibly depressing. Thousands of people died. Nice for the main character to use the tragedy as a start to a new life, but why was she so deserving?

Shakespeare introduces us to Romeo as he pines for Rosalind. A few scenes later, he’s wondering who the lovely girl at the ball is. They exchange brief lines and suddenly they’re smitten. What idiotic blather!

How many of you met someone and were immediately attracted to them? Dozens of hands go up, I see. How many of you got to know that person and within a month or less realized it was all physical attraction? Pretty much the same hands are raised here.

Who knows why we feel initial sparks of attraction to people? Some scientist, I’m sure, believes they have the answer. The point is: most of the time the initial attraction wanes. In a few rare instances, it might lead to abiding love.

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, not a romance. Here are two teenagers (Juliet was 13) that get married after talking to each other for less than an hour and then kill themselves in a fit of tragic loss a few weeks later.

I see melodrama. I see middle school fickleness. I see suicide being touted as a viable route to escape life’s seemingly insurmountable problems and losses. I don’t see true love that is united by death.

What do you see? If there are some Shakespeare aficionados out there, I want to hear from you. Make me believe this is romance.