Saturday, November 8, 2008
Night times, when you're finally sleeping---with the soft mouth open and warm breath, the cheek pale and vulnerable against the night, your arms limp over a stuffed animal and even though you are right in front of her, you are so so somewhere else, sort of like life, for all of us--in those still moments, your mama comes in and kisses you good-night, one more time.
Sssssh! Don't tell Stryker, but she does the same with him--and the baby, Merrick. She peeks in for that last look and considers the men they will become, the great psychological and physical distance that will someday separate. That expanse both humbles and grounds.
How does the expanse appear, even now?
Just yesterday --
Matron: "Stryker, what are you thinking?"
Stryker: "Those are my private thoughts and at the moment, I am unwilling to share them."
Yes, on this busy Saturday, the Matron is a wee bit philosophical, thinking how alone we each are in our own minds, what entire universes we create and for what a short, amazing time.
When we die, as Brecht reminds us, it's not as if an actor leaves the stage.
The stage disappears.
The Matron is happy to be allowed onto a corner of three stages, one for each of her children, for awhile.
Friday, November 7, 2008
A couple of months later, she and a 15-year old friend wrote, produced and directed a backyard production of Annie that involved 27 children, 100 audience members, a sound system, choreography, enormous painted backdrops and red hair dye (lasted six weeks).
You know who's Annie.
During the course of the week-long rehearsals, Scarlett requested email addresses for the children's families so she could better communicate with her cast. She is not yet eight.
When tucked her into bed after the first rehearsal, she offered this: "Mom, why don't those orphans listen better? They're supposed to do what I say." A director is born. You can rework those letters just a bit to get dictator, you know.
John and the Matron were in charge of food. Lots of it. Those orphans had no issues there.
Next, Scarlett auditioned for Little Bird at SteppingStone Theatre, St. Paul's children's theater. She stood on that big stage and belted out a song. She shivered and cowered on cue.
She didn't get in. But she went back for the very next audition with undiminished joy. And landed the role of Gladys Herdman in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. You know the book. This Official Theater Debut came four months after Annie.
Scarlett recognized that SteppingStone Theater was actually her new home and a much better place to be. Below, here she is, once again embodying poverty, in The Prince and the Pauper.
The cast of The Prince and the Pauper then became the cast of The Sound of Music for Scarlett's Second Annual Backyard Production. She was Gretel. And all those teenagers from SteppingStone traipsed to our house for more singing and dancing, under Scarlett's Command. She's eight now.
Our neighborhood is high on a bluff above the river. When the Matron mentioned to a neighbor that Scarlett was rehearsing a backyard play, the neighbor said: "We all know. These hills are alive with the sound of music, my dear." And it made life a little sweeter, she said.
Now, the Matron didn't feel like a real stage mother -you know, all claws and competition--till auditions at the Guthrie. This is the real deal, folks. Cash money and world stage, all that. Here is The Matron's Very Fine Rule for auditioning at the Guthrie Theater: Do Not Talk To The Other Mothers. Then, you're fine. Here's Scarlett as Maisie McLaughlin, impoverished and dirty Irish waif in The Home Place.
Check out that playbill. Yes, that's her in the second picture, the only person in pony-tails. Scarlett rubbed shoulders with Fame. And what did the famous do in return? Showered her with candy. gifts and generosity of spirit. The child landed a Webkin, drawings, flowers, jewelry, ornaments, (did she mention candy?) books, boundless good will and adoration. She was also exposed to a staggering scale of swearing, drink and Late Night (uh, some of this from her very own Mama). The child supervisor said he tried to cover her ears at just the right moments.
Every night she stood on that stage and hundreds applauded. That was her favorite part, she reports.
Last winter, was Almost to Freedom at SteppingStone Theater. Scarlett played Mary-Kate, the plantation overseer's daughter. It's a stark, beautiful play about slavery. Kim Hines did the adaptation from the book by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. If you don't know this book, it's worth trying.
During this show the Matron marveled that her DNA could stand onstage and harmonize in front of others. Good thing John witnessed the birth or she would have no thought this possible!
That 9-year old pro's next show was also with SteppingStone Theatre. Scarlett was a weasel in Anansi the Trickster Spider. By this point, the Matron was getting so, oh, nonchalant about the whole endeavor, that she forgot about pictures (and she had a whole month to get some).
Here's how Scarlett has spent her free time for the past two years: online looking for auditions.
After Anansi came the Third Annual Backyard Production. This time it was Peter Pan. Scarlett was a definite Tink, not a Tinkerbell. The cast included a sea of pirates, Indian maidens and mermaids. The grand finale was a highly choregraphed blast of Elton John's Crocodile Rock. More than one parent wiped an eye in the Matronly backyard--once again stuffed full of people!
Wait! The Matron forgot the movie! During the month of July, leading up to the play was the small independent art film: Minka is Here. Here is the daughter in a movie.
If you go to film festivals, you might even see it someday. It's lovely.
Reader, are you tired yet? Because the Matron is exhausted. In between the actual Theatrical Event comes the down home theatrics AND the search for the next gig. Because when Scarlett doesn't have a show?
She's worried. And that can be hard on a child. But at the moment, all those stars are aligned because tonight? Another Opening Night!
This time for The Sound of Music at the Phipps Center for the Arts! Scarlett is in HOG HEAVEN to be in a real production of her very favorite show of all time. She is Marta.
Scarlett, my dear, during the past week, you've done your homework the instant you've gotten home. Nobody has to tell you to braid your hair or curl the ends, just so. You've packed your bag with shoes, socks and the right underwear. You're the one reminding your parents what time you need to be ready and why. You have patiently waited while your Mama has applied the required make-up. When you get home at 11 pm? You're starving. Honey, your mama (and Daddy) have been happy to wait up and make your favorite snacks, all with hot cocoa. What has really impressed her is how you set your alarm for 7:30 am each morning, not wanting to miss a minute of school. And you haven't. Well, mostly.
You've been gone nearly every night for six weeks. When your Mama gets to be in the same room with you for over two hours tonight--you on the stage and she in her anxious little seat--that will be the longest evening she's spent with you in quite awhile.
But you still sleep here, darling. You turned 10 years old in August. Night times, when you're finally sleeping---with the soft mouth open and warm breath, the cheek pale and vunlerable against the night, your arms limp over a stuffed animal and even though you are right in front of her, you are so so somewhere else, sort of like life, for all of us--in those still moments, your mama comes in and kisses you good-night, one more time.
Break a leg, Scarlett!
Home Place Photo credit to Michal Daniel of Proofsheet Photograhy. Minka is here Ann Marsden and Ann Prim photo and movie credit, respectively. Sound of Music photographs are Mandsager Photography.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
The Matron thought nobody could love this place more than she -- land of $3. designer blouses and boots. But it is also the land of cast-off electronics and general junk of legendary degree. Think shelf after shelf of silver widget, plastic transformer, bundle of wire and whatnot. There are legions of broken, archaic gaming systems.
Stryker can spend more time scrutinizing an indecipherable pile of electronics than the Matron can try on shoes! He loves this place. It is like date night for mother and son, except they instantly part ways.
The Matron sighed a little sigh on Monday, watching her guy root and route through screws and peer into the broken backs of 25 year old television sets. She just imagines the wall to wall stack of STUFF he will have in his own garage someday. Something about the step of his foot in that store, the way he critically examined and critiqued the goods (while stocking up) seemed more like a man pushing 80 than 13.
But Tuesday night's election result proved this for the Matron. She and Stryker were watching in the family room, alone. The results poured in! Vermont, projected for Obama! New Jersey, projected for Obama! Their very own Minnesota! Projected for The Man!
As that Electoral College kept getting higher, the Matronly hysteria climbed too. She sobbed into her hankie, unbelieving.
Stryker: "Mom! This is crazy. That's projected. Only 5% is in for Minnesota and it's projected? Like even 30% for Vermont and they're projecting? Who can even get excited until the votes are actually in. I totally don't understand all this about election night. Why are we even watching? We won't know who won until tomorrow morning, or maybe even a couple of days. Projecting? Come on. New Mexico, projecting? I can't believe you really believe Illinois will go for Obama when they're projecting. Why are you crying? We have NO IDEA who really won. I'd rather read. Look! Another projection with just 1%. This is absolutely craziness. Why are there election night parties? Why are some neighbors downstairs, just to watch the projecting people?"
When the Matron pointed out that this--projecting--has gone on since the beginning of time and that's just the way it works, please Dear God, sit back and enjoy this?
Stryker continued on, apparantly trying to ALSO talk himself backward to beginning of time when he could finally end an entire nation's Mass Delusion and Historic Mistake. He did not stop, not once. Not for a single minute Sanity Break.
"I mean, we don't know who won! I am not going to be happy about this, no way. Not until the numbers are in. Please. Do we even have to watch this? Now, why are Barack Obama and his whole family there, pretending that they won!? Look at those thousands of people. They have no idea what's really happening. This is complete craziness. I don't understand you people. Not a bit."
And just to insure that he gets to go through his narrative every year until he actually IS the 80 year old he acts like?
Al Franken and Norm Coleman, the Minnesota Senate candidates are under 500 points and one half a percentage point apart, about to begin a mandatory recount.
Stryker: "SEE!! I told you! I'll be happy in January, like two days after Obama's sworn in, just to be safe."
Lovely, sweetheart. Why does your mother think you'll be telling her all about it, too?
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
In honor of the millions of Americans who are casting their votes for the first African-American President, here's Marian Anderson, singing at the Lincoln Memorial.
Change? It's been happening all along, friends. Here's to more.
Oh, and can someone help the Matron with her little crying problem? She gets weepy--in that verkempt, overcome, can't-quite-believe it way--just thinking about President Obama.
Monday, November 3, 2008
On other fronts.
For her new job, Dr. Matron is required to take this edifying online course: The Philosophy of the Community and Technical College.
- When was Minnesota's first community college established?
- What school district offered the first vocational programs?
But! She was evenhanded and understanding right up until the personal Teaching and Learning Statement she was required to write, complete with rubric for format and content, offering no real room for the individual jig or magic trick. So the Matron will be all rubric and good student, line up goal and pit it to strategy and outcome. Fine.
Teaching at the community college level is teaching on the front line of education, where your work matters.
Teaching at the community college level? These students weren't born into the language you'll be using, the precise and nuanced language of literature, art and theory. It's your job to help students learn this language and always, always remind them that they deserve to be fluent in it.
Understand that half of the people in your classroom are struggling financially. They all have full-time jobs. Many of them are parents. Most of them are ground breakers, the first in their family to attend college. Wow. You get to be continually amazed by and impressed with their persistence and courage, and you get to tell them that, too!
Someone can't write an essay to save her life? Well, Dr. Matron cannot do fourth-grade math. So there. But if someone sat down and reminded the Matron about fractions and the funny names for the numbers on bottom and top and how they all fly together? If she practiced adding 1/4 and 2/3? She'd get better. So will that writer in her classroom. Practice, practice, practice.
Standing in front of 25 community college students? You will be the recipient of endless, unanticipated life experiences. Recent emigres, new citizens, ex-cons, Iraq vets, single mothers, recovering addicts--you name it. And if you're receptive, they'll teach you (nearly) as much as you teach them.
And even though the Matron moans about her job and sometimes reproduces one of her more taxing students on the old blog? She loves every minute of teaching. When she's standing in the midst of a heated, full-classroom conversation and students are putting together X with Y and understanding C, and then a new hand shoots up, and there's, wait, one more concept, here, to incorporate--she's the conductor and the orchestra taps into a little bit of heaven.
There's that Teaching and Learning Statement. The real one.
Straight Party Voting! The Matron can't help but imagine a cocktail event, sponsored by The Young Republicans. Or the President of Iran. . . .
Come back later, y'all. The Matron actually has a nonpolitical, nonfamilial post up her soggy little sleeve (because she is STILL wiping that nose!).
Sunday, November 2, 2008
When asked by a reporter how he was going to vote, a Twin Cities' man quipped, "I'm probably going to get drunk and vote for McCain and vote Republican all the way down."
The Body Politic, thus informed and engaged.