Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop: Vindication At Long Last

Mama Kat!  Mama Kat! Mama Kat is giving me an opportunity to write about vengeance! Muahahahahaha!!!!!

3.) What would it take? Write an imaginary scene where someone you are still angry with finally deserves to be forgiven.

When I was in high school, all I wanted to do was be in musicals.  I went to a school with a robust theatre program that offered one or two opportunities to be in a musical each year. Pretty sweet, huh?  Not really.  The director the school hired was a guy who I’ll call Larry because that’s his name and I don’t really care if he reads this, recognizes himself and knows there’s a former student out there who thinks his methods sucked.

See, Larry wasn’t a bad director.  On the contrary, he put up pretty good shows most years. He picked his dream casts, and put them through their paces, and gave the audience the show he wanted them to see. What he sucked at, and sucked HARD at, was being an educator for young performers. First of all, his casting methods were unfair.  He picked favorites, and while those kids were not without talent, they were not the only kids with the talent in the school.  But Larry stuck with his favorites, due to a lack of imagination, perhaps, or a lack of interest in nurturing the rest of the hopefuls who turned out for auditions, or because he was basically a dick.  I don’t know. I also don’t know much about his directing methods because I was not one of his favorites and never got to be part of rehearsals that weren’t more than giant traffic directing seminars where Larry and the choreographer moved the chorus on and off the stage.  Perhaps Larry did theatre games and acting exercises and other educational activities that helped the lead players grow as performers but he sure as shootin’ never did it for the many chorus members who were in his shows.  And who showed up on time for rehearsals every night.  And who sang their little hearts out in every show. And whose names he never learned.

I’m leaning more and more toward thinking Larry was a dick.

I went on to college and majored in theatre despite never having gotten more than a chorus part in one of Larry’s shows.  I’d had a lead role in a non-musical play directed by a member of the English department and did a good job in that but it was still a surprise, albeit a really pleasant one, when I got to college and was immediately offered a plum role in one of the fall plays.  And more plays every year after that.  It was gratifying to work with faculty who TAUGHT me things, who cared about my progress, and who wanted to see me, and all my classmates and castmates, succeed in theatre.

And I did.  I made my living as a children’s theatre performer for my first year out of college.  I put in a few more years in the audition circuit and probably would have broken though as a regional theatre performer if I’d kept at it a little longer and worked at the business of being an actor a little harder. Instead I opted for a more stable line of work as an administrator for non-profit theatres and walked away from acting. I regret none of that.

But I’m still pretty darn pissed at Larry for never giving me a chance. I know I was cast in the chorus not by Larry but by kindly Mr. Henckel the choir teacher and musical director who gave as many of his students a chance to perform as possible. And he took time to teach us to do the music well, not because it was what Larry demanded, but because he wanted us to learn music. Thanks Mr. Henckel, wherever you are and sorry if I spelled your name wrong! It’s been a long time.

How could Larry redeem himself?  I offer you this vignette as one possible way.

Act I, Scene i

A high school auditorium. A play has just finished.  The young casts stands beaming on the stage as the audience applauds. One student runs into the wings and brings out the director.

STUDENT: We all want to thank Mom-in-a-Million for being a great director! We had a great time doing theatre games in rehearsals, improvising new scenes for this play to learn more about it, and talking  a lot about the world of the script. We all learned a lot and can’t wait for next year’s show!

MOM-IN-A-MILLION: Thank you guys! Thank you for letting me share something I love with you.

The students disperse into the wings to meet up with their parents. Mom-in-a-Million begins thanking the tech crew as they clear the set and helps them put away props.

A fat man in glasses walks down the center aisle and approaches Mom-in-a-Million

FAT MAN: Good show. I enjoyed it.


FAT MAN: Yes, how did you know my name?

MOM-IN-A-MILLION: You were my high school director.

FAT MAN: Really? I guess that was a long time ago.  I hope you had as good an experience doing shows with me as your students seemed to have with you.

MOM-IN-A-MILLION: It was a learning experience.

FAT MAN: I’d love to talk to you more about what you did to help the kids learn about theatre.  My methods feel a little stale and the kids never pull me out on stage and thank me that way.

MOM-IN-A-MILLION: Sure, Larry. I’m happy to teach theatre to anyone who wants to learn. I don’t discriminate.

Mom-in-a-Million exits stage left.

Larry will probably never learn. But if I ever get a chance to teach theatre, I’ll make sure my students do.

Mama's Losin' It

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10 comments for “Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop: Vindication At Long Last

  1. June 10, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Visiting from Mama Kats…

    Larry does sound like a bad bad teacher. It is a shame he was allowed to get away with that. I think he fancied himself a DIRECTOR and not a TEACHER. I could see why you would be angry.

  2. CDG
    June 10, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Larry’s a douchebag.

    I wish, for your high school self, you’d had Bill.

    Bill has a facebook fanpage created by the hundreds of devoted students he nurtured over the years, despite his foul mouth, his chain smoking, and his filthy humor–or perhaps in part because of them? He was a consummate professional and a vibrant educator, even when he was telling a freshman chorus member that she needed to ditch her extra left foot. And that he would stay late to work on everyone’s choreography every night till we got it cold.

    Perhaps Larry could take a page from Bill’s book?

  3. June 10, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I want to slap Larry across the face. He sounds like a prick.

  4. June 10, 2010 at 10:09 am

    OMG! Larry’s Mr. Karp!

    I now think should vlog yourself singing “Nothing” from A Chorus Line. Don’t forget the leg warmers.

  5. anthrogrrl
    June 10, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I never would have remembered Larry’s name, because I was only cast as a chorus member once, and was mostly put in the orchestra pit by Dr. Miller, the conductor, for plays. I’m sure I never had contact with Larry outside of the audition.

    However, I do have one very distinct memory of Larry: trying out for my first play in 8th grade, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and locking eyes with him as I stood on stage, terrified, and sang my first audition solo. It felt like a very safe a nurturing moment, where I thought we really connected and he enjoyed my short performance. And then I wasn’t cast at all, and that delusion was shattered.

    He most definitely played favorites, casting the same students again and again. I’m glad you had a more positive learning experience once you got away from him and found some real teachers!

  6. KLZ
    June 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Never learned your name? It’s probably because he realizes that he got stuck with Larry, the stupidest name on the planet.

    Not that I know any Larrys or anything…

  7. June 10, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    It would be interesting to know what Larry’s back story is. Just because he did a good job directing the theater productions does not mean he is a good fit working in a school with high school kids.

    This is one dick I do not like.

  8. June 10, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I am glad larry’s poor conduct did not discourage you and keep you from the stage later on!

  9. June 12, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Wow, Larry sounds like a boatload of fun!! In our school it was the choir teacher who cast the plays and musicals. One was a lot like Larry and was horrific. She had aspirations bigger than a Wyoming middle school I think. The other two were amazing but even then you would see some favoritism. One girl in my class had parents who spent a fortune on vocal lessons, pageants, etc… she had a pretty strong voice. Not a great voice but a strong voice. She was the lead most of the time. It was exhausting being in a room with her. I wonder all of the time what she’s doing now because she’s not famous! I had several small roles but never a huge one because of the favoritism so I can totally relate to this.

  10. Lo
    June 14, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Didn’t get around to the Mama Kat’s workshop last week, but this reminds me why I love doing them, so I’m definitely back in this week. And you’re right, Larry probably wouldn’t learn — but I’m glad you did despite him!

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