Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ten Dollar Words


"I love my dictionary
And I love the indented border.
Every word’s in alphabetical order.
Ergo, lost things
Always can be found ..."
William Finn

DAY 114:  I love words.  In particular, I love NEW words that send me running giddily to the dictionary - what my friend Staci calls "Ten Dollar Words."  Over the years, I've collected some favorites ... "ubiquitous," "tantamount," and "penultimate" have all become regulars in my conversation.  I suppose it's the writer and the reader in me that finds discovering new words so exciting and I'm grateful for having a pretty darned extensive vocabulary!

It also means that I have an affinity for word games.  The New York Times and USA Today crossword puzzle "apps" are two of the most used on my iPhone.  Just this past week, I also started playing with another app called "Words With Friends," which allows you to play a Scrabble-like game with others who have also downloaded the game.  I'm now in the middle of about six simultaneous games that I've been checking on my phone almost as obsessively as I check in with Facebook.

The downside of a great vocabulary?  It often takes me forever to finish a blog post, e-mail, memo, letter, or Facebook status or comment as I agonize over JUST the right choice of word or grammatical structure.  It also makes me KEENLY aware when someone uses the wrong word.  I won't correct an adult, but I will point out when I hear a student using a word incorrectly.  Just this past week, I was tired and rather ill-tempered in class and a child called me a "pessimist." I quickly pointed out to her that the word pessimist does NOT mean "someone in a bad mood."  She didn't believe me and most of them don't - well, I guess that's pessimistic, isn't it?  Optimists can be in a bad mood, too ... though optimists are the ones who tend to put pessimists IN their bad moods ...

What's my newest acquisition?  APOCRYPHAL, meaning "of doubtful authenticity."  It was part of a Facebook status last night, written by my trans-Atlantic friend, Sebastian.  What a great word, huh?  I can't wait to use it in conversation!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Leading the Dance


"Put your left foot in,
Your left foot out,
Your left foot in,
And shake it all about.
You do the hokey pokey
And turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about ..."
Al Tabor 

DAY 113:  Certainly the most tedious job for a stage director is blocking ... it's definitely the most time-consuming part of the task.  It's an unfortunate necessity, though, before actors learn their lines and the real fun of directing the ACTING can begin.  Blocking, or instructing the actors where and how to move and when to make the moves, is essentially choreography.  It's an artful dance, creating pictures with bodies on stage, while making sure that no one is hidden behind set pieces, furniture, or other actors, and also insuring that the audience's eye is drawn to the person who should be "in focus" in the scene. 

The first week or two of rehearsals for a play is typically devoted to blocking (in musicals, it usually starts with learning the music PRIOR to any blocking).  A number of directors will approach a show with the "move the way you think you would" technique, of which I'm not terribly fond ... and I frankly think it's poor direction.  When I block a show, it's VERY specfic - "move to the right of the table after you say the line and sit on the left end of the settee when you say the word ..."  You get the idea.

Unfortunately, this must be all worked out ahead of time to be truly effective.  So what am I grateful for today?  As of today, ALL of my blocking for Our Leading Lady will be planned and I can relax a little, enjoying the actors as they bring their characters to life "dancing" their way through the scenes to the steps I have given them.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thank You Very Much


"And if I had a drum I'd have to bang it!
To add a sort of rumty-tumty touch.
But since I left my drum at home,
I'll simply have to say
Thank you very, very, very much!
Thank you very, very, very much!"
Leslie Bricusse

DAY 112:  One of the greatest things about Facebook is keeping in touch with my past students, particularly those who are currently in college.  Almost weekly, I'll get a wall post or a personal message from a student thanking me for being his or her teacher.  Today, I got this message from a recent graduate:

"Thank you for teaching me calculus. I see people make mistakes in class all the time and can't help but thinking "that was basic algebra!!!" (or precalc or whatever.) nonetheless, i'm sure i'll have an A because everything is really easy. Thanks again!!!"

It's especially gratifying to get a message like this from a past AP student who, although she might not have passed the AP exam, she got enough from the class to make that college course MUCH easier.

I'm grateful for these messages that provide frequent confirmation that what I'm doing for a living is important and has had a profound impact on literally thousands of lives.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eye Rollers


"When I look in your eyes,
I see the wisdom of the world in your eyes ..."
Leslie Bricusse

DAY 111:  Under normal circumstances, a kid rolling his eyes, or saying "whatever" or "never mind," would be enough for me to be a not-so-very happy camper and the student would KNOW it rather quickly.  But there's one condition in which rolling eyes is not only perfectly acceptable, but I'm GRATEFUL for it!

I was reviewing for a test in Pre-Calculus today ... bear in mind, this is a unit we have been covering since we returned from Winter Break - that's nearly FOUR FULL WEEKS!  I had children looking at me this afternoon as if they had NEVER SEEN the math I was reviewing and the dumbfounded looks were enough to send me into orbit.  What in the bloody heck have I been TEACHING for nearly a month?

Anyway ... thank GOODNESS for the select five or so students in the class who caught my eye with a knowing glance and a roll of their eyes as if to say, "Mr. Lipp, of COURSE we get it, and we SO feel your pain ..."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Make 'Em Laugh


"My dad said 'Be an actor, my son
But be a comical one
They'll be standing in lines
For those old honky tonk monkeyshines.'

Now you could study Shakespeare
And be quite elite.
And you can charm the critics,
And have nothin' to eat.
Just slip on a banana peel
The world's at your feet - 
Make 'em laugh,
Make 'em laugh,
Make 'em laugh."
Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed

DAY 110:  We had our first rehearsal tonight with all but one of the full cast of Our Leading Lady and I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard at a rehearsal.  We blocked the first twelve or so pages of the show and I can't believe how RIOTOUSLY FUNNY this play is.  I knew it was clever and witty, but not this side-splitting, thanks IN LARGE PART to this terrific cast.  Thanks for the laughter!! 

PS ... the picture is NOT my puppy Annabelle ...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Best of All Possible Songs


"No.
We won't think noble because we're not noble.
We won't live in beautiful harmony because
there is no such thing in this world,
nor should there be.
We promise only to do our best,
and live out our lives.
Dear God, that's all we can promise in truth."
Lillian Hellman

DAY 109:  There are very few things that move me more than powerful song lyrics, particularly in the context of a musical when the song tells you something profound about the character or something startlingly enlightening about the human condition.  And it is often done with the most SIMPLE of lyrics.  Although my favorite Broadway lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, is a master of wordplay and rhyme, his simplest songs, such as "Little Lamb" from Gypsy and the title song from Anyone Can Whistle, are great examples of how saying very little can say so much.  Marry those lyrics with astonishing music and you've got a song that will stop me entranced in my tracks EVERY time I hear it. 

I was working this evening on blocking for my play while listening to a shuffle of my favorite songs when "Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide played - I stopped, listened, and was enthralled just as much now after many many years and many many listenings as I was when I first heard it.  There is no doubt in my mind that this song is THE greatest Broadway song ever written and I am grateful for the brilliant gift of music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics of Richard Wilbur EVERY time I hear it.

"You've been a fool and so have I,
But come and be my wife,
And let us try before we die
To make some sense of life.

We're neither pure nor wise nor good;
We'll do the best we know;
We'll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow.

I thought the world was sugar-cake,
For so our master said;
But now I'll teach my hands to bake
Our loaf of daily bread.

We're neither pure nor wise nor good;
We'll do the best we know;
We'll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow.

Let dreamers dream what worlds they please;
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers, the fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.

We're neither pure nor wise nor good;
We'll do the best we know;
We'll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow ...

And make our garden grow."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reading Through



"I think I can play this part,
Though no one's ever got it right before.
I've a new interpretation,
And a lot of motivation,
And I seem to know the lines by heart.
I'm sure I can play this part."
David Zippel

DAY 108:  "The read-through, or 'table-read,' is a stage of theatre production when an organized reading around a table of the script by the actors with speaking parts is conducted" ... courtesy of Wikipedia.  It's an exciting first rehearsal - a meeting with introductions, people that you know and new faces of friends yet to be.  It's also the first time to hear the script that you've read so many times finally spoken aloud and brought to life.  I'm grateful for a GREAT read-through, a well-written script, and a terrific cast of actors.  Tomorrow night, the work begins!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Racing With the Clock



"And the second hand doesn't understand
That your back may break and your fingers ache
And your constitution isn't made of rock ..."
Richard Adler and Jerry Ross

DAY 107:  I woke up obscenely late yesterday and got out of bed even later.  I'm too embarrassed to admit how late that actually was ... let's just say it was REALLY late.  I'm grateful to report, though, that yesterday was one my most productive days ever.  When I get in "that mood," there's very little that can stop me.  I've been slowly realizing that my three months of theatre-free leisure are now over, so I'm going to have to make the best of whatever "free" time I can find.  Rehearsals start tomorrow!

Let's see ... the day started with completing the ground plans for my show, then I ran to get them copied for the cast and crew, stopping at Target for birthday cards (a LOT of folks with birthdays this week, including my Mom), picking up prescriptions, and then getting my week's worth of groceries.  While I finished up two big loads of laundry, I sat down and wrote out a quiz for my Algebra II classes and a test for my Pre-Calculus kids (in all fairness, I used a software quiz generator and a test from a previous year, but I had to alter them a bit).  I finally sat down to eat some dinner while watching the re-aired pilot of Caprica on SciFi, which prompted me to write yesterday's blog post.  The final project of the day was the rehearsal schedule for Our Leading Lady.  Fortunately this cast is rather small (only nine), so it wasn't as difficult as a schedule for a musical with a cast of 15-20 and up.  But there were conflicts galore, with at least one person unavailable almost every night.  I made it work, though, and finished it late last night.  My last task for the evening at about 1:30 a.m. was to e-mail off the schedule to the cast and crew.  Oh ... and did I mention the poor neglected puppy who had to be walked every few hours?

Whew!  It makes me tired even writing it all down.  But it leaves me a little time today to put on the brakes and relax for a bit - maybe watch a movie, play a computer game, take a walk/run, perhaps even read a book.  Of course, that's AFTER I vacuum and do the blocking that needs to be done for Tuesday and Wednesday.

By the way, I actually toyed with the idea of running the vacuum across the floor at 2 a.m. this morning so I wouldn't have to do that today, either ... I came to my senses ...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mr. Roboto


"I'm not a robot without emotions -
I'm not what you see.
I've come to help you
With your problems, so we can be free.
I'm not a hero, I'm not a saviour,
Forget what you know ...
I'm just a man whose circumstances
Went beyond his control."
Styx

DAY 106:  I've always been a HUGE science fiction fan.  I remember two shows of the late 70's and early 80's with great fondness - Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers.  Watch them now, unfortunately, and they will throw you into HYSTERICAL fits of laughter ... perhaps the cheesiest, silliest series ever to air.  SO ... you can imagine the serious doubts I had when the SciFi Network announced a new series - their remake of Battlestar Galactica.  Little by little, details emerged about the new show that gave me further pause - Starbuck (played by Richard Hatch in the original series, and who surprisingly played a major and VERY different role in the new show) was now a woman, and the Cylons (the robot "bad guys" chasing a group of refugee humans across the universe as the humans searched for a prophecized "Earth") could actually look like human beings.  BLASPHEMY!

Boy, was I ever WRONG!  SciFi's Battlestar Galactica was one of the greatest TV series ever produced and I'm forever grateful for the four years of the BRILLIANT writing in this "reimagining."  This was gritty, pulse-pounding, and unforgiving - a dark, brooding tale of racism, identity, betrayal, justice, and incapacitating loss.  It was also an incredibly sexy film noir-ish tale of lust and love.  The most fascinating aspect of the series, however, was the way it toyed with morality and its intriguing exploration of spirituality, mysticism, and religion.  EVERY character was gray and inescapably conflicted ... no truly good guys, no unredeemingly bad guys.  This was a story filled with drug-induced prophetic visions leading a group of humans on their search for the mysterious land of "Earth," as foretold in their holy books.  These "good guys" were polytheistic and the robotic "bad guys," who were capable of RESURRECTION and came in TWELVE "models," believed in "one true" God.  It comes as no surprise then that the publicity image for the final season of the show (that I posted above) is a recreation of "The Last Supper," with the main "bad guy" - the beautiful woman in red - taking the place of Jesus in the painting.  BRILLIANT BRILLIANT BRILLIANT ... 

And, to top it all off, SciFi made the ASTOUNDINGLY noncommercial but intelligent choice of ending the series after only four seasons, while it was still thriving and in its prime.  Going out on a high left all of us BSG fans mourning the loss of the show, but it was clear that the writers respected the storyline, and realized that dragging it out over additional seasons would only dilute it's impact.  It was also clear that the writers had a definite timeline and plan for the story which had reached "its time" to bring it to a close - unlike other shows, like Lost and Heroes, that seem to have outlived their complexity and meandering plot seasons ago.

I sure do miss my Friday night thrills with Commander Adama, Kara, President Roslin, Lee, Gaius, Boomer, and Number Six.  Tonight, SciFi re-aired the pilot episode of a new series called Caprica, a prequel based on their Battlestar Galactica universe (the reason for my post today), before it begins its regular run every Friday night starting next week.  The show holds great promise, and I felt like a giddy kid coming home to a world that I had grown so attached to.  But it's not Battlestar Galactica, and I'm certain nothing ever will be ...

Friday, January 22, 2010

No Way To Stop It



"While somersaulting at a cockeyed angle,
We make a cockeyed circle 'round the sun.
And when we circle back to where we started from,
Another year has run."
Oscar Hammerstein II

DAY 105:  Teacher Planning Day today ... a chance every quarter of the school year to get grades done, do a little "catching up," and get a small breather.  It's hard to believe that this school year is already half over ... and it has been a good one so far.

We unfortunately didn't have the full day to plan ... this old guy remembers a time when we had the entire day to work in our rooms and get ahead of ourselves a little.  Nowadays, it's meetings about standardized State Testing, school grades, data, and all the rest that frankly has nothing whatsoever to do with the job of simply TEACHING the CONTENT.  I'm grateful today, though, that the two meetings required of me were mercifully short (each only 45 minutes) and I was able to get enough done to keep me at ease ...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chewing the Scenery


"Don't know why
There's no sun up in the sky ...
Stormy weather."
Harold Arlen

DAY 104:  My last puppy, Simon, was PETRIFIED of thunder and storms.  If the storm occurred while I was home, he would hunker down as close to me as possible, or hide under the bed or in the closet.  If I wasn't home, some destruction was likely to follow - not of the "Marley and Me" variety (described in painful but hilarious detail in the book), but usually some minor chewing or other little "surprises."  I'm grateful on days like today, with its SIGNIFICANT "rain event," that Annabelle doesn't seem to be bothered.  When I arrived home this afternoon, I found a totally undisturbed house and a dog looking at me as if to say, "What?  For goodness sake, it was just a little rain, dad ..."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Made From Scratch



"Let's start at the very beginning,
A very good place to start ..."
Oscar Hammerstein II

DAY 103:  Behold the infamous "Director's Book" for my production of Our Leading Lady!  It's a sure sign that my life is going to be awfully busy for the next couple of months.  I finally put the book together tonight ... for those unfamiliar with a Director's Book, it has contact information for the cast and crew, rehearsal schedules, stage drawings and ground plans, props and costume lists, and eventually light and sound cues.  The majority of the book, however, is the script - each individual page in the small published version is cut out and copied onto the center of a full blank white sheet so that "blocking" notes can be added.  "Blocking" is the instructions for the actors on where and when and how to move on stage, and it's the first big job for a director.  It's kind of choreography without the dance, placing the characters so the audience focuses where you want them to focus, and creating interesting "stage pictures."  It will take me about a week or so to "block" the entire show ... then the fun begins of actually DIRECTING the acting and characterization in the show.

ANYWAY ... it's not my Director's Book I'm grateful for, but the start of a new theatre project.  It's an incredibly exciting process - I've now had two "Production Meetings" with Jeff and Kelly, the theatre's Technical Director and Set Designer, respectively.  We have been planning the set and throwing around LOTS of ideas ... and I think we finally have it nailed down.  There's something particularly thrilling about visualizing and bringing the printed word from the page to life.  It's really quite a wondrous and somewhat magical process, I think.  And just before a show opens, there's this ineffable moment when I'll realize that what's on the stage has taken on a life of it's own - it's no longer something I've created.  But that's the subject for another post during the first week of March!!

What's especially interesting about this project is that it's based on a VERY famous historical event - the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre - as seen through the eyes of the company that was performing on stage that evening.  And it's a COMEDY, if you can believe it!  It's been a lot of fun looking at old photographs of Ford's Theatre, the setup of the stage, the relationship of the President's Box to the set, the exit path that John Wilkes Booth apparently took to escape after he leapt from the President's Box and broke his ankle.  There's also a great deal of information about the actors performing that evening, including the "Leading Lady" herself, Ms. Laura Keene, who apparently cradled the head of the dying Lincoln in her lap after the fateful shooting.  A fascinating story told from the point of view of a squabbling, delightful, and HIGHLY dysfunctional group of actors.  I CAN'T WAIT!

And what's even COOLER is that my next show, the musical Parade, is also a historical period piece about another very famous crime!  That one's FAR from a comedy, though ... more later ...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Reviewing the Situation


"A-B-C ... easy as 1-2-3"
The Jackson 5

DAY 102:  With the exception of a few stragglers that need to make up an exam or a quiz, ALL of my grades, with comments, are FINISHED and IN the computer ... and they're not actually due until Friday morning!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Taking Sides



"Johnny Booth was a handsome devil,
Got up in his rings and fancy silks.
Had him a temper but kept it level.
Everybody called him Wilkes."
Stephen Sondheim

DAY 101:  I'm grateful for a TERRIFIC turnout for my auditions for Our Leading Lady ... about thirty people and some VERY VERY strong contenders for each role!  It was a longer-than-normal evening for one of my auditions, with a lot of juggling of actors and sides (sections of the script for reading).  There are easily two or three possible actors that I would be more than happy to cast for EACH role, including people I've always wanted to direct (many of whom I've acted with on stage), outstanding new performers, and folks that I've directed before that I would love to work with again.  So ... it will make for some extremely tough decisions.  The good news is that I'll have an incredibly strong cast. The bad news is that I'll have to tell a lot of amazing actors "not this time."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

1500 Characters


"Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find, catch me a catch,
Night after night in the dark I'm alone
So find me a match of my own."
Sheldon Harnick

DAY ONE HUNDRED!  So ... it should come as no great surprise that I dabble in the world of online dating.  I live in a city that is not, by any means, a major metropolitan center, one with INCREDIBLY limited opportunities to meet people "in my circle."  I'm not a drinker or a dancer, so I'm also not terribly fond of clubs and bars.  I've had first dinners with quite a few "potentials" (and sometimes a second or third), but I'm not sure the "right one" has presented himself.  Perhaps I give up too easily, although there are times when I haven't given up soon enough.  Of course, my close friends would tell you I'm WAY too picky, can't "live for the moment," or let my guard down ... and that's pretty much all true.  But I still don't give up hope ...

What am I grateful for on my ONE-HUNDREDTH POST?  Well, I spent some time today rewriting my online profile.  In the spirit of the New Year of celebrating and embracing the positive and taking care of myself without apologies or self-pity, I decided to give the profile another shot.  And you know what?  It felt pretty good to "toot my own horn" a little more than I'm used to, and I didn't feel phony or contrived doing it.  So, in the interest of full disclosure (heck, that's what this blog is kind of about, isn't it?), I'm sharing my online dating profile with you. 

Renaissance guy looking for a challenge ...
I'm the average all-American type, 6-foot, sandy blonde, deep blue eyes and a great healthy smile.  Folks tell me I'm a good-looking guy who looks about ten years younger than his actual age.  I'm no Adonis, but I've got a LOT more to offer than most guys who think they are.

So ... what do you need to know?  I'm a high school math and science teacher who spends his "downtime" as a theatre director, actor, singer, and fledgling writer and playwright.  I'm an animal lover and supporter, more than a bit of a musical theatre and showtune fanatic, and an admirer of good film (scifi, indies, foreign, animation, and an unfortunate weakness for manipulative romantic comedies).  I have a solid career that I love, own a home, and I'm financially stable.  I have simple tastes, couldn't care less about brand names, and don't mind buying my clothes at Target.

I enjoy my life "in the open" with my family and large group of friends.  I thrive on intelligent conversation and like to surround myself with clever, creative, witty, unique people.  I'm more than a little ambitious, and I can be steadfastly stubborn and opinionated.  But ... that tough, cool, confident exterior hides a generous, sensitive, thoughtful, and kind friend and partner if you're willing to look for him.

I'm ideally looking for someone to challenge me intellectually and maybe give me a push physically so I can shed those "few extra" and find the athletic guy that might be lurking in there somewhere.  I have an incredibly rich, fulfulling, and creative life that I would love to share with someone - someone to complement me, not complete me.  Think you've got what it takes?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

By My Side



"Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?"
Stephen Schwartz

DAY 99:  So ... I ask you ... how could you EVER be lonely when you've got these big, loving, brown eyes giving you all the attention you could ever want?

Post 100 tomorrow!  Need to come up with something REALLY good ... hmmm ...

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Magic Number



"No more, no less.
You don't have to guess.
When it's three you can see
It's a magic number ..."
Bob Dorough

DAY 98: I'm grateful for a THREE-day weekend followed by a week with only THREE days of students!  That's all for today, folks ...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Open a New Window



"The air, the air is everywhere ...
Breathe deep while you sleep,
Breathe deep ..."
James Rado and Gerome Ragni

DAY 97:  Ahhhh ... fresh air ...

This morning I scraped frost off the front windshield on my car, but by the time I emerged from work at 3:45 p.m., the sun was brightly shining in a crystal clear sky and the temperature was a balmy 60 degrees!  I am so very grateful for a return to more seasonable temperatures after a couple of weeks of bitterly cold Florida winter (even by New England standards) with lows in the low 20's and highs only in the mid-40's.

It was wonderful to come home and FINALLY throw open the windows and let in some FRESH air!  And the puppy was awfully excited about the nice LONG walk we took in this beautiful weather instead of rushing to get inside out of the cold.

NEVER again will I complain about warm weather in December ... :-)

NOW ... about that RUNNING I had planned to start doing ... hmmmmmm ...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Check's in the Mail



"A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound
Is all that makes the world go round -
That clinking, clanking sound ..."
Fred Ebb

DAY 96:  A nice little surprise in the mail today ... an escrow surplus check from Wells Fargo for about $700.  Now ... I KNOW it's MY money that I overpaid and they're just giving it back to me (like an income tax refund from the IRS), but it still feels like "extra" money I didn't have before.  So, I'm going to enjoy my little windfall that isn't really a "windfall," pretend it's a little bonus cash, and pay some bills early!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

To Be Continued



"I'm gonna go to the picture show.
There's a movie I've got to see.
You know the one, called 'The Silver Gun' -
Well, I been watchin' since Chapter Three ..."
Jason Robert Brown

DAY 95: "To Be Continued" ... not my favorite words.  I'm a pretty patient man, but it ends at waiting for a FULL WEEK to find out what's going to happen next on my favorite TV show.  So, I'm VERY VERY grateful to the marketing GENIUS that first came up with the idea of boxed DVD sets of TV series. Right now, I'm catching up on the first two seasons of a British scifi series called Torchwood (a spin off ... and ANAGRAM ... of the famous Doctor Who).  Think of it as a lighter X-Files - a covert operation in Cardiff, Wales, whose mission is to keep the public safe from aliens while collecting and studying their devices. 

I've caught up on a lot of TV shows this way. I hadn't seen some of my now favorite shows from the very beginning - only becoming interested in them after a season or two or three had already passed.  Let's see ... there's 24, True Blood, Nurse Jackie, Torchwood, Smallville, Mad Men, and a MANY others.  I've also used DVD collections to finish watching a series I never saw through to the end ... like Six Feet Under, and like I will EVENTUALLY do with Lost once it completes its run (I stopped watching that show out of frustration after the fourth season).

There's a satisfaction in watching one episode after another without a week's pause between, keeping the momentum and the interest alive.  It can, however, make for some very late nights of "just ONE more episode before I go to bed," especially for a show like 24 that ends with a cliffhanger at the end of every hour!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back in the Saddle



"God, I hope I get it!
I hope I get it.
I've come this far, but even so,
It could be yes, it could be no ..."
Edward Kleban

DAY 94:  My year of theatre has officially begun!  Tonight was the first of four rounds of auditions for 2010 ... casting a Gilbert and Sullivan concert for the Orange Park Chorale.  Holding auditions as a director is surprisingly MUCH more nerve-wracking for me than actually auditioning myself ... probably because there's so much more at stake. Even so, I always feel confident and secure in my abilities as a director - it's one of the few things in life, along with teaching, that I KNOW for certain I can do and do well. Fortunately, I also think I have a great track record in casting, which is perhaps 75% of a show's success (and maybe even more) - getting just the right performers. 

I'm always grateful for the opportunity to "take the helm" on a theatre production, particularly when it's a show I'm tremendously excited about ... like the amazing projects I have lined up for this year!

Next up ... a week from tonight ... auditions for Our Leading Lady at Theatre Jacksonville!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Pretty How-De-Do



"Everything is a source of fun.
Nobody's safe, for we care for none!
Life is a joke that's just begun!"
William S. Gilbert

DAY 93:  Tomorrow night my theatrical life winds up into full gear once again after being idle for a little more than three months.  It's going to be a BIG 2010 ...

The first project is staging and writing an abridged script for selections from the "Big Three" operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan - The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, and HMS Pinafore - for the Orange Park Chorale.  We hold auditions for the nine soloists tomorrow night, after which I'll let the group learn the music for a couple of weeks before returning for a few rehearsals to stage the concert.  I have to admit that I've never been much of a G & S fan, but listening to the shows and helping to decide on a concert program has really given me a new appreciation for the musicals.  I actually kind of like them now ... go figure!!  I'm grateful I've had the chance to become better acquainted with the operettas and I'm definitely looking forward to putting the concert "on its feet" ...

Oh, and have I mentioned that I'll be holding auditions for my NEXT directing gig - Our Leading Lady at Theatre Jacksonville - a week from tomorrow night?  Yup ... they'll be rehearsing at the SAME TIME, with the Theatre Jax show opening just a couple of weeks before the Chorale performances ... WHEW!  Then I'll be jumping IMMEDIATELY into Parade at Players by-the-Sea!

Now THAT'S a pretty how-de-do!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

That I Would Be



"that I would be good even if I did nothing
that I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
that I would be good if I got and stayed sick
that I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
that I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
that I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
that I would be great if I was no longer queen
that I would be grand if I was not all knowing
that I would be loved even when I numb myself
that I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
that I would be loved even when I was fuming
that I would be good even if I was clingy
that I would be good even if I lost sanity
that I would be good
whether with or without you"
Alanis Morissette

DAY 92:  The lyrics above are what I'm grateful for today.  I noticed the phrase "that I would be good even if ..." on a friend's Facebook profile this evening and it piqued my interest.  A quick Google search on the phrase led me to this simple anthem by Alanis Morissette that pretty much says it all ... self-affirmation, confidence, gratitude, self-esteem.  I've never been a big fan of Ms. Morissette having seen her perform live on some TV show (don't remember which one) and wondering "why is she so popular?"  But, I have to admit that I downloaded this song and LOVED it ... perhaps I'll have to listen to some more of her work.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Turn Turn Turn



"I never has seen snow.
All the same I know
Nothing will ever be,
Nothing can ever be,
Beautiful as my love is - 
Like my love is to me .
Harold Arlen and Truman Capote

DAY 91:  Forecast for tonight ... "Colder.  Partly cloudy. Small chance of FLURRIES late in the night.  Lows in the mid-20's."  It's been almost exactly 20 years since there was an appreciable snowfall in Jacksonville, Florida ... we had a few inches, if I recall, and it brought this city to a STANDSTILL.  I had only lived here for about five years at that time and this Yankee from New England found the crippling of the city by such a small accumulation more than just a little amusing.  Sadly, IF there are flurries tonight, it's forecast to be only a slight dusting, and I suspect it will probably happen while I'm asleep.

While thinking about the possible snowfall, it struck me that many of my students (all of whom were born in the early 90's) have probably NEVER experienced a snowfall of any kind if they've never been out of the South.  I am SO grateful that I was raised in an area of the county that displayed the BEAUTY of changing seasons.  There's nothing quite so astonishingly beautiful as the vivid display of red and gold leaves on autumn trees or a blanket of pristine, new-fallen snow.  Mind you, I don't miss some of the headaches that come with the change of seasons - raking all those autumn leaves, not to mention shovelling or driving in that snow - BUT, there are times when I really do miss it ...

... not to mention that snow (if you're dressed for it) and big piles of leaves can be a LOT of fun to play in!!

And that sure looks like a "snow sky" outside!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sleepy Man



"You're all done with the run of the race ... for today.
You've got plenty of running to face
Come tomorrow.
I'm right here, always near -
Always lovin' my dear, sleepy man ..."
Alfred Uhry

DAY 90: The facts are these ... 1. my upstairs neighbors clearly love football; 2. I don't watch, understand the fanaticism for, or even like football; 3. my condo is in an apartment conversion with dreadful sound-proofing; 4. "Bowl Week."  You can see where this is heading.  A couple of nights ago was the "Orange Bowl" ... I don't know where it's played, what teams were involved, why it's important, or why it's still on at 11:30 p.m. at night on a TUESDAY.  Needless to say, Tuesday night was a night of noise, frustration, and very little sleep.

HOWEVER ... I'm grateful that LAST night was a BLISSFULLY quiet night with a full eight hours of sleep.  I've heard you're not supposed to be able to "catch up" on sleep, but BOY, did it feel good after listening to the tribal commotion over my head the night before.  And it did WONDERS for my day ... I was on FIRE - energetic, positive, enthusiastic, and successful (especially with my feared day two of Unit Circle trig lessons).

Tonight is some big championship game for college football ... I'm worried that it's going to be another one of "those" nights, but I think the game starts in a couple of hours and I've heard almost NO noise coming from above.  I HOPE and pray that the chest-thumping natives are meeting somewhere else this evening.

Oh, and ... THREE MONTHS of Gratitude Journal blogging today!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Popcorn and Peanut M&Ms



"If the world were like the movies,
We would never make mistakes.
We'd correct our little blunders
and select our better takes."
Lynn Ahrens

DAY 89:  I've been thinking back on my holiday break and I realized that of the SIX movies I saw over the vacation, I liked FIVE of them!  It comes as no great surprise to those who know me that I am EXTREMELY critical when it comes to movies (heck, I'm extremely critical about just about everything) ... SO to actually find five out of six movies that I enjoyed is a pretty remarkable success rate!

So ... the rundown of my favorites of the 2010 holiday films (I won't even discuss Avatar, because this is a POSITIVE blog ;-) starting with the one I liked the BEST.  Even though I'm not a huge fan of George Clooney, I LOVED Up in the Air - a brilliantly written, exquisitely acted, incisively funny, and ultimately deeply moving film.  Next up, Nine ... an amazing movie musical which I've already discussed in a previous post.  My next favorite was Sherlock Holmes, which bore NO resemblance whatsoever to its source, but BOY was it FUN FUN FUN!  Then there was The Princess and the Frog.  Though far from my favorite full-length Disney animated feature (that title belongs to Beauty and the Beast), I'm DELIGHTED that the "old DIsney" 2D fairy tale musical is BACK!!  Finally, It's Complicated, which I thought was a charming, feel-good movie.

Thanks, Hollywood, for doing it right! 

PS  I didn't see any 3D films ... I just liked the picture!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You Teach Best ...



"Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind ..."

Alan and Marilyn Bergman

DAY 88:  For the uninitiated, I would like to introduce you to the Unit Circle.  Unit Circle ... reader ... reader ... Unit Circle.  Now that you've been properly introduced, all I can say is "Whew!" 

I knew it was coming ... the day I would have to start teaching TRIGONOMETRY.  Now, understand, I don't think I've EVER had a class of trigonometry ... I don't remember it from high school, but I do recall being befuddled by it the first time it appeared in my college Calculus and Physics classes.  I knew a LITTLE bit (simple right triangle trigonometry, which trust me is only a SMALL and EASY portion of the subject) from my high school Physics background.  Now I'm TEACHING the stuff while learning it along the way.  Oh well, they say the best way to learn something is to try to teach it ... or, conversely, "you teach best what you most need to learn."

The old adage certainly proved true today as I dived head-first into the world of the unit circle and radians.  You see, you can measure angles in degrees or radians, and a full circle is 360 degrees, which is also equal to 2-pi radians ... aw ... never mind.  Anyway, my first lesson of trigonometry in my Pre-Calculus class was today and wonder of wonders, I not only survived but, by George, I think they got it!!  Now, if I can just get through the next few chapters/months ... after all, today was just the INTRO!

Monday, January 4, 2010

8 to 4


"Tumble outta bed
And I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
Yawnin', stretchin', try to come to life ..."
Dolly Parton

DAY 87:  Well, it was hard enough SETTING the alarm for 6 a.m. this morning, but trying to get UP at 6 a.m. was awfully tough.  Yup ... first day back on the payroll after two and a half weeks. It was a pretty good day, all in all ... I'm not going to claim my "new outlook" for the New Year as the reason for the good day (... though I'd like to).  I suspect it was just going into work fresh and rested after a really terrific eighteen days of fun, family, and friends. 
 
Once I managed to get out of bed (which was a bit of a task, I must admit ...), the morning routine went a little smoother than normal, even with a puppy who seemed VERY confused as to why I was up so dreadfully early.  Then it was a REMARKABLY easy drive to school in delightfully light traffic ... I even surprised my classroom "neighbors" by getting to work a little earlier than usual!!
 
I had seen the Math folks twice in the past week - once on New Year's Eve and once on Saturday night for our Maggiano's gluttonous binge - but it was good to see my other colleagues again.  To top it all off, the kids were quite well-behaved and stayed on-task today.  They were probably a little out of practice, though my classes do generally behave well.  I gave all of my classes "seatwork" to do today ... not "busy work" exactly, but time-consuming and important "sneak preview" activities to prepare them for the next unit.  Of course, the nice thing about seatwork is the opportunity to get a LOT of planning done ... and, boy, was I productive today!
 
Nice day ... but please remind me I felt this way come Friday after we've been back for a full week.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Counting Things That Count



"Not everything that can be counted counts, and
not everything that counts can be counted."
Einstein (outside of a birthday card)

"You are one of the things in life that's worth 'counting.'
Thanks for being a friend."
Margie (written inside the card)

DAY 86:  What a weekend and what a way to begin 2010 ... if I wanted to "wax hyperbolic" about it, I'd call it revelatory, but that's probably a bit of an overstatement.  Yesterday, I posted about my silent walk through a night when the universe and my life felt "right," on the correct course, in "syzygy."  Today, it's about a rather remarkable birthday, yet unremarkable at the same time.  A simple, happy day of birthday wishes, old friends, and reminiscing about what's truly important.

Today's birthday events ... lunch with Mom, a surprise birthday party for a 90-year-old birthday-mate, and dinner with a couple of my oldest friends. 

Lunch with Mom ... who could ask for more?  Me to my mother ... "Age doesn't really bother me." (... which is surprisingly VERY true ...)  Mom to me ... "Me neither, it's probably because we don't look our age."  BINGO!  And she doesn't look AT ALL like she's nearly 73.

Next ... a DELIGHTFUL surprise 90th birthday party for Mary Le, one of my most favorite people.  I've known Mary Le since the first day I set foot in Players by-the-Sea theatre over 25 years ago.  It wasn't long before we discovered that we shared the same birthday.  She's a spitfire and, though she may be a little feebler physically, she's still as feisty and funny as ever.  She seemed very happy to see me (and gave me a smooch that's now my profile pic on Facebook) and I was just as happy to share this celebration with her.  And what a life ... one of the first female Marines serving in World War II, created and ran her own T-shirt printing business, not to mention raising a family.  I felt honored to be there and it added to the fun to see old familiar faces from the early years of Players by-the-Sea, when I was bright-eyed, eager, and ready to take the community theatre scene by storm.

Finally, dinner with Marcia and Norma, an old friend I hadn't seen for OVER THREE YEARS.  We picked up as if it had been yesterday and the three of us sat, reminisced, and laughed for hours.

Making the day complete was a FLOOD of birthday messages on Facebook and online at the bulletin board of Sondheim.com (where I've been posting for years - a topic for a later blog entry) ... I was checking them all day long and smiling at every one.  What a way to recognize just how much you're appreciated, valued, and loved by SO many people!  

Some highlights ...
"I hope this is the best year of your life."
"Hope it's amazing, just like you are."
"You are one awesome teacher and we always talk good things about you."
"You and your talent are a gift to us all."
"May this be your best year yet."
"It's amazing how many lives you have touched.  On this day, a giver was born!"
"I hope you have a beautiful day, my friend!"
"Happy Birthday, dear friend ... Enjoy, prosper, and make music.  Broadway music, of course."
"Happy Birthday, my friend!  Remember: 'Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness.'"
"You are forever a star in my eyes."
"'Whatever with the past has gone.  The best is always yet to come.'"
"May this year bring you all the happiness you so richly deserve."
"Happy Birthday, sweet friend!  This is our year ... wait ... our decade!  I love you!!"
"Happy Birthday to the wonderfully talented and amazing Michael Lipp!"
"Happy Birthday, Teach.  To this day I thank you for giving me some love for science."
"You are Charlie Brown or Horton at heart ... so young, so carefree, so ... what you see is what you get ;-)"

What more can I say?

I'm an incredibly fortunate man.  I'm not going to say "lucky," because there is NO luck about it.  I've CREATED this fortune, this life for myself - I've created a career that satisfies me and that I love, a HUGE group of friends who mean everything to me and who value who I am, a home that I can call my own, a four-legged companion who gives me unconditional affection and devotion, a calm and caring family, a passion and talent for music and theatre that brings joy and meaning to everything I do - this isn't luck ... this is who I am, what I want, and how could I ever be truly dissatisfied?  Do I want a relationship?  OF COURSE I do ... Need it?  Of course not.  Am I lonely?  Sure ... at times.  Am I alone? ... are you KIDDING ME?

So ... I'm facing down the New Year, staring it straight in the eyes, and daring it to come at me with EVERYTHING it's got.  And I'm going to do that with a new outlook ... I'm worth whatever good things this life brings my way and to hell with the bad stuff.  This is the year when I ALLOW myself to accept and EMBRACE the gift of finally recognizing that I DESERVE every gift life has to offer me ... and there are LOTS of them.  I'm DARING you, 2010 ... BRING IT ... it's MY year and there's NOTHING you can say about it. 

Heck, I'm DOUBLE-DOG DARING YOU!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Silent Night



"All is calm ... all is bright ..."
John Freeman Young

DAY 85:  A night of clarity ... but not quite sure how to describe it.  Let me try ...

Tonight, I organized a dinner for the Math teachers (present and recent past) at my school and their spouses.  It was in celebration of the New Year, a not-quite-back-to-school dinner, and with my birthday tomorrow and my friend Margie's birthday on Monday, a double birthday party, as well.  We had 20 PEOPLE eating family-style around a huge table at Maggiano's and it was quite a feast ... the food was wonderful, but the company was even better.  I've written about them before, but these are the kind, generous, thoughtful, supportive, and loving people who make going to work each day pretty damn special.

After a HUGE meal (with my tab graciously picked up by my friend, Chris), I decided I needed to take a walk ... partially because I needed to walk off some of the food and I guess, in part, because I just wanted to TAKE A WALK.  My first stop was in Barnes and Noble ... there's nothing quite like a bookstore for me - I'm not sure what it is.  It's just a very calming experience.  I notice quite a few guys browsing by themselves, like me ... sometimes I catch their eyes and I ALMOST think I see a glimmer of unspoken understanding.  Again I'm not sure what that understanding is, but it's reassuring. 

It's interesting that this apparently stream-of-consciousness post began with idea of "clarity," and I've now said that I'm not sure how to describe a feeling a number of times. 

Let me go on ...

I bought a couple of books and headed out into the crisp, clear night air.  Town Center is an outdoor mall ... it is essentially one long "street" lined with stores.  At 9:30 at night, the only open doors are the restaurants.  For the next half hour, I VERY leisurely walked the length of the mall and back in surprisingly blissful silence. As I walked, my mind was unusually clear ... I can't recall any EXACT thoughts other than the word "syzygy," which popped into my mind, seemingly out of nowhere.  This is the first "spelling word" spoken in the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee that I'll be directing next summer.  It means the alignment of three heavenly bodies ... like the earth, moon, and sun during an eclipse.  Why did this word go through my head?  Maybe it was just something about the night that felt "lined up," that things were "right," that life, with its occasional disappointments and difficulties, is just fine ... headed in the right direction ... on course.

I walked down the street of the mall ... not a sound, no customers, with only the quietest hint of some piped-in "mall music" from the central square way back by the restaurant.  Maybe it was playing the entire length of the street, but I really didn't seem to notice.  I walked with my eyes straight forward instead of cast down at my feet.  The 40-degree temperature didn't bother me - in fact, it was rather refreshing. 

I guess I thought about my birthday tomorrow and how my life was absolutely something to be thankful for and how, at this moment, though I was completely alone in silence as I walked, I did not feel alone.  I thought about how this winter break, which is normally marked by holiday depression, had been remarkably happy with SO much time spent at parties, lunches, dinners, and movies with an incredible group of friends that I all too often take for granted.  I thought about this birthday, my 49th, and how I don't really feel 49 ... despite the "curmudgeonly" reputation I frequently carry.  I thought that my New Year's resolution about FINALLY treating myself with kindness and respect was making itself CLEARLY felt and realized, even in only the second day of the New Year.

I'm not sure if any of this makes a lick of sense, or if there's anything specific I'm grateful for, but it was a night of quiet contemplation, clarity, hope, and satisfaction. 

And waiting for me at home was the wagging tail of the most loving companion of all.

Does this make ANY sense at all?  Hope so ...