Sunday, August 29, 2010


"When the moon hits your eye
Like a big-a pizza pie -
That's amore.
When the world seems to shine
Like you've had too much wine -
That's amore ..."Jack Brooks

DAY 324:  Lasagna lunch yesterday with the cast of Spelling Bee and Carrabba's dinner with "Team Jackie Jones" for her birthday!  Delizioso!  Molto grato!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

In the Black

"We're in the money ... 
Come on, my honey,
Let's spend it, lend it,
Send it rolling around!"
Al Dubin 

DAY 323:  Many people envy teachers their two-month summer vacation, but make no mistake ... it is NOT a paid vacation!  Even with the four "extra" paychecks that are supposed to tide us over until the fall (if we choose to have money held out all year so we can be paid "all year long"), most of us find ourselves scratching for every last penny and budgeting like crazy until our first paycheck of the new school year arrives.

But ... I am SO grateful to report that when I received my first paycheck of the new school year today, I actually had PLENTY of money still in the bank (and a TINY manageable credit card balance which I can pay off in weeks)!  How did that happen?  I took more trips this year than ever - NYC for four days in the Spring, a week in Ireland, a weekend in Orlando and Disney - AND I spent an unreasonable amount of money eating out at night after rehearsals from late Spring through most of the Summer. 

Well ... I suppose I shouldn't question it ... I'll just smile and sit back comfortably "in the black."  Cha-ching!

Friday, August 27, 2010

This Much I Know

"The morning will come
When the world is mine.
Tomorrow belongs to me!"
Fred Ebb

DAY 322:  Of this much I am sure ... I am an incredible teacher and it's what I'm meant to do.  I'm grateful that, after the first week of my 27th year in this career, it's amazing to still feel this way and believe it!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Traffic Control

"Red light,
Hot light,
Linda Clifford

DAY 321:  In the early days of Douglas Anderson, there were about 400 to 500 students.  Now the school bursts at the seams with about 1100 to 1200 students!  Since our students hail from all over this VERY large Duval County, many of our kids either drive themselves or are transported by parents to and from school. 

With a campus that's not much larger than one square block, the traffic before and after school can not only be frustrating, but often downright dangerous.  So ... you can imagine how thrilled and grateful I was to discover not just one but TWO police officers DIRECTING TRAFFIC on the "main drag" in front of the school after the final bell today!!  In the twenty-plus years I've worked at the school, this is a first ... and it's a WELCOME addition and I hope it will continue ...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Very Big Undertaking

"'Cause it's a very big,
Very fraught,
Simple but it's not,
It's a very big undertaking ..."
William Finn

DAY 320:  Who would've guessed that an epic two-and-a-half-hour musical tragedy with a thirty-person cast on a HUGE set would be "easier" in many ways than a TINY, nine-person, hour-and-fifteen-minute musical comedy being played on a stage no bigger than most living rooms? 

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee gives new meaning to "deceptively simple."  I'm grateful, though, that we seem to be in great shape two-and-a-half weeks out from opening.  The second act is STILL a little rocky, but what IS working is working VERY well and I have no doubt the rest of it will, too, after SIX run-throughs next week!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Simple Life

"Simple as a babe is new.
Simple as a tree and as simple as a cloud.
It's as simple as the simplest things have always been."
Maury Yeston

DAY 319:  There are evenings like last night and tonight that bring to mind the song "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" from Camelot and the beautiful song "Simple" from Nine quoted above.  Those precious moments when the often mad pace of my life comes to a screeching halt.  Those delightful, restful evenings when I can come home from school with absolutely NO work to do, no afterschool meetings, no appointments, and NO REHEARSAL. 

It's a time to pretend for just a moment what it would be like to have a MUCH simpler life with a job that I can leave at work and evenings of leisure, instead of commitments.  Nights when I can go to bed as early as necessary and actually get a full eight hours of sleep before heading to work again in the morning.  I'm certainly grateful for nights like this ... ahhhhhh ...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Smooth Sailing

"I'm sailing away -
Set an open course for the Virgin Sea.
'Cause I've got to be free,
Free to face the life that's ahead of me ...

On board, I'm the captain,
So climb aboard.
We'll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I'll try, oh Lord, I'll try to carry on ..."
Dennis DeYoung

DAY 318: Surprisingly smooth sailing for the first day of school!  Quiet, calm, and uneventful ... and one of the first openings in a LONG time that I felt like there were sure and steady hands at the helm steering this VERY large and often unwieldy vessel.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When I Look In Your Eyes

"When I look in your eyes,
I see the wisdom of the world in your eyes.
I see the sadness of a thousand goodbyes
When I look in your eyes.
And it is no surprise,
To see the softness of the moon in your eyes.
The gentle sparkle of the stars in your eyes
When I look in your eyes.

In your eyes, I see the deepness of the sea.
I see the deepness of the love,
The love I feel you feel for me.

Autumn comes, summer dies.
I see the passing of the years in your eyes,
And when we part there will be no tears no goodbyes.
I'll just look into your eyes.

Those eyes, so wise,
So warm, so real ...
How I love the world your eyes reveal."
Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

DAY 317:  I thought I'd share the lyrics to another one of my favorite songs ... from the classic movie musical "Dr. Dolittle."  I heard it a number of times down and back on my trip to Orlando this weekend, and it gets me a little choked up every time I hear it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Happiest Place

"I will live in Disneyland.
Make my home in Disneyland.
Maybe it's all fake, that's a chance I'll take -
It's perfectly ok.
Someone give me Disneyland.
Take me there to Disneyland!
And when I get to Disneyland ...
I'll stay!"
Howard Ashman

DAY 316:  Combine "the happiest place on Earth," the final weekend before the first day of classes, and ten WILDLY ENTERTAINING theatre friends and you get a BLAST of a day at EPCOT center.  I had a amazing time with my friends the Goulds, Lee, Josh T., Josh W., Miranda, Gary, Julia, and Shannon (and Shannon's friend, Nick).  I had actually considered NOT going and just relaxing at home for the weekend, but BOY am I grateful that I changed my mind.  I'm fairly certain it's the best "theme park day" I've ever had ... thanks, gang!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Recognition, Part Three!

"But now the days grow short.
I'm in the autumn of the year,
And now I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs,
From the brim to the dregs.
And it poured sweet and clear ...
It was a very good year."
Ervin Drake

DAY 315:  I'm delighted, humbled, proud, and grateful to have directed shows that have now won the "Best Production of the Season" Award at TWO different theatres for the 2009-2010 season.  Last weekend, my musical, Parade, won nine awards at Players by the Sea, and tonight my production of Our Leading Lady won not only the Best Production of the Season at Theatre Jacksonville, but also Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Costumes.  It was an amazing year for me and community theatre!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day Is Done

"Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky ..."
Sabine Baring-Gould

DAY 314:  This will be a short post after a VERY long, frustrating, patience-trying day and evening. I'm extraordinarily grateful that it's over and that I'm heading to bed.  Good night!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dodging a Bullet

"One man tightens,
And one man ratchets,
And one man reaches
To pull one cord.
Car keeps moving
In one direction."
Lynn Ahrens

DAY 313:  Whew!  Now, I don't know much about cars, but I know there's something called a serpentine belt and I also know that when a serpentine belt breaks, it's REALLY REALLY BAD (and expensive) news!  I'm going to be driving to Disney's EPCOT and back this weekend, so I took my car in for an oil change.  In addition to the oil change, they replaced the brake light that's been dangerously out of service for MONTHS.  They also showed me my serpentine belt, which looked a lot like the one in the picture above.  You can bet I had it changed ... and I'm grateful I didn't find out about the frayed belt somewhere on the road between Jacksonville and Orlando! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gettin' Ready

"So, twiddley-dee, twiddley-dum
Look out baby, 'cause here I come."
Smokey Robinson

DAY 312:  Now that I've come down to Earth after yesterday's surreal events, it's back to business as usual.  We only have few more days of "pre-planning" before the students return on Monday, so I've been busy getting my room and my classes ready for "Day One."  I'm grateful that I feel like I'm much more prepared now than I have been at this time in MANY years.  My room is totally put together, everything is organized, everything is in its place, posters are on the walls, and the bulletin boards are complete.  Most of my classes are planned for the first few weeks of school, including most of the copying I need to do.  BRING. IT. ON.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thank You, Mr. Brown

"For once in my lifetime,
I feel like a giant,
I soar like an eagle,
As tho' I had wings.
For this is my moment -
My destiny calls me,
And tho' it may be just once in my lifetime,
I'm gonna do great things."
Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

DAY 311:  I frankly didn't know whether to cry, throw up, or wet myself ... I'm STILL on Cloud 9 after nearly an hour and I think I might NEVER come down.  This is certainly one of the most exciting things EVER to happen to me ...

This afternoon, a comment appeared on yesterday's blog post about the MANY awards that my musical Parade won over the weekend.  You can look back at the post ("Recognition, Part Two!") and look at it yourself, but the comment said it was from "Jason" and read "Congratulations, Michael! To you and your whole team! J."  Now, bear in mind that I don't know anyone named Jason that would leave this kind of a comment on my blog.  There was ONE particular Jason that crossed my mind, but I couldn't possibly even BEGIN to imagine that he would be not only reading my blog, but commenting on it!

His name is Jason Robert Brown, the BRILLIANT composer and lyricist of Parade ...

I had been DYING ALL DAY LONG wondering if this artist whose work I REVERE could possibly have read and responded to my personal blog.  I tell you, it was MIGHTY tough concentrating in my first faculty meeting this afternoon.  A number of my online musical theatre friends shared with me that Mr. Brown will frequently "google" himself and his shows and see what's happening with productions "out there."  So ... I couldn't stand it ANY MORE, and quieted my nerves for just a few moments - long enough to write him an e-mail at the contact address on his website (

Within moments, I received a reply and it read:
"Mr. Lipp:

JRB says he indeed left the comment this morning, and he congratulates you all once again on your success, and he thanks you for taking such good care of his music.

All best,
Catherine Davis
Ass't to Mr Brown"

I don't think there are any words to describe my reaction when I read this e-mail ... thunderstruck, stunned, speechless, ... OH. MY. GOD.  I still have a hard time believing it.

My beautiful once-in-a-lifetime Parade experience is now OFFICIALLY complete ... thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Mr. Brown, for making the day (month, year, decade, lifetime ...) of this humble community theatre director and devoted fan and thank you, AGAIN, for such a THRILLING and IMPORTANT piece of musical theatre!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Recognition, Part Two!

"Big news!
Real big news!"
Jason Robert Brown

Day 310: A WONDERFUL evening at Players by the Sea tonight for the annual "Pelican" Awards presentation.  My musical Parade was nominated in 14 categories and won NINE of them!  The picture above shows the two beautiful trophies that I brought home ... Best Mainstage Director and Best Mainstage Production of the Season.  We also won for Best Costumes, Musical Direction, Leading Actor, Leading Actress, Stage Manager, Young Performer, and Supporting Actor.  The most exciting part of the evening?  When nearly the entire cast and many members of the crew joined me on stage to accept the Best Mainstage Production award ... it felt really terrific to be with all of them again.  I truly miss all of them and this unforgettable show.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

This Old Dog

"Workin' for a livin', livin' and workin',
I'm taking what they're givin'
 'cause I'm working for a livin' ..."
Huey Lewis

DAY 309: I've been spending quite of bit of time at work this final week of my Summer Vacation, preparing for the new school year.  Teachers don't officially return until Monday (and the kids the following Monday), but there's a certain sense of renewal that happens when you find the quiet time before the craziness sets in to get your classroom back in order and start to think about the year to come. 

An AWFUL lot of reflection occurs at the beginning of a school year ... what worked last year, what didn't, what will you keep doing, what might you consider changing?  Plus, there's always some "NEW" thing coming down the pike at you to add to the confusion ... ANOTHER educational approach (with a typically nifty acronym) declaring you've been going at it all wrong all these years, and rarely does little other than result in additional paperwork. 

Now, I'll be the FIRST to admit I'm a crotchety old traditionalist in ALL senses of the word ... the "old ways" worked for us, and they've worked for decades.  BUT ... I'd like to think that this old dog can STILL learn new tricks, and I've actually started considering changing some of my long-standing ways.  We'll see ... I might surprise you ... heck, I might even surprise myself.  I'm grateful for the years of experience, but I'm always grateful for the chance to AT LEAST consider other ways of PERHAPS doing my job more effectively ... even after nearly thirty years.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Wing and a Prayer

"He had been talking quietly with them all,
exhorting them never to stop their learning
and their practicing and their striving to understand
more of the perfect invisible principle of all life.
Then, as he spoke, his feathers went brighter and brighter
and at last turned so brilliant
that no gull could look upon him.
'Jonathan,' he said,
and these were the last words that he spoke
'Keep working on love.'
When they could see again, Chiang was gone."
Richard Bach
Jonathan Livingston Seagull

DAY 308: Yesterday afternoon, I was outside walking Annabelle when I found myself transfixed by the slow, wide, overheard circling of a bird, which I later discovered was probably a swift of some sort.  The bird was, at the same time, calling in a high-pitched screech that sounded almost joyful.  There are an abundant variety of birds that live around my condo complex, including entire families of ducks, geese, and heron who call the large man-made pond with two glorious fountains on the property home ... and, oh, those delighful honks and quacks.  I've always been fascinated by birds, by flight, by their calls, by the technical wizadry of their take-offs and landings (even the comically clumsy flight of ducks who seem to "crash land" in water).  Maybe I should've taken up ornithology instead of immunology ... oh well, there's always bird-watching, if I had the time to add ONE MORE activity to my life!

Oddly enough for someone with a dreadful fear of heights (but only near precipices, like  the edge of cliffs or tall buildings), I've always been fascinated with flight.  There is something limitless, unbounded, and free about the flight of a bird.  Unlike the mostly two-dimensional flat surface that we terrestrial creatures navigate, birds and other flying creatures have this vast three-dimensional space in which to explore, climb, dive, soar, and glide.  I long to be up there with them and have even toyed with taking flying lessons, if you can imagine.  I guess for now, I'll continue to fly in my dreams ... something I do VERY frequently.

I'll take it one step further ... I've always found something rather spiritual about flying.  I've never really discussed my spiritual beliefs in my blog, but you might be surprised to know that I'm no atheist.  I have found that my spiritual leanings tend to be rather Buddhist (Siddhartha is one of my favorite books) and I've always found myself drawn to Eastern religions (and perhaps even Native American) that espouse the interconnectedness of nature and all living things.  My background and degrees in Biology probably have something to do with that, as well. 

Another book that I cherish is Jonathan Livingston Seagull (which I've quoted above) which links flight and spirituality so completely that they become almost one in the same.  I find Jonathan's passion for flying and his search for the PERFECTION of flight at the speed of thought so incredibly compelling and moving that I can rarely watch a bird in flight without thinking of the story.  This "perfect invisible principle of all life" is a deeply profound idea to me, and it's what guides my spiritual life.

So, today I'm grateful for the birds and the joy, perfection, total freedom, and yes, even spirituality of flight.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kickin' Back

"I'm bidin' my time,
'Cause that's the kinda guy I'm.
While other folks grow dizzy,
I keep busy
Bidin' my time ..." 
Ira Gershwin

DAY 307: Since January, I've been going NON-STOP with theatre productions.  In mid-January, I held auditions for Our Leading Lady, which ran at Theatre Jacksonville in March.  Just before Our Leading Lady closed, I was holding the NEXT set of auditions for the musical Parade, which just finished its run at Players by the Sea a couple of weeks ago.  And to add to the theatre fun, I held auditions for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee a FULL MONTH BEFORE Parade even opened! 

WHEW!!  It's been one crazy busy theatre year ... and I'm not even mentioning my regular day job and TWO trips - one to New York City and one to Ireland.  It's been a wild ride, but it's been SO worth it to bring these WONDERFUL shows to the stage ... I've had a blast with all three productions!

So ... until Spelling Bee opens at Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre in four weeks, I have been SUPER grateful for any time off from rehearsals.  This weekend is SERIOUS kickin' back time ... I have FIVE DAYS OFF from rehearsals and don't have to go back until next Wednesday night.  But not too much kickin' back, since school starts on Monday and I've got a lot of work to do ...

After Spelling Bee?  TWO MONTHS of theatre freedom until auditions for Rabbit Hole, an amazing play I would love to be cast in at Theatre Jacksonville.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

See You in ... August?

"See you in September ...
See you when the summer's through ..."
Sid Wayne and Sherman Edwards

DAY 306:  So ... it's that time of year again.  After about eight weeks of summer vacation, it's back-to-school time.  While teachers don't OFFICIALLY start working until Monday, most of us head back the week before to start getting ready.  There is a week of "Pre-Planning" before the students come back, but that week is typically filled with meetings and inservices leaving VERY little time to do actual "planning."  I went back for the first time today and spent about five hours in my room (following a short Orientation duty this morning).  I managed to get all of my classroom furniture and supplies back in place, cleaned, and organized, along with reconnecting all of my computers and electric appliances.

I could moan about it ... already have, and I'm probably not finished ... HOWEVER there are three things for which I am definitely grateful.

First ... I don't know my official class schedule yet, but it APPEARS that I will be teaching the same subjects this year that I did last year.  Nothing new, nothing unexpected.  And, more than that, it APPEARS that my sections will be weighted more in the honors track rather than the standard track.

Second ... the basic subjects (Algebra I, Geometry, and my subject, Algebra II) have REAL LIVE BOOKS starting this year.  Granted they're class sets, and the students don't each get a book, but there's no more "touchy-feely," experiential, team discovery, playing with manipulatives math ...

Third ... I have NOTHING to complain about this past summer - it was a GREAT GREAT GREAT summer.  Parade was nothing short of a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience that I will NEVER forget and represented the best work I've ever done as a director.  Spelling Bee has a powerhouse cast and rehearsals are already forecasting another BIG hit.  And in between?  A week in one of the most beautiful countries on this planet. 

Grateful grateful grateful ... even though it's back to work!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Be Happy

DAY 305:  My "cousin-in-law," Regina, posted this video on Facebook tonight and it really hit home.  I'm very good at some of these things, but pretty terrible with others.  I need to watch this video EVERY day.  Click on the link above and enjoy. Thanks, Reg!

Monday, August 9, 2010


"You can be what you choose,
From a mailman to a president.
There are prizes all around you,
If you're wise enough to see:
The delivery boy's on Wall Street,
And the the usherette's a rock star ..."
Stephen Sondheim

DAY 304:  I spent most of the day helping my friend, Lee, put together a PowerPoint slide show for the big Players by the Sea season-ending celebration and Pelican Awards this coming Saturday night.  At the end of each season, many community theatres hold a banquet or party for the volunteers and often give awards for acting, directing, and technical work for the past season.  My show at Players by the Sea, Parade, earned 14 award nominations (and some categories have multiple nominees) - including Best Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress, Choreography, Set Design, Lighting, Costumes, Musical Direction, Stage Manager, Young Performer, Cameo Appearance, and Best Production of the Season.  Theatre Jacksonville holds its award ceremony the following week and my production of Our Leading Lady (another show of which I was VERY proud) will be up for numerous technical and acting awards, along with Best Production of the Season.  I've also been nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role at Theatre Jax for my performance as Jack last fall in The Importance of Being EarnestThough I'm not a big fan of theatre awards and I'm somewhat bothered by turning an art form I respect and revere into a competition, I am still so very grateful for the recognition.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Dancin' Bees

"It's an alphabetter way to spell ..."
William Finn

DAY 303: We had a marathon choreography rehearsal for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and it was loads of fun.  I'm so excited and grateful to have my friend, Kellina, on board as the choreographer.  She staged the two BIG numbers in the show ... "Magic Foot" (in the picture above) and "Pandemonium."  We did a number of other smaller numbers as well and will finish all of the choreography on Wednesday and Thursday night.  By the time this week is out, the entire show will have been learned - music, blocking, and dancing - and we'll be ready to spend the following three weeks running it and cleaning it up.  This is going to be ONE. GREAT. SHOW!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Taking a Break

"Summer lovin'
Had me a blast,
Summer lovin'
Happened so fast ..."
Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey

DAYS 260-302:  No apologies ... no excuses ... I will consider my 43 days away from my OGJ as my "summer break."  I did promise myself, however, that I would complete one full year of My Online Gratitude Journal, so BACK TO IT!


Two MAJOR events happened during my "blog break" ... the first was the opening and run of my musical Parade.  I look back at the previous post on Day 259 - three weeks before we opened - and see a show in its infancy.  It was an AMAZING three weeks of growth ... the skeleton of a set shown in my last post developed into a REMARKABLY stunning and massive two-story vision of faded glory framed by an enormous Confederate flag.  Add to that some evocative lighting (as you can see in the picture above) and beautiful costumes ... it was a show that literally took your breath away.

The production design was icing on the cake, though ... the performances of a talented cast of THIRTY created a final product that was nothing less than STAGGERING in its power and message.  I wept openly through many rehearsals and shows - something I RARELY do, particularly with shows I have directed.  We ran for EIGHT SOLD-OUT performances, each culminating in a spontaneous standing ovation and NUMEROUS comments (even from my most critical theatre friends) that it was "the best show that they had EVER seen in Jacksonville."  Even better, I had some audience members so stunned by the production that they could do little more than wordlessly shake my hand or hug me through their tears.  In fact, a number of friends returned to see the show a second time.

I never feel sad when a show closes ... the final performance and "strike" of a set following the last curtain call always comes as a relief to me.  Not this time ... I fought to hold back the tears as I watched the final show and my heart sank as the set was dismantled and I knew the Parade had passed by for the last time.

I have NEVER been prouder of my direction as I have been on this show and consider it, WITHOUT QUESTION, my strongest piece and best work ever.  My only worry now is that I will never be able to match it ...  It is an experience I will never forget.


Two days after Parade opened, I was on a trans-Atlantic jet winging my way to the beautiful country of Ireland.  My mother was born and raised on the Emerald Isle and came over to the United States when she was a teenager.  So in a way, Ireland is "home" for me ... a home I have visited three times before, but not for the past THIRTY years.

You've seen the pictures ... coffee table books abound with shots like those above and, if you've never been to Ireland, you might think they were retouched.  The picture above was one that I took - it looks like that ... REALLY.  It is a GORGEOUS country of green patchwork pastures, abundant free-roaming livestock, primitive stone fences, and roadside ruins.  This picture is the Glen of Aherlow, a valley nestled between mountains, not far from my mother's hometown of Mitchelstown in County Cork. 

I was delighted to discover how little Ireland changes ... there is a simplicity and gentleness about this land, and the people echo that in their kindness and generosity of spirit.  I have two pairs of aunt and uncle along with nine first cousins from my mother's side of the family who still live in and around Mitchelstown, and I was DELIGHTED to spend the first half of my week with them.  Now bear in mind that many of these first cousins were TODDLERS when I saw them last (and I was barely out of high school myself) and some had not even been born yet.  They are now all adults, many married, and many with children of their own!

It was a wonderful week, meeting my now grown cousins and reaquainting myself with the glorious beauty that is my mother's homeland.  Fortunately, the entire Sheehan clan (my mother's side of the family here in the United States) are planning a family reunion to Ireland in the summer of 2012, so I hope to be returning VERY soon.  There's also talk of taking some time on the other island as well ... I hope to FINALLY see London, along with Scotland and Wales, too!!

I also decided this summer that I owe it to myself to take a vacation AWAY each summer from now on ... whatever the expense.  I'm already planning to take that Alaskan cruise that I've dreamed of for years ... NEXT SUMMER.  And it better not be long before I make it back to the city that I INSTANTLY fell in love with for only a day ... Vienna.