Sunday, January 29, 2012

Schoolhouse Rock - set design

Last year: Alice in Wonderland, this year:  Schoolhouse Rock.  Initially, I was excited to be designing the set for this play - I remember the Schoolhouse Rock videos from when I was a kid, and I still have a a few of those songs in my head.  I bought the DVD when I began teaching and I hummed a few bars of a couple of of the songs for my students when they popped into my head (most often, "... a noun is a person place or thing").  I thought I'd be making 9 paper mache planets (thank goodness THAT didn't pan out - TOO time consuming!) for the skit involving Interplanet Janet.

Once the school year started, however, and all sorts of other activities kicked into high gear, set design took a back burner.  Now February is looming, and I have just about one month to pull all this together, so here's my plan:

After creating last year's set, I learned a lot.  First, I must say, I LOVED how the mushrooms came out. They were a HUGE amount of work, however, and I'm not sure they were worth it, considering how far in the background most of them were.  A friend of mine lectured me on this as I was making them, and she was right.  Here's a picture:
Two things disappointed me with this set:  1.  Under the lights, everything looks so FLAT.  And 2. I was just not filling up that verticle space. With that in mind, when the director told me that Schoolhouse Rock is pretty much a one set play, I determined to figure out how to use that verticle space. 

The stage does have "fly space" the space above where you can see - by the lights all the way up to the ceiling.  It also has the necessary bar for hanging scenery the scenery on, however, there's one problem.  the bar is supposed to move up and down, and it doesn't.  The company that installed it, installed it as a stationary bar.  Oh well.

But for a one-set play, this is not a problem.  The set is supposed to be a classroom - the play is about a teacher on the morning of the first day of school, worrying about his first day.  The director thought, a bunch of chalk boards, and I think some chalk boards are cool, but not enough.  I thought a couple of LARGE, flat rectangles hanging from the ceiling could be like posters on the wall of the class.  The construction guy (a different one from last year's guy) agreed that this would not be a problem.  The one on the left is going to be a large map of the United States, and the one on the right (a long rectangle, hanging vertically) is going to be the American flag, with either the Pledge of Allegiance or the Preamble to the Constitution written underneath (there is a skit involving the Preamble - it's one of the songs I still have in my head after 30 or so years). My other, standing pieces will be a drawing of a person's circulatory system, some artfully drawn adjectives, and definitely a few "chalk boards" with things like "Do Now..." and maybe "Describe your Favorite Summer Vacation Memory" written on them. 

There are going to be some desks in the front, painted in crazy colors.  The custodial staff found some old ones in the basement that are not going to be used anymore, so we have permission to paint them. 

Other than those things my only major task is to create 9 planets (Pluto was still a planet back in the 70s) and a sun.  Create them so they are up in the air.  And they light up.  My plan is to make them out of wire, cover the wire shapes with fabric batting, spray paint the batting in appropriate colors...  and mount them on long poles.  Mounted to the pole inside each planet is going to be one or more strings of battery operated Christmas lights. 

I made a test one (although I didn't spray paint my test one) and they look AWESOME.  Now, I am just worrying that someone will accidentally bash a pole into something important.  Like someone else's head.  I bought poles that are long enough so they can sit on the floor - I thought they'd be easier to handle that way.

I have a lot of things to do, to put it bluntly.  I have about 26 kids who want to be on stage crew, though, so I'm trying to work it out so they can do most of the work. I'm splitting them up into 3 teams for construction, and based on the fact that I washed out a LOT of paintbrushes last year that I didn't use, I made a poster of stage crew rules. 

Tomorrow, I bring my supplies to work, and Tuesday, I start working with the kids.  I'll keep you posted.  Wish me luck!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tiny Terror

We got a puppy last weekend, and she has already taken over everything.  Meet Zoey, the 12 pound terror.

Who, (with the exception of brand new parents), would think that something in the neighborhood of 10 pounds could so quickly turn your household upside down?  Not only is there a lot of paraphernalia; dog dishes, chewy toys, and things like "wee wee pads" (yuck - but they sure beat the heck out of plain old newspaper)  there are other things to consider as well...  Just because your alarm clock is set for 5:15 does not mean the puppy won't start missing her new human pack at say, 4:30 a.m.  and then what will you do? I mean, you could get a cage, but if you don't plan on using it for long, should you even bother?  If you don't get one, what will you use to corral your new furry child in to her safe location?  Safe, as in, safe for the puppy, and safe for your house...  Is there such a thing as a safe location in your house?  Will your puppy chew the corners of your kitchen cabinets?  Will those old child safety gates also work for a puppy?  By the way, when we trotted out the first safety gate, my son said he remembered being corralled in the den with it when he was little.  But guess what... higher intelligence is still trumped by the much greater spring in Zoey's hind legs - as of today she has vaulted herself over the top of the gate multiple times. 

She seemed so calm when I spotted her in her cage in the animal shelter - sleeping peacefully, all curled up in a ball...  I just knew she wouldn't be a barker, and she really is not.  But that doesn't mean she's not a jumper (maybe "vaulter" or more accurate).  Or a chewer. Does she chew her $8.00 dog toys?  Noooooo.... she'd rather chew an empty water bottle or the top of the battery operated pillar candle I got from Costco.  It no longer has a wick, and it's covered in chew marks.  

Will this be the motivator that finally gets everyone to put their shoes away all the time?  What good is a nice pair of shoes if the toes are all decorated with tiny teeth marks?

Still, she's so damn cute you just want to chase her around the house until she bites all your toes off...

...after she's practiced using her wee wee pads, of course.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

From G-2 Pens to Nostalgia...

Today, I finally got a look at the infamous G-2 pens.  One of the sixth grade boys was in the hallway coming from the bathroom when the teacher on hall duty noticed all the pens in his pocket. 

"Hey, look at all those pens you have!" 

He proudly lifted the edge of his shirt so she could see the multi-colored beauties, all lined up like soldiers in his front pocket.

"Wow - that's quite a collection! Are those the G-2 pens I've been hearing so much about?"

"Yeah..."  you couldn't wipe the smile off his face if you tried, it was so huge.

"What's so special about those pens?"  she asked him.  "Why does everyone want them?"

How can one explain the love of an eleven year old boy? "Because they come in all different colors, and you can take them apart, and switch out the ink inside... they're really expensive" he added, "they're like a dollar each"  This, I find ironic, from a kid in an age where they think it's not unrealistic to want a new game system because they just came out with one decorated with Gears of War designs.  

"That's it?" she pressed.  "I know of lots of pens that come in all different colors - why are those so great?" 

Clearly willing to demonstrate a newfound favorite subject for her, the boy took one of his pens out of his pocket and kneeled down on the floor right there in the hallway.  He unscrewed the pen and removed its contents - an ink tube, a spring, a small colored plastic cork of sorts.  The hall duty teacher immediately began humming the theme from Mission Impossible, which is ironic, since that's what I used to humm in my head when I, bored in class, would take apart and reassemble my own pens way-back-when.  Does that make me a total nerd?  Does my use of the word "nerd" make me old? But I digress...  He reassembled the parts of his pen in a different order, then aimed the pen slightly up and out, and pressed the tiny pen-trigger, and launched the ink tube...

...a measely three feet, at best. 

"...and you can shoot em" he said, trying to sound casual, but clearly in awe.  Ah, the real reason for his fondness was suddenly, glaringly apparent.  "you know, if those were mine," I said, "I'd get the springs from TWO pens and find a way to put them together to make it shoot twice as far."  Clearly, sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut, however, I'm not sure my suggestion registered with him. 

Later, when I got home, I told my son about these pens.  He suggested we look it up on Youtube, which is his version of Encyclopedia Brittanica.  Well, lo and behold, 9 million videos on Pilot G-2 pens, and how to make them into missiles, etc.  We searched the house and found two perfect specimens already in our possession.  We followed the instructions and made our own poorly shooting pen-missiles. Of course, my son being my son, he immediately attempted the two-spring suggestion, but he said there's a ridge inside the pen that makes using two springs impossible. Oh well.  

All this got me thinking about what kids collected when I was that age... and I thought of those combs that everyone had sticking out of their back pockets - they came in a multitude of colors - I think all pastels. I think they were Goody brand - I do believe I even saw them in the store recently, although not in the vast array of colors they had back then.  They had rounded handles with a tiny hole in the center, and the teeth were rounded as well.  If you were really cool you had all the colors, and you chose a comb each morning that matched your outfit. 

For shooting things, there was the standard rubberband, sometimes shot alone, or loaded with folded papers, which my own kids call paper wasps.  I didn't know they had a name, but when you're hit with one, it stings like hell, so that name makes perfect sense.  As a kid my husband used unfolded paperclips in what he calls a "paperclip fight."  I threw paper clips, but I don't remember shooting unfolded ones with rubberbands - I heartily believed in the "you'll shoot someone's eye out" theory.  Of course, if I had shot paper clips with rubberbands, I might not admit to it now.

When I was in sixth grade we all collected these weird, stickers that came in gum (or maybe you just bought them outright?  I can't remember) ...they were parodies of famous products that were currently out on the market, like Heinz Ketchup.  The sticker would be an exact duplicate of a Heinz Ketchup bottle, but instead of Heinz Ketchup, it would be called something like HEINOUS Ketchup and it would have green chunks in it or some other gross thing.  What WERE those things called?

Ah, who can dictate the things that appeal to kids in each age?  Remember Silly Bandz? and that was only two years ago.  And so we come to the question:  will anyone remember the furor over G-2 pens in thirty years?