Adventures of a Drama Teacher

{April 26, 2011}   Jubilee

Jubilee of Color

The joy and jubilation of dance. Had I not been curs-ed with Motion Malady, I would have, could have, been a contender! Yes, Marlon Brando coined the phrase in Eli Kazan’s “On the Waterfront” when his character was in the fight for his life.

 Dance is magic, it is key to a euphoric existence for me. I dance when I am happy. I dance when I am sad. I am a dancer. Since remodeling our new house with its massive space and tile flooring, I have perfected my dancing to the point I have earned the calluses back on my toes that were once there in my days of continuous tap, ballet, jazz and other types of dance that I would subject myself to until I was puking sick waiting for the waves of nausea to pass so I could drive home from class.

 So I chose to perfect acting instead, to take the hand dealt and make the best of what I’ve got. “I always thought fine folks were the ones who did the best they could with the sense they had.”  Scout questions in one of my favorite novels, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, a lot of life lessons can be absorbed from that book.

 Now, I clean-dance my house. I have set up complete Feng Schui with décor and color. Actually, Sam painted our living room a color of his choice, All That JAZZ blue which makes my mood brighten every time I chaussée into that room, adjacent the guacamole green dining area with art from all my travels, which takes me into a time machine.

 Some days I dance letting the local classic-rock radio station take me away to the places I was when each song entered my realm of existence, changing my character style dance with each stylistic change of song or band. I do so dislike it when commercials come on though, and although sometimes I curse at Tom Shane or The Arizona Meth Project for interrupting my dance meditation, I use those car insurance advertisements to make commercial lesson plans for my students. Muti-task, muti-task, no wasted time! Then sometimes I put on specific pieces to take me where I want to go, now, whether it be a musical writing piece I am working on, or a mental journey to visit old friends, feelings and sometimes even foes (Crazy but that’s how it goes, millions of people living as foes. Maybe it’s not too late to learn how to love and forget how to hate). These exercises work as choreography and style for new musicals I am writing.

 Had I not been curs-ed with Motion Malady, I would have been a Solid Gold Dancer I am sure of it. But something wanted me to be here, now, with these kids, in this town, in this state. I am still a contender, just in other things. But dance will always be my first love after my mommy. Mommy taught me the love of music too. Thanks mommy for winning Best Dancer in high school and putting me in dance classes before I could walk or talk. It is sheer jubilee! Now crank up the tunes!


{April 19, 2011}   The Bowling Ball Incident
This was a college creative writing paper. A mixture of fiction and non-fiction.
My first lead

My first lead

It’s one of the first really nice days of spring, I can’t believe I got it off of work. I can usually get the things I want because I am a hard worker, and generally, people like me. So today we are having a garage sale; out with the old crap, so we can get some new crap. My brother is helping me today, how he got the day off from work I can only guess, and my guess, he just didn’t show up; no phone call, no warning, nothing. You see that is the kind of person he is, the kind who does as he pleases when he pleases. I don’t think he’s ever held a job for over three months, and he’s nearly thirty years old, but that’s another story. As we sit here bargaining with the early birds, who’ve scoped out the nickel ads for true treasures; a group of youngsters scurry by kicking a soccer ball. There is a rather large boy in the bunch, and he is kind of bullying the other kids, then he kicks the soccer ball away from the smaller ones, it goes lofting high and long, as far away from the little kids as possible. I kind of giggle to myself, I know it was wrong, but it was amusing. Surprisingly, more amusing was my brother’s reaction to the “ball be gone” incident. He was irritated with the older boy, standing up commenting on how he would never do anything like that. With a huge gasp, I immediately voiced, “What do you mean you would never do anything like that?” I was so aghast at that moment I could hardly contain myself. You see, back in our early days, the good old days, school days; my brother was known for inexplicable “incidences.” I ‘ll never forget this one occurrence, it will go down in history as the “Bowling Ball” incident.

It was opening night of the first play I had a leading role in. I was a sophomore in high school and it was really a big deal to have the lead; instant popularity. My brother also had one of the leads in the play. He’d had leads before, no biggie to him, but this was my night, overture, curtain, lights. I was in my dressing room, star on the door, big, bright lights surrounding the mirror, my personal makeup artist powdering my face as my assistant was arranging my fruit basket when… okay so I was in my bedroom putting on “Wet and Wild” lipstick, eating a Kit Kat, with the dog licking my leg, when my brother entered the doorway, or should I say practically fell through the doorway. He was on crutches! His right foot completely bandaged, eyes glazed over like a lemon filled donut, from the effects of codeine. I looked up, startled and blurted out, “What happened to you?” He casually replied, “I kicked a bowling ball.” Stunned, at that moment I must have looked like a wide mouth frog, I repeated, “What?” “I kicked a bowling ball.” Shaking my head in astonishment, I just stood there, my hands held out in disbelief. Finally I stuttered, “Why…why…why would you kick a bowling ball?” And then his monologue began.

 “My friend and I were walking home from school today, and we saw some kids playing in the middle of the street with a ball. It looked like one of those pink-plastic balls with the little blue speckles that you can get in the supermarket bins for ninety-nine cents. We both looked at each other, and simultaneously exclaimed, ‘I’m going to kick that ball away from those kids.’ My friend said ‘Only if you get there first buddy’ and we took off running, top speed…. Well… I got there first.”

It took me a moment for the realization to set in, and I burst out laughing, nearly peeing my pants. “What went through your mind when your foot connected with the ball?” I was choking with laughter, doubling over with a side cramp, tears in my eyes.“Bowling ball.” he stated, his chin dropping with embarrassment. Well, as they say, “The show must go on.” And on it went, my brother adding an extreme limp to his character and slurring his dialogue like a drunken sailor.

So, today I remind him of the “Bowling Ball” incident, and he sits back down quietly as the clam diggers chuckle at the story, and the little kids retrieve their soccer ball. “Hey, I think we have a bowling ball on special today.” I rush into the house to search for my dad’s old relic, probably covered with dust. My brother just smiles. The “Bowling Ball” incident being only one of the many fracases in my brother’s life that have shaped his existence of today. My point being, if I can find one, don’t kick bowling balls, you may never hold down a job, and you’ll have to help your sister out with a garage sale.

{April 15, 2011}   Definitely an E Ticket

 Kurt and Brenda

“Be a game changer”, “Slow down and smell the Starbuckets” are just two of the quotes Kurt and Brenda Warner hit upon in the C.H.E.E.R.S (Conciseness helps encourage equal respect) assembly we had at school today. All week students have been donning disabilities to assume what it is like, something I recently learned when I broke my right arm building sets for Shambala. Kurt and Brenda know all too well having a son with severe disabilities from an injury/fall while he was an infant, the challenges that are faced by persons who are less auspicious than the majority. There are people who take the time to do good in the human race. It surprises and frustrates me the people who complicate this world and do things that they know hurt people. I am vain, I know that, like Brenda Warner, I worry about growing old and getting fat, and my eyesight is not so great anymore but would we worry about those things if we had to be concerned about just being able to get out of bed, or get dressed? To be so different that you had never been asked to a birthday party? It puts things into perspective doesn’t it? Stop and smell the Starbuckets/coffee” as Zack Warner says, “Be a game changer” a team mate that one can count on in the finals like Kurt Warner. Be a good person like Brenda. We can do it if we stop being so self centered.


I just returned from the other side of the school with my Diet Coke and chocolate muffin in hand. One of the assistant principals stopped me and asked if that was my breakfast, lunch, dinner or all three? I said, “Well actually…it works for me.” How fortunate I am to be able to eat a whole pizza, ice-cream, McDonalds and Taco Bell on a daily basis. I remember thinking I was fat, or at least battling the bulge, when I was in Hollywood. As I look at all the photos I am scanning and little clips of movies I was in like, “Speed” I see now, I was not even close to chubbiness. I was as slim then as I am now, well now I am a bit thinner, leaner, all muscle from years of dance-cleaning, and dance-running. I just chatted with my student choreographer about ballet and muscles and the Charlie Horses we get from the eternal pursuit of the pointed toe. She is heartbroken because her love broke up with her via text. We commiserated and decided that after the Warners’ inspirational speech that we are two very lucky, beautiful women and we are going to go smell us some Starbuckets, maybe I need to fill up on an iced caramel latte too-extra whipped cream.

This inspiration led to an email from The New American Musical Festival, they want to read/hear Shambala! I have my weekend work cut out for me, so much to do…

And riding the bucking bronco of life continues…hold on! As I quoted in a 1988 B movie, “Definitely an E ticket!” 

Actually it’s Festival of New American Musicals. Yee haw!

{April 11, 2011}   Older But Wiser


Sam Romey, Tomi Griffin and Coreen Bergeson 8/13/2001


Talk about young! And the worst haircut I “eva” had! My sister and I laughed about women’s obsession with hair and our worst haircuts the other day. “I happen to have a photo of mine” I quipped, it was a special occasion day too, that the hideous coif  incurred. And I just so happened to be scanning old photos and happen to have proof of the terrible trim. It was August 13, 2001 the day Sam, 007, MacGyver-Bond, “The World’s Most Interesting Man” Captain of my heart and I, re-met.

Sam and I knew each other in high school. We actually met through a mutual friend on a play called 1984– Sandy Community Players. I was 2 years ahead of him in school and a ditzy drama queen. He was a star athlete and drama groupie/techie/actor. He hung around us thespians because his best friend’s brother was into drama. 1984 did not come to fruition but the connection was made. I don’t recall having great communication with him again (although I kept up with the social status at school {I always knew who the star athletes were, and he drove a 1955 Cadillac Hearse and was the sophomore student body president}) until we were both cast in the musical West Side Story. I have to relay to my students sometimes the choices I made for theatre (we suffer for our art) when they come to me with too many excuses as to why they have to miss rehearsals.  I was told I had to choose between Varsity Football Cheerleader or the role of Anita in WSS. My kids will ask, “Which did you choose?” I retort, “Do I look like a professional cheerleader?” Anyway, Sam and I became much better friends in WSS, he was a jet, and I was a shark. His first stage kiss (if you can call it that, it was the near rape scene of Anita) was with me. That play united us and the entire cast like my current Romeo & Juliet is united. Not all plays are THAT special. We were in a few more productions together and grew closer but I graduated and we lost touch, until August 13, 2001 and the Class of 1981- 20 year class reunion (Neather of our classes, I was 1982 and Sam 1984). I went with my best friend Tina May 1981, and he went with another runner/thespian Rene Hess 1981 (whom we’re all still friends today thanks to Facebook) and to make an extended tale brief are still together today.

So here’s to the very first photo of Sam and I (save yearbook stuff I have yet to scan) (bad haircut and Black Leather Jeans {Zack stole the buckskin trousers from my costume closet and wore them in Shambala}), to the most recent snapshot. We have aged nearly  ten years but we’ve grown. We’re older but wiser,  what more can we ask for?


Older but Wiser 4/10/11


{April 9, 2011}   Winding Down to Wolf Creek


We'll always have Paris!

Last show of the year tomorrow night (save a few showcases and this year’s Tabbies). Romeo and Juliet moved inside tonight which proved wonderful despite the amazing cobble stone floor and raked seating area of the amphitheater. Magic was in the air, and a little rain and wind couldn’t damper the spirits of my thespians. Miss Julie’s maiden voyage into high school directing a grand success! I am ever so proud! After tomorrow night my school days will dwindle down from 10-12 hours a day average to 8-9, wee haw more time to write, decorate our new house, exercise in our new pool and relax in our new hot tub. I came home after the show tonight (Sam, Tiff, Chelbie and Judith decided to go tomorrow night, Sam went last night and brought me flowers he did) and we all went swimming and sat in the hot tub. Well, Chelbie and her friend went swimming, Mo played video games and Sam, Tiff and I sat in the tub. Crazy night too for mischief in Mesa, we were entertained by a “Cops in the sky” episode as a helicopter stalked a fugitive (I don’t know the real story I could be over dramatic here, but then again I am a drama queen).  Anyway what a relaxing evening after a fantastic show! The photo shared is last year’s Prom Sam and I chaperoned. Casablanca was the theme; the plane in the background worked for us. We’ll be chaperoning again this year May 7th (that is if Fly Boy 007 isn’t on a flight, in that case I’ll have to get a surrogate). I got a new and fabulous dress I did. I get the best evening gowns at the Goodwill, I love me some Goodwill I do! I am sure Sam will don his customary tux (I am glad I am a girl and get to wear something new each year). So I am down to a few showcases, the Tabbies (Theatre Arts Booster Awards Show), the dreaded shut in (sorry kiddos as fun as this is for you Ms Griffin be a wet blanket when kept up all night by Poltergeist movies and the assassin marathon in the darkness of the Red Mountain auditorium) but this I do because I LOVE YOU! Then it’s graduation (hope I don’t cry as much as last year seeing my seniors fly the coop) and then our annual trip to Wolf Creek. This year we’re going on the bus! I am sad Romeo & Juliet will die for the last time tomorrow night, but it’s Twelfth Night or bust for the next school year in sight!

It’s 3:30 AM and  have mastered the scanning but not the cropping and I am too tired to fix it, and it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t have a technical problem this night.

Yeah, Sam has helped me clean up computer files and crop and fix this photo!!! Thanks 007 I love you!

My commercial Composite, there's the Lawyer look!

Pilot, paralegal, phlebotomist oh my! Oh, the career paths I could have taken. I actually came pretty close to joining the air force. I had just graduated high school and my family had no money or college plan for me. I went as far as the physical and written tests, almost signing on the dotted line, but the US government thought it best I be an air traffic controller not a interpreter (I really wanted to learn Russian and be a spy, probably a good thing I didn’t as I would have been horrible at espionage as I am a piss poor liar [hence probably why I didn’t make it as an actress either] but I digress) and I convinced the local community college to give me education. I knew at the time I couldn’t fly myself, I had the motion malady curse way back then, but I knew I wanted me a fly-boy and the air force, I hypothesized, would be the place to get me one. So I went to college and concentrated on my theatre passion and my dramatic aspirations. After Moving to LA and years of the highs and lows of pursuing a career in show business I actually contemplated and looked into schooling for paralegal. I guess I got the idea from one of my high school friends that took that path, or maybe it was the allure of the glamorized TV show LA Law, but at one point I wanted a steady job where I could meet people who have/had built a life and didn’t necessarily live the starving artist life style. But I knew deep in my heart that I wanted and needed more than to be stuck in an office with stuffy people whose life is about the argument, and again, I am a bad liar and gullible,(I believe any good debate that is presented to me) so that career path got even less thought than the air force.

As I sit here waiting my turn to do my civic duty as one of “12 Angry Men” (just kidding I wanted to use a good jury duty quote) I have time to ponder my decisions in life. I only for a micro-second in the third grade postulated a career in the medical field, a nurse, “NO, I can’t do the needle thing” so that was out too. (I have often thought that if I put as much effort into being a brain surgeon as I did an actress, I would be a brain surgeon) Hands down I was destined to be a drama teacher, or a teacher in general, as I do so love teaching analysis and writing and history and physical education. But my forte is drama. I get something new and exciting on a daily basis, things change with every new student and new play. I had another crowning experience with my first real cast party hosting experience since my days in high school and it’s all good. So I may not have the money of some female pilots, or the capability to fly myself anywhere at a moment’s notice for a romantic rendezvous, or labor in a field of law or technological industry where you work with adults that create adult fun and excitement but I mentor young peoples’ lives and oh my it is good and where I was destined to be. Oh, and I got me a fly- boy anyway.

After spending my morning in a claustrophobic courtroom, witnessing and participating in jury selection I am glad I do not work with boring sweaty, money grubbing lawyers. They are stuffy as I claimed and spending my day witnessing real conflict and continuous argument doesn’t appeal to me (Unless it’s reading Grisham, or To Kill a Mockingbird). At least in make believe we get the good with the bad. My European students’ generalizations are true; Americans are fat-litigators. Imagine snuggling up to that as a paralegal? Which reminds me of the time I played Melissa Gilbert’s paralegal on an episode of Sweet Justice. I got to wear cool suits and the actors were much more aesthetic and fun than the over-stuffed greasy sods that populate the real courtroom, and a phlebotomist is in the selection pool too:) I once played a French astronaut on Seaquest, and I have played nurses on different TV shows (all glorified extra work). So I am not really a pilot, paralegal or phlebotomist but I played one on TV.

I think I need to go home and have my fly-boy take me on a flight, but alas I’ve got a dress rehearsal tonight.

et cetera