Monday, May 5, 2008
Written by Vinny Ng, Project Director:
I find at the end of the project, it’s often hard to find words to say.
How would I begin to describe the eagerness in one of the student’s voices as they asked if I would come to see their basketball game the week after the show was over.
How do you convey the excitement that a ninth grade student shares with you as his eyes light up with bubbling enthusiasm as he describes the conversation that he had with Father Rich, the pastor at the local Catholic School.
“Can you believe what Father Rich said to me! He asked me if it was possible to rent out our show so that the Assumption kids could see it! He wanted to rent our actors!! I just can’t believe it!”
How can I even begin to capture the feeling I experienced when a student opened up his life up and told me how he cried when got home after the last night of the show. He simply couldn’t believe it was over. He did want to believe it was over. As one of the other students wrote in a note to me “these past couple of weeks were the best weeks of my life.”
Then there is the performance itself.
How do I describe the almost electric experience of being anywhere in the audience during the first night of the show? How would describe the anticipation of being back-stage before the opening night’s performance? How do I describe the stress of having to run between two simultaneous events on the first night of the show with our donor’s reception and backstage? How do I describe the nervousness twinkle in students’ eyes when they heard that the President was in the audience on the second last night? How do I begin to describe the excitement of arriving in Laura and putting on the high school’s first touring production? How to I capture the gut wrenching laughter from the principal of the high school as he burst out in delightfully raucous laughter?
Later he would go on to describe how he was taken back when his daughter asked him in the car “daddy, why were you laughing so hard at the show? I thought only kids and teenagers laughed like that. He would later go on to describe the experience as being the same feeling of being absolutely captured and transformed in the moment that he felt when he was watching a show on Broadway a few years ago.
Sitting and watching the final performance was magical - the way the kids in the crowd would eagerly move to fill up the seats in the front row… in fact they would go further than that. They would slowly creep right up onto stage to get as close to the show (or perhaps in the show!) as they could… And as deeply satisfying an experience as that was, I also realized that while the show was the end result, the other part that could not go ignored was the process. How had the students gotten there? What needed to happen in order to create the drive to create, to practice and rehearse everyday after school, to put the effort into each session, the be able to trust each other as team players do?
I guess it comes from a common purpose. I guess it comes from a belief that it will all turnout ok. I guess it comes from a place of being able to let go of every single decision and trust that whoever is working with you is more than capable of delivering. I guess it comes from a place of affirmation and hope.
The cast party the day following the show was an incredible day. It just reminded me of how important closure and celebration is to a project. Closure provides the opportunity for reflection and the opportunity to celebrate the true essence of the project – each one of the students in their full uniqueness and their efforts to pull it all together. Yet there was another beautiful thing that I can only credit to Jess’s radiant creative zeal.
Setting: A sterile, yet oddly cozy Marshallese diner. All 6 team leaders / volunteer teachers are present
Jess: “Excuse me for just a bit! I have to finish of the script guys. I’ll be right with you.”
Jess moves to stage left where there is a diner table set up and furious scribbles away the final scenes of a remix version of the five-act Comedy of Errors play in rhyming couplets – all of which, incidentally, was written in less than 45mins!
Time: 10.13am Two hours before the cast party.
Setting: A sterile, yet oddly cozy Marshallese diner
Mission: To cast and run through the remix version of the play
Jess: “And that’s this is the part where Mike, you as Luciana are wooed by Antipholus of Laura… Hemant… no wait… Dan! Yes.”
Vinny: “Hey… how about this! What if Dan at that point wraps his arms around Mikes belly and holds onto him just as in the scene from Titanic and Mike spreads his wings out as if he’s a bird on the bow of a boat…”
Dan: “Wait… what about the kissing scene???”
Time: 1.45pm During a lunch break at the cast party
Setting: The adjacent stage area about 300m away from the cast & crews
Mission: To rehearse the five-page script in pure improv to a rap / folk musical score that Kristin beautifully wove together on the spot.
Kristin: “Can anyone beat-box, because we’re going to need a good beat to work in Shakespeare’s prologue…”
Setting: Just outside the bokanake (thatched hut where the party was going on)
Mission: To change into a tight, sweat-dried, manky set of costumes in less than two mins and to be prepared for multiple costume changes in a ridiculously short period of time
Mike: “Vinny go… go! You’re on!!”
Vinny: “Yeah but my butt and boobs aren’t in place”
Mike: “Just go!!.... (laughing) actually it looks funnier if you go with parts of your costume that aren’t quite on right!”
Audience keeling over laughing. Slapping their knees. Slapping the chair. Slapping each other…. Lots of slapping. Oh yes… lots of slapping.
I don’t quite else know how to put it. I think the remix for the students was like looking in a mirror at the absurdity of the whole play. The whole 11weeks. The whole story, cast, and for that matter the experience. As a role reversal, they were also finally the audience. They could appreciate the show. They could now laugh. They could now sit back without the stress of costume changes, memorizing lines, being attentive to cues, dance moves, musical interludes, and backstage plate dinners finally behind them.
For me, I think part of the reason why I enjoyed that process so much was that in many ways it was a culmination of the best parts of the project jammed into the space of about two hours or so. The team coming together, having to work on a tight deadline, having to craft a collective artistic vision, and building off of each others ideas and strengths. And all in a way that lent credence to a collective humility. We were no less directors than we were actors. We were no less correct than we were prone to making mistakes. We were no less serious than we were ridiculous.
And then…. there comes a time though when it must all end. The awards are presented to every cast member and crew member. Quirky awards that is - such as “The Air Marshall Islands Award for always being grounded.” (The biggest running joke in town was the national airline that was every week promised to be running, yet would be delayed yet another week, and another week, and…oh surprise surprise, another week.
And when the awards are all given out, the slideshow is over, then come the questions. “Jess, Vinny, Kristin, will you guys be back next year?” … I have to stop to remind them, “that’s not the question you should be asking. The question you should be asking is what play will WE be producing next year? And what will it take for US to pull it off?” because as we had to remind the students – they were more than capable of pulling off a terrific show and it really doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to believe that they could produce and direct a show themselves. Granted it may have to be scaled down, but if they believed it was possible, then damn. It sure was.
Flash forward two days:
Setting: The teacher conference room, during lunchtime, the Tuesday following our last performance
Baren (one of the leads, a graduating senior): “You really think that we can produce a play ourselves?”
Me: “Absolutely! Look, here… take a look at how this project started. It all started with an idea. (I show him our original proposal). Then you have to build a team around the idea, and before you know it, you’re off.”
A couple of days later, after Jess had left, Kristin and then sat down with a small group of the graduating seniors and our two Assistant Directors (the MIHS grads / current college students Jason and Martha) and led them through a short workshop on how to produce a theater production in the Marshall Islands. I put together a reference sheet for all the steps to consider in building a production – starting with writing a proposal all the way up to organizing a cast party. We had the students there brainstorm ideas about how they would be able to draw on the resources available to them to be able to produce a play and I remember noticing the light sparkle in their eyes as they began to consider the possibility of what they could do themselves.
Gary, the principal at the high school told me on the second last day, “you know Vinny. The Marshallese are like hermit crabs. They hide in their shell, but when you pick them up you have to gently breath hot air onto them to coax them out of their shells. That is what you guys have done for our kids this year.”
But then again Gary, aren’t we all hermit crabs? It’s not just the Marshallese. As I sat and thought about what he said, I don’t think I would have begun to crawl out of my shell if it hadn’t been for the many teachers and roles models that I have had that have also been breathing on me encouraging me to poke my head out.
I guess it ends with final words and in some ways those were the hardest words to find. What do you tell a students who has inspired you with their resilience, their dedication, their commitment and perseverance? What do you tell a student who has so much brimming potential? What do you tell a student who you know has the ability to transform and change the way things are?
One of the quotes I put in the final slideshow sums it up best.
“Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
~ Harold R. McAlindon
Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me to go where there is no path.
To you, I am deeply indebted.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Well, it was a bit of a struggle, but we now managed to get BOTH parts 1 and 2 of episode 2 of the documentary uploaded to YouTube. Episode 2 features several of the cast members talking about what it is like to be an actor in the play. The media team worked very hard to get this video completed on time! Most of the team was willing to come into school even during Spring Break. I am very proud to say that the students are taking a more active role in the documentary. Barelson, TJ, and John are learning the editing process and have helped me in that area. Lynn has been an amazing interviewer extraordinaire. the other guys are learning about filming and how to set up good shots. It is all very exciting. We are currently working on episodes 3 and 4 simultaneously. They SHOULD be out in a week's time. Episode 3 will focus on leadership and sustainability, and episode 4 will take a look at all the volunteers that have helped put this project together. They will be great!
here are the links to the three movies that we do have online, enjoy:
Episode 2, pt.1
Episode 2, pt. 2
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
To update all those who are curious about the media team is up to, I am here to inform you that we're still chugging along and that while there are have been more updates as of late from the documentary crew, our student writers are working their butts off as well. Writing articles that will be posted here and in the local newspaper, our small team of intrepid journalists are currently working on a variety of pieces that will eventually coincide with the release of third and fourth videos online. With topics ranging from what makes to a good play to an analysis of role of females in the play vs. Marshallese culture, we hope to have those up and available A.S.A.P. for your reading pleasure. Till then, here's another student profile, from the prolific Jake Anni:
Here at the Marshall Islands High School, there are many students that are helping out with the play, “A Comedy of Errors.” These students have learned how to speak English very well, and learned these skills all from the play. These students aren’t just learning about speaking well and speaking out loud, they are also learning how impotrtant team work is. This play therefore is a great challenge for the students in the play. One such example would be PJ Williander. PJ Williander is an 11thgrade student. He is 18 years old and lives in Ajeltake. PJ was so shocked and excited when he first realized that he had a part in the play. In Act 1, PJ is one of the main characters in the play. PJ’s character is the Duke. In this play the Duke is a leaderor in Marshallese an "Irooj." So in the play the Irooj’s task/job is to decide who will live and who will die. PJ thinks that he has an easy part in the play, because the Duke only stands and talks.
PJ has learned two important things from the play so far. PJ has learned that teamwork is the key for the team to get along together. His motto for teamwork being, “One for all and all for one.” And he also has learned that if every member in a team gets on time (according to what the team had planned out) everything will plan out exactly on schedule. For example, if a team planned to start their activities at 9:30 AM and go back home at 4:00 PM and every member is on time, then they’ll all get to go home at exactly 4:00 PM.
The most challenging thing for PJ is memorizing his lines. So PJ made a bet with one of the directors of the play, Jessica Swale. The bet is if PJ remembers all his lines then Jessica will give him a prize, but if he doesn’t remember, then Jessica will get to use his car for a day. PJ did this so that he could force himself to memorize all his lines and never forget them.
In conclusion, if you want to know more about the play, keep on reading us at http://www.comedyoferrors2008.blogspot.com/ and http://www.ybglobal.org/.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Just a quick update for this week: It’s been another productive week in the play with the highlight of the week being the team-building bowling tournament we held. In particular we made a lot of progress blocking out Act IV, Scene IV - the part of the play where Dr. Pinch is summoned to cast away the spells and demons that have seemingly entered into Antipholus of Rita’s consciousness.
Last Thursday Majuro Bowl kindly gave us a discount as we prepared to face of in one of the most anticipated bowling tournaments of the year… the Comedy of Errors bowl-off! With Team Silver Bullet pitted against The Spartans it looked as if the Spartans war cry was more than enough to deter any serious competition. Meanwhile The Wolves battled it out and edged out Team On Fire. In the finals, however, led by the fearless Abess, Frina proved that not only has she got the lanes of the Abbey under her control but also the lanes of Majuro Bowl and with Jebenu’s 5 strikes they led the way toward a trouncing defeat of the Spartans who’s brave war cry by the end of the game sounded more like a whimpering lost puppy yelp.
3 weeks to go until the play and we have set an ambitious goal of having all the actors off book by today. Music team meets today. The art competition at MIHS to design the program cover has been kicked off and the media team is launching the first two documentaries with a public screening on Tuesday at 7.30pm by the RRE marketplace area. Lot’s happening!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Spring break allowed us to really get into the text and we’ve been very diligent about setting weekly goals for the kids to gradually get off book. Thursday was our first complete run through the play and the whole play has been blocked (with perhaps the exception of one short scene in act IV). The kids are off book on about half of the play so far which is we’re feeling very good about.
- Community and social events: Last Friday the cast participated in Tourism Awareness Week. With support from the Marshall Islands Visitors Authority we bussed out to the airport and did a garbage clean-up in the area. Heading back into town proved to be a great bonding moment with the entire busload breaking out into song and cheer as we pulled into the RRE marketplace for a movie screening “The Ron Clark Story.” Think inspirational teaching movie about a inner-city teacher (Matthew Perry) who experiments with some rather unconventional approaches.
- Venue – We have found a wonderful location for the play this year. RRE has been kind enough to let us use the marketplace stage area for our performances in Majuro
- Fundraising: donations continue to come in as our fundraising cash total approaches $11,000. Special thanks to Framingham High School Drama Company in MA who are sending us lighting equipment, make-up, a generous donation, and have also been showing our documentary trailer at their most recent school production.
- Media Team – Dan’s turned our media team into a “well-oiled machine!” A team of 10 strong, they have a production schedule all outlined, goals to meet, tasks divvied up, and skills that they are all playing to. Our goal for the next documentary is the end of weekend so hopefully we’ll have it uploaded by mid-week.
- Youth Leadership Program: Wednesday night we invited our production interns over for a meal to thank them for their involvement and support on the project. Jess also led a very constructive and useful discussion on directing techniques, suggestions, and ways of working with actors
- We’d like to welcome Mike Cruz aboard our team and are excited about the skills he brings. Mike is an English Teacher at Assumption, who graduated with a dual major in theater and film from Pomona. He has kindly offered to assist in directing the production and work with students on the play and led a very productive acting workshop last Thursday.
- Costumes: Mona Strauss has once again kindly offered to help out with costumes this year and has been talking to all the cast members this week about details.
- Dance Team: Stepping up rehearsals to 2 times a week next week. Steady progress continues to be made on the 3 dances in the play
- Documentary – do check out our first documentary if you haven’t already:
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Here at the Marshall Island High School (MIHS), there’s a team/group of students that are helping out with the play, “A Comedy of Errors.” This team is called the Media Team. This team of high school students, lead by 9th grade teacher, Dan Caccavano, and 11th Grade Teacher Loren Lindborg, is learning all about how to use a camera, how to edit film on the computers, and how to write newspaper stories for the Journal. In addition to all of these skills, these students are also learning to have confidence, and to have the courage to do whatever they must do to reach their goals.
One example would be Taner Rijke. Taner Rijke is a 9th grade student. He is 15 years old and he lives in Rita. Taner said so himself that he wouldn’t have believed in himself if he hadn’t joined the Media Team. For example, during the first quarter of school, Taner was a shy student who did not like to read in English. But, after joining the Media Team, he learned that it’s okay to learn how to speak in English even if he doesn’t know how to say/pronounce the words. Now, in the third quarter of school, whenever teachers ask him to read something in English, he just reads it right away. Taner thinks that he’ll have the opportunity to get a job that uses cameras.
To sum it all up, Taner would like to tell everyone who is shy that they should join the Media Team to experience what he’s been through and see the confidence and skills that he has gotten from being part of the Media Team.
The Marshall Islands High School Media Team is currently documenting the progress of the Shakespeare production, “A Comedy of Errors.” The first video in a series of documentary videos has already been released to YouTube. The team is currently working on the second video. In addition to working on the documentary, the media team is learning how to write articles for the paper and for the project website. For more information about the media team and this year’s play, please visit the following websites, www.comedyoferrors2008.blogspot.com and www.ybglobal.org.
-Jake Anni, 9th Grade Marshall Islands High School student
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
As of 3:40 a.m. on Tuesday the 11th of March 2008, the first film in the documentary series has been uploaded to YouTube. After patiently waiting the 7.5 hours (at a blazing fast upload speed of 5 kbps) it took to upload the video, I can proudly say that the documentary project has officially gone public. This video is the first of hopefully five that I and the media team will be making over the course of the project. This first video serves as a brief overview of the entire project.
We (the media team) are currently working on the second installment of the documentary and hope to have it released by the end of next week! The next segment will focus on the student perspective of what it means to be involved in the play. You will see and hear from the mouths of the stars of this years production about all of the ups and downs, trials and tests, of what being part of a drama production means to them.
I am very excited about the next segment because the students themselves will be taking a much more active role in the project. I have completed the first video editing workshop with the students and am conducting the second tomorrow. I am amazed at how quickly the students are picking up all of these new skills. Most of the media team has never even used a computer before, let alone a camera. It is all quite exciting and I could not be more proud of these kids.
Because I promised them I would, here is a list of the 2008 Media Team members:
Here is a link to the first video on You Tube:
Go check it out!
--Dan Caccavano, Media Team leader and Documentary Coordinator