No business like it.

Even as a work-at-home mother, I’m amazed at how little extra time I have for things that at-home mothers are supposed to do — help with the Brownie troop, bake cupcakes for the school party, whatever. But every so often the guilt becomes overwhelming, and I volunteer to do something like today: Drive to and help chaperone a class visit to the theatuh, in this case a production of “Annie Get Your Gun.”

A middle-school production of “Annie Get Your Gun.”

The things we do for our children.

Actually, it was quite an accomplishment — I don’t think they cut a line. It went a full two hours, quite a lot of play for sixth, seventh and eighth-graders to tackle, never mind all the singing involved. And they did it well. As I told the student teacher who rode with us, “I could almost forget the leading man in a romantic musical comedy wasn’t old enough to shave.”

Our junior-high play was “Our Town.” Requirements: A cute couple to play Emily and George, the mature kid to pull on his suspenders as the stage manager, and various others to flesh out Grover’s Corners. No singing.

I used to be in awe of people who could ante up the guts to get up on stage and sing “Anything You Can Do.” After watching “American Idol” audition shows, I’m in awe of the people whose job it is to tell the also-rans that they just don’t measure up. Why do so many of these people leave saying, “You’re going to be buying my CD someday, Simon! You jerk!” Who told them they could sing? And they still believe it, after they’ve caterwauled their way through some perfectly harmless song. All that self-affirmation we’ve been doing with young people? Mistake.

Posted at 8:46 pm in Same ol' same ol' |

19 responses to “No business like it.”

  1. alex said on February 2, 2006 at 12:19 am

    Spare the rod, invite the hook!

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  2. mary said on February 2, 2006 at 12:48 am

    I’ve found that being a stay at home mom, working from home, has allowed me a little more time to see kid plays, go on field trips etc, but not that much. If anything, I enjoyed taking an afternoon off or trading some extra time for a full day to spend on a field trip when I worked in a nasty office. I still worked the cell phone when I had a chance, on field trips, and closed one of the biggest deals I’ve ever had while watching kids climb the rock wall at the LA Science Center. Working from home has made it harder to get away somehow. When your office is in your home, you’re always at work.
    I know I’ve mentioned what a completely sucky year I’ve had as a work at home mom, and there are lots of reasons for that. Today I got a call from a former colleague who had moved on from the same nasty office, asking if I was interested in a job where she works. Her job, in fact. She was changing departments. I’m going in for an interview on Friday (probably, it isn’t firm yet) and if it works out, I’m back to the world of offices and lunch rooms and wearing makeup every day. And a steady income. And PTO. And paid bennies.
    Keep a good thought for me. It could mean giving up the overpriced jeans girls at Macy’s.

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  3. Dorothy said on February 2, 2006 at 5:51 am

    I’m pulling for you, Mary! Let us know how it goes. Fingers crossed.

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  4. Jim said on February 2, 2006 at 8:56 am

    Amen to the self-affirmation nonsense. I believe it does the child no good and can actually be harmful. Of course, we need to teach our children to be confident, but we also need to teach them how to deal with failure and disappointment. My daughter’s grandmother is big into self-affirmation and is constantly telling her, “No matter what, you’re always a winner!!” Hogwash. Sometimes you’re a winner, sometimes you’re a loser … and what builds our character is how we react to the latter. What you’re seeing on “American Idol” is children who have been raised to think everything they do is wonderful and who are outraged when they discover the world thinks otherwise.

    And speaking of nonsense … what’s up with “leasing” the Indiana Toll Road? How will cutting in a middleman contribute to the bottom line?

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  5. Michael G said on February 2, 2006 at 9:01 am

    Good luck, Mary! You too, Nance. I was self employed for several years and worked out of my house. It’s not a cakewalk. In fact it’s very tough. My hat’s off to you guys.

    Also a big freeway salute with raspberry to the obscene management of United Airlines for presenting themselves with a $420,000,000 bonus while cutting employees’ wages by 25% and slashing medical and retirement benefits. These are the jerks who ran the company into the dirt in the first place. I honestly don’t know how I’d react if I were a United employee.

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  6. Casey said on February 2, 2006 at 9:39 am

    Brownie leader eh? Been there. Am co-leading Juniors now. Do you want to buy any Brownie books – cheap?

    The acting bug has hit our group early – several do backyard/basement productions (my daughter is one of those) and have convinced the troop we should have a play with the whole troop. The goal is noble – raise money for victims of HK.

    No auditions, just pulled names out of the hat. Everybody gets at least one line so, one of our co-leaders and I spent a few hours this weekend writing an entire scene with 12 additional characters and a checklist to make sure each girl got a line.

    After Tuesday night’s read through, reality hit and several wanted even more lines – the irony is that the girls that can deliver their lines with punch (at least while sitting at the table) got the small parts, while the larger roles appear to be filled by girls who will need a bit (lot) more coaching.

    Maybe we should have had auditions, but we wimpy leaders (sounds like a nursery rhyme) have not a smidgeon of Simon in us… so 15 years from now, you can blame us for the latest crop of talentless actors to hit Hollywood.

    At least I get to fullfill my own school age dreams….”what I really want to do is direct….. “

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  7. Connie said on February 2, 2006 at 11:56 am

    My middle school class musical was some dopey thing written for that age, of which the only thing I can remember is a song that went “Mr., Mr. Mayor” in the chorus.

    Then 2 years later my brother’s 8th grade class did HMS Pinafore! My brother was the character who sang “I am a captain in the king’s navy….” (And a right good captain too?) I look back in amazement at their accomplishment.

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  8. Jim from Fla said on February 2, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    …Sometimes you’re a winner, sometimes you’re a loser … and what builds our character is how we react to the latter…

    When I was a kid, I loved to sing. One day at home, when I was about 13, I was singing a song that I really loved. I was lost in the magic of the melody and the words. My mother (bless her heart) came up to me and said, “You know, you really ought to give up singing until after your voice has finished changing.” After that, for the longest time, I made a point never to sing if I knew someone else might hear me.

    Today, some 40 years later, I’m singing in our church choir and am accepted even though I’m not solo material. But sometimes I wonder how things would have been different if my mother would have said, “You really like to sing. Would you like to take some lessons and learn to sing better?”

    Character is built by grandmothers who say, “I don’t care what anyone says. You’re a winner in my book.”

    Character is built by parents who say, “Yeah, you screwed up, and you need to pay the consequences. But I still love you.”

    Character is built by life partners who say, “We’re in a tough spot, but together we’ll get through this.”

    Character is built by mentors who say, “Do this, because its the right thing to do.”

    Character is not built by Simon Cowell saying, “You’re singing sucks.”

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  9. Danny said on February 2, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    Spare the rod, invite the hook!

    Alex, that was the funniest thing I’ve read this week. Thanks!

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  10. brian stouder said on February 2, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    Well, one might prefer to see Junior with a bit-part in, say, Cabaret – instead of a cameo in Urinetown!

    See now, if the REAL reason the Carroll kid got the hook (and district-provided homeschooling!!!??!!) was that he stirred up dissension and hurt the reputation of the institution – then wouldn’t a guy who says

    “I think what it says is ‘we don’t trust you,’ �? Koczergo said. “I’ve done this for 32 years for crying out loud. Now is not the time to say we don’t trust your judgment.�?

    maybe also deserve the hook?

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  11. nancy said on February 2, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    Ed Koczergo is the Larry Life of high-school theater in Fort Wayne. He’s put on many, many shows that would have been the envy of college theater departments, and this in a cornfield suburban school in Indiana.

    In other words, they are lucky to have him.

    “Urinetown” is a silly comedy about public toilets, not a golden-shower fantasy. The title is a play on words (you’re in town). I will never understand NE Indiana’s propensity for living up to every stereotype the rest of the world holds about it.

    So now they’re doing a play about Nazis and divine decadence. Sounds like a trade-up to me.

    Also, what the hell does this mean?

    Junior Meg Warner wasn’t planning on auditioning for “Urinetown�? because she doesn’t agree with the content.

    “I wasn’t going to try out for ‘Urinetown’ because I didn’t really agree with some of the things that it portrayed,�? Warner said. “I think it’s a good story. I told (Koczergo) that I don’t really want to go up onstage and wait in line to go to the bathroom.�?

    Doesn’t AGREE with some of the things it portayed? Like what? Having to go to the bathroom? Now she can be a Kit Kat Girl and wear fishnets and maybe sing about three-way sex. Although, I’m sure “Two Ladies” will be cut from this production.

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  12. Jim said on February 2, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    He REALLY deserves the hook!! What makes him think his position as drama teacher gives him the right to inflict his personal tastes and choices on his students and the community? This is high school, for cryin’ out loud! What, kids can’t have a decent learning experience unless it involves risque material? They’ll have plenty of opportunities for that in college.

    Oh, and Jim from Florida — I agree with you. There’s a big difference between saying “No matter what, I will always love you” and “No matter what you do, it’s wonderful because you are doing it.” And as someone with two teenage daughters (well, one turns 13 next month), I’m not sure offering singing lessons to help them sing better would get any better reaction! I’d still get rolled eyes and a huffy snort followed by stomping off to her bedroom.

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  13. brian stouder said on February 2, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    Well, if you want to do quotes from the article from the man that a lowly North East Indiana public high school is lucky to have, I thought THIS one (about his last rejected production) was funny –

    “They were concerned that this idea of bestiality was too much to handle,�? Koczergo said.

    Ya think?

    And for the record, Cabaret doesn’t really impress me, either.

    When I was in high school, we did Arsenic & Old Lace (I got the part of Teddy Brewster) and South Pacific. I think the Homestead guy isn’t worthy of shining the fellow (who’s name I forget, but who frequents the News-Sentinel’s letters section) who headed South Side’s speech/drama department…

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  14. nancy said on February 2, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    Well, I think what’s going on here is much bigger than this. A few months ago, I linked to a NYT story called “The Supersizing of the School Play,” which I regret to say has gone into the pay archive. Anyway, the story — datelined New Albany, Ind. — was about how old you really are, Brian. “South Pacific” won’t cut it anymore. For kids trying to get into elite colleges, even in non-theatrical majors, it looks a lot better to have “Into the Woods” on your transcript than “Bye Bye Birdie.” And more-more-more parents want to see their kids in sophisticated, “energetic” productions. Note that this story is happening at wealthy Homestead, not Wayne or Paul Harding.

    See what Indiana did to the high-school marching band show (where Homestead excels), and I think you start to get a sense of it.

    And please — “Bat Boy” is not about bestiality. There’s a murky scene to give you an idea of Bat Boy’s parentage, not hot bat-on-girl action.

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  15. nancy said on February 2, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    One excerpt from the NYT story:

    When did it stop being enough to put a kid in his dad’s old vest and have him sing ”Sue Me” in a Noo Yawk accent? Probably sometime before puberty. Today, even grade school students (and their schools) are being cultivated with ”junior” versions of Broadway shows from M.T.I. and the ”Getting to Know You” series from R&H. (Yes, fourth graders can now do a 70-minute ”King and I,” albeit without the deep kissing.) By the time they return from high school drama club trips to New York, they want to perform the sophisticated roles, and replicate the increasingly dazzling effects, they enjoyed as audience members.

    Also, Brian Stouder is really, really old.

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  16. Jim said on February 2, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    And let’s not get started on proms …

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  17. brian stouder said on February 2, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    OK OK – old I am!

    But really, ““They were concerned that this idea of bestiality was too much to handle�? WAS a funny line, yes?

    Indeed, the guy was probably being sarcastic – but as was said on another thread, this is the internet, baby! Any tidbit that anyone says can be hurled at them for the rest of their lives – and we don’t need no stinkin’ context!

    Anyway – as Tarantino teaches, the trick to REALLY being a cultural test pilot is being SUBVERSIVE – eh?

    the name “Urinetown” ain’t subversive!

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  18. brian stouder said on February 2, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Robert Kelley

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  19. basset said on February 2, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    I don’t remember my Indiana high school having a class play, or a theater, a chorus, an orchestra, or a band that didn’t play at sports events.

    we did, however, have a 4571-seat basketball arena (I just looked it up) for a student body of about 650.

    that’s not even in the top ten for the state, and it’s less than half the size of the biggest one.

    gotta get your priorities straight, y’know.

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