15 Plays Later

March 7, 2013

15 Plays Later

When this trimester began, I was put in a class called: “Guided Study”. This class was created to give students who struggle with classwork some extra time to study. I’m there as a member of NHS and I help the kids with their homework when they need it.

When they don’t need it, however, Mr. Nott and I discuss plays that he’s assigned me to read. Since the trimester started, I’ve read 15 plays. And they’ve all been so unbelievably good.

Death of a Salesman

Equus

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds

The Runner Stumbles

I Hate Hamlet

Fools

Moon Over Buffalo

Mother Hicks

Step on a Crack

Selkie

Dark of the Moon

The Miracle Worker

The Glass Menagerie

Wait Until Dark

And The Foreigner

I’ve visited rural, southern towns plagued by superstition in plays like Mother Hicks or Dark of the Moon. I’ve been taken to fast-moving, city apartments in Moon Over Buffalo or Wait Until Dark. I’ve laughed at absurdly satirical comedies like I Hate Hamlet and Fools. I’ve been intrigued by thought-provoking dramas like Equus and The Glass Menagerie. Mr. Nott even had me delve into the world of plays for children with works like Selkie and Step on a Crack. He told me that: “Plays for children must be better than plays for adults. Kids have an ability to understand great Truth, more than we think they can. Most kids nowadays are malnourished, they aren’t given the kind of entertainment that helps them grow.”

While every single play has been amazing…I don’t know if any of them topped The Effect of Gamma Rays. If I had to choose a favorite, that would be it. In fact, if you ever come across a copy of the play, snatch it up. Read it.

Unfortunately, the trimester is rapidly coming to a close. Pretty soon, I’ll have to say good-bye to the kids. Luckily, Mr. Nott and I have discussed letting me continue my play reading even after I leave the class. I mean, he’s got this huge crate full of all his favorite plays and I’d love to read them all…There’s only one problem…

With this trimester ending, more and more Seniors are talking about the end of High School. And it’s made me realize that I can postpone thinking about the end all I want but it’ll still be there. I can keep reading plays in the third trimester…But that’ll end eventually. So, maybe the crate will go unfinished.

While that could be a depressing thought…I suppose I should just be happy that I was given the amazing opportunity to (somewhat) have an Independent Study of Drama in my Senior Year. What PAC Rat wouldn’t want that?

For now, I’ll just ask Mr. Nott to keep piling the plays on. I’ll deal with the end when it gets here.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)

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The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon-Marigolds

This Friday, I’ll be auditioning at Western Michigan University. I’ll be performing two monologues, the first from The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon-Marigolds and the second from Moon Over Buffalo. Both of these monologues are from plays that Mr. Nott assigned me to read this trimester.

The monologue from Moon Over Buffalo is one man’s last ditch effort to make his wife realize how much he loves her. It’s relatively comedic and fun. While I do really love this monologue…It doesn’t even hold a candle to how I feel about the monologue from The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-the-Moon-Marigolds.

I can still remember the day Mr. Nott placed that torn, old script into my hand. I read the title and laughed. But it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with it.

I could talk all day about the play as a whole, but I’d like to focus on a curious idea presented in the monologue that I’ve chosen to perform. The monologue is about the realization that we are all miracles. The character, Tillie, muses at the idea that she is comprised of atoms that were once other things. Things that were more special and amazing than she could even conceive. And if she’s made of these special atoms…then she must be pretty special herself.

While that in itself is a pretty cool idea, I’d like to try and take things a step further…

Our Universe follows many laws. The law I’d like us to focus on is the Law of the Conservation of Mass, which states that matter cannot be created or destroyed. It’s impossible. Every bit of matter that exists in the Universe has always been here and it will always be here. The atoms that make up your body or your chair or your phone or your computer…have been in this Universe for all of forever.

Now, I’d like to turn your attention to the Big Bang Theory. I’m no scientist (I’m still mucking my way through AP Chemistry) but I think I understand the gist of the theory. It says that at one point in time, everything was condensed into a singular point. That…”Universe-in-a-box” was wound up a little too much, I suppose, because it exploded and expanded into the Universe we know and love.

Maybe you see where I’m going with this and maybe you’re thinking: “Well, duh. I knew that.” But I’m just realizing this and I think it is the coolest thing since sliced bread…Or before sliced bread? I dunno. Anyway…

Combining the ideas in this law and theory result in only one conclusion: At one point in time, you and I were crushed into the same speck. All of us. All that we know and everything beyond that. We were all crammed into an inconceivably dense ball. Even your parents were there…and your grandparents…and your great-grandparents. Your entire ancestry and my entire ancestry and that tree outside and the air you just breathed and the food you ate earlier and the car you drove…It was all there with us in that speck.

And…That’s kind of cool. Don’t you think? The atoms that make up me and the atoms that make up you used to hang out way back in…the beginning of the Universe.

From my atoms to yours, it’s good to chat with you again.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)

Shameless Self Promotion

January 31, 2013

Shameless Self Promotion

 

Just a quick post for those Gull Lakers out there enjoying their Snow Day. Or it can be for anyone willing to listen.

I’m calling all Idiots out to the Gull Lake High School Performing Arts Company’s production of…

Twelve Angry Jurors

The show times are as follows:

Friday at 8:00 PM

Saturday at 8:00 PM

Sunday at 2:00 PM

And all of them are in the Cafetorium of the Gull Lake Middle School

At the start of this PAC season, lord knows I was afraid of what PAC would be like this year. No tour, no Mr. Nott, so many changes. Here we are, two months later, and I’m happy with the show. I’m proud of Twelve Angry Jurors and I think the cast is ready to do their best to knock the socks off of anyone who attends.

It’s time to be someone else.

It’s time to become a Juror.

It’s time to…get a little angry.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training, Juror No. 8)

Twelve Angry Jurors

The Rapid Approach of Opening Night

In the year 2013…On February 1st…At 8:00 PM…In the Gull Lake Middle School Cafetorium…The Gull Lake Performing Arts Company will perform their rendition of Twelve Angry Jurors for the first time. It’ll be our Opening Night.

In the year 2013. On February 2nd. At 8:00 PM. In the Gull Lake Middle School Cafetorium. The Gull Lake Performing Arts Company will perform their rendition of Twelve Angry Jurors for the second time.

In the year 2013. On February 3rd. At 2:00. In the Gull Lake Middle School Cafetorium. The Gull Lake Performing Arts Company will perform their rendition of Twelve Angry Jurors for the last time.

For three nights, we’ll perform Twelve Angry Jurors. For three nights, we’ll show the community what we’ve been working on for the past couple weeks.

And then it’ll be over.

Senior Year is a Year of Lasts. I’ve already experienced my last Cross Country Season. Soon, I’ll be performing in my last PAC show. Of course, this kind of event makes me think about my past years of PAC. I still remember Freshman Year when we performed Smoking Lesson. My very first year of PAC. I was a scared Props Crew member that looked with awe upon the big Senior Kendall Jennings. She was like a celebrity. Oh, Kendall Jennings! The lead! The Senior!

Then, in my Sophomore Year, we performed Small Actors and it was my first time ever performing in a play. To say that I was nervous is an understatement. I still remember the first thing I said to Sarah (the “Big Senior Lead” that year) when we stepped on stage. See, the opening scene was this busy High School hallway, so Sarah and I had a moment where we would just talk casually to each other as other students noisily walked past.

“I feel like I’m gonna throw up,” I chuckled.

“Don’t do that,” Sarah smiled.

Luckily, I didn’t.

And then there was my Junior Year, with Mr. Nott’s play: Dune Shadow. The Home Shows that year had a lot of weight placed on them. Seeing as it was Mr. Nott’s last year Directing a PAC show, there was a huge gathering of alumni in the audience. They were all there to celebrate a man who had touched the Lives of countless budding thespians. Well…that was a fair amount of pressure. But, like the year before, I did not throw up. In all seriousness, it was a great show weekend and I had a blast honoring Mr. Nott with his very own play.

And now there’s this year. We’ve only got a handful of rehearsals left…And then it’ll be Opening Night. It’s getting pretty close to the wire and there’s still certainly a lot of work that needs to be done on our play if it’s going to be successful. But if there’s one thing that Mr Nott taught us, it was that theatre is a problem solving exercise. It wouldn’t be live theatre if everything went off without a hitch.

So, it’s time to buckle down. It’s time to work hard to make something that we’re all proud of.

It’s time to…get a little angry.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)

The Most Important Thing

January 17, 2013

The Most Important Thing

I’d like to think that I’ll Live my entire Life without ever doubting myself…It’s the foolish thought of an ignorant youth in the prime of his optimistic high.

Of course I’ll experience doubts. The day I stop experiencing doubts is the day I should start doubting my sanity for not doubting anything. Most recently, I’ve been working on facing the doubt that I may be making a very, very foolish mistake with regards to studying theatre. Even though I wrote about overcoming that fear, it still remains with me…like an annoying monkey on my back.

The thing is, everyone wants to lead a successful Life, right? Everyone wants to do…something. Right? Whether they want to study science or become an artist or start a business or become the president or play basketball or maybe they just want to lay around…who knows? But all of these things are in pursuit of something greater, right? The question is: What is that something?

What is The Most Important Thing in Life? What is the end goal? What is the key to leading a successful Life? What am I trying to get here? What…? What is The Most Important Thing in Life?

What is The Most Important Thing in Life?

I hope you follow me so far. Everyone wants to do something in pursuit of what? I think I’ve said before that the answer is happiness, that it’s satisfaction…And that is sort of where the doubt creeps in. Because I’m confident that theatre is where I find my passion, it is the thing I am most enthusiastic about, it’s where I find happiness. But the thing I’m not confident about is whether or not happiness is really what Life is all about.

Well, anyway, maybe all of that should be written in the past tense…Because today I finally did something about this doubt. I decided that what I needed to know right now was: What is The Most Important Thing in Life?

So I went to four teachers at Gull Lake High School. Four teachers that I hold in only the highest of regards.

Mr. Nott.

Mrs. Jones.

Mr. Hawkins.

And Mr. Portis.

Had I the chance to ask more, I probably would’ve.

Had I the chance to ask the whole world…I would.

I approached each teacher and asked them: “What is The Most Important Thing in Life?”

And each one opened their eyes wide, let out a breath, chuckled a little, looked around, and then said something eerily similar to what the other three said…

Either there’s some secret code at Gull Lake that all teachers must answer this question similarly…Or maybe there’s a right answer.

All of them said something along the lines of: “The most important thing is to know yourself. To know who you are. And once you know who you are and you’re comfortable with it, then you must share yourself with others and help them to grow.”

Honestly, it was unbelievable how similar their answers were.

And this simple question, this simple question that I asked four times…Suddenly made me realize something.

I have no idea who I am yet.

I’m 99.9% sure that my passion lies in theatre. That it lies in the dramatic arts. But I’m only 17. What do I know? I suddenly realized that I really have to go to school for theatre. I have to. Because it’s all part of finding myself. Who knows? Maybe I’ll do a semester of theatre and say: “Well, time to take some different courses.” Or…maybe I’ll do a semester of theatre and realize that I made the right choice.

I’m going to follow the advice of four brilliant minds and work to learn more about myself. Once I know me. Once I know Brian, I’ll work to help others. Just like they told me.

Now all I have to do is decide which college I’m going to…

Oh…

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)

A Place to Rehearse

January 3, 2013

A Place to Rehearse

Back in the old days of Mr. Nott, the Gull Lake Performing Arts Company used Mr. Nott’s room (the black-box theatre) for the early stages of our rehearsals. Nowadays, we’re under new management and we’ve been using Mrs. Stahr’s room for our rehearsal space. But I still remember the black-box.

The bell would ring, marking the end of another school day. Students would hurry home. Basketball players and wrestlers would head to the gym for practice. And the PAC Rats would make their way down to Mr. Nott’s room where we’d wait for rehearsal to start.

We’d crowd into the warmth of the spacious, dimly lit room, the sound of Mr. Nott’s soothing music seeping throughout the theatre space. Occasionally, the door to the outside would open in a flurry of cold air and snow as someone coming from an EFE or EFA (off-site educational programs) walked in. A few people would make quick trips to the nearby BP station and grab a quick treat before making their way back to the school. Overall, the black-box just had a homey feeling. It’s the same feeling I get when I sit in Coach Portis’ room before practice. It’s the same feeling I get when we move rehearsals to the Middle School stage. It’s the same feeling I get when I come home after not being there for an extended period of time. It’s just familiar.

Of course, I’ve got nothing wrong with rehearsing in Mrs. Stahr’s room. She’s right when she says that we’ve got all that we need in her room. Twelve Angry Jurors is sort of a minimalist play. All we need to rehearse is a table, 12 chairs, a window, a door, and a water-cooler. All of those things can easily be found or mimed in any classroom of the high school.

However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little sad about this change in setting. It’s all just part of the transition, I suppose. I do miss the black-box, though.

But, in the end, the homey feeling surrounding the black-box isn’t really brought on by the theatre space itself, it’s brought on by the people that fill the theatre space.

I’m sure we could meet anywhere before Cross Country as long as all my teammates were there. I’m sure my house could be anywhere and anything as long as my family was there. And I’m sure we could rehearse just about anywhere as long as I got to see my fellow PAC Rats.

Because I’ll love PAC no matter what. Because it’s all about theatre. And that’s what I love.

All we need is A Place to Rehearse and a group of people dedicated to the craft.

No matter where we rehearse, I know I’ll love every second of my last year of PAC. And I know we’ll work to make our production of Twelve Angry Jurors the best it’ll be.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)

The Assignment

December 27, 2012

The Assignment

Currently, my first block is a Guided Study class that takes place in Mr. Nott’s room. I’m there as a member of NHS and I tutor the kids in the class that struggle with completing their homework. It’s actually a lot of fun. I’ve had a few really, really great classes in my High School career, and this class is certainly up there in my favorites.

The kids are great. Mr. Nott is always fun to be around. I’m learning a lot from the experience. And I’ve also been given a very special Assignment.

Mr. Nott offered to let this Guided Study class double as an Independent Study class for me and I jumped at the opportunity. An Independent Study in Drama? Can you say: “Dream come true”? So, Mr. Nott started assigning me plays to read on the side. So far, I’ve read Death of a Salesman, Equus, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds, and The Runner Stumbles. And they’ve all been really, really good. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me. A man who’s spent his entire Life working in the dramatic arts probably has a pretty great idea of which plays are good and which are bad.

I remember the first day of class when he proposed this idea to me…

“Brian, I was thinking about assigning you a few plays to read…try and see if I can get you interested in studying theatre.”

“Oh, that’s what I was planning.”

“Good. Good. Then I’ve got a few plays that you’ll need to read before going off to college.”

“That sounds great, Mr. Nott.”

And since then, I’ve read four plays. And I can’t wait to read more. Probably the best part about reading these plays is that they’re always coupled with discussion sessions that Mr. Nott and I have when none of the kids need help. We pull two chairs together, sit down, and try to unwrap the layers that surround each of the plays…

I don’t really know how to describe those discussions. I know for a fact that Mr. Nott is an excellent teacher because he knows exactly how to phrase questions in a way that the answer always dawns on me like this beam of light from the heavens. Sometimes, the answer becomes so obvious and so clear to me that I start to laugh. I can’t help it. It’s always the same. It’s this weird feeling of realization I get as I finally understand what the playwright was trying to say and I get a little giddy. And I laugh. But his questions are always asked in a certain order and said in a certain way that I’m guided to the answer that I must have somewhat known all along but I never would have realized without Mr. Nott’s help.

It all kinda reminds me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The way that Charlie receives novels from his English teacher and he reads through them and turns in essays for all of them. Luckily, I don’t have to write essays about all these plays. Nor do I have to read entire novels. It’s pretty easy to burn through a play in just a few hours. A novel is a much larger task.

Anyway, I’m so happy that Mrs. Stanton (the NHS advisor) placed me in that Guided Study class. I’m so happy Mr. Nott is taking the time to kindle the fire of my interest in theatre.

I can’t wait to see what play he’s going to give me next.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)

The Wisdom of Mr. Nott

December 13, 2012

The Wisdom of Mr. Nott

So, up until this year, PAC has been directed by Mr. Nott.

Mr. Nott is the Drama/Theatre Teacher at Gull Lake High School. I also identify him as one of the “Greats” at Gull Lake. The Art Department Great.

And he’s really got that stereotypical Drama teacher feel to him. He’s relaxed but he cares. He can get pretty “out-there” but he always stays oddly familiar…If that makes any sense. You can usually identify him by his signature ponytail and friendly smile.

Not only does he teach Drama, he’s the proud teacher of the only Oral Traditions class in the state of Michigan. This class focuses on storytelling, an art that Mr. Nott is arguably obsessed with. There’s a quote on his door that reads: “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” And I think this fascination with stories has a lot to do with the kind of person he is.

Mr. Nott has made a Life out of working in the dramatic arts…this pretty much means that his days has been filled with telling stories. That’s all plays are, after all.

That quote reveals something else about Mr. Nott, too. I think his goal as a Teacher is to show students the ways in which humanity interacts on every level and that it isn’t extremely hard to coexist with our peers. High School is a time of hatred for a lot of kids and I think Mr. Nott works to reduce that aggression.

“The shortest distance between two people is a story.” I think he wants all of us to realize that we would all exist more harmoniously if we talked genuinely to one another. Anyway, this post wasn’t really supposed to be about Mr. Nott’s beliefs on how peace would be easily achieved.

It’s supposed to be about a speech that Mr. Nott gives at the beginning of every class.

I received this speech just a week ago, at the change of the trimester…

* * *

“Let’s pretend this is Gull Lake, our school,” Mr. Nott said, pointing to the desk in front of him. On the desk was a pitcher of water and cups. “Let’s say that this pitcher is the teacher…and these cups are all the students of Gull Lake. As you can see, these cups are all shapes and sizes. Just like the kids at this school.”

“Now, you have been told a lie about the way that school works. You probably visualize school like this…You come to school,” Mr. Nott said as he walked the cups along the desk and up to the pitcher, “and the teacher pours knowledge into you, right?” Mr. Nott demonstrated pouring the water from the pitcher into the cup.

“But that doesn’t work…Because not every kid is an open cup. Some kids…” Mr. Nott popped a lid onto the top of one of the cups, “are like this. They don’t want to learn. And no one can force them. That’s one thing you must know: No one can teach you anything. You have to be willing to learn. So, that’s why school really works like this…” He moved the cups back into their original starting position and made them toddle back up to the pitcher.

“This pitcher represents the experience that is presented in a classroom. And it’s the responsibility of the student to dive into the experience…” Mr. Nott dunked a cup into the pitcher, “and try to get as much knowledge from it as they can.”

He pulled the water-filled cup out of the pitcher.

* * *

And Mr. Nott says this to every class he has. Because he thinks it’s an important thing to hear. And he’s right. I think it’s a really good thing that he gives this demonstration.

I think it’s a really good thing that Mr. Nott came to Gull Lake High School.

It’s been an honor to be given the opportunity to work with Mr. Nott over the past 3 years. I can’t believe our time together is almost up.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

The day will come that I have to say “Good-Bye” to Mr. Nott…But thankfully that day isn’t today.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)