Friday, February 26, 2010

Wild couple of weeks.

So it has been an absolutely INSANE two weeks. In addition to continuing work on BACK TO THE 80s, we had auditions, casting, and the start of rehearsals for ALL SHOOK UP. I also worked sub jobs like a maniac, had an exploding and overcommitted personal life, and an audition today.

The audition today was for a Mercedes commercial - one that will air internationally only. I was called in for 1890s wife - which seems to be my genre more and more. And they wanted us to dress for the audition. SO - Nancy and Starlight loaned me the wardrobe, I did the hair (thank God for all those productions where the hair designer refused to let me wear a wig because I have the "ideal" hair - it only took me fifteen minutes for a pretty decent updo), and off I drove to Hollywood. Just imagine - a casting full of men and women dressed in 1890s period clothing. As I walked down Sunset Blvd., being stared at (or not... it is Hollywood after all - I looked almost normal in comparison to some), I just started to laugh. Then I walked into the waiting room, and was surrounded by people dressed similarly - it was hilarious. :) The audition went really well, and I had a great time. Now I wait, and I will either hear or not. But I feel really good about it, and if I've ever been right for a role, it's this one. Send up a little (or big) prayer for me if you get a chance. It would be a great opportunity to get some work! Here's a little pic I snapped at my car with my cell phone, just so you get an idea of the Gibson girl status.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Searching for my second wind.

So... I remember why I had stopped teaching for a while - in addition to a desperate need to perform, I sometimes give so much of myself that I feel like there's nothing left at the end of the day. It's creative burnout, and it doesn't happen when I'm able to perform for my income, but when I'm giving to others so that they may perform.

I know that working with teenagers is one of my gifts, and I love it, but there are times that are so exhausting and emotionally challenging that I wish I just had a normal job - or could be happy doing something that is "normal", steady, and that I didn't carry home with me at the end of every day.

These last two weeks have been absolutely insane - my schedule feels like it's thrown up on me, and juggling my multiple jobs, my boyfriend, family and friends has made me want to crawl in a hole and never come out. And that frustrates me, because I have a boyfriend who is SO understanding, patient and loving - he is a saint. Jason always knows exactly what to say and do to bring me back down to earth, or to put my day in perspective. I am so blessed, and resentful that the only times I've been able to see him in the last two weeks have been when I'm in partial or total meltdown.

This is not healthy. So, time to simplify a little bit. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 22, 2010


So, I've noticed a disturbing trend in classrooms lately... OVER-education. It seems to me that we are demanding more "advanced" learning at younger and younger ages, and while we're raising a generation of students who can regurgitate more and more language and mathematical facts, we're also raising a generation that lacks the ability to wrap "knowledge" into concepts, or to really UNDERSTAND what they're learning. Regurgitating factoids doesn't show command of concepts, and I'm truly concerned that we're raising a generation of (forgive the term, I mean no offense) idiots.

Today for example... I was teaching 7th Grade Language Arts, and they're working on a short-story by Kurt Vonnegut, HARRISON BERGERON. Vonnegut is a master, certainly. And HARRISON BERGERON carries some serious political and social implications. But can a twelve year old really understand and GRASP Vonnegut? I didn't encounter Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. until I was sixteen! As a reasonably intelligent student, I STILL don't think I understood the implications of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. The blank faces on these seventh grade students just makes me wonder... is all of this "Advanced" education really helping? Or are they losing basic conceptual building blocks? Will they ever have the ability to really understand writers like Vonnegut if they're introduced to them too early?

I don't really know. But I am concerned.

One hour later....
Then there's an honors class that blows the whole idea out out of the water... They start asking super intelligent questions about the story. Questions that I believe Vonnegut intended the reader to ask. Deep questions that there are no real answers to. So... who really knows?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fun moments from my week.

A couple of moments and conversations I've had this week:

-Filming the All Shook Up promo and the production meeting with Nancy, Tiff, Abby, Eddie, Hedy and Trav.

-Jason asking for and receiving his raise.

-Seeing a person dressed as the Statue of Liberty and carrying a red umbrella crossing the street in the pouring rain.

-Dinner with Solangey. Awesome.

-Winning tickets to the LA Philharmonic at Disney Concert Hall for Valentines Day.

-Spending time with Jason.

-That Grandma's procedure went surprisingly well and that she's pain free!

-A wonderful compliment from a teenage breakdancer - "Ms. Erin, you're awesome! Is there anything you can't do?"

(Between me and a 6th grade boy):
Me: Hey, why do you have a rubberband on your head?
Boy: I dunno. I found it.
Me: You found a rubber band and thought, "hey, I wanna put this on my head!"?
Boy: Yep.
Me: But you don't even know where it's been.
Other boy (chiming in): Dude, it could have been in a toilet!
Me: In a toilet? So someone thought it was important enough to stick their hand in a toilet to get it and then forgot it in a desk?
Boy: Yep.
Other Boy: Yep.
Third Boy: Dude, you just got slammed teacher-style.
five minutes later
Other Boy: This is boring.
Me: You're boring.
Other Boy: YOU'RE boring.
Me: That's all you got, toilet boy?
Other Boy: I'm not a toilet boy. You're the toilet boy.
Me: Sure. You just keep trying with that one. You're the one that thinks about pulling things out of a toilet and putting them on your head. And you, rubber band kid, why are you still wearing that thing? Put it away.
----- be continued...

Monday, February 8, 2010

I'm starting with the man in the mirror

So... if you've read any of my previous posts (the few of them that are there), you might know that I'm currently choreographing a musical for a local high school, BACK TO THE 80s, which is chock full of Top 40 hits from throughout the decade. This week brings the challenge that I am most nervous about... Michael Jackson.

I was a young dancer raised in the 1980's. I LOVED (and still love) the music and videos of Michael Jackson. But to face one of his most touching songs, "Man in the Mirror" and to find the right mix of reinterpretation and respectful recognition in a way that doesn't scream "tribute!" or make people want to gag on the "Michael Nostalgia" that swept the globe those first few months after his death is daunting at best. I want to do it right, and do the lyrics (and Michael's cloudy legacy) justice. After all, what could be more timely? "I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. No message could've been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change." How do you truly and honestly encompass one of the greatest musical and dance careers in entertainment in one powerful song, respecting and paying tribute to the artist, while still maintaining the momentum of the story?

So this is my challenge this week. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Good morning - High School Band, Orchestra and Choirs today

I taught "Zero" Period this morning, which starts at 7am. Yikes. I don't know how anyone actually teaches at 7am. And this was High School Band - and they had sectionals - which means I was deafened with a cacophony of crazy sound this morning. Oh man.

Anyhow, just wanted to share a conversation I had with a 17 year old boy, Muro, this morning (who is also dancing in the musical)

Muro - "Ms. Erin, do you know how to jerk?"
Me - "Show me."
(he demonstrates)
Me - "Probably."
Muro - "I bet you could. Ms. Erin gets DOWN!"

My boyfriend thinks my life is a circus... It baffles him. Personally, I love the unpredictability and how every day is different, but a regular bi-weekly paycheck would be nice. :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Oh Middle School...

One more post - I actually just had this conversation with a kid.

Me - "Where's your homework? I need to stamp it."
Kid - "I don't have it. Andrew can back me up on this. My dog peed on my workbook."


Life is sooo good. And funny!

I should have titled my Blog "Life Amongst Teenagers", because that's what my days mostly are. For those that don't know me, I am a woman of many jobs - all in their turn and sometimes several at the same time. I am a performer (actress, singer, dancer), a director, a choreographer and a substitute teacher, and I am blessed (or cursed - depends on your perspective) to encounter THOUSANDS of teenagers every year.

At the moment, I am choreographing a production of BACK TO THE 80's - A Totally Awesome Musical at North High in Torrance, CA. The 80's are fabulous again, and teenagers are all about nostalgia (though none of them were even BORN in the 80s), big hair and flourescent colors once more. So, unsurprisingly, we had a MASSIVE turn out for auditions - more than 100 students came out to audition for the show (which is absolutely unheard of at most American High Schools)! Even more unreal, HALF OF THE CAST IS MALE (AND THEY CAN DANCE!). This is the first time in my life as a choreographer or director where HALF of my cast has been male. Crazy.

So yesterday, I got to set choreography to the song "Footloose" with 22 young men. SO FUN (and exhausting - they're tough to keep up with at that age). The best times of the days were the moments where they were on break, though. First, the vending machine at school starting giving out popsicles for five cents a piece. Naturally, there was a male stampede, and before you know it all of us are outside in the sun, having an impromptu popsicle party.

THEN, I had this conversation with one of the boys in the cast:
-"Ms. Erin, do you want a cookie?"
-Yes, I do, but sadly I can't have one. Thanks, though!"
-"What, are you on a diet or something?"
-"No - I'm just really allergic."
_"To what? Chocolate?"
-"No. Gluten."
-"OH. So you can't have milk or dairy?"
-"Well, no, actually, I can't because I'm also lactose intolerant."
-"OH. So you can't have milk or dairy?"
-"Nope. But I'm gluten-free too."
-"Gluten? What the heck is gluten?"
-"Anything that's made from a wheat product has gluten in it, and I'm super allergic."
-"DUDE. So you can't have like rice or anything?"
-"I CAN have rice. And potatoes. And corn. But not wheat."
-"Wait. What?"
-"Just nothing with any wheat or wheat products."
-"So you can't have cheese or milk or wheat."
-"Your life sucks!"

I'm pretty confident that I haven't done this conversation justice. Sadly. But it was seriously funny.

Here's a rough video of our rehearsal (I post choreography on YouTube so they can practice at home), so you can get a feel for the young men I get to work with!

Have a wonderful day!