Friday, January 27, 2012

The IB Highlights Show

As the culmination of a great deal of hard work, my fellow students in IB Theatre HL 1 and I performed our one-woman-shows in the IB Highlights show this past Friday! It was a true success for each one of us and it gave us a chance to paint our own personal stories on the stage. The show was a collection of pieces that we each put together, surrounding a theme we wanted to express to the audience. I chose the theme "Happiness is the Road," and ended up performing three monologues (including one from Seinfeld), a mask piece, a song called "Dark Clouds" by Soozie Tyrell, and my own rendition of Goldilocks. I was really pleased with the final product!

As at the end of any major project, though, it is time to reflect on the process of putting the show together and on how well it was received by the audience.

At the beginning, I was clueless. I had no idea how I would be able to put together a show that told a personal story without boring the audience with endless tales about my life. I started out by picking a theme that I think about and talk about all the time. We began writing in class, time which I spent jotting down unfinished stories and ideas that I thought were related to my theme. Slowly but surely, I learned how to piece together a well formulated monologue. The part I had the most difficult time with was learning how to direct a monologue at a particular person. I would find myself just talking for no good reason. However, seeing the other performers in their pieces really helped me identify who I could speak to in each monologue. I eventually ended up with several pieces that I was really happy with.

Another area of my show that took a lot of work was the mask piece. I knew early on what the plot of the piece was and exactly how I would use it to relate to my theme. I had to spend a lot of time, though, working on the details. I had to learn how I could interact with objects that weren't there, for example, the car and the cow that I imagined in my mask piece. For the car, I practiced how I would use the car in the piece by actually getting in and out of my car. I had to make sure that I imagined every detail of the car I was using so that I could interact with the car on stage the same way as I would if I was on the road. The cow was an even more unique situation. I wanted there to be a cow in the middle of the road that interrupted my journey home. I knew I would have a difficult time communicating such a random animal so I worked on creating the idea of some kind of living thing. It ended up being one of the most successful parts of my show as a whole and one of the most well liked.

My song was a particularly scary piece for me because it was the first time I had ever sung alone on stage. When choosing my pieces, though, I felt that the song "Dark Clouds" was essential to the theme and was an opportunity for me to take a chance. I knew the song ahead of time so the process was more about coming out of myself to be able to sing in front of an audience. I am very proud of the results of this piece.

Finally, the Goldilocks piece was unique in and of itself. It was the last piece I wrote but it was one of my favorites because I though it was unique. When my show started coming together, I felt that I needed a piece that stood out and was different from the rest. I talked to my senior director about how I could incorporate the different types of theatre that we had learned about throughout the year in another piece. She told me to look back through my journal and see which kinds of theatre stood out to me personally. The result was the story of Goldilocks that required the audience's curiosity. I decided to make the character I was playing a mystery that the audience could discover details about as I went on Goldilocks' adventure. With some very well placed sound effects and lighting, the story unfolded very nicely.

Ultimately, my favorite part in putting together the show was working with my director. I personally didn't know anything about lighting before the show. However, working with my director, we were able to combine my visions for each piece with her experience and background knowledge. A lot of the details, like the light shift in the mask piece from amber to light blue, at the exact moment that the music started, I could never have come up with on my own. I learned so much in the short amount of time that I spent with my director and I felt that my show improved exponentially because of the suggestions she had.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dogfish Head And The Making Of Ancient Alcohol

Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is not your ordinary brew pub. Sure, there are big TVs, a sports bar menu, and a large selection of home-grown beers. Dogfish Head is also a place where ancient spirits are resurrected, in a fascinating mash-up of brewing, chemistry, and archaeology.

The process starts when an archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania, one of the world's foremost experts on ancient fermented beverages, examines ancient drinking and storage artifacts for residue samples. These sample are then analyzed, offering up a glimpse into the ingredient profile of drinks that were consumed thousands of years ago.

There is the recipe known as Midas Touch, which was reconstructed from artifacts found in the tomb of King Midas. This wine-mead concoction, in other words, dates back to 700 B.C.

Even older than that is what Smithsonian has described as a "Neolithic grog." Dating back 9,000 years, this drink, Chateau Jiahu, is world's oldest known alcoholic beverage. Chateau Jiahu hails from China's Yellow River region, and has been described as a "citrusy sauvignon."

Both Midas Touch and Chateau Jiahu were fine by me, with Desi giving the nod to the Chinese brew masters. Regardless, this is a pretty cool project that will catch our attention whenever we find our way down to Rehoboth!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Building A Bigger Sandbox

You always hear about beach replenishment projects, where sand is brought in from somewhere else and used to widen popular strands. But you never get to see these projects in action. You leave the narrow beach one summer, and return a year later to find a much different playground.

And so, this year, during a mid-winter weekend getaway, we got to see what the scene actually looks like, up close and in person.

The vessel that carries a mixture of sand and water to a location a couple hundred yards offshore, where it links up with a pipe anchored in place just for the occasion.

The metal piping that the mix is pumped into, toward the beach, making a right-angle turn once it reaches the shore, then sloshing through to the endpoint.

The endpoint, which, as we watched over the course of several days, moves ever-northward up the coast, as the beach gets wider in segments.

The sand and water gushing out of the pipe, into a cage, where it crashes around and is dispersed, building a beach in all directions.

The guards who make sure no one trespasses into the work zone. Z trespassed once, as I tossed our Georgetown Prep Nerf ball a bit too far. Julie did as well, running along the shoreline, unaware that she was in the wrong, until the guard deployed her air horn, catching my attention and starting me off, gesticulating and screaming at Julie to turn around.

Enjoy the beach in this summer!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Tony Melendez

Back in the 1960s, Tony Melendez's mother was given thalidomide during her pregnancy. Because of this, Tony was born without arms. Tony's father decided to move the family from its home in Nicaragua to the United States, where medical care and the overall environment would be better for his handicapped son.

Encouraged by his parents, Tony taught himself how to use his feet and toes like the rest of us use ours hands and fingers. Tony brushes his teeth, puts on his name it, he can do it.

By his teen years, Tony had taught himself to play a guitar specially tuned for his needs. The other night, Tony brought his band to Silver Spring for a show that we had the chance to take in. It was quite an evening, full of sing-a-longs and inspirational stories from Tony and his band mates.

Tony's brother at one point shared the story of how, as a kid, he told his mother that he wanted a "normal" brother. Lurking in the doorway, Tony heard this story, went and grabbed a Frisbee, and showed it to his brother. The boys went outside, Tony's brother threw the disc, which Tony caught between his head and shoulder. Using his feet and toes, Tony winged the Frisbee back at his brother...and hit him square in the nose!

The brothers then re-lived this moment, with Tony catching the Frisbee once again, and then tossing it way out into the amazed audience. A cool moment in an incredible evening...