06 January 2008

"That won't even get me two pickets to Tittsburgh!"

I may have seemed the ultimate absentee parent last week, my little ones, and for that I do apologize. I did it. I plopped you all down in front of my uploaded videos, cigarette dangling from my lips, then strutted my way off in my short-cut pea coat to downtown Pittsburgh to "find you a new mommy, or two." For days you've wondered: Where's my daddy? Well, daddy's back, my darlings. He'll never, ever leave you like that again.

At least not until next year's KC/ACTF conference.

You may recall (or you may not; see if I care) that about a year ago (see 1/17/07) I enlisted Friend Patrick to help me teach a workshop at ACTF to help promote Zuppa del Giorno's international training program, In Bocca al Lupo. It was that time of year again, but this time at Carnegie Mellon and with fellow Zuppiana, Heather Stuart. So last Thursday I caught a three-hour bus to Scranton, grabbed some brochures, jumped in Heather's clown car and began the five-hour drive to Steelertown. Come to think on it, it really was a bit like a clown roadshow, that whole trip. On the way we practiced our Italian to "Hide This Italian CD," a supposedly raunchy take on learning Italian, the most risky endeavor of which seemed to be asking where the gay bar is. Incidentally, it seems that in speaking Italian any subject can be designated as gay so long as the sentence ends on the word "GA-YE." I am certain that, at least in this, the language CD is not leading me astray...

The workshop went splendidly. We had a day to orient ourselves before the afternoon our workshop was scheduled for. We tried to do some other things whilst there; you know, be productive, pretend we were on a normal sort of business trip, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of experience with that approach, and so much of that time was spent floundering in our own ignorance. "How come this Wi-Fi isn't working?" "Where do we get copies made around here (bear in mind, we're on a college campus) ?" "How do you convert an AVI file into iMovie?" "What do they mean, we can't just park here for free?" Fortunately, we quickly (read: "after five hours") perceived that such was not our forte, and reverted to our usual time-wasting and exuberant enthusiasm for the unplanned life.

Which works surprisingly well for us. We get more done that way. I swear it's true. Sometimes it seems as though God has fated we Zuppiani for quasi-chaotic lives, and that he will smite us with beurocracy and stupid circumstance when we dare to defy that lot. (This is bearing in mind that I do not believe in fate.) Heather, David and I, in particular, seem to do best when we're happy-go-lucky idiots. (Friend Todd: And I mean this with tremendous love: You're in a category all your own.) It's a phenomenon beyond denial. So Heather and I stopped trying to make a demo DVD and started behaving like clowns, sometimes quite literally. We even spent some time filming brief clown bits around campus. It was a good reminder as to the spirit of what we be teaching the next day.

And the next day we slept in and then geared up for warping--er, I mean, molding the young minds of today's north-eastern American collegiate actors. It's always hard for me to concentrate much on anything else when I know I have a class to teach soon. It's a little like coming up to an audition for a part I really want. The night before the class, there were the usual festivities to attend to. We had a very entertaining dinner with Debra Otte--a long-time friend of Heather's and David's--and her friend Ingrid, then watched the "Fringe Competition," wherein students enroll the day of, receive given circumstances to incorporate and a theme and create a short entertainment for that night. Thereafter, it was free booze in the "faculty lounge." "Free" being a relative term, of course, because there's usually the trade-off of some very awkward, though generally well-intentioned, conversations to be had. And all through these myriad events, my mind wanders . . . will any of Deb's students take our workshop ? . . . is this "Fringe" work indicative of the general interests of the students ? . . . does the fun of our workshops really qualify us as "faculty" to be partaking of faculty fringe benefits, and if not, do I at this moment care an iota . . . ?

Finally the day came, and we turned no one away (in spite of the class being limited to 26 and having far more than that sign and show up) and we had a ball. Unique to this workshop was our attempt to squeeze in a little bit of everything from what we teach in Italy into the two hours allotted (we asked for four, over two days). Everyone took to it very well--including us, I believe--and after two hours of partner-stretching and balance, improvisation, physical communication and character exploration, we wearily took to the road and drove all the way back to Scranton in time to meet with David about plans for the future. Hauling my butt into bed that night was an effort, but falling asleep wasn't. I had visions of clown awkwardly dancing me to sleep . . .


2 comments:

Patrick said...

I wasn't previously aware of the resistance-to-planning nature of the Zuppa experience, though it now makes sense, clicking with other things you've said. Kudos for giving into it and letting it take you where it will; as you say, that obviously works well for you guys. I bet it says some good things about the shows themselves, as well (I still haven't seen one; roadtrip to Scranton, I promise).

Jeff Wills said...

We just keep trying to improve the shows in the hopes each one will be the one you finally catch, Patrick! Yeah, it's a tough practice for me, embracing the chaos, but it's always worth it. My life has definitely been less boring for it, I can say that.