Saturday, November 21, 2009

"It's A Wonderful Life"!

I'm in a play! Probably the last one I'll be doing for some time, since Baby #2 is well on his/her way. :) I get to play Mary Bailey, made famous by another Donna, in It's a Wonderful Life.

Yes, I am VERY VISIBLY pregnant these days. But this version of "IAWL" is a radio play; we're supposed to be actors portraying the story for a live radio broadcast in the 1940s. So we still get to wear fun period costumes and all that jazz...and my pregnancy is a non-issue. In fact, it's become sort of a fun conversational piece throughout the process, and is even an unintentional sight gag in one scene (where I tell an apparently blind and clueless George that I'm expecting.)

We open next week, and right now we're in the midst of the typical "Ohmygodthisisatrainwreckhowwillitevercometogether!?!" neuroses. But our company, the Players Club of Swarthmore, is a really wonderful little theater made up of terrific people. They've been around for 99 years and do amazing work, so I'm confident it will all come together...even if we need a little help from Clarence the Angel. ;D

"It's A Wonderful Life" opens on Black Friday (11/27) and runs for three weekends. For more info, visit the link above.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wordle - Sylvia Plath's "Daddy"

Wordle - Sylvia Plath's "Daddy": "Wordle: Sylvia Plath's "Daddy""

Okay, people must have been mystified when I posted this with no explanation! I was actually playing with wordle, a really cool site that even the technologically incompetent can master. I'm teaching The Bell Jar in tandem with Plath's poetry these days (fun, uplifting stuff), and I wanted my students to create a wordle for one of her poems. All you do is copy and paste a bunch of text, and in about ten seconds you have this really cool word collage! You can even play with the fonts/color/layout/etc. Try it; you'll be addicted. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dabbling in Domesticity

Okay, so this is not the most beautiful cake in the world. But damn, was it delicious, if I do say so myself!

Cooking has never been my forte. I never really learned until after college, when I had to cook dinner for my five roommates at least twice a week. Luckily, none of us were spectacular cooks, but we found that if we cooked with a partner, dinner was actually quite edible--and oftentimes delicious. Unluckily, we were a vegetarian house that year, so I emerged with a repertoire of yummy, healthy...meat-free dishes (mostly culled from "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest Cookbook"--"March Hare Salad" was a big fave). Not so fun for the carnivore I would eventually marry.

However, in addition to his many talents, NR happens to be a FABULOUS cook. For our first few years of marriage, we happily split duties in the kitchen. But it soon became apparent that I was your basic meat-and-potatoes, follow-the-recipe-to-a-t kind of gal; he was more the whip-up-a-mouthwatering-gourmet-feast-using-a-few-spices-and-imagination kind of guy. Show-off. It seemed a fair trade, though; I took over 98% of the cleaning chores, while he was crowned permanent king of the kitchen.

But this summer, once I found out that we were expecting Baby #2, something alarmingly domestic started burning inside me. (And it wasn't just the usual pregnancy heartburn.) I decided to teach myself how to bake. I'd received several beautiful, glossy dessert cookbooks for our wedding, but the initial directions scared me off ("cream together..." "sift flour"... "fold in"...what the???)

So I jumped on Amazon and bought a used copy of "Baking for Dummies." And oh, the bounty that I've put forth over the last few months! REAL cookies, brownies, cakes, breads, homemade granola bars, even my first pie (banana cream, to be exact).

I'm certainly no Martha Stewart, nor do I aspire to be one. Yet there really is something satisfying about making a delicious dessert from scratch (even if, as pictured above, it's not exactly pretty...but who cares about pretty as long as it's yummy?) And my Christmas list this year includes an extra springform pan, a double-boiler, and yes...even a sifter.

So the next time you come for dinner at Casa Romero, you can be guaranteed of several things--a tasty meal by Chef NR, table-side entertainment by the Teege, and possibly a sweet something by yours truly. :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In the Deep End

Okay, so everyone in the free world has had something to say about this Valley Club debacle. Allow me to put in my humble two cents.

For anyone uninformed, the thumbnail version is this: Mayor Nutter cut funding for a number of city pools this year. A local summer camp worked out a deal with a private swim club for their kids to swim there (the camp paid and signed a contract.) After only one day, the club revoked the contract, refunded their money, and told the camp they would not be able to return. (Campers also claim they heard racist comments that day.)

Cue the media circus.

I can't stop reading about this case. And at this point, I'm thoroughly annoyed at both parties.

On the one hand, the club's offer was big-hearted but misguided. How are you going to accomodate 60+ kids, most of whom are just learning to swim? They should have worked out a system--20 kids a day during off-peak hours, for example.

Next, the club's president made a numbnut of himself when he said--in an interview!--that the campers (mostly minorities) would "change the complexion of the club." (Wince.)

So, in trying to save face (after everyone from the local Inquirer to CNN had something to say), the club invited the kids back.

Not so fast.

Several parents of campers are suing. The camp refused, and is threatening legal action. (Interesting and little-reported side note: the camp also owes about $70,000 in taxes.) Tyler Perry just announced that he's taking the kids to Disney World in order to "heal their scars".

There's one level-headed comment I've heard so far, that I wish would be trumpeted from the mountaintops. Annette John-Hall is a black columnist for the Inquirer whose articles I really enjoy. I don't always agree with her, but I do respect her opinions, and her writing is terrific. She made an excellent point recently, when the camp turned down the offer to return to the swim club: "What are we teaching our children?" When someone does wrong, but then tries to make things right, aren't we supposed to be the bigger person and forgive? Or do we fight back with a lawsuit?

I wish that instead of hiring lawyers or throwing expensive trips at the kids, someone would just teach them the simple lessons of keeping one's dignity, forgiving those who wrong us, and tolerating the intolerant.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sweet Surprises...

The first sweet surprise of the summer was the arrival of Baby Vincent! My dearest friend, Jennifer, was due July 11...but several health scares spurred an emergency C-section, so the little guy was born June 20. Mom and Dad and baby are plugging along. Those first few months are SO hard...I'm not sure anyone quite prepares you for that. Plus, she didn't even get that all-important first week of maternity leave (pre-baby), where you just get to finish up the nursery, wash all the clothes in Dreft, cat nap, watch "Ellen"...and mentally prepare (as much as you can) for this little creature who is about to take over your life and (literally) suck the energy out of you.

But as a seasoned old mama of a 2-year-old, I know that it does get better. Somebody told me that it gets harder, but I really disagree. Sure, tantrums are a nightmare, and the worrying never goes away, but this creature starts turning into a wonderful little person who fills your heart with the most unbelievable joy. Just tonight, the Teege and I were sharing popsicles on our front stoop, chatting about our day (he informed me all about the bears he saw at the zoo with Daddy). There is no way I could have pictured this three years ago, attached to a screaming newborn and running on 3 hours of sleep. If you don't believe in miracles, parenthood will certainly turn your world upside down.

The second sweet surprise was from my darling hubby! Several years ago, we started a tradition of taking ourselves to a Broadway show for Christmas. Our last Christmas in Jersey City, we were torn between "Spamalot" and "Spring Awakening." I'd heard raves about the latter, but being a former Monty Python geek in high school, I voted for the former. was eh. Some memories are best left un-musicalized. =/

So imagine my delight when the mister demanded that we go on a date last Saturday. He lined up my mom to babysit and whisked me off to the Academy of Music, where we finally saw this amazing little rock-musical. I can't stop listening to the soundtrack. For my non-theater-geek readers, it's based on a controversial play written by a 19th-century German playwright named Franz Wedekind. The musical brilliantly fuses the spirit of the original play with modern rock. Whenever the characters face a particularly tense moment, they whip out a hand-held mike and start singing--the message being that rock serves as the perfect release for teen angst. I absolutely loved it. And the staging--wow! I'm a huge fan of ensemble staging and minimalist sets, if they're done well, and this was unbelievable.

Off to bake some cupcakes (my new obsession--good Lord, am I becoming...gulp...DOMESTIC!?) A very merry 4th to all my little firecrackers out there. :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Neglectful Mommy

Is it possible that the last time I blogged was February? Sheesh!

I was pretty busy second semester...besides teaching and mommying, my spring break was spent in a drugged stupor on the couch (my fault for waiting until the age of 32 to get my wisdom teeth removed), and I directed a one-act at my school--only a one-act, but when I direct, it tends to completely occupy my brain, for better or worse.

I quit the magazine I was writing for...not enough free time to get interviews done and churn out a quality product. Plus, I wasn't getting paid, which was starting to chafe a bit considering the amount of time it required. But I do miss the writing part, so here I am, like a guilty ex-lover, returning to my poor little blog. :)

NR and I made a pilgrimage to New York on Thursday. My wonderful sister and parents agreed to watch the Teege, our neighbors happily took Rocco the Wonder Poodle, William Shatner negotiated a great Tribeca hotel for us on Priceline, so we hopped on the train and returned to the Big Apple. (My brilliant hub forgot to pack pants, so our first stop in NYC was, embarassingly, the 34th Street Kmart to buy some khakis...)

NR had been invited to graduation at Nativity (where he used to be principal), which was amazing. That school has such an incredible spirit and sense of family. He was pretty much a rock star...everyone was so psyched to see him. Plus, they organized a fabulous spread of Dominican food for the party afterwards...God, I've missed good pernil!

We also got to catch up with some dear friends, some of whom are at major turning points in their lives (just married, about to get married, leaving New York, switching jobs, etc.) It's reassuring to know that nobody really "has it all figured out"--nor should they. Where's the fun in that?

While it was awesome returning to the city where we fell in love and spent our twenties, it was even better returning to the town we've started our family in. New York was just as loud and dirty and crowded as ever--exciting, for sure, but I was quite happy to come back to trees and wide open sidewalks!

I finished a book on the train: The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips. Completely annoyed by it...I'm pretty sure it was a thinly veiled defense of stalkerdom. Skeezy old dude falls in love with a young, hot singer and becomes completely obsessed with her. But instead of being freaked out by him, she's romantically intrigued. I'm so TIRED of this plot, because some guys eat this sh*t up, and then call women picky or snobby when they aren't bowled over by what the guys consider some sort of charming persistence.

I call it the "Say Anything Syndrome." Sure, when I was sixteen and first saw Lloyd Dobbler holding up that boom box in the rain, blasting "In Your Eyes" into Diane Court's bedroom, I swooned. But when a guy several years later threw clothespins at my window, sobbing openly (ick...), it wasn't quite so adorable. In fact, it was pretty creepy.

So now I'm reading Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. So far, no icky pseudo-stalkers...yet.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

No More Drama?

Well, that's a bit fatalistic. But that's what I'm feeling these days. (Above: Me as Sue in The Exonerated, February '06)

Ever since I saw my first play (around the age of 4--my parents started me early on the road to theater geekdom), I have had an extremely complicated love affair with the theatre.

I made my stage debut the summer before 5th grade with the Back Alley Players. My neighbor Heather and I went to the library, checked out a bunch of children's plays, and decided on "Rapunzel" (mainly because Kristen Scarino, who lived down the block, had really long blonde hair.) We rallied the neighborhood kids and rehearsed every day in our back alley (I grew up in a rowhouse neighborhood, so nobody really had backyards--the entire alley became one big playground for us.) I played Rapunzel's mom, and Heather played the witch (truly ironic, because years later she would find fame as the girl in The Blair Witch Project...yup, THAT Heather!)

From then on, I was hooked. I spent my summers at a local children's theater; I performed in every school play I could. I rarely recognized Top 40 songs because I only listened to showtunes. In high school and college, whenever I had the choice to research something independently, I managed to make it theater-related (a paper comparing Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams; an educational psychology paper on the power of creative drama.)

When college came, however, I balked at actually majoring in drama. Instead, I minored in it--still acting all the time in college productions, community theater, and a local dinner theater/improv troupe. (The last was a true test of acting skills--staying in character while wolfing down tiramisu was not necessarily my finest hour!) I majored in the lofty field of English, immersing myself in Austen and Fielding, yet secretly preferring my acting and directing classes.

By senior year, I'd grown tired of the acting game--tired of shallow actors, the backstage drama, irrationally pinning all my joy on scoring a role. I fled to a volunteer program for two years, and welcomed the break. I focused on teaching, and eventually found my way back onstage here and there. I began to see that my true passion was a marriage of theater AND education. I felt most alive, as a teacher, when I was directing the school play or implementing a drama activity in class to make literature come alive. Getting my master's in Educational Theatre was the perfect fit. And each time I performed in a new show, the energy and enthusiasm completely transferred to my teaching.

But now, I'm back to teaching English full time. While I enjoy it, sometimes I feel like a fraud. I mean, this was always supposed to be my "fallback" job if I couldn't score an actual drama teaching position. Who knew my fallback would become my career? But such a position usually means directing the school show--which I absolutely loved, but it meant VERY long hours and weekends. With a little one at home, that's just not realistic. I even interviewed at a theater company in Philly for a fabulous education position, but it became pretty clear to all of us during the interview that I wasn't ready to give up time with the Teege...even for a dream job.
And as for acting? Not right now. Working on a show requires tremendous dedication and energy--which is firmly reserved for my son these days. I don't think I could handle kissing him goodnight and then dashing off to rehearsal time and again. Yet I do miss opening up a script, bringing it to life, and that flying-without-a-net feeling of opening night. I also miss the sense of community that theater can provide. I was part of a fantastic little company in Jersey City (, which really became my family during my time up there. (We performed in an old mansion which housed a number of groups--during Thursday night performances, we were constantly interrupted by the applause coming from the AA meeting in the basement.) I performed in my last play with them while I was 4 months pregnant. I remember sitting backstage with my hand on my stomach, thinking about when I would tell this child about the time we "acted" together.
It's very difficult to consciously put your passion on the back burner...but as I told a student today, it's wise to know your limits. And honestly, I wouldn't trade this little "limit" for the world.