Archives For UCD

Institutionalized

March 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

Okay, enough with the the wanderer-is-lost repetitive business. Let’s look at this thing from another point of view. Because when all you have is time to think, it’s very easy to see things from many different perspectives. Why, sometimes I’ll have six different opinions on something before breakfast. (Apologies to Lewis Carroll for that one.)

Recently, I had to make a decision about what I’m doing next year, and deliver it in writing to my employers by March 1st. To say that I was conflicted about that decision is an understatement. I even had two letters written up, in case I changed my mind at the last minute. Which is typical of me. Sometimes I have a tough time deciding on something.

We’re not going to get into which letter was turned in, and what I’m doing come fall, because that’s a long ways off, and a lot could change between now and then. And while living in this strange ghostly limbo life has its downsides, it’s also kind of awesome. Let’s unpack that a bit, shall we?

1. I have a lot of time to myself.

I like to write, I like to read, I like to create websites. I also like to get lost in my head when I’m going through some big decision-making, and right now my lifestyle has a lot of room for all of that. Subbing in a high school room? While the kids are taking a test or watching Patton, I get to debate with myself different options for my future. Maybe write a bit. And read practically all of the Internet.Ā I haven’t worked for the past two days, so I got to overhaul BrianFauth.com and finally create a theatre portfolio/personal website I’m pretty pleased with. And I got caught up on The Walking Dead.

2. I get to drop everything and go wherever I want.

When my buddy Drew suggested I go to the presidential Inauguration with him, it only took a few minutes before I said, “why not?” Free place to stay in South Carolina? Hey, why not drive down there and hang out in the south for a few weeks. Explore some historical sites and cities and listen to a lot of podcasts while crossing the Appalachian mountains. Not a bad life.Ā Granted, I still have to pay for gas, food, and the occasional hotel room, so I’m a bit broke at the moment. And not getting a call to work for the past two days is putting a bit of a damper on possible future road trips.

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The Shenandoah Valley

3. This is all part of a Grand Plan even I can’t really explain. But I’ll try.

Let’s not forget the simple fact that I got to live in Europe for six whole months.Ā My time in Dublin and at UCD was fantastic; we all know that. But it was the living over there that really taught me something; I only get so much from sitting in a classroom. Thomas Jefferson, when he founded the University of Virginia, didn’t want to issue degrees; he wanted it to be a place where you could go until you felt you had learned enough, and then you could move on with your life. Del Close, the famous Second City teacher, once said to Jon Favreau (the director of Iron Man and Elf), “Why would you go to school to learn about theatre?” He thought it more important to learn about philosophy and life and finding The Truth.

(I needed a certain number of classes to get a theatre endorsement, so there was a practical element to taking classes over there, but it was really about living a different life and spending time with some dear friends, while I could. Get a little bit closer to The Truth.)

I want to become a better theatre director, but I also want to become a better teacher as well. For the past few years, I’ve started to get honors and awards, and the phrase The Best Teacher I Ever Had starts getting thrown around a lot. And all of that is great, believe me. But the more you do the same job, in the same room, with the same lessons and jokes and stories, it’s very easy to become an institution. Mr. Fauth and Viking Day and the impressions and the Simpsons jokes.

I’m not really interested in being Institutionalized (in any sense of the word!) I wanted to kind of blow up everything and start over. Give away everything in my classroom, sell half of my possessions, start over somewhere else. Learn how to do it all over again. And subbing? That strips you back to the essentials real quick. No one knows who you are when you walk into that room, and you’ve got 41 minutes, or 48, or maybe a day to win them over. You aren’t The Famous Mr. Fauth. You’re just Some Guy, and if you can get a room full of bored high school kids to listen to you, then you can do just about anything.

So wherever I go and whatever I do come fall, even if it’s right back in the same 5th grade classroom, hopefully I’ve reset myself enough that I can bring something new into the room, and keep myself fresh and energized for the next round of this thing called life.

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To the Elephant! My personal motto for living life.

Moon’s Day

November 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

On Moon’s Day, I started finding the limits of my universe.

In the morning I worked on this composition piece for the movement class. I keep telling myself that it’s not dance, it’s not dance, but we had a professional choreographer come in to help us fine-tune the piece, and he kept saying, “Make your dance come alive. Make your dance come alive!”

Now kids, just picture Mr. Fauth trying to do that, and you’ll know what Reaching the Limits of Your Comfort Zone looks like.

My set-up for my composition piece. Of course, it’s a classroom.

In the evening I worked on a director’s project I have for a different class. A 20-minute one-act that we presented to a professional director last week. He gave me some notes, and they were all about pushing it further, to its logical conclusion. As I worked with the college-age actors, and even a “pro” actress, I realized that I wasn’t directing them enough. Yeah, they’re older and more experienced than the younger actors I usually direct, but in the end, all actors still need a director. So we pushed that out to be as big as it could get (it’s a farce), and hopefully I found new places to go with it.

The afternoon class gave me the biggest revelation, though. I presented the next scene in the short play I’ve been working on for the writing class, in a roughish form. (We get feedback and then bring it back in a week with revisions.) “All the pieces are there”, I was told, which is a nice compliment. But McPherson noticed that I was doing the same thing as with an older piece I showed him: I have a tendency to have my characters always heading towards resolution, and that’s the last thing you want to have happen in drama. Ā It’s great advice, and it’s true, I noted. Then the lead professor said something even more illuminating:

“It’s probably because you’re a teacher.”

And that was dead-on. In a classroom, I’m always trying to push my students towards greater understanding of something, towards the beginning of wisdom, and to be the best possible people they can be. You don’t want your characters in a play to do that! You want them to contradict themselves, create conflict, and move towards irresolution.

They’re two completely different skills, and not very compatible with each other. And they probably lie at the heart of a character I call The Two-Headed Mr. Fauth. We’ll come back to him another day. Right now, I’ve got to put the pieces of this scene in the right order, and head up to the main campus for the final presentation of my director’s project.

The main campus of UCD, dusk.

Tuesday

September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

Like Monday, I woke around 8 am and made coffee in a cheap coffee maker I bought at Tescos for 12 Euro. It doesn’t keep the coffee very hot, so I drink it quickly in my mug before it gets cold. The rain continued to come down steadily; I don’t think it had stopped since Monday.

Tuesdays are devoted to Text Analysis and Performance. Currently we’re working with Frank McGuinness on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Identifying who drives the story, is it a comedy or a tragedy, how would we stage it, etc. It’s just myself and one other woman in the class (who also does youth theatre), so we get a lot of one-on-one instruction, and it’s pretty great. Frank suffers no fools, so you have to be on your game in that class.

After class finished at noon my classmate and I headed into town to see a show called The Boys of Foley Street. (By the way, heading “into town” means heading into the Dublin city centre. Back in the states I suppose we say “going downtown” instead.) The show was a site-specific show; that means that everything took place in an “actual” location. There were only four people in the audience per performance, and you went from alley to car to dingy apartment and experienced a rather uncomfortable story about inner-city poverty, drugs, and violence. (And that’s all we need to say about that, former students. Stay in school and make good choices, right?!)

After the show we grabbed a bus down to the main University College Dublin campus at Belfield to hold auditions for our fall semester director projects. I have to be evaluated on two projects: one where the professors watch me rehearse a couple of scenes, and another where they view a finished project. I’ve been assigned two “classic” pieces, and I’m not exactly happy about the choices, but ahh well, “Theirs not to reason why” and all that…

We had a nice turnout and moved through about twenty people rather quickly, doing some improv exercises and cold reads from Chekhov. I would have liked to have had more time with the actors, maybe run a callback session, but I was just working with what I was given. It’s all been pretty confusing and hazy, and half the time I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing with a particular project or assignment.

And that’s probably the strangest thing about being a full-time student: the realization that I’m not in charge of the content or the process anymore. As a teacher and a director, I always ran the show, but now I’m back to just doing what’s assigned to me.

And to be honest? I kind of hate it.

The washing machine is IN the kitchen!