“I’m Fine” Live Read Through

At the end of Junior year I had an idea about how I wanted to end my last theater season with the MVPAllstars. For my last year I really wanted to do a powerful show that left the audience contemplating life as they walked away.

A show like this requires a certain type of experienced cast though, so who better to perform it than all of the senior members of the Thespian Society?

I then talked to each of the other five senior Thespians at the end of last year about this idea of mine and everyone agreed, so to make sure we got this last theater moment, we formed “The Senior Theater Project.” Since the end of our junior year, the six senior Thespians have been working on writing, directing, and performing our own show and with first semester now over, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the progress so far.

Semester one was really focused on writing the script. We knew that we wanted a theme around identity, and after some summer interview work we were able to develop a clearer vision during our first semester meeting. The show is about the struggles that students face that don’t really get discussed at school or on social media; the idea is to demonstrate how much goes on in students lives that we don’t always know about.

At the end of first semester we had a live read through of our script in order to gain feedback about our story thus far. This was a hard goal to meet-having an entire script done to a point where we could share with an audience-and we even knew that it wasn’t finished when we presented; however, I’ve learned over the years how important it is to get feedback early on if you want the best possible final product.

Our team was working until the last second, literally creating the title, “I’m Fine,” for the show about 30 minutes before going on stage. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a complete story that made sense, and the feedback was amazing!

Everyone in attendance seemed to really enjoy the show and where it is headed, and on top of boosting our confidence, they also provided helpful feedback about things that they still didn’t quite understand and suggestions for our next edits. It was useful having outside people give feedback on our show, because those of us who have been writing the script have been so involved in the world of the show that we don’t know sometimes if we are showing enough backstory on parts of the story and characters.

Since then we have been continuing to meet and plan because we officially have less than 20 days of rehearsal left before we perform the show in full! It’s been a crazy process so far, and it’s insane to think how little time we have left. While the show doesn’t go on stage until April, we only meet once a week until two weeks before preview night so we’ve been trying to think through everything from blocking to set building to our photo shoot. (Sometimes I forget just how many little things have to happen for a show to be put on stage, but being the director and co-writer of a show makes that impossible to forget…)

However, despite how stressful it’s been at times to try to work on our show on top of school, college, and other theater productions, we all know that come this April when we take those last bows, it will all have been worth it. To be able to say that we created our own show and it actually went well, will be amazing! It’ll be even more amazing knowing how much work we have put into this brain baby of ours.

Dis-Connect

I made a promise to myself what feels like a long time ago to not only blog about the successful things in my life, but to also mention the un-successful moments.

If you only reflect on your successes, then you aren’t learning as much as you could be… You can’t just completely let go of un-successes because then you can’t use them to fuel better actions next time, but you also can’t dwell on them to the point of madness; it’s when you find the balance that you can learn.” – My Un-Success Reflection (The Life of Pinya) 

I wish to honor my previous promise to myself, so here is a story of an un-success of the past few weeks.

For the past few weeks I’ve been working with a team of Innovation Diploma members as consultants for the City of Sandy Springs to decreases traffic at MVPS by 10% (#reMoVe10). The hypothesis is that if we can develop a plan to decrease traffic at our school, then we could create a plan that could be replicated at other schools too. If enough schools decreased their own traffic, then the traffic in Sandy Springs during rush hour times would decrease as well. It’s a lofty goal, but I think we’re on a good path right now.

Our first client meeting went very well two weeks ago; however, the days leading up to that meeting were not so great. Our team has had some major communication problems lately. We’ve done a good job of dividing up responsibilities, but apparently we didn’t do a good job of checking in to make sure everyone was on the same page about why we were doing certain things.

One day I was meeting with a faculty member that has been acting as an external mentor to our team, and when I got back half of our team of 4 was missing. No one knew where they went. We were searching around the school and texting them and then finally we learned that they were out counting cars in the parking lot. We had discussed the value of taking observational data multiple times, so the idea was valid, but not at 10:15 when there isn’t any traffic in and out of the school… Somehow this idea wasn’t communicated well. Moreover, the reason they said they were out there is because they discovered they wouldn’t be able to get a piece of technology working in time for our meeting, so they didn’t know what to do and thought counting cars would be productive.

On the one hand I’m grateful to have a team where members are trying to take initiative and go out and do and observe things rather than always working on a computer; however, this was a major fail-up moment because the data they got from counting cars was information we could have concluded by just sending a quick email to find out how many teachers and students have on campus parking spots, so an entire day was just wasted by half of the team. Furthermore, when one member was asked questions by the facilitators, the member was not able to answer questions about why we were even having a client meeting later that week let alone answer questions about what we were going to talk to them about.

Overhearing this conversation was when it hit me that we really had a problem and part of this is on me.

The team has established that I’m project manager, so this un-success day made me realize that if that’s going to be my role, then I need to do a better job of helping to make sure that everyone understands not only what needs to be done and who needs to do it, but also understand why we are doing it.

I also felt bad because when I later talked to these members about why they thought it would be a good idea to wonder off to count cars without telling anyone, they said they were scared to tell me that they wouldn’t be able to have the tech devise working in time. They had underestimated how difficult the task would be, but they knew the importance of that task, so they were trying to at least get some number so they went out to manually count cars.

I don’t want people to be scared to tell me things, and I’m glad at least that they told me that they were. I tried explaining that I’d never be mad about them not being able to do something based on their skills as long as they were honest about their capabilities upfront so we can plan accordingly as a team. The issue was that they were the only ones with knowledge about the technology since they were working with it, so when they said they could have their experiment up and running by that day, we assumed it would be done. It was frustrating then when the task wasn’t done because for the past few weeks we had been reassured that the timeline was an accurate assessment of when we thought we could have things accomplished by. How do I make it so that people aren’t afraid to tell me when things are not going as planned? I’ve noticed this problem outside of ID too and don’t know what to do about it, because I don’t mean to come off as intimidating but know that I can sometimes according to others.

I’m not really sure if I’m explaining this situation very clearly which is kind of ironic since the whole problem had to do with poor communication between our team. However, at least I can say that we’ve grown some from these hiccups since we’ve learned and improved in some ways.

Our team was able to turn things around before our client meeting, and that went really well! The meeting helped our team we focus and gain clarity in our group understanding of our mission and next steps which was very helpful, plus we impressed our clients which is nice. I hope that my teammates are no longer or at least getting to be less scared to tell me when things aren’t going as planned because I know a team needs to have lots of trust in one another; I don’t know how to help with this yet though. I also think entire team now sees the real importance of being honest and upfront about each of our capabilities that way we don’t have another situation where we essentially waste an entire days worth of work…

At the same time though, we’ve still had a couple instances where teammates will wonder off without telling anyone and not come back for a while, so I know we still have a ways to grow as a team in our communication. This whole post has actually made me realize more-so that our team probably needs a good heart-to-heart conversation, but I’ve never been good about making that happen even when noticing that it needs to; it’s probably the area I most need to grow in terms of responsibilities of a project manager. In school typically the job of bringing a team together to acknowledge dis-connects is done by a teacher or some other adult, and it’s not something you ever get taught despite it being a crucial part of team work. Guess it’s time to learn.

Starting a Story

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I had completely forgotten that I would not have Wifi for the week of Christmas while I was up at my family’s cottage in Pennsylvania. Therefore, I was sadly not able to blog, but I was writing down ideas through out the week so now it’s time to catch up!

It was weird not having wifi because so much of what I would typically work on, when I finally have time, requires the internet: blogging, twitter, reading articles, researching things, etc. However, it was kind of nice to not have the internet because it forced me to just relax with family since there was no way for me to do that kind of stuff. Plus I got to spend a while reading, which I haven’t really gotten to do in a while!

I love the feeling of finishing a book, especially when you have another already waiting to be read. With it finally being winter break I’ve actually been able to read just for fun for the first time in forever!!!

Back in the summer, which feels like so long ago now, I had started a rather easy book called “Kingdom Keepers” which is about Disney World after hours and these 5 kids that have to battle evil Disney villains. I started the book because it looked interesting since I love Disney so much, and over the summer I had been reading a lot of “thinky” books as I call them because they were those kinds of books that you can only read for so long before needing to stop and digest, so I wanted to read something fun and easy that didn’t make me think so much.

However, I started the book so late into summer that I didn’t get a chance to finish before school started, and then I didn’t have time to read my fun easy book. But once winter break started, I decided I would read nothing else until first finishing that book.

 And I did.

 In 1 day.

(I did say it was an easy book… Those last 150 pages I had left felt like nothing.)

After finishing that book (which is actually the first in a series, so I really want to start the next one…), I decided to start The Great Gatsby since I need to read that before school starts again. Reading this book is actually the only “assignment” I have for the winter break. The funny part is that I self assigned it along with Kat for our AP Lang course. We both wanted to read the book because everyone is always talking about it being a great book, so naturally we got curious as to what the big fuss it. Plus many English teachers often end up assigning it, so we thought it was a book that we definitely needed to read.

When I started reading the book I actually thought the main narrator was a girl. I don’t know what lead me to this belief, but it wasn’t until about 3 pages in that I finally went, “Wait a minute. This guy is a guy. This changes everything!”

My instinctual conclusion made me wonder if we naturally assume a narrator is like ourselves; therefore, in my case that would make this narrator a girl at first. I mean the role of the narrator is to help move the story forward and converse with the audience. They are the one character that always is breaking the 4th wall and typically they can be played by any type of person. This is because who the narrator is, is often less important than what the narrator is saying. So it makes sense that we would naturally want to relate with the narrator as much as possible.

However this isn’t always the case. Some stories have the narrator being a person who is actually in the story, making every narration like a mini soliloquy where the character tells you about how they were feeling on the inside, during or after a particular situation occurs.

The type of narration can really change a story because it changes the perspective in which you hear a story from. When you change the perspective you get an entirely different story. That’s why stories like Malificent and Wicked are so popular, because they tell you an old story from a new perspective, which changes the story in ways that make you question what is the “truth”.

The beginnings of stories fascinate me because in those first pages you can discover what type of book you are about to read based on the perspective it is told from. In The Great Gatsby, the narrator is also the main character, Nick. Right from the beginning you are able to tell that this story will be a reflective piece about a time in Nick’s life where exciting and life changing events took place.

However, not everything about the beginnings of a story is so great. In fact, they are often long and sometimes drag on without much excitement for a while because the backstory has to be set before the story can really get interesting.

The Great Gatsby has been one of those books that hasn’t gotten too terribly interesting yet. I haven’t reached that point where I can’t put it down until I finish it quit yet. So I am still on the hunt to figure out “What’s the big deal about The Great Gatsby; why has it become such a staple in high school literature?”