Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Searching for Midsummer Night

I ask myself, why am I doing this again?  Why attempt a play in Taiwan?  Why bring the Bard to Asia?  What compels me to take on this inane and fruitless task of awakening the senses of people in a foreign land and tongue that share none of my sensibilities?
Midsummer Night’s Dream will be my fourth play in five years here in Taiwan.  None of these students are actors or have any kind of theater experience whatsoever.  They are merely students who passed into my classroom by chance and are thus thrust on stage by this seemingly mad foreigner.
They resist at every turn.  Every possible stumbling road block is set before me.  The school cancels the show, a homeroom teacher is jealous and attempts to get me fired, the parents complain it takes away from “real” study, or a colleague spreads rumors that students are having too much “fun” and begins to question my authenticity as an educator.  The list of grievances goes on and on.  Really, if you have followed this blog over the years, these stories are well documented.
My first year I did Macbeth with a group of students who a year later openly revolted against me.  I thought we had a strong bond, but when I called out their apathy and laziness during National Testing, they refused to speak to me. Many students would turn their back to me in defiance.  This went on for a month.  A month!  This group I’d felt so close to completely betrayed me.  So I drafted a letter to the parents but the administration refused to send it home, and the students were allowed to act this way until graduation.
My second play was Romeo and Juliet, which took so much work in costumes and planning and musical numbers (yes, a musical…) and I incorporated over fifty students in the production.  Every students had a speaking part.  Every student!  Yet in the end, attitudes became unbearable and a homeroom teacher nicknamed “Princess” attempted to block our performance because it coincided with her daily math test.  (I’m not making this up!)  When I insisted that we’d practiced for half a year and what was ONE freaking math test…she began spreading rumors about me and tried to get me fired.  Fired…for wanting to do a Shakespeare love story?
The next year I returned with Julius Caesar and handpicked this young boy to play the lead, but in the end, he was so sullen and pouty that he refused to go on stage an hour before the show…even ten minutes before curtain I had to physically put his pants on for him.  This was a fifteen year old kid who refused in a tantrum to even get dressed.  I couldn’t believe it.  All that time, wasted time, for what?
So here I am again, at a different school… attempting to put on another play… a play that uses every student…that gives everyone a part they can succeed at…and I have no idea how it will end?  Will it end?  
I look out at my students.  Two boys are groping each other in the second row.  One has his hands up the other’s pants stroking his thighs.  I quickly attempt to stop them when I see another issue.  Two other boys in the third row are sleeping in each other’s laps rubbing their faces against one another’s crotches.  I move to eliminate this behavior when I see two other boys in the back are butt humping each other.  I call out their names to stop.  Then three girls are angry because they have no tissue.  All three run up to me and say, “Teacher, we must poo poo.  Give paper!”
I think… how is this possible?  How am I ever going to do this?  Shakespeare?  Here?  These kids need strait jackets… a riot hose… electrical therapy!  When they leave for the bus I turn off the lights and sit quietly alone in the silence of the room absorbed in the echoing deafness only a teacher knows, staring at the wall.  Searching... grasping truly, unable to admit defeat.

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