Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

peonies

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..when I can, there are flowers on the desk where I write. I’ll look up from time to time, or be across the room and notice color, or scent..

Storylines come like that –a word, or a scent of a story, coming to the front of my thinking. Sometimes a story can lead from simple, various, completely unrelated pieces of thought.

I bring that awareness with me to the schools I go to; I engage students, always remembering that one unrelated thing could, somehow, link to another, and, eventually, bind itself to the thread of a tale.

Last year, students wrestled with what to do with the story of Carmen. As they did not feel as though Don Jose would receive the just punishment he deserved, I asked a particular class of students to write down some ideas of where the story could go, in their ideal resolution. Suffice it to say –responses involved all manner of viscous spurting (results of commando marksmanship, of knives, of strangulation, of run away automobiles), and even included a deus ex machina maiming, provided by a long stranded group of extraterrestrials…

None of which had Bizet or his librettist, Merimee, thought of, oddly enough..

..watching her class just the other week, a teacher mentioned, in passing, the odd behavior of a certain 9 year old girl who had been working on an art assignment for the class’ upcoming presentation on their concept for Falstaff. The teacher had stepped away from the project for no more than a minute. When the teacher came back, the girl had stuffed her hands in a jar of red paint and was walking her palms up the school building’s walls, like foot prints; the deep red was drooling down her arms, like blood, and she was intoning the chant.. ‘follow the blood.. you’re next..’ –over and over again..

Perhaps if it had been around Halloween, the incident would have been less disconcerting for the teacher. She then mentioned that the girl has always been ‘easily distracted’ -drawn to things “gothic”, dark, bloody and vicious. The teacher never encouraged the girl in that portion of her imagination; this was just somewhere the child went, on her own, and often, to play..

In the course of the 10 visits I’d had with this particular class, it was this very girl who was always the most engaged and engaging; she expressed herself, and always had a story to present to portray a character, or a scene the class might be trying to work through. Up to this moment, I’d found her one of the ablest students in constructing character traits, situations, and story threads, upon which the rest of her classmates would invariably grab to play with..

But listening to the story of the teacher, and observing the quality of evaluation which crossed the woman’s gaze as she related the incident, I had the first comprehension of the deeper responsibility which falls to teachers as they interpret the abilities of a child, and search for context for the aptitudes and obsessions which are witnessed..

..then I remembered my own deep imaginings- as a child who loved all things warlock, or witches ..vampires, mummies ..murder, and murderous man eating dinosaurs.. then, as I grew older, I was the youth devouring novels which were guaranteed to give me nightmares.. The Amityville Horror, The Shining, The Exorcist, Pet Cemetary..

I do not mean to make light of this, but I can only imagine the teachers who narrowed their eyes at me..

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Written by tomminteroffthestoop

May 8, 2010 at 9:43 AM

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