Wednesday, July 06, 2005

6:30AM and still going

My day started with the alarm going off at 6:30AM, and I've been on the go ever since. Today was a good teaching day, all in all, but was hellishly busy. I'm exhausted, but still have work to do.

My two-hour break today (8:50-10:50AM) went by in a flash as I used the time to make a pile of photocopies and prep for afternoon classes. I should've done more at home, but the problem started Tuesday evening when I lingered atop Namsan a bit too long with my buddy's wife (don't get any funny ideas, dammit!). She wants to teach me piano because I expressed a desire to learn. We stood around in the semidark, swatting mosquitoes, discussing how to arrange lessons. By the time I got home, it was after 11PM and I was very, very behind.

This in turn meant that I stayed up all hours, working on lesson prep but not having enough time to complete it. It didn't help matters that I was dead fucking tired and could barely think straight. This late work translated into lack of sleep (I slept from about 4AM to 6:30AM), which also meant off-balance bodily rhythms, and led to the aforementioned work-filled two-hour non-break.

Today being Wednesday, I had classes until 6PM, because drama meets on Wednesdays. This was the very first meeting of my thespian-wannabes.

We had about 40 people, as promised, but I think a handful will be dropping out, partly out of disappointment at the huge size of the class, and partly out of timidity. One or two students told me that they had to drop the class because it's now on Wednesdays; it had originally been scheduled for Fridays (which would've meant NO THREE-DAY WEEKEND).

The class went smashingly, in my opinion. The students seemed to get into the exercises, and although they (the students) represented a distressingly wide range of English ability, they seemed to follow what I was saying, more or less. While hoi polloi tend to associate acting with idiocy (thank you, Tom Cruise*, for reinforcing this impression), I tried to tell my students to view acting as a gift you give to the audience. Plumbing into quasi-Buddhism, I equated nervousness with unjustified selfishness: "Oh, God, what am I doing? How do I do this? I, I, I." Nervousness puts the focus on the self, where it doesn't belong**. It was a Korean-style spiel; I doubt I could have gotten away with saying such things to American teens. They would have sneered.

Incredibly, we managed to cover every teaching item in the lesson plan today. I normally over-plan, but was delighted to see that we hit all the main points and went only ten minutes overtime (100 minutes instead of 90). Of necessity, today's class was a superficial overview of the bare-bones basics of acting: projection, posture, facial expression, vocal expression, awareness, concentration, and so on. We even did a segment on crowd behavior, which included elements of gang warfare, angry demonstrations, and reacting to monster attacks (stole that last one from footage I saw of Paul Verhoeven directing the youthful cast of 1997's "Starship Troopers").

Managing 40 students (shit, I forgot to take attendance) was possible only because this was a group that wanted to be there. I could never have pulled this off with a less well-behaved class. We had little choice but to divide the class into teams of various sizes, depending on the activity. At some points in the lesson I simply had to wing it, but the class established a good momentum and we were all pleasantly tired by the end.

The culminating activity was an "unpunctuated skit," an idea I stole from a drama instructor at Georgetown University. The students were given a short dialogue which was uncapitalized and unpunctuated (except for apostrophes indicating contractions and possessives). Students were then free to interpret the dialogue any way they wished, and that's what they had to do today: formulate a skit that interpreted the words imaginatively-- a task that forced them to think like a director about how an actor should play a scene. They were given only five minutes to work the scene out, then each team performed. We had sixteen little skits: excellent preparation for the script I'm going to be giving my students next week-- no less than THE COMPLEAT WORKS OF WLLM SHKSPR (abridged), the script of the world-famous parody of all 37 Shakespeare plays performed in 97 minutes by The Reduced Shakespeare Company (three impetuous Yanks). Our own production has to clock in at about 20 minutes, which will require further editing: the unkindest cut of all.

One of the teams, which included a girl I knew from a conversation class the previous semester, incorporated yours truly into their skit without my consent. I need to point out that this girl has floated some flirtatious vibes my way before, and today she seized her opportunity to kiss me publicly, ostensibly as part of her group's skit. Her tight, shaky grip on my arm as she leaned in to kiss me indicated how petrified she was, but all sorts of alarm bells went off in my head when she did what she did. Will have to watch myself. She's an impulsive one.

[SPECIAL NOTE: Despite my plumpness, I'm aware that some students find me cute (you-- the dude snickering-- shut the fuck up, dickless). These warm fuzzies get articulated in strange ways: Koreans don't really ego-stroke you the way we Westerners do. Korean compliments often sound suspiciously like abuse. Example: earlier today, I was told by a different student that I looked like Shrek, the fat green ogre played by Mike Myers in those CGI films. (NB: I've been told this before.) She hastened to add that she meant I looked cute and cuddly. (NB: I've heard this explanation before.) Her intention was kind, but to me, she provided more motivation to lose goddamn weight.]

Drama class ended at 6PM, but that wasn't the end of my day. One of the cute receptionists in the departmental office asked me to proofread a two-page-long (!!) abstract she'd written for her Master's thesis. The abstract, as it turned out, was hopeless and needed major reconstructive surgery. Fool that I am, I sat in the office until 9:45PM, going line by line through every mangled paragraph, doing what I could to stanch the bleeding, put the major organs where they belonged, and stitch together the torn, twitching muscle groups.

That abstract was more aerodynamic than Ace Ventura's hairdo by the time I finished with it. My reward from the cute receptionist: she bought me dinner (a foot-long Subway sub and a Coke) and gave me a pleasant trapezius muscle massage in the teacher's office, her fingers digging deep and finding nerves I didn't know were there. It was hard not to sprout a crotch-tree right then (she was doing this while I was still working on the abstract).

You don't need to write in and tell me: I know I've been used. But she's a cutie, she is, and she knew that the way to tempt me was through academe. Ah, there's something about a woman with glasses.

My other classes went fairly well. We're supposed to have a faculty meeting tomorrow to discuss how classes have been going (I think it's a bit early in the semester to judge that); while I don't know what the students are really thinking, my overall impression is that this has been a decent-- if exhausting-- couple of days.

And now I've got to get back to work.

*Link courtesy of an email from the Maven.

**Smoo being a Christian school, I didn't point out that the self isn't fundamentally there.


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