The bright, elusive butterfly

in·spire, vb.  to exert a stimulating or beneficial effect upon a person; to animate or invigorate

I know some people who need a little invigoration today (myself included), and my partner in crime Stoney and I are running out of ways to provide it. We are three weeks out and things look a little on the ho-hum side. Grease is such a popular musical, one would think it’d be hard to screw it up. “People will love it anyway!”

Um, nope. That don’t play in Peoria. Or Greenwich, Ohio, either.

How does one inspire a group of students, most of whom are so incredibly overextended they can barely keep up with homework and sleep? I mean, I’m all for trying new things while in school. I’ve often told my students that this will likely be the only time in their lives when they can do fun stuff and not worry about paying the mortgage or working a 10-hour day after the fun stuff is over. So do it now, while you can. But for some students, it’s become an obsession: do not only as much as you can humanly fit into 24 hours, but also be involved in absolutely everything so as to not truly excel at any of it. I can’t imagine the stress these kids put on themselves.

How times have changed. My parents would have never allowed me to be away from home from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., no matter what I was involved in. It seems now that if you’re 17 years old and not stressed to the hilt, pounding down Monsters or coffee like there’s no tomorrow, you’re somehow not pulling your weight. Being beyond busy = cool. People…there’s a limit, seriously. What happened to perspective and balance? I’ve known busy students; I know some now, too. They make it work. But they’re not so overburdened that they can’t handle it and end up sucking at everything. I’m seeing more and more of this phenomenon, and it’s troubling. But excellence is still expected, as evidenced by the sale of 350 tickets in a 2-hour span at the box office last night…

So how does one inspire these young people, who come to rehearsal after everything else in their day is exhausted? We get them when they’re tired, hungry, sore, mad at the coach, behind on their homework, and sometimes after having lost a heartbreaker of a game. Think of that mental state. Then we expect them to be brilliant onstage. And sometimes, they are brilliant.

This ain’t one of those times, trust me.

So, most esteemed and insightful fiends: how do we inspire them today? What do we say? How do we add to their load and lighten it at the same time? Maybe it’s a problem with Stoney and me. Maybe it’s never good enough for us. Oh, boo hoo, stop whinin’. It’s Wemsday, which means it’s almost Finkday. Yay! (Still, I covet your articulate and compendious thoughts on this subject.)

7 thoughts on “The bright, elusive butterfly

  1. PKPudlin

    I know time is precious, especially when putting together something as terribly complicated as a musical, but here are my suggestions:

    Before beginning rehearsal, have everyone sit on the floor and close their eyes and just breathe. If you want, you can suggest having them feel the day’s tensions flow up the spine and out of the body and dissipate into the air. Maybe your homework is especially difficult today – let it go. Maybe you’re mad at the coach or upset about the game. Let it go. Just breathe and listen to your heart beat.

    3 minutes should do it. See if it works.

    If you want, you can extend this to what I call the ‘tree’ exercise, where you are standing and you feel roots grow from your feet, deep into the earth. You feel nourishment and energy coming up those roots and filling every little cell. You know that no matter what happens, you are rooted in the earth and can’t blow over. Things in your life like coaches and games and homework are just wind. They blow by and ruffle your leaves, but then they go away. You can’t be blown over; the earth continues to support you and fill you with energy – you are so full you feel like you are glowing.

    Apprentice Grasshopper

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Ooo, how cool and Zen! I think I need to do this for me, every afternoon. HA

      Seriously, I think we could all benefit from it. Meditation, I mean. I know a couple of people who do it regularly, and they swear it helps them find their “center,” and achieve a more peaceful state. Maybe it would help intonation and choreography as well. Thanks for the suggestion, luv! I need something to help everyone focus and shake the dust of the day.

  2. Suzanne

    I think simply beginning each rehearsal with a circle of friendship, maybe have a silly story ready or something inspirational. Try and get the worries of the day for EVERYONE (you, too (two)!) to move to the back of the mind.

    Of course the tree thing is brilliant. :)

    Don’t worry, you’ll get there.

  3. Rae

    Through my limited experience with this, I made it clear to them from Day 1 that I am the one person they could go to if they were in trouble. Sometimes, knowing that and actually following through with it, made keeping them until 6 or 7PM not-so-bad — they seemed more pliable and willing to work for someone who is NOT perfect, doesn’t expect perfection but doesn’t settle for not trying to be perfect…. or even just “better” than the day before. It took a while, but eventually they learned that they could come to me and talk about the over-workedness but not talk throughout rehearsal or a game about how they’re so over worked. Seems they do this to themselves to make, who knows?, happy… so, if they have a choice to over-work themselves, then they don’t get to complain about it on our time. Part of growing up…

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Part of growing up indeed! I know you were always there for your students. I guess I need to be more available — at least tell them that I’m available — if they need me. My cohort gets a lot of love from them, I think because they sense her openness. Me, not so much. Maybe if I’d just put down the shillelagh…



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