brain farts

All the World’s a Stage…and Boy Did High School Drama Suck

Posted on: January 28, 2006

Or so Shakespeare says.

On Thursday, my brother performed in his school‘s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (and yes, that is a link to, a site to which I am forever indebted to, as it helped save my ass on more than one occasion back in high school). I was impressed. Very, very impressed. Everyone got their comic roles down pat (Prang, who played Olivia, was a hoot!), and because the drama teacher, Mr. Herbert, decided to give the play a new spin, injecting a sort of Bollywood flair to it, there were saris and sitar players instead of 16th century robes and roving minstrels. They remained true to the script, though. I mean, English accents were seriously flying around left and right with the sole exception of my brother, who’s known at his school as “that guy who talks like a Yank.” I guess that shouldn’t surprise me since it IS a British school. I tell ya, hearing someone shout “draw thy sword!” with an authentic English accent makes our high school renactments of A Midsummer Night’s Dream seem rather pitiful in comparison.

It was fun watching my brother assume the role of the arrogant (and totally lovesick) Orsino. The kid’s never been drunk his entire life, but he played a moody, lovesick one pretty well, I think. Of course, he’s always had a yen for acting, something I attribute to the awesome drama teachers he’s been blessed with over the years. I wish I could say the same. Instead, I’d rather stab myself in the eye and part with my left kidney than relive the horror that was high school drama class.

My intense loathing for all things thespian stems from Mr. P, my high school drama teacher. Fresh from Australia, he was a walking talking stereotype of the Melodramatic Drama Teacher. In my mind’s eye, I can still see him with his fingers pressed to his throbbing temples, eyes shut real tight, lips pursed, and buttocks of perpetual anality clenched and on the ready. This is how I will forever remember him — he was always harping about someone or something, whether it was the lights that were “TOO BLUE, FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!!” or the poor freshman girl (me) who did not look or sound enough like “A DISTRESSED AND AGONIZED MOTHER ON THE VERGE OF BREAKDOWN, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!”

I know it sounds like I’m making this stuff up. But I swear I’m not. Mr. P really DID do this kind of stuff. Ask any RISian, and they will vouch for me wholeheartedly, more than ready to share a Mr. P horror story of their own (Swita? Kenna? Caro? Alice?). This is why 9th grade drama class was very traumatizing for me. As if Geometry wasn’t distressing enough already, I had to contend with this, too. Still, since it was a required class for all RIS high schoolers, we were forced to suck it up and kiss major ass big time.

And kiss we did. Oh boy, did we kiss. Every chance we got we would be all, “Good morning, Mr. P!!!” (note excessive perkiness) and “How was your weekend, Mr. P?” and “Oh, YEAH!! Drama is SOO the epitome of creative human expression!!!”

Whatever. I mean, if that isn’t authentic acting right there, then I don’t know what is.

Because in reality all we really cared about was fulfilling our theater arts credit. If my high school diploma didn’t depend on it, I NEVER would have stepped on stage. NEVER.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I suffer from stage-fright. I’m actually okay with public speaking. Sure, like any normal person, I get a few butterflies before stepping on stage, but in general, I’m okay with talking before large crowds.

I, however, am not very keen of making an ass of myself on stage.

But because of Mr. P, I was forced to spend my entire freshman year making a perpetual ass of myself. The one incident that stands out most in my mind is probably the 1996 International School Fine Arts Festival. It was held at NIST that year, and in front of every last international school thespian in Bangkok, my fellow RISians and I were forced to make total asses of ourselves.

You see, while everyone else performed clever and touching skits about teenage angst and unrequited love, we were forced to perform an absolute abomination.

This is what Mr. P. made us do: With a strange jungle/pseudo-trance remix of Bruce Springsteen’s War playing in the background, we lined up single-file in two separate lines. Facing the audience, we were told to raise our hands to our faces, Home Alone style, and cry “WAR! What is it good for? Absolutely NOTHING!” Then, with our arms akimbo and faces slathered with war paint, we had to perform some sort of military march/dance around the stage…or something. I don’t really remember as I’ve tried very hard over the years to stamp out what little memory I might have of that day.

The funny things is that Mr. P thought our performance was very clever indeed. I’m not kidding. He seriously thought we were the shit; that we were making some sort of big anti-war, pro-freedom rah rah rah statement, totally kicking all those unrequited love skits out of the park. Well, here’s the thing…

We weren’t. The shit, that is. Like I said, we were an absolute ABOMINATION.

See, in reality, all the other kids from ISB, BPS, and NIST were snickering behind Mr. P’s back at the big fat losers from RIS. Admittedly, some of the nicer kids managed to remain silent. But alas, even they couldn’t stop themselves from turning deep shades of fuscia as they valiantly struggled to keep their laughter in check. Oh, the shame! Oh, the horror! We were certain we’d never live it down.

But that’s not where the story ends. No, here’s where it gets worse.

After our military march, I was forced to get down on my knees and play the mother of a soldier whose son was about to leave home for war. Not wanting to risk the wrath of Mr. P or give him another chance to yell at me for not sounding like “A DISTRESSED AND AGONIZED MOTHER ON THE VERGE OF BREAKDOWN, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!”, I clung to my son’s (this junior I had a “sorta, kinda” crush on) legs and cried in abject horror at the injustice and cruelty of war when REALLY what I wanted to do was cry at the embarrassment of it all. I mean, can you imagine? I was thirteen. THIRTEEN. I’d never even held a boy’s HAND before, much less his LEG.

But thanks to Mr. P, there I was, clinging to my Sorta, Kinda Crush’s legs (which were very nice, by the way), wailing that he “please stay and not leave me, oh GOD, no, PLEASE!!!!”

It was all very Meryl Streepish, if I do say so myself. Worthy, even, of a Teen Choice Award or two. Like, say, maybe Choice Movie Crazed Fiend or Choice Movie Psycho. I DO know I deserved Choice Movie Scream Scene since I was told to let out an anguished scream at the end of the skit when I was informed that my son/Sorta, Kinda Crush had died in the war.

But despite all my efforts, it STILL wasn’t good enough for Mr. P. After the skit, he pulled me aside and tersely notified me that I could have injected more anguish into my voice and that the look of distress and agony I’d worn on my face hadn’t been nearly convincing enough. I seriously could not believe my ears. I mean, hello! I’d actually clung to my Sorta, Kinda Crush’s legs! Pleading! Crying! Wailing! I sure as HELL was distressed…not to mention agonized over the humiliation of it all.

But whatever. At least I got off easy. When he was through with me, he went into full-fledged Clenched Buttocks of Anality mode and yelled at a sophomore for not talking loudly enough. I saw the poor girl crying in the bathroom later. I felt so bad for her.

Anyway, I do realize this entry has been nothing but one huge tangent, but my brother’s performance last Thursday reminded me of Mr. P and the horror that was high school drama. Last I heard, he’s still harping on the kids. Amazing!

Fortunately my brother’s drama teacher at Harrow is very cool. Check out this video clip of my brother’s rehearsal last week…I don’t know about you, but a drama teacher who isn’t afraid to run screaming “haaaaaalt!!!!” like a headless chicken is pretty cool in my book. :)

Currently Watching: Thanks to Pam, who has re-awakened my inner Chinese FOB, I can’t stop watching my husband’s latest music video, Fa Ru Xue, taken from his latest album November’s Chopin. This is seriously one of his most beautiful tracks ever, very reminiscent of Dong Feng Po. :) And the video is so beautifully filmed! But does anyone know what instrument is playing during the chorus? It sounds like a Chinese version of the Thai khim, but I can’t quite place my finger on it. I DO know that the boy sounds positively heart-broken, though. Sigh. Oh Jay, why do you always have to write such sad, melancholy songs?

Currently Reading: Swita’s very intriguing blog entry on beauty. What do you think: Do beautiful people get by easier in life?

15 Responses to "All the World’s a Stage…and Boy Did High School Drama Suck"

Ha ha ha…um, I shouldn’t laugh at your past plight, but the story’s too funny. Sorry! I took drama in high school too, but at least it wasn’t mandatory, and my teacher was not some insane adherent of method acting. Actually, she was an ex-Oakland Raiders cheerleader – many years removed, of course. Well, at least you weren’t called upon to perform an interpretive dance. Or maybe you were? :-0

The Jay Chou video was nice, especially with the twist at the end, although I couldn’t help but wait for a big fight to break out, given the presence of a Chinese inn/restaurant scene.

BTW, I think the instrument in the background is the guzheng. My favorite.

ummm… who is mr. P anyway? :$ I have never taken anything remotely related to drama in high school (I think i opted for art-art instead. of course, I wasn’t good at that either. lol.)

So frankly, I don’t think I even knew which one was the drama teacher. (And from this entry, I’m now sort of glad I didn’t. :P)

But you know, I’d love to have seen you in that play. :)

Okay I have to admit that I haven’t read the whole post…but well, I used to be in high school production, too….as musician though.

Anyway, I want to ask you: How do you do that cut? I mean, that you don’t see the whole post but have to click to read the full length??? I know from LJ that they’ve got this LJ-cut code that you put in the post. Is it the same with blogger? If so, what’s the code for it?? I’d really appreciate your help! Thanks in advance!!!

Hey Lynn,

I guess Blogger don’t do trackback. I wrote about what your reflections reminded me of, here.

I thought you would be in London by now. My girlfriend and I will be passing through Bangkok (early next week, as well as late during the week after). If you like, email me or drop a comment on my site, and maybe we can meet up for a coffee or something. Maybe you’ll have something to talk about, as you’re in the same line of work? She just wrote her licensing exam and is starting at a hospital in Seoul in a few weeks, which is why we’re traveling now. Anyway, get in touch if you like.

Oh, and congrats on those grades.

HA !!! and that’s exactly why i always stayed as far backstage as possible! actors and directors are all crazy and scary and all i want to do is play with the bright lights and power tools and maybe occasionally drop a sandbag from the fly rail as a warning message! wait… ignore that last part. anyway, there was one time in college when i was stage manager of twelfth night and one of the actors DIDN’T SHOW UP for a show, and not only did i have to call the show as stage manager, but i also had to get into costume and play that guy’s role (fortunately, it was only curio). i’m just happy it wasn’t viola that no-showed.

anyway, cheers lynn! thanks for the awesome entry, and congratulations to your brother.

Hey…. ur entry reminds of the time I have to work with him for the HS shows. ARGH!! Surprise? Well.. .he kinda venture out of the dying drama class while I was still @ RIS and did other stuff- volunteered to be in charge of the Talent Show and threatened to kick out all the band groups and what not that take more than 5 minute to set up. it was HORRIBLE.

haha, Nice videoclip, very artistic. Am still wondering what that orange dressed guy was doing crawling over the floor :D

I remember my first play. I was somebody’s wife. My “husband” was like a head and a half shorter than I was, and the teacher thought he had good taste in chosing the characters. ahem…I rest my case.

Happy Chinese New Year Lynn!! May all the joy, happiness and good health come to you :)

NOOOOOO!!! NOT MR P?? Why O why Lynn, did you have to remind me of Mr P??? That teacher was indeed one tortured soul. For the life of me I could not understand why he was so tortured and anal. And WHAT he was (IS!!!) doing in the land of smiles, full of friendly, quiet-voiced, un-dramatic, un-goth people. Why RIS? Why not some international school in scandinavia where all they do is talk about death anyways (oh yes, they do). I had 10th grade drama with Mr P. He made us do LORD OF THE FLIES, which was a great, albeit very tortured, excruciating, Mr-P-like type of book. Then he denounced all types of comedy because he thought it was “slap-stick” because ALL comedy is BAD and ALL tortured, dark theater is GOOD. THEN he had this thing for casting the tall, thin, Eurasian girls as the leads… oh don’t even get me started on Mr. P!!! Oh but remember the other drama teacher, Ms. S??? She sang Attack of the Killer Tomatoes for the Teachers Talentless Show. ’nuff said.

Hmm… now I think I kinda vaguely remember who Mr. P. is (or at least, I recall the name…)

but Ms. S.???? Who’s that??? LOL

Seems like I’m REALLY bad at remembering people’s name. T_T

and yes… that Teacher’s Talentless Show thing. Never fails to crack me up. :)

Noi ja — Ms. S is Ms. Saxon of the crazy wild red hair, huge glasses, and insane urge to flirt with married taxi drivers (you gotta let Aparna tell you the story!!). ;)

Lynn, thanks!!! I’ll try it out!


firstly, great to hear from someone from RIS after all these eons.. as they say, it’s like london buses – none for a long time then several at one in touch with chiki recently out of the blue as well.

and holy shit u girls remember lots about RIS….to be honest the only thing i remember about high school drama is my role as a dying cockroach in the closing scene of our performance at SEASAC 27th and 28th March 1998 (i really do remember doing that – i hope its not the remnants of some bad dream, i really do believe it happened – someone pls second me on that!).. and i’ve got a bright yellow certificate to testify it – yes, it’s the certificate where i picked up the dates from, not my fish-like memory, as sad as it might be that i’ve actually still got that certificate lying around.

happy to scan it up if anyone thinks it’d tickle their fancy

lynn, u’ve made my day – its great to discover what ppl hv been up to while ive been wasting it studying and studying and studying..only to impose unto myself a life of working and working and working…

good luck with the writing

take care

Gaah, I think my comment got lost.

I’m replying to your invitation to email you so we could meet up. Well, while Lime and I were in Krabi, we were thinking of meeting up with you, but then news came to me that my father passed away. We flew straight to Korea, where — unlike in Bangkok — there were seats available on outgoing flights — and then I went directly to Canada a few hours later.

So this time it turned out to be impossible to meet up, but I hope we get a chance next time. :)

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