May 21, 2006

Meet the Team

As a prelude to my recap of the REAL Christian Theater tour, here is a brief introduction of the team. I've changed the names, of course.

On the plane from Saipan to Guam, Weds. May 10, 2006. from L to R: In front: The Gentleman, Bono Girl, Me, Palauan Princess, Girl Friday. In the back: the Diva, Holly, & Harry. Present but not pictured were the Man, the Vice President, & Marine.

The majority of the team left last Wednesday, May 10. My wife left Tuesday night with CK (Chinese Korean girl). CK girl cannot enter Guam so she had to fly Palau through Manila in the Philippines. Due to connecting flights, they are still in Palau and won't return to Saipan until early Friday morning. Maria, my co-director and two other members flew out on Thursday.

But most of us left Weds. The morning was pretty smooth, until 10:00 A.M. when my 8th graders who were supposed to be selling a hot lunch that day revealed they hadn't prepared any of the food. They had these frozen lasagna trays that had to be cooked for 2.5 hours. Lunch for the K-4 kids was at 11:00 A.M. So I spent the rest of the morning racing around finding ovens for their lasagna and helping them make a peach cobbler for dessert. As it was I wasn't able to leave the school until 12:30 P.M. Our flight left at 2:50 and I didn't get to the airport unitl 1:30. Once there, things slowed down though and the rest of the day passed in a fairly leisurely fashion.

The kids were excited. They'd been looking forward to this tour all season long, and even the coolest of them couldn't hide their genuine kid-like excitement. I know I couldn't.

Each member of the team seemed special that day, each contributed something unique to the fabric of our team. Picture them walking across the tarmac of the Saipan International Airport towards the waiting plane.

There's Harry, the youngest member of the team. He's a sixth grader who reads at the college level, short, skinny, bespectacled, reminds me a lot of myself at his age, though his slight nerdiness is infinitely cooler than my considerable nerdiness was. He is half Palauan, half Chamorro (Chamorros are the indigenous people of Guam) so this trip is sort of a "homecoming" for him though he hasn't been back to Palau since he was a baby. Harry is unique in that nothing ever seems to upset him. I swear I've never seen him mad. The closest I've ever seen him to being upset was on Saturday when he looked a little stressed, and when he asked him about it, he said "girl troubles." And then in classic Harry style he added in his perfectly reasonable and intelligent voice, "I'm sure you're thinking, 'How is that possible? He hasn't even hit puberty yet!'"

Friday (short for Girl Friday). She was my student for five years, has been my co-director for the theater club for three, and has been my teacher assistant for the past two years. She is my Girl Friday--absolutely indispensible. She's a slender, Japanese girl, 17 years old and graduating from high school next week. She's been a part of the drama club since it's inception six years ago. She will move to Hawaii this summer and I may never see her again. I'm sad to see her go and glad to share this Final Tour with her.

The Vice President, on her second school trip this year having gone with us to Korea in March, is next. As usual her long black hair is hanging in her face. She's one of the weaker actors on the team--very self-conscious, and inclined to "act" rather than "be" the role. She also has trouble remembering her lines. But this weekend will see her improve remarkably.

The Gentleman is new to the team this year. He is a tall Korean boy, a high school junior. He is gentle and affable at all times. One wonders what made him want to act as he is generally quite shy and quiet. Our constant struggle is to get him to speak up on stage. He too will improve remarkably over the weekend.

The Diva, a Japanese high school junior, is keeping more to herself and surprisingly seems to be okay with that. A few years ago, she was the original Drama Queen, using hugs as a weapon. (She'd walk into a room and hug certain people, smarmy and full of gooey affection. Those not hugged always got the message). But this year despite all kinds of horrible trauma going on in her family life she seems calmer, more at peace with herself and others.

Holly is in the seventh grade, and drama has helped her to blossom as well. She is brilliant student (whose sharp memory skills she applies to her encyclopedic knowledge of the lyrics to every pop song ever written. She's the only one of my students that knows U2's "With our Without You" She's a perfectionist who a few years ago would "freeze up" into a near catatonic state whenever faced with even the slightest bit of stress. I'm certain that this pale-skinned Chamorro girl with the mane of black hair will provide the requisite crying jag that has been part of our theater tours each and every year. After all, this is her first trip anwywhere without her parents. I will be proved wrong. And when Holly returns, she returns in big, flashy glamazon sunglasses, flirting with the much older Gentleman, and possessing till greater confidence. It's as if she entered full-fledged adolescence over the weekend in Palau.

The Man is the Diva's younger brother. He is the consummate entertainer, loves to make people laugh. He has shaved his mohawk at our request (he plays the role of a father in the play we will perform Saturday night and the mohawk just didn't fit) but he's keeping the "rock star" edge to his style through the tie he wears loose around his neck all weekend along. Because he is a trendsetter, soon others on the team are imitating his fashion choices. Over the course of the weekend he will play all kinds of roles including that of a father of teenagers and Satan (who he enjoys playing a little too much).

The Palauan Princess is next to take the long walk on the tarmac to the plane. She's been to Palau more times than she can remember. For her, she is simply going home. Her family are Palauan royalty--her grandmother is the queen of the Paluan island of Peliliu, and in her their has been an completely unselfconscious dignity, grace, and regality about her. At the same time she is tremendously open, honest, and respectful. She is the picture of a girl that has been "raised right."

Bono Girl is there, the leader of the pack as always. She is the ultimate veteran of our troupe, having joined as fifth grader. Now a high school junior, besides me, she is the only member of the team to have stayed with us from the begining until now. Next year, she will replace Friday as the student director for the team. She loves acting, and in addition to her stint with our club, she's acted in a local soap opera. She's a beautiful girl reminiscent of Jennifer Lopez, curves that turn your head, long hair in higlights, the navel ring, those Bono shade, rich golden skin. She's also hard as nails, with a temper and a perfectionistic streak. Bono Girl is one of the very few people I know who genuinely doesn't care what people think. To no one's surprise she is the star of our play, Per Chance to Dream and her face is on posters, larger than life, plastered all over Palau.

Finally, there is Marine, the joyrider who might yet become a genuine member of the team. The day before we left she went from having $0 to $350. It was enough, we let her go on the trip. I expect lots of stress from her, but I will be proved wrong again. She will be wonderful on this trip. She is sweet, knows how to talk, always very earnest when she's asking for permission to do things she knows good and well she's not allowed to do. She is also half Chamorro, half Palauan and there are many family members waiting to see her in Palau. My fear was that she would just use the group as means to get to Palau and then take off to spend time with her family instead of helping the team. But she stays with us--contributes where she can, even learns a four page sketch with Bono Girl in one day and performs it commendably the next day.

So this is the group left with me on Weds. We flew to Guam, ate overpriced Burger King in the airport and then continued on to Palau, arriving at about 8 in the evening. My wife was there to meet us and we went straight to the home where we were staying, got settled in and went to bed preparing for a long day on Thursday.

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