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Oklahoma! It begins... 1.31.2008 |

At my first rehearsal for Oklahoma! at Shelby High School, drama director Kathie Burgin welcomed me into the fold and then promptly put a piece of paper in my hand outlining just what was expected of me as a cast member.

I cannot, the paper said, use being in the play as an excuse to get out of the house. Well, that won’t be a problem. Mind you, it said nothing about using it as an excuse to get out of the office.
I also have to keep good grades. Easy enough, as I am not graded. Judged on a daily basis, yes. Graded, no.

At the top of the list of rules, in bold: no egos or temper tantrums.
I’ll keep that in mind. So far, smooth sailing.

To be honest, I was concerned about how I would be welcomed by the cast and crew.

It’s easy, I think, for people of a certain age to underestimate teenagers. Once you’ve worked in the ‘real world’ for a few years, it’s hard to feel sympathy for the troubles and stresses of high schoolers. But take a look at the cast and crew assembled in Malcolm Brown Auditorium and you don’t quite fear for the future as much.
They’re nice, funny, and conscientious — no one tried to stab me, no one egged my car, no one was strung out on drugs.
As my grandmother would say, they’re kids with their heads on straight.

As I type all that, I realize it kind of makes me sounds like I too used to have to walk to school up hill both ways…in the snow. A quick bit of math and I find that I’m around 10 years older than any freshmen cast or crew members. When younger students from elementary and the intermediate schools show up, I’ll be practically ancient to them. Remember how old everyone seemed when you were 11?

There’s a lot to look forward to. Next week, I’ll be heading to rehearsal more often. Learning the music and blocking (where I’m supposed to be on the stage) is going to be a big deal for me. And the costumes…a room, eerily reminiscent of a sweat shop, has been set up with sewing machines, ironing boards and patterns for students to create and alter costumes.
The set has been scaled back from original plans. Burgin said in the past two years, so much construction talent that she has to teach a lot of skills from square one. But with so many people on stage for the big numbers, the set will fill out nicely, she said.

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Oklahoma...Okla-oh-no... 1.25.2008 |

I love music. I love song. I have a good ear — I can hear an off note misfire without difficulty.

And there’s my curse people.

See, I know that when I sing, it’s not a pleasant experience for the listener. Oh, but I used to have a voice. As a child, I could sing. Somewhere in puberty I got womanly curves but lost a soprano set of pipes.

Oh how I wish I was one of those people (usually in the pew behind you) who make a joyful noise unto the Lord that's so cacophonous only their Lord and Savior could love it. They sing loud and proud and have no clue five miles away some golden retriever has cocked its head to the side in curiosity.

Nowadays, only an unfortunate few are privy to my singing. That’s about to change. Pretty soon, my voice will be on display for a much larger population.

Thanks to a kind invitation from Kathie Burgin and Steve Padgett — drama gurus of Shelby High School — I’ll be taking part in the school’s spring musical “Oklahoma!”
I’ll be going to rehearsals, learning the music, care of Tracy Aderholt, and the moves … I even get a costume. (I hope, hope, hope there's a bonnet.)

While preparing myself for the fabled gauntlet that is a Burgin-Padgett-Aderholt collaboration, I took a closer look at “Oklahoma!” I have to confess that while I’ve seen many musicals and know some by heart (Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang...I could go on. And on.), I don’t think I’ve ever seen “Oklahoma!” in its entirety.

I know the part with the “Oooooooklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain…” I’ve always felt a sort of solidarity with people from Oklahoma. I’m sure when they tell people where they’re from they have to hear that line at least six out of 10 times. I know what a trial that can be after growing up with a name that has been the title to songs by The Association, Kool and the Gang and Madonna.
(I also feel this bond with people named Roxanne, Gloria, Michelle, Janie, Angie, Brandy, Laura, Caroline, Layla, Jenny - and your number, Mickey, Jack and Diane, Sara, Lucy, Rhonda, Jolene, Sandy, Sherry, Eileen, Loretta, Donna, and Stacy's mom.)

And I know “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” but that’s more due to my grandfather’s constant crooning when I was growing up than the movie.

I did some research — i.e. Google, YouTube and Wikipedia — and found some videos of the musical numbers. After watching the performances and the square-dance-like choreography I have a sneaking suspicion that singing may not be my biggest hurtle. (Cause my singing my be gauche but my rhythm is laughable. And it doesn't help I'm built like a chubby spider-monkey.)

But I look forward to learning about the production process and getting to know some of the students I’ll be working alongside with. I never did drama in high school, so I think this will be a nice chance to revisit those days. (AND THOSE DAYS WEREN'T SO LONG AGO...just for the record.)

So, check in here when you can. I'll be updating the blog when I can and every Friday I'll have a column in the print edition. I'll be doing some video, too.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions or advice.

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Dog fighting case... 1.22.2008 |

I've been reading some of the response to an article I recently wrote regarding dogfighting. Yeah, reporters keep up with those comments and message board threads -- for better or for worse.

So, I'll address a few things.
Law enforcement said arrests were coming. But who knows how big this thing gets? The case is still young in the scheme of things. These guys are just as pissed off as you. So, patience.

Now, I'll admit, I'd like nothing better than to see these dogfighters receive the maximum penalty for their crimes. In NC, like most states, the whole enterprise is a felony. Even being a spectator at one of the events can mean serious consequences.
For me, the idea of fighting these dogs is nauseating and heartbreaking -- especially because it makes me think of my pit bull who died this past year.

Parker was one of the best dogs I've ever had. She was sweet and gentle. But she did have some aggression toward other dogs. Simple enough to combat -- we didn't expose her to other dogs. She was well trained and obedient -- most of the time. And she was exceptionally bright. She was found at a state park -- hence the name Parker -- and we feared advertising that we'd found here because someone might lie to get her and have a fighting dog. After asking around, no one had claimed her. She became our dog and short of a slight snoring problem she was perfect. I can't fathom getting any entertainment out of putting her in a pit with another dog and watching them fight. It turns my stomach.

So, I'll stay after this story, just like the cops will stay after this case.

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