Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hitting Parties 4, 5, and 6 out of the Park

So I'm at home in Walla Walla. And I thought I'd put the blog to rest, as I assume a large percentage of my audience is now in a stone's throw distance from me. But the MoM and the dAd have both been asking for write up the rest of my holiday parties. I think I'm about ready to be done writing about parties (and you might be done reading about them) so here it goes.

Party number 4 was a Christmas tree decorating party at the volunteer house sponsored by the volunteer corps board. Which in theory is perfect. A member of the board took Deanna and me to pick out a tree on Saturday morning. Deanna has never done this before, so we were both excited. We picked out a lovely tree and on Sunday the board came over to help us decorate it. and they brought us food, drinks, and even presents!

And this would have been perfect had I not woken up on Sunday morning with a terrible cold. So I drugged myself with cold meds, and propped myself up on the couch and let people come to visit me and my pile of Kleenex or leave me be for fear of germs. All in all a lovely party, but I would have enjoyed it much more if I had not felt miserable.

Party number five was the Samaritan Ministry staff party. There was a lot of great food, some of my favorite people, and the big event: a white elephant gift exchange. It was one of those things where everyone brings wrapped gifts and you are allowed to unwrap a gift, or steal an already open one. Gifts could only be stolen three times before they are retired. Well you know that its going to be a good name when "you are in fact allowed to steal from a nun" is a rule that actually have to be articulated!

My supervisor had given me and the other interns a gifts of a bottle of wine each. And it occurred to me part way through the gift exchange that I should try to see how many bottles of wine I could go home from work with, but this strategy failed. However, I was very successful in my thefts in the search for the perfect gift. I ended up with a "tranquility fountain" foe my desk and I was very satisfied. However, I did have to take the bus home from DuPont circle with a bottle of wine, a tranquility fountain and a large tray of vegetables. That was an interesting bus ride.

The final Christmas season party I will write about was at the home of a couple on the volunteer corps board. It was a wonderful party. They even loaned us their own car so we could drive ourselves there! When we arrived at the party, the house was full of people we had never met, and we were easily the youngest people present. But very quickly the other young adults present (they work with the hostess) found us and we held court on the porch, letting people come to us. This ended up being a very successful party strategy, and we even met a few members of Westmoreland church we'd never encountered before, by sitting still and letting them come to us.

And this wraps up my party write ups. If I went to any other parties, I'm not telling!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Whatever you do, don't say Christmas

Party number three was "organized" by me. I put it that way, because there really wasn't a ton for me to organize. It was the Christmas party for our single participants, or more its the opposite of the family party. Its for participants who don't have small children.
My task was creating fliers, signing up participants, decorating the office and organizing how the party would actually flow.

I set up a fake Christmas tree. My supervisor picked up food from Boston Market. We had presents and gift cards and Christmas Music. I had the participants play a game. When they arrived they got a ribbon to pin to their shirt and a number for the gift give away.

The pins were for a game we played. The game was that I set a secret word: "Christmas." If you catch someone saying Christmas you get to take their pin. If you said Christmas you lost your pin. The person with the most pins at the end got an extra gift card. And luckily for me, they really got into the game. They spent the party tricking each other into saying it.

The participants wanted me to be able to play, so they decided I could say the word once, every time I had to explain it to latecomers. One man even tried to trick me into saying it as I right after I finished explaining the rules of the game.

The gift giving part of the party went pretty smoothly. We had some nice things to give out, and I think people were happy. The food was good, and there was a good amount of it. One of the associate caseworkers even brought his guitar in and sang Christmas carols. This created the funniest part of the party. Imagine singing the "Twelve Days of Christmas" with a room full of people refusing to say the word Christmas! It was great. The winner had about 12 pins displayed proudly in a column on his jacket by the end of the party.

But the best and most unexpected part for me, was that a couple of participants asked to say a few words. And they made us all cry, telling us how much Samaritan Ministry means to them and how thankful they are. It was a very sweet ending to a funny party.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stalking the Beastie Boys

As it turns out, party number two was a completely different scene. Bread for the City, Deanna's employer, got invited as a guest organization to a record company's swanky Christmas party. And the employee's who are part of volunteer corps got to invite their entire houses. Which meant that not only did Deanna get to invite us, but all of our favorite volunteer corps friends were there also. We've been hanging out with other volunteer corps a lot. They are awesome people and none of us have any money, so having them all at this (free) party was great.

I had already made plans with my sisters friend Maryam to got to coffee before the party. We ended up having pizza at this great place in Dupont. It has huge slices of pizza and no chairs, only counters to stand at. As it was raining outside, we stood. I had a great time with Maryam and then I was off to meet my housemates at the recording studio.

It was great, I had my name on a list and everything. That may be a first in my life! My housemates were there when I arrived, so Jen met me at the elevator, which was useful, as I would have never found them otherwise. Jen took me on a little tour, which basically consisted of wondering around their office, looking at platinum records they had produced that were hanging on the wall.

So we joined my housemates. And Deanna’s boyfriend, Joe, told me (as a form of greeting) that he thought the two men over by the coat check, were in fact the Beastie Boys. Which was very logical, as one of them was the DJ for the second stage of the party over at the 930 Club in U Street.

So I accompanied Rachel on a reconnaissance mission, AKA we stalked the Beastie Boys. We approached the target and saw the two suspects. At this point I realized that I am the worst spy ever. I have essentially no idea what the Beastie Boys look like. I know their music a little bit, and I’m aware of who they are, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them in any from of visual media. Definitely not at any other coat checks. So the result of the mission: well, no idea. I think so. Rachel and Joe think yes. Maybe not my finest celebrity stalking moment.

Shortly after this they started flashing the lights at us, prompting us the make the mass voyage over to the 930 Club. On the way we wondered through an adorable little Christmas Street Fair set up near Metro Center. I felt like I’d accidentally wandered into Santa's Village.

So at the 930 Club we had to stand in line, have our names on yet another list and show our ID about 7 times. But we got in and were able to dump our coats, which was great, as they really would have interfered with the crazy person dancing we then initiated. This was the best part of the night. All out vol corps friends were there, and we hung out and danced, and were ridiculous and silly.

At 10 (woah party animals) the free portion of the night was done, and so were we. We traveled back to there metro, where we almost lost Noah to the allure of a carry out place boasting all kinds of ethnic foods, which frankly scared me.

Then we went home (after taking a little nap on the metro), and tried unsuccessfully to order pizza. Finally we put a frozen pizza in the oven and went to bed. This last portion of the evening took place in reality with a lot more boisterous voices and a lot of (playful) yelling at each other, but all that will benefit from not being overly documented. Or to the contrary, sometimes I think we would be a captivating reality show.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Friend, Santa Claus

So this has been a crazy week for me. I have attended (or thrown) but also a total of five (5!) Christmas Parties and counting.

I'm going to go back to a week and a half ago, Sunday the 7th and start with party number one.
Party number one was the family Christmas part for our program participants and their children. This was really neat. We joined up with one of our Partner Parishes and another organization to throw a party with lots of food, crafts, and a room downstairs where the parents could pick out presents for their children. The really cool thing about the way this was organized was that there were many volunteers at the craft tables making really neat things with the kids. What this meant was that the parents could leave their children doing a craft and go pick out a gift for them, so it would be a surprise!

My supervisor had been planning this party for months and I think it went really well. 40 families came, which apparently is fewer than usual, but not unsuccessful by any means.
I spent the first hour of the party writing peoples names on bags that they could put their coats in. Not the most satisfying of activities.

But I spent the second hour of the party hanging out with the guy playing Santa Claus. Apparently this man is a district attorney who has been coming to the party for years playing Santa Claus. I got to be the photographer. Which meant I got to chat with him until a child came up to have their picture taken. This happened in a lot of different ways. Some kids had to be dragged up. Some ran up on their own. One very cute little girl came up to show Santa the craft as she was leaving. She said, "I love you Santa." Which was completely adorable. A couple of times I had to take the picture before the kid started screaming. One mother even handed me her tiny 4 month old baby to give to Santa Clause! Talk about trusting. And adorable.

The only negative part of this is it took me a grand total of 4 hours to get to the party and back. Which effectively meant it took up my entire Sunday. But it was a good time, and I'm happy to have been a part of it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If Music be the Food of Love...

On Monday, I saw my 2nd play in DC. It feels a little unbelievable that I've been here for over 3 months and have only seen 2 plays. But priorities change. And theatre is an expensive habit. Inversely finding ways to make it less expensive is time consuming.

So I went to see Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Theatre Company with a group of other volunteers. So first of all I need to explain my personal history with the play Twelfth Night. It was the third play (out of 35) that I saw when I studied abroad in London my junior year. I was going for my Shakespeare class. I had been given the script something like the day before and requested to read it. Needless to say, I'd didn't get it all read before I went to the play. And I didn't expect this production of a Shakespeare play I didn't know to become my most perfect theatre going experience. I fell in love with the production, and with the play itself. Twelfth Night may be my favorite Shakespeare play.

And last year, I saw a production of it in Seattle that I liked enough, but didn't love. And I thought maybe my love for Twelfth Night was always going to stay with that elusive perfect night of theatre.

So I'm not entirely sure what my expectations for Monday night were. It was opening night. We got 10 dollar tickets for the third row, which ended up being perfect. The theatre itself was amazing. It was a proscenium stage, which isn't always my favorite, but the theatre was new, had great capabilities and I doubt there was a bad seat in the house. Talk about good design of a theatre space.

Every time I go see a play, I try to take a little time to think about why I liked it or not. What makes theatre "Good?" Taste is so subjective. You can think a play had excellent actors, set, costume and production values and not enjoy it at all. What is a barometer of good theatre?
So this is all building up to the fact that I adored this production of Twelfth Night, almost as much as the elusive London production.

The acting was wonderful. The woman who played Viola made a delightful boy. She had a quality sort of reminiscent of Julie Andrews, and it was charming.

This production also made a lot of sense. The actors seemed to understand every word they were saying and this leads to the audience feeling like they are not even speaking in verse. It honestly can feel like modern English. Although to be fair, I know the play pretty well, to the point where I can anticipate jokes, so it would be a very bad sign indeed if I couldn't understand what they were saying.

But more than just making the language accessible, they made sense of a few plot things that don't always follow. The scene where Olivia and Viola meet for the first time, was played with five women dressed identically and veiled, kneeling in prayer. So when Viola cannot tell who is the lady of the house, it makes sense! I've seen this played with just Viola, Olivia and a Maria who is clearly a servant, and the effect was unintentionally goofy.

I think one of the reasons I like Twelfth Night so much is that the characters find themselves in difficult positions not because they are unlikable jerks, or unintelligent, but because of something inescapably human: death. Viola and Olivia are both mourning the death of a brother. And the whole main plot rotates around this sorrow. It steeps the play in a kind of melancholy of longing and also of unrequited love. Viola finds herself in a very dangerous position. She has crashed on a new land, and believes her brother is dead. She seems to have some money but no family, connections or prospects. So she does something both logical and brave: dresses as a boy and goes to work for the duke of Ilyria. What other options did she really have? Interesting the play doesn’t dwell on this problem.

However, this cross dressing creates some serious problems. A woman falls in love with a woman (disguised as a boy). Viola, disguised as a boy, falls in love with the Duke. And in turn the Duke sort of loves this boy Viola is pretending to be. One single person cross dressing for a very good reason throws the entire universe of the play off kilter.

I find the love story between Duke Orsino and Viola to be especially poignant. The reveal that it is in fact acceptable for Orsino to be n love with Viola, because she is in fact a woman, may be a little too convenient. Especially with some of the commentary this production seemed to be making with some of the same sex attractions. But their attraction and love for each other felt genuine and the moment where Viola is revealed to be a woman had a delightful sense of discomfort, along with the joy.

Maybe one of the reasons I enjoy Twelfth Night so much is its musicality. How could I not love something that begins, “If music be the food of love, play on.” And Twelfth Night seems to contain more songs and lend itself better to music than almost any other Shakespeare play. This production had a small orchestra and a young soprano on one of the side balconies, and their use of music was effective. The actor who played Feste, the fool, was also a wonderful singer and had a good sort of magnetic gravity to him. And as he ends the play with a song, this is especially important.

So ultimately, have I made any progress on my quest to find out what makes a play good? I don’t know. I know what I enjoy, and can anticipate what I am likely to enjoy, but I don’t think I will ever be able to figure out the formula to it.

I could go on and on (and sort of did). But I'll end my thoughts here. Going to this play reminded me again why I love theatre, and maybe even why it was my major. I’m also happy to know that I in fact do love the play “Twelfth Night” and that love doesn’t end with just one particularly moving production.