September 15, 2015

Light My Fire - Tracy Krauss

As I thought about this month's prompt - "Who started it all for your creative spirit" - I had trouble narrowing it down to just one person. Who lit my creative fires? I think the creative gene is well embedded in my DNA, so I could say I was born with it.

My mother was an eccentric artist renowned in our community for her sometimes off-beat artsy ways. (You can read about 'The Doreen Method', as our family likes to call it.) I also wrote a tribute to her here called 'Passing On the Legacy'. It was her direct inspiration that led to my children's book THE SLEEPYTOWN EXPRESS. 

Her mother, my grandmother, was a voracious reader and lover of words who could quote long passages of poetry from memory. I can still see the look on Grandma's face as she closed her eyes to recite the prologue for Longfellow's Evangeline. "This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pine and the hemlock, bearded with moss and in garments of green, indistinct in the twilight..."

However, if you will indulge me for a few minutes more, I'd like to share the story of writing and directing my first stage play. It is an article I originally wrote for 'Bookfun Magazine' in August of 2014 called 'A Pivotal Point In Time' (page 163) and is a tribute, I suppose, to my Grade Four teacher, Mrs. Goldie SullivanEnjoy.


A Pivotal Point In Time
Who doesn’t love a good stage play? The immediacy and intimacy of a live performance beats a motion picture any day. Anything can happen – and often does. From an early age, I participated in school and church productions, and later, once I was in college and beyond, I started writing and directing as well. My ‘real job’ is teaching Drama at the secondary school level. You could say I lucked out when it comes to a career. I get to do something I love each and every day I go to work. 

I credit my fascination with drama to a few key people. My high school drama teacher, Mrs. Rees, was an inspiration – albeit a taskmaster. Before that, though, I can pinpoint an exact moment in time when my love for the dramatic arts came into being. I wrote my first play when I was in Fourth Grade – a dramatized version of a book I’d read called Ghosts Don’t Eat Sausages by Marion Koenig. For some reason that now escapes me, I loved that book and decided to make it into a play. I then convinced several of my friends to act it out during recess time.

It’s a wonder the ‘actors’ could even figure out their cues, let alone read my writing. I corralled my chosen cast every recess - either outside or at the back of the classroom if our teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, would let us stay inside. I think I was a hard taskmaster as a director. I remember feeling frustrated on more than one occasion when people didn’t know their cues. No wonder - there was no such thing as photocopying at that time and I didn’t even bother with a typewriter. I just hand wrote the entire thing and then recopied individual parts and handed them out on scraps of paper.

Thankfully, the cast was patient, and there must have been something about the project that inspired them as well, since we persevered for weeks, perfecting and rehearsing a plot that was likely full of holes at its inception. When we started, I don’t think I knew exactly what the final objective would be – just that this was a good story and it needed to be told! Mrs. Sullivan must have seen something of merit, perhaps in my tenacity in doggedly whipping my actors into shape. It wasn’t long before she suggested that we perform the play for an actual audience – the entire school population, if we were up for it.

Say no more! That spurred us on to even greater efforts as we added costumes and props and continued to perfect the line delivery and action. Finally, the day of the show arrived, and an assembly was called. I don’t remember if we were the only item on the program or not. It really didn’t matter, since for me, this was like getting recognized at the academy awards. As I recall, the show went off well. We got a full page in that year’s yearbook and I was credited as the ‘writer and director’.

All these years later I still look upon that seemingly insignificant experience as a pivotal point in my development as a writer. I've gone on to write and direct dozens of stage plays, some of which are published and have enjoyed a measure of success across stages in North America. If it wasn't for the encouragement I got from my Grade Four teacher, I wonder if I would have gone on to write another play. It's something to ponder.

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Tracy Krauss continues to write plays, as well as other things, from her home in Tumbler Ridge, BC. http://tracykrauss.com 

14 comments:

  1. Wonderful to have a teacher that inspired you! That sense of accomplishment moved you to achieve more. What a blessing!

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    1. On the days when I'm tired of teaching I just have to think of the teachers who inspired me and I am re-motivated. Hopefully I can spark something in one of my students that will serve them for the future.

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  2. It's neat to hear that there's a legacy of creativity - DNA? or example? or does one generation model and encourage that in the next? You certainly got the benefit of all three, and you're passing it on to your own children, along with a love for God. A very special family!

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    1. thanks for your kind thoughts Bobbi.

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  3. Thanks for sharing some "behind the scenes" information with us, Tracy. Your sentence, "It really didn’t matter, since for me, this was like getting recognized at the academy awards," speaks volumes. A good remind that if you want to give a writer a gift, read her work, celebrate her successes, and encourage her when she's discouraged!

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  4. I identify with your "academy awards" feeling, as I also wrote a play that was presented by my class. I remember being surprised at actually being introduced as the writer, and receiving applause. I think it's so special that you are doing that for other students now!

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    1. I've had lots of students write plays that have been pretty darn good! Last year I had a student write an Alice in Wonderland adaptation. I am encouraging her to submit it for publication once she does a bit of tweaking.

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  5. This is excellent. So many posts this month talk about a certain teacher or teachers that have been pivotal for us. That is so beautiful and comforting to me, as an English teacher myself. And it has been a reminder that teaching is a calling and a ministry and that is what is comforting but also challenging as we seek to draw out students' gifts and abilities. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I couldn't agree more, Connie. I am a fourth generation teacher and definitely feel it is a calling. I have had the privilege of having a few students come back to me years after graduation and say they appreciated something I taught them. (Usually not curriculum related...)

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  6. Excellent blog. I also loved your blogpost, "The Doreen Method," even if it's not Mother's Day. I too had a hard time writing about my mom, because I thought it would sound "sappy," so I wrote wrote her a letter. Although she is deceased, the letter was a tribute to my mom and from that letter I could write about her. My dad was the colourful one of my parents and Mom was the one, who would say, "But, Ernie, that happened on Tuesday, not Thursday." Mom was gentle, kind, hospitable, meek, and just plain wonderful. Lord, bless these ladies. May they rest in peace.

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    1. Writing a letter is such a great idea, Sharon.

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  7. Thanks for sharing the story of your first Academy success, I recall my own kids planning little dramas for a family gathering, but your persistence to organize practice for weeks on end-commendable!

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    1. persistence or a bossy bent... thanks for commenting!

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