Technology Dance Part 4 — There’s No Business Like Show Business


You are probably wondering why after all the previous chapter titles to my little essays about dancing and technology I would title this particular chapter with a phrase from a famous Broadway musical. Well, dancing has always been a part of many Broadway performances and even a good many Hollywood movie hits as well. Names like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Donald O’Connor, George Chakaris, Bob Fossey, Gregory Hines, Ben Vereen, Patrick Swayze, Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon, Isadora Duncan, Betty Grable, Martha Graham, Ann Miller, Ginger Rogers, and Bebe Neuwirth; to name just a few, were household names throughout much of Broadway and Hollywood’s dance history.

Okay, so you get the point about the dancing and Broadway, but what does this have to do with technology? Well just like my other essay’s I’m going to start this one off with a story from my past.

It was the summer of 1971. I was finishing up my first year in graduate school and was back at work in my favorite summer spot, the Pocono Mountains. I was working as the Director of Counselor Training for the Lutheran Pennsylvania Camp Corporation and working out of Camps Miller/Hagan ( a co-educational camp for children 8 through 18 years of age). It was my third year with the camps and we had just made the transition from individual boys and girls camps to a combined co-educational camp because the Army Corps of Engineers had finally brought out the old boys camp, Camp Miller, just north of the town of Shawnee, Pennsylvania as part of the proposed (but fortunately never built) Tocks Island Dam Project on the Delaware River. My job, was simple, help the assistant camp director, and the office manager manage the camp in the absence of our camp director who was running his own canoe rental business on the side, and training all of the counseling and junior counseling staff in techniques to help them manage the children and children’s activities in the camp program more effectively. I got picked for that position since my Master’s degree work was in counseling. For the two previous year’s I had been the office manager for Camp Miller. My younger brother Barry was now filling that role here at the combined camps. Our assistant camp director, Tom Orso, was a finishing up his theology degree, but he had been a theater major in college and wanted to try some summer stock type theater with the older campers and some of the staff.

Summer Theater, had never been a camp activity before; well, not exactly. We all probably remember some of those summer camp skits that posed for a kind of theater performance, but were usually punctuated by bad jokes, off-key singing, little or no dancing, missed cues, forgotten lines; torn t-shirts, jeans, or sheets for costumes, props that didn’t work, or even the occasional collapse of the entire set background onto the unsuspecting players during the performance. Tom was definitely planning a much more elaborate production with music, lighting, well-designed sets, costumed actors and actresses, well-rehearsed performances, and an invitation to camper’s parents, Corporation management, and guests from the community. For some reason totally unknown to me, Tom selected the Broadway Musical, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” as the musical to do that summer. He held auditions during the second week of camp but indicated he could only select campers who were staying for the whole summer and not just the two or four-week campers that were in the vast majority of the camp.

He needed people he could work with for at least six weeks since the musical was to open during the last two-week session of camp in August. Since our camp was originally primarily for athletes and kids interested in the wilderness camping programs available at the corporation’s Bear Creek site, the number of available candidates for auditions for the musical was quite limited. Tom asked for my support in getting some of the counselors, junior counselors, and the baby counselors (we called CIT’s or counselors in training — mostly 13 and 14 year-olds) to audition for the musical. In addition to Tom’s pitch at the weekly staff meeting, I talked to my training groups during that first two-week session and encouraged them to give it a try even if they were only interested in helping with set building, soundboard management, lighting, or helping to make the costumes. Well, I guess the encouragement worked because on the day of auditions I was getting ready to do a training session on helping younger campers pack their day packs for overnight campouts, and no one showed up for my training session. Instead, pretty nearly every one of them was at the audition. I sulked back to my room in the back of the main office, got a quarter and headed to the canteen to buy myself some comfort and consolation in a “Nutty Buddy” ice cream cone. Then feeling a bit less disgruntled I headed off in the direction of the piano playing and singing coming from the Recreation Hall. By the time I reached the Hall, the ice cream cone was gone, and I was really thirsty. I stopped outside the hall at one of the outdoor drinking fountains to quench my thirst and suddenly jerked up my head while I was drinking splashing water all down the front of my camp T-Shirt. I was hearing this incredible powerful voice singing like a seasoned Broadway actress. I was hearing feet tapping across the wooden stage in a smooth rhythm to the song being sung. My dancing curiosity peeked. I darted over to the half-open Rec Hall door and peered in. The room was filled with much of the counseling staff. They all had their eyes fixed on the stage and the absolutely stunning young woman in her tan camp uniform singing “A Secretary is Not A Toy”. The costume definitely didn’t fit the song, but her voice was absolutely awesome and her dance steps were smooth and in exact sync with the song. She seemed to be looking straight back toward the rear of the Rec Hall where Tom Orso sat with his clipboard and his audition rating forms, but I could see he wasn’t writing anything down, he was just staring at the young woman, I’m sure he had already decided was the star of his show.

Martha C was the perfect package. She had been a camper, a, CIT, a junior counselor and was now a counselor at the camps. She was about to enter her freshman year of college in the fall. She was an honors scholar-athlete, a talented musician, singer, and dancer, a socially conscious active community participant, popular but very genuinely humble, and had a body like Bo Derek. Tom Orso remained poised and focused, seemly oblivious to the many “wow’s” and “she’s amazing” coming from the rest of the male staff at the camp. He was however impressed, and he did in fact, make her the female lead in the musical. The male camp counselor who had been brave enough to take a personal interest in Martha was cast as the male lead. I guess
Tom was trying for some real romantic chemistry between the two of them to bolster his production success.

After that first audition, there was no end to the stream of campers and staff that headed to the Recreation Hall three times a week during the evening free recreation period, to watch the rehearsals and help where they could to get the musical ready for its August debut. Tom and my brother Barry, who was also one of the main characters in the show, ended up being so busy with preparations for the performance, that I ended up handling most of the daily administrative tasks when the camp director, Jim, wasn’t there.

My brother, Barry, walked into the office one day in mid-July while I was licking envelopes for camp registration confirmation letters to be ready for the afternoon mail pickup and simply blurted out, “Hey big brother, why don’t you ask Martha to go out with you on one of your days off?” I pretended not to hear him and kept licking that horrible envelope paste while he continued, “Hey man, I mean it, I think the two of you would really hit it off really well.” “What about her, boyfriend” I replied, nearly giving my tongue a paper cut in my haste to finish the envelope I was working on. “Don’t worry about that, they’ve been fighting a lot lately, and she told him to buzz off at rehearsal last night.” “Really, they’ve been fighting?”, I must really be out of the loop. “Well you’ve been gone on three overnight hikes and two canoe trips in the last three weeks, so, I’d say you definitely have been out of the loop,” he responded. “I don’t know, you know I am almost six years older than she is and her boyfriend was only two years older?” “Yes, I know, but her best friend Dotty told me that she would really like you to ask her out.” “Oh, man, I will feel like I’m interfering with her being able to work things out with her boyfriend, and I’m sure a lot of the other guys will think I’m just some sleazy old man looking to score the hottest babe at camp.” “No man, she thinks you are cool, mature, not like some of the other guys that hit on her all the time.” “Maybe its because you aren’t chasing her that she feels safer with you than with some of them?” “Come on, man up, ask her out, she can only say yes, or no, right?” “Right, and I’m sure it will be no,” I replied with my usual lack of self-confidence when it came to considering dating young women like Martha.

Well to make a long story short, after another week of doing my best to avoid any contact with Martha, I finally got up the courage to ask her out on one of my weekly days off. She didn’t have the same day off, so we agreed to meet after lights out that evening and go to a nearby hangout called “Rick DePue’s” in Bushkill, PA. I was still driving my 1966 Bright Yellow Convertible Chevy Chevelle, with its 327 Dual Holly Carbs Engine and the ability to go zero to 60 in under six seconds, so I figured at least on the car alone I might be considered an acceptable date. Martha was relaxed, friendly, a great talker, and a great dart player. We spent about two hours at Rick DePue’s. We had burgers, a couple of Coke’s and played a couple of games of darts, talked in between games, and headed home a half hour before curfew. There was no dancing, although you could do that at Rick’s if you liked country music, no hand holding, no kissing, nor even a good night hug. It had simply been an enjoyable evening with no particular magic or spark, but one that certainly left me feeling a great deal more relaxed around her for the rest of the summer. We never dated again, she went back with her boyfriend later in the week, and I never pursued asking her out even the next summer when we both came back to work at the camps again.

Martha was sensational in the musical and Tom did a fantastic job of taking a group of totally inexperienced performers and stage support and turned them into a first-class summer theater group. The musical was a hit and played to big crowds the three nights it was run during the last camp session. The singing and dancing were superb and even so despite the fact that I choose not to participate as one of the dancers in the musical. I was very impressed with how well each of the dancers did with so little actual training and practice. My refusal to participate was not out of arrogance over my dance skill superiority, but over the fact that I was out of camp too often each week to make it to the rehearsals, and I didn’t feel like I wanted to just try and wing it with the group when I was able to be in camp. So I sat in the audience and enjoyed it immensely. Like most of the audience, our eyes were fixed on Martha throughout the night. She did the new musical at camp the following year and then went off to finish college and graduate school. She never ended up on Broadway, although I think most of us had a secret desire that she would.

Instead, she became a film editor working for the government editing documentary and training films in Washington, D.C. I lost touch with her and the rest of the camp gang after graduating from graduate school.

Now that the little story is done, what in the world can this have to do with technology? Good question! Really good question!

1. Sometimes technology isn’t planned a great deal in advance, like this camp musical it just kind of happens.

2. Sometimes the group to whom the technology is being presented isn’t the kind of group that is typically interested in technology like the group of campers mentioned above.

3. Sometimes the choice of the technology being presented isn’t exactly what we had in mind, in fact it doesn’t even seem to have anything to do with what we are trying to teach, like the choice of the musical “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” didn’t really seem to have a lot to do with stuff going on at a summer camp.

4. Sometimes we are startled by the people who show up with the talent to engage the technology like Martha in the story. Sometimes we don’t realize there is hidden talent in our midst and when it comes out, it really shines.

5. Sometimes key players, who are usually involved in the process sit it out, like I did in the story above. Not necessarily because they are opposed to the plan, but because other issues in their lives and/or work might be interfering with their ability to participate at all or participate well.

6. Sometimes the technology implementation plan does come together even when we only have a short time to execute it.

Okay, so how does this apply here at St. Theresa School.

1. Often times the school’s technology plan is rather fluid and needs to be adapted quickly. Meaning we implement new technology without a lot of advanced warning to the staff. This can be disconcerting and may even appear disrespectful to the staff on whom the technology is being imposed. Actually it is often the result of a new or better technology becoming available that was not available when the plan was first drafted. We attempt to take advantage of things that will enable us to advance our technology resources quickly and to do so in a way that puts us on par or even ahead of our competition. The rapid plan implementation isn’t meant to be rude or disrespectful, we are simply trying to take advantage of market availability and introductory pricing.

2. Sometime I realize that as an overall group, you might not be interested in the technology that I would like to introduce. I’m asking you to stretch out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar. I am not trying to be disrespectful of where you typically are coming from, or your background or knowledge, I’m just trying to help our school grow its technology use and curriculum integration in ways that might seem to be without consideration for your daily work in the classroom, but as a teacher as well, I do my best to be aware of the typical kinds of concerns that might come up if a particular technology is being introduced quickly.

3. Sometimes you have heard of or are familiar with a particular piece of technology and instead of purchasing that, I go out and purchase something different that isn’t familiar to you. I am not doing this to disrespect your recommendations on the equipment you would like. When I research product I try to look at the range of product features and get the most bang for our buck. Therefore, sometimes, I purchase brand products that you are not familiar with and will have to learn about, but I am doing so, not to deliberately ignore your requests but to do what I believe is best for the school based on the product research I have done.

4. Sometimes I am often surprised about who steps up to the plate and adopts the new technology first in our school. Often times it is not the person I would have predicted to do so. I think this is great because it points out to me that there are often hidden talents in the staff that sometimes only come out when a new challenge or opportunity is offered to the staff. I love to see this happen. It is one of my great delights to see someone I don’t expect to embrace a technology we introduce and get it up and running in their classroom.

5. Sometimes I find that key players who normally take to new technology hang back or don’t adopt it at all. That’s okay. I realize that there are many things going on in our classrooms and in our lives that may prevent us from being effective in the adoption of a particular form of technology. What I’d like to suggest is that you be open with me about this and we can sit down and perhaps work out a timetable for implementation that better fits what is happening with you and your class. In most cases we really do want everyone to adopt the available technology resources we have in the school, but I am very willing to work on compromise time frames for that adoption and utilization, just come talk to me.

6. Often times, one of the frustrations for me is that I can’t get to implement certain technology plan issues as quickly as I would like to. There are lots of reasons for that, and since many are specific to the specific technology I don’t plan to go into them here. What I do want to say is that often there is an aspect of our technology plan that can be implemented within a matter of weeks rather than take half a school year or even the whole school year to accomplish. If you help support what we are doing, sometimes that short time frame is very workable and we are very pleasantly surprised by the results.

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