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How to Tell If You or Someone You Know Is Insane from School Musical Volunteerism

annhathawayI am writing this during the most hectic week of my life, the second week of rehearsals for the elementary school play. I have been cast as a co-chair of the school play this year, and, as a method actress, I like to fill my role completely. That is why I have dropped everything, everything for my craft.

I'm like Anne Hathaway as Fantine. I'd cut off all my hair and extract a tooth, if anyone on the PTA were insane enough to ask me to do it. That's how committed I am to this production of Bye, Bye Birdie.

During production, I do not have any sort of a life outside of what happens in the school gym, which means I have to write this article frantically and in secret.
I am so into the whole thing that I call these two weeks "production."

Because I am never allowed out and I must be silent while I write, I'm the Anne Frank of volunteerism.

I mean, if word ever spread that I had smuggled a laptop into the elementary school and was writing a humorous essay during this sacred time of play rehearsal, the school board might kick me out and have me redistricted, perhaps to a horrible place, a place without a school play. And then what will become of my performance-loving children? That cannot be.

And so I only click-clack on the keys while the chorus of 90 are singing the big company numbers, which drown out the sounds I make when I laugh from rereading my own pathetic attempts at joking.

If you or anyone you know or love has ever run a school production, volunteered for such an endeavor, or been in charge of costumes, props, or tech for a school play, then you know just how insane I am right now. But, in case you aren't sure if this is you or not, here's a little quiz to take. If you can answer 'Yes' to three or more of these statements, then you have experienced School Musical Volunteer Insanity.

1. I haven't slept in three days because, when I try to sleep, lyrics from Bye, Bye Birdie (or insert name of other musical here) run through my mind in a compulsive loop that makes me friggin' batty. ("Did they really get pinned? Did she kiss him and cry? Did he pin the pin on? Or was he too shy?") The fact that my husband is sleeping soundly next to me seriously pisses me off.

2. I think I told everyone everything there is to tell, say, or do, but I can't remember now because there is just so much to tell, say, and do.

3. Last week I got a trickle of emails from my friends about lunch plans and play dates, but this week, I am getting 30 emails a day from different parents asking me if it's okay that their children wear off-white socks instead of white as per costume requirements. If I say yes, I'm a sock fairy, and everyone's hero. No means I'm a complete bitch.

4. I have not made dinner for over a week.

5. I have accidentally offended at least two individuals, been misunderstood by five others, and strained what was previously a good friendship, all in the name of helping out the school.

How did you do? I hope you scored a 3/5 or higher! Now, here's the tricky part. This quiz has a second section. Same rules. Here it is:

1. I enjoy teaching my children the musical numbers during dinnertime and I love hearing them break into song in the car or at a random place like a Chinese restaurant. (Long story.)

2. I have been working with such nice volunteers and have had fun in the way you have fun when you are pulling an all-nighter with friends in college. You are bleary eyed and crazy, but it's all good in the end when you ace the test. (Or, in my case, get a solid B plus.)

3. The emails aren't really that bad. I just made them sound that way above because I like to exaggerate and complain. In truth, it sort of makes me feel useful and important that so many people are emailing me about socks! My opinion matters!

4. I LOVE not making dinner!

5. And I LOVE the way a play comes together, just the way it should, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in good weather and in sleet, so help me Conrad. I get to play an active role in my children's memories of elementary school, and for that, in the end, I can only do one thing and, yes, I'm going to say it...Put on a Happy Face.

Break a leg, everyone!

gerstenblattColumnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia. Read about her new book Lauren Takes Leave and keep up with the latest from Julie Gerstenblatt here.


0 #14 Been there! 2013-02-05 05:45
(Guess I should clarify for Anonymous's benefit that I am not literally being killed, by Anonymous or by anyone else . . . )
0 #13 Been there! 2013-02-05 05:01
Anon -- you're killin' me! Lawyer, right?
0 #12 Anonymous 2013-02-02 05:52
Too? Subversive?

I'll try it simplier:

"Hitting the nail on the head," as you describe Ms. Gerstenblatt, is the standard we hope to have in testimony from witnesses sworn to tell only the whole truth in court.

Ms. Gersenblatt herself so much as admits that her story is at times exaggerated and humorous, and I am sure would concede that as a result, it could never stand as valid court testimony, or "hitting the nail on the head."

Accordingly she herself could not, by defintion consider this story to be the "scene captured perfectly." I'm amazed you do. Apparently, you know more of this story than does the author.

Really, no sleep for 3 days? all? You can't see that that's not literal? Prospective Navy Seals are treated better.

Please, I feel the urge to warn you, the book Jane Austen in Scarsdale is not reflective of how college admission actually occurs here.
0 #11 Sad really sad 2013-02-02 05:39
You commenters clearly have way too much time on your hands. Julie's piece was funny and a bit of a peek into school volunteers life for a very brief time. Folks get over yourselves!!
0 #10 Been there! 2013-02-02 04:27
Ok "Anonymous" -- you're pulling our chain too?? These comments are off-the-charts absurd! (Or so cleverly subversive I don't get them.) If you have ever participated in the after-school whirlwind fortnight known as the "school play," you know Julie's got the scene captured perfectly.
0 #9 Anonymous 2013-02-02 03:26
Like or dislike Ms. Gerstenblatt's story, a hoax is where one pretends to be true while being false. Where has that happened here?

And assuming Ms. Gerstenblatt's story to have at least some, if not nearly all comedy here, how exactly does it "hit the nail on the head," when to do such "carpentry" requires describing a situation EXACTLY: an event that the author herself admits to not doing, when she openly admits to humor in her bio, and exaggeration within the very story itself.
0 #8 Been there! 2013-02-02 01:21
I'm going to guess that the comments by "Context," "Private Thoughts" and "Perspective?" have to be a hoax. How else to explain such misplaced, absurd commentary?? And, speaking as one who was also once cast as the play co-chair, I can say with authority that Julie Gerstenblatt HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!! Thanks, Julie!
0 #7 Lets see what Ive learned 2013-02-02 01:15
A couple of years ago the Publicity Coordinator of 1 of our elementary school PTA’s submitted an article to this website about the school play, in which, I believe, she singled herself out for praise, having not done enough that year for the play, I believe, to even make the Playbill: which includes everyone.

Suffice it to say that is wasn’t Robin Dillon or Erin Foster: both deserving of praise.

Now, would THAT be an example of school musical insanity?
0 #6 Perspective? 2013-02-01 01:21
As all good writers know, when you put yourself out there, you may not be appreciated by all/piss people off, even if you announce your intent to be funny, in whole or part.

Our society balances the harshness that may result from an open exchange of ideas, by in large part protecting satire, or even comments meant as satire, as free speech: even if it upsets or would normally defame its target had it not been meant as a joke, especially if they are a public figure.

At her admission, Ms. Gerstenblatt writes with humor, candor, exaggeration and complaining. At her choice, and maybe by design, she weaves her way thorough these emotions without clear indication of where one ends, and the next begins. To assume her entirely comedical and fictional here would be as unfair as to assume her completely candid and factual. And if she is to enjoy a legal and metaphorical “get out of jail free card” through her ambiguity of emotional state at any place in her pieces, and the concomitant right to [have people] say, “that [sentence] was meant as a joke, it’s fictional comedy, lighten up, get over it” then so too must she bear the obligation of having others say “not funny,” where things might be serious on her part OR intended as a joke.

The door to free speech swings both ways. Regardless of our stance here, lets at least give Ms. Gerstenblatt credit for already knowing that. I’m going to guess she needs nobody’s pity.
0 #5 Greenacres mom, again 2013-01-31 19:56
Poor Ms. Gerstenblatt. All this misplaced erudition (see infra. Private thoughts made public). I wouldn't blame her if she gave up on Scarsdale and started writing for Harpers or the Economist. She'd get a more measured reception, and might, in fact, achieve what she intended to do in the first place: just give people a little laugh.

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