Friday, October 1, 2010

Part 38: Mourning Becomes Electra

With conclusion of "Joseph", work began on Everyman, a medieval morality play, to be performed once again at Brent's St Nicholas Chapel. Rug surprised everyone by promoting Gordon Strachan from his role of archbishop (in the play Murder in the Cathedral) to the role of God in Everyman! This was definitely not a case of typecasting! Jaime got the role of Death, Elmer was the Messenger. There were new faces to our theater group as well: Paul Becker got the lead, his brother Mark was Fellowship, Fred Thomas was Kindred, Robert Rivera was Good Deeds, Norman Van Vactor got the role of Knowledge (Everyman I will go with thee and be thy guide); and as for me, well I was relegated to lying under the front pew, holding a flashlight to provide extra lighting at key moments during the play. But at least I got a front row view!

This play turned out to be a real crowd pleaser and was another feather in Rug's cap! And he didn't slow down; right after the last performance of Everyman, he caught a flight to Italy so he could direct "
The Most Important Man" by Pulitzer prize winner Gian Carlo Menotti. He returned three weeks later with autographed postcards from the theater signed by Mr Menotti for us!

Time was moving swiftly. The mile posts that signaled the final days of the school year came and went:
Senior Skip Day, the Science Fair, PRISAA Nationals, Field Day and the Junior-Senior Prom. Even at Brent, where a single school year could hold an eternity of lifetimes, another year was all too quickly coming to an end. Teachers and students, people we had loved, laughed and lived with, would be leaving. Most we would never see again. Growing up with a transient lifestyle I knew this and comprehended it. But I wanted an end to the constant changes and movement. I wanted permanence. I tried to extract the most out of each moment, sucking up words, memories and mementos, storing them away, as if that could somehow slow the march of time.

I wasn't the only one who felt this way, the little farewells were taking place. Cathy McAlister had just been reunited with her boyfriend Nathan and now they would be separated again when she left for college. Daily now, faculty and staff would approach and hug graduating seniors like Jean Clark, Ginger Hamilton and Michelle Woods, some they had known their entire lives; now they were about to enter universities in the United States, a country they barely knew.
Then one day before graduation, Peg appeared with a
pasiking on her back. Peg Hamil. Always quick to put me in my place, to correct my mistakes, pointing out errors in my judgment and thought process. More than any other friend she molded and shaped me. Typical anti-establishment Peg, she was leaving, not waiting around for graduation day. Her friends gathered around for hugs and goodbyes and she turned to go. Beth started sobbing and turned away, but Renee and I walked with her to the gate. She gave us some last words of advice and a whack on the head for good measure. We watched her figure growing smaller as she walked down Brent Road; I turned to say something philosophical to Renee (whose eyes were streaming) and she slugged me. Renee hit harder than most guys, her punches always left huge bruises. It was just her way of telling me to shut up.

The Jenista's were moving on. Mrs Jenista full of life and laughter; standing me up and singing in the dining hall impromptu! Mr Jenista brought history to life for me. Connections, he would say, it was all about connections. Random acts strung together precipitating monumental events. He showed us how the actions of individuals and governments could affect events decades or centuries later. He taught me to soberly reflect and review, not to be so caught up in the emotions of the moment. I wondered how it would be to grow up in the Philippines, to graduate from and then come back and teach at Brent, then have to leave again. Was it what he thought it would be, was the experience diminished by the changes at Brent?

And Rug was leaving us too. We had a going away party for him one night, Leigh and I went to town and picked up a bottle of wine as his going away present and we made him a card put together from the programs of the different plays he had directed. Later that night, after the throng had left, there remained those closest to him: Leigh, Elmer, Jaime and myself. He shared the wine, shared some advice, shed some tears. Of all my teachers he affected me the most. Not so much with his constant strive towards excellence and perfection, but in showing me that before one can stand firmly behind ones convictions first he must reflect upon his own character, its weaknesses and flaws before passing judgment on others. This has always been hard for me because it runs contrary to my upbringing. But I strive for it everyday.
Then, just as suddenly as he came into our lives, Rug was gone.

"...And that's the end. He passes away under a cloud, inscrutable at heart, forgotten, unforgiven and excessively romantic. Not in the wildest days of his boyish visions could he have seen the alluring shape of such an extraordinary success. For it may very well be that in the short moment of his last proud and unflinching glance he had beheld the face of that opportunity, which like an Eastern bride had come veiled to his side. But we can see him an obscure conqueror of fame tearing himself out of the arms of a jealous love at the sign, at the call of his exalted egoism. Is he satisfied quite now, I wonder? We ought to know. He is one of us and have I not stood up once like an evoked ghost to answer for his eternal constancy? Now he is no more, there are days when the reality of his existence comes to me with an immense, with an overwhelming force and yet upon my honour there are moments too when he passes from my eyes like a disembodied spirit astray amongst the passions of this earth, ready to surrender himself faithfully to the claim of his own world of shades..." from Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

1 comment:

  1. I've really been enjoying your accounts of life at Brent School. Rug sounds like an amazing teacher (I never met him since I didn't get there until 1975) -- some teachers sure inspire!