Last night I spent nearly $100 at Campus Camera in Kent. I'd gone there to pick up six DVDs made from six VHS videos of plays I'd directed back at Harmon Middle School and Aurora High School. I have not looked at those videos since the 1980s (the era they were shot), and now I'm terrified to see them, even though it is now surpassingly easy to do so.
I used to go to Campus Camera all the time. Back in the late 1960s, early 1970s--and even beyond--I had my middle school students write and shoot and edit Super 8 films (and I should say that J. J Abrams' 2011 film Super 8 had me in tears--link to trailer for the film). We even had a couple of film festivals at the school, and one group of girls won a student film contest at WVIZ-TV--a film in which they matched images of Van Gogh paintings to lyrics from Don McLean's song "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)." (Link to video of the song.)
Anyway, those film projects had me heading into and out of Campus Camera several times a week, and I bought lots of equipment there, too--camera, tripod, viewer/editor, splicer, splice tape, film stock, etc. How I have any retirement money at all is a mystery. But I hadn't been in the place in a long time; things look a little different (digital, you know), but I felt right at home, too.
Okay, so here are the six I just had transferred--and I should add that former Harmon student Andy Paul has about six others I just gave him (from about 1982-86), tapes of shows that he was in. He's going to convert them for me and send me copies:
- 1984: 8th Grade Farewell-to-Harmon Show (HMS)
- 1987: Grease (AHS)
- 1988: 8th Grade Farewell-to-Harmon Show (HMS)
- 1989: The Merry Wives of Windsor (AHS)
- 1989: 8th Grade Farewell-to-Harmon Show (HMS)
- 1991: 8th Grade Farewell-to-Harmon Show (HMS)
These recordings were not done by professionals; in some cases, kids stood in the back of the Harmon Commons (or AHS gym, at the time) and recorded them with a sad camera on a pretty good tripod--maybe with some close-ups now and then. Black-and-white. I'm not counting on very good sound, either.
I directed my first show in Aurora at the old Aurora Middle School (Craddock), on the gym floor, in the spring of 1967, a show I wrote with some students called The Founding of Aurora; or, The Grapes of Wrath. One of the students who was in that show (John Mlinek) showed up at my house one day a few years ago with copies of the script, and we sat--John, his wife, Joyce, and I--and read it aloud, wondering all the while how on earth we'd ever thought that stuff was funny.
John, by the way, remains a good friend and did a cameo in the very last show I did in Aurora, the 8th Grade Farewell Show in the spring of 1996.
I directed more than thirty plays in my career (all but two at Harmon; those two were at Aurora High)--but not all that many made it to video. It was too much of a hassle in the early days, and, later on, we tried a few, had some "issues" with quality. I really don't know if there are students whose families shot video during the final few shows I did in the mid-1990s. But I don't have them--I don't think. In this Mess That Is My Life they could be in a box somewhere. If they exist at all.
And so here I sit ... looking at the little pile of DVDs I now have and feeling a bit like the Cowardly Lion, only no part of me is leonine. So I'll probably not look at them.