What's it about?
Exit Strategy presents the process that urban public schools in Chicago had to undergo when being shut down. This was told from the perspective of the educators that hated their jobs but loved the children they taught.
What'd I experience?
So I’m at the Cherry Lane Theater for the second time in my life. I gotta say these seats are very comfortable. I looked up at the stage and it's an office. It was very narrow to me at first glance. Some rap music is playing as the house fills, and that made me wonder how the urban community plays a part in this show. I took a peep into the program, very smooth program too, and read a little bit about the show. It took place in Chicago… that was enough for me.
The show begins and in the first scene you see Ricky, the administrator, enter his office along with a teacher. Ricky was trying to tell Pam that the school was going to be shut down. What really made this English teacher go off is the euphemisms that Ricky used in order to lightly lay the news to her. She came back and broke this man with her words.
Pam gave one of the most brutal verbal ass whooping that I have ever witnessed. She was dynamic and strong. I myself have had a teacher like this. Pam was my history teacher on steroids with the ability to commit man slaughter with her words. I mean damn!!!! She spoke to Ricky about her long years working in that school and the frustrations she has when trying to maintain those high school kids on the right path. There I was able to look back at the struggle that my urban public school teachers under went when dealing with my peers who were mostly misunderstood and misdirected.
He tried to come back at her a few times but the man did not stand a chance. He offered to light her cigarette and they smoked to ease the stress. I was relieved as much as they were, I felt like I took a pull of that cigarette with them to calm down. I was excited to see what Pam would do next. Pam began to make her way out of Ricky’s office and Ricky pointed out that they hadn’t talked much in his years there. So he suggested that she knock on his wall when she gets into her class so he could... know that she got in safe? huh? I don’t know.
She just smiled and said ok. He sat in his office getting himself back together and about 2 minutes later you her three knocks from Pam’s class room next door on Ricky’s wall. Ricky knocked back with a smile on his face and a minute later…………. BOOM. GUNSHOT. SCENE ENDS!!!
ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! THAT WAS NOT COOL!!! I WAS SO PISSED!!! I wasn’t mad….I WAS PISSED. I wasn’t disappointed…I WAS PISSED!!! I loved the fact that I was pissed though. I give’em props for the surprise. I love surprises.
After the black out and the rap music, I lifted my head back up from my palms as the next scene began and all I hear is the woman behind me saying "WOW" I just didn’t know exactly what I was going to see. At that moment I saw a TEACHERS LOUNGE. This wasn’t just any old plain teacher’s lounge set. This thing was alive!!! It didn’t look like a set.
I looked like a teacher’s lounge, from the microwave to the vending machine and the shitty lighting. It was a teachers lounge that came straight of a 1990's high school. From the lighting to the paint. Then came in the other teachers. Old man Arnold, Sadie, Jania, and Luce which represented the whole staff. These characters combined, made up for Pam’s absence.
These characters together were a fire ball full of so many different elements that clashed together and created fast paced/witty/delicious scenes assisted by great dialogue. I saw them as real teachers and I was able to take them serious whenever they became serious. Teachers have that switch, operated by authority. It’s a thing of beauty, it’s annoying for students.
The staff did not get along well with Ricky who apparently could have done something to prevent the school from getting to the point of closing down. According to the staff he ignored them when they were struggling while taking action. Rick now wants to get involved in getting the school through a successful last year.
The pressure was on for Ricky, I felt bad for the guy but I understood the staff's frustration with him. Ricky got verbally assaulted by everyone (except Luce because that was his boyfriend), especially Donnie. Donnie is a student that had gotten in trouble for redirecting the home page of the school to go to an Indie Go Go page to help raise money for the school. He did it without authorization and it was up to Ricky to suspend him. Donnie was brought into Ricky's office and was prepared to be suspended. He was alone with Ricky and Ricky was going through the same process with Donnie as he was with Pam. VERBAL DESTRUCTION.
Donnie expressed his frustration as a student in a school that is at risk of shutting down just trying to help and being called out for it. Donnie's emotion and energy folded me inside. He mentioned Pam as he defended her name in the scene and you can see the influence that Pam had on Donnie just by the way he stood up for himself against authority and for what he believed in. I was familiar with such encounters involving Student vs. Teacher but not in such circumstances.
The staff formed a group called Team Winning and Team Winning had a successful walk out that made some noise but did not successfully keep the school from closing. Team Winning worked hard throughout the year but failed. One of the people that saw it was going to fail was Arnold. Arnold had been through it in his younger days with Pam when it came to protest and walk out's. Arnold was in the teachers lounge alone and "the ghost of Pam" came in the room. I was a bit disappointed by this because I had already accepted Pam to be dead and I believe in he concept of leaving while you're on top. Pam spoke to Arnold and Arnold stepped out of Team Winning's way.
In the end the school was ready to be torn down. About 4-6 bulldozers came and it ripped Donnie apart inside. Donnie started to plead but Jania told him that "we fight! But never beg!" I took that gem in and left the show very amped. Enough to motivate me to write my next music with the thought of "standing for what you believe in" and the "never give up" attitude.