A Touching Tribute To Teaching In ‘Detentions, Demerits, And Dismissals’

Whatever other differences may divide us, one thing remains almost universally true; we’ve pretty much all had our fair share of teachers, many of whom would prove to be formative as we approached the rest of our lives. Thus, though it may strike a particular cord for those teachers who happen to be in the audience, pretty much everyone is likely to find something to connect to in ‘Detentions, Demerits, and Dismissals.’

Currently playing at Bob Carter’s Actor’s Workshop and Repertory Company for only one more weekend, this touching one-man show created and devised by Jerry Seeger is based on the works of Taylor Mali, a Brooklyn-based poet and educator. Given that a few of his poems have been popular on social media, it’s possible that you may already have some familiarity with Mali’s work. If you haven’t, you’re free to check out his Youtube page to get a glimpse of what makes his work so charming—or you could choose to trust me on that point and just opt for Seeger’s interpretation! 

Having now spent more than 20 years as a teacher himself, Seeger interweaves lively anecdotes from and reflections on his own experiences in the profession with performances of Mali’s works. Together, these two threads of the show make for a dependably entertaining, occasionally hilarious, and ultimately powerful theatrical experience.

Taking a seemingly effortless command of the stage, Seeger also makes a point of engaging his audience by often addressing or interacting with them directly, which helps us to quickly build a connection with him that encourages us to pay attention to all that he has to share. Filled with clever wordplay and piercing insight, the “lessons” in the form of poems from Mali that Seeger repurposes are probably the highlight of the play— but you’d definitely be remiss to miss out on the chance to hear the talented actor interpret and enliven them with his animated aplomb. 

In this play, you’ll get to enjoy the whimsical whirlwind of “Poet Teaching Math and History”—and to likely laugh your ass off at a malapropism-peppered reflection on “The Impotence of Proofreading.” You might find your mind opened by “What Teachers Make,” which offers a persuasive retort to anyone who has ever attempted to scoff off teachers’ contributions. And you may well find yourself tearing up as you hear the tale of “Tony Steinberg,” in which Mali recounts observing a moving show of solidarity from his students as one of their own undertook a battle which would prove to have life-or-death stakes. 

Especially given that the show is only an hour and fifteen minute commitment that will surely breeze by given Seeger’s mastery of his material, there is much to gain and little to lose in choosing to take his inspiring compassionate class on teachers and their importance. Thus, if there’s any way you can make it out to Actor’s Rep before November 19th, I would encourage you to go ahead and buy your tickets—and if you can’t, you can also access a recording of the show virtually via Anywhereseat until this Saturday night!

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