Into the Woods

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What happens to you if you stray too far off the beaten path? Do you get lost in the woods? Do you fall off a cliff or stumble into a deep hole? Or do you get eaten by a wolf? Conversely what happens to you if you never leave the path? You might find yourself safely at grandmother’s house in no time at all. Or you might wonder what you have missed by sticking with the tried and true.

These questions and others are raised by the most recent production by Asheville Creative Arts in their modern interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. The adult cast performing for children and adults will get you thinking about what you might have missed by being too good a girl or boy all your life. It will also get kids thinking about the real dangers that are out there in the real world and on the internet. The show opens next Thursday night at the Magnetic Theater on Depot St. in the River Arts District. You can get tickets on line or call my daughter Abby at 914-830-3000.

Most of us were taught to stay carefully on the path by our concerned parents. Families want their kids to be safe and successful, and staying the course is a direct route to old-fashioned success. We were implored to do well in school, go to a good college and grad school, and then take our place in the world of work. Marching to the beat of the status quo, dressing “appropriately,” and using good manners were essential to moving ahead in our chosen paths.

When I graduated from college in 1968 it was already apparent that I was marching out of step. Yes, I was certainly marching in the “right” direction, finishing college with good grades, but something was definitely amiss. I was a member of a cool-girl sorority, and for a graduation present, our house mother gave each sister a doll wearing a handmade copy of her wedding dress, as the month of June was booked solid with weddings of my sorority sisters. Only a few of us were not getting married, and we received, instead, a silver plated candy dish for our Hope Chests. Which we did not possess. Hopeless! I was also clad in very short mini skirts and was an active member of the Yippies, marching against the war.

Most of my fellow grads were heading towards teaching careers, but I was not interested in teaching. Too bad, because the campus was flooded with HR people from school districts trying to recruit us to fill vacancies in their communities. My friends were offered cars, apartments rent-free, and cash bonuses to accept jobs. I had a one-way ticket to Switzerland in my fist, where I was going to live in bohemian bliss with my Swiss boyfriend, so I scoffed at these safe job offers. I was ultimately jilted by Max and had to make my way with a broken heart and without a cash bonus. Oops! Loser… I muddled on.

Nowadays, however, there are very few jobs waiting to be filled by ambitious grads. Many grads find their way back to their parents’ homes where they languish until they can figure out what to do. Those who move to Asheville find themselves begging for Barista jobs at Starbuck’s competing with PhD’s. It takes thinking outside the box and having the daring spirit of an entrepreneur to find a path that can provide a living wage. Jumping through the proscribed hoops doesn’t necessarily lead to the desired outcome. Those who make the biggest splash in today’s world are those who think of something brand new and have the creativity to sell their idea to the public. Think about all these young internet app creators who are billionaires.

I was a good girl for years, in that I stayed in the same teaching jobs for a long time, but a not-so-good girl in that I was always going out on a limb and trying new techniques and breaking the school rules. One sweltering June day before CCDS was air-conditioned, I took my listless ninth graders through a hole in the perimeter fence to Ben and Jerry’s and treated them to ice cream. Coming back through the hole, we bumped head-on into the school principal who was not amused. Later in Juvie, I smuggled forbidden books into student hands in order to encourage reading, and I brought homemade cookies and cakes into the facility to show love and encourage participation in academics. Finally, I was suspended for writing about the abuses of life inside Juvenile Justice. 

Now I have taken a leap of faith into a world that I absolutely do not know: business. I have no idea what I am doing, have no business plan, and have no financial cushion. On the other hand, if success means doing something that one enjoys and that doesn’t feel like a chore I am a huge success. I lost track of the path through the woods years ago, but I am enjoying the wandering.