and if you want music you could’ve just asked for it
I will throw in a random frostpunk article for absolutely no reason – Freezarite
"In the summer of 1886 the snowstorms began. Crops failed, people starved. Millions fled south. They met only chaos, famine, and death.
In the farthest reaches of the resource-rich north, the British Empire began construction of heat-bearing generators, where a chosen few could survive safe from the chaos of crumbling civilization.
They ran out of time.
An apocalyptic ice storm came from the south, devouring all in its path. People fled in panic. Some managed to cross the seas and reach the site of a generator only to find it frozen solid.
The generator was designed to power a city capable of weathering the end of the world…
It falls to us to build it."
In an ultimately frozen world, people develop steam-powered technology to oppose the overwhelming cold. The city ruler has to manage both the inhabitants and the infrastracture the citizens live in. The leader’s tactical skills face challenges, frequently questioning morality and the basic foundation of what we consider an organized society. Here optimization and resource management often clash with empathy and thoughtful decision-making. While city and society management consume most of the ruler’s time, at some point exploration of the outside world is necessary to understand its history and present state.
What decisions will you make so that society can survive? What will you do when pushed to the limits? And who will you become in the process?
The events of Frostpunk take place in an alternate AD 1886. It is yet unclear precisely when the game’s timeline diverged from our own, but, given the technology, notable people, and events derived from the snippets of lore presented in game, it may be speculated that the divergence began as early as the year 1822.
BGF: Before the Great Frost
AGF: After the Great Frost
1822 (63 BGF) – The Triumph of Charles Babbage
In 1822, the English mathematician Charles Babbage conceives of a steam-driven calculating machine that would be able to compute tables of numbers. The project, funded by the English government, was a failure in our timeline, but in world of Frostpunk Babbage succeed in building his Difference Engine, an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. With the success of Difference Engine, the English government increased Babbage’s funding and help from his fellow mathematician, friend, and correspondent Ada Lovelace allowing him to build the successor to Difference Engine, the Analytical Engine. The latter was a mechanical “general purpose computer” and the world’s first computer in the World of Frostpunk.
Over the decades, Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine continued to be improved and made smaller with each generation by other scientists and engineers, until a new type of Computational Engine was invented that is capable of following orders and performing complex tasks.
1822–1886 (63 BGF – Year 0) – Inventing the Steam Core
Somewhere between 1822 and 1886, the Steam Core was invented by Professor Hawkins. The invention of Steam Cores became a massive boon for the British Empire and the technology was adopted by other countries, such as the United States.
However, all knowledge regarding the manufacture of Steam Cores was lost during the Great Frost and in the ensuing chaos of civilizations’ collapse. Most tragically was the loss of Professor Hawkins, who attempted to escape the Fall of London by crossing the Channel with his belongings, including all the blueprints and other documentation about Steam Cores, onboard an experimental Steam Core powered aeroplane. Only a Model of the Steam Core Prototype inside a waterproof chest was found afloat by a corvette searching for Professor Hawkins.
1822–1886 (63 BGF – Year 0) - Birth of the Automatons
Concurrent with the invention of Steam Cores, and doubtless building upon the success of Babbage’s project, sometime between 1822 and 1886 the giant steam-powered robots known as Automatons were invented. These metal behemoths were born through the combination of complex clockwork mechanisms, the advanced computational engine, and the application of the Steam Core device. These huge machines, towering over people and structures, were the pinnacle of human engineering before the Great Frost and a massive boon to the British economy which propelled it to become the world’s first Superpower in the modern sense. Many other countries tried to make their own Automatons independently and even attempted to reverse-engineer them with mixed results, while others simply bought Automatons from the British.
1886 (Year 0) – The Great Frost
In the summer of 1886 the Great Frost began. Initially it presented as a chain of strange weather patterns, frost during summer, killer snowstorms in the northern countries, never-ending rain storms in the Sahara and an ever increasing drop in temperatures worldwide. The United Kingdom and several other countries sent out expeditions to the North to conduct research into the origin of the incipient changes in climate. Many of these British research outposts were equipped with Heat Generator Towers to enable prolonged study of these phenomena.
Meanwhile in England and in the rest of Europe, the general atmosphere continued to deteriorate. As even the hardiest crops began to fail, starvation had set in among the public. As days became months, millions of desperate people fled south in search of warmer weather and sources of food. They were met with chaos, famine, and death. Many southern countries had neither the inclination, nor the resources, nor even the infrastructure to handle a massive influx of refugees. Many governments tried to calm their people or turn a blind eye to this problem until it was too great to ignore, and anarchy erupted as man turned against man in a struggle over the few remaining resources, civilization slowly crumbled under the growing weight of snow and ice.
In an attempt to save the Empire and its people, the British Government arrived at two solutions. The first involved sending multiple naval vessels with refugees to their colonial holdings in South America, East and South Africa, India, and Australia where it was warmer. The other plan would involve sending icebreakers and purpose-built Land Dreadnoughts with refugees to the farthest reaches of the resource-rich North, where members of the British Science Expeditions have finished the construction of heat-producing Generators, and where a chosen few could survive the environmental catastrophe and the consequent socioeconomic collapse.
However, the strategy of the British Government was thwarted by Mother Nature herself. An ice storm of apocalyptic proportions came from the south, devouring all in its path, and severing all communication and travel between England and rest of its Empire. Robbed of options, the British Government ordered the complete evacuation of London and rest of the country. Ships, Land Dreadnoughts, and other forms of transportation were built or confiscated in order to transport as many refugees–many of them upper-class citizens–as possible to the far North. The goal was to navigate to the sites of the British Science Expeditions’ research outposts that were equipped with Heat Generator Towers, and re-establish civilization.
1886–1887 (Year 0 – 1 AGF) – Fall of Winterhome
Winterhome was a settlement of survivors not unlike New London, which started out as one of Britain’s long term research outposts controlled by the military (it was also the head quarters of all research and scientific expeditions within the frost land). By the Fall of London, the settlement had become a small city. It was expected by most of the residents to be very advanced and thus capable of providing assistance to its new neighbor. Unfortunately, by the time New London’s scouts reach it, the city is a frozen ghost town, with the generator damaged beyond repair. Alternatively, a dying man will reach New London and reveal Winterhome’s grim fate in his last breath, setting in motion the events that follow the news regardless. Starting out as a militarized science outpost, Winterhome had access to some advanced technologies and a lot of manpower and resources, which allowed them construct automatons, an outpost, and an observatory, as well as a steel bridge over a deep, wide ravine.
Winterhome’s backstory is revealed in the scenario ‘Fall of Winterhome’. The ultimate demise of Winterhome is revealed to have been caused by the chronic failure of its generator - the result of either rushed construction, substandard materials, or poor workmanship. Despite its origins as a military research outpost, it is apparent that significant immigration has occurred due to the large presence of children. This undoubtedly put a heavy strain on resources, particularly food and housing. It is perhaps from these pressures that the first Captain (likely as a military officer) resorted to a brutal, authoritarian rule to maintain order. The harsh rule combined with possible mismanagement induced great resentment of the leadership; the first major generator malfunction appears to have been the final straw that united the dissenters into a full blown rebellion, resulting in a city-wide civil war. The victorious rebels install the player as Captain to restore the city, by now mostly a smoldering ruin, setting the scene for the ‘Fall of Winterhome’ scenario. In the ensuing battle, the Original Captain and his soldiers were gunned down and piled into the city’s mass grave, piled on top of one another as far away from the citizen’s bodies as possible.
It appears that the news about London’s destruction and the arrival of massive amounts of refugees caused major strife within the city of Winterhome; a riot broke out over food shortages and increasingly harsh rule by an army captain before their generator exploded from lack of oversight. Many of them either perished from that explosion, fell in the resulting chaos, or scattered across the region in camps. Few survivors that were spared by the destruction of Winterhome were found and saved by scouts from the nearby settlement of New London.
Word of the city’s fate delivers a crushing blow to the population of New London’s Hope, and forces the Captain to take stricter actions in order to stabilize his people and regain control of his own city. Winterhome’s demise also prompts several people to try to retreat back to London out of fear of sharing the same fate. It is up to the captain to prevent the Londoners from gaining followers and leaving the city, and to decide how humanely to keep the city together.
Some of the survivors that survived the destruction of Winterhome were found and possibly saved by Scouts from the nearby New London.
1886–1887 (Year 0 – 1 AGF) – The Rise and Fall of Tesla City
Tesla City was a settlement founded by survivors of an American Expedition under the leadership of Nikola Tesla. They too were sent north to study strange weather patterns in the advent of the Great Frost. Using his great intelligence and keen technical knowledge, Nikola Tesla founded both his namesake city and Tesla Manufacturing, an engineering and manufacture concern that could very well be the largest contemporary production facility in the world.
Tesla Manufacturing had a complete monopoly over the City, holding ownership of every single building, and had the capability to produce highly advanced pieces of technology, which included Prosthetics and Steam Cores. Ostensibly to ensure humanity’s survival in the frozen wasteland, Nikola Tesla grew to rule the city with an iron fist; those who could not work efficiently enough were either exiled or abandoned. Consequently, his utilitarian principles of Progress and Efficiency were viewed as dehumanizing by the people in his charge, who saw themselves as mere cogs in a soulless machine.
At some unknown point, Nikola Tesla attempted to implement an electricity field designed to shield his City against the encroaching snow. He succeeded in creating a dome of electrical energy which kept the ice and snow from engulfing the city proper. However, the field was either flawed at its inception, eventually developed a critical malfunction, or was somehow altered to electrocute humans within its radius. When a Scout Team from New London arrived at Tesla City, the city was completely intact, with the exception of the blackened and scorched corpses laying in the streets, and some notably minor damage to buildings from the field’s discharge.
Even in its desolation, Tesla City is a veritable treasure trove of advanced technologies. The city appears to be the only location in the region that has the facilities capable of manufacturing Steam Cores, should an Outpost be constructed and manned in its vicinity.
1887 (1 AGF) – New London
New London was a settlement founded by a group of survivors fleeing London. It may be the last refuge of human civilization against the bitter cold, as the nearby cities of Winterhome and Tesla City have fallen.
The City of New London is located inside a massive, roughly cylindrical hole in the middle of a glacier, also known as The Pit. It appears that the glacier has naturally formed as the massive amounts of ice and snow descended from the grey clouds above. Additionally, there is the presence of disused Outpost Depot-like elevator structure which previously allowed people entrance to the Crater. It is possible that either the crater formed naturally around the perimeter of the Heat Generator’s thermal radiation, or was perhaps excavated by unknown means to provide a stable surface for the former. At one time, New London’s Heat Generator Tower was surrounded by a massive forest, the majority thereof now frozen within the icy walls of the glacier.
Since the Heat Generator Tower was not covered by massive amounts of snow and ice upon its discovery by the refugees, it is believed that the members of British Science Expeditions used up all of their coal resources to keep the site ice-free for the refugees before they were forced to abandon the research post. The site of the generator is littered with discarded wooden containers and metal debris which potentially came from the two currently defunct shaft elevators.
Lost and Scattered, but Not Defeated
After days, even months of traveling, the Land Dreadnought from London finally ran out of coal and gave up the ghost. With little choice left the London Survivors left their Land Dreadnought to make the long trek to the Generator site. The journey towards the site was long and grueling, and many died due to exhaustion, hunger or bitter cold. Misfortune struck when the Convoy of London Survivors was separated during a blizzard. Of the Convoy of several hundred survivors, only small a group of 80 people under the leadership of the Captain was able reach the site, only to find the Generator stone cold and abandoned.
After they scavenged and salvaged enough resources from the wreckage and debris littered across the Crater they began setting up camp around the reactivated Generator. As days passed, the small camp of survivors became a small settlement with a Medical Post, Cookhouse, several Hunters’ Huts and full functional Workshop. However many were still worried about the missing members of the Convoy and their loved ones, and some wanted to go out and find them. However, due the harsh weather and lack of identifiable landmarks, it was nearly impossible for anyone to find their way to the city.
So the Engineers came up with the idea for a strange contraption which they called the Beacon. The best way to describe what this strange contraption is a tethered hot air balloon with a light beacon and lookout post attached underneath it, which function as both watchtower and lighthouse. Using the Beacon, they were able to survey the frozen wastes and find several sites of interest, one of which appeared to be a large group of people camped in the snow.
1887 (1 AGF) – Legacy and New Manchester
The City of Legacy and the Seedling Arks
The City of Legacy, also known as Legacy Ark, is a settlement founded by academics from Cambridge and Oxford, who were sent to preserve the last vestiges of plant life on Earth. While having the smallest population compared with New London and Sanctuary, the city is an industrial powerhouse. Heavily industrialized and automated, with its mechanized army of towering Automatons work day and night to keep the furnace of the City’s Generator fed and keep the life-support system of the Seedling Arks going. Unlike the circular crater in New London, the city of Legacy is located in an eye-shaped crater with significantly more frozen trees but no suitable place for an Outpost Depot. Most of its natural resources like frozen trees, coal deposits, iron deposits and the cracks in the wall are all concentrated on the southwestern end of the crater while the northeastern end of it only contains a few frozen trees.
During the early days of the missions it was tough for the people of Legacy; the Expedition had reached the safety of the Generator site and stored Seeds and Seedling within the Seedling Arks, but not without cost. They had lost the blueprints for the Factory when their Land Dreadnought had given up the ghost, and one of the two Automatons they had had broken down during the long walk to the site and they were forced to leave it behind. They organized a Scout Team to retrieve the blueprints and salvage any valuables from the Land Dreadnought. During the journey back to the Land Dreadnought the Scout Team found the broken Automaton; they succeeded in repairing it and programming it to go to the city.
After the blueprints were successfully retrieved, the construction of a Factory and expansion of the industrial base began. However, early on the Engineers of Legacy ran into a snag. Their small supply of Steam Cores was depleted quickly. Lacking both the facilities and technical know-how to make their own Steam Cores, the Scientists of Legacy were forced to continue scouting the surrounding region in search of more Steam Cores to increase their industry and the number of Automatons . With some research into experimental technology, the scientists figured out how to turn an Automaton into a Mechanized Scout Unit, allowing them to increase their number of scout units, in order to find and salvage more vital resources for their small settlement as the devastating snow storm slowly approached.
With much of the city’s industry fully automated by Automatons, the people of Legacy began to prepare themselves to weather the oncoming storm, when suddenly a lonely man, who was almost half frozen to death, came stumbling out of the frozen wasteland.
The Plight of New Manchester
New Manchester is a settlement founded by refugees from Manchester. Due to bad fortune their Land Dreadnought ended being trapped by collapsing ice sheets. Forced to abandon their vehicle and most of their supplies, the Manchester survivors arrived at their Generator and founded the City of New Manchester. However, due to poor leadership and the lack of skilled labor they could not develop their city any further since most of them were all working class.
With resources running low and a devastating snowstorm slowly approaching, the leadership of New Manchester began to send Scout Teams out into the Frostlands in search for help or any sites with the resources they needed. Many of these Scout Teams died; only a sole survivor from one of these teams stumbled into the sheltered canyon where a small community of scientists and engineers had founded the City of Legacy.
The survivor pleaded for help and the People of Legacy sent out one of their Scout Teams to find New Manchester and determine the situation. When Legacy’s Scouts arrived at New Manchester, things looked really grim. New Manchester looked more like a slum than a city: tents and ramshackle huts surrounded the barely functioning Heat Generator Tower, and the people managed to scrape just enough food and coal for each day to survive. There was no chance that the city would survive the storm without some kind of outside intervention.
The people of Legacy were faced with a difficult choice: would they help New Manchester and risk compromising their mission, or keep focusing on their mission and leave the people of New Manchester to their fate?
Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.
In Real World
Born and raised in the Austrian Empire, Tesla received an advanced education in engineering and physics in the 1870s and gained practical experience in the early 1880s working in telephony and at Continental Edison in the new electric power industry. He emigrated to the United States in 1884, where he would become a naturalized citizen. He worked for a short time at the Edison Machine Works in New York City before he struck out on his own. With the help of partners to finance and market his ideas, Tesla set up laboratories and companies in New York to develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices. His alternating current (AC) induction motor and related polyphase AC patents, licensed by Westinghouse Electric in 1888, earned him a considerable amount of money and became the cornerstone of the polyphase system which that company would eventually market.
Attempting to develop inventions he could patent and market, Tesla conducted a range of experiments with mechanical oscillators/generators, electrical discharge tubes, and early X-ray imaging. He also built a wireless-controlled boat, one of the first ever exhibited. Tesla became well known as an inventor and would demonstrate his achievements to celebrities and wealthy patrons at his lab, and was noted for his showmanship at public lectures.
Throughout the 1890s, Tesla pursued his ideas for wireless lighting and worldwide wireless electric power distribution in his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs. In 1893, he made pronouncements on the possibility of wireless communication with his devices. Tesla tried to put these ideas to practical use in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project, an intercontinental wireless communication and power transmitter, but ran out of funding before he could complete it.
After Wardenclyffe, Tesla went on to try to develop a series of inventions in the 1910s and 1920s with varying degrees of success. Having spent most of his money, he lived in a series of New York hotels, leaving behind unpaid bills. Tesla died in New York City in January 1943. His work fell into relative obscurity following his death, but in 1960, the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the SI unit of magnetic flux density the tesla in his honor. There has been a resurgence in popular interest in Tesla since the 1990s.
In Frostpunk, Tesla founded Tesla City which is an area that can be scouted in the scenario A New Home. The city’s main virtues were productivity and efficiency as Tesla’s company, Tesla Manufacturing, had taken control of the city as it was the only company left in Britain (And possibly the world). It therefore took control of buildings and the government of the city and installed a system of productivity and extreme capitalism.
Tesla had two Dreadnoughts (Water dreadnoughts not to be mistaken for the land dreadnought of winterhome) that were able to break through ice called the Prometheus and Mephastous traveled the frozen sea from America until the Prometheus crashed and he ordered only able bodied people and people with prosthetics to be saved. All those that couldn’t work in the city were disregarded and exiled as they had no use to the society of Tesla City which is evident of the sign established by exiles from Tesla city detailing Tesla’s brutal disowning of useless citizens in the city. Tesla supposedly worked on machines and technology that would assist humanity in its fragile position and begun the manufacturing of Steam Cores.
Although the fate of Tesla is unknown, it is extremely likely that he was killed by his own invention; an electric dome surrounding Tesla City which was intended to prevent snowfall from lining the city. Although it was successful in doing this, the electricity from the dome also vaporised the inhabitants of the city, turning them into unrecognisable charred corpses. It isn’t unlikely to believe that Tesla was perhaps one of these charred people, whom met his demise marvelling at his achievement. Ultimately, it was the ego and carelessness of Tesla that led to the murder of Tesla City’s people. Tesla met his end at a group of refugees–living on the edge after being banished per his policies–after he was exiled from his own city.
" Able Minds and Bodies will prevail over the Cold. "
- Tesla City Slogan
" May God forgive the Genius who sacrificed human lives in the name of progress, for we can’t. Exiles of Tesla City. "
- Memory of Injustice Monument
Telsa City is a city that is encountered within “A New Home” scenario.
Tesla City Lore
Tesla City was a settlement founded by survivors of an American Expedition under the leadership of Nikola Tesla, who were sent North to study weird weather patterns before the entire world became a snow globe. Using his great intelligence and technical knowledge, Nikola Tesla founded Tesla City and Tesla Manufacturing, the largest - mostly because it was the only one left in existence - company in the world, which pretty much owned the entire city.
Tesla Manufacturing had a complete monopoly over the entirety of the City, owning every building. It also had the capability of producing some highly advanced pieces of technology, which included Prosthetics and Steam Cores. To ensure humanity’s survival in this frozen wasteland, Nikola Tesla began to rule the city with ideals of Progress and Efficiency. These ideals dehumanized the people of the city, treating them as cogs in the machine. Amputees were given mechanical prostheses, but the unhealthy and the severely crippled were unable to work efficiently enough, and so they were exiled and cast out from the city.
At some point, Nikola Tesla tried to invent a device to shield his city against the encroaching snow and ice, but it backfired disastrously. He succeeded in creating a dome of electro-static energy that kept the ice and snow out, but any humans inside were electrocuted.
When a Scout Team from New London arrived at Tesla City, the city was still completely intact and untouched, with the exception of blackened and scorched corpses laying in the streets and some minor damage to some buildings due to random lightning strikes. The New London Scout Team tried to disable the city’s energy dome. While there are many conflicting reports of the fate of the Scout Team, they did succeed in deactivating the shield.
Tesla City became a treasure trove of advanced technologies for New London. The ruined city is the only city that still has facilities and capacity to make Steam Cores, pieces of highly complex and advanced machinery that are needed to power and construct the most powerful and advanced machines. An Outpost was quickly built within the abandoned city and New London began to receive daily shipments of Steam Cores.
The few survivors and exiles that were spared the destruction of Tesla City were found and saved by New London Scouts and brought back to New London.
Tesla Manufacturing was the largest (mostly because it the only one left in existence) company in the world that founded by Nikola Tesla, using his great intelligent and technical knowledge Nikola Tesla did not only founded the Tesla Manufacturing company, but also Tesla City with help of American survivors from his expedition. Tesla Manufacturing pretty much had complete monopoly over the entirety of the City, owning every single building, and had the facilities and capability to produces to some highly advanced pieces of technologies, which include Prosthetics and Steam Cores.
Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul: Volume 1
The Troubled Teen
A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.
He had these eyes. Dark pools of pain and energy and intelligence shimmered regularly to the surface during his days at Cabrillo High School. Like the rest of us, Brian was a walking vault of life experiences, but unlike many of us, his initial foray into the living world was a bit more traumatic than most.
Brian’s high school career started out shaky. His freshman year, he got into a fight with an older boy, and the fight was serious. For this infraction of the rules, he was expelled, and spent a year attending classes at a nearby school district. There, he met a teacher who figured out that underneath all that anger, a fine intellect and sense of humor existed.
All that year, Brian and Mr. James worked together to get caught up with high school credits. By the end of his freshman year, Brian had successfully completed the necessary forty units to be classified a sophomore. Maybe even more important than the credits, with Mr. James mentoring and counseling, Brian began to slowly let go of some of the anger that so readily bubbled to the surface during each school day. I guess the best way you could describe Brian’s transformation was miraculous, but at the time, nobody could have predicted just what a miracle his recovery actually was. We just didn’t know enough about his past.
That changed in August before Brian’s sophomore year.
As chair of the English department, Brian’s paperwork arrived in my hands a few weeks before school started. On top of his folder, an impassioned letter written by Mr. James pleaded with us to allow Brian to return to Cabrillo High School. Examining his grades and behavior plan, it was clear to us that Brian had indeed made a sharp U-turn in his life… and was now headed in the right direction. However, we still had lingering doubts as to whether this young man could emotionally hold it together at a large, public high school. We also wondered what would happen if Mr. James wasn’t around for support. I decided to dig a little deeper to find out more about Brian’s past.
What I discovered was painful to read. That said, more importantly, it must have been an excruciating life for Brian to survive.
Brian was the oldest of five children. He never knew his father, and his mother was a meth addict. Brian’s earliest memories involved digging in trash cans to find food, violent men who showed up at all hours of the night, and a mother who would disappear for days at a time. I spoke with Brian’s third grade teacher, and he told me that Brian’s case was one of the worst he’d ever seen. His eyes watered as he described the situation. I called Child Protective Services at least four times that year; they’d take Brian for a couple of days, and then a relative would come and pick him up. A few days later, that relative would hand the kids back to Brian’s mother. It was a vicious cycle.
Throughout the chaos of his childhood, Brian’s report cards were fairly consistent in their comments: Brian is very bright and inquisitive in class; Brian is a fast learner; Brian is a gifted writer; Brian is very responsible and a good friend to others. It wasn’t until Brian reached middle school that the grades and comments on his report card changed. Instead, the comments began to include statements such as: Brian needs to focus in class; Brian has missing assignments and is in danger of failing; Brian loses his temper in class when confronted with his grades; Brian seems to be a bright boy but lacks motivation.
By eighth grade, Brian was losing hope.
During his last year of middle school, Brian racked up a serious array of discipline offenses. From fights to alcohol possession to defiance, Brian earned over thirty discipline referrals, was suspended twenty-eight days, and spent a whopping thirty-eight days in in-school suspension. His grades dropped to a 1.2 GPA and he had stopped making any effort to complete homework. Most of the time when Brian was in class, he slept.
That was on a good day.
So it was with some trepidation that I allowed Brian to return to CHS. I’m glad I did. For whatever reason, Brian felt obligated to me for making that decision, and we built a relationship that still exists today. Brian worked hard during his high school years, amassing a 3.1 GPA, he played sports, and was even elected to the homecoming court his senior year. His anger was still there, but it simmered gently, and with continuous support of his teachers and friends, Brian found his hope again. A popular boy with a great sense of humor, he worked his way into the hearts of his teachers, his coaches, and his peers.
Because Mr. James gave him a chance, because we gave him a chance, but more importantly because Brian gave himself a chance, he overcame the odds, and graduated from high school. At the school’s baccalaureate services, the senior class always voted for one senior to give an inspirational speech. That year, Brian was the unanimous choice. I worked with him on that speech, and as Brian relived some of the painful details of his past, I started to choke up. He walked over to me, wrapped his frame around my shoulders and said, I’m okay that all this stuff happened to me. It made me stronger. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t lived through it.
At that moment, Brian gifted me with the realization that it’s through our struggles (not our successes) that we experience the most emotional and spiritual growth. Brian had learned to embrace his past, learn from it, make his peace with it, and move on.
He took those lessons and decided to help others. I was at his college graduation the day he told me he’d decided to become a teacher.
It was, maybe, the best day of my educational career.
Comedy for Dummies
Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
As a dedicated theatre student, I’ve received my fair share of questions from curious audience members: “Don’t you get stage fright?” “Who makes the lights change between scenes?” “How long do you have to rehearse?” And, most frequently, “How do you remember all those lines?”
What always strikes me about these questions is that these are the things I rarely give a second thought. Learning lines, for instance, is just something you have to do in order to perform a play; it is mandatory, and thus, unremarkable. However, there are other things about theatre that people never ask about — things that I find difficult, but which never seem to occur to the average audience member.
The biggest one? Comedy.
When you stop to think about it, I guess it’s not surprising that people don’t ask, “How are you guys so funny?” Most of us accept that the gift of comedy is just that: a gift. People are simply born funny or not funny, in the same way you could be born with attached or unattached earlobes. A genetic fluke, the right combination of chromosomes, and hey presto! A funny baby! God takes a bow as the curtain falls.
For better or for worse, I missed out when the Gift of Comedy was bestowed upon a select, fortunate few; instead, I got Brains, with a capital B. For most of my childhood, I was Hermione Granger incarnate, with a mind like a steel trap and a hand that seemed magnetically drawn towards the classroom ceiling. Fortunately for everyone involved, my know-it-all tendencies subsided near the end of middle school, but I still cruised through my class work with ease and confidence.
I was smart, so who cared if I wasn’t funny? Well, I cared, actually. I cared a great deal, particularly once my junior year of high school rolled around. Over the past two years, I had become deeply involved with my high school’s theatre department, and that fall, I was cast in our production of Rumors, a farce by Neil Simon. On one level, I was delighted — it was an excellent cast, and the script was hilarious. On an altogether different level, however, I was terrified. How the hell had I, a girl with no talent for making people laugh, ended up being cast in a farce? How could I possibly disguise my ineptitude from my director, my cast-mates, and most importantly, the audience?
I read through my script every day, looking for clues. My character, Claire, had a lot of acerbic, snarky lines, and my eventual strategy was to rely on the text of the play for the humor. It seemed like a good plan, and initially, it did work. But my cover didn’t last long. Unfortunately for me, there were moments in the play that required comedic timing, something I lacked in abundance. One particularly humiliating incident was a scene where the humor depended on a pause before I delivered my next line, a pause that had to be just the right length. After several failed attempts, Owen (our director) decided to stop and work just this section of text, over and over and over. It didn’t help. Each time I got it wrong, Owen and my scene partners would offer advice: “I’d say it’s about three beats long,” or, “Just let the awkward silence settle before you speak.” Each time, I nodded, flustered, and tried again... to no avail. Out of the dozens of times we ran this section of text, I only nailed the moment once.
I’d always known I wasn’t an inherently funny person, but this incident took my belief a step further: I was the least funny person on the face of the Earth. My embarrassment, while painful, might have been manageable had one of my scene partners not been a friend of mine who was without doubt the funniest person I had ever met. Tom was our class clown, the sort of guy who could crack up an entire room with a mere flick of his wrist — and to be honest, it certainly didn’t help that I had recently developed an enormous crush on him. With him present for the entire rehearsal, the incident was downright mortifying; I suppressed a strong desire to crawl into the orchestra pit and die.
My troubles were not over yet, though. About two months into rehearsals, my drama teacher announced that our theatre class was going to have a special guest teacher! A talented young actor from the local Shakespeare festival was going to be doing a clowning workshop with us for a few months.
Clowning? I thought. Wait, you mean, like... being funny?
Suffice it to say that, with Rumors rehearsals as an everyday reminder of my struggle with comedy, the workshop was a terrifying prospect, and I looked forward to it with all the enthusiasm of a French nobleman bound for the guillotine. In fact, I took it as a sure sign that the Theatre Gods had decided to torture me with my own lack of comedic skill. Who knows? Perhaps it was their idea of a good joke.
The workshop began with a long discussion about what makes a clown, and more generally, what makes something funny. The almost-scientific approach that we took, breaking down comedy into its basic elements, was something of a revelation, but I still didn’t see how it could work for me. Eric, our teacher, made humor sound so easy, but experience told me that this was far from true.
Then we began work on our clowns.
To start off, you’re each going to pick one physical trait that you don’t like about yourself, and you’re going to exaggerate and magnify it, Eric explained. It was a bit uncomfortable, acknowledging out loud what it was that we didn’t like about ourselves, but everyone did it. I picked my bow-legged-ness, and highlighted that quality with baggy pajama pants that were too big for me. I also walked with my legs splayed out, as though I’d just spent a month on horseback.
Thus it was that, bit by bit, I began to understand how humor worked. It was a painfully slow process. In all honesty, there were a couple of moments during the class that leaned dangerously towards the nightmares I had suffered before the workshop began. However, there were also times when my audience of friends giggled at my antics and applauded with enthusiasm at the end of my sketches. For our final presentation, I worked to incorporate everything I’d learned into my sketch, and the result was a success! The audience laughed heartily as my clown, a five-year-old Harry Potter fanatic, tried to cast spells on her stuffed animals.
I wish I could say that, following these experiences, I become riotously funny and went on to win several Emmys for my hit CBS comedy show. The truth of the matter is that, little by little, I just got a bit better at being amusing. And at some point along the road, those pesky Theatre Gods must have had a change of heart, because Tom asked me out just a week before Rumors closed. Who knows? Maybe that was part of their master plan all along. Life is funny like that.