In the spring of my senior year in high school I took an elective class called, "Contemporary Affairs," which was taught by one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Brunell (dad of Broadway talent and all-around lovely person, Catherine Brunell). Our text was Newsweek magazine and since this was during the Gulf War, our class focused on understanding Islamic culture, religion and history, and the beliefs that led to the war.
The other part of the class was focused on learning applicable "real world" life skills, since as seniors we would be entering the real world in a few months. Mr. Brunell taught us practical things like how to open a bank account, how to balance our checkbooks and how to file our tax returns. We did a really cool assignment where we had to take Billy Joel's song, "We Didn't Start the Fire," popular at that time (yes, I am truly dating myself), and identify every historical reference that was in the lyrics.
The class culminated in the "Buy a House" project. Starting at square one, we had to figure out our imaginary budget, learn about mortgages, search the real estate ads in the newspaper for houses we were interested in (the internet hadn't been invented yet!), call the agent and inquire about the specifics and do research on the neighborhood (taxes, school system, public facilities, etc.).
Even back then I sent my standards high. I chose a 7 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom Colonial with panoramic views and a jacuzzi on the pristine Fiske Hill, in the neighboring town of Sturbridge. I determined what my salary would have to be in order to make my monthly mortgage payments (easily affordable, since I planned on being a Hollywood starlet), and traveled to Fiske Hill to take pictures of my prospective house for my project portfolio.
While I don't have the evidence to prove it, I'm pretty sure I got an "A" on this project.
The point of all this (and there actually is a point), is that sometimes, developing Helen feels like that "Buy a Make-believe House" project from Mr. Brunell's class. I'm throwing myself into every step of this process as if I had a multi-million dollar budget and we were Broadway bound next month. And it sometimes feels surreal; like I'm "playing producer" like I used to "play" house and school and restaurant in my cellar with my sister and best friend.
But, as I've read in every book about producing, you really can only learn how to produce by jumping in and trying it. So, using Mr. Brunell's inspired project as my template, I've tried to imagine what I would do if Helen were, in fact, going to Broadway next month. And as far as this current "Produce a Broadway Musical" project goes, without being a billionaire, all I really can do is focus on getting an "A" for effort.
I never bought the house on Fiske Hill. But thanks to Mr. Brunell, my checkbook is balanced, my taxes get filed before the deadline every year and I've never paid my rent even a day late. Let's hope this Helen project gives me as many valuable "real world" skills.