Playwright Debut

My dad, Tom Ratto, taught music in Southern California for over 30 years. This means he put on Christmas plays and performances with and anywhere from 200 to 400 kids every year in December. This also means that I attended a K-8 Christmas performances every year of my life until I was 18 or so.

And they were spectacular.

He has since retired from teaching but I joked a while ago about how all of my hours as a rug-rat tailing him into classes, setting up before shows and prepping props for performances thoroughly trained me for my job out here in Korea. But last Friday that joke became a blaring reality.

I too have joined the family business. I put on two Christmas plays with 4 and 5-year-old Korean kids, song and dance movements 'n all.

How the Grinch Stole KDLP by Mark Ratto from Elysabeth on Vimeo.

{This is a video of my 5-year-old's. I actually wrote this play for them and it included "All of My Favorite Things" and "So Long Farewell" from the Sound of Music as well as "Santa Clause is coming to town." The camera ran out of memory card space so it is cut short, but I am very proud of these little tiny people. I mean, come on, they are performing in English!...Oh yeah, and I did not pick out the costumes. I repeat, I did not pick out the costumes.}

In many ways I am my dad. At everyone of those old Christmas plays or other events, parents and friends would often say we look alike. I always shrugged it off like most kids.

Now, on almost a daily basis, Tom Ratto bursts out of me. The the things I say, how I teach, my connection with the kids; everything sounds just like him back in the day. And now look at me, directing school plays. I know we look alike but this is getting wildly similar.

It makes you really think, "maybe this is exactly where I am supposed to be?"

For right now at least.

Get Lost my friends...


NPR Bound

My lady, otherwise known as the lovely Elysabeth Hahm, has landed the gig of all gigs.

She does not start work until 5 p.m. and gets out at 8 p.m. everyday. Not only that, she can comfortably survive out here with the amount they are paying her. What does she do? Radio. She does radio and does it big.

It's funny, when you listen to talk radio you always picture some face behind the voice. It may even be a vague image but you always do. Minutes before Liz hit the waves for the first time my curiosity sparked because I wondered what people would think she looked like when they heard her voice. I was sourly surprised...She sounded too good to be true.

She spoke with a subtle smoothness enhanced with sophisticated sag-ways. She sounded like a veteran capable of always putting a fresh perspective on things. But she also sounded, for a lack of better words, super attractive. I immediately thought, "I'm screwed." I had joked the week leading up to her debut that she was the next big thing in Seoul. I did not realize that she would be the next 'hot' chick in Seoul. I got really nervous when this thought surfaced but quickly dismissed that silly notion when the reality of the situation rapidly came into perspective.

In that moment her voice rang though ears and speakers throughout Korea. This was the biggest English speaking radio station in Seoul and her 30-minute segment played at 7:30 p.m., prime-time.

My emotions quickly turned toward genuine pride. Of all the things she has done in her life this is by far the biggest challenge and with the most at stake. If she failed, she would be jobless. If she succeeded, coming to Korea instantaneously became a hugely profitable decision.

So she did what she does best; smiled, giggled and rode the wave through, grounded head at the ready. And she sounded absolutely incredible.

She has just entered her fourth week on the job and has officially staked her place behind a mic. It's quite impressive to say the least. Prior to this she only had experience in print media and had never really done any type of public speaking. You would not know it when she comes on air.

The station (http://www.tbs.seoul.kr/ENG/) enjoys her tremendously and the show is picking up momentum. I must also mention that I have been a guest caller three times since the start of the show and I, eh-hem, attribute most of the shows success directly to my calls.

With that being said, it's good being Liz right now. Did I mention she doesn't have to use an alarm clock!?!?

Get Lost my friends.....


The Best Concert I Will Ever Go To In My Whole Life For As Long As I Live, Ever.

Last Saturday I went to a concert with Liz, my buddy Dave and whole lot of apprehension. It was free because Liz's work put it on and none of us really thought it was going to be anything more than maybe a banquet style setup with some food and a jazz band or DJ.

Well, it was much more than that my friends. It was a production of excitement blended with moments of fear wrapped in a whirlwind of "what could possibly be next?" questions that fiddled with my emotions so much I ended up enjoying it more than anything else I have done in Korea.

Yeah. I know.

Here goes...

{The First Band was a reggae band. He told us to, "shake ya' booties and feel dah vibreations," in a slightly Jamaican yet almost American slash pirate accent. If you attempt the accent exactly how I described, you most likely nailed it.}

{This is ToucH, a Korean Pop band. A group of seven dudes, 4 of which could pass as very attractive girls, all dressed in tight denim and some array of brown leather coat with fake white fur frills and if you look closely you can see the lead singer in the middle with wings sewed into the side of his pants. I'm not making this up.}
{The calm before the insanely badly choreographed storm.}
{Then boom, wing pants takes flight!...It was really bad. But so bad in fact, I loved every moment of it.}

{Now this was interesting. It was a choir group that consisted of 13 different ambassadors wives. They did a medley of 18 traditional folk songs and arguably the most confusing part of the night happened when the wives from Papa New Guinea and the Phillipines did a traditional dance other wise known as 'The Electric Slide'.}

{This was by far the best 20-minutes of my weekend. A Korean band that covered Queen. The lead singer rocked a mustache, the guitarist wore a wig and aviator sunglasses and they conjured the essence of Queen magically. No joke, this Korean dude hit every single note and sounded exactly like Freddy Mercury. At the end of the first song I gave a standing ovation with a wildly too loud yelp in appreciation but when I looked back at the hundreds of Koreans giving me that, "come on, don't be so American dude," look, I quickly sat back down...These guys have been a band for 13 years. Which means this guy has rocked that stache for 13 years which, looking back, is what most likely prompted my adoration for them.}

There was about 10 acts all together that ranged from the K Pop scene to embarrassing Korean rappers to young girls playing traditional instruments to a very talented American rapper and finally finishing with a fantastic Jazz quartet that ended up accompanying some K Pop star chicks.

We walked out of that concert with 3 hours worth of conversation and we used every last minute of it.

Get Lost my friends....

The pictures were provided by the beautiful Elysabeth Hahm.


Awesome Crying

Last week the strings that pull my conscience one way or the other were vigorously yanked...To the right.

Every month I administer a Spelling Bee to my two groups of smarter kids. One group are 5-year-old's and the other group are 4-year-old's. This month's Spelling Bee unfolded like this.

The 5-year-old's went as usual. One of the smarter kids won, the appropriate high-fives were administered. It was pretty standard. I think it's cruel to put children this old into any type of educational competition, but I walked out with a smile

The 4-year-old class on the other hand exceeded all precedents for a Spelling Bee with tiny people.

Instead of explaining how everything unfolded I will skip to the final round where four kids stood at the front of the class. Three of the students had already won the Bee more than two times. The other student, named Oliva, had not ever won. As a matter of fact, she had never made it to the final round. In the final round I present four words to each student and the student with the most spelled c0rrectly, wins. This Spelling Bee is designed so I can influence the winner. So I did.

(Olivia had been falling behind lately with her English and I have recently made it my goal to help improve her reading. I like Olivia. She told the other students she likes Markuh Teacha' very early on. So naturally, she has been a long time favorite of mine.)

At the end of the round I asked the final four students how many words they spelled correctly. The first said three. The second one said three. The third one said three. The fourth one, Olivia, looked at me shocked, surprised, astonished and simply ecstatic when she finally realized she had spelled four words correctly and had won. With a jump of pure joy she yelled, "FOUR!" She then proceeded to run to my side, wraps her arms around my waist and dig her smiling face into my hip. It was special.

But all of sudden, I noticed another student, Rachel, crying. Her face ran soaked with tears. Her face scrunched together with emotion and she could not hold it in. Everyone in the room paused hoping she was upset because of losing. My Korean co-teacher asked her if she was OK, she nodded slightly. My co-teacher, looking surprised, then asked her, "Are you happy?" She nodded, once again, yes.

My heart dropped. Olivia ran into her friend Rachel's arms and two bawled with happiness over Olivia's accomplishment. They could not hold back the tears of joy.

Witnessing this type of purity turned a page on humanity for me. Rachel was truly happy for her friend. So much so it brought her to tears. This brought me to appreciate my job. I will forever take that moment away with me when I think back on my year of teaching tiny Korean pre-schoolers.

{Rachel on the left and Olivia on the right.}

Get Lost my friends....