Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Comedy, Drama, Intrigue, Mayhem . . . It's Reunion Time!

Who doesn't yearn for comedy, drama, intrigue, and yes, even mayhem - all united within a riveting novel or Oscar-worthy feature?  Such entertainment is fine and dandy when viewed from outside of the pages or movie screen, but when we find ourselves living the misadventure at our own class reunion, we have to wonder if we've time-traveled back to the mischief-filled days of high school.

A Time Leap Back to Seventeen

When organizing or attending a reunion, it's not uncommon to make an unanticipated blast to the past.  Deep in our hearts, we sense the tingling itch of acne, the dull ache of braces, and the shyness that once left us speechless.  Fortunately, our rational adult minds will eventually reinstate themselves after old emotions come out to play.

Not all of us listen to the grown-up voice inside that urges us (much like our parents did) to behave.  The bullies still bully, and the flirts still flirt.  But the timid ones have at last found their voices and come out swinging.

Three Acts:  Setup, Conflict and Resolution 

In this Joan B. Average cinematic world of unlimited possibilities, school reunions stay true to the elements of a page-turner script.  Last year's reunion and its planning process resonated with these three emotionally-charged acts of screenwriting: setup, conflict, and resolution.

But first, let's start with the premise and theme.

Sandra Bullock's Prom 1982

 The Premise

It's a simple one.  Sell tickets to pay for the event, set the stage for the best reunion ever, and hope to stay friends with everyone afterward.

The Theme

We designated ourselves the Class of Big Hair and Lots of Makeup.  Our official Facebook page made a splash comparable to Best Buy customers at a Black Friday door-buster sale.  It really is true that anything in cyberspace grabs attention!

Setting the Scene 

Epics are often set in motion by tragedies, and our reunion was no exception.  Sadly, our sole coordinator died suddenly five months before the reunion.  A frantic search for volunteers on Facebook, quickly led to my initiation as one of seven organizers.  A solid team of hard-working committee members established, our dramatic production was destined for rave reviews.

Appointed the committee's marketing/media go-to, I found that an all-inclusive approach to reunion planning was essential.  This experience became my own version of legendary screenwriter William Goldman's book, Adventures in the Screen Trade.

Creating a Reunion Website Fast

I designed and published our website using Wix just hours before leaving for a three-week vacation.  Aside from a cell phone, no technology would be accompanying me on this electronics-free respite.  

But tickets had to be sold fast to cover the mounting expenses, and for that purpose, a website was key.  So, just twenty  minutes before departing for the airport, I added the final touches, and our ticket-selling tool was up and running. 

How Not to Schedule

Our first blunder was scheduling the reunion for Black Friday.  Prices for airline tickets always soar when Thanksgiving weekend - and the ensuing holiday frenzy - hits.  Gas prices often escalate, and trains and buses are packed to capacity.  Understandably, family time is of supreme importance during this time of year.

This combination of factors created a tremendous challenge for selling reunion tickets.   We faced the challenge with a little creativity and stuck with the date.

George Clooney's Prom 1979

The Conflict 

Things turned sour when a fellow committee member - still the sneering bully we all remembered from our school days - dropped out midstream and tried to use the slow ticket sales to sabotage the reunion.  His plan of attack: antagonizing us online.  This created a big problem.

You see, before he cast himself as our drama king, he acquired some wonderful door prizes donated by prominent companies and local celebrities.  Of course, we desperately needed those door prizes.  So we shoved our indignation into the pockets of our skinny jeans and squeezed into our ill-fitting kid gloves.  It was time to smack some adult sense into him.

But then, something delightful and unexpected happened.  Our old schoolmate's bullying produced the opposite effect.  It actually increased sales.  That's right!  We sold 150 tickets, well over the required minimum of 120.  His intended scheme had backfired!

Reunion night still found us on high alert in case our friend decided to bust in and cause a problem.  There were several police officer alumni in attendance, so we joked about approaching them if he showed up and refused to pay - something he hinted at repeatedly.  

Thankfully, we ended up having too much fun to keep worrying about it.  Our only cause for concern came in the form of a spy he dispatched to snoop around during the planning phase.

Matthew McConaughey's Prom
The Resolution  

But guess what?  Our gala was, without a doubt, the best reunion the Class of Big Hair and Lots of Makeup ever attended.   No one wanted to leave.

So, what became of our bully?  Was he booted to the curb after attempting to crash the reunion?

Only in our fantasies.

He stayed away that evening, but arranged a post-event party for the following night.  None of the attendees from the official reunion showed up.   Hopefully that's a lesson learned!


Five Tips for Planning a Class Reunion

1.  Select the right date and time for the event.  Take elements such as holidays and travel prices into consideration.

2.  Plan an informal gathering to be held at a local restaurant or alumnus's home, and invite reunion guests and their family members.  In warm weather, an outdoor picnic may be an attractive option.

3.  Avoid appointing one person as the sole organizer.  Instead, distribute the planning duties across the committee table.  If a task is big or challenging, assign two people to handle it.

4.  When online bullying rears its ugly head, don't engage.

5.  Always have a viable Plan B, just in case! 

Happy Reunion Planning!

How was your high school/college reunion?  Was it a thumbs up or thumbs down?  Joan B. Average, Scriptwriter wants to know.  Share your reunion experiences with us.  Tune in next time! 

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