Following the “Inner Weird”

Just before and after the hurricane and nor’easter, we had two very different speakers at school this fall. Our Coyle Scholar was Fred Newman, the guy who “honks, barks, and quacks for a living.”  He is the sound effects maven for A Prairie Home Companion, and by his own admission, is obsessed with sound. He actually shares his secrets for “putting more zip in your lip” in the book Mouthsounds, which offers more than 200 special effects you can make with your mouth from baby voices, to a cell phone ring, to a hand saw, to cricket chirps, to laser guns, to water dripping. When talking to the students, Fred explained his rather bizarre yet successful career choice as “following his inner weird.” He grew up in a small town in Georgia where story telling was the currency, and became so intrigued by the art of spinning a good tale that he learned to make sounds and voices to enhance the narrative. He told us he was always “slightly odd” as a kid, but reveled in his differences and in his unique talent.

Peter Nachtrieb, the visiting writer for the Upper School, is a playwright who writes humorous, often satirical plays and monologues, cutting through the absurdity of a situation with his humor. The son of a German mother and an American father, Peter grew up in San Francisco, went to Brown University where he studied Theater and Biology as a double major, and now lives and writes in San Francisco. Talking passionately about his writing and his love of connecting with an audience through live theater, Peter talked of always “ following his inner voice” which led him to try all aspects of theater- directing, acting and writing, and discovering that writing is where his heart and mind most comfortably and easily reside. Not that he is a “comfortable writer.” Rather, he challenges and provokes, taking on huge issues such as life, love and the universe, but always using his humor as a lens and an edge.

Our students heard two very different people with similar messages in that they both followed an inner drive, a deep-seated passion, and made it their life’s work. Both Fred and Peter pursued completely different paths, but each is fulfilled and successful in his chosen world. I hope our students took from these two very different people the importance of listening to that inner voice, even if it is a little weird!

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