“Ronna, when I first met you, I thought you were a snobby white bitch. I judged you by sight, and not your inner self. But girl, you are a dynamite lady!”
The upstairs gallery room known as Caos on F erupts into raucous laughter as Ronna J. Levy, creator and performer of This Gonna Be On The Test, Miss? concludes, “And yes, that was from Candy Sunglass.”
She’s referring to one of the hundreds of students she’s taught remedial English to across the country, from Hell’s Kitchen to Los Angeles. With each student comes a story: Candy, called Candy Sunglass because of the sunglasses she never removed over the course of an entire semester; Igor, who refused to play a version of “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” without cash prizes (until Kit Kats were mentioned), and countless others whose quirks and excuses make up a fair chunk of Levy’s material.
But it’s not all about students mixing up the words “fate” and “faith” — Levy’s accounts take a poignant turn when she begins sharing the backstories of her students, from the athlete injured in a drive-by shooting who would never run track again to the family man in love with the streets who ended up in prison for drugs and assault. Over time, the teaching jobs she took solely to support her dreams as an aspiring actress become not only enjoyable, but a fulfilling experience — she at last feels like she belongs somewhere, and the rapport she builds with her students is life changing.
This Gonna Be on the Test, Miss?
by Ronna Levy
at Caos on F
923 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
It’s the kind of thing one expects from a show like this, but Levy takes it a step further when she eventually concedes to her love of teaching and moves from L.A. back to New York to be closer to her family. It’s after this move that she realizes what has happened to the new generation of students: “Their skills are weaker, the stakes are higher, and their apathy manifests as anger”, so much so that she is encouraged to include a civility clause in her syllabus. What Levy says about her past students is familiar — what she says about the students of today hits home like a thunderbolt.
Levy’s life as a teacher and aspiring actress has been a wild ride peppered with almost unbelievable encounters and humorously ironic situations, and this show is no different. And don’t worry — there’s no pop quiz at the end.