In perfect dreams
Step into someone else's shoes for a day with Boston's various classes and workshops
Ruby slippers, three-wish genies, and winning lottery tickets can be hard to come by, which means it's up to you to make your daydreams a reality. Luckily, you won't need to quit your job, spend your savings, or audition for reality television to make your wish come true. These one-day classes around the city offer the chance to try on a different life without commitment or investment. For a day, you can play detective, rock star, gourmet cook, or great American novelist. Real life can wait.
Think you're the next Steven Tyler? Dream on. But you can pretend when you rent a recording studio at Limelight in downtown Boston. The Asian-style karaoke boxes are available by reservation seven days a week for $10 per person per hour (actual cost varies according to room size). The largest studio accommodates 30 people. Using a touch-screen system known as IVP (Interactive Vocal Performance), you act as your own engineer, selecting, playing, and recording tracks. After selecting a pop, hip-hop, country, or show tune from the 5,000-song library, you can sing your heart out and add vocal effects such as raspiness or vibrato in real time. The recording process is easy enough to do it yourself, or you can invite an entourage to lounge on the couch and watch your performance on the flat-screen TV. If you're trying to perfect your windmill along with your high C, you can record a DVD of your performance. The camera feed features special effects like the look of a grainy vintage film or ''The Warhol,'' which splits the screen into the artist's trademark colored boxes. At the end of your session, simply pick your best tracks and an audio or video recording will be waiting as you exit the studio. Now that's A-list treatment.
Limelight Stage + Studios Inc. 204 Boylston St., Boston. 617-423-0785. www.limelightboston.com
In an unassuming warehouse by the train tracks in West Concord, master blacksmith Carl Close teaches the craft he learned from his father. ''People think of blacksmithing as old,'' says his wife and business partner, Susan. ''They think, 'My grandfather did that.' But you can do it, too. You can make something from nothing in a day.'' Held two Saturdays a month, the class runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs $190, which includes materials and a communal lunch. Students get their own propane-fired forge, anvil, and set of hammers along with an iron rod that they will shape into a plant hanger by the end of the day. ''Blacksmithing is like chess,'' says Close, as he demonstrates hammering techniques. ''You've always got to be thinking of your next move.' As the six men fire their 2-foot-long steel rods and pound the red-hot metal, the quiet intensity of concentration settles over the forge, punctuated by the ring of hammer strikes. It takes muscle, but the metal slowly bends, and a scroll begins to take shape. The process is slow but satisfying. Said Bill Litant, ''It's nice not to have a computer between me and what I'm doing.''
Classical Blacksmithing School of Boston 50 Beharrell St., Concord. 781-321-5424. www.hammersmithstudio.com
How do you know when someone is lying? Actors on ''Law & Order'' and ''CSI'' can flip to the end of the script. But in real life, there's no easy answer. There are techniques, however, that can lead you to the truth. In ''Forensic Interviewing: The Art and Science of Uncovering the Truth,'' former CIA investigator William Morrissette will teach you how to ask questions like a crack detective. ''A lot of people don't know how to do a good interview,'' says Morrissette. ''Many of my students are social workers, CPAs, and property managers - professions where the ability to read peoples' trustworthiness comes in handy.'' Of course, his techniques are most common in law enforcement and police work, the tweezer-wielding detectives who crowd our TV screens. ''On 'CSI,' they solve everything in an hour,'' says Morrissette, ''but in real life, it might take two or three years.'' The next class, which costs $71 ($66 for members), will be held March 17 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. For amateur investigators who get hooked, he also teaches ''Reading People and the Psychology of Persuasion.''
Boston Center for Adult Education 5 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-267-4430. bcae.org
If you find yourself narrating as you chop garlic or mugging for an imaginary camera as you pull your lasagna from the oven, it's time to hobnob with the culinary elite. Boston University's Food and Wine Seminars will introduce you to the city's celebrity chefs, their techniques, and attention-getting menus. On a recent Monday night, Carlos Rodriguez, chef at Orinoco Restaurant in the South End, introduced 13 students to a Nuevo Latino menu featuring sugarcane tuna, lamb picadillo empanadas, and a chocolatey torta fluida for dessert. The students gathered around a white-clothed table to hear Rodriguez explain the meal, then broke into teams to chop peppers, peel malangas (a kind of South America yam), and mix cake batter. ''Cooking hands-on is so much more fun than watching,'' said Pat Schindeler as she melted chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Lisa Brugnoli-Semeta, who attended with her sister and a colleague, said she enjoyed the opportunity to work with accomplished chefs and ''the chance to cook kinds of food you can't do on your own.'' Upcoming classes include bread-making with Abe Faber and Christy Timon, owners of Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline, and a look at new Irish fare with Kevin Crawley, chef/owner of Coriander Bistro in Sharon.
Boston University School for the Culinary Arts 808 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-353-9852. bu.edu/foodandwine
Great American writer
OK, you'll need more than a day, but Grub Street asks for just a weekend to draw out the novel or screenplay you were born to write. In the ''Weekend Workout for Novelists,'' instructor Lisa Borders welcomes students to class with as little as an idea and as much as a manuscript and sends them home with inspiration and strategies to keep the writing flowing come Monday morning. ''My hope is that when they leave, they have the momentum to keep writing,'' says Borders. Former student Kevin Cooney, who self-published his first novel, ''The Brotherhood,'' said the class helped him ''break the creative log jam and put my nose to the grindstone.'' The class allowed Margaret Holmes to get her feet wet without the time or cost of a more traditional class. ''If it didn't work out, it was no great loss.'' For her, however, the class did the trick. ''What had seemed pie-in the-sky now seems possible.'' The workout happens twice a year, once in the winter and once in the summer. (The winter class was held in January.) If you can't wait until the summer, consider signing up for Drew Yanno's ''Screenwriting Made Simple'' on April 14 and 15. The author of ''The Third Act: Writing a Great Ending to Your Screenplay'' reveals the keys to structure, memorable characters, and effective dialogue through movie clips and lectures. Of course, none of that matters if you don't understand the business of Hollywood. ''Writing is the hard part,'' says Yanno. ''Getting it sold [is] harder, and getting it made hardest of all.'' Both workshops cost $185 ($165 for members) and run 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Grub Street 160 Boylston St., Boston. 617-695-0075. grubstreet.org
You stroll through funky galleries and craft shops with a gimlet eye, thinking, ''I could do that.'' But you never get around to it, do you? Now's your chance. The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton offers day-long ''try it out'' workshops in crafts such as ceramics, jewelry making, and papermaking. Education associate Diane Park says the workshops ''are geared toward beginners or learning a special technique.'' Pre-registration is required for the three-hour workshops, which cost $45 ($30 for members) and include materials. Instructors come from the local arts community. On a recent Saturday, Amy Woods and Stephanie Osser of the Harvard Pottery Studio led a group of eight students in decorative tilemaking, which uses found objects and pottery tools to create patterns in the clay. They will be running a companion workshop on March 17 that will cover glazing. This spring the museum will add workshops for seniors on Thursdays from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and a girls' night out on Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m.
Fuller Craft Museum 455 Oak St., Brockton. 508-588-6000. fullercraft.org