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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I Can't Get You Out Of My Head...

One of the best things about doing a school play with kids from 2nd grade through 8th, is how raw it all is. The little kids are so literal, "I am an acrobat, but I don't know how to hold my balance on a rope. Can I still be in the play?" The middle graders have done enough class plays that they believe they should direct the other actors at every rehearsal (to my consternation). The upper graders are maddeningly nonchalant until the moment when they realize they don't know their lines and we're performing in three days.

But what those kids put into it is golden. Sure, we could have a committee of parents who design and plan and build it all. We could have a choreographer and a music director and a house manager.
We could spend a few hundred more dollars and have real costumes. We could have actual props.
But then we wouldn't have an elaborate scroll drawn by seventh graders that gets a little "ahh" of delight from the audience when it's unfurled. We wouldn't have a big pink cardboard sea snail, so kitschy that it gets a laugh on every entrance.  And we wouldn't have big kids who listen to little kids and help them put on their warrior face paint just the way they want it. Or 5th graders whose choreography consists of jazz hands. No kid would be delighted to pull the main curtain, or have the amazing idea, mid-production, to flicker the lights to indicate lightning. No one would think quickly to tell jokes to the audience while other kids are fixing the panel that fell down. And would any of the actors have that internal moment when you suddenly understand what the play is about, and that you
can take the audience along with you? It makes a difference when you've invested yourself in all of it.

Our school play may not be perfect.. well, it's nowhere near perfect, but this is REAL theater. This is where it begins, with the story and the freedom to have an idea how to better tell the story. Then having the willingness to listen to several people have ideas, to think critically about which ideas further the story and then try to make as many of them happen as is physically possible.

This way we all own it. And maybe some day some of them will work in an actual theater, with a fly system, and an apron, and a whole array of people who are paid to do one job as professionally as they possibly can. That, of course, is magical, too.  

But for now I just want to get those songs out of my head.