Saturday, January 21, 2006

Something There

On Wednesday this week I accompanied a group of students from my school to the high school’s production of “Beauty and the Beast”. I have been hearing raves about this high school’s musicals for a while now (incidentally, I never even hear about the straight plays. I assume they do them, but the fact that no word of it carries down is one of the reasons why I am not inclined to do an after school non-musical – they’re just not as popular), so I went with high expectations.

They did… okay. Some of the set was nicely designed, and the singing was pretty good. I was delighted to find we are not the only school who has mike problems. Their orchestra did well for a tricky show, but it confirmed my choice to avoid live accompaniment as long as possible. I guess I was expecting more given their reputation. I’ve been out of touch with high school performances, so I may be too harsh. I did rejoice a little (silently) that our “Seussical” was just a good, though. Our choreography was definitely better, thanks to Kelley’s phenomenal work.

Perhaps I am too critical of shows. My students enjoyed it – they praised it nicely in class the next day. The thing is, I stopped being able to simply sit back and watch a play a long time ago. When I see a play, my mind races. I am constantly 1) scanning the production for ideas to use in the future and 2) thinking about what I would do differently. It’s enjoyable for me, but I am not so sure about those who ask me what I think about it.

Ultimately, I decided we won’t be doing “Beauty and Beast” anytime soon. It’s just not a great show. The dialogue is stilted, and there’s not much room for development or new interpretations. I mean, there’s only so many ways an actor can become a teapot on stage. And when the costumes take away most physical choices an actors makes, it becomes a show about the costumes, rather than the characters. There’s just no way to do that show without spending a fortune. If I were going to do a Disney show, I’d much rather do “Lion King”. Of course, I’d love to direct “Aida” as well, but somehow I don’t see that one getting approved by our principal. Drat.

I enjoyed seeing my former students on stage again, though, especially in a show that I wasn’t involved with. I felt a rather parental-like surge of pride whenever they came on stage, which was a little odd. Oh, and I had a current student up there, too, although I never noticed him. My dear stage manager volunteered to do tech work on their show, so he moved some set pieces on and off and worked their fly system a bit. When I told him after the show that I didn’t see him at all, he did a little happy dance. I loved it – he bought a long sleeved black shirt just so he could wear the proper techie uniform. He was all decked out in black, right down to the piece of duct tape over the logo on his black baseball cap. My little techie’s growing up! And my conversation with him about his work after the show is an archetype of what I love about this age. I’ve watched him become a techie, rather than having him come to me ready-made. Who’d have thought I’d love teaching junior high? But, you know? I do.

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