Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Race You to the Top of the Morning

I am very, very tired. And it's not even show season!

After a bad night's sleep, I got up yesterday morning at 4:15 to get to school by 5:30 to pile on a school bus with 51 ninth graders and 8 parent-chaperons to drive for four hours to visit the "local" Shakespeare festival.

It was actually a wonderful day.

The festival put together an amazing program for the kids - a tour of their theaters, including backstage, under the stage, greenrooms and dressing rooms. This is despite the fact that it's the same stage being used that afternoon for a show, so there were techies checking light cues, prop tables set up, set pieces in place, and everything. Next, one of the company's professional actors spent an hour with the kids, doing a workshop on Shakespeare's language and a bit of stage combat. Delightfully, they got to do this on the stage of their Globe-replica theater. Very, very cool.

We had about 40 minutes then to find and eat lunch, so we piled on the bus and drove to a shopping center on Main Street with a variety of restaurants. The kids and I scattered with about 15 minutes to buy and eat food. Then it was back on the bus to attend a pre-show orientation. The host did a great job reviewing the basics of the show, but doing so in such an animated way that he could talk about themes of colonialism without losing the kids.

The matinee of "The Tempest" was actually a good production. They wove in a theme of Leonardo da Vinci through the set and costume designs, Ariel had a very cool look to him, the acting was crisp and controlled, and they performed without microphones, a fact that blissfully did not escape my kids' notice (and don't think I didn't use that as a motivator in rehearsals today).

After a post-show discussion, which was only improved by the fact that we watched the techies completely disassemble the "Tempest" set and assemble the set for their evening performance of "Art" within the 30 minute Q&A with the actors, we got back on the bus and made our long way home.

Aside from a kid throwing a water bottle out the window while we were on the freeway (I turned her into the administration today), and two of the chaperons causing embarrassment (they actually literally interrupted the director of the post-show discussion, one to brag about something he noticed during the play, the other to criticize the way they were handling the post-show discussion), it was a smooth, educational, and fun day. To my surprise, I found out that in our group, only two other chaperons and one student had ever been to the festival before. That made me even more glad that I had set up this trip.

The bus rides were the hardest parts. I had hoped that the early morning start would lead to a quiet ride there. No such luck. The kids were wired from the moment I pulled into the school parking lot and I heard my name screamed with joy as bubbly figures ran towards me in the dark of the morning. They were, to put it mildly, excited. This excitement was amplified when we stopped halfway for a bathroom break and they all bought energy drinks. Some of them were complaining about the fact that the Diary Queen inside the gas station wasn't open. I pointed out that it was 8:00am. "Still!" they said.

The bus driver was getting rather irritated by the ride home. He had insisted that I sit up front for the first part of the trip, but I talked him into letting me move halfway back to better control the noise. I spent the rest of the trip talking "girl talk" with the students around me and predicting their futures. It worked pretty well to keep them quieter.

The kids were also very sweet during the day. Many of them thanked me for the trip, several said they loved me, a few parents even took the time to thank me for it. One boy bought me a lapel pin from the souvenir ship, and a group of students passed me a note on the bus that they had all signed to thank me. The real reward for me, though, came in their questions about the play. They've been thinking about it! They're asking really intelligent questions, thinking it through, and amazingly, applying knowledge! From drama class, from English class, even from their Intro to Drama class last year!

So that's my latest adventure. Here are some photos:

On the bus, just after sunrise.

The backstage tour

Pizza! The kids were proud of having eaten lunch within four minutes.

Part of our group at the acting workshop.

And now I'm off to bed.

1 comment:

  1. that was a way fun expierence and love the bus pic.