Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spotlight on School Plays

While folks in northern and western Kansas might be a long way from Broadway’s bright lights, we enjoy our fair share of drama on the boards. Our actors are youngsters in our communities, and our directors are often teachers by day and drama coaches by night and weekend. Local wizards of the sewing machine and serger, forensic coaches, carpenters, welders, and likewise talented people are costumers, set builders, and backstage help.

Seeing one of these productions can’t help but remind a person that it does take a village to raise a child or in this case a cast full of lots of families’ children. The thespians commit a slug of outside time to learning lines, coming to practice, and helping assemble costumes and props for their scenes. During the day, they’re diligent students keeping up with the demands of at least seven different classes. After school, many go out either for sports or work part-time in local businesses. Somehow, they fit in family time.

While the kids are in class, the director keeps up with planning, teaching, managing, and grading for the courses that occupy those kids’ days. Somewhere house and yard work as well as the mundane duties of life like bill paying require time. By evening, that individual has slapped on his or her director’s beret and begun turning these usually normal teens into fairy tale characters, imaginary rabbits, or other theatrical manifestations.

Hours are never long enough for important things like eating, so parents provide catered meals to keep their offsprings’ metabolism running at full speed. Between times, they run errands to gather hats, capes, suits, dresses, and other necessities to add finishing touches to their children’s productions. Often they serve as ad writers, photographers, and publicity teams who interest area residents to pay to see the show.

After weeks of repeated entries from stage left or right and struggles with muffed lines, it’s time to put the spectacle on the road. Depending on the community, first run audiences are either the grade school students and future hams or local residents and loved ones who hanker to see their darlings perform. No matter what, everyone expects to appreciate the show. No nasty big city critics in these crowds.

During an evening or matinee, locals kick back and let the performers whisk them into another world. While enjoying the production, it’s easy to forget how much effort went into such a show. That hour and half play required hundreds of hours to devotion and labor from scores of individuals. In return, ticket holders get grins and giggles. The actors and stage crew savor working together as a team to provide a great show. Besides a few gray hairs, the director enjoys the satisfaction of knowing he or she coached, nudged, and otherwise prompted youngsters to go outside their comfort zones to bring unfamiliar characters to life.

Everyone, audience included, will share memories and stories that turn into local legends.  After I watch one of these plays, I never see those kids the same way again. Always, when we meet, even if it decades afterward, the aura of the personalities they’ve brought to life shadow dance behind them as permanent fixtures in their life stories.

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