Saturday, August 20, 2011


"How sad, how sad, how unspeakably dreary..."

Twelve months of planning, six months of rehearsals and two weeks of performance came to an end last week with our final 'Seussical the Musical' theatre restaurant show. By the last performance it had actually become an exercise in survival, as one by one the cast succumbed to a particularly nasty virus with rapid onset fever and terrible headaches. Kids who had been as healthy as mules in make up were dropping like flies between scenes. Some of the Whos fell victim down under the stage in Whoville and had to be rescued and sent home! The flock of 12 bird girls was a reduced to a pair of barely fluttering pigeons by the time we got to 'All for You'. The Mayor's Wife lost her voice but soldiered on in mime while Cindy Lou Who sang her lines. The Mayor, shivering and shaking , sweated his way to the finale before collapsing in a heap on the stage. Yertle never even made it to the hall and the Sour Kangaroo was reduced to a squeak for the court scene.

Thankfully, The Cat, Horton, Jojo, Maysie and Gertrude held their health together through a strict regime of echinacea, pineapple juice, olive leaf extract, wishful thinking and just plain refusal to give in to the bug.

It's true that with over 70 kids on the stage, we do have room for some attrition but after working so hard for so long, it's really disappointing for the kids if they get so sick that they can't perform. Luckily we did 8 shows altogether so even the sickies had time to star for at least one show. And star they did. As always I was overwhelmed by the professionalism and enthusiasm of our cast. To see (extra)ordinary, untrained kids producing such high level entertainment is thrilling. To be part of a community team of staff, students and parents who help them achieve this standard is very satisfying.

Every year success comes in different forms. This year there were a couple of stand outs. Last year several of our long standing stars graduated from school and so it was really gratifying to see the next 'layer' of performers emerging to become leaders on stage and off. Especially, it was great to see them taking feedback after each show and creating something even better the next day. It is truly the mark of a mature performer when feedback is sought as a way to improve rather than being perceived as  criticism. More importantly, a couple of them even stayed to help pack up at the end of each performance and took the time to thank their teachers for all the work they'd done. A thank you to the directing team is a rare gift and one that is gratefully received :-)

As usual, from the chorus arose new stars. Down in Whoville there were a couple of eager young thespians whose characterisation endeared them to every audience and who will definitely be making the move to the top stage next year!

Another bonus was the great support we got from parents this year. We had mums who sewed and made soup and created magnificent makeup, grandfathers who helped make the sets, dads who built things and photographed things and a couple of rare gems who were at almost every show just taking care of whatever needed to be done. As always, when teachers and parents work that closely together, it's the kids who benefit.

There has been some speculation at school that while the benefits from being involved in this performance are great, the impact on school life may be too much. I totally disagree.The benefits are greater than anything we can do inside a classroom. It is unfortunate that the benefit to each individual involved can't be measured. If it could then there would be unanimous agreement that two weeks of disruption to the regular school program is a very small price to pay.

Here are just a few of the benefits that I see. Please feel free to add more in the comment box.
  • Connectedness to school: Everyone wants to be there and as a result we all feel part of a team and the pride in our school is overwhelming. Some kids who don't necessarily 'fit' in other areas of school are VIPs in the production.
  • Relationships: Teachers, students and parents working together toward a common goal creates strong, lasting relationships. You get to know each other very well through 6 months of rehearsals. These relationships spill over into the normal school routine. I've NEVER had a behaviour problem with a student whose been part of the production.
  • Happiness: By and large, during the show, the entire company is happy. People smile a lot.
  • Real life, rich task learning: We have had kids who've learnt to read so they could read the script to get into the show. We have kids on the sound desk running mics and lights and giving stage direction, selling tickets and programs and making props. There's an abundance of literacy and numeracy involved and these skills are valued because they are vital to the show's success.
  • Leadership: There's a hierachy involved in the cast and everyone knows it. The experienced students are expected to mentor and lead the younger students and they do so with care and respect.
  • Self Confidence: Being on the stage is scary. In fact, when the big spotlight goes on, it's terrifying. Over the course of their years with the company, timid little year 5s become Cats and Hortons and absolutely Amayzing Maysies. You can bet this confidence will come in handy at their first job interview.
  • Sense of pride: It's hard to find an experience anywhere else in the school program that will instil this sort of personal and team pride in 10-18 yr olds.
  • Perseverance: Putting on a show of this calibre is very hard work. There are moments during long, dark Wednesdays nights when everyone feels like giving up. Those who don't learn that it's worth sticking with things and that perseverance pays.
  • All Roundedness: In a small , country town like ours, there's a real danger of  kids becoming very one dimensional. Because we have such a high participant rate, it's possible for our students to be footy stars and academics and performers.
  • Public speaking: Obviously.
And so, The Jungle of Nool and Whoville are gone, but the lessons of Solla Sollew remain. We'll be back again next year, striving once more for excellence and knowing, as always, that the show we put on will be the 'best ever'!

".....Remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you'll move mountains."