The School Play
(April 1976 issue of the Beachy Banner)
Oh, Shades of Shakespeare! Oh, traces of Barrymore! The first graders are doing a bicentennial school play. There are songs for the chorus to learn to sing, speaking parts for the actors and actresses to memorize. There are props to cut and paint and cover with aluminum foil, and, –if all else fails – to sprinkle lavishly with glitter. Glitter, one learns, covers a multitude of sins.
Costumes are needed and mothers furnish them, demonstrating a wealth of cleverness and ingenuity.
Rehearsals. Sudden emergencies. One little girl with a speaking part comes down with the chicken pox and we can’t help but wonder if Sarah Bernhardt ever had to cope with anything as incongruous as chicken pox the day before a play.
Chicken pox is replaced by a little girl who gets stage fright at the dress rehearsal and adamantly refuses to go on…she is replaced by a little boy who struggles valiantly to memorize the lines in the eleventh hour. He succeeds.
Did Otto Preminger start out this way, do you think?
Mothers are everywhere in the two classrooms, which have been transformed into dressing rooms, helping the cast don beautifully created costumes. Makeup is applied to cherub faces, for what play would be complete without grease paint?
Out of the chaos and noisy confusion, a sense of orderliness emerges, with two unruffled teachers—like the conductors of a great philharmonic orchestra—standing in the shadows, prepared to coax, cajole, scold, nudge, prompt, coach and direct their protégées.
It’s curtain time!
The children step forward and back, graceful as swans, to speak into the microphone, to say their lines. Smiling, unabashed. Undaunted by the frequent blur of flashcubes.
In front of the stage sits a wiggling, squirming chorus who sometimes forget to keep their hands in their laps, and occasionally forget to sing, as they smile and wave at beaming parents in the audience.
Yet, they are utterly charming and completely guileless as their wavering childish voices are raised in song, as they sing, appropriately, “Happy Birthday”…to America.
I think…oh, shades of Shakespeare! Could Macbeth compete with a performance like this?