The Story I Always Remember

My whole head is full of the stuff dreams are made of…  that is to say, The Tempest.  The insanity of this project is only really now hitting me.  What was I thinking?

I have drama in my head for the first time in many years.  As a kid, I thought I wanted to be a actress when I grew up.  All through elementary and middle school, I strove to be in every school production and talent show.  I loved it.  Then I got to high school and found I didn’t really care anymore.  Now, I’m remembering all those drama teachers of my youth, especially Mrs. Fuller, my middle school drama teacher, who was a queen of proper pronunciation.

But there’s one early experience I had in elementary school that I will always remember, when I had my first big role in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  I played Woodstock.  It was an honor to be a lowly third grader in with the teenagers in the play.  I thought it was so much fun to be with the big kids.  Every day in rehearsal, I would sit quietly and watch, but it was often a raucous time, which I think I enjoyed, honestly, even though I didn’t really participate.  The drama and music teacher grew more and more frustrated with the misbehavior.  Finally, the music teacher lost it one afternoon and yelled at everyone.

Once she had us properly sedate and attentive, she angrily pointed to a painting on the wall.  I’m pretty sure it was a student copy of Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers.  “You see that painting up there?” she asked us.  “It’s pretty, right?  It’s a nice painting.  Well, let’s imagine that there’s a piece of sh** in the corner.  Just a tiny piece.”  You can imagine, the whole room went stiff at her swearing at us.  I’m sure some kids snickered.  “If there was?” she asked.  “Would you notice the nice picture?  Of course not.  You’re only notice the sh**!”  I can remember so clearly being shocked and wondering what in the world this was all about.  Then she said, really harshly, “Well that’s what it’s like if we put on a wonderful play while you guys are goofing off and making noise backstage.  No one will notice the play.  They’re only notice the bad part!”  Everyone shut up and the rest of the rehearsal went very well.

For me, that story is the best example of a truth I try to remember as a parent, which is that swearing very rarely to get across a serious point can often be very effective.  But also, I just remember it as the right sort of metaphor for a production or a project of any kind.  If you do a good job, but then goof off or otherwise embarrass yourself, then no one will even see the good job.  All they’ll see is the goofing off.

As you can imagine, every week at rehearsal, we have this problem with the kids in The Tempest.  After all, they’re kids!  They want to be rambunctious and goof off and be silly.  I’m just hoping that when it comes down to it, we’ll get serious enough to not embarrass ourselves.  The kids have worked so hard and it’ll be so wonderful to see the production really work.  At least, I hope so.

1 thought on “The Story I Always Remember

  1. Such a poignant story and so emotional to have stayed in your head. I’ve used rough language too once in a while with the kids and it really catches their attention because they’re not used to me using foul language.

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