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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Don't Cut The Arts; The Arts Benefit Children As Nothing Else Can.

Lessons Learned

Infinite Benefit of Arts In Education

“How many are out there waiting for the curtain to open?” hesitantly queried a slightly nerve-stricken first grader.
“Looks like a million, cuz I just peeked,” her not-so-reassuring best friend co-cast member cringed.
“A million or one, it makes no difference as long as you look over their heads and project to the exit sign on the back wall. Just whatever you do, don’t look into their eyes cuz that’s when you forget everything,” sprightly piped in the resident class aspiring Broadway star.
“I feel sick. Really, really sick. Oooooo, my stomach!”  whimpered the friends.
***Pause the story***
This is not an unusual conversation to have or to hear backstage just prior to a performance. The rumbling tightness in a tummy before a show, sometimes called butterflies, sometimes called stage fright, sometimes called the jitters, is just the adrenalin running through the body getting a performer ready to do his or her very best by focusing attention on all that must be remembered. Understanding this and performing through the tummy tightness is very empowering and confidence boosting regardless of the age of the performer. The subsequent uproarious applause is glorious and affirming and is truly a sound everyone needs to hear as a recipient at some point in their lives, for the echoes of applause ripple through one’s memory forever. Thirty years of writing, directing, and accompanying children’s musical plays have given me an excellent glimpse into the power of the performing arts to reach, touch, and transform a child, a cast, an audience, a director. Perfection? That’s never the goal; never even mentioned.  Collaboration, cooperation, full participation, and best efforts all around comprise  the perfectly worthy and always attained expectations.
***Resume the story***
“Deep breath. Think about all of our practices and remember how good you all are together. We’re a team. And we’re fabulous. Your families and friends can’t wait to see all that you all know!”  cheered this teacher.
Just as our rumbling tummy tightness group was focusing on preparing to cast their eyes above the audience heads and in the process forgetting the rumbling, which by the way focusing does, the backstage door burst open and in sprinted a very panicky first grade cast member mother.
“Jane has the chicken pox; the doctor just confirmed it. She’s devastated. And I am so so very sorry. I have to run, she’s in the car,” gasped the mom as she turned and dashed out stage left.
“Send her a hug from us,” we offered to the whoosh that was her mother exiting.
Backstage silence. Ashen-faced cast. Wide-eyed shock. Breathless pause on the brink of tears.  Jane was the lead forest animal and had a solo to sing.
This teacher dared the question, “Who can do Jane’s part?”
Momentary backstage silence filled with dubious anticipation weighed rather heavily on the question, until a soft, unexpected voice in the very back simply said, “I can. I will do my part, and I can do Jane’s, too. I learned everyone’s lines.”  Focus returned. The show went on. Confidence soared. And the chicken pox ran its course.