Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reverse Hanukkah

Apparently, oil that should have lasted one day burning for eight qualified for enough of a miracle to create a holiday that’s lasted, oh say, some 2200 years. Well, I’d like to make a bid for a new Holiday based on a similar miracle. Our Elementary Holiday Play that lasted two hours in rehearsal clocked in at one hour and eight minutes in today’s first performance! Kind of a reverse oil-burning phenomena.

Where did those extra 52 minutes go? Mostly, just whisked away in hitting the rhythm of a play well-rehearsed with the motivation of an audience to tighten it all up. The audience was composed of fellow 4 to 8 year old kids at school, but the happy surprise for actors and directors alike was that the audience was silent and engaged, enthralled with a complex story they probably didn’t fully get, but delighted to see kids acting, in full costume, with great music, energetic dance, beautiful songs and booming group lines.

Tonight is the show for the grown-ups and though one can’t depend on miracles, it feels that the kids are prepared enough that I can be writing this blog two hours before the show instead of fretting about where Kevin’s F# bar is or whether Mary’s hat will stay on during her scene. At first nervous that I had invited friends and colleagues, now hopeful that they’ll come to see what it’s like when kids stop being 4th graders and are transformed through drama to draw you into a story where you stop thinking about their height. There are sublime moments when the kids transcend the school play cliché of dutiful schoolchildren reciting their lines on time while adults are thinking, “Isn’t that cute?” I told the kids that they’re better than “cute” and it’s their job to send chills up my spine. Which actually happened twice today during today’s performance.

After today’s daytime show, the miracles kept coming. The always delightful and long-awaited “Wrong Words Day,” the kids setting beards on fire, skiing into trees and walking around in women’s underwear. Then a delightful dress rehearsal of 8th grade’s St. George and the Dragon play, capped off by the six interns joining Sofia, James and I for their last preschool sing. We brought the room of 3, 4 and 5 year olds into a luminous quiet with our four-part harmony rendition of Silent Night and then romped together with the kids through The Twelve Days of Christmas with the “sacred cards” bought 40 years ago at Vella Variety Store on San Bruno Avenue.

You see why I don’t need to go to church. Nothing more miraculous than this constant communion and creative convocation of people of all sizes and shapes singing together through the joys and griefs of the year. Every day angels bending near the earth and strumming their harps of gold, singing all types of song and playing all sorts of grooving rhythms. Come hear them tonight! After all, it’s only an hour and eight minutes long.

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