Thursday, December 15, 2016

Seeds and Pods

The school Holiday plays are upon us. In fact, tonight. For 42 consecutive years, it’s the time to try to bring all the threads of story, music, dance, art and more together and put them in the hands and mouths of young children on the stage. We aim for an art beyond cute, filled with power, beauty and humor. And year after year, the kids deliver.

I always aim in the Program Notes to try to help the parents pause and separate out the performance from just another drop in the roaring river of entertainment that is our contemporary life. To think a bit about the power of art, the beauty of children and the messages our carefully chosen stories carry. Here are this year’s notes:


“Seeds and Pods” is our school focus this year, with artwork, gardening and other projects built around this fertile (pun intended) theme. So for the plays, we dug up some old bulbs from previous years and discovered that they still had the power to generate some colorful and hearty flowers. We performed both “One Grain of Rice” and “Demeter and Persephone” in the year 2000 (the latter also in 1987, 2000 and 2009—fertile seeds indeed!). Of course, no two plays were the same—new kids, new scripts, new ideas from the kids and directors, new meaning depending on the news outside the school gates.

Speaking of which. This is a good time to turn to the natural world and its cycles of life and death, growth and decay, stormy seas and calm waters. The sun has never shirked its duty to rise, the moon proceeds calmly and dependably through its cycles, winter keeps turning to spring. These are not just metaphors. And yet they are, reminding us to keep hope, to maintain patience, to honor and fortify the giving of life and continuity of life in a period of turbulence and trouble. And so Demeter and Persephone, women who are the bearers of life, with great power that they will call forth when brutality tries to abduct and dishonor them. They can refuse the food of their oppressors, withhold their gifts until justice is served and show their power in other ways as well—witness the Taiko drummers! One can feel their spirit rising up in the Million Woman March soon to come.

“One Grain of Rice” highlights another kind of power, the suprising strength of geometrical progression. Who could imagine that a single grain of rice doubled each square would fill a chessboard with food enough for the multitudes? Those who know that secret discover the way to trick a greedy ruler for hoarding things for his own selfish ends. Well, if it works in an old folk tale, why not follow that lead? A single act of kindness, a word of truth, a show of resitance to injustice, might inspire two more that could double again—and again, and again. And just perhaps such courage and cleverness can overcome those who refuse to use their power for kindness, caring and inclusive community.

Big thoughts for plays put on by kids. We call on them to rise high, but never forget that these are young children who just want to have fun— and fun it is! In these plays, kids get to show their kind of humor, their kind of thinking, their kind of trying out new personalities. Kids love plays and don’t forget to notice that theater in the Orff-Schulwerk is not just acting, but a blend of acting, singing, dancing, playing music—and the same kids doing all four! We believe in these kids and their great creative energies, intelligence and artistic sensibilities. Combine that immutable faith with the kids’ hard work and skills honed in a committed arts education and you get—well, tonight’s show. Enjoy!   — Doug Goodkin

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