“A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases…”
I’m sure John Keats was thinking about our Holiday Plays when he wrote that. Last night, as I have this time each year for just about each of the last 43 years, I helped put some 60 children on stage for an evening of palpable magic and surprising beauty. Combine the raw fantasy life and exuberance of children with the cooked imagination and disciplined craft of adult artists and lo and behold, you have indeed created a thing of great beauty that filled that theater with a joy so present you could reach out and touch it. Glorious costumes (thank you, Sofía Lopez-Ibor!), an actual stage with lighting (thank you, James Harding!), a breathtaking set and backdrop painted by children (thank you Ruth and Christina in the art department), dazzling choreography (thank you, Maica and more), exquisite dancing (Hana and more), goosebump singing (again, Sofía), extraordinary music playable by children, just-right child-friendly and child-inspired scripts, humor mixed with boisterous action and quiet pin-drop moments—well, there you have it. A thing of beauty.
And accompanied by our partner-in-crime Maica Folch and our fabulous five Interns, James, Sofia and I were the Three Kings/ Queens bearing gifts to the miracle child in the manger, who is none other than all children come into this world from the mystery of creation, touched with Spirit from head to toe. All they need are adults who see that and seek to educate—ie, lead forth and draw out—the full glory of their human inheritance to feel themselves touched by and held by and carrying that Spirit.
And there are few human accomplishments as powerful as a play to bring out the most in us and the best in us. The solitary work of memorizing lines and cultivating character joined with ensemble teamwork of the highest level of cooperation and coordination, the beautiful balance of time to stand out and step forth and proclaim center stage and blend in and step back and support your fellow friend now in the limelight. And plays in the Orff-Schulwerk style go further yet, offering the chance to sing, to dance, to play music, to paint, all woven together in a single tapestry of delight. Shall I say it again? It is a thing of beauty.
And taking Keats literally, its loveliness increases because I, for one, have gotten so much better at it. This year’s play, The Month Makers, was a repeat of two earlier versions done in 1987 and 1997 and apologies to those kids! Well, my memory is that they had fun and it was fine as far as it went. But with another 20 years of experience and my own alertness as to how to do it better, it went so much further and its loveliness did indeed increase. Blessing to longevity and perseverance and the good sense to keep coming back year after year to see if I could do it a bit better next time.
Sad to say that I can’t raise my glass and say “Here’s to the next 43!” But beauty is a thing out of time, not measured in months and years, its loveliness born from our need for beauty and the grace of its presence in our lives. One can only be grateful.
And I am.