Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Awesomeness That is KidsPlay

We're doing a collection of modernized fables we call "Aesop 2.0".  I picked this script after we read some of them in the Greenfield-Central Theatre Arts class.  I thought they sounded cute.  And although 'cute' is an adjective I never want attached to a KidsPlay production, I thought it would be a fun and easy show to do while I worked on the CrazyLake show.  Thought the humor fit the kids.  Thought, since there were seven fables, that more kids would get to have larger parts, therefore, more 'lead roles'.   All of this has turned out to be true, but for some reason, I've been a little dissatisfied with the overall results.  Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist.  Maybe I'm not taking into account that I have an unusually young cast.  Of course, some of the fables are better than others.  Of course, there are moments of brilliance in all of them.  But a friend delicately pointed out to me that KidsPlay is becoming something other than what it started out to be--that we seem to be doing an awful lot of fairy-tale spoof stuff lately, shows with juvenile themes--and we're getting away from our roots of scripts that showcase the kids' acting, not just their cute kid-ness.  He's right.  

But in the meantime, we have this show, which is cute, but possibly not our best production ever, and possibly, with the lack of substantial whole-show parts--not the best one on which to send out my wonderful 8th graders.  Still, there's some amazingly strong performances in it.  And I see growth.  We got rave reviews from our matinee audience of first and second graders yesterday morning...and this is where my doubts are put to shame, when I begin to see how awesome the show--and the kids that are in it--really is.

There are several places in the seven fables that call for audience interaction.  Audience interaction is a wild card.  A cross-your-fingers moment.  A major issue is not being able to see the audience.  The lights are so bright that when the kids are trying to pick out individuals to respond, they can't see them.  Another issue is that you never know if the audience is going to respond or if they will leave you hanging and awkward on the stage.  Thirdly, if you do get a responsive audience, getting them back into 'audience mode' can sometimes be a challenge.  But I'm here to say that my actors--my kid actors in the 3rd-8th grade--are pros with ice water in their veins.  
  • Ariel--encouraging the audience to say the dog's name that she didn't like to say ("Scab") by pulling her ear, and then pulling from them the moral of the story.  The primary-aged kids began yelling stuff out all as one.  It sounded like noise to me, but somehow, her sharp ears picked out something she could grab onto to finish the show.  "That's right!" she said, "be happy with what you have or you may end up with nothing!"  She didn't miss a beat.  Kept the show going.  Kept her cool.  Her composure.  And total control.  She was completely in charge and completely as ease.  No sweat.  Perfect.  And amazing.
  • Rebekah--charged with pulling the audience up out of their seats to do jumping jacks with her.  When no one moved after her first entreaty during the Tuesday night Preview, she put her hands on her hips and said, "I DON'T joke."  Boy, you can bet they jumped to their feet in a BIG hurry after that.  Queen of the Calisthenics and Queen of the Stage.
  • Aubree--the cheerleader who excitedly asks the crowd, not just one, but TWO questions:  "What's your favorite 'aminal'?" followed by "What would YOU spend that much money on?"  225 first and second graders responded; then changed their minds and yelled out a different answer, and then changed their minds again.  She struck her 'no nonsense' pose and they quieted right down--before she replied, with great boredom, "That's nice.  *I* like chickens..."
And then there were the inevitable live theatre occurrences to cover.   
  • The pacifier attached to the bone--that makes it easier for Reuben, the dog, to more easily carry it in his mouth--came off and he had to make his last entrance without the bone he was to throw in the pond.  He came out slowly, and angled himself in such as way that the audience didn't really notice that he dropped nothing into the pond.  Quick thinking and nerves of steel.
  • Colin's cool fox hat will just not stay on, now that we've added ears.  And after the third time it fell off, he kicked it--in a straight line to a space between the flats.  Good kick.  Out of sight and out of mind of the audience.  Problem solved.  
Such quick thinking.  Such calm.  Such improvisation.  And the chatter on the headsets was admiring and approving as we patted our collective selves on the back that we're part of the program that has THESE children, part of the program that shaped them into young stage veterans, part of the program where these kids make four months of planning, training and details look like a cakewalk, a romp in the park, like dancing in the sun.
 Such awesome kids.  And I'm chagrined.  They take my doubts, my concerns, my faltering opinion on the show--and they SHOW me that I should not be comparing it to previous productions, to previous actors--but to where THEY were when we started this together way back in January.  They show ME that their energy and enthusiasm--for even a walk on-part, a spot in the dance group, the chance to run sound--is why they're here.  They make me smile.  They make me proud.  They make me believe.  The theatre is where it's at and that, from top to bottom, KidsPlay rocks. 

No comments:

Post a Comment