Friday, January 18, 2013

GANGSTERS and FLAPPERS and SPLURGERS, oh my!

     Herding cats. It's one of the best phrases I've ever heard that fits what I do most afternoons. Take 65 middle school students who have been in their classrooms all day and who now arrive at the auditorium ready to catch up with their friends, have a snack, check their text messages, and do just about anything but focus and you have cat herding 101. 

    But we have a show to put on! Our musical, Bugsy Malone, JR. (one of the many JR version shows put out by MTI in the Broadway JR series - great stuff especially for middle school theatre students) is scheduled to 'open' two weeks from today! Ahhhhhh! It's the most exciting and crazy and fun and stressful time of the whole process. And in the midst of pin striped suits and fedoras and fringy flapper girl dresses, there's a ton of flu bugs and so much germy junk going around that we rarely have a day when the entire cast is present.

   And yes somehow, once again, this thing called a musical is starting to pull all together. Am I waking up at 3 a.m. remembering something that I still need to do? Yes. Are there kids who still don't know all their lines or who have a costume that needs to be re-fitted or who look at me like it's brand new to exit stage right when we've been rehearsing it that way for weeks? Oh, yes. Are we still creating some props and painting some flats and adding wheels to a desk that's simply too heavy for 12 year old stage crew kids to move? Umm, hmmmm.

    But, I wish you could see the faces of the kids who have found new confidence, new friends, new abilities from taking the risk to take the stage. They have a place where they fit, where they feel a part, where they can be with other fellow drama kids and be their own crazy selves. It just seems to be that the zany and outrageous and exuberant and oh-but-they-can't-stand-still-for-more-that-3-seconds kids are not only drawn to drama but they thrive there. And as long as I've had enough caffeine to keep up with them, it's really a ton of fun herding them up and channeling all that energy into a show. Most of the time. : )

    My daughter has been amazing. She's our choreographer and somehow in the midst of her school work and crazy dance schedule she creates great pieces for a huge cast of mostly non dancers as well as some fun smaller ensemble pieces. We love to always have a boys dancer number and our hoofers this year are doing a great job once again under her leadership as well as some girls who are striking out and playing guy gangsters instead of cutesy flapper girls.  I'm so proud of her and the natural teacher she is and the energy and love she brings to the kids daily.  

    God's been so good to keep sending parents who can help too! They've taken on so many of the tasks that I would do if I had to, but would rather focus on what I do best, as well as the things I really can't do, like build tables for Fat Sam's GrandSlam Speakeasy and paint a storefront for the speakeasy that really looks like what it's supposed to be!

    And I absolutely love that a bunch of my 'darling idiots' from last year have come back to help and are manning the tech table so conscientiously and will be helping nervous young girls making quick costume changes for their very first show ever and are lending a strong hand back stage on that crew. It's like a family reunion and we all really love being back together again.

     And while I would love to continue to tell stories of a day in the life of a middle school musical director, there's a sale at the local care and share shop for a few more gangster white shirts and ties and paint to pick up at the local hardware store to create the walls of Dandy Dan's mansion and Pop Becker's bookstore and some more bowls from the dollar store for the down and outs on the breadline to bang on the tables while our fantastic assistant principal dons a dress and hair net to play the soup kitchen lady. He's, yes, HE's, going to bring the house down in that scene! Plus I've got to keep my eye out for a delivery from the company that's sending our silly string shooting splurge guns that will polish off our spoof of old gangster movies in true middle school kid style.

    We've got a ton of work fun and cat herding scheduled for the next two weeks but it will all be worth it when the crowd of adoring parents, grandparents, family and friends love being transported to the lower East Side in the 1920's and stand and applaud Bugsy and his band of gangsters and flapper girls and a very proud director and choreographer who will probably sleep for a week!