Friday, January 9, 2009

How you know it's good

One of the fondest memories I have of my days as a principal of a small Catholic School was of directing our yearly Christmas pageants. Every child in our small school had a part, and we spent about 6 weeks preparing for the event. They were always very exhausting, for the most part worth while, and many people appreciated going to them (always a few naysayers, so not all liked this plan.) One lady wrote me this Christmas telling me how much she missed going to them!

I got the idea for the type of presentation we would give for Christmas on my very first day of work as principal. I sat in an empty school waiting for my first student to arrive and sign up to come to my school. The action was less than lively, so I had a lot of time to think. Here was what I came up with...

We would have a nice Christmas dinner for the adults, and after we ate our wonderful dinner (prime rib!), we would be entertained by the little angels in the school play. While the adults were eating, the children would have their own brand of party in a different space, get dressed in their costumes, and be marched over at the appointed time to present the play.

Our first play, "Calling All Angels" featured our school mascot, the guardian angel. In years to come we incorporated this theme into many of our Christmas plays. The children looked so darling, and I dolled up the ugly stage with yards of gold lame and fake poinsettias. We codged together lights and music and sound, and it worked out OK. We did a play of this sort for many years, and made a few bucks each time. It finally met its demise one year when it was turned into a chancel play (not by me, but by #1 naysayer), and it was a disaster. From then on, it was just a Christmas program, because I left the school the day after the disaster, and no one ever revived the idea of a full play presentation. (The same naysayer is still in charge!)

When you are working with actors and actresses, no matter what their age, you encourage them to portray a message. Maybe it's about Baby Jesus or some of life's little twists, but I always know a play is good when it brings a tear to my eye. Whether I'm watching or I'm directing or I'm assisting, I know it's good by my own emotions. The tear may be a result of exhaustion, or pride in a child's accomplishment, or by the message in an adult play that really came through. When I was directing, I sometimes got the tear during a dress rehearsal, but sometimes not until the actual performance. During some of the plays I've worked with at the community theatre, I've gotten the tear every time I saw it (On Golden Pond did it to me every time!) Some have also left me dry-eyed and disappointed.

Last night I saw a complete run-through of "Prelude to a Kiss". It is very different from other plays I've seen, and I wasn't sure I really liked the play. I had read the script, and that left me cold. But the actresses and actors did a fabulous job of bringing me right into their story, no matter how much of a crazy fantasy story it was, and the tear sprang forth. I'm choking them back now as I think of it. Congratulations to the cast, director and producers of this play, and all I can say is, "Break a Leg! You guys are great!"

Opening night is Jan. 23.

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