Last February, our school play was "Annie." I directed 160 kids, which is a quarter of the school. It was a supremely joyful experience--one of the most enjoyable plays I've directed in over 20 years of directing. I was really quite pleased with how it turned out. So, I decided to share it with you, my blog friends. I've actually been wanting to post this since last February, but the book roll-out and then the beginning of school kept me too busy until now.
Yes, I realize that by posting this I may seem like the old man or woman who shows you a wallet full of pictures of the grandkids, but I'm going to do it anyway. This is sort of my way of immortalizing the show. Theatre is notoriously fleeting and ephemeral, so this provides at least a partial record. And, just for the curious, I did get permission from parents to post these.
I should warn you, if you are diabetic, you may not want to look. The sweetness quotient of these pictures is extremely high!
The NYC skyline. In a magnificent visual, it started out with just the paint. Then, when the house lights dimmed and the Overture started, the skyline lit up with tiny white lights.
Here's Annie saying her prayers while singing the song, "Maybe."After the lights went out during the Overture, a spotlight came up, showing cute little Annie kneeling by her bed praying that her parents would come get her.
Annie comforting her friend, Molly, who is having a bad dream.
Miss Hannigan making the orphans clean up the orphanage. Our Miss Hannigan was a beautiful day-dreamer who wanted to live the life she read about in her movie fan magazines. The frustration between her hoped for life and her real life warped her and made her mean. She was vulgar but not sleazy like in the movie.
Annie runs away and finds a stray dog. How's that for cute? Cute kid, cute dog. The dog was amazing. One of the most natural actors I've ever seen. Seriously. He even knew to look at the audience.
Annie eventually gets taken to the home of billionaire Daddy Warbucks. He quickly decides to adopt Annie and buys her a beautiful locket from Tiffany's as a token of his affection.
Here is Daddy Warbucks's efficient and loving secretary, Grace, sneaking a hidden, adoring glance at the boss.
Miss Hannigan and some of the orphans
Annie declines Daddy Warbucks's offer to adopt her. She wants to find her real parents, and he decides to help her. So, he offers a reward for the parents, and they go on the radio to announce a nation-wide search.
Rooster, Lily, and Miss Hannigan decide on a scheme where Rooster and Lily will impersonate Annie's parents and get the reward, which will land them on "Easy Street."
The other orphans come to the Warbucks mansion on Christmas eve and help expose the plot to wrongly adopt Annie.
Annie finds out her real parents have been dead for years--leaving her free to be adopted by Daddy Warbucks. So, of course, they sing and dance.
Warbucks proposes to Grace while Annie is reunited with Sandy, the dog.
This picture is kind of awkward, and doesn't really do justice to how it looked, but the last thing the audience saw in the play was a three-way group hug by the new family
I only write on evenings and weekends. My real job (the one that pays the bills) is teaching middle school choir and theatre. I know, I know. “Theatre director” is not what most people think of when they hear “real job.”
But in my case it’s true. I work at a wonderful, private, K-8 school. Last week was our big show--Annie. Truthfully, I’ve never really liked the play (at least after my crush on the girl from the 198whatever movie passed). But I decided to do it for several reasons, none of which I will bore you with.
The performance was last weekend, and notwithstanding the weakness of the script, it was quite good (I'm being objective, here). Beyond that, I had one of the most enjoyable experiences of my 23 year career. That was largely because of the amazing kids. We’re a K-8 school, so the 8th graders assume the status of seniors. They are the functional leaders of the school and I have learned that there is not much I can do to counter the tone that they set in the play.
Happily, this year’s crew of 8th graders was a large group of incredibly sweet kids. There’s really not another term for it. They were just very sweet kids. Another teacher compared them to a whole class of Golden retriever pups—big, excited, affectionate, enthusiastic, energetic, and a bit sloppy. They have made my year wonderful and I very fond of them. That's them above (and yes, I secured their parents' permission to post this photo).
The fact is, I love them dearly. I think about them, worry about them, pray for them, and hope the best for them. I have encouraged, disciplined, motivated, pushed, and prodded them now since they entered middle school three years ago. They have occupied a substantial amount of my time for those three years and they now occupy a proportionate place in my heart. I can’t express the depth of my affection for these kids.
I realize as I write this that I might sound silly or sentimental. But it’s true. I love these kids. But not because they’re perfect.
To the contrary.
This photo is far more reflective of reality. They goof off frequently and have a hard time focusing more often than not. They often talk instead of listening, and burst out in laughter at inappropriate times. They are immature in many ways. They smell bad sometimes. They forget things I’ve told them a hundred times. They misplace critical props, lose costume pieces, and occasionally forget important cues. Their actions have often made my life more complicated and sometimes very frustrating.
In other words—they are 13 and 14 and they act like it. They may look like small adults, but while they might look like adults physically, they are as far away from emotional maturity as Spring Break is from Christmas vacation (in middle school time, that is dog years).
So why do I love them so much? Well, I think I love them because they are 13 and 14.
I love their quirks and foibles. I love watching them struggling to master all the crazy things they have to deal with--socially, emotionally, academically, theatrically--in their very topsy-turvy adolescent worlds. When they do get something right, it's incredibly exciting. When they don't, I'm rooting for them anyway.
Their quirks usually make me laugh--a warm, sympathetic, I-remember-what-it's like-laugh. When I do get irritated, their sincere contrition, high-fives or hugs, and sad puppy-dog faces melt my heart. Ultimately, I expect them to be quirky 13 year olds. Anything else is just icing on the cake.
My affection for them is also supported by the fact that they get the big things right. They are kind to each other and are respectful of me. They follow the big rules I’ve established (memorizing their lines, coming to rehearsal, etc.).
I’ve been thinking about this. Are 8th graders to adults as mortals are to our Father in Heaven?
Perhaps we look a little bit like Him, but we, too, are light years away from his level of progression and maturity. Does He love us in spite—possibly even because of—our quirks and foibles? Does He smile the same way I do when one of them does something that seems incredibly stupid to an adult, but seems perfectly appropriate to them?
Do my sincere apologies after thoughtless, but not malicious, choices melt His heart and warm His soul? Does He, at some level love me because--not in spite of--my flawed humanity? If I basically get the big stuff right does that enable His abiding love for me to work together with my basically good intentions?
I don’t know for sure, but deep down I have a feeling. And it gives me a lot of hope.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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