(Don't forget about my Giveaway!) Since my day job (you know, the responsible, pay-the-bills many authors have) is working as a theatre and choir director, it would be easy to assume I spend my days basking in a constant glow of truth, beauty, and culture.
I am sure people must see me and think, "He's so lucky. Getting to work with bright, receptive minds, exposing them to the great masterworks of our culture." That's my day. Just moving from one artistic highpoint to another.
We're currently rehearsing for The Wizard of Oz. The other day we were working on the sequence where Dorothy and Co. go to maintenance place/beauty shop to get cleaned up before seeing the Wizard. All of the maintenance/beauty shop workers are played by 6th graders.
The boys that polish the Tin Man sing, "Rub, rub here, rub, rub there, whether you're tin or brass, that's how we keep you in repair in the merry old land of Oz."
I pointed out to the polishers that in order to make it rhyme, they needed to make "brass" rhyme with "Oz." I returned to the piano and they sang it with the correct pronunciation. Knowing what was coming, I started counting. It took precisely two seconds for one girl in another group to catch that they were pronouncing it as "bras." She turned to the girl next to her and whispered. They both broke out in giggles and told the next girl and so on. Pretty soon all the girls were laughing while the boys looked at them, completely clueless. One boy kept looking at the girls and mouthing, "What? What?" One girl went and whispered to him. Bless his soul, his face turned as red as the Tinman's heart. I thought he would die. We spent the rest of the rehearsal with the girls giggling and the boys blushing. The braver ones tried to pretend it was no big deal.
With middle school kids. Jokes don't die or eventually wear out. To the contrary, usually the longer it goes, the funnier it becomes to them. And their heightened perception of, and curiosity about new, quasi-adult things makes them incredibly sensitive to certain topics and words.
They don't even need context. We weren't talking about bras. The boys simply pronounced a word that sounded like it. That was all it took.
What did I do? Simply sat at the piano and pretended that I had no idea what was going on. It's often better that way.
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