Well, today I hit sort of a landmark in my own mind. I hung up the 16th framed play poster in my office (after each play, I get the two lobby posters framed. One goes in the theatre, one goes in my office). Each year, when I hang the last poster up, it sort of signals to me that the theatrical season is over. It's very similar to writing "The End" at the conclusion of manuscript.
I suspect that if I were a farmer it would be a similar feeling to putting the crop up in the barn.
At any rate, I hung the poster up today for Hello Dolly and I realized I have now done 16 plays at my school. Two a year for the last eight years. That's the longest I've ever worked anywhere, so that makes me feel good. I like to have roots, like to be in places for the long-term.
But there's a lot more. I tend to measure my life in plays, not in years. I can't tell you the year I got my doctorate, but I can tell you that it was between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Beauty and the Beast. I know my last child was born a day after auditions for Seussical, although I rushed home from the Jungle Book cast party for a false alarm. I got my first book contract after The Music Man but before auditions for Cats. And so on.
My students often ask which play was my favorite. I am honest when I tell them I can't choose just one. Like my children, I love them all, but for different reasons. Some of them were artistically fulfilling. Others were lots of fun. Some had amazing performances. Some had incredible costumes. Or sets. Some were difficult, but rewarding. Some were growing experiences--either artistically or personally. Some were both.
I can no more pick a favorite play than I can pick a favorite child. Or student. They are all infinitely dear to me. As I look around my now-covered office walls, I remember the plays, the songs, the costumes--but I remember the students. I remember watching them grow from timid 6th graders to 8th grade performers. I remember them trying their first play and falling in love with it. Or, realizing it wasn't there thing and finding another path as they grew.
The first group of 8th graders I encountered here are now almost done with college. In a few more plays, I imagine one or two will be married. In several more plays, I will probably start hearing about children. By the time the posters have gone around the wall again, I might even be directing the children of some of those students in their first steps on a stage.
I'm at a difficult point in the year now as I realize that the 8th graders are leaving soon. That always makes me sad in a way I can't quite articulate. I'm proud of them. Happy for them. Excited for their new opportunities. But I will miss them. Keenly. I take comfort in the fact that knowing that there will be new students next year. New plays. New adventures and new growth. In the meantime, I have happy memories. And lots of posters.
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