I recently shared the first draft of our Pre-K class's year-end play script. I anticipated that the kids would want to continue to rewrite the play from the stage and had come prepared with a double-spaced print-out of their latest version on a clipboard so I had plenty of room for the editing notes I knew I would be taking. The reality of being on stage, going through the motions, is a lot different than simply dictating words, so a few little changes at each rehearsal (until the “no more changes rehearsal” in early April) is normal and necessary, but I've never experienced anything like what happened on Tuesday.
As we worked through the script, each time I would narrate a character's actions, most of the other kids wanted their character to do the same thing. For instance, when the Big Fairy (Katherine) rides on the Train (Finn P.) nearly all of the other children decided their characters needed to ride on the Train too. When the Unicorn Pegasus (Annabelle) flies around the audience, most of the other characters decided they ought to join her, flying, running, or waddling as their own characters' mode of transportation would dictate. When the Lilac Fairy (Ella) retires to the "castle with beautiful pink walls," her cast mates decided they needed to join her.
Not only were they making these creative decisions, but there was no asking involved, they were just declaring these things to be so, then doing them. As the teacher, I'm ostensibly in charge, but my stated agenda is for the children to "make it their own." Still, it was a bit jarring how forcefully they were taking the reins. I fought down the instinct to boss them into submission, largely because as chaotic as it seemed to me, every one of them was focused on the play. When I tuned into their "behind the teacher's back" chatter, it was all about the show. There was very little goofing around. In their own way, it was all business, so I let it ride and we finally got through to THE END.
Afterwards as we discussed the rehearsal, I brought up my concern about "everybody doing everything together," but there was a general nodding of heads indicating that this was the way they wanted it. Sarah, our assistant director, in an impressive display of foresight and empathy, pointed out that she didn’t think it wouldn't be very fun for the audience, but she didn't change any minds.
Then, like a row of dominoes falling one after another, the kids began to announce that they not only wanted to do everything together, but they wanted to change their characters and become Lilac Fairies, like Ella, including all of the boys.
I asked, "Are you sure you really all want to be Lilac Fairies and all do the same things together in the play?" I heard a couple of objections in the din of voices, but it was mostly yeas.
I said, “Okay, I want everyone who wants to be Lilac Fairies and do everything together to sit on this side. And I want everyone who doesn’t want to be a Lilac Fairy and wants to do different things to sit on this side. Seven kids chose the Lilac Fairy side, while four chose the non-Lilac Fairy side.
I asked the Lilac Fairy side, “So all of you are going to be Lilac Fairies and do everything together?” They agreed.
Then I asked the non-Lilac Fairy side, “And all of you want to be who you already are and do different things?” They agreed, although I heard Luna mumble, “I don’t want to be in the battle.”
“Luna, does that mean you want to be a Lilac Fairy and do everything together, except the battle?”
“Okay, then you can switch over the other side, which she happily did.
Anjali stuck with her Apple Tree character and Annabelle is still a Unicorn Pegasus, but as it stands now, the rest of the cast are Lilac Fairies and they will be doing everything together, against the advice of their Assistant Director (Sarah).
I have my suspicions that this development is just a passing fad, but that’s how I felt last week when 4 of the kids wanted to be Black Kitties and look where that got us: we're an even more homogeneous cast than before. I'll re-write their script, changing 7 of the 10 characters to Lilac Fairies, having them all doing everything together, but I'll keep the old script handy just in case our discussion of costumes scares some of the boys off.
All bets are off, however. This year's Pre-K class has a history of sticking together in a way I've never seen before. They often seem to have a kind of "hive mind" when they're together. Maybe an all-Lilac Fairy cast will be just another testament to their incredible communal bond.