When I presented the first draft of our Pre-K play script here, I expressed concerns that we had too many Black Kitties and speculated that the children would realize this during rehearsals and choose to differentiate their characters by creating new roles for themselves. I was right in that they did choose new roles, although they went in the opposite direction, instead deciding that most of them, including all the boys, were going to follow Ella's lead and be Lilac Fairies. Not only that, but they wanted to rewrite the script so that they all did everything on stage together.
Again, I speculated. This time I guessed that after one rehearsal with the all-Lilac Fairy cast, they would abandon it. Again, I was wrong. It's true that Finn P., a boy who has been seriously attached to trains since he was a baby escorting his older sister to class, chose to go back to being the Train, but the rest of them played their fairy roles enthusiastically, showing no signs of dissatisfaction. In fact, in my 7 years of directing these entirely child-created productions, I don't think we've ever had a more focused rehearsal and we're still 2-1/2 months away from show time.
Ella, Katherine, Thomas, Jack, and Luna (Marcus and Josephine are both away on family trips) formed a dynamic, charming swarm of fairies, with Luna's staunchly anti-violence character steadfastly refusing to join in the battle scenes, and in fact, using magic in one instance to end "the battle."
Anjali, one of our Lilac Fairy holdouts, acknowledged yesterday that her Black Kitty character didn't have a lot to do (yes, once the others abandoned their Black Kitty roles, she dropped her Apple Tree guise in favor of being a Black Kitty). Up to now, her character has pretty much just stood in the center of the stage throughout the show, occasionally reacting to what's going on around her. I've been nudging her about it and yesterday she finally agreed that she wanted more action, so we went through the script and hand-picked several scenes in which the Black Kitty will join the Lilac Fairies in their romping about.
Annabelle is sticking to her role as a Unicorn Pegasus. She knew that this was her character from the very start and has shown a real consistency of vision, aided, I'm sure, by the fact that she "already has my costume" at home. I know how she feels. I've often forced my life fit a costume I really wanted to wear in public:
I've been particularly interested, however, in following how Sarah is coming to embrace her role as my Assistant Director. While she was on board from the start with the idea of producing the play, she has been equally firm in her refusal to assume an onstage role. Increasingly, however, she has begun to insert herself into the action on her own terms.
For instance, I have her sitting beside me, the Director, during rehearsals and she has taken to whispering her observations and ideas into my ear -- just like a real Assistant Director! Not only that, but she has been spot-on in her suggestions. At one point a "giant nutcracker" comes on stage. Sarah interrupted rehearsal yesterday to let us know that she would take responsibility for "bringing it on stage." She has also decided that she will be in charge of the "small robot" who "puts a bathtub on a battle." (This still cracks Thomas up every time I read it.)
Our main antagonist is a character named Maleficent, although no one wants to play the role. Last week, we decided that we were going to have a make a puppet to represent this fiend, and Sarah declared that she will be in charge of operating this puppet as well. It's actually quite remarkable: she's gone from sucking her thumb and curling up against her mom when the subject of the play came up, to confidently inserting both herself and her ideas into the production. It's such an inspiring evolution that I'm almost frightened to "touch it," lest it not be real, but at this rate it won't be long before this child without a role will have assumed the most important part in the play!
As always happens, the play production is oozing into every aspect of our Pre-K day. We've already painted the pink walls of our castle and our "swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, swimmming, pool, pool, pool, pool, pool, pool, pool." We've used a hot glue gun these last couple weeks to construct a giant nutcracker "frame" from large tubes, cardboard containers and a balloon. Yesterday we began applying the first layer of paper mache. It's an impressive figure, this nutcracker, almost as tall as me, and the kids want it to become a permanent "installation" at the school once the play is over. Specifically, they want to turn it into an outdoor "statue" to go in our new playground.
I'd like to see if we can make that happen, but paper mache will only last a few days in Seattle's weather. I wonder how we'll do this?