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Cameron Column #106

School Play

Copyright 2000 W. Bruce Cameron http://www.wbrucecameron.com/

==> Please do not remove this copyright it is a legal notice <==

My son recently had a small role in his school play, an egregious bit
of amateur theater which appeared to be about George Washington and
Global Warming.  My boy played Che Guevera and also danced and sang
backup during a number in which Daniel Boone lamented the fall of the
American garment industry.  The play's author, a music teacher who
looked like a mummy freshly shed of her wrappings, aggressively
mouthed the words of the songs in front of the assembly of fourth
graders, who earnestly sang lyrics like "With cows emitting methane /
that is coming out in gales / we all need to take a breather / get out
and save the whales!"

I had been introduced to the music teacher once, but was unable to
think of her as anything other than "Miss Lip Pucker" because of the
extraordinary concentration of dour fault lines which gathered
together around her mouth when she spoke.  Her eyes flashed sharp as
an eagle's whenever anyone in the audience tittered at something on
stage-this wasn't supposed to be cute, it was theatre!

Like every other father in the room, I saw most of the play through
the small viewfinder in my video camera, conscientiously recording
something nobody could stand to watch the first time.  I reflected on
how much the performance would be improved by the appearance of a beer
man.

When my son took the stage I stood up and zoomed in on his face.  No
one behind me objected to me blocking their view.  As Che, he
explained to a group of nodding children why it would be a mistake to
cut funding for bilingual education.  Focused tight on his facial
expression, I noticed something in his eyes as he projected his voice
out toward the audience, and a small smile crept across my lips as I
felt an intimation of what might be coming:

He was enjoying himself.

My son is one of those people who instinctively understands there is
no sense in the expression "too much of a good thing."  I once watched
in fascinated silence as he emptied an entire spray can of whipped
topping on a piece of apple pie, industriously building a mound as
large as a beach ball.  Now, finding himself at the center of the
theatrical universe, he was unwilling to surrender control of the
audience.  At the end of his speech, his small knot of friends shouted
"Si!  Ole!" and then turned to the rest of us and translated: "Yes!
Ole!"  They next marched obediently off the stage, while a new group
raced out to sing a rap song about the evil tobacco industry and the
benefits of medicinal marijuana.

My son stayed.

He joined the end of the chorus line, clearly so over-exposed to the
production's lyrics that he matched every step of the choreography
perfectly.  That everyone else was dressed like Ralph Nadar and he was
clothed as a revolutionary seemed to bother no one-except, of course,
the music teacher, whose pale, powdered skin flushed an impossible
purple.  Even as she mouthed the words "tobacco folks / want kids to
die / while poor sick patients / can't get high", she was stabbing the
air with violent hand motions, seeming to indicate that after the
final curtain, my son would find himself disemboweled.

The next song was a solo, a young girl dressed to resemble Monica
Lewinsky singing "Leader of the Pack."  Che Guevera stood respectfully
just outside the pool of stark blue cast by the spotlight, mouthing
the words but emitting no sound.  When Miss Lip Pucker hissed "get off
the stage!", the soloist misunderstood and stepped out of the
spotlight, creating an odd bit of theater as the two actors faced each
other in the dark, the music surging to its finish without
accompaniment by a vocalist.

The grand finale was next, the entire fourth grade rushing out,
holding dead flowers and singing about acid rain.  I wisely stole
around to the side of the stage and yanked my son from the group prior
to the arrival of Miss Lip Pucker, sneaking him out the back door.

"Son," I told him truthfully, "that was the best school play I've ever
seen."


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