Being a theater nerd, I often find myself breaking into song. If you listen closely some days, you can hear Glinda’s song echoing through the corridors of what has become my home—the Ware Hall home I share with the students, teachers, and staff of the Middle School.
Glinda, of course, is a character in the Broadway musical Wicked. One of my favorite moments in that musical is when Glinda sings:
“Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
Because I knew you
I know I have been changed for good.”
“For Good” from Wicked is just one of the songs that I carry in my heart.
My memories are not so much about the lives I may have changed, but, more important, the lives that changed mine. I often reflect on what they did for me.
During the dress rehearsal of The Diary of Anne Frank, I observed a young girl portraying Anne saying, “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” I was so touched by the humanity coming through this young actress. I can still hear her words and see the tear on her cheek.
Witnessing a colleague stand center stage in our all-school production of Fiddler on the Roof (the only one in my tenure at Milton Academy) brought me great joy, particularly as he raised his hands to gather all the villagers of Anatevka together. He was speaking for all the members of the company, who came from every corner of the Milton community: Lower School, Middle School, Upper School, staff and faculty. “To Life,” he proclaimed. “To Life!”
I think back on the student who made me laugh as he and I were rehearsing a scene from Larry Shue’s The Nerd. We were on the floor practicing his “pig” moves and sounds when in walked a tour group. Looking up, we “snorted,” and I thought, “What must they think?” But then, I thought, “Well it shows that we really step into our art at Milton Academy.”
These Miltonians taught me: You don’t have to be a workaholic. You can be a “workaphile.” You can love what you do.
“Look, my eyes are dry
The gift was ours to borrow
It’s as if we always knew
And I won’t forget what I did for love
What I did for love..”
Love, as the words from the musical, “Chorus Line” state, invades every lesson plan, class, drama exercise, rehearsal, tournament, practice, or student performance I witness.
It is an extraordinary opportunity to coach a “speechie” to connect with and not speak at the audience; to teach students to care about what speakers are talking about; to encourage every performer to use his or her words as a gift to an audience. Whether actors, speakers or “interpers” (performers who interprets others’ work) are sharing about daring to be true, or looking at their lives from different perspectives, or describing what it feels like to let their imaginations set them free, I see their craft grow from their minds as well as their hearts.
Other students remind me, through the words of Stephen Sondheim from his musical, “Into The Woods,”
“Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see
I need to remember not to say, “performing is easy, speaking in front of an audience is simple, you don’t need to practice out loud.”
The performing arts are subjective—no one has all the answers. Listening is the key to learning how to “Live truthfully under imaginary circumstance” as Wonka does in an imaginary candy factory, a beast in love for the very first time, or a Vietnam Veteran searching for her home in the play A Piece of My Heart.
Let it Be.
Let it Be.
Let it Be.
So I applaud all of the lives that have touched mine. Because of all of you, this theater nerd will never know the curtain coming down, and will never stop breaking into song.
Epilogue: To all the speechies sharing their stories at the Foley Fiesta Speech Tournament this coming Sunday, May 7, 2017: Break a Leg! And let your voices be heard as you speak your truths!