This year my daughter was in a play. She is in the third grade at the magnet school which encompasses grades 3-5. This year’s special was Hello Dolly. Which rhymes with folly. Which is what it is to put on a show where 5th graders are allowed to sing.
The show is now, in March, and the rehearsals began in mid-fall. May I just suggest that they should have had a few (hundred) more fall rehearsals. These were mainly a pain in the butt for the parents, since we had to drive across town to pick the kids up – their buses having already left for the day.
The rehearsals were Top Secret, and held in the gym. Absolutely no parents were allowed. This was ostensibly so the children wouldn’t be “distracted”, but was probably really to keep the Stage Mothers from wringing their hands, complaining about their child’s part, and stabbing each other in the back.
After the fall rehearsals, the spring rehearsals began in earnest. The third graders don’t do much at all in the play, but yet they were required to attend every rehearsal. This meant weekly trips across town, and packing of dinner because the kid would be starving to death by the time the practice was over.
Then a Meeting was held for all parents, regarding costumes. Apparently it was of the essence that for a grade school play, the costumes must be perfect period pieces. They spent an entire hour describing EXACTLY what children from each grade were allowed to wear, not allowed to wear, and handing out multiple sheets of paper listing appropriate apparel and suggestions for Vogue patterns for creating monstrous dresses for the little darlings, in the presumption that these moms were budding Betsy Rosses who were going to whip up a Victorian tea dress in their spare time. I believe some of them did. The fellow In Charge Of Costumes handed out a sheet with his email address and informed us that we must submit a photo of our child in costume, and that if it was in the slightest improper, or not correctly submitted, they would be Out Of The Play. A fate worse than death.
The last week before the play was truly Hell Week. Monday through Wednesday, practices were held from 2:30 – 6:00 every afternoon. Monday was parents’ night which meant we were “invited” to come and slave over props and scenery. Somehow I got roped into hand lettering a train station sign for Yonkers, in a very fancy font. It took all evening, and it turned out really good. And then they didn’t use it in the actual play. I’m sure a train sign for Yonkers will be worth saving from year to year, because so many plays are set in Yonkers, New York. Not.
It was very amusing to see all the suburban housewives, who in this town are largely smug and self-satisfied, donning smeary painting smocks and registering cluelessness about how to paint anything. One of them began to wail that she had gotten latex paint on her engagement ring, which among other things begs the question as to why she had a child in grade school but no wedding ring on her finger. Something about the milk, and the cow…
Thursday practice was held at the renovated historic theater where the play was to be held. It was part piece rehearsal, and part first dress rehearsal. It ran from 8 to 2:30. The kids were beat by the time we picked them up. They never actually did the whole play through from start to finish, which would have been a really good idea.
My daughter’s costume was quite acceptable, and fortunately not too labor intensive. I found a dress at the local consignment store (I did NOT go all Martha Stewart and order a dress pattern, you may be assured of that) and found some Mary Janes which were somewhat historically inaccurate in that they had a little heel, but to hell with accurate, because that was the only way to ensure that my daughter would ever wear them again.
We did a test run on the costume, hair, and makeup Wednesday night. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth; I was pulling my daughter’s hair too hard, she didn’t like the look of her hair in a bun, and she didn’t want to deal with makeup. She was too tired.
Friday was hell DAY. Their first real dress rehearsal doubled as their performance for the kids in the two magnet schools, and ran from 8 – 2:30 also. Then they had to return in costume for the first real showing of the play, which required that they be there from 6:15 until 9:30 at night. Fortunately there was no homework or school for the play kids on Thursday or Friday.
My daughter came home between performances for dinner and makeup touchup on Friday and informed me that children were being sent home right and left for barfing. One of the stage mothers had barfed also. Apparently there is a hellish stomach bug going around, which may make this whole thing quite interesting.
Friday night was the performance I chose to use my ticket to see. I sat where my daughter instructed me to sit, which was in the end of the row where she would do her little dance with her performance boyfriend, which she described in awed whispers throughout the week.
Apparently the boy in question had instructed his parents similarly, because I was sitting next to them at the end of our row. Since I had to bring her at 6:15 for a 7 PM performance, I got to wait in the audience for 45 minutes for the play to start. During that time, the house speakers blared out little ditties from various other popular musicals. The lights blinked out abruptly at this point, which caused someone in the audience to yelp.
At last, the play began. The lights were dim and there was much stomping, shuffling of feet and whispering as the first scene was set up. And then our illustrious performance began.
There are those who believe that any endeavor undertaken by their children is adorable. Maybe you can forgive me for unabashedly stating that this performance was awful.
All the little darlings sang off key, which made me wince and cringe. The wired mikes cut in and out in the middle of scenes, making the performance sound as if it were being performed by a roomful of mice, punctuated by horrid screeches of feedback over the speakers.
There was a character whose function was to cry loudly during the whole performance, and I must say, she did a fine job. So fine, I wanted to choke her like a chicken. She was an enormous 5th grader, so tall that she towered about a head over the other kids, and to emphasize this ridiculous size difference, she had been fitted with a hair bow as big as her head.
There was a parade scene where my daughter got to hula hoop on stage, and I must say, she is an excellent hula hooper. More talented children were allowed to do acrobatics across the stage, and less talented ones got to wave flags hopefully, or pretend to play musical instruments.
At last, intermission arrived, bringing home the horrifying fact that there was a whole next half to go. The intermission dragged on, and on, and I began to hear the parents around me talking loudly. “Ain’t this thang ovah yet? It’s cold in here. When we can go home? You mean there’s MORE??”
My daughter later informed me that the unseemly delay was brought on by the untimely cutting off of the end of a performing child’s finger, thus necessitating that she perform through the remainder of the show with an enormous bandage on her hand.
The second half was as excruciating as the first. There was more loud crying by the crying girl, more bad singing, and more botched lines and malfunctioning mikes.
I of course do not want to seem uncharitable (ha!), but it seems to me that tackling a period musical with a bunch of ten year-olds with the first real run through of the show being the first actual show was a bit… ambitious?
However, all the little kiddies looked adorable, I must admit. The girls swayed around in enormous dresses and bows, and looked like a bunch of little Jon Benets with their lurid stage makeup. The little boys looked mortified because they had to wear lipstick on stage. Enormous hats were sported by all.
Today is Saturday, and there were two more performances. This morning, we had a lively discussion about a bun. It seems after refusing the bun I had originally put in her hair on the grounds that she looked terrible in buns, she noticed that all the other girls around her had buns, and suddenly she HAD to have one.
I dropped my daughter off at the first show and picked her up after. My husband just returned from Budapest last night, and it fell to him to bring her to the final performance so he could enjoy, er, suffer through it. I’m sure we will have a lively discussion about the show after my daughter has gone to bed.
There was so much confusion surrounding the show that, despite being in it, my daughter was completely unable to synopsize it for me. I found it disconcerting that she could be in a play and not know what it was about, but after witnessing it, I must say, I didn’t have a very good idea either.
I wonder what they will take on next year? South Pacific? Saving Private Ryan? Equus? It really doesn’t matter, because next year, my daughter is joining the chess club instead.