Photo R. Johnson

After a long time, I am getting to address a bucket-list entry — directing a school play.

The first, full ‘read-through’ went quite well today. I was pleasantly surprised with the work of the 10 or more cast members. With rare exception, the grades three-through-five students read well. We’ll worry about speed of delivery and inflection another time. This rehearsal time — 30 minutes — was just long enough to ‘walk through’ the performance.

I have read, as part of our state Read-Aloud program, to either fourth or fifth graders every Thursday when school is in session, for three years. While reading a story recently, a lesser-known story by a well-known author, the classroom teacher exclaimed, “That story would make a great play.” I readily agreed and began the editing of a story into a screenplay. As soon as the draft was completed, I shared it with the teacher. She nodded agreement, and the play became part of our local primary school, ‘after-school’ program. The two hours, 3–5 PM, from Monday through Thursdays, are divided into four, 30-minute segments. As an ‘enrichment’ instructor, the program coordinator (and one of two classroom teachers with whom I read) gave me a half-hour slot each Thursday to work on the play.

Although I have never before worked with shadow play, I selected that genre for the production, since I did not want my young actors to burden themselves with memorizing chunks of dialog. Given the chance of illness, or other unforeseen disaster on performance day, I wanted also to avoid using understudies. Any decent reader can fill in, in a pinch.

So, why is directing a performance weighty enough to be on my bucket list? Simply stated, it is love of the art. As a Public Service Administration major, I used reading of play scripts — in my free time — as a stress reducer from the rigors of required college studies. I read tons of plays of every description. Among my favorites was, “The Night of the Iguana.” The story setting tends to be quite ‘dark’ and the detailed stage direction engrossed me completely. I was then (and remain now) keenly interested in costume, props, scenery, lighting, sound and all the other elements of a typical stage production. I eventually became one-third of the cast, in a three-character, three-act college production of “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.”

During my secondary-school days, now a half-century ago, I was a member of the thespian society and appeared additionally in class plays — sometimes as a lead — for four years, in dramas and comedies. I always closely witnessed the work of the directors. In hindsight, it was some very brave and tolerant teachers, giving up their after-hours time, who whipped us into performers. While I have no interest in whipping my students, I sincerely want them to be confident presenters, readers and thinkers who can one day perform well in the production we call ‘life’.

Reader, blogger, musician and music promoter/event producer. Community activist and educational advocate.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store