So OMGOMGOMG, just came from Maxie’s 1st-2nd grade play. It was AMAZING. Her teacher Joel studied acting (and is married to an actress) and is just brilliant at incorporating all the multidisciplinary, pedagogically awesome aspects of theater into the classroom. He and his co-teacher Lauren and the kids just did a TREMENDOUS job. I am shepping nachas up the wazoo.
The kids have been studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream pretty intensively for months. (I need to scan Maxie’s letter from Lysander to Hermia, purportedly written after he’s been bewitched into falling out of love with her, that starts: “Dear Hermia, you are uglie and sasse.”) The kids decided to name their theater company “Hullabaloo Juice” because in the play, Puck causes a hullabaloo (they liked the fun-ness of the word) by putting the juice of a magic flower in the characters’ eyes. They made a program with cast photos, designed tickets, had a marketing team and box office managers and a costume department (working with wonderful parent volunteers who are not me).
This morning they performed an abridged version of the play. Isabel, who played Bottom, was as funny as any adult Bottom I’ve seen. In addition, they did quick versions of two children’s books, a tribute to the New Victory Theater’s production of ZooZoo they’d seen earlier in the year (their snippet was called Penguin Musical Chairs and if there is any animal funnier than a penguin, and any concept more amusing than a bunch of penguins playing musical chairs, I am unsure what it is) and 6 playlets written by kids in the class. (Best title of a kid-written play: “Slug Dojo,” by Ethan.) The costumes, the sets (a refrigerator box with each side painted a different way), the sound design (when Puck went to look for the magic flower, they blasted the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme; when Lysander and Demetrius had a sword fight, they played the sounds of clinking and clashing metal) — all brill.
The kids were SO COMMITTED. Maxie played a dust bunny in an adaptation of the very funny picture book Rhyming Dust Bunnies, the narrator in the kid-written Flea and Germ, a princess in the kid-written (and gender-role-re-enforcing, alas, but you can’t have everything) Knights & Electric Cats vs The Witch, and a fairy in Midsummer Night’s Dream. For the production’s boffo ending, a dad who is a musician co-wrote a “thank you for coming to our show” song with his daughter, and ALL the kids learned and sang it, accompanied by the dad on guitar and kids playing violin, cello and bongos.
This is the first year the school has had Collaborative Team Teaching classes, in which special ed and general ed kids learn in a class together with two teachers, one special ed and one general ed. We already had mixed-age classrooms (in Maxie’s case, it’s a 1st-2nd grade class), so I wasn’t sure adding special ed would fly. But you know what? In Maxie’s class it seems to be working beautifully. Joel’s always been high-energy and terrific at multifacted, kid-centric teaching. (For the trout curriculum he did with Josie’s class three years ago, the kids raised trout, learned about the trout lifecycle, tested the pH of the tank, cooperated on the various jobs required to care for the trout, did fish-centric art, learned the physiology of trout, learned about NYC’s waterways, read literature about fish and rivers, hypothesized about why the trout kept dying off, and released the surviving trout into a river upstate after singing “I Believe I Can Swim,” an adaptation of an R. Kelly song. Shhyeah.) But I’d been concerned about how Max would do — Maxie and Josie are very different little people. I needn’t have worried. Joel and Lauren are a rock-star team.
The morning flew by! Swift as a shadow, short as any dream, brief as the lightning in the collied night.
(See what I did there?)