Friday, May 4, 2012

Arts-in-Education; a Love Letter

Dear Jacqueline,

Firstly, let me apologize upfront for a few things: the public manner in which I'm sending this, for any unnecessary exposition which will allow my readers to follow more closely, and also for my tardiness, but if you read my previous entry, you'll understand that illness has made me its bitch and almost three weeks later I'm still reeling from side effects. (My ear is still ringing!)

To the thick of it then... Thank you so much for what you have given Sebastian, and in turn my family. Your talents at directing are immeasurable, and I don't use that word lightly. Working was an absolute hit, and to see all those children up on stage, not only giving it their all, but also showing various levels of stage proficiency was mind blowing performance after performance.

As you know, Sebastian bucked a bit at the thought of going to so many rehearsals. He'd get on the bus and come home rather than stay at school where you were weaving your magic. And when, at two weeks out, you told me Sebastian still didn't know his stuff, I wondered if my little one would ever take ownership of his songs, his choreography, his blocking and intentions, or if he'd aimlessly meander on stage with his mouth agape.

But the week of the performance, Sebastian's behavior towards the show changed. Once the set was built, the lights hung, the orchestra was in place, and the costumes and props filled those many racks, Sebastian's enthusiasm became evident. I noticed a little smile played upon on his lips from time to time, as if he were privy to state secrets that he could barely contain. He'd say cryptic things like, "Wait until you see Brother Trucker," and then mysteriously slink away. The bug bit him big time and I could tell he was finally owning it.

There was also a palpable change in how he carried himself. His back became straighter. His sentences held more command. His homework ethic had gained focus. And he began to follow through and do the small things when first asked: make his bed, feed the dogs. I was amazed.

Now, I've been a stage actor and an arts-in-ed instructor for most of my life. You'd think I wouldn't be bamboozled by theater's positive byproducts. But shame on me, I was wary to attribute Sebastian's behaviors to simply being in "the school musical." As much as I tried to poo poo what was right in front of me, however, I finally had to reexamine what I've known for so many years, that the discipline, the sense of community, and the artistic integrity that theater builds is undeniable.

And let's talk about community... Your ability to take students of various ages, from elementary to high school, and make a cohesive whole was amazing. I believe being around older kids, watching them work and interrelate, has not only given Sebastian school cred, but also interpersonal and language skills he previously did not have.

And don't get me started on the show itself. As I'm sure you've heard from others, Working seemed to be such a strange show for kids. And then when I heard the difficult music, I'll be honest Jacqueline, I questioned your sanity. I mean, Grease!, sure. Bye, Bye Birdie, why not? Godspell, Annie, Little Shop of Horrors, go to it. But Studs Terkel's Working?

But from the opening song, Wow!!, to the curtain call, I could tell you know your shit, girl. I have never seen my son so laser focused. Walking to his mark, freezing in his baseball stance waiting for his musical cue, and then hitting those mime baseballs out of the park again and again...I'll say it again, Wow!!

You have to realize, Michael and I put Sebastian on medication at the beginning of the school year to help him focus. And because of disastrous results, in March, we took him off all meds, right about the time he was in the thick of rehearsals, so to see him so engaged and committed seemed a minor miracle.

Sebastian still sings snippets from the show, sometimes he makes up his own stuff, and what knocks my socks off is that he seems to be enjoying life just a little bit more.

Thank you for that, Jacqueline.

I asked Sebastian if he wanted to be in the show next year and he smiled (more state secrets) and said, "I'm not sure." But there's no mistaking the twinkle in his eye. So, if he does the show next year, and the school is lucky enough to maintain your services, I cannot wait for the end results.

Your lifelong fan,
Hutch

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