The following article illustrates the many faces of emotional states and the power of positive social environments, through a vehicle that promotes profound transformation: ARTS EDUCATION.
August came as a month of uncertainty, where the idea that had been gestating among twelve graders came crashing down like a house of cards… What would I tell the students? How would I deal with their questions? Suddenly, the wind blew a whisper from Rubén Montoya to my ear. Something I didn’t want to hear. Something I rejected. But, it was as though a mysterious being had talked to me in my dreams, and a week later, I accepted. What did I know about The Wizard of Oz, other than singing “Over the Rainbow” by heart and having seen the movie hundreds of times? But I agreed to embark on this journey, and I knew I had to make it work.
And so came September with creative meetings, questions from the students, inquiries from the teachers, countless demands and all sorts of needs. Who would dance what? How many musical instruments would we have? How would we build the scenography? Many ideas emerged and, little by little, our imagination produced flying monkeys of body percussion, tap trees, dancing jitterbugs, thousands of poppies, a human tornado and the ethereal fields of a Kansas we had not witnessed in person. If we knew one thing for sure, it was that we were going to do our own version of a musical dangerously known by millions of people around the world.
October surprised us with actors, singers, dancers and choir members that auditioned to be part of the cast. They were all very enthusiastic, they learned the songs, chose their favorite role to play, went through their lines, memorized lyrics… There was a huge line of students waiting patiently for their turn to audition. Many of them didn’t know what an audition was, but they came along, infected by the magic of the Wonderful Land of Oz. Among sighs, tears, smiles, bursts of laughter, callbacks and snapchats, the cast was chosen. Another month went by.
November brought the analysis of each piece, the importance of defining costumes, rehearsal schedules, choreographies, suppliers and sponsors… Suddenly, without us realizing, the auditorium came to life. The second and third floors were full of students before and after regular classes, the boards had dozens of announcements, the classrooms displayed aspects of the play, teachers talked in the corridors, my office was crowded with people all the time, the phone didn’t stop ringing, and Dorita wouldn’t stop sending notes to parents, announcing the great event that was about to change the lives of so many students.
With a well-deserved rest between December 15 and January 15, vacation time flew by, with holiday celebrations, delicious food and Christmas presents, but also with reflective planning on how to focus everyone’s work to make sure the show had a happy ending!
February and March began with an extensive work schedule that included specific and general rehearsals. The schedule was delivered to parents and students from the cast, detailing dates and hours up until Easter week. We finished choosing costumes for each choreography and character, hired external suppliers and had a wonderful meeting with them. We planned snacks, refreshments and lunches. But probably the most surprising thing for us adults was that, during that short period of time, we saw 68 children from preschool to
5th grade flourish in the act we will never forget: Munchkin Land! Each one of those kids became a cheerleader, dad, grandmother, detective, explorer, gymnast, mayor, judge or lawyer, and amongst the catchy lyrics of Lullaby League and Lollypop Guild, we became enwrapped in a tempting and increasingly aromatized wave of emotions and feelings of improvement. With each day that passed, the Wicked Witch of the West recited her lines better, the Tin Man learned to be more rigid in his movements, Dorothy adopted an indescribable tenderness, the Scarecrow disarticulated his joins with more confidence, the Lion became more charming and funny, the Wizard and the Guardian found the specific nuances of their characters, the Good Witch enhanced her moves, the dancers absorbed their choreographies, musicians mastered 62 musical interventions, the physical and virtual scenography came to life, and we, the teachers, fell in love with every single one of them.
Easter Week was intense with work and planning for the production team, and my house became the logistics headquarters for Ana Valentina, Dorita and myself. In the midst of breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and long telephone calls to Rubén, we put together a new schedule, planned every detail for the last three weeks before the show, finalized details for every subarea of work and, finally, the long awaited document with the attached work schedule was sent on Sunday, just hours before students returned to class.
I must confess that a drop of sweat ran down my back as I clicked send; doing so was an unequivocal and unrelenting sign that The Wizard of Oz would come to light in three weeks time… There was so much that still needed to be done! So much scenography to finish! So many costumes to complete! So many dance and music ensembles, so many sitzprobes and so many theater rehearsals to do in just three short weeks…
But time is inescapable and so April came… An April that today seems so far away, it gave us rainy days, joyful hours and minutes that seemed never-ending. General rehearsals took shape, they became more and more organized, more upbeat, and the air began to take on a hint of rose , like a breathtaking sunset that crept up on us with its glow… And with that hint of hope, the most inexplicable feelings and emotions invaded the whole cast of children: joy, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, anguish, excitement, anticipation, displeasure, boredom, discomfort, trust, aggression, interest, optimism, contemplation, admiration, acceptance, generosity, solidarity, apprehension and serenity, until they reached that state of plenitude and ecstasy that can only be produced by a stage with its lights, its music and the adrenaline of the first instant before an expectant public, and by the magic of a show that will never be seen again in the time and space of the school.
And so in August, we are not the same people we were in April. We have mutated. We have transformed. We transgressed the barriers of reality and escalated into the world of magic. An ambitious show, for an audience in awe that never expected what their senses perceived and processed. It was like this, with tears in our eyes and after the last performance of the show, that the curtain of The Wizard of Oz fell forever. All we have left are the pictures, videos, what was said, hugs, promises and beating hearts, completely attuned with a new sunrise.
We are not the people we were yesterday…