Millennium Memoir
Moon and Stars . .

12.11.1999

Plays and Players

Every year after first grade, each class would put on a play. We would all sit together and come up with an idea and the teacher would write the script, when we were in the lower grades. In the upper grades, it was a much more collaborative effort, with everyone contributing lines to their role.

In fourth grade, we did a little piece about being lost while on classe de neige (winter expedition of two weeks, when the whole class would go to a ski resort in the Alps and have classes there while learning to ski) and bumping into Santa Claus who had crashed into the snow.

My most vivid memory from this play, was that my friend Russell, the only other American in my class, played a pilot who woud up rescueing the lot of us. His Dad made his costume, which included an entire airplane made out of cardboard. Russ wore a navy suit and a little aviator's cap and the airplane hung off of his shoulders so that he could walk around in it. The whole ensemble looked very convincing and he was the envy of the entire class for a while as a result.

In fifth grade, we got to do something special. Usually, plays were done in the main hall of the main school building. The hall also served as an impromptu auditorium with a collapsible stage that could be put up or taken down as needed. The entire class would collaborate on one or two big backdrops that were painted onto a massive sheet of brown paper. The sheet was attached to a long cardboard bar at the top and could be rolled and unrolled to cover the glass doors that led into the hall.

But for our fifth grade play, we got to go to a real play house with a real stage, red velvet curtains, props and backdrops.

We went to the Natural Museum on a field trip that year, and spent a lot of time in the African exhibits, which inspired a lot of the boys to crave a scenario about Livingstone.

I was reading a book called "The Adventures of Holly Hobbie" at the time. The story centered around the jungle disappearance of a young girl's father. Holly was their ancestor, a ghost trapped in a painting who stepped out and came to life again to help the young girl find her dad.

I was all fired up to adapt the book to be our play and brought it into school for the teacher's perusal. She wound up incorporating elements of both the story and the legend of Livingstone.

The play featured as a prop, a clay replica of a fetish we'd seen at the museum, that wound up being the doom and the salvation of our Livingstone.

Roles in the play included a ship's captain, passengers on the ship that was taken to Africa, Livingstone, his butler James and his emotional housekeeper Mary.

After reading the script, I was bound and determined, despite my perennial shyness, to play Mary. Another girl in the class, Anne-Julie also wanted to play the role. The teacher tried to get us to work it out amongst ourselves, but we couldn't reach an agreement, especially since most of the other roles were already taken, so whomever backed down would get stuck playing a guy passenger, or a flighty dame on the ship.

Finally, we had to put it to a vote, with both of us giving a little spiel about why we should get the part. Other kids in the class were also invited to state their opinions about who should get it. One of the guys said that I should get it, because I could cry the best and the part of Mary called for lots of crying.

The class voted and I got the part because I was a cry-baby.

Anne-Julie was very disappointed and looking back now, I feel bad, because she really did want to play that part, but I was too selfish to back down and let her have it.

On the other hand, everyone thought that I did a really good job and I had a great time doing it. Cry-baby or no cry-baby.

Moonlit Trees . .

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