Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On With the Show!

Yesterday was one of those unexpected school days that can only happen at home. I had made lesson plans, carefully lining up our learning for the day -  Bible, math, English, spelling, history, etc. - and we got as far as Bible and history. After our history chapter for the day, the kids decided that they wanted to write plays.

Of course it would've been too easy for everyone involved if they had chosen the same subject matter and collaborated. Instead we have two completely separate plays, taking place on two completely separate continents, with only the general time period being similar, but in no way relevant.

Mim wanted her play to be about Catherine the Great, and I don't think anyone should be surprised, at least not anyone who knows her, that she chose an empress as her subject matter, considering that each child was going to star in their own production. Zaya, on the other hand, wanted to write about Eli Whitney and the cotton gin. He is playing the part of a slave named Nicodemu. (The name came from a book about children from around the world. Don't blame me.)

This means costumes, props, and make-up for the court of a Russian noble and the hut of a slave in the South. It also means taking apart my house to find things that are "just right" for each part. Mim still has what looks like a geologist's lab set up in the hall bathroom as she experiments to find the exact sandstone that, when mixed with water and made into a paste, will color Zaya's face and hands for his role as an African slave. (It's just a thing she does. Don't ask. Usually it's make-up or war paint)

 Mim's entire production was written and performed in one day, while Zaya's will be performed later in the week. For one thing, I can only take so much, but it also turns out that it takes a while to build a fake cotton gin and write a full play. Yesterday we got so far as to unroll all the paper towels and scatter broken toothpicks on the floor because we needed the inside tube for the roller and the insufficiently strong toothpicks for the teeth. Pictures of the finished product will be forthcoming, assuming we all survive.

Mim's play was a great success, despite her brother's annoying tendency to jump out of character at the least provocation. It's hard to blame him, though, since his character, Peter (Ulrich)  III, was a drunken lout who dies at the end of the play to the joy of all involved. Mim even roped our neighbor kids into helping and playing their own parts.

I don't see the production hitting Broadway, but it had a good local run, and the audience (Daddy) was most appreciative. He was less appreciative of the state of the house after a full day, and I do mean a full day, of scrounging around for props and other accoutrement of the theater.

It's all learning though, right? No seriously, tell me it's all learning, because if it isn't I just let my children destroy my house, my sanity, and my lesson plans for nothing. I figure I can at least count it for history and writing. I haven't seen my children willingly write that much, in one day, in their lives.