I recently had the pleasure of seeing a performance of the revival of Edward Albee’s play, Three Tall Women, on Broadway. It was brilliant, and reminded me of all that theater should be—palpable, true, and energized with a spirit that transcends any particular time or place. The work of the actresses, Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf, and Alison Pill, was stunning in its unselfish awareness of each other—all playing the same woman at different stages of her life—and in its almost childlike joy of being on stage together in celebration of this esteemed work.
A number of weeks ago, I enjoyed a similar experience, watching our Kindergarten and first grade students’ production of stories and songs by Dr. Seuss. The making of art was a wet one that morning, as a soggy spring snow accompanied them to the theater where they abandoned their soaked coats to a pile on the table and asked me with sincere artistic concern if their face paint was smeared. I assured them it was perfect, as their teachers ushered them to their places in their festively colored costumes and even brighter faces. They knew what to do, exactly where they needed to be at any given moment. This was their show and they performed their choreography with confidence, making eye contact with each other and the audience, and they sang with grace and abandonment the Seuss mantra—a person’s a person no matter how small—giving new meaning to the phrase “straight from the heart.” There was nothing circuitous about this performance, nothing segued or forced. Its communication was straightforward and true. It was as though every happy moment in their young lives had come together to be celebrated and shared through this production.
As we all poured out of the theater into what was suddenly the after storm Colorado sunshine I have come to know and love, a parent said to me sighing, “Wow, I needed that. I feel much better now.” I was touched by his words because I could see that he did feel better, as did the rest of us. We were stimulated and refreshed, and it got me to thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be a half bad idea if we could begin all mornings like this, sharing a moment or two that is about the “we” not the “me,” and imagining the “oh, the places you’ll go, when you think about Seuss.”
These, our very youngest of performers, not unlike the seasoned actors of Albee’s revival, achieved a vivacity of presence. As a collective, they were a power group, a force capable of taking a mass of caffeinated and busy adults and making us stop for a spell to engage with them in an experience that was something more than the humid theater, damp garments and impatient duties of the day. They sparkled, and for that handful of time, we sparkled too, as parents, as teachers, and as human beings. We felt the logic in the lyrics, “anything’s possible,” and looking into their eyes as they opened their arms to us, we believed this was true. Furthermore, they were not multitasking. They were the enlightened here and now and we would do well to take note of this type of absolute and realized presence.
When the performance was over, students hugged their families, posed for pictures and they walked in beauty, to paraphrase Lord Byron—actually they ran—up and down and throughout the theater that will be their artistic home for the next twelve years. It is a home that will define them, teach them, excite them, and provide a solid training ground as well as a cathedral of beauty for the performing artists within their hearts. A number will become working artists; others will not, but all will be given the opportunity to enjoy a plethora of engaging performing arts experiences during their time at CA, in our projected new edifice with state-of-the-art theater and dance facilities that will conduct them to the precipice of college and the rest of their lives. This, I know, is difficult to imagine right now when you gaze upon the faces of your six-year-olds, and part of you wants to keep them right there on that school stage, but as Seuss says of them—You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
The best part of steering themselves through a CA education is that, on their way, they will collect much joy, and they will spread that joy to others because they are generous like that, and because it is inevitable. It is not by accident that I see their smiles in the faces of every one of our graduating seniors. What they are teaching us now in their early youth is what they already know deep down—that art is important—and that in our hectic world today, we all could use a little art. In fact, we need art now—more than ever. It makes people feel better. Good summer to all of you. It is a gift for us to teach your children who are full and gracious human beings—no matter how small.