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School Program

I don’t remember being in a school program when I was a kid. Maybe they hadn’t been invented. More likely, I just spent too much time sitting out in the hall for making hilarious comments under my breath that amused my classmates but not my humorless teachers. But as both a parent and grandparent I’ve had the opportunity to watch plenty of youngsters make their world-debut on stage.

It blows me away that there are so many kinds of Individual. Each child is so inimitable and yet there seems to be a “variation of a version” of every kid in every program.

The most obvious is the super-animated girl in the middle of the front row. Her expressions are larger-than-life and her actions embellished. The teacher puts her there on purpose for the wow-factor, just as she puts the overly energetic boy off to the side where he can’t totally distract the audience. (It doesn’t work.) There’s just something that happens to a certain personality when they get in front of a crowd. It’s called Crazy Confidence and I love it!

Then there is what I like to think of as the soldier-kids, who stand up straight, watch dutifully, obey instantly and don’t miss a word of any song. Even though these kids stand between the girl obliviously swishing her skirt back and forth and the boy who’s on a serious hunt for something up his nose, nothing can divert them from the true mission—the program.

Every school program has a deer-in-the-headlights, who will stare expressionless and unblinking into the crowd, and naturally there’s a kid to elbow him when it’s time to file off the stage. There is a child in every color of charismata and every shade of beguilement. Those are fancy words to describe the wide-ranging slide rule of angels and demons.

Certainly the role played in a school program isn’t necessarily the character the child will play forever. Life experiences will sooner or later shape them into real people—not to say that they aren’t real, they’re just not finished.

Within the parameter of a school program there is a fruit bowl of possibilities. The kid sitting out in the hall might just turn out to be a Pulitzer Prize winner. Or not. Time will shake it out. From future entertainer to entrepreneur, politician to policeman, doctor to delinquent, scientist to serial killer—it’s all there in the line-up. It’s the future in a nutshell.

Whether or not the production is polished or bungling, it’s always illuminating. For some inscrutable reason the school program always makes me cry.