Thursday, May 04, 2023

Me, Aladdin, and 110 Newcomers

There's nothing quite like seeing a show with a bunch of students. I was lucky enough, after years of trying, to get into a program sponsored by TDF. The program dried up with the apocalypse but has finally reappeared. TDF buys out entire theaters and fill them with NYC students. It's a remarkable program, and likely the only way a whole lot of students like mine will ever see a Broadway show.

This year, we were slated to see Six, which, judging from the soundtrack, seemed a little more like a concert than a standard musical. It's a very clever play on Henry VIII's six wives, all together, dishing the dirt and standing up for themselves. It surely would've gone over the heads of many of my kids.

I was lucky enough to note they had a later showing of Aladdin, and was able to swap out our show. My students are all very recent newcomers, beginners or near-beginners in English. It was a whole lot easier to get them involved with Aladdin than the story of the six wives of Henry VIII.  They could likely find the cartoon film in their first languages. Just in case they didn't, I showed it in English and we discussed it. TDF sent us a great theater pro, four times, who showed the kids a lot about what staging a play entails.

There's a lot of work involved in taking 125 students anywhere. You have to enlist more chaperones, one for every 15 students. That's not so hard when you're seeing a Broadway show, though. There's a whole lot of planning and paperwork, which I hate. I'm really not very good at this stuff. But for this, I'll do it. 

There are a whole lot of kids who have second thoughts. I have a test that day, they say. It's kind of cool to be able to say that tests come and go, but you won't get this opportunity every day. Anyway, you can make up a test. You can't see a Broadway show for free every day. 

Some kids just didn't want to go. Why should they when they could go home and play video games? Almost every one of those kids had a change of heart as the date approached. I had a hard deadline to report our attendance, though, and a few of them missed it. Maybe they learned you have to grab opportunities when they come. Or maybe they're just more pissed off at me than usual. Who can say?

But those who were there loved it. Teenagers are a lot more demonstrative than we are. When Aladdin says maybe he won't free the genie, as promised, you could hear the audience scream, "Ohh...," and some kid near me shouted, "Oh no you DIDN'T!"

You can see the magic carpet above. When they sang A Whole New World, while flying on the carpet, it amazed everyone. I kept looking for the cables that suspended the carpet but couldn't see them anywhere.  When Aladdin and Jasmine shared a relatively chaste kiss, the crowd went wild. It was the most amazing thing anyone had ever seen, in the entire universe ever, even though it was entirely predictable.  

The best, for me, though, was when we finally got back to school. A whole bunch of boys, several of whom had ridiculed the idea of this trip, one of whom had refused to go until almost the last minute, raved about it. They said it was fantastic. 

I'll follow up by showing them how to enter theater lotteries, how to find discounted tickets, and even how to join TDF. I'll make theatergoers out of at least some of these kids yet.

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