Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dinner and a Show

OK, lunch and a show, but you get the idea.

Yesterday some colleagues and I took 55 English Language Learners to see Wicked on Broadway, courtesy of Theater Development Fund (TDF). It was kind of an all-engrossing trip, and when I got home I just collapsed and didn't even remember to write the blog.

We took the students to a nearby Colombian restaurant called Tienda Vieja before the show, where a lot of our Asian students ate plantains for the first time ever. They got mixed reactions. Nonetheless, it was important. You can't take hungry teenagers anywhere. They get restless. It was very nice to take them to eat someplace with real plates and utensils. The school cafeteria, with the rolling folding tables and styrofoam trays, seems like a prison mess.

I'm a fan of theater and I go frequently, mostly via TDF. But there's a distinct difference when you go to a show full of students. When there's a kiss, you hear a resounding, "Oooooooh" That's with a U sound, by the way. You also get "Oh" with an O sound, from time to time, like when the witches slap one another. You can sort of feel the students saying, "Yeah, she deserved that," or, "Yeah, I've wanted to slap people like that too." A lot of theatergoers are more reserved than that.

The last time I saw Wicked with students, I had the worst seat in the house. No, really. I was in the highest row, all the way at the left end of the theater. It really wasn't easy to see. TDF sent me to a preview that year in the orchestra, so I really noticed the difference. This year I went prepared. I bought a small pair of binoculars from Amazon. I actually looked up "opera glasses" and was thinking about them, but they look so fancy I felt like you need to be wearing a tuxedo, a top hat, and a monocle before qualifying. (I've now learned they work better than binoculars because they have a lower magnification with which you can see the whole stage.)

This year some of my students got great seats. They were in the mezzanine, but in the first row. Actually they were in front of the first row, in rows AA, BB, etc. They could look right onto the stage. I think these seats were better than many in the orchestra. I gave out the seats randomly, but somehow ended up, once again, in the last row. This time, though, we were in the center, and while you couldn't see the whites of their eyes, the action was easy to follow anyway.

Some of the student reactions were priceless. There's a song in which the witches sing, "I hope you're happy." I was asking a shy girl from China how she liked the show and she was having trouble responding. After a while, I said, "I hope you're happy." Instantly, she responded like the song, "I hope you're happy now." So while I wasn't communicating all that well with her, the show was.

Another student, one who was reluctant to go, looked around the theater upon arrival and declared it was wonderful. In fact, there's a song called Wonderful in the show. When I asked several students how they liked it, they actually sang the song back to me.  A girl who also came last year reported to me that she cried a lot during the show.

It is really great to be able to give kids an experience they'd never have otherwise. I hope they remember it and choose to go again.

And again.
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