Friday, October 9, 2009

The Artists

March, 2009

The actors readied their roles in Room 39, the stage manager, Lyndon, took notes, Rachel and I shot each other looks of "Will this be presentable?" and a heavy-duty artistic endeavor was gathering steam next door in the art studio.

The parents' booster club had raised enough money to pay an art teacher, Diane, to elucidate young minds and hands beyond the basics of coloring books. Diane agreed to donate her lunch break every Wednesday to lead a group of children, known as "The Props Crew," in constructing art pieces for "Twelfth Night."

My idea was to involve the kids who didn't make the club this year. I envisioned perhaps painted cut-outs of fish glued to sticks. My knowledge of visual art is as vast as the Sahara.

Diane swept fourteen children together and divided them into teams. When one team set out to create a bush for Toby, Andrew and Feste to hide behind, she used it as an opportunity to examine the works of Matisse and Monet. When I asked for signs that said "Orsino's House" or "Welcome to Illryia" and "Olivia's House," Diane introduced the kids to Russian Constructivism.
For the fish that would dance behind the flowing silky sea, the children gathered recycled materials, studied sea life on the internet and went to town with a turtle made of paint chips, an eight-foot-long shark complete with bloody teeth, a sparkly gold starfish and a dolphin constructed with shreds of blue and green fabric.

Under Diane's leadership, these kids collaborated in choosing materials, sharing tools and creating magic.

During the performances, the artists took pride in pointing out their handiwork as it passed by onstage before the audience.

Of course, I'm tremendously grateful to Diane and the kids for their effort and at the same time feeling like a bit of a ninny that I had to learn about Russian Constructivism from an eight-year-old.

Never too early and never too late, I suppose.

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