Current/Recent Reading List

13 February 2007

Field Trip Highlights Part III

Friday, February 9th, 1:00 pm: We entered the confines of Davidson's beautiful campus minutes ago, and I was looking forward to hearing the responses from the kids upon seeing it. Unfortunately, half the girls were too preoccupied with who stank up the middle of the bus. Seriously. No, when I typed in girls, it wasn't a mistake, and frankly I don't know if my gentlemanly sensibilities will recover. Sigh. You would think this was the JV Football bus or something.

1:15 Country-come-to-town moment? We walked into the student center of "The Princeton of the South", and I hear, from the front of the line, "Where's the gift shop?" Double sigh.

5:00 Pericles is now over, and it was a magical performance, as befits a play containing magic in its plot. The Royal Shakespeare Company is known for its unique presentations of the plays, and being a traditional-leaning person, this is sometimes disconcerting. But much can be overlooked as long as "the play's the thing." The setting for this one was, more or less, that of war-torn Africa, but to tell the truth, as the play progressed the setting dissolved in my consciousness, and the wonder of the drama and the language was all that mattered.

What made this performance so special was the promenade stage area built for the audience and actors. Several rows of seats in the performance hall have temporarily disappeared beneath a large platform structure that can accomodate about 100 people in addition to the actors. At one end of the platform a wooden ramp walkway curves upward from the floor to the balcony, and at the other end there is a ladder to an open apartment box, and sliding doors below the box from which actors can emerge and disappear. Thus, the actors were at times walking around us (literally touching us at times), acting above us, descending to us, and even sneaking up on us. One of my students got invited to join a feast table and eat and drink while the performers sat around her and, well, performed the play.

I'll just make passing mention of the live musicians, a red light district set complete with pole dancers, and the wonderfully rendered recognition scenes at the end of the play when Pericles discovers first his long-lost daughter, and then his long-lost wife, who gets to really meet her daughter for the first time. This, of course left my chaperone parent in tears (pregnant mom, you know), but it left me, and a few students, misty-eyed as well. Absolutely brilliant, RSC. Oh, and Shakespeare - yeah, you're alright too.

10:55: We are about to roll into the school parking lot after our latest five hours on the road. Once again, we had to stop twice for bathroom breaks. On the second one, we took an exit that was more populated with shopping centers than service stations. Finally we said "what the hell" and pulled into a Borders Bookstore, which have nicer facilities in any case. Again, pajama pants have myteriously appeared, but apparently no one in Borders cared. The girls informed me, however, through giggles and mock disgust, that upon leaving the bathroom they saw some book called the "Kuma Satra" which was about sex positions, and when you open it up there were little stickers in it. "Did someone force you to open it?" "No." Then I told them that when I worked in a book store long ago, there weren't any such stickers. "Ahhh... that means you've looked at one before, Mr. P!" they said with shocked laughter. Score some cool points for the old man.

On the bus, the sleepers are stirring around a little. A couple of seats behind me two of the BFF's, who have been obnoxiously singing for an hour now, warble along with the Ataris' version of "The Boys of Summer", which they've found while scrolling through my iPod Nano (more cool points). The bus driver tells me how surprised he was that he loved the play so much. One girl tells me she has already decided to attend Davidson in two years (I hope so, but let her dream, either way). We are home safe, the same people, but hopefully changed just a little. Twelve happy kids, and three tired, but fortunate adults. It's rare, but sometimes things work exactly as they should.


Phil said...

Very nice account of your trip. Posts like those are one of the reasons reading blogs takes more time for me now than watching television. Keep it up!

Locomotive Breath said...

If you broadened the horizon of just ONE student beyond the town in which s/he lives then (you should pardon the expression) MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!

School Master P said...

Thanks Phil, as always.

LB - I agree that even one kid is worth it. The thing is, these kids know the difference between someone talking down to them about how narrow their horizons are, and someone who respects their starting place in life but wants them to know there is also a big world out there. They will resent the former - there is a famous substitute teacher from another region of the country who talks down to them, and they DO NOT LIKE HER. I try to take the other approach, and hopefully it works for a few.