In November I was asked to help with the school’s Christmas pageant on December 24th. Each grade, sixth through eighth, would present two 10-minute plays: one in Chinese, the other in English.
Sixth graders were doing a scene from Pride and Prejudice, seventh graders were rocking Hamlet, and eighth grade wanted to do a comedy. They also wanted the comedy to be Romeo and Juliet.
As you may have guessed I was unable to find comedy gold in Shakespeare’s tragedy. Instead I wrote a short about a group of eighth graders rehearsing R & J for the first time, specifically the balcony scene. The short featured a Romeo completely unfamiliar with the play, a Juliet uninterested in Romeo, miscast understudies, an overbearing director, and a stage manager close to a nervous breakdown.
Maybe a week or two before the performance the eighth grader playing the director decided the play wasn’t for him. This happened the same day our play needed to be previewed for the leaders of the school. With no student familiar with the part I jumped at the opportunity to be an over-the-top overbearing director!
The reason I’m telling you this so late after the fact is because last week I was trolling the school’s website and found this article about the Christmas pageant performances. (You can use Google Chrome to translate their site for free.)
Unbeknownst to me the short play I wrote, “Something Something Juliet,” won two awards: best performance and most creative. Three of the students in the play won awards for being the best and outstanding actors. I won a “best actor” award too!
Teacher Michael personally appeared in “Something Something Juliet,” winning the scene bursts of applause.
Throughout the rehearsal process an increase in hours were spent at school working on each play. The casts would meet over lunch and we’d run their show. We’d meet before dinner and run their show. We’d walk through it, run it, and run it again. The students worked really hard!
Though the other teachers worried I was working too hard without much rest or an increase in compensation. What I had to continually explain to my Chinese friends was:
WHEN YOU DO WHAT YOU LOVE…
- Money doesn’t matter
- Awards don’t matter
- It’s invigorating
- Time always passes quickly
- Excitement is contagious
- It never feels like work
Whenever I return to the United States I’m going to focus more on the above. Not just these six things, but continuing to work with kids on stage. The process of developing new work collaboratively with student actors rocks!
What is it that you love? What are you pretty damn great at?